“Everything for Everyone” presentation, Seattle
Capitalism has a growth imperative, on a scale more unimaginably massive than any other mode of production that has existed historically. Others expanded only at a rate to feed a growing population, but capitalism has no limits. This is because its sole purpose is the accumulation of surplus value, and because of its driving force: competition. Its momentum is perpetuated by the tendency of the rate of profit to fall and the need for each individual capitalist to get the most before all the others. (Example: industrial fishing).
Capitalism starts with primary accumulation, in other words the theft of land and other natural resources. It is a production process that extracts surplus value (or profit) from human labor power during in the conversion of the natural world into commodities. The point is not to provide for the needs of society, nor is it the commodities. The entire point and purpose of production under capitalism is for capital to reproduce itself. Each capitalist strives to expand more than all others, or risks being swallowed up by them.
Because of this compulsion to keep expanding, and the increasing difficulty of finding profitable investment opportunities in saturated economies, more and more of the world has to be converted into commodities, at ever-increasing rates, and ever-increasing irrationality. From largest (asteroids, moon) to smallest (DNA) and even immaterial (emotions). Running out of low-hanging fruit – centers are turning to self-cannibalization.
The crisis of overproduction has become acute. It’s reaching the end of all physical limits. Not long ago, David Bianco, the head of U.S. equity strategy at Bank of America, said: “Cash is piling up faster than companies can figure out what to do with it.” So you start seeing a rise of totally insane investment in toxic assets, which creates financial bubbles and crashes that affect the economy as a whole.
So the people are subjected to both the misery of economic crisis as well as having their life support system being destroyed.
You can’t have infinite growth on a finite planet. The system is maxed out, and the economic and ecological crises are converging. The world is being destroyed by capitalism.
To save the planet, we must eliminate capitalism.
Many activists don’t know how capitalism actually functions. We have to understand why it’s structurally impossible to reform, so that we can deal with the necessity – and our responsibility – not to fix it (because domination is built into it from the start) but to do away with it, and figure out all that will entail. We may be the last generation with the opportunity to do this. We can’t mess it up.
Capitalism will never stop on its own, or collapse (dynamic, adaptable). It can not be reformed. It can not be reasoned with. It’s is a social machine, an economic mechanism with its own motion, independent of anyone’s will. Without intervention, it will lead to what Marx called the common ruin of contending classes. Capitalists, individually or as a class, have no choice in this matter. They can not be appealed to.
Capitalism must be violently overthrown. This must be on a global scale. We have to smash its superstructure, specifically the states that protect it, and re-organize production to meet the needs of the planet as a whole. This means production that is sustainable, non-extractive, and for a while, repairing damage.
In addition to a process of production, capitalism is also a social relation, structured as class domination. The class from whom surplus labor is extracted (stolen) is the proletariat; their position is antagonistic to capital. Capitalism’s functioning is utterly dependent upon its domination of the proletariat. If the working class understood that instead of depending on capitalism for jobs, capitalists depend on them to exist, we would be having a completely different conversation.
Because of their strategic placement in the productive process, and their fundamental interests (which they are mainly not currently conscious of), only the proletariat, by overturning this relation of domination and liberating itself as a class, internationally, can liberate humanity and the planet from capitalism.
Of all the classes that exist today, only the proletariat can provide an alternative to capitalism. Though all the dominated classes are important in the revolutionary process, and must be allies in the struggle, and participate, the proletariat must lead, or else capitalist restoration is guaranteed. This has been proven historically.
The proletariat needs to build alliances with those who are located at the point of primary accumulation, where land and resources are being expropriated. The interests of subsistence farmers and indigenous communities, in particular, are diametrically opposed to capitalism — they come face to face with its most vicious forms, and their self-preservation depends on ending it. This alliance is crucial if we are ever to bring humanity into a sustainable relationship with the natural world.
Today, objective conditions are ripening for revolutionary possibilities. Capitalism is in a period of extreme global crisis. In addition to economic difficulty, people are being affected by global warming, radiation, crop failures, fracking chemicals in their drinking water. People are coming into motion against their conditions.
What is missing: class consciousness. The understanding of capitalism as a system, and what is required to eliminate it. Because of ideological domination, people are being diverted into reformism, lifestylism, adventurism and other false solutions. Even militant mass uprisings, if not led by the working class, can only lead to a radical restructuring of capitalism, not its overthrow and replacement by an alternative.
We need to work on the subjective factor, and by building political unity, construct the kinds of organizations capable of overthrowing capitalism. There are many types of organizations and alliances needed globally (of all the dominated classes and social groupings at the mass, intermediate and revolutionary levels), but one type we can not do without, and which must be at the lead, if we are to win, are autonomous revolutionary organizations of the proletariat.
Another element missing from the ideology of the left is biocentrism. Without a healthy landbase, all life is impossible. This awareness is required to solidify a sense of urgency in building our organizations capable of overthrowing capitalism in time, before the world is destroyed beyond repair. We have to put all our energy into accelerating this process. Without a livable world, nothing else will matter. We have to deal with reality at history’s own pace, but if we maximize our efforts immediately, we can have some effect on that pace and not waste time with unnecessary mistakes or wandering in wrong directions.
The subjective factor is currently lagging behind objective conditions, and this can be changed (by us), and it can make all the difference.
So we need to spread proletarian class consciousness in society as a whole, among everyone, including the working class itself of course, as well as environmentalists (because the strategy of proletarian revolution is the only way (barring unforeseen developments) their goals can be realized). And spread biocentrism among everyone, specifically to communists and socialists (and defeat the erroneous “theory of the productive forces” and simplistic outmoded notions of abundance). We need an alliance of those who defend the land, and those who engage in class struggle. Only by combining the two will we achieve both liberation and a sustainable future.