The connection between capitalism and ecology

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Due to the devastating effects of environmental degradation, the ecological question has received increasing media and social attention, as its consequences are too obvious to be negated further. The social development of the last 200 years has put the earth into a condition, whose enormous consequences affect all life on this world and which will continue to intensify. Air pollution by carbon dioxide, marine and river pollution and the spreading desertification, to name but a few, have already left irreversible damage in the natural balance of the environment, the effects of which cannot yet be calculated. For example, the consequences of the ongoing destruction of the animal and plant world are not yet known. Even if the discussion of the ecological crisis has now found its way into most state policies, this reform policy is not expected to provide a profound solution. Reform policy is the political attempt to resolve social problems by introducing reforms. However, due to their approach to treating symptoms, these reforms usually only address the surface of the problem. Instead of clearly naming the liberal value system’s responsibility for environmental destruction, the causes remain hidden and are reduced to secondary phenomena of the capitalist system such as technologies, fossil fuels and the consumer society. In order to develop an understanding of the connection between social and ecological crises, an analysis is needed that recognizes the unlimited capital and profit orientation of the monopolies as an environmentally and socially destructive ideology of capitalism.

The term capitalism describes an economic and social order in which society and its production is geared towards maximizing profits. The means of production (factories, machines, access to raw materials) are privately owned, which means that social life is determined by the interests of the owners of capital. Production is not oriented towards satisfying the basic needs of society, but towards maximizing the profits of a few. Since the majority of the population has no capital, it must earn its living by selling its labor. As a result, the workers are totally dependent on the labor market and the capitalists who control it. Through this dependence, they have completely surrendered to the laws of competition and the concomitant exploitation by the owners of capital. Historically, the emergence of capitalism at the end of the 18th and beginning of the 19th centuries has replaced feudalism as a system of domination. Feudalism is a social system that is dominated by a noble upper class (feudal lords).

If the connection between capitalist ideology and the ecological crisis is to be considered in its totality, it must be questioned why society has not yet found a practicable solution to this crisis in the age of rationality and science. The answer lies in the epistemology of capitalism, means in the question how, for what and under which conditions knowledge is generated. The subdivision into more or less independent fields of research and a positivistic approach to crisis-like conditions, i.e. an approach that is based only on observable and positively verifiable findings, robs science of its holistic perspective. Although the environmental sciences should shed light on the relationship between social development and its progress in the context of its environment, ecology is separated from the social sciences and regarded as an isolated field of research. This separation of ecological problems from their social contexts continues to obscure the true cause of this crisis. Instead of really working towards finding truth and solutions, science moves within the limits of profit-oriented theory and practice. The failure of the leading sciences to take responsibility for the destruction of the environment within the system itself shows their failure to see problems in their entirety and to translate profound solutions into practice. In this form, the structure of science only serves to legitimize the ruling system, since it is itself subject to capitalist ideology and only concludes within this framework. Science will always happen in the context of an ideology, but its findings must take into account the ideology, society or class to which it is subject. In order to evaluate the ecological crisis and its solutions in their entirety, it is necessary to analyze the relationship between society and nature. Due to many irritations and deviations from the social nature within human and civilizational development, in most parts of the world humans find themselves in a state of alienation from nature, society and themselves.

A brief digression into the origins of human community will show the extent to which the oppression of man and nature is related to the accumulation of goods to seize power. According to Öcalan, the relationship of man to his environment can be divided into two forms of nature up to now. The first nature he describes as the nature of animals and plants. In the second nature, which is attributed to society, man develops an awareness of organized coexistence and begins to understand himself as a social being. During this time the first form of a settled community develops in Mesopotamia: the natural society. Even though man, within this development, experiences the Agricultural Revolution and begins to change his environment through the conscious use of agriculture and animal husbandry, his earned goods are limited to the most necessary. Community life is based on the regularities of nature and takes place in complete harmony with the environment. Nature is understood as living and there is a deep connection between man and nature. With the first sexual upheaval, this balance shifts, which had previously maintained harmony in the matricentric community organized around women. Out of the brotherhood of the strong man, the shaman and the experienced old man, for the first time a structure of domination with the dominance of the man and the division into categories arises. Through this conspiracy, the first social hierarchy was established and natural society collapsed in favor of a mythologically legitimized, more complex social construct, which was supported by the Sumerian priests and which came closer and closer to state structures. With the oppression of women, the relationship to nature changes fundamentally and the man stands above nature as physical ruler and in the form of metaphysical gods. Nature is no longer the determining component of communal life, but becomes, like the woman, an object that can be exploited. Starting from the Sumerian society, which developed parallel to and out of the natural society, this conception of nature spread almost all over the world. Even if the superstructure of this idea changes in the course of the history of civilization according to the legitimation needs of the ruling system, the essence of the duality between society and nature remains in every phase. European history in particular shows the ways in which the connectedness and social knowledge about nature is demonized and eliminated. Since knowledge about agriculture and medicinal herbs allows for a certain kind of independence from the ruling system, social knowledge is deliberately opposed in the form of expropriation of collectively used agricultural land by feudal lords and the targeted murder of independent women known as witches. It is precisely through positivism that nature is declared to be something measurable, so that knowledge is reserved for the ruling classes. The alienation of society from its knowledge and the centralization of agricultural production continues to divide the gap between society and nature. The difference between subject and object is transferred from the concept of nature to the people themselves. Man, like nature, becomes capital. Objectification takes on inhuman dimensions in the course of colonization. Cultures that do not conform to European hegemony are declared nature, which can be oppressed, exploited and exterminated. In the sense of profit maximization, the capitalization of entire cultures, including their people, land and resources, and the superiority of European societies is scientifically proven to be justified. This is a further example of how science does not serve to find the truth but to legitimize profit-oriented cruelty.

As with science, so too are many other facets of social life. Not science, economy or industrialization are the components which cause the destruction and exploitation of man and nature, but the profit and capital-oriented application of this comes to light as the cause of these problems. As well as the generation of knowledge, a form of economy is necessary for the organization of a society, as long as it serves the society itself and not the profit of a few and the stabilization of the ruling system. The industrial revolution at the end of the 18th century and the beginning of the 19th century, in its neutrality, should be accorded as much importance in the progress of social development as the agricultural revolution within the natural society. The invention of industrial means from within society has been subjected to its ideology under the system of domination of capital. Their further development was always subject to the test of the possibility of profit maximization and was taken away from society in order to further stabilize the power of the monopolists of the economic, commercial and military industries. The crises that have marked the last 200 years of advancing industrialization have spread across the whole planet. The globalization of industrial hegemony has allowed the exploitation of people and nature as capital to spread to the most diverse cultures. It is therefore possible to shift production to those countries where the conditions for monopolists are most favorable. This intervention in one’s own production and norms permeates all facets of social organization and changes it permanently. Especially the agricultural sectors are affected by this integration of industrial resources, which is becoming a hegemony. This intrusion into social production creates new and more lucrative opportunities for capitalists to exploit nature. The assumption of establishing more effective ways of agriculture through profit-oriented production proved to be an empty legitimation that was put into practice at the expense of society and nature. Genetically manipulated seeds force nature and farmers into a situation of complete dependence on companies, while their autonomy and connection to work as such is forcibly taken away. Since human society has for the first time constructed itself through the earth and agriculture, these can be understood as one of the fundamental characteristics of society. The appropriation of these lands and their own production can thus be seen as an attack on their entire social and natural existence. Instead of creating a symbiosis between agriculture and industry, all these contradictions leave only a profit-oriented, hostile relationship. This approach and application of industrial progress makes it clear that the responsibility for the social crises, wars and environmental destruction that followed industrialization is not to be found in itself, but in the profit-oriented ideology of capitalist modernity. A structure and use of the achievements of the industrial revolution that focuses on the social common good rather than on the enrichment of a few could make a valuable contribution to the transition from the second to the third nature. Ocalan understands this third nature as a balance that gives man and all living beings a living space in harmony. As long as this profit-oriented mentality is not overcome, the creation of the third nature remains a utopia to be striven for. However, it is precisely this fact that should give rise to a radical restructuring in leading politics. How can it be that in the time that is supposedly the most developed, utopia is still so far removed from reality?

The period in which capital accumulation takes place without borders and morals, in which society and nature are being ruined in favor of a few monopolists, cannot be described as an age of rationality. We are in an age of ecological and social crises and this insight is increasingly finding its way into the consciousness of society. Although scientists warn of the effects of environmental destruction, their message is not heard or ignored under the loud cries of capital and power monopolies. Where it is clear that no serious change is to be expected on the part of the powerful, environmental activism has established itself as the broadest civil society movement in the last few years. As a result of its all-encompassing nature, even though it is expressed with varying intensity in different places and social situations, a cross-class, transnational participation has developed, which, however, splits into different currents and approaches. Even if many anarchists, communists and real socialists can integrate environmental activism into their anti-capitalist struggle, liberal ideologies also find their place in the broad-based movement. By ignoring their own responsibility and shifting it to secondary phenomena, the monopolists are able to make profit from the ecological crisis once again. The idea propagated by the system that there could be a green capitalism is the biggest misconception that people have. Green capitalism is a contradiction in terms. Green washing, meaning the idea of not being part of the problem by consuming “environmentally friendly” products, is a shift of the structural problem to the individual level. On the one hand, this serves capitalism to establish a completely new market industry, which can generate a lot of profit with expensive products. On the other hand, individuals who can afford it financially buy a clear conscience not to have to deal with the problem any further. It is not surprising that these ideas are mostly found in the middle and upper classes and are based on a superficial, individualistic and comfortable perspective on environmental destruction. The ecological crisis, whose roots are deeply intertwined with the ideology of capitalism, will not be solved with reform policies or at the individual level. Any attempt at this approach carries a hypocrisy within it and serves only to maintain the capitalist system and legitimize its own inaction. Unless we consciously resist the capitalist system, we will not be able to claim to have resisted the exploitation and destruction of people, society and nature. In order to be able to really bring about a change in the existing conditions and their destruction of the environment, we need ideological clearness and action from the whole of society. We need alternatives, utopias and must be ready to rebel against capitalism. We must be ready to fight with all means for our utopias, our society and our environment.

Our utopia, which has already been realized to a large extent in the region of Kurdistan, is called grassroots democratic confederalism. An all-encompassing description of this social structure can be found in Öcalan’s “Sociology of Freedom”, but this article wants to give at least a rough insight into the dimension of the eco-industrial society. It is clear from the foregoing that we need to rethink many areas of social organization and free them, like ourselves, from capitalist ideology. The aspects of social life are distorted by capitalist ideology to the point where its consequences cause poverty, hunger, colonization, national and international wars and environmental destruction. But an economy that is not geared toward maximizing the profits of the few need not lead to such catastrophic consequences. In democratic confederalism, the economy regains its true meaning; it serves to satisfy the basic needs of society. It generates utility values and the exchange value as a market economy without destroying the environment or parts of society. The principle of eco-industry is based on two undeniable limits, the ecological limit and the limit for the satisfaction of basic needs, to which industry and all economic activities must adhere. This means that every economic activity must be questioned in the context of the moral and political dimension of democratic confederalism and must be examined with regard to this. Democratic modernity can be seen as a systematic and structural revolution, which eco-industry understands as one of its main dimensions. According to the principles of eco-industry and moral and political dimension, several eco-communities organize themselves into an economic unit. Thus, agriculture is also completely transformed and reorganized according to these principles. In cities, the economy is organized in several units adapted to their size, which should completely eliminate poverty and unemployment. The population is divided into appropriate units according to their structure and capabilities. This model is a structure that is created and developed through decisions and actions of the moral and political society. Although there must be coordination that takes into account national, regional and international conditions, the decisions and actions are the initiative of local communities. Since the economy is community oriented, it is the responsibility of all communities. The principles of ecology and efficiency form the security and basic condition for the existence of the community. All units, whether commercial, industrial, financial or agricultural, must adhere to these principles. Property, which until now has determined capitalist modernity, loses its significance within the economic units of democratic modernity. Property will belong to those units that use it according to the principles, although this must be considered more as a flexible level. Even if property cannot be dissolved immediately at the moment of revolution, it is important to develop an openness and flexibility to property norms that can provide solutions for the environment, production and unemployment. Even if community-based property has never completely disappeared in history, it is now the task of making it the basis of moral and political society under modern conditions.

Capitalism lives from its propagated absence of alternatives. The revolution in Rojava/Kurdistan clearly shows that there are alternatives, places where values such as solidarity, justice and love for nature, society and last but not least for our comrades and allies are a living reality again. But it also shows that capitalism and fascism do not want to leave any space for us, because the image of being without alternatives is broken. Therefore we have to defend this place and carry our understanding of life and nature into the world, so that the hope and will for change can spread like wildfire. Revolution is the decision to fight until we reach our goal. Revolution is love. So let us stop capitalism in all its forms. Let us start fighting everywhere for our values and utopias. From Rojava to the whole world! Azad biji!