Socialists jumping on the environmentalist bandwagon?

Sent to tle local Shields Gazette
Mr MS (Gazette, 26th March) , criticising my letter on climatic change suggests Socialists are jumping on the environmentalist bandwagon. For the record socialist have been warning about the dangers capitalist production methods pose the environment for 130 years.

In 1875, in Dialectics of Nature, Fred Engels had this to say:

“At every step we are reminded that we by no means rule over nature like a conqueror over a foreign people, like someone standing over nature – but that we, with flesh and 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. We are gradually learning to get a clear view of the indirect, more remote social effects of our productive activity, and so are afforded the opportunity to control and regulate these effects well. This regulation, however, requires a complete revolution in our existing mode of production…in our whole contemporary social order”

And, Mr MS, there has been no “shift in socialist priorities”, as you say, “from world peace and global poverty, to solar panels and energy-efficient light bulbs.” Our priority remains the same – abolition of the profit system and the establishment of a system of society where the earth’s natural and industrial resources are commonly owned and democratically controlled.

Socialists are no different from others in desiring an envirionment in which the safety of all animal and plant spieces is ensured. Where we differ from our poitical opponents is in recognising that their demands have to be set against a well entrenched economic and social system, based on class privilege and property and governed by the overriding law of profits first.

It has long been our case that human needs can be satisfied without recourse to production methods that aversely effect the natural environment, which is exactly why we advocate the establishment of a system of society in which production is freed from the artificial constraints of profit. We are not talking about nationalisation or any other tinkering with the present system, but rather its entire abolition and replacement with a global system in which the earth’s natural and industrial resources are commonly owned and democratically controlled; a society in which each production processes takes into consideration not only human need but any likely effect upon the environment.

Once the Earth’s natural and industrial resources have ben wrested from the master class and become the common heritage of all humanity, then production can be geared to meeting needs in an ecologically acceptable way, instead of making profits without consideration for the environment. This the only basis on which we can meet our needs whilst respecting the laws of nature and to at last begin to reverse the degradation of the environment caused by the profit system. The only effective strategy for achieving a free and democratic society and, moreover, one that is in harmony with nature, is to build up a movement which has the achievement of such a society as itsobjective.


Non-Violent Direct Action

I came across this piece while sorting out some old files from my pc - its the supporting statement I presented to the SP Conference several years ago for the discussion on Direct Action. Although there was some decent support for the item, Conference was generally agreed that NVDA was something socialists did not get involved in.

NON-VIOLENT DIRECT ACTION (Supporting statement from North East Branch) Socialist Party Annual Conference 2001

Direct action, or rather non-violent direct action, refers to a variety of activities the party is yet to contemplate, activity that need not compromise our position and which is only limited by the imagination. We do not list them here – we leave that to the imagination of the reader.

NVDA is something the WSM does not advocate because we seek to maintain a mantel of respectability (albeit in the eyes of the state). We prefer to leave NVDA to the Reclaim the Streets people and anarchist types. We seem terrified to incur the wrath of the state less they ‘close us down’, less we’re given a bad press, less people are turned off us.

Well the state might close down our office, but would this mean the end of the case for socialism?
NVDA has certain qualities. It publicises injustice, expresses the anger of the aggrieved, publicises the WSM case and the futility of reformism. It intrudes upon the complacency of the passive majority, arousing awareness of global issues and our response to it and disturbs the status quo.

In addition to our present, limited and often non-visible activities, we need some other device, powerful but restrained, controlled and explosive, more visible and obtrusive to get our message across – a more organised use of the techniques of dissent than have been tried by others pursuing direct action and civil disobedience as a means to an end.

One thing is certain – the workers are not beating as path to our door, salivating over our ideas and anxious to find out more. They never have and they never will. Most see us as some self-righteous sect, a Karl Marx fan club, intellectual masturbators, never perceived as getting involved in the day-to-day struggles of the workers, forever sitting on the fence saying ‘tut-tut, that’s not how it’s done.’

For many workers, they need to see more tangible, more overt propaganda before they’re prepared to take on board our ideas and get involved. They need to see us shoulder to shoulder with them in their daily struggles – maybe because actions speak louder than words for a lot of people.

The test or justification for NVDA is not its legality, but its morality; not law but justice for the exploited. And if civil disobedience brings us in front of the judges, could we not do with the oxygen of publicity that defending ourselves would bring? And what is the socialist case if it is not just? Would we not win more the respect of our class – at last showing them that we’re on their side – if we were prepared to get our hands a bit mucky now and again?

We have to ask ourselves how much we bloody-well want socialism!! That we are happy to stand one candidate in the coming General Election, when our case is premised on the argument that socialism must be established democratically, suggests a fair few of us pay socialism lip service.

Why should we show the state (the executive of capitalism) respect? Why should we seek the respect of the master class and the legal apparatus that protects it and which continually tips the outcome of the class war in their favour? Do the bastards respect the working class? Hell, no! Because of their system, their logic, 40,000 children die every day through starvation globally. Because of their system, 210 million of our fellows died as a result of wars fought in the 20th century. The master class have no respect for the environment and they are prepared to transgress no end of laws to see that their system continues and that we are held continually in a state of subjection. The new Anti-Terrorism act is even aimed at marginalizing and isolating protest groups, stifling any opposition to injustice. Protesting at hypocrisy, deceit and fraud is now a subversive act.

The point is, how much respect do we give and how much of their respect do we wish to win? How many more millions of our fellows have to die in the name of profit before we really start getting angry? How long must we bow with suppliant knee before them, acknowledging their laws, afraid of any adverse publicity the breaking of laws might bring. If the USA were to drop an atomic bomb on Baghdad tomorrow, we’d cover it in the Standard and prepare an EC statement (and really put the wind up the Pentagon).

The longer we show the present system the respect that we do, the longer the injustices continue. NVDA is not a departure from the socialist struggle, but is very much essential to it.
If we don’t start doing something now then history will pass us by and in a hundred years time we’ll still be mentioned as a footnote at the bottom of page 743, as a small Marxist sect that produced some interesting theoretical stuff from a naffy little office in Clapham.

Is NE Branch alone on this? Is the WSM capable of really getting stuck in (and before anyone starts taking the piss we’re not on about manning barricades and handing out kalashnikovs)? Is there more to being a socialist than theorising and discussing branch business?


Just as capitalism is a world system of society, so too must socialism be. There never has been, and never can be, socialism in just one country because its material basis is the world-wide and interdependent means of production that capitalism has built up. The bulk of the wealth produced in the world today is produced by the co-operative labour of the millions employed to operate these means of production. What is needed now, to establish socialism, is a conscious political decision on the part of these billions across the world to run society in their own interests. This will be done by taking the means of production throughout the world into common ownership, with their democratic control by the whole community, and with production solely for use.

Common ownership will be a social relationship of equality between all people with regard to the use of the means of production. No longer will there be classes, governments and their state machinery, or national frontiers.

Democratic control will involve the whole community in making decisions about the use of the means of production. Instead of government over people there would be various levels of democratic administration, from the local up to regional and world levels, with responsibility being delegated if necessary to groups and individuals.

Production for use will bring production into direct line with human needs. Without money, wages, buying and selling there will be a world of free access. Everyone will be able to contribute to society by working voluntarily, according to ability. Everyone will be able to take freely from whatever is readily available, according to self-defined needs.

The motivation for this new world comes from the common class interest of those who produce but do not possess. An important part of this motivation comes from the global problems thrown up by capitalism. Ecological problems make a nonsense of the efforts of governments. War and the continuing threat of nuclear war affect us all. The problem of uneven development means that many producers in the underdeveloped countries suffer starvation, disease and absolute poverty. All of these problems of capitalism can only be solved within the framework of a socialist world. Ecological problems require the sort of long-term planning and development of which competitive, international capitalism is incapable. Converting the armaments industry (capitalism's biggest industry) from producing weapons of destruction to producing useful things to satisfy human needs will take time. Ending world hunger and poverty, above all, makes the world-wide co-operation of socialism an urgent necessity.

But this does not rule out local democracy. In fact a democratic system of decision-making would require that the basic unit of social organisation would be the local community. However, the nature of some of the problems we face and the many goods and services presently produced, such as raw materials, energy sources, agricultural products, world transport and communications, need production and distribution to be organised at a world level.
Corresponding to this, of course, there would be a need for a democratic world administration, controlled by delegates from the regional and local levels of organisation throughout the world.
The World Socialist Movement, of which the Socialist Party is a constituent part, expresses the common class interest of the producers. Because political power in capitalism is organised on a territorial basis each socialist party has the task of seeking democratically to gain political power in the country where it operates. If it is suggested that socialist ideas might develop unevenly across the world, and that socialists of only a part of the world were in a position to get political control, then the decision about the action to be taken would be one for the whole of the socialist movement in the light of all the circumstances at the time. It would certainly be a folly, however, to base a programme of political action on the assumption that socialist ideas will develop unevenly and that we must therefore be prepared to establish "socialism" in one country or even a group of countries like the European Community.

For a start, it is an unreasonable assumption that socialist ideas will develop unevenly. Given the world-wide nature of capitalism and its social relationships, the vast majority of people live under basically similar conditions, and because of the world-wide system of communications and media, there is no reason for socialist ideas to be restricted to one part of the world. Any attempt to establish "socialism" in one country would be bound to fail owing to the pressures exerted by the world market on that country's means of production. Recent experience in Russia, China and elsewhere shows conclusively that even capitalist states cannot detach themselves from the requirements of an integrated system of production operated through the world market.
Faced with this explanation of how the world could be organised, many would reject it in favour of something more "realistic", including some who call themselves socialist. They seek to solve social problems within the framework of government policies, the state machine, national frontiers, money, wages, buying and selling. But if our analysis of capitalism as a world system is correct—and we've yet to be shown how it's wrong—the state politics are irrelevant as a way of solving social problems, Viewed globally, state politics only make sense when seen as a means for capturing political power in order to introduce a world of free access