Eco-socialism | Wikipedia audio article

Eco-socialism, green socialism or socialist
ecology is an ideology merging aspects of socialism with that of green politics, ecology
and alter-globalization or anti-globalization. Eco-socialists generally believe that the
expansion of the capitalist system is the cause of social exclusion, poverty, war and
environmental degradation through globalization and imperialism, under the supervision of
repressive states and transnational structures.Eco-socialists advocate dismantling capitalism, focusing
on common ownership of the means of production by freely associated producers, and restoring
the commons. Caroline Lucas, former leader of the Green Party of England and Wales, has
described her party’s brand of socialism as appealing to both middle-class environmentalists
as well as working-class socialists.==Ideology==
Eco-socialists are critical of many past and existing forms of both Green politics and
socialism. They are often described as “Red Greens” – adherents to Green politics with
clear anti-capitalist views, often inspired by Marxism (Red Greens are in contrast to
eco-capitalists and Green anarchists). The term “watermelon” is commonly applied,
often pejoratively, to Greens who seem to put “social justice” goals above ecological
ones, implying they are “green on the outside but red on the inside”; the term is usually
attributed to either Petr Beckmann or, more frequently, Warren T. Brookes, both critics
of environmentalism, and is common in Australia, New Zealand and the United States.A New Zealand
website, The Watermelon, uses the term proudly, stating that it is “green on the outside and
liberal on the inside”, while also citing “socialist political leanings”, reflecting
the use of the term “liberal” to describe the left wing in many English-speaking countries.
Red Greens are often considered “fundies” or “fundamentalist greens”, a term usually
associated with Deep Ecology even though the German Green Party “fundi” faction included
eco-socialists, and eco-socialists in other Green Parties, like Derek Wall, have been
described in the press as fundies.Eco-socialists also criticise bureaucratic and elite theories
of self-described socialism such as Maoism, Stalinism and what other critics have termed
bureaucratic collectivism or state capitalism. Instead, eco-socialists focus on imbuing socialism
with ecology while keeping the emancipatory goals of “first-epoch” socialism. Eco-socialists
aim for communal ownership of the means of production by “freely associated producers”
with all forms of domination eclipsed, especially gender inequality and racism.This often includes
the restoration of commons land in opposition to private property, in which local control
of resources valorizes the Marxist concept of use value above exchange value. Practically,
eco-socialists have generated various strategies to mobilise action on an internationalist
basis, developing networks of grassroots individuals and groups that can radically transform society
through nonviolent “prefigurative projects” for a post-capitalist, post-statist world.==History=====1880s–1930s – Marx, Morris and influence
on the Russian Revolution===Contrary to the depiction of Karl Marx by
some environmentalists, social ecologists and fellow socialists as a productivist who
favoured the domination of nature, eco-socialists have revisited Marx’s writings and believe
that he “was a main originator of the ecological world-view”. Eco-socialist authors, like John
Bellamy Foster and Paul Burkett, point to Marx’s discussion of a “metabolic rift” between
man and nature, his statement that “private ownership of the globe by single individuals
will appear quite absurd as private ownership of one man by another” and his observation
that a society must “hand it [the planet] down to succeeding generations in an improved
condition”. Nonetheless, other eco-socialists feel that Marx overlooked a “recognition of
nature in and for itself”, ignoring its “receptivity” and treating nature as “subjected to labor
from the start” in an “entirely active relationship”.William Morris, the English novelist, poet and designer,
is largely credited with developing key principles of what was later called eco-socialism. During
the 1880s and 1890s, Morris promoted his eco-socialist ideas within the Social Democratic Federation
and Socialist League.Following the Russian Revolution, some environmentalists and environmental
scientists attempted to integrate ecological consciousness into Bolshevism, although many
such people were later purged from the Communist Party of the Soviet Union. The “pre-revolutionary
environmental movement”, encouraged by revolutionary scientist Aleksandr Bogdanov and the Proletkul’t
organisation, made efforts to “integrate production with natural laws and limits” in the first
decade of Soviet rule, before Joseph Stalin attacked ecologists and the science of ecology
and the Soviet Union fell into the pseudo-science of the state biologist Trofim Lysenko, who
“set about to rearrange the Russian map” in ignorance of environmental limits.===Ecoanarchism===Green anarchism, or ecoanarchism, is a school
of thought within anarchism which puts a particular emphasis on environmental issues. An important
early influence was the thought of the American anarchist Henry David Thoreau and his book
Walden as well as Leo Tolstoy and Elisee Reclus. In the late 19th century there emerged anarcho-naturism
as the fusion of anarchism and naturist philosophies within individualist anarchist circles in
France, Spain, Cuba and Portugal. Several anarchists from the mid-20th century, including
Herbert Read, Ethel Mannin, Leopold Kohr, Jacques Ellul, and Paul Goodman, also held
proto-environmental views linked to their anarchism. Mannin’s
1944 book Bread and Roses: A Utopian Survey and Blue-Print has been described by anarchist
historian Robert Graham as setting forth “an ecological vision in opposition to the prevailing
and destructive industrial organization of society”. Important contemporary currents
are anarcho-primitivism and social ecology.====Social ecology and communalism====Social ecology is closely related to the work
and ideas of Murray Bookchin and influenced by anarchist Peter Kropotkin. Social ecologists
assert that the present ecological crisis has its roots in human social problems, and
that the domination of human-over-nature stems from the domination of human-over-human. In
1958, Murray Bookchin defined himself as an anarchist, seeing parallels between anarchism
and ecology. His first book, Our Synthetic Environment, was published under the pseudonym
Lewis Herber in 1962, a few months before Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring. The book described
a broad range of environmental ills but received little attention because of its political
radicalism. His groundbreaking essay “Ecology and Revolutionary Thought” introduced ecology
as a concept in radical politics. In 1968 he founded another group that published the
influential Anarchos magazine, which published that and other innovative essays on post-scarcity
and on ecological technologies such as solar and wind energy, and on decentralization and
miniaturization. Lecturing throughout the United States, he helped popularize the concept
of ecology to the counterculture. Post-Scarcity Anarchism is a collection of
essays written by Murray Bookchin and first published in 1971 by Ramparts Press. It outlines
the possible form anarchism might take under conditions of post-scarcity. It is one of
Bookchin’s major works, and its radical thesis provoked controversy for being utopian and
messianic in its faith in the liberatory potential of technology. Bookchin argues that post-industrial
societies are also post-scarcity societies, and can thus imagine “the fulfillment of the
social and cultural potentialities latent in a technology of abundance”. The self-administration
of society is now made possible by technological advancement and, when technology is used in
an ecologically sensitive manner, the revolutionary potential of society will be much changed.
In 1982, his book The Ecology of Freedom had a profound impact on the emerging ecology
movement, both in the United States and abroad. He was a principal figure in the Burlington
Greens in 1986-90, an ecology group that ran candidates for city council on a program to
create neighborhood democracy. Bookchin later developed a political philosophy
to complement social ecology which he called “Communalism” (spelled with a capital “C”
to differentiate it from other forms of communalism). While originally conceived as a form of Social
anarchism, he later developed Communalism into a separate ideology which incorporates
what he saw as the most beneficial elements of Anarchism, Marxism, syndicalism, and radical
ecology. Politically, Communalists advocate a network
of directly democratic citizens’ assemblies in individual communities/cities organized
in a confederal fashion. This method used to achieve this is called Libertarian Municipalism
which involves the establishment of face-to-face democratic institutions which are to grow
and expand confederally with the goal of eventually replacing the nation-state.===1970s–1990s – Rise of environmentalism
and engagement with Marxism and ‘actually existing socialism’===
In the 1970s, Barry Commoner, suggesting a left-wing response to The Limits to Growth
model that predicted catastrophic resource depletion and spurred environmentalism, postulated
that capitalist technologies were chiefly responsible for environmental degradation,
as opposed to population pressures. East German dissident writer and activist Rudolf Bahro
published two books addressing the relationship between socialism and ecology – The Alternative
in Eastern Europe and Socialism and Survival – which promoted a ‘new party’ and led to
his arrest, for which he gained international notoriety.
At around the same time, Alan Roberts, an Australian Marxist, posited that people’s
unfulfilled needs fuelled consumerism. Fellow Australian Ted Trainer further called upon
socialists to develop a system that met human needs, in contrast to the capitalist system
of created wants. A key development in the 1980s was the creation of the journal Capitalism,
Nature, Socialism (CNS) with James O’Connor as founding editor and the first issue in
1988. The debates ensued led to a host of theoretical works by O’Connor, Carolyn Merchant,
Paul Burkett and others. The Australian Democratic Socialist Party
launched the Green Left Weekly newspaper in 1991, following a period of working within
Green Alliance and Green Party groups in formation. This ceased when the Australian Greens adopted
a policy of proscription of other political groups in August 1991. The DSP also published
a comprehensive policy resolution, “Socialism and Human Survival” in book form in 1990,
with an expanded second edition in 1999 entitled “Environment, Capitalism & Socialism”.===1990s onwards – Engagement with the
anti-globalization movement and The Ecosocialist Manifesto===
The 1990s saw the socialist feminists Mary Mellor and Ariel Salleh address environmental
issues within an eco-socialist paradigm. With the rising profile of the anti-globalization
movement in the Global South, an “environmentalism of the poor”, combining ecological awareness
and social justice, has also become prominent. David Pepper also released his important work,
Ecosocialism: From Deep Ecology to Social Justice, in 1994, which critiques the current
approach of many within Green politics, particularly deep ecologists.In 2001, Joel Kovel, a social
scientist, psychiatrist and former candidate for the Green Party of the United States (GPUS)
Presidential nomination in 2000, and Michael Löwy, an anthropologist and member of the
Reunified Fourth International (a principal Trotskyist organisation), released An ecosocialist
manifesto, which has been adopted by some organisations and suggests possible routes
for the growth of eco-socialist consciousness. Kovel’s 2002 work, The Enemy of Nature: The
End of Capitalism or the End of the World?, is considered by many to be the most up-to-date
exposition of eco-socialist thought.In October 2007, the International Ecosocialist Network
was founded in Paris.===Influence on current Green and socialist
movements===Currently, many Green Parties around the world,
such as the Dutch Green Left Party (GroenLinks) , contain strong eco-socialist elements. Radical
Red-green alliances have been formed in many countries by eco-socialists, radical Greens
and other radical left groups. In Denmark, the Red-Green Alliance was formed as a coalition
of numerous radical parties. Within the European Parliament, a number of far-left parties from
Northern Europe have organized themselves into the Nordic Green Left Alliance. Red Greens
feature heavily in the Green Party of Saskatchewan (in Canada but not necessarily affiliated
to the Green Party of Canada) and then-recently GPUS that officially adopted ideology within
party.The Green Party of England and Wales features an eco-socialist group, Green Left,
that was founded in June 2005 and whose members hold a number of influential positions within
the party, including both the former Principal Speakers Siân Berry and Dr. Derek Wall, himself
an eco-socialist and Marxist academic, as well as prominent Green Party candidate and
human rights activist Peter Tatchell. Many Marxist organisations also contain eco-socialists,
as evidenced by Löwy’s involvement in the reunified Fourth International and Socialist
Resistance, a British Marxist newspaper that reports on eco-socialist issues and has published
two collections of essays on eco-socialist thought: Ecosocialism or Barbarism?, edited
by Jane Kelly and Sheila Malone, and The Global Fight for Climate Justice, edited by Ian Angus
with a foreword by Derek Wall.===Influence on “existing socialist” regimes
===Eco-socialism has had a minor influence over
developments in the environmental policies of what can be called “existing socialist”
regimes, notably the People’s Republic of China. Pan Yue, Deputy Director of the PRC’s
State Environmental Protection Administration, has acknowledged the influence of eco-socialist
theory on his championing of environmentalism within China, which has gained him international
acclaim (including being nominated for the Person of the Year Award 2006 by The New Statesman,
a British current affairs magazine). Yue stated in an interview that, while he often finds
eco-socialist theory “too idealistic” and lacking “ways of solving actual problems”,
he believes that it provides “political reference for China’s scientific view of development”,
“gives socialist ideology room to expand” and offers “a theoretical basis for the establishment
of fair international rules” on the environment. He echoes much of eco-socialist thought, attacking
international “environmental inequality”, refusing to focus on technological fixes and
arguing for the construction of “a harmonious, resource-saving and environmentally-friendly
society”. He also shows a knowledge of eco-socialist history, from the convergence of radical green
politics and socialism and their political “red-green alliances” in the post-Soviet era.
This focus on eco-socialism has informed an essay, On Socialist Ecological Civilisation,
published in September 2006, which, according to chinadialogue, “sparked debate” in China.
The current Constitution of Bolivia, promulgated in 2009, is the first both ecologic and pro-socialist
Constitution in the world, making the Bolivian state officially ecosocialist.===Ecosocialist International Network (EIN)
and other international eco-socialist organisations===
In 2007, it was announced that attempts to form an Ecosocialist International Network
(EIN) would be made and an inaugural meeting of the International occurred on October 7,
2007 in Paris. The meeting attracted “more than 60 activists from Argentina, Australia,
Belgium, Brazil, Canada, Cyprus, Denmark, France, Greece, Italy, Switzerland, United
Kingdom, and the United States” and elected a steering committee featuring representatives
from Britain, the United States, Canada, France, Greece, Argentina, Brazil and Australia, including
Joel Kovel, Michael Löwy, Derek Wall, Ian Angus (editor of Climate and Capitalism in
Canada) and Ariel Salleh. The Committee states that it wants “to incorporate members from
China, India, Africa, Oceania and Eastern Europe”. EIN held its second international
conference in January 2009, in association with the next World Social Forum in Brazil”.
The conference released The Belem Ecosocialist Declaration.International networking by eco-socialists
has already been seen in the Praxis Research and Education Center, a group on international
researchers and activists. Based in Moscow and established in 1997, Praxis, as well as
publishing books “by libertarian socialists, Marxist humanists, anarchists, [and] syndicalists”,
running the Victor Serge Library and opposing war in Chechnya, states that it believes “that
capitalism has brought life on the planet near to the brink of catastrophe, and that
a form of ecosocialism needs to emerge to replace capitalism before it is too late”.==Critique of capitalist expansion and globalisation
==Merging aspects of Marxism, socialism, environmentalism
and ecology, eco-socialists generally believe that the capitalist system is the cause of
social exclusion, inequality and environmental degradation through globalization and imperialism
under the supervision of repressive states and transnational structures.
In the Ecosocialist manifesto, Kovel and Löwy suggest that capitalist expansion causes both
“crises of ecology” through “rampant industrialization” and “societal breakdown” that springs “from
the form of imperialism known as globalization”. They believe that capitalism’s expansion “exposes
ecosystems” to pollutants, habitat destruction and resource depletion, “reducing the sensuous
vitality of nature to the cold exchangeability required for the accumulation of capital”,
while submerging “the majority of the world’s people to a mere reservoir of labor power”
as it penetrates communities through “consumerism and depoliticization”.Other eco-socialists,
like Wall, highlight how, in the Global South, free-market capitalism structures economies
to produce export-geared crops that take water from traditional subsistence farms, increasing
hunger and the likelihood of famine; furthermore, forests are increasingly cleared and enclosed
to produce cash crops that separate people from their local means of production and aggravate
poverty. Wall shows that many of the world’s poor have access to the means of production
through “non-monetised communal means of production”, such as subsistence farming, but, despite
providing for need and a level of prosperity, these are not included in conventional economics
measures, like GNP. Wall therefore views neo-liberal globalization
as “part of the long struggle of the state and commercial interests to steal from those
who subsist” by removing “access to the resources that sustain ordinary people across the globe”.
Furthermore, Kovel sees neoliberalism as “a return to the pure logic of capital” that
“has effectively swept away measures which had inhibited capital’s aggressivity, replacing
them with naked exploitation of humanity and nature”; for Kovel, this “tearing down of
boundaries and limits to accumulation is known as globalization”, which was “a deliberate
response to a serious accumulation crisis (in the 1970s) that had convinced the leaders
of the global economy to install what we know as neoliberalism.”.Furthermore, Guha and Martinez-Alier
blame globalization for creating increased levels of waste and pollution, and then dumping
the waste on the most vulnerable in society, particularly those in the Global South. Others
have also noted that capitalism disproportionately affects the poorest in the Global North as
well, leading to examples of resistance such as the environmental justice movement in the
United States, consisting of working-class people and ethnic minorities who highlight
the tendency for waste dumps, major road projects and incinerators to be constructed around
socially excluded areas. However, as Wall highlights, such campaigns are often ignored
or persecuted precisely because they originate among the most marginalized in society: the
African-American radical green religious group MOVE, campaigning for ecological revolution
and animal rights from Philadelphia, had many members imprisoned or even killed by US authorities
from the 1970s onwards.Eco-socialism disagrees with the elite theories of capitalism, which
tend to label a specific class or social group as conspirators who construct a system that
satisfies their greed and personal desires. Instead, eco-socialists suggest that the very
system itself is self-perpetuating, fuelled by “extra-human” or “impersonal” forces. Kovel
uses the Bhopal industrial disaster as an example. Many anti-corporate observers would
blame the avarice of those at the top of many multi-national corporations, such as the Union
Carbide Corporation in Bhopal, for seemingly isolated industrial accidents. Conversely,
Kovel suggests that Union Carbide were experiencing a decrease in sales that led to falling profits,
which, due to stock market conditions, translated into a drop in share values. The depreciation
of share value made many shareholders sell their stock, weakening the company and leading
to cost-cutting measures that eroded the safety procedures and mechanisms at the Bhopal site.
Though this did not, in Kovel’s mind, make the Bhopal disaster inevitable, he believes
that it illustrates the effect market forces can have on increasing the likelihood of ecological
and social problems.===Use and exchange value===
Eco-socialism focuses closely on Marx’s theories about the contradiction between use values
and exchange values. Kovel posits that, within a market economy, goods are not produced to
meet needs but are produced to be exchanged for money that we then use to acquire other
goods; as we have to keep selling in order to keep buying, we must persuade others to
buy our goods just to ensure our survival, which leads to the production of goods with
no previous use that can be sold to sustain our ability to buy other goods.Such goods,
in an eco-socialist analysis, produce exchange values but have no use value. Eco-socialists
like Kovel stress that this contradiction has reached a destructive extent, where certain
essential activities – such as caring for relatives full-time and basic subsistence
– are unrewarded, while unnecessary commodities earn individuals huge fortunes and fuel consumerism
and resource depletion.===The “second contradiction” of capitalism
===James O’Connor argues for a “second contradiction”
of underproduction, to complement Marx’s “first” contradiction of capital and labor. While
the second contradiction is often considered a theory of environmental degradation, O’Connor’s
theory in fact goes much further. Building on the work of Karl Polanyi, along with Marx,
O’Connor argues that capitalism necessarily undermines the “conditions of production”
necessary to sustain the endless accumulation of capital. These conditions of production
include soil, water, energy, and so forth. But they also include an adequate public education
system, transportation infrastructures, and other services that are not produced directly
by capital, but which capital needs in order accumulate effectively. As the conditions
of production are exhausted, the costs of production for capital increase. For this
reason, the second contradiction generates an underproduction crisis tendency, with the
rising cost of inputs and labor, to complement the overproduction tendency of too many commodities
for too few customers. Like Marx’s contradiction of capital and labor, the second contradiction
therefore threatens the system’s existence.In addition, O’Connor believes that, in order
to remedy environmental contradictions, the capitalist system innovates new technologies
that overcome existing problems but introduce new ones.O’Connor cites nuclear power as an
example, which he sees as a form of producing energy that is advertised as an alternative
to carbon-intensive, non-renewable fossil fuels, but creates long-term radioactive waste
and other dangers to health and security. While O’Connor believes that capitalism is
capable of spreading out its economic supports so widely that it can afford to destroy one
ecosystem before moving onto another, he and many other eco-socialists now fear that, with
the onset of globalization, the system is running out of new ecosystems. Kovel adds
that capitalist firms have to continue to extract profit through a combination of intensive
or extensive exploitation and selling to new markets, meaning that capitalism must grow
indefinitely to exist, which he thinks is impossible on a planet of finite resources.===The role of the state and transnational
organisations===Capitalist expansion is seen by eco-socialists
as being “hand in glove” with “corrupt and subservient client states” that repress dissent
against the system, governed by international organisations “under the overall supervision
of the Western powers and the superpower United States”, which subordinate peripheral nations
economically and militarily. Kovel further claims that capitalism itself spurs conflict
and, ultimately, war. Kovel states that the ‘War on Terror’, between Islamist extremists
and the United States, is caused by “oil imperialism”, whereby the capitalist nations require control
over sources of energy, especially oil, which are necessary to continue intensive industrial
growth – in the quest for control of such resources, Kovel argues that the capitalist
nations, specifically the United States, have come into conflict with the predominantly
Muslim nations where oil is often found.Eco-socialists believe that state or self-regulation of markets
does not solve the crisis “because to do so requires setting limits upon accumulation”,
which is “unacceptable” for a growth-orientated system; they believe that terrorism and revolutionary
impulses cannot be tackled properly “because to do so would mean abandoning the logic of
empire”. Instead, eco-socialists feel that increasing repressive counter-terrorism increases
alienation and causes further terrorism and believe that state counter-terrorist methods
are, in Kovel and Löwy’s words, “evolving into a new and malignant variation of fascism”.
They echo Rosa Luxemburg’s “stark choice” between “socialism or barbarism”, which was
believed to be a prediction of the coming of fascism and further forms of destructive
capitalism at the beginning of the twentieth century (Luxemburg was in fact murdered by
proto-fascist Freikorps in the revolutionary atmosphere of Germany in 1919).==Tensions within the eco-socialist discourse
==Reflecting tensions within the environmental
and socialist movements, there is some conflict of ideas. In practice however, a synthesis
is emerging which calls for democratic regulation of industry in the interests of people and
the environment, nationalisation of some key (environmental) industries, local democracy
and an extension of co-ops and the library principle.==Critique of other forms of green politics
==Eco-socialists criticise many within the Green
movement for not being overtly anti-capitalist, for working within the existing capitalist,
statist system, for voluntarism, or for reliance on technological fixes. The eco-socialist
ideology is based on a critique of other forms of Green politics, including various forms
of green economics, localism, deep ecology, bioregionalism and even some manifestations
of radical green ideologies such as eco-feminism and social ecology.
As Kovel puts it, eco-socialism differs from Green politics at the most fundamental level
because the ‘Four Pillars’ of Green politics (and the ‘Ten Key Values’ of the US Green
Party) do not include the demand for the emancipation of labour and the end of the separation between
producers and the means of production. Many eco-socialists also oppose Malthusianism and
are alarmed by the gulf between Green politics in the Global North and the Global South.===Opposition to within-system approaches,
voluntarism and technological fixes===Eco-socialists are highly critical of those
Greens who favour “working within the system”. While eco-socialists like Kovel recognise
the ability of within-system approaches to raise awareness, and believe that “the struggle
for an ecologically rational world must include a struggle for the state”, he believes that
the mainstream Green movement is too easily co-opted by the current powerful socio-political
forces as it “passes from citizen-based activism to ponderous bureaucracies scuffling for ‘a
seat at the table'”.For Kovel, capitalism is “happy to enlist” the Green movement for
“convenience”, “control over popular dissent” and “rationalization”. He further attacks
within-system green initiatives like carbon trading, which he sees as a “capitalist shell
game” that turns pollution “into a fresh source of profit”. Brian Tokar has further criticised
carbon trading in this way, suggesting that it augments existing class inequality and
gives the “largest ‘players’… substantial control over the whole ‘game'”.In addition,
Kovel criticises the “defeatism” of voluntarism in some local forms of environmentalism that
do not connect: he suggests that they can be “drawn off into individualism” or co-opted
to the demands of capitalism, as in the case of certain recycling projects, where citizens
are “induced to provide free labor” to waste management industries who are involved in
the “capitalization of nature”. He labels the notion on voluntarism “ecopolitics without
struggle”.Technological fixes to ecological problems are also rejected by eco-socialists.
Saral Sarkar has updated the thesis of 1970s ‘limits to growth’ to exemplify the limits
of new capitalist technologies such as hydrogen fuel cells, which require large amounts of
energy to split molecules to obtain hydrogen. Furthermore, Kovel notes that “events in nature
are reciprocal and multi-determined” and can therefore not be predictably “fixed”; socially,
technologies cannot solve social problems because they are not “mechanical”. He posits
an eco-socialist analysis, developed from Marx, that patterns of production and social
organisation are more important than the forms of technology used within a given configuration
of society.Under capitalism, he suggests that technology “has been the sine qua non of growth”
– thus he believes that, even in a world with hypothetical “free energy”, the effect
would be to lower the cost of automobile production, leading to the massive overproduction of vehicles,
“collapsing infrastructure”, chronic resource depletion and the “paving over” of the “remainder
of nature”. In the modern world, Kovel considers the supposed efficiency of new post-industrial
commodities is a “plain illusion”, as miniaturized components involve many substances and are
therefore non-recyclable (and, theoretically, only simple substances could be retrieved
by burning out-of-date equipment, releasing more pollutants). He is quick to warn “environmental
liberals” against over-selling the virtues of renewable energies that cannot meet the
mass energy consumption of the era; although he would still support renewable energy projects,
he believes it is more important to restructure societies to reduce energy use before relying
on renewable energy technologies alone.===Critique of Green economics===
Eco-socialists have based their ideas for political strategy on a critique of several
different trends in Green economics. At the most fundamental level, eco-socialists reject
what Kovel calls “ecological economics” or the “ecological wing of mainstream economics”
for being “uninterested in social transformation”. He furthers rejects the Neo-Smithian school,
who believe in Adam Smith’s vision of “a capitalism of small producers, freely exchanging with
each other”, which is self-regulating and competitive.The school is represented by thinkers
like David Korten who believe in “regulated markets” checked by government and civil society
but, for Kovel, they do not provide a critique of the expansive nature of capitalism away
from localised production and ignore “questions of class, gender or any other category of
domination”. Kovel also criticises their “fairy-tale” view of history, which refers to the abuse
of “natural capital” by the materialism of the Scientific Revolution, an assumption that,
in Kovel’s eyes, seems to suggest that “nature had toiled to put the gift of capital into
human hands”, rather than capitalism being a product of social relations in human history.Other
forms of community-based economics are also rejected by eco-socialists such as Kovel,
including followers of E. F. Schumacher and some members of the cooperative movement,
for advocating “no more than a very halting and isolated first step”. He thinks that their
principles are “only partially realizable within the institutions of cooperatives in
capitalist society” because “the internal cooperation” of cooperatives is “forever hemmed
in and compromised” by the need to expand value and compete within the market. Marx
also believed that cooperatives within capitalism make workers into “their own capitalist…
by enabling them to use the means of production for the employment of their own labour”.For
Kovel and other eco-socialists, community-based economics and Green localism are “a fantasy”
because “strict localism belongs to the aboriginal stages of society” and would be an “ecological
nightmare at present population levels” due to “heat losses from a multitude of dispersed
sites, the squandering of scarce resources, the needless reproduction of effort, and cultural
impoverishment”. While he feels that small-scale production units are “an essential part of
the path towards an ecological society”, he sees them not as “an end in itself”; in his
view, small enterprises can be either capitalist or socialist in their configuration and therefore
must be “consistently anti-capitalist”, through recognition and support of the emancipation
of labour, and exist “in a dialectic with the whole of things”, as human society will
need large-scale projects, such as transport infrastructures.He highlights the work of
steady-state theorist Herman Daly, who exemplifies what eco-socialists see as the good and bad
points of ecological economics — while Daly offers a critique of capitalism and a desire
for “workers ownership”, he only believes in workers ownership “kept firmly within a
capitalist market”, ignoring the eco-socialist desire for struggle in the emancipation of
labour and hoping that the interests of labour and management today can be improved so that
they are “in harmony”.===Critique of deep ecology===
Despite the inclusion of both in political factions like the ‘Fundies’ of the German
Green Party, eco-socialists and deep ecologists hold markedly opposite views. Eco-socialists
like Kovel have attacked deep ecology because, like other forms of Green politics and Green
economics, it features “virtuous souls” who have “no internal connection with the critique
of capitalism and the emancipation of labor”. Kovel is particularly scathing about deep
ecology and its “fatuous pronouncement” that Green politics is “neither left nor right,
but ahead”, which, for him, ignores the notion that “that which does not confront the system
comes its instrument”.Even more scathingly, Kovel suggests that in “its effort to decentre
humanity within nature”, deep ecologists can “go too far” and argue for the “splitting
away of unwanted people”, as evidenced by their desire to preserve wilderness by removing
the groups that have lived there “from time immemorial”. Kovel thinks that this lends
legitimacy to “capitalist elites”, like the US State Department and the World Bank, who
can make preservation of wilderness a part of their projects that “have added value as
sites for ecotourism” but remove people from their land. Between 1986 and 1996, Kovel notes
that over three million people were displaced by “conservation projects”; in the making
of the US National Parks, three hundred Shoshone Indians were killed in the development of
Yosemite.Kovel believes that deep ecology has affected the rest of the Green movement
and led to calls from restrictions on immigration, “often allying with reactionaries in a…
cryptically racist quest”. Indeed, he finds traces of deep ecology in the “biological
reduction” of Nazism, an ideology many “organicist thinkers” have found appealing, including
Herbert Gruhl, a founder of the German Green Party (who subsequently left when it became
more left-wing) and originator of the phrase “neither left nor right, but ahead”. Kovel
warns that, while ‘ecofascism’ is confined to a narrow band of far right intellectuals
and disaffected white power skinheads who involved themselves alongside far left groups
in the anti-globalization movement, it may be “imposed as a revolution from above to
install an authoritarian regime in order to preserve the main workings of the system”
in times of crisis.===Critique of bioregionalism===
Bioregionalism, a philosophy developed by writers like Kirkpatrick Sale who believe
in the self-sufficiency of “appropriate bioregional boundaries” drawn up by inhabitants of “an
area”, has been thoroughly critiqued by Kovel, who fears that the “vagueness” of the area
will lead to conflict and further boundaries between communities. While Sale cites the
bioregional living of Native Americans, Kovel notes that such ideas are impossible to translate
to populations of modern proportions, and evidences the fact that Native Americans held
land in commons, rather than private property – thus, for eco-socialists, bioregionalism
provides no understanding of what is needed to transform society, and what the inevitable
“response of the capitalist state” would be to people constructing bioregionalism.Kovel
also attacks the problems of self-sufficiency. Where Sale believes in self-sufficient regions
“each developing the energy of its peculiar ecology”, such as “wood in the northwest [USA]”,
Kovel asks “how on earth” these can be made sufficient for regional needs, and notes the
environmental damage of converting Seattle into a “forest-destroying and smoke-spewing
wood-burning” city. Kovel also questions Sale’s insistence on bioregions that do “not require
connections with the outside, but within strict limits”, and whether this precludes journeys
to visit family members and other forms of travel.===Critique of variants of eco-feminism===
Like many variants of socialism and Green politics, eco-socialists recognise the importance
of “the gendered bifurcation of nature” and support the emancipation of gender as it “is
at the root of patriarchy and class”. Nevertheless, while Kovel believes that “any path out of
capitalism must also be eco-feminist”, he criticises types of ecofeminism that are not
anti-capitalist and can “essentialize women’s closeness to nature and build from there,
submerging history into nature”, becoming more at place in the “comforts of the New
Age Growth Centre”. These limitations, for Kovel, “keep ecofeminism from becoming a coherent
social movement”.===Critique of social ecology===
While having much in common with the radical tradition of Social Ecology, eco-socialists
still see themselves as distinct. Kovel believes this is because social ecologists see hierarchy
“in-itself” as the cause of ecological destruction, whereas eco-socialists focus on gender and
class domination embodied in capitalism and recognise that forms of authority that are
not “an expropriation of human power for… self-aggrandizement”, such as a student-teacher
relationship that is “reciprocal and mutual”, are beneficial.In practice, Kovel describes
social ecology as continuing the anarchist tradition of non-violent direct action, which
is “necessary” but “not sufficient” because “it leaves unspoken the question of building
an ecological society beyond capital”. Furthermore, Social Ecologists and anarchists tend to focus
on the state alone, rather than the class relations behind state domination (in the
view of Marxists). Kovel fears that this is political, springing from historic hostility
to Marxism among anarchists and sectarianism, which he points out as a fault of the “brilliant”
but “dogmatic” founder of social ecology, Murray Bookchin.===Opposition to Malthusianism and Neo-Malthusianism
===While Malthusianism and eco-socialism overlap
within the Green movement because both address over-industrialism, and despite the fact that
Eco-socialists, like many within the Green movement, are described as neo-Malthusian
because of their criticism of economic growth, Eco-socialists are opposed to Malthusianism.
This divergence stems from the difference between Marxist and Malthusian examinations
of social injustice – whereas Marx blames inequality on class injustice, Malthus argued
that the working-class remained poor because of their greater fertility and birth rates.
Neo-Malthusians have slightly modified this analysis by increasing their focus on overconsumption
– nonetheless, eco-socialists find this attention inadequate. They point to the fact
that Malthus did not thoroughly examine ecology and that Garrett Hardin, a key Neo-Malthusian,
suggested that further enclosed and privatised land, as opposed to commons, would solve the
chief environmental problem, which Hardin labeled the ‘tragedy of the commons’.===The “two varieties of environmentalism”
===Guha and Martinez-Alier attack the gulf between
what they see as the two “varieties of environmentalism” – the environmentalism of the North, an
aesthetic environmentalism that is the privilege of wealthy people who no longer have basic
material concerns, and the environmentalism of the South, where people’s local environment
is a source of communal wealth and such issues are a question of survival. Nonetheless, other
eco-socialists, such as Wall, have also pointed out that capitalism disproportionately affects
the poorest in the Global North as well, leading to examples of resistance such as the environmental
justice movement in the US and groups like MOVE.==Critique of other forms of socialism==
Eco-socialists choose to use the term ‘socialist’, despite “the failings of its twentieth century
interpretations”, because it “still stands for the supersession of capital” and thus
“the name, and the reality” must “become adequate for this time”. Eco-socialists have nonetheless
often diverged with other Marxist movements. Eco-socialism has also been partly influenced
by and associated with agrarian socialism as well as some forms of Christian socialism,
especially in the United States.===Critique of ‘Actually Existing Socialisms’
===For Kovel and Lowy, eco-socialism is “the
realization of the “first-epoch” socialisms” by resurrecting the notion of “free development
of all producers”, distancing themselves from “the attenuated, reformist aims of social
democracy and the productivist structures of the bureaucratic variations of socialism”,
such as forms of Leninism and Stalinism. They ground the failure of past socialist movements
in “underdevelopment in the context of hostility by existing capitalist powers”, which led
to “the denial of internal democracy” and “emulation of capitalist productivism”. Kovel
believes that the forms of ‘actually existing socialism’ consisted of “public ownership
of the means of production”, rather than meeting “the true definition” of socialism as “a free
association of producers”, with the Party-State bureaucracy acting as the “alienating substitute
‘public'”.In analysing the Russian Revolution, Kovel feels that “conspiratorial” revolutionary
movements “cut off from the development of society” will “find society an inert mass
requiring leadership from above”. From this, he notes that the anti-democratic Tsarist
heritage meant that the Bolsheviks, who were aided into power by World War One, were a
minority who, when faced with a counter-revolution and invading Western powers, continued “the
extraordinary needs of ‘war communism'”, which “put the seal of authoritarianism” on the
revolution; thus, for Kovel, Lenin and Trotsky “resorted to terror”, shut down the Soviets
(workers’ councils) and emulated “capitalist efficiency and productivism as a means of
survival”, setting the stage for Stalinism.Lenin, in Kovel’s eyes, came to oppose the nascent
Bolshevik environmentalism and its champion Aleksandr Bogdanov, who was later attacked
for “idealism”; Kovel describes Lenin’s philosophy as “a sharply dualistic materialism, rather
similar to the Cartesian separation of matter and consciousness, and perfectly tooled…
to the active working over of the dead, dull matter by the human hand”, which led him to
want to overcome Russian backwardness through rapid industrialization. This tendency was,
according to Kovel, augmented by a desire to catch-up with the West and the “severe
crisis” of the revolution’s first years.Furthermore, Kovel quotes Trotsky, who believed in a Communist
“superman” who would “learn how to move rivers and mountains”. Kovel believes that, in Stalin’s
“revolution from above” and mass terror in response to the early 1930s economic crisis,
Trotsky’s writings “were given official imprimatur”, despite the fact that Trotsky himself was
eventually purged, as Stalinism attacked “the very notion of ecology… in addition to ecologies”.
Kovel adds that Stalin “would win the gold medal for enmity to nature”, and that, in
the face of massive environmental degradation, the inflexible Soviet bureaucracy became increasingly
inefficient and unable to emulate capitalist accumulation, leading to a “vicious cycle”
that led to its collapse.===Critique of the wider socialist movement
===Beyond the forms of ‘actually existing socialism’,
Kovel criticises socialists in general as treating ecology “as an afterthought” and
holding “a naive faith in the ecological capacities of a working-class defined by generations
of capitalist production”. He cites David McNally, who advocates increasing consumption
levels under socialism, which, for Kovel, contradicts any notion of natural limits.
He also criticises McNally’s belief in releasing the “positive side of capital’s self-expansion”
after the emancipation of labor; instead, Kovel argues that a socialist society would
“seek not to become larger” but would rather become “more realized”, choosing sufficiency
and eschewing economic growth. Kovel further adds that the socialist movement was historically
conditioned by its origins in the era of industrialization so that, when modern socialists like McNally
advocate a socialism that “cannot be at the expense of the range of human satisfaction”,
they fail “to recognize that these satisfactions can be problematic with respect to nature
when they have been historically shaped by the domination of nature”.==Eco-socialist strategy==
Eco-socialists generally advocate the non-violent dismantling of capitalism and the state, focusing
on collective ownership of the means of production by freely associated producers and restoration
of the Commons. To get to an eco-socialist society, eco-socialists advocate working-class
anti-capitalist resistance but also believe that there is potential for agency in autonomous,
grassroots individuals and groups across the world who can build “prefigurative” projects
for non-violent radical social change.These prefigurative steps go “beyond the market
and the state” and base production on the enhancement of use values, leading to the
internationalization of resistance communities in an ‘Eco-socialist Party’ or network of
grassroots groups focused on non-violent, radical social transformation. An ‘Eco-socialist
revolution’ is then carried out.===Agency===
Many eco-socialists, like Alan Roberts, have encouraged working-class action and resistance,
such as the ‘green ban’ movement in which workers refuse to participate in projects
that are ecologically harmful. Similarly, Kovel focuses on working-class involvement
in the formation of eco-socialist parties or their increased involvement in existing
Green Parties; however, he believes that, unlike many other forms of socialist analysis,
“there is no privileged agent” or revolutionary class, and that there is potential for agency
in numerous autonomous, grassroots individuals and groups who can build “prefigurative” projects
for non-violent radical social change. He defines “prefiguration” as “the potential
for the given to contain the lineaments of what is to be”, meaning that “a moment toward
the future exists embedded in every point of the social organism where a need arises”.If
“everything has prefigurative potential”, Kovel notes that forms of potential ecological
production will be “scattered”, and thus suggests that “the task is to free them and connect
them”. While all “human ecosystems” have “ecosocialist potential”, Kovel points out that ones such
as the World Bank have low potential, whereas internally democratic anti-globalization “affinity
groups” have a high potential through a dialectic that involves the “active bringing and holding
together of negations”, such as the group acting as an alternative institution (“production
of an ecological/socialist alternative”) and trying to shut down a G8 summit meeting (“resistance
to capital”). Therefore, “practices that in the same motion enhance use-values and diminish
exchange-values are the ideal” for eco-socialists.===Prefiguration===
For Kovel, the main prefigurative steps “are that people ruthlessly criticize the capitalist
system… and that they include in this a consistent attack on the widespread belief
that there can be no alternative to it”, which will then “deligitimate the system and release
people into struggle”. Kovel justifies this by stating that “radical criticism of the
given… can be a material force”, even without an alternative, “because it can seize the
mind of the masses of people”, leading to “dynamic” and “exponential”, rather than “incremental”
and “linear”, victories that spread rapidly. Following this, he advocates the expansion
of the dialectical eco-socialist potential of groups through sustaining the confrontation
and internal cohesion of human ecosystems, leading to an “activation” of potentials in
others that will “spread across the whole social field” as “a new set of orienting principles”
that define an ideology or “‘party-life’ formation”.In the short-term, eco-socialists like Kovel
advocate activities that have the “promise of breaking down the commodity form”. This
includes organizing labor, which is a “reconfiguring of the use-value of labor power”; forming
cooperatives, allowing “a relatively free association of labor”; forming localised currencies,
which he sees as “undercutting the value-basis of money”; and supporting “radical media”
that, in his eyes, involve an “undoing of the fetishism of commodities”. Arran Gare,
Wall and Kovel have advocated economic localisation in the same vein as many in the Green movement,
although they stress that it must be a prefigurative step rather than an end in itself.Kovel also
advises political parties attempting to “democratize the state” that there should be “dialogue
but no compromise” with established political parties, and that there must be “a continual
association of electoral work with movement work” to avoid “being sucked back into the
system”. Such parties, he believes, should focus on “the local rungs of the political
system” first, before running national campaigns that “challenge the existing system by the
elementary means of exposing its broken promises”.Kovel believes in building prefigurations around
forms of production based on use values, which will provide a practical vision of a post-capitalist,
post-statist system. Such projects include Indymedia (“a democratic rendering of the
use-values of new technologies such as the Internet, and a continual involvement in wider
struggle”), open-source software, Wikipedia, public libraries and many other initiatives,
especially those developed within the anti-globalisation movement. These strategies, in Wall’s words,
“go beyond the market and the state” by rejecting the supposed dichotomy between private enterprise
and state-owned production, while also rejecting any combination of the two through a mixed
economy. He states that these present forms of “amphibious politics”, which are “half
in the dirty water of the present but seeking to move on to a new, unexplored territory”.Wall
suggests that open source software, for example, opens up “a new form of commons regime in
cyberspace”, which he praises as production “for the pleasure of invention” that gives
“access to resources without exchange”. He believes that open source has “bypassed” both
the market and the state, and could provide “developing countries with free access to
vital computer software”. Furthermore, he suggests that an “open source economy” means
that “the barrier between user and provider is eroded”, allowing for “cooperative creativity”.
He links this to Marxism and the notion of usufruct, asserting that “Marx would have
been a Firefox user”.===Internationalization of prefiguration
and the ‘Eco-socialist Party’===Many eco-socialists have noted that the potential
for building such projects is easier for media workers than for those in heavy industry because
of the decline in trade unionism and the globalized division of labor which divides workers. However,
Kovel believes that examples like the Christian Bruderhof Communities (despite elements of
patriarchy that he attacks) show that “communistic” organizations can “survive rather well in
a heavily industrialized market” if they are “protected” from the dependence on the market
by “anti-capitalist intentionality”. He further posits that class struggle is “internationalized
in the face of globalization”, as evidenced by a wave of strikes across the Global South
in the first half of the year 2000; indeed, he says that “labor’s most cherished values
are already immanently ecocentric”.Kovel therefore thinks that these universalizing tendencies
must lead to the formation of “a consciously ‘Ecosocialist Party'” that is neither like
a parliamentary or vanguardist party. Instead, Kovel advocates a form of political party
“grounded in communities of resistance”, where delegates from these communities form the
core of the party’s activists, and these delegates and the “open and transparent” assembly they
form are subject to recall and regular rotation of members. He holds up the Zapatista Army
of National Liberation (EZLN) and the Gaviotas movement as examples of such communities,
which “are produced outside capitalist circuits” and show that “there can be no single way
valid for all peoples”.Nonetheless, he also firmly believes in connecting these movements,
stating that “ecosocialism will be international or it will be nothing” and hoping that the
Ecosocialist Party can retain the autonomy of local communities while supporting them
materially. With an ever-expanding party, Kovel hopes that “defections” by capitalists
will occur, leading eventually to the armed forces and police who, in joining the revolution,
will signify that “the turning point is reached”.==’The Revolution’ and transition to eco-socialism
==’The Revolution’ as envisaged by eco-socialists
involves an immediate socio-political transition. Internationally, eco-socialists believe in
a reform of the nature of money and the formation of a ‘World People’s Trade Organisation’ (WPTO)
that democratizes and improves world trade through the calculation of an ‘Ecological
Price’ (EP) for goods. This would then be followed by a transformation of socioeconomic
conditions towards ecological production, commons land and notions of usufruct (that
seek to improve the common property possessed by society) to end private property. Eco-socialists
assert that this must be carried out with adherence to non-violence===The immediate aftermath of the revolution
===Eco-socialists like Kovel use the term “Eco-socialist
revolution” to describe the transition to an eco-socialist world society. In the immediate
socio-political transition, he believes that four groups will emerge from the revolution
– revolutionaries, those “whose productive activity is directly compatible with ecological
production” (such as nurses, schoolteachers, librarians, independent farmers and many other
examples), those “whose pre-revolutionary practice was given over to capital” (including
the bourgeoisie, advertising executives and more) and “the workers whose activity added
surplus value to capitalist commodities”.In terms of political organisation, he advocates
an “interim assembly” made up of the revolutionaries that can “devise incentives to make sure that
vital functions are maintained” (such as short-term continuation of “differential remuneration”
for labor), “handle the redistribution of social roles and assets”, convene “in widespread
locations”, and send delegates to regional, state, national and international organisations,
where every level has an “executive council” that is rotated and can be recalled. From
there, he asserts that “productive communities” will “form the political as well as economic
unit of society” and “organize others” to make a transition to eco-socialist production.He
adds that people will be allowed to be members of any community they choose with “associate
membership” of others, such as a doctor having main membership of healthcare communities
as a doctor and associate membership of child-rearing communities as a father. Each locality would,
in Kovel’s eyes, require one community that administered the areas of jurisdiction through
an elected assembly. High-level assemblies would have additional “supervisory” roles
over localities to monitor the development of ecosystemic integrity, and administer “society-wide
services” like transport in “state-like functions”, before the interim assembly can transfer responsibilities
to “the level of the society as a whole through appropriate and democratically responsive
committees”.===Transnational trade and capital reform
===Part of the eco-socialist transition, in Kovel’s
eyes, is the reforming money to retain its use in “enabling exchanges” while reducing
its functions as “a commodity in its own right” and “repository of value”. He argues for directing
money to “enhancement of use-values” through a “subsidization of use-values” that “preserves
the functioning core of the economy while gaining time and space for rebuilding it”.
Internationally, he believes in the immediate cessation of speculation in currencies (“breaking
down the function of money as commodity, and redirecting funds on use-values”), the cancellation
of the debt of the Global South (“breaking the back of the value function” of money)
and the redirecting the “vast reservoir of mainly phony value” to reparations and “ecologically
sound development”. He suggests the end of military aid and other forms of support to
“comprador elites in the South” will eventually “lead to their collapse”.In terms of trade,
Kovel advocates a ‘World People’s Trade Organization’ (WPTO), “responsible to a
confederation of popular bodies”, in which “the degree of control over trade is… proportional
to involvement with production”, meaning that “farmers would have a special say over food
trade” and so on. He posits that the WPTO should have an elected council that will oversee
a reform of prices in favour of an ‘Ecological Price’ (EP) “determined by the difference
between actual use-values and fully realized ones”, thus having low tariffs for forms of
ecological production like organic agriculture; he also envisages the high tariffs on non-ecological
production providing subsidies to ecological production units.The EP would also internalize
the costs of current externalities (like pollution) and “would be set as a function of the distance
traded”, reducing the effects of long-distance transport like carbon emissions and increased
packaging of goods. He thinks that this will provide a “standard of transformation” for
non-ecological industries, like the automobile industry, thus spurring changes towards ecological
production.===Ecological production===
Eco-socialists pursue “ecological production” that, according to Kovel, goes beyond the
socialist vision of the emancipation of labor to “the realization of use-values and the
appropriation of intrinsic value”. He envisions a form of production in which “the making
of a thing becomes part of the thing made” so that, using a high quality meal as an analogy,
“pleasure would obtain for the cooking of the meal” – thus activities “reserved as hobbies
under capitalism” would “compose the fabric of everyday life” under eco-socialism.This,
for Kovel, is achieved if labor is “freely chosen and developed… with a fully realized
use-value” achieved by a “negation” of exchange-value, and he exemplifies the Food Not Bombs project
for adopting this. He believes that the notion of “mutual recognition… for the process
as well as the product” will avoid exploitation and hierarchy. With production allowing humanity
to “live more directly and receptively embedded in nature”, Kovel predicts that “a reorientation
of human need” will occur that recognises ecological limits and sees technology as “fully
participant in the life of eco-systems”, thus removing it from profit-making exercises.In
the course on an Eco-socialist revolution, writers like Kovel advocate a “rapid conversion
to ecosocialist production” for all enterprises, followed by “restoring ecosystemic integrity
to the workplace” through steps like workers ownership. He then believes that the new enterprises
can build “socially developed plans” of production for societal needs, such as efficient light-rail
transport components. At the same time, Kovel argues for the transformation of essential
but, under capitalism, non-productive labour, such as child care, into productive labour,
“thereby giving reproductive labour a status equivalent to productive labour”.During such
a transition, he believes that income should be guaranteed and that money will still be
used under “new conditions of value… according to use and to the degree to which ecosystem
integrity is developed and advanced by any particular production”. Within this structure,
Kovel asserts that markets and will become unnecessary – although “market phenomena”
in personal exchanges and other small instances might be adopted – and communities and elected
assemblies will democratically decide on the allocation of resources. Istvan Meszaros believes
that such “genuinely planned and self-managed (as opposed to bureaucratically planned from
above) productive activities” are essential if eco-socialism is to meet its “fundamental
objectives”.Eco-socialists are quick to assert that their focus on “production” does not
mean that there will be an increase in production and labor under Eco-socialism. Kovel thinks
that the emancipation of labor and the realization of use-value will allow “the spheres of work
and culture to be reintegrated”. He cites the example of Paraguayan Indian communities
(organised by Jesuits) in the eighteenth century who made sure that all community members learned
musical instruments, and had labourers take musical instruments to the fields and takes
turns playing music or harvesting.===Commons, property and ‘usufruct’===
Most eco-socialists, including Guha and Martinez Alier, echo subsistence eco-feminists like
Vandana Shiva when they argue for the restoration of commons land over private property. They
blame ecological degradation on the inclination to short-term, profit-inspired decisions inherent
within a market system. For them, privatization of land strips people of their local communal
resources in the name of creating markets for neo-liberal globalisation, which benefits
a minority. In their view, successful commons systems have been set up around the world
throughout history to manage areas cooperatively, based on long-term needs and sustainability
instead of short-term profit.Many eco-socialists focus on a modified version of the notion
of ‘Usufruct’ to replace capitalist private property arrangements. As a legal term, Usufruct
refers to the legal right to use and derive profit or benefit from property that belongs
to another person, as long as the property is not damaged. According to eco-socialists
like Kovel, a modern interpretation of the idea is “where one uses, enjoys – and through
that, improves – another’s property”, as its Latin etymology “condenses the two
meanings of use – as in use-value, and enjoyment – and as in the gratification expressed
in freely associated labour”. The idea, according to Kovel, has roots in the Code of Hammurabi
and was first mentioned in Roman law “where it applied to ambiguities between masters
and slaves with respect to property”; it also features in Islamic Sharia law, Aztec law
and the Napoleonic Code.Crucially for eco-socialists, Marx mentioned the idea when he stated that
human beings are no more than the planet’s “usufructaries, and, like boni patres familias,
they must hand it down to succeeding generations in an improved condition”. Kovel and others
have taken on this reading, asserting that, in an eco-socialist society, “everyone will
have… rights of use and ownership over those means of production necessary to express the
creativity of human nature”, namely “a place of one’s own” to decorate to personal taste,
some personal possessions, the body and its attendant sexual and reproductive rights.However,
Kovel sees property as “self-contradictory” because individuals emerge “in a tissue of
social relations” and “nested circles”, with the self at the centre and extended circles
where “issues of sharing arise from early childhood on”. He believes that “the full
self is enhanced more by giving than by taking” and that eco-socialism is realized when material
possessions weigh “lightly” upon the self – thus restoration of use-value allows things
to be taken “concretely and sensuously” but “lightly, since things are enjoyed for themselves
and not as buttresses for a shaky ego”.This, for Kovel, reverses what Marxists see as the
commodity fetishism and atomization of individuals (through the “unappeasable craving” for “having
and excluding others from having”) under capitalism. Under eco-socialism, he therefore believes
that enhancement of use-value will lead to differentiated ownership between the individual
and the collective, where there are “distinct limits on the amount of property individuals
control” and no-one can take control of resources that “would permit the alienation of means
of production from another”. He then hopes that the “hubris” of the notion of “ownership
of the planet” will be replaced with usufruct.===Non-violence===
Most eco-socialists are involved in peace and antiwar movements, and eco-socialist writers,
like Kovel, generally believe that “violence is the rupturing of ecosystems” and is therefore
“deeply contrary to ecosocialist values”. Kovel believes that revolutionary movements
must prepare for post-revolutionary violence from counter-revolutionary sources by “prior
development of the democratic sphere” within the movement, because “to the degree that
people are capable of self-government, so will they turn away from violence and retribution”
for “a self-governed people cannot be pushed around by any alien government”. It is therefore
essential, in Kovel’s view, that the revolution “takes place in” or spreads quickly to the
United States, which “is capital’s gendarme and will crush any serious threat”, and that
revolutionaries reject the death penalty and retribution against former opponents or counter-revolutionaries.==
Criticisms==While in many ways the criticisms of eco-socialism
combine the traditional criticisms of both socialism and Green politics, there are unique
critiques of eco-socialism, which are largely from within the traditional Socialist or Green
movements themselves, along with conservative criticisms.
Some socialists are critical of the word ‘eco-socialism’. David Reilly, who questions whether his argument
is improved by the use of an “exotic word”, argues instead that the “real socialism” is
“also a green or ‘eco'” one that you get to “by dint of struggle”. Other socialists, like
Paul Hampton of the Alliance for Workers’ Liberty (a British third camp socialist party),
see eco-socialism as “classless ecology”, wherein eco-socialists have “given up on the
working class” as the privileged agent of struggle by “borrowing bits from Marx but
missing the locus of Marxist politics”.Writing in Capitalism Nature Socialism, Doug Boucher,
Peter Caplan, David Schwartzman and Jane Zara criticise eco-socialists in general (and Joel
Kovel in particular) for a deterministic “catastrophism” that overlooks “the countervailing tendencies
of both popular struggles and the efforts of capitalist governments to rationalize the
system” and the “accomplishments of the labor movement” that “demonstrate that despite the
interests and desires of capitalists, progress toward social justice is possible”. They argue
that an ecological socialism must be “built on hope, not fear”.Conservatives have criticised
the perceived opportunism of left-wing groups who have increased their focus on green issues
since the fall of communism. Fred L. Smith Jr., President of the Competitive Enterprise
Institute think-tank, exemplifies the conservative critique of left Greens, attacking the “pantheism”
of the Green movement and conflating “eco-paganism” with eco-socialism. Like many conservative
critics, Smith uses the term ‘eco-socialism’ to attack non-socialist environmentalists
for advocating restrictions on the market-based solutions to ecological problems. He nevertheless
wrongly claims that eco-socialists endorse “the Malthusian view of the relationship between
man and nature”, and states that Al Gore, a former Democratic Party Vice President of
the United States and now a climate change campaigner, is an eco-socialist, despite the
fact that Gore has never used this term and is not recognised as a such by other followers
of either Green politics or socialism.Some environmentalists and conservationists have
criticised eco-socialism from within the Green movement. In a review of Joel Kovel’s The
Enemy of Nature, David M. Johns criticises eco-socialism for not offering “suggestions
about near term conservation policy” and focusing exclusively on long-term societal transformation.
Johns believes that species extinction “started much earlier” than capitalism and suggests
that eco-socialism neglects the fact that an ecological society will need to transcend
the destructiveness found in “all large-scale societies”. the very tendency that Kovel himself
attacks among capitalists and traditional leftists who attempt to reduce nature to “linear”
human models. Johns questions whether non-hierarchical social systems can provide for billions of
people, and criticises eco-socialists for neglecting issues of population pressure.
Furthermore, Johns describes Kovel’s argument that human hierarchy is founded on raiding
to steal women as “archaic”.==List of eco-socialists====See also====References====External links==
An ecosocialist manifesto by Joel Kovel and Michael Lowy on Ozleft
The Ecosocialist International Network Capitalism, Nature, Socialism (CNS) (Journal).
The politics of ecosocialism – transforming welfare (book) (2015).
Climate and Capitalism. (An online journal edited by Ian Angus).
Democratic Socialist Perspective, Environment, Capitalism & Socialism (book) (1999).
Extract from Ecology and Socialism by The Socialist Party of Great Britain on Common
Voice Takis Fotopoulos, “Is de-growth compatible
with a market economy?,” The International Journal of Inclusive Democracy, Vol. 3, No.
1 (2007). Another Green World: Derek Wall’s Ecosocialist
Blog Dan Jakopovich, “Green Unionism In Theory
and Practice,” Synthesis/Regeneration 43 (Spring 2007).
(preview) Dan Jakopovich, “Uniting to Win: Labor-Environmental Alliances,” Capitalism
Nature Socialism, Vol. 20, Is. 2 (2009), pages 74–96
Ecosocialism: A Weblog of Ecosocialist Opinion So You’d Like to… Replace Capitalism
with Ecosocialism Robyn Eckersley, Ecosocialism: The Post-Marxist
Svnthesis Robin Hahnel “Protecting the Environment in
a Participatory Economy,” Synthesis/Regeneration 34 (Spring 2004). Retrieved (31-03-2013).
Ecosocialism: Where Anticapitalism and Ecology Intersect, video presentation by Ian Angus
After Bali: The Global Fight for Climate Justice , video presentation by Patrick Bond
The official site of “Ecosocialists Greece” Political Organization
John Bellamy Foster and Brett Clark “Capitalism and Ecological Destruction,” Monthly Review
(November 2009). Retrieved (31-03-2013). John Bellamy Foster and Fred Magdoff “What
Every Environmentalist Needs to Know About Capitalism” (book)
Ecosocialist Horizons

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