Capitalism first – climate last By William Bowles

5 December 2006

I think it should be pretty clear to all by now that regardless that the ruling elites of the planet know what’s in store for humanity, they do not intend to take the necessary steps to reverse the slide toward chaos. Yeah sure, lots of hot air to add to an already over-heated atmosphere but no steps of any consequence.

In fact, the actions of our ruling elites over the past decades have been the major contributor to the increasing immiseration and desperation of much of the world’s population, let alone the on-going destruction of our ecosphere. And the two conditions are inextricably intertwined, for it is only because of the increased exploitation of people and planet through the misnamed globalisation that we have arrived at our current predicament.

Yet in spite of what we now know is the inevitable end-product of out-of-control production and consumption, they still maintain that we can have our cake and eat it, or more precisely, that they can.

So what does this tell us about the gangsters who control our economies? There are only two conclusions one can come to:

One, they think they can survive using their wealth and technological power to survive relatively intact as a class or two, they don’t give a damn as long as they can continue to make a profit, today.

Now even psychopathic ruling elites must surely have an instinct to survive which leads one to conclude that they are prepared to sacrifice billions of lives in order to preserve themselves and hopefully a sufficient number of people to pick-up the pieces aprés la deluge.

I say this based not on despair or a fatalistic acceptance of the inevitable but on an understanding of the ideology of the ruling class and on the record of its past actions. Indeed, their bastardised Darwinian ‘survival of the fittest’ philosophy impels one to this conclusion. After all, ever since the 1970s, a neo-Malthusian ideology has pervaded the thinking of our ruling classes, an ideology which says that there too many (poor) people and all manner of programmes have been formulated to curb the alleged fecundity of the working classes.

“…There are only two possible ways in which a world of 10 billion people can be averted. Either the current birth rates must come down more quickly. Or the current death rates must go up. “There is no other way. “There are, of course, many ways in which the death rates can go up. In a thermonuclear age, war can accomplish it very quickly and decisively. Famine and disease are nature’s ancient checks on population growth, and neither one has disappeared from the scene…. “To put it simply: Excessive population growth is the greatest single obstacle to the economic and social advancement of most of the societies in the developing world.” — Robert McNamara, Oct. 2, 1979

Climate catastrophe would seem to add a third possible ‘solution’ and indeed, it might even be preferable to war as it would appear to have ‘natural causes’.

McNamara’s statement was made almost thirty years ago, as part of the Club of Rome’s prognostications on the future. Note that “excessive population growth” is confined to the developing world and there is no mention whatsoever of excessive growth in production in the developed world, nor of the wealth made possible by poverty. McNamara, infamous for his ‘spreadsheets of death’, that is to say, he performed the calculations needed to figure how many tons of bombs needed to be dropped on Vietnam in order to defeat the Viet Minh.[1]

In fact, the ideology of the ruling classes has not fundamentally changed since the 19th century in spite of being dressed up in all kinds of pseudo-scientific newsspeak. So for example, ideas based on the racially and class-based hypotheses of eugenics of the ‘racially fit’ that led to mass sterilisation and ultimately to the extermination camps are but a stone’s throw away from the idea that it’s okay to sacrifice the millions if not billions of people who are ‘surplus to requirement’ when the global shit hits the fan.[2] It manifests itself in scarcely veiled racist ideology about Africans on which I have commented before in relation to the despicable Live 8.[3]

So deeply rooted is this thinking that it finds expression in every aspect of state policy; on crime, education, health, housing, even sexuality and of course, the environment. Implicit in state policies is the notion that there are those amongst us who are genetically inferior in some way and it is no accident that they are invariably poor and/or badly educated. Thus the coming climate catastrophe has to be viewed as a handy way of eliminating those who are ‘surplus to requirement’.

I mean, just how different is this from sacrificing millions in wars for profit and resources, it’s really only a question of scale and, as the effects of climate change speed up, the struggle for basic necessities—water, food, and land—will add to the destabilising effects of climate change.

And this is by no means a new idea, food (or lack of it) as a political/economic weapon has been used many times by the Western powers.

“Mandatory programs may be needed and we should be considering these possibilities now,” the document continued, adding, “Would food be considered an instrument of national power? … Is the U.S. prepared to accept food rationing to help people who can’t/won’t control their population growth?” — Henry Kissinger, ‘National Security Study Memorandum 200: Implications of Worldwide Population Growth for U.S. Security and Overseas Interests.’ Dec. 10, 1974.[4]

These struggles, which take place largely in the developing world, will enable the leading capitalist states to step in and ‘take charge’. The concept is no different from the current ‘failed state/rogue state’ idea and no doubt a new strategy of interception will be formulated that will justify intervention based on ‘climate catastrophe’, that the leaders of these ‘failed states’ are incapable of solving the problems that confront them.

Of course, climate change will undoubtedly impact on the developed world, especially those millions who live in the coastal regions but consider the US government’s response, or rather lack of, to Hurricane Katrina and you have a good idea of how the ruling elites will deal with for example, rising sea levels especially where it impacts on the poor. Benign neglect will undoubtedly be the order of the day.

Of course, these views will never be stated openly but for example, we see them expressed indirectly, for example about China and its rapidly industrialising society, conveniently forgetting two things: it is the West which has for the past two hundred years been spewing out greenhouse gases and second, many of the industrial plants in China are not only Western-owned corporations, moved there because the cost of production is lower but also because the demand for the products initially came from the West.

Collectively, these are already called ‘resource wars’ by one facet of the environmental lobby and it is instructive to note that those who formulate the concept of ‘resource wars’ never mention capitalism as the fundamental cause. As usual, it’s ‘the poor wot gets the blame.’

Closer to home, we see an even more paradoxical idea being promulgated, namely the idea that we, that is, working people will have to reduce our consumption of energy and resources without however any fundamental transformation of the economy. It will, by some miracle known only to the mandarins of capital, be business as usual.

How this thinking relates to the issue of the environment is most revealing for rather than focus on the cause—unrestrained capitalist production—instead we see a propaganda campaign directed at the consumer who is being told effectively to clean up the mess caused by capitalism by reducing consumption! It is in other words, yet another version of blaming the victim only this time, after a lifetime of convincing the population that ever-increasing consumption is the solution to all that ails them, they are now being asked to ‘tighten their belts’.

The question of how exactly, a reduction in consumption squares with an economy based on ever-expanding production and consumption, is not even stated let alone addressed. A fundamental question when you consider that for example in the UK, over 60% of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) is accounted for by consumer spending (financed largely by credit-card debt), and spent largely on goods not even produced in the UK but in the developing world.

And in the same breath, we are warned that ‘globalisation’ means increased competition between producers, thus by some miracle we have to compete in the race for markets whilst at the same time reducing consumption. Again, the paradox of competition between producers and the obvious necessity to reduce consumption of goods that are produced merely for the sake of profit rather than real need, is not addressed.

Thus the issue of the underlying nature of the economy is not raised, let alone addressed. It continues to be assumed that capitalism will come up with a solution, the ‘market’ will deal with the problem, although the fact that it’s a global problem cannot be escaped leads commentators within the capitalist press to admit that a nation state, by itself, cannot resolve the problem. At this point, the debate, such as it is, grinds to a halt.

Take for example a recent editorial in the London Independent on this very question:

“… vested interests—fisherman and the oil industry—have for too long distracted our attention from the urgent need to modify our behavior … if we spend 1 per cent of global GDP now to reduce our emissions, we can still enjoy formidable economic growth …”

The editorial ends with the following:

“Climate change is an issue that cuts across traditional political loyalties, class affiliations and economic interests.” — The Independent, Saturday, 4 November, 2006.

Note the choice of words; “distracted our attention”, “our behaviour” and pointedly, “we can still enjoy formidable economic growth”. Thus it’s our behaviour that‘s the problem, not an economic system, a point reinforced by the “we” of enjoy. No prizes for who the ‘we’ refers to as those most affected by climate change don’t even get a mention. Thus there is no reason to be worried, it’s still business as usual as far as the Independent is concerned.

And the final para echoes the standard line pushed by the capitalist press when ‘our’ interests are threatened, namely that ‘we’ must all pull together, the interests of big business and that of working people are assumed to be identical. The assumption made by the Independent that climate change is not a class issue or no economic interests has no basis in reality, a point it even refers to when it talks about the interests of the oil industry.

And to reinforce the point, the other object of the Independent’s ‘affection’, China, gets a mention under the heading, “China’s scramble for Africa” where we read the following incredulous account:

“… the influx of [Chinese] textiles, consumer goods and food products may discourage the formation of home-grown industries in Africa … We have tended to see the countries of sub-Saharan Africa only as recipients of of aid on terms we decide.”

Anyone who has read Walter Rodney’s classic ‘How Europe underdeveloped Africa’ will know that for hundreds of years it has been Europe that has deliberately underdeveloped Africa, so the Independent has some nerve accusing China! And the same applies to the Independent’s reference to the ‘aid’ we allegedly give, ‘aid’ which pays back many times over via the conditions attached to the ‘aid’.

The Independent’s approach is typical of the corporate media, things look grim but not to worry, if we all pull together we can still have our cake and eat it.


1. For more on the Club of Rome see

2. For more on Eugenics, see the Eugenics Archive and U.S. Eugenics Paralleled Nazi Germany by David Morgan.

3. See ‘Africa Bound’ by William Bowles, 8 June 2005.

4. In particular, see Henry Kissinger’s 1974 Plan for Food Control Genocide. See also Food and the US Arsenal By RON JACOBS, Counterpunch, September 9 / 11, 2005 and Food as a weapon: Bucharest, Rome and the politics of starvation.


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