Two compliments and one challenge to Ecosocialism



by Carlos Bittencourt


Most marxists direct a joking gaze toward ecosocialist ideas, as if they saw there the remnants of Owen or Fourier’s ideals, an utopian socialism facing their scientific socialism. They are mistaken, however. Ecosocialism is the upper phase of historical materialism.


It’s not about the prosaic overlap of ecology and socialism. It’s a superior synthesis. It is, at the same time, an epistemological and scientific perspective, an ethical and political foundation, a strategy of development and involvement, and a utopia.


One of the most remarkable characteristics of Karl Marx was the attentive and critical examination of the main lines of thought from the most diverse areas of knowledge, from chemistry to philosophy, from Justus Von Liebig to Darwin, Ricardo, Proudhon, Adam Smith and Hegel. That becomes an immanent aspect of Marx’s reflections, a dialectical web of areas of thought and even the explicit defense of overcoming boundaries between them. The basic epistemology of ecosocialism sustains itself on these combinations which have been consolidated amid the entanglement of social and exact sciences with natural sciences. The concept of Anthropocene is a symbol of this entanglement. It is at the same time geological, philosophical, societal, climatic… There is no possible internationalism without incorporating the lessons gathered from Earth system sciences. It also listens to the knowledge of native and traditional peoples and recognizes in them a wisdom that aims not only at continuing the past but also at the future. Workers and Peoples of the Planet, unite! It is even more urgent.


Ecosocialism is a superior ethical-political synthesis. It doubles down on humanism and includes all organic forms as deserving of their lives. It calls upon all peoples to live together in harmony among them and with nature. Isn’t it remarkable and miraculous the fact that our planet, in the midst of the universe’s infinite solitude, has created a system so rich and complex of interdependent lives? That is why diversity, plurality, permanent democratization, freedom, ecological rationality, decentralization, liberating education, environmental health, pacifism, anti-punishment, anticolonialism, plurinationalism, building new eating systems and habits, simplicity, the fight against ostentation, against the predatory, against patriarchy, racism, homophobia, inequality, and others, are fundamental ethical-political principles. Ecosocialist political strategy aspires to express form and content befitting these principles which is why it is antifactionalist, it is detached from positions of power, it is collective, it gathers the dimensions of affection and the profoundness of the word comrade.


If the most educated socialists in the thesis of productivism and industrialism followed the text up to this point, they might be saying “This is nothing but a manifest of intent”, “a eulogy”, “it lacks economic realism”, “after all, how do we generate wealth to give dignity to billions of people?” In fact, we, ecosocialists, have to recognize that in these aspects we have made very little progress. And it seems that the tasks of ecosocialists on the margins of capitalism are even harder and more complex. But there is one strong reason why we are motivated for this creative praxis. In the current circumstances what is the best strategy for a transition beyond capitalism? It does not seem that only ecosocialists should be troubled by not having a clear answer to this question.


Neoliberalism and monopolized technical development literally “kicked away the ladder” of hypotheses such as “import substitutions”, of a diverse endogenous industrialization. Therefore, it’s very evident that, even for the most prolific sectors of Latin-American Marxism, like the Marxist Theory of Dependency which has already done a lot to explain our situation and to point out paths, today, due to a deep situational change, there’s still a lot to apprehend and produce. As well as inequality between the rich and the poor has exploded as a result of this neoliberal and social liberal period, the distancing between the central countries and the rest, even for the best-positioned ones like Brazil, has increased the same or even more. Our position has deteriorated within the hierarchies of power, production, trade and consumption of material, energy, and dead labor in the contemporary world. The full development of Brazilian society at the level of developed capitalist nations is a utopia/dystopia much more distant than the proposal of a great transition pointed by ecosocialism. Our veins remain open as Galeano once warned us and they flow like never before!


The bourgeois treat our mining, monocultures, thermoelectrics, oil exploration as the best we have when it’s just the opposite. They are open and alive wounds from 500 years of exploitation and colonization. What is called  “development strategy” is what ecosocialism calls the great transition. It goes through putting at the center of social transformation the end of capitalist private property. In Brazil, the key to start a transition that will dismantle the capitalist private property is, precisely, facing the landowners (who today also own financial institutions, pension funds, etc.) by doing a popular and agro-ecological agrarian reform and by breaking the urban-industrial chimera. Demarcating and titling indigenous land as well as traditional and quilombo community territory. Subordinating all mineral extraction from Brazilian soil to a public control that thinks about rhythm and extraction rates following ecological and democratic rationality.


These are the initial steps, there is not a complete program, but ecosocialism seems to be endowed with the necessary radicalism to rethink the path that the majority of humankind wants to pursue in the coming years. It brings a criticism of the capitalist technique that the majority of socialist experiences tried to emulate and then later became one of the fundamental causes of their degeneration, whether they crashed or survived.


We do recognize then that we do not have finished answers. But in a scenario where no one has them, we see ourselves in a special position to propose a new social, technical-economical, cultural, and ethical-political regime. We do not have all the time in the world because we have the world of our times. There is danger on the corner and urgency and boldness are not precipitation or euphoria, they are structural parts of humankind and the planet salvation. Ecosocialism is the socialism of the 21st century because of its novelty dimension, its bond with old and plural traditions, and its urgency and highly inspiring utopian potential.


DisclaimerOpinions expressed in articles are the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the views of other members of the Global Ecosocialist Network

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