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Peace Train: Thirteen theses for eco-socialism

Philosopher offers ideas on preventing environmental catastrophe

Michael Löwy, a distinguished French-Brazilian sociologist and philosopher, recently issued a manifesto in the September issue of the Capitalism Nature Socialism journal that consists of 13 theses against ecological catastrophe and for eco-socialism.

Below are paraphrases and a summary of these theses:

  1. The ecological crisis is the most important social and political question of the 21st century. The future of the planet and humanity will be decided in the coming decades.
  2. If the average temperature exceeds the pre-industrial periods by 1.5-degree centigrade, there is a risk of irreversible climate change. A few of the threats are multiplication of megafires, desertification of land areas, melting of the polar ice caps and sea level rise by dozens of meters. And no one knows at exactly what temperature human life on the planet will be imperiled.
  3. Climate change began with the industrial revolution but has accelerated since 1945 with neoliberal globalization. Modern capitalist industrial civilization is directly responsible for global warming.
  4. The responsibility of capitalism for imminent catastrophe is widely recognized. The attitude of billionaires and capitalist politicians resembles that of the French king Louis XV: “After me, the deluge.”
  5. Unfortunately, most governments act in the service of multinationals and capitalist accumulation. Some political leaders, such as Donald Trump, are ecocidal climate change deniers. But the policies advocated by so-called “reasonable” leaders are grossly inadequate and will not prevent environmental catastrophe.
  6. There is no solution to the ecological crisis within the framework of capitalism. “Green capitalism” is a fraud. The capitalist system is inherently devoted to productivism and consumerism. The perverse logic of capitalism will destroy the Earth’s ecosystems.
  7. Only truly radical alternatives can hope to sidestep environmental catastrophe. Some radical possibilities are eco-socialism, eco-feminism, social ecology and economic degrowth. These radical possibilities have much in common.
  8. Eco-socialism is very different than classical socialism. It advocates transforming productive forces by (a.) renewable energy sources, (b.) reducing global energy consumption, (c.) reducing production of goods (especially weapons of war) and (d.) ending planned obsolescence. Eco-socialism entails a civilizational change based on the values of solidarity, democracy, equality and respect for nature.
  9. Democratic economic planning under eco-socialism is based on two criteria: (a.) meeting actual needs and (b.) respect for the ecological balance of the planet. Eco-socialism is a wager on the democratic rationality of the popular classes.
  10. Eco-socialism requires a real social revolution. Partial reforms will not suffice. We must stop the suicidal train of Modern Industrial Capitalist Civilization.
  11. Eco-socialism is both a project for the future and a strategy for the present. It must enable convergence between social (e.g. Black Lives Matter) and ecological (e.g. renewable energy movement) struggles. A radical version of the Green New Deal would be very constructive, but not a version that collapses into the mirage of Green Capitalism.
  12. Women, youth, Indigenous people and the lower social class are currently in the forefront of struggles for social and ecological change. Ultimately it will be necessary to secure the participation of the working class who make up the majority of the population.
  13. There is no guarantee that the future will be eco-socialist. But, as Bertolt Brecht observed: “Those who fight may lose. Those who don’t fight have already lost.”

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