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The growth of Student Climate Strikes has driven some political figures to present a Green New Deal as a solution to transform the capitalist economy into a sustainable economy and halt climate change. Is this the solution to the problem that threats the survival of the planet?

By Joana Salay and Juan Parodi

The New Deal was implemented in the US in 1933 by Democrat President Franklin Roosevelt. It was a policy to save American capitalism after the 1929 crisis. It was based on Lord J. M. Keynes’s proposal of state intervention in economy, creating major infrastructure works, unemployment benefits, social assistance and credit to workers.

On the whole, the New Deal could not resolve the economic contradictions generated by the crisis, leading to a new crisis in 1937. US capitalism was only able to resume economic growth with the production of weapons for World War II.

However, the New Deal, supported by a significant part of trade unions and workers’ political leadership, managed to contain the conflict between the classes intensified by the effects of the economic crisis, preventing it from advancing into the political arena. It was a measure of social restraint that did not solve the working class’ fundamental problem: the deregulated exploitation by capitalism, which imposes instability and hunger on workers and destroys the planet.

What is the Green New Deal?

The Green New Deal was launched by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and others from the US Democratic party. The proposal also reached Europe: the English Labour Party has already joined and, more recently, Yanis Varoufakis defended an European Green New Deal. In Portugal, Livre also fosters the proposal, as well as sectors of Bloco de Esquerda (BE – Left Bloc) linked to environmental activism.

The project proposes “state intervention” to substitute renewable energy sources such as wind and sun for fossil fuels such as oil and coal as a way to fix climate crisis. The way to achieve these goals would be the original New Deal claim: state investment and control in economy to encourage business investment in renewable energy. The measures would drive large capitalist trusts to invest heavily in these sectors, developing them.

The capitalists profits vs. planet climate

However, what you see is that polluting makes a profit. The most profitable economic activities are the most polluting. The most profitable company in the world is the Saudi oil company Aramco. Does anyone really believe that they will renounce this source of profit? What is the Portuguese energy company EDP’s interest in a true energy transition in Portugal? What is the interest of TAP in restraining the emission of greenhouse gases (GHG) from its airplanes? Neither Volkswagen Autoeuropa wants to invest in public transport and downsize individual transport, as this would mean more expense and less profit, and threatens with loss of jobs against changes. And when they join the wave of green capitalism is to open up new markets and create new needs, as the advertisements of electric vehicles. As the batteries production is highly polluting, the electric vehicle will not solve the issue of emissions, it just opens up a new niche market.

Class conciliation does not reverse climate change

The Green New Deal starts from an assumption: an “agreement” between the classes for state intervention. It must be said that this does not exist in capitalism: the state only intervenes for the bourgeoisie or the banks benefit. It is to save capitalist economy, not the planet. There are well-known examples: CO2 emission markets have not helped to cut emissions, but they have been a profitable business. The state did not intervene to save workers in the 2008 economic crisis, it imposed austerity and a 10-years 238 billion euros banks bailout.

The role of states does not change with different governments. Even the SP government in Portugal, which is supported by BE and Portuguese CP, did not reverse austerity and never seek to solve the climate crisis. Governments and states are unwilling to implement real measures to curb climate change. It seems to us, then, that the Green New Deal is just another attempt to save capitalism and not the planet, before the undeniable environmental crisis and the growth of mobilizations against it.

Capitalism is unsustainable

Capitalism is incompatible with a truly sustainable economic activity. Its tendency to monopoly and anarchy in production, where the only aim is the maximization of profits, only increases the destruction of the planet. Priority must change: your profits are not above our climate and our jobs.

The climate alternative must be revolutionary and socialist

To stop climate crisis we must start by expropriating the 100 top companies responsible for 70% of GHG emissions and putting these companies under workers’ control. Nationalizing banks to get money for investment in effective measures. Planning and controlling economy by the majority, the workers, who will decide production priorities. It is necessary to produce according to the needs – taking into account the limits of the environment – not to profit, and to reduce the working day so that everyone has a job.

This is the only way to truly solve the climate crisis. The alternative of capitalist reforms will always be an attempt to sugar-coat the problem. There is no time to lose with tricking proposals, it is necessary the total transformation of the system, which will only be possible with a revolutionary and socialist alternative.