Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Soviet environmentalism: The path not taken

Arran Gare
November 2, 2011


Capitalism is a system that by its very nature must expand until it destroys the conditions of its own existence. It IS hardly surprising then, that Marxists in the Soviet Union argued that in the current environmental crisis lay the ultimate reason for replacing capitalism with socialism: As A. D. Ursal, the editor of Philosophy and the Ecological Problems of Civilization, argued:

The crisis of the environment, which is reaching extreme development almost everywhere, coincides with the last stage of the general crisis of capitalism. A conviction is growing throughout the world that only collapse of the capitalist system and victory of Socialism throughout the world will create a general, fundamental, social opportunity for rational use of natural resources and the highest degree of optimum interaction with nature. . . . Convincing evidence that socialism is a necessary condition for optimizing relations between society and nature is Socialism as it actually exists, and the policy of socialist countries in respect of the environment.

With the collapse of the Soviet Union, however,. all hope that Soviet communism might be transformed into a more attractive, less environmentally degraded social order than the liberal democratic societies of the West has been destroyed. The description of the modern predicament by Alvin W. Gouldner has become even more poignant: "The political uniqueness of our own era then is this; we have lived and still live through a desperate political and social malaise, while at the same time we have outlived the desperate revolutionary remedies that had once been thought to solve them.,, If this is the case, there is reason to examine the environmental failures of the Soviet Union more closely. Was it possible that things might have worked out differently?

If so, does this provide any orientation for the present? In this chapter, I will show how an alternative path for Soviet society had been charted and partly implemented in the 1920s by the radical wing of Bolshevism, a path that made environmental conservation a central issue. And I will suggest that this is the path that holds most hope for the future.

Read more HERE.

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