- The Guardian
- Issue #2074
In the face of catastrophic climate change, some people think that it’s no time for politics. What they mean is that we should take effective action on climate change instead of bickering. It’s true that effective action is needed, but it’s not the case that we don’t have time for politics. Capitalist politics is what has put the planet in the state it’s in now. We are in the middle of an unnatural disaster, and it is time for politics. It’s time for the right sort of politics. It’s time for socialism.
If you are tired of reading about climate change, that’s too bad. Climate change is upon us. Temperature records are being routinely broken. Bushfire season is starting early this year. European countries have been having the hottest summers ever experienced. We are going to see more crop failures, more heatwaves, and more climate refugees.
Now is no time for the wrong sort of politics – the politicking that has stopped Australia from taking effective action to lower carbon emissions as much as we need to. Politics – bourgeois, short-term Australian parliamentary politicking – has lead to this country ditching a Carbon price system that was having a good effect. Politics capitalist-Australian style gave us one of our ‘parties of government’ pretending that working people needed large cars more than they needed breathable air. Politics as usual means both our major parties subsidising fossil fuel producers to the tune of $11.6 billion per year.
The sort of politics that is keeping us on the path to a planet people can’t live on is based around narrow electoral calculations by bourgeois politicians who dance to the tune of donors, and often wind up working for them after leaving office.
In 2022, the IPCC and the UN said clearly that no new fossil fuel projects should be opened. They did not say this because they are impractical ‘tree-huggers’. They said it because they are concerned with human survival. Since then, the Australian government – elected in no small part due to promises to take Climate Change more seriously than the Morrison Liberal/National Coalition government had – has approved or extended eight fossil fuel projects.
What’s behind these suicidal politics is not just bad politicians who need to be voted out (we’ve tried that), but capitalism. Big donors want whoever is in government to be as slow as possible about phasing out fossil fuels. As a wit said recently, “It’s Woodside’s world – we’re just renting it from them while they boil it.” Corporations don’t just want to maximise profits, they have to.
Marx saw this coming. He describes the remorseless expansion of capital at the expense of human need and human beings.
Capitalism has had a long time to fix climate change. Instead, capitalists have made climate change move faster. So capitalist politics won’t get us there – ‘there’ being we get to survive as a species. The right politics will get us there. Socialism is about what’s good for people, not what’s good for capital. We need action from people who have to work to survive – that’s the proletariat, who are also the majority. We need a just transition that’s fast – just so that everyone can get behind making the changes we need, fast because it’s happening now. So far, capitalist politics is giving us an unjust transition that is too slow.
We don’t have the luxury of being tired of climate change. We are going through it right now. Capitalist politics had brought us to this point. Socialist politics can get us out of it. Get involved. Get into the politics we need to survive.