On 14 January 2024, the parties of the European Communist Action (ECA) held a teleconference under the theme: “Reject the parties of the EU, capital and ‘green’ exploitation. The hope for saving the environment is red”.
he delegates of the CPs exchanged views on the issue of environmental protection and the so-called green growth. During the works, there was agreement and a significant convergence of views on important aspects of the issue. A Joint Statement will be issued in the near future, while the introductory speech and the contributions of the parties will be published on the ECA website.
On the occasion of the teleconference, the CPs of the ECA once again expressed their solidarity with the suffering Palestinian people and condemned Israel’s criminal military operations in the Gaza Strip and the other Palestinian territories, as well as the US and British bombing of Yemen, which are leading the strategically important Red Sea and Persian Gulf region to conflagration.
Below we are publishing the Communist Front’s contribution to the discussion:
We believe that the issue we are addressing today is of crucial importance for two main reasons. The first is the intensification of ideological pressure on society, expressed through bourgeois propaganda, on the issue of the environment aimed especially at the younger segment of the population. The second is that the environmental emergency is a real problem with immediate and future consequences.
We emphasize this duplicity for a specific reason, in our experience in Italy there is a tendency even within our political area of negationist positions on the environmental issue. This is a sign of an inability to confront the dominant bourgeois approach to the issue due to the lack of class elaboration and mass activity that bring all environmental disputes, of which there are many in Italy, on the same ground on a more general political level. We will return to this point in the final and main part of this talk on the role of communists.
It is obvious to us Communist Parties the connection and responsibilities of the relationship between capitalist relations of production and the current environmental emergency, so we will not go into descriptive and punctual detail. Instead, we will try to state some characteristics of the relationship between this evidence of historical development and the perception of the masses.
Today’s environmental emergency is the result of the laws governing capitalist accumulation, the anarchy and basic irrationality of the capitalist system of production, which excludes the possibility for society as a whole to exercise any real control over the production of the goods it consumes and needs, subordinating this to the interests of those acting for profit. The capitalist development of society brings with it pollution and environmental devastation. The inherent tendency to overproduce goods and exploit nature more and more aggressively damages the planet by flooding it with waste and emissions.
This responsibility and the way it has historically developed are very clear to us, less so to the working class as a whole and the population at large. In our experience there is a fairly well-established general perception of this link, a solid basis on which to develop political work with a class orientation. But that poses a general problem, the illusion that the environmental emergency is linked to this specific capitalist development, resulting in the possibility of an alternative eco-sustainable one, and that the responsibility lies not in the nature of capitalist relations of production but more generally in contemporary industrial development, taken as an abstract element disconnected from the relations of production that historically oriented the industrial revolution.
This is the ground on which a substantial part of bourgeois propaganda has been working intensively for years to build its cultural hegemony among the popular masses.
Any equation that mechanically links the development of contemporary industry to the development of environmental damage turns out to be erroneous, because it does not take into account the relations of production through which modern industry has developed.
The development of productive forces brought by capitalism in the growth of industry has
enormously increased the potential of social labor compared to the previous era, but these productive forces are now captive to the current relations of production that prevent their full deployment. If industry represents the potential man-nature unity and technology the possible mediation between !”# individual and his organic replacement relationship with nature, the capitalist form of industry embodies their separation and opposition. Thus, it is not industry in itself that generates the environmental devastation that characterizes our age, but it is the specific capitalist form &’ industry that determines the environmental issue as we face it today.
These conceptions turn out to be particularly dangerous because they tend to reproduce one of the elements that in our experience is one of the main obstacles to the activation of the working class, the perception of the irreconcilability between work and health and between work and the environment. On this level we experience the depth and the power of bourgeois culture and its propaganda that strives to present such contradictions as natural and universal without tracing them back to the nature of capitalist relations of production.
The development of productive capacities, technology and science applied to production processes are not in themselves elements to be condemned, but all instruments to be wrested from the hands of the bourgeoisie and placed at the service of collective welfare, through a conscious application of science to production processes which, by breaking the blackmail between the right to work and the right to health through centralized planning of production and distribution, responds to the satisfaction of the needs of workers and popular strata without being bent to the profit maximization of a small group of exploiters.
Regarding the illusion of an eco-sustainable capitalism, this is the field on which various ecological theories are developed that in a more or less direct way we find in the orientations of the Green Parties. These theories reduce the struggle against the climate and environmental emergency to a simple critique of current capitalist development policies, inevitably feeding the illusion that there is a possibility of a good and Green capitalism to be opposed to a bad and polluting capitalism. Fueling illusions of overcoming the contradictions produced by capitalist relations of production without questioning the very nature of those relations of production. This is far from a new trend, which is renewed in form but not in substance. The substance is to associate this so-called “renewal of capitalism” with the assertion of certain strategies for the restructuring of capitalism and the need to assert the monopolistic interests of one’s own imperialist center in the competition for control of the chains of production that will be crucial in the coming decades.
This approach has an overtly reactionary character, despite the fact that it is also embraced by ostensibly radical sectors. In fact, it denies not only the existence of a progressive role in the practice of class struggle, but denies its very existence in the name of a metaphysical “humanist” approach according to which to conduct an interclass battle of the entire human species in which bourgeois and proletarians would have common goals and responsibilities. According to these approaches, the struggle to safeguard the planet would depend on the adoption of individual “environmentally sustainable” behaviors, hence the belief that “conscious individual consumption” is the key to positively impacting the environment. This approach, which fails to recognize the structural character of the current environmental emergency, may seem trivial, but by shifting the struggle to an exclusively superstructural and ethical level it has important effects on the collective conception of the so-called “green economy.”
The debate that has developed both within public opinion and in international organizations to address the climate and environmental emergency is not neutral, but reflects the interests of the monopoly bourgeoisie to boost profits and to measure its competitiveness internationally.
The “ecological transition” is in fact one of the main vectors on which the process of capitalist restructuring will be developed in Italy with the PNRR and more generally throughout Europe with the Next Generation EU. The attention aroused around the environmental issue by large sectors of the population, particularly youth, using the genuine good faith of those who identify the fight against environmental devastation as one of the main issues of our time, has been exploited to allocate hundreds of billions of euros to the capitalists. This money coming mainly from the pockets of workers will be used for a colossal modernization of production standards and renewal of fixed capital that will enable certain sectors of monopoly capital to gain more advantageous positions in the national and international market.
The so-called “Green economy” is one of the main areas of inter-imperialist confrontation between the monopolies, their respective states and imperialist alliances, has in fact opened up new markets and new sources of profit. We must make it clear that rarely is what is labeled in the public debate as “green economy” then actually an overall green solution. Paradigmatic is the case of the automobile sector, for years the electric car solution has been presented as the optimal solution to pollution caused by normal fuels. This perception is naturally derived from the approach on individual responsibility and consumption that we introduced earlier, not considering the environmental costs of extracting and processing new materials such as Lithium, Coltan, and Cobalt.
Control of the production chains of these materials is at the center of the clash between the imperialist centers, particularly between the Chinese and U.S. monopolies and their respective states. The Chinese monopolies currently control the majority share in the mining and especially the processing of Cobalt and Lithium through an active capital export policy to Australia, Central Africa and South America. The transition to electric mobility was conceived by the Chinese monopolies as a major opportunity to challenge the correlation of forces with other imperialist centers, for one elementary fact. A combustion engine contains about 2,000 units, while an electric motor about 20 moving parts. The automotive parts industry is a key part of manufacturing production and surplus value extraction in contemporary capitalism, the transition offers an opportunity to redraw the hierarchy between production chains and between those who control them obviously. Controlling the production of new components and the extraction and processing of new materials is the new field on which the inter-monopoly clash takes place today to gain the best positions in the near future.
There would be much more of course to say on this last point in order to fully understand the nature of the U.S.-China confrontation, but we would like to focus this last part of the speech on the issue that is central for us. The role of communists in the struggle against environmental devastation and the climate crisis.
In our experience, who correspond to the degree of development of our organization and the development of the class struggle in Italy-so not an advanced level- , there are basically two directions. One is ideological, the other political-organizational.
On the ideological level, the need is to develop a systematic response to the propaganda of the dominant culture on environmental issues, to challenge the hegemony exercised by the bourgeoisie even within the debate on the environmental issue by promoting the development of an environmental movement with marked interclass connotations and perfectly compatible with the logic of the interests of the capitalists. In this speech some nodal points to work on were identified, but the difficulty is not so much to give a scientific, Marxist and valid answer to bourgeois culture as to be able to drop it, calibrate it and handle it as organization within real movements against environmental devastation.
In Italy in recent years, various experiences of environmental and territorial struggles have developed that have highlighted the specifically capitalist character of environmental devastation within their territories. Some of the main struggles conducted the such direction have brought out the irreconcilable contradictions between capitalist private profit, the right to collective health and the safeguarding of the territory from devastation. Starting from such a clearly anti-capitalist approach it was also possible to demonstrate the real nature of bourgeois institutions, which clearly showed their non-neutral nature and above class conflict being the direct expression of the domination of the bourgeoisie over the proletariat.
Not going into the details one by one of this local struggles, which are also very different from each other, what is significant for us is that in each of these struggles – in the absence of a strong Communist Party – struggle committees were created by the individuals concerned or by local associations that over time and in continuous confrontation with their struggle developed positions that were inevitably more and more advanced but restricted within the thematic scope of environmental defense.
We think that the role of communists is not simply to support these instances, but is to participate directly in these small mass contexts-which often find the participation or approval of a large part of the local population-and to develop in that context-even in the most remote province-their own vanguard role. It does not matter how narrow the horizon of the individual struggle is, how unknown it is in the national media and how apolitical the participation is. The key point is to place the activity of communists within a mass dialectic, however very small. So lowering and calibrating the ideological battle that we were mentioning just now into each specific and local mass context. This is something that our organization that is learning to do.
From these examples of struggle, it is possible for communists to grasp the systemic nexus that allows for the elaboration of practical and theoretical strategies capable of bringing out the class character of the human and economic cost of environmental devastation and the need to generalize each local instance into overall rupture claims, toward a revolutionary political alternative capable of overthrowing capitalist relations of production and its political superstructures. Many of the battles taken as examples show the need to move from a level of immediate need-such as the right to health-to a political proposal that directly inserts the ecological question as a structural contradiction.
Identifying local contradictions as an example of a general movement of capital and thus not accepting the (displacement” of the environmental problem by relocating, identifying local economic managers and political principals are elements that are part of this process. Within each local struggle net of each specificity, it is possible to find the general functioning of capital and thus to grasp the incompatibility with this system.
In fact, one of the limitations of the demonstrations of the much more media-distributed Fridays for Future was precisely that they did not clearly identify immediate perpetrators and demands, thus not tying the discussion to tactical necessities of concrete struggle and the contradictions to be addressed. This of course is not to demonize the large numbers who participated in those squares, where in any case one must aim to gain support among the most active and conscious elements, but not to have the illusion of being able to develop a mass intervention within that process.
Looking forward, the role of communists is to conduct each local battle by bringing in the working class’s views on the real responsibilities for pollution and environmental devastation. It is necessary to reiterate the need to conduct each local battle from the perspective of connecting struggles, which can be translated into overall claims and generalizable proposals. Starting from the subjective experiences of environmental and territorial struggles, it is possible and necessary for communists to pose the central question of the nature of the relations of production and thus of capitalist ownership over land and natural resources.