Ecosocialist Debate

Saito, Marx and the Anthropocene: A Critique

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Did Marx in his last years reject historical materialism and his previous analysis of capitalist development?

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A review essay by Rafael Bernabe

Rafael Bernabe is a Puerto Rican ecosocialist activist and historian. In 2020 he was elected to Puerto Rico’s Senate as a candidate of the Movimiento Victoria Cuidadana (Citizen’s Victory Movement). This article was  first published in the July-August issue of the US socialist magazine Against the Current. Reposted with permission.

Kohei Saito has become an important voice in the debates about Marxism and ecosocialism. His books deal with four key issues: the relation between capitalism and nature; between ecology and socialism; the agents and means of attaining ecosocialism [or degrowth communism] and the evolution of Marx’s views regarding these issues.

Regarding the first question, Saito argues that capitalism, driven by the incessant pursuit of private profit, is incapable of relating to nature in a responsible and rational manner. It inevitably alters the latter to the point of endangering the survival of many species, including our own.

The climate crisis is the most pressing example of this. But many other instances could be added. In that sense, the Green New Deal, to the extent that it envisages a green capitalism, is insufficient.[1] Nothing short of the abolition of capitalism can hope to adequately address the climate emergency.[2]

For the earth’s temperature to be kept within the required limits without relying on nuclear energy or dubious carbon capture technologies, global energy consumption must be reduced. This will require a reduction in production. Ecosocialism must therefore imply some measure of degrowth.

Saito thus adopts the perspective of degrowth communism. This implies the rejection of some ideas held by at least some socialist currents: the notion of socialist abundance based on an incessant expansion of the productive forces and of a mere adoption for socialist ends of the technologies inherited from capitalism.

Degrowth communism would rather seek a steady-state economy, capable of guaranteeing material well-being for all while respecting natural limits. This will require a radical transformation of existing technologies, which were designed with the capitalist exploitation of labor and despoliation of nature as imperatives.

Saito’s argument is thus directed against the currents he labels “ecomodernists” and left accelerationism. Both share the notion that the problems posed by capitalist technology can and should be resolved by further growth. Thus the expansion of production and consumption can continue through the further transformation of nature according to human needs.

This, argues Saito, is an indication of the unwillingness of some socialists to detach themselves from capitalism’s growth imperatives. Unwilling to break with the latter, such currents must embrace dangerous technologies, such as nuclear power, carbon capture or geo-engineering.[3]

These views come remarkably close to the perspective recently proposed by Michael Löwy and others, which seeks to synthesize the ecosocialist and degrowth approaches.[4]

For sure, this perspective still demands elaboration. Saito’s books pose some of the unsolved problems. For example, translating degrowth into an attractive political slogan or call to action is not easy. Ecosocialist degrowth implies the elimination of some sectors [arms production, advertising, etc.], radical reduction of other branches [individual automobiles, for example] and the growth of some activities [education, health care, adequate housing, electrical and water infrastructure in the poorer areas or countries, etc.]

A process that includes the growth of some sectors and even countries cannot be adequately described as mere degrowth, which, furthermore, most people will tend to associate with austerity and reduced living standards. Will the terms “just degrowth” or “differentiated degrowth” do the trick? It is an open question.

Here the degrowth perspective must steal a page from the Green New Deal, which has the merit of linking the objective of zero emissions with massive investments in job creation and the provision of basic needs. Without this, working people will tend to associate degrowth with the only version of it that they are familiar with, namely capitalist recession or depression and its impoverishing consequences.[5]

Furthermore, Saito’s perspective implies a rejection of both capitalism and of the state-centered authoritarian Soviet model. Yet Saito has no explanation of the nature of the latter and of the social forces behind its emergence.[6] Lacking an adequate explanation of the bureaucratic evolution of the Soviet state, his rejection of it veers toward a wholesale repudiation of state action as means of conducting an ecosocialist transition.

Saito thus embraces the vision of local cooperative and municipal initiatives as an alternative to capitalism and state-centralism.[7] This is neither a new nor a convincing argument. It is hard to see how Saito’s municipal socialism can paralyze the process of capitalist accumulation, nor is it clear how such local initiatives can provide a coherent alternative if the relations between them are structured through the market, in other words, lacking some form of centralized planning. Ecosocialism requires far more than cooperative or municipal initiatives: it demands democratically centralized planning and workplace self-management.[8]

Even if an accumulation of local initiatives were able to threaten capitalist power, it is naïve to think that capital and the central capitalist states would not take action to block and dismantle such a threat. It is not possible to abolish capitalism escaping the notice of those who profit from it.

Thus, the ecosocialist struggle requires a program linking the ecological agenda and other working-class demands with the ultimate objective of replacing the capitalist state and economy with a socialist democracy and a socialized economy. The latter will not come about in the immediate future — but our present struggles must be geared in that direction, otherwise those objectives will be forever postponed.

Avoiding ecological catastrophe requires abolishing capitalism. This conclusion, argues Saito, implies that ecological thinking must come to terms with the work of Marx, whose understanding of capitalism is unsurpassed. But he combines this argument with his own interpretation of the evolution of Marx’s thought.

According to Saito between the early or mid-1860s and his death in 1883, Marx moved from an uncritical celebration of capitalist progress, with little or no concern for its ecological consequences, to an ecosocialist perspective, which took those consequences into account while clinging to the perspective of future socialist growth and, finally, to the vision of a degrowth communism, which he was in the process of formulating in his final years.

Following the contributions of John Bellamy Foster and others, Saito explores Marx’s assimilation, beginning around 1865, of Justus von Liebig’s studies of capitalist agriculture. Liebig explained how capitalist agriculture and the polarization of city and countryside extracted nutrients from the soil without returning them, thus undermining its fertility.[9]

Marx included those insights in the first volume of Capital, published in 1867. He thus pointed out that

“Capitalist production… disturbs the metabolic interaction between man and the earth, i.e. it prevents the return to the soil of its constituent elements consumed by man…; hence it hinders the operation of the eternal natural condition for the lasting fertility of the soil.”[10]

And he added that capitalist production inevitably undermines “the original sources of all wealth — the soil and the worker.”[11]

But this was only the beginning of Marx’s ecological explorations. Saito’s underlines the importance of the work of Carl Fraas in Marx’s evolution. Fraas, whose writings Marx began studying in 1868, explained how unsustainable land use led to deforestation which in turn led to climate shifts and eventually resulted in the loss of fertility and desertification. This was the process underlying the decline of once thriving civilizations in the past.[12]

By the late 1870s, Saito reminds us, Marx was also in contact with some of the exponents of Russian populism. The Populists argued that Russia could skip the miseries of capitalist development, building an alternative to it based on the communal practices of the Russian peasantry.

In a famous 1881 response to an enquiry by Populist Vera Zasulich and in the “Preface” to the 1882 Russian edition of the Communist Manifesto, Marx conceded that the peasant commune could be the basis for a transition to socialism. According to Saito, the 1882 “Preface” argued that the precapitalist communes “would be able to attain a communist development before Western Europe.”[13]

For Saito, this conclusion was the result not only of Marx’s studies of the Russian commune, but of his ecological explorations, inspired by Liebig and by Fraas. Fraas pointed out that some societies — characterized by communal and egalitarian structures — had engaged in non-destructive relations with the environment.

Fraas discussed the work of Georg Maurer on the German communal societies. Probably prompted by Fraas, Marx took up Maurer’s study to which he attributed an unconscious socialist tendency.[14] Thus, by the time of Zasulich’s inquiry Marx was ready to embrace the pre-capitalist peasant commune as the prefiguration and model for a steady-state, degrowth, or no-growth, communism.

Capitalism: Progress and Destruction

According to Saito, this “passionate” embrace of the Populists’ perspective was the endpoint of Marx’s social theory: His new understanding of the destructive aspect of capitalist development “made Marx doubt whether Western Europe, with its ‘higher’ productive forces, was in fact superior to non-Western and pre-capitalist societies.”[15] According to Saito, “This shift made him thoroughly rethink his previous assumption about the progressive character of capitalism.”[16]

Furthermore, argues Saito, “If the consequence of capitalism was not progress, but irreversible destruction of the natural environment and of society, the one-sided view of history as progress was seriously shaken.”[17] Before this, Marx considered that capitalism created the basis for socialism, but he now realized that “Capitalism was not a phase of advance toward communism. Capitalism destroys the ‘natural vitality’ required for human progress.”[18]

Thus the 1881 letter to Zasulich was “an authentic theoretical transformation. The definitive distancing from history as progress.”[19]

According to Saito, Marx in this fashion “abandoned his earlier scheme of historical materialism. It was not an easy task for him. His worldview was in crisis. In this sense, Marx’s intensive research in his last years was a desperate attempt to reconsider and reformulate his materialist conception of history from an entirely new perspective, resulting in a radically different conception of the alternative society.”[20]

At this time Marx also embraced the idea of stationary communal practices as the main form of resistance to capitalism.[21] In sum, according to Saito: by 1881 Marx had formulated his own version of Russian populism. Thus Marx is relevant for the Anthropocene, but only because in his later years he abandoned much of what is commonly known as Marxism.

There is, to put it bluntly, no basis for these claims.[22] The main texts cited by Saito, such as the letter to Zasulich and the 1882 “Preface” to the Communist Manifesto are the best refutation of his theses. Rather than “passionate,” Marx’s endorsement of the Russian Populist perspective is better described as conditional.

In both cases, Marx conditioned the possibility of Russia avoiding capitalism and building socialism based on the peasant commune to its combination with working-class revolution in capitalist and industrial Europe. At no point does he argue that socialism could do without the technological achievements of the latter, or that the Russian peasant commune could attain communism before or independently of advanced capitalist Europe.

Nor did he abandon the notion that capitalism represented progress over past class societies. In the first draft of his response to Zasulich, Marx wrote: “Precisely because it is contemporaneous with capitalist production, the rural commune may appropriate all its positive achievements without undergoing its [terrible] frightful vicissitudes.” (our emphasis)

And he added: “On the other hand, the contemporaneity of Western production, which dominates the world market, enables Russia to build into the commune all the positive achievements of the capitalist system, without having to pass under its harsh tribute.” (our emphasis) In his second draft Marx writes: “But at the same time, Russia exists in a modern historical context: it is contemporaneous with a higher culture, and it is linked to a world market in which capitalist production is predominant.” (our emphasis)

He continues: “Thus, in appropriating the positive results of this mode of production, it is able to develop and transform the still archaic form of its rural commune, instead of destroying it.” (our emphasis).

Similarly, in their 1882 “Preface” to the Communist Manifesto, Marx and Engels argued that “If the Russian Revolution becomes the signal for a proletarian revolution in the West, so that both complement each other, the present Russian common ownership of land may serve as the starting point for a communist development.” (our emphasis)[23]

Saito himself recognizes what Marx called “the positive results” of capitalism. While arguing that Marx abandoned the idea of capitalism as progressive relative to past class societies, he slips in the caveat that degrowth communism does not imply a rejection of the technical achievements of capitalism or a return to the rural past.

Degrowth communism, according to Saito, “does not seek a nostalgic return to the rural world nor is it planning the creation of communes [Marx insists that the Russian communes would do well to take advantage of the positive results of capitalism, such as technological innovation].”[24] Nor is it “a plea to abandon urban life or technologies… Furthermore, there are many positive aspects to urban life and technological development.”[25]

Introduced several times in passing, this consideration contradicts Saito’s thesis about the late Marx: it recognizes, as Marx did, that capitalism was in some measure a progressive force, whose achievements socialism cannot do without. Contrary to what Saito suggests, there is no need to abandon this conception to recognize that socialism does not imply an infinite development of the productive forces, or that it can simply employ the unaltered technology inherited from capitalism.

The notion that the expansion of production beyond a certain point may become destructive and unsustainable does not mean that its expansion in the past did not constitute progress, a contradictory progress [we will return to this], but progress, nonetheless.

Saito quotes Marx’s 1869 explanation of his change of position regarding Irish independence as an example of his conversion to the idea that advanced capitalism did not create the material basis for socialism.[26]

In a well-known passage cited by Saito, Marx acknowledges that until then he had considered that Irish liberation would be the result of the English revolution, but he now realized that Irish independence was a precondition for the latter.

But Marx’s point, as exemplified in his 1870 “Confidential Communication,” was that Irish independence was crucial because it could help trigger the English revolution, which was where the conditions for socialist revolution were most developed.[27] In no way did this reversal of position imply a rejection of the notion that it is capitalism that creates the material basis for modern socialism.

It is true, as Saito argues, that Marx and Engels valued the egalitarian and communal aspects of “primitive” communism, as exemplified by their assimilation of Henry Morgan’s studies of North American Indigenous peoples, which are the central aspect of Engels’ The Origin of the Family, Private Property, and the State. But again, this did not imply or require a repudiation of the notion of human progress based on the development of productive capacity or of capitalism as progressive in relation to past class societies.

Saito indicates that ecosocialism or degrowth communism do not mean a return to past communal societies. Why? Precisely because they can appropriate the technical achievements of past class societies and, above all, of capitalism, whose progressive dimension cannot be denied.

Saito’s argument is built on a false dichotomy between a “Promethean” mature Marx, who uncritically embraced capitalist progress, and a late Marx that fully rejected the notion of history as progress. But Marx always considered class societies and capitalism as contradictory formations, simultaneously progressive and regressive, and in the case of capitalism, as an antagonistic form of progress, but progress, nonetheless.

Even at his most celebratory of the achievements of capitalism, Marx indicated the terrible cost of capitalist progress. This included his articles on British imperialism in India and China, which are often presented as mere apologies for capitalist progress. While indicating what he considered its progressive aspects, he also underlined that this was still progress that resembled the “hideous pagan idol who would not drink the nectar but from the skulls of the slain.”[28]

Saito quotes a long passage in which Marx explains how in the past progress has been attained at the expense of the individual and the oppressed classes. Marx comments on Sismondi’s denunciation of progress at the expense of the individual:

“To oppose the welfare of the individual to this end, as Sismondi does, is to assert that the development of the species must be arrested in order to safeguard the development of the individual, so that, for instance, no war may be waged in which at all events some individuals perish. Sismondi is only right as against the economists who conceal or deny this contradiction. Apart from the bareness of such edifying reflections, they reveal a failure to understand the fact that, although at first development of the capacities of the human species takes place at the cost of the majority of human individuals and whole human classes, in the end it breaks through this contradiction and coincides with the development of the individual.…”[29]

Saito comments: “Increase the productive forces, even if individuals are sacrificed! Market and capitalism all over the world for human emancipation! It is as if Marx were an ideologue of neoliberal globalization.”[30] But in this passage Marx is not celebrating what he describes. He is merely registering the fact that such is the contradictory and antagonistic form that human evolution has taken once the increase in productivity permitted the differentiation between dominant and dominated classes, as well as mental and manual labor.

All the advances in science, art and technology were premised on the fact that most people were condemned to unending toil and exploitation. Progress was based on the sacrifice of individuals and whole classes. As Walter Benjamin would put it later, “There is no document of civilization which is not at the same time a document of barbarism.”[31]

But Marx added that the unprecedented development of the productive forces brought about by capitalism, once socialized, would now permit the flowering of all individuals and not only of a small minority.

Some of Saito’s readings of other texts by Marx are equally off the mark. Saito quotes the following passage from the Grundrisse:

“In fact, however, when the limited bourgeois form is stripped away, what is wealth other than the universality of individual needs, capacities, pleasures, productive forces etc., created through universal exchange? The full development of human mastery over the forces of nature, those of so-called nature as well as of humanity’s own nature? The absolute working-out of his creative potentialities, with no presupposition other than the previous historic development, which makes this totality of development, i.e. the development of all human powers as such the end in itself, not as measured on a predetermined yardstick? Where he does not reproduce himself in one specificity, but produces his totality? Strives not to remain something he has become, but is in the absolute movement of becoming?”

According to Saito here Marx is criticizing how capitalism reduces wealth to a “predetermined yardstick,” to a certain amount of value.[32] In fact, in this passage Marx is describing how capitalism develops the productive forces, and human capacities, without regard to any past or inherited limitations. This was its progressive aspect. He also argued that capitalism did this through the subjection of humanity to the impersonal despotism of the capitalist market.

Marx explained that this contradiction, this double aspect of capitalism, generated both apologies and celebrations of capitalist progress, on the one hand, and romantic yearnings for a precapitalist past, on the other. He rejected both, arguing that we should seek a socialist future, enabled by the progressive aspects of capitalist development:

“It is as ridiculous to yearn for a return to that original fullness as it is to believe that with this complete emptiness history has come to a standstill. The bourgeois viewpoint has never advanced beyond this antithesis between itself and this romantic viewpoint, and therefore the latter will accompany it as legitimate antithesis up to its blessed end.”[33]

An orientation beyond a romantic yearning for the past and a celebration of the capitalism present could include a recuperation of some aspects of past communal societies, an idea that Engels formulated more than once.

Among other texts, in the Anti-Dühring he captured this dialectic well while discussing Rousseau’s notion of the passage from an initial egalitarian society (Rousseau’s state of nature) to an unequal civilization as antagonistic progress, as both progressive and regressive, and the possibility of a future egalitarian society that would recuperate the egalitarian past while appropriating the achievements of civilization.[34]

Conclusion: Tasks in the Anthropocene

To summarize: Saito argues that in his later years Marx devoted increasing attention to non-Western societies, pre-capitalist cultures and the destructive ecological impact of capitalist civilization.

He concluded that not all societies had followed the same historical path as West Europe; that some societies could, under certain circumstances, avoid capitalism in their route to socialism or communism; and that the environmental costs of capitalism were far greater than he was initially aware. All these ideas have been explored in the past by several authors, including Shanin, Foster, and Anderson.[35]

In his first book Saito makes an important contribution in this area, particularly regarding the impact of the work of Carl Fraas and Georg Maurer on Marx’s evolution. But it is wrong to argue that this implied a rejection of his analysis of capitalism, of the notion of [contradictory] human progress through the development of its productive forces, or of capitalism as a progress over past class societies, which creates the material basis for socialism.

There is no question that Marx’s late ecological and ethnological studies enriched his conception of this historical dialectic, but this did not imply its crisis or require its repudiation.

Saito argues that socialism cannot imply an infinite development of the productive forces; that beyond a certain point degrowth may be required. But these arguments do not require a repudiation of what came to be known as historical materialism. Marx’s dialectical concept of human progress as an antagonistic and contradictory process can accommodate them without renouncing any of its fundamental tenets.

There are passages in which Saito presents Marx’s perspective accurately. He thus argues that “While Marx continued to believe that technological development under capitalism provides the necessary material conditions for a leap to socialism, his dialectical method came to … emphasize the negative and destructive side of new technologies.”[36]

Elsewhere he points out that “Marx without doubt recognizes the positive side of modern technology and natural sciences, which prepares the material conditions for the establishment of the ‘realm of freedom’ by enabling humans to produce various products in a shorter time.”[37]

Unfortunately, these balanced formulations are abandoned for the untenable notion that the growing understanding of the “negative and destructive side of new technologies” led Marx to abandon both the idea that “technological development under capitalism provides the necessary material conditions for … socialism” and, more generally, his “earlier scheme of historical materialism.”

It is reasonable to argue that “Once the historical vocation of capitalism in increasing productive forces has been realized, the further development of human freedom and talents demands a transition to another stage of human history.”[38] But this implies recognizing that Marx’s broadened ecological awareness did not require repudiating his conception of “the historical vocation of capitalism in increasing productive forces.”

Nor did Marx abandon the notion of the working class as the key social force capable of overturning capitalism and of political and state action and power as an indispensable lever of social transformation. He did not become a proponent of local, cooperative, or municipal socialism.

As Marx did regarding the Russian commune, today Marxists should recognize the revolutionary and anti-capitalist potential of the struggles of Indigenous peoples and the need to link them to working-class struggles, so that “they can complement each other.” But Marx did not replace the latter for the former and/or for cooperative initiatives, and neither should we.

How to make the ecological agenda part of the labor movement and how to organize, mobilize and inspire the latter toward the exercise of political power (which, of course, can include local and municipal initiatives) remains the fundamental task of revolutionary Marxists in the Anthropocene.


  1. El capital en la era del antropoceno, 80. On “green capitalism” see Daniel Tanuro, Green Capitalism: Why it Can’t Work (London: Merlin Press, 2013).
  2. Marx in the Anthropocene, 96-99. This is the main point of El capital en la era del antro­poceno.
  3. See “Monism and the Non-identity of Nature” in Marx in the Anthropocene, 103-135.
  4. Michael Löwy, Bengi Arkubulut, Sabrina Fernandes, Giorgos Kallis. “For an Ecosocialist Degrowth,” Monthly Review, 73:11, April 2022.
  5. For comments on the Green New Deal see “Descarbonización y descolonización,” momento crítico, 23 april 2023.ón -y-descolonización-el-green-new-deal-y-puerto-rico-i
  6. The basis for a Marxist critique was elaborated by Leon Trotsky through many contributions including The Revolution Betrayed. See also Ernest Mandel, Power and Money. A Marxist Theory of Bureaucracy (London: Verso, 1992). For lively defense see the republished debate Ernest Mandel and Chris Harman, Marxists against Stalinism (London-Amsterdam: Resistance Books-IIRE, 2022.
  7. El capital en la era del antropoceno, 275-304.
  8. “Ecosocialism and Democratic Planning” in Michael Löwy, Ecosocialism. A Radical Alternative to Capitalist Catastrophe (Chicago: Haymarket, 2015).
  9. “Liebig and Capital” in Marx’s Ecosocialism, 141-175.
  10. Marx’s Ecosocialism, 171. Quotes are from Capital, Vol. I, “Large-Scale Industry and Agriculture.”
  11. Marx’s Ecosocialism, 202.
  12. “Marx’s Ecology after 1868” in Marx’s Ecosocialism, 217-255.
  13. El capital en la era del antropoceno, 146-147.
  14. El capital en la era del antropoceno, 151-155.
  15. Marx in the Anthropocene, 204.
  16. Marx in the Anthropocene, 177.
  17. El capital en la era del antropoceno, 155.
  18. El capital en la era del antropoceno, 155.
  19. El capital en la era del antropoceno, 160. Saito argues that “In his later years, Marx abandoned the vision of history as progress,” El capital en la era del antropoceno, 160.
  20. Marx in the Anthropocene, 173.
  21. He now concluded that “the stationary nature of communal societies will form [conformará] the resistance against colonial domination and will, in the future, permit the overthrow of capitalism and the instauration of communism” El capital en la era del antropoceno, 162.
  22. Lack of space prevents us from commenting on Saito’s arguments regarding other authors such as Engels, Luxemburg, and Lukacs.
  23. The same argument can be found in a passage from Capital cited by Saito to demonstrate Marx’s appreciation of the merits of pre-capitalist communal forms. Marx wrote that “capitalist production begets… its own negation. This is the negation of the negation. It does not re-establish private property, but it does indeed establish private property on the basis of the achievements of the capitalist era: namely co-operation and the possession in common of the land and the means of production produced by labor itself.” (our emphasis). A revised version reads: “It is the negation of the negation. This re-establishes individual property, but on the basis of the acquisitions of the capitalist era, i.e., on co-operation of free workers and their possession in common of the land and of the means of production produced by labor.” (our emphasis). Marx in the Anthropocene, 227.
  24. El capital en la era del antropoceno, 163.
  25. El capital en la era del antropoceno, 276. Also Marx in the Anthropocene, 194.
  26. Marx in the Anthropocene, 185.
  27. “England alone can serve as the lever or a serious economic revolution. It is the only country where there are no longer any peasants and where landed property is concentrated in a few hands… where the capitalist form — that is, labor combined on a large scale under capitalist entrepreneurs — has taken over practically the whole of production… where the great majority of the population consists of wage laborers… where the class struggle and organization of the working class by the trade unions have attained a certain degree of maturity and universality… where, thanks to its domination of the world market, ever revolution in economic relationships must directly affect the whole world.” “Confidential Communication” (1870).
  28. “The Future Results of British Rule in India” (1853).
  29. Economic Manuscripts 1861-63, quoted in Marx in the Anthropocene, 184. This passage is part of the texts published by Kautsky as Theories of Surplus Value between 1905 and 1910.
  30. Marx in the Anthropocene, 184.
  31. Walter Benjamin, “On the Concept of History” (1940).
  32. Marx in the Anthropocene, 222.
  33. We have examined this aspect of Marx’s work in Walt Whitman and his Caribbean Interlocutors (Chicago: Haymarket, 2022).
  34. Eugen Dühring’s Revolution in Science [Anti-Dühring], Chapter XIII. “Dialectics. Negation of the Negation.”
  35. Teodor Shanin, Late Marx and the Russian Road. Marx and the “Peripheries of Capitalism” (New York: Monthly Review, 1983); John Bellamy Foster, Marx’s Ecology. Materialism and Nature (New York: Monthly Review Press, 2000) and his subsequent works; Kevin B. Anderson, Marx at the Margins. On Nationalism, Ethnicity, and Non-Western Societies (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2010).
  36. Marx in the Anthropocene, 138.
  37.  Marx’s Ecosocialism, 214.
  38.  Marx’s Ecosocialism, 136.


  • ” In both cases, Marx conditioned the possibility of Russia avoiding capitalism and building socialism based on the peasant commune to its combination with working-class revolution in capitalist and industrial Europe. At no point does he argue that socialism could do without the technological achievements of the latter, or that the Russian peasant commune could attain communism before or independently of advanced capitalist Europe”.

    Two key historical events are missing in this otherwise important contribution to the theoretical development of eco-socialism:

    1. the failure of the proletarian revolution on Germany (1917-1923 )
    2. Stalin’s counter revolutionary abandonment of dialectical materialism and internationalism from 2024.

  • I suggest what is missing in such discussions is the starting and finishing point of Marx’s motivation for his life long studies. These were the alienating characteristics of all hierarchical mass societies.  The technical level of social  productive capacity he considered was a future decision for future communities once the antagonisms had been removed. Thus when he wrote that;

    “The bourgeois mode of production is the last antagonistic form of the social process of production – antagonistic not in the sense of individual antagonism but of an antagonism that eminates from the individuals’  social conditions of existence…” (Marx. Preface. A Contribution to the  Critique  of Political Economy.)

    He was convinced that capitalism had increased the social antagonisms to such an extent that a revolutionary transformation had become possible. Of course Marx could not have known that Bolshevik ‘Marxists’ would later interpret his views as the need to usher in a state-capitalist mode of social production crammed with so many productive antagonisms, that show trials, assassinations, gulags and tortured confessions were necessary to ensure the hyper exploitation of human labour continued under their rule.

    Thus the bourgeois mode of production was not actually the last antagonistic form of social production, for in the name of ‘Marxism’  the Bolshevik and Maoist led modes of state-capitalist production continued the tradition of hierarchical mass society formations. That 20th century outcome reveals in no uncertain terms that Marx, was never a Marxist, (as he asserted before he died), but a revolutionary-humanist who has been frequently misunderstood.

    For those interested in rescuing Marx’s revolutionary-humanism from the distorted  embrace of Marxists the latest Misunderstanding Marx – 6 is available on  Regards Roy

  • Thanks for this contribution to the debate about Saito’s new book. Bernabe says “the Green New Deal, to the extent that it envisages a green capitalism, is insufficient. Nothing short of the abolition of capitalism can hope to adequately address the climate emergency.” So should we wait for climate catastrophes much worse than now witnessed until capitalism is abolished? As Paulo Freire put it “what can we do now in order to be able to do tomorrow what we are unable to do today? Indeed a highly insufficient GND has already started driven by green capital but its character must be determined by global class struggle unfolding it in an ecosocialist direction.
    Futher, Bernabe claims “For the earth’s temperature to be kept within the required limits without relying on nuclear energy or dubious carbon capture technologies, global energy consumption must be reduced. This will require a reduction in production. Ecosocialism must therefore imply some measure of degrowth.”
    This is a claim commonly made by degrowthers, such as Jason Hickel, which is not backed up by evidence, and it fails to confront the real challenges humanity faces in this climate crisis. By all means, degrow and terminate the Military Industrial Fossil Fuel State Terror Complex. But tapping into the solar flux with high efficiency solar and wind power can supply more energy than now consumed globally (80% fossil fuel derived), as well as power industrial scale recycling of metals, phasing out extractive mining and direct air capture of carbon dioxide/permanent burial in the crust; see our modeling at:
    R&D is making this renewable energy transition technically easier but fossil capital and its political instruments must be defeated in the next two decades to have any chance of limiting warming to no more than 1.5 deg C. Degrowth of the global energy supply is a prescription for mass death especially in the global South because it will lead to even worse energy poverty than now exists and prevent the creation of the renewable energy capacity for climate adaptation and mitigation.
    Finally, Bernabe says “Thus, the ecosocialist struggle requires a program linking the ecological agenda and other working-class demands with the ultimate objective of replacing the capitalist state and economy with a socialist democracy and a socialized economy. The latter will not come about in the immediate future — but our present struggles must be geared in that direction, otherwise those objectives will be forever postponed.” Agreed, but begin with the imperative goal of defeating fossil capital and its political instruments, so don’t throw out the embryo of the GND with the bathwater.

    • Please read something by Alice Friedemann such as “Life After Fossil Fuels.” Or perhaps Albert Bates “Burn, Using Fire to Cool the Earth.”