This post is not intended to be a finely polished argument–it is intended to start conversations and spread ideas that I think are critical for communists to understand, discuss, and integrate into their practice.
Things that are coming: (1) peak oil; peak water; peak farmland, peak fisheries and other food resources, peak other resources such as phosphorous and many metals, and increased environmental disasters such as hotter summers, colder winters, flooding, droughts, and storms (here is a decent source on much of this); therefore, (2) increased scarcity of food, water, medicine, energy, and other basic needs everywhere, but especially in the poorer regions of the world; therefore, (3) massively increased refugee crises and anti-imperialist revolutions; therefore, (4) diminishing resource and labor base for the imperialist countries, increased volatility and unrest in the imperialist countries, and increased imperialist-country fascism, interventionism, and war; therefore, (5) overstretching and snapping of imperialist power and either global collapse, radically restructured global power structure, or global revolution
All these things and their consequences will not come all at once. These things will start small and trend upward in an oscillating fashion. We are seeing the first effects right now. A look at /r/climate, /r/collapse, and /r/peakoil will reveal that.
Communist talking points for the late 2010s and the 2020s
1. There will be new socialist countries and we must be prepared to defend them. Maybe a red Philippines, a red Peru, a red Nepal, a red Afghanistan, and maybe even a red India. Crossing my fingers for red all over the Global South. The pro-capitalists will trot out the same “dictatorship! totalitarianism!” arguments they did last time about China and the Soviet Union. The same ones they currently use against Cuba and Venezuela.
(a) We have to help our potential allies see through the false understanding that imperialist propaganda has given them of how things were and are in actually existing socialist countries. We have to get extremely sharp on our anti-anticommunism.
(b) We have to point out that the freedom to speak out against one’s government is directly proportional to that government’s perception of its own stability, and that the stability of a government is very much linked to the wealth (and therefore the pacifiedness) of its people–and that a high level of civil rights is therefore part of the imperialist countries’ wealth. That is, the “civil liberties” the imperialist countries pride themselves on and justify their imperialism by are in fact paid for with the very wealth they steal and have for centuries stolen through imperialism against non-European people. Not to mention, these civil rights are only available to the labor aristocracy–rarely to the people of oppressed nations or the poor within an imperialist country–and so they are moreso specifically a part of imperialist nations’ wealth.
Also, although there is plenty of suppression that occurs in the United States, this is definitely not the chief arena for U.S. sponsored suppression. It doesn’t make sense to compare suppression in the United States vs. suppression in Cuba because Cuba’s political-economic base is Cuba and the United State’s political-economic base is the whole planet. And in fact we don’t need to suppress too many people here because, as I was saying above, they benefit so much from the United States’s imperialism–but the United States does sponsor and arrange for the murder of leftists and anti-imperialists all over the world on a completely regular basis. Operation Condor is one particularly egregious example, but I recommend William Blum’s books Killing Hope and Rogue State as well.
(c) We have to help them understand that there is no choice of no contradiction (that is, no violence/force in the world), just a question of leaving the contradiction where it is or ending it via a successful proletarian revolution and long-term cultural revolution.
2. There will be environmental and economic refugees and we must be prepared to defend them. People will have lots of nasty things to say about why the governments of the countries that the refugees are coming from should have done something better or different so their people wouldn’t be in the position they’re in. We will have to be able to explain exactly why, due to colonialism and neocolonialism, those countries did pretty much exactly what the imperialists wanted.
The ecocide at the heart of capitalism
We must understand and explain which problems capitalism can and cannot solve. Capitalism can accelerate the development of more efficient solar, wind, hydro, etc. power (though this ability is tied to the price of the cheapest fossil fuel, and the relative abundance of coal means this ability will be quite limited for a long time) and battery and transmission efficiency. It may even be able to clean up certain continents and regions while polluting other continents and regions all the more heavily. However:
(a) Under capitalism, increases in efficiency tend to increase (rather than decrease) the consumption of a resource. This effect, known as the Jevons paradox, occurs because improved efficiency lowers the relative cost of using a resource, which tends to increase the quantity of the resource demanded, counteracting any savings from increased efficiency.
(b) Capitalism cannot solve the problem of reaching real sustainability*. It will always incentivize kicking the can down the road. This is because producing a product in a truly sustainable way is more expensive than producing it in a way that has an invisible-to-the-consumer environmental cost (such as using up a finite resource). Since, all things being equal, cheaper products that do the same thing will sell better, those who take the unsustainable route will undercut anyone trying to make things sustainably, drive them out of business, and take over their market share. The outcome will be a market full of actors none of whom will make truly sustainable products.
(* You know, actually being able to do it on an ongoing basis FOREVER. That is what the word “sustainable” should actually mean.)
(c) Nor can it solve truly global problems like global warming and ocean acidification. The logic of competition-for-profit means that one company/country/region will always be incentivized to pollute to gain an advantage over its rivals (or just avoid being outcompeted and eaten by them). All actors on every scale are incentivized to cheat as long as their existence and well-being is endangered by others possibly cheating more than them. It is worthless for a world full of capitalist countries, each with its own capitalist bloc that must compete with all others, to sign a legal agreement to try to solve this problem. As long as competition-for-profit continues to play any role at all in large-scale economic activity, that legal agreement must inevitably be disobeyed by all actors.
(d) Only in a global political-economic system that is actually being run according to a single, unified plan (at least ecologically speaking) where literally everyone’s material standard of living is both guaranteed and tightly tied to everyone else’s can these problems be solved. If all would-be “cheaters” had to share the “profit” gained from contributing to global pollution with literally the rest of the people on the globe, there would be so little personal advantage to be gained from polluting extra as to not make it worth it.
In this vein, it is very much worth noting that
Cuba is a world leader in ecologically sustainable practices. It is the only country to have begun the large-scale transition from conventional farming, which is heavily dependent on fossil fuels, to a new agricultural paradigm known as low-input sustainable agriculture. (source)
I go into greater detail about the problem of massive and ever-growing resource shortages (“peak everything”) in my post “On the end of the world, which will happen in your lifetime if we don’t replace capitalism with socialism”