[Marxism] Capitalist Production and the Earth’s Imperative
giobon at comcast.net
Wed Jul 7 12:59:42 MDT 2010
Capitalist Production and the Earth’s Imperative
By Bonnie Weinstein
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
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
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
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
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