Anarcho-syndicalism as a foundation for revolutionary environmentalism
The historical development of the class struggle has posed a strange situation at the present time.
In the past, industrial development (the concentration of capital, ownership of the means of production and the increase in military capacity and control of the State), meant a confrontation between the State, the rising capitalist class and a non-industrialized craftsmanship, not yet proletarianized. The development and deployment of capitalism forced the artisans to abandon their positions of strength and take a step back, facilitating the production space for a new economic subject, product of capitalist industrial society and the concentration of property and wealth, in the capitalist and state class.
In this way, the craftsman, who controlled a very important part of the production process, is forced to fight against the new management of the manufacturing centers for which he works, losing control over working time, therefore also rest, remuneration, work tools and technical control over the production and manufacture of handcrafted pieces. In this sense, the advancement of industrial society means the entry of new technical equipment that modifies the form of craft manufacturing and gradually displaces the craftsman from the production process. The industrial production mode modifies the manual processes and derives from the technical knowledge that the craftsman accumulated for many years.
All these changes cause a process of proletarization that takes away from the worker the ability to control the production process and the worker becomes a replaceable piece in the production process.
The working class becomes a key piece of capitalist society, and even more so in productive capitalism. This productive capitalism bases all of its wealth creation solely and exclusively on the production capacity of the working class.
With the development of industrialization, a new worker emerges who stands out mainly for his job, and for his immediacy. And where the consumption capacity of it becomes an almost negligible element.
However, the development of industrial capitalism and new production methods force capitalism to maintain production in an uninterrupted manner and with mass production of merchandise.
It is at this moment that the working class becomes a crucial element of the consumer society, since capitalism revalues the consumption capacity of the working class in order to reintegrate it into capitalist society not only by exploiting its workforce, but by exploiting their consumption capacity. The working class will no longer be characterized solely and exclusively by its production capacity, but also by its consumption capacity in society.
This reintegration means turning the working class into something more than a productive subject, it will mean turning the working class into a consumer class.
It is at this time that new identities emerge that compete within the working class to seize control of class identity. The working class will no longer represent itself by its trade or by its production capacity, but rather by its consumption capacity, and the strong proletarian consciousness will be displaced by a new individual consciousness that allows it to adapt to new identities of the consumer society.
At this time, class consciousness and the links still existing in the working class are blurred, and compete for space with the working-class identity, emerging new identities typical of the consumer society: users of services, clients of insurance companies, beneficiaries of a bank mortgage, homeowners, student of a university degree, etc. In this sense, the dispute over the space of consciousness in the consumer society has caused a rise in consciousness and identities typical of consumer capitalism and has caused a fall in the working-class consciousness so deeply rooted in productive capitalism.
It is at this time, that the working class has been dispossessed of its working-class consciousness insofar as it has developed a contempt for proletarian culture, identifying itself with the values of the consumer society.
This moment has been crucial for the working class, because not only has it lost its class consciousness, but it has also lost meaning and real and effective function in capitalist society. Unlike the capitalist class, which only has the capacity to consume, the working class has an added value, it is the only one that has the exclusive productive license in the consumer society, and on the contrary, its consumption capacity is really very limited. On the one hand, he has lost consciousness of his productive need and has become engrossed in the mirage of his limited consumption capacity.
It is at this moment in the development of consumer capitalism where organizations emerge that try to organize and defend the rights of consumers and users in an attempt to organize the consumer society. However, these organizations do not arise in the heat of the interests of the working class, they arise on the contrary in the heat of the interests of the consuming class, without taking into account the differences and the existing consumption capacity between the working class and the capitalist class. It is at this moment that these organizations begin to have an important weight in the consumer society, because they are going to dispute an ideological terrain within capitalism in which they are only going to discuss that part of capitalism that cannot be allowed, that capitalism that violates the rights of the consumer class. However, capitalism’s dream is that the productive process does not structurally depend on the working class. That is why capitalism has gone directly to the automation of production, among many other reasons, but mainly because the machines – for the moment – do not wish for a workers’ revolution. User and consumer rights organizations become a fundamental pillar of the consumer society, as they come to readjust consumer capitalism to institutionalize itself and to operate from a strictly reformist ideology. This strictly reformist ideology is rooted in the foundations of consumer capitalism, in an individualistic, corporate, nationalist mentality that not only builds the identity of the consumer society but also penetrates the ideology of social movements.
An important part of environmentalism has allowed itself to be influenced by these forms of institutional environmentalism, which aspire to curb capitalism in coexistence with it. Some of these organizations pin their hopes on the ability of the capitalist institutions and the State to put a stop to the ecological abuses generated by the capitalist system itself, and in many cases they also try to develop a feeling of individual responsibility among the working class in order to use their consumption capacity to curb the abuses of the same capitalist productive structure.
However, in no case is the working class referred to for its potential for struggle, which is not its limited capacity to consume, but its ability to stop production.
Moreover, the forms of boycott that the consumer society can use cannot cause a change in the forms of capitalist production, because it reinforces the role of demand, in the capitalist consumer society, because they do not profess a revolutionary path. In this sense, some products – only and exclusively – are exchanged for others, but the need to put an end to capitalism is not delved into, as a political and economic structure of unlimited growth, in a scenario of finite goods and raw materials. It is at this moment that a new form of capitalism emerges that seeks to recover the raw material, in an attempt to take advantage of every waste caused by capitalist barbarism and reintegrate it into the production chain. The development of this form of capitalism could be called without any doubt as ‘’garbage capitalism’’ or ‘’garbage economy’’, which consists of developing an entire productive industry based on the use of garbage, as another raw material to reuse and recycle.
That is, to recover the waste produced by the industry and reintegrate it into the production chains. And above all, manufacturing products that, due to their characteristics, we could speak of them directly as garbage, or as waste produced to be quickly reintegrated. It is the industry of products that have become generalized as disposable objects. That they are used for a very short period of time, or that they will not even directly be used, therefore directly forming part of the garbage.
However, the dream of a zero-waste economy is a fiction, capitalism not only generates solid waste for its production chain, through the reintegration of waste as raw material, it also generates a huge amount of gases and solids that are lost and those that are called unrecoverable. In relation to them, we are faced with the same dilemma.
The working class has the responsibility to realize that its ability to fight is not in its ability to consume. The working class does not have the capacity to change the capitalist forms of production solely and exclusively through the same demand force of capitalism. The capitalist ideology of the garbage economy defends the idea of closing a material circle between raw materials, the environment and the waste of capitalism, but this fiction is only a mirage that capitalist society feeds on.
Capitalism uses this fiction of the infinite circle of recycling to endow itself with a sustainable ideology, but the truth is that there are many leaks, and unaccounted-for expenses that are not accounted for. Consumer activism, if you can somehow give a name to this form of struggle, is reformist and capitalist.
An important part of the environmental movement has focused on developing this ideology of taking advantage of capitalist garbage and trying to exploit the life of the garbage, turning it into raw material and trying to reintegrate it into the production process.
However, it is necessary for the environmental movement to recover the class dimension of the movement. The institutions of capitalism cannot stop the destruction of the environment, as long as the economy is governed by criteria that do not aspire to satisfy needs but rather interests and benefits, or if the state apparatus does not aspire to secure economic resources for war.
That is why anarcho-syndicalism has a very important role. It brings back awareness among the working class of the need for workers to associate and organize themselves under the principles of anarchism. Recover your specific productive dimension and the strength and control over production that allows you to reinforce your tools of struggle with which you can stop production and become aware that it is the working class that moves the world. There you can find the power of revolutionary environmentalism, to stop capitalism and its environmental destruction with the intention to make the revolution and build society on completely different basis.