Ecosocialism. Red-Green synthesis

Ecosocialism is a blend of socialism and Green politics that sees capitalism as the major cause of environmental problems.

Merging aspects of Marxism, socialism, environmentalism and ecology, Eco-socialists generally believe that the capitalist system is the cause of social exclusion, inequality and environmental degradation. Many Eco-socialists would argue that capitalism is also a cause of war and conflict. Eco-socialists criticise many within the Green movement for not going far enough in their critique of the current world system and for not being overtly anti-capitalist. At the same time, Eco-socialists would blame the traditional Left for overlooking or not properly addressing ecological problems

From the ecosocialist manifesto

(The idea for this ecosocialist manifesto was jointly launched by Joel Kovel and Michael Lowy, at a September, 2001, workshop on ecology and socialism held at Vincennes, near Paris.)

The twenty-first century opens on a catastrophic note, with an unprecedented degree of ecological breakdown and a chaotic world order beset with terror and clusters of low-grade, disintegrative warfare that spread like gangrene across great swathes of the planet

The former broadly stems from rampant industrialization that overwhelms the earth’s capacity to buffer and contain ecological destabilization. The latter stems from the form of imperialism known as globalization, with its disintegrative effects on societies that stand in its path.

Moreover, these underlying forces are essentially different aspects of the same drive, which must be identified as the central dynamic that moves the whole: the expansion of the world capitalist system.

However, their interpretation of socialism is scarcely that of a Marxist revolutionary. They appear to have chosen socialism reluctantly, more because it was the last-man-standing in opposition to capitalism, rather than because of any real attraction to or appreciation of it.

But why socialism, why revive this word seemingly consigned to the rubbish-heap of history by the failings of its twentieth century interpretations? For this reason only: that however beaten down and unrealized, the notion of socialism still stands for the supersession of capital.

Their leeriness about Marxism appears to be the anarchist critique that a disciplined cadre is anti-democratic and authoritarian, and such organizational structures should be avoided. But without organization and structure, not much gets done. And if your organization is mobilized to the point that you are threatening the powers-that-be, then it’s a given they will attack – so you need to be ready. An organization can be democratic, flexible, as well as disciplined and organized. These are not contradictory values.

But what’s more important is that ecosocialism posits and works towards a Red-Green coalition and synthesis. The varying groups have way more in common that they have differences. Also, ecosocialism makes it clear to Greens and enviros that the root of environmental problems is capitalism, that while, say, cleaning up a river is laudatory, you also need to clean up the system that allows (and rewards) toxics being dumped in rivers.

For more information, check “So you’d like to… replace replace capitalism with ecosocialism”, an guide by Walt Sheasby, with a book list.

Ecosocialism blog

Capitalism Nature Socialism journal

Yahoo ecosocialism group


  • But if you mix red and green, don’t you get brown?

    Uh, I’ll get my coat.

  • Joe Hartley

    The 20th century experience with the environment in socialist countries has not been any more positive than in the capitalist west. If anything, it’s nastier. The only exception I can think of is Cuba, and that’s because the US embargo has prevented any significant industrial development on the island that otherwise would have occurred.

    Modern governments faced with the need to compete internationally for power and prestige will do whatever it takes, alas, regardless of the economic orientation of the government.

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