The debate within the Democratic Party, and among Americans opposing the re-election of Donald Trump, over whether the Party should nominate a candidate from the “moderate wing” or the “liberal wing” of the Party, misses the much more critical debate that all Americans should be having: “Whether the election of any candidate in the Democratic Party, since it, like the Republican Party is a capitalist Party, offers the slightest hope of arresting climate change in time to save humankind from a life of extreme deprivation and barbarism”? (See my piece, “Will It Be Socialism or Barbarism?” LA Progressive, October 19, 2018)
In the New York Times, February 17, 2019, Sunday Review, an article entitled, "Time to Panic," tells us that, “ In October, the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released what has become known as its ‘Doomsday’ report- ‘a deafening, piercing smoke alarm going off in the kitchen,’ as one United Nations official describes it”. And as the Times article goes on to point out, after several decades of reticence on behalf of the world’s climate scientists, lest they be accused of panicky over-reaction, “It is O.K. finally, to freak out. Even reasonable.”
It’s too late for wishful thinking; for hoping against all of our better judgment that the capitalist class will finally come to its senses and “do the right thing”.
It is my contention that by now it should be clear to all people willing to squarely face the facts, that it’s actually long past time to “freak out,” and that climate change won’t be genuinely and meaningfully addressed so long as we have a capitalist government. It’s too late for wishful thinking; for hoping against all of our better judgment that the capitalist class will finally come to its senses and “do the right thing”. Consider: In recent years, despite more awareness and acceptance by the capitalist class that climate change is real and has a “human-cause”, and despite more efforts to “go green”, in each of the past several years more, not less, greenhouse gasses were annually released into the atmosphere. In simple terms, our house…planet Earth…is now on fire. And there is simply no evidence, given the very nature of capitalism, that the capitalist form of governance can put out this fire in time to save our house, save our planet; do what is required for planet Earth to remain a home we and our fellow creatures can still live in. If we, if the world, does not act and act rapidly and boldly, “Doomsday” is assured.
Sadly, all of us, save for that growing movement of committed climate change activists, are sitting by while our house, planet Earth, steadily burns closer and closer to the ground. Already millions of people have been left homeless as a consequence of climate change. A front page headline in the August 6thNew York Times proclaims, “A Quarter of Humanity Faces Looming Water Crisis”, and the tag line states, “Climate change is making the problem worse”. Annual reports from various global climate change scientists and agencies make it clear the problem is accelerating even faster than first feared. Millions of us should be in the streets demanding an end to capitalist exploitation of the earth’s resources and the adoption of a socialist government fully committed to drastic regulation of what we produce, how much we produce, and how it is produced.
Think of it this way: If the actual “house” we lived in were burning, we wouldn’t sit around debating whether to call the fire department, or just try and put out the fire ourselves with our garden hose. Well, where global climate change is concerned, capitalism offers no more than a garden hose, whereas socialism offers a clear path towards at last addressing climate change in a comprehensive enough way to offer real hope of saving planet Earth.
But time truly is running out. Hell, many leading scientists believe time has, in terms of preventing many of the worst effects of climate change, already run out. Certainly, we have no time to lose. And we can’t elect our way out of this crisis next November, no matter who wins the presidential and Congressional election. Oh, there are significant difference between the candidates and parties where climate change is concerned. But given the very nature of capitalism, so long as we live under capitalist governance, where climate change is concerned, all a more liberal as opposed to more conservative capitalist government can offer us is a slower death.
Would any of the Democratic Party presidential candidates be better than Trump? Of course. And, certainly, I am not unmindful of the fact that with a decent human being in the White House some corrections could be made that would lessen the suffering of the worst off Americans. And that is, in the short run, no small matter. After all, if you found yourself at death’s door and in great pain, a pain pill would be very welcome…but it would not be a cure! And why should we settle for nothing more than some temporary, time-limited-death delaying relief from our pain when a permanent cure is at hand if only we will fight for it. Because where survival of our planet is concerned, all such an electoral win by even the most liberal capitalist would give us is a slower slide into the barbaric abyss assured by climate change.
Yes, even if the Democratic Party, be it moderate or leftist, stayed in power for the next several decades, and governed along with a Democratic Party-controlled Congress, the certain and predicted deadly state of the planet’s health would still arrive, albeit a bit later; and arrive long after it was too late to ameliorate the consequences; too late to make life on planet Earth livable again for the vast majority of future generations of both human and of other species .
Therefore, we must take bold and sweeping action if life on Earth as we’ve known it is to survive. We must, in short, replace capitalist governance with socialist governance. And despite the current state of affairs, there is reason to be hopeful. Public opinion surveys show a clear majority of young Americans favoring socialism over capitalism. Indeed, even among all voters who consider themselves “Democratic Party voters”, polls show a majority feel the same. This is a very positive, very hopeful development. We must seize upon it, we must act upon it. We must not hesitate. We must quickly and with a sense of life and death urgency, take up the most important question, the most important debate: “How do we anti-capitalists better organize ourselves? How do we create a movement that will replace capitalism with socialism in time to save ourselves and our planet”? For the beginnings of an answer to this ultimate question, again see my piece in the LA Progressive of October 19, 2018. And bring yourselves and your friends to the Third Annual Left Coast Forum on October11-13, at Occidental College.
In the meanwhile, join the frequent street actions on behalf of halting global warming. Make fighting the climate change crisis your number one priority. Act as though your house, and everything around you, really was on fire. Act as though unless we get rid of capitalist governance all is lost; as though all of our children’s and grandchildren’s days are numbered, because they are!
Jim Lafferty is the Executive Director Emeritus of the National Lawyers Guild in Los Angeles; host of The Lawyers Guild Show on KPFK; Governing Board Member of the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California; and, an elected Fellow at the University of Southern California Institute for the Humanities.