Another World Is Possible

What is Socialism?

Franklin Dmitryev

The very nature of capitalism—a system of spiraling accumulation of capital and production for production's sake—has blocked real action on the climate and the mass extinction crisis again and again. This has been manifested in a number of interlinked ways—all of them exacerbated by the systemic crisis world capitalism plunged into in the mid-1970s, which has strongly shaped events since then.

The influence of the right wing comes from both ideology and the political might flowing from economic power. The ideology flows not only from the economic inequality but from the alienation inherent in capitalism, in which the machine and the economy are masters of humanity and not the other way around.

It is not only the particular ideology of the Right that poses a barrier to confronting the climate crisis. It is the general ideology that flows from the nature of capitalist society, compounded by the failures and transformation into opposite of so many revolutions and socialist movements.

The USSR was ecologically destructive, despite currents in the Russian Revolution that moved in an opposite direction, precisely because it was transformed into a state-capitalist society after Bolsevik Revolution. One cannot allow that kind of transformation again, not only because in it reinforces the assumption that capitalism is the only choice.

Today people face widespread hopelessness, which is not helped by the reticence of scientists and the denialism of economists and other ideologues. None of this can be separated from the underlying toxic ideology that there is no alternative. It is now easier to imagine the end of the world than the end of capitalism.

Capitalism's abject failure to confront climate change makes urgent the sense that another world is possible. A world where workers' control of production halts the built-in destructive direction of capitalism-and overthrows its seemingly unbreakable law of value—can in fact be built by transformative movements from below.

How can people makes "another world is possible" real? The inevitable eruptions from below are a tremendous beginning in both activity and thought, yet they demand more than just support. They demand a unity of theory and practice so that revolt does not spend itself in activism alone. They need to be in unity with a philosophy of revolution that can set afoot a whole new society with a new direction away from the self-destruction of humanity and toward total liberation.

The history of so-called Communist, socialist or social-democratic states shows clearly that this cannot be accomplished by means of market strategies, state planning, or nationalisation including "public ownership" or "democratic control" of corporations.

There is scope within the existing system to shift toward renewable energy and environmentally sound land use and away from greenhouse gas emissions. And those kinds of steps are urgent and necessary. But none of that can reverse the fundamental direction of capitalism's production for production's sake.

In the capitalist factory, the machine dominates the worker, and the worker acts as an appendage to the mechanism. Marx calls it the dialectical inversion of subject and object, where the object dominates the subject.
This dialectical inversion is inscribed in a hidden form in the phenomenon of value. Under capitalism, the driving motive of decisions about production, its speed, its technology, even its location, is maximising production of value-or, to be more precise, maximising the procurement of surplus value.

Marx shows that, under the capitalist mode of production, value is actually congealed, objectified labour. It is the objectification of alienated abstract labour pounded down to one quantitative dimension of socially necessary labour time, and abstracted from all other aspects, including material aspects. It is not a theoretical construct but rather the actual basis, of capitalism's functioning. Value takes on a life of its own as the driving force of society and stands, in opposition to workers, the subjects of labour.

Industry's output of waste, including; greenhouse gases, is determined by its process of production, where the needs of the subject, the worker, are subsumed by the drive of value to expand itself. The trajectory of this historical period is determined, not by humanity's growing productive powers as such, but rather by human power in an alienated form that stifles human development as much as it creates the potential for development by expanding productivity.

The "Communist" USSR of the past, and China even today, have had some of the worst environmental records and by no accident subordinated themselves to the law of value.

Social-democratic Norway has long been a major oil exporter, while all of Europe, like the US, has obscured its climate footprint by transferring so much of its heavy industry to Asia. The "21st-century socialism" of Venezuela, Bolivia, and Ecuador tried to find a new path; however, their governments never turned away from reliance on extraction and export of fossil fuels as a path to capitalist development which they substitute for real human development, which they substitute for real human development.

The fact that these countries, especially the USSR, were passed off and widely accepted as "socialist" economies led to serious illusions and deformations of theory. Green theory in general proceeds from the assumption that socialism is just as guilty as capitalism and therefore the blame lies with "human nature" or "industrial civilization" abstracted from the social relations of productions. This kind of theory abstracts from the counter-revolution that came from within the revolution, and its transformation into opposite, into state-capitalism.

Scapegoats are targeted: immigrants, other countries, unions, environmentalists. But that is how capitalism normally works. If people allow it, its destructiveness will be turned, not against capitalism, but against those who aim to overcome it, against those who raise the question of what kind of labour human beings should do.
There is no path to a new society or away from climate chaos as long as countering climate change is planned at the expense of working people, such a through taxes on consumption, instead of posing the liberation of working people from capitalist exploitation and the release of full human development as the way to break the anti-environmental direction of modern society. And more than "not at the expense" of workers but with workers as thinking and acting subjects of revolt, with the full recognition of the movement from practice that is itself a form of theory and on that basis a totally new relationship of theory and practice.

Nothing less can solve the problem, and nothing less should satisfy aggrieved people need a vision of liberation and climate justice that grasps human development and real unalienated wealth as the absolute opposite of the inhuman law of motion of capitalist accumulation.

Or, as Marx put it:
"[In] the modern world... production appears as the aim of humanity and wealth as the aim of production. In fact, however, when the limited bourgeois form is stripped away, what is wealth other than the universality of individual needs, capacities pleasures, productive forces, etc., created through universal exchange? ...the development of all human powers as such the end in itself, not as measured on a predetermined yardstick? ...Where the human being] Strives not to remain something he has become, but is in the absolute movement of becoming?"

[source : News & Letters]

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Vol. 52, No. 27, Jan 5 - 11, 2020