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Eco Socialism or Social Ecology the Answer to Eco Capitalism

Friday 21 February 2020, by Donald Cuccioletta

This is the fourth and the final article in this series, the first three were published in the December 2019 and January and February 2020 issues of the AIJ.

As we have become aware of this equilateral triangle of Climate Change, Militarization and of Democracy in Peril, the obvious question that confronts us is “What is to be done?” It is obvious that we cannot overlook the struggle taken up by environmentalists across the world who are petitioning governments, particularly governments in advance capitalist nations, for meaningful legislation to fight climate change. There are people across our world who are involved in the struggle against militarization of the planet and the advent of neo fascism which both put our democracies in great danger. Certainly reform is necessary and even better if it were radical reforms. Yet we know by past experience that we cannot fully rely on capitalist governments who placate to capitalist/imperialist imperatives to change the system or even to give us radical reforms. This is totally in contradiction with the ideology of profit, the structure on which capitalism is based on. So, again we ask ourselves “What is to be done?”

In many of the demonstrations on Climate Change that have circumvented the planet, numerous placards indicating the need for ‘System Change” could be seen indicating that Climate Change is important, but the ultimate culprit is the capitalist system itself. The insistence on system change shows quite clearly that environmental consciousness has now developed into an ecological consciousness. Yes, the question of environment and ecology are very different and indicate an ideological void between the two terms. Environmental consciousness is based on awareness, whether social or political, that demand reforms presented to petitioning elected governments to bring forward legislation to combat the ills that exist in our environment. This in itself is very laudable. Yet this approach remains a prisoner of the traditional political party system, controlled by the servants of capitalism, who have no intention of developing the radical reforms necessary to fundamentally change our environment. We can qualify this type of struggle as simply reformist in nature and does not create in the legislative bodies a sense of urgency. This is why many are turning to direct action such as Extraction Rebellion or the Mohawk nation who are erecting barricades across railway lines.

In other words the ideological element that is necessary in this important struggle is missing. The word Ecology is much more far reaching and is more embedded in the concept that we are also part of nature. This means that the struggle is also part of the complete understanding that every living being, as humans, animals, trees etc. (flora and fauna) are also partners in a vast understanding of the workings of our planet. This is contrary to an environmental consciousness. The struggle is one of ecological consciousness.

The challenges that humanity is facing are beyond a simplistic understanding of making sure we recycle. The profound crisis we are experiencing has had a long history that has its roots in the greed dominated by profit. Throughout human history there has always been the presence of profit. Whether it be truck and trade, exchange of services leading up to the invention of money as an instrument of trade. However this process in systems was based on the idea that certain profit was necessary to be able to pay for services, salaries, necessities of life etc., but it had not yet been erected as the ultimate instrument of accumulation, until the development of capitalism.

With the advent of capitalism, profit gave way to private property, which over time created a capitalist class (the bourgeoisie) whose sole purpose was to accumulate profit taking vast sums of money, not under truck and trade, but based on the exploitation of workers, and peasants. The ultimate system of exploitation has come of age. Now the goal was to perfect it.

The sole existence of the bourgeoisie was based on the accumulation of capital to develop more capital. In other words capital became the goal to be attained if we wanted to have power and eventually use this power to govern the masses. A system which in its early beginnings, according to Karl Marx in Das Kapital, relied primarily on the dominance and the workings of the nation-state, created by the bourgeoisie, to serve their interests. But this was not enough as we entered the age of capitalist industrial revolution as documented by the historical classics of Eric Hobsbaum. It was at this moment in the capitalist historical development, that to continue the capitalist profit accumulation needed to expand in order to feed the monster that is capitalism. International expansion for natural resources became a necessity. International trade and exploitation of natural resources was always present, starting with gold and silver, cotton and tobacco, lumber and eventually with the scientific revolution of the middle the 19th century mining and oil products. From mercantilism to colonialism we were now in the new era of imperialism that is still with us today.

With the partnership of capitalism and imperialism, we can understand the devastation this system has done to our planet, our climate patterns and the sword of nuclear destruction hanging over our heads. Radical policies, as I have said earlier, are important for the immediate future but we must also understand that capitalism/imperialism has to be the ultimate target. System change is the order of the day.

System change is all well and good, but what system do we need? In the recent past many believed in some form of socialism that turned out with the experience of the Soviet Union under Stalin and Stalinism to be a false socialism. Today the People’s Republic of China, once a beacon of socialism remains for many true socialists a question mark.

We need a new socialism. We need today a new definition of socialism, adapted to the different conditions of the 21st century. We are in the age of the Internet and all its derivatives. We are experiencing the new era of a post-industrial revolution. All these changes have created new ideas, new generations, and a new political culture. Socialism cannot exist today if we do not understand ecological consciousness. Eco-socialism is our new order of the day. Some would call is social ecology. Independent of the title we give, we must feed this new approach with new concepts if we are to struggle and win against capitalism/imperialism.

New concepts such as citizen’s direct democracy, the Right to the City, decentralized democracy, cooperative housing, horizontal approach to governance, creation of movements of empowerment, return to citizen’s committees, neighborhood councils controlled by citizen’s, the right to recall of our elected officials are all elements that must be examined, conceptualized and constantly restructured if we are to create a new system to replace capitalism/imperialism.

We must rely on the idea of popular education of the workers, lower middleclass, progressives and even left radicals without which the idea of “power to the people” would remain just a slogan. The concept of a political party must also be re-examined, in order to not replicate the traditional (capitalist) political party structure and even the structures of the parties of false socialism. The new conditions that have forged the new societal trends of the 21st century impose upon us a new concept of development, a new working class or a new salaried class consciousness adapted to these new conditions.

Capitalism/imperialism is still on its road to destruction, by maintaining the exploitive/oppressive model. The radical Marxist-Gramscian socialist left, the anarchist socialist left must take up the obligation to define this new system change. Eco-socialism or social ecology should be the order of the day. To delay in developing these new concepts, and redefine the word socialism in accordance with these new conditions would leave space for the social liberals, the social democrats who have throughout the 20th century usurped the right to speak for and defend the working class.

As Antonio Gramsci one of the greatest organic intellectuals, wrote in his seminal work (Letters from Prison) while a guest in the prisons of fascist Italy, the radical left must always put forward its positions which are contrary to capitalism and its false prophets. As Gramsci elaborates, the radical left is always in the position of a war of ideas. This is the first hurdle that we must pass in the battle of class struggle. Similarly to define eco-socialism in our present conditions of the 21st century we must also as the radical left cross this first hurdle.

Donald Cuccioletta PhD is a historian, author and activist, Coordinator of Nouveau Cahiers du Socialisme and a member Political Analysis Collective