Written by Matt Huber and first published at Socialist Forum
Much of this thought recoils at any hint of industrial technology (or what they pejoratively call a “techno-fix”) or “eco-modernism.” There is a core contradiction here: Marx, Engels, and all the classical socialists saw industrialization as providing a historically new material capacity for abundance that could abolish poverty and offer freedom from work. As Engels himself made clear:
In his famous quote on the “realm of freedom”
In the early industrial era slavery was not displaced by machinery, but rather supplemented it. As Marx wrote: “Direct slavery is just as much the pivot of bourgeois industry as machinery, credits, etc. Without slavery you have no cotton; without cotton you have no modern industry.”
Prior to the widespread use of coal, E.A. Wrigley estimates iron smelting was spatially extensive: “10,000 tons of iron involved the felling of 100,000 acres of woodland.” Rolf Sieferle estimates that by the 1820s, British coal use would have required the entire territory of the United Kingdom to produce the equivalent amount of wood energy.
The key “scientific” question for ecosocialists must be: how can we build an emancipatory and ecological society out of industrial forms of production that now structure the material lives of billions of people? Some ecosocialists hint we should return to more labor-intensive agricultural society. Fred Magdoff and Chris Williams suggest an ecological agriculture “…may mean smaller farms with more people working on them,” but they admit machines must developed to lessen the time needed for working on farms.
Powering Ecosocialist Abundance