[act-ma] 1/20 Sun 4pm, Kovel Speaking on EcoSocialism, Lucy Parsons

Amy Hendrickson amyh at texnology.com
Mon Jan 14 18:41:11 PST 2008

== please share widely! ==

Dear Folks--

Joel Kovel is in the Boston area next week and will be discussing
his book "Overcoming Zionism: Creating a Single Democratic State in
Israel/Palestine" at Coolidge Corner Theater, Tue night, Jan 22, 7pm,
sponsored by Bostonians for One Democratic State 
(peace at texnology.com for more info or to get on the One State mailing list)

His other strong interest is Green and Left Politics including a run for Senate on the Green
ticket in NY in 1998. All you GRP members may find it interesting to hear of
his experiences, and his thoughts on EcoSocialism, another area in which he is
a leading theoretician. He also has a critique of Green politics from the point of
view of an EcoSocialist. For a long exposition on EcoSocialism you can see

If you would like to meet and discuss these issues with him,
he will be at Mel King's brunch, from 1pm to 3pm, and
then will speak at Lucy Parsons at 4pm to discuss
EcoSocialism, the Green Party, and show his
film "A Really Inconvenient Truth" with ample time
for discussion.

4pm Sunday Jan 20
Lucy Parsons Center 
549 Columbus Avenue 
Boston, Massachusetts 

A quick sketch of his position would be that
we will not solve the problem of Climate Change or ecological degradation
unless we understand the basic cause: the world capitalist system.
His 2002 book, which he is now in the process of updating is "The
Enemy of Nature: The End of Capitalism or the End of the World"

The DVD is called "A Really Inconvenient Truth" 
"What is "really inconvenient" is the truth that global warming is directly
related to the uncontrolled growth of the dominant world capitalist system-- a system in 
which Al Gore has played a leading role, for which reason he (and the whole movement he represents) avoids the heart of the matter and distracts us with moral uplift and technological
fixes. Joel Kovel insists, rather, that we need to address-- and transform-- the
basic social dynamics that lead to the regime of cancerous production and mindless consumption. Only by facing up to what is "really inconvenient" can we win through to
a livable future."


Review of The Enemy of Nature from Amazon:

      By  Malvin (Frederick, MD USA) 

Joel Kovel's "The Enemy of Nature" offers a powerful and unflinching eco-Marxist critique of the capitalist system. Concluding that the path of accumulation must inevitably lead to a world wide ecological crisis, the author theorizes about the type of "ecosocialist" system that must supplant capitalism in order to ensure humanity's survival.

Kovel is part of a growing "Red/Green" movement that also includes the outstanding Marxist scholar James O'Connor. Kovel's arguments seem to build upon and indeed are closely aligned with many of the ideas in O'Connor's excellent book "Natural Causes," but I personally find Kovel's writing to be a bit more accessible than O'Connor's. Perhaps this pragmatism can be attributed to Kovel's political sensibilities, as he was a candidate for the Green Party Presidential nomination in 2000.

Kovel believes that various forms of so-called "Green economics" are doomed to failure because they do not address what he sees as the root problem driving the ecological crisis: namely, capital's need to continuously expand. He points out that whatever gains might be realized from the introduction of environmentally-friendly technology will be quickly outweighed by the expansion of the economy. For example, fuel cells might be less harmful than internal combustion engines, but if the technology merely enables the manufacture of hundreds of millions of new automobiles, the planet will ultimately be much worse off. 

But Kovel acknowledges that the current Green movement is in fact helping to lay the groundwork for what is yet to come. The Green's emphasis on local democratic control of the means of production will help free labor from its bondage with capital, which is essential for socialism to succeed.

Of course, Kovel devotes a section to readers who may need to be reminded that really existing socialism as practiced in the Soviet Union and elsewhere was NOT what Marx intended. Kovel shows that these countries actually substituted the state for the market, in the end merely proving that markets were superior to centralized planning. The ruined environments left behind by the Communist states were testaments to a failed attempt at accumulation, in much the same way that the West is currently degrading the air, land and sea in its ongoing frenzy of accumulation.

Kovel speculates on how collapse might occur in the capitalist nations. He understands that a breakdown of the financial system could easily lead to fascism, or possibly "ecofascism", as capital seeks to hold on to power. But Kovel thinks it may be plausible that the pockets of production growing outside the bounds of capital may be strong enough to resist the counter-revolution. Indeed, Kovel points out that up to 20 percent of the world economy already exists in the "informal" sector, although most of this is comprised of criminal activity and much less of the positive kind (such as the Bruderhof communities of the U.S.). 

This latter part of Kovel's analysis bears similarity to Nick Dyer-Witheford's "Cyber-Marx", although Kovel does not appear to be aware of this book nor is it referenced in his bibliography. In short, Dyer-Witheford theorizes that technophiles will appropriate the means of production in order to empower a society that eventually achieves autonomy by existing outside the bounds of capitalist control. Like Kovel, Dyer-Witheford envisions that the post-capitalist society will choose to apply its surplus value to the cause of freeing labor and restoring its ravaged social, physical and natural environments. In my view, the convergence of these two authors' thoughts -- albeit arrived at from different angles, but perhaps more compelling because of this -- bolsters both of their arguments and suggests that the possibility of radical change may not be as elusive as one might suppose. 

I strongly recommend Kovel's book for anyone who may be concerned about the future of our society or for those who may be contemplating how a more humane world might come about.
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