Why mass struggle, not corporate profit, is Green
Published Nov 21, 2007 2:05 AM
WW photo: John Catalinotto
Talk of WWP Secretariat member Deirdre Griswold to the Party’s
National Conference on Nov. 17-18, 2007.
Thanks to Comrade Teresa’s remarks yesterday, I don’t have to
explain how serious a problem global warming is—you already know that. In
fact, there’s so much news about climate change—plus the disaster
movies Teresa talked about—that many people are either numb or depressed
by it all.
We all have seen what happened to the people of New Orleans and the Gulf after
Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. The Southeast is having its worst drought on
record. The city of Atlanta, Ga., with more than 5 million people in the metro
area, is running out of water.
Climate change can’t be denied any more. Up until five years ago, those
companies selling fossil fuels like coal, oil and gas carried out a vigorous
campaign to deny that human activity had anything to do with global warming, or
that it existed at all. They spent millions of dollars setting up groups with
names like Global Climate Information Project and the Greening Earth Society,
whose so-called experts pooh-poohed the idea of global warming and got lots of
exposure in the corporate media.
Politicians used this to justify not signing even the weak Kyoto Accords, which
put some limits on emissions of carbon dioxide, the main atmospheric gas
causing the earth to heat up.
The U.S. became a subject of ridicule and hatred all over the world for being
the country most responsible for global warming while refusing to do anything
about it. Scientists here, even those with high-ranking jobs in the scientific
establishment, like the head of NASA, began to revolt against the
So the big corporations in the United States have come up with a new strategy.
Everyone who is progressive needs to be aware that today, big business is
trying to take over the Green movement.
Instead of funding organizations that deny global warming, today some of the
biggest corporations, including the oil companies, are funding groups that say,
“Yes, climate change is a big problem, but the only way to deal with it
is through the capitalist market.” And a lot of the more conservative
environmental groups are buying into this.
This is why Al Gore got the Nobel Prize this year. Gore comes from Big
Oil—his family fortune is with Occidental Petroleum. When he was in the
Clinton White House, he and then Energy Secretary Bill Richardson pushed
through deals for Oxy in Colombia—where community leaders have since been
murdered for resisting the pollution and exploitation by Oxy and other
Now Gore is seen as a great environmentalist—but one who says the answer
to global warming is the market. This is also the position of the Clintons and
of Rupert Murdoch—the multi-billionaire media mogul who owns Fox News,
the Wall Street Journal, the New York Post, and hundreds of other generally
right-wing newspapers, TV and radio stations and networks all over the globe.
This reactionary now raises funds for Gore.
What’s wrong with this outlook? Isn’t it good if the auto companies
develop more fuel-efficient cars? Isn’t it good that there’s a
whole section of the stock exchange called “Green Finance” because
the companies that trade there are focused on more energy-efficient
There are three things we need to look at in this argument:
First, is this about solving the problem of global warming, or is this all
about selling new products and making more profits? The automobile market is
glutted. So, convince people they have to buy new cars that burn
ethanol—even though ethanol, mostly from corn, takes cropland away from
food production and drives up food prices.
Second, huge corporate lobbies now are focused on getting government funds to
develop these new products. But private industry will make the profits.
This, of course, is how the U.S. entered the nuclear age. The government
developed nuclear bombs and nuclear energy, then let private companies make
money off of both of them. That, too, was supposed to solve the energy
The billionaire mayor of New York, Michael Bloomberg, proposes a carbon tax to
pay for all this that will raise the price of gasoline. He says: “Green
energy is going to be the oil gusher of the 21st century.” And I guess he
wants to be the new Rockefeller.
Who supports Bloomberg’s tax? Its supporters include “business
groups and even the companies that emit carbon dioxide and would be the most
directly affected. The revenue from a carbon tax could be used to reduce the
deficit [help the banks] or to finance cuts in income taxes [help the rich] or
the alternative minimum tax.” (New York Times, Nov. 2)
When companies have to pay higher taxes, they pass the cost on to
consumers—the workers. They’re already paying high gas prices, but
have to drive to work because there’s no decent public
Another corporate scheme is called cap-and-trade. Companies would be given a
quota to pollute X amount. Those who pollute the most can buy the emissions
quotas of companies that pollute less.
Schemes like these boil down to how capitalists can make money off this global
crisis and how they can shift the cost of cleaning the environment away from
the corporations responsible for it and onto the workers.
The last question is: will all this turn back global warming? Or is it all too
little and too late?
Actually, all the scientific projections show that, even if emissions
don’t keep rising—which they are expected to do—the
temperature of the earth will still rise drastically over this century.
Things are going to change a great deal. Will it mean the end of life on this
planet, or the end of human society? No, no, no. The history of the planet is
one of great changes—not usually this sudden, but ones with profound
effects, yet humanity survived. Human beings are the most adaptable species on
the globe. But global warming will cause great suffering. And it will put
enormous strains on existing social institutions.
The poorest will suffer the most. We have seen this in New Orleans, and
recently in Haiti and the Dominican Republic where hundreds died in Hurricane
Global warming is a class issue and it is an issue of national oppression.
Those most affected are the workers and the oppressed nations, including the
oppressed Black, [email protected] and Native nations inside the U.S. As long as we live
in a capitalist society, the wealthy will be better equipped to avoid its worst
consequences. Sure, they might lose a beautiful beachside home to rising sea
levels, but they’ll have other houses and they’ll have the money to
get out when it gets dangerous. And what do rising gasoline prices mean to
those who drive limos and private jets and whose incomes are hundreds of times
what workers earn?
Global warming will add more fuel to the explosion of class struggle that is
And it’s a class issue for another reason. The perilous state of the
earth’s health didn’t happen just because of technology and modern
industry. It happened because of capitalism. The earth has been degraded
because, for 200 years, technology and industry have expanded wildly, without
restraint, without a plan, purely to grow the profits of the capitalist owning
class. What people need and what capitalism produces are two completely
We need the rebuilding of our cities with fuel-efficient, well-insulated
affordable housing and parks and green space to cool us in the summer.
We need a three-day work week! That would save a lot on commuting right there.
And parents could get to stay with their kids on alternate days. We need public
transportation and bike paths to get around, instead of wars to control the
Will private capital do any of this? Not in a million years, and we don’t
have that long.
Some want to go back to a pre-industrial era. You couldn’t do that
without killing off most of the earth’s people. The answer is not to go
back—technology is here to stay. But we have to take technology out of
the hands of private owners who are driven by the greed for profit and use it
for the good of humanity and the earth. The answer is socialism.
Cuba shows how a socialist society can continue to develop for the good of the
people even when there’s a drastic reduction in material resources. After
the Soviet Union fell in 1991, Cuba was forced to find more sustainable ways to
feed the people—without artificial fertilizers and pesticides—and
keep the economy going with far less oil and electricity. In this special
period, Cuba felt the full destructive force of the U.S. economic blockade.
Yet, even though its economy almost collapsed in the early 1990s, it
didn’t fall apart because of the bond between the people and their
revolutionary leadership. The Cuban people put their heads together and
reorganized everything, thus beginning a slow but steady climb out of extreme
Today, Cuba leads the world in sustainable development. In fact, it’s the
ONLY country in the world where the people are making progress—in
education, health, culture, making sure everyone’s basic necessities are
met—without degrading the environment. Don’t take my word for it.
That is the conclusion of a recent study by the Global Footprint Network, which
looks at both the environmental impact of a country and whether the lives of
the people there are improving. Some countries don’t have a heavy
“footprint”—that is, they don’t affect nature very
much—because they’re so poor that they have no industry, no big
cities, etc. Others, like the United States, are rich (although with a lot of
very poor people) but are literally ruining the world with pollution of all
Socialist Cuba is the only country in the whole world that is both making
progress and protecting its environment.
And Cuba has done something else—something we must demand for this
country and the world. It has worked out detailed plans to protect the people
from natural disasters. The UN says it leads the world in this type of civil
Let me ask everyone here: if your home were to be hit by a hurricane, or a
tornado, or a terrible flood, would you know where to go? Would the government
help you evacuate if you were sick, or disabled? Would it provide
transportation to take you to a place to stay, make sure you were fed, and then
get you back home again when the danger had passed?
In Cuba, all that happens every time a hurricane hits. And because of it, when
Hurricane Noel last month caused more than 200 deaths in Haiti and the
Dominican Republic, not one person died in Cuba.
Finally, is there time to heal the earth before utter catastrophe? In talks
yesterday, we explained that in just two decades, imperialism has totally
restructured the global economy in order to reduce wages and exploit workers
all over the globe. In a workers’ world, a socialist world, our class can
beat their record and turn this disaster around. Global warming will be a major
factor in convincing all forward-thinking people that the destruction of
capitalism and the revolutionary reorganization of society is an absolute
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