Response #1 re: the creation of a Green Eco-Socialist Network

This was a contribution to a dialogue that appeared in the Spring 2021 Green Horizon Magazine concerning the 2020 launching of a Green Eco-socialist Network (GEN):

Below is John Rensenbrink’s response . . .

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Commentary re: the establishment of a Green Eco-Socialist Network

Green Economy Yes. Eco-Socialism No.

By John Rensenbrink

Hi David,

You have created an Eco-Socialist Network. I am impressed, but also critical. For a time I thought this was a good way to go. I no longer think so.

Eco-Socialism tries to straddle two roads, one towards a green economy and one towards socialism. Its purpose and meaning are not clear, though it leans towards socialism. Consequently, Green socialists like it. Green non-socialists do not.

As a Green non-socialist, I and others advocate a goal we call “Green Economy,” based on the key value of Community-Based Economics in a context of Ecological Wisdom, Respect for Diversity, Decentralization, and Grass Roots Democracy.

Green Socialists hang back at this point. They are critical and ask what does or can Green Economy do about the mega-corporations? They believe that our Green Economy is only local, that it has no answer to the need to socialize the mega-corporations, much less nationalize them, take them over.

But the answer can be found in the related principle of subsidiarity as a vital part of a Green Economy. This is based on levels of functional activity, each level doing tasks that are necessary and appropriate for it to do. Tasks which the local level cannot handle are taken up by intermediate and central levels. There is a central authority, or Green Administration. The Green Administration, among its tasks, takes on the job of socializing the mega-corporations. It is also within its powers, though this is debated, to directly take over the most toxic corporations.

The Green Economy offers, and is a name for, a holistic and effective way for Greens to move forward in the world of thought and action. Socialism and Green Socialists claim to do the same but are hampered, and held back, by their fixation on taking over the mega-corporate economy as if that were the next and best and only thing to do, thus ignoring and in fact throwing up barriers to the historic tide of history towards local control, Community-Based Economics, and related Key Values. In all this, eco-socialism is caught wanting to pursue both, straddling two roads that widen steadily from one another. The strain on legs, knees, and hips becomes insupportable, to use a household way of saying it.

The Green Economy is rooted in the Green Party’s key value of Community-Based Economics. It includes municipal ownership of utilities, multiple forms of business ownership, non-profits, worker owned business, worker owned cooperatives, bio-regional mapping, and grass roots governing bodies. These things are already in place for the most part in many parts of the country. Green Economy can and will give them a timely boost and it gives Greens an historic opportunity to help and evolve it further.

A big drawback to Eco-Socialism is that it doesn’t seem to be able to shed its troublesome affinity to what Socialism has tended towards; that is, centralization, nationalization, bureaucratic top-down administration, and mass democracy. Socialism’s record seems to be one of taking-over what capitalism has created. In that sense it is reactive, ameliorative, and reformist.

We need something better than Eco-Socialism. Naming what we want and specifying the substance of what we want is the challenge now. In a word, we need a real alternative to both Capitalism and Socialism. The Green Economy fits this need very well. Other names and substantive specifics are I am sure out there. Let the dialogue be sustained!

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