[Marxism] From socialism to eco-socialism. (Was: Investment, investment, investment)

Ralph Johansen mdriscollrj at charter.net
Mon Feb 22 14:13:59 MST 2016


Hans Ehrbar wrote

Here is a new start in my attempts to communicate with you what I consider the main oversights of the socialist movement today.
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You speak of pyrrhic action when the imperative practicable appears to be absent, use “only bicyle, foot,and train", "since nationalization of the polluting energy sector is not achievable, we have to aim for the second best, namely, their regulation”, "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". I don't dispute this. The situation is so dire that I see running out and shouting the alarm on the highway as not even inappropriate.

I'll wander a bit here: In 1957 I with about a dozen and a half or so others piled into cars and vans from LA and SF and went to ground zero, some fifty miles above Las Vegas, in order to be at that spot when a nuclear weapon test was scheduled to explode. It was all very choreographed; we were led by A.J. Muste of the Committee for Nonviolent Action (Dorothy Day of Catholic Worker was for some reason stuck in NYC), who conferred with Atomic Energy Commission officials, informing them of our every move, so that we would not be stopped unnecessarily on the ground that we were trespassing on federal restricted property conspiratorially, and thus subject to felony prosecution. Of course, when we had gone a distance toward the Nevada test site sufficient to invoke security all were arrested, and later released and charged with misdemeanors.

It felt good, and noble. Needless to say, Gandhi was largely our inspiration, and E.P. Thompson and the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament did similar things later at Aldermaston. We affected a small number of others at best as I was later able to see. We had nothing like the greater effect of many others, such as SCLC and SNCC actions against racism later. I am no longer a pacifist nor particularly an anarchist except as I believe in their not-often-enough-invoked precept that in our relations with one another, in all meetings and actions, in our lives generally, all proceedings in so far as possible take place under open democratic and egalitarian conditions, respecting the opinions and rights of all (as was the case with Occupy for the most part). And that our actions embody the principle expressed in the name, "an-" as against and "-archy" as domination. No "vanguard" in any "small group knows best how to impose the line of march" manner.

So, I wonder still and yet. What do we learn from our history? How and with what means and forces do we affect the otherwise inexorable course of capital in current history? Is it by demanding the impracticable and the improbable, or the impossible? Is it by precept and parable, by pyrrhic sacrifice? From starting from where we are with the do-able? And then, who the hell are WE, until we are recognized by others as a WE bearing along with us some perceived usefulness?

And I feel in a way as though we are all on this planet in a small canvas craft, and that, given our condition of privatism/individualism/no-tomorrowism/"let-the-other-guy-as-leader-figure-it-out-ism", in the context of our capitalist surroundings, we don't perceive the danger to us all until it is lapping at our wales and thwarts and threatening each personally. Whereupon we bail, for dear life, perhaps too late. 

But I can have no quarrel with a watch on the prow with a scope on the horizon while we paddle and bail. And that to me is what people like Michael Roberts are doing - seeking to find our bearings in a sea of capital predation so that we might conceivably reach the shore - or not. 

The only agency of successful change is plainly still the working class. That includes change from a system no longer able to cope to a system where it might be possible to save ourselves and our environs. And that change only will come through a deep understanding of the context in which we act. Which to me includes, romantically enough, the whole metabolic capital system and within it the tendency of the rate of profit to fall. Which with its preamble surplus extraction only from variable capital is essential to maintaining our bearings.

That to me - tangentially and maybe oddly enough - includes support for any activity which appears likely to be in the interests of all of us, as workers in an antagonistic, life-or-death confrontation with capital - including a Bernie Sanders-warts-and-all but with a lifetime in the political muck making demands, in a way which obtains for his message the maximum practicable hearing, in which all are able to recognize themselves and their lives and, for reasons we can all sooner or later appreciate, which capital can no longer accommodate and is therefore seen as wanting.


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