The system behind the madness

December 9, 2009

On the face of it, 2009 is drawing to an end with a new outbreak of political madness.

United States President Barack Obama, who was elected on the hopes of millions that he would end the criminal and bloody imperial wars waged by his predecessor, announced the US would send 30,000 more troops to Afghanistan.

In Australia, it appears there has been victory for climate change denialists in the federal Liberal Party, with Tony Abbott displacing Malcolm Turnbull as party leader. Meanwhile, right-wing, pro-development privatisers scored a victory in the New South Wales Labor Party, as Kristina Keneally replaced Nathan Rees as premier.

In the December 3 Sydney Morning Herald, right-wing columnist Miranda Devine praised the leadership coup in the Liberal Party and hoped the emissions trading scheme (ETS) "could prove to be what WorkChoices was for Howard".

She identified that there was potential for the right to mobilise popular opposition to a "$120-billion tax on the Australian public" that will destroy jobs and do nothing for the environment.

Not only does Rudd's ETS do nothing to help stop climate change, it is a free-kick to right-wing populists and climate "sceptics" like Devine and Abbott. They are able to argue that going "green" means ordinary people pay more for no good reason.

Of course, a real green policies would make polluters pay and use public investment to create green jobs.

While the opinion polls report 66% of Australians support an ETS — albeit amid widespread confusion about what it is — the confidence of the right-wing climate change denialists is boosted by the fact that an ETS (and certainly Labor's current version, which now gives even more generous subsidies for the biggest corporate polluters as concessions to the Liberals) won't be any good for the environment, and will actually make things worse.

Green Left Weekly has consistently told the truth about the government's Carbon Pollution Reduction Scam, and will continue to do so. In the past few weeks, any real public debate about the ETS has been obscured by the shallow mainstream media coverage of the Liberal leadership struggle and Labor's eager political exploitation of the Liberal crisis.

But the dust will begin to clear as the capitalist class uses the Copenhagen Summit to strengthen and expand the global carbon trading market.

The creation of such a market could rival the multi-trillion dollar public bailout of the capitalist system after its recent historic global financial crisis. The GFC was the result of an historic three-decade worldwide orgy of corporate greed and speculation.

The rich became fabulously rich while the world's great majority were forced to work longer and harder for less. The corporate rich gambled on property, shares in companies that produced nothing, and finally in complicated financial scams that even they didn't understand properly.

And when it all went bust, the big banks and other corporations demanded that the world's governments bail them out — socialise their losses so that they could start yet another cycle of greed. If the corporate elite gets its way, the public will be paying for it for decades in the form of more cuts to services, poorer working conditions and more taxes on workers.

The return of mega-bonuses for bank managers and Wall Street cowboys just months after the public bailout should be a warning to us that corporate greed knows no limits or shame.

The bad news is the corporate scammers now have a new speculative scheme: the global carbon market.

Like the financial scams around collateral debt swaps and other financial derivative markets, this scam is supposed to be about trading risks. But this time, they won't be trading just financial risks. They will be trading the risk of catastrophic global climate change.

"The Story of Cap & Trade" is a short video) that explains the global carbon trading market, which will be discussed at the Copenhagen Summit, in ordinary language.

US activist Annie Leonard explains, in this excellent video, that carbon trading was devised by people in collapsed US corporate giant Enron, who invented energy trading and the Wall Street finance companies like Goldman Sachs, who created the subprime mortgage crisis.

"Their job is to create brand new markets", she says. They stake their claims and then, when everyone and their grandmother wants in, they make off with huge amounts of money as the market becomes a giant bubble and bursts."

Does that sound familiar?

In the process of expanding this new global speculative market in pollution trading rights, experience shows that carbon emissions will exceed the notional "caps", or non-binding targets, that the happy motions at Copenhagen will discuss. More rainforest will be cleared in the Third World in the name of "carbon offsetting" and more horrible industrial pollution will be dumped on the world's poorest countries.

And all the while, the world will have wasted the critical time and resources that really ought to go into massive public investment in renewable energy, sustainable economic practices, expansion of public transport, global justice, and soon.

This is madness for the planet and madness for humanity. But it is not the madness of individuals, rather the irrationality of a capitalist system that is driven by an insatiable push for more and more corporate profit.

Why do the corporate rulers of the world think they can get away with it? Their confidence is boosted in part by the fact that — so far — they've managed to overcome public anger in the world's richest countries to comply with the massive bailout to save them from the GFC.

Clearly humanity and the planet can't afford this global madness to carry on. But if we want to put an end to it, we have to face up to the challenge of building powerful people's power movements that can replace the social system behind this madness with one based on cooperation and sustainability.

The Copenhagen summit will be met with angry protests on the streets outside. We must use these protests to launch a mass campaign for serious climate action with policies that put people and the planet before corporate profit.

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