Fit the faith
I feel obliged to respond to Daniel Harvey’s predictions of global catastrophe caused by melting ice in the Arctic (Letters, November 1).
There are so many variable factors which push the climate back and forth. Quite apart from internal and external, perfectly natural interventions, the climate cannot be stopped from changing, when it gets to the point we happen to like. That the combination of forces which generate climate change can be halted and remain fixed and unchanging, because this is what best suites our species, is a false idea.
Green campaigners are everywhere bemoaning the loss of Antarctic ice, as if it’s always been there, as if this is the way God made it and we’ve spoiled it. In fact the ice wasn’t always there. When it arrived, had there been any people around, it would have been seen as the greatest ecological disaster of all time. Antarctica once waved green with palm trees. The Arctic Ocean was a tropical paradise 50 million years ago, with temperatures of 20˚C. The (single at that time) continent was divided into two regions: mountain forest and hot rain forest, dominated by tree ferns palms and trees.
The question of a shrinking quantity of sea ice, which is another of the excuses for wild panic and speculation, is also not a consistent trend either. Time Magazine in September 2013 reported a “60% increase in ice-covered ocean water since last year, leading some scientists to believe that the planet is actually undergoing ‘global cooling’.” Let us recall that the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change in 2014 declared that man-made global warming was destroying the Arctic ice cap, that pack ice had contracted 12% between 1979 and 2012. Low-laying lands would be swamped, islands wiped out and the polar bear made homeless. However, just one year later, in July 2015, a detailed report from the European Space Agency showed that the northern ice cap has instead increased by 41% in 2013. We should recall that this is at a time when more coal is being consumed than at any time in the earth’s history, and the planet is supposed to be heating up.
Researchers at the University of Reading, using the satellite evidence of the last 30 years, now conclude that the ice has actually expanded slightly in the last 100 years. This should have made a profound impact on the climate change panic, considering that a whole scenario of melting ice, rising oceans, flooded continents, famine and mass extinction had been forecast on the assumption of disappearing Antarctic ice. It didn’t make an impact because it didn’t fit the faith.
Arctic ice at the top of the planet has been shrinking, though nowhere as fast as predicted, but this is an entirely natural and largely cyclical process. It will produce next to no effect of sea levels worldwide because the volume of the melted water is the same as the volume of the ice. This is not to be compared to the same process affecting the other ice cap over Antarctica - a gigantic continent, containing 90% of all the ice on the planet. It is, however, not a process which has even started and, as stated, is actually shifting somewhat in the other direction.
The evidence discovered in this study is that it is getting colder in the Antarctic and has been doing so continuously over the last 50 years. In 2015 the extent of the ice was at its greatest since Nasa started to record it from space in 1979. This confronts and confounds all the theories of global warming, means that, as the planet has got warmer and more CO2 is produced, the amount of ice has increased! More evidence yet from Nasa shows the depth of the ice also increased by 112 billion tonnes per year between 1992 and 2001 and an average of 82 billion tonnes between 2003 and 2008.
In the interests of total truth, it should be said Antarctica is a huge continent: it has warmer and colder regions, its western coastline is warming because it sits in the western ocean, and it is here that the world’s media feeding the climate change clamour has endlessly photographed melting ice and glaciers crashing into the sea. Less hysterical scientists have pointed out that, rather than evidence of atmospheric warming, this is more likely due to an opening fissure on the sea bed, which is warming the waters from below.
It is important to actually see the question of melting ice in perspective. What is perhaps more remarkable is not that ice is melting this far after the Ice Age as that so much ice actually remains. A full third of the planet is still under ice, while 70% of all clean water is actually ice. As stated earlier, the polar caps have not always been there - they come and go. They are melting now because the last Ice Age is over and the planet is warming, in part because our current trajectory is taking us closer to the sun.
But that’s not a factor which we can posit definite consequences from either, because the sun itself is not fixed and constant. The sun is like a giant coal fire, with a massive, super-hot outer surface. Fuel from the centre pushes up, or dies back relatively, and cooler spots appear, or huge infusions of added heat suddenly burst into space. The combustion variant of the sun directly affects the climate on earth.
There are in addition general solar cycles, which produce global or partial cooling (freezing actually) on earth. 30,000 years ago, the Neanderthals were wiped out by climate change in the shape of the Ice Age of that period. These periods are fairly well recorded - one in the 1600s produced what was called a mini-Ice Age; so too in the early 1800s. They are utterly unpredictable, other than to say they are on a loop and will return. Europe was considerably warmer 700 years ago, in the mediaeval warm period.
Low solar activity changes pressure and the height of the pressure in the atmosphere. High pressure causes the jet stream to assume a more southerly position across Europe, dragging winds and Arctic conditions to Britain from Russia. The impact of the Rocky mountains in conjunction with the oceans can cause the jet stream to assume a more northerly angle, securing a mild British winter. Some see a decreasing pattern of solar activity, which will impact as cooling generally, especially in the southern hemisphere, and this will more than offset any danger of the planet overheating. In fact, a minority of scientists, who use the sun as an indicator rather than other factors, suggest we may be moving toward more general ‘global cooling’ rather than warming for the next decade and more. Another Ice Age is likely to descend upon us in a thousand years time. But the fact is that climate overall is quite naturally variable.
Needless to say, every dominant species and natural development which occurred on the planet has affected the process and impact of climate change, not least humanity. By our sheer domination of all other life forms and the totality of the environment, we are altering the response changes the planet would otherwise make. Then there is the ongoing mass destruction of the world’s forests, and mass vegetation, global agriculture and turning over of wild, green places to farming, etc. In my opinion this process is far more damaging than fossil fuels, which in any case, given the right political will, we could safely harness through carbon capture and storage and other such schemes.
The truth is, humanity has survived by constant adaptation - that is what we do. The degree to which we do this is entirely political and based upon the balance of social classes. Running about shouting, ‘We’re all doomed, the sky is falling in and a great flood is coming’, or calls to ban industry, kill coal and oil, and go back to wicker and wood. will not in my opinion take us anywhere.
Lenin won over
I take it the heading, ‘Confused’, is Peter Manson’s comment on the contribution of Phil Waincliffe (Letters, November 1). The Economic and Philosophical Science Review man certainly is confused, as he tries to navigate between Trotsky and Stalin.
His difficulty arises from objective reality and his failure to grasp it. Jack Conrad was wrong, apparently, to point to a “counterrevolution within the revolution” up to 1961. Trotsky said that this started in 1929, but, even when he acknowledged the gains of the revolution due the planned economy, he was only doing it to save his ass, it seems, and excuse his abject failure to acknowledge the greatness of Stalin. Then Phil goes into a long splurge on the democratic dictatorship of the proletariat and peasantry, correctly exposing the pretentions of Conrad and Lars T Lih that nothing changed due to the April theses - supporting the Provisional Government after the February revolution was the same as opposing it. He is moving dangerously close the Trotskyist territory here, so he has to ward off the threat of endorsing Trotsky’s theory of permanent revolution.
You see, Lenin and all the Bolsheviks were right to endorse the democratic dictatorship up to April 1917, but when that was won it was now necessary to change the perspective. But that nasty dual power had emerged because class-consciousness is internationalist and Russian workers could not understand why they could not have a socialist revolution as the German, French and British aspired to. Why should they have to support a government of landlords and capitalists? The masses were far more revolutionary than the ‘democratic dictatorship’ slogan of Kamenev, Zinoviev and Stalin, and wanted all power to the soviets. Lenin understood this immediately and ditched the old slogan, consigning its supporters to the museum of old Bolsheviks.
He now agreed with Trotsky’s theory of permanent revolution, and the differences between the two greatest revolutionaries of the 20th century fell away, such that Lenin said of Trotsky, “There is no better Bolshevik”, and Stalin was forced to admit that Trotsky had led the actual revolution and secured the vital backing of the Petrograd and Moscow soviets for the insurrection. But Phil argues that keeping the democratic dictatorship was correct up to then and implicitly that it was correct to maintain this two-stage, ‘socialism in a single country’ ideology in China in 1927 and everywhere else since, which Stalin did with such disastrous consequences. But, if the Bolsheviks had understood and adopted permanent revolution, that inner struggle could have taken place after 1905 and the revolution would not have depended on Lenin alone - an assassin’s bullet could have the potential to scupper it. Trotsky says that he alone could not have convinced the Bolshevik tops of the need for a second revolution and the actual insurrection in October, which Kamenev and Zinoviev tried so hard to stop by going to the Menshevik press to reveal the details to the police there. Fortunately, dual power meant that the police were unable to assassinate that leadership.
Then, when Phil is veering too close to Stalin, he lurches left again and denounces Stalin’s “post-war revisionism”, the peaceful road to socialism, etc. This implies he is OK with the Moscow trials, with 1,000 officially recorded executions a day from 1936-38, etc. The lie that Trotsky collaborated with the Nazis was used by Stalin to execute hundreds of thousands of revolutionaries - including Lenin’s comrades who led the Russian Revolution, in which Stalin played an insignificant role.
But we do know who did collaborate with the Nazis and justified it by boasting of the planned division of Poland and then went on to defend fascism itself. These extracts are from a speech made by Molotov, chairman of the Council of People’s Commissars, to the Supreme Soviet on October 1 1939, just five weeks after signing the Hitler/Stalin pact. It is absolutely puke-making grovelling to Hitler and the ideology of Nazism:
“However, one swift blow to Poland, first by the German army and then by the Red Army, and nothing was left of this ugly offspring of the Versailles Treaty, which had existed by oppressing non-Polish nationalities … One may accept or reject the ideology of Hitlerism, as well as any other ideological system - that is a matter of political views. But everybody should understand that an ideology cannot be destroyed by force, that it cannot be eliminated by war. It is, therefore, not only senseless, but criminal, to wage such a war as a war for the ‘destruction of Hitlerism’ camouflaged as a fight for ‘democracy’.”
Molotov died an old man in his bed.
The recent CPGB aggregate seemed to conclude that ‘the working class must take responsibility for changing direction’ without any clue as to what that might be. It is no good avoiding present dilemmas and contradictions with abstract calls for a socialist Europe.
Boycotting the last referendum and then the next one has the advantage of consistency, but the CPGB has boycotted everything in between. Criticising all other views, except those you are ignoring, without stating your own makes the Weekly Worker a commentator on events, not an agitator.
The case for a ‘democratic England in a democratic Europe’ is that England must be ‘democratised’ and become the most advanced democracy within a United States of Europe. I make no claims about the future of Ireland, Scotland or Wales or what democratic relationship these nations will want to have with the rest of Europe.
The Weekly Worker ‘What we fight for’ statement calls for a “United States of Europe” or, as we say, a European federal republic. This democratic slogan expresses a very different position from the liberals who want to remain in the existing European Union. It is different from ‘left remainers’, who want to remain and put Corbyn in charge of the EU.
Longer-term democratic strategic aims are significant, but what is the link to the present? The CPGB advocates nothing except why everybody else is wrong. Forget about whether another referendum is a good or bad thing. Is the CPGB in favour of remaining or leaving the European Union? You can boycott a referendum. But you cannot avoid the question about whether the CPGB is in favour of remaining or leaving the EU.
So far the CPGB has failed to draw distinctions between ‘remain’ (and left ‘remain’) and a democratic exit, or between a repeat referendum and a ratification referendum. It is nearly as bad as saying you haven’t noticed a distinction between Chuka Umunna and Jeremy Corbyn, when the former is a remainer and the latter supports a democratic exit.
It is worth saying that ‘left exit’ is an ultra-left way of dressing up a reactionary position in socialist clothes. Campaigners for a democratic exit are those on the ‘remain’ side who accept it is in the interests of a divided working class to respect the various democratic mandates, but not the Anglo-British Tory Brexit.
It is the duty of communists to draw sharp lines, which delineate all positions, including shades of opinion. All CPGB writers have done so far is to fudge the differences and thus help to big up the liberals.