More on Marxism and the Environment

by Roger Perkins

In the September 1994 Spark, Kimball Cariou raises some very important points. He correctly reminds us that we have not yet made “...a systematic study of the growing global crisis of the environment” and that our new programme must contain “a Marxist analysis of the environmental crisis.” He further goes on to state that if we do not do this properly we “...risk permanent political marginalization”, and that if we do not “become more involved in environmental struggles, it will be virtually impossible to convince young people that we take their future seriously.” Thus, according to comrade Cariou, this single issue in and of itself could result in our Party becoming permanently marginalized with no young people. In other words, move over Socialist Party of Canada and the Socialist Labour Party – make room for us.

Many may very well look askance at this conclusion. After all, the central thrust of our work must be working class struggles, many economic in nature. If we do not do this, we certainly will become marginalized; there can be little doubt about that. But environmental struggles in today’s world are not side issues, and deserve more than a minor emphasis in our work. People are attracted to and become members of an organization not only because it is on their side, or fights for their immediate interest, but also because that organization has a total, well-rounded world outlook and complete philosophical viewpoint.

Looked at from this perspective, environmental struggles do take on a much greater importance. Indeed, so important that they cannot just be dealt with in a number of paragraphs in a new programme, but must be posed and placed within a theoretical framework that corresponds to the historical period in which we now find ourselves.

Whether we fully realize it yet or not, we do live in a new historical period. The old world and the old ways are gone – forever. There is no longer a mighty socialist camp stretching across eleven time zones. Capitalism holds sway throughout much of the world. All the negative aspects of capitalism are now being exacerbated – polarization of wealth, exploitation, fierce competition and the drive towards war (even nuclear war), and the devastation of the environment in the struggle for maximum profits. Capitalism, although closer to its own end, has established a New World Order. The working class of all countries must counter with a New Communism.

One fundamental and integral part of the new communism is the militant defence of the biosphere of our planet. This new communism is not just the greening of the old communism. It is not a watermelon with a green outside and a red inside. Nor is it an admixture of the red with the green (What colour does that make? Purple?) It is something new.

Lenin, in The Three Sources and Three Components of Marxism, showed that Marxism itself arose out of and was “the legitimate successor to the best that man produced in the nineteenth century, as represented by German philosophy, English political economy, and French socialism.” As we enter the twenty-first century, the new communism will be comprised not only of the old communism – Marxism-Leninism – as its core, but also the best that humankind has produced in the twentieth century. One such twentieth century contribution is the recognition of the importance of the environment, and the militant defence of what has been called “Mother Earth”. There are other sources and components making up the new communism, but the struggle to save the biosphere is certainly a very important one. By its very nature, capitalism is incapable of protecting the environment. It is the societal equivalent of cancer; it must expand or die! And die it will when the people of the world, led by the working class and its party, pierce its vampire heart with a wooden stake. (Yes, some trees will be cut down to make the stake, but it is necessary!)

In summary, environmentalism must not be mechanically grafted on to our present programme but must be viewed in a theoretical context that corresponds to new historical conditions. It will become one with us, and us one with it, not by mixing or veneering, but by a dialectical fusion.

Spark! #5 – pg. 1-2.