The Politics of Ecosocialism

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A Socialist Project e-bulletin ... No. 1883 ... August 26, 2019

The Politics of Ecosocialism

Ian Angus is interviewed by Rebel News, a critical source of news and debate centred in Ireland. Ian Angus is an ecosocialist activist and the editor of Climate and Capitalism.

Rebel: The term ecosocialism is in widespread use now. Do you think it’s important that revolutionary socialists identify themselves as ecosocialists and what do you believe is the chief difference between ecosocialism and previous radical left traditions?

Ian Angus (IA): Marx and Engels were deeply concerned about capitalism’s destruction of the natural world, including river and urban pollution, and the degradation of the soil that all life depends on. For them, the word ‘socialism’ included those concerns and the need to overcome them. But in the 20th Century, most socialist organizations treated such matters as secondary, if they addressed them at all. Some even viewed massively destructive projects such as damming major rivers and plowing virgin soils as progressive in some sense.

So for many of us, defining ourselves as ecosocialists is a way of distinguishing our socialism from such environmental... blindness. We are not saying that Marx and Engels were infallible or that they offer all the answers we need today -- we are saying that they offered insights and analysis that must be relearned by the left in the 21st century.

Even more important, by calling ourselves ecosocialists we are saying that we don’t view the environment as just one of many equally important concerns, just another stick to beat up capitalism with. Ecosocialists recognise the global environmental crisis as the most important problem that humanity faces in the 21st century. If socialists don’t recognise its centrality, our politics will be irrelevant.

Marx famously said that people make their own history, but not under conditions of their choosing. Changing the world in the context of impending environmental disaster is a concrete example. Marx didn’t expect it, but that’s our reality. The way we build socialism, the kind of socialism we will be able to build, will be fundamentally shaped by the state of the planet we must build it on. Ecosocialism -- in particular the Marxist wing of the ecosocialist movement -- builds and acts on that understanding.

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