“From the standpoint of a higher socio-economic formation, the private property of individuals in the earth will appear just as absurd as the private property of one man in other men. Even an entire society, a nation, or all simultaneously existing societies taken together, are not owners of the earth, they are simply its possessors, its beneficiaries, and have to bequeath it in an improved state to succeeding generations, as boni patres familias” [good heads of the household]”
First observation is that the author does not distinguish between the Green Party and Ecosocialism. Such basic an error that the whole article can almost immediately be dismissed.
Ecosocialism is much more than the green party and doesn’t by any means have to include the Green Party. The Ecosocialist movement is, as I have argued elsewhere ‘multi-focal’. It has to be. Time is thin, too many ecological boundaries are being trounced, of which atmospheric carbon is only one. In my view the movement requires a reformist political wing, this is a mitigation strategy. My personal preference and being resident in England is that this is to be the Green Party of England and Wales. We also need a mass movement against climate change and to promote new ways of existing, prefigurative, perhaps moneyless, primitivist, eco-technic or some combination. Something that points the way to that which can exist beyond capitalism.
I will pick out key parts of the critique and address them accordingly.
“Ecological sanity can only come when we recognise that the present economic system of capitalism is a social construct that must be overthrown”
Agreed. However and developing from my earlier point we can’t simply sit back and wait for the overthrow of capitalism to try and limit damages from the efficient cause, that being capitalism.
When is the global capitalist system likely to be overthrown? Is the author able to predict this or at least make an informed guess? The system lets face it, is obscenely resilient. It will for sure be thrown into turmoil as ecological degradation leads to resource wars, salvage economics, food shortages and the like.
The point is we don’t know how long capitalism will last, how many crises it will absorb, new forms it will take (eco-fascism) but we do know that islands in the pacific are disappearing under rising seas now. It has been predicted that an additional 250,000 people will die annually between 2030 and 2050 from conditions caused or exacerbated by climate change.
If there is an argument against the kind of mitigation measures that can be born under reformist projects let’s hear it - please.
The enclosure and commodification of labour is the most important form of enclosure.
I agree, this is concordant with Joel Kovel’s conception and Marxism generally but I don’t see any great merit that leads us to say enclosure of Labour is more important than that of land, other ‘property’ and so on.
Do you not think that a universal citizens income, a green party policy would go some way into freeing labour from capital? I fear already at this stage that the author only think in absolutes, in binary, 'must wait for capitalism to end'
The Green Party and many of its supporters do not recognise that they require a struggle against the capitalist system.
Let’s assume this is true. What would be the detrimental effect? Perhaps that the Green Party of England & Wales will not go on to overthrow the global capitalist system? Do those in the Green Party that do recognise we need to struggle specifically against capitalism think that the party will achieve the overthrow of global capitalism (no)?
Clearly, however well developed an analysis of capitalism is amongst green party members, it does not change the fact that it is a reformist project that may through pressure politics (affecting governing parties) or decision making politics if its growth continues, be able to have some positive impact nationally, both socially and ecologically. This may as a G8 nation extend further afield.
If we acknowledge that a left wing Green Party could make significant improvements within the constraints of capitalism, what is the logic of dismissing it?
Ecosocialism is multi-focal, what is the problem with having a reformist wing. More than one well-considered line of attack can be advanced simultaneously. I repeat, we cannot wait for the overthrow of capitalism, real life working class people are suffering now, ecological limits are being surpassed now.
If you suggest that we simply ignore the Green project or other reformist projects such as Podemos in Spain or Syrizia in Greece, or potential for future eco-socialist coalitions, what project do you advance in its place, that will:
1 Be effective within ecologically imposed time-constraints.
2 Improve the well-being of human and non-humans in the near term.
If the author is not advancing a program that can answer either of these two questions, I believe this brand of socialism, is narrow minded and has little or no practical relevance.
I argue that it is possible to have a well developed analysis of capitalism and be a member of the Green Party fully aware of its limitations. Maybe you will argue that voting changes nothing, but if we are talking about the minimal effort required to support the green project, that is, to turn up to a voting booth twice every decade, why try and turn people against it?
but they seem to have no real conception of what "socialism" might mean. The working class, exploitation, the labour movement, do not figure at all. Neither does collective ownership. Their "socialism" is more a catchphrase for good causes in general than a vision of the democratic transformation of society, by workers, from below. While the Green Party may hold some good socialist members, and present some reforms, it is not a party of socialism and in the end will degenerate into a party that offers bike-lanes and budget cuts. Socialists must challenge green politics showing how ecological issues are of top relevance to the quality of life of working people.
Your point about lacking a conception of what socialism may mean is interesting. Traditionally Marxists have been associated with an acceptance of reformism, to gain improvements for the working class, whilst simulateously being fully aware of its limitations and need to overthrow capitalism. It is in my understanding that it is anarchists that dismiss reformism in its entirety. My point being that labels can be vacuous and your conception of socialism differs from others. Podemos are interesting, clearly reformist socialist but are superficially avoiding much of the traditional terminology.
I may be wrong but i'm not convinced the author is fully aware of many of the GPEW policies or they would have been acknowledged in the article. I'm not going to quote myriad Green Party policies here. One example to make a point.
WR610 We will grant employees the legal right to buy out their companies and turn them into workers co-operatives.
This policy was, like all others, suggested by a member, any member can do this, voted for by all in attendance at conference and accepted. The point being that the Green Party of England & Wales is one of the oldest Green Parties, it is a complex organisation, as is any of its size. It is always a work in progress. If you are in it, you can help create the party you want, just like the member who suggested this policy.
Socialists must challenge green politics showing how ecological issues are of top relevance to the quality of life of working people.
This has been one half of the leading mission of ecosocialists. To make the greens redder and the reds greener. We would not be having this exchange if it were not for the work of ecosocialists. Our efforts are clearly working.
We possibly have one more generation before it is too late. There won’t be any socialists, there won’t be any socialism, when nobody can breathe.
Sobering in the extreme. Ecoscialism or Barbarism indeed. This is precisely why we cannot wait, for capitalism to end and why we need to get behind the ecosocialist movement and push, not rubbish one element of it that resides in reformist politics.
Climate change is real and it’s as urgent as it gets that we make radical changes if we want a future on this planet. The working class have to continue to see ourselves as revolutionary because we are the part of humanity most indispensable for our survival. The Socialist Party viewpoint simply means that, until the working majority sets the rules of the political and economic game, any gains in such battles are provisional and vulnerable to co-option and reversal.
It saddens me to say it, but we the working class, do not see ourselves as revolutionary, indeed the working class are often not even sure what constitutes working class and accordingly whether or not they are even 'it'. Capitalism and consumerism, manufacturing consent, keep the multitude docile chasing trinkets and so on.
We are barely politicised, we are politically apathetic, many working class people in this country are being duped by a school boy fascist, you cannot fight this as a tiny socialist sect. There is much work to be done.
Certainly the unfolding ecocatrosphe will lead to a new class consciousness, this is another initial aim of the ecosocialist movement, to build this consciousness now, embedding ecological awareness with working class awareness.
The author goes on to make many points that I agree with about the limits of reformist politics. To which I can only refer to earlier points I have made.
It's important not to confuse what ecosocialism is and what green parties are. This exchange has certainly reinforced what I have long known to be true. That I am an ecosocialist first and foremost. The label is not so important, I accept that not everyone uses it. John Bellamy Foster for example prefers not to.
The point is that we need to unite, sectarianism has no place in the battles ahead. We need to stand together, put our bodies on the line, marches, occupations, eek out new possibilities for a post-capitalist world. The threat of eco-fascism looms. We have to contribute whatever we can as individuals based on our skills, talents and available resources.
When we view what is ahead as ecosocialists, party associations mean so little. If not in the name of ecosocialism but for what it represents, we must unite.