The whole notion promoted in this manifesto that, on the one hand, there are “limits to growth” and that, on the other, capitalism has an unlimited tendency towards growth in production is contradicted by experience. Growth is not some strange attribute of capitalism—it is a characteristic of all living processes (and indeed of many inanimate processes as well.) Life and the entire ecosystem of the Earth exist only because it is able to grow and stay far from equilibrium. Living systems approach equilibrium only when they die.
As well, the present crisis shows dramatically that capitalism does not induce unlimited growth in production. The problem today is scarcely one of excessive growth of production! Currently, production is plummeting at a rate unprecedented at any time in the past century, even including the Great Depression. Over a longer period, per-capita world production of such essential industrial products as steel has been declining for over a generation.
Nor is it true that there are some inherent limits to growth, as Malthus argued two centuries ago and as was revived by the notorious capitalist think tank ”The Club of Rome” in the late ‘60’s. The technology exists today to greatly increase production of goods while reducing pollution and resource consumption though “closed system” recycling. Energy, too, can be recycled and reused to a large extent. While existing energy technology—including solar—is not sufficient to provide a decent standard of living to all people, that goal could be achieved with technologies, such as nuclear fusion, that are being researched today. I myself am involved in such research. Such technology can provide “cheap, clean and unlimited” energy.
What capitalism does require is the continual growth of profit, not production. Luxemburg demonstrated that this requires a continual increase in new non-capitalist markets, which is impossible given the finite number of people in the world. That is capitalism’s “limit to growth”. Socialism know no such limit and indeed is capable of increasing production greatly to provide for the billions who lack basic food, clothing, housing and sanitation, while at the same time cleaning up the pollution, waste and ecological destruction caused by capitalism, not by growth.
Because of the misconceptions about growth, this manifesto provides no comprehension of the current period, in which production is clearly declining not growing. Still more seriously, the “limits to growth” argument can provide, and has in the past provided, a justification for decreases in working class standards of living.
We do need articles that relate the current development of capitalism to ecological damage, but this manifesto does not go in the right direction, in my opinion. I would be interested to find out what others think. If there is sufficient interest, perhaps we could have a debate on this in Mass Strike.