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By Joel Kovel
A socialism worthy of the name will have to be ecologically oriented, that is, it will have to be an "ecosocialism" devoted to restoring the integrity of our relationship with nature. Production within ecosocialism must be oriented towards repairing the damage of ecosystems and promoting flourishing ecosystems.
Homo sapiens has been struggling with its effects on nature since the days of the Paleolithic and the first great extinctions carried out by bands of hunters. But it was not until the 1970s that these effects began to be experienced as a great ecological crisis that threatens the future of all species. The modern environmental movement was born at that time, with its Earth Days, green parties and countless NGOs signaling a new, ecologically conscious, era that had arisen to fight the planetary threat.
The optimism of those early years has now totally faded. Despite some useful interventions, such as increased recycling of garbage or the development of green areas, or the seemingly growing mass of government regulations, environmental NGOs and academic programs have seen the global pace of ecological decline. In fact, since the first Earth Day was proclaimed, it has worsened in crucial areas such as carbon emissions, the loss of reefs and the deforestation of the Amazon; All this has now accelerated and has begun to assume an exponential character. How to explain this annoying fact? Why was the awareness that should inspire the most vigorous efforts to go beyond the limits of current environmentalism not broaden? Perhaps Margaret Thatcher should be considered here. In the late 1970s, the same decade that was to usher us into the environmental age, the "Iron Lady", Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, announced the emergence of "TINA," the acronym for her slogan "There Is No Alternative "(" There Is No Alternative ") to the given society, and certainly no alternative of the kind envisioned by the first wave of environmental activists.
What had happened was that environmentalism had missed the point, and was dealing with external symptoms instead of attacking the basic disease. Thatcher did not spell it out in detail but there was no mistaking what she had in mind and argued: "There was no Alternative to Capitalism" - or, more accurately, for the reborn, hard and sharp, type of capitalism that had been installed during the 1970s instead of the welfare state capitalism that had prevailed for more than a century. This was a deliberate response to a serious accumulation crisis that had convinced the leaders of the global economy to install what we know today as neoliberalism. Thatcher was emblematic, along with Ronald Reagan in the US, of his political face. Neoliberalism is a return to the pure logic of Capital; It is not a passing storm but the true condition of the capitalist world that we inhabit. It has swept away the measures that had inhibited Capital's aggressiveness and replaced them with a naked exploitation of humanity and nature. By breaking down the borders and limits of its accumulation it is known as "globalization," and it is celebrated by ideologists like Thomas Friedman as a new era of universal progress sustained by the wings of the free market and the commodification of everything. This neoliberal blitzkrieg or bombardment ended the weak liberal reforms that the environmental movements of the 1970s had helped put in order to verify ecological decay. And as these movements have not developed any criticism of Capital, or a very small one, they float without hope in a time of accelerating crisis.
So now is the time to recognize the absolute insufficiency of the basic premises of first wave environmentalism and its forms of organization. There is a certain urgency to this recognition, to warn of the profound and indeed unprecedented changes in human existence due to the ecological crisis. And this path that has now opened before us can be attributed to Capital itself, which puts us on the footprint of ecological chaos. While there are many and complex evidences corresponding to the responsibility of Capital in the ecological crisis, the truth is that only one devastating trend is maintained: capitalism requires the incessant growth of economic production, and as this growth serves the cause of Capital but not to real human needs, the result is the ongoing destabilization of its integral relationship with nature. The essential reason for this depends on the distinctive difference of capitalism with all other modes of production, that is, that it is organized around the production of Capital itself - of a completely abstract, quantitative and numerical entity with no internal limit. Therefore, it drags the material natural world, which has very defined limits, along with it in its maddened quest to valorise value, of value and surplus value, and it can do nothing else.
We have no choice in the face of the fact that the ecological crisis predicts a radical change. But we can choose the exchange rate, which can be for life or for death. As Ian Angus puts it on his website, "Climate and Capitalism", the option is quite simple: "EcoSocialism or Barbarism: There is no third way."
In reality, that is a paraphrase of what the great Rosa Luxemburg said at the beginning of the 20th century, that humanity's real dilemma was between "Socialism or Barbarism." This is a big true. The failure of the socialist revolutions (immediately, as in the case of Luxemburg and the Spartacist uprising in Germany, and later with the failure of the other socialisms of the 20th century, especially those organized around the USSR and China), has been a condition for the present triumph of barbarian capitalism, with its endless wars, the nightmare of consumerism, the widening between rich and poor - and very significantly, with the ecological crisis. So human choice refers us to the same thing, except that capitalist barbarism now means eco-catastrophe. This is so because the Earth's ability to clean up the effects of human production has been overwhelmed by the chaos of its productive system. Any movement for social transformation in our time will have to bring this problem to the fore, because the very notion of a future depends on whether we can solve it or not.
For this reason, a socialism worthy of the name will have to be ecologically - or to be more exact, "ecocentrically" - oriented, that is, it will have to be an "ecosocialism" devoted to restoring the integrity of our relationship with nature. The distinction between ecosocialism and the socialisms of the "first epoch" of the last century is not merely terminological, as if ecosocialism simply needed workers' control over the industrial apparatus and some good environmental regulation. Workers' control is required in ecosocialism as in "early" socialism, because producers are free only if they transcend capitalism. But the ecological aspect also poses a new and more radical problem that calls into question the very nature of production itself.
Capitalist production, in its endless search for profit, seeks to turn everything into merchandise. Only in this way can accumulation continue to expand. By freeing ourselves from the tyranny of private property over the means of production, with socialism, whether of the first epoch or as ecosocialism, it would be possible to interrupt the deadly trend of this cancerous growth, which is always determined by competition between the capitals to win the largest share of the market. But that left open the question of what will happen, and how, within an ecosocialist society.
It is clear that production will have to change: from being dominated by exchange - the path of commodities - to one that is dominated by use, that is, by the direct satisfaction of human needs. But this, in turn, requires a definition, and in the context of the ecological crisis, "use" can only mean what it considers as essential needs that which overcomes the ecological crisis - which is the greatest need of civilization in its entirety. set, and therefore for every woman and man within her. Hence it follows that human beings can only flourish in circumstances in which the damage to nature that Capital has inflicted on it is overcome, for example, by ceasing to emit carbon into the atmosphere. To the extent that "nature" is the interrelated game of all ecosystems, production within ecosocialism must be geared towards repairing damage to ecosystems and, in effect, promoting flourishing ecosystems. This could bring with it rational farms, for example, or - since we are natural creatures living ecosystematically, in communities - ecologically directed human relationships, including child rearing, gender relationships, and indeed, spiritual and aesthetic wholeness. of the life.
This article is far, because it is too brief, from allowing the development of these topics. But from what has been said so far it should be clear that speaking of ecosocialism we are saying a lot about what our economy or technology must change. Ecosocialism is not a completely economic matter, just as socialism or communism was not a mere economic question in Marx's perspective. It is necessary to specify the radical transformation of society - and of human existence - that Marx foresaw as the next phase in human evolution. In fact, that is how it must be if we are to survive the ecological crisis. Ecosocialism is the indicator of, then, a completely different mode of production, one in which freely associated workers produce flourishing ecosystems rather than commodities. This definitely raises a lot more questions than answers, which is the measure of how deep the ecological crisis is. What, after all, would life look like if we stopped emitting huge amounts of carbon into the atmosphere and allowed the climate ecosystem to rebalance, that is, be healed? What would it really be like to live fully as humans in harmony with nature given the tremendous horrors done by our system of society? There is no certainty of the result. But there is a certainty that we have to build: there must be an alternative.
From New Socialist: http://www.newsocialist.org/index.php?id=1321
Posted in Rebelion http://www.rebelion.org
One of Joel Kovel's most recent books is The Enemy of Nature, 2nd edition forthcoming 2007, Zed.