Ecosocialism, Micheal Lowy
Ecosocialists believe that the prevention of an unprecedented ecological catastrophe and the preservation of a natural environment favorable to human life are incompatible with the expansive and destructive logic of the capitalist system. In Ecosocialism, Michael Lowy, Research Director at Paris' National Centre for Scientific Research, explores some of the main ecosocialist proposals and concrete experiences of struggle, particularly in Latin America.
Criticisms of capitalism
- Capitalism requires endless expansion, on a planet with limited resources this is un-sustainable
- Any ecological restrictions put upon capitalism will at most slow down the destruction of the natural environment by extension anyone claiming to care about the environment cannot be a capitalist without the two being in direct contradiction
Ecosocialism will be international and universal, or it will be nothing. The crises of our time can and must be seen as revolutionary opportunities, which it is our obligation to affirm and bring into existence.
The world is suffering from a fever due to climate change, and the disease is the capitalist development model.” -Evo Morales, president of Bolivia, September 2007
If there is any escape from climate change and the global ecological crisis, it will emerge from the power of struggle and the organization of the oppressed and exploited peoples of the world, with the understanding that the struggle for a world without ecological devastation must connect to the struggle for a society without oppression or exploitation. This change must begin now, bringing together unique struggles, daily efforts, processes of self-management, and reforms to slow the crisis, with a vision centered on a change of civilization, a new society in harmony with nature. This is the central proposal of ecosocialism, an alternative to our current ecological catastrophe.
What guarantee is there that the people will make the right ecological choices, even at the price of giving up some of their habits of consumption? There is no such “guarantee,” other than the reasonable expectation that the rationality of democratic decisions will prevail once the power of commodity fetishism is broken.
For ecosocialists, the problem with the main currents of political ecology, represented by most green parties, is that they do not seem to take into account the intrinsic contradiction between the capitalist dynamics of the unlimited expansion of capital and accumulation of profits and the preservation of the environment
The advertising industry—which induces needs through mental manipulation—has invaded all spheres of human life in modern capitalist societies: not only nourishment and clothing, but sports, culture, religion, and politics are shaped according to its rules. It has invaded our streets, mailboxes, TV screens, newspapers, and landscapes in a permanent, aggressive, and insidious way, and it decisively contributes to habits of conspicuous and compulsive consumption
The issue is not “excessive consumption” in the abstract, but the prevalent type of consumption, based as it is on conspicuous consumption, massive waste, mercantile alienation, obsessive accumulation of goods, and the compulsive acquisition of pseudo-novelties imposed by “fashion.
the capitalist system reveals itself every day more financially and ideologically bankrupt, unable to overcome the economic, ecological, social, food, and other crises it engenders.
ecosocialist civilization beyond the reign of money, beyond consumption habits artificially produced by advertising, and beyond the unlimited production of commodities such as private automobiles that are harmful to the environment
Infinite economic expansion is incompatible with finite and fragile ecosystems, but the capitalist economic system cannot tolerate limits on growth; its constant need to expand will subvert any limits that might be imposed in the name of “sustainable development.”
We need no more proof of the barbarity of capitalism, the parasitical system that exploits humanity and nature alike. Its sole motor is the imperative toward profit and thus the need for constant growth. It wastefully creates unnecessary products, squandering the environment’s limited resources and returning to it only toxins and pollutants. Under capitalism, the only measure of success is how much more is sold every day, every week, every year—involving the creation of vast quantities of products that are directly harmful to both humans and nature, commodities that cannot be produced without spreading disease, destroying the forests that produce the oxygen we breathe, demolishing ecosystems, and treating our water, air, and soil like sewers for the disposal of industrial waste.
Ecosocialism proposes radical transformations in: 1. the energy system, by replacing carbon-based fuels and biofuels with clean sources of power under community control: wind, geothermal, wave, and, above all, solar power; 2. the transportation system, by drastically reducing the use of private trucks and cars, replacing them with free and efficient public transportation; 3. present patterns of production, consumption, and building, which are based on waste, inbuilt obsolescence, competition, and pollution, by producing only sustainable and recyclable goods and developing green architecture; 4. food production and distribution, by defending local food sovereignty as far as this is possible, eliminating polluting industrial agribusinesses, creating sustainable agro-ecosystems, and working actively to renew soil fertility.
To theorize and to work toward realizing the goal of green socialism does not mean that we should not also fight for concrete and urgent reforms right now. Without any illusions about “clean capitalism,” we must work to impose on the powers that be—governments, corporations, international institutions—some elementary but essential immediate changes: • drastic and enforceable reduction in the emission of greenhouse gases, • development of clean energy sources, • provision of an extensive free public transportation system, • progressive replacement of trucks by trains, • creation of pollution clean-up programs, and • elimination of nuclear energy and war spending.
Democratic decisions on investment and technological development must replace control by capitalist enterprises, investors, and banks, in order to serve the long-term horizon of society’s and nature’s common good.
To avoid global warming and other dangers threatening human and ecological survival, entire sectors of industry and agriculture must be suppressed, reduced, or restructured and others must be developed, while providing full employment for all. Such a radical transformation is impossible without collective control of the means of production and democratic planning of production and exchange
To give an example: a self-administered factory decides to evacuate its toxic waste into a river. The population of a whole region is in danger of being polluted: it can therefore, after a democratic debate, decide that production in this unit must be discontinued until a satisfactory solution is found to control its waste. Hopefully, in an ecosocialist society, the factory workers themselves will have enough ecological consciousness to avoid making decisions that are dangerous to the environment and the health of the local population