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All True Revolutionaries Are Environmentalists
[Photo: Marble bust of Socrates, charged and executed by the Athenian “democracy” on charges of questioning the state religion and corrupting the youth. This likeness was made was made in Rome in the first century and it is thought that it could be a copy of a lost bronze statue of Socrates by Lyssippos.]
All True Revolutionaries Are Environmentalists
Of Modern Industry, Global Warming, Capitalism, Pol Pot, Sparts, and Hardboiled IGs.
By Steven Argue
“Nobody is qualified to become a statesman who is entirely ignorant of the problems of wheat.” ― Socrates (Of ancient Greece 469 BC - 399 BC)
I was thinking of that quote not long ago when a utopian anarchist argued with me against the need for a centralized planned economy under workers control after the revolution. When I asked him how we would then run the railroads, he claimed we do not need railroads. I tried explaining to him that modern agriculture depends on modern industry, and modern industry depends on railroads. He couldn't understand that his utopian vision of returning to a purely agrarian society would mean the starvation of millions of people in the United States, billions if done worldwide. A similar wide-eyed utopian with a vision of the return to an agrarian society was Pol Pot, the man who goes down in infamy for leading a “revolution” in Cambodia that caused the starvation of about a million people.
In Vietnam, legitimate revolutionaries (all be it with some Stalinist baggage) drove the imperialists out of the south in 1975 and took control of Vietnam, ending the U.S. slaughter of three million Vietnamese people. Unlike Pol Pot, the Vietnamese Communists had a Marxist understanding of the need for modern industry. In 1979, after China and Cambodia invaded Vietnam at the urging of the United States, Vietnam put an end to Pol Pot’s madness by invading Cambodia, handing out rice and rifles to the people as they went. Fearful of an armed people, Pol Pot’s forces were driven from Cambodia in one month. After that victory, however, Reagan aided Pol Pot’s terrorist forces which helped them attack Vietnamese troops and Cambodian civilians from across the border in Thailand. Yet, through their defeat of Pol Pot, did Vietnamese Communist forces bring socialism to Cambodia as they did with the defeat of U.S. forces in South Vietnam? No they did not. Was there really anything that could be called a “revolution” or "counter-revolution” in Cambodia? Not really. Yet, the Vietnamese did put an end to the hell on Earth created by the murderous anti-Marxist leadership of Pol Pot.
Marxists understand that modern industry is an essential component to building socialism. Yet, there are anti-Marxist tendencies within the socialist left, in anarchism in particular, which claim that liberation has been possible everywhere and at all times in human history. This ignores material realities. For instance, in ancient Greece before large scale advances in science, technology, and medicine underdevelopment drastically reduced human potential. Human lives were tragically short and filled with brute labor and violence. Average life expectancy was under 15 years of age and most people were slaves. It is only relatively recently in human history that the material basis for socialist revolution and workers democracy has been developed.
While modern bourgeois historians love to gush about the “democracy” of ancient Greece, this was a “democracy” of rich male slave owners that put Socrates to death for questioning the official state religion of Zeus. At his trial, Socrates rightly mocked the foolishness of the charges against him, where he was both charged with atheism and with trying to start a new religion. An additional charge against Socrates was that of corrupting the youth. Today, all good modern revolutionaries continue to question all state religions, continue to strive to “corrupt” the youth, and should take the advice of Socrates in understanding the problems of wheat.
Today, while there continue to be revolutionaries who foolishly see modern industry as the problem to be eliminated, on the opposite end of the spectrum are another set of misguided revolutionaries who see no problems with modern industry at all. Obviously humanity has advanced from the days of Socrates when “civilization” depended on slave labor and animals for the energy to grow food. Yet today, modern agriculture and industry depends on the energy produced by burning fossil fuels. Carbon from those fossil fuels are now rapidly moving the Earth in a direction where we will no longer be able to grow much of the food needed to feed humanity. For instance, without change, global warming will cause the Midwest, which grows much of the world’s wheat, to become desert in just a few decades. Likewise, low lying crop lands that grow much of the world’s rice, like in Vietnam and Bangladesh, will be destroyed by the salt waters of rising seas. Mass starvation is on the horizon and the ruling capitalist class is doing nothing to stop it.
While science has developed alternatives to fossil fuels as well as far more efficient ways of using those fuels, private ownership of oil, coal, and auto has created a powerful capitalist force in society that actively prevents progress in order to continue to profit from the destruction of the Earth. It is only through social ownership of the means of production that necessary changes can be made that can begin to save civilization from the coming holocaust of global warming. It will take a socialist revolution to save humanity from global warming. Likewise, without socialist revolution soon, we are rapidly losing the economic basis to build socialism. Yet, after a couple decades of publishing, the only mention the Internationalist Group (IG) has ever made of global warming was in regards to Hurricane Sandy:
“Sandy was quickly labeled “Frankenstorm,” yet the wind and rain were weaker than Irene, which hit Brooklyn last year. The far greater destruction and casualties (130 dead in the U.S., over 100 in Haiti) were primarily due to the failure and refusal of an arrogant ruling class to carry out measures to prepare for such a storm, and “malign neglect” toward its impoverished victims. Following Irene, proposals had been made by official commissions to carry out a number of measures, some costly (sea walls and flood gates) and others less so (sealing off tunnels, subway entrances and gratings in likely affected areas; elevating public housing boilers and electrical equipment). But nothing was done. Sandy was yet again an “unnatural disaster” like so many in the past decade, whether attributable to global warming or not (i.e., hurricanes, tsunamis and earthquakes), in which warnings were ignored and the death toll multiplied by capitalist-induced chaos, skimping on infrastructure and not only callous indifference towards those affected by it but even a deliberate desire to remove “unwanted” populations.”
These are generally good points, yet in this one time where they have finally mentioned the words “global warming”; they really say nothing about the subject or what to do about it except to prepare for its damage. These are measures that do need to be taken, but global warming must be tackled as well. In fact, they seem to be poo pooing knowledge of the general trend of warmer oceans causing more hurricanes with increased severity. They do this by comparing two hurricanes and ignoring overall data.
Similarly, the Spartacist League went for many decades without adequately addressing the problem of global warming. In 2010 they finally accepted the science of global warming with their article “Capitalism and Global Warming”. In fact, the article finally makes many of the same arguments I made in earlier articles, arguments I’ve been making for decades. Yet, the Spartacist League has continued railing against environmentalists as a petite bourgeois layer. In addition, if one had it on their word, us environmentalists don’t see capitalism as the problem. Some do and some don't. Yet the Spartacist League speaks as if one cannot be an environmentalist, working class, and a socialist all at the same time. The Spartacist League, while often having good spot on analysis, loves to throw in formulations that paint themselves as the one true carrier of all truth. These formulations serve to alienate rather than embrace and build. I for one, as an environmentalist, was calling for saving our planet from global warming through socialist revolution long before the Spartacist League finally adopted the issue.
Those of us concerned about the health of this planet call ourselves environmentalists and, just as it will take socialism to save the planet, all true revolutionaries are environmentalists. Building socialism depends on understanding the problems of wheat. Likewise, as growing mass starvation looms on the horizon, the capitalists are not qualified to rule because they are failing to deal with the problems of wheat.
-Steven Argue of the Revolutionary Tendency
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