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Workers Vanguard No. 966

8 October 2010

Production for Profit: Anarchy and Plunder

Capitalism and Global Warming

For Socialist Revolution!

For an Internationally Planned Economy!

Part Two

This part concludes this article, Part One of which appeared in WV No. 965 (24 September).

Attempts to rationally utilize the world’s resources and protect against large-scale environmental degradation run straight into the anarchy of production under capitalism, which is based on the private ownership of the means of production—factories, technology, land, etc. However well-organized individual plants may be, there is no plan in the broader economy. Investment decisions, including for research and development, are primarily driven by the profit motive.

Friedrich Engels, who with Karl Marx founded modern, scientific socialism, observed in his unfinished 1876 essay “The Part Played by Labour in the Transition from Ape to Man”:

“As long as the individual manufacturer or merchant sells a manufactured or purchased commodity with the usual coveted profit, he is satisfied and does not concern himself with what afterwards becomes of the commodity and its purchasers. The same thing applies to the natural effects of the same actions. What cared the Spanish planters in Cuba, who burned down forests on the slopes of the mountains and obtained from the ashes sufficient fertiliser for one generation of very highly profitable coffee trees—what cared they that the heavy tropical rainfall afterwards washed away the unprotected upper stratum of the soil, leaving behind only bare rock! In relation to nature, as to society, the present mode of production is predominantly concerned only about the immediate, the most tangible result.”

Why, then, do many bourgeois spokesmen raise concerns about the environment? For one thing, an individual capitalist will worry when pollutants from an industrial process are shown to impact his own well-being, and not just that of his wage slaves. More broadly, an increasing number of the capitalists’ political representatives express alarm at global warming because of the economic and social disruption it threatens. A New York Times (9 August 2009) article titled “Climate Change Seen as Threat to U.S. Security” cites military and intelligence analysts who raise the prospect of “military intervention to deal with the effects of violent storms, drought, mass migration and pandemics” in coming decades. The Pentagon already is making plans for securing its low-lying installations and fortifying the borders to keep refugees out. Its talk of safeguarding U.S. interests is a recipe for more imperialist interventions like the occupation of Haiti, disguised as “disaster relief,” following the January earthquake.

On the left, those who despair of the prospect of proletarian socialist revolution are left with nothing but their own doomsday scenarios and impotent reform strategies. In New Left Review (January-February 2010), Mike Davis writes off a “global revolution” as “an utterly unrealistic scenario,” resigning himself to an impending ecological catastrophe. Davis opines: “Instead of galvanizing heroic innovation and international cooperation, growing environmental and socio-economic turbulence may simply drive elite publics into more frenzied attempts to wall themselves off from the rest of humanity…. The goal would be the creation of green and gated oases of permanent affluence on an otherwise stricken planet.”

Widely touted “eco-socialist” John Bellamy Foster goes to great lengths to twist Karl Marx into a proto-environmentalist, stripping Marxism of its revolutionary content. In Monthly Review (January 2010), Bellamy talks of a “new environmental proletariat” consisting of small peasants, unemployed slum-dwellers and others in the Third World “directly in line to be hit first by the impending disasters” as “the main historic agent and initiator of a new epoch of ecological revolution.” This notion has distinct roots in the 1960s New Left, which rejected the unique capacity of the working class—in both the advanced countries and in the neocolonial world—to overturn the capitalist order and collectivize the means of production. Following the demise of the New Left, a number of radical activists made their peace with the imperialists by embracing one or another variety of green politics.

There is indeed a proletariat in the areas addressed by Bellamy—the workers who toil in South Africa’s platinum mines, India’s auto assembly lines and Brazil’s aircraft manufacturing plants. As in the advanced capitalist countries, what’s lacking are revolutionary workers parties to mobilize that social power at the head of the dispossessed urban and rural masses in socialist revolution.

Pro-Capitalist “System Change”

For its part, the reformist International Socialist Organization (ISO) criticizes certain environmentalist nostrums, such as reducing individual “carbon footprints,” while joining liberals and Greens in appealing to capitalist governments to enforce eco-friendly practices. In “Hothouse Earth” (International Socialist Review, March-April 2009), the ISO proposes a “government action plan on the environment” that largely consists of advice to the Obama administration on investment in non-fossil-fuel energy sources. Mirroring the petty-bourgeois prejudices that define the environmentalist movement, the ISO opposes nuclear power and blames “unregulated free-market capitalism” (our emphasis) for the ruination of the environment. These positions do not come as a surprise, as the ISO has run candidates on the bourgeois Green Party ticket in recent years.

The statement in “Hothouse Earth” that “only a socialist future holds out the hope of a sustainable one for the planet” is so much window dressing for the article’s operational conclusion: “There is still a great deal of hope in Obama and expectation for change that can be channeled into a movement to pressure him to go significantly beyond his campaign promises.” Similarly, the Party for Socialism and Liberation (PSL) opined in a 25 May 2008 article on a Congressional climate bill: “Without a mass, militant movement to stop global warming, all the politicians will offer up will be half-measures that assure the continued flow of profit into the polluters’ coffers.”

The reformists got their “movement” outside the Copenhagen UN climate talks last December, when tens of thousands rallied under the call for “System change, not climate change” and similar demands. Trumpeted by Climate Justice Action (CJA), the ISO and others, that slogan can mean many different things. For the CJA, an international network of environmental groups, the intended “change” is limiting economic growth and “leaving fossil fuels in the ground.” Environmentalists of varying stripes have long argued that humanity is exceeding, or soon will exceed, the “carrying capacity” of the earth. From their perspective, there are too many people inhabiting the planet with far too many possessions. Invariably, the environmentalists’ proposals to limit consumption and cut back production dovetail with capitalist austerity measures against the working class and poor in both the industrial centers and the backward countries.

The main effect of the mobilization in Copenhagen was to implore the “democratic” imperialists to speed the pace of negotiations about emissions reduction, as seen in such signs as “Bla, Bla, Bla. Act Now,” “There Is No Planet B,” and “The World Wants a Real Deal.” Above all, hopes were placed on U.S. imperialist Commander-in-Chief Barack Obama, whose sermons on the problems that global warming poses for human beings coincide with his escalation of the murderous occupation of Afghanistan, the projection of military power globally and an expansion of attacks on democratic rights at home in the name of the “war on terror.”

In the lead-up to Copenhagen, the ISO, who cheered Obama’s ascension to the White House, bleated in a Socialist Worker article (2 July 2009) on the House cap-and-trade bill: “If all he hears is the sound of corporate dollars cascading into Democratic coffers, it’s clear that the earth and human, animal and plant life will come a distant second to considerations of corporate profit.” Like the PSL and the rest of the reformist left, the ISO propounds the myth that the fundamental priorities of the capitalist rulers can be altered to serve the interests of the exploited and the oppressed if sufficient pressure is exerted on the more liberal wing of the bourgeoisie, represented in the U.S. by the Democratic Party. However much, or little, they refer to socialism, the effect of the reformists’ political activity was aptly characterized by Trotsky in Lessons of October (1924) as the “training of the masses to become imbued with the inviolability of the bourgeois state.”

Population Growth and Malthus

To one degree or another, almost all environmentalists identify population growth as a primary cause of environmental degradation. Robert Engelman of the Worldwatch Institute gave one such opinion in a special edition of Scientific American (June 2009): “In an era of changing climate and sinking economies, Malthusian limits to growth are back—and squeezing us painfully. Whereas more people once meant more ingenuity, more talent and more innovation, today it just seems to mean less for each” (emphasis in original).

This perspective turns the problem on its head. It is a fact that the world’s population has increased from 3 billion in 1960 to 6.5 billion in 2005 and is projected to top seven billion next year. The rapid rate of population growth magnifies problems endemic to the capitalist mode of production, from poverty and starvation to environmental degradation, but it is not the cause of these ills. For example, food output today is more than one and a half times what is needed to provide every person on the planet with a nutritious diet, according to the UN World Food Programme. However, capitalists manipulate the world market for food to accumulate as much profit as possible, not to feed the hungry.

The classic case of blaming the impoverished masses for scarcity was put forward by Thomas Malthus. A parson of the Church of England, Malthus advanced two propositions in his 1798 tract, An Essay on the Principle of Population: unchecked population increases in a geometrical ratio while subsistence increases in an arithmetical ratio. The two propositions together constitute his principle of population, which concluded that the growth in mankind would outstrip the world’s resources, from which all misery and vice flowed.

By this argument, Malthusians deflect blame for mass impoverishment away from the existing class-divided social order. Malthus’ theory was an integral part of the ideological counteroffensive against the French Revolution. Not only the feudal aristocracy throughout Europe but also the English bourgeoisie feared that their own “lower classes” would embrace the principles of liberty, equality and fraternity. Malthusianism was an attempt to prove the inevitability of privation for the toiling masses in order to divert them from any social struggle to better their lot.

Marx and Engels scathingly demolished Malthus’ theory, which Engels characterized as “the most open declaration of war of the bourgeoisie upon the proletariat” (The Condition of the Working-Class in England, 1845). Malthus was projecting as everlasting truths the specific relations of exploitation that obtained at that time between wage-earners and capitalists, as well as the antagonisms between the landed aristocracy and urban bourgeoisie. Marx showed that the poverty of the working class was based in the appropriation of surplus value extracted from wage laborers (the proletariat) by the capitalists, who own the means of production. What is required to end the misery and privation of the working masses is the expropriation of the means of production by the proletariat and the qualitative expansion of the productive forces that would come about in a collectivized economy. The technological revolution of 19th-century Europe was itself a dramatic refutation of Malthusianism, demonstrating the capacity to qualitatively expand the means of subsistence.

Marxists are by no means indifferent to the problem of rapid population growth. But we understand that only a society that can raise the standard of living worldwide can provide the conditions for a natural decline in reproductive rates. Advanced capitalist countries that have experienced rising living standards have generally seen a drop in fertility rates—the number of children an average woman will have during her childbearing years—sometimes dramatically so. With the advent of industrialization, fertility rates fell sharply, first in France, then in Britain, followed by much of Europe and the U.S. By the 1970s, 24 countries had fertility rates of 2.1 or less, the level at which population is stabilized.

But such advances are limited in a world dominated by imperialism, in which billions live under unbearably harsh conditions. Imperialist oppression also reinforces reactionary religious obscurantism and the brutal oppression of women around the planet. During the anti-Soviet Cold War, for example, the U.S. consciously fostered Islamic fundamentalist forces as a bulwark against both “godless Communism” and secular nationalism. In 1950, John Foster Dulles, who went on to become Secretary of State three years later, declared: “The religions of the East are deeply rooted and have many precious values. Their spiritual beliefs cannot be reconciled with Communist atheism and materialism. That creates a common bond between us.”

The bourgeoisies of backward countries likewise rely on religion and superstition to solidify their rule, such as the Indian government’s fueling of Hindu chauvinism. Meanwhile, in its vicious medieval stand against abortion and its proscription of birth control, the Catholic church, which holds sway over more than one billion people, is a major contributor to population growth. The U.S., for its part, is second to none among advanced capitalist countries in the prevalence of religious belief.

We observed in “In Defense of Science and Technology—An Exchange on Eco-Radicals and HIV Denialists” (WV No. 843, 4 March 2005):

“Communist society will be based on a thoroughly different set of social values from those that exist today. The liberation of women from patriarchal domination will mean complete and unhindered access to birth control and contraception. Communism will elevate the standard of life for everyone to the highest possible level. By eliminating scarcity, poverty and want, communism will also eliminate the greatest driving force for the prevalence of religion and superstition—and the attendant backwardness, which defines the role of women as the producers of the next generation of working masses to be exploited.”

Under communism, human beings will have far greater mastery over their natural and social environments. Both the division between town and country and economic dependence on the family will be overcome. The time when people were compelled to have more children in order to ensure enough manpower to work the land or to care for the elderly will have long passed. As Engels wrote in an 1881 letter to Karl Kautsky:

“The abstract possibility that mankind will increase numerically to such an extent that its propagation will have to be kept within bounds does, of course, exist. But should communist society ever find itself compelled to regulate the production of humans in the same way as it has already regulated the production of things, then it, and it alone, will be able to effect this without difficulty.”

Capitalism, Technology and Energy Production

It is common for “anti-capitalist” eco-radicals, who are appalled by the ruining of the environment by corporations, to put an equal sign between capitalism and technology. In that view, capitalism is conflated with the consumption of goods, including life’s necessities. “Deep ecologists” and other primitivists take environmentalist ideology to its logical conclusion: opposing industry and civilization in the name of protecting the rest of nature from humans. Such a vision could be achieved in practice only by the deaths of billions of people. In “The Agrarian Question and the ‘Critics of Marx’” (1901), a polemic against the Russian neo-Malthusian “Legal Marxist” Sergei Bulgakov, V.I. Lenin observed:

“Our age was not preceded by a Golden Age; and primitive man was absolutely crushed by the burden of existence, by the difficulties of the struggle against Nature. The introduction of machinery and of improved methods of production immeasurably eased man’s struggle against Nature generally, and the production of food in particular. It has not become more difficult to produce food; it has become more difficult for the workers to obtain it because capitalist development has inflated ground-rent and the price of land, has concentrated agriculture in the hands of large and small capitalists, and, to a still larger extent, has concentrated machinery, implements, and money, without which successful production is impossible.”

In its early development, capitalism gave birth to modern science and the industrial revolution, which was sparked by the discovery and use of coal in steam engines. The combination of steam power and machine technology soon qualitatively transformed production, as individual artisans were displaced by wage laborers working collectively in large plants. At the same time, the private ownership of the means of production increasingly became a fetter on the further development of the productive forces.

Expanding production required the augmentation of energy resources, first coal and later, increasingly, petroleum. Today four of the six most profitable companies in the world are in the oil business, which alone supplies more than one-third of the world’s energy. Trillions of dollars are invested worldwide in infrastructure related to oil and gas production and refining. Other oil by-products, such as asphalt, rubber and plastics, also play a vital role in industrial economies.

The capitalist magnates and their governments are not about to just write off their historic investments in fossil fuels. Neither would a workers government. While a planned, collectivized economy would carry out scientific research to develop safer, more efficient sources of energy, it may well have to run for some time on coal and hydrocarbons (oil and natural gas). As stated in “Eco-Faddism and Nuclear Power” (Young Spartacus No. 55, June 1977): “Marxists are not insensitive to the environmental aspects of technological progress. But our concern is tempered by our dedication to the scientific eradication of scarcity and human misery. The victorious proletarian revolution will utilize science and technology to provide the material basis for overcoming the ‘human condition’ of war, poverty and privation—the hallmarks of class society.”

Leon Trotsky, co-leader with Lenin of the 1917 October Revolution, captured the contradiction posed by technological development under capitalism when he wrote:

“Technology and science have their own logic—the logic of the cognition of nature and the mastering of it in the interests of man. But technology and science develop not in a vacuum but in human society, which consists of classes. The ruling class, the possessing class, controls technology and through it controls nature. Technology in itself cannot be called either militaristic or pacifistic. In a society in which the ruling class is militaristic, technology is in the service of militarism.”

—“Radio, Science, Technology, and Society,” March 1926

We defend the gains of science and technology made under capitalism and understand that a socialist society would build on those advances. Today, the application of that technology is bound up with the bourgeoisie’s pursuit of profit. Even the best-understood technologies are implemented dangerously and at great social cost, intended or not. April’s Gulf Coast disaster, which killed eleven workers, was evidence of the fact that the energy sector is one of the most hazardous for workers, as sound safety practices are thrown out the window. Although solar and wind power installations do not require any resource extraction, these small-scale industries have nevertheless also claimed lives. Throughout industry, we fight for union control of working conditions and, where there are specific hazards, actions to shut down operations. This requires a concerted effort to organize the growing number of non-union companies and contractors.

Revolutionary Marxists have no interest in advising the bourgeoisie on how best to meet its energy needs. We will worry about how best to power the planet when the international proletariat runs it. Only then can the advisability of using one or another technology be properly evaluated. We recognize that there are problems associated with all types of energy production, such as that based on coal. Depending on its grade, coal can be over 90 percent pure carbon. Coal also has a lower heat content than natural gas (methane). As a result, the combustion of coal produces more carbon dioxide per unit of energy than gas. But to argue today, in a society driven by the profit motive, that one source of energy is inherently safer, or more sensible, than another is a recipe for disaster. Consider:

  • In 2008, the U.S. corn ethanol biofuels racket provoked a shortfall in the food grain harvest, helping to trigger a food crisis crushing the world’s poor at a time of booming global agricultural output.

  • Even as a growing number of coal-burning plants around the nation have moved to reduce their air pollution, many of them are dumping the toxic waste into water supplies. Each day since one plant 40 miles outside of Pittsburgh installed scrubbing technology in its chimneys to trap pollutants in June, it has poured tens of thousands of gallons of chemical wastewater into a nearby river that provides drinking water to 350,000 people.

  • Amid an uneven march toward new nuclear power plant construction in the U.S., owners of the earliest plants have applied for licenses to continue operations for as long as 40 years beyond the designed life span of their reactors.

Environmentalists historically have denounced nuclear energy, although some now consider it a possible substitute for fossil fuel use, especially with the advent of integral fast reactors (IFRs), which are designed to generate less waste and to be less prone to meltdown. We oppose the green campaign against nuclear power, without endorsing the policies and activities of the reactor owners or the government agencies regulating them. While the planet contains a finite amount of uranium, new breeder reactors, such as the IFR, would use less than 1 percent of the uranium currently consumed by light-water reactors. There is also the possibility of the future development of technology to harness nuclear fusion for energy production.

All of this is not to deny the real, long-unresolved safety risks connected with nuclear reactors, particularly the disposal of wastes. Yet huge amounts of nuclear wastes are also by-products of military use. The vast nuclear arsenal in the hands of the U.S. and other imperialists poses a far greater danger to humanity than does an accidental leakage from nuclear plants or wastes. The U.S. is the only country to have used the A-bomb, incinerating hundreds of thousands in the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in August 1945.

Defend the Chinese Workers State!

The superiority of a planned economy was demonstrated by the experience of the Soviet Union. The Bolshevik-led 1917 Russian Revolution broke capitalist rule and established proletarian property forms, setting the stage for a qualitative improvement in the well-being of the working masses unobtainable in countries that remained chained by imperialist domination. In the USSR, all were provided with housing, health care, education and jobs. Even in isolation and despite the degeneration of the workers state under the Stalinist bureaucracy beginning in 1923-24, the Soviet Union was transformed from a backward, overwhelmingly peasant society into a modern industrial power. In 1925, the Soviet Union was the world’s eleventh-largest producer of electrical energy. In 1935, it stood third behind Germany and the U.S. During World War II, the Soviets were able within the space of a year to move and rebuild industries destroyed by the Nazi invasion.

However, the Stalinist bureaucracy fatally undermined the Soviet workers state with its profoundly anti-Marxist dogma of “building socialism in one country.” As the lowest stage of classless communist society, socialism must be based on material abundance, requiring proletarian revolutions internationally, including in the advanced industrialized countries. The Stalinists opposed the perspective of world proletarian revolution and instead pursued accommodation with imperialism. After decades of Stalinist betrayal and unremitting imperialist pressure, the Soviet Union fell to the forces of capitalist restoration in 1991-92—a historic defeat for the working class and the oppressed the world over.

In the aftermath, China became the imperialists’ main target for capitalist counterrevolution. To destroy the workers state that arose out of the 1949 Chinese Revolution, the imperialists ratchet up military pressure against Beijing while pursuing a policy of internal economic and political subversion, including promoting counterrevolutionary forces such as the “Free Tibet” movement around the Dalai Lama.

Unlike the early Soviet state, the Chinese workers state was deformed from its inception under the rule of the nationalist Stalinist Communist Party bureaucracy. Today the fight to defend China and the other remaining deformed workers states—North Korea, Vietnam and Cuba—against imperialism and capitalist counterrevolution is urgently posed. Our defense of China, as well as North Korea, includes supporting their development of nuclear weapons and delivery systems. Simultaneously, as Trotskyists we fight for proletarian political revolution to sweep away the Stalinist bureaucracies and place power in the hands of workers and peasants councils (soviets) committed to the fight for world proletarian revolution.

This is the framework in which we approach the question of environmental degradation and other social problems in China today. Many environmentalists join with the imperialists in pointing an accusing finger at China, which has overtaken the U.S. as the world’s top emitter of greenhouse gases. To date, Beijing has rebuffed efforts by the imperialists to lock it into a timetable for cuts, in the process ridiculing the West for blaming China for increased emissions from the manufacture of goods financed by Western capital for export to the West.

Currently, 70 percent of China’s energy comes from burning coal. This includes the widespread use of coal for household fuel in rural areas, not just in its power plants. China relies on coal because coal is what it has. This underlies why the U.S. imperialists are so insistent on limiting China’s emissions (while exempting their own from controls). Curtailing the production and use of coal would gravely undermine China’s economy. At the same time, the massive appetite for coal has helped spur the proliferation of privately owned deathtrap mines, whose bosses pay off government inspectors to look the other way. This is a major reason for China’s succession of deadly mining disasters.

Despite capitalist inroads resulting from “market reforms,” China’s core economy remains based on collectivized property, providing examples of what can be done when the guiding principle is not the generation of profit. While the capitalist world has been mired in recession, China has undergone enormous economic growth, largely on the strength of a massive stimulus program based on state-owned banks and industries (see “China: Labor Struggles in the ‘Socialist Market Economy’,” WV Nos. 964 and 965, 10 and 24 September).

In this same period, Beijing announced plans to drastically reduce the rate of growth of carbon-dioxide output by 2020. To that end, the central government plans to spend 5 trillion yuan ($738 billion) over the next decade to develop cleaner sources of energy, including wind and solar power, as well as electric and hybrid cars. China had already emerged as “the world’s leading builder of more efficient, less polluting coal power plants, mastering the technology and driving down the cost” (New York Times, 11 May 2009). A few years ago, China completed the Qinghai-Tibet railway—the world’s longest at such high elevations and the first railway to ever reach Tibet. A Science magazine (27 April 2007) article remarked that the project had the potential to be remembered as an “ecological miracle,” noting among other things its network of tunnels to avoid disrupting the seasonal migration of animals, the detouring of tracks around wetlands and the insulation of tracks to avoid destabilizing permafrost.

Nevertheless, there are very real environmental problems in China. Large cities choke under toxic shrouds. Massive dumping of industrial waste renders one third of the country’s rivers and huge parts of its lakes unfit for industrial or agricultural use, and several hundred million Chinese lack access to safe water. Although legislation to curb pollution is in place, corrupt and venal bureaucrats do not strictly enforce the laws. Along with struggles of peasants and workers against economic hardship, there have been numerous pollution-related protests, with some 50,000 in 2005 alone. In August 2009, hundreds of residents in northwestern Shaanxi province stormed a smelting plant blamed for sickening more than 600 children. This July, more than 1,000 people threw rocks at police and blocked roads in southern China to protest pollution from a plant owned by one of the country’s largest private aluminum producers.

Despite its historic advances, China remains marked by its backward rural heritage. Under Stalinist rule, bureaucratic mismanagement of the collectivized economy combined with the effects of three decades of “market reforms” has led to growing inequalities and a myriad of unresolved social problems. A proletarian political revolution would create a regime of workers democracy based on workers and peasants councils (soviets), which would decide economic strategy and other key questions not through bureaucratic fiat but through open debate. The factories would be run not by appendages of a self-interested bureaucracy but by factory councils, with a role for trade unions free from bureaucratic control.

However, no amount of workers democracy can substitute for the advanced technology—and time—needed to overcome the urban-rural divide and other examples of China’s lingering backwardness. Led by a Leninist-Trotskyist party, the Chinese workers state would be committed to the fight for proletarian revolution throughout Asia and especially in the advanced capitalist countries. A proletarian political revolution in China would have an enormous impact on workers’ consciousness internationally, revitalizing class struggle and especially the understanding that its ultimate aim must be socialist revolution.

For a Collectivized, Planned World Economy Under Workers Rule!

Against green ideologists who deify “unspoiled” nature, we recognize that since the earliest days our ancestors roamed the earth, they have left their imprint on the natural world, and it in turn has impacted the development of civilization. Over the years human intervention, from clearing large tracts of land for agriculture to operating smoke-belching factories and detonating A-bombs, has both accelerated natural processes and added extra complications. In “The Part Played by Labour in the Transition from Ape to Man,” Engels catalogs several unintended consequences of attempts to manipulate nature by various peoples from different epochs and observes: “Thus at every step we are reminded that we by no means rule over nature like a conqueror over a foreign people, like someone standing outside of nature—but that we, with flesh, blood and brain, belong to nature, and exist in its midst, and that all our mastery of it consists in the fact that we have the advantage over all other creatures of being able to learn its laws and apply them correctly.”

For there to be any chance of rationally expanding the forces of production and utilizing the planet’s resources, including meeting the challenges of climate change, decaying modern capitalism must go. The conscious, large-scale planning required is entirely incompatible with the profit motive and competition, the anarchy of the market and crises of overproduction, the division of the world into nation-states and interimperialist rivalries. It will take a series of proletarian revolutions to establish an internationally planned, socialist economy, which will liberate the productive capacities of mankind and eliminate scarcity, the precondition for the disappearance of classes and the withering away of the state in a communist society.

Confronting the vast gulf separating the “First World” from the “Third World,” an international federation of workers states would marshal world productive resources to immensely raise the standard of living of the impoverished masses in Africa, Asia and Latin America, who today, under imperialist subjugation, are deprived of such necessities as decent housing, quality health care and education and clean water. Rational urban planning, free extensive mass transportation and the reduction of waste would be possible. Considerable resources could be invested in developing low-emissions energy sources, and measures could also be taken to mitigate the impact of climate change by extending massive aid to its victims—from food, drinking water and medicine to resources to relocate entire cities and populations of low-lying islands.

No one can stop tsunamis from forming nor tectonic plates from shifting. Nor do Marxists claim that we can fix all of humanity’s problems. As Marxist historian Isaac Deutscher noted in a 1966 speech titled “On Socialist Man,” “We are struggling in the first instance with the predicaments that are of man’s making and that man can resolve.” He went on:

“Trotsky, for instance, speaks of three basic tragedies—hunger, sex, and death—besetting man. Hunger is the enemy that Marxism and the modern labor movement have taken on…. But is it not true that hunger or, more broadly, social inequality and oppression, have hugely complicated and intensified for innumerable human beings the torments of sex and death as well?… Socialist man will still be pursued by sex and death; but we are convinced that he will be better equipped than we are to cope even with these.”

When the proletariat seizes power and accomplishes its historic mission of universal emancipation, wrote Engels in Socialism: Utopian and Scientific (1880):

“The whole sphere of the conditions of life which environ man, and which have hitherto ruled man, now comes under the dominion and control of man, who for the first time becomes the real, conscious lord of nature, because he has now become master of his own social organization.… Only from that time will man himself, with full consciousness, make his own history—only from that time will the social causes set in movement by him have, in the main and in a constantly growing measure, the results intended by him.”

It is the purpose of the International Communist League (Fourth Internationalist) to forge the vanguard workers parties that are necessary to lead the proletariat, at the head of all the dispossessed and oppressed, in a victorious fight for a socialist future.


Workers Vanguard No. 966

WV 966

8 October 2010


“War on Terror” Witchhunt

Protest FBI Raids on Leftists, Union Activists!


All Indian and Pakistani Troops Out Now!

Down With India’s Bloody Repression in Kashmir!


Mumia Is Innocent! Free Him Now!

Appeals Court Hearing on Death Sentence for Mumia Abu-Jamal


Cuba and the Haiti Occupation



On Economy Article



The Fight Against Capitalist Repression

(Quote of the Week)


Workers Vanguard Subscription Drive


Racist Scapegoating of Muslim Women

Down With Quebec’s Niqab Ban!

(Women and Revolution pages)


PDC Protests FBI Raids


Join the Labor Black Leagues!


Production for Profit: Anarchy and Plunder

Capitalism and Global Warming

For Socialist Revolution!

For an Internationally Planned Economy!

Part Two