Ten points to ponder.
1 Hierarchical mass societies based upon capital, require continuous growth for both the return of the initial capital invested and the anticipated surplus-value realised as profit. 2 Capital and profit are maintained and sustained by the production and sale of commodities and services. 3 Furthermore, for growth in the 21st century, global capital requires a global supply and export infrastructure for raw materials and markets. 4 Since the change over from coal and steam to petrochemicals and electricity for production and transport in the 20th century, the commodities made from petrochemicals have proliferated.
5 To manufacture, plastics, synthetic rubbers, agricultural fertilisers, cars, ships, aircraft, clothes, phones, fridges, vitamin tablets, medicines, keyboard instruments, computers, television sets, cameras, bicycles, toys and thousands of other products, industries are now dependent upon petrochemicals. 6 This dependence is not just for producing the electrical energy to manufacture them by machinery but for the raw material they are actually made from. 7 Over many decades, this high production output has not only enriched the elites who control the means and mode of production, but has consolidated their control of the political system and the production of ideas supporting this system.
8 Moreover, the high energy obtained from relatively cheap to extract, fossil fuels and the machinery it now drives has not only increased the number of products manufactured but has reduced the number of people required to mass produce them. 9 Since its domination, petro-chemical fuelled mass production has serviced a global population rising from 2 billion (in 1927) to 8 billion (in 2022) in less than 100 years. 10 Despite the millions of years required for the fossilisation of former organic materials such as wood, coal, oil and gas, modern industrial technology is set to consume them as material and energy sources in a matter of centuries.
This high productivity boost from high energy sources such as oil, gas and nuclear has therefore become the self-defeating Achilles-heel of the whole profit based system.
In other words even without the side effects of pollution, climate change and ecological loss, etc., which emanates from burning fossil fuels, the consumption of raw materials and energy is exponentially faster than their original production. That is to say, faster than nature – the originator of all the organic sources of raw materials – can replace them! With 8 billion consumers groomed by advertising to want more and more products and gadgets, the available material to make them on an industrial scale will soon run out. That logic alone points to an end game for mass society production on a capitalist basis.
Furthermore, the obscure side effects of production cannot be ignored for waste product pollution, which causes ecological loss and climate change is continually creating problems during and after raw material extraction and during and after commodity manufacture. These waste product rubbish dumping places, (rivers, seas, atmosphere, quarries, valleys etc.) make the waste not only immediately harmful for life on earth, but some (including mercury, and nuclear) will exist for thousands of years before nature will be able to effectively neutralise them.
To boldly (or blindly) go!
The growing realisation of this problem has split the elites in control of advanced capitalist based hierarchical mass societies into two basic energy supply camps; the capitalist traditionalists and the capitalist futurists. The capitalist traditionalists are centred around the fossil fuel, climate denying lobby, whilst the capitalist futurists are centred around so-called ‘clean’ energy, green-future lobby. A virtual civil war between the two political camps exist in which by mixing a poisonous broth of distorted fact and deliberate fiction the two sides have set about assassinating the character of the others whilst successfully gathering support from many of their citizens and blaming the each other, rather than the system.
Fake news and ill thought out proposals now proliferate from every elite side. However, those battles of words are merely the early stages of deeper political crisis for both sides are also logically prone to totalitarian social control tendencies because they are both still committed to ‘capital ownership’, ‘wage-labour’ and to ‘hierarchical’ mass society forms. If ordinary citizens continue to support either of these elite tendencies or strategies (or any other such elite political tendency) they will create catastrophe and take down whole societies with them.
Moreover, if any present or future committed hierarchical mass society tendency gains power and they cannot persuade their citizens to go along with their way of dealing with problems they will, as in the past, use totalitarian methods of force and even civil war to enforce their will. Examples, already exist in North Korea, Turkey, Iran, Indonesia, Egypt, Syria and more are likely, with ‘supreme’ (!) leaders either in name or fact. Elites can do no other, as will be explained in Part 5.
Yet when all is said and done, all traditional or futurist energy tendencies are doomed to ultimate failure in sustaining the present mass society system because; 1, The traditionalists offer more of the same which means continued economic growth utilising petro-chemical fuelled mass production. Thus continued ice cap melting, sea level risings, climate changes, key species loss (particularly insects and soil micro-organisms) and civil unrest from vast wealth inequalities, will all continue; 2, The futurists are deluding themselves and their supporters.
The so-called clean energy is not really clean. Electric cars, wind turbines, wave energy converters etc., may not spew out fumes and detritus on our city streets or holiday beaches but fumes and detritus are being spewed out elsewhere where the lithium, cobalt and other exotic metals are being mined, where the batteries are being manufactured and where the oil for the plastic fascias, battery cases and tyres are being ‘refined’ (sic) and processed.
It is obvious that manufacturing products for hierarchical mass societies means massively using up raw materials and massively creating waste materials and gases. Also the global climate pattern of winds and sea currents, (even if they alter) will ensure these pollutants will be dispersed to even the most remote areas. Similarly, solar panels may not produce fumes and toxins in towns and cities, but their manufacture and eventual disposal do so elsewhere. Wind turbines and wave capturing machines have a similar raw material extraction problem as well as those pollutants exhausted during production and waste disposal.
The use of words such as ‘sustainable’, ‘ecological’ ‘and recyclable’ by left, right and centre political tendencies are meaningless lures to fool the naive into clinging on to hope in an elite-guided future. Even if energy itself were made independent of fossil fuels, the raw material from which capitalism manufactures its millions of commodities and thousands of services cannot be made independently of fossil fuels. This is because the other substitutes for petro-chemical based raw materials are the pre-fossil fuel materials of wood (now much depleted), metals, glass, slates and granites, most of which are finite and where still plentiful, also require expenditure of considerable energy to extract.
High energy mass production = Planetary Degradation!
Beneath all the nuanced rationalisations and elite generated hot air fantasies and polemics concerning climate change, lies an undeniable reality. Mass pollution, climate change, ecological destruction and resource depletion, are the results of high energy mass production and consumption – period! It does not matter what kind of energy is used to manufacture them or which elite hierarchical tendency controls mass production output. Making lots and lots of stuff, uses lots and lots of stuff and makes lots and lots of mess – period! Moreover, making lots of dangerous stuff makes lots of dangerous mess – also period!
Raw material extraction was one thing when the energy source was wind, water and human or animal muscle power, but is another when the mechanical digger, conveyor belt and chain saw is involved. Mass gatherings and ancient mass societies based just upon human, animal, wind and water power did exist from pre-history until 200 or so years ago. But in the past humanity did not continually mass produce commodities because of an endless greed for accumulating profits and the latest gadgets; they produced primarily for immediate consumption and were using low grade tools and relatively weak energy sources to do so.
At that pre-industrial point in human evolution, forests, animal reproduction and seas globally could just about keep up with replenishing the trees the wood cutters axe demolished; the animals a bow or spear could cull; or the fish the small nets could entangle. Likewise resource depletion by building huge Stone Circles, Pyramids, Palaces or Cathedrals would be spread over many decades or even centuries by large, slow moving human workforces using ropes and hand chisels. All that changed with the Industrial Revolution. In contrast, mass societies based upon high energy fuels, high efficiency machinery and an insatiable profit motive – no matter which political tendency governs them – are definitely going to be a relatively short – lived and exceedingly detrimental phenomena for all forms of life on planet earth.
The logic of the capitalist mode of production driving humanity on the equivalent of an economic, perpetual motion, suicide mission against nature and its own essential human nature, has been known since its socio-economic logic was forensically examined by Karl Marx in ‘Das Kapital’ the ‘Grundrisse’ and ‘Theories of Surplus Value’. Hence his hope that before the final, self-inflicted death agony of capitalism, the working classes would overthrow the capitalist elite and organise mass societies in a non – hierarchical way and organise production for egalitarian need.
Yet so ingrained is a fetish type regard for hierarchical mass society forms, that despite Marx’s exhaustive research there is even an international trend of self-declared Marxists, who misusing elements of Marx’s analysis entirely agree with a plan of China’s ‘authoritarian’ leaders for just such a hierarchical mass society future! It contains the following eight points (abbreviated here) to enable their ‘vision’ of constructing a Green Ecological Civilisation, led – of course – by the Chinese Communist Party.
- Spacial planning. 2. Technical innovation and structural adjustments. 3. Sustainable use of land and resources. 4 Ecological and environmental protection. 5. A regulatory system to ensure conformity. 6. A method of monitoring and supervision. 7. Public participation. 8. A system of policy of planning, organisation and implementation.
- Anyone familiar with the disastrous and inhumane results of Bolshevik Five Year Orgplans and Orgbureas (also full of ‘convincing’ sounding words) set up under Lenin and Stalin’s leadership will recognise the bureaucratic centralised model of ‘Spacial Planning’, implicit (if not explicit) in the above list. Note that an elite, self-perpetuating ‘sovereign’ leadership has already drawn up the plan for everyone and will be in charge of planning and instructing. It will obviously continue ue to use a bureaucracy with police powers in order to ensure the implementation of this imaginary Ecological Civilisation.
- It is not surprising that the Chinese Communist Party came up with such a hierarchical top down idea, after all they never intended to do away with classes or allow the state to whither away or indeed to allow the masses to determine their own future needs and desires – as Marx insisted should be the case. But for some on the left to promote the above, says a lot about the atrophy of the radical left in the 21st century. The real revolutionary-humanist Marx on the other hand even in the 19th century perceived the problem attached to such ingrained political mindsets, writing;
- “The political mind is a political mind precisely because it thinks within the framework of politics. The keener and more lively it is, the more incapable is it of understanding social ills …The more one – sided and, therefore, the more perfected the political mind is, the more does it believe in the omnipotence of the will, the more is it blind to the natural and spiritual limits of the will, and the more incapable is it therefore of discovering the source of social ills.” (Marx/Engels. Collected Works. Volume 3, p199)
- Roy Ratcliffe (December 2022)