An Association of Ecological Socialists?

I am thinking of helping to form a small affinity group of ecological socialists. The group could engage in political actions in solidarity with those conducting traditional forms of class struggle, most especially those possessing as their objective the emancipation of the working class, and ecological activism in solidarity with groups seeking to transform humanity’s relationship with nature that is those seeking to develop an ecologically sustainable civilisation.

Some of the core tenets of ecological socialism, or better still, of such an affinity group, as I see it are

1.) Ecology is not something that is incidental to political action but must be one of its core features. Traditional left wing groups tend to pay lip service to it, at best, or, at worst seek, to use the ecological idiom, which has currency among younger activists, to promote their own narrow organisational interests. This means an ecological socialist affinity group would act in solidarity with green activists engaged in struggles on climate change, biodiversity and the like. It would also through solidarity seek to raise awareness among ecologists of the necessity of transforming capitalist society.

2.) An ecological society requires ecological consciousness. The social ownership of the means of production in and of itself will not lead automatically to an ecological society, and nor will it mechanically of its own accord lead to a more harmonious relationship between man and the organic world. Recognising this means recognising the necessity of fostering an ecological consciousness amongst the working class not just after the transformation of capitalist society but before it. It means working within the union movement so that the organisational power of the working class can be made to bare on ecological struggles, as with the “green bans” of yesteryear. The necessity for the centrality of ecology to contemporary social struggles and movement building follows from the classical anarchist concept of the performative revolution; what we do now shapes what happens after the revolution.

3.) The emancipation of the working class can only be based on autonomous working class action. It cannot be a matter for vanguard political parties, either of the vanguardist or social democratic type, as both forms of action inevitably lead to an hierarchical strata above the working class. The emancipation of the working class must be based on working class organisations, ultimately workers’ councils, that are organised on libertarian, that is genuinely democratic, principles. This too follows on from the concept of the performative revolution. The objective of the affinity group here would be to work in solidarity with the labour movement but also it would seek to reorganise it from within and without on libertarian lines.

By the same token an ecological society cannot be developed by Greens parties seeking to capture state power via elections. This is because such parties will be captured by a professional class of politicians who will marginalise their historical activist base. It will also lead to compromise with capitalist interests and centres of power without which an electoral base cannot be built. An ecological society requires social movement building outside of parliament, and the best means of achieving this is not through small activist groups that are purely ecological but through an ecologically conscious working class.

4.) An ecological socialism must be a type of libertarian socialism. The Soviet experience has demonstrated that a highly centralised society dominated by a governing class of state bureaucrats and party managers is not compatible with ecological sustainability. Furthermore, market socialism, despite the social ownership of the means of production, leads to the externalities and inequities of market capitalist society. An ecological socialism must be built upon a federation of worker owned and managed industries, where the federated bodies display a high degree of ecological consciousness. That is, an ecological socialism is form of anarchism.

5.) The principle of production and distribution of a socialist society should be; “from each according to their ability, to each according to their need.” Principles of production and distribution based on contribution to production will lead to a reappearance of class structure and mass consumerism, which would be neither socialist nor ecological.

6.) Ecology and socialism must be global processes, so cosmopolitanism and aversion to all forms of particularistic nationalism would be a key feature of the ideology and practice of the affinity group. Solidarity with refugees, opposition to war and imperialism, all are essential for building cross border solidarity amongst peoples across borders. Ecological sustainability must be global because of the interconnected nature of the biosphere. Socialism must be a global process for genuine working class emancipation cannot be built in isolated islands surrounded by a hostile capitalist sea. This was always the case, but it has now become even more vital given the realities of capitalist globalisation which requires transnational working class solidarity.

7.) Ecology is associated with peace. Although it is not possible to be pacifists, one always possesses a right to self defence, nonetheless the preventive use of force is contrary to the emphasis on peace and nonviolence in ecological thought. That means an ecological socialist affinity group would reject militant forms of antifascist action to the extent that it engages in the preventive use of force. In reality preventive force is the very reason for being of militant antifascist groups today in the advanced western industrial states, unlike of yesteryear where fascist groups violently sought to suppress left wing groups.

8.) Ecology does not imply primitivism. An ecological socialism would not consist of a society with no economic growth. The argument for limits to economic growth in capitalist and market societies, as well as state socialist societies dominated by doctrines of industrialism, is strong and a key feature of ecological socialist thought. This does not imply, however, that there are limits to economic growth in principle. It is theoretically possible to have economic growth that is ecologically sustainable in a high technology society so long as that society is based on production for need rather than for profit or meeting a centrally planned target.

I think a group, no matter how small, based on these and similar principles is something worth doing.