Thursday, July 1, 2010

It’s not the Crimes, It’s Capitalism: The Gulf Oil Spill

by the Socialist Party USA National Committee - June 20, 2010

By now, nearly everyone on the planet is aware of the creeping disaster that is the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. Many call the oil spill a crime. People are rightfully outraged and many are calling for criminal prosecution of the British Petroleum Corporation. Many blame the problem on corporations. While it is clear by now that crimes were committed, this is not the issue. The fundamental problem isn’t the crimes. The problem is capitalism.

Workers and the environment are perpetually exploited by corporations for profit, but the true nature and functions of corporations must be understood. Corporations are no more than tools of capitalism. While it is important to recognize and disable the tools of exploitation, it’s even more important to recognize who wields those tools: the capitalist class.

Even without these tools, this would still be happening under capitalism. Before there were corporations as we know them, labor was mercilessly exploited (often under deadly conditions), poisons were dumped into the waters, forests were mowed down, and the skies were blackened with industrial waste. Corporations don’t destroy people and the environment; capitalism does.

This is because the capitalist system is a continuous race, because the failure to keep up means destruction by the competition. Capitalists are forced to seek every advantage to make a profit. This, not simply greed, is the reason why capitalists are forced to crush unions, slash wages, increase hours, cut corners and lower safety standards. This, not greed, is why the capitalist fights against regulations, and ignores them when he can.

British Petroleum is only one of many corporations that evade basic safety standards. Only a few months ago we saw the deaths of dozens of miners at the Upper Big Branch Mine for the same reasons. On the Deepwater Horizon, eleven workers were killed, seventeen injured. While this disaster never should have occurred, under capitalism, these disasters are inevitable.

The supply of energy in all its forms is held hostage to a system that must put profits above everything. Held hostage by corporations, Congress betrayed the public by capping damages arising from environmental catastrophes. Government regulators are held hostage too by capitalism, betraying the public by looking the other way or even aiding the capitalists.

The Socialist Party USA calls for the immediate socialization of all energy companies and the creation of a publicly owned entity that can meet energy requirements while being operated under community and worker control. These corporations should be transferred to the public sector without compensation. Because of the inherent danger in deep water drilling, the SPUSA calls for the total ban on offshore exploration, drilling, and for immediately phasing out of existing off shore wells.

The United States must reverse its dependence on oil and gas. The SPUSA calls for free mass transit and a massive program to greatly expand light rail in urban areas and build a network of inter-city fast rail. Electrical energy needs should be met through the use of renewable resources such as wind and ocean power.
The oil spill is indicative of the necessary disregard of human life and our environment that is fundamental to the capitalist market economy. Efforts to tinker with this system, attempting to regulate capitalism, are bound to fail. Only the abolition of the for-profit, market system and its replacement with a democratic, socialist society can prevent more catastrophic ecological disasters.

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