We will build the sustainable society!

Submitted by AWL on 30 July, 2009 - 2:59 Author: Pat Rolfe

The action taken at the Vestas wind turbine plant demonstrates the emergence not of a “red and green coalition” (as the Guardian would have it) but a realisation on the part of two social movements that they are inextricably linked.

The environmental movement has realised that the only system capable of making the economic changes required to achieve sustainability is one of democratically controlled, social production.

In parallel, the socialist movement has realised the imminence of environmental destruction — we cannot wait until the democratisation of production before we build a sustainable economy. The seeds of a new society — socially and environmentally sustainable — must be germinated in the rotting corpse of the old.

Capitalism can’t save the climate — it couldn’t even eradicate poverty, provide decent education for all, or make the trains run on time.

We may have only a few years to transition to a low-carbon economy. We have an ageing population, and persistent levels of poverty here and all over the globe.

Yet, at a time when there is so much work to be done in society, factories, offices, shops and other workplaces are closing. Unemployment is on course to hit three million next year. Debates in the mainstream press only consider how many social programmes and research programmes will have to be cut in order to pay for wasteful PFI schemes, bankers’ bailouts and inflated military spending.

The government are handing money to those who have been destroying the planet and exploiting its people for the last three decades, while taking from those who have the capacity to save both from oblivion. The logic behind this is simple: the state will seek to maintain the rule of capital at all costs.

Shareholders and company bosses, who can pay to protect themselves from the effects of climate change will take whatever they want from the state, will squeeze whatever they can from the worker and the ordinary consumer, and will oppose any productive technology that challenges centralised capitalism, high profit margins, and easy exploitation of labour. The recent CBI report, which supported “clean” coal and nuclear power, using outdated assumptions that a National Grid report released a week earlier had thoroughly debunked, confirms this.

From Vestas to Total, corporations seek the highest profit margin — there is no necessary link between this aim and sustainable production for social need.

We, the workers, can and should decide what is socially useful, and only we can build a sustainable economy.

We have to use our own social power to change the way production occurs. The source of all power lies ultimately in production — products are just as often used as tools of oppression as they are “goods” for consumption, and the profits made in production are split between ensuring on the one hand the luxury, and on the other hand the power, of individual capitalists. Profits not are not only used to buy ivory backscratchers and cocaine, they are also used to re-arrange workplaces and society to make social change more difficult, and to devise complex strategies and systems to squeeze the most out of every individual worker.

It is only by seizing control over production — by deciding what is produced, and how it is produced that we can take back control of society, and defeat the destructive logic of profit.

The Vestas workers have taken the first step towards this — when their jobs were threatened by management, they answered “why do you get to decide who is useful and who is not?” The workers occupying their plant, all the people on the picket lines, and everyone demonstrating and supporting the campaign have taken action that questions the right of a private owner to determine what society produces.

Workplaces are closing all over the country — on the say-so of bosses, bank managers, or the government — workplaces that could be doing some of the vital work that needs to be done over the coming decades. Corus faces closure when steel will be needed for turbines and tidal power stations, Nortel closes when thousands of call centre workers are needed to give medical advice about the flu virus, car-plants at Visteon close when they could be converted to producing wheelie bins and recycling technologies.

“Green jobs” are not just jobs in wind energy or conservation — a green job is any job that we, as the vast mass of ordinary, rational, working-class people decide is useful to society. The only way we will obtain such jobs is by occupying our workplaces, and by planning with each other to build a sustainable future, fighting the boss, the bureaucrat and the capitalist every step of the way.

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