Trying to postpone an anounced catastrophe
Paris Conference Dec 15 dealt with global warming, ignoring other facts: environment, deforestation, exploitation, waste. No compulsion imposed on rich. Poor countries asked discontinue use coal. U.K. used it for centuries. First capitalism must go
Trying to postpone an announced catastrophe
Fernando García Izquierdo
There was last month in Paris a World Conference which was to be the ultimate effort to halt so-called global warming. The intention was apparently to consider and organise for the future the progess of the climatology of the globe, which seemed to me to be a rather narrow objective, in view of the expense, the pomp and ceremony and the propaganda with which the whole ado was being enveloped.
Climate! Why were the discussions so limited? Does not climate depend inter alia on the use of road vehicles, aeroplanes, etc. (always increasing), and was this subject thoroughly discussed? The French Government, at the same time as the discussions on global warming were going on, was planning to expand road-traffic (buses, coaches) because railways are no longer “rentable”, except for so-called Trains à Grand Vitesse? And this is only one example.
Deforestation, destroying nature, the dirt and degradation which is invading us everywhere, the misery and poverty consequent to the exploitation of human by human… What is the importance and influence these have on climate change? Perhaps this could also be studied, couldn’t it?
Another thing. Our politicians and other important people, do they realise that many questions relating to human suffering (and they are immense) must be tackled first and foremost. What do the children dying of starvation care about one degree or one and a half degrees more or less of temperature.
Reverting to the global warming conference.
In Paris, the rich capitalist countries sought all along to impose conditions worldwide, trying to show that the use of coal (and/or other specified fuels) by other countries was endangering the earth. They should rather have said mea culpa and acknowledge all the harm caused to those same countries in the past three centuries of colonisation.
What in fact was implied by the great powers (turning the problem into one of the use of coal, etc.) was to pass the buck on to newly developed nations. At present countries like the United Kingdom, France, etc. have sensibly reduced their manufactoring activities. These countries and others of the West were the first to pollute the earth, first with the industrial revolution, then colonising other countries to extract from them needed raw material and other riches.
They now ask the poor people of the world not to pollute! At the Conference, finance and other hidden powers step in and promise to help; but capitalism is not interested in helping any one, since it is inherently geared to seeking profits and nothing else. Thus, if a poor country does stop using coal, what is it going to do, without help?
The result of the Conference.
On 13 December 2015, the President of the Conference, Monsieur Fabius, in his final speech, declared in a rather sentimental mood that “the Conference has been a success.”
But we all know now that, whatever may have been signed, the agreement is not binding. It turns out that the Conference has only issued recommendations. Or what is the same thing, the rich countries, as always, will now do what they like.
And what about the poor countries? Well, they will have no option but to follow the instructions of superior organs. If they don’t, the rich capitalist powers have ways and means of imposing their will. It has happened before. Like when Frau Merkel ordered the Greek Government: “Fulfil your obligations!”
A look at the causes and effects.
Before going any further, I had better clarify a couple of (for me) important points. The mentioned world gathering, which has caused me to devote some time to prepare this article, had the purpose, I believe, of convincing world leaders to work together in the march towards a less dangerous future, and in particular to regulate the climate. It seems to me that, first of all, we must ask ourselves the following question: what is the cause of all this evil?
Therefore, betraying my reader in a way (for I have implied I was going to write an article about global warming), I shall not limit myself to climatology, but I shall deal with what I shall now call the destruction of the earth, Gaia, our planet; I shall go back to history, the beginning of the industrial revolution and capitalism, right down to what some economists call “the thirty glorious years of capitalism”, roughly from 1960 to 1990. To begin with, let me refer to a club which was very famous precisely during those glorious years.
The Club of Rome.
Beginning in the early seventies, a group of extremely wise men (all or most of them from the United States of America) devoted a lot of their time to study how to limit industrial growth, when the world was about to be blown up in wars and colonial squabbles.
‘Club di Roma,’ they called themselves. They analysed the world situation with regard to ‘macroeconomic’ obligations, labour and profits, and similar considerations, exactly as the sycophants of our day do.
They organised periodical reunions in Rome and other pleasant tourist resorts in old Europe, and were very much respected by their colleagues for it. The last time they came together was in Budapest, when Hungary had joined the then called “Free World”.
These wisemen could have seen that it was not just growth that was causing the ruin of the environment. Absolute ruin was coming. The misery of the working masses was increasing, even if many did not see it. But capitalist production was followed by lack of distribution. Not growth but greed was the cause of the CRISIS. We have seen this ruin clearly these last eight years, even in Europe, when our economy almost came to a complete halt, after what professors, financiers and other sycophants still call the Lehmann Brothers’ collapse, in September, 2008.
And nowadays, such places as London, Manchester, the Ruhr, etc., at long last, with unemployment have better air that the rest of the countries where manufacturing still goes on, using great amounts of coal and other so-called fossil fuels. At the Paris conference this second list of countries were told off and actually bullied by London, Washington, etc. They are expected to change direction. This is without reckoning that the poorest countries cannot stop using coal, or they will die from evils other than climate change.
It follows therefore that so-called global warming is not such an important problem after all. Global suffering is. (And this includes suffering in poor countries, Bangladesh comes to mind, due to rising sea levels).
Of this Capitalism-Imperialism is guilty. It must disappear to save the earth.
And what about history?
The great English novelist Charles Dickens travelled to northern England to study the condition of the working classes, in the nineteenth century, several times. He vicited the factories and the mines; in and around London he saw the wealthy abundance of great mansions, while the exploited proletariat suffered, dying in the mire. This is what he wrote about the air and climate change (HARD TIMES, published in 1854.)
‘Seen from a distance in such weather, Coketown lay shrouded in a haze of its own, which appeared impervious to the sun’s rays. You only knew the town was there, because you knew there could have been no such sulky blotch upon the prospect without a town. A blur of soot and smoke, now confusingly tending this way, now that way, now aspiring to the vault of Heaven, now murkily creeping along the earth, as the wind rose and fell, or changed its quarter: a dense formless jumble, with sheets of cross light in it, that showed nothing but masses of darkness.’
This had then been going on, in England, already for one century. The economist Adam Smith (1719-1790), in his main work, which was an apology of capitalism, says the same thing as Dickens, a brilliant exposition (for him) of industry, ‘the British genius’. It was for him natural that the country should conquer the world, should exploit the workers, pollute the air, conquer the earth, because of the superiority of the English race.
What Smith does not tell is that the English masses had become in a few decades one of the most miserable, exploited nations in Europe (one need only read Henry Fielding, 1707-1754, to ‘see’ the English of the early eighteenth century.)
And during the last two centuries the same.
Indeed, I saw in the fifties of the twentieth century the same things which Dickens saw in Preston in the nineteenth century, for I lived in northern England in the summer of 1953: Blackburn, Manchester, Birmingham, Leeds, etc.
And in London, the capital of the greatest empire in the world, more than one night (winter 1953-1954) I was scared out of my wits when in the evening I came out of the underground station, moving along, trying to reach the house where I was lodging. A city shrouded those cold days in what the English called ‘a pea-souper.’
… advancing along the street pavement, where I had walked a dozen times before, in better weather, I was terrified at the idea of losing my way and perishing in the surrounding black fog: cold and dampness. All I perceived with my senses (apart from some mysterious whistling of the air) were black shadows approaching, or overtaking me, the sound of their footsteps. Only that and that mysterious dropping… unseen drops, as if the devil were coming to take me.
… I had placed my satchel over my shoulder, my spectacles in my jacket pocket… and held with both hands the area railing, hoping as I reached the intersections that I might be able to read with my fingers the signs with the street names, for I don’t smoke and had no matches or lighter to illuminate my vision.
And I saw the same conditions in West Germany, in the spring of 1954.
“As we passed the bend of the river,” I wrote in my notebook, hardly sixty years ago, “I could see in the distance the city of my destination. A thick haze of dark smoke. The black shadows of the factories and the houses, printed there, on the gauzy veil of dark grey hue and pink and blue, beyond.”
“As the train was approaching the industrial city of Duisburg, I felt my young heart crying, what was I going to do there? For a moment Madrid came to my mind. Very poor, but the air was generally blue and pure. Was that the country I had expected to see, the West Germany of the ‘Great Industrial Miracle’?”
“The whitish cercle of a hidden sun had now reached its zenith in that grey veil that expanded through the sky. Far beyond, the shadows of the houses were now clearer, a city where a hundred thousand people probably lived, a zone of massive black buildings, factories, the vertical lines of the chimneys. The wealth of the country was there! so many factories and the spirals of bluish black smoke flying up from the chimney tops; in one or two of these chimneys, a light, more or less brightly red; or yellowish flames, detected in the background like red stars.”
“As we moved nearer to the city, I saw black lines, half a dozen blurred black lines, crossing the Rhine from bank to bank, in the fog, like every other moving object, or people. Dull, unreflected, on the murky surface of the river; dirty boats and barges, some moving, some berthed along the riverside. I closed my eyes, and when I opened them again, the train was entering the station. Achtung! Achtung! Achtung!”
The accompanying destruction of the environment.
I do not forget that the Paris gathering was officially concerned only or mainly with climate change: and of course the rapid change of the climate the final evil, when not even the rich will escape. But there are other things, besides. Deforestation, the destruction in general of the earth by the hand of man, end of a great part of animal life and, last but not least suffering humanity. And of all this, some capitalist countries are guilty.
It is only communism that can save mankind, and the earth with it. Really and truly, at this stage there is no world problem that can be solved without communism, the materialistic interpretation of history. “Dialects,” writes Lenin, “the doctrine of development in its fullest, deepest and more comprehensive form, the doctrine of the relativity of the human knowledge which provides us with a reflection of eternally developing matter.
Matter. Not superstition, not sectarism, not religion, terrorism, murder.
The great writer already mentioned, Charles Dickens, made his first trip to America in 1842. He relates in his book NOTES FROM AMERICA his vision of the United States of America, as he was reaching with his wife the frontier land. At the time, more than half of what is today ‘America’ did not belong to the United States.
Dickens saw this appropiation by the whites of a land then inhabited by other people, beyond the frontier formed by three grand rivers, Ohio, Missouri and Mississippi. This is what the writer saw travelling south along the Ohio.
‘The night is dark,’ he relates, ‘and we proceed within the shadow of the wooded bank, which makes it darker. After gliding past the sombre maze of boughs for a long time, we come upon an open space where the tall trees are burning. The shape of every branch and twig is expressed in a deep red glow, and as the light wind stirs and ruffles it, they seem to vegetate in fire. It is such a sight as we read of in legends of enchanted forests: saving that it is sad to see these noble works wasting away so awfully, alone; and to think how many years must come and go before the magic that created them will rear their like upon this ground again. But the time will come: and when, in their changed ashes, the growth of centuries unborn has struck its roots, the restless men of distant ages will repair to these again unpeopled solitudes; and their fellows in cities far away, that slumber now, perhaps, beneath the rolling sea, will read, in language strange to any ears in being now, but very old to them, of primeval forests where the axe was never heard, and where the jungled ground was never trodden by a human foot.’
In case the reader thinks that these horrible fires, this destruction of nature, could have been occasioned by natural causes (lightning for instance), let me say that the author himself repeatedly points out that they are caused by the new inhabitants of the land, the immigrants who had come to America mainly from one or other of the British Isles.
There were at the time many steamboats constantly circulating on canals and big rivers. Batallions of armed soldiers, ready to conquer; colonisers, lots of immigrants, arriving in the frontier land ready to settle, a country of course unknown, with no attachment. Irish or British: alone (or just one family), who will not get for a long time any of the conveniences that make life pleasant. They are ready to start the deforestation of the land they settle on, dislodge wild animals, make war on the natives. Theirs is a life of subsistence. Everywhere abundant timber, for building cabins, making fires for warmth and industry. Besides, the author writes specifically:
“Above the steamboat tower two iron chimneys, and between the upper structure and the deck are furnace fires, open at the sides to every wind that blows. The wonder is not that there are so many fires, but that any journey should be safely made.”
More pictures from America.
Standing up on the deck of the advancing steamer, alone, Dickens observes the land on the opposite bank of the river.
“Sometimes the ground is just now cleared,” he writes; and in another occasion, he sees a “log cabin with its thread of blue smoke curling up into the sky.” And again: “The felled trees, lying yet upon the soil, are the beginning of a log house just begun. The land is full of great unsightly stumps.”
The vision of innumerable trunks of felled trees alarms and torments our author as the steamboat moves along for hours and hours. In fact, there was a continuous vision of falling trees over the high bank, or just coming down in the water; other times on the water floating away, taken further south, towards the Mississippi. They will soon rot away, he mused. He sees them by the hundred rotting in these waters, most currently in the corners full of stale water by the edges: they will rot, being of no use to any one, while the deforested banks of the river will be altered and washed away. The climate will help in all that, and eventually the climate too will change, global warming.
As the steamboat approaches the water-edged city Dickens finds in it nothing but ugliness, “the dismal city of Cairo,” he comments. For he has now reached the conjunction of the three great rivers. “Through such a scene as this, the unwieldy machine takes his hoarse sullen way: venting, at every revolution of the paddles, a loud high presssure blast; enough, one would think, to waken up the host of Indians who lie buried in a great mound yonder.”
On the left, the commencement of Ole Man River. He will turn right, with his wife and most of the travellers, on the Missouri, to St. Louis, leaving the Mississippi behind, absolutely clogged with the trunks of felled trees and many other gigantic trees whole with roots and leafy branches, still green, still alive floating south.
Some new arrivals.
Just before going north on a new river, he sees: “Evening slowly steals upon the landscape and changes it before me, when we stop to set some emigrants ashore. Five men, as many women, and a little girl. All their worldy goods are a bag, a large chest and an old chair: one, old, high-back, rush-bottomed chair: a solitary settler it itself. They are rowed ashore in the boat, while the vessel stands a little off, awaiting its return, the water being shallow. They are landed at the foot of a high bank, on the summit of which there are a few log cabins, attainable only by a long winding path. It is growing dusk; but the sky is very red, and shines in the water and on some of the tree-tops, like fire. The men get out of the boat first; help out the women; take the bag, the chest, the chair; bid the rowers ‘good-bye’, and shove the boat off for them. At the first splash of the oars in the water, the oldest woman of the party sits down in the old chair, close to the water’s edge, without speaking a word. None of the others sit down, though the chest is big enough for many seats. They all stand where they landed, as if stricken into stone.”
The miserable farmhands and servants thrown away by capitalism from Ireland or any other British Isles, travelling as all new migrants without stirring, in the holds of great vessels, canal barges and steamboats. Sometimes stage-coaches and waggons drawn by oxen, seeking to extend the frontier and all the time polluting the land.
Again, it is Charles Dickens who explains all this in greater detail, in his grand novel MARTIN CHUZZLEWITT. The reader sees the migrants arriving at the frontier land, extensive chunks of mangrove without end, near by the grand river or somewhat further west, UNION PACIFIC.
In some great cities of the east, Philadelphia, New York, the new arrivals have contracted with professional activists (already existing then in America) and all sorts of papers have been signed, before the best lawyers in the world, heirs to the City of London professionals. The migrants have been shown drawings of maps, Terra Nullius. Which professionals in the east had been dividing (the West Country) into portions… and the poor newcomers from the British Isles are allotted so many square miles of mud and mire in consideration of a insignificant sum of money.
But for the moment Dickens travels with his wife and her maid, along vast new territories, conquered sometime before by the English in wars against the French. From Cairo to St. Louis, Missouri, with two or three dozen other travellers.
As for the natives or Red Indians (Dickens understood this very well) they became victims of great pollution, unjustified wars, murder, crimes against humanity, fire, destruction of their habitat, the land, the waters, the air.
It was easy for the French and English (as it had been for the Spaniards earlier on) to wage war against the original inhabitants, who belonged to other, more primitive, civilisations. And it was even easier for the citizens of the new republic to fight until the almost extermination of the existing races. People who were inflicted an unjust double punishment, deprived of their land, and seeing that the whites were quickly causing the natural habitat, primeval jungle and the animals inhabiting the forests and the plains disappear from before their very eyes.
Dickens wanted to see the ‘Looking-Glass Prairie’ in Illinois, journeying for the day with a dozen other travellers. “On either side of the track,” he tells us, “if it deserves the name, was the thick ‘bush’; and everywhere was stagnant, slimy, rotten, filthy water.”
“After breakfast, we started to return by a different way from that which we had taken yesterday, and coming up at ten o’clock with an encampment of German emigrants carrying their goods in carts, who had made a rousing fire which they were just quitting, stopped there to refresh.”
On another occasion.
The party eventually reached the Niagara Falls. It is not my intention to turn this article into a narration of somebody else’s journey, talking about places which I have not seen. My intention herein is just to show the horrors the author saw and describes, and perhaps my reader will notice how the industrial-capitalist civilisation pushed the English and other Europeans into colonising what they called res nullius, and in doing so, they forcefully destroyed the natural habitat, robbed and despoiled the natives and changed everything.
Talk now of climate warming, one percent, one and a half percent, two percent, here, there, everywhere, today, tomorrow or in fifty years time. Ladies and gentlemen, let us start where we must. Otherwise, as a lady writer implied (no less than in TIME magazine), capitalism the great, and with it every existing thing (of the human type, on earth) will be going over and down a cliff.)
English law, purchase-and-sale, the land, the natives.
In an inn, near the Niagara Falls, the author tells us in his book of an encounter, which impressed him very much. As things and events impress all sublime artists. ‘Among the company at breakfast was a mild old gentleman, who had been for many years employed by the United States Government in conducting negotiations with the Indians, and who had just concluded a treaty with these people by which they bound themselves, in consideration of a certain annual sum, to remove next year to some land provided for them, west of the Mississippi, and a litlle way beyond Saint Louis. He gave me a moving account of their strong attachment to the familiar scenes of their infancy, and in particular to the burial-places of their kindred, and of their great reluctance to leave them. He had witnessed many such removals, and always with pain, though he knew they departed for their own good.”
On another occasion, the writer tells us that the contracts of purchase-and-sale of ancestral lands had been carefully prepared by the lawyers of the coloniser; but though everything was done according to the laws of the United States of America, and the final version was ceremoniously shown and read to the elders of the tribe concerned, the Indians did not speak, much less read, English.
New York! New York!
Eventually New York became the biggest and most important city of the continent. “The pavement stones are polished with the thread of feet until they shine again,” we read… “Half-a-dozen (omnibuses) have gone by within as many minutes. Plenty of hackney cabs and coaches too; gigs, phaetons, large-wheeled tilburies, and private carriages rather of a clumsy make, and not very different from the public vehicles, but built for the heavy roads beyond the city pavement.” Americans were already then filling the streets of the cities chock full of traffic; and as for people, every street is a stream, we are told.
European men and sometimes women too, who had grown up in England, Ireland, Scotland, Germany, etc., who had been apprenticed back home, or who had simply worked at farming or industry or handicraft, earning some income with which they were nourished, at home; men and sometimes women of ages between eighteen and thirty-nine. Arriving in New York, all over North America, full of enthusiasm, ready to work and make money.
Not a penny had cost all of that to the United States, which found all that Labour. Ready Made, today, tomorrow… a continuous stream of Labour.
All is profit, from now, for activists and accumulators. The land had already been expropiated, partially destroyed and polluted: a tremendous gift from the Grand Administrator of things human and divine. What else could have been desired? Capital was awaiting.
“Send me your poor, send me the wretched refuse of your teeming shores!’