Wildfires, floods and the threat of war ushered in 2020. They show what “business as usual” under capitalism means—and make the task to get rid of the system more urgent.
Climate catastrophes highlighted by Australia and Indonesia and the threat of another war in the Middle East aren’t unconnected. They flow from a system that is driven forward by competition between capitalist corporations and states.
Bosses have to maximise profits to stay ahead of rivals—or risk falling behind and being driven out of business. While even the rich can feel the consequences of profit-driven horrors, competition means capitalists aren’t going to make the necessary changes.
Australia’s conservative prime minister Scott Morrison may seem outlandish for downplaying the links between the country’s reliance on coal, carbon emissions and the fires.
But from the point of view of Australian capitalism it’s logical, because dumping fossil fuels would make it fall behind competitors. The same logic of competition applies to war. World powers may not all want a war in the Middle East—but that doesn’t mean one isn’t going to happen.
Competition takes place between capitalist states as well as corporations. This is a global system which socialists call imperialism.
The Middle East has been a centre of imperialist rivalry for decades because it has one of the largest reserves of oil in the world. Who controls the region matters for the world balance of power.
There is a force that can change the system and stop the fall into barbarism
Today in the Middle East multiple powers are rubbing up against one another. A small clash between forces could spark a bigger conflict. During the First World War the revolutionary Rosa Luxemburg wrote that capitalist society “stands at the crossroads, either transition to socialism or regression into barbarism”.
“Until now, we have all probably read and repeated these words thoughtlessly, without suspecting their fearsome seriousness,” she said.
In 2020 we can see the fearsome seriousness of where capitalism is driving us.
But there is a force that can change the system and stop the fall into barbarism.
The working class is in a unique position to take on capitalism because it has the power to shut down the flow of profits when it strikes. And today there are 600 million more workers globally than at the start of the century.
In many of the recent struggles—from France to Chile and Algeria—there has been a strong organised working class component.
We need to bring rebellion to the streets, workplaces and campuses of Britain.
And instead of focussing on parliament we need a revolutionary organisation that can argue for a total break with the capitalist system.