Why we need an ecosocialist revolution

March School Strike 4 Climate, Brisbane. Credit: Alex Bainbridge

The global #ClimateStrike movement is more than just a call for genuine climate action.

It is also a recognition that governments have failed to take the action that was both possible and necessary to avert catastrophe.

It is not because they did not know about the problem. They have had scientific reports, conferences, agreements and protocols for decades.

It is not that they were spooked by climate denial. The same corporate polluters that have undue influence on governments also paid for the climate denial.

Government inaction and climate denial are both symptoms of the same disease: capitalism. And we can't eliminate the symptoms without curing the disease.

Some governments have begun to take some initial steps in the right direction. This is not surprising when the threat is so serious and overwhelming.

However, there are still many more examples of governments pretending to take climate action than are actually reducing emissions!

The brutal fact remains that governments are still subsidising polluting fossil fuels. In other words, governments are financing the destruction of the basis for a safe climate. This subsidy amounts to 6.5% of global GDP — or $5.2 trillion a year — according to an IMF report from May. Subsidies for renewable energy are much smaller.

In other words: there is no one coming to save us.

The only way we get out of this mess is if ordinary people step onto the stage of history to take power out of the hands of the corporate elite that is currently cooking the planet.

We need an anti-capitalist goal because capitalism has an inbuilt and unrelenting drive to maximise profits. Maximising capitalist profits is a more important goal for the corporate elite than sustaining a liveable planet.

That is not a statement based on activist hyperbole. It is simply a recognition of the actual priorities demonstrated by corporate leaders and their puppet politicians. Choose which-ever time frame — last year, last decade, last century — the conclusion remains valid.

A negative goal (anti-capitalism) is not enough. We need a positive goal to strive for. Some form of socialism — or ecosocialism — is the only practical alternative to the capitalist system.

Socialism is an alternative to capitalism precisely because it has no inbuilt imperative to maximise profits. The goals of a socialist society are to meet human needs. These include a safe climate and a liveable planet. Socialism has no imperative to grow forever once rational human needs are met.

Socialism, unlike capitalism, requires democracy, at least to function well. Even though some capitalist countries have the superficial appearance of democracy, the substance is always missing. Once the corrupting influence of private profit is removed from the political process, ordinary people will discover for the first time what it means to have a substantive say in how society is managed.

Democratic planning — unlike the anarchy of a profit-driven market — will make possible the refounding of a genuine sustainable relationship with the natural world.

Socialism is not only a vision. It is also a strategy.

Socialism — democratic self management of our society and economy — is based on people power. We begin with the campaigns and struggles of today and link these with the organised effort to fundamentally transform society.

In this time of crisis, when people are debating the ethics of bringing children into the world, we're calling on people to respond with the best version of themselves.

The challenge of making an ecosocialist revolution is huge — and there is no guarantee of victory. But the coming period might be our last chance to avoid an unimaginable catastrophe. There is no more noble goal in this time than to work with others to try to make it happen.

[Alex Bainbridge is a national co-convenor of the Socialist Alliance.]

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