Framework for Discussion: Capitalism in environmental & economic crisis

BY: Convention Organizing Committee| February 5, 2014

Capitalism has failed to provide for the urgent needs of the people of the United States and the planet. Capitalism is also unable to fully address the alarming and growing environmental crisis that is already having catastrophic impacts on the weather, agriculture, the economy and threatens sweeping changes to ecosystems and human society.

Compared to previous years of relative prosperity, capitalism today is undergoing a deep and wide-ranging crisis affecting all aspects of ecological, political, economic and social life. The wealth gap in the U.S. is at huge levels and growing. Many of today’s problems are due to the global economic and jobs crisis that began in 2007-2008 and various government and financial policies and regulations. But there are also pervasive systemic and structural causes to the economic problems working people face. Capitalism itself is in system crisis and quick fixes appear less able to mediate the crisis.

What aspects of today’s economic crisis are particular to new developments in the economy, manufacturing, finance and transportation and which are systemic and endemic to capitalism itself? Can they be separated? What are some of the national, international and corporate policies and practices that have deepened or instigated the current economic crisis? What is the state of U.S. and international regulations of banking and finance? How has financial and finance capital evolved and changed? What role does “financialization” play in the current crisis? What role does debt (public and private, consumer and student, etc.) play in the structure of U.S. capitalism and the crisis?

What is the state of what is called “the crisis of everyday life”? What is the state of the jobs crisis? What is real unemployment look like as opposed to official unemployment? How are workers and their families living today? Where are real wages today? What is the state of household wealth? What are the costs of housing, transportation, health care, food, entertainment, etc.? What are the short-term, medium-term and long term demands needed to address economic needs of the 99%?

What are the particular impacts of the economic crisis and environmental degradation on communities of color, women, youth, seniors, etc.? How does racism, sexism, region, affect economies in the U.S. What is “super-exploitation” and how is it expressed today? What is environmental racism and what is its impact?

How are urban economics changing? In the U.S. for the first time more people live in large cities than in rural areas and small towns. What are the economics of urban development, landlords and speculators? What are the economic and social implications of the expansion of suburbs and exurbs? Is regional planning key to addressing these issues? What about the crisis of affordable housing and homelessness in the U.S.? The ecological and economic impact of more cars on the road? Is the expansion of public mass transit a solution to environmental and

How is the crisis of capitalism effecting the ruling class? What is the composition of the ruling class today? What are the different sectors of the transnationals and their various economic interests and conflicts? Are profits up? And why? And for who and who not?

What is the state of manufacturing in the U.S.? Is manufacturing on the rise again? Are we in a “service economy”? What are the implications of the “information economy”, online sales, online financial transactions and digital commodities and services?

What is the state of the financial sector several years on from the collapse of Bear Stearns and the financial crisis of 2007-8?

How have public attitudes about  banking and finance, the 1% and giant monopolies changed due to the crisis, Occupy Wall Street, Wisconsin uprising, etc.

Assess the 20-year record of the North American Free Trade Act (NAFTA) and other trade agreements. What was their impact on working-class communities in the U.S. and elsewhere? How did they impact migration and the movement of jobs and capital? What was their impact on the environment and environmental regulation. What is “fair trade” and “free trade” under capitalism?

Worker-owned businesses, collectives, cooperatives and communes of different sorts are nothing new. But these efforts large and small are having a renaissance. What is their potential as models or object lessons for broader organization of the economy or socialism? Are their concrete examples of these experiments and their various failures and success?

What does the latest environmental science say about the the global environment and

Is the U.S. public more or less won over to the facts about human-generated global warming today than previously? What can be done to change mass consciousness about the environment and the ability for social policy to address climate change.

What are the main organizations in the environmental movement today? What is the status of the many “blue/green” organizations that tried to bring together trade unions and environmentalists and overcome perceived contradictions between job creation  and the environment?

Who are the biggest polluters and carbon producing industries and what role ot they play in the political struggle of environmental policy? Are their capitalist sectors that play a better role in environmental struggles and are potential allies in the fight to protect the planet?

What are the key movements, campaigns and demands at this moment in the environmental struggle?

Is there a Marxist approach to environmental and climate issues? What does a communist approach to environmental issues look like? What distinguishes it?

This document was developed to help provide a framework for the discussion of the 30th Convention of the Communist Party USA. These framing documents are not intended to limit the discussion in any way, but are meant as ways to generate ideas and questions to be addressed. The views and opinions expressed in the Convention Discussion are those of the author alone. The Communist Party is publishing these views as a service to encourage discussion and debate. Those views do not necessarily reflect the views of the Communist Party, its leading bodies or staff members. The CPUSA Constitution, Program, and all its existing policies remain in effect during the Convention discussion period and during the Convention.



    The collective appointed by the National Committee of the Communist Party to organize and plan the 30th National Convention of the Communist Party USA, Chaired by John Bachtell. 

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