At a recent meeting of a local Labour Party
Branch in Worcester,
a slick high tech presentation was given by a group called Transition Worcester,
who said they had the answer to the environmental crisis. It is to turn the
clock back 200 years to a mythical age where all trade was local and people
enjoyed the benefit of locally grown meat, fruit & veg. Within this presentation were ideas such as we
should no longer trade with developing countries and we should therefore export
our unemployment to the third world.
It is laughable to see how out of touch
with reality these people are. 200 years ago, Britain was in grip of the vast
expanding industrial revolution which was polluting the air and the water;
where ordinary workers could not afford the fresh locally grown produce and
trade was becoming more international, for example with cotton goods from
Britain being transported all over the world.
These “good life“ merchants want us to have a low input, low energy
agricultural system, but seem to forget that even at the height of the “Dig for
Victory” campaign in the Second World War Britain still imported vast amounts
of food and yet still had food rationing for a population a lot smaller than
today. It may well be feasible for Britain to be self sufficient in food, but
only by taking hold of the huge tracts of waste land currently left idle by
their private owners and turning them to productive use would this idea even
approach being possible over time.
But what is frightening, if not surprising,
is that this attitude of environmental protectionism is gaining ground amongst
some intellectuals. The development of ideas raised by Transitional Communities
groups are spreading across Britain
in small rural market towns. Local bartering exchange notes are becoming an
alternative currency. These people want
to pull up the drawbridge and live in isolation from the rest of the country.
When questioned about how low paid workers can afford the cost of food under
their system, the answer is “tough.”
The alternatives are shortage or socialism.
These individuals would rather see starvation than challenge the chaotic
capitalist system that has created the environmental disasters we see today. In
their presentation there was no suggestion of a planned socialist economy being
put forward to harness alternative natural clean energy supplies. The idea that the curtailment of trade would
be beneficial is idiotic; it would have the opposite effect by throwing huge
numbers of transport & distribution workers on to the scrapheap without any
Labour should discuss how to save the
environment but without a socialist perspective it is just adding to the CO2. The crisis facing our planet can only be really addressed by
replacing the capitalist system, which acts solely for profit and self-interest,
wastes resources, cares nothing for the environment and acts for current gain
rather than thinking about the future. Under socialism the resources that are
the key to stopping climate change, providing energy supply, transport, and
food production, would be nationalised under workers’ control and management.
Then we could efficiently organise and plan to provide for peoples’ needs
whilst ensuring that the environment is protected and the damage caused by
decades of ruthless exploitation is repaired for the generations who will come
after us. The huge wastage and chaos which marks a system which produces for
profit not need could become a thing of the past.
However that is not enough. Unlike the
parochial “green wellie brigade,” who look inwards to the parish pump for their
answers, we have to look internationally for the solutions to climate change. We
cannot feed 60 million citizens, nor can we supply renewable energy for the
whole country using just wind turbines, etc. on our own land and shoreline. Part
of the struggle for socialism internationally is to make the resources of the
world available to all so that we can all benefit each other.
Do not be hooked in by capitalist
solutions. Socialists have grave concerns about carbon taxes, however well meaning they are.
They would be regressive, hitting the
poorest hardest and would in truth have little practical effect. Trading carbon
is just another way of exporting our environmental problems to the developing
world and hindering their growth and development. It is environmental
Imperialism! Capitalism operates a system for the short-term profit. The
anarchy of capitalism must be replaced by the planned economy of socialism,
under democratic workers’ control.