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

Ralph Johansen mdriscollrj at charter.net
Tue Feb 23 00:50:12 MST 2016

Hans Ehrbar wrote 

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 


Rather than and instead of that, here is what I said: 

"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." 

Since that was not clear, let me apologize and try to elaborate: 

Sanders has tasked himself to make demands which, in the main, are social-democratic, and are not too different from Eisenhower-era welfarism, before Reagan's attack on the working class, but which capital as presently constituted can no longer accede to, including as we know: 

a full-on assault against the 1%, and against the corrupt campaign contributions system; we have no difficulty following that, and what it means for our life chances; 

a Medicare-for-all, single-payer health care system; the "health care" and pharmaceutical industries own the Congress, and this for capital and its legislative servants is a non-viable demand, but one that resonates widely with all in the working class; 

a "living wage", $15 an hour for now; the corporate Congress of course can't allow that either. If you can't build a movement to get a $15 minimum wage, you don't have any hope to get anything more radical than that. But to demand it is to test the system. If it can't deliver, that is there for all to see; in the most unlikely event that a compromise raise well below that modest figure were even reached by this Congress and the executive, it would serve as the floor for further demands that cannot and will not be met, but which, if Sanders pushes, are perfectly fair and just to most; 

free education for all through college, as a right for all; not affordable by the corporate state any longer in its stage of over-stretched indebtedness, its increased dependence on the credit economy - a protracted, stagnating, unstable  economy, in which college-age indebtedness has become institutionalized. But millions of younger people are affected, and are or soon will be in debt bondage for life. The demand for tuition-free education therefore will be fought by capital tooth and nail as well, exposing the system for its failure; 

"decent" jobs, including repatriation of jobs lost overseas; also not deliverable by capital, when the trend is toward part-time, just-in-time, unpaid overtime, automation, offshoring, and benefits trending downward as a result; 

expansion of social security; capital is gung ho to destroy it, to privatize it; a third rail as is said, which capital in its drive for sources of profit and a more favorable return on investment seemingly cannot resist; 

more importantly, in his agenda for change Sanders advocates selectively, not jumping too far ahead of where most people are, but in the main and where feasible focusing on demands which capital cannot meet, and with which people can identify. Which earns him bad press which we all may well be seeing through as we hear his message elsewhere and connect more and more dots.

And when his demands (including others I haven’t mentioned such as those concerning the banks) are rejected, it is the system he attacks, and no longer just its corporate personifications and its political satraps, that is seen to be failing all the rest of the people. How can we find fault with that? How much farther than that can we expect to go at this time? 

How far is that from helping to generate organizing that goes beyond the circus-atmosphere of the 18-month long four-year election cycle and the absurd, kept Congress, where our “representatives” spend far more of their time raising campaign funds than they do legislating? Extra-parliamentary organizing on the offense is in the air, in the face of flagrantly corrupt, inept and unequal capital. Especially, and most importantly, as we begin to effectively address capital’s capacity to perpetuate and extend the pernicious global division of labor, in the context of the escalating downward equalization of the wage rate. 

And Sanders has opted to run as a Democrat, not to enhance that entity, but because that's what gets him broad national exposure, even despite the kept media, and political usefulness beyond candidacy. 

That could present us with the possible, even the probable. That's what I mean by my last paragraph, not as you interpret it, as "the only way to win against capital is to demand the impossible". 

You write 

"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". 

Yes, in the attack against capital and the transition to socialism, the concept of "need" (addressed not as sacrifice but as gain, in my judgment) of course has to be re-considered, deeply. At that time, I’d see it being addressed in the context of a general recognition of the importance of substantive equality to global agreement on attacking climate destruction. But until then, you tell me how. Any general mobilization on a war footing to avert climate disaster will already be on the road to socialism, since it will mean, unlike Roosevelt's full-on mobilization in WW2, that the profits of the mobilization this time cannot accrue to capital. I could be wrong, but I’d say that it can't mean anything other than a move in the direction of substantive equality and still gain general consensus. There is no Hitler, Mussolini or Hirohito this time against whom we’re all in this together, business and workers alike. How could they sustain that fiction this time? (Islam? China? Really?) Since the system’s continued savaging of the environment hinges on its ability to continue business as usual, which it must continue to do to sustain the expansion without which it cannot survive, this means that corporate power in charge of the state will be unable to hide its mode of control and its opposition to change. Therefore, the demands Sanders makes, as well as all other demands which effectively address environmental destruction, are timely because no longer (if they ever were) viable for capital.


You write

“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".

What means here “act radically”, in real time, in a meaningful sense, starting from where we are? What is there, including self-immolation, that hasn’t been tried on an individual level? And what is the “radical” action, short of action toward escalating mass revolution? Failing an answer to that question, this is an “ought”, a desideratum with no wind at its back. Capital may have had to agree to goals in the direction of some of the “oughts”, because they’ve become so obvious to everyone except Jim Inhofe the oil senator from Oklahoma and the gargoyle republicans projecting from the gutters of Washington, and in order to avoid perception of its complete buffoonery by people whose respect capital wants to retain, but it is not projecting implementation of anything approaching what is needed to meet those goals. And presumably we all here agree that it can’t, as a waste-and-resource-depletion-dependent system which is in the business of killing its host.

That’s “pessimistic” only if you have an alternative which we can see as “optimistic”, in any real sense. I see it as a longer struggle but not an impossible or even improbable one, even given (or because of) the urgency of the environmental catastrophe and the time-line which you well describe, because it is a struggle whose legs are beginning to get up and run. We’re not as stupid as we give ourselves credit for, individually and collectively. If we are, there’s no hope anyhow.

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