Saturday, January 05, 2019

Toward Red-Green Socialism: Recommended Reading

Ecosocialist 4
“In Marx’s analysis, the growing destruction of nature under capitalism is not simply a function of nature having become an object for humanity; rather, it is primarily a result of the sort of object that nature has become. Raw materials and products, according to Marx, are bearers of value in capitalism, in addition to being constituent elements of material wealth. Capital produces material wealth as a means of creating value. Hence, it consumes material wealth not only as the stuff of material wealth but also as a means of fueling its own self-expansion—that is, as a means of effecting the extraction and absorption of as much surplus labor time from the working population as possible. Ever increasing amounts of raw materials must be consumed even though the result is not a corresponding increase in the social form of surplus wealth (surplus value). The relation of humans and nature mediated by the labor process becomes a one-way process of consumption, rather than a cyclical interaction.” — Moishe Postone

“The problem with capital accumulation, then, is not only that it is unbalanced and crisis-ridden, but also that its underlying form of growth [emphasis added] as marked by runaway productivity that neither is controlled by the producers nor functions directly to their benefit. This particular sort of growth is intrinsic to a society based on value; it cannot be explained in terms of misdirected views and false priorities alone. Although the productivist critiques of capitalism have focused only on the possible barriers to economic growth inherent in capital accumulation, it is clear that Marx criticized both the accelerating boundlessness of ‘growth’ under capitalism as well as its crisis-ridden character. Indeed, he demonstrates that these two characteristics should be analyzed as intrinsically related.” — Moishe Postone

“… [A]ny attempt to respond fundamentally, within the framework of capitalist society, to growing environmental destruction by restraining this society’s mode of expansion would probably be ineffective on a long-term basis—not only because of the interests of capitalists or state managers, but because failure to expand surplus value would indeed result in severe economic difficulties with great social costs. In Marx’s analysis, the necessary accumulation of capital and the creation of capitalist society’s wealth are intrinsically related. Moreover, …because labor is determined as a necessary means of individual reproduction in capitalist society, wage laborers remain dependent on capital’s ‘growth,’ even when the consequences of their labor, ecological and otherwise, are detrimental to themselves and others. The tension between the exigencies of the commodity form and ecological requirements becomes more severe as productivity increases and, particularly during economic crises and periods of high unemployment, poses a sever dilemma. The dilemma and the tension in which it is rooted are immanent to capitalism; their ultimate resolution will be hindered so long as value remains the determining form of social wealth. [….] The particular relation between increases in productivity and the expansion of surplus value shapes the underlying trajectory of growth in capitalism. This trajectory cannot be explained adequately in terms of the market and private property, which suggests that, even in their absence, economic growth would necessarily assume the form marked by increases in productivity much greater than the increases in social wealth they effect—as long as social wealth ultimately remains a function of labor time expenditure. Planning in such a situation, however successful or unsuccessful, would signify a conscious response to the compulsions exerted by the alienated form of social relations expressed by value and capital; it would not, however, overcome them.” — Moishe Postone

“There has to be a change in our whole system of production, for technology in the present-day world carries the capitalist mode of production within itself.” — Rudolph Bahro

“More important than the quality or quantity of consumer goods, in my view, is the need for a new consumption pattern geared to the qualitative development of the individual, so that the length of young people’s education, for example, becomes a higher priority than the addition of one more piece of clothing to my wardrobe. [….] [W]e have not yet succeeded in breaking through the horizon of capitalist civilization to reach the vision of a world-wide alternative. It is true that the peoples of the world are at different levels of development, but one has to make use of the concrete possibilities where the civilization is not so overdetermined. [….] The point of the concept of a cultural revolution is that man has to rise above the level of capitalist reproduction process for the satisfaction of life’s necessities. We cannot wait until we are sated with material goods. A level of basic needs has to be defined, and a standard of living may be achieved in underdeveloped countries that may be more rational than our own.” — Rudolph Bahro

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Recommended Reading:
  • Angus, Ian. Facing the Anthropocene: Fossil Capitalism and the Crisis of the Earth System. New York: Monthly Review Press, 2016.
  • Bahro, Rudolf. Socialism and Survival. London: Heretic Books, 1982.
  • Bahro, Rudolf. From Red to Green: Interviews with New Left Review. London: Verso, 1984.
  • Bahro, Rodolf. Building the Green Movement. Philadelphia, PA: New Society Publishers, 1986.
  • Benton, Ted. Natural Relations: Ecology, Animal Rights and Social Justice. London: Verso, 1993.
  • Benton, Ted, ed. The Greening of Marxism. New York: Guilford Press, 1996.
  • Bernstein, Henry. Class Dynamics of Agrarian Change. West Hartford, CT: Kumarian Press, 2010.
  • Bernstein, Henry, et al., eds. The Food Question: Profits Versus People. New York: Monthly Review Press, 1990.
  • Borgnäs, Kajsa, et al., eds. The Politics of Ecosocialism: Transforming Welfare. New York: Routledge, 2017.
  • Burkett, Paul. Marxism and Ecological Economics: Toward a Red and Green Political Economy. Chicago, IL: Haymarket Books, 2009.
  • Burkett, Paul. Marx and Nature: A Red and Green Perspective. Chicago, IL: Haymarket Books, 2014.
  • Carter, Alan. A Radical Green Political Theory. London: Routledge, 1999.
  • Foster, John Bellamy. Marx’s Ecology: Materialism and Nature. New York: Monthly Review Press, 2000.
  • Foster, John Bellamy. Ecology against Capitalism. New York: Monthly Review Press, 2002.
  • Foster, John Bellamy. The Ecological Revolution. New York: Monthly Review Press, 2009.
  • Foster, John Bellamy. “Marxism and Ecology: Common Fonts of a Great Transition,” Monthly Review, 2015 (Vol. 67, No. 7).
  • Foster, John Bellamy, Brett Clark, and Richard York. The Ecological Rift: Capitalism’s War on the Earth. New York: Monthly Review Press, 2010.
  • Ghosh, B.N. Beyond Gandhian Economics: Towards a Creative Deconstruction. New Delhi: Sage Publications, 2012. [I have included this title because I think both Marxists and environmentalists (and by implication, ecologists), can benefit from examining Gandhi’s principles of moral and spiritual political economy.]
  • Gorz, André. Ecology as Politics. Boston, MA: South End Press, 1980.
  • Gorz, André. Capitalism, Socialism, Ecology. London: Verso, 1994.
  • Klein, Naomi. This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. The Climate. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2014.
  • Kovel, Joel. The Enemy of Nature: The End of Capitalism or the End of the World? London: Zed Books, 2nd ed., 2007.
  • Löwy, Michael. Ecosocialism: A Radical Alternative to Capitalist Catastrophe. Chicago, IL: Haymarket Books, 2015.
  • Magdoff, Fred. “A Rational Agriculture is Incompatible with Capitalism,” Monthly Review, March 15, 2015 (Vol. 66, No. 10).
  • Magdoff, Fred and Chris Williams. Creating an Ecological Society: Toward a Revolutionary Transformation. New York: Monthly Review Press, 2017.
  • Magdoff, Fred, John Bellamy Foster, and Frederick H. Buttel, eds. Hungry for Profit: The Agribusiness Threat to Farmers, Food, and the Environment. New York: Monthly Review Press, 2000.
  • Magdoff, Fred and Brian Tokar, eds. Agriculture and Food in Crisis: Conflict, Resistance, and Renewal. New York: Monthly Review Press, 2010.
  • Moore, Jason W. Capitalism in the Web of Life: Ecology and the Accumulation of Capital. London: Verso, 2015.
  • O’Connor, James. Natural Causes: Essays in Ecological Marxism. New York: Guilford, 1998.
  • Patel, Raj. Stuffed and Starved: The Hidden Battle for the World Food System. Brooklyn, NY: Melville House Publishing, 2007.
  • Pepper, David. Eco-Socialism: From Deep Ecology to Social Justice. London: Routledge, 1993.
  • Postone, Moishe. Time, Labor, and Social Domination: A Reinterpretation of Marx’s Critical Theory. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1993.
  • Ross, Eric B. The Malthus Factor: Poverty, Politics and Population in Capitalist Development. London: Zed Books, 1998.
  • Ryle, Martin. Ecology and Socialism. London: Radius/Century Hutchinson, 1988.
  • Saito, Kohei. Ecosocialism: Capital, Nature, and the Unfinished Critique of Political Economy. New York: Monthly Review Press, 2017.
  • Smith, Neil. Uneven Development: Nature, Capital, and the Production of Space. Athens, GA: University of Georgia Press, 3rd ed., 2008.
  • Tokar, Brian. Toward Climate Justice: Perspectives on the Climate Crisis and Social Change. Porsgrunn, Norway: New Compass Press, 2nd ed., 2014.
  • Williams, Chris. Ecology and Socialism: Solutions to Capitalist Ecological Crisis. Chicago, IL: Haymarket Books, 2010.

See too the many works of the Marxist geographer, David Harvey, especially the earlier stuff. I also think it’s important to carefully and dispassionately examine “conflicts on the ground”* between and among Left and Green movement politics and parties (e.g., consider early conflicts between the ‘Realos’ and ‘Fundis’ in West Germany and the ‘deep ecologists’ and largely Bookchin-led or inspired ‘social ecologists’ in the US). On the Left, André Gorz (1923 – 2007), the pen name of Gérard Horst (born Gerhart Hirsch, also known by his pen name Michel Bosquet), was a New Left theorist who early on developed an “ecological politics. Rudolf Bahro (in)famously moved from Red to Green, eventually developing something like a “deep ecology” or apocalyptic-like (some would say messianic) spiritual environmentalism that largely left Marx behind (at least rhetorically and strategically), but his writings, beginning with The Alternative in Eastern Europe (NLB, 1978), remain worthy of study. 

* Alas, these conflicts all too often degenerate into stultifying because dogmatic and sectarian infighting that serve to distract us from the purposes and urgency of, thereby canalizing energy away from, our emancipatory struggles, calling to mind—among other things moral psychological—Freud’s poignant and pregnant idea of the “narcissism of small differences.”

Should you want to venture beyond the literature above, please see the bibliographies with strong family resemblance on (i) Marxism, (ii) environmental and ecological politics, philosophies, and worldviews, and (iii) beyond capitalist agribusiness: toward agroecology and food justice, at my Academia page.


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