At its core, communism is simply the communal control of resources—including our own labour resources, as well as natural resources like trees, water and minerals. Past attempts to create communist societies have grappled with how to give people control over the distribution and use of these resources. And while many of these experiments are, of course, far from perfect, they have taught us important lessons.
It is not easy to radically transform society from the ground up. Nonetheless, this revolution is necessary, as humans will not survive past as few as four generations if global capitalism continues.
Why is capitalism so bent on human and environmental destruction? Under capitalism, the economy needs to constantly grow, or it will collapse. This is why resources that weren’t previously considered commodities – such as clean, drinkable water – become commodities that can be marketed and sold and contribute to economic “growth.”
It is also why Canada is expanding its oil sands, stripping hundreds of square kilometers of the boreal forest bare and releasing toxins into the rivers and air. The need for constant growth explains why a capitalist economy produces so many throwaway products—the economy can only survive if people are continuously buying new cars, phones, etc.
How is communism different? Communism does not require growth, it simply requires that each person’s needs—for comfortable shelter, nutritious food and arts and culture—are met. In communism, decisions about how we live, work, and enjoy leisure are no longer made based on the individual, but on the collective.
For example, under capitalism, a corporation will pollute the river because the owners benefit greatly from the profits but aren’t harmed by the pollution, as they can choose to live elsewhere. In communism, the community that is affected by the pollution of a factory has control over how a factory operates, what goods it produces, how these products are distributed, and what is done with the waste products.
Communism also works in cohesion with the environment because it ensures the efficient distribution of resources so that everyone in society benefits. Under communism, an efficient, comprehensive public transit system is preferred over of a system of inefficient, individual cars because the former results in the maximum benefit to the collective—not only can people move comfortably from one place to the next, but they benefit from clean air, no gridlock, and a massive reduction in automobile deaths.
In fact, much of the environmental waste is due to the bourgeois taking more than what they need: huge mansions, private jets, luxury cars, luxury resorts, etc. Compare this to a model that provides workers access to cottages that are filled throughout the year and well maintained by public workers. In short, a system that fulfills human needs requires far less resources than a system that rewards human greed.
Indeed, today’s communist Maoist uprisings, in places like Nepal and India, are inspired by the peoples’ desire to stop multinational mining companies and water privatization and have collective control over the resources they rely on for life. Communism is the only system that allows communities to ensure that the earth, and the people who populate it, are taken care of and respected.