Capitalism is killing our planet. But by taking over a tiny number of big companies, we could solve the problem through a socialist plan of production.

Capitalism is killing our planet. But by taking over a tiny number of big companies, we could solve the problem through a socialist plan of production.

A recent scientific study published in the journal Climatic Change has concluded that just 90 instituitions are behind “63% of cumulative worldwide emissions of industrial CO₂ and methane between 1751 and 2010”. The destruction of our planet, in other words, is the result of the pernicious actions of a tiny number of giant entities.

Of these 90 companies, 83 are extractors and producers of fossil fuels - oil, gas and coal - while seven are producers of cement. 50 are major private businesses, such as Chevron, Exxon, BP and Shell. 31 are state-owned companies like Saudi Aramco and Russia's Gazprom.

The top two contributors historically have been the bureaucratically managed industries in Stalinist Russia, closely followed by modern capitalist China's state-owned industry.

Dominated by monopolies

global warming pollutionThe findings take into account not only the emissions resulting from a company’s practices, but also “the carbon content of marketed hydrocarbon fuels” - that is, the emissions due to fossil fuels extracted from the ground. This explains why 83 of the 90 are oil, gas, and coal monopolies – monopolies that dominate over the economy and wider society.

In response to the publication of the study, Naomi Oreskes of Harvard University revealed to the Guardian that many of the big corporate names on the list were also (not coincidentally) key funders of the climate change denial movement. This demonstrates the intrinsic link that exists between the economic power of these giant corporations and their ability to manipulate the political sphere to their advantage.

The blame for climate change, therefore, ultimately lies with these massive monopolies, and not with the average worker or individual consumer. We are constantly told that “we must all do our little bit to help the environment” by living a life of “ethical consumption”. But what choice, for example, do most ordinary people really have in terms how electricity reaches the grid and their homes?

Under capitalism, the real decisions in society are made by those in charge of these huge companies: in the boardrooms of the bankers and shareholders, whose interests are entirely opposed to those of the rest of us. Similarly, under the old Stalinist regimes, all decisions were made from the top-down, by a privileged bureaucracy, with no involvement of the masses.

In either case, it is the working class who must suffer the consequences of the elite's environmental destruction.

At the end of the day, the people at the top have no interest in curbing climate change, as this would only serve to hit their profits. It is the poor and downtrodden who will have their homes destroyed by flooding or suffer the consequences of droughts. The billionaires responsible, meanwhile, live safe and sound in a world far removed from such problems.

For planning and control

climate revolutionFurthering the case for public and democratic control of energy, the Climatic Change study points out that half of all industrial emissions in history occurred in the last 25 years. In other words, the majority of all emissions have occurred since it had already become clear that we are on the road to disaster.

In 2018, with extreme weather events such as droughts and heatwaves becoming ever-more frequent, we are seeing the consequences of the elite's recklessness.

In the face of the big polluting monopolies and their domination over society, a focus on individual consumer choices becomes, at best, trivial. At worst, it is a distraction: placing the blame on those who have no real control, and diverting our energies away from the fight for real, radical change in how industry, production, and the economy are run.

The technology and science exists to solve these environmental problems. The barrier to implementing these is the profit motive. In order to revolutionise our economy towards one based on clean, sustainable energy, we must therefore revolutionise how our economy is owned and controlled.

Under a system based on competition, private ownership, and production for profit, there will always be a race to the bottom, damaging lives and the environment in equal measure.

This recent study shows, however, how easily this could be overcome. By taking control of just 90 monopolies and running these according to a democratic and rational plan of production - based on society’s needs, not the profits of the super rich - we could dramatically reduce emissions and our impact on the planet in the space of a generation.

Unite the struggles

EnjoyCapitalismThe focus of the environmental struggle must therefore be to link up with the labour movement and the struggles of the working class, in order to expropriate these major monopolies and the main levers of the economy.

A movement with this bold demand on climate change could bring workers and youth across the world together, uniting activists from the trade unions and environmental campaigns in a militant struggle against the criminal corporations listed in this recent study, and for public ownership, workers’ control, and economic planning.

On this basis, a socialist society could throw the doors wide open for the transformation to clean energy and a sustainable future.

Socialist Appeal are proud to publish this education guide to help focus your studies of Marxist theory and practice. Visit the various tabs below to find links to introductory articles, classic texts, videos and audio talks for different topics. Read More
Check out this selection of writings for an excellent introduction to many of the fundamentals of Marxist theory, providing a strong basis for those wishing to equip themselves with the ideas necessary in order to fight for socialism. Read More
Dialectical materialism is the philosophy or methodology of Marxism. We must seek to understand the laws of society and nature in order to change them. Read More
Historical materialism is the general theory of how and why society develops in the way it does. Each social system has its inherent laws of motion. If we want to overthrow capitalist society, we must understand how capitalism works. Read More
Marxist economics is the study of the laws of motion of capitalist society, allowing us to understand why capitalism perpetually goes into crisis, where inequality comes from, and what the alternative is. Read More
The Russian Revolution is the greatest event in world history for Marxists. Studying the events of 1917, and understanding why the Revolution degenerated into Stalinism, provides vital lessons for revolutionaries today. Read More
For Marxists, the state is not at all neutral. We must understand the state’s real basis and strip away its mysticism by treating it historically - taking in its origins, rise, and eventual fall. Read More
Anarchism is naturally attractive for those wanting to abolish capitalism. But only Marxist ideas can explain why bureaucracy and oppression exist - and how to overthrow the exploitative capitalist system. Read More
Marxists are irreconcilably opposed to the oppression of women and fight determinedly for liberation and against discrimination. We believe this will be achieved through the class struggle - to abolish the oppressive capitalist system. Read More
The madness of fascism expresses the historic crisis and dead-end of capitalism. But it could have been avoided if the working class had a united revolutionary leadership, prepared to take power. Read More
Nations have not always existed, nor will they always exist in the future. Marxists are internationalists, fighting for world socialist revolution as the only way forward for humanity and our planet. Read More
Wars represent the sharp extreme of capitalism’s impasse. Imperialism, Lenin said, was the "highest stage of capitalism". As long as the profit system exists, there will be wars over markets and spheres of influence. Read More
All written history, Marx stated, is the history of class struggle. Our task is to learn the lessons from history in order to prepare for the revolutionary events taking place today and in the future. Read More
Our aim is to spread the ideas of Marxism, in an organised fashion, amongst workers and youth. In order to do this, we must study the history and traditions of the working class. Read More
  • Educate Yourself
  • The Fundamentals of Marxism: suggested reading
  • Dialectical Materialism and Science
  • Historical Materialism
  • Marxist Economics
  • Russia, Lenin, Trotsky and Stalinism
  • The State
  • Anarchism
  • Women's liberation
  • Fascism
  • The National Question
  • Imperialism and War
  • Revolutionary History
  • Revolutionary Strategy