The idea that capitalist industrial civilization can continue on its path of growth has rested on the belief that no matter the environmental costs of capitalism, the system will be able to adapt and continue on its current trajectory. This is what the climate change denial movement has been about. This is what “green” capitalism and its promises of fixing the planet through tweaking the system has been about. No matter how much evidence appears that the planet is being killed because of how our society runs, the defenders of capitalism in all their varying ideological camps have kept claiming that a class revolt isn’t needed for addressing the problem.
It’s not hard to see why these peddlers of the “climate justice can happen under capitalism” line are operating under dishonest reasoning. 100 companies are responsible for around two-thirds of the overall carbon emissions, the top richest 1% are responsible for more than twice as much carbon emissions as the bottom 50% of the global population, and the U.S. military functions as the world’s biggest polluter due to its role in advancing the imperialist goals of the U.S. capitalist class. These things can’t be corrected under a system that runs according to the dictatorship of the bourgeoisie, rather than the dictatorship of the proletariat. Why do you think socialist China is thoroughly implementing a green new deal, while the U.S. doesn’t even have the political will to implement the corporatist green new deal that the Democrats have proposed?
As the U.S. experiences fire and hurricane seasons that continue to surpass the direness of all past ones, and as these and other climate-related catastrophes happen on top of a pandemic and a depression, the system keeps encouraging us to think that things will basically be fine under a continuation of capitalism. Since neoliberal imperialist hegemony is the norm for us, the idea of taking drastic steps to break out of the existing social order doesn’t occur to the average spectator within this catastrophe. The impulse is to carry on with our lives and remain just that: spectators.
But when you listen to the voice of suspicion in the back of your head, the voice that takes all the glaring contradictions of the system as things that need to be addressed, you get the sense that you have a responsibility to break the habits of compliance. Look at the cabal of reactionary millionaires and billionaires that have a stranglehold over our governmental system. Look at the series of endless wars that they’re determined to perpetuate, and that will continue to drive the planet into ruin for as long as they’re in power. Look at the neoliberal consensus among both major parties, and how ineffectual this renders the promised solution of voting. Tearing the system down is our only choice.
To carry out this task, we’ll need to avoid adventurism. Committing acts of vandalism or violence that aren’t part of a concrete strategy for taking power will only backfire against the anti-capitalist movement. What also doesn’t work is trying to take and hold territory, and then leaving the governance of this territory up to people who will let it be retaken by the capitalist state. This was the problem with this June’s Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone, whose leadership ended up conceding to U.S. law enforcement and letting the project be dismantled. Seized territory will need to be led by a communist party that adheres to a revolutionary line, a line that involves permanently taking land from the control of the capitalist state.
When this territory is seized (which will only be feasible after the leading communist parties have sufficiently won over the local populations to their cause, and after these parties have sufficiently armed themselves to defend against the state), it will need to be governed through a project to build systems of dual power. This will mean preparing to carry out the essential functions of the state within the zones that the revolutionaries come to occupy. Communists need to study how to grow large amounts of food, and how to store large amounts of food and water. We also need to prepare to get hold of the power plants in our areas so that the wrong factions don’t seize these facilities, and then decide to deprive parts of the population of electricity.
These are the kinds of tactical moves we need to be planning out if we’re going to successfully seize control from the state. They can only be attempted after the movement has built up a large enough network of dual power systems beforehand. The United Panther Movement describes these dual power networks as involving “independent community organizations and coalitions, people’s service programs and alternative institutions, and these provide a basis for building and sustaining a vanguard party and movement of the people rooted in the oppressed communities.” These all serve the purpose of weakening the state in the ways that the Movement anticipates:
On our own, the urban poor and marginalized workers cannot overthrow capitalist-imperialism, but we can act as a catalyst upon the whole proletariat and masses of people — here and internationally — to inspire them to rise up and pull down the whole rotten system. This includes winning over a significant portion of the oppressor’s armed forces — here and in their deployments internationally — to side with the people. As an important segment of these forces are drawn from our oppressed communities, it is imperative that red political power be built in the oppressed communities to win the allegiance of these sisters and brothers.
When the communist movement is strengthened to this extent, we’ll have the potential not just to win large chunks of territory from the capitalist state, but to drive out the remaining forces of reaction from all the lands that the state used to control. This is the Marxist-Leninist revolutionary strategy as it can be applied to the U.S. and many other capitalist countries. The question is: are you willing to commit to doing your part for the strategy’s fulfillment?
To find this out, to see if you’re ready to diligently read revolutionary theory and do the organizing work and potentially put your body on the line to protect against reactionary violence, ask yourself if you think continuing to live within the confines of the system is worth it. Is avoiding the sacrifices of revolutionary struggle worthwhile if it means that you’ll keep functioning as nothing but a spectator in the destruction of your world? How many fires, how many floods, how many living standard reductions, how many acts of genocidal violence before it becomes worthwhile to be a contributor to the class war?
All that separates you from breaking out of the conformity that late-stage capitalism has imposed upon you is the fantasy, implanted through propaganda, that the descent into an environmentally ravaged hellscape can be avoided through the “solutions” the system provides. When this fantasy is overcome, it becomes clear what needs to be done.
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