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

ehrbar at marx.economics.utah.edu ehrbar at marx.economics.utah.edu
Mon Feb 22 19:02:32 MST 2016

Ralph said, among others (here is my paraphrase and elaboration): if we
sacrifice, we do what capital wants us to do anyway, the only way to win
against capital is to demand the impossible.

Che Guevara's quote "Let's be realistic! Demand the impossible" is based
on the belief that socialists are at the leading edge of history, that
their demands will eventually be met because emancipation is likely to
win out over exploitation and oppression, because productivity has risen
to such an extent that everybody can have a good life.  This last leg of
the argument is no longer true.  We have greatly overestimated our
productivity, because we have only recently become aware of the true
cost of fossil fuels and the industrial mode of production.

Right now, our urgent goal is not to win against capital, but to avert
climate disaster.  In the next decade, we have to get to a path reducing
CO2 emissions 5% or more per year.  For this, it is necessary to push
back capital.  A full victory would be nice but counting on it would
mean counting on a miracle.  By the time climate change is so obvious
and damaging in the US and other industrialized countries that the
masses realize by their experience that the status quo is no longer
possible, it will be too late.  We have to act radically before the full
extent of the catastrophe is apparent.  This is a huge challenge.
Besides pushing back capital, sacrifice on the better-off part of the
working class is necessary too.  Sacrifice in the sense of "giving up
something dear to us for the sake of something higher".

We know now that many of the modern comforts coming along with
industrialization are unsustainable.  Industrial production cannot go on
because it unleashes powerful side effects, such as pollution and
poisoning, global warming, species extinctions, dying oceans, which we
humans cannot fix with existing or foreseeable technology.  We do not
have enough knowledge to manage the planet, and why would we want to
trade the beautiful self-regulating system to which we are biologically
adapted with a system which humans must observe and steer?  People will
be desperate enough to try geoengineering, which is the capitalist
solution of climate change, and it will be an utter failure.

Instead of trying to accelerate progress until we crash, the better
strategy is an orderly retreat to a simpler life, which disturbs
the planet less but which still satisfies most of our needs.  Life will
be less exhilarating, more focused on relationships rather than
adventures.  I don't consider it a better life, it is rather a retreat
from overindulgence which did not make us very happy anyway.

It will be incredibly difficult to convince the masses that this sacrifice is
necessary.  Socialists have experience battling incredibly difficult
battles against all odds.  If they would apply their political
sophistication to this task, we would have a better chance to
pass on a livable planet to our children and grandchildren.

Hans G Ehrbar

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