Wednesday, 24 February 2016

TTIP Threat to Privatise the NHS is ‘Real and Serious’ - Legal Expert

The trade union UNITE has commissioned a European law expert to examine the proposed transatlantic trade deal and his findings, for those with legal mind it can be read here.  

According to Michael Bowsher QC, a former chair of the Bar Council’s EU law committee, the secretly negotiated agreement will:

Privatisation of elements of the NHS could become irreversible by future British governments.

Could allow private companies with links to NHS contracts to win higher levels of compensation through bypassing domestic courts.

Could force the NHS to contract out services it wants to keep in house or spin off them off as “mutuals.”

This is the clearest indication yet, that the TTIP deal has Britain’s NHS in its sights for privatising, where health corporations estimate they could make billions of pounds in profits from the health care sector in the UK. What else is left of the public realm in this country will also be vulnerable to the corporate vultures who, the deal is designed to benefit.

For over thirty years the steady march of privatising public services has seen a steady erosion of publicly owned services, as the capitalist system, with growth stagnating as it was in the early 1980s, increasingly seeking new areas of potential expansion.

Private corporations now infest our public services, but as always, the corporations want more. It is the nature of the beast, grow or die, and they have long desired to exploit the lucrative, previously largely off limits, NHS in the UK, to keep profits flowing.

Will we allow this?

38 Degrees have collected over 3 million signatures on its petition already. If you haven’t already, you can add your name here. You might also write to your MP to get them to oppose any NHS privatisation through TTIP.

Tuesday, 23 February 2016

2 to 1 Margin for Remaining in the EU - British Poll

The Independent reports an opinion poll today by psephologist Professor John Curtis, which shows 60% of British people surveyed will vote to remain in the European Union (EU). 30% want to leave and 10% are undecided.

The poll was apparently carried out a couple of months ago, but with a large sample of 4,328 people, and Curtis' good track record on polling (his exit poll at last year's General Election, was by far the accurate in predicting the actual result), I don't think these findings should be dismissed lightly.

Although two thirds of those surveyed are unhappy with the EU, only 24% of people think we would be better off if we left. This chimes with my own feelings on the matter, and apparently, so I hear, private polling and focus group findings for the Remain campaign draw mainly the same conclusions.

You will have heard the Prime Minister, David Cameron 'banging on about' how leaving would be a 'leap in the dark', and he has got this from the focus group findings. When asked to describe the prospect of leaving, unprompted, the most common phrase people use is a'leap in the dark.'

My feeling has always been that faced with the choice, most British people will vote to stay. It is almost always so with referendums, people need to be very committed to go against the grain, or be convinced that change will be beneficial. Better the devil you know, kind of thing.

Of course there are four months to go until the referendum vote, so things could change, but my gut instinct is that the British will vote to remain. Why take a chance?

Saturday, 20 February 2016

EU Referendum – I’ve Finally Decided Which Way to Vote

Well, after all the speculation we will now have a referendum on Britain’s continued membership of the European Union on Thursday 23 June. The Prime Minister, David Cameron got agreement from all the other 27 heads of state on reforms to our membership, and this will now be put to the British people to decide on whether we remain in or leave the union after over forty years of membership.

Cameron’s reforms don’t amount to much, despite his hyperbolic rhetoric about his reforms achieving a special status for Britain. The restrictions on EU ‘immigrants’ claiming welfare benefits will only fully affect new claimants for twelve months, and then be tapered off. Child benefit for children living abroad will be paid at the indexed rate in the country they reside. This affects a tiny proportion of the total child benefit costs in the UK, and will probably cost more to administer, than it actually saves. All of this though is unfair and discriminatory, I think.

Protections for the City of London, against Eurozone decisions that may affect profits, only amounts to the UK government being able to call a meeting of all states, to discuss any proposals.

Cameron also secured an effective opt out for the UK from the EU mantra of ‘ever closer union’. This really only applies to states that are members of the Euro anyway, no one has seriously considered Britain will aim for this goal since we rejected joining the single currency. It is just words really as far as we are concerned.

So, not much change really to our current membership terms. But all of this of course has been an exercise in management of the Conservative party, which is hopelessly split on the issue of Europe. Cameron has just about kept them together with his promise of reforms and a referendum on the issue, but I expect to see fireworks now the deal is done and with the vote looming. So much for the good of the country, it has all been about cynical political calculation.

Regular readers of this blog will be aware that I’ve been undecided on this issue, a pretty strong supporter of the EU all my life, the sickening treatment of Greece’s financial crisis last year, despite a wholly incompetent strategic approach by the Greek government, gave me pause for thought. Do I want to be in a club that treats its members this way, kind of thing?

The EU is constructed for the benefit of big business, and increasingly so. We have the TTIP trade agreement coming soon, which amongst other things, is likely to allow corporations to sue democratic governments that stop them making huge profits out of privatising public services. It is a free market utopia, and anti-democratic. The TTIP negotiations have all taken place in secret, democracy is an irritant and barrier to the free market, just look at what happened to Greece.

Probably the vast majority of the political left will campaign to remain in the EU though, with the vague idea promoted by the more radical elements of changing the system from within. It is not clear to me how this will be achieved, and I doubt it is really possible anyway, given the anti-democratic nature of the EU beast. ‘A people’s Europe’ is the slogan, but this is just a pipe dream at best, dishonest at worst. Let us vote on the reality of the EU, not some fantasy EU, which it never has been, and never will be, in my opinion.

On the other hand, the leave campaign is dominated by the right wing, little England tendency, nationalistic and racist/xenophobic, take your pick. I have sympathy with the small part of the left that will campaign to leave on the basis that the EU is anti-democratic and a capitalist worshipping club, but I have to ask myself, would we be any better off outside the EU? The establishment in Britain like this state of affairs and would no doubt want to replicate this, and perhaps go even further in following this route as a nation state.

So, I think either way, the British people will be the losers. And here we come to nub of the argument. This referendum is pretty irrelevant to most people’s lives, whichever way the result of the referendum turns out.     

Which way to vote? I have even considered abstaining, but it really isn’t in my DNA not to vote, although I’m not naïve enough to think voting ever changes much. I still see it as a duty, fought for, with much sacrifice from my forebears, I do not want to disrespect that sacrifice.

In the end, I’m going to go with my emotions. I am an internationalist, and I have always liked the idea of a community of European nations and peoples. I am going to vote to remain, although, I have to say, with not much enthusiasm for the EU of the corporates.

Friday, 19 February 2016

The Ecosocialist Revolution

Written by Cy Gonick and first published in Canadian Dimension

To answer the threat of extermination brought on by environmental change, James Bellamy Foster calls for a long-term global strategy of “ecological revolution.” He adds that “there can be no true ecological revolution that is not socialist; no true socialist revolution that is not ecological.” The two are inseparable and provide essential content for each other.

The ecosocialist mode of production

More than anyone else, Joel Kovel has given us an outline of the ecosocialist society and how to get there. I regard his book The Enemy of Nature as the most important work yet published in this century.

According to Kovel, ecosocialism is a society whose mode of production is one where production is carried out by “freely associated labor” with consciously ecocentric means and ends.

“Freely associated labor” is the single most important requirement of Marx’s concept of socialism since the sine qua non of capital, its defining feature, is the commodification of labor power, its purchase and sale for the purpose of expanding profit.

“Freely associated labor” is, of course, not the same thing as public ownership — the customary definition of socialism. It involves workers directly involved in on-the-job production making decisions together with other workers in a democratically functioning public sphere.

A society of freely associated labor is essential to ecosocialism, says Kovel, because it breaks the hold of capital over the means of production and its addiction to growth. It is also essential because it is the only way of ensuring that the process of production can be satisfying and pleasurable for workers — in the same way as the end of production is satisfying and pleasurable for consumers. 

This is one of the features of ecocentric production. Another is a movement towards craftsmanship, i.e. more labor intensive production methods, where possible, as one way of reducing dependency on fossil fuels. Other ways include replacing fossil fuels by renewable sources of energy — water, wind and sun. New technology would no longer be regulated by considerations of profit, but to the needs of ecocentric production and the human ecosystem.

“Limits to growth” in an ecocentric society is predicated on a reorientation of human need towards needs not dependent on destabilizing inputs of energy. “What is perceived as necessary” will evolve in a society freed from forcible indoctrination and consumerist addictions. Another dimension of the ecosocialist mode of production is the importance of supply security, of self-reliance wherever feasible and therefore of decentralized energy generation — the opposite of economies of scale, so much part of the capitalist mode of production.

In a sparkling essay in Socialist Register’s superb 2007 volume Coming to Terms with Nature, Michael Lowy adds that to meet the requirement of social justice and to assure essential working class support for this project, the ecosocialist society must provide full and equitable employment. And this, he argues, “is impossible without public control over the means of production and planning.”

Socialists take note

While Kovel’s ecosocialism is clearly socialist, he wants to clearly say that most socialists, even today, in the midst of a global crisis of nature, still position nature as an afterthought.

In the sense that nature does not come immediately to the socialist mind, caring for nature is something added onto existing socialist doctrine rather than integral to it. An integral appreciation of nature’s intrinsic value is not at the existential heart of socialism, nor does nature command a passion comparable to that reserved for the emancipation of labor. This is accompanied by a somewhat naive faith in the ecocentric capacities of a working class defined by generations of capitalist production. 

To the characteristically socialist way of thinking, labor, once freed from the prison house of capital, will unproblematically proceed to rearrange production in an ecologically sane way.

Overcoming the limits of actually existing socialism, writes Kovel, requires a synthesis in which the wounds of nature “must be felt with the same passion for justice as those of the other [labor].”

The ecosocialist project

Kovel acknowledges that revolutions become a feasible possibility only when people decide that their present social arrangements are intolerable: when they clearly identify the forces that are making it so, believe that they can achieve a better alternative, and when the balance of forces begins to be tipped in their favor. And he recognizes that none of these conditions is close to being met at the present time. Yet he insists, and I agree with him, that the ecosocialist revolution could well be on the agenda in the near future.

For as he says “global warming puts the entire history of industrial capitalism into the dock,” and “the leading culprits are in full view: the whole petro-apparatus, from the pushers of ‘automobilia’ to the imperial apparatus that wages endless war to keep the carbon flowing from the ground, where it belongs, to the atmosphere, where it will destroy us.”

And it has been clear for a while now that these interests and the states that exist to protect them will not take the measures necessary to bring down carbon emissions by the 90% by 2030 that best opinion holds is necessary to evade the fatal scenario of runaway global warming. As it becomes clear that industrial capitalism is the source of the problem and cannot solve it, the moment for the ecosocialist project will have arrived.

But capitalism has its solution to ecocatastrophe. It’s called fascism, and Kovel talks about how it could emerge, for example, over the issue of immigration as millions of people are forced to flee the disastrous conditions wrought by flooding, drought, forest fires and other consequences of runaway global warming. While the ecofascist movement today is, like our own, very small, it has the potential to grow very rapidly, especially in combination with religious fundamentalism.

This only adds to the urgency of building the ecosocialist project. Kovel notes that there are many signs of this project. They include political struggles to build public works like public transit that reduce dependence on petroleum; getting rid of subsidies for fossil fuel extraction; demanding a moratorium on ecologically destructive energy sources like extraction from tar sands; stopping airport expansion and superhighway construction; campaigns to stop the privatization of water and to preserve old growth forests; resisting the intrusion of industries that destroy the capacity of indigenous peoples to subsist on the land and lakes and rivers; promoting conservation, re-newable energy and high efficiency automobiles, heating systems and appliances; and constructing autonomous zones of ecocentric production (community gardens, worker and community cooperatives, indymedia projects, etc.). 

As he says, these and similar measures are reforms, but essential ones that slow the accumulation of carbon in the atmosphere and gain time for more radical measures to take hold.

The ecosocialist party

Each of these struggles and projects points us towards ecosocialism says Kovel, but “only a party-like formation which postulates a goal common to all [these] struggles without constraining them from above can organize this into ‘solidarity solidified’ and press towards power.”

Kovel has some suggestions for the ecosocialist party.

• “Though open to individuals, the ecosocialist party should be grounded in communities of resistance/ production. Delegations from such communities will supply the cadre of party activists as such, and the assembly that is its strategic and deliberative body.”

• To ensure that its participants are not merely lily-white, the party needs to be “as firmly rooted in overcoming racism as it is in environmental mending. The two themes intersect directly in the environmental justice movement, grounded in the defense against capitalist penetration and pollution by communities of color, and often led by women, hence ecofeminist as well as ecosocialist and drawn into the campaign against petro-capital.”

• Though targeting national and regional/local states as the ultimate protectors of capital, the ecosocialist party will participate in the building of a global movement towards a new carbon economy.

I conclude this survey with Joel Kovel’s opening words in a July 2010 letter to members of the Ecosocialist International Network:

There is nothing that has happened over the last decade that has disabused me of the conviction that ecosocialism is the most important idea before humanity and will remain so whether it succeeds or fails in being realized. However, if it fails, so do we as a species. There is no need to elaborate here the dire circumstances of the ecological crisis spawned by the capitalist system, which generates the need for the response of ecosocialism.

Cy Gonick founded Canadian Dimension magazine and was in the NDP government in Manitoba from 1969–1971. This article was originally published in Canadian Dimension.

Wednesday, 17 February 2016

Ecosocialism and Decentralism

Written by Wayne Price and first published at

The Re-Development of Anarchism in the Ecology/Climate Justice Movement

Theorists of the climate-justice movement have been raising decentralist ideas as part of their programs for an ecologically-balanced society. This ecological program means more local democracy, workers’ management of industry, consumer coops, and federations of radically-democratic institutions. Such ideas revive the decentralist ideas of anarchism.

From conservatives and liberals to Marxists, there is faith in big machines, big industries, big corporations, big cities, big countries, big buildings, and big government—a belief in the necessity of centralized, bureaucratic, top-down, socially-alienated, institutions. This is not to say that most people like giant cities, big business, or big government; but they do not see any alternative.

Instead, anarchists have advocated localism, face-to-face direct democracy, self-governing agricultural-industrial communes, workers’ self-management of industry, consumer cooperatives, appropriate technology, and federations and networks of such radically-democratic institutions. Many people reject anarchism because they believe such decentralism to be unrealistic.

However, in our time there is a new development: writers and theorists of the ecology/environmental/climate-justice movement have been raising decentralist concepts as part of their programs. They include moderate liberals, radical ecologists, and even Marxists. Mostly they have no idea that they are redeveloping anarchism. I will examine this phenomenon.

Anarchist Decentralism

Of a cooperative, socialist (or communist), society, the anarchist Peter Kropotkin wrote in 1905, “True progress lies in the direction of decentralization, both territorial and functional, in the development of the spirit of local and personal initiative, and of free federation from the simple to the compound, in lieu of the present hierarchy from the center to the periphery.” (Kropotkin 2002; 286)

Paul Goodman put it this way: “Decentralization is not lack of order or planning, but a kind of coordination that relies on different motives from top-down direction….It is not ‘anarchy.’ [Meaning: it is not ‘chaos.’—WP]…Most anarchists, like the anarcho-syndicalists or the community-anarchists, have not been ‘anarchists’ either, but decentralists.” (Goodman 1965; 6)

Capitalism by its nature is centralized. A tiny minority of the population dominates the whole society and all its institutions. The production system is one of exploitation; the minority of owners, and their managers, make all decisions, while the workers follow orders. The workers produce society’s wealth but receive only a fraction of it in payment, because the capitalists own the means of production (capital).

Under the pressure of competition, capitalist enterprises grow ever larger. They are under the imperative to grow or die. The economy becomes dominated by semi-monopolies, which now span the world market. The giant corporations justify themselves by claiming to be more efficient in producing and distributing commodities. Sometimes this is true, but often it is not. Capitalism is motivated to produce greater profit (surplus value), not more useful goods (use value). Often the corporations grow for financial reasons which have nothing to do with productive efficiency. They may grow in order to better control the work force or for increased access to markets. Both to serve them and to control them (in the overall interests of the capitalist class), giant corporations require giant bureaucratic-military states.

Revolutionary anarchist-socialists seek to abolish all rule by minorities, all exploitation, and all forms of oppression. They want a classless, oppressionless, society of participatory democracy. They want everyone to be involved in managing their own society, politically, economically, and culturally, at every level and in every way. This requires that institutions, at the daily, lived, level, be small enough for working people to understand and control them. It requires that small groups meet face-to-face to discuss and decide how they will deal with most issues—in the workplace or the neighborhood. It requires directly-democratic assemblies, in the work shop and the community. There ordinary people will decide on overall concerns, and—where necessary—elect people to do specialized tasks or to go to meetings with elected people from other assemblies (elected officials being subject to immediate recall, rotation in office, and the same standard of living as everyone else). Radical democracy requires reorganizing our cities, our industries, and our technology, to create a world without order-givers and order-takers.

Anarchists recognize the need for a certain amount of centralization and big institutions. They believe that self-managing industries and communities should be embedded within regional, national, and international federations—associations of associations. Such bottom-up federations can coordinate exchanges of goods and can make decisions on world-wide concerns. But no matter how large they grow, they are still rooted in the face-to-face self-government of people’s daily lives. (This is different from today where people vote every few years for someone to go far away to “be political” for them—and then the voters return to their daily lives of taking orders from their bosses.)

When everyone participates in governing, then there is no “government” (no bureaucratic-military state organization separate from and above the rest of society). There is just the self-organization of the people—of the (formerly) working class and oppressed people.

The anarchist rule is: As much decentralization as is practically possible; and only as much centralization as is necessary. “We are in a period of excessive centralization….In many functions this style is economically inefficient, technologically unnecessary, and humanly damaging. Therefore we might adopt a political maxim: to decentralize where, how, and how much [as] is expedient. But where, how, and how much are empirical questions.” (Goodman 1965; 27)

Anarchists claim that productive technology could be used decentrally to create a society with sufficient goods for everyone and plenty of leisure for all. There is a great deal of evidence that technology can be modified and re-created to be consistent with a creative, self-managing, and decentralized socialist economy.—which does not deny that there would still be some large machines and factories, as well as networks of smaller devices—such as the Internet. (For decentralizing technology, see Carson 2010; McRobie 1981; Sclove1995.)

Other Decentralists

There have also been non-anarchist and non-socialist decentralists, such as Catholic distributivists, students of Ralph Borsodi, cooperators, New Age theorists, “small-is-beautiful” technologists, and others. (See Loomis 1982.) Some were inspired by the tradition of Thomas Jefferson. Impressed by the New England town meetings, he wanted to promote a federation of local community “wards.”

“Where every man is a sharer in the direction of his ward-republic…and feels that he is a participator in the government of affairs, not merely at an election one day in the year, but every day; when there shall not be a man in the State who will not be a member of some one of its councils, great or small, he will let the heart be torn out of his body sooner than his power be wrested from him by a Caesar or a Bonaparte.” (Jefferson 1957; 54)

Unfortunately, the concept of decentralized democracy has been abandoned by modern day liberals (John Dewey was one exception). Instead, the language of “state’s rights,” “federalism,” and “small government” have been monopolized by the right. They use it to justify oppression of People of Color, opposition to regulation of big business, and the cutting of government support for the working class and the environment. Meanwhile these supposed advocates of “small government” advocate expansion of the military, more power to the police, and laws limiting women’s reproductive rights. It is difficult for modern liberals to counter these false claims due to liberal statism and centralism.

In this period, there has been an explosion of advocacy of worker-managed enterprises (producers’ cooperatives). This has been promoted by a range of theorists, from liberals to revolutionary Marxists. It has been experimented with—largely successfully. (For the discussions about worker-managed enterprises, see Price 2014.)

There were decentralist elements in Marxism (the Marxism of Marx and Engels, anyway). Mostly these reflected the influence of pre-Marxist “utopian” socialists. These elements included positive comments about worker-run cooperatives; discussion of the radical democracy of the 1871 Paris Commune; prediction of the end, under communism, of the division between town and country—industry and agriculture—due to the widespread distribution of towns; and prediction of the end of the division between mental and manual labor (order giving and order carrying out). (See Engels 1954; Marx & Engels 1971.) However, such elements of decentralization were buried in other aspects of Marx’s program, such as advocating a new state which would nationalize and centralize all industry. Utopian, decentralist, aspects dropped out of post-Marx Marxism.

Decentralism in Current Ecological Politics

Bill McKibben has long been a leader of the climate justice movement. Politically he is a left-liberal, an endorser of Sanders for President. One of his books (2007) is subtitled, “The Wealth of Communities and the Durable Future.” He reviews the dangers of “nitrogen runoff, mercury contamination, rainforest destruction, species extinction, water shortage…[and] the overarching one: climate change.” (19) His main solution to these (and other) ills is decentralization: “more local economies, shorter supply lines, and reduced growth.” (180) “…Development…should look to the local far more than to the global. It should concentrate on creating and sustaining strong communities….” (197) “…The increased sense of community and heightened skill at democratic decision-making that a more local economy implies will not simply increase our levels of satisfaction with our lives, but will also increase our chances of survival….” (231)

 A more extreme ecological perspective is raised by James H. Kunstler (2006)—although the author describes.himself as “a registered Democrat.” (324) In “The Long Emergency,” he advances evidence that our society will run out of fossil-fuel—although not necessarily in time to avoid climate change. (He would regard the current oil glut as temporary.) “…There will still be plenty of oil left in the ground…but it will be…deeper down, harder and costlier to extract, sitting under harsh and remote parts of the world…[and] contested by everyone.” (65) This will end globalized industrialism as we know it.

To cope with this change ”…. Life…will become increasingly and intensely local and smaller in scale… All human enterprises will contract with the energy supply.” (238-9) “We will have to reestablish those local webs of economic relations and occupations that existed all over America until the last several decades of the both century, meaning local and regional distribution networks….” (259)

One of the most influential texts on global warming is Naomi Klein’s “This Changes Everything.” She declares, “There is a clear and essential role for national plans and policies….But…the actual implementation of a great many of these plans [should] be as decentralized as possible. Communities should be given new tools and powers….Worker-run co-ops have the capacity to play a huge role in an industrial transformation…. Neighborhoods [should be] planned democratically by their residents….Farming…can also become an expanded sector of decentralized self-sufficiency and poverty reduction.” (Klein, 2014; 133-134)

To refer to another authority: Pope Francis, in his 2015 “Encyclical on Climate Change and Inequality,” cites “the principle of subsidiarity.” (120) That is the principle that social functions should be as decentralized and localized as much as is realistically possible. “Civil authorities have the right and duty to adopt clear and firm measures in support of small producers and differentiated production.” (79-80) “In some places, cooperatives are being developed to exploit renewable sources of energy which ensure local self-sufficiency….” (109) “New forms of cooperation and community organization can be encouraged in order to defend the interests of small producers and preserve local ecosystems from destruction.” (111)

Writers for the Marxist journal Monthly Review have argued that only an international socialist revolution will make it possible to prevent climate catastrophe. This much anarchists can agree with, but the Monthly Review’s trend has historically identified “socialism” with centralized Stalinism. Over the years, its editors and writers have supported Stalin’s Soviet Union, Maoist China, and (still) Castroite Cuba.

However, one of their main writers is Fred Magdoff (a professor of plant and soil science). He wrote a visionary essay presenting “An Ecologically Sound and Socially Just Economy.” “Each community and region should strive, within reason, to be as self-sufficient as possible with respect to basic needs such as water, energy, food, and housing. This is not a call for absolute self-sufficiency but rather for an attempt to…lessen the need for long distance transport….Energy…[should be] used near where it was produced….Ecologically sound and productive agriculture…will take more people working smaller farms…to produce high yields per hectare….People will be encouraged to live near where they work….” (Magdoff, 2014; 30—31) Also, “Workplaces (including farms) will be controlled and managed by the workers and communities in which they are based.” (29)

Why Decentralism?

I could cite many more ecologically-minded activists and scholars. These theorists are not anarchists and (except for Magdoff) not socialists or revolutionaries. They come out of traditions of liberalism and/or Marxism which have historically been centralistic and statist. In the past, a frequent response to environmental and ecological problems was to advocate economic planning and state intervention. (Nor would anarchists deny the need for some degree of federalized economic coordination—but not by these bureaucratic-military-capitalist national states!) Yet here they are arguing for increased decentralization, localism, direct democracy, and worker management of industry! Without knowing it apparently, they are recreating anarchism (or aspects of anarchism) for ecological reasons. (For more on ecology and anarchism see Bookchin, 1980; Purchase 1994.)

These are ecological-environmental reasons for decentralism. If we are to cut back on energy consumption (and end carbon-based fuel use altogether), we need to decrease transpiration and travel. That in itself speaks to the need for local industry, consumption near production, and workplaces near housing—not necessarily in the immediate community, but at least in the region. Renewable energy sources tend to come in small packets, when using wind, solar power, geothermal, and water. 

Therefore small and local production and consumption makes sense, as opposed to giant factories and mega-cities. The same is true when using natural resources with the least side effects of destruction or pollution, so these effects may be easily cleaned up. Democratic economic planning is also easier to do on a local or regional level, if we want widespread participation. At the same time, the Internet and other media make coordination-from-below among vast regions easier than ever before.

However, there is another reason for the spread of decentralist ideas (that is, essentially anarchism). The radical alternative to our capitalist society used to be Marxism. But Marxism has been discredited in the eyes of many people, with the collapse of the Soviet Union and the transformation of Maoist China. All of the quoted writers, except Magdoff, reject “socialism.” They identify it with government-owned, centralized, and top-down planned economies. (Historically, Magdoff’s co-thinkers have also identified “socialism” in this way—except that they were for it.) Yet today, the idea that we could solve fundamental problems by increased state action, centralization of industry, and totalitarian politics, does not appeal. But capitalism is barreling down the highway to its own destruction, and the destruction of humanity and the living world. So people are looking for a different approach.

Ecosocialism: Decentralism is Not Enough

But decentralization is not enough. All the theorists quoted above—with the exception of the Marxist Magdoff—are still essentially for capitalism. They want worker-managed enterprises and consumer cooperatives—to compete on a market with each other and with capitalist corporations. These corporations would still exist, even if with more rights for workers and consumers, smaller size, and more regulation by the government—but still functioning on the competitive market.

In contrast, anarchist-socialists oppose profit-making firms and corporations and the market. They are eco-socialists. They advocate that self-managed, cooperative, enterprises network and federate with each other, to create a democratically planned economy from below.

The market is not a democratic people-managed economy. It runs according to its own spontaneous laws, which it imposes on enterprises though competition. To repeat: it drives the economy toward accumulation, increasing growth, greater profits, and continual quantitative expansion. Its law is grow-or-die.

This has at least three important effects. For one, an economy built on continuous growth must be in conflict with natural ecologies which require harmonious balance and dynamic stability. Capitalism treats nature as an endless mine, with natural resources as apparently free gifts. This is true whether the competitive enterprises are big or small.

A second effect is the inevitable tendency of smaller enterprises to grow into bigger ones. The drive to accumulate more than its competitors pushes each firm to grow as big as it can. So even if capitalism (or any other imagined competitive economy) were to magically be returned to its original state of small firms, it would once again grow into gigantic semi-monopolies.

Third, through its drive to accumulate, capitalism produces a work force which must be exploited. If the working class got back all that it produced, then there would be no capitalist accumulation. Market-driven accumulation contradicts any goal of worker industrial democracy.

However, the existing system of global semi-monopoly capitalism has created a larger international working class than ever before in history. (The relative “de-industrialization” of the U.S. goes together with “outsourcing,” which creates more industrial workers elsewhere.) Unfortunately, none of the authors cited above refer to the importance and potential power of that international working class. With its hands on the means of production and distribution and communication, the working class is a force which could end capitalism’s drive to ecological disaster. (Even Magdoff and his co-thinkers at Monthly Review are uncertain about the role of the working class.)

In short, capitalism should be replaced by a society which is decentralized but also cooperative, producing for use rather than profit, democratically self-managed in the workplace and the community, and federated together from the local level to national and international levels. This is ecosocialism in the form of ecoanarchism.


Bookchin, Murray (1980). Toward an Ecological Society. Montreal-Buffalo: Black Rose Books.

Carson, Kevin A. (2010). The Homebrew Industrial Revolution; A Low-Overhead Manifesto. Booksurge.

Engels, Federick (1954). Anti-Duhring: Herr Eugen Duhring’s Revolution in Science. Moscow: Foreign Languages Publishing House.

(Pope) Francis (2015). Encyclical on Climate Change and Inequality; On Care for Our Common Home. Brooklyn/London: Melville House.

Goodman, Paul (1965). People or Personnel; Decentralizing and the Mixed System. NY: Random House.

Jefferson, Thomas (1954). The Living Thoughts of Thomas Jefferson (ed.: John Dewey). NY: Fawcett/Premier Books.

Kropotkin, Peter (2002). Anarchism: A Collection of Revolutionary Writings (ed.: Roger Baldwin). Mineola NY: Dover.

Kunstler, James H. (2006). The Long Emergency: Surviving the End of Oil, Climate Change, and Other Coverging Catastrophes of the 21st Century.
NY: Grove Press.

Loomis, Mildred (1982). Alternate Americas. NY: Universe Books/Free Life Editions.

McKibben, Bill (2007). Deep Economy: The Wealth of Communities and the Durable Future. NY: Henry Holt/Times Books.

McRobie, George (1981). Small is Possible. NY: Harper & Row.

Magdoff, Fred (Sept. 2014). “Building an Ecologically Sound and Socially Just Society.” Monthly Review (v. 66; no. 4). Pp. 23—34.

Marx, Karl, & Engels, Frederick (1971). On the Paris Commune. Moscow: Progress Publishers.

Price, Wayne (April 2014). “Workers’ Self-Directed Enterprises.” Anarkismo.

Purchase, Graham (1994). Anarchism and Environmental Survival. Tucson AZ: See Sharp Press.

Sclove, Richard E., (1995). Democracy and Technology. NY/London: Guilford Press.

Tuesday, 16 February 2016

Heathrow 13 need your support Wednesday 24th February - Stand up for Climate Justice

The #Heathrow13 will return to court for final sentencing, on Wednesday February  24th at Willesden Magistrates Court, having all been found guilty of aggravated trespass and entering the security restricted area of London Heathrow Airport’s (LHR) north runway in protest of plans to build a third runway. All 13 have been told by District Judge Deborah Wright that they "should all come expecting custodial sentences”.

Caroline Lucas MP said:

Sending the Heathrow 13 to prison would be utterly unwarranted. They took a principled and non-violent stand against the colossal environmental cost of expanding an airport that already breaches air pollution laws- yet they’re being treated is if they are somehow a danger to society.

The real danger we face are the toxic fumes emitted by airports and the looming threat of catastrophic climate change. Sending these committed activists to jail would be deeply unjust.

Please come and join the protest  OUTSIDE the court from 9am SHARP to 10am, together with Heathrow residents and others, to say that climate justice is the only appropriate form of justice here; that prison time for protecting the climate is a massive #Redline, and that we need to Stop Aviation Expansion & Stop Co2lonialism!

Come ready to express your solidarity, be it in song, spoken word, festival or dancing, as we co-create and animate our climate defence in support of the #Heathrow13

Sentencing expected around noon. Your solidarity is welcome all day here on FB and on Twitter #Heathrow13

The full address for the court is:

Willesden Magistrates’ Court
448 High Road
NW10 2DZ

Nearest tube: Neasden OR Dollis Hill (Jubilee Line)
Note: the solidarity hashtag will be #Heathrow13 so please keep sending your support before and on the day!

Note: The sentencing hearing will start at 10am, and we have been informed access inside the court has been ticketed and restricted to family only.

Sunday, 14 February 2016

When Plan A Meets Plan B: Talking Politics and Revolution with the Green Party’s Jill Stein

Written by Paul Street and first published at Counterpunch

We are in a state of emergency and it requires a new way of thinking and political independence to stand upnot jut for what we can get but what must have if we are to survive as a human species
Jill Stein, February 3, 2016
“Let us hope that the inevitable first woman [United States] president is a person distinguished by a profound understanding of the world and genuine human compassion, rather than by relentless personal ambition.” So writes Diana Johnstone in her brilliant new study Queen of Chaos: The Misadventures of Hillary Clinton (CounterPunch Books, 2015) [1]. Last week, two days after Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton fought to a virtual tie in the Iowa Caucus and six days Sanders trounced Hillary in New Hampshire, I sat down in Iowa City to chat by phone with a person who matches Johnstone’s notion of what she’d like to see in a first female U.S. president. I spoke to Dr. Jill Stein, who ran for the White House as the Green Party’s candidate in 2012 and who will in all likelihood do so again in 2016.

“From Clinical Medicine to Political Medicine”

Dr. Stein is a Harvard Medical School graduate who witnessed firsthand the terrible impacts of what she calls “predatory capitalism” on ordinary working and middle class children and families during her years as a physician. Learning that pollution produced by corporate greed was the major “underlying driver” behind many of the expanding illnesses (especially asthma, diabetes, cancer, and learning disabilities) she was confronting on an individual basis, she became a leading environmental and public health policy expert and advocate. “You can help people one at a time,” Stein realized, “while whole populations get thrown over the cliff.” She turned “from clinical medicine to political medicine” after realizing that “the road to health was profoundly obstructed by the hijack of our political system by oligarchy and corporate power.”

Stein was first “tricked into electoral politics” (her recollection) fourteen years ago. That’s when progressives successfully recruited her to run as the Green Party’s candidate in Massachusetts’ 2002 gubernatorial election. During a televised debate between the contenders, Dr. Stein’s comments were totally ignored by the two major-party contestants – the corporate-Republican governor Mitt Romney and corporate-Democrat challenger Shannon O’Brien. Inside the debate studio, her remarks “went over like a lead balloon.” But things were different outside. After the event, reporters told Stein that an online viewer poll registered her as the winner.

Sanders v. Stein: Looking Beneath Bernie’s “Revolution”

“Okay, so what,” I asked Dr. Stein – playing devil’s advocate from Iowa – “about Bernie? Sanders says he’s for single-payer health insurance, big green jobs programs, tackling climate change, a significantly higher federal minimum wage, serious campaign finance reform, and a financial transaction tax along with the other forms of genuine progressive taxation. He even sometimes calls himself a ‘democratic socialist.’ What’s the problem here? Why not just line up behind Bernie?”

Stein praises Sanders for “giving voice and legitimacy” to key majority-progressive policy sentiments but asks a basic and critical question: “how long will a campaign calling for ‘revolution’ be tolerated by a counter-revolutionary party?” She elaborates:

“Whether our campaign is a Plan B for Bernie supporters when the [corporate-Democratic Party] empire strikes back [a process now underway – P.S.] or whether we’re Plan A because we need a real movement that is independent of the corporate interests that dominate the Democratic Party from top to bottom, it’s important to ensure that this revolution lives on in way that is deep and that will grow strong …and you really have to discount the last decades of experience to think that the Democratic Party is going to just roll over and allow this to happen

Many of our supporters are backing both campaigns and that’s just fine, but you don’t want to pledge allegiance to a Democratic Party that is at best, even under Sanders, pushing for a military budget that is bankrupting us financially and morally, a war on terror that is creating more terror, and treating the Saudis like they’re the solution rather than a cause of terrorism.”

Sanders has endorsed Obama’s disastrous, jihad-fueling drone war program and “doesn’t stand up to the [Orwellian national security] deep state,” Stein notes. “Bernie treats Edward Snowden like a criminal rather than a hero.” Sanders backed the F-35 fight jet boondoggle on the grounds that it would create jobs in his state, a striking expression of his commitment to military Keynesianism (employed to undermine social-democratic welfare-state Keynesianism after World War II). And Sanders “supports governments that commit egregious human rights abuses,” including Israel, Egypt, and Saudi Arabia, the most reactionary government on Earth. which fuels terrorism across the world. Bernie’s “treatment of the Palestinians” is horrific, Stein notes.

“Does Sanders fail to seriously confront the Pentagon System,” I asked Dr. Stein, “because he is himself a loyal man of U.S. global Empire?”

“Who knows what goes on in his head?” Jill Stein answered. The “reality is that he supports the war on terror,” which has “cost $6 trillion over the past fifteen years. That’s $75,000 per household…
That’s why we need a real revolution, a deep revolution against the military industrial complex (MIC).”

Stein’s differences with Sanders go beyond his commitment to global empire, the surveillance state and the MIC. Where Sanders merely wants to audit the Federal Reserve, Stein calls for its nationalization.

Sanders is a longstanding supporter of high-stakes standardized testing in K-12 education, something Stein rejects as part of the corporate class’s anti-teacher, anti-democratic, and anti-intellectual
schools-privatization agenda.

Sanders calls for free college tuition but does not fully tackle “the continuing enslavement of a generation to predatory student debt.” Stein calls for the abolition of that debt. “We did it for the bankers whose waste, fraud, and abuse crashed the economy…isn’t it time,” she asks, “to do the same for the victims?”

Stein notes that Sanders “provides cover” for the so-called Affordable Care Act (ACA). She flatly rejects Bernie’s claim that “Obamacare” is a noble first and incremental step on the path to actually social-democratic and universal health care. Dr. Stein thinks that the overly complex, corporatist, and failing ACA has to be torn up and replaced with a real, genuinely progressive national health care plan on the fully viable single-payer model.

And she notes – no small matter – that Bernie’s progressive if flawed domestic policy agenda cannot be paid for unless and until the United States drastically slashes its giant “defense” (empire) budget, which accounts for half the world’s military spending and 54% of US federal discretionary spending. That is a step that Sanders has shown no sign of wanting to take.

“They Find a Way to Stop Rebels in Their Ranks”

At first, the Clintons and the Democratic National Committee (DNC) seemed to welcome Sanders’ entrance into the presidential race. The Clintons were relieved that Elizabeth Warren chose not to run.

They figured that Bernie would provide a useful foil and voter interest-driving, sheep-dogging helpmate on the populism-manipulating campaign trail. I asked Dr. Stein if the Sanders phenomenon had gone further than the Clintons and the DNC expected. “It certainly looks that way,” she said, adding however that there’s “nothing surprising” about Sanders’ success “considering the outrage out there and how a whole generation of young people is up the creek right now.” The Democrats, Stein also noted, “have a very effective kill switch when it comes to destroying progressive campaigns, whether deeply progressive or moderately progressive. Whether it’s the ‘Dean Scream’ or the smear campaign against Jesse Jackson or redistricting Dennis Kucinich, they find a way to stop rebels in their ranks. If, I should say when that happens with Bernie, our campaign is here.”

“Lesser Evilism Has a Track Record”

Let’s assume that the smart money is right and Sanders falls under the wheels of the Clinton and DNC machines after his early victories with liberal and progressive white Democrats in the small and very disproportionately Caucasian states of Iowa and New Hampshire. What, I asked Stein, about the longstanding and current quadrennial argument that many liberal, progressives, and even many radicals (e.g. Jill Stein’s fellow Lexington, Massachusetts resident Noam Chomsky) make about the “duty” of “responsible” citizens and voters to back Democratic presidential candidates as the “Lesser Evil” compared to the monstrous Republican candidate?

“The Lesser Evil argument has failed,” Stein notes. “It has a track record. And what have we gotten from it? The politics of fear” has under Obama “delivered everything we’re afraid of”: Wall Street bailouts, endless war, further climate meltdown, escalated attacks on civil liberties, persistent rampant institutional racism within and beyond the criminal justice system. The once supposedly antiwar Obama has intensified America’s disastrous imperial presence in the Middle East and overseen drastically escalated U.S. military incursions across Africa. He is dangerously provoking China with his (and Hillary’s) “pivot to Asia.” Now “he wants to quadruple the US military budget in Europe to intimidate Russia,” a nuclear power with real reasons to fear U.S-led NATO expansion in Eastern Europe.

Lesser Evilism’s abject failure is unsurprising, Stein argues. “Lesser Evil strategy,” she explains, echoing Ralph Nader, “requires you to be silent, to turn your voice over to a corporate-sponsored politics, to a corporate-sponsored party. The politics of fear delivers everything we are afraid of by entrusting the fox to guard the chick coup. Silence is not an effective political strategy. And besides, the Lesser Evil invariably paves the way for the Greater Evil.”

Here Stein cites the right-wing Congressional election victories of 2010, which reflected mass popular anger and disgust with neoliberal Obama’s failure to pursue a remotely progressive agenda when he enjoyed Democratic majorities in both houses of Congress and an angry citizenry ready to punish the plutocracy. Obama responded by protecting the bankers who crashed the economy and by “throwing [ordinary middle and working class] people over the cliff.” By 2014, Stein notes, just a third of electorate came out to vote since “Lesser Evilism gives you nothing to vote for. “Eighty percent of young people stayed home. Labor stayed home. A lot of women stayed away. “

People don’t come to vote on what they fear,” Stein observes. “They vote on what they’re for.”

With the Teapublican right wing victories of 2010 and 2014, the corporate Democrats under Obama helped create their own excuse for failing to advance a progressive agenda: newly empowered Republican “obstruction” in Congress.

Beyond Simple Identity Politics

What, I asked Jill Stein., about the identity politics and gender-representation argument for Hillary Clinton – the notion that a first female president is long overdue and that that is in and of itself a good enough reason for getting behind Hillary Clinton next fall? Dr. Stein didn’t miss a beat. “Why not have a woman president who actually supports a grassroots agenda for women instead of a corporate agenda? That would be a novel thing. Is it just something,” Stein asks, “about having two X chromosomes in the White House? That’s NOT gonna do it anymore than having an African American president who has not been good for the African American community.” Black net worth has declined precipitously under Obama, from 10 to 5 cents on the white wealth dollar.

“Hillary’s all talk, not walk, on women’s issues,” Stein noted. She references Mrs. Clinton’s long tenure on the board of the giant, egregiously sex-discriminatory Wal-Mart corporation and Hillary’s support for the vicious 1996 “welfare reform” that tossed millions of poor women and children off public assistance and into the miserable low-wage labor market. Welfare caseloads and payments have fallen precipitously even as the need for assistance has increased.

“State of Emergency”

“Democracy,” Jill Stein told me, “needs a moral compass,” something that is lacking when “progressives” get behind a president who has consistently served Wall Street and advanced a reckless imperial militarism just because he happens to be Black or because he is a Democrat – or when they back a presidential candidate who promises to do even worse in the same ways just because she happens to be a woman or because she is a Democrat.

“And furthermore,” Stein adds, “we’re running out of time…we have to block the corporate stranglehold” on U.S. politics “because the clock is ticking.” Stein mentions three core crises. The first is the “the next crash,” which will result from a “financial situation” that is “more ominous than 2008” since “the banks are much bigger, more leveraged, more corrupt, and more concentrated” than even before. Forget the bailout. Now the nation’s leading financial institutions are “ready to do the BAIL-IN,” that is, to “seize whatever little security the average family has left.

The second is anthropogenic climate change, brought to us courtesy of the predatory-capitalist carbon-industrial complex. “We don’t have very long, maybe a couple of decades before we are looking at the breakup of the ice sheets,” Stein told me, citing the latest Earth science and adding that we could well see a 20-30-foot rise in sea levels by 2050. “This is a not a hit we can survive. We are well into the sixth great extinction, which we also will not survive.”

“We are in a state of emergency and it requires a new way of thinking and political independence to stand up not just for what we can get but what must have if we are to survive as a human species, as a biosphere. …It’s now or never. This is our Hail-Mary moment.” We are approaching an existential chasm: we either take the deeply-revolutionary leap or its game over. The need to address climate change is humanity’s pass-fail moment.

Third, “there’s the war,” which only gets bigger and more devastating by the day” under Obama, whose drone war and global special forces expansion has done more to spread the geographic scope of jihad than George W. Bush’s terrible foreign policies. Hillary – who truly puts the evil in “lesser evil” (see the books cited in my first endnote if you have any doubt about that) –promises to magnify and expand the global military chaos, the permanent war on and of terror.

The “Catastrophism” Charge: “Just Dumb”

What, I asked Dr. Stein, about the argument some “Marxists” have made that such fears about climate change are an exercise in neurotic, politically self-defeating, and paralysis-inducing “catastrophism”? She reached back to her clinical past to give what I think is the perfect, bulls-eye response. “Patients,” Stein reflected, “have a right to know what they’re facing. As a doctor you wouldn’t just throw a diagnosis at people without a treatment plan. The ‘catastrophism’ charge is just dumb. You cannot fight life-threatening illnesses or life-threatening environmental problems or militarism or the rest unless you’re clear about both the extent of the problem and how to fix it.

A key thing “left” critics of “catastrophism” fail to appreciate, Stein added, is that climate change is “eminently fixable.” Affordable technologies and methods for a sustainable, zero-carbon renewable economy are now in place. The real problem is political – the “corporate stranglehold” and “oligarchy” that we can break by going beyond the self-fulfilling “politics of fear” to form a great independent social and political movement for transformative social, political, economic, and environmental justice.

The Working Class and the Green Agenda

I asked Dr. Stein about the skittishness that many in the labor movement and working class feel about environmentalism thanks to decades of business propaganda claiming that policies favorable to livable ecology will destroy jobs. “No problem,” Stein replied, noting that the Green Party’s centerpiece policy agenda, the Green New Deal, includes “full employment with good wages in lines of work that are actually good for you and good for the community and the planet.”

Stein recently went to Texas to support striking oil workers. She found “fossil fuel workers” very enthusiastic about the notion “of a good job that isn’t going to kill them.” Workers in oil and gas drilling and fracking face significantly increased mortality risks due to the carcinogenic nature of their tasks. “We put their health up front.”

Moreover, the conversion from a rapaciously extractivist carbon-burning economy to one based on wind, water, and solar power and sustainable practices will be a big job-creator. That’s something that Van Jones has gotten right even if he has foolishly subordinated his politics to the Lesser Evilism of the Democrats.   “A dollar spent on renewable energy and conservation creates three jobs compared to one job created for every dollar spent on fossil fuels,” Stein notes.

The Green New Deal is a “three-fer,” attacking the intimately interrelated economic and ecological crises at one and the same time while rolling back the military and security state that feeds perpetual war and economic inequality.

Immigration: “We’re Going to Stop Causing It”

What about white American workers and their fears of immigrants and immigration, evident in the support many working class whites have been giving to the nauseating likes of the ugly, proto-fascistic, and misogynist Donald Trump? Stein agreed with me that the white working class has real reason to fear the impact of immigrants on wages and employment prospects and that the immigration problem Trump and other right-wing politicians exploit is rooted largely in U.S. foreign and economic policies that make life dangerous and miserable for millions of vulnerable people abroad. “People ask me ‘what are you going to do about immigration?’ I say we’re going to stop causing it…though wars and NAFTA, the war on drugs, coups, and military interventions…We need to connect the dots” on U.S. policy, “free trade,” global poverty, and migration, Stein says, adding that “people are not stupid. They can and will get it when you make the connections.”

Reasons for Hope: “The Floodgates Are Going to Open”

Despite her bracing diagnoses of the current “emergency” state of America and the world and notwithstanding the Green Party’s relative invisibility in the dominant U.S. political culture right now, Jill Stein radiates remarkable can-do optimism. She thinks there’s real and exciting potential for a popular social and environmental revolution over and against the predatory and frankly eco-cidal capitalist “oligarchy.”

“If you allowed young people to know that there’s actually a campaign to cancel their debt and that the president has the power to do that without Congress, that would be 40 million votes right there for the Green Party,” Stein told me.

Stein cites a recent Wall Street Journal poll showing that half the U.S. population “has divorced the major parties” (21% call themselves Republicans, 29% identify as Democrats…the rest are neither). “It’ staggering!” The WSJ “buried the finding because it was so embarrassing…When they limit a debate to just a Democrat and a Republican, they’re actually locking out the largest constituency of all.”

Most Americans, Stein notes, have long told pollsters that two parties are not enough to represent the true spectrum of opinion in the country. And “when Bernie begins to be marginalized by the Democrats and people begin to see the true colors of the Democratic Party,” Stein says, “the floodgates are going to open” for independent and progressive political activity outside the reigning Business and War parties.

Recently the Green Party put up a meme on Facebook: “How Long Will a Counter-Revolutionary Party Support a Revolutionary Campaign?” Stein was initially unenthusiastic about running the slogan. But she was pleasantly surprised: “It went viral.”

Hillary Clinton, Stein agrees with me, has considerably less capacity to deceive and bamboozle progressive and young voters than Barack Obama enjoyed in 2007-08. “Obama,” Stein notes was fairly new on the scene. Hillary,” by contrast, “has been a warmonger who never found a war she didn’t love forever!”

A lot of young adults may be “wild about Bernie” right now, Stein says, but the passion will fade as they “go through the ringer” for the first time. They face a useful lesson when the nominal democratic socialist Sanders tells (as promised) his followers to vote for the dismal, demobilizing dollar Democrats.

After Pearl Harbor, Dr. Stein notes, the U.S. took just six months to convert to a full-blown war economy to help defeat the leading global threat of fascism. The current ecological crisis, Stein argues, “makes Pearl Harbor look like small potatoes.” And once again, to update Rosie the Riveter for the 21st century, “we can do it”: transform our economy to address what is now the world’s leading threat – environmental collapse rooted in predatory capitalism [2]. Getting to a 100% renewables-based economy is entirely achieve-able by 2030, Stein notes, provided that we have the courage and decency to reject the viciously circular and self-fulfilling politics of fear and to make the real revolution required.

Stein agrees with the present writer that rank and file social movements are “the real engines” of progressive social change, consistent with radical American historian Howard Zinn’s oft-quoted maxim that (to paraphrase) “the really critical thing isn’t who’s sitting in the White House but who’s sitting in the streets.” But, Dr. Stein ads, “social movements need and deserve an independent political voice.” I have tended to quietly concur beneath all my recurrent social movement emphasis and critiques of electoral politics. That’s why I always take the admittedly brief amount of time needed to vote for left third party presidential candidates rather than just completely sit the “quadrennial electoral extravaganzas” (Chomsky’s term).

Want to help the Greens this year? The first thing is to make sure that the Green Party is on the ballot in your state. Another thing is to begin working now to help organize walkouts from the Democratic Party and Team Bernie if and, in all probability, when Sanders tells his supporters – as promised from day one of his campaign – to line up behind the eco-cidal corporatist and war-monger Hillary Clinton. It could get interesting, indeed, when Plan A meets Plan B.

The Green New Deal is the transitional revolutionary demand for our times (see note 2). It is also a basic material and social necessity an existential leap we must take. It’s about “what we can get” and “what we must have” at one and the same time.


1 Anyone naïve enough to think that Hillary fits that description should read Johnstone’s book and Doug Henwood’s Her Turn: Hillary Clinton Targets the Presidency (OR Books, 2015). Together, these two slim volumes artfully dissect and expose Hillary as a maniacally driven, hypocritical, mendacious, mean-spirited, and arch-militarist servant of U.S. global capitalism and its evil twin the American Empire.

2 Capitalism is inherently predatory, barbarian, imperial, and eco-cidal in my estimation, shared by many others with Marxist and/or left-anarchist backgrounds. I confess that I did not ask Dr. Stein if she shared that conclusion. Personally, I do not think it matters. The Green New Deal strikes me as a transitional revolutionary program that takes us by its very nature beyond the parameters of what is possible under a capitalist system that is on its last historical legs because it has reached geographic and geological, world-systemic limits in terms of its ability to recurrently replenish profit rates with abundant, newly incorporated and appropriation-ready frontiers of what the brilliant eco-Marxian world-systems thinker Jason Moore calls “cheap Nature.” See Jason W. Moore, Capitalism in the Web of Life: Ecology and the Accumulation of Capital (London: Verso Books. 2015).

Paul Street’s latest book is They Rule: The 1% v. Democracy (Paradigm, 2014)

Saturday, 13 February 2016

Ecosocialism – A Brief Description

This is a write up of a talk I gave earlier this week to my local Green Party meeting in Haringey, north London, on ecosocialism.

Ecosocialism is a green political philosophy - it is an ecocentric and democratic socialism.

It is not like twentieth century socialisms, it is more like nineteenth century socialisms and owes a fair amount to anarchist theory. Twentieth century socialisms had, if anything, an even more dismal record than capitalism on ecology.

Ecosocialism is anti-capitalist, and sees the capitalist system as the effective cause of the ecological crisis.

Capitalism commodifies everything, puts a price on it, which is exchange value, and uses the earth as a resource for production and sink for the dumping of toxic waste from the production process, usually free of cost. Climate change is the most spectacular aspect of the ecological crisis, but not the only one. Capitalism releases toxic pollution, into the air, land and sea.

Capitalism is unable to solve the ecological crisis it has set going, because the logic of the system is to ‘grow or die’. Growth that is exponential and the planet is now close to its limit of being able to buffer the damage caused by this required infinite growth, on a finite planet.

I’m going to say something about the historical lineage of the philosophy, threads of which can be traced back for as long as human beings have formed communities, where some elements of ecosocialism can be found in the way people have lived in balance with nature. And today, many indigenous peoples around the world still practice some of these forms of social and economic management.

In South America ecosocialism has found its way into government. Venezuela, until the recent right wing election victory, had a department of ecosocialism. Bolivia still runs forms of ecosocialism in government and has fought off many capitalist corporations plunder of the country’s natural resources, in mining and gas extraction on common land.

There is an English line too. The first stories to be told about Robin Hood, were of a man fighting against crown enclosures of common land. He has become famous for ‘robbing from the rich to give to the poor’, but in fact what he was doing, was fighting to stop the rich robbing from the poor.

Then there were the Diggers during the English civil war, who set up communes on common land and called for a ‘common treasury of the land’.

And William Morris, the nineteenth century socialist and craft movement champion. If you read his novel News from Nowhere, it describes an ecosocialist utopia.

In the modern age, ecosocialism emerged in the mid 1980s, in the west, in the United States, although you can argue quite convincingly that in the US it goes back to Murray Bookchin’s social ecology movement in the mid 1960s. And in the east, in India, where to a lesser extent ecosocialism emerged but more so in the philosophy of ecofeminism, which is a similar philosophy to ecosocialism. For example, ecosocialists agree with ecofeminists that the oppression of women in our society is part and parcel of the system's domination of nature, reproduction in particular. This is done by the capitalist system co-opting the prevailing patriarchal practices, to extract extra surplus value from the workers, in terms of unpaid domestic labour, without which the system could not function. 

And all for free to the system.

Examples of modern day ecosocialism can found be found in the Kurdish area of northern Syria called Rojava and the Zapatistas in Chiapas the most southern state in Mexico.

So, what are the component parts of ecosocialism? There are many, but I’ve selected four of the main ones:

Metabolic Rift    

Nature contains billions of ecosystems, all connected in a finely balanced way, to form what we might call the ‘ecosphere’. Capitalism disrupts and eventually completely ruptures this balance, setting off chain reactions which cannot be cured easily. Human beings are ecosystems too, and the way the system forces us to live, causes a rupture between us and nature and leads to illnesses like stress, depression and obesity.

And to those who say the ways of capitalism are ‘human nature’, then if this is true, why have we only been living this way for a couple of hundred years? The only thing natural about capitalism, is that it was invented by creatures of nature, us. And we can just as easily un-invent it – and we should.

Ecosocialist writer James Bellamy Foster has managed to link this to Karl Marx’s notion of an ‘irreparable rift’ between humans and nature, in volume three of Capital.

The Commons

Historically, in Britain and other western nations, people were forcibly removed from common land as it was enclosed, with violence employed, to drive the people off the land and into the capitalist factories in the towns and cities. And today the same thing is happening in developing countries. By taking away peoples alternative way of providing for themselves, they are left with no choice but to move into cities and work often 16 hours a day for meagre pay in factories, where health and safety is non-existent, and female workers are routinely harassed and molested.

When I visited Senegal in west Africa a few years ago, one day I spoke with some fishermen who complained about the factory ships from the European Union, Russia and Japan that were hoovering up all of the fish, so much so, that the local fisherman couldn’t catch enough fish anymore to earn a decent living. Here was a system of managed commons which had fed local people for thousands of years and provided a livelihood for the fishermen, destroyed by the capitalist factory boats. Robbing from the poor - to give to the rich.

You have probably heard of the ‘global commons’ on the internet, peer to peer sharing and free software, which ecosocialists welcome, with the possibilities it provides for living outside of the capitalist system, to some extent anyway.

Ecocentric Production

This is a quote from my favourite ecosocialist writer Jovel Kovel describing our vision of ecosocialism: ‘a society in which production is carried out by freely associated labour, and by consciously ecocentric means and ends’.

I think this sentence covers the production process under ecosocialism neatly. The ‘freely associated labour’ bit refers to the absence of surplus value, profit for capital.

Production would be for ‘use-value’, not ‘exchange value'. It will require useful work only, doctors, nurses, teachers etc. and there will be no need for work such as pushing numbers around on a computer in a bank in the City of London, which is useless to humanity - and indeed harmful.

What is produced will be of the highest quality, and beauty, and made to last and be repairable. My laptop packed up last week and I put it in for repair. But they couldn’t fix it because they couldn’t get the replacement part – this laptop is only a little over a year old, but it is obsolete. Throw it away, and get another was the advice.

In Green Party circles you hear a lot about sustainability, or sustainable production, but we ecosocialists prefer the word sufficiency, or sufficient production. Only as much as is needed will be produced, and no more. It should go without saying that the production process will be in balance with nature too.

Radical Democracy

Democracy in an ecosocialist society will devolve all decisions down to the lowest possible level. A series of assemblies, local, town, regional and at least at first, national. The assemblies will be freely elected and each assembly will be subject to recall from the level below, and assembly members should serve only one term. Eventually, the state will be dissolved.

All of this must seem like a million miles away – and it is. But now is not the same thing as the future. The ecological crisis will get worse, if we carry on like we are, and will present opportunities where radical solutions are sought. We must be ready to seize these opportunities.

And where does this all leave the Green Party? Well, interestingly The Guardian newspaper, during last year’s general election campaign, twice, once by one of its columnists and once in an editorial, described the Green Party as ecosocialist.

I think what was meant by this, was concern for the environment and advocating things like nationalising the railways and energy companies – all of which is to the good, but it is not really ecosocialism. 

The Green Party seems to have some hazy notions which are heading in the right direction, but for some reason, fails to follow through this thinking to its logical end – ecosocialism.

We in Green Left, try to push it along a bit, so that the Green Party fulfils its radical agenda, which logically means parting company with capitalism and championing ecosocialism.  

Thursday, 11 February 2016

Unless It Changes, Capitalism Will Starve Humanity By 2050

Capitalism is unsustainable in its current form (Credit: ZINIYANGE AUNTONY/AFP/Getty Images)

Written by Drew Hansen and first published at Forbes

Capitalism has generated massive wealth for some, but it’s devastated the planet and has failed to improve human well-being at scale.
  • Even in the U.S., 15% of the population lives below the poverty line. For children under the age of 18, that number increases to 20% (see U.S. Census).

How do we expect to feed that many people while we exhaust the resources that remain?

Human activities are behind the extinction crisis. Commercial agriculture, timber extraction, and infrastructure development are causing habitat loss and our reliance on fossil fuels is a major contributor to climate change.

Public corporations are responding to consumer demand and pressure from Wall Street. Professors Christopher Wright and Daniel Nyberg published Climate Change, Capitalism and Corporations last fall, arguing that businesses are locked in a cycle of exploiting the world’s resources in ever more creative ways.

“Our book shows how large corporations are able to continue engaging in increasingly environmentally exploitative behaviour by obscuring the link between endless economic growth and worsening environmental destruction,” they wrote.

Yale sociologist Justin Farrell studied 20 years of corporate funding and found that “corporations have used their wealth to amplify contrarian views [of climate change] and create an impression of greater scientific uncertainty than actually exists.”

Corporate capitalism is committed to the relentless pursuit of growth, even if it ravages the planet and threatens human health.

We need to build a new system: one that will balance economic growth with sustainability and human flourishing.

A new generation of companies are showing the way forward. They’re infusing capitalism with fresh ideas, specifically in regards to employee ownership and agile management.

The Increasing Importance Of Distributed Ownership And Governance

Fund managers at global financial institutions own the majority (70%) of the public stock exchange. These absent owners have no stake in the communities in which the companies operate. Furthermore, management-controlled equity is concentrated in the hands of a select few: the CEO and other senior executives.

On the other hand, startups have been willing to distribute equity to employees. Sometimes such equity distribution is done to make up for less than competitive salaries, but more often it’s offered as a financial incentive to motivate employees toward building a successful company.

According to The Economist, today’s startups are keen to incentivize via shared ownership:
The central difference lies in ownership: whereas nobody is sure who owns public companies, startups go to great lengths to define who owns what. Early in a company’s life, the founders and first recruits own a majority stake—and they incentivise people with ownership stakes or performance-related rewards. That has always been true for startups, but today the rights and responsibilities are meticulously defined in contracts drawn up by lawyers. This aligns interests and creates a culture of hard work and camaraderie. Because they are private rather than public, they measure how they are doing using performance indicators (such as how many products they have produced) rather than elaborate accounting standards.
This trend hearkens back to cooperatives where employees collectively owned the enterprise and participated in management decisions through their voting rights. Mondragon is the oft-cited example of a successful, modern worker cooperative. Mondragon’s broad-based employee ownership is not the same as an Employee Stock Ownership Plan. With ownership comes a say – control – over the business. Their workers elect management, and management is responsible to the employees.

REI is a consumer cooperative that drew attention this past year when it opted out of Black Friday sales, encouraging its employees and customers to spend the day outside instead of shopping.

I suspect that the most successful companies under this emerging form of capitalism will have less concentrated, more egalitarian ownership structures. They will benefit not only financially but also communally.

Joint Ownership Will Lead To Collaborative Management

The hierarchical organization of modern corporations will give way to networks or communities that make collaboration paramount. Many options for more fluid, agile management structures could take hold.

For instance, newer companies are experimenting with alternative management models that seek to empower employees more than a traditional hierarchy typically does. Of these newer approaches, holacracy is the most widely known. It promises to bring structure and discipline to a peer-to-peer workplace.

Holacracy “is a new way of running an organization that removes power from a management hierarchy and distributes it across clear roles, which can then be executed autonomously, without a micromanaging boss.”

Companies like Zappos and Medium are in varying stages of implementing the management system.

Valve Software in Seattle goes even further, allowing employees to select which projects they want to work on. Employees then move their desks to the most conducive office area for collaborating with the project team.