Wednesday, 30 January 2013

What is Ecosocialism?

In Australia's current context of yet another wave of natural disasters, both fire and flood, i'm inspired to refresh myself on the ecosocialist alternative to our climate crisis.

The reigning capitalist system is bringing the planet’s inhabitants a long list of irreparable calamities. Witness: exponential growth of air pollution in big cities and across rural landscapes; fouled drinking water; global warming, with the incipient melting of the polar ice caps and the increase of “natural” extreme weather-related catastrophes; the deterioration of the ozone layer; the increasing destruction of tropical rain forests; the rapid decrease of biodiversity through the extinction of thousands of species; the exhausting of the soil; desertification; the unmanageable accumulation of waste, especially nuclear; the multiplication of nuclear accidents along with the threat of a new—and perhaps more destructive—Chernobyl; food contamination, genetic engineering, “mad cow,” and hormone-injected beef. All the warning signs are red: it is clear that the insatiable quest for profits, the producti- vist and mercantile logic of capitalist/industrial civilization is leading us into an ecological disaster of incalculable proportions. This is not to give in to “catastroph- ism” but to verify that the dynamic of infinite “growth” brought about by capitalist expansion is threatening the natural foundations of human life on the planet.

How should we react to this danger? Socialism and ecology—or at least some of its currents—share objective goals that imply a questioning of this economic automatism, of the reign of quantification, of production as a goal in itself, of the dictatorship of money, of the reduction of the social universe to the calculations of profitability and the needs of capital accumulation. Both socialism and ecology appeal to qualitative values—for the socialists, use-value, the satisfaction of needs, social equality; for the ecologists, protecting nature and ecological balance. Both conceive of the economy as “embedded” in the environment—a social environment or a natural environment.
What then is ecosocialism? It is a current of ecological thought and action that appropriates the fundamental gains of Marxism while shaking off its productivist dross. For ecosocialists, the market’s profit logic, and the logic of bureaucratic authoritarianism within the late departed “actually existing socialism,” are incompatible with the need to safeguard the natural environment. While criticizing the ideology of the dominant sectors of the labor movement, ecosocialists know that the workers and their organizations are an indispensable force for any radical transformation of the system as well as the establishment of a new socialist and ecological society.

There is an example of exactly the kind of alternative we need developing already in Australia, an initiative to bring together the demands of labour and ecology:

As employers and governments begin to close the coal industry down, then it is a real issue to where the new jobs will come from. What Earthworker has always argued is that new jobs need to be in manufacturing. Employers and governments are saying that they can’t manufacture any longer in Australia and make a profit, so we are saying that by using a cooperative model we can in fact manufacture in this country.
We actually have a social weight as workers, well beyond the weight that we use to fight the boss for wages, conditions and safety. We actually have a social weight to direct the economy.
\When we looked at the issue of climate, we knew that climate is an environmental crisis but its cause lies in the economy. An economy that is not based on the vested interest of the vast majority but based on the interests of a minority. We’re seeing the narrow interests of investors in the corporations put ahead of the rights of citizens.
We have a massive vested interest in eliminating climate change but how do we do that when the economic levers are in the hands of a minority who are actually causing that climate emergency?
Earthworker is looking to establish the means to allow people to establish the alternative now, not off in the future.

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