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Ecosocialism: A Brief Description

By Mike Shaughnessy - London Green Left, February 7, 2019

This is a write up of a talk I gave to my local Green Party meeting in Haringey, north London, a little while back, on ecosocialism. 

Ecosocialism is a green political philosophy - it is an ecocentric and democratic socialism, not to be confused with social democracy, at least in the longer run.

It is not like twentieth century socialisms, it is more like nineteenth century socialisms and owes a fair amount to anarchist theory. Twentieth century socialisms had, if anything, an even more dismal record than capitalism on ecology.

Ecosocialism is anti-capitalist, and sees the capitalist system as the effective cause of the ecological crisis.

Capitalism commodifies everything and puts a price on it, which is exchange value, and uses the earth as a resource for production and sink for the dumping of toxic waste from the production process, usually free of cost. Climate change is the most spectacular aspect of the ecological crisis, but not the only one. Capitalism releases toxic pollution, into the air, land and sea.

Capitalism is unable to solve the ecological crisis it has set going, because the logic of the system is to ‘grow or die’. Growth that is exponential and the earth is now close to its limit of being able to buffer the damage caused by this required infinite growth, on a finite planet.

I’m going to say something about the historical lineage of the philosophy, threads of which can be traced back for as long as human beings have formed communities, where some elements of ecosocialism can be found in the way people have lived in balance with nature. And today, many indigenous peoples around the world still practice some of these forms of social and economic management.

Karl Marx is somewhat of a controversial figure for ecosocialists, with some believing that he was essentially a ‘productivist.’ For myself, I believe that Marx’s work was of its time, and incomplete, but he certainly had a green side to him. Take this quote for example from the third volume of Capital:

The subways should be free

By Christopher Baum - Socialist Worker, February 1, 2019

But socialists should also use this opportunity to ask why anyone in New York — or anywhere else — should have to pay a fare to use the subways.

It’s time to claim public transportation as a basic right — a service that should be available to all people, and fully funded not through fares, but through progressive taxation of the city’s wealthy businesses and individuals.

AFTER ALL, while it is primarily working people who ride public transportation every day, it’s our bosses who reap the benefits from our daily commutes.

As Vincent Michael wrote in SW, “[V]iable transit systems are vital to the larger capitalist economy, connecting workers to employers and consumers to products, and enabling urban development, from which the real estate, construction and financial industries profit.”

Whether you’re a local on your way to work or a tourist headed into the city to see a show or do some shopping, capitalists need you to be able to get where you’re going. Disrupt the flow of workers or consumers by removing mass transit, and the whole system threatens to break down.

As gentrification pushes us further and further away from the central areas where many of us work, our commutes get longer, we spend increasingly more time in buses and our crumbling subway system, and our quality of life suffers accordingly — especially for those who work more than one job.

Meanwhile, those who can’t afford to pay are left with a choice of geographic isolation or risking criminal punishment. New York City has reduced arrests for turnstile jumping, but over 5,000 people were still arrested last year for not being able to afford a Metrocard, while another 53,000 were issued summonses.

All in all, not only do capitalists rely upon public transportation to maintain the flow of workers, and therefore the goods and consumers on which their profits depend, they also play a decisive role in setting the terms under which the transit system is accessed.

So why shouldn’t they pay for it?

Ghostbusting: Exorcising the Separation Between Workplace and Community Struggles

By anonymous - It's Going Down, January 28, 2019

The following essay, written by Wobblies for a Revolutionary Union Movement, continues the back and forth dialog and discussion on the back and forth dialog about unions, syndicalism, and the IWW.

For the last several weeks, an exchange of articles has appeared on It’s Going Down, on the value of workplace organizing, including “Nothing to Syndicate”, “Aiming at Ghosts”, “Crafty Ghosts”, and several other pieces. Most of these have taken aim at “syndicalism”, and opponents of workplace struggle have insisted on using a restricted, shop-floor-only definition of “syndicalism”, accusing workers who support unions of having a narrow focus on their own workplace, of wanting to run the existing exploitative economy under their own democratic management, and of ignoring oppressions beyond class.

Supporters of workplace struggle, meanwhile, have answered with a broader definition of our organizing based in the real work that we do. Our revolutionary unionism is based in interconnected community and workplace organizing, imagines the radical transformation of the economy and liberation of people from our exploitation as workers, and sees the oppressions that we face on and off the shop floor as our shared concern. We are here as revolutionary unionists speaking about the work we actually do – not as “syndicalists” defending a workplace-only stance that we don’t take.

Several of the pieces, starting with “Crafty Ghosts”, take aim at the General Defense Committee and Incarcerated Workers Organizing Committee, claiming that these are “entryist” projects, competing with other radical projects. “Crafty Ghosts” specifically names Wobblies for a Revolutionary Union Movement (WRUM), a caucus of the IWW that supports prisoner organizing, the community self defense mission of the GDC, and further democratization of the union. The author of “Crafty Ghosts” specifically mentions “the author of Aiming at Ghosts—and the Wobblies for a Revolutionary Unionist Movement (WRUM) in general”. We’re glad that someone wrote Aiming at Ghosts, but it wasn’t anyone in WRUM.

We are members of WRUM, writing specifically to respond to the charges of “entryism”. However, given the short length of “Crafty Ghosts”, we hope to use it as a jumping off point for clarifying some misconceptions about the IWW’s role in community self defense and prison abolition.

What Do Eco-Socialists Have to Say About the Climate Movement?

By Nancy Romer - New Politics, Winter 2019

To me the role of eco-socialists is to raise transitional demands, demands that bring a broader understanding of the role of capital in creating climate change and the ways that capitalism can be challenged by working people and people most affected by the vast inequality it has created.

Two criteria seem pertinent to me:

1) How do we articulate what it will actually take to save our planet for the humans and other species? That will require a deep transformation that will include locking out at least the fossil fuel and auxiliary corporations and economy, ending wars and militarization of society, taking up a race- and gender-based liberation politics, and creating a thoroughly transforming social-service safety net that expands human development and allows people to look at the whole of society and our planet and make responsible decisions. Without that transformation, certain sectors—by job, by race, by gender, by class, by region—will continue to exert uneven and inadequate pressure on climate-based decisions.

2) How do we create mass movements, often united fronts of a wide range of people and social-political sectors, that can join together to exert power to make real change? How do we articulate demands that can bring the movements together while keeping those demands just a bit beyond the consensus, prodding the movement forward? How do we engage people in a mass-based struggle so that we begin the process of gaining the kind of power needed for the transformation described above?

I have spent much of my political life working in united fronts, organizational expressions of movements, coalitions, and so on, that put forward mass demands that raise consciousness, build power through the movements, and actually create some of the changes we need, not-quite-adequate as they may often be due to movements’ weakness. I have also been a leftist without too much of a “brand” or group of socialists that I have formally joined. Right now I am in Democratic Socialists of America and feel the broad politics of the organization is what keeps it active, muscular, and pushing. They are good comrades to the rest of the climate movement—willing to show up, picket, petition, study, strategize, and to be kind and generous comrades. They are well-respected as a relatively new activist organization in New York. DSA existed for many years before Trump, but after Trump was elected the numbers have exploded—presently up to 50,000 nationally and 5,000 in New York City. Yes, DSA pushes for publically owned and operated, 100 percent renewable, energy now or as soon as possible. Yes, they call for an end to the fossil fuel regime and for a polluters tax. Outside of the “publically owned and operated” part of the demand, these are the demands that our local climate movement has adopted. It is our job as eco-socialists to support the demands of the united front—in this case the Peoples Climate Movement and New York Renews—and push the demands further, specifically toward public power or public ownership of the new renewable energy grid. We need to articulate a fuller politics than can the united front coalitions due to their organizational support and membership, especially in the unions. That “prod” is essential for direction of the coalitions and movement.

A Response to “Crafty Ghosts”

By anonymous contributor - It's Going Down, January 10, 2019

Another response and continuation of the discussion around syndicalism, work, civilization, and the anarchist movement.

I’ve been reading some of the debates that have been going on lately around the topic of workplace-organizing, economics, ecology and the future. I think its not bad that this is being discussed at all, but the matter is leaving me more and more puzzled due to the way things are being brought up.

There is some kind of contradiction being brought to the forefront that at least in my opinion is not really there. This especially visible in the latest response of the 28th of December called “Crafty Ghosts: A Critique of Entryist Trajectory.” It’s a little related to the actual article “Nothing to Syndicate” and I do recon that by responding to this very article in a way I am adding to the drifting from the original subject. But with such an article actually being published I find it necessary to add a short response. First and foremost the anonymous author of “Crafty Ghosts” is having a different opinion on the value of open organization with membership and organizing that has a nation-wide (or beyond) reach – like for instance the IWW. There can be flaws made with this way of organizing for sure. For instance when the main goal is getting as many people to sign up. But that would be a caricature of the IWW. If there would be a problem around this there is hardly anything being put forward what could be helping to overcome this issue. The concept of membership seems to be just dismissed as a whole.

Instead there author claims that “Anarchist projects like antifa crews, Books to Prisoners, Anarchist Black Cross (ABC), and more [are] […] objectively superior to the GDC and IWOC’s approach.” This is quiet a subjective statement as it is put here and I’d like to see that substantiated. I’ve been an active anarchists for years and I’ve seen many autonomous initiatives over the years by very good comrades. But as far as I know these collectives are subject to very similar problems. I do not see how these initiatives function so much better in terms of E.G. being more productive or easier accessibility. I would suggest they are above all complementary and adding another modus operandus that fits better to certain people. The overcoming of the problems attributed to formal organizing and membership-organizing that the author of “Crafty Ghosts” puts forward, has little to do with membership itself, but more with the question of how a certain organization (formal or informal) is being filled.

Build the Revolution: Anarcho-Syndicalism in the 21st Century

By Radical Education Department - It's Going Down, January 10, 2019

The Radical Education Department (RED) weighs in on the ongoing debate around syndicalism and organizing strategies, arguing that modern variations of syndicalism still offer powerful weapons for autonomous anti-capitalist struggles and movements.

Read and Print PDF HERE


Anarchists are debating anarcho-syndicalism once again. If anarcho-syndicalism is a “ghost”—like some critics are claiming—it has proven extremely hard to exorcise. But it is something very different entirely.

The current debate was sparked by “Nothing to Syndicate,” which largely repeats standard criticisms of AS, some of the more recent of which can be seen here and here; see also the summaries here. Then came a critique of “Nothing” (“Aiming at Ghosts”), and then two replies defending the original piece (here and here). The debate has been fairly limited so far. The important first reply to “Nothing,” as well as the defenses that followed, have been wrestling over the details of the original piece. But what’s been missing is a comprehensive response to the original question. What does anarcho-syndicalism offer radicals in the 21st century US?

Some have given this kind of response to critics before, though often in more limited ways (like here). My goal is to go further and deeper. First, I give a systematic historical-materialist analysis of 21st century capitalism in the United States today: its basic drives, structures, and developments. Then I examine the profound limits facing anarchists and their revolutionary allies facing such conditions. (This section tacitly rejects the superficial analysis of the original article.)

And then I offer a vision of what anarcho-syndicalism has to offer. It is far from a ghost. It is a set of inherited, audacious, and sometimes conflicting experiments. Those experiments are still developing. (The ongoing evolution is obvious in more recent syndicalist praxis like green syndicalism and community syndicalism.)

I locate in AS explosive resources for our present—for moving past the fundamental limits of radical organizing today and building revolutionary power to strike at 21st century capital. Defending AS, I explore how its inner resources could be developed to meet the revolutionary needs of the moment.

Anarcho-syndicalism offers badly needed tools for building mass, durable, working-class autonomy inside and outside the workplace for the sake of the revolutionary overthrow of every institution of capitalist control. It is an idea whose time has come again.

A Green New Deal vs. Revolutionary Ecosocialism

By Wayne Price - Anarkismo, January 2, 2019

Ecosocialism: reformist or revolutionary, statist or libertarian?

The idea of a "Green New Deal" has been raised in response to the threat of climate and ecological catastrophe. Two such proposals are analyzed here and counterposed to the program of revolutionary libertarian ecosocialism.

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.

Why Ecosocialism: For a Red-Green Future

By Michael Löwy - Great Transition Initiative, December 22, 2018

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.

Winning the Green New Deal We Need

By Zachary Alexis - Socialist Worker, December 12, 2018

A NEW proposal for a Green New Deal is breathing life into the climate justice movement.

Incoming Democratic Rep. and Democratic Socialist of America member Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is pushing for a large-scale, government-led transformation of U.S. energy systems away from fossil fuels by 2030, with a plan intended to benefit the working class and communities of color in the U.S.

In tandem, activists for climate justice have kick-started a new wave of protest. Hundreds of activists from the Sunrise Movement are taking action this week in Washington, D.C., to support Ocasio Cortez’s proposal.

These protests are aimed squarely at the top leadership of the Democratic Party, which so far has rebuffed efforts to get the party to refuse donations from the fossil fuel industry and sign on to the Green New Deal plan.

Sunrise activists made a media splash last month when 200 of them occupied future House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s congressional offices — an action whose profile was boosted when both Ocasio-Cortez and fellow incoming democratic socialist Rep. Rashida Tlaib, who has a record of fighting for climate justice against the Koch Brothers in Detroit — showed up to support it.

This week’s Sunrise actions are the latest in a surge of protest in the U.S. and elsewhere as activists push forward with a new sense of urgency driven by a landslide of sobering news about climate change.

This year has seen a series of alarming and deadly disasters fueled by climate change, including the summer’s deadly heat wave and wildfires in Europe, a brutal season of typhoons in the Pacific, Atlantic Hurricanes Florence and Michael and the recent wildfires in California.

Several mainstream institutions have issued recent dire warnings on climate, including the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) SR15 report, Volume II of the Fourth National Climate Assessment and the Global Carbon Project’s release of new data showing that global emissions increased again in 2018 — led by emissions growth in China, India and the U.S.

In Britain, activists have kicked off a new campaign called Extinction Rebellion, which, like Sunrise, relies on high-visibility sit-ins and civil disobedience. Meanwhile, thousands of protesters in Poland took to the streets as global elites gathered for the COP24 climate meetings — the latest UN-led effort to unite world governments to address the climate crisis.

‘Cosmo-localization’: can thinking globally and producing locally really save our planet?

By Fernanda Marin - Oui Share, November 28, 2018

Fablabs, makerspaces, emerging global knowledge commons… These are but some of the outcomes of a growing movement that champions globally-sourced designs for local economic activity. Its core idea is simple: local ownership of the means to produce basic manufactures and services can change our economic paradigm, making our cities self-sufficient and help the planet.

Sharon Ede, urbanist and activist based in Australia has recently launched AUDAcities, a catalyst for relocalising production in cities. She shared her insights on the opportunities of making cities regenerative and more sustainable as well as the limits of cosmo-localization.

Technology, as we all know, is not neutral. Making the transition to self-sufficient cities needs a cultural shift, not just a technological one. So, how do we design open-source tools that foster a change in behaviours and are inclusive?

Technology will go where cultural, social and economic values direct it. A cultural shift will include open source tools, and the kinds of processes we need to create those – but a cultural shift will require much more.


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