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Ecocentric Eco-Socialism as the Solution to the World Social and Planetary Crisis

Discussion in 'Strategy & Tactics' started by Kamran Nayeri, Aug 2, 2017.

  1. Kamran Nayeri

    Kamran Nayeri Moderator


    The following essay takes up two interrelated questions posed by the current debate. The first is about the feasibility of transitioning to a hundred percent “clean” renewable energy in the United States by 2050. The second is the existential climate crisis sharply posed by the investigating journalist David Wallace-Wells’ New York Magazine article, The Uninhabitable Earth.

    The essay has three part. In Part 1, I argue that to deal with the climate crisis, and I would suggest the larger planetary crisis, we must significantly restructure the world economy to reduce humanity’s “ecological footprint” by reducing per capita production and consumption. The good news is that this can be done by improving the lives of almost everyone on the planet. What is required to achieve this is to transition from the profit-seeking industrial capitalist economy that serves the world’s capitalist elite to an eco-centric ecological socialist economy run by the councils of working people who would focus on human development and love and respect for other species and the rest of nature.

    There are historical experiments that show such course is feasible and rewarding. I give some examples from the experience of the Cuban revolution to demonstrate the potential for such revolutionary course.

    In Part 2, I will deal with the question of the quest for working people’s power and ecocentric ecological socialist action program and strategy and tactics. A rich literature exists that deal with these questions. I point out some that I find especially useful for consideration.

    Part 3 is my concluding remarks returning to the debate of Wallace-Wells’ essay but focusing on what I consider is our only chance to save the world and advance humanity.

    The reader should bear in mind that I use a broad brush to make my argument and that what I suggest here is just my own best judgment. As I insist throughout, the course to follow will be decided by the councils of the working people whose collective judgment would be superior to any one person’s creative imagination at the present time.

    Because the essay is longer than the word-limits of the Discussion Forum, I provide a hyperlink to it. I would be grateful for anyone and all that help us figure out our way forward given the world’s existential social and planetary crisis (I do not deal with the very real and existential threat of a nuclear war).

    Thank you.

    Kamran Nayeri

    To Be or Not to Be: Ecocentric Ecological Socialism as the Solution to the World Social and Planetary Crisis: Kamran Nayeri's Writings: To Be or Not to Be: Ecocentric Ecological Socialism as the Solution to the World Social and Planetary Crisis
    Sandra Lindberg likes this.
  2. John Foran

    John Foran New Member

    Thanks, Kamran, your work is always worth reading! I got a little overexcited though when I read your title as
    Eccentric Eco-Socialism as the Solution to the World Social and Planetary Crisis...

    Some day, I hope to publish an essay, "For an existential ecosocialism..." Note that the first two words, if read too quickly, morph into "Foran existential ecosocialism"!
  3. Kamran Nayeri

    Kamran Nayeri Moderator

    Thanks, John. I value your judgment and I look forward to your essay when you write it. I don't think there is a single way to forward to save the world if we can, in fact, do it. But I hope you would agree that to get there we need mass consciousness of the working peoples of the world to match the challenges we face.
  4. Sandra Lindberg

    Sandra Lindberg Moderator

    Kamran, thank you for this specification. I believe this is the only way any of this can happen.
  5. Kamran Nayeri

    Kamran Nayeri Moderator

    Thanks, Sandra. The near future will tell whether and how the U.S. and world working people would organize and mobilize to take our destiny into our own hands. Those of us who already share this view must work together to help this process forward.
    Sandra Lindberg likes this.
  6. Gene

    Gene Member

    On October 27, 2017, and for a few days after, there was an exchange about strategy and tactics. The post in that series that I most agreed with was by Larry Tallman, along with Michael Gasser's remarks. Both of those - (and please read them directly as I will paste them below) -- both of those argue in a way that we should start where people are at, and meet their concerns. Experienced organizers I have worked with over years always stressed learning where people are at, right at the beginning. Speaking of workers, Tallman writes:
    "It is a realistic response to fear for one’s job, and the consequences for one’s family unless there’s some very real back-up. So, we must develop an on-the-ground means by which we can support each other: cross-union, cross-community, etc. We must be able to feed each other (and therefore know who can supply the food, where to get it, how to distribute it), protect each other, find out who and how we can provide medical care, etc. etc. These are practical questions. We must find the practical answers."
    I read that as suggesting that we cannot get masses of people to join with eco socialism, to leap into the unknown of post-capitalism, without providing a vision of where they will land.

    But the posts by Kamran Nayeri, David Klein, Edie Pistolesi and Steve Ongerth collectively argue a different view, not that they agree with each other, or necessarlily disagree with all of my views.

    Sorting out all this I take to be Kamran's intention in starting this thread on strategy and tactics.

    Now to paste the set of the posts that appeared on the list beginning October 27th:

    I suggest that the moderators of the forum add three of today’s post to the forum that Kamran opened recently. The three are conveniently arranged below, though Edie Pistolesi’s post of today could also be included. These frame a discusssion.

    Personally I am closest to Larry Tallman’s thoughts. How can we answer — for everyone, not just for System Changers, not just for climate activists, but for entire populations — the practical questions Larry Tallman mentions?

    I hope we can move the discussion to the forum to begin to sort out some of this.


    On Oct 28, 2017, at 1:06 AM, Larry Tallman <ltallman@telus.net> wrote:

    Hi folks:

    I agree. But I don’t think hesitation around actively changing the system is just a local happenstance. When I talked to my co-workers over the decades about a democratic workplace, there was not one who didn’t want more say in how work got organized. But the question would then be: “And whose army?” That wasn’t entirely a facetious response. As workers, we’d seen too many people get fired or disciplined for much less than telling management to beat it. It is a realistic response to fear for one’s job, and the consequences for one’s family unless there’s some very real back-up. So, we must develop an on-the-ground means by which we can support each other: cross-union, cross-community, etc. We must be able to feed each other (and therefore know who can supply the food, where to get it, how to distribute it), protect each other, find out who and how we can provide medical care, etc. etc. These are practical questions. We must find the practical answers. Here in Canada, in 1919, there was a general strike in Winnipeg. The organizing unions made sure the population got fed and the most vulnerable were taken care of. We will have to do that and more if we expect people to put their livelihoods, and their lives, on the line.

    This is my first response to the SCNCC dialogues. I envy those who have the time to daily continue these important conversations. Part of the problem for me has been time, but part of it also is that I see relatively little about the workplace. Unions may or may not be part of the solution, but workers are central.

    Larry Tallman

    From: Michael Gasser [mailto:eek:nlyskybl@gmail.com] On Behalf Of Michael Gasser

    Sent: Saturday, October 28, 2017 12:10 AM

    To: System Change not Climate Change

    Subject: Re: [SCNCC Organize] 350.org & Capitalism

    This may sound odd – well, I live in an odd place – but here in Santa Cruz, most local activists I know, both on and off the local UC campus, have no problem at all hearing that capitalism is behind climate change and most of the other crises we face. In fact, it seems almost fashionable to be "anti-capitalist". The problem is how this translates into action. For most, organizing to actually change the system, rather than just reform it, is not the least bit interesting. The thought of actual revolution is just too scary to seriously consider.

    So I would say that bringing up the "C word" is only the beginning.


    On 10/27/17 20:34, Edie Pistolesi wrote:


    I think the problem is cognitive dissonance. Americans are so brainwashed into hardly being able to even say the "C word” that getting over that hurdle can be done best by breaking it down and talking about it. Opening up Capitalism with with scientific analysis and discussing it can work because we all know that we don’t get better by keeping things stagnating inside. And there really isn’t time for large numbers of even the most brilliant brainwashed humans to figure it out in time to save the planet.


    On Oct 27, 2017, at 7:10 PM, <intexile@iww.org> <intexile@iww.org> wrote:

    I don’t share David’s pessimism about this. I believe the majority of the people of the world are opposed to capitalism, but the words “capitalism”, “socialism”, and “anarchy” are such loaded , abstract terms full of loaded connotations, assumptions, propagandistic twistings of their original meanings, and so forth, that the notion that “people are unwilling to say anything bad about it” and it’s corresponding corollary, “that means they must be in favor of it” are false.

    People say bad things about capitalism all the time. People say good things about socialism all the time. They’re just not conscious that they’re doing so.

    The task for us, I believe, is to help folks organize and actually achieve those things that they do want (which, I believe for the majority is socialism, in the broadest sense) and overthrow that which they don’t want (which is, for the most part, capitalism). In that process, some will actively, consciously identify themselves as “socialists”; many won’t. But the point is to achieve the goals, yes?

    -In Solidarity,

    Steve Ongerth

    * An Injury to One is an Injury to All! - www.iww.org

    * Author of Redwood Uprising: From One Big Union to Earth First! and the Bombing of Judi Bari - www.judibari.info

    * Abolish wage slavery AND live in harmony with the Earth: IWW's Environmental Unionist Caucus - ecology.iww.org | Earth First! - www.earthfirstjournal.org | Rising Tide North America - www.risingtidenorthamerica.org | Sunflower Alliance - www.sunflower-alliance.org | System Change not Climate Change - www.systemchangenotclimatechange.org

    * Transportation Workers Unite! - Railroad Workers United - www.railroadworkersunited.org | Transport Workers Solidarity Committee - www.transportworkers.org

    * To contact me by phone or skype: 510-459-6586

    From: ecosocialist-organizing@googlegroups.com [mailto:ecosocialist-organizing@googlegroups.com] On Behalf Of David Klein

    Sent: Friday, October 27, 2017 5:58 PM

    To: Kamran Nayeri <kamran.nayeri@gmail.com>

    Cc: John Foran <foran@soc.ucsb.edu>; Brian Tokar <briant@pshift.com>; System Change not Climate Change <ecosocialist-organizing@googlegroups.com>

    Subject: Re: [SCNCC Organize] 350.org & Capitalism

    Hi Kamran,

    The idea that masses of people, overwhelmingly unwilling to say anything bad about capitalism, will nevertheless rise up and overthrow it, is, in my opinion, an example of magical thinking. To build opposition to capitalism it is necessary (though far from sufficient) for people first to talk about it and recognize that there is something wrong with it, and say so. That is where we are now, and this is where SCNCC can help. I'm not sure if you agree with that, but you make some otherwise very good general points.


    On Fri, Oct 27, 2017 at 3:14 PM, Kamran Nayeri <kamran.nayeri@gmail.com> wrote:

    Dear David, John and all,

    Let's begin with what 350.org is and is not. As I noted in my earlier comment 350.org is a heterogeneous current with chapters being largely on their own as opposed to controlled from national 350.org center which tends to merge with the "leftwing" of the Democratic party. It is not far from the truth to say that 350.org itself is a coalition of various tendencies, including some anti-capitalist ones. If David is told by two Southern California 350.org leader that he is welcome in their fold and he would play an essential role, that is really an important opening for our chapter David leps lead in LA and we should, in my opinion, make the best of it through becoming the best builders of 350.org. What that would mean is NOT to wait until it adopts a Green Party-type program that John lays out and David seems to support. If we agree that to stop and reverse the climate crisis we must mobilize millions in the street, surely we cannot hope to convert them all to ecological socialists or even anti-capitalists before that happens. That would put the cart before the horse.

    To get there, we must advance a strategy of building a movement of working people independent of the capitalist system and its institutions, a self-reliant movement with its own action program for ending the crisis relying on self-education, self-organization, and self-activity of ever more working people to implement that action program. Whether we carry a sign that points to capitalism as the culprit or not is really a tactical question. If it helps to get our message heard and considered let's have one and if it does not let's find out how to get a hearing for our point of view.

    I have explained these ideas in some detail "Reformism or Radicalism: Which Strategy for the Climate Justice Movement" and "To Be or Not to Be: Ecocentric Ecological Socialism as the Solution to the World Social and Planetary Crisis." I realize these are long essays. But I cannot find any quick an easy way to offer what I consider to be key lessons from 150 years of revolutionary socialist theory and history (I give ample references and documentation for anyone who cares to dig in deeper) as well as what I personally think are the key planks of an action program for our movement.

    Of course, SCnCC itself is a multi-current movement. There are other views about strategy and tactics and even different view of what an action program should look like. That is actually a good thing if we read and comment on each other's contributions and keep an open mind. Meanwhile, I urge David who knows a good deal about the climate crisis and lectures regularly on this theme to offer classes on the topic for 350.org. If the leadership does not seem enthusiastic next demo hand out a flier inviting people to such a publicly held series of classes.

    We are still a tiny group (we use to call such groups, "propaganda groups). Our strength is not in our numbers but in our ideas. Let take them to "the masses" thos who are enraged by the climate crisis and want to do something about it and join 350.org thinking it has all the answers.

  7. Sandra Lindberg

    Sandra Lindberg Moderator

    Larry Tallman wrote: "So, we must develop an on-the-ground means by which we can support each other: cross-union, cross-community, etc. We must be able to feed each other (and therefore know who can supply the food, where to get it, how to distribute it), protect each other, find out who and how we can provide medical care, etc. etc. These are practical questions. We must find the practical answers. Here in Canada, in 1919, there was a general strike in Winnipeg. The organizing unions made sure the population got fed and the most vulnerable were taken care of. We will have to do that and more if we expect people to put their livelihoods, and their lives, on the line." I strongly agree with what Larry has written.

    In Lebanon PA nurses are striking against Cedar Haven, a nursing home. Nurses have been on strike for a week:

    Union members have also pooled resources to help other union members who are facing a financial crunch from not receiving paychecks during the strike. Kleinfelter said one union member with “many” children needed money for groceries, so Kleinfelter asked fellow strikers to bring a non-perishable food item for her the next day.

    “When she pulled up in her car, and we were pointing at this pile of groceries, she started crying, because she was overwhelmed. We filled her entire trunk and the entire back seat, plus had $50 in cash and a $25 grocery gift card,” she said.
    Two weeks in, Cedar Haven strikers are prepared for Christmas
    On SCNCC Organize, Cherise Charleswell shared a post that emphasizes people of color, people with little money, women and children are first to struggle with the effects of strikes--and climate change. In Lebanon, members of AFSCME Local 2732 responded to a member's need for groceries as soon as the Local learned the woman was struggling. In Michael Gasser's posts about food and housing in Santa Cruz, I read similar descriptions of people coming together to help each other. I have personally experienced how this happens when a city is in crisis (Grand Forks ND flood).

    What I think we need to begin to imagine and write about is the need to look hard at what the science is telling us about where flood waters are and will put people at risk, where food will become an issue, where major services will disappear. Howard Ehrman writes about this when he shares information on Cuba's ability to anticipate disasters and to aggressively plan strategies that minimize injury, death, and even the loss of property. We do not have to wait for existing social organizations to figure out the need for this kind of planning. We can do this work one apartment building, one city block, one neighborhood and one community at a time. For more about Cuba's skills in this regard, see: http://www.medicc.org/resources/documents/medicc-review-disaster-management.pdf.

    We need to learn from a country like Cuba that is already doing the preparation work that I think Ted may be writing about.

    Also, it is impossible to help others if a person is intent on saving him or herself. If a person has the means to stock a pantry, grow food, learn first aid and gather supplies of various kinds to protect a person and his/her family, such behavior means at least one person on a street will be in a position to help someone else. If such preparations are made with the clear intent that the work is not just for personal safety but to facilitate the ability to help others, such personal efforts are important. The ability to encourage others to do so is also important.

    For this organization, we could set up a safety net so that all on this list knew there were safe houses where they could relocate if they found an entire community where they lived was unlivable and they had no other friends or family to provide shelter. We really should do that organizing. We need to be able to offer our knowledge and organizing skills to others. Relocation of some of our members may be essential in this regard. I offer here that our home in the midwest is capable of providing such shelter for a family or two.
  8. Sandra Lindberg

    Sandra Lindberg Moderator

    I wanted to share a quote from the Cuban document that describes disaster preparedness strategies:

    Replicating the [disaster preparedness] model [Cuba has developed] is not just wishful thinking, according to the authors. The Cuban example, “ raises the distinct possibility that life-line structures (concrete, practical measures to save lives) might ultimately depend more on the intangibles of relationship, training, and education than on high cost procedures and resources, a possibility that holds great hope for other poor countries facing high risks of disaster.” Towards this end, the report outlines 12 factors called the “golden dozen” that Cuba manages successfully in it’s risk management program:
    • social cohesion and solidarity (self-help and citizen-based social protection at the neighborhood level) [SL's italics]
    • trust between authorities and civil society
    • political commitment to risk reduction
    • good coordination, information-sharing, and cooperation among institutions involved in risk reduction
    • attention to the most vulnerable population
    • attention to lifeline structures (concrete procedures to save lives, evacuation plans, and so on)
    • investment in human development
    • an effective risk communication system and institutionalized historical memory of disasters, laws, regulations, and directives to support all of the above
    • investments in economic development that explicitly take potential consequences for risk reduction or increase into account
    • investment in social capital • investment in institutional capital (e.g. capable, accountable, and transparent government institutions for mitigating disasters)

    What we face seems beyond us here in the US. Others, though, are already engaged powerfully in the work that must happen. We need to learn from those who are already at work.​
  9. Steve Ongerth

    Steve Ongerth Moderator

    Actually Richard...

    Did you actually read the study or simply cherry-pick one figure to fit your argument?

    CO2 emissions are on course to jump *between 0.8 and 3.5 percent* this year (3.5 is the *extreme high end* of the estimate) and tail off again next year.

    It does *not* in fact say that coal use is likely to increase "sharply"; it in fact suggests that the jump discussed in the study was due to increased coal power generation due to a very dry year in which hydro power wasn't available (so that problem can be fixed). It does *not* however predict an ongoing sharp increase each year after that.

    Nowhere does the study say or even hint that a 3.5% increase is likely to continue *each year thereafter* (or increase). In fact, it projects that the amount of increase is likely to level off again in most projected scenarios. (This, of course, doesn't take into account a likely economic downturn that many economists, particularly *Marxists* believe to be likely, which will no doubt result in lower emission still).

    As to your comment, in a follow-up post about Naomi Klein and Bill McKibben, to begin with the two are not the same person, so their recommended courses of action are *distinct*. I would like to see evidence that Naomi Klein *and* Bill McKibben said anything remotely close to your contended claim that they think that economic growth can continue on unfettered if we simply replace fossil fuel energy with renewable energy. More importantly, nowhere is there any evidence whatsoever that the increases mentioned in the study have anything remotely to do with renewable energy (if anything, they're likely smaller than they would have been if renewable energy usage *weren't* increasing). Nowhere does the study even remotely suggest that this has anything to do with "Jevon's Paradox".

    As for my "pollyanish" report, what I posted was a *peer reviewed* study and nothing in this report contradicts what was in the report I posted (which does not in any way claim that China's fossil fuel emissions had "peaked", but rather due to decarbonization domestically and abroad, global emission dues to Chinese economic activity was cleaner and more efficient than it had been in the past (but, of course, it's far from where it needs to be). Nothing in this new report contradicts that study. It just means that China's economy grew and C)2 emissions grew along with it.

    Finally, I agree with Ted on the matter of Just Transition.

    You can't just propose a "shut down" with no specifics and no plan on how to get there, much less one that has absolutely no class analysis built into it.
  10. Bill Burgess

    Bill Burgess New Member

    My sense is that many more socialists than Richard and Kamran accept the need for a radical reduction in energy use and material throughput, etc. I certainly do. So the lack of focus on this issue is because no one knows how it can or will be expressed in popular political positions and political demands. "Retrenchment" is too abstract to connect with the interests of particular social forces.
  11. Kamran Nayeri

    Kamran Nayeri Moderator

    Dear Bill,
    Of course, there is an acknowledgment of the natural limits to growth in the ecological socialist movement thanks to criticism of the "productivist socialism" of the past. Thus, theoretical attention has shifted from the "development of forces of production" to "human development" in a number of ecological socialist currents. Along with that comes a recognition that "human development" may be consistent with a simpler material life, hence a certain notion of "retrenchment" of the present day capitalist world economy, especially in the Global North.

    But in my view, as argued in "Economics, Socialism, and Ecology: A Critical Outline, Part 2" (2013) (here is the link: Kamran Nayeri's Writings: Economics, Socialism, and Ecology: A Critical Outline, Part 2) human development is impossible without a co-determinant process de-alienation from nature. The planetary/ecological and social crisis is rooted in the anthropocentric capitalist civilization. The crisis is not merely an economic or even capitalist crisis. It is a civilizational crisis rooted in how class societies emerged five thousand years ago on the basis of domestication of plants and animals that made farming possible which has required with increasing intensity and larger scope attempts at domination and control of nature.

    As I document in "Economics, Socialism, and Ecology" noted above, human civilizations are nothing but increasingly complex eco-social modes of production with a central aim of expropriation of nature by exploitation of classes and groups of oppressed peoples. This is what drives the anthropocentric capitalist civilization. It has to be dismantled roots-and-branch and a new ecocentric ecological socialist mode of production, which requires much smaller human population and much less material consumption be built on a new foundation of love for Mother Earth and all its species. This vision is entirely different from the instrumentalist view of reorganization of the present day society guided by some "rationally planned sustainable development," albeit on a smaller scale (retrenched). Such visions can neither adequately define "rationality" nor include an ethical theory as our guide in developing a new relationship harmonious relationship with the rest of nature.

    The solution to the climate crisis which has drawn almost all our attention is not separate from the solution to the Sixth Extinction or the threat of nuclear annihilation. Thus, my suggested policy proposals in the essay that is the subject of this thread.
    Last edited: Nov 16, 2017

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