[Marxism] From socialism to eco-socialism. (Was: Investment, investment, investment)
ehrbar at marx.economics.utah.edu
ehrbar at marx.economics.utah.edu
Sun Feb 21 09:15:02 MST 2016
Here is a new start in my attempts to communicate with you
what I consider the main oversights of the socialist movement today.
Many people are concerned about environmental degradation, almost every
week there is new alarming news, from record low maximum arctic sea ice
to the ominous "cold blob" in the North Atlantic to the melting of
Antarctica to a super El Nino. People look around to see who can give
them leadership. They are overwhelmed because many changes are necessary
for the social order, which has been optimized over the last two
centuries to promote capitalist profits, to switch over to today's
urgent task of building a sustainable economy. If the socialist
opposition wants to become this leader, they must change along with
pretty much everything else in society. Socialism must become
eco-socialism. Traditionally, socialists are trying to heal the
class-based rifts in society. This is not identical to, although it is
highly related with, what is on the agenda today, namely, healing the
rift between humans and the rest of nature.
The biggest shift which socialists have to make, in my view, is to
explain to the masses in the rich countries that they must learn to live
well with less, and that it is possible to meet all their needs with
much less stuff.
The second biggest shift is that even the most revolutionary socialists
must embrace reforms. We in the US, Europe, Canada, Australia do not
have the power to overturn the capitalist regime quickly enough to
implement the necessary changes in time. We must try to build the
necessary structures within capitalism. On Feb 17, Raghu said on Pen-l
that, since nationalization of the polluting energy sector is not
achievable, we have to aim for the second best, namely, their regulation.
This should not be dismissed but discussed seriously among socialists.
Another big shift is the following: from many decades of losing battles,
we socialists have come to expect that capitalism is incredibly
resilient and popular. This is no longer the case. The ecological
catastrophe is a huge blow to capitalism. The entire system is becoming
more and more like a paper tiger, people are clamoring for alternatives.
This is why capitalists are so afraid of reforms and regulation: they
know this is the beginning of their end. Many socialists do not
recognize that capitalism right now is deeply on the defensive, because
the blow which put them on the defensive did not come from the working
The falling rate of profits is the textbook example of an inner
contradiction. Marx was of the view that capitalism would be able to
overcome and integrate every exterior obstacle, the only thing which
will topple it is its inner contradictions. We know now that Marx was
wrong: environmental catastrophe cannot be overcome by capitalism, and
it is not a reliable source for profits because the pie is shrinking.
If Michael Roberts defends the falling rate of profits today, i.e., if
he concentrates on the inner contradictions of capitalism instead of
investigating the exterior crash between capitalist growth and the
limitations of our planet, he is faithful to Marx but he is conducting
yesterday's battles. His time series are nice for understanding the
past, but they are irrelevant for the future because the future will be
different from the past. Insurance companies know this, socialists
should know this too.
Hans G Ehrbar
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