Specializing in Web Work for Non-Profits, Educational Institutions, Socially-Responsible Businesses, and the Arts Communities in Vermont and Everywhere . . .
Northeast Research Associates
Contact us for Web Sites with Substance, Character and Flair
and Web Sites that are Universally Accessible
Photo of Cat  with Blooming Delphiniums in Front of milk jug by our Barn
Some Recent Web Projects
  • Color Musings -- Hand-Painted Silks by Maggie Neale


  • How to get in touch with us:
    Please call us by telephone and speak to one of us in person between 9 am and 5 pm Eastern Time, Monday - Saturday at 802-426-3777. Or write to us at: pieinsky@igc.org
       In 1949, Albert Einstein helped launch the new journal, Monthly Review, with a brief article titled, "Why Socialism?". He began with the observation that the laws of economics are historically conditioned, and in effect written by the conquering parties. In the society of the conquerers, Einstein wrote, "priests, in control of education, made the class difference of society into a permanent institution and created a system by which the people were thenceforth, to a large extent unconsciously, guided in their social behavior." This not only gives an arbitrary vision of the economy the status of natural law; more importantly, it belongs to what ThorsteinVeblen called the "predatory phase" of human development. "Since the real purpose of socialism is precisely to overcome and advance beyond the predatory phase of human development, economic science in its present state can throw little light on the socialist society of the future."

       Einstein went on to indicate a profound crisis through which society is passing, and to express his conviction that it could be resolved, thanks to the fact that, as a species, humans are not condemned to a biological constitution but are given the power of conscious, intelligent choice over their social existence. The crisis in question results from the fact that in present society, "the egotistical drives of [our] makeup are constantly being accentuated, while [our] social drives . . . progressively deteriorate." Everyone in society is the prisoner of this egotism, reinforced by the most powerful institutions of capitalism. Capitalism, formed out of egotism and relentless self-aggrandizement, eventuates in a society of colossal centralized power that sweeps all before it and establishes itself as natural. "The results of these developments is an oligarchy of private capital the enormous power of which cannot be checked even by a democratically organized political society."

       A compelling syllogism ensues: if capitalism is the problem, if the problem threatens the survival of civilization, and if capitalism will not be checked, then capitalism must go, or we will. This logic places the name of socialism before the world. There is no incantatory magic in the term, indeed, the years since Einstein wrote his little essay have cast many a cloud over the notion of socialism and have made its definition more difficult than ever. But in an age dominated by capital, the logic of socialism cannot be eliminated. For if we are to think of "that which is necessary to overcome capital," socialism is the word to signify what this may be. Debates will, indeed, should, rage over what that necessity is, and over how to achieve it, but so long as one insists on the overcoming of capital itself, then socialism is being talked about.

       Einstein wrote before the catastrophes of existing socialism forced rethinking of the term. But he also wrote before the latest gyrations of the capital system--neoliberalism, globalization and, hovering over all, the gathering ecological crisis. Were he to put the essay to paper today, Einstein would, I should think, surely reach the same overall conclusion concerning the intransigence of capitalism and the necessity of socialism. But I believe that he would rephrase this in light of the ecological crisis. He might be expected to share the view argued in these pages, that the capital system is the efficient cause of the degradation of ecologies all over the world. And I expect, too, that he would affirm that the crisis of capitalism, with its rampant egotism--what has been called here, Egoic being--is now a crisis of nature as well as labor, and that the revolt and breakdown of the natural substratum of society now threatens the liberal order itself, presaging an epoch of eco-fascism and beyond that, the breakdown of civilization and the potential extinction of our species (along with many others).

       Therefore, if "Why Socialism" were to be put in a contemporary framework, it would argue just as strenuously for socialism, but it would also expand the scope of the socialism argued for to include the ecological dimension. We need socialism more than ever, because capitalism destabilizes and destroys the natural as well as the human world. We need socialism to restore the integrity of nature as well as of labor. We need socialism as the rational coming to terms with history, replacing the Hobbesian capital-jungle with a society of cooperative and communal relationships. And we cannot afford any longer to apologize defensively for the woes of "already existing socialisms." These were "first-wave" socialisms; they accomplished much, erred greatly, and went under. But they do not belong in any so-called "dustbin of history"; they are, rather, lessons to be learned. We are supposed to be a species capable of learning from experience. Let us live up to that, learn from the past and create a next-wave socialism worthy of the future--an ecological socialism responsive to nature as well as labor.

       We need to be concrete, as there is a very important practical lesson embedded in this. The path out of the ecological crisis that respects nature and humanity alike must be an eco-socialist path, and the agency of the struggle needs to be a socialist one. Not green capitalists, not citizen activists, not concerned scientists, not Worldwatchers, not UN commissions, not deep ecologists, not ecofeminists, not monkey-wrench libertarians, not policy wonks, not mainstream environmentalists, not recyclers, not eco-communitarians--none of these. Or rather, any and all of them, so long as they are also eco-socialist, which is to say, posit the necessity of overcoming capital as the sine qua non of overcoming the ecological crisis.

       The irreducible condition of all socialism is this: that the class relations of the capitalist mode be dissolved and replaced with socialist class relations. Why class; there is, after all, much more to the capital system? Simply, because we are talking, above all, of the centrality of production, and because class is the relationship that highlights the power structure of society and brings us up against the human world, in all its richness and complexity. The class relations of capital are well known even if not appreciated for what they signify. They divide the world into two moieties (and subdivide these, a problem that does not concern us here): those who own and control the means of production and those who own only their power to work, which they sell on the capitalist market for wages that total less than the value of what they produce. Very simple: the capitalists, or bosses, on top; the workers, or producers, on bottom; surplus-value coming from the relation between them and fuelling the circuits of capital. It is this juncture that constitutes the dynamism of the capital system, for it is here where the human actors are critically assembled.

       Therefore, all socialism, eco-socialism included, consists of the empowerment of producers--not just the salaried but all those who toil on behalf of others so that capitalism can be reproduced. How far this extends, what it means for the question of ownership, what is to be the role of the state, what political paths need be hewn, what residual role for markets and money, how is the question of bureaucracy to be dealt with, and above all, what is to be the role of democracy--all these and more are the questions to be debated as to the character of socialism in the period ahead. But the core common to all questions needs to be affirmed: until the direct producers of social wealth are associated and have achieved control over their production, capital cannot be dissolved. And if capital is not dissolved, if its virus persists in the cells of institutions, then it will regenerate and the cancer of ecodestruction will resume.

       This is true of all socialisms, eco-socialism included. But only eco-socialism can address the ecological crisis, and it is time to say a few words about its specificities. A socialism without an ecological dimension is one built through maximization of the productive forces, one that embraces the goal of accumulation, and one that tries to emulate capitalist production with a reversal of ownership. It is, essentially, capitalism with distributive justice and social welfare. In the classical Soviet or Chinese model, the state became the engine of accumulation, and a party bureaucracy replaced the capitalist ruling class. Economic instruments were replaced with political ones. Certain features of these societies conduced to a diminished eco-destruction, for example, the removal of competition between fractions of capital. Other features, however, worked in the opposite direction, such as the absence of the correcting features of the market and the presence of command economies. A party bureaucracy out of touch with the feedback of the market and given authoritarian control over the economy is capable of enormous damage to nature, and the history of first wave, non-ecological socialisms was scarred with evidence of this.

       That is all moot now save as a lesson, given the great triumph of capital over its first-wave socialist adversaries. It tells us, however, that just as the litany of those who do not deserve membership in the ranks of genuine healers of the ecological crisis include green capitalists, citizen activists, concerned scientists, etc, without socialist goals, so, too, are traditional socialists without ecological goals out of the picture--indeed, they are even more irrelevant inasmuch as they lack particular purchase on one aspect of the crisis or another. We definitely need our concerned scientists, citizen activists, policy wonks and eco-communitarians--need them, however, as imbued with an eco-socialist spirit that will not settle until all particular struggles are united into a mighty democratic association of empowered producers. The presence of this force is the only one adequate to check the power of capital; its realization signifies the dissolution of capital.

       Albert Einstein concluded his essay with a call for socialism to incorporate democracy and the rights of the socialized individual. Those ambitions are just as relevant today, but they have to be joined with the challenge that socialism become ecological just as ecology needs to become socialist. The many issues entailed in this challenge will be addressed in the volume to follow. Here we may rest with the following: To imagine an eco-socialist way would require the superimposition of the qualities of ecocentric being with those of the socialist ideal. The two projects have a common adversary. Just as ecocentric being, with its spiritual recognition of the unity and interdependance of all beings, its humility and its intimacy, is the negation of capital's Egoic being, so is socialism the negation of egoism. To break the bondage of class is to restore differentiation and overcome the splitting apart of the human world. And once restored, this function may be extended outward. Transforming a society in which workers experience humiliation and the bourgeoisie flaunt a murderous spiritual arrogance, socialism posits a society of solidarity and fellow-feeling. This can be universalized. Solidarity can--and must--extend to all creatural beings: then socialism will extend itself to eco-socialism, and the ecological crisis will be no more. Northeast Research Associates Pie in the Sky Farm 93 Dwinell Road United States doing some building for the people, they Marshfield, Vermont