I am still reading this book but will start to comment as I go along (I am currently reading fifty books at once, and have a reading traffic jam that induces ‘speed reading’). In writing The Last Revolution: Postcapitalist Futures I lay the thesis at the doorstep of ‘ecological socialism’ but then said very little about it. This book makes clear I was perhaps right to be wary: to lard The Last Revolution with Green cliches wouldn’t amount to much. And this kind of almost extreme debunking is both inevitable and very cogent. Debriefing the whole Green shtick gets my attention, but then how to construct ecological socialism inside our ‘democratic market neo-communism’? The book itself seems to have a problem created by its own honesty about the desperation unfolding in a crisis that may be insoluble. The perspective of the author tends to the implied ‘drop dead’ required to save nature beyond civilization, the shebang is wrong, so…?/. That can imply the death of billions. We are locked into a system that can at least prevent famine so we must be wary. The book begins the indictment with the Neolithic, one shared by many who see the original sin of civilization beginning with agriculture. Those critiques are important but in the end demonizing the Neolithic won’t cut it. And the facts of the case are not clear: the history in this analysis jumps to conclusions. Did the Neolithic invent war and slavery? Where’s the evidence. Those diseases of civilization are complex pathologies and demand a close history that we don’t have.
But the point is apt: at each stage of civilization a problematic arises.
Let’s cut to the chase: we are hamstrung if we expect to cure civilization of agriculture’s evils. Lets’ consider what is often noted, as in this book: the vast majority of carbon since the industrial revolution has been in the last few generations or less. There’s a venue there. Let’s continue our handwringing over civilization but note the obvious which was noted almost immediately at the onset of the Industrial Revolution and capitalism in the eighteenth century that capitalism is the core problem, as the first socialists then Marx noted almost instantly. We have a possible lifeboat solution if we move to limit fossil fuels and capitalism. And move to a saner ecology and politics of nature.
The problem is that all these critiques ask us to do the impossible without bothering to say how. The how was seen clearly at the start: a revolution after the French Revolution to create a system that can deal with capitalism in a new republic, one that had a clear way to deal with capital, as expropriation. The idea exploded but then got sidetracked by the Russian Bolshevik confusions. The socialism indicated had little connection to the ecological question. The whole thing was poorly thought out and premature and presumed falsely that the stage of industrial development was a prelude to socialism. The left got unlucky with early socialism in the harebrained confusion over markets and a result lost a golden opportunity as the Leviathan of planning macroeconomics from small offices in a bureaucracy ended in failure and simply make capitalism stronger. But times have already moved beyond that failure: we have no other choice but to reconsider the issue of socialism as postcapitalism. Our type of DMNC model can address those failures.
The point here is that we can envision perhaps a post-civilization that is post-industrial but at this point activists of all stripes have been talking into a void from a leftist soapbox as the capitalist world ignores them. The early stage of socialism produced results at once up to and into the Second International and then the whole effort failed. but they didn’t yet suffer the Gandhian muddle that has frittered away sixty years of activist impotence. That we have to consider the initial failure of entities like Bolshevism does not invalidate the original project. The problem here in part was the Marxist analysis which so rapidly took over the initial socialist spectrum, itself inchoate.
We can easily reformulate the issues: the status of civilization is problematical but a transitional socialist revolution can at least get the ball rolling toward a resolution of capitalist planetary destruction. We must do what the Bolsheviks, and indeed Marx, could not do: design a postcapitalist economy, a politics addressing dmeocracy to go with it, a force (military?) sufficient to make the initiative viable, and overall a carefully balanced socialist framework that is not skewed by marxism and wrecked by a Bolshevik lunatic phase. That the problem with civilization goes deeper than this may well be true, but the situation is desperate: a socialist transition can resolve the issue of revolution, power, democracy and authority and devise some kind of sensible resolution of economies and markets. We can proceed perhaps back to a hunter gatherer state as an optional future beyond the future of a socialist transition. Socialism was to be the end of history, perhaps the next to last.
I now return to reading the book, multitasking this with the flood of free scholarly books priced $0 at Amazon Kindle store. The market for books is collapsing. My the Last Revolution is free, but you may end up having to feed me a crust or two in the coming crisis.
Our DMNC model is a kind of tool with a question: how do we produce a version that answers the objections and problems nicely uncovered in this book.