Pollution, exploitation and socialism

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The struggle to save the environment must end up as a class struggle.

By Fred Goldstein | Published Jun 21, 2010  | [print_link]

The BP oil company, which has just unleashed the worst environmental disaster in U.S. history, is part of the oil lobby that defeated all attempts to stop climate change in Copenhagen this past spring. PHOTO: BP’s CEO Tony Hayward, photo-opping on Louisiana beaches, as part of his company’s p.r. offensive.

The Massey coal mining company, which killed 29 miners through criminal negligence and defiance of safety rules, is part of the coal lobby that also has blocked attempts to save life on earth by stopping climate change.

General Motors, Ford, Chrysler and big auto have resisted limits on pollution for decades and participated in the payoffs to lobbyists to block environmental protection for the planet.

In fact, big oil and gas, the utility companies, most of big industry, the Chamber of Commerce — in a word, big capital — are the powers that are mining, drilling and clear-cutting from one end of the earth to the other. These are the powers that are destroying the rainforests and the ice caps, destroying habitats and endangering island and coastal civilizations that are thousands of years old, all in the pursuit of profit.

This relentless pursuit of profit is threatening much of life on the planet. The subordination of life to profit seems to be madness. But this appears as madness strictly from the point of view of humanity as a whole. CEOs and boards of directors of giant banks and corporations do not operate, cannot operate, from the point of view of humanity, but only as the agents of accumulation of profit without regard to result — even to the point of risking self-destruction and the destruction of life.

The corporate polluters are the same ones that are laying off workers and pressuring those who remain on the job to work more intensely than ever. They are lowering wages, cutting benefits, speeding up production and services, and getting richer and richer as they pauperize the working class more and more.

Thus those who pollute are those who exploit. There is no separation. The process of capitalist production is also the process of environmental pollution. The process of capitalist production is the process of making profit. The working class has a profound interest in protecting the planet and ending the profit system and exploitation.

The means of production under capitalism are both the means of pollution and the means of exploitation. It is by seizing the means of production and putting them to use for human need, for society as a whole, on a planned and rational basis that includes the protection of the environment, that life on the planet can be saved. Socialism can save life and society. And the working class, whose historic need is to end its own exploitation, is the class that can put an end to environmental destruction.

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