There’s little doubt in our minds that capitalism, ruthless and brutal as it is, will survive if we cannot build a strong, countervailing coalition on the Left. Failure to hold our leadership to account comes at the costs of harsher inequality and the accelerated destruction of the planet. I submit that today’s America nurtures this hell cycle of profit-maximization and unfettered growth as chief goals and benchmarks of national success, and extends favorable treatment to the world’s largest polluters, which continues threatening to annihilate the human species. The pursuit of private profiteering and ballooning corporate power, particularly in the the agriculture and oil & natural gas industries (among many others), threatens the ecological vitality of the Earth because it leads to decimating forests, blasting unspeakable levels of carbon dioxide and other hydrofluorocarbons into the atmosphere, and wiping whole species out of existence forever.
There’s nearly 100% consensus amongst the world’s scientists that our condition is driven and worsened by human activity. But individual, disjoined acts of “conscious consumerism” (whereby any one human makes it incumbent upon themselves, and often with a little bit of reprimand towards others, to shift the deep reliance away from fossil fuels through hyper-individualistic acts like recycling their grocery bags, foregoing purchases on single-use plastics, or giving up driving all together) is not enough to combat this crisis. Although this idea makes for attractive—and wildly effective—politics because it forces us to feel shame for our own impeding doom, it is nothing but bald-faced victim blaming and corporate agitprop.
All that’s come from allowing large, corporate interests, billionaire philanthropists, and “progressive” think tanks to control policymaking, is handwringing to make us feel bad about our shared looming climate catastrophe, which would be a non-issue if not for the unlimited private accumulation of capital and other enrichment stemming from predation and labor exploitation. To be sure, these concerns also cannot be separated from the the vast wealth and income inequality.
Ecosocialism at its core represents a transition from an unsustainable system of production and private accumulation at the expense of many of Earth’s inhabitants and natural resources to a healthy, moral, ecologically sustainable, democratic society. By contrast, a muscular anti-monopoly agenda shares much of the ecosocialist’s ethos. A critical tenant in this ethos, namely, is to breakup and nationalize behemoth corporations with the capacity to rival the might of the federal government. Amazon is a key example. While Amazon dominates some industries like television/film production and book publishing, they quite literally are the market in others, like web services and online shopping delivery services (all while evading meaningful antitrust penalties). Where they have had to pay modest fines (incommensurate with the harm they cause), the number amounts to nothing but a cost of doing business, accounted for on the ledgers any other expense would be, then it’s back to business as usual.
In her (excellent) book Break ‘Em Up, antitrust scholar and law professor Zephr Teachout dedicates an entire chapter to underscoring the importance of the dual threat of nationalization and breaking up companies into smaller constituent parts poses to corporations like Amazon or Facebook.
Furthermore, the fundamental ideology of anti-monopoly laws and socialism are inherently more democratic than the socioeconomic amalgam of laws I identify as the death cult: what you know as capitalism. Anti-monopoly laws are used to deconcentrate massive outsized economic power, which in turn deconcentrate massive and disproportionate political influence corporations have, which they then use to lobby congress to make laws in their favor. That lawmakers can ignore the importance of proscribing outsized economic power leads to further degradation of our already burning planet and tightly concentrated political influence. Permanent, universal, and effective anti-monopoly ethic comport with urgent environmental goals of ecosocialism, and are necessary to shift our dependence away from fossil fuels. It is a moral imperative that we mobilize political support around these ends, as it will buy us time to halt further environmental destruction. We just may be able to buy ourselves some breathing room to implement more green technologies while simultaneously strengthen union and labor power. It is important to note, however, that for all the strength in this new vision, we have to recognize that newer green technologies, or rapid technological advancement for that matter, doesn’t automatically translate to their implementation to foster a sustainable future. This is why anti-monpoly is key to aiding ecosocialist goals: we cannot implement a sustainable infrastructure if we still have to compete with Exxon.
Capitalism is predicated on boundless growth and unlimited accumulation within a planet holding finite (natural) resources needed to reproduce the means to these ends, which is why our current situation is unsustainable.
It is important that Lina Khan & Tim Wu are where they are in the Biden administration. Biden, not known for coming anywhere near being a radical leftist as Fox News so often reports, actually made a good choice for FCC appointees which represent a critical first step to challenging the specter of otherworldly private power looming over us all constantly. Both Khan and Teachout are vocal critics of the violence that concentration in the agriculture industry brings. With smart and longtime advocates of the harms of monopoly power, I believe we will make strides in breaking up the oil industry for good, which is invaluable to our environment and humans alike.
I, for one, become deeply sad when I think about losing many species to climate change knowing those in charge could be taking meaningful steps to help stop it. Maybe the most obvious solution is leveraging their power to appropriate money away from the military (a leading polluter compared to the other country’s militaries) toward fighting climate change. But alas, our leaders are working their hardest doing anything to avoid agitating their corporate donors in the oil & natural gas industry. Just ask this Exxon lobbyist.
I’m sure I’m not the only one with harsh climate anxiety, but we are all in this together. And building systems that strengthen our reconnection to our local communities is a broad goal of socialism in general. Ecosocialism, by contrast, is not unique in that it seeks to build a strong coalition of those who are exhausted from the daily toil of wage slavery and demand a better quality of life. This ethos seeks to end needless suffering. It’s different in that it views environmental threats with the upmost urgency, rejecting traditional productivism ideals of a socialism from the before time. Along with anti-monopoly goals, ecosocialism also seeks to secure and perpetuate the ecological vitality of our planet.
Ultimately, careless destruction of the environment and the evisceration of labor power are projects well worth dismantling and replacing with a new system that prioritizes thoughtful democratic organization, equity, and sustainability. This is achieved through the dual strength of ecosocialism and enforcing already established antitrust laws. As well it’s worth to reiterate: We can either save capitalism, or we can have a habitable planet, but not both.