Need for a socialist future for genuine sustainability

By Prof. JOSE MARIA SISON
Chairperson, International League of Peoples’ Struggle

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The Charter of the International League of Peoples’ Struggle (ILPS) and every General Declaration issued by the ILPS International Assembly define the anti-imperialist and democratic struggle of the ILPS and stress the objective of national and social liberation of peoples. The ILPS goes by the general terms and seeks the common ground for effecting the broadest international united front of all anti-imperialist and democratic forces. But the ultimate goal is system change, replacing capitalism with socialism.

The peoples of both the developed and underdeveloped countries are disgusted with capitalism and welcome socialism as the alternative to capitalism. They want a way out of the rapidly worsening crisis of imperialism, the undeniable depression of the global economy, the escalation of exploitation and oppression, the frequency of imperialist wars of aggression and  consequences of capitalism that threaten the very existence of humankind and the entire planet, such as the proliferation of nuclear, chemical, biological and other weapons of mass destruction; the extreme degradation of the environment; and global warming.

The material conditions for socialism already exist in the industrial capitalist countries. But  the proletariat and people urgently need to wage the anti-imperialist and class struggle in order to develop their strength for countering the growing danger of fascism and overthrowing the big bourgeoisie through a socialist revolution.  In the more numerous semi-colonial and semi-feudal countries, it is more than ever valid to struggle for the completion of the new democratic revolution and proceed consequently to the stage of the socialist revolution.

Imperialist Use of the Term ‘Sustainable Development’

In the aftermath of World War II, socialist countries and people’s democracies encompassed one-third of humankind and put forward socialism as the alternative to capitalism.  National liberation movements continued to surge forward in Asia, Africa and Latin America. The United Nations (UN) recognized the great wave of decolonization. The imperialist powers themselves admitted that they could no longer control the colonies in the old way and sought to avail of the methods of neocolonialism.

The socialist countries and the newly-independent countries that formed the Non-Aligned Movement called for industrial development and for a new international economic order that would no longer be controlled and manipulated by the imperialist powers at the expense of the underdeveloped countries. The UN proclaimed the decades of the 1960s and 1970s as “development decades .”  The core demand for industrial development was unmistakable. Even the US made a big show of promoting certain newly-industrializing economies (such as South Korea, Taiwan and Brazil) under the aegis of monopoly capitalism to counter the example of industrialization being set by socialist countries and the demand of the anti-imperialist and socialist movement for industrialization.

But while pretending to support the development of underdeveloped countries, the US was  forwarding concepts to undermine and defeat the popular clamor for industrial development as the leading factor in well-balanced economic development. Through the Club of Rome in 1972, the US harped on the ¨limits to growth¨ in the face of the fuel and food crisis during the 1970s, stirred up the fear of sudden and uncontrolled collapse of economies and dished out the concept of “sustainable development.”

The concept of “sustainable development” emphasized the limited natural resources of certain countries and the danger of degrading the environment. It obscured the extent and richness of the natural resource base of many underdeveloped countries, as well as the possibilities for the wise utilization of these resources and the development of economies in harmony with both the environment and the people’s welfare. It further obfuscated the fact that the US and other imperialist powers had plundered and degraded the environment for the purpose of profit-taking to the detriment of the people.

When imperialist powers headed by the US adopted the neoliberal policy of “free market” globalization at the beginning of the 1980s in reaction to the phenomena of stagflation and state-supported development in socialist countries and in certain developing countries, they retained the notion of  “sustainable development” for propagation, mainly through imperialist-funded NGOs, academics and the mass media in order to undercut and discourage the people’s demand for industrial development in underdeveloped countries. The coupling of neoliberalism and the fear of unsustainable development coincided with the rapid degeneration of socialist societies towards capitalism and the successful financial and economic manipulation of newly-independent countries through neocolonialism.

The imperialists and their political, business and intellectual camp followers attacked national industrialization for supposedly being dependent on the state and being destructive to the environment.  Why aim for national industrialization and a well-balanced economy when multinational companies can provide manufactured goods from their home base and overseas enclaves while being able to exploit the natural resources of underdeveloped countries? The point of the imperialists is to globalize the economy by denationalizing  underdeveloped economies and allow trade and finance liberalization, privatization of state assets and deregulation at the expense of the entire nation, labor, women, children, society and the environment.

When the first Earth Summit (UN Conference on Environment and Development Conference) was held in Rio de Janeiro in 1992, the imperialist  campaign against  industrial development for  underdeveloped countries had reached an advanced stage under the auspices of the Washington Consensus.  It was practically unopposed because of the dominance of neocolonialism and neoliberalism over underdeveloped countries and the full restoration of capitalism in the revisionist-ruled countries from the years of 1989 to 1991, after decades of the revisionist  subversion and betrayal of socialism. 

The Earth Summit of 1992 used the definition of “sustainable development’  in the Brundtlant Report, as “development that meets the needs of the present without  compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs,” that “gives overriding priority to the essential needs of the world’s poor” and “takes into account the limitations imposed by the state of technology and social environment on the environment’s ability to meet present and future needs”.

The summit proceeded to issue the Declaration on the Environment and Development filled with glittering generalities and pious preachings on the need for the harmony of humanity and the environment, the sovereignty of the state in underdeveloped  countries to use the environment and natural resources  for its purposes and the precautionary principle of being prudent in the application of science and technology.  But the slogan of sustainable development was drummed up merely to drown out the clamor for industrial development. Imperialist powers and multinational firms were depicted as knowing best how to develop the global economy and protect the environment.

Since the Earth Summit of 1992, the underdevelopment of the overwhelming majority of countries has become far deeper and far worse than ever before..  At the same time, the imperialist powers and their multinational firms have accelerated the emission of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases towards the tipping point in global warming; the spread of nuclear, chemical and other kinds of pollutants; the plunder and depletion of the world’s mineral, forest, soil, marine and fresh water resources; the genetic manipulation of flora and fauna; the patenting of genetic processes; the massive loss of biodiversity and the degradation of the environment in general. In the process, they have done away with  constitutional and legal limitations on foreign ownership and exploitation of natural resources in underdeveloped and impoverished countries.

Even as the neoliberal economic policy of accelerated superprofit-taking and capital accumulation has brought about the ongoing economic and financial supercrisis, the US and other imperialist powers are more hell-bent than ever in carrying out  their accursed policy of unbridled greed. They wave the green flag to herald the further accumulation of super-profits by escalating the plunder of natural resources in underdeveloped countries.  They pretend to protect  the environment in order to further exploit and control the world’s natural wealth, converting what remains into their ¨natural capital¨.

In  the UN Conference on Sustainable Development in Rio this year, they are launching an offensive, using the ruse of the “Green Economy”, in order to expand the sources of profit by further exploiting the environment in the underdeveloped countries. Their goal is to further plunder natural resources and commodify even essential organic processes in nature, putting a price tag on biomass, biodiversity and the functions of ecosystems—such as storing carbon, pollinating crops, filtering water and the like—in order to transform  the  “services” of nature into tradeable units in the financial market.

The document being prepared for issuance by the Rio+20 conference is titled,“The Future We Want.”  Once more, the imperialist powers and the multinational firms are using the slogans of sustainable development and poverty eradication in order to expand their corporate interests and profit-making opportunities, to guarantee themselves against risks and to put up the  legal framework for the financialization of nature. They claim that all previous failures to advance socio-economic development and environmental protection have been due to market failures and misallocation of capital and not due to the unequal relations between the imperialist states and the client-states and between the exploiting and exploited classes in the social structure of the underdeveloped countries.

Bankruptcy of Capitalism and Need for a Socialist Future

The imperialist powers and their camp followers still arrogantly assert that the history of  humankind has attained final perfection in capitalism and liberal democracy and that there is no alternative to these. They find comfort in the notion that the current grave crisis of global capitalism is merely a period of consolidation in which the strong gobble up the weak; that it is a process of creative destruction, leading to the next peak of capitalist development. They are oblivious of the fact that we are still in the era of imperialism and proletarian revolution and that imperialism is moribund capitalism.

The adoption of higher technology has raised the productivity of labor and has enhanced the social character of production. But under capitalism, especially with its neoliberal policy, the maximization of profit, the pressing down of  wage levels and accumulation of private capital have accelerated at an extreme speed, bringing about the recurrence of the crisis of overproduction at a far worse rate than before.  The attempt to stem or override the crisis of overproduction and the tendency of the profit rate to fall through all kinds of financial manipulation (expanding the money supply, increasing the debt of governments, corporations and households, inventing all sorts of financial derivatives and engineering one financial bubble after another) has led to the ongoing  economic and financial disaster.

The monopoly bourgeoisie, especially the financial oligarchy, get bailouts and  continue to enjoy tax cuts, overpriced contracts from the state, subsidies, guarantees and other kinds of privileges.  Within the imperialist countries, the burden of crisis is passed on to the people through austerity measures, including higher taxes on consumers, lower wages, erosion of pension benefits,  reduction of public sector employees and higher fees for lessened social services. These austerity measures further impoverish the people and make life even more miserable amidst widespread unemployment and soaring prices of basic commodities.

From the imperialist countries to the underdeveloped countries, the burden of crisis is passed on to the people, thus causing high rates of unemployment and further cheapening labor for the production of raw materials and semi-manufactures. The imperialist powers  can take more exports at cheaper prices from the underdeveloped countries.  They are also rushing in to plunder natural resources in an inter-imperialist contest to stock up on strategic materials.  They wave the so-called green flag to promote their assault on the environment and the world’s land, forest, mineral, energy, marine, water and  genetic resources.

It is remarkable that they are frenziedly opening up mines in a period of economic depression. It is obvious that they are stocking up on mineral ores. They are thus taking advantage of cheap labor and the eagerness of political puppets for some doses of foreign exchange. In connection with the ravaging of the environment, multinational companies have engaged in a simultaneous process of acquiring national treatment for themselves and denationalizing the economy of client-states.

The inter-imperialist struggle for a redivision of the world is intensifying. It is a contest for sources of oil and other strategic raw materials, markets, fields of investment and spheres of influence. So far, it has taken the appearance of amicable negotiations among the imperialist powers who, at worst, show disagreements on how to enforce their decisions on resource-rich countries that assert their national independence. The direction of the wars of aggression carried out by the US and NATO is against such countries as Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya.

But the crisis of the world capitalist system is worsening.  In the past, grave crises like the current one have led to inter-imperialist wars and provided great opportunities for the proletariat and the people to carry out new democratic and socialist revolutions.  At the moment, the crisis is comparable to the Great Depression in scale and severity and is already inciting the broad masses of the people to wage various forms of struggle along the anti-imperialist and democratic line towards a socialist future.

The utter bankruptcy of the world capitalist system is made conspicuous by the severe  economic and financial crisis in all the imperialist countries and consequently the far more severe crisis in the underdeveloped countries. The whole world is afflicted by economic stagnation, high rates of unemployment, growing poverty, environmental degradation and underdevelopment of the overwhelming majority of countries.

These problems have run out of control because of the unbridled greed of the imperialist powers and the monopoly bourgeoisie. It is a great irony and tragedy that the people are exploited and impoverished more than ever before, when their relatively higher level of education and training and the higher level of technology mean higher productivity and ought to result in better social conditions. But this higher productivity leads to an economic and financial crisis that destroys productive forces through mass layoffs and closure of workplaces.

Worse than the economic and financial crisis is the rise of state terrorism aimed at  suppressing the people’ s exercise of their democratic rights to protest the injustices done to them and to demand changes for the better. The imperialist powers are systematically whipping up chauvinism, racism, religious bigotry, fascism, war hysteria  and other ultra-reactionary currents in order to mislead the people and obscure the roots of the crisis in the exploitative and oppressive nature of the capitalist system.

Worst of all, the imperialist powers are increasing their military budgets, stepping up war production and are ready to plunge into more wars of aggression. The US and the NATO have deployed their military forces far beyond their national borders. They openly boast of their objectives to expand their economic territory.  They threaten to use, or actually use, brute force to impose their imperialist interests on other countries.  Rival military blocs such as the Shanghai Cooperation Organization and the Collective Security Treaty Organization have risen to counter the hegemonism and expansionism of the US and its Western allies.

The International League of Peoples’ Struggles and the broad masses of the people must intensify their anti-imperialist and democratic struggles, with the perspective of advancing in the direction of socialist revolution. The imperialist powers are hell-bent on escalating the exploitation and oppression of the people and bringing out the worst of monopoly capitalism. The reformists who wish to improve and preserve  the capitalist and imperialist system cannot stop or redirect the plundering and aggressive course of imperialism.  Neither can they mislead the people who are suffering from the crisis and who are responsive to calls for revolutionary struggle.

The adoption of higher technology has accelerated and aggravated the recurrence of the crisis of overproduction. It has facilitated financial transactions and the creation of fictitious capital. It has speeded up the propaganda of the imperialist powers and their puppets. But the handy gadgets of communication also speed up the spread of revolutionary propaganda and facilitates the mobilization of the people against the system. The revolutionary forces and people are confident that someday they can use high technology to serve social needs and not private profit-taking.

The higher level of science and technology is fully useful and beneficial to the people only under a socialist system. It can expand and improve the quality of production without resulting in a crisis of overproduction. It can protect and ensure the wise and planned utilization of natural resources, instead of the reckless plunder by capitalism. It offers ceaseless possibilities for centrally-planned, decentralized and creative economic, social, political, cultural, educational and scientific activities. It can enhance the harmonious relationship of humankind with the environment, with entire nations and local communities benefiting from it and protecting it.  It can promote and realize social and environmental justice.  Thus, it can facilitate and accelerate the spread of ideas and activities that bring about greater freedom, democracy, social justice, all-round development, a healthy environment and the revolutionary solidarity of all peoples.

 

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