Capitalism and the Planet - a happy May Day to all
Today is 2019-05-01; May the 1st. Commonly referred to as “May Day” the date holds two very special meanings to me and is, I feel, particularly important this year.
The first of these meanings is a very old one. May 1st has traditionally been a spring festival in the Northern Hemisphere. The neopagans have generally re-appropriated this as Beltane. Following the Equinox, it is a fire festival and a celebration of life returning to the Earth after being dormant in the winter. Flowers are out, and everyone dances. It is a reminder of how we are deeply connected to the planet and turning of the seasons and the natural rhythm.
Later in the 19th century, the 1st of May was chosen as the date of International Workers’ Day and adopted by the labour movement. In the UK we have a bank holiday associated with the day, that generally falls on the Monday after the day itself. We nearly lost May Day as a bank holiday – in 2011 the Tories tried to scrap it and move the bank holiday to October to create a “United Kingdom day”. I hope I don’t need to explain how reactionary that sounds.
With the advent of Extinction Rebellion (XR) I feel the twin meanings of May Day are beginning to converge; and I hope they do as we approach class consciousness. While XR lack a clear direction and severely lack class analysis – it is the beginning of a mass movement that can be mobilised as a weapon in the war against the ruling class. The ruling capitalist class is the one that oppresses the working class with one hand and abuses the planet with the other. The two are not disconnected, but intrinsically linked in the inefficient, unethical, capitalist mode of production. Workers are driven to poverty wages while the oil and gas industries lobby the bourgeoisie state. Public mass transport – an inarguably more efficient and more environmentally friendly transport system – is privatised leading to ticket prices increasing every year while the service spirals into decline. It is workers and the public who bear the brunt of this; faced with an expensive and unreliable service of course most will use private transport. Those who can afford it anyway. That way the car industry remains happy, as to the oil and gas as demand is increased. The privateers running the “public” transport industry can feast on the scraps; workers without the capital to invest in their own vehicle who are now held in neo-serfdom as they pay daily or weekly tithes to the lords of transport. The cherry on top is capital’s appropriation of the green message; that it is our fault for using cars all the time. If only we chose to use the bus or the train instead of the car. It’s our fault. Don’t mind that 100 companies are responsible for 71% of global emissions. The problem isn’t the system, it’s the fact you use plastic water bottles. I live in Newcastle, and I don’t actually remember ever seeing a public water fountain ever.
On this May Day, remember that the struggle for the planet is the struggle against capitalist oppression. To all my spiritual friends, I wish you a happy spring festival. Once the celebrations are done, remember to get angry and stay angry at the ruling class who are stripping us of our deep spiritual connection to the planet.