Paris Agreement and the Question of Ecology

Donald Trump, president of the world’s leading economic power, announced that, in accordance with his campaign pledge, his country would withdraw from the Paris climate agreement negotiated at the “COP21”. The agreement, which is supposed to be aimed to fight against global warming by limiting greenhouse gases in particular, was presented by the various signatory countries as a great ecological advance.

Yet this agreement was not even binding: it was a commitment based on good will, a totally abstract concept in international relations, where each country was supposed to do its best, without sanctions in case of failure. Relations between bourgeois states are based on power relations.

International reactions have of course been very negative, with China, Russia and most European countries condemning the decision of the United States. Yet, is the Paris agreement the central point of safeguarding the planet? Does this agreement save the seas affected by pollution and overfishing? Does it foresee nuclear replacement? Does this agreement address the issue of deforestation, protecting biodiversity, ensuring water quality? Of course not. This is an agreement in principle, which allows today imperialist countries to present themselves as defenders of the Earth, even though they contribute every day to devastate the environment, and thus to degrade our conditions of life.

The bourgeois vision of ecology

Let us recall that the ecological question has arrived in the public debate of the Western countries from the 80s. This is a recent question, taken very unequally by the masses. The self-proclaimed representatives of ecology in France are linked to the progressive petty bourgeoisie: it is the Greens now allied with Europe Ecologie. These parties have long made the choice to serve as auxiliaries to the Socialist Party.

A part of the bourgeoisie has not escaped this trend. They needs to present themselves as modern and to occupy this new market – as green energies or organic food, for example, are extremely profitable markets. But while the ecological question is a global issue, the borders being of no importance here, this “green” part of the bourgeoisie has produced a vision of harmful ecology, incapable of answering today’s problems. This bourgeois ecology is centered around two themes:

  • Delegation. Ecology should be left to the scientists, technicians, competent politicians, it would be a field too “serious” to truly mobilize the people on these issues. This creates a real class contempt: the masses would be insensitive to ecological questions, idiots, would eat badly voluntarily, dress themselves through the most inhumane industries, and so on.
  • Moralism. Logically, this class contempt produces a moralistic ecology, in which each person is responsible for his behavior: it is the hummingbird theory, putting our food, clothing, transport choices at the center of the process, in short, our life choices. As if the deforestation or the destruction of the oceans could be regulated once every human being would have understood that it was necessary to close the tap while brushing your teeth.

Thus it is easy to understand that salvation is not to be sought from this side. Worse, this conception of ecology is disastrous, diverting legitimate anger towards individual and abstract problems and refusing to take the measure of danger.

The materialist ecology

For us communists, each question must be posed on the basis of a materialist reading of the world. We consider that ideas do not produce facts, but ideas arise from material facts. Our materialism is opposed to their idealism.

Why does Donald Trump reject the Paris agreement, going against the advice of major US business leaders? It can be seen at once that the reductive discourses about the capitalist villains or on the aggressive dimension of the president are not useful in explaining this choice.

What are the facts? Donald Trump represents the confrontation of two lines within the US bourgeoisie: economic isolationism rather than strengthening the links of interdependence with European and Asian (mainly Chinese) economies. It therefore relies on certain sectors, such as the petroleum industry, which make short-term calculations. In this situation, Donald Trump must prove to his supporters that he will defend their interests, even going against the long-term goals of other US companies.

Is the President of the United States so different from the heads of state and companies defending the Paris agreement? No, of course. None of them can really confront the ecological problems that threaten the planet, because posing these problems would mean opposing the capitalist mode of production.

Since this option is excluded, they try to temporize as much as possible, adopting the ostrich technique: facts would be subject to ideas, and to claim that global warming does not exist, or that American growth is the solution to everything, would suffice to solve the problems. Such an attitude today is absolutely criminal and must be considered as such.

Our vision of ecology is quite different: it is based on material facts, on the active participation of the masses in the revolutionary transformation of the mode of production. We affirm today, as yesterday, that only socialist production planning at the global level can allow us to get out of the capitalist nightmare and the ecocide it generates. And this assertion poses the question of power: only taking the power by the masses, under the leadership of the working class, throught the people’s war, will solve this problem.

What is our vision of ecology? It is a global vision, which is necessarily built on a global scale. It responds to the real needs of our class: to live decently, to enjoy nature without degrading it, to produce reasonably and rationally to meet the needs of each person. It also involves the development of a scientific vision of the world around us, through an egalitarian education and not reserved for the elite, making it possible to understand the stakes of ecology and its relationship with the class struggle.

Capitalism, by its very nature, is founded on the anarchy of production, that is to say on free competition which is supposed to self-regulate – an absolutely idealistic conception of economics which disarms peoples’ facing oil catastrophes, rising water levels or agri-food scandals (infamous farming, GMOs, pesticides, etc.).

To pose the question of ecology today is to ask the question of the transition to socialism – that is to say, the establishment of a system adapted to the requirements of our century, efficient and humane, in service of the people and not of the capital.