Thursday, 3 December 2020

What is Ecological Marxism (Eco-Marxism)? Explained

 


Written by Sukanya Maity and first published at Sociology Group

Synopsis: Nature and Capitalism are in an enduring conflict as we witness the exploitation of labour and natural resources simultaneously – clearing of forests because of large scale corporatisation and destructiveness disguised as development. Ecological Marxism is a subfield of Sociology which seeks to study the dialectics of nature from a Marxian perspective and challenges the concepts of conservation and sustainable development. This article will focus on the brief history of its development and the possible reasons triggering its academic growth and importance in recent times.

Ecological Marxism: An attempt to ‘Ecologise’ Marxism

According to Clark and Foster, “the problem of nature is a problem of capital”. Ecological Marxism is the application of Karl Marx’s theories to the study and analysis of the environment and its related impacts and processes. The term ‘ecology’ was first coined in 1856 by Ernst Haeckel, a German.

The term, when initially coined, was used synonymously with Darwin’s loose concept of the “economy of nature”. This would later stimulate further developments in botanical studies and their complex plant components in the early twentieth century. Advances in ecosocialist theories speak volumes of the growing importance of Marx’s metabolic and materialist approach in studying the interchange between humans and nature and the relation they share. Marx’s ecology serves as the best foreground for studying environmental degradation, through his analysis of capitalism and how it favours the accumulation of private property and prioritises profit over the protection of the environment. 

In 1935, Botanist Arthur George Tansley, a Fabian-type socialist and the founder of British Ecological Society, introduced the concept of the ecosystem in a theoretical polemic against the racist ecological “holism” of General Smuts and his followers in South Africa. Tansley developed a materialist approach to ecology which incorporated both organic and inorganic processes. Related developments took place in the Soviet Union. Vernadsky, in his 1926 work The Biosphere argued that life existing on the superficial realm of a planetary sphere itself acted as a geological force affecting the earth and had an effect on the planet which grew extensive with time.

Nikolai Bukharin, a leading figure in the Russian Revolution and Marxian theory reframed historical materialism as the problem of “man in the biosphere”. Second-stage eco-socialists also known as eco-Marxists like Paul Burkett have majorly contributed to ecological thought associated with dialectics of nature. Marxian ecological theory, therefore, emphasizes unequal ecological exchange, or ecological imperialism.

Ecosocialist theories focused on Marx’s works on Capitalism to understand the “ecological concept of his materialism” as well as to understand his critique of political economy that emphasised on the capitalist society’s transformation of material conditions on which all life depends. Inspired by the ancient Greek Philosopher Epicurus, Marx established a materialist conception of history and nature, which were interrelated in their own ways.

Marx’s value analysis (concepts of use-value and exchange-value) provided strong backing to his development of a concept of sustainable human development. His ecological materialism serves both as a philosophical orientation as well as a critical standpoint to assess the internal contradictions of a particular mode of production. In his ecological method, “human society is embedded in the physical world”.

Also Read: Dalit Capitalism

Metabolic Rift between Nature and Humans

The aim of the Marxists was not to ‘Marxise’ ecology but to ‘ecologise’ Marxism. The concept of metabolism, on the other hand, was originally introduced by physiologists around 1815 to describe the physical exchange processes within the human body. German chemist Justus Von Liebig used the concept to refer to a series of natural cycles, which is also central to his critique of British agriculture. He analysed how irrational farming methods in the 19th century led to the depletion of the soil.

According to Foster, Marx “developed a theory of ecological crisis, now known as the theory of metabolic rift”. Marx perceived history and nature as one. Marx and Engels wrote in The German Ideology: “We know only one science, the science of history. History can be viewed from two sides: it can be divided into the history of nature and that of man. The two sides, however, are not to be seen as independent entities. As long as man has existed, nature and man have affected each other.” Hence, his historical materialism in itself embodies ecological materialism. Marx claimed that there was a “necessary metabolic interaction” between humans and the earth.

Natural processes like carbon cycle, soil nutrient cycle, production of fruits and so on makes it possible for humans to survive. Hence, he referred to the earth as a “universal instrument” since it not only provides the worker with the ground beneath their feet but also with sources of employment. It provides “the natural conditions of labour, such as fertility of the soil, mines, and so forth.” Labour, here, forms the basic component of metabolic interchange through which humans transform the earth. The development of Thermodynamics in 19th-century Physics conceptually integrated Marx and Engel’s analysis of metabolism.

With the advent of the capitalist economy which promoted the privatisation and centralization of capital, natural resources were heavily depleted and exploited to provide raw materials that would further fuel the growth of industries. This increase in social metabolism increased the demands placed on nature. As new technologies are used to curtail labour costs and expand production, capitalism and nature are caught in an “enduring conflict”. This drastically impacts the natural cycles, aids in climate change, and the regeneration of ecosystems.

Also Read: Green Economy

The social metabolic order of capital also gives rise to ecological imperialism coupled with the expansion of the economic system. In the 19th century, intensive agricultural production in England contributed to a global metabolic rift. Millions of tonnes of nitrates and guano were transferred from Chile and Peru to the North, to enrich the exhausted soil. This involved the exploitation of not only nature but also labour as over 90,000 Chinese workers were forcefully transported to Peru to work on railroads and plantations. Marx claimed that this Chinese coolie labour system was worse than slavery.

The workers in the guano Islands were physically beaten, malnourished and not allowed to leave. The fertilizers that enriched the soils of North resulted in the exploitation and shortened life span of Chinese workers, exhaustion of natural resource and debt-burden of Peru. Marx also pointed out that artificial solutions like chemical fertilisers and their excessive use without addressing the problems in the social causes of metabolic rift eventually shifts the problem elsewhere which further augments the process of environmental degradation.

Capitalist growth also stimulates the continuous burning of fossil fuels and deforestation. Consequently, this increases the amount of carbon dioxide and the carbon metabolism of capitalism drives global climate change. Marx’s metabolic rift has also been used to study the marine environment which has been monopolised by humans leading to a transformation in the marine ecosystem through overfishing which has drastically impacted the population of aquatic species. Hence, socio-natural dislocations are by-products of capitalistic growth.

Also Read: Gendering Climate Change

Lauderdale Paradox – Major Influence

According to Clark and Frost, Marx is a scientist who seeks to trace the capitalist virus and is all the time searching for a remedy. Marx was highly inspired by James Maitland’s ‘Lauderdale Paradox’. Lauderdale informs the transformation of a fertile period through Dutch colonialists’ burning of spiceries and employment of native people to pluck young blossoms and green leaves from the nutmeg trees to kill them off and how the planters in Virginia were required to burn a certain amount of tobacco for every slave working on their fields.

These activities increased the accumulation of private wealth by destroying public wealth (here, public wealth refers to the produce of earth). Marx wrote that to transform natural resources into sources of exchange value, they were essentially monopolised and alienated. Hence, the accumulation of natural resources for the accumulation of wealth by a few resulted in the decrease of wealth in society as a whole.

Marx’s analysis of the destruction of natural wealth to augment capitalist production is evident in his rent theory which emphasises on the monopolisation of land and natural resources for the sake of private gain. Here, the analysis of metabolic rift and the destruction of natural resources through the valorization of capital that treats nature as a free gift, giving rise to Lauderdale Paradox are brought together. Hence, an elementary triangle of ecology emerges from Marx’s thought, which comprises of (1) social use and not ownership of nature, (2) rational regulation by the producers of metabolic relations between nature and humans and (3) satisfaction of communal needs, both of present and the future.

Herman Daly, an ecological economist pointed out that the return of Lauderdale’s Paradox has become more serious. He says that with the increase in the population, the free foods become scarce and get a price tag hence we notice an increase in private riches which are celebrated, but we fail to notice the decline in public wealth. In the 19th century, Lauderdale spoke about water as a potentially scarce resource. Today, drinkable water has become scarce and as a solution, the system is imposing on us private resources (through packaged drinking water) which furthers the problem of ecological scarcity.

Expropriation of the Commons

Lievens opines that capitalism attempts to turn away from human dependence on nature by turning nature into private property. However, the link between capitalism and ecological degradation doesn’t mean that pre-capitalist society was devoid of environmental crises, but, the crises remained limited to the local area but with the advent of capitalism globally, the environmental crisis has become global. Both labour and nature are exhausted by capitalist accumulation.

The property-owning class privately appropriated the traditional, community-based productions of the commons and hence, they had to face widespread popular resistance. Mass resistance movements arose as more and more forests were privatised. The German Peasants’ War of the 16th century which Engels referred to as the rock basis of modern class struggle, demanded an elected committee to protect common goods and prevent privatization or despoliation.

Lievens says that today, people are searching for a cure for the climate crisis which is compatible with private ownership but the privatisation of the commons has increased tenfold as the air (or oxygen) becomes a commodity which is privately owned in the context Kyoto Protocol.  

Also Read: Environmental Sociology

The ecosocialist movement has adopted the slogan “System Change, Not Climate Change” to signify how a globalised capitalist system influences the current reality. Marxist ecological thinkers opine that in the not-too-distant future, there will emerge an environment proletariat through the combination of ecological degradation and economic hardships stemming from the lowest rungs of the societal ladder.

This will inevitably lead these proletariats or the working population to revolt against the existing system. The middle class often referred to as the petty bourgeoisie will be drawn to this struggle, the youth will be radicalized as they become disenchanted and women, who have been historically marginalised as well as majorly dependent on natural resources, will be at the forefront of this struggle.

References

  1. Burkett, P. (2006). Marxism and Ecological Economics. Boston: Brill Leiden.
  2. Clark, B. & Foster, J.B. (2010). Marx’s Ecology in the 21st Century. In World Review of Political Economy (pg. 142-157).
  3. Foster, J.B. (2000). Marx’s Ecology. New York: Monthly Review Press.
  4. Foster, J.B. (2015). Marxism and Ecology: Common Fonts of a Great Transition. In Great Transition Initiative.
  5. Lievens, M. (n.d.). Towards an Eco-Marxism.

Sukanya Maity is pursuing a Bachelor’s degree in Sociology from Jadavpur University, Kolkata. She is a feminist, anti-fascist and anti-capitalist and hopes to document the lives of remarkable women so that their stories don’t vanish into anonymity

Friday, 27 November 2020

From the Ground Up – the Climate Movement Gets in Shape for COP26


Written by Iain Bruce and first published at International Viewpoint

The surprising success of the online mobilisation, “From the Ground Up”, from 12-16 November, poses new challenges and new responsibilities for the climate movement. This “Global Gathering for Climate Justice” was organised by the COP26 Coalition to mark the time when the United Nations climate talks were meant to have taken place in Glasgow. [1

Lasting five days with 53 events and some 8,000 people registered, it brought together an impressive range of movements, speakers and topics. Together they sketched out key components of the response that is needed to the climate and Covid crisis – not only in the next year leading up to the postponed COP26 in Glasgow, but beyond that across the coming decade, when drastic action is needed to keep the global temperature rise below 1.5 degrees Celsius.

With Via Campesina and small farmers from South East Asia and South Africa to the Western Isles of Scotland, activists discussed the need to replace industrial agriculture with local, agroecological production as a way of getting food on our plates. Indigenous activists from Central America and the Amazon to Sulawesi talked about the struggle to defend their forests and lands from extractive industries, including the important issue of mining the minerals needed for electric motors.

Oil and aviation workers, from the North Sea to the South Atlantic, debated alongside public transport campaigners from Glasgow and retrofitters from Leeds the need for a just transition to climate jobs that really responds to, and is steered by, the workers concerned. Feminist and Black Lives Matter activists from North and South America talked about the overlap between their mass protests and the climate struggle.

Veronica Gago, of the Ni Una Menos movement in Argentina, said we need to go beyond solidarity, and think in terms of building bridges between the different actions we take, wherever we are. One of the main leaders of the October 2019 uprising in Ecuador, the Indigenous leader Leonidas Iza, called for the climate movement, the feminist movement and the youth movement to agree on a worldwide uprising next year in the run up to Glasgow, “because capitalism threatens the end of humanity”.

If anyone thought the pandemic had silenced the climate movement, this event should have set them straight. It showed that this movement is now a key site where concerns, anger and proposals over the combined climate, health and economic crises are coming together. The British government under Boris Johnson, reflecting the consequences of the election of Joe Biden in the US, is now seeking to relaunch its image with burnished green credentials. The movement around COP26 has the potential to become a strong counter pole to this promotion of “Green Capitalism”.

Same storm, different boats

The COP26 Coalition issued an important second political statement a day before the event which acknowledged that the fact so many governments and corporations are talking about getting rid of fossil fuels is itself a victory for the years of street protests and resistance by front line communities. [2] But the movement should not trust these elites to follow through. The statement was signed by dozens of organisations within the Coalition and stated:

The global pandemic has made clear that the multiple crises we face today – climate breakdown, ecological destruction, racism, patriarchy, hunger, poverty, the mass displacement of peoples – are all interconnected. These crises share common roots that see the earth’s resources exploited for the benefit of the few at the cost of the many, and the poor and marginalised bear the worst consequences. We may all be in the midst of the same storm, but we are patently not all in the same boat.

This was the message taken into the centre of Glasgow on the second day of the event, as activists sailed a boat, decked in banners reading “Same Storm, Different Boats”, down the River Clyde to the Scottish Events Campus where the COP will take place. [3

Standing next to the boat, the Coalition’s Scottish Coordinator, Quan Nguyen, said: “We need the UK and Scottish Governments to acknowledge that their targets of net zero 2045 and 2050 are not only too late, but open loopholes for fossil fuel corporations who have caused the crisis in the first place to continue polluting and burning the planet... The Governments need to hold polluters to account, shut down fossil fuel corporations and fossil fuel sites. They need to stop exporting fossil fuel technology, and start paying reparations to countries and communities in the Global South.”

A diverse, militant, internationalism movement

To some extent, the From the Ground Up event showed that the movement around the COP26 Coalition has already broken beyond the NGO framework that gave rise to it. Those taking part are mainly young, probably more women than men, and fairly diverse, although this is an area it certainly wants to develop further. The tone is militant, and the content largely anti-capitalist, even if not everyone wants to use that kind of language. And it is resolutely internationalist.

It may have been a blessing in disguise that the big figures of the environmental movement – Greta Thunberg, Naomi Klein, AOC – couldn’t make it. Their absence reinforced the sensation of a broad, horizontal, mass movement, reemerging from within the lockdown.

Big challenges certainly lie ahead. Sustaining the momentum and building on it will be one of them.

In the short term, there is the governmental Climate Ambition Summit on 12 December, which the Johnson government is organising together with the UN, France, Italy and Chile, to mark five years since the conclusion of the Paris Agreement. From the Coalition and the wider climate movement, we need to make our presence felt and raise those big questions about the promises being made, and the assumptions behind them.

In March there may be another, shorter online event of the Coalition, to talk more about strategies for action. In particular, plans will have to to be developed for the kinds of protest that are needed at the G7 summit to be hosted somewhere in the UK in the summer 2021, and leading up to the COP itself in Glasgow 1-11 November 2021. The Glasgow COP will be preceded by a UN pre-summit in Milan, Italy 30 September – 2 October, and earlier preparatory talks, possibly in Bonn, Germany, at dates that are still to be decided.

So these could also become targets for protests. But even if all these meetings do become physical events, and even if social distancing is no longer a necessity by November, it is likely that the plans for the Glasgow COP will aim at decentralised activities – maybe culminating in a big event and protest in Glasgow itself in November 2021, combined with rolling protests in other parts of the world, and maybe online convergences too. The Fridays for the Future movement of schoolchildren striking for climate action has shown the possibility of wider action by workers through strike and protest action in workplaces.

Scottish politics are going to intersect with the run up to COP too. The demand for good, green jobs to build out of the pandemic will only grow, as Scotland likely becomes one of the parts of Europe worst hit by unemployment in 2021. The devolved Scottish government’s record on climate action so far has been one of the weakest points of its governing party, the Scottish National Party (SNP). But if, as seems almost certain, the SNP wins a majority in next May’s elections to the Scottish parliament or an overwhelming majority in alliance with the Scottish Green Party, the swelling support for independence and a new referendum will reach a crescendo.

That means the months leading up to COP26 could well see a full-blown constitutional crisis of the British state, pitting the official hosts, the UK government of Boris Johnson, against the de-facto local hosts in the Scottish government, Glasgow City Council and the people of the city and Scotland. On the ground, Independence will be the big political issue of the day. Many in the Scottish climate movement have already taken a position in favour of this. But how this works out in the wider British movement could be more complicated.

Some absences from the movement

There remain some absences in the COP movement that ought to be addressed. Although the strong presence of the Global South was one of the most impressive aspects of this online gathering, it was uneven. The participation from Africa was weaker. So was that from East Asia, to some extent South Asia, and the Middle East. More surprisingly perhaps, mainland European climate movements were largely absent. The questions over EU climate policy are ones that need to be taken very seriously at COP26, especially if the extreme centre around Biden seeks to team up with the EU elites to reassert their hegemony.

Another relative absence has been that of the radical left, both in Scotland and more widely across Britain. This is not so much a problem for the climate movement as it is for the left itself. Individuals of course took part. A few of the environmental campaigns have left-wing activists centrally involved.

But there was little sense of a political contribution or exchange, much less symbiosis, at least in any positive, organised way. There may be good reasons for this, historical, generational, cultural. But they ought to be addressed, sensitively, and in the first place by the left itself, with a reorientation towards an ecosocialist perspective. Fortunately, these gaps seem to exist far less, if at all, in the Global South.

“A fundamental reckoning with and transformation of our economic, social, and political systems”

In the end, the central message of this reemerging climate movement is one that is, or should be, shared by the left as a whole, and well beyond too. In the words of that Coalition statement [4]:

We are in uncharted waters. The world is on track to breach the carbon budget for 1.5oC global warming well before 2030. Our role in the run-up to COP26 must be to maintain at the forefront of public consciousness what this warming of 1.5oC means: for our lives and for our livelihoods, for the interests of all citizens globally and for the future of our planetary ecosystem. And what it would take to avoid: nothing less than a fundamental reckoning with and transformation of our economic, social, and political systems.

Footnotes

[1] See the website COP26 Coalition.

[2] See COP26 Coalition “Coalition Statement #2: We Are Not All In The Same Boat.

[3] See COP 26 Coalition “All Hands on Deck – From the Ground Up Press Release”.

[4] See COP26 Coalition “Coalition Statement #2: We Are Not All In The Same Boat”.

Iain Bruce is a journalist and eco-socialist activist living in Glasgow. He was formerly Latin America correspondent for IVP. He is author of “The Porto Alegre Alternative: Direct Democracy in Action” (IIRE - International Institute for Research and Education).

Wednesday, 25 November 2020

Universal Basic Income: Time for a rethink


Written by Huseyin Kishi

Senior Green Party Politicians proposal would increase poverty according to modelling.

Since 1983 the then Ecology Party, which was to be renamed the Green Party of England and Wales have argued for a National Income Scheme, later renamed the Citizen’s Income in 1990s and more recently known in the 2000s as the Universal Basic Income.[1] [2]In 2020 Jonathan Bartley in Bright Green heralded it as “...only universal and unconditional protection ensures that nobody is left behind.”[3]. Sian Berry opined “Universal basic income has been Green policy since long before I joined the party, and is exactly what it sounds like: a guaranteed income for everyone, replacing benefits in an unconditional way, which is ready and able to take care of your basic needs if a personal crisis hits.”[4]

For Greens it wasn’t a widely discussed policy until 2015, in which it was declared by the Guardian as “...The renewed focus on the cost and feasibility of a citizen’s income, including the way in which it would differ from the government scheme to integrate universal credit, demonstrates the extent to which Green policy is now being taken seriously. “

Baroness Bennett, who recently said in an interview with Green World “A universal basic income, to meet its proper definition, ensures that you can meet all of your basic needs with an income that comes to you simply for being a member of a society – unconditionally.” [5]

An idea whose time has come

For its proponents, it seems as clear as day for its implementation. A radical shift for welfare and the alleviation of poverty and unemployment. They then point to a Finish trial but a press release that was published in 2019 said “The positive evaluation may not relate to basic income as such but to public debate around basic income and to the fact that people were members of a selected group” adding “The Finnish experiment was about partial basic income targeting able-bodied people without work, it was not about universal basic income.” [6]

It did not do anything near what its proponents had argued – despite the positive headline in the New Scientist.[7] For the Green Party, in their 2015 manifesto they state “Scrap most of the existing benefits apart from disability benefits and Housing Benefit. Abolish the income tax personal allowance. Then pay every woman, man and child legally resident in the UK a guaranteed, non-means-tested income, sufficient to cover basic needs – a Basic Income”. [8] They followed this up in their 2019 manifesto by stating that it would be funded by a Carbon tax and additional payments would be made to those with children or were disabled. [9]

Impact

Molly Scott Cato said in her article for the Ecologist “...But a basic income would only provide fundamental security and would leave most people on lower incomes than they enjoyed before the crisis.”[10]

Moreover, Caroline Lucas in 2016, though in support of the policy, noted “A universal payment for all must not undermine additional help for those who need it most.[11]  The party’s own consultation paper in 2015 stated “It includes abolishing most existing benefits, abolishing income tax allowances, changing employees’ National Insurance, reducing tax concessions on private pension contributions, and replacing the current contribution-based basic State Pension (for existing pensioners) and the new single-tier flat-rate Pension (for new pensioners) with a non-contributory Citizen’s Pension.” It would still pay housing and disability as additional payments and the total estimated cost was £331 billion.[12]

At the time the Independent noted “The Greens have since admitted that it “would not be practical or right to carry out that change within a single parliament.”[13] Sky News declared “The party says this is a long term ambition rather than concrete policy going into the 2015 election - but the thought of giving millionaires more money is likely to be a voter turn-off.” [14]

Individualism over the collective

There is an established example of an income-subsidy, though means-tested, that provides some economic support. It is called housing benefit and has been place since the 1980s. Sir George Young, the then Minister of State for Housing and Planning, remarked in 1991 that: 

“Housing benefit will underpin market rents-- we have made that absolutely clear. If people cannot afford to pay that market rent, housing benefit will take the strain.” [15]

Housing benefit now costs £22 billion a year and does not lessen the risk of eviction, improve the quality housing, nor the energy, utility and tax costs either. As the Institute for Fiscal Studies notes: 

“...for most working-age people it covers a lower proportion of their actual rent than was the case in the past.”[16]

Housing benefit – far from merely taking the strain when it was believed that the market would later expand for all income-bands – continues to grow and has now become a private landlord subsidy. An aversion to capital spending in housing and the shift to income-subsidy has not resulted in a housing market that competes on price, quality and amenities. More concerning, due to changes in housing benefit from 2011, rather than payment going directly to the landlord payments were paid instead to the tenant, this resulted in landlord arrears.[17]  Rather than benefiting the poorest, over the last three decades it has increased the property portfolios of private landlords according to Shelter.

Returning to universal basic income, In 2015 Baroness Bennett stated in the Guardian that a citizen’s income would be withdrawn when a citizen’s income reached an unspecified level.[18] Milton Friedman, the free-market economist, also agreed with the Green Party in their 2015 and 2019 manifesto, and instead proposed a negative income tax in his book  “Capitalism and Freedom.” Rather than benefits: 

“...he wanted to give poor people cash rather than an array of welfare benefits. People could then use the money as they saw fit”[19]

Likewise, in 2018, the Adam Smith institute proposed “Basic Income would ensure that ‘capitalism and efficient redistribution can be vindicated in equal measure”[20]

Assets over income-subsidy

Senior Greens often refer to UBI as increasing security and choice – but in effect – as was seen with housing benefit; this isn’t guaranteed. In fact, when Joseph Rowntree Foundation undertook modelling of it. They found that

“Those wholly dependent on state support would be neither better nor worse off if a UBI were introduced at the level of the current safety net. Those with modest earnings would benefit most from having the new non-means-tested payment. “ adding that “...it is not possible to raise the revenue needed to support them from taxation ­– even by increasing the basic rate to 30% from 20%. The UBI schemes also INCREASE poverty for children, working-age adults and pensioners compared to the current tax-benefit system: child poverty rises by over 60%. [21]“.

Similarly, the New Economics Foundation found “making cash payments to individuals to increase their purchasing power in a market economy is not a viable route to solving problems caused by neoliberal market economics” they also note that  “If cash payments are allowed to take precedence, there’s a serious risk of crowding out efforts to build collaborative, sustainable services and infrastructure”[22]

Senior Greens have stated we need a radical shift in thinking about welfare – but it is clear that universal basic income does not serve progressive ends and in that regard shares more in common with conservative thinkers and supporters of neoliberalism. They should instead look to take a leaf out of Karl Polanyi’s work – who observed that markets are planned as the economy is embedded into society and thus shaped by the state – but there has been previous resistance towards this – with the exclusion of market forces in welfare and housing in the 1940s.[23]

In order to provide unconditional protection while accommodating the most vulnerable. We should move away from the individualist universal basic income and its substantive costs. Instead we should look at the long-term collective and public ownership of universal basic services. Assets such as housing, information and transport would benefit us all.  

More information can be found here: universal_basic_services_-_the_institute_for_global_prosperity_.pdf (ucl.ac.uk) 

Huseyin Kishi is a writer and photographer based in London. He is a member of Sutton & Croydon Green Party

Notes

[1]          https://green-history.uk/library/doc-archive/category/28-ep-manifestos

[2]          The Green Party | Social Welfare

[3]          Labour's failure to embrace UBI shows they haven't grasped the scale of the crisis | Jonathan Bartley (bright-green.org)

[4]          Sian Berry: This is the time to bring in universal basic income | Hampstead Highgate Express (hamhigh.co.uk)

[5]          The decade of universal basic income | Green World

[6]          https://www.helsinki.fi/en/news/nordic-welfare-news/heikki-hiilamo-disappointing-results-from-the-finnish-basic-income-experiment

[7]          Universal basic income seems to improve employment and well-being | New Scientist

[8]          Green.pdf (lancs.ac.uk)

[9]          Green Party Manifesto 2019.pdf

[10]          Coronavirus and the Universal Basic Income (theecologist.org)

[11]          The case for a Basic Income is growing | Caroline Lucas

[12]          Basic Income: a detailed proposal (greenparty.org.uk)

[13]          https://www.independent.co.uk/voices/editorials/general-election-2015-green-party-has-failed-make-its-mark-10196826.html

[14]          How Will Green Party's Medicine Go Down? | Politics News | Sky News 

[15]          House of Commons Hansard Debates for 30 Jan 1991 (parliament.uk)

[16]          Doubling of the housing benefit bill is sign of something deeply wrong - Institute For Fiscal Studies - IFS 

[17]          The impact of the direct payment of housing benefit: evidence from Great Britain (shu.ac.uk) 

[18]          Green party outlines plan for basic citizen’s income for all adults | Politics | The Guardian 

[19]          Negative income tax, explained | MIT Sloan

[20          Rising evidence for universal basic income — Adam Smith Institute 

[21]          Universal Basic Income - not the answer to poverty | JRF

[22]          Universal basic income: new study finds little evidence that it can live up to its promise | New Economics Foundation

[23]          https://www.dissentmagazine.org/online_articles/karl-polanyi-explainer-great-transformation-bernie-sanders

Monday, 23 November 2020

An Eco-anarchist Revolutionary Strategy


Written by Ted Trainer and Hans Baer and first published at massive

It is with respect to means, or transition strategy, that ecosocialism and my version of ecoanarchism differ most. This is because the kind of society that I argue must replace capitalism differs markedly from that which socialists commonly envisage.

Our previous piece sketched the argument that, in view of the grossly unsustainable state of industrial-affluent-consumer-capitalist society, the revolutionary goal must be a basic social form focused on small scale, highly self-sufficient and self-governing, collectivist and zero-growth communities. They have to be driven by need not profit, and have to abandon a culture focused on individualism, competition and acquisitiveness.

The Simpler Way, and then converting or forcing uncomprehending masses to it. This is hardly worth discussion.

The second path would be via the election to government of a party which had a Simpler Way platform. But that could not happen unless the cultural revolution for a Simpler Way had previously been achieved! If/when it had, changing structures would be a relatively easy consequence of the real revolution. So there’s your focal task here and now, that is, establishing the required worldview, not trying to take state power.

Peter Kropotkin, Lev Nikolayevich Tolstoy and Mahatma Gandhi realized that culture trumps economics and politics. They saw the ultimate revolutionary goal as largely autonomous citizen-run village communities, and these cannot come into existence or function satisfactorily unless their members come to have the required vision, values and dispositions.

Standing Marx on his head

Thus, in a sense, Marx must be stood on his head; the necessary superstructures must be based on a cultural substructure of the right ideas and values. Especially given the current sustainability crisis, the change in ideas and values required for a good society cannot be left until well after the seizure of state power (Marx assumed they could be.) Socialists have the order of revolutionary events around the wrong way.

Important here is the strong case for believing that capitalism is well down the path to self-destruction. The coming disintegration will make it clear that the system will no longer provide for us, and that people will (have to) come across to the emerging local collectivism.

Thus, there is a head-on contradiction here regarding basic strategy. In past revolutions the solution was theoretically simple; take power from the ruling class and then turn up the throttles in the factories to provide more abundance for all.

But now that cannot be the solution. It must be to establish a society with a far smaller gross domestic product (GDP) per capita, without growth, affluence, centralisation, globalisation and, above all, a society driven by radically new ideas, values and dispositions.

Getting this utterly foreign culture sufficiently established is the primary revolutionary task. If and when that’s done, getting rid of what’s left of capitalism will probably be easy and non-violent.

Socialist transition efforts typically go into calling for state-level policy change, such as nationalising key industries, but they do not involve shifting to far simpler localized lifestyles and systems. More importantly, they do not recognize that nothing of much significance can be achieved unless we first bring about widespread and profound change in ideas and values.

Prefiguring

What then is to be done? It is to, as anarchists say, prefigure — that is, to focus scarce energies on building aspects of the required alternative here and now.

Socialists usually misunderstand the point of this. It is not based on the assumption that if we just go on adding a community garden here and a poultry co-op there, in time we will have replaced the existing system.

The point of prefiguring is educational: it is to develop illustrative examples of aspects of the new society, and to use these as bases for undermining capitalist ideology. The best way to undermine it is not to fight it head on, but to get people to see: a) that it will not provide for us; and b) how good the ecoanarchist alternative to it could be.

There is now rapidly increasing adoption of this “turning away” and “ignoring capitalism to death” perspective, that is evident among the Zapatistas in Mexico, the Rojavan Kurds, the Transition Towns movement, the global ecovillage network and the 200-million strong campesino movement.

Possibly the most impressive is the Catalan Integral Cooperative, which now involves thousands in building alternative systems, emphatically rejecting having anything to do with the market or the state.

If these initiatives spread they will begin to pressure the existing state apparatus to focus on enabling the towns and suburbs to thrive and will, in time, increasingly push the state aside and transfer more functions into the anarchist political sphere in which federations, delegates and conferences work out proposals to be taken back down to the participatory town assemblies for decision. This would be a process of gradually taking state power.