Leo Panitch was frustrated because he was stuck in the old paradigm

Leo Panitch kept getting encouraged and then discouraged:


It’s understandable. His movement keeps experiencing recurring waves of decline and then apparent regeneration.

After initiation during the 1820s, the socialist movement built up to a peak of dynamism over the next century. It’s possible that a majority of people worldwide supported some form of socialism during the middle part of the twentieth century. That marked a plateau, and during the 1980s and ’90s the movement was unquestionably in decline, yet then came Occupy, Jeremy Corbyn, and Bernie Sanders; recently the growth of DSA here in the U.S.

The explanation for the apparent regeneration has to do with the fact that capitalism is pernicious. Waves of justifiable anti-capitalism become conflated with renewed support for a socialist alternative.

There will be anti-capitalist movements as long as the capitalist system continues to prevail. The left needs to come to recognize that the viable alternative is not, after all, socialism. The choice can seem binary, on the basis of an idea that society’s productive assets can be owned privately or owned publicly. If that’s the case, then the systemic choice can seem binary: capitalism or socialism.

Not surprisingly, it’s hard to break the left from that mentality. But the path forward requires it. Traditional leftism was wrong about (and remains stuck in a flawed paradigm regarding) the direction of history, the agency of social change, and the conception of a viable alternative.

Yes, the capitalist system is ruinous and we may need a period of eco-socialism to de-fang it, but the vision of a universalist system based on social ownership of the means of production (socialism as the “next system”) is chimerical. A green world would be characterized by decentralized polities exhibiting diverse economic relations. Bioregionalism is the “neither capitalist nor socialist” alternative.

Such notions would figure to be completely foreign and incomprehensible to the leftist old guard, as exemplified by Leo Panitch. But enough, already, with their adherence to misguided theory. The fate of the left is dependent upon a transition from Red to Green.

A co-editor of Green Horizon Magazine, Steve has been a Green movement activist for almost thirty years.