The Communist Party of Finland / Party Congress 2019
Socialism is the key to solving the environmental crisis
Climate change is a part of a more fundamental global environmental crisis. This environmental crisis is more than anything a result of the capitalist social system and the industrialisation associated with it. ‘Fossil capitalism’ has had a decisive impact on the climate, massively accelerating carbon emissions.
There are many aspects to the environmental crisis, including:
- climate change and global warming
- loss of biodiversity and species extinction
- pollution of water, air and soil
- waste problems
- over-consumption of natural resources
These all have an impact one one another and taken together they comprise the environmental crisis.
We must start to act here and now in order to slow down climate change to an acceptable level for humankind and to tackle other urgent problems. The need now in environmental struggles is to act against the drive for capital profits. Confidence in the ability of markets to deal with acute crises has been eroded and people want intervention. This aim spotlights the need for a shift toward socialism and opens up new avenues for cooperation between the environmental movement and communists. By policy reversal and radical constraints on big capital, the destruction of the environment can be significantly curbed.
Socialism is the key to a sustainable world
To solve the environmental crisis, we need to change the whole social order. The capitalist drive for profit is the basis of the system and its biggest problem with respect to the environment, where nature is purely an object for financial gain and where there is no ecologically sustainable basis to the economy. Inequality too is also closely linked to the environmental crisis, reflected in the exploitation of natural resources and the distribution of the impacts of environmental problems. Socialism offers the scope and means, which capitalism does not have, for solving the environmental crisis.
Environmental policy and public debate currently focus on a single aspect of the crisis - climate change. This overshadows many other important topics, such as biodiversity, food security and the chemicalisation of the environment. Solutions to climate change are being sought in new technologies, emissions trading and taxation, changing consumer habits, intergovernmental agreements, the corporate operating culture, and a range of restrictions. They are all important in curbing and slowing down the crisis. But the crisis of the climate and environment crisis cannot as a whole be resolved under conditions of capitalism.
The reason for this lies in the essence of capitalism, which requires constant growth in the value of capital. This results in production intended to generate profit, and which is used to generate further profit, so-called continuous growth. Because most production is privately owned, profits are also largely passed to individuals. We have to produce and sell more and more goods, from which capitalism makes the profits it needs. The scientific and technological means for reducing carbon emissionshave already been developed, but capitalist profit-making and the subordinate position of developing countries in the international system constrains their introduction.
Technology solutions postpone the problems and might even provide solutions to them, but under capitalism they too easily end up being used to increase production. They are becoming a commodity that are having to be sold more and more instead of being primarily devoted to improving the state of the environment.
For instance, the basic problem with EU emissions trading is that companies have thus far been given basically free allowances, the emissions’ ceiling has been high and the market has not raised the price of allowances as expected.
Marketisation has also subjected emission reductions to the general trajectory of the financial markets and its attendant crises. Unlike EU emissions trading, international emissions trading under the Kyoto Protocol is between countries. The almost neo-colonialist attempt by the EU is readily leading to green imperialism, where poor countries enable the rich to generate emissions on their behalf. Emissions do not decrease and poor countries do not develop. When combined with zero emission aid requirements, the practice forces the developing country to hawk its own potential for industrialisation.
Our personal consumption habits play a role on a small or even significant scale, but a change in individual consumption habits alone won’t solve the environmental crisis. In the worst case, the idea of individual change lulls otherwise socially minded individuals into the illusion that individual-level decisions alone are the solution to the environmental crisis.
Being ‘green’ without demanding the overthrow of capitalism channels the desire for social change in such a way that when it encounters capital’s drive for profit it becomes impotent. Although the immediate incapacitation of the power of capital is both necessary and desirable, it can nevertheless allow for the continuity of the capitalist system and the damage it causes, both environmental and social. The real solution to the environmental crisis is to transform the social system into a socialist one, and that is why it must be a goal while acting against the power of capital here and now.
With socialism, the purpose of production is human well-being. Production must serve people's needs and create the conditions for people to develop their own abilities. The purpose of production is to produce use value in a sustainable manner, including various goods and services; whereas now under capitalism, the purpose of production is to produce exchange value and surplus value (from wage labour), meaning in everyday language profit. With socialism, production is use oriented, which results in the maximisation of use value. Production equipment is jointly owned and therefore the benefits of production also end up in common ownership. In practice, the transition from capitalism through socialism to communism is a slow process in which private ownership is likely to remain a factor in production for a long time, although its importance will be constantly diminishing.
With socialism, workers work for their own good and the common good. In addition to their own work, they are able to influence what is done, how it is done and how the effects of the work are taken into account, for instance concerning the environment. This is a society of advanced productive forces, where employee skills, collaboration, information processing, resource-saving technologies, etc. create the conditions for new relationships with work, other people and nature, as well as for planned, democratic and fair economic governance.
Immediate measures needed
The transition to socialism require time but the escalating environmental problems cannot wait for solutions. This is why the choices of individuals and solutions within capitalism concerning the environment are still relevant today. They create a general shift in attitudes and nurture a new generation of sustainable lifestyles.
We need major and rapid changes to combat climate change and the wider environmental crisis. They include:
All measures taken to protect the climate and the environment must always be guided by social justice. The poor must not be made to pay the bills of the environmental crisis caused by the rich - neither in Finland nor globally.