Capitalist rulers’ ‘climate change’ policies threat to working people

By Terry Evans
February 21, 2022
Crystal River nuclear power plant in Florida, above, is being decommissioned by 2027, nearly 50 years earlier than planned. As of 2019, there were 23 shuttered nuclear plants in the U.S.
Duke EnergyCrystal River nuclear power plant in Florida, above, is being decommissioned by 2027, nearly 50 years earlier than planned. As of 2019, there were 23 shuttered nuclear plants in the U.S.

Exacerbating the political crisis gripping the U.S. rulers today is their broad belief that governments need to take extraordinary measures to slash the use of fossil fuels or the world will face a “climate catastrophe.” This comes on top of the spreading influence of other “woke” views. 

This hysteria is matched by Washington’s imperialist rivals in Europe. None of these powers consider, much less address, the unmet needs of millions worldwide who live without electrical power, nor the effects on working people of the growing capitalist crisis. 

In many imperialist countries this is deepened by liberal-minded capitalist rulers who are convinced that nuclear power, even though it produces no corrosive carbon emissions, must also be done away with. 

Governments in the EU have committed to cut carbon emissions by a mammoth 55% compared with 1990 in eight years time, but none has any serious plan for how to meet that goal while keeping industry running, or even keeping the heat or the lights on. 

After a 2011 tsunami hit a nuclear plant in Fukushima, Japan, killing nearly 20,000 people and generating a worldwide panic, the German government opted to shut down all that country’s nuclear plants. They’re well on their way, with the last German reactors set to be shuttered this year. As a result, they have been forced to ramp up coal production for energy needs, increasing carbon pollution. 

This course has left Germany’s ruling families utterly dependent on the Russian government piping in huge quantities of natural gas to keep their economy running. The effects of this deepening dependency is plain to all as their feigned support for Ukrainian sovereignty evaporates in the face of Moscow’s threats.

Berlin’s close ties to Moscow

The pipeline deal has led to deeper interconnections between the German rulers and Moscow. Former German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder is currently chairman of Nord Stream 2, the Russian-owned pipeline company. He was nominated to serve on the board of Kremlin-controlled energy giant Gazprom Feb. 4. Schroeder has condemned the Ukrainian government for “saber-rattling” when it requested arms. 

Moscow feels there’s room to push their interests all across Europe harder.

The hysterical anti-nuclear power campaign that followed the Fukushima meltdown was based on lies. No one died from nuclear radiation at Fukushima, despite the indefensible disregard of basic safety by bosses at the nuclear plant. The thousands that did die were killed because so many Japanese workers, farmers and fishermen are forced to live on low-lying, tsunami-prone coastal areas and the government refused to provide an early warning system. Bosses at the nuclear plant deliberately delayed vital action to cool down overheating reactors in the hope they could save their investment. 

Last year a U.N. report confirmed Fukushima residents face no increasing risk of cancer 10 years after the disaster. What happened there bears out the fact that there is nothing inherently dangerous about nuclear power. Dangers that do arise are a result of which class runs them, as bosses drive to maximize profits at workers’ expense. That’s why the Socialist Workers Party says our unions need to fight for workers control of production. 

‘Woke’ U.S. rulers not far behind

While Germany’s capitalist rulers are the most extreme example today, most imperialist governments are increasingly pressing green energy policies, including in Washington. 

President Joseph Biden says the threat of climate change is “existential” and emergency steps are needed. A growing majority of the Democratic Party also oppose nuclear power.

Biden says his administration will halt all new oil and gas drilling on public land. It plans to lavish billions in handouts to the owners of companies making electric vehicles that most workers cannot afford. 

Many big capitalists champion the liberals’ climate crusade. BlackRock, which sits on $10 trillion in assets and is the second largest investor in oil giant ExxonMobil, pressed the oil bosses to scrap plans for a 25% increase in oil and gas production, despite widespread fuel shortages. 

Some 759 million people worldwide had no access to electricity in 2019, mostly in semicolonial countries. The policies of the imperialist rulers offer no road forward for them. 

Nuclear power plants in the U.S. generate some 20% of the country’s power. But only one has been commissioned in the last 26 years. The average nuclear facility in the U.S. is 39 years old. As of November 2019, there were 23 shuttered nuclear plants in the U.S. in various stages of being decommissioned. 

This “climate change” march toward chaos may seem like a form of suicide for the bloodthirsty U.S. imperialist ruling class that has been dominant worldwide for decades. The U.S. government today looks nothing like the confident, expanding capitalist ruling class of 30 to 40 years ago. The rulers in Moscow and Beijing are heartened at the extent of this weakness. 

Future depends on the working class

More and more the future for humanity depends on working people taking power into our own hands, and establishing a workers and farmers government that will rule as stewards of nature and human life. Only the working class today is capable of taking advantage of scientific improvements and unleashing the capacities of human labor for the benefit of all. Workers need to strengthen our struggles today for jobs, better wages and conditions, for workers control of production and to safeguard the earth’s natural resources from the impact of burning fossil fuels.

There is no way to expand energy production, and to reduce the poisoning of the atmosphere from carbon emissions, without increasing the use of nuclear power. Worldwide, 450 nuclear reactors generate 10% of the total electricity consumed today, a drop of 15% from 2005. Beijing aims to surpass Washington as the largest generator of nuclear power in five years. 

Operating reactors to prevent nuclear meltdowns, constructing secure containment vessels and disposing of radioactive waste can and must be done safely — but only if workers and our unions fight to take control of production from the bosses on the road to taking political power.