08 July 2003

ECOSOCIALISM AND REALISM

****
this was a post onto the Green Alliance board I made today.

****

--- In GreenAllianceUSA@yahoogroups.com, joel kovel
wrote:

> But at heart it is a
> question of emancipating
> our powers of production,
> so that we can be
> realized human beings and
> not slaves to things.
> There is a basic
> antithesis between
> alienated production
> and living lightly upon
> the earth, respecting its
> intrinsic value: the more
> estranged the labor,
> which is to say, the more
> in the hands of the
> capitalist instead of the
> producers themselves, the
> more devastated the planet
> and the more unable will
> we be to contend with the
> resource crunch.

SDF: Hi Joel.

It occurs to me that many people who read _The Enemy Of Nature_ must
be baffled at what to do about the lemming-like behavior of alienated
humanity as regards their clinging to the current system, in light of
your exposure of the already-apparent unfortunate results.
Capitalism appears as an unstoppable juggernaut. Many of your book's
readers will doubtless reject ecosocialism as "unrealistic" because
anyone can observe, daily, the clinging of humanity to its alienated
forms.

The idea, though, that any of this "coming crisis" (I put it in scare-
quotes because the crisis is already here -- it is, of course,
largely someone else's crisis right now, which is why the comfortable
can call it a "coming crisis") can be stopped some other way is
itself an illusion. Alienated labor under today's conditions
requires the consumption of 71 million barrels of oil daily; it
requires the fishing out of the oceans, the amplification of the
greenhouse effect, and the steady destruction of the biosphere as a
whole. Proclamations that humanity is doomed because "there isn't
enough time" or "socialism is unrealistic" are themselves harbingers
of ecofascism, depending upon how seriously such proclamations are
taken. Like I said at
http://groups.yahoo.com/group/GreenAllianceUSA/message/8383 :

"Realistically, if the world's population is inevitably destined for
a precipitous drop, then one's most rational course of policy is to
create a gated community to house oneself and one's loved ones, and
then to erect high walls around its entry points to shut out the
great majority of losers who are going to die anyway. Ecology?
Democracy? If you were a powerful elite, with access to vast
resources, why would you yourself want to conserve energy or preserve
ecology when all of your resources will be needed to ensure the
willing co-operation of the doomed majority of the world's people in
their own doom?"

In the midst of all this talk of doom and destruction, all
recommendation of "green lifestyles under capitalism" as a solution
to capitalism's problems, to be alternated with proclamations that
the end is near, appears to me as just another form of religious
martyrdom. Heinberg's proposals, as I've pointed out before, are
realistic to the extent that one sees the existing order continuing
in the immediate future rather than being destroyed by some resource
crisis right now. A "religious/spiritual revival" will appeal to
those with religious proclivities -- however, if it is founded only
on the assertion that "'suffering is the key to learning'," only
stoics and masochists will be interested. And it must also appear so
to those who are trapped in the cogs of the competitive machine, and
who imagine themselves as having no way out. Thus, I argued, Greens
who would argue that ecosocialism is "unrealistic" are themselves
unrealistic, for they have no serious alternative.

The problem, then, intimately intertwined with the problem of how
ecosocialism is to happen, is one of how one gets out of the trap
called "realism," the idea (and ideology) that one's life is
determined by "hard facts" that have this nasty flavor of
inescapability. A second, and related problem, is one of how SOCIETY
gets out of the trap called "realism," and how it can create a new
set of "hard facts" for itself. My own thought about this question
starts from your exposure of "alienated labor" and the quest of
individuals and groups to lead unalienated lives. What's yours?

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