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For a future, we must end the systemic causes of destruction and waste

Charles Posa McFadden

A common cause has a common solution

Given the present existential crises which now include both the threat of a quick end to human existence through nuclear war, and the threat from the deepening ecological crisis, our response to both needs to begin with recognition that no problem which has systemic causes is ever more than temporarily and only then partially resolvable by addressing only its proximal causes. We need to identify and address the root causes.

In relation to the struggle for peace, for example, we need to recognize that wars are not the result of the chain of events that lead up to the break-out of direct physical violence between the warring parties. What happens on one day is not the root cause of what happens on the next day. The same is true for the ecological crisis. The continuing failure of governments individually or collectively to take the necessary actions to mitigate this crisis is not because they collectively lack the means to do so.

All countries on Earth are dependent on their participation in the global capitalist market. The root cause of both the ecological crisis and the threat of use of weapons of mass destruction is the capitalist system itself. The motivating force guiding this system is competition for private profit, not the aim of producing and distributing equitably the goods and services needed for a fulfilling life for all. Instead, the goal of infinite busyness (GDP) guides capitalist government policy, facilitating seemingly unlimited accumulation of private wealth on a finite planet.

Since the 1970s, capitalism within the most developed capitalist countries could no longer be sustained primarily by internal capital accumulation. It has instead relied increasingly on exploiting the natural resources and labor power of other countries, whose people have the same rights as those within the imperialist homelands to live and prosper. Humanity’s existence will be increasingly precarious if the equal rights of all to enjoy common prosperity do not soon become the political reality. This is currently evident in tensions between the US and Russia, centered on the war over Ukraine, and between the US and China, centered on Taiwan.

To end the existential threat to human life on Earth from the ecological crisis and the threats of use of weapons of mass destruction, the people in all prospectively belligerent countries must find the ways to tame their own capitalist class from fueling or engaging in war, and ultimately, everywhere, replace the system which produces these crises. Here, the primary responsibility rests with the people in the core imperialist countries, primarily the US and its increasingly dependent vassal states.

In summary, to be successful, the struggles for peace and for an ecologically sustainable relationship with the rest of nature must also be anti-capitalist, anti-imperialist, and eco-socialist. If capitalism is the root cause of the threats of war and ecological destruction, ecosocialism is the solution.

Ending capitalism also ends the waste inherent in capitalism and opens the door to ending all the forms of exploitation and oppression inherent to class-divided societies

A principal result of the transformation of our social system to a more peaceful, ecologically sustainable alternative, would be to dramatically reduce and ultimately eliminate the waste inherent in the capitalist mode of production. This mode of production is characterized by the commodification of exchange and the maintenance of exploitative social relationships.

The communal production and free distribution of goods and services that meet human need would not need commercial advertising, disposable packaging, and all the physical infrastructure and labor time required by commercial sales. Nor would there be a private profit incentive to produce goods and services that do not meet community needs or do not meet the standards for ecological sustainability.

People would then be able to enjoy leisure time, recreation, sports and other activities without the distraction of commercial advertising and other manifestations of private greed. The creative talents of those engaged in commercial advertising and sales would be liberated for creative contributions to the arts, sciences, entertainment, and other activities that enrich our lives.

Among other consequences of an ecosocialist transformation, would be the end of the following sources of waste:

  • An education system which emphasizes fact-recall (as a substitute for scientific knowledge, Imagination and critical thinking), competition (as a substitute for collaboration and cooperation), and time-serving (as a substitute for active learning based on engagement with the community and the natural environment, focused on social and ecological problem-solving and apprenticeship for corresponding roles).
  • Social services which emphasize control, detention, and punishment over empathy and support for others require wasteful expenditure on prisons and police and result in the undermining of families and communities and the health and well-being of the individuals controlled, detained and punished (as a substitute for the social services inherent to the eco-socialist alternative).
  • A largely privatized adversarial justice and governmental system which primarily serves those most able to purchase its services (as opposed to the ecosocialist alternative of restorative justice, including equal access to legal and all other public services).
  • A military industrial complex and all the associated energy and material wastefulness of the preparation for and conduct of wars, including the associated destruction of nature, people, and the structures created by human labor (as opposed to the ecosocialist alternative of diplomacy, collaboration, cooperation, and human solidarity).

Our arguments here only illustrate some of the most glaring examples of the waste inherent in the everyday conduct of capitalism as a socio-economic system, that is, when it is functioning in a relatively stable manner (such as in periods of expansion of both production and consumption). But this system is inherently unstable, beset by cyclic “busts” as well as “booms”, where the former is evident in unused productive capacity (underconsumption and loss of employment), the failure to use existing productive capacity to fulfil the essential needs of working people. For an elaboration on the anarchy (gross inefficiency) of capitalism as an economic system, see Chapter 2 of Radhika Desai, Capitalism, Coronavirus and War: A Geopolitical Economy (2022, Routledge). This content is available for free from Routledge’s website: Capitalism, Coronavirus and War: A Geopolitical Economy - 1st Edition (

In addition to ending all the above examples of the waste of resources inherent in capitalism, ecosocialism opens the door to ending the waste which results from human oppression. By ending private profit as the motive for production and competition for the means to a livelihood, ecosocialism also ends capitalism’s quest for superprofits through divide and rule of the working class, including superprofits from those it identifies as less worthy by reason of gender, race, ethnicity, religious and political beliefs, sexual orientation, and by any other means. Of course, this does not end these forms of oppression so long as capitalist culture retains continuing influence over human behavior. But a revolutionary transformation from capitalist class economic dominance opens the door for ending oppression.

It is only through the struggle and achievement of a more just, democratic, peaceful, and ecologically sustainable global civilization that we can know and quantify the savings that can be achieved in the expenditure in energy and other natural resources. With effective economic and political power now concentrated in mere thousands of oligarchs (40% of whom reside in the United States) this task is not insuperable.

It is through the struggle to isolate and defeat this oligarchy that we can meet the greatest challenge humanity has yet faced, the threat presented by a dying capitalism to humanity’s very existence.