A space for open discussion and blogging among communists and radicals.
A Communist Future: A Look At "Alternative Energy"
Spreading critiques of Capital and the State and working to rebuild a radical communist movement is one thing, defining what the future will actually look like is another. Will there still be fifty different brands of cheese sauce at the store? Will I still be able to listen to Lil B? Will I be able to buy stuff from a lingerie store?
Being unable to articulate to an audience how these questions will be answered is a sign of weakness. An old and tired Left only has the actually existing socialism of the past to work with in even being able to presume what features of a socialist society would be universal, and these were in places where development, in the form of rapid industrialization that involved the squeezing of the urban proletariat and the chaotic upheavel of the roots of rural life, was the priority. We need to be able to look at crucial questions and have straight and honest answers on what things will look like based on the available technology, communication systems, human capital and infastructure that we have today. Also, speaking of what we "already have" - are there enough materials and energy sources to even naturally afford a classless society? The answer is a definitive yes. For the sake of preserving your time and mine, I will look at energy almost exclusively.
"Communism Is Soviet Power plus the Electrification of An Entire Country!"
"Under socialism the application of Ramsay’s method, which will “release” the labour of millions of miners, etc., will make it possible immediately to shorten the working day for all from 8 hours to, say, 7 hours and even less. The “electrification” of all factories and railways will make working conditions more hygienic, will free millions of workers from smoke, dust and dirt, and accelerate the transformation of dirty, repulsive workshops into clean, bright laboratories worthy of human beings. The electric lighting and heating of every home will relieve millions of “domestic slaves” of the need to spend three-fourths of their lives in smelly kitchens. Capitalist technology is increasingly, day by day, out growing the social conditions which condemn the working people to wage-slavery." -Lenin, "A Great Technical Achievement," 1913.
Years later the GOELRO Plan was enacted, bringing "a dense network of electric power stations and powerful technical installations" to the Soviet Union H.G. Wells, who met with Lenin, called it "[a] corageous project in a vast flat land of forests and illiterate peasants, with no water power, with no technical skill available, and with trade and industry at the last grasp." It increased gross agricultural output and, in the later years of socialist construction, finally instilled a degree of food security after years of counter revolutionary blockade and internal assault. Back then the discovery of the physical phenomena of electricity was perhaps the greatest advancement torwards a new communist world that was ever made.
But we know today that our communism can't be powered by the combustion of fossil fuels, which supplies 86% of the world's energy consumption today. Since the oil fields of Baku and of eastern Texas were erected and started feeding the giants of industry and commerce, overwhelming emissions of carbon dioxide have contributed to global warming (posing a existential threat to us all-besides those who, if you've seen the crappy movie 2012, can afford to get a ticket and survive when the tides rise) and that also emits horrific and paralyzing amounts of pollution into the air. On top of it all, the race for opening up the commons to have greater access to oil and gas is picking up, displacing more people everyday.
We need to wield a knowledge of energy engineering so that we can tell people that wastefully burning endless amounts of fossil fuel (80 is 85 percent of car petrol is wasted in the engine and drivetrain before it even gets to the wheels!) is not the way to go. Along with that needs to come an understand that under capitalism profit comes before efficiency. The constraints of the market make developing alternatives to fossi fuels an impossibility.
Nuclear energy is the future. On top of being an abundant resource that is to the Earth's crust that a winter hat is to our head on a snowey day, an atom of uranium produces 10 million times the energy produced by the combustion of an atom of carbon from coal. Electrifying transportation to make sure cargo ships are propulsed by fissionables instead of oil is important. Using sewage, animal shit and other organic waste to produce methane is also the future. By doing this, we free up whatever is left in the geological bank for more important and less harmful purposes. And of course there is solar and wind power, which are (dreadfully) less efficient and unable to sustain a classless society. Things like floating 'energy islands' and desert solar farms also need to be utilized. But now I am just ranting.
The point is, shouldn't we talk about what things will look like? Not that everything else is less important, but if we are going to talk about revolutionizing production, let's talk about how we will do it.