Marxism, millennials, and climate change

BY:Len Yannielli| December 16, 2018
Marxism, millennials, and climate change


“How could there be global warming? It’s 17 degrees out and it’s not even winter.” It was mid-November in Connecticut. The locker room saw men, mostly older, nod their heads in agreement. “Common sense tells you it’s just so much bunk.” The man holding “court” continued while the rest of us changed into our workout clothes.

Now, what do climatologists tell us?

The poles of planet Earth are warming more than 2 times  faster than the rest of the planet. Let’s say you live in New England. As this warmer air rises in the North Pole, it pushes its usual cold air south. Guess what? We get colder late falls and winters while at the same time getting warmer summers. So what in the locker room appeared as “common sense” turned out to be the anti-science one hears on Fox News.

EcoAmerica’s March 2018 survey found 87 percent of millennials are personally concerned about climate change. This is in agreement with a Pew study. Addressing global climate change is viewed a top policy priority by significantly more people under 30 (56 percent) than those 65 and older (37 percent).

But misunderstandings of climate change, including global warming, and especially of the magnitude of the problem, are not just a political problem. It runs deep in USA culture.  And it is no accident. It’s ideological. Those ideas are ruling-class ideas.

Take wages for instance. We are told if you work eight hours that you will then be paid for eight hours of work. It has a nice ring to it. Sounds fair. Right? Actually it just appears that way.

Let’s say you work assembling computer chips.  As it turns out, you and co-workers generate your days pay in . . . just two hours! So where does the other six hours of value that you created go? Into your bosses’ pocket.

You may ask, don’t the bosses or owners have to pay for water, electricity, heat, and insurances? Sure. So there goes about two hours of value you’ve created. But do the math. If two hours of value went to you plus two hours to utilities, that still leaves four hours of value you created in the bosses’ pockets. That’s profit. It’s a major source of the inequality talked about these days.  (For more information check out Marxism in the Age of Amazon and Uber. )

You say the powers that be never told you that? Don’t hold your breath. They aren’t going to. But there is good news. Karl Marx exposed it over 160 plus years ago. So those of us who work for a living have to let others know that truth. But wait. It doesn’t end there.

Karl Marx also said, “Labor is not the source of all wealth. Nature is just as much . . . “ How can that be? Let’s take a couple examples.

Put a worker in a closet. Ask him to make a computer chip or a coat hanger. Can’t do it without the starting materials from nature.  For example, silicon would be needed to make a computer chip. Alloy steel, which is iron plus other metals, is quite often used for coat hangers. So no silicon, no computer chips. No iron, no coat hanger. Iron and silicon sand come from nature.

So nature is also a source of wealth. From satellites, solar panels to software, the starting materials come from the earth. From solar radiation to the water cycle, we depend on and are part of nature. Nature makes its own unique contributions to value just as workers do.

These ideas are represented in the Communist Party USA slogan, People and Nature Before Profits.

So there is interplay between workers and nature. It may not always appear so obvious. For example, a worker assembling a computer may not have knowledge about silicon. Or it may be a computer engineer programing a robot to assemble a computer. So nature’s contribution to value is hidden in a similar way that surplus value is hidden from a worker.

Further, nature contributes to both sides of the values created. How’s that?

The founders of Marxism were also on to this.  Marx said when workers’ skills go into action that itself is a force of nature. After all, we evolved from other living organisms. The fossil evidence has been there for centuries. Now DNA has added more data. Most humans have a little Neanderthal in their DNA. Our species started in Africa. It’s a unifying fact.

Nature, read environment, has to be part of a robust class consciousness.

Capitalism exploits workers and nature. Who will be the first to suffer the impacts of climate change? You guessed it – workers. What’s the solution? It will take a socialist revolution in the long run. It’s liberating.

Image: Creative Commons 3.0



    Len Yannielli is professor emeritus, Naugatuck Valley Community College, Waterbury, Conn. He was the 2009 National Association Of Biology Teachers Evolution Educator of the Year.

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