The utopia of ecosocialism

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The need for a real effort towards a libertarian, democratic and ecological socialist society

Changing the world, my friend Sancho, is not madness, it is not utopia, it is justice.
Don Quixote

Fossil fuel civilization threatens human survival on the planet. It produces lethal heat, hunger by reducing and increasing the cost of agricultural production, destruction of forests by fires, depletion of fresh water, death of the oceans, hurricanes, floods, unbreathable air, pests, economic collapse, climate conflicts, wars, refugee crisis.

To face this serious problem that threatens the survival of humanity in the future, several proposals have emerged, from the mildest to the most radical. There are those who say it is necessary to make green energy cheaper as soon as possible. With green energy cheaper than fossil fuel, the problem of global warming would be solved. Through the Carbon Market mechanism, one country buys the right to pollute from another, but this does not reduce the global volume of emissions at all. It is a false capitalist solution. A more serious proposal is the Carbon Tax, which was not even considered at the last UN Climate Conference, COP 26. The proposal was to tax carbon immediately and high enough to quickly suppress the use of fossil fuels.

The future of humanity will be decided in this decade, said climatologist Carlos Nobre during COP-26, held in Scotland last November. “Going beyond 1,5°C of temperature rise will be terrible. To prevent this from happening, we would have to reduce emissions by 50% by the end of this decade.” And he adds: “Brazil was one of the few countries that registered an increase in emissions, due to the deforestation of the Amazon”.

The impacts of climate change will reduce economic growth, exacerbate food insecurity and create new pockets of poverty, especially in urban areas. The poorest populations will be the most affected by extreme weather events, desertification processes and the loss of arable land, which will lead to a shortage of food and drinking water, the spread of diseases and damage to economic and social infrastructure. Climate change would bring irreversible impacts, if not “controlled”, which implies imposing and mandatory measures to be adopted in the future regarding the climate. There is a certain consensus that the increase in global temperature should not exceed 1,5ºC. According to others, a maximum of 2ºC, under penalty of unpredictable consequences with regard to extreme weather events.

In September 2009, an article in the journal Nature (A safe operating space for humanity – Rockström et alii) states that the long era of stability – known as the Holocene – in which the Earth was able to absorb more or less smooth internal and external disturbances. A new period, the Anthropocene, has been emerging since the Industrial Revolution and its characteristic feature is the centrality of human actions on global environmental changes. There are also increasingly clear signs that humanity has been dangerously approaching what can be called “planetary frontiers”, understood as the physical thresholds beyond which there may be sudden changes and total collapse of the capacity of the global ecosystem. support human activities (“Something New Under the Sun”, McNeill 2002). Human interference in the Earth's natural cycles has worsened over the last century and the beginning of the XNUMXst century.

Neoliberal capitalism is increasingly questioned everywhere for its predatory action in environmental terms and oppressive action in social terms. Even more so now, with the problems posed by the pandemic. The current crisis has forced governments to place the issue of public health at the center of their attention. This weakened, in some places, the essence of neoliberal economic policy based on the proposal of fiscal “austerity”, a euphemism used to justify and hide the transfer of public resources from the social area to the financial market.

The world trend after the pandemic is to rescue the role of the State to the detriment of the absolute reign of the Market. The COVID-19 crisis has changed the minimal State discourse traditionally adopted by several liberal economists. The US president himself proposed a state investment in the economy of 3 trillion dollars. The American Congress ended up approving 1,2 trillion for State investment in infrastructure and technology, mainly. This will promote development and create millions of jobs.

The process of capital accumulation concentrates income in the hands of a few and increases social inequality, throwing an ever-increasing number of people into poverty and misery. 1% of the world's population owns half of the planet's wealth. The capitalist system concentrates wealth and privileges in the dominant classes. Therefore, anti-capitalist proposals, such as socialism, cannot limit themselves to taking over the State apparatus without changing the nature of the mode of production, which has to be radically transformed. Economic production, instead of being guided by the laws of the market with a view to profit, would be guided by social interest.

From this perspective, a new utopia emerged some time ago, the utopia of ecosocialism, which criticizes the capitalist market and the bureaucratic and productivist socialist State, both responsible for an industrialization that destroys the environment. While capitalism, especially in its neoliberal version, transforms rights into commodities, aiming at profit, ecosocialism proposes a democratic, ecological and libertarian project (What is ecosocialism, Michael Löwy).

Classical Marxism had already proposed the rupture of this capitalist driving mechanism that threatens the survival of humanity. But the foreseen subject of this revolution, the proletariat subject, as it had been defined, will not produce this rupture. The Russian revolution did not fail with regard to the development of the productive forces, but it did not generate socialism. Although always emphasizing the close connection between productive forces and relations of production, Marxism favored relations of production (exploitation) as a lever for transformations.

The current ecological crisis poses the challenge of placing the center of gravity of the problem in the productive forces. As it has not been possible until now to break the capitalist relations of production from a political impulse based on the contradiction waged work x capital, a point has been reached where the ecological crisis is launched from the productive forces, that is, from the foundation of our civilization, pushing the traditional class struggle into the background. As the wage struggle lost that existential, explosive sense of the 19th century and as the trade union struggle remained closed within bourgeois society, it is no longer possible to base any socialist perspective from there (Rudolf Bahro, A Alternativa).

Marx pointed out in the “Grundrisse” that industrial workers constitute a class tending to disappear. But he also asserted that the unfolding and sharpening of the internal class contradictions in the capitalist countries of the XNUMXth century would bring about not only the general proletarian solution to the problems of European civilization, but the solution for humanity in general. And this did not happen.

In reality, Marx's political writings and especially economic analyzes were largely confirmed as a description of reality (eg exploitation). But the political consequences derived from the analysis did not materialize. No revolutionary break has taken place in the highly developed capitalist countries. The Russian Revolution itself indicates that the decisive sharpening of class contradictions has shifted to the periphery of the capitalist system, and external contradictions have come to have important weight.

Thus, the regimes, systems and ideologies that, for decades, sustained our beliefs and values, collapsed. The theoretical weapons used by the oppressed to face the oppression of capital became obsolete. The left and popular movements were plunged into perplexity. For some time now, those who understand democracy as a form of social existence and not just a political regime have been defending the democratization of political and economic power, the strengthening of representative bodies of civil society, the democratization of the means of communication, the creation counterpower instruments and special attention to ecology, a social issue that has become explosive in the XNUMXst century.

Capitalism, today, has extended its dominion over the whole of the planet's economic, social and cultural life, incorporating itself into people's subjectivity and unconsciousness. Therefore, it is no longer possible to oppose it only “from the outside”, through traditional trade union and political practices. We must face its dominance in everyday life, in gender, racial, sexual relations, in domestic, neighborhood, ethical relations, etc. This requires articulating economic struggles against worker exploitation with identity struggles for social, cultural, diffuse rights, against the social prejudice that stigmatizes women, gays, blacks, indigenous peoples and oppressed minorities in general.

The crisis of the capitalist and socialist world, the decay of the patriarchal society and the ecological destruction that threatens the planet challenge us to seek new ways of life and thought. The utopia of ecosocialism, still in its infancy, is an effort towards a libertarian, democratic and ecological socialist society.

*Liszt Vieira is a retired professor at PUC-RJ. Author, among other books, of Identity and globalization (Record).

Originally published on the portal Major Card.



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