An ecosocialist manifesto

Joel Kovel and Michael Lowy presented the Ecosocialist Manifesto in 2001 as a socialist response to the environmental degradation of the planet.

We believe that the present capitalist system cannot regulate, much less overcome, the crises it has set going. It cannot solve the ecological crisis because to do so requires setting limits upon accumulation—an unacceptable option for a system predicated upon the rule: Grow or Die!

Among their key points is that environmental problems such as global warming are inextricably linked to imperialism, with its constant invasions of other countries (and inevitable blowback via terrorism.) It’s the same amoral grow-or-die ethos, a continual need for more resources, markets, and cheap labor to exploit. A capitalist does it with businesses, an imperialist with armies. They are simply different facets of the same omnivorous system that is not capable of managed growth, yet such limits are precisely what is needed to stop global warming.

[Ecosocialism respects’ “limits on growth” essential for the sustainability of society. These are embraced, not however, in the sense of imposing scarcity, hardship and repression. The goal, rather, is a transformation of needs, and a profound shift toward the qualitative dimension and away from the quantitative.

Instead of Ford making trucks and SUVs that get terrible mileage because doing so temporarily benefits their profit margin, in a socialist world that respected limits, they’d be making EVs and hybrids exclusively. And power companies would be producing power primarily from renewable resources. That Ford (and GM) have effectively bankrupted themselves by short-sighted capitalist greed simply demonstrates yet another ‘contradiction of capitalism.’

In a socialist world, with a more managed economy, such changes would be encouraged and quite possibly mandated by the government. No, you can’t build Hummers or produce power from coal. Period.

The Ecosocialism Manifesto is aware of failures of socialism in the twentieth century but says the ideas still stand, and should be used.

However beaten down and unrealized, the notion of socialism still stands for the supersession of capital. If capital is to be overcome, a task now given the urgency of the survival of civilization itself, the outcome will perforce be “socialist, for that is the term which signifies the breakthrough into a post-capitalist society.


  1. “The Ecosocialism Manifesto is aware of failures of socialism in the twentieth century but says the ideas still stand, and should be used.”

    I’m always suspicious of statements like this, because they are logically identical to the attitude of Dick Cheney and Don Rumsfeld: **WE** wouldn’t have lost the Vietnam War if they’d been smart enough to have US fighting it. Yeah, right, such a great strategic victory in the Middle East and throughout the world.

    Incidently, the Peron regime in Argentina, which probably could best be described as fascist or corporatist in a Mussolini sense, has in its hymn the genius of Peron who came to power “combatting capital.” Socialism ain’t the only way that “supersession of capital” can go. This gets back to the politcal problem of controlling power, both state and private, that I mentioned yesterday. As I read this current “Manifesto”, the authors don’t have an answer to this problem except that they’d do things differently. Fascinating to see socialist buying the “Great Man” version of history, but I guess when you see yourself, like W, as the “Great Man,” it all makes sense.

  2. I think their real point is that some type of global government will be necessary to combat global warming, that the profit motive inherently gets in the way of working towards changes here, and time is not on our side.

  3. I agree that some kind of gloabl government will be necessary (or alternatively the collapse of the global economy, which is not the easier, softer alternative). I also agree that profit motive inherently gets in the way– but it would under socialism too. Imagine if Ford and GM only produced EVs and hybrids, what a huge and profitable global black market there would be for Expeditions and Hummers! True, fewer of us would be driving them. But it would not eliminate the problem.

    More and more I think the key is a shift in consciousness– up to and including the economists themselves. The old, outdated method of measuring economic activity is focussed solely on growth. That is not only an erroneous method of trackoing activity and measuring wealth, it causes governments and businesses and even indivisuals to seek to maximize the wrong things.

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