Monday, July 11, 2016

Red-Greens: how far does their redness go?

Ecology and Socialism 

Eco-socialists, aka Red-Greens or watermelons, are influential in the Green Party at the moment.

Let's have a look at what eco-socialism is about, while Corbyn is in the news.

Ecology is the bedrock of Green ideology. Ecology is the study of the environment and the way that plants, animals, and humans live together and affect each other. It is the branch of biology that deals with the relations of organisms to one another and to their physical surroundings.

Society, our social environment, is an important part of the surrounding of all individuals. Biologically, humans are social animals like wolves, not solitary animals like bears. An ecological relationship exists between individual humans and society, so that society affects the individual, and the individual affects society. Therefore sociology is a sub-set of ecology. Ecology is the larger framework, providing the physical and biological matrix in which human society exists, and it sets limits on what human society can do, how much it can grow in terms of numbers and consumption patterns.

So much for ecology and society. What then is socialism? Definition is important, because there is a strong political, emotional and sectarian charge attached to the word that tends to blur its precise meaning. The dictionary definition of socialism is that it is a political system or theory that aims to create a society in which everyone has more equal opportunities and in which the means of construction, distribution and exchange are owned or controlled by the whole community, usually through the State.

There are two components to the dictionary definition: the softer aspiration towards greater equality, and the harder component, state ownership of industry and state control of the economy.

Ecologists are comfortable with the softer component of increasing equality. There is sound scientific evidence to show that more equal societies are happier and healthier societies, and that they have a less harmful environmental impact.

Do eco-socialists actually subscribe to both components of the dictionary definition of socialism, including the ownership of means of production?

Basically, nationalisation of the total means of production does not look appetising from a green point of view. Certainly, the state controlled industries of Soviet Russia were massively polluting.

Instead of nationalising all manufacturing industry, the state should regulate the way goods are produced in order to minimise pollution and waste, as it does at the moment, but with more enthusiasm and rigour. The state should also provide public transport and mail services, because private provision is energy inefficient. There is also a case for the state to take over some industries like steel in order to maintain an industry that could be necessary in times of crisis.

On the other hand, the central duty of Government is to protect the vulnerable within society from hardship and exploitation, and there is a strong case for the State to provide services for the vulnerable, particularly for health, emergency services, education and social services. There need not necessarily be a monopoly on this provision, but national provision of human services is clearly needed.

Hopefully the eco-socialists in our midst will clarify whether they still thirst for a command economy, or whether they have moved on from the  dictionary definition of socialism.

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