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B3. EcoSocialism

Green Syndicalism - An Alternative Red-Green Vision

London Green Left Blog - Sun, 01/20/2019 - 07:09

Written by Jeff Shantz and first published at The Anarchist Library
Most approaches to Red and Green (labour and environmentalist) alliances have taken Marxian perspectives, to the exclusion of anarchism and libertarian socialism. Recent developments, however, have given voice to a “syndical ecology” or what some within the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) call “green syndicalism”. 

Green syndicalism highlights certain points of similarity between anarcho-syndicalism (revolutionary unionism) and radical ecology. These include, but are by no means limited to, decentralisation, regionalism, direct action, autonomy, pluralism and federation. The article discusses the theoretical and practical implications of syndicalism made green.
Recently, interesting convergences of radical union movements with ecology have been reported in Europe and North America. These developments have given voice to a radical ‘syndical ecology’, or what some within the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) call “green syndicalism” [Kauffman and Ditz,. 1992]. The emergent greening of syndicalist discourses is perhaps most significant in the theoretical questions raised regarding anarcho-syndicalism and ecology, indeed questions about the possibilities for a radical convergence of social movements.
While most attempts to form labour and environmentalist alliances have pursued Marxian approaches, Adkin [1992a: 148] suggests that more compelling solutions might be expected from anarchists and libertarian socialists. Still others [Pepper, 1993; Heider, 1994; Purchase, 1994: 1997a; Shantz and Adam, 1999] suggest that greens should pay more attention to anarcho-syndicalist ideas.
In the early 1990s Roussopoulos [1991] noted the emergence of a green syndicalist discourse in France within the Confédération Nationale du Travail (CNT). Expressions of a green syndicalism were also observed in Spain [Marshall, 1993]. There the Confederación General de Trabajadores (CGT) adopted social ecology as part of its struggle for ‘a future in which neither the person nor the planet is exploited’ [Marshall, 1993: 468].
Between 31 March and 1 April 2001, the CGT sponsored an international meeting of more than one dozen syndicalist and libertarian organisations including the CNT and the Swedish Workers Centralorganization (SAC). Among the various outcomes of the meeting were the formation of a Libertarian International Solidarity (LIS) network, commitments of financial and political support to develop a recycling cooperative and the adoption of a libertarian manifesto, ‘What Type of Anarchism for the 21st Century’, in which ecology takes a very crucial place [Hargis, 2001]. 
Among the more interesting of recent attempts to articulate solidarity across the ecology and workers’ movements were those involving Earth First! activist Judi Bari and her efforts to build alliances with workers in order to save old-growth forest in Northern California. Bari sought to learn from the organising and practices of the IWW to see if a radical ecology movement might be built along anarcho-syndicalist lines. In so doing she tried to bring a radical working-class perspective to the agitational practices of Earth First! as a way to overcome the conflicts between environmentalists and timber workers which kept them from fighting the corporate logging firms which were killing both forests and jobs.
The organisation which she helped form, IWW/Earth First Local 1, eventually built a measure of solidarity between radical environmentalists and loggers which resulted in the protection of the Headwaters old-growth forest which had been slated for clearcutting [Shantz, 1999].
In 1991 the Wobblies (IWW), following a union-wide vote, changed the preamble to the IWW constitution for the first time since 1908. The preamble now reads as follows:
These seven words present a significant shift in strategy regarding industrial unionism and considerations of what is to be meant by work. At the same time, their embeddedness within the constitution’s original class struggle narrative draws a mythic connection with the history of the IWW and the practices of revolutionary syndicalism.
The greening of the IWW was more explicitly expressed through a statement issued by the General Assembly at the time of the preamble change. It is worth quoting at length.
In addition to the exploitation of labor, industrial society creates wealth by exploiting the earth and non-human species. Just as the capitalists value the working class only for their labor, so they value the earth and non-human species only for their economic usefulness to humans. This has created such an imbalance that the life support systems of the earth are on the verge of collapse. The working class bears the brunt of this degradation by being forced to produce, consume and live in the toxic environment created by this abuse. Human society must recognize that all beings have a right to exist for their own sake, and that humans must learn to live in balance with the rest of nature.
Upon first reading it might appear curious to seek an ecological or antiindustrialist theoretic within anarcho-syndicalism. Syndicalism is supposedly just another version of narrow economism, still constrained by workerist assumptions. Certainly, that is the criticism consistently raised by social ecology guru Murray Bookchin [1980, 1987, 1993, 1997].
Bookchin’s work has served as a major focal point for much discussion, at least in libertarian Left and anarchist environmental circles. Even, Marxist ecologists, in journals such as Capitalism, Nature, Socialism, have given much time to discussions of Bookchin’s writings.
His recent [1995] re-discovery of social anarchism aside, social ecologist Bookchin has displayed a longstanding hostility to the possibilities for positive working class contributions to social movement struggles.
Bookchin’s critique rightly engages a direct confrontation with productivist visions of ecological or socialist struggles which, still captivated by illusions of progress, accept industrialism and capitalist technique while rejecting the capitalist uses to which they are applied [Rudig, 1985; Blackie, 1990; Pepper, 1993]. These productivist discourses do not extend qualitatively different forms, but merely argue for proletarian control of existing forms.
Bookchin’s critique of the workplace, by asserting the inseparability of industry from its development and articulation through technology, offers a tentative beginning for a post-Marxist discussion of productive relations and the obstacles or possibilities they might pose for ecology.
Severe limits to Bookchin’s social theorising are encountered, however, within the conclusions he draws in his attempt to derive a theory of workers’ (non)activism from his critique of production relations. Bookchin [1987: 187] makes a grand, and perilous, leap from a critical anti-productivism to an argument, couched within a larger broadside against workers, that struggles engaged around the factory give ‘social and psychological priority to the worker precisely where he or she is most co-joined to capitalism and most debased as a human being – at the job site’.
In his view, workers become radical despite the fact that they work rather than through their work experiences.1 He concludes that the efforts of socialists or anarcho-syndicalists who might organise and agitate within the realm of the workplace are typically only strengthening those very same aspects of workers’ identities which must be overcome in the radical transformation of social relations. And, moreover, this is correct in so far as workplace discourses are limited to purely corporatist demands of a quantitative nature [Gramsci, 1971; Telò, 1982]. However, within Bookchin’s schema the Marxist error is repeated, only this time in reverse.
For Bookchin, workers’ relations to capital, rather than being objectively antagonistic as in the Marxist rendering, are depicted as being necessarily conciliatory. In each case workers’ positions are drawn as one-sided, derived from a supposedly external and objective realm, in abstraction from the diversity of their often contradictory expressions and outside of any transformative articulation. Bookchin, as with the Marxists, substitutes an abstraction ‘the proletariat’ for the complex web of subject positions – including that of ecologist, feminist and worker – constitutive of specific subjectivities.
Bookchin is correct in asserting that categories ‘worker’ and ‘jobs’ as presently constituted are incompatible with ecological survival. Likewise, industrial production has already been rendered ecologically obsolete. But how can the authoritarian ‘realm of economic necessity’ [Bookchin, 1980] ever be overcome except through direct political action at the very site of unfreedom?
There is no disagreement with Bookchin as regards the importance of overcoming the factory system; a difference emerges over the position of workers’ self-directed activism in any democratic articulation toward such an overcoming. It cannot be expected, except where an authoritarian articulation is constituted, that industrialism will be replaced by non-hierarchical, ecological relations without workers’ confronting the factory system in which they are enmeshed.
It is difficult to follow the logic of Bookchin’s leap from a critique of industrialism as ‘social relations’ to his explicit rejection of any and all working-class organisation. Bookchin insists upon a grass-roots politics, including any of the new social movements, but he is unclear how a movement might be grassroots and communitarian while at the same time excluding an articulation with people in their subject-positions as workers.
What he actually recommends sounds more like the radical elitism so often attributed to ecology [Adkin, 1992a; 1992b]. Bookchin’s rigid dualism of community/workplace further interferes with his critique of syndicalism. The idea, which Bookchin attributes to syndicalism, that social life could be organised from the factory floor is but a simplistic caricature. ‘This caveat is, of course, pertinent to all institutions comprising civil society. It would be impossible to nurture and sustain democratic impulses if schools, families, churches, and the like, promoted an antithetical ethos’ [Guarasci and Peck, 1987: 71]. While he rightly criticises those, such as Earth First! co-founder Dave Foreman, who permit a wilderness/culture duality he falls into a similar trap himself in his vulgar separation of workplace and community.2
Finally, Bookchin’s biases are especially curious in light of his own ecological conclusion regarding the resolution of ecological problems: ‘[t]he bases for conflicting interests in society must themselves be confronted and resolved in a revolutionary manner. The earth can no longer be owned; it must be shared’ [1987: 172]. This provides a crucial beginning for a radical convergence of ecological social relations articulated beyond a ‘jobs versus environment’ construction. In turn it must be recognised, even if Bookchin himself fails to do so, that questions of ownership and control of the earth are nothing if not questions of class.
For his part, R.J. Holton [1980] explicitly rejects the characterisation of syndicalism as economistic. He suggests that such perspectives result from the gross misreading of historic syndicalist struggles. In the works of Melvyn Dubofsky [1969], Jeremy Brecher [1972], David Montgomery [1974], and Kenneth Tucker [1991] one finds substantial evidence against the positions taken by radical ecologists such as Bookchin, Dave Foreman [1991] and Paul Watson [1994]. Guarasci and Peck [1987] stress the significance of this class struggle historiography as a corrective to theorising which objectifies labour. Tucker [1991] argues that much of the theoretical distance separating new movements from workers might be attributed to a refusal to explore syndicalist strategies.
Historic anarcho-syndicalist campaigns have provided significant evidence that class struggles entail more than battles over corporatist concerns carried out at the level of the factory [Kornblugh, 1964; Brecher, 1972; Thompson and Murfin, 1976; DeCaux, 1978; Tucker, 1991]. In an earlier article, Hobsbawm [1979] identifies syndicalist movements as displaying attitudes of hostility towards the bureaucratic control of work, concerns over local specificity and techniques of spontaneous militancy and direct action. Similar expressions of radicalism have also characterised the practices of ecology.
Class struggles have, in different instances and over varied terrain, been articulated to engage the broader manifestations of domination and control constituted alongside of the enclosure and ruthlessly private ownership of vast ecosystems and the potentialities for freedom contained therein [Adkin, 1992a: 140–41].
From a theoretical standpoint Tucker’s [1991] work is instructive. His work provides a detailed discussion of possible affinity between French revolutionary syndicalism and contemporary radical democracy. Tucker suggests that within French syndicalism one can discern such ‘new’ themes as: consensus formation; participation of equals; dialogue; decentralisation; and autonomy.
French syndicalist theories of capitalist power place emphasis upon an alternative revolutionary worldview emerging out of working-class experiences and offering a challenge to bourgeois morality [Holton. 1980]. Fernand Pelloutier, an important syndicalist theorist whose works influenced Sorel, argues that ideas rather than economic processes are the motive force in bringing about revolutionary transformation. Pelloutier vigorously attempted to come to terms with ‘the problem of ideological and cultural domination as a basis for capitalist power’ [Holton. 1980: 19].
Reconstituting social relations, in Pelloutier’s view, becomes possible when workers begin developing revolutionary identities, through self-preparation and self-education, as the means for combatting capitalist culture [Spitzer, 1963]. Thus, syndicalists have characteristically looked to labour unrest as an agency of social regeneration whereby workers desecrate the ideological surround of class domination, for example, deference to authority, acceptance of capitalist superiority and dependence upon elites. According to Jennings [1991: 82], syndicalism ‘conceived the transmission of power not in terms of the replacement of one intellectual elite by another but as a process of displacement spreading power out into the workers’ own organizations’.
This displacement of power would originate in industry, as an egalitarian problematic, when workers came to question the status of their bosses. ‘This was not intended as a form of left “economism” but rather as a means of developing the confidence and aggression of a working class threatened with the spectre of a “sober, efficient and docile” work discipline’ [Holton, 1980: 14]. Towards that end syndicalist movements have emphasised ‘life’ and ‘action’ against the severity of capitalist labour processes and corresponding cultural manifestations.
It might be argued that, far from being economistic, syndicalist movements are best understood as counter-cultural in character, more similar to contemporary new social movements than to movements of the traditional left. Syndicalist themes such as autonomy, anti-hierarchy, and diffusion of power have echoes in sentiments of the new movements. This similarity is reflected not only in the syndicalist emphasis upon novel tactics such as direct action, consumer boycotts, or slowdowns.
It also finds expression in the extreme contempt shown by syndicalists for the dominant radical traditions of its day, exemplified by Marxism and state socialism, and in syndicalist efforts to divorce activists from those traditions [Jennings, 1991]. Judi Bari [1994: 2001] emphasised the similarities in the styles and tactics of labour and ecology against common depictions within radical ecology, as exemplified in the positions held by Bookchin. Towards developing this mutual understanding green syndicalists have tried to engender an appreciation of radical labour histories, especially where workers have exerted themselves through inspiring acts which seem to have surprisingly much in common with present-day eco-activism.
Attempts have been made within green syndicalism to articulate labour as part of the ecological ‘we’ through inclusion of radical labour within an ecological genealogy. Within green syndicalist discourses, this assumption of connectedness between historic radical movements, especially those of labour, anarchism and ecology has much significance. In this the place of the IWW is especially suggestive.
The IWW, as opposed to bureaucratic unions, sought the organisation of workers from the bottom up. As Montgomery [1974] notes, IWW strategies rejected large strike funds, negotiations, written contracts and the supposed autonomy of trades. Actions took the form of ‘guerilla tactics’ including sabotage, slowdown, planned inefficiency and passive resistance.
Furthermore, and of special significance for contemporary activists, the Wobblies placed great emphasis upon the nurturing of unity-in-diversity among workers. As Green [1974] notes, the IWW frequently organised in industrial towns marked by deep divisions, especially racial divisions, among the proletariat.
Interestingly, Montgomery [1974] notes that concerns over ‘success’ or ‘failure’ of strikes were not of the utmost importance to strikers. Strikes spoke more to ‘the audacity of the strikers’ pretensions and to their willingness to act in defiance of warnings from experienced union leaders that chance of victory were slim’ [Montgomery, 1974: 512]. This approach to protest could well refer to recent ecological actions. Such rebellious expressions reflect the mythic aspects of resistance, beyond mere pragmatic considerations or strict pursuance of ‘interests’.
As the ones most often situated at the nexus of ecological damage [Bullard, 1990; Kaufmann and Ditz, 1992] workers in industrial workplaces may be expected to have some insights into immediate and future threats to local and surrounding ecosystems. Such awareness derived from the location of workers at the point of production/destruction may allow workers to provide important, although not central, contributions to ecological resistance.
However, this possibly strategic placement does not mean that any such contributions are inevitable. Those people who suffer most from ecological predations, both at workplaces and in home communities, are also those with the least control over production as presently constituted through ownership entitlements and as sanctioned by the capitalist state [Ecologist, 1993; Faber and O’Connor, 1993; Peet and Watts, 1996].
These relations of power become significant mechanisms in the oppression of not only workers but of non-human nature as well. Without being attentive to this web of power one cannot adequately answer Eckersley’s [1989] pertinent questions concerning why those who are affected most directly and materially by assaults upon local ecosystems are often least active in resistance, both in defending nature and in defending themselves. Thus the questions of workplace democracy and workers’ control have become crucial to green syndicalist theoretics.
‘The IWW stands for worker self-management, direct action and rank and file control’ [Miller, 1993: 56]. For green syndicalism workers’ control becomes an attempt by workers to formulate their own responses to the question ‘what of work?’ Within the IWW, decisions over tactics are left to groups of workers or even individual workers themselves. Worker selfdetermination ‘on the job’ becomes a mechanism by which to contest the power/knowledge nexus of the workplace.
Labour insurgency typically articulates shifting relations within transformations of production and the emergence of new hegemonic practices. Times of economic reorganisation offer wide-ranging opportunities for creating novel or unprecedented forms of confrontation on the parts of workers. The offensives of capital can provide a stimulus to varied articulations of renewed militancy. Such might be the case within the present context of capital strike, de-unionisation, and joblessness characterising cybernetised globalism.
Of course the emphasis must always remain on possibility as there is always room for more than one response to emerge. Green syndicalists recognise that ecological crises have only become possible within social relations whose articulation has engendered a weakening of people’s capacities to fight a co-ordinated defence of the planet’s ecological communities.
Bari [1994: 2001] argued that the restriction of participation in decision-making processes within ordered hierarchies, prerequisite to accumulation, has been a crucial impediment to ecological organising. And it seems to me that people’s complicity should be measured more by the amount of control they have over the conditions of their lives than by how dirty they get at work. One compromise made by a whitecollar Sierra Club professional can destroy more trees than a logger can cut in a lifetime [Bari, 1994: 105].
The persistent lack of workers’ control allows coercion of workers into the performance of tasks which they might otherwise disdain, or which have consequences of which they are left unaware. Additionally the absence of self-determination results in workers competing with one another over jobs or even the possibility of jobs. Workers are left more susceptible to threats of capital strike or environmental blackmail [Bullard, 1990]. This susceptibility is perhaps the greatest deterrent to labour/ecology alliances. Without job security and workplace power workers cannot provide an effective counterbalance to the power of capital.
Radical ecology, outside of green syndicalism, has failed to appreciate these negative consequences of diminished workers’ control for participation in more explicitly political realms. Only through a development of political confidence can such activism be engaged. Furthermore, the degree of workplace democracy can depend largely upon the influence of supposedly exterior concerns such as impacts upon nature. In recognising the relationship between workplace articulation and political participation green syndicalism poses a challenge to received notions within ecology.
Participation as conceived by green syndicalism cannot come from management. ‘Such awareness has to question unflinching deference to experts, as part of a more general attack on centralized power and managerial prerogatives’ [Guarasci and Peck, 1987: 70]. Direct participation is understood as contributing to worker self-determination, constituted by workers against the veiled offerings of management which form part of ecocapitalism.
Eco-capitalist visions leave the megamachine and its power hierarchies intact and thus offers no alternative. Production remains undemocratic and profitability is the final word on whether or not resources should be used. Thus, eco-capitalism introduces to us the wonders of biodegradable take-out containers and starch-based golf teas [Purchase, 1994].
Green syndicalism emerges, then, as an experiment in more creative conceptions of workplace participation. For Purchase [1994, 1997a, 1997b], productive control organised around face-to-face, voluntary interaction and encouraging self-determination might be employed towards the freeing up of vast quantities of labour from useless, though profitable production, to be used in the playful development of life-affirming activities.
Thus a common theme of working-class radicalism becomes an important element of an ecological theoretic. Leftists have long argued that eventually human needs must become the primary consideration of production, replacing profitability and accumulation. Such critiques of production must now go even further, raising questions about the ‘needs’ of ecosystems and non-humans.
The decreased demand for labour, within cybernetised capital relations, means that corporations are less compelled to deal with mainstream trade unions as under the Keynesian arrangement.3 If unions are to have any influence it can only come through active efforts to disrupt the labour process. These disruptive efforts may include increased militancy within workplace relations. Evidence for a rebellion among workers has been reflected typically in such activities as sabotage, slowdowns and absences.
IWW activists explicitly agitate for ‘deliberate inefficiency’ as a means to encourage the desecration of work relations. For green syndicalists the desired tactics against corporate-sponsored destruction of the environment include such direct, non-bureaucratic forms of action as shop-floor sabotage, boycotts, green bans and the formation of extra-union solidarity outside of the workplace, within workers’ home communities. Of course, strikes, the power to halt production, is unmatched in its capacity to confront corporate greed.
Environmentalists can stop production for a few hours or a few days. There is no more effective counter-force to capital accumulation and the pursuit of profit than the power of workers to stop work to achieve their demands. Ecological protection, as with work conditions, benefits or wages, must be fought for. Where workers are involved this means they must be struck for. This, however, requires that workers develop a position of strength. This, in turn, means organising workers so that they no longer face the prospects of ‘jobs versus environment’ blackmail. In order for this to occur, non-unionised workers must be mobilised. (Otherwise they are mobilised by capital – as scabs.) Recognising this the IWW gives a great deal of attention to organising the traditionally unorganised.
A green syndicalist conception of workers’ organisation rejects the hierarchical, centralised, bureaucratic structures of mainstream unionism. Economistic union organisations and bureaucrats who have worked to convince workers that environmentalists are responsible for job loss point up the need for syndicalist unions organised around ecologically sensitive practices.
This is not to say that green syndicalists refuse to act in solidarity with workers in mainstream unions. Indeed, Local 1 worked in support of workers in Pulp and Paper Workers, Local 49 and Judi Bari points out that many actions would have been impossible without inside information provided by workers in that local. Green syndicalists do work with rank and file members of mainstream unions and many are themselves ‘two-carders’, simultaneously members of mainstream and syndicalist unions.
Neither is it true to say that strong environmental policies cannot come from mainstream unions. Mainstream unions can and do at times take up specific policies and practices of syndicalism but the lack overall vision and participatory structures means that such policies and practices are not part of overall strategy and are often vulnerable to leadership control or the limitations of bargaining with employers.
The green syndicalist responses might be understood, most interestingly, as characterising a broader revolt against work. ‘The one goal that unites all IWW members is to abolish the wage system’ [Meyers, 1995: 73]. Ecological crises make clear that the capitalist construction of ‘jobs’ and ‘workers’ are incompatible with the preservation of nature. It is, perhaps, then, not entirely paradoxical that green syndicalism should hint at an overcoming of workerness as one possible outcome.
Radical ecology activists have increasingly come to understand jobs, under the guise of work, as perhaps the most basic moment of unfreedom, one which must be overcome in any quest towards liberty. Too often, previously, the common response has been one of turning away from workers and from questions relating to the organisation of working relations. Green syndicalism hints that radical theory can no longer ignore these questions which are posed by the presence of jobs. Indeed it might be said that a return to the problematic of jobs becomes the starting point for a reformulation of radicalism, at least along green lines.
Green syndicalism conceives of the transformation of work as an ecological imperative. What is proposed is a radical alteration of work, both in structure and meaning. Solutions to the problems of work cannot be found merely in the control of existing forms. Rather, current practices of production along with the hierarchy of labour must be overcome.
Production, within a green syndicalist vision [Purchase, 1994, 1997a, 1997b], may include the provision of ecologically sensitive foods, transportation or energy. Work, newly organised along decentralised, local, democratic lines might allow for the introduction of materials and practices with diminished impact upon the bioregion in which each is employed.
Green syndicalist discourses are raised against the undermining influences of work in contemporary conditions of globalism. Far from being irrational responses to serious social transformations, workplace democratisation and workers’ self-determination become ever more reasonable responses to the uncertainty and contingency of emerging conditions of (un)employment.
Green syndicalists emphasise workers’ empowerment and selfemancipation – against pessimistic or cynical responses such as mass retraining which simply reinforce dependence upon elites. They offer but one initiative towards the overcoming of work and a movement towards community-based economics and productive decision-making.
The mass production techniques of industrialism cannot be reconciled with ecological sustenance, regardless of whether bosses or sturdy proletarians control them. To be anti-capitalist does not have to imply being pro-ecology. In this regard the utopians have surely been more insightful. Ending capitalist relations of production, however, remains necessary for a radical transformation of the social since these relations encompass many positions of subordination. However, this is only one aspect of radical politics.
Thus, green syndicalists reject the workerist premises of ‘old-style’ leftists who argue that issues such as ecology are external to questions of production and only serve to distract from the essential task of organising workers, at the point of production, towards emancipation. Within green syndicalist discourses ecological concerns cannot, with any reason, be divorced from questions of production or economics. Rather than being represented as strictly separate discursive universes, nature, production, economics or workplace become understood as endlessly contested topographical features in an always shifting terrain.
The workplace is but one of the sites for extension of social resistance. Given the prominent position of the workplace under capitalism, as a realm of capitalist discipline and hegemony, activists must come to appreciate the significance of locating struggles within everyday workplace relations. Within a green syndicalist perspective workplaces are understood as sites of solidarity, innovation, cultural diversity, and personal interactions expressed in informal networks and through multiple antagonisms.
In turn, those social realms which are typically counterpoised to the factory within radical ecology discourses – Bookchin’s ‘community’ – should be recognised as influenced by matters of accumulation, profit and class. The character of either realm is not unaffected by workplace antagonisms.
This ‘steel cage’ appears inescapable only because it remains isolated, practically and conceptually, from a host of important social, cultural, and political-economic dynamics operating inside and out of workplaces proper. Critical to any discussion, work organizations must be seen as series of settings and situations providing choices that are constrained, but not immutably, by the broader fabric of the society into which they are woven [Guarasci and Peck, 1987: 72].
In addition, the re-integration of production with consumption, organised in an egalitarian and democratic fashion – such that members of a community contribute what they can to social production – may allow for a break with consumerism. People might consume only that which they’ve had a hand in producing; people might use free time for creative activities rather than tedious, unnecessary production of luxuries; and individual consumption might be regulated by the capacities of individual production, (for example, personal creativity), not from the hysterics of mass advertising.
Syndicalism might be freed thusly from requirements of growth or mass consumption characterising industrialism as ‘social relations’ [Purchase, 1994, 1997a, 1997b; Bari, 2001]. Green syndicalism, as opposed to Marxism or even revolutionary syndicalism, opposes large-scale, centralised, mass-production. Green syndicalism does not hold to a socialist optimism of the liberatory potential of industrialism. Ecological calls for a complete, immediate break with industrialism, however, contradict radical eco-philosophical emphases upon interconnectedness, mutualism and continuity.
Simple calls for a return to nature reveal the lingering fundamentalisms afflicting much ecological discourse. The idea of an immediate return to small, village-centred living as espoused by some deep ecologists and anarchists is not only utopian, it ignores questions concerning the impacts which the toxic remains of industry would continue to inflict upon their surroundings. The spectre of industrialism will still – and must inevitably – haunt efforts at transformation, especially in decisions concerning the mess that industry has left behind [Purchase, 1994]. How can we disconnect society from nature given the mass interpenetrations of social encroachments upon nature, for example, global warming, or depletion of the ozone layer? Where do you put toxic wastes? What of the abandoned factories? How will decommissioning occur? One cannot just walk away from all of that.
Without romanticising the role played by workers, green syndicalists are aware that workers may offer certain insights into these problems. In responding to this dilemma, green syndicalists [Kaufmann and Ditz, 1992; Purchase, 1994, 1997a, 1997b; Bari, 2001] have tried to ask the crucial question of where those who are currently producers might belong in the multiple tasks of transformation – both cultural as well as ecological.
They have argued that radical ecology can no longer leave out producers, they will either be allies or enemies. Green syndicalism, almost alone among radical ecology, suggest that peoples’ identities as producers, rather than representing fixed entities, may actually be articulated against industrialism. The processes of engaging this articulation, wherein workers understand an interest in changing rather than upholding current conditions, present the perplexing task which has as yet foiled ecology.
Dismantling industrial capital, the radical approach to industrialism, would still require the participation of industrial workers provided it is not to be carried out as part of an authoritarian articulation. Any radical articulation, assuming it be democratic, implies the participation of industrial workers in decision-making processes. Of course, the democratic character of any articulation cannot be assumed; the possibility for reaction, to the exclusion of workers [Foreman, 1991; Watson, 1994], is ever-present.
One sees this within ecological fundamentalism or in strengthened corporatist alliances pitting labour/capital against environmentalists, each calling for centralised and bureacratic enforcement of regulations. In the absence of a grass-roots articulation with workers any manner of authoritarian, elite articulation, even ones which include radical ecology [Foreman, 1991; Watson, 1994], might be envisioned.
For their part theorists of green syndicalism envision the association of workers towards the dismantling of the factory system, its work, hierarchies, regimentation [Kaufmann and Ditz, 1992; Purchase, 1994, 1997a, 1997b]. This may involve a literal destruction as factories may be dismantled; or perhaps converted towards ‘soft’ forms of localised production. Likewise, productive activity can be conceived in terms of restoration, including research into a region’s natural history.
Reconstruction might be understood in terms of food and energy provision or recovery monitoring. These are acts in which all members might be active, indeed will need to be active in some regard. These shifting priorities – towards non-industrial relations generally – express the novelty of green syndicalism as both green and as syndicalist.
For green syndicalism it is important that ecology engage with workers in raising the possibilities for resisting, challenging and even abandoning the capitalist megamachine. However, certain industrial workshops and processes may be necessary [Purchase, 1994]. (How would bikes, or windmills be produced, for example?) The failure to develop democratic workers’ associations would then seem to render even the most wellconsidered ecology scenarios untenable. Not engaging such possibilities restricts radicalism to mere utopia building [Purchase, 1994].
Green syndicalists argue for the construction of ‘place’ around the contours of geographical regions, in opposition to the boundaries of nationstates which show only contempt for ecological boundaries as marked by topography, climate, species distribution or drainage. Affinity with bioregionalist themes is recognised in green syndicalist appeals for a replacement of nation-states with decentralised federations of bioregional communities [Purchase, 1994, 1997a]. For green syndicalism such communities might constitute social relations in an articulation with local ecological requirements to the exclusion the bureaucratic, hierarchical interference of distant corporatist bodies.
Local community becomes the context of social/ecological identification. Eco-defence, then, should begin at local levels: in the homes, workplaces, and neighbourhoods. Green syndicalist discourses urge that people identify with the ecosystems of their locality and region and work to defend those areas through industrial and agricultural practices which are developed and adapted to specific ecological characteristics.
One aspect of a green syndicalist theoretic, thus, involves ecology activists helping workers to educate themselves about regional, community-based ways of living [Bari, 1994; Purchase, 1994, 1997b]. A green syndicalist perspective encourages people to broaden and unite the individual actions, such as saving a park or cleaning up a river, in which they are already involved towards regional efforts of self-determination protecting local ecosystems [Purchase, 1994].
The point here, however, has not been (nor is it for theorists of green syndicalism generally) to draw plans for the green syndicalist future. Specific questions about the status of cities, organisation of labour, means of production, or methods of distribution cannot here be answered. They will be addressed by those involved as the outcome of active practice. Most likely there will be many varieties of experimental living — some are already here, e.g. autonomous zones, squats, co-ops and revolutionary unions. These are perhaps the renewed politics of organising.
Human relations with nature pose crucial and difficult questions for radicalism. Those relations, under capitalism, have taken the form of ‘jobs’ where nature and labour both become commodified. Indeed nature as ‘resources’ and work as ‘jobs’ provide the twin commodity forms which have always been necessary for the expansion of the market [Polanyi, 1944].
Thus capitalist regimes of accumulation, growth and commodification remain crucial concerns for ecological politics. Questions concerning the organising of life are still radical questions, though what might constitute acceptable answers has changed. One might ask: ‘What does work – intervention in nature – mean for ecology?’ Taking ecology seriously means that the realms of work, leisure (work’s accomplice), sustenance, need etc. – what might be called production – must be confronted.
Jeff Shantz is the author of Green Syndicalism - An Alternative Red-Green Vision. He is professor in the Criminology Department at Kwantlen Polytechnic University in Surrey, British Columbia. His books include Radical Ecology and Social Myth: The Difficult Constitution of Counter-Hegemonic Politics and Living Anarchy: Theory and Practice in Anarchist Movements.
Categories: B3. EcoSocialism

What’s the alternative to factory farms?

Climate and Capitalism - Sun, 01/20/2019 - 06:00
‘Farming, Food and Nature’ offers a powerful critique of industrial livestock production, but fails to challenge the profit-system that drives it.
Categories: B3. EcoSocialism

That Green Growth at the Heart of the Green New Deal? It’s Malignant

London Green Left Blog - Sat, 01/19/2019 - 06:09

Written by Stan Cox and first published at Green Social Thought
A burgeoning save-the-climate effort called the Green New Deal, explains Vox’s David Roberts, “has thrust climate change into the national conversation, put House Democrats on notice, and created an intense and escalating bandwagon effect. … everyone involved in green politics is talking about the GND. … But WTF is it?”
Roberts goes on to give a good summary, but no one can fully answer that question until someone puts a complete plan down on paper. We do know that the vision as it’s being described by its fans (and it seems to have nothing but fans in the climate movement) explicitly draws its inspiration from the New Deal that the Roosevelt Administration launched eighty-four years ago in an effort to end the Great Depression.
A Tale of Two Deals
The Green New Deal would emulate its predecessor’s use of public investment and hiring, improvement of wages, and socioeconomic safety nets to accelerate economic growth and reduce unemployment. In asking how well that strategy might work against this century’s climate crisis, we first need to take into account how the original New Deal worked, both as a civilian project and as it morphed into the war effort of the 1940s.
The massive public investment in the civilian economy that began in 1933 carried on through that decade. And the war production and recruitment boom of the early 1940s should be seen as an extension of the New Deal, in part because that turned out to be the spending that finally ended the Depression.
The diversion of money and physical resources into military production necessitated the creation of a War Production Board that allocated resources between the military and civilian sectors and limited production of specified civilian goods. With supplies of consumer goods shrinking and demand steady or rising (because thanks to the war, people finally had more money to spend), the government had to resort to price controls and fair-shares rationing. Then, once the war was over, both pent-up demand and civilian production were unleashed. Before long, the economy was growing rapidly.
Under the Green New Deal vision, investment in renewable energy and infrastructure production would be the mechanism for revving up the economy. But whatever shape it takes, this new New Deal would be born into a very different world from that of its predecessor—a world that can’t handle a big economic stimulus. If we are to avoid climate catastrophe, we have to simultaneously bring an end to fossil-fuel burning and develop vast renewable energy capacity, both starting right now and both on a crash schedule. That means the everyday economy must find a way to run on much less available energy.
Analyses purporting to demonstrate otherwise—claiming that current and growing energy demand can be met by 100% renewable generation—rely on overly optimistic technical and environmental assumptions, and on the assumption that today’s huge disparities in energy consumption among and within countries will remain in place.
Research based on more realistic assumptions shows that neither the United States nor the world can satisfy 100% of current, let alone projected, energy consumption only with renewable sources. And there’s no way that even a more modest but still adequate introduction of renewable energy could be achieved within a decade or even two.
Quickly phasing out fossil fuels at a time when renewable sources have not yet been phased in, affluent nations and communities in particular will have to shrink their total energy consumption dramatically while shelling out billions to help fund renewable energy in poor nations.
The Green New Dealers nevertheless are holding out the promise of prosperity and sustainability through growth. Without asking where the energy to fuel that growth will come from, they predict that with heavy investment in renewable infrastructure, the U.S. economy will expand rapidly so that lower-income households can look forward to more, better jobs and rising incomes.
Unlike the World War II stimulus, this new green stimulus will not be accompanied by any planned allocation of resources or limits on production and consumption in the private sector. But that is what’s needed. Given the necessity for an immediate, steep decline in greenhouse emissions and material throughput, such planning and limits are needed even more now than they were during World War II.
In the 1930s, the U.S. and world economies were vastly smaller than they are today, and greenhouse emissions were far lower. Earthlings, all but a tiny handful, were blissfully unaware that continued fossil-fueled growth would one day become a mortal threat to civilization. The original New Deal could concern itself only with economic prosperity and justice. Then a second concern—fascism—emerged, and the productive forces of the economy had to be temporarily transformed. The New Deal stimulus with its war-spending extension brought back prosperity, even if material abundance had to be put on pause until the war was over.
As far as I know, no one complained at the time about the 65 percent increase in fossil energy consumption that occurred between 1935 and 1945 thanks to the growing economy. Even if there had been prophetic scientists within the growing federal bureaucracy of the 1930s sounding the alarm on future global warming, that carbon would have had to be spent anyway in order to stop the march of fascism.
Like war production in the 1940s, green energy development is an absolute imperative. It will also require us to spend emissions in the short run in order to prevent emissions over the long run. But the short run—the next decade or two—is precisely the period when a steep decline in emissions is necessary to stay this side of the dreaded climatic tipping point. During those years, we won’t yet have enough renewable energy capacity to substitute for all of the fossil energy capacity that we need to be eliminating.[1]
Sufficiency for All, Excess for None
The Green New Deal would not achieve an economic transformation; rather, it would hitch its sustainable-infrastructure investment and taxation reforms to the existing economy. It would leave the private sector untethered, free to produce for profit rather than for quality of life. Inevitably, pressure would build to crank the dirty energy back up.
To avoid that disaster, we need a strict national emissions ceiling that declines steeply year by year. Across the economy, resources must be diverted by law away from destructive and superfluous production, toward meeting human needs. Likewise, abuse of land, water, and ecosystems must be outlawed, no matter how much money-pain it causes those who’ve been enriched by that abuse.
Such limits are what’s missing from the Green New Deal’s vision. But because it’s still a vision and not yet a plan, there is still time to conceive a reworked version (a New Green Deal?) that has a reasonable chance of delivering on both of its goals.
Any effective strategy to drive emissions down to zero cannot also expect to spur aggregate growth; it would in fact curtail and even reverse the growth of GDP. Fortunately—well-tended conventional wisdom notwithstanding—degrowth in America would not necessarily bring on a Great-Depression-style social catastrophe.
The British scholar Jason Hickel writes that, to the contrary, “ecology-busting levels of income and consumption characteristic of rich nations are not necessary in order to maintain their strong social outcomes.  We can say this because there are a number of countries that are able to achieve equally strong social outcomes with vastly less income and consumption.”
A big, laudable goal of the Green New Deal is to reduce economic inequality. We’ll have to await the unveiling of the full plan to see the specifics of how that’s to be achieved. If, as is likely, its drafters follow the politically palatable, well-worn, but rarely successful equality-through-growth route, their plan will be incompatible with emissions limits tight enough to achieve sufficient emissions reductions.
What’s needed instead is a direct cure for inequality. Expropriating the wealth of the 1 percenters would be a good start, but the necessary transformation will need to go much deeper, putting a floor under and a ceiling above individual wealth and income.
Although it really is possible to scale back our economy in a way that improves life for all Americans, such an effort will face stiff opposition at the top of the economic pyramid, the place where the fruits of GDP growth always tend to accumulate. That doesn’t mean just the 1 percent. I have argued that it’s the 33 percent of American households with highest incomes who would need to experience the steepest economic degrowth.
I’m talking about adopting but also going way beyond the Green New Dealers’ excellent arguments for a more steeply progressive tax structure (and their bad arguments for a carbon tax [2]). Limitations on resources, as well as mandatory production of the most necessary rather than the most profitable goods and services, will have their greatest dollar impact among the 33 percent (which comprises households earning more than about $90,000 annually.) And within that top one-third, the greater a household’s wealth and income, the greater will be the impact, because, as Jesse James would say, that’s where the money is.
The impacts will come from several directions. An effective climate/equality strategy would reduce profits in industries not involved in green energy conversion or production of needed goods and services. Stock prices of companies not working toward the conversion would fall. Stockholders, owners, investors, and upper managers, the great majority of whom belong to the 33 percent, would bear the brunt.
If shortages and inflation were to strike, then allocation of resources could be adjusted, and price controls, subsidies, fair-shares rationing, and other policies would have to be put in place when and where they are needed. That would result in even greater shifts of income and wealth from the top toward the bottom of the economic scale.
Meanwhile, the conversion to green energy capacity and infrastructure, the costs of which have been optimistically estimated at $15 trillion for the United States alone, will be for decades to come a rapidly growing sector of a shrinking overall economy. That money will have to come from slashing military appropriations and other wasteful spending, as well as wealth, financial-transaction, and inheritance taxes. And the green buildout will have to be regulated so that it provides plenty of employment but no profiteering.
A growing segment of the climate movement rightly recognizes the link between capitalism and greenhouse warming. And I think it’s safe to say that policies like those I’ve described here would be pure poison to a capitalist economy. A socialist transformation is necessary, but that in itself won’t be sufficient to reverse Earth’s ecological degradation unless it is also dedicated to drawing the human economy back within necessary ecological limits while ensuring sufficiency for all and excess for none.
Stan Cox (@CoxStan) is on the editorial board of Green Social Thought. He is the author of Any Way You Slice It: The Past, Present, and Future of Rationing and, with Paul Cox, of How the World Breaks: Life in Catastrophe’s Path, From the Caribbean to Siberia.
[1] In the mainstream climate movement, the fundamental problem of falling energy supply during the conversion is generally dismissed by uttering the magic word decarbonization. Based on wholly unrealistic technological hopes, the claim is that energy generation, transportation, and manufacturing can be accomplished with ever-decreasing carbon emissions while sustaining rapid growth. Decarbonization would a “core principle” of a House Select Committee on the Green New Deal proposed by Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY). But research suggesting the possibility of complete or near-complete decarbonization at high levels of output has been shown to be highly deficient. Only a far more modest degree of decarbonization can be achieved within the narrow near-future time window in which we must eliminate greenhouse emissions. As if that weren’t enough, decarbonization of energy supplies has been shown to lead to increased energy demand, which in turn would lead to a treadmill effect.      
[2] The carbon tax rates that would be required to drive emissions down rapidly enough would be much higher than any rates tried or proposed by anyone so far. The tax would have to be brutally heavy, even if there were a rebate to compensate low-income households. And the larger the rebate, the more the tax’s impact would diminish, because people would use that money to pay the taxes necessary to create more emissions. Meanwhile, the affluent would be able to unfairly buy their way out reducing their own emissions, even with a high tax. They’d whine, but they would not give up any more energy than they had to. Given all that, the majority would not stand for the unfairness, and would not accept a tax/rebate system that’s strong enough to be effective.
Categories: B3. EcoSocialism

Call for public inquiry into Offshore NS bolstered by recent news

Council of Canadians - Fri, 01/18/2019 - 13:46
January 18, 2019 - 4:46pmWith the recent news that MKI is holding off on their massive seismic project offshore Nova Scotia, and BP releasing ½ of their lease area, now is the perfect time to initiate a public inquiry into the offshore industry in the province.   The beauty of South Shore Nova Scotia as captured by Robert van Waarden   CBC reported last week that Multiklient Invest, a Norwegian engineering and construction company that has completed stage one of an environmental assessment,...
Categories: B3. EcoSocialism

Tackle ecological and human rights crises with good public policies

Council of Canadians - Fri, 01/18/2019 - 09:28
January 18, 2019 - 12:28pm Lifegate, an online and radio-based news source in Italy that focuses on sustainable development, interviewed Maude Barlow, Honorary Chair of the Council of Canadians, when she is was in Rome, Italy late last year meeting with groups about the growing movement in that country to stop the ratification of the Canada-European Union Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA). She spoke with Lifegate about the global water crisis and its clear links to trade...
Categories: B3. EcoSocialism

Bill 66 will reward big business and put drinking water and the environment at risk

Council of Canadians - Fri, 01/18/2019 - 09:18
January 18, 2019 - 12:18pm Doug Ford's proposed sweeping legislative changes in Bill 66 stands to reward big business at the expense of people and the environment. The Council of Canadians is calling on people across Ontario to speak out and say no to this dangerous Bill before January 20 when the public comment period concludes. After repealing legislation aimed at improving working conditions for everyone across the province, on the very last day that the Ontario legislature sat before...
Categories: B3. EcoSocialism

Chapters This Week

Council of Canadians - Fri, 01/18/2019 - 09:00
January 18, 2019 - 12:00pm The London Chapter held a successful anti-PEGIDA/yellow vests "Refugees Welcome Rally" at London City Hall on January 12. Council of Canadians chapters activists have been taking part in ongoing solidarity actions with Wet'suwet'en, joining the call “that the provincial and federal government uphold their responsibilities to the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and ‘Anuc niwh’it’en (Wet’suwet’en law).” The Council has made a donation...
Categories: B3. EcoSocialism

UN committee calls for halt of Site C dam construction over indigenous rights violations

Council of Canadians - Fri, 01/18/2019 - 09:00
January 18, 2019 - 12:00pm Photo by Jason Woodhead The UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination has instructed Canada to suspend construction of the Site C dam on B.C.’s Peace River until the project obtains the “free, prior and informed consent” of Indigenous peoples. Canada has until early April to report back to the committee outlining the steps it has taken to halt construction of the massive hydro-electrical dam project. BC Hydro’s Site C is a proposed 60-metre high,...
Categories: B3. EcoSocialism

One year after the announcement..where is the ombudsperson?

Council of Canadians - Thu, 01/17/2019 - 11:48
January 17, 2019 - 2:48pm Today January 17, 2019, marks exactly one year since the Canadian government announced it would create the Canadian Ombudsperson for Responsible Enterprise (CORE), an office to independently investigate allegations of abuses by Canadian companies operating overseas. When that anouncement was made, I wrote a piece sharing my thoughts, hopes, and concerns about the ombudsperson announcement that had just been made. "While the Trudeau government has launched this...
Categories: B3. EcoSocialism

Ecososocialist Bookshelf, January 2019

Climate and Capitalism - Thu, 01/17/2019 - 06:50
Start the new year with these new books for reds and greens. End of the Megafauna. Brave New Arctic. The Big Heat. The End of Ice. Socialist Register 2019.
Categories: B3. EcoSocialism

The Green Party of the United States, the First US Ecosocialist Party

London Green Left Blog - Wed, 01/16/2019 - 12:38

Written by Jon Olsen and first published at Green Party Power
Clearly, since Bernie ran openly as a socialist, the word is coming back into use and out of the bogeyman closet at last! But people attach so many different meanings and connotations that it is best to articulate what may be its best use in 21st century USA. Among those trying to get a handle on it is the Green Party of the US, which recently in its revised platform declared in support of a socialism-in-process:
Some call this decentralized system “ecological socialism,” “communalism,” or “the cooperative commonwealth,” but whatever then terminology, we believe it will help end labor exploitation, environmental exploitation, and racial, gender, and wealth inequality and bring about economic and social justice due to the positive effects of democratic decision making. Production is best for people and planet when democratically owned and operated by those who do the work and those most affected by those decisions . . . not at the whim of centralized power structures of state administration or capitalist  CEO’s and distant boards of directors.
I personally like the phrase “ecosocialism,” but not everyone does, so objections to it must be raised and addressed honestly. I can think of two principal related reasons why some object. First, when some people hear the word “socialism,” they still flash on the late-stage Soviet Union, as if that were the only possible model, but this response short-circuits thinking before it can get off the ground.
The second reason is related because it assumes that it will be too hard to overcome the first objection among other people, even if one is comfortable with the term.  If we regard corporate globalism as the chief enemy of the people of the world, and as left activists, we must do so, then surely we ought not to be timid in using a term that unequivocally challenges that hegemony, namely socialism. However, it is incumbent upon us to clearly define what we mean by socialism, and not let false narratives be put in our mouths.
We need to invent a form of socialism that not only can replace the dominant feudal-like corporate structures we detest but just as importantly, be culturally acceptable to the general public. In the USA, of course, this is a challenge, but one we are capable of handling.
The Green Party platform description goes a long way toward clarifying our intent. Despite ideological resistance, even the strictest libertarian is not threatened by the existence of a cooperative health food store, or the municipally run library, though they can be termed socialist structures. Why? Because there is no government coercion!
But what if these cooperative enterprises were the dominant structures? What if we could have a referendum to yank the corporate charters of the most objectively malevolent mega-corporations—the ones that grossly offend the environment, human rights and practice extreme labor exploitation? 
What if we declared, as the ultimate collective sovereigns (remember “We, the People declare our own Constitution) that these offenders had not more than one year to sell off inventory and dismantle themselves or their Boards of Directors would be arrested for such crimes as poisoning the air, soil, and water, along with various fraudulent representations, and their corporate assets seized?
If the products and services provided were truly needed, they could be produced under terms consistent with ecosocialist values. We need to re-activate the original intent definition of socialism to mean “control by the working class” including those currently not employed—all those who have nothing to sell but their labor. 
This involves expropriating the expropriators. It does not mean, of course, killing them off or wholesale imprisoning them, although some cases must undergo careful evaluation in that regard. The word “socialism” is a defiant repudiation of the rule of capital which now has a stranglehold not only on “the” economy (as if there could only be one!) but on all three branches of this government, and of the pervasive culture of commercialism.
Some will object, with good reason, “What about all the employees who are displaced? They would rather work under exploitative conditions that have no income at all!” Of course, we need to plan ahead to provide at least equal if not better compensation from the moment of dissolution. We can do this!
There is work to be done until everyone has sufficient housing, food and water, energy supply, health services, and educational opportunities. Once we have achieved this, then we need to apply this test to the rest of the world—no end to the need for labor, once we reject the notion that only when a profit is to be made by the capitalist class, shall there be a demand for labor! Bad premise! It is a matter of re-allocation of resources away from a war economy and mega-profits fora few to humane objectives. It will be the responsibility of a Green eco-socialist government to facilitate this transition.
Will we allow private business? Indeed, for this is where we see the rewards of innovation via entrepreneurial energy and the motivation to invent. But these enterprises need to be run within the context of reasonable ecological and human rights parameters and at a scale consistent with local supervision. Instead of positive socialist features within the context of an overall capitalist economy (e.g. the Scandinavian countries), we do just the opposite! 
We allow creative small businesses to operate within the context of a decentralized cooperative economy. Not everyone wants the responsibility to be an owner or manager and will be satisfied to work for an entrepreneur, under humane and generous working conditions. We need to terminate conglomerates by outlawing one company owning another company, though it may be permissible for one family to own more than one small business.
Needless to say, as part of this radical change, we need to break up the huge media complex that dominates news coverage that increasingly is hardly respected, and appropriately so! We have to encourage honest journalism that feels no need to self-censor due to the need to conform to the value system of upper levels of corporate management, including CIA infiltration (note: Operation Mockingbird).
I look forward to an honest commitment to Truth, which is the daughter of Reality, no matter where she leads. Truth matters, but Reality does not care what people merely “believe.” It just is! If people in media positions are free to and encouraged to act with honor, we can get the truth. With truth we can pursue justice; and with justice, peace among all peoples becomes a realistic objective. All in favor, say “Aye!”
Jon Olsen is co-chair of the Maine Green Independent Party. He is a long time peace and justice activist and a Green Party member for 30 years. A graduate of Bates College in Maine with a degree in philosophy, he went to the University of Hawai’i for a Master’s Degree in the same field. He returned to Maine in 2001, serving twice on the Steering committee of the Maine Green Independent Party. He has conducted town caucuses and gathered signatures for Green Party gubernatorial candidates. His recent book, Liberate Hawai’i, describes the legal and historical research done by Hawaiian scholar-activists. The book documents the illegal claim of the US to the sovereignty of Hawai’I and demonstrates its fraudulent nature as well. Olsen draws a parallel with the similar fraudulent attempt by the late USSR to do the same to Lithuania. 
Categories: B3. EcoSocialism

The Council of Canadians stands in solidarity with Wet'suwet'en

Council of Canadians - Tue, 01/15/2019 - 11:17
January 15, 2019 - 2:17pm Protestors rally on Parliament Hill in Ottawa (Algonquin territory) against RCMP actions on January 7 on Wet'suwet'en territories. On January 7, 2019 militarized RCMP invaded and occupied unceded Wet'suwet'en territories and faced children and elders with heavy assault rifles following a court injunction granted to Coastal Gaslink (TransCanada). They were trying to forcibly clear a path for a fracked gas pipeline. Fourteen land defenders were arrested, including...
Categories: B3. EcoSocialism

Guelph chapter member says grassroots can fight water commodification

Council of Canadians - Tue, 01/15/2019 - 08:45
January 15, 2019 - 11:45am Cameron Fioret, a PhD student at the University of Guelph and member of the Guelph chapter of the Council of Canadians, writes in a thought-provoking op-ed that “the advent of the commodification and privatization of water has resulted in strife and inequality amongst the most marginalized people in society.” Fioret goes on to say that “it is a widespread, pressing issue that will be exacerbated by climate change, whereby clean water will be even more of a luxury...
Categories: B3. EcoSocialism

Peterborough-Kawarthas chapter joins climate action

Council of Canadians - Tue, 01/15/2019 - 06:56
January 15, 2019 - 9:56am Members of the Council of Canadians Peterborough-Kawarthas chapter in Ontario joined with the local group, the Peterborough Alliance for Climate Action for an event last weekend called “Drum for the Planet.” Participants marched through the streets, banging on drums, using bells and tambourines as well as their voices, to raise awareness about the urgent need for climate action now. Many wore bright green signs with messages and slogans, calling on governments to...
Categories: B3. EcoSocialism

Scientists: Climate change causing heatwaves, droughts and floods

Climate and Capitalism - Mon, 01/14/2019 - 16:38
New report shows that recent extreme weather could not have happened without warming caused by human-induced climate change.
Categories: B3. EcoSocialism

Why Ecosocialism: For a Red-Green Future

London Green Left Blog - Sun, 01/13/2019 - 05:22

Written by Michael Löwy and first published at The Great Transition Initiative
The capitalist system, driven at its core by the maximization of profit, regardless of social and ecological costs, is incompatible with a just and sustainable future. 

Ecosocialism offers a radical alternative that puts social and ecological well-being first. Attuned to the links between the exploitation of labor and the exploitation of the environment, ecosocialism stands against both reformist “market ecology” and “productivist socialism.” 

By embracing a new model of robustly democratic planning, society can take control of the means of production and its own destiny. Shorter work hours and a focus on authentic needs over consumerism can facilitate the elevation of “being” over “having,” and the achievement of a deeper sense of freedom for all. 

To realize this vision, however, environmentalists and socialists will need to recognize their common struggle and how that connects with the broader “movement of movements” seeking a Great Transition.
Contemporary capitalist civilization is in crisis. The unlimited accumulation of capital, commodification of everything, ruthless exploitation of labor and nature, and attendant brutal competition undermine the bases of a sustainable future, thereby putting the very survival of the human species at risk. The deep, systemic threat we face demands a deep, systemic change: a Great Transition.
In synthesizing the basic tenets of ecology and the Marxist critique of political economy, ecosocialism offers a radical alternative to an unsustainable status quo. Rejecting a capitalist definition of “progress” based on market growth and quantitative expansion (which, as Marx shows, is a destructive progress), it advocates policies founded on non-monetary criteria, such as social needs, individual well-being, and ecological equilibrium. 

Ecosocialism puts forth a critique of both mainstream “market ecology,” which does not challenge the capitalist system, and “productivist socialism,” which ignores natural limits.
As people increasingly realize how the economic and ecological crises intertwine, ecosocialism has been gaining adherents. Ecosocialism, as a movement, is relatively new, but some of its basic arguments date back to the writings of Marx and Engels. Now, intellectuals and activists are recovering this legacy and seeking a radical restructuring of the economy according to the principles of democratic ecological planning, putting human and planetary needs first and foremost.
The “actually existing socialisms” of the twentieth century, with their often environmentally oblivious bureaucracies, do not offer an attractive model for today’s ecosocialists. Rather, we must chart a new path forward, one that links with the myriad movements around the globe that share the conviction that a better world is not only possible, but also necessary.
Democratic Ecological Planning
The core of ecosocialism is the concept of democratic ecological planning, wherein the population itself, not “the market” or a Politburo, make the main decisions about the economy. Early in the Great Transition to this new way of life, with its new mode of production and consumption, some sectors of the economy must be suppressed (e.g., the extraction of fossil fuels implicated in the climate crisis) or restructured, while new sectors are developed. 

Economic transformation must be accompanied by active pursuit of full employment with equal conditions of work and wages. This egalitarian vision is essential both for building a just society and for engaging the support of the working class for the structural transformation of the productive forces.
Ultimately, such a vision is irreconcilable with private control of the means of production and of the planning process. In particular, for investments and technological innovation to serve the common good, decision-making must be taken away from the banks and capitalist enterprises that currently dominate, and put in the public domain. 

Then, society itself, and neither a small oligarchy of property owners nor an elite of techno-bureaucrats, will democratically decide which productive lines are to be privileged, and how resources are to be invested in education, health, and culture. Major decisions on investment priorities—such as terminating all coal-fired facilities or directing agricultural subsidies to organic production—would be taken by direct popular vote. Other, less important decisions would be taken by elected bodies, on the relevant national, regional, or local scale.
Although conservatives fearmonger about “central planning,” democratic ecological planning ultimately supports more freedom, not less, for several reasons. First, it offers liberation from the reified “economic laws” of the capitalist system that shackle individuals in what Max Weber called an “iron cage.” 

Prices of goods would not be left to the “laws of supply and demand,” but would, instead, reflect social and political priorities, with the use of taxes and subsidies to incentivize social goods and disincentivize social ills. Ideally, as the ecosocialist transition moves forward, more products and services critical for meeting fundamental human needs would be freely distributed, according to the will of the citizens.
Second, ecosocialism heralds a substantial increase in free time. Planning and the reduction of labor time are the two decisive steps towards what Marx called “the kingdom of freedom.” A significant increase of free time is, in fact, a condition for the participation of working people in the democratic discussion and management of economy and of society.
Last, democratic ecological planning represents a whole society’s exercise of its freedom to control the decisions that affect its destiny. If the democratic ideal would not grant political decision-making power to a small elite, why should the same principle not apply to economic decisions? 

Under capitalism, use-value—the worth of a product or service to well-being—exists only in the service of exchange-value, or value on the market. Thus, many products in contemporary society are socially useless, or designed for rapid turnover (“planned obsolescence”). By contrast, in a planned ecosocialist economy, use-value would be the only criteria for the production of goods and services, with far-reaching economic, social, and ecological consequences.1
Planning would focus on large-scale economic decisions, not the small-scale ones that might affect local restaurants, groceries, small shops, or artisan enterprises. Importantly, such planning is consistent with workers’ self-management of their productive units. The decision, for example, to transform a plant from producing automobiles to producing buses and trams would be taken by society as a whole, but the internal organization and functioning of the enterprise would be democratically managed by its workers. 

There has been much discussion about the “centralized” or “decentralized” character of planning, but most important is democratic control at all levels—local, regional, national, continental, or international. For example, planetary ecological issues such as global warming must be dealt with on a global scale, and thereby require some form of global democratic planning. 
This nested, democratic decision-making is quite the opposite of what is usually described, often dismissively, as “central planning,” since decisions are not taken by any “center,” but democratically decided by the affected population at the appropriate scale.
Democratic and pluralist debate would occur at all levels. Through parties, platforms, or other political movements, varied propositions would be submitted to the people, and delegates would be elected accordingly. However, representative democracy must be complemented—and corrected—by Internet-enabled direct democracy, through which people choose—at the local, national, and, later, global level—among major social and ecological options. 

Should public transportation be free? Should the owners of private cars pay special taxes to subsidize public transportation? Should solar energy be subsidized in order to compete with fossil energy? Should the work week be reduced to 30 hours, 25 hours, or less, with the attendant reduction of production?
Such democratic planning needs expert input, but its role is educational, to present informed views on alternative outcomes for consideration by popular decision-making processes. What guarantee is there that the people will make ecologically sound decisions? None. Ecosocialism wagers that democratic decisions will become increasingly reasoned and enlightened as culture changes and the grip of commodity fetishism is broken. 

One cannot imagine such a new society without the achievement, through struggle, self-education, and social experience, of a high level of socialist and ecological consciousness. In any case, are not the alternatives—the blind market or an ecological dictatorship of “experts”—much more dangerous?
The Great Transition from capitalist destructive progress to ecosocialism is a historical process, a permanent revolutionary transformation of society, culture, and mindsets. 
Enacting this transition leads not only to a new mode of production and an egalitarian and democratic society, but also to an alternative mode of life, a new ecosocialist civilization, beyond the reign of money, beyond consumption habits artificially produced by advertising, and beyond the unlimited production of commodities that are useless and/or harmful to the environment. 

Such a transformative process depends on the active support of the vast majority of the population for an ecosocialist program. The decisive factor in development of socialist consciousness and ecological awareness is the collective experience of struggle, from local and partial confrontations to the radical change of global society as a whole.
The Growth Question
The issue of economic growth has divided socialists and environmentalists. Ecosocialism, however, rejects the dualistic frame of growth versus degrowth, development versus anti-development, because both positions share a purely quantitative conception of productive forces. A third position resonates more with the task ahead: the qualitative transformation of development.
A new development paradigm means putting an end to the egregious waste of resources under capitalism, driven by large-scale production of useless and harmful products. The arms industry is, of course, a dramatic example, but, more generally, the primary purpose of many of the “goods” produced—with their planned obsolescence—is to generate profit for large corporations. 

The issue is not excessive consumption in the abstract, but the prevalent type of consumption, based as it is on massive waste and the conspicuous and compulsive pursuit of novelties promoted by “fashion.” A new society would orient production towards the satisfaction of authentic needs, including water, food, clothing, housing, and such basic services as health, education, transport, and culture.
Obviously, the countries of the Global South, where these needs are very far from being satisfied, must pursue greater classical “development”—railroads, hospitals, sewage systems, and other infrastructure. Still, rather than emulate how affluent countries built their productive systems, these countries can pursue development in far more environmentally friendly ways, including the rapid introduction of renewable energy. 

While many poorer countries will need to expand agricultural production to nourish hungry, growing populations, the ecosocialist solution is to promote agroecology methods rooted in family units, cooperatives, or larger-scale collective farms—not the destructive industrialized agribusiness methods involving intensive inputs of pesticides, chemicals, and GMOs.2
At the same time, the ecosocialist transformation would end the heinous debt system the Global South now confronts as well as the exploitation of its resources by advanced industrial countries and rapidly developing countries like China. Instead, we can envision a strong flow of technical and economic assistance from North to South rooted in a robust sense of solidarity and the recognition that planetary problems require planetary solutions. 

This need not entail that people in affluent countries “reduce their standard of living”—only that they shun the obsessive consumption, induced by the capitalist system, of useless commodities that do not meet real needs or contribute to human well-being and flourishing.
But how do we distinguish authentic from artificial and counterproductive needs? To a considerable degree, the latter are stimulated by the mental manipulation of advertising. In contemporary capitalist societies, the advertising industry has invaded all spheres of life, shaping everything from the food we eat and the clothes we wear to sports, culture, religion, and politics. Promotional advertising has become ubiquitous, insidiously infesting our streets, landscapes, and traditional and digital media, molding habits of conspicuous and compulsive consumption. 
Moreover, the ad industry itself is a source of considerable waste of natural resources and labor time, ultimately paid by the consumer, for a branch of “production” that lies in direct contradiction with real social-ecological needs. While indispensable to the capitalist market economy, the advertising industry would have no place in a society in transition to ecosocialism; it would be replaced by consumer associations that vet and disseminate information on goods and services. 

While these changes are already happening to some extent, old habits would likely persist for some years, and nobody has the right to dictate peoples’ desires. Altering patterns of consumption is an ongoing educational challenge within a historical process of cultural change.
A fundamental premise of ecosocialism is that in a society without sharp class divisions and capitalist alienation, “being” will take precedence over “having.” Instead of seeking endless goods, people pursue greater free time, and the personal achievements and meaning it can bring through cultural, athletic, recreational, scientific, erotic, artistic, and political activities. 
There is no evidence that compulsive acquisitiveness stems from intrinsic “human nature,” as conservative rhetoric suggests. Rather, it is induced by the commodity fetishism inherent in the capitalist system, by the dominant ideology, and by advertising. Ernest Mandel summarizes this critical point well: “The continual accumulation of more and more goods […] is by no means a universal and even predominant feature of human behavior. The development of talents and inclinations for their own sake; the protection of health and life; care for children; the development of rich social relations […] become major motivations once basic material needs have been satisfied.” 3
Of course, even a classless society faces conflict and contradiction. The transition to ecosocialism would confront tensions between the requirements of protecting the environment and meeting social needs, between ecological imperatives and the development of basic infrastructure, between popular consumer habits and the scarcity of resources, between communitarian and cosmopolitan impulses. Struggles among competing desiderata are inevitable. 

Hence, weighing and balancing such interests must become the task of a democratic planning process, liberated from the imperatives of capital and profit-making, to come up with solutions through transparent, plural, and open public discourse. Such participatory democracy at all levels does not mean that there will not be mistakes, but it allows for the self-correction by the members of the social collectivity of its own mistakes.
Intellectual Roots
Although ecosocialism is a fairly recent phenomenon, its intellectual roots can be traced back to Marx and Engels. Because environmental issues were not as salient in the nineteenth century as in our era of incipient ecological catastrophe, these concerns did not play a central role in Marx and Engels’s works. Nevertheless, their writings use arguments and concepts vital to the connection between capitalist dynamics and the destruction of the natural environment, and to the development of a socialist and ecological alternative to the prevailing system.
Some passages in Marx and Engels (and certainly in the dominant Marxist currents that followed) do embrace an uncritical stance toward the productive forces created by capital, treating the “development of productive forces” as the main factor in human progress. 
However, Marx was radically opposed to what we now call “productivism”— the capitalist logic by which the accumulation of capital, wealth, and commodities becomes an end in itself. The fundamental idea of a socialist economy—in contrast to the bureaucratic caricatures that prevailed in the “socialist” experiments of the twentieth century—is to produce use-values, goods that are necessary for the satisfaction of human needs, well-being, and fulfilment. 

The central feature of technical progress for Marx was not the indefinite growth of products (“having”) but the reduction of socially necessary labor and concomitant increase of free time (“being”).4 Marx's emphasis on communist self-development, on free time for artistic, erotic, or intellectual activities—in contrast to the capitalist obsession with the consumption of more and more material goods—implies a decisive reduction of pressure on the natural environment.5
Beyond the presumed benefit for the environment, a key Marxian contribution to socialist ecological thinking is attributing to capitalism a metabolic rift—i.e., a disruption of the material exchange between human societies and the natural environment. The issue is discussed, inter alia, in a well-known passage of Capital:
Capitalist production [...] disturbs the metabolic interaction between man and the earth, i.e., prevents the return to the soil of its constituent elements consumed by man in the form of food and clothing; hence it hinders the operation of the eternal natural conditions for the lasting fertility of the soil. [...] All progress in capitalist agriculture is a progress in the art, not only of robbing the worker, but of robbing the soil [...]. The more a country [...] develops itself on the basis of great industry, the more this process of destruction takes place quickly. Capitalist production [...] only develops [...] by simultaneously undermining the original sources of all wealth—the soil and the worker.6
This important passage clarifies Marx’s dialectical vision of the contradictions of “progress” and its destructive consequences for nature under capitalist conditions. The example, of course, is limited to the loss of fertility by the soil. But on this basis, Marx draws the broad insight that capitalist production embodies a tendency to undermine the “eternal natural conditions.” From a similar vantage, Marx reiterates his more familiar argument that the same predatory logic of capitalism exploits and debases workers.
While most contemporary ecosocialists are inspired by Marx’s insights, ecology has become far more central to their analysis and action. During the 1970s and 1980s in Europe and the US, an ecological socialism began to take shape. Manuel Sacristan, a Spanish dissident-Communist philosopher, founded the ecosocialist and feminist journal Mientras Tanto in 1979, introducing the dialectical concept of “destructive-productive forces.” Raymond Williams, a British socialist and founder of modern cultural studies, became one of the first in Europe to call for an “ecologically conscious socialism” and is often credited with coining the term “ecosocialism” itself. 

André Gorz, a French philosopher and journalist, argued that political ecology must contain a critique of economic thought and called for an ecological and humanist transformation of work. Barry Commoner, an American biologist, argued that the capitalist system and its technology—and not population growth—was responsible for the destruction of the environment, which led him to the conclusion that “some sort of socialism” was the realistic alternative.7
In the 1980s, James O’Connor founded the influential journal Capitalism, Nature and Socialism, which was inspired by his idea of the “second contradiction of capitalism.” In this formulation, the first contradiction is the Marxist one between the forces and relations of production; the second contradiction lies between the mode of production and the “conditions of production,” especially, the state of the environment.
A new generation of eco-Marxists appeared in the 2000s, including John Bellamy Foster and others around the journal Monthly Review, who further developed the Marxian concept of metabolic rift between human societies and the environment. In 2001, Joel Kovel and the present author issued “An Ecosocialist Manifesto,” which was further developed by the same authors, together with Ian Angus, in the 2008 Belem Ecosocialist Manifesto, which was signed by hundreds of people from forty countries and distributed at the World Social Forum in 2009. It has since become an important reference for ecosocialists around the world.8
Why Environmentalists Need to Be Socialists
As these and other authors have shown, capitalism is incompatible with a sustainable future. The capitalist system, an economic growth machine propelled by fossil fuels since the Industrial Revolution, is a primary culprit in climate change and the wider ecological crisis on Earth. Its irrational logic of endless expansion and accumulation, waste of resources, ostentatious consumption, planned obsolescence, and pursuit of profit at any cost is driving the planet to the brink of the abyss.
Does “green capitalism”—the strategy of reducing environmental impact while maintaining dominant economic institutions—offer a solution? The implausibility of such a Policy Reform scenario is seen most vividly in the failure of a quarter-century of international conferences to effectively address climate change.9 The political forces committed to the capitalist “market economy” that have created the problem cannot be the source of the solution.
For example, at the 2015 Paris climate conference, many countries resolved to make serious efforts to keep average global temperature increases below 2o C (ideally, they agreed, below 1.5o C). Correspondingly, they volunteered to implement measures to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions. 

However, they put no enforcement mechanisms in place nor any consequences for noncompliance, hence no guarantee that any country will keep its word. The US, the world’s second-highest emitter of carbon emissions, is now run by a climate denier who pulled the US out of the agreement. Even if all countries did meet their commitments, the global temperature would rise by 3o C or more, with great risk of dire, irreversible climate change.10
Ultimately, the fatal flaw of green capitalism lies in the conflict between the micro-rationality of the capitalist market, with its short-sighted calculation of profit and loss, and the macro-rationality of collective action for the common good. The blind logic of the market resists a rapid energy transformation away from fossil fuel dependence in intrinsic contradiction of ecological rationality. 

The point is not to indict “bad” ecocidal capitalists, as opposed to “good” green capitalists; the fault lies in a system rooted in ruthless competition and a race for short-term profit that destroys nature’s balance. The environmental challenge—to build an alternative system that reflects the common good in its institutional DNA—becomes inextricably linked to the socialist challenge.
That challenge requires building what E. P. Thompson termed a “moral economy” founded on non-monetary and extra-economic, social-ecological principles and governed through democratic decision-making processes.11 Far more than incremental reform, what is needed is the emergence of a social and ecological civilization that brings forth a new energy structure and post-consumerist set of values and way of life. Realizing this vision will not be possible without public planning and control over the “means of production,” the physical inputs used to produce economic value, such as facilities, machinery, and infrastructure.
An ecological politics that works within prevailing institutions and rules of the “market economy” will fall short of meeting the profound environmental challenges before us. Environmentalists who do not recognize how “productivism” flows from the logic of profit are destined to fail—or, worse, to become absorbed by the system. Examples abound. The lack of a coherent anti-capitalist posture led most of the European Green parties—notably, in France, Germany, Italy, and Belgium—to become mere “eco-reformist” partners in the social-liberal management of capitalism by center-left governments.
Of course, nature did not fare any better under Soviet-style “socialism” than under capitalism. Indeed, that is one of the reasons ecosocialism carries a very different program and vision from the so-called “actually existing socialism” of the past. Since the roots of the ecological problem are systemic, environmentalism needs to challenge the prevailing capitalist system, and that means taking seriously the twenty-first-century synthesis of ecology and socialism—ecosocialism.
Why Socialists Need to Be Environmentalists
The survival of civilized society, and perhaps much of life on Planet Earth, is at stake. A socialist theory, or movement, that does not integrate ecology as a central element in its program and strategy is anachronistic and irrelevant.
Climate change represents the most threatening expression of the planetary ecological crisis, posing a challenge without historical precedent. If global temperatures are allowed to exceed pre-industrial levels by more than 2° C, scientists project increasingly dire consequences, such as a rise in the sea level so large that it would risk submerging most maritime towns, from Dacca in Bangladesh to Amsterdam, Venice, or New York. Large-scale desertification, disturbance of the hydrological cycle and agricultural output, more frequent and extreme weather events, and species loss all loom. 

We’re already at 1° C. At what temperature increase—5, 6, or 7° C—will we reach a tipping point beyond which the planet cannot support civilized life or even becomes uninhabitable?
Particularly worrisome is the fact that the impacts of climate change are accumulating at a much faster pace than predicted by climate scientists, who—like almost all scientists—tend to be highly cautious. The ink no sooner dries on an Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report when increasing climate impacts make it seem too optimistic. Where once the emphasis was on what will happen in the distant future, attention has turned increasingly to what we face now and in the coming years.
Some socialists acknowledge the need to incorporate ecology, but object to the term “ecosocialism,” arguing that socialism already includes ecology, feminism, antiracism, and other progressive fronts. However, the term ecosocialism, by suggesting a decisive change in socialist ideas, carries important political significance. 

First, it reflects a new understanding of capitalism as a system based not only on exploitation but also on destruction—the massive destruction of the conditions for life on the planet. Second, ecosocialism extends the meaning of socialist transformation beyond a change in ownership to a civilizational transformation of the productive apparatus, the patterns of consumption, and the whole way of life. Third, the new term underscores the critical view it embraces of the twentieth-century experiments in the name of socialism.
Twentieth-century socialism, in its dominant tendencies (social democracy and Soviet-style communism), was, at best, inattentive to the human impact on the environment and, at worst, outright dismissive. Governments adopted and adapted the Western capitalist productive apparatus in a headlong effort to “develop,” while remaining largely oblivious of the profound negative costs in the form of environmental degradation.
The Soviet Union is a perfect example. The first years after the October Revolution saw an ecological current develop, and a number of measures to protect the environment were, in fact, enacted. But by the late 1920s, with the process of Stalinist bureaucratization underway, an environmentally heedless productivism was being imposed in industry and agriculture by totalitarian methods, while ecologists were marginalized or eliminated. The 1986 Chernobyl accident stands as a dramatic emblem of the disastrous long-term consequences.
Changing who owns property without changing how that property is managed is a dead-end. Socialism must place democratic management and reorganization of the productive system at the heart of the transformation, along with a firm commitment to ecological stewardship. Not socialism or ecology alone, but ecosocialism.
Ecosocialism and a Great Transition
The struggle for green socialism in the long term requires fighting for concrete and urgent reforms in the near term. Without illusions about the prospects for a “clean capitalism,” the movement for deep change must try to reduce the risks to people and planet, while buying time to build support for a more fundamental shift. In particular, the battle to force the powers that be to drastically reduce greenhouse gas emissions remains a key front, along with local efforts to shift toward agroecological methods, cooperative solar energy, and community management of resources.
Such concrete, immediate struggles are important in and of themselves because partial victories are vital for combating environmental deterioration and despair about the future. For the longer term, these campaigns can help raise ecological and socialist consciousness and promote activism from below. Both awareness and self-organization are decisive preconditions and foundations for radically transforming the world system. The synthesis of thousands of local and partial efforts into an overarching systemic global movement forges the path to a Great Transition: a new society and mode of life.
This vision infuses the popular idea of a “movement of movements,” which arose out of the global justice movement and the World Social Forums and which for many years has fostered the convergence of social and environmental movements in a common struggle. Ecosocialism is but one current within this larger stream, with no pretense that it is “more important” or “more revolutionary” than others. Such a competitive claim counterproductively breeds polarization when what is needed is unity.
Rather, ecosocialism aims to contribute to a shared ethos embraced by the various movements for a Great Transition. Ecosocialism sees itself as part of an international movement: since global ecological, economic, and social crises know no borders, the struggle against the systemic forces driving these crises must also be globalized. 

Many significant intersections are surfacing between ecosocialism and other movements, including efforts to link eco-feminism and ecosocialism as convergent and complementary.12 The climate justice movement brings antiracism and ecosocialism together in the struggle against the destruction of the living conditions of communities suffering discrimination. 

In indigenous movements, some leaders are ecosocialists, while, in turn, many ecosocialists sees the indigenous way of life, grounded in communitarian solidarity and respect for Mother Nature, as an inspiration for the ecosocialist perspective. Similarly, ecosocialism finds voice within peasant, trade-union, degrowth, and other movements.
The gathering movement of movements seeks system change, convinced that another world is possible beyond commodification, environmental destruction, exploitation, and oppression. The power of entrenched ruling elites is undeniable, and the forces of radical opposition remain weak. But they are growing, and stand as our hope for halting the catastrophic course of capitalist “growth.” Ecosocialism contributes an important perspective for nurturing understanding and strategy for this movement for a Great Transition.
Walter Benjamin defined revolutions not as the locomotive of history, à la Marx, but as humanity’s reaching for the emergency brake before the train falls into the abyss. Never have we needed more to reach as one for that lever and lay new track to a different destination. The idea and practice of ecosocialism can help guide this world-historic project.
1. Joel Kovel, Enemy of Nature: The End of Capitalism or the End of the World? (New York, Zed Books, 2002), 215.
2. Via Campesina, a worldwide network of peasant movements, has long argued for this type of agricultural transformation. See
3. Ernest Mandel, Power and Money: A Marxist Theory of Bureaucracy (London, Verso, 1992), 206.
4. The opposition between “having” and “being” is often discussed in the Manuscripts of 1844. On free time as the foundation of the socialist “Kingdom of Freedom,” see Karl Marx, Das Kapital, Volume III, Marx-Engels-Werke series, vol. 25 (1884; Berlin: Dietz Verlag Berline, 1981), 828.
5. Paul Burkett, Ecological Economics: Toward a Red and Green Political Economy (Chicago, Haymarket Books, 2009), 329.
6. Karl Marx, Das Kapital, Volume 1, Marx-Engels-Werke series, vol. 23 (1867; Berlin: Dietz Verlag Berlin, 1981), 528-530.
7. See, for example, Manuel Sacristan, Pacifismo, Ecología y Política Alternativa (Barcelona: Icaria, 1987); Raymond Williams, Socialism and Ecology (London: Socialist Environment and Resources Association, 1982); André Gorz, Ecology as Politics (Boston, South End Press, 1979); Barry Commoner, The Closing Circle: Man, Nature, and Technology (New York: Random House, 1971).
8. “An Ecosocialist Manifesto,” 2001,; “Belem Ecosocialist Declaration,” December 16, 2008,
9. See for an overview of the Policy Reform scenario and other global scenarios.
10. United Nations Environment Programme, The Emissions Gap Report 2017 (Nairobi: UNEP, 2017). For an overview of the report, see
11. E. P. Thompson “The Moral Economy of the English Crowd in the Eighteenth Century,” Past & Present, no. 50 (February 1971): 76-136.
12. See Ariel Salleh’s Ecofeminism as Politics (New York: Zed Books, 1997), or the recent issue of Capitalism, Nature and Socialism (29, no. 1: 2018) on “Ecofeminism against Capitalism,” with essays by Terisa Turner, Ana Isla, and others.

Categories: B3. EcoSocialism

Ocean warming sets new records year after year

Climate and Capitalism - Thu, 01/10/2019 - 13:17
The oceans are heating up faster than predicted, and the speed is accelerating. Expect higher seas, stronger storms,  and extreme precipitation.
Categories: B3. EcoSocialism

The Crisis: it’s ecosocialism or fascism

London Green Left Blog - Thu, 01/10/2019 - 10:45

Written by Isabella Pojuner and first published at The Beaver

The environmental crisis is huge – the biggest crisis humanity will see. It’s bigger than both World Wars and the Cold War combined. And it will cause the biggest changes to our political and economic systems. The UN Secretary-General Guterres has announced at COP24 that “We face a direct existential threat. If we do not change course by 2020, we risk runaway climate change.” That is a loaded statement, but he’s being realistic: the time we have to revolutionise our political systems in the way they approach environmental issues, specifically consumerism, distribution of environmental protections and new energy solutions, declines by the day. This year increased global fossil carbon dioxide emissions, expected to be between 1.8%–3.7%, will exceed the rate of 1.6% in 2017.
Capitalism is responsible for the accelerating of development of production that makes the majority of societies prosper today. Without it, our world would be unrecognisable. But it would be a world without intensive carbon pollution, a reliance on unsustainable energy, and millions of preventable deaths annually. It would be a world where we haven’t waited 50 years (and realistically, more) to halt destructive consumption patterns. With it still dominating our political, economic and social systems, our consumptive trajectory will almost certainly surpass the resources our Earth can provide. The biodiversity within our ecosystem will be horrifyingly affected. We are literally at the beginning of the first extinction event within the lifetime of the human race.
This shouldn’t be a political issue: it should be bipartisan, with all political actors moving towards action. But it is political, it does divide, and the first barrier to finding an effective solution is politics. With political debates and systems around the world edging towards either end of the traditional political framework, we’re not in a place to unite around one issue. We’re focusing on short-term political issues at best, and at worst, on fabricated debates. Most political systems are geared toward making short-term decisions and policies.
But the ultimate long-term issue is the environment we reside in, depend on, and are inextricably connected to – no matter how convincing you find Elon Musk’s galactic fantasy. The environment is massively complex, and understanding it is enormously challenging. However disproportionate their media presence may be, out there exist actual experts in climate science, outnumbering climate ‘sceptics’ or deniers dramatically. 97% of them agree that anthropogenically caused climate change has begun and will have drastic effects on the biosphere (all life on earth) and atmosphere, and requires political action and economic reform. Climate deniers are backed by dark money, not peer-reviewed research. Dark money is simply special interests with an stake in profiting from further consumption of finite, highly damaging natural resources.
Ecosocialism is one way of changing our economic system to prioritise the environment. In turn, it means the prioritisation of life on Earth; not the super-rich, not consumption rights, not the ideology that humans must rule land and resources for profit.
But we are heading towards fascism, and even ecofascism. The thoroughly disproven theory that population control is the solution to the crisis is Western-centred and shifts blame upon the Global South, the least responsible; but is still supported by arguably the most famous and well-loved environmentalist of our time:David Attenborough. How can we rationally deal with such an immense issue, especially in the age of populism, when the characters we admire just aren’t doing the majority of humans justice?
In the last couple of weeks, the ‘liberal’ President Obama asked the public to attribute America’s status as the world’s biggest oil producer to his work – in the same breath as stating his pride for the 2015 Paris Agreement. It is absurd and contradictory to simultaneously advocate for oil extraction, whose only justification is capital, and advocate for international climate action. We are at a tipping point. But he did. No US President has done nearly enough required for the environment, and yet our ‘best’ hope has miserably failed.
Fossil fuel companies such as Exxon-Mobil have been proved aware of the effects of their corporate strategy for decades. We’re talking 40 years. They literally built higher platforms for oil extraction to avoid damage from sea level rise. They’ve been profiting despite their deliberate destruction of our planet, they will continue to do so without regulation: which has failed under capitalism. The former CEO of Exxon-Mobil, Rex Tillerson, was made Secretary of State in the Trump administration. And yet the costs to governments of their own making will last for at least hundreds of years, far beyond a few presidential terms. A system which has allowed this, which continues to, and will not adequately punish these people, is not our optimal economic system. Even if ecosocialism isn’t, it is on every level, ideologically and practically, the most effective solution.
The Kardashians were financially able to hire private firefighters to protect their property during the recent California wildfires. With the number of global billionaires only increasing, and no signs of the wealth gap growth rate slowing down or reversing, we must assume that privatisation of essential natural disaster defences will be our future.
The key solution to the environmental crisis is not just a shift in consumer psychology or ending climate apathy. For instance, 94% of the French populationbelieve anthropogenic effects have at least partially caused the Crisis and 74% believe it will have “bad” consequences, but there were still riots against the carbon tax. Why? Because while taxes on the French people have been increasing, public services have been deteriorating. The solution to the crisis is not attacking working people, pressured by class-imposed shame and economic stresses. It is, as the yellow jackets say themselves, a consensual shift in the economic system.
In times of crisis, we choose decay or progress. Our societies will unequivocally not look the same in 20 years time. Let’s plot the future, since climate models will not suffice for the political changes necessary. Our political systems are not edging towards neoliberalism, compassionate conservatism or centrism: it is Bolsanaro in Brazil, or Ocasio-Cortez’s progressive movement and Green New Deal in the US. Ecosocialism is the only ideology that would ensure equal distribution of protections, alongside a drastic but necessary shift in our economy that could actually alleviate climatic damage.
There are no true market solutions to ecological collapse. The market has been instrumental in its development. The solution is economic change, a re-prioritisation, and if that does not occur, the default is still the Crisis, mismanaged by fascist ideology. I invite anyone to respond on how it is ‘logical’ that capitalism will get us out of the mess it began.
Ocasio-Cortez, despite her perceived political necessity to continue with green capitalist tropes, said: “This is going to be the Great Society, the moonshot”. Our hope that we can adapt, thrive and overcome should even surpass that. Take a breath. Search Google Images for Earthrise: the first photograph of the Earth ever taken, on the 24th of December 1968. 50 years ago. If we did that, we can do this.
Categories: B3. EcoSocialism

Chapters This Week

Council of Canadians - Thu, 01/10/2019 - 09:00
January 10, 2019 - 12:00pm Campbell River, B.C. protest in support of the the Wet'suwet'ten Nation's blockade. Vancouver Unist'ot'en Solidarity rally Wet’suwet’en rally in Ottawa / Algonquin Territory On January 8, Council of Canadians chapters across the country supported the International Day of Action: Stand in Solidarity with the Wet’suwet’en. See #CouncilChapters for highlights and read more about actions you can take now in support of the Wet’suwet’en. A large part of the...
Categories: B3. EcoSocialism

A Green New Deal vs. Revolutionary Ecosocialism

London Green Left Blog - Sun, 01/06/2019 - 07:01

Written by Wayne Price and first published by Anarkismo.
 According to the climate scientists, industrial civilization has at most a dozen years until global warming is irreversible. This will cause (and is already causing) extremes of weather, accelerating extermination of species, droughts and floods, loss of useable water, vast storms, rising sea levels which will destroy islands and coastal cities, raging wildfires, loss of crops, and, overall, environmental conditions in which neither humans nor other organisms evolved to exist. The economic, political, and social results will be horrifying.
The scientists write that humans have the technological knowledge to avoid the worst results. But this would take enormous efforts to drastically reduce the output of heat-trapping greenhouse gasses. The recent UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change writes that this “would require rapid and far-reaching transitions in energy, land, urban, and infrastructure (including transport and buildings) and industrial systems…unprecedented in terms of scale.” (quoted in Smith 2018) At the least this means a rapid transition to shutting down fossil-fuel producing industries, leaving most oil, coal, and natural gas in the ground and rationing what is currently available. It means replacing them with conservation and renewable energy sources. It means drastic changes in the carbon-based-fuel using industries, from construction to manufacturing. It means providing alternate jobs and services for all those put out of work by these changes.
To the scientists’ warnings, there have been rumblings of concern from some financial investors, businesspeople (in non-oil-producing industries), and local politicians. But overall, the response of conventional politicians has been business-as-usual. The main proposals for limiting climate change has been to place some sort of taxes on carbon emissions. From liberals to conservatives, this has been lauded as a”pro-market” reform. But, as Richard Smith (2018) has explained, these are inadequate, and even fraudulent, proposals. “If the tax is too light, it fails to suppress fossil fuels enough to help the climate. But…no government will set a price high enough to spur truly deep reductions in carbon emissions because they all understand that this would force companies out of business, throw workers out of work, and possibly precipitate recession or worse.”
In the U.S., one of the two major parties outright denies the scientific evidence as a “hoax.” As if declaring, “After us, the deluge,” its policies have been to increase as much as possible the production of greenhouse-gas emissions and other attacks on the environment. The other party accepts in words the reality of global warming but only advocates inadequate and limited steps to deal with it. It too has promoted increased drilling, fracking, and carbon-fuels burning. These Republicans, Democrats, and their corporate sponsors are enemies of humanity and nature, worse than war criminals.
On the Left, there have been serious efforts to take up the scientists’ challenge. Various ecosocialists and other radicals have advocated a massive effort to change the path of industrial society. This is sometimes called a “Green New Deal.” This approach is modeled on the U.S.’s New Deal of F. D. Roosevelt in the Great Depression. Its advocates also usually model their programs on the World War II industrial mobilization which followed the New Deal. (For examples, see Aronoff 2018; Ocasio-Cortez 2018; Rugh 2018; Simpson 2018; Smith 2018; Wikipedia.)
There does need to be a massive social effort to change our current technological course. A drastic transformation of industrial civilization is needed if we are (in Richard Smith’s phrase) to “save the humans,” as well as our fellow animals and plants. Nothing less than a revolution is needed. Yet I think that there are serious weaknesses in this specific approach, not least in modeling itself on the New Deal and the World War II mobilization—which were not revolutions, however romanticized. The proponents of a Green New Deal are almost all reformists—by which I do not mean advocates of reforms, but those who think that a series of reforms will be enough. They are state-socialists who primarily rely on the state to intervene in the economy and even take it over; in practice this program creates not socialism but state capitalism.
From the perspective of revolutionary anarchist-socialism, the Green New Deal strategy is problematic because it means (1) an effort to modify existing capitalism, not to fight it with the aim of overthrowing it. (2) As often stated, it requires working through the Democratic Party. (3) It proposes to use the current national state as the instrument of change. Finally (4), while advocates speak of popular mobilization and democratization, their overall approach is top-down centralization.

Plans of Ocasio-Cortez and Richard Smith
A member of the Democratic Socialists of America (DSA), Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez was just elected to the House of Representatives as an insurgent Democrat from Queens, NY. With a group of co-thinkers, she has formally proposed that the House set up a special Select Committee for a Green New Deal. (Ocasio-Cortez 2018) This Congressional committee would work out a plan for the transition of the .U.S. to a “green” non-carbonized economy—although it would not have the power to actually implement any plan. Supposedly this will be raised in the 2019 Congress.
The committee would develop a “Plan” to achieve such goals as “100% national power from renewable sources” in ten years, a national “smart” energy grid, upgrading residential and industrial buildings for conservation of energy, investments in drawing-down greenhouse gases, and making “green” technology a big U.S. export. Central to its set of goals is “decarbonizing the manufacturing, agricultural, and other industries.” “Decarbonizing, repairing and improving transportation and other infrastructure.” (Ocasio-Cortez 2018) Supposedly, these goals would be implemented in such a way as to provide good jobs, services, and prosperity for everyone.
Richard Smith is a knowledgeable and insightful ecosocialist writer (from whom I have learned much, despite disagreements). He has a generally positive reaction to this proposal (Smith 2018). Describing himself as “a proud member” of the DSA, he approves Ocasio-Cortez’ idea of a massive governmental program, modeled on the New Deal and World War II mobilization, to counter the climate crisis. However, he raises some significant concerns, specially around the key goal of “decarbonization”.
“What’s not said is that decarbonization has to translate into shutdowns and retrenchments of actual companies. How does one decarbonize ExxonMobil or Chevron or Peabody Coal? To decarbonize them is to bankrupt them. Further, the same is true for many downstream industrial consumers….” What is required, he concludes, is governmental takeover of these industries with the aim of shutting down or drastically modifying them. “But there is no mention of shutdowns, retrenchments, buyouts, or nationalization.”
Even more than the need to decarbonize industry (in the U.S. and internationally), is the need to create a balanced, ecologically-sustainable, system of production. “Perhaps the biggest weakness of the GND Plan is that it’s not based on a fundamental understanding that an infinitely growing economy is no longer possible on a finite planet…, of the imperative need for economic de-growth of many industries or of the need to abolish entire unsustainable industries from toxic pesticides to throw-away disposables to arms manufacturers.” (my emphasis)
Unlike his fellow DSA member (and Democratic politician) Ocasio-Cortez, Smith raises a program which explicitly demands government take-overs of the fossil-fuel producing companies. (He notes, “Others have also argued for nationalization to phase-out fossil fuels.”) He also calls for the nationalization of industries which are dependent on fossil fuels: “autos, aviation, petrochemicals, plastics, construction, manufacturing, shipping, tourism, and so on.” These nationalizations would be part of a plan for phasing-out fossil fuels, phasing-in renewable energy, shutting down fossil-fuel production, shutting down or modifying industries which rely on fossil fuels, and creating large government employment programs. This means changing from an economy built on quantitative growth, accumulation, and profits, to one of “degrowth [and] substantial de-industrialization.”
This program may seem revolutionary. “It’s difficult to imagine how this could be done within the framework of any capitalism…. Our climate crisis cries out for something like an immediate transition to ecosocialism.”
Yet Smith contradicts himself; he does not present his perspective as a revolutionary program. While he proposes socialization (in the form of nationalization) of much of the corporate economy, he does not call for taking away the wealth and power of these main sectors of the capitalist class. “We do not call for expropriation. We propose a government buyout at fair value….The companies might welcome a buyout.” There will be “guaranteed state support for the investors….” Further, “it is perhaps conceivable, taking FDR’s war-emergency industrial reordering as a precedent, that the…plan…for fossil fuels buyout-nationalization…could be enacted within the framework of capitalism, though the result would be a largely state-owned economy. Roosevelt created [a] state-directed capitalism….”
While a revolutionary approach is often derided as absurdly “utopian” and fantastic, this reformist program is itself a fantasy. It imagines that the capitalist class and its bought-and-paid-for politicians—who have resisted for decades any efforts to limit global warming—would not fight tooth-and-claw against this program. They are supposed to accept the loss of their industries, their mansions, their social status, their private jets, their media, their political influence, and the rest of their domination over society—for the sake of the environment! In all probability, to prevent this, they would whip up racism, sexual hysteria, and nationalism, subsidize fascist gangs, urge a military coup, distort or try to shut down elections and outlaw oppositions. All of which has been repeatedly done in the past, and is partially being done right now (if still on a minor scale—so far).
In the (very) unlikely event that the capitalists accepted this program, they would still be left with great wealth from the buyout, which they would use to fight to get back their power. And even in the (extremely unlikely) event that industries could be successfully decarbonized through buyout-nationalization, there would still be the basic problem (as Smith had pointed out) of the essential drive of capitalism to expand and accumulate profits, which must conflict with sustainable life on earth.
There is a whole history of class struggles, of revolutions and counterrevolutions, which have consistently taught the lesson that there is no peaceful-gradual-electoral “parliamentary road to socialism,” including to ecosocialism. Radicals should have learned the most recent lesson of the Syriza party in Greece.
Can the State Save Us?
Central to the conception of a Green New Deal is the belief that the state can save the humans and the biosphere. To Smith, “Saving the world requires the sort of large-scale economic planning that only governments can do.” There is “only one proximate solution: state intervention….” Similarly, Ocasio-Cortez’s proposal states, “We’re not saying that there isn’t a role for private sector investments; we’re just saying that…the government is best placed to be the prime driver.”
What Smith, specifically, is proposing is a form of state capitalism. He advocates “a largely state-owned economy” which may be “within the framework of capitalism,” building on but going beyond Roosevelt’s “state-directed capitalism.” There is a radical tradition which had also advocated nationalization of big business and creation of public works, but had always tied statification to a demand for workers’ democratic control and management. For example, Trotsky’s Transitional Program states, “Where military industry is ‘nationalized,’…the slogan of workers’ control preserves its full strength. The proletariat has as little confidence in the government of the bourgeoisie as in an individual capitalist.” (Trotsky 1977; 131) Workers’ management is not part of Smith’s proposal, nor that of Ocasio-Cortez (and it has dropped out of the program of most modern-day Trotskyists).
Of course Richard Smith is a sincere socialist democrat and a long-time opponent of Stalinist totalitarianism. But he calls on this U.S. bourgeois state, the state created and dominated by U.S. capitalism and imperialism, to take over the economy and run it. This program is state capitalism. As a result, the economy, even if decarbonized, will have the capitalist drive to accumulate profits. Just as was the state-capitalist Soviet Union, it will still be inherently destructive of the human-nature ecological balance,.
State-socialists focus on blaming the market economy for social ills, such as global warming. They see the state as an outside, neutral, institution, which might intervene in the economy to solve these problems. “If capitalists won’t provide the jobs, then it’s the government’s responsibility to do so. We, the voting public, [will] assert our ownership of the government, not the corporations.” (Smith 2018) In other words, the government could be dominated by the corporations (using their money), or it could be dominated by the people (using their votes). Supposedly either one is possible, in contradiction to the experience of two centuries of class struggle.
The state is a centralized bureaucratic-military socially-alienated institution. It has been created by (and creates) capitalism (and previous systems of exploitation) and serves to uphold it—and is thoroughly involved in all the evils of industrial capitalism. “Climate change is another state effect that governments are incapable of solving….The infrastructure of automotive transportation, industrial agriculture, and electricity generation, which are responsible for the majority of of greenhouse gas emissions, are built and regulated by states (…). The industries responsible for destroying the planet depend on government regulation, police protection, and financing, and form part of an economic complex that is integrally connected to government…Continuing to trust states as the potential solvers of climate change and mass extinction…[is to be] complicit with catastrophe.” (Gelderloss 2016; 241-2)
Anarchists and radical Marxists have agreed that the existing state cannot be used to consistently defend the interests of workers and oppressed people. At times, under pressure from below, this state may give some benefits. Similarly, the management of a corporation may raise workers’ wages when under the threat of a strike. But neither the state nor corporate management is “on our side.” Certainly revolutionaries may pressure the state to make reforms in the same way as the workers may strike to force the bosses to raise their wages. But these efforts, win or lose, do not change the institutional power of capital, in corporations or in the state.
Therefore, anarchists and radical Marxists have advocated overturning and dismantling the state and replacing it with alternate institutions. In an introduction to the Communist Manifesto, Engels modifies their original views by quoting Marx, writing, “One thing especially was proved by the [1871 Paris] Commune, viz., that ‘the working class cannot simply lay hold of the ready-made state machinery, and wield it for its own purposes’.” (Marx & Engels 1955; 6) Which is exactly what Ocasio-Cortez, Smith, and others propose to do.
Anarchists and other libertarian socialists advocate replacing the state with federations of workplace councils, neighborhood assemblies, and voluntary associations, defended by an armed people (militia) so long as is necessary. They advocate socialization of the economy, not by state ownership, but by replacing capitalism with networks of democratically self-managed industries, consumer cooperatives, and collectivized municipalities. They expect productive technology to be modified by the workers, in such a way as to eliminate the division between mental and manual labor and in order to create an ecologically sustainable society.
Ocasio-Cortez and other DSAers rely on the Democratic Party to implement their Green New Deal —a plan which, in Smith’s view should lead to the nationalization of much of the economy. However, the Democrats are committed to managing a traditional, private-capitalist, economy. “Most Democrats…acknowledge global warming is real, yet have failed to take meaningful steps to address the apocalyptic scale of the problem.…The Dems have always played seesaw between the interests of their corporate campaign donors and those of the party’s middle- and working-class base… They have more and more aligned themselves with the jealous interests of their elite backers. Party leaders have embraced a business-friendly, neoliberal approach to climate change, just as they have just about everything else.” (Rugh 2018) For an account of the Democrats’ climate-destroying actions when in office, see Dansereau (2018).
(Members of the Green Party have also advocated a “Green New Deal” for some time. [Wikipedia] I am not reviewing their version of the GND at this time. The Greens reject the Democratic Party, for good reasons, and claim to be for a decentralized society. But they still accept an electoralist-peaceful-reformist strategy. They hope to take over the state by getting their party elected, and then to use the power of the national state to transform capitalism by carrying out a Green New Deal.)
Decentralization and Federalism
Richard Smith is for democracy and democratic planning. He proposes elected “planning boards at local, regional, national, and international levels.” Yet his plan, like that of Ocasio-Cortez, is clearly a top-down, centralized approach. Other experts in ecological regeneration (who are not anarchists) have seen things in a more decentralized perspective.
For example, Bill McKibben has long been a leader of the climate justice movement. His main solution to climate change is decentralization: “more local economies, shorter supply lines, and reduced growth.” (McKibben 2007; 180) “…Development…should look to the local far more than to the global. It should concentrate on creating and sustaining strong communities….” (197) “…The increased sense of community and heightened skill at democratic decision-making that a more local economy implies will not simply increase our levels of satisfaction with our lives, but will also increase our chances of survival….” (231)
Naomi Klein declares, “There is a clear and essential role for national plans and policies….But…the actual implementation of a great many of these plans [should] be as decentralized as possible. Communities should be given new tools and powers….Worker-run co-ops have the capacity to play a huge role in an industrial transformation…. Neighborhoods [should be] planned democratically by their residents….Farming…can also become an expanded sector of decentralized self-sufficiency and poverty reduction.”(Klein, 2014; 133-134)
The (Monthly Review) Marxist Fred Magdoff (a professor of plant and soil science) wrote, “Each community and region should strive, within reason, to be as self-sufficient as possible with respect to basic needs such as water, energy, food, and housing. This is not a call for absolute self-sufficiency but rather for an attempt to…lessen the need for long distance transport….Energy…[should be] used near where it was produced…. in smaller farms…to produce high yields per hectare….People will be encouraged to live near where they work….” (Magdoff, 2014; 30—31) Also, “Workplaces (including farms) will be controlled and managed by the workers and communities in which they are based.” (29)
Compare with the views of anarchist and social ecologist Murray Bookchin: “Civic entities can ‘municipalize’ their industries, utilities, and surrounding land as effectively as any socialist state.…A municipally managed enterprise would be a worker-citizen controlled enterprise, meant to serve human and ecological needs….[There would be] the replacement of the nation state by the municipal confederation.” (Bookchin 1986; 160) The takeover of the oil industry could be a national and international matter, managed through confederation, while use of renewable energy would be primarily implemented by local communes.
In short, the capitalists’ wealth and power should be taken away from them (expropriated) by the self-organization of the working class and its allies. Capitalism should be replaced by a society which is decentralized and cooperative, producing for use rather than profit, democratically self-managed in the workplace and the community, and federated together from the local level to national and international levels. There should be as much decentralization as is reasonably possible and as little centralization as is absolutely necessary. There needs to be overall economic coordination on a national, continental, and world-wide level, by federations of self-governing industries and communities, but not by bureaucratic-military capitalist states. This is ecoocialism in the form of eco-anarchism.
But Let’s be Realistic….
Endorsers of the Green New Deal see it as a realistic proposal for mobilizing masses of people and changing the ecology. They regard a program of revolutionary libertarian ecosocialism as unrealistic, a nonstarter for the brief time there is left to save the world. We must act quickly, they say, with proposals most people can accept, calling on the state to take over.
This is itself an example of what C. Wright Mills called “crackpot realism.” The idea that the Democratic Party would endorse a plan for the next session of Congress to develop a program of remaking U.S. capitalism, perhaps nationalizing much of the economy, and then get it passed through Congress—is, shall we say, not likely. With all due respect to its proponents (with whom I share values), they are like the drunk who looks for lost keys under the street lamp, because that is where there is light, even though the keys are certain to be elsewhere.
Smith refers to “de-carbonization” as “a self-radicalizing transitional demand”. He hopes that “a vigorous campaign for this Plan will show why capitalism cannot solve the worst crisis it has ever created and encourage demands for…government planning to suppress emissions….With a…monumental mobilization around this Green New Deal …we can derail the capitalist drive to ecological collapse and build an ecosocialist civilization….”
In other words, he is for building a mass movement for the Green New Deal of Ocasio-Cortez (which he regards as inadequate as proposed), and/or his more radical plan (nationalization based on buying out the capitalists). He hopes that people will become aware of the limits of any pro-capitalism, because the “campaign will show why capitalism cannot solve the crisis.” However, he does not propose to tell the working class and the rest of the population that a pro-capitalist plain “cannot solve the crisis” Instead he advocates a plan which is an expansion of Roosevelt’s “state-directed capitalism.” Apparently he hopes that the people will come to the conclusion that ”capitalism cannot solve the crisis” by themselves—or perhaps with some help from the reformist, state-socialist, Democratic Party-supporting, Democratic Socialists of America. An ecosocialist result is far more likely if there are already radicals telling the truth about capitalism, from the very beginning, even if it is, so far, unpopular to do so.
Revolutionaries have long argued that even reforms are most likely to be won when the rulers fear a militant, aggressive, and revolutionary movement, or at least a revolutionary wing of a broader movement. “Reforms” in this case would be steps to hold back and mitigate the effects of global warming due to capitalist industry, even by using the capitalist state. Such reforms cannot be won by an environmental movement which tries to be “reasonable” and “respectable”, especially if it has a radical left which offers to buy out big businesses and stay within the framework of capitalism.
We cannot say what is reasonable to expect. Today’s popular consciousness is not what it will be tomorrow. The very crises of weather and the environment will change that. The climate crisis will interact with the looming economic crisis, and with continuing turmoil over race, immigration, gender, and sexual orientation. Not to mention endless wars. With such shakeups in the lives of working people and young people, there may be an opening for a revolutionary anarchist ecosocialist program. Whether this will develop in time cannot be known. But we must not give up on history.
In conclusion, revolutionary libertarian ecosocialists should support all sincere struggles for reforms, including those advocating state action, and participate in these movements. But they should always point out the limitations and dangers of these programs. they should always raise the goal of a decentralized-federation of self-managed institutions as the only society capable of ecological harmony and freedom.
The issue is not only whether capitalism is compatible with ecological balance and ending climate change. The question is also about the nature of the state, and whether the state is compatible with avoiding ecological catastrophe. These issues should determine our attitude toward proposals for a Green New Deal.
All, Max (2018). “Beyond the Green New Deal.” The Brooklyn Rail. (11/1/18).…-Deal
Aronoff, Kate (2018). “A Mandate for Left Leadership.” The Nation (12/31/18). Pp. 18—20, 26.
Bookchin, Murray (1986). The Modern Crisis. Philadelphia PA: New Society Publishers.
Dansereau, Carol (2018). “Climate and the Infernal Blue Wave: Straight Talk About Saving Humanity.” System Change Not Climate Change. (From Counterpunch ll/13/18.)…anity
Gelderloos, Peter (2016). Worshipping Power: An Anarchist View of Early State Formation. Chico CA: AK Press.
Klein, Naomi (2014). This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. the Climate. NY: Simon & Schuster.
Magdoff, Fred (Sept. 2014). “Building an Ecologically Sound and Socially Just Society.” Monthly Review (v. 66; no. 4). Pp. 23—34.
Marx, Karl, & Engels, Friedrich (1955). The Communist Manifesto. Northbrook IL: AHM Publishing.
McKibben, Bill (2007). Deep Economy: The Wealth of Communities and the Durable Future. NY: Henry Holt/Times Books.
Ocasio-Cortez, Alexandria (2018). ”Select Committee for a Green New Deal: Draft Text for Proposed Addendum to House Rules for 116th Congress of the United States”
Rugh, Peter (2018). “Gearing Up for a Green New Deal.” The Indypendent. Issue 242.…deal/
Simpson, Adam (2018). “The Green New Deal and the Shift to a New Economy” The Next System Podcast.…onomy
Smith, Richard (2018). “An Ecosocialist Path to Limiting Global Temperature Rise to 1.5 [degrees] C” System Change Not Climate Change. (An abridged version of a paper to appear in 3/1/19 Real-World Economics Review.)…se-15°c
Trotsky, Leon (1977). The Transitional Program for Socialist Revolution. NY: Pathfinder Press.
Wikipedia, (undated). “Green New Deal.”
Categories: B3. EcoSocialism