A Question to Erich Pica of Friends of the Earth: What Would It Mean To “Dismantle the Systems That Destroy Our Planet”?

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The August 5 New York Times Magazine ran an article on the failure of capitalists and politicians beginning in the late 1970s to do virtually anything to deal with the crisis of climate change even after there was convincing scientific evidence as to the damage it would cause. With all its shortcomings in analysis, which are beyond the scope of this letter, to the extent that it did detail the criminality around the environment by those who run this system, it was a painful and infuriating article to read. The depth of this crime does boggle the mind and outrage the heart.

In response, Erich Pica, president of Friends of the Earth, wrote that “To solve this crisis, we must dismantle the political and corporate systems that destroy our planet. We must halt the extraction and burning of fossil fuels and transition to renewable energy that prioritizes the most affected communities.

“The power to achieve these goals lies with people. Only a mass movement of people, built from the ground up, can take on the corporations and politicians who endanger people and the planet for profit. This is how we win.”

Pica’s letter expresses something true. It reflects something positive that sentiments like this are now being openly expressed by many people. The problem lies mainly in the way the questions fall short of fully engaging the reality, and in the questions not posed at all. At this late date, with everything hanging in the balance, the FULL reality must be confronted.

Why not name those “political and corporate systems that destroy our planet”? It is in fact a single system, capitalism-imperialism. This system is organized around the private production of profit based on exploitation—in which human beings and nature serve the ceaseless and reckless accumulation of profit and NOT social need and protection of the planet. Capitalism-imperialism is compelled by the inner logic of its economic relations to plunder the planet; if any particular bloc of capital (a corporation, for instance) did not, it would go under. These economic relations give rise to and are protected by a political structure, which includes as its most essential element the monopoly on violence recognized as “legitimate” and resting on armies, prisons, police forces, courts, etc. Without correctly understanding the essence of the problem, we will not be able to really deal with it.

What does it concretely mean to “dismantle” that system? The institutions that defend capitalism-imperialism do in fact need to be dismantled, and it’s significant that this term—rather than reform—is now used here. But what would it take to truly dismantle the massive forces of violent repression that defend the system? What orientation would be needed? What kind of strategy could actually achieve that? This would require a revolution—an actual revolution that would meet and defeat those forces of violent repression... that would overthrow the system.

What does it mean to “win”? We do, as Erich Pica says, need a “mass movement of people, built from the ground up... [to] win.” But a mass movement organized around what goal, to do what? A mass movement that seeks reform, or that is organized to make an actual revolution? Which one would be necessary if we are serious about stopping the destruction of the planet? The overwhelming majority of people in the environmental movement are indeed serious in that goal; to be consistent, they must seriously grapple with how that goal could be achieved.

And one must also grapple with this: What would the society we need look like? How would a society be structured in which humanity actually could act as caretakers of the earth and its webs of life, in their beauty and diversity, and where the needs of those who have been oppressed for so long in the current order are, as Erich Pica proposes, “prioritized”?

These questions cry out to be forthrightly posed, deeply dug into, and answered.

In fact they have been—in the works of the new communism brought forward by Bob Avakian. These include in particular the Constitution for the New Socialist Republic in North America, as well as works on strategy and, most fundamentally, the science that enables people to truly understand and transform the world.

And that implies one last question:

At such a dire time, when so many both recognize the extremity of the situation and sense the extremity of what is required to deal with it, isn’t it time and past time for everyone who cares to deeply and honestly confront and engage the answers to those crucial questions that Bob Avakian has brought forward?


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