The Case for Green Plenty

No more blah blah blah

The Case for Green Plenty

Why go marching in the rain?

I was at the COP 26 March on Saturday in Liverpool, and there were a lot of people speaking and talking using the megaphones and whatnot. I think the thing that came across more strongly than anything else is that people understand perfectly well that the problem is capitalism and we need to end it. People understood that capitalism is killing us, there was a lot of righteous anger at the way third world debt, for example, is being used to force poor countries to essentially give their resources away for nothing to a bunch of parasites to make warehouses full of fidget spinners and other dross.

The big problem we all face is that capitalism is killing us. It's moribund, it's dead, and we need to get rid of it.

Capitalism is actually the grey ooze that people who are afraid of nanotechnology claim one day may overtake the world. But we already live in that world.

I heard a speech from an acquaintance of mine who is a firebrand revolutionary, which actually I am too, but I try to use a more gentle voice. He was so angry at the injustices in the world, but what do we replace capitalism with? This is the problem - it's easy, and in fact quite trivial, to point to how ridiculous the system we live under is, and how damaging, how foolish you would have to be to keep working with it. It's really easy.

So this anger is righteous and there's nothing wrong with it. But what do we replace capitalism with? The problem with things like the Green New Deal, which everyone keeps pushing, is nobody knows what it means. That is very convenient for liars like Boris Johnson and most of the rest of the political elite. If we carry on with the capitalist system, we're just going to have the same old nonsense, which is about profit and creating wealth for a very small number of people. But they're going to paint it green, hence the phrase green washing, which is ultimately no use to anybody.

But what do we replace it with?

Behind the curtain

There's a few things we need to understand about the world we live in now. The first one is we've been sold a complete lie, that there's a scarcity of resources, that there isn't enough to go around. A very quick example is we make enough food for between 11 and 12 billion people, and there's just under 8 billion people on the planet. But we're told people have to starve. We're told there isn't enough to go around. It’s a self-serving lie.

The problem isn't with making stuff. At a technical level the problem isn't with anything other than distribution. But the real problem lies in the mentality of the capitalist. The capitalist wants to make a profit and will not give food away. The capitalists will not distribute food to people who need it. Capitalist logic and human being logic are completely different things. This is why you see stuff in the world and the way things are done looks completely crazy. They look mad because capitalist logic and human logic, of people who have a heart and some empathy, are completely different.

Capitalism is about profit. It's about maximising the profit they can make, which involves driving down your wages, ripping people off in the global south, creating commercial empires that steal resources and murder environmental and indigenous activists, all sorts of disgusting stuff, none of which anyone with any sense or empathy thinks is a good idea. Feeding people only works if someone can make a profit out of it, preferably a huge amount. Often the product or service being provided is a poor afterthought.

So we live in a society which is predicated on scarcity, which is predicated on employment, which is predicated on the fear of starving. Basically most of us are three paycheques away from being homeless.

Then you get all their talk about freedom, but what are they talking about? They're talking about the freedom to own the means of production and seize the products of other people's work, which is the only freedom that matters to them. All the rest of us have is the freedom to work for them or starve. Those are the only freedoms we actually have if you get down to the bottom of it.

I live in the global north. There was a massive battle between the working class and the capitalist class, and we managed to acquire things like education and a benefit system which stops people starving to death, but don't have any illusions. If our rulers could take those things away from us, they would. And they are. Let's not have a fantasy about that. The false scarcity and actual poverty is necessary in order to create wealth, and the blood of the people living in the global south is lubricant to their world-killing machine.

It's been pointed out by Marx and others that capitalism has unleashed enormous productive power. It's one of the reasons we have nearly 8 billion people on the planet. It's one of the reasons we can feed them, even though our owners won't, is because we have this power. We have this massive productive power that emerged during the creation of capitalism and has grown beyond what people thought possible.

We had our means of subsistence stolen from us. Our ancestors had their livelihoods stolen from them so they could be turned into modern working class, forced to become people who own nothing but their own labour and had to go and earn a wage for 12 or more hours a day in unimaginably bad conditions. They did this because otherwise they would starve. If you read what happened to those people and how the common land that they had was stolen from by what is now the capitalist class, now the owners of society, who needed to impoverish the rest of us so they could become fabulously wealthy. The people who like to masquerade as our betters, but really they were just a little bit lucky, amoral and ruthless.

People wouldn't voluntarily work under what were appallingly bad conditions. If you read about the conditions people lived under in the 15th, 16th centuries, the early days of capitalism, and then into the 18th to 19th centuries no one would voluntarily live like that. The average lifespan in Liverpool dropped to 17, in Manchester it was 22. The same pattern is being repeated in the global south today.

We were forced. Our ancestors were forced to live like that, live under those terrible conditions because it was that or starve and the ancestors of today’s owners, the ancestors of the capitalist class, were quite happy sitting on top of the pile. You may get the odd person who screws up and ends up with the rest of us. But generally, you look who owns the place all the way back to the Norman Conquest and who still owns it. It's the same people, same disconnected privileged idiots.

If you understand that history you know that we don't owe those people anything, not a jot. The good fortune that they have today is built on the suffering of our ancestors. This is one of the reasons why we have to be very pushy and cynical about privilege. It wasn’t earned, it was stolen.

Taking back control

So where do we go from where we are? Firstly, that enormous productive power of capitalism came from taking processes that were originally done by one person with one pair of hands and then splitting them up and discovering and using science and knowledge and thinking to change things so that instead of one item being produced by one person every day, every week, whatever, we suddenly have hundreds of times more items produced by a group of people working together. This is what we talk about when we talk about socialising production.

We changed it from an individual activity to a group of people together, socially. Well, the problem we now have is the ownership of the commodities remained instead in the capitalist’s hands. We didn’t follow through when we got rid of kings, we didn’t take it right to its logical conclusion.

We now have many pairs of hands making the world together, but the world we live in is the wrong way up. We still have one individual or tiny group of individuals who keep the results of the work and who own everything. Those individuals are the ones we are beholden to. They're the ones who control our livelihoods with fear, whose ancestors stole the livelihoods from our ancestors. They force us to work for them. They proletarianised us and their needs, their wants, are based around keeping the system with themselves in charge. Despite the things they say there is no we and we have nothing in common with them.

Their control and ownership are based on keeping us down, keeping us hungry, keeping us afraid. So we now are close to the end stage of capitalism, and it's becoming harder and harder for them to make profit, or to accumulate value, which is the more technical way of looking at it. So what are they doing? They're playing all kinds of tricks, but we actually have a world where potentially everybody can have everything they need. As said earlier, there's actually enough food being manufactured to service between eleven and 12 billion people, but because of profit, because of accumulation, what are these people doing?

They don't distribute it and they don't give it to people who are hungry, they spray bleach over it before they throw it away to stop people trying to eat it, indeed, because they can't make a profit with it. It is stupid on a human level, with human logic. Capitalist logic is perfectly happy with this. This is one of the things people need to understand. Capitalist logic and human logic are not the same thing. Capitalist logic is what’s killing us all.

What the capitalist needs and what we as human beings need are actually most of the time completely unrelated. They run a little bit in parallel because the capitalist must meet some human needs so we survive and reproduce. Otherwise, they can't sell their products. But underneath it all, we have this society which is just built on a false sense of what is important for our survival. We have a society that's built on very vague surfaces.

The reason for scarcity is because you need poor people to create wealthy people. If we didn't have poverty, we wouldn't have billionaires. It's one of those things. We also live in a peculiar society where, on the surface, everything seems to be kind of fairly rational, but if you look underneath it’s capitalist logic. We have all these laws and so on, but first they have to be enforced, and second you have to be able to afford to use the law if someone does you wrong.

For example, we have food that doesn't feed you. Typically, poor people eat food that makes them ill. It keeps them alive and stops their hunger. But it's not very nutritious. It’s cheap.

We have clothes that don't clothe you. They wear out. They cost very little to buy because they're made by people in the global south in terrible conditions out of shoddy material that will only last a few months, or maybe weeks. So they're very inexpensive, which makes us cheaper to employ, but they are almost landfill before they even get to the shops.

We have education that doesn't educate you. Essentially, you're still being trained to be a drone in a factory. In the global north most of the factories have gone. So maybe instead you're learning something more interesting, like philosophy or linguistics. But where do you go with that kind of learning? If you study something like that, where do you go with that kind of qualification, will you probably end up going back into the workplace on some kind of minimum wage job?

So they generously allow you food that doesn't feed you, clothes that don't clothe you, education that leaves you ignorant, and that’s just three examples of the ridiculous situation we find ourselves in. We have houses that don’t keep the rain out, we have shoes that let the rain in, the list is endless. Their profits are preserved and the cost of keeping you alive, at least for now, is low enough for that minimum wage job not to seem impossible.

If you look at the tide of ignorance in our society, the very large number of people constantly fooled and bamboozled by our owners into believing whatever nonsense they come up with, it's very obvious that a lot of people their education is completely inadequate, which isn't to look down on them. Of course it's inadequate. Why would our owners seek to educate the rest of us in critical thinking? Because first thing we would do is start questioning why they do what they do to us, which would be silly for them to allow.

There's a lot of despair in the world and the despair is based on this fear.

Firstly, that we can't do anything about the eco disaster, and secondly, that essentially we're prisoners of our rulers. They can decide and do what they want to us and we can't do anything about it. But scarcity is bunk. It's designed to create fear, which is designed to keep us conforming and designed to keep us from challenging the system.

One of the most deceitful slogans of the Brexit campaign was taking back control. Yes, we should, but not from some imaginary European enemy. We need to take it back from the parasites who pretend to be in charge, who stole our ancestors’ livelihoods to create wage slavery, who are still abusing and murdering people in the global south, whose incompetence and venality has killed tens of thousands in places like the UK and all over the world.

Industrial society

So what else have we got because of the power of the industrial system which capitalism helped invent? Despite what people say it isn't capitalism. It's a way of doing things. Capitalism is who ends up with the rewards, who ends up with the money, with the resources, capitalism is about ownership. It’s the relationships between people. It’s nothing to do with the systems we use to feed and clothe ourselves. The systems left when ownership and theft are removed are something we created, we own those systems. Our sweat and toil went into their creation. The fact that a thief from a long line of thieves claims to own all the resources and wealth created by people like us is beyond irrelevant. We can stop those systems being destructive and short sighted if we are in charge.

We actually live in a time of great abundance, but they sell us this idea that there is nothing, or not enough, because they need us to be afraid. They need us to be afraid of being hungry, and they need us to be afraid of changing things because it could get worse. But there is enough food, there is enough of everything to feed and clothe all of the human beings many times over and do it in a way that does not destroy the environment. They need artificial scarcity to keep the system running the way it is and justify what they are doing to the world. What we don't need is wealthy people. We can all live extremely comfortable lives without a very small number of people owning a ridiculous amount of resources that they will never, ever, be able to use.

For a start, there's an awful lot of jobs for which the late David Graeber coined the term bullshit jobs. Jobs people are doing that don't need to be done so we should stop doing them. There's an awful lot of jobs that do need to be done, but a profit can't be made out of them, basically making sure your neighbour, your friends, or anyone with needs, have enough to eat, decent clothing, somewhere decent to live, education, health care they need, and also that they can defend themselves from things that go wrong in the world, workable contingencies against disasters.

There's more than enough of everything to make that happen without having an eco disaster. But the problem is we live in a world that's not ours. There's a very large number of people who make everything, but who have been taught, who have been fooled, who believe that they are unable to make things work without their supposed masters.

For example, if you're British, our clown of a Prime Minister is on record saying that he thinks inequality is a good thing, and of course he does because he's on the top of the pile. If you look at him, I believe he's technically a cousin of the Queen. He's from a long line of extremely privileged, privately educated, inbred buffoons whose ancestors had sharper swords than ours did. That doesn't make him particularly special. Privilege means you get things as a result of who you are, not anything you actually did. It means being useless doesn’t stop you being in charge.

It doesn't mean that we have to take any notice of it, and it doesn't mean he’s any kind of a hero either. He has rivers of our blood on his hands.

The open handed world

So human beings have this productive power. We now have the tools to feed ourselves, to clothe ourselves and to protect ourselves against adversity. But our society has a few shortsighted idiots whose outlook is completely about keeping what they have and making sure that they can't lose. So they fix markets, they murder people, they pollute, they wreck ecosystems, all for short term gain and they never face any consequences.

Their world looks like a closed fist, where they have control. Instead the world needs to look like an open, generous hand.

The people who make and create systems and services that the rest of us need need to base those services on what people actually need, and the people whose needs are being met need to participate in the decisions. So instead of a world that’s based on hierarchical greed we need a system that's based on social need.

There's an old song from the time of the English Revolution called the World turned upside down. I think it’s about the Levellers, who were a group of people who tried to take the land back after they were driven off by the new capitalist owners who enclosed the land and stole it from the ordinary folk.

The world turned upside down is what they were talking about. They were talking about a world where the ordinary people control their destinies and feed themselves. Well, we currently need to turn our world upside down. We need to create a world where what we need, what we want, what we desire is what we have. There's more than enough of everything in the world for everybody.

But we don't need to create an eco disaster to do it.

The Levellers’ world is the right way up. The world we live in now is the world that's upside down.

The other thing about this metaphor is this is an open hand. We want to live in a world where whatever anybody needs to survive and thrive is there for the taking whether there isn't lack of housing, where there isn't lack of health care and education and all the other things. A society made by and for decent, intelligent, adult human beings that has everything each needs to carry on and grow.

There are generations of Einsteins who got brain damage because there wasn't enough nutrition in their diet when they were children. We need those people. We need their brilliance, and we need to get rid of the system that holds the control and holds all the privilege that keep us all hungry, cold and afraid. We need to unlock the human potential that’s being destroyed over and over again.

All across the world we are governed by privileged idiots. Wherever we look, privileged idiots who like to tell a lot of lies.

So where do we go? Well, we socialise. We turn the world the right way up. Socialise is the root of the word socialism. We create a world for and of the open hand. We don’t wait for permission.

If you need it, you can have it. No questions, no judgment: it's yours. There's plenty for everyone, you only have to ask.

So what do we replace capitalism with?

We replace capitalism with Green Plenty. We will find green ways of feeding and clothing and housing everybody.

We already have a lot of the technology, but our owners don't want to use it because they can't make a profit. They can't accumulate. We need to get them out of the way as fast as we can.

No more green washing, no more what Greta Thunberg called business as usual, blah blah blah. We need our world to become the open handed world. The world of Green Plenty.