Close, but pretty different, actually

It’s interesting how some subtle differences can result in worldviews that seem very similar and yet have aspects that suggest rather alternative ultimate visions and directions.

A current eco-socialist leader is David Cobb of the Green Eco-Socialist Network (GEN):

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wtm5Lgu76aA

If you watch the first ten minutes of that video you’ll see his orientation.

I consider it: “Pretty good, yet a little problematic.”

I view eco-socialism differently. Surely, yes, as a part of the needed movement to transcend capitalism. But there’s an important debate about how central it is to that movement. I side more with Samuel Alexander, who views it as less central than David (or Victor Wallis) does. Not quite as fundamental. And certainly not as much of an ultimate goal.

It’s good that GEN makes sure to stress “not statist ownership/planning.” It’s good that, instead, they talk in terms of “social ownership.”

Not good to go around using the word ‘revolution.’ When they do that and call themselves ‘comrades’ they are orienting toward the retrograde old-style Red paradigm of analysis and praxis. Which continues to sound too Marxist (like: “extraction of surplus value”). Which continues to suffer from workerism . . . to propagate delusions about the working class as the agency of social change, the idea of “workers democracy.”

(Murray Bookchin in Listen, Marxist!: “. . . to infect the movement of our time with ‘workerism’ is reactionary to the core . . . to barge in with the worn recipes of Marxism, to babble about the ‘role of the working class,’ amounts to a subversion of the present and the future by the past.”)

Even worse is how they adhere to the chimerical Marxist notion that we can/should go farther with the process of progressive development and achieve a very high, very advanced industrial-modernist society that they misguidedly think could be egalitarian and fully democratic (“go further, extend democracy into the economic sphere”).

In some ways the alternative notion is diametrically opposed: Head in the other direction. Abandon the Leviathan, deconstruct the monstrosity that absorbed all chthonic existence during what Karl Polanyi calls the “Great Transformation” into the era of industrial capitalism. Go simple, live lightly, recreate local community life … with the ultimate goal being a bioregional reorganization of society.

Decentralization and re-localization have an implication of great diversity. Cultural diversity, but more, diversity in regard to all aspects and issues of human existence . . . including diversity in regard to economic relations. The problem isn’t primarily production for profit, or private ownership of productive assets.

The retrograde eco-socialists analyze the problem incorrectly (capitalist appropriation of the surplus value created by the worker) and from that derive a bogus solution (universal social ownership of the means of production).

Eco-socialism must embrace post-development perspectives and novel post-capitalist futures.

Chapter 3 of Samuel Alexander’s latest book re: “Post-capitalism”

3. Eco-socialism from a Post-Development Perspective
By Anitra Nelson
Historically, the dominant current in anti-capitalist critiques has been socialism. It has been revived in the twenty-first century in eco-socialist thought and practice, which recently has been challenged to embrace post-development perspectives and novel post-capitalist futures. A comparison of three works — the 2001 Ecosocialist Manifesto, the 2008 Belem Ecosocialist Declaration, and the 2017 Combined Strategy and Plan of Action of the First Ecosocialist International — shows that eco-socialism embraces diverse visions, from state-oriented and market-regulating plans for transformation to grassroots community-based modes of production.

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Steven Welzer

Steven Welzer

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The editor of Green Horizon Magazine, Steve has been a movement activist for many years (he was an original co-editor of DSA’s “Ecosocialist Review”).