Justice: In Rojava

This keyword was one of fifty explored and put to work on this site. The notes on the keywords are revised and collected together in Revolutionary Keywords for a New Left, which includes a concluding essay placing them in historical context. The book includes a detailed reading list with web-links so you can more easily follow the links online, a list which is available here.

Ecosocialism: Meltdown in Syria

This keyword was one of fifty explored and put to work on this site. The notes on the keywords are revised and collected together in Revolutionary Keywords for a New Left, which includes a concluding essay placing them in historical context. The book includes a detailed reading list with web-links so you can more easily follow the links online, a list which is available here.

Transition: Towns as sites of reform and revolution

This keyword was one of fifty explored and put to work on this site. The notes on the keywords are revised and collected together in Revolutionary Keywords for a New Left, which includes a concluding essay placing them in historical context. The book includes a detailed reading list with web-links so you can more easily follow the links online, a list which is available here.

Animal: The Lobster

This keyword was one of fifty explored and put to work on this site. The notes on the keywords are revised and collected together in Revolutionary Keywords for a New Left, which includes a concluding essay placing them in historical context. The book includes a detailed reading list with web-links so you can more easily follow the links online, a list which is available here.

Normalcy: Inclusion, liberation, and ecosocialism

This keyword was one of fifty explored and put to work on this site. The notes on the keywords are revised and collected together in Revolutionary Keywords for a New Left, which includes a concluding essay placing them in historical context. The book includes a detailed reading list with web-links so you can more easily follow the links online, a list which is available here.

What is Ecosocialism?

Manchester branch of Socialist Resistance were actively involved in organising the Climate and Capitalism conferences in Manchester, and produced this introduction to ecosocialism as a contribution to the debates.

Marx explained that at a certain stage in the development of any class society, the old relations of production eventually act as a brake on any further development of the productive forces. This was certainly true of the classical slave-owning and the feudal modes of production. Socialists in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries expected capitalism to follow a similar path, with economic crises eventually stagnating capitalist production completely. However, things haven’t quite worked out that way. Certainly there are periods of crisis, in which output declines, but these are always interspersed with longer periods of expansion. The crises seem to act on capitalist production in the same was as pruning shears act on a rose bush – they clear away the dead wood and allow for a renewal of growth. And there seems to be no let up in this pattern.

However, the continuation of capitalism has produced a situation that is far more dangerous to the future of humanity than that which arose from any previous form of class society, even in their periods of decline. For rather than acting as a brake on the productive forces, capital, as a consequence of its pursuit of infinite accumulation, is accelerating the transformation of the productive forces of society into destructive forces. And the longer capitalism survives the more dangerous and destructive it becomes. It is in recognition of the qualitative change in the task facing us as socialists that we have coined the term ecosocialism.

Although climate change is probably the most acute manifestation of the ecological crisis, it is not the only one. We also face severe problems of ocean acidification, food-chain contamination (particularly with pesticides and chemical fertilisers, but also with mercury and other metals), soil exhaustion, atmospheric pollution (particularly with particulates), devastating oil spills, destruction of rainforests and depletion of ocean fish stocks, to name but a few. One effect of all this is that biodiversity is being lost at such a rate that we are now on the cusp of the planet’s next mass extinction. Disrupting the intricate web of life in this manner will have severe and unpredictable consequences for us as a species.

The extent of the ecological degradation caused by capitalism has not abated in recent years, despite a growing awareness within the scientific community (and increasingly among the population at large) of the depth of the ecological crisis that we face. On one level, most people are now fully aware that the juggernaut of civilisation is hurtling towards an abyss. Yet as the abyss comes clearer into view, the response of the ruling class is to press harder on the accelerator pedal.

It seems paradoxical that although most people do now recognise the severity of the ecological crisis, at an intellectual level at least, we all nevertheless continue with ‘business as usual’ in our daily lives. For the most part this is a consequence of the alienation engendered and reinforced by capitalism. So deep is our alienation, from ourselves, from each other and from nature, that most of us don’t recognise the harm that is being done by ‘business as usual’. What we do is normality, it is reality, so it is normal to continue with these rhythms, to continue our harmful consumption patterns, our car driving, our flying, our possessive individualism. Not only our daily lives but our entire lifespans are straitjacketed into an alienated rhythm of life – we are schooled and trained instead of being freely educated, we fall into a career rhythm and a rhythm of family life, the alienation of which is evident from the amount of mental distress, alcoholism and drug abuse we see all around us, none of which is true to our nature.

If we are to survive as a species we must take a radical step, we must break once and for all with capitalism. Capital as self expanding value can never stand still. It exists in order to expand, through accumulation, and as it expands it extends itself across the entire globe and into every sphere of life. Capital can therefore never find peace with nature, it must constantly metabolise more and more of nature in order to satisfy its urge to accumulate. This is why all attempts to resolve the ecological crisis within capitalism, by carbon trading for example, have always come to nought.

The only way to ensure a rational metabolism with nature, and therefore to ensure a habitable biosphere, is to overthrow capital, not just locally but globally, in a global ecological revolution. And what is the agency of this overthrow of capital? In extending its rule across the globe, capital has brought into being a global multi-billion strong class of wage workers, of proletarians, whose interests are diametrically opposed to the interests of capital. It is this class, our class, which alone has the social power to overthrow capital. The ecological revolution must therefore be a social revolution, which ushers in a global free association of producers.

But wasn’t there a social revolution in Russia, and didn’t this lead to a totalitarian and ecocidal monstrosity? Yes there was, and it is the historic betrayal of this revolution that strengthens the case for our development as ecosocialists rather than simply as socialists.

In its early history the Soviet Union was in fact the most ecologically conscious society in history. By applying the materialist methods of Marxism, the early Soviet ecologists made huge advances in our understanding of ecosystems and of sustainability. But these early ecologists were ruthlessly purged by Stalin, who misleadingly libelled ecology as a bourgeois science (an error that has not been entirely abandoned by many on the left even today.) The Stalinist bureaucracy abandoned the strategy of world revolution in favour of the theory and practice of ‘socialism in one country’. Stalin’s strategy was to expand the productive forces in order to compete with the capitalist countries of the West. But in doing so, he abandoned socialism and adopted the alienating, ecocidal practices of capitalism. In doing so, he was defending not the world-historic interests of the proletariat, of humanity, but the narrow interest of a parasitic and privileged bureaucracy.

If we are to learn the lessons of history, and of the historic defeat of the Russian Revolution in particular, we must therefore put ecology at the centre of our Marxism. As ecosocialists we advocate a radical reduction in the working week, to give us as workers the time we need to administer production and distribution without bosses. We aim to redirect production towards the satisfaction of human need, rather than the production of countless useless commodities and gadgets which are designed only to feed our consumerism and to generate profits for the rich. We seek to undo the harmful capitalist division of labour, starting with the sexual division of labour (through the socialisation of domestic labour and childcare) and the artificial division between manual and mental labour. We aim to suppress the means of destruction, including not only fossil fuels, armaments and aerospace, but also advertising, marketing and speculative finance, by advocating a just transition to socially useful production. And we respond to the destructiveness of a transport system based on the motor car, truck and aeroplane by developing a socialised free public transport system.

In seeking to make the social revolution an ecological transformation (and vice versa), we oppose the distortions of Stalinism and are returning to the ecology of authentic revolutionary Marxism. This is a task that needs to happen as a global movement but also on a local level, in Manchester, as something that the Fourth International here is committed to. You can join us in this task by contacting us at climate.and.capitalism@gmail.com

RW

 

Linking with ecosocialism in Bangladesh

Badrul Alam, our comrade who is President of the Bangladesh Krishok Federation, visited Manchester and spoke at a public meeting in March 2014. When Badrul was in the UK for the Bangladesh tour, an activist and film-maker from Virtual Migrants in Manchester recorded a video interview with him. This article is to give an update about his organisation and what it has been doing for ecosocialism, which is a crucial part of our politics here now. BKF is the largest peasant federation in Bangladesh. Badrul is also a leader of Via Campesina, which is a network of peasant organisations from around the world. The BKF are also involved in activity around the Rana Plaza disaster in 2013 when an eight-story commercial building collapsed in Dhaka, the capital of Bangladesh, leaving 1,129 dead. This was one of many events drawing attention to the appalling labour conditions which enable Western clothing companies to make large profits. The Bangladesh Kishani Sabha, which is the women’s organisation linked to the BKF, has been active in supporting the Rana Plaza workers and those in other clothing factories in Dhaka. BKF has been involved in land occupations.

In November Badrul and BKF and other activists embarked on the Bangladesh-India-Nepal Climate Caravan. There was participation by Bangladesh Kishani Sabha Organizing Secretary Asma Begum, Bangladesh Adivasi Samity President Sree Biswnath Singh, Bangladesh Agricultural Farm Labour Federation General Secretary Abdul Majid and Friends of Bangladesh (Australia) member Emma. Ekattra-An Urban Youth Organization President Meghna Alam spoke in the meeting. Details of the first stages of this Climate Caravan tour are at the Via Campesina Site.

Seminars have been held at many places, for example in Sadhuhati, Jhenaidah with the participation of local communities on climate change and climate migrants. Meetings have focussed on the rights of climate migrants, and argued that these should be protected by the UN convention. Adaptation and support meetings are taking place at different levels in the affected countries but making the argument that the responsible countries should make deep and drastic cuts in their emission levels immediately. The Caravan argues that the rich industrialised countries must pay reparations to the people of the affected country as their historic and ecological dues. The participants asked all South Asian governments to be active in order to realize the reparation for the people affected by climate change. Participants visited the pesticide and chemical free organic vegetable cultivation and harvested eggplant, cauliflower, beans, and other vegetables.

In mid-November the caravan crossed the Indian border to Kolkata, West Bengal. In a week the caravan travelled around 850 kilometres within Bangladesh, crossed ten districts, stayed in six destinations, and visited a station meeting different community people on the way. Throughout the caravan leaflets and booklets were distributed among the local people to make them aware of the objectives of the caravan and the issue of climate change. The whole week was educational, interactive and experience-sharing for the participants. They have told us that the productivity in terms of lesson-learnt was enormous. The impact of the caravan on the locality will be long lasting. People’s feelings of sustainability in agriculture will bring fruits. It will contribute to the dream of a peasant-based agro-ecology and help the dreams to come true. This activity in the Climate Caravan is part of the intensive work of the BKF.

This is ecosocialism in action, ecosocialism that the Fourth International in Manchester and Socialist Resistance as the Fourth International in Britain has been arguing for. We look forward to seeing him and other comrades from the BKF in Manchester again, and in the meantime we hope that you will visit the Climate Caravan page of the Krishok website and donate funds to support the 2014 caravan and those planned for future years.