The Spark

the Voice of
The Communist League of Revolutionary Workers–Internationalist

“The emancipation of the working class will only be achieved by the working class itself.”
— Karl Marx

Flooded by Climate Change, Crippled by Imperialism

Sep 12, 2022

The country of Pakistan has been hit by devastating floods in recent weeks, caused by powerful monsoon rains, and an unprecedented rate of glacial melting in the northern mountains. The entire Indus River basin, nearly one-third of the country, is currently under water. Almost 1,500 people have been killed, and millions more have been displaced. Houses, roads, and railways have been destroyed, as well as livestock and crops. Those who have not been killed by the flood now face the very real possibility of death by starvation.

This record rainfall and flooding are almost certainly caused by global warming and climate change. The rains and flooding are getting stronger and coming more frequently. In 2010, Pakistan was hit with record flooding of 400,000 cubic-feet-per-second, or cusecs, of water. This year, 700,000 cusecs are expected, almost doubling the record reached just twelve years ago.

The effects of climate change hit every country in the world; but they are especially hitting poorer countries like Pakistan, even though countries like the U.S. and China make up the vast majority of greenhouse gas emissions, especially historically. Pakistan, with 240 million people, produces just 6% of the greenhouse gases the United States does—yet a third of the country is under water.

And when natural disasters hit, countries like Pakistan have far fewer resources to address the crises.

Pakistan itself is a creation of imperialism, and it has been left greatly impoverished by imperialism. Until its independence in 1947, Pakistan was part of a greater India ruled brutally by the British crown. British colonialism forcibly shut down India’s textile industry, forcing the colony to export cotton to Britain, which was woven into cloth on British machines, then brought back to India and sold at a much higher price.

When Britain was forced by a massive movement to grant India its independence in 1947, it created the separate countries of India and Pakistan, divided along religious lines between Hindus and Muslims—stoking religious violence and massive migration of populations across the Pakistan-India border. Between 200,000 and 2 million people were killed at this time. It was a last ‘gift’ of divide-and-conquer from the British Empire.

Since 1947, with the United States in the lead, the imperialist countries have continued to plunder Pakistan. To help with this, the U.S. has supported one military dictatorship after another. The current government of Shehbaz Sharif is officially ‘civilian’, but he remains in office only because the military allows it. And behind the military, sits the United States.

Sharif has begged wealthy countries to come to the aid of Pakistan but has received extremely little in the way of money or resources. The UN Secretary General recently visited the country and again pleaded for the wealthy countries to help, saying, "Pakistan needs massive financial support. This is not a matter of generosity; it is a matter of justice."

It’s absolutely true that the ruling classes of the U.S., the U.K., and other wealthy countries owe a debt to Pakistan and other colonized countries around the world, and that the wealth stolen from these countries would go a long way toward addressing the crying needs they confront. But these ruling classes are not about to act justly and return what they stole—after all, theft is how they got so wealthy in the first place!

The solution in Pakistan—and India, and the whole region—lies in what the working class of all these countries could build, by taking back the wealth that they themselves have created as workers and farmers. This would require overcoming the national and religious divisions that only imperialism has benefitted from.