[Marxism] Capitalist Production and the Earth’s Imperative

Bonnie Weinstein giobon at comcast.net
Wed Jul 7 12:59:42 MDT 2010


Capitalist Production and the Earth’s Imperative
By Bonnie Weinstein
July/August 2010
http://www.socialistviewpoint.org/julaug_10/julaug_10_13.html

A common myth is that the average working person in the U.S. is  
selfish and refuses to give up dependence on oil and the material  
things that are produced from it or fueled by it. Some are calling  
for everyone to “reduce their dependency on oil.” To, “reduce his or  
her carbon footprint,” as if this were a personal choice each  
individual could make. Of course, to a certain extent, all of us  
could be more “fuel conscious.” We can recycle our paper and  
plastics; compost our food scraps; properly dispose of hazardous  
waste; start a garden. But we can’t all ride bicycles or grow our own  
produce.

Vastly overriding and dwarfing the ecological benefits of these  
“personal choices” is the massive pollution output of capitalist  
industry. From the procurement of natural resources of every kind  
necessary for product production to the actual manufacturing of the  
products themselves, capitalist industry is not only heedless of the  
safety of workers or the environment, but is intentionally and  
criminally wasteful of both labor and material resources.

In the past three months, I have had to throw away a year-old,  
electric coffee maker, a three-month-old electric coffee grinder and  
now, my screw-on water filter attached to my kitchen sink is  
literally coming apart at the seams—water squirts from every seam in  
the unit—and it holds only its third filter change. These breakdowns  
aren’t flukes or anomalies. The products sold to workers are planned  
and engineered not to last so that they have to constantly be replaced.

We recently replaced our refrigerator—a “harvest gold” model from the  
’60s already over 35 years old before it finally broke down. When we  
purchased a new one, the salesman told us that it would last no more  
than eight years. Then he recommended we buy an insurance policy for  
the new fridge in case it breaks down sooner. We had to pay a couple  
of hundred dollars extra to warranty the thing for three more years.

Of course, what we’re talking about is built-in obsolescence—the  
design and manufacture of products so that they break down and need  
replacement often. That’s why the salesman knew the fridge would only  
last eight years—they built it to last only eight years.

If it weren’t a common experience in the daily life of masses of  
people it would sound like a fantastic conspiracy theory. But we have  
grown to expect products to break down and to have to be replaced— 
even the big-ticket items like new homes and cars. New homes built in  
the price range most workers can afford today are “disposable  
housing” designed to start falling apart in about ten years—the  
foundations crack, the pipes leak, the tile pops off the bathroom  
walls, the electricity rots out, the appliances burn out. It’s the  
same with cars.

The truth is, working people do NOT get what they pay for. Products  
that cost more are generally better made and last longer and/or run  
more efficiently. But these products are out of price-range for most  
working people. So, working people buy what they can afford, not the  
best quality.

Workers have no choice in the matter

This mundane and wasteful system of production has profound  
ramifications and exposes a fundamental flaw of capitalism—a flaw  
that will plunge humanity into the dark ages—if we cannot replace it  
with a society that produces for need and want and not for profit.

Workers do not have the choice on the production line to produce  
things that last any more than the Deepwater Horizon or any worker’s  
safety warnings will be heeded. These things are out of the realm of  
concern for the bosses because adherence to quality or safety  
standards stands in the way of the pursuit of profit. That’s why the  
Deepwater Horizon workers’ safety warnings were ignored and why  
products are manufactured to break down within a pre-determined  
length of time no matter what the human or environmental cost may be.  
Anything that increases profits is on the table; anything that  
decreases profits is out, even if life—human or otherwise—is at stake.

Huge amounts of resources are wasted in the production of inferior  
goods. Still more waste is produced in packaging these inferior  
products for sale. Our garbage dumps are filled with “bubble plastic”  
containers that are frequently six-times the size of the object they  
contain in an effort to prevent theft—even if the packaging cost more  
than the product enclosed.

Instead of making sure our drinking water is safe and clean in the  
first place, they use huge amounts of fossil fuels to package  
drinking water into plastic bottles—bottles themselves that end up in  
landfills or in giant clusters in our oceans. Bottles that often  
contain toxic chemicals and poisons that contaminate the very water  
they hold!

In what realm is it rational to design corn or soy so that its  
offspring produces infertile seeds so the farmer can’t just save some  
seed for next season but must buy new seed each year from the company  
that copyrights its impotent product?

Even in the light of this most horrendous disaster in the Gulf, that  
has already done irreparable damage, the oil rigs under temporary  
drilling moratorium are planning to move to other parts of the world  
where they have no such prohibitions. Whether it’s safe or not is not  
in their realm of concerns. They are free to cross any and all  
borders in the pursuit of more profit. They make the laws that govern  
their own operations.

Good guys verses bad guys

Capitalism is out of control not because of the personalities of the  
individuals that are in its commanding heights, but because of its  
fundamental driving force—the pursuit of private profit. Personality  
has nothing to do with it.

A rational society—a democratically organized socialist society—would  
have as its fundamental concern what is in the best interests of the  
most. All industry would be re-tooled for efficiency, safety, and  
quality. The goal would be to produce the best, the highest quality  
and most durable, using the least amount of resources, instead of  
figuring out how to make a product break down so they can sell more.

We have all the technology available to us to figure out what is  
needed to feed, house, educate ourselves and nurture our environment  
if only we could concentrate on those things instead of how to turn a  
greater profit for a tiny minority of profit holders; and to fuel the  
never-ending wars waged to protect their right to horde those profits.

We know how to build buildings and bridges that last centuries  
because such structures are still standing today. We know how to  
rationally produce and distribute the most nutritious foods to stem  
starvation. We know how to keep our water clean and our air  
breathable and our oceans bountiful. It takes more care; more  
planning; more communication and cooperation—it takes indifference to  
private profits and attention to safety, human needs and wants.

Capitalism’s insatiable dependency on the plunder of natural  
resources located across the globe are directly linked to its  
wasteful production for profit and indifference to these basic human  
needs, which includes the need for an environment conducive to life.

No doubt, tremendous damage to our environment; to the world’s  
infrastructure; to diverse species necessary for the survival of the  
entire planet, has already been done. Certainly, a massive effort  
must be undertaken to reign in the chaos and devastation capitalism  
has wrought over the centuries if we are to save our planet and make  
it safe for life again.

In order to accomplish this ultimate goal we must take matters into  
our own hands and make these decisions together and for the good of  
all. That’s what socialism is, plain and simple. Socialism is Earth’s  
imperative.



More information about the Marxism mailing list