The power shutoffs and unprecedented fires that California has experienced in the last month are going to develop into something more deeply damaging than you might think. This is just the beginning of a long process that will force Californians-and all others in the capitalist world-to confront the unsustainability of how they’ve been living.
With these crises the people in my home state are being confronted with what happens when you build a society that depends on online hyper-connectivity and a perpetually functioning power grid, and that imperils this equilibrium by exacerbating climate change and putting kleptocratic corporations like PG&E in power. Now the fallout is happening, and its effects will be life-changing for everyone.
Much of Southern California is becoming unlivable as fires continue relentlessly, and as the state’s increasingly poverty-ridden populous finds itself unable to adapt. The two shutoffs of the last month have been harming the economy, spoiling perishable foods, and depriving people of medical resources and heat for their homes. For some, the most recent blackout lasted for five days. This is the new normal. PG&E estimates that it will take ten years before the electric grid is improved enough for these kinds of fire risk-induced blackouts to stop happening, making for a coming fire season routine of both catastrophic blazes and statewide electricity shutoffs.
Under these conditions of regular commerce disruption, perpetual damage to infrastructure and property, and unstable lines of communication, the region will no longer be able to properly function and will in many places become unsafe to habit. Intensifying fires, sea level rise, and drought will create millions of refugees in the region. The rich will adapt by buying backup generators and luxury survival bunkers, while the rest of us will increasingly be left to fend for ourselves amid deteriorating infrastructure, lack of resources, and mass displacement from our homes.
Similar situations are appearing all around the globe as climate disruption escalates, and many places are already far along this path of social collapse. But what makes California and other parts of the First World in many ways more vulnerable than the Third World is that our region heavily depends on a perfectly functioning industrialized system. Everyone relies on what comes from the supermarket, markets largely take place through the Internet, and people need cars on a daily basis to get where they need to go. When this balance of commercialized capitalism is lost, people’s livelihoods are lost along with it. Throughout the 2020s and beyond, life won’t be able to continue as it has in the past. We’re all going to have to adapt.
But is “adapt” all we’re going to do? Are the fire and flood refugees simply going to try to navigate their upturned lives while late-stage capitalism drives them deeper and deeper into poverty and desperation? Are we all going to make due with less access to water and electricity while the ruling elites refuse to address the economic factors behind our crises? Will so many people continue to focus on their day-to-day survival while not working to overthrow the capitalist system which keeps making the situation worse? We must build a movement that takes the capitalist class out of power and puts the people in control.
The U.S. empire is turning inward during its decline. It’s importing the conditions that it’s imposed upon the people of the Third World into the American homeland. The U.S. has long imposed its will onto other countries by waging economic warfare against their people, by enacting corporatist policies that drive the countries into poverty, and (in the case of this year’s attempted Venezuela coup) by sabotaging the power grids within these countries. But the victims of these imperialist attacks have found ways to survive, and to fight for the democratic control over their societies. We in the First World can learn from them.
In Venezuela, the lower class people who support the Bolivarian Revolution are using solidarity to fight off U.S. economic warfare and corporate-created destabilization. Passionate pro-Maduro protests were organized this year in response to the coup attempt. The Chavista government has assisted its people by allying with other anti-imperialist nations like Cuba and China, and by expanding its social programs in order to raise Venezuelan living standards in defiance of America’s economic attacks. The DPRK, Cuba, and Bolivia have taken similar actions in response to the attacks from the imperialists.
How does this relate to our situation as Americans who are trying to handle natural disasters and infrastructural collapse? It relates because like the Venezuelans, Cubans, and north Koreans who have suffered from the U.S. empire’s efforts to destabilize their societies, we’re victims of the same system of structural violence and global capitalism. Their fight is ours.
And the way that the people of these nations have fought back is by carrying out anti-colonialist and anti-capitalist revolutions. They’re now able to militarily defend themselves, and to pursue their own economic and political systems, because they built movements that overthrew the colonizing capitalist class in their regions. We’ll only attain the security and power that they have if we stage a socialist revolution in our own country.
This task will be endlessly complex, and there are different stages to a revolution. Right now, the United States is moving towards a period of civil unrest, which will then need to be turned towards taking the capitalist class out of power and enacting the goals of socialism and decolonization. At the current stage, our main focus should be on educating people about the need for socialist revolution and on building the institutions for revolt.
But aside from these logistics of how the revolution will happen, at every stage our actions should reflect a philosophy that gives us the motivation to carry on. Much hardship is ahead, and as we organize in our communities and spread our revolutionary message, we should view ourselves as resilient and have faith that the masses will carry our goals forward. We should defy our circumstances by adopting a mentality of self-reliance and unbreakable determination.
This philosophy is best reflected in Juche, the driving force behind the ruling Workers’ Party of Korea. While Juche as Korea has practiced it of course can’t be applied the same way all around the world, its message of resilience makes it an excellent ideology to take example from. It gives us hope in a world that’s falling apart, and its language and teachings have the power to resonate with many people who are afraid of what the future holds for them. As Chairman of the DPRK National Defense Commission Kim Jong Il said, “In mobilizing the people and arousing them there is no weapon more powerful than political work that strikes their heartstrings.”
How Green Capitalism Fools People Into Not Pursuing Ecosocialist Revolution
Rainer Shea on Nov 6, 2019
Sources for my claims about Sanders, Ocasio-Cortez, Extinction Rebellion, and We Don’t Have Time:
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