Preparing to wage and win the class war under conditions of climate collapse

BY:Saoirse Theriault| April 21, 2024
Preparing to wage and win the class war under conditions of climate collapse


This piece is a contribution to the Pre-Convention Discussion for our 32nd National Convention. During Pre-Convention Discussion, all aspects of the party’s program, strategy, and tactics are up for consideration and debate. The ideas presented here are those of the author or authors alone, and do not necessarily reflect the positions of the Communist Party USA, its membership, or their elected leadership bodies. — Editors

We must immediately begin the lengthy process of altering our Party Program to prepare ourselves ideologically, strategically, and organizationally for fighting the class war under conditions of climate collapse.

To be 100% clear, we are already beginning to be fighting under those conditions right now. It is slowly unfolding. While we may be able to halt the process before it escalates too far, there is nothing we can do to prevent the onset of conditions we would associate with a catastrophic collapse of society. Two main questions we still need to answer are…

  1. Whether our program and strategy will acknowledge and adapt to operate under these conditions; and
  2. Whether or not we will halt this process of collapse before it reaches a point-of-no-return when the question of human survival is no longer in the hands of the human race.

Properly handling either of those questions depends first on whether we will recognize the conditions the scientific community is seeing all around us right now or if we will continue to understand it as a “long range threat” and see no merit in mentioning the threat of “collapse.”

Class war under conditions of climate collapse

Societal collapse is never an overnight process. It is a gradual process punctuated with major leaps that come at increasing speeds and, at its most rapid, can unfold over a few decades to a century. However, the more tightly interconnected a society’s key systems — e.g. food, energy, water, etc. — and the more complex this structure is, the more vulnerable it becomes to viscous feedback loops and cascading failures among society’s many different subsystems.

Careful study of the factors behind previous societal collapses reveals worrying parallels. Changes in climate and effects caused by changing climates such as mass displacements and disruption of food systems create a series of shocks that a given society and its state are unable to cope with. None of these factors can take out a society on their own. They can, however, overwhelm a system’s ability to respond to the point of collapse. The climate change we are experiencing now is projected to bring about all of those factors and more at greater scales than we’ve ever recorded.

Once a system as complex as human society collapses, it has collapsed. There is no longer anything you can do to prevent it from collapsing. You can’t un-collapse a society any more than you can un-ring a bell. You can set another objective in the context of a failure to prevent society from collapsing, you can and should find a reason to fight. Continuing to fight to prevent society’s collapse after there is nothing you can do only wastes time and effort that could be spent fighting for the next attainable goal.

If you think we should be fighting for deep adaptation to cope with collapse instead of preventing the effects that would bring it about then say that. Say that you think it is too late to achieve that goal but do not convince yourself or others that those who still have hope are the fatalists that are giving up.

With all of that said, these are conditions that we know will affect the way we need to fight the class war. It changes timelines and demands new organizational capacities.

Adapting Our Approach

There are changes that our Party, along with the rest of the revolutionary socialist movement, has yet to adapt to. The first example is that we do not recognize that there is a deadline that should force us to work with a greater sense of urgency than we currently work with. We do not know when this deadline is. It may be impossible to ever figure out when we cross a point-of-no-return that leads us to the collapse of global society. Regardless, we ought to set a time-bound objective for ourselves rather than failing to build a sense of urgency into our strategy.

Another set of observations that should inform our strategy in identifiable ways relates to questions of decolonization and Indigenous sovereignty. If our strategy in practice fails to center the role that Indigenous people must play in the solution to climate change beyond merely stating they must have a central role, then we are ignoring evidence from material reality. If our program does not recognize that colonialism is both (1) an ongoing process rather than a past event and (2) a major cause of climate change, then we find ourselves to the right of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

Indigenous people are on the frontlines of some of the most important fights to protect land and water from both climate change and the people who cause it. The necessity that they win their fight for decolonization if we want to be able to meaningfully mitigate and adapt to climate change should be beyond dispute. Indigenous nations, despite comprising less than 5% of the world’s population, steward 80% of the world’s biodiversity. In the words of UN Food Systems Summit Special Envoy, Dr. Agnes Kalibata: “They are the best stewards of our environment; the rest of us pale in comparison.”

What we are learning about the urgency of avoiding irreversible tipping points and the importance of Indigenous sovereignty and resistance are only two factors we ought to account for. There are undoubtedly many more factors and scientific findings that should be reshaping the strategies of any organization purporting to uphold scientific socialism or base its strategy on the concrete analysis of concrete conditions.

Making large-scale alterations to our program is a lengthy process that must be democratic. As such, we should immediately begin the process by tasking a committee with updating the Party’s official, collective understanding of science around climate change and climate collapse. In addition to this element of research, this committee must also identify the implications of these findings as they may relate to our Party’s strategy and theory of victory in the class war.



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