17 Feb 2011

'No place for Malthus in the Green Party'

After seeing some of the offensive materials on the Optimum Population Trust stall at Blackpool Conference I just don't see how their bitter philosophy has any place in a party which stands for social and ecological justice. This email list is for discussion of Trade Union issues and workers rights. Trade Unions are organizations which should represent the collective interests of workers. Right now, the working class and the poorest and most vulnerable in this country face the fight of their lives to defend their jobs, livelihoods and the welfare state against ideological onslaught from the capitalist class. Capitalism by its very nature creates social inequality. It exists through the exploitation of a majority who work and produce value, the surplus of which is accumulated by a minority. In times of crisis, the ruling minority pull in the drawbridge to protect their self interests, to protect their accumulated wealth, ergo to protect their power. This is the situation we face now, in collective action to fight against the cuts.

Essentially, the system is unsustainable. As Marx pointed out the social relationships necessary to the continuation of capitalism, the existence of a minority class expoiting a majority working class, is an internal contradiction which will necessitate its downfall. Only by replacing capitalism with an economic and productive model where production is democratically controlled by the workers themselves, for the benefit of the needs of all and not the few can we begin to plan collectively to solve the problems of inequality and poverty.

Equally this applies to the ecological question, Marx describing the metabolic rift between humans and nature created by capitalist production. The ecocoide and mass species loss we are witnessing are a product of the expansive and exploitative nature of capitalism, its need for profit overriding all else. It seems to me that the arguments put forward by the Malthusianists and those advocating population controls equate to the pulling in of the drawbridge which we see in times of capitalist crisis. With the pulling in of the drawbridge there is also the pouring of boiling oil over those who attempt to break the siege, if you allow me to stretch the metaphor. We see violent suppression of protest and opposition as the ruling class desperately protects its influence and power. Imposition of population controls is the boiling oil deployed by the Malthusianists.

The generation who are inheriting the world are already on the receiving end of the boiling oil (double metaphor). Education becoming a right only of the privileged few who can afford it. Ecosystems on the brink of collapse. War and conflict for resources because of the greed of the wealthy minority. Faced with the prospect of no access to education or the prospect of any meaningful employment, many working class kids are lured into the military to become cannon fodder for the imperialist interests of capitalism.

Are these the only choices we offer the generations to follow? Furthermore, the malthusianists would then dare to suggest that the only solution is to cap population, that in some way the next generation are an unwanted burden, further alienating those who inherit the future. If the malthusianists have the courage of their beliefs maybe they can try telling the students who rose up in protest that the problem was not the system, but the students themselves. It seems to me that this is the logic of their arguments. Rosa Luxemburg said we face a stark choice, socialism or barbarism. We are witnessing the barbarism of the capitalist class as people and planet become expendable against the need to protect and expand accumulated wealth. As the economic and ecological crises deepen, as the production of oil which has fuelled capitalist expansion peaks, the violence of the minority against the majority and the environment increases. So we now face a stark choice, ecosocialism or barbarism.

The problems of inequality of distribution and protecting the future sustainablity of the ecosystem will only be solved by collective action, by democratic decisions being taken about production, for need and not profit. We follow the example of the Lucas Aerospace workers in the 70s, who collectively drew up a plan to use their skills to convert production in their factory from weapons to socially and environmentally useful products.

We build trade unions which are capable of representing the collective needs of their representatives, not the bureacrats who serve themselves and a labour party which puts the needs of the capitalist system ahead of those who are exploited by it. Through collective action and solidarity we can build a movement with the capacity to remove the chains of capitalist exploitation and build a society providing for the needs of all and for the generations who follow. In the words of the early green socialist, William Morris: Educate, Agitate, Organise.

I do not see where the barbarism and elitist philosophy of Malthus fits in to the equation of building a trade union movement capable of meeting the demands of our future. I am yet to see any argument on this Trade Union Group email list which would convince me otherwise.

For peace, ecology and socialism, Andy GPTU Co-Chair


deejay chip said...

Excellent article, pity more don't think the same way. You"ll have to explain Malthuism to me though, briefly if you wouldn't mind.

Anonymous said...

Malthus said that as population numbers keeps rising, food production will eventually fail to keep up, leading to rising food prices and increasing poverty, similar to the situation today.

Ben Courtice said...

We have some fairly boneheaded populationists in Australia too, although not explicitly racist. Check out their advertising here: http://bccwords.blogspot.com/2010/02/sustainable-population-dogmatism.html

I just bought their key book today which I'm going to work through and dissect the arguments of. I'll post some material soon...

Bob Irving said...

I think that you are being excessively hard on Malthus, who was describing what he saw as a natural process and was trying to see a way around it. Our population cannot keep growing without limit because it will destroy the natural world. The current "great extinction' of species is due to habitat loss, because of the expansion of the human race, all of us, not just people in the poorer parts of the world.

So it is down to us, the rich, to restrict our demands on the world however we can and also try to help the rest of the world find their way to a balance with nature. The human race is not the only species on the planet and we must leave room for the rest.

polla said...

But it is the Capitalists who are pushing for increasing population.
More consumers -> more profits:
More workers -> cheaper labour -> more profits

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