Imperialism and the environment

13. Imperialism and the environment

One manifestation of the deepening crisis of imperialism is the accelerated destruction of the environment. In its frenzied search for new sources of profit, imperialism cares nothing for the future of the planet. The scientific facts of global warming and environmental destruction are now established beyond dispute and are accepted even by the ruling class. However, what capitalism must above all maintain is that this destruction is a technological problem, one that can be solved by all manner of diversions such as carbon trading, bio-fuels and changes in individual consumption habits. In reality, its basis lies in the logic of ceaseless capital accumulation, with massive monopolies such as Shell and Rio Tinto marauding across the globe in search of profit, leaving environmental and human disasters in their wake. The food crisis is not one of production but of distribution as agribusiness seeks to profit from speculating on misery and energy companies, backed up by imperialist armies, devastate entire countries such as Nigeria and Iraq. Capitalist economies depend on propagating a culture of waste, individual consumption and greed inimical to ecological sustainability.

There are many campaigns in defence of the environment which are disconnected from the struggle against imperialism or the struggle for socialism. It is impossible to build an effective movement in defence of the environment unless it confronts the multinationals and their agent -the imperialist state. The political degeneration of Green Parties across Western Europe proves this. Equally, there can be no real movement for socialism unless it takes up the imperialist onslaught on the environment. In practice, socialist Cuba is showing the way forward for environmental sustainability through its planned economy, and progressive governments in Venezuela, Bolivia and Ecuador are following suit as they seek to reverse hundreds of years of colonial and imperial pillaging of their natural resources.


Tomorrow will be too late, Fidel Castro speech at the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro, 1992

FRFI 203 Hungry for change

FRFI 192 Nigeria: imperialist thirst for oil devastates a nation

FRFI 183 Global warming: profits before action

FRFI 158 Climate change - not a natural disaster

FRFI 153 Britain’s supermarkets: food imperialism

Marx's Ecology - John Bellamy Foster (only available to buy)

(See Marx and the rift in the universal metabolism of nature for an article by John Bellamy Foster addressing Marx's analysis of 'the metabolic rift')

Essays on Food, Hunger and Profit (only available to buy)

Supplementary reading

FRFI 148: Frankenstein foods: a piece of the action

FRFI 125 Profits or the planet 

FRFI 90 Ecology and socialism

Monthly Review, July-August 2009: 'An Overview of the food and agriculture crisis' - Review of 'Agriculture and food in crisis: Conflict, Resistance and Renewal'


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