The Ecosocialist Solution To Ecological Catastrophe

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I.The ecological crisis is already the most important social and political question of the 21st century, and will become even more so in the coming months and years.The future of the planet, and thus of humanity, will be determined in the coming decades. Calculations by certain scientists as to scenarios for the year 2100 aren’t very useful for two reasons: A) scientific: considering all the retroactive effects impossible to calculate, it is very risky to make projections over a century. B) political: at the end of the century, all of us, our children and grandchildren will be gone, so who cares?

II.As the IPCC explains, if the average temperature exceeds the pre-industrial period’s by 1.5°, there is a risk of setting off an irreversible climate change process 1. The ecological crisis involves several facets, with hazardous consequences, but the climate question is doubtless the most dramatic threat. What would the consequences of this be? Just a few examples: the multiplication of megafires such as in Australia; the disappearance of rivers and the desertification of land areas, melting and dislocation of polar ice and raising the sea level, which could reach dozens of meters. Yet, at two meters vast regions of Bangladesh, India and Thailand, as well as the major cities of human civilisation – Hong Kong, Calcutta, Venice, Amsterdam, Shanghai, London, New York, Rio – will have disappeared beneath the sea. How high can the temperature go? From what temperature will human life on this planet be threatened? No one has an answer to these questions.

III. These are risks of a catastrophe unprecedented in human history. One would have to go back to the Pliocene, some millions of years ago, to find climate conditions similar to what could become reality in the future, due to climate change. Most geologists consider that we have entered a new geological era, the Anthropocene, when conditions on the planet have been modified by human action? What action? Climate change began with the 18th Century Industrial Revolution, but it is after 1945, with neoliberal globalisation, that it took a qualitative leap. In other words, modern capitalist industrial civilisation is responsible for the accumulation of CO2 in the atmosphere, thus of global heating.

IV.The capitalist system’s responsibility in the imminent catastrophe is widely recognised. Pope Francis, in his Encyclical Laudato Si, without uttering the word ‘capitalism’ spoke out against a structurally perverse system of commercial and property relations based exclusively on the ‘principle of profit maximization’ as responsible both for social injustice and destruction of our Common House, Nature. A slogan universally chanted the world over in ecological demonstrations is ‘Change the System, not the Climate!’ The attitude shown by the main representatives of this system, advocates of business as usual– billionaires, bankers, ‘experts’, oligarchs, politicians – can be summed up by the phrase attributed to Louis XIV: ‘After me, the deluge’.

V.The systemic nature of the problem is cruelly illustrated by governments’ behaviour. All, (with very rare exceptions) acting in the service of capital accumulation, multinationals, the fossil oligarchy, general commodification and free trade. Some of them – Donald Trump, Jair Bolsonaro, Scott Morrison (Australia) – are openly ecocidal and climate deniers. The other, ‘reasonable’ ones set the tone at the annual COP (Conference of the Parties or Circuses Organised Periodically?) meetings, which feature vague ‘green’ rhetoric and total inertia. The most successful was COP 21, in Paris, which concluded with solemn promises from all governments taking part to reduce emissions – not kept, except by a few Pacific islands. Scientists calculate that even if they had been kept, the temperature would still rise up to 3.3° higher…

VI.‘Green capitalism’, ‘carbon markets’, ‘compensation mechanisms and other manipulations of the so-called ‘sustainable market economy’ have proven perfectly useless, while ‘greening’ with a vengeance, emissions are skyrocketing, and catastrophe gets closer and closer. There is no solution to the ecological crisis within the framework of capitalism, a system entirely devoted to productivism, consumerism, the ferocious struggle for ‘market shares’, to capital accumulation and maximizing profits. Its intrinsically perverse logic inevitably leads to the disruption of ecological balance and destructions of ecosystems.

VII. The only effective alternatives, capable of avoiding catastrophe, are radical alternatives. ‘Radical’ means attacking the root of the evil. If the capitalist system is at the root, we need anti-system alternatives, i.e. anticapitalist ones, such as ecosocialism, an ecological socialism up to the challenges of the 21st century. Other radical alternatives such as ecofeminism, social ecology (Murray Bookchin), André Gorz’s political ecology, or degrowth have much in common with ecocialism: relations of reciprocal influence have developed in recent years.

VIII. What is socialism? For many Marxists, it is transformation of the relationships of production – by the collective appropriation of the means of production – to allow the free development of productive forces. Ecosocialism lays claim to Marx, but explicitly breaks with this productivist model. Of course, collective appropriation is indispensable, but the productive forces themselves must also be transformed: by changing their energy sources (renewables instead of fossil fuels); b) by reducing global energy consumption; c) by reducing production of goods (‘degrowth’), and by eliminating useless activities (advertising) and harmful ones (pesticides, weapons of war); d) by putting a stop to planned obsolescence. Ecosocialism also involves transformation of consumption models, transport forms, urbanism and ‘ways of life.’ In short, it is much more than a change of property forms: it is a civilizational change, based on values of solidarity, equality, and respect for nature. Ecosocialist civilisation breaks with productivism and consumerism, in favour of shorter working time, thus more free time devoted to social, political, recreational, artistic, erotic etc activities. Marx referred to this goal by the term ‘Realm of freedom’.

IX. To achieve the transition towards ecosocialism, democratic planning is required, guided by two criteria: meeting actual needs, and respect for the ecological balance of the planet. The people themselves, once the onslaught of advertising and the consumption obsession created by the capitalist market are eliminated – who will decide, democratically, what their real needs are. Ecosocialism is a wager on the democratic rationality of the popular classes.

X.This requires a real social revolution. How can such a revolution be defined? To carry out the ecosocialist project, partial reforms will not suffice. We could refer to a note by Walter Benjamin, on the margins of his theses On the concept of history(1940): ‘Marx said that revolutions are the locomotive of world history. But things might work out otherwise. It is possible that revolutions are the act by which humans travelling in the train activate the emergency brakes.’ Translation in 21st century terms: we are all passengers on a suicide train, which is named Modern Industrial Capitalist Civilisation. This train is hurtling towards a catastrophic chasm: climate change. Revolutionary action aims to halt it – before it is too late.

XI. Ecosocialism is at once a project for the future and a strategy for the struggle here and now. There is no question of waiting for ‘the conditions to be ripe’. It is necessary to provoke convergence between social and ecological struggles and fight the most destructive initiatives by powers in the service of capital. This is what Naomi Klein called Blockadia. Within mobilisations of this type, an anticapitalist consciousness and interest in ecosocialism can emerge during struggles. Proposals such as the Green New Deal are part of this struggle, in their radical forms, which require effectively renouncing fossil energies – but not in those limited to recycling ‘green capitalism’.

XII. Who is the subject in this struggle? The workerist/industrialist dogmatism of the previous century is no longer current. The forces now at the forefront of the confrontation are youth, women, Indigenous people, and peasants. Women are very present in the formidable youth uprising launched by Greta Thunberg’s call – one of the great sources of hope for the future. As the ecofeminists explain to us, this massive women’s participation in the mobilisations comes from the fact that they are the first victims of the system’s damage to the environment. Unions are beginning here and there to also get involved. This is important, because, in the final analysis, we can’t overcome the system without the active participation of workers in cities and countryside, who make up the majority of the population. The first condition, in each movement is associating ecological goals (closing coal mines or oil wells, or thermal power stations, etc) with guaranteed employment for the workers involved.

XIII. Do we have any chance of winning this battle, before it is too late? Unlike the so-called ‘collapsologists’ who clamorously proclaim that catastrophe is inevitable and that any resistance is futile, we think the future is open. There is no guarantee that this future will be ecosocialist: this is the object of a wager in the Pascalian sense, in which we commit all our forces, in a ‘labour for uncertainty’. But as Bertolt Brecht said, with grand and simple wisdom: ‘Those who fight may lose. Those who don’t fight have already lost.’

  • voza0db

    I’ve enjoyed the start… “so who cares?, which is obvious… NO ONE CARES! But we enjoy very much the child game of “make believe”

    I stopped reading at point VII “If the capitalist system is at the root“, because this article FAILS, once again (nothing new then), to IDENTIFY THE ROOT CAUSE.

    For those fooled by this article I must write what the ROOT CAUSE is:


    And even if we prefer to pretend that we aren’t the root cause and instead persist in blaming one of our inventions then the sub-system “capitalism” isn’t also the root cause.

    The [not really] root cause is the MONETARY SYSTEM, from which capitalism derives.

    So… To whom can I send a complaint about this crappy article?!

    And to bright some funny hope on those free of cynicism and negativity…


    REACTION TO OPPRESSION. Capitalism forces the transition to socialism by way of its heartless exploitation of labor, the rapacious monopolies that victimize the middle class and small farmers, the offensive against democracy and toward fascism, the threat of a new world war. ALL have their origin in capitalism. This push for oppression cannot but result in a push back. That push back is socialism.

    Socialism starts as a political act, capitalist power is overthrown and the workers are installed in power. But because this involves millions, with different agendas, the revolution is much more complex. Today, with a conscious working class, with instant means of communication, the passage toward revolution is much more secure. The success of the revolution is based on four things; the widely held conviction that it is worth the struggle, the degree of consciousness and organizational capacity of the workers, the class struggle as a thing that is never abandoned, the raising of political consciousness and capacity to fight. The very development of capitalism pushes the population into a socialist way of life, by providing the things that are denied to them by capitalism. This is what “sharpening of contradictions” means. This is so intransigent that it becomes an objective law. It is this imperative that fills the workers,along with their vanguard, with unending energy in the revolutionary struggle.


    “The root cause is US!” Not a minor point, and I would try to clarify it by asking “What, exactly, in us, is the problem?” After all, there is infinite good (Right) within us as well as infinite evil (Wrong). Every problem we’ve ever had is defined as “something wrong”, and is caused by that in us which is willing to do wrong instead of right things. Our present disastrous condition is not caused by what we did right! I think that what we need to do now is for each of us to honestly and earnestly look within ourselves to see the difference between Right and Wrong, and to act on it appropriately . I think this is the only way we can escape the looming catastrophe that we have brought upon ourselves. If we do not strike at the root of it we will continue to do wrong (bad) things with increasing power, and over the cliff we will go. But what if we do wake up, clear our vision, and focus on doing only good things (which is to say, doing God’s will rather than going against it)? What then? There is great peril here but there is also a tremendous opportunity; how it all works out is up to us.

  • voza0db

    “Human Being”… That’s fun!

    It is the only point.

    Why the need to bring another delusion (gods) into the mix? We already have a huge PoS to deal with, better leave some to the Fields… “gods” or “dogs” – just a quick mix! – all the thousands we’ve invented only cause division, violence, torture, rapes and, with some luck, death. So leave that messed up invention out of the conversation and return to Reality.

    It seems you are not very aware that “gods” are just another uman invention, just like capitalism/socialism/communism and all the rest of it.

    You sound like a Hollyweed movie script: “ There is great peril here but there is also a tremendous opportunity.“.

    And you aren’t also paying attention to the rest of the ~8 billion degenerate uman animals roaming around on this planet!

  • mwildfire

    Seems to me that Marxists are economic fundamentalists just like neoliberal capitalists, and with some similarity to religious fundamentalists. When people start talking about the Ten True Things…even those who DON’T use capital letters–it’s fundamentalism. When people say “all problems derive from…” that’s the mark of fundamentalism. In the real world, problems are multifactorial.
    No, capitalism is not the cause of all our problems. My proof is this: when did capitalism arise? Maybe three centuries ago or so? So before that, did we have a workers’ paradise, free of war, with liberty and equality for all? Not hardly. Capitalism worsened problems in some ways because it gave the fatcats a structure to hide behind (the corporation) and because while most rich men are sociopaths, uninterested in pleas for justice and mercy, ALL corporations are machines, unable even to understand such arguments. But we already had environmental pillaging, oppression of women and POC and children and animals and indigenous peoples, with religions used to justify it all. Some say the systems of hierarchy, of class structure, of domination, go back to the advent of agriculture. But I think agriculture didn’t cause all that–it just enabled it. Once people could settle down in one place and control the growth of food, then it became possible to hoard it, and as numbers grew the sociopaths were freed to climb to the top of the heap. Possibly some of this is hard-wired–after all apparently all mammals and some others have pecking orders. But only humans have GROUP pecking orders, social classes in which people inherit the rank of their parents. Once religions claimed that those on top were actually gods–then they said they were chosen by gods–then they tried Darwinian claims of survival and domination by the fittest–now they claim meritocracy, in which we’re supposed to believe that the ultrarich “work hard” (hundreds of hours a day apparently) or are just so smart and creative and magnificent that they deserve most of the world’s wealth. Quite a lot of people don’t buy this, but the powerful have legions of mostly young males in uniform, chosen for their authoritarian personalities, to enforce their privileges.

  • Nancy Oden

    People who don’t understand the damage capitalism does need to play just one more game of Monopoly. The game requires you totally bankrupt/destroy your opponent so you can win. I gave up playing it when I was 10 because it seemed too cruel – as it is. Elizabeth Warren says she loves capitalism and just wants it to do what “it’s supposed to do.” It’s supposed to do what it’s doing – ravaging Earth for natural resources, using them up as quickly as possible for next quarter’s profits while trying to convince people to buy the stuff they make from these resources…we need something better. This is an excellent article – I am going to share it. Please vote for Bernie Sanders – the only Real Deal amongst the rabble.

  • chetdude

    The systemic disease is domination hierarchies (c. 8000BC)…

    The current, extremely effective tool of dominators is the fossil-fueled, capitalist, consumption, exploitation and pollution machine coupled with the consensus trance that won’t allow most humans to see outside of the suicidal box.

    This article is yet another of a growing number of (excellent) attempts to get folks to think outside of that suicidal box…

  • chetdude

    The CURE also lies withing the “human animal”…

    Domination Hierarchies, currently primarily using consumption based capitalism and war, are engaged in emphasizing and implanting greed, selfishness and ignorance in order for the few to dominate the many.

    The cure is to empower and emphasize the Better Angels of our Nature, kindness, compassion, systems of mutual support – all of which are more in keeping with our evolutionary wiring and can free us from the consensus trance that has kept most folks in bondage over the last 8000 years or so.

  • Not to be picky, but other sources the quote, “Après moi, le déluge” (“After me, the flood”) is attributed to Louis XV and/or his lover, Madame de Pompadour. Jackson Browne wrote and recorded a great song similarly titled, “Before the Deluge”.

  • mwildfire

    YES. I agree completely.

  • voza0db

    I would add a few more millennia on those years!

    But the actual interrogation I still have is how? How do one CHANGES the Thought of current uman animals in order for it to stop blocking Compassion?

  • chetdude

    I prefer to remind people that in their day-to-day lives, most folks are reflecting the better angels of their nature.

    We merely need to create political/economic systems that promote those values rather than systems built to promote greed and selfishness…

  • voza0db

    The main problem I see is size! After a certain number of individuals our Thought system blocks any Compassion…

  • chetdude

    The SYSTEM that we are forced to operate under in order to procure what we need to house, feed and cloth ourselves blocks any compassion…

  • voza0db

    That also… But then again WE developed this system because of size.

  • chetdude

    Who’s this guy “we”?

    I don’t remember getting a vote…or to put it another way, I’ve voted AGAINST the system for over 50 years now and yet, it keeps getting stronger and more suicidal…

  • voza0db

    WE… is WE! All of us still alive.

    Actively or Passively we all contribute to the current SYSTEM.

    No matter if you voted or not. Your vote DOES NOT COUNT.

    The main function of the sub-system “democracy” is not to address the will of the herd manifested via “votes”.

  • Howard

    While I appreciate the goals of “eco-socialism” I think it falls short of a solution for one reason. As Nancy Oden noted, “People who don’t understand the damage capitalism does need to play just one more game of Monopoly. The game requires you totally bankrupt/destroy your opponent so you can win.” In fact there is a growing body of research on the psychological consequences of money on human behavior and of course monopoly was designed to show those effects. However, we must understand that what they/we call money in our society is not really money, it is privately issued credit (debt for profit) being used for money which means that every new dollar created and issued into the economy was done so by private banks as interest bearing debt which systematically concentrates power and wealth to the top via compounding interest.

    No wonder the Capitalists love this system, they get paid to be rich. Ten centuries before Christ the ancient Greeks recognized that the most vital prerogative for democratic self-governance is to create the money as a debt-free, permanently circulating asset issued for the common good while banning the use of the oligarch’s money, which at the time was precious metals, primarily gold.

    Unfortunately the article claims eco-socialism is the solution while ignoring the money. Revolutions are about gaining the power to rule and the primary tool for the power to rule is money. Who can deny that privately issued money is ruling all industry and our public policy? Shouldn’t publicly issued money rule over our public policy instead? If society has its money issued as debt for private profit, like we have, it creates a private for-profit, me-first, kick’em when they’re down, society….like we have. The monetary system is the most powerful influence of human behavior and it is mostly subconscious. So we need to change the money system in order to solve both the environmental and behavioral problems. Capitalism is a parasite on free-enterprise, taking away their power tool will put an end to it.