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Reconstituted Socialist Party of Great Britain (1991) - Capitalism and Global Warming - Is Greta Thunberg a Socialist?

Is Greta Thunberg a Socialist?

Penguin, a large corporate publishing house, has just published Greta Thunberg's NO ONE IS TOO SMALL TO MAKE A DIFFERENCE. The book is a collection of her speeches from climate rallies across Europe to audiences at the UN, the World Economic Forum, and the UK Parliament.

It is a well written book; jargon free, and will have a wide distribution among school children of her age. It is rare for someone so young to take a prominent public position, although Thunberg should inspire others of her generation to do the same. However, as Marx noted in a different context, Thunberg's subject matter in her speeches - the cause and effects of global warming - has summoned: "as foes into the field of battle the most violent, mean and malignant passions of the human breast - the furies of private interest" (Preface, CAPITAL vol. 1).

So it comes as no surprise that Thunberg is hated by climate deniers and defenders of the free market like Douglas Murray of the SPECTATOR (owned by the Barclay Brothers), Rod Liddle of the SUNDAY TIMES (owned by Rupert Murdoch), and Brendan O’Neil of SPIKED.COM (a free market institute with links to the US billionaire Koch Brothers). One ""fury" wanted her to be grilled and humiliated by the former editor of the SUNDAY TIMES, Andrew Neil. She has been accused of being a "socialist", a "Marxist" and the free-market conspiracy theorists claim that she has "dark forces" behind her. Callous ridicule and spite is all these pathetic well-paid hacks can offer in defence of their billionaire paymasters' class system of exploitation and profit-making.
https://www.vox.com/energy-and-environment/2019/9/26/20882958/greta-thunberg-climate-change-trump-attacks-right-wing

Defenders of fossil fuel interests and billionaires like the Koch brothers with massive investments in the fossil fuel industry cannot deny the science. Instead, they are forced to belittle and ridicule people like Greta Thunberg who point out the consequences of climate warming, particularly the pollution from the fossil fuel industry. However, Thunberg is on strong scientific ground. Here is NASA on the consequences of global warming:

Global climate change has already had observable effects on the environment. Glaciers have shrunk, ice on rivers and lakes is breaking up earlier, plant and animal ranges have shifted and trees are flowering sooner. Effects that scientists had predicted in the past would result from global climate change are now occurring: loss of sea ice, accelerated sea level rise and longer, more intense heat waves.
https://climate.nasa.gov/effects/

Thunberg's answer to her detractors is to say "look at the science". And her critics have no answer. The science of climate change makes her critics look stupid. Science trumps their vindictive ad hominem assaults on her as a person. This is her argument and it is as strong as it is naive. Strong, because the science of climate change will not go away but naive because pointing to the science alone is not sufficient for revolutionary change to replace the capitalist production-for-profit system with socialism: the common ownership of the means of production and distribution by all of society. Until socialism is established consciously, politically and democratically by a socialist majority, the problems generated by capitalism will continue from one generation to the next.

Politicians and governments have looked at the science of global warming and have concluded that the priorities of capitalism are more important than the environment. The interests of individual capitalist countries and their energy needs are paramount over the effects of global warming. If the seas rise, millions are displaced, and coastal areas of the world disappear or become uninhabitable, then, as long as capitalism turns a profit, all is grand and dandy in the world.

The one great fault with the book is its inability to look at and critically analyse capitalism, or even name it. Not once does Thunberg mention capitalism. Nor does she say anything about the ownership of the means of production. Her position is to say "look at the science". This is her argument and it is extremely naive. She claims that she has not written a political tract and that the school strikes she is associated with "has nothing to do with party politics" (p.2).

So what can she do? She must leave the science where it is and become politically engaged. And that is exactly what her political enemies want her to do. They want to move the ground away from science to politics - their politics; the vile and ugly politics of the free market, of market fundamentalism, of piece- meal reforms, of economic interests and the priorities of the corporations.

Unfortunately there is no alternative but to confront the furies of capitalism. Marx had to when he was alive and so do socialists today. It is no good having ideas, good ideas and sound arguments if they are not practically realised. And this requires political action. It should be science and the politics of socialism - of making socialists and building a strong and focussed socialist movement.

There is no questioning in the book of the failure of capitalism's institutions. Thunberg lectures the UN but there is little understanding of that organisations political impotence. The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCC), which since 1992 has been the political mechanism to limit global carbon emissions, has been an abject failure. While some countries have boasted that they have made progress de-carbonising, much of that reduction has been as a result of capitalists moving production to countries with lower wages and more fossil fuel use.

The nearest Thunberg's political thinking approaches some form of positive criticism of capitalism is when she writes:

"We are about to sacrifice our civilization for the opportunity of a very small number of people to continue to make enormous amounts of money. We are about to sacrifice the biosphere so that rich people in countries like mine can live in luxury. But it is the sufferings of the many which pay for the luxuries of the few" (p. 15).

And she goes on to say:

"The power belongs to the people",(p.16). A line almost borrowed from John Lennon's "power to the people".

She has identified the problem as being "the rich" and the solution "the people. But how and through what political mechanism do the rich lose their wealth and privilege; their ownership of the means of production? How and by what means do "the people" exercise their power? On these questions there is silence.

There is no answer to be found in the book. She lectures governments and politicians but she knows that they are not going to change. "The political system that you have created is all about competition" (p. 36). She should have been more accurate and added that capitalism is all about "profit and capital accumulation". Also that capitalism is not just a "political system" but a social system whose politics are rooted in its economics, with economic priorities which ride roughshod over ecology and the biosphere, with no way of valuing the continuance of any living species, even as due to pollution and loss of habitat, so many species are driven into extinction.

The probably unintended pessimism of the book is because she has no political answers. That is the tragedy of Greta Thunberg. She states that "all political movements in their present form have failed" (p. 20). She writes that "we need new politics" (p. 35), either because she is unaware that a socialist politics already exists or more probably she has rejected socialism as she is misinformed. The nearest she comes to rejecting capitalism is when she writes:

"...we must stop competing with each other, we need to cooperate and work together and to share the resources of the planet in a fair way...we need to protect the biosphere, the air, the oceans, the soil, the forests" (p. 36)

While we cannot dispute this argument, we would argue that as yet socialism has never been tried so cannot be said to have failed. There has never been the establishment of the common ownership and democratic control of the means of production and distribution by all of society.

The question has been asked: "Is Greta Thunberg a Socialist?". Clearly she is not, but she is young enough to become a socialist. She and her audience would need to understand class exploitation at the heart of capitalism. And reject the notion of leadership, not just make speeches about solving one of capitalism's major problems. If she wants to save the environment and create a harmonious bio-diversity she has no alternative, nor do the many who support her.

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