Could socialism have resolved humankind's conflict with its environment?

Socialists aim to transform society so that the means of production and necessary infrastructure are commonly owned property rather than the property of private individuals. The most foremost theoretician of Socialism was Karl Marx. Since Marx's death in the late 19th century, the socialist movement has diverged into a large number of different currents. The main currents are Social Democracy, Stalinism and Trostkyism.

Corruption of Socialism in Twentieth by Stalin

The experience of Stalin's regime and the rule of like-minded regimes in other countries has badly tarnished the reputation of socialism. However, those who maintain that Stalin's murderous police state is synonymous with socialism usually conveniently overlook the struggle that took place in the early years of the Soviet Republic. They also ignore the fact the by the middle of the 1930's nearly all of the original leaders of the Bolshevik Party as the Communist Party was known in 1917 had been murdered or imprisoned by Stalin. It would therefore seem reasonable to ask if the outcome of the struggle had been different and the majority of original leaders, rather than Stalin, had retained power, would the Soviet Union have ended up as it had.

In the last months of Lenin's life, as he was afflicted with terminal illness, he asked Trotsky to act to remove Stalin from his post as General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (CPSU). He also put these wishes in a to the Central Committee of the CPSU which was to become known as :

“Stalin is too rude and this defect, although quite tolerable in our midst and in dealing among us Communists, becomes intolerable in a Secretary-General. That is why I suggest that the comrades think about a way of removing Stalin from that post and appointing another man in his stead “

In spite of his written authority from Lenin, and his own immense prestige arising from his leading of the victorious insurrection in 1917 and the loyalty of the Red Army derived from him having led it to victory in the Russian Civil war of 1918 until 1921, Trotsky inexplicably failed to act upon Lenin's instructions, until it was too late.

Trotsky even ignored the appeals for support of leaders of the Left Opposition at the watershed congress of the CPSU in 1927. At that congress even Stalin appealed to Trotsky for his support. However Trotsky remained steadfastly neutral until only after Stalin triumphed at the congress.

Only then did he act in order to form an alliance with the Left opposition whom he had previously turned his backs on (described in "The Prophet Unarmed" the second of three volumes of Isacc Deutscher's volume biography of Trotsky).

After this, Trotsky belatedly launched his epic international struggle against Stalin. This ended for him personally when he was murdered in August 1940 in Mexico on Stalin's orders.

During the intervening years he set up a new international organisation the Fourth International to challenge the influence of the Third Communist International which had been corrupted by Stalin.

In spite of promising beginnings, the Fourth International ultimately degenerated and split into a number of small ineffectual sectarian organisation.

An exception to this trend was the Trotskyist party in Sri Lanka (then known as Ceylon) They did form government after the Second World War but, like many other 'socialist' parties which have won government they had become corrupted and chose to leave the foundations of the capitalist system untouched, so the dream of socialism is no more a reality in Sri Lanka than anywhere else.

" id="SocialistCornucopianism">Socialist cornucopianism

Socialist organisations have helped to compound humanity's problems by having denied the finiteness of the planet. This has its roots in Marx's polemics against Malthus's ideas. Marx considered that human creativity would increase almost indefinitely the productive output of humankind, but ignored the fact that seeming advances in human productivity were largely based upon the depletion of humankind's finite endowment of natural capital, in particular fossil fuels and metals. For the past decades this has manifest itself in vigorous opposition by socialist organisations (ironically, almost in concert with the most extreme of capitalist globalisers) against any restriction upon immigration. In th 1970's the United States then-Trotskyist Socialist Workers Party even published a pamphlet "Too Many Babies?: The Myth of the Population Explosion" which denounced Paul Ehrlich, author of "The Population Bomb" as a kind of latter day Antichrist incarnation of Thomas Malthus.

In spite of the socialist movement's ambivalent contribution to human progress, humanity's best chance thus far of being able to achieve a sustainable world in harmony with it's life support system would have been the preservation of the health of the Russian Revolution and its spread to other countries. In spite of the flaws of the leaders of the Revolution including Lenin and Trotsky, if the Stalin and his supporters had been removed from power as Lenin had earnestly requested, it seems plausible that many of the decent ideals of the original revolution could have been preserved. It would have been an example that many in other countries would have willingly followed. As it was, many attempts by Communist Parties did come very close to success immediately following the initial triumph of the Russian Revolution and throughout the 1920's.

-environmental-stewardship" id="socialist-environmental-stewardship">Would world-wide socialism have better managed our finite endowment of natural capital?

However, even a socialist world, in which the power of capitalists had been broken, would have eventually had to come to grips with the finiteness of the planet's natural resources and would have, in all likelihood, have fallen considerably short of the stated ideal of socialism of 'too each according to his need and from each according to his ability'.

However, in a world, whose fate was not determined to suit the selfish interests of a small greedy elite, the warnings of scientists about the threats of global warming, loss for biodiversity and overpopulation would have more likely been heeded in time for the necessary changes to have been made and an orderly power-down and global reduction in population lasting many centuries may have been achievable.

The nightmare scenario we now face of the complete breakdown of civilisation and possibly even of our planetary life support system may have been avoided.

See also by Sandy Irvine downloadable as a 20 page from . This document can also be viewed as a html document as at

About Leon Trotsky

(1879-1940) led the Bolshevik insurrection of 1917 and subsequently became . Joseph Stalin, who took power of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (CPSU) in the late 1920's and ruthlessly suppressed his opponents, ordered Trotsky be killed by an assassin in 1940.

For all of Leon Trotsky's momentous accomplishments in his own life, much of his legacy has, largely for reasons over which he could have had no control following his murder in 1940, not assisted the advancement of humankind.

Leon Trotsky's flawed understanding of the Second World War

After 1939, Trotsky crudely transplanted Lenin's essentially correct analysis of the bloody inter-imperialist war, otherwise known as the First World War, to the Second World War. This analysis held that no capitalist nation fighting in the Second World War was any better than any other. Thus, Great Britain, the United States, Australia and New Zealand were no better than Nazi Germany, Fascist Italy and imperial Japan. Therefore, the duty of communists in these countries was to oppose their own government's war. (In Australia, this policy was carried out by the group known as the "Balmain Trotskyists" led by (1908-1996) and (1915-2009))

However, Trotsky drew a distinction between, on the one hand, the "inter-imperialist war", between the fascist states and the western capitalist allies and, on the other hand, the war between Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union. He still saw the latter as a post-capitalist "workers' state" in spite of Stalin's tyranny and, hence, humanity had a stake in supporting the Soviet Union.

So, whilst opposing U.S, participation in the war, Trotskyists, particularly in the U.S., supported the provision of aid by the U.S. government to the Soviet Union. A number of U.S. Trotskyists actually served as merchant seamen on the convoys which sailed through the perilous icy, U-boat-infested northern Atlantic waters to deliver cargo to the Soviet port of Murmansk.

Whether or not military action, by the U.S. Navy or Air Force, in defence of the convoys against or German U-boats or bombers would have constituted participation in the "inter-imperialist war", was not explained as far as I can recall.

Leon Trotsky's dismissal of non-Marxist political leaders

In Trotsky's world view, the only political leaders likely to be of any enduring worth, were those who fully embraced his program for world socialist revolution. Those who were not were reactionary or, at best, vacillating "petty bourgeoisie". Thus, in the Trotskyist world view, there was no merit to be found in U.S. and, or if he had still been around, President (JFK), and .

Jim Garrison could have ended the Vietnam War far sooner than the 'anti-war' Movement

This 'line' was effectively carried out in the 1960's by those who wore the label 'Trotskyist'. JFK and Bobby Kennedy were dismissed by the far-left as no better than other capitalist politicians. They chose not to dispute the fraudulent Warren Commission, which held that the solitary gunman, Lee Harvey Oswald, murdered JFK.

Jim Garrison's attempts to prosecute the murderers of JFK, as told in Oliver Stone's movie JFK (1991) would almost certainly have ended the bloody Vietnam War long before 1975 had he got assistance from just a few of the many thousands of activists participating in the protest movement. As an example, it would not have been far less likely that JFK's murderers would have then been able to murder Bobby Kennedy just as he was about to win the nomination for President of the United States at the Democratic Convention in 1968. The Vietnam War would have ended on the day of Bobby Kennedy's Presidential inauguration in January 1969, if not before.

Whatever may have been the motivations of the leaders of this protest movement, the practical outcome was the prolongation, and not the ending, of that war. The consequences for the people of Indo-China were far more tragic than they need have been.

The demise of an Australian Marxist blog site

has disappeared! The now displays the message:

Blog has been removed
Sorry, the blog at has been removed.
This address is not available for new blogs.

A google search returned a fragment of presumably the last entry on the now non-existent web site : :

This is the last entry in my political diary and blog. This activity has served its ...

I believe I recall elsewhere that the next word in the unfinished sentence was 'purpose'. There was also a link to the full archive of the blog as a pdf document, but the first time I looked the link was broken and the second time I looked I could not even find that record.

Why the author suddenly decided not only to discontinue his diary, but to completely remove it from the Internet, together with the archives, is a mystery. The cost of keeping the blog on the Internet as it was would either have been nothing or very little. Others, including myself, who had commented on the site and may have mislaid their local backups will find that their contributions have been lost forever, and any links back to his site will now be broken.

Dialogue in regard to the finiteness of our planet, population and immigration needed.

As referred to in , I had posted comments to his web site. A few of these sought to challenge the cornucopianism of Marxism which causes most Marxist adherents to either advocate open borders or, at best, to discourage discussion of the issue. None of my posts drew a response from the author personally. This has been surprisingly typical of Marxists, in spite of the claims of Marxism to be the most advanced of all political philosophies and most able to sustain critical scrutiny by other philosophical schools.

Another web-site of a person who sees value in Marxist thought, but who is, nevertheless critical of its unthinking cornucopianism of many of its adherents, maintained by Sandy Irvine of the United Kingdom. It's home page states (emphases included are my own):

This website promotes the cause of ecological sustainability. By that, we mean that the conservation of environmental systems, biodiversity and bioregional human cultures must be society's overriding goal. We are committed to a politics for life on earth, all life not just its human form. This politics is founded on an ethos of 'enoughness', sharing the Earth's bounty, rather than the avaricious 'moreness' that dominates contemporary culture.

To put it another way, we oppose the suicidal politics of unlimited expectations and open-ended entitlements, be they under the guise of the so-called 'free' market', 'mixed' economies or centrally planned economic systems. We are therefore against unrestrained population growth and the pursuit of open-ended economic expansion. We similarly dissent from the modern cult of salvation through technological miracles. Equally, we seek to unmask fraudulent goals and policies such as so-called sustainable development.

Tragically, most organisations and indeed large sections of the general public are living in a fantasy world. They behave as if it were possible for society to continue on it present course without disaster. They are living as if there were no tomorrow, thus ensuring that the future will be bleak indeed. The overriding and all-embracing issue today is that the foundations of life on Earth are crumbling. The only truly realistic politics is one that address that reality.

The primary challenge of our times, then, is to cut down the scale of human activity and live within natural limits, to 'think shrink'. All else is a matter, as Fritz Schumacher once put it, of rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic. Overall, our culture, our technologies, our political and economic systems, must be rooted in the checks and balances of life on Earth ... and the sooner we begin to make the transition, the easier and more satisfactory it is likely to be.

The ecological alternative -- a society sustainably in balance with the Earth's capacities, patterns and rhythms -- is also one which most likely a way of life more satisfying and, indeed, more convivial than the destructive rat race that is the hallmark of contemporary lifestyles. Ecocentrism -- Earth first -- not egocentrism must be the watchword.

So if one trail has gone cold, at least there is now another one which is very warm.

Wayburn contra Hanson

Peak Oil, Overshoot, Crash, and Dieoff

No one has done more or better work than Jay Hanson to acquaint interested
persons with Hubbert's concept of Peak Oil. On his website, {1}, Jay has described Overshoot, Crash, and Dieoff well enough for all of us. This work does not need to be repeated. However, there is another side to Jay:

Authoritarianism and Intolerance

It seems that, corresponding to egalitarian tastes and authoritarian tastes, there has been a right and left wing of every political movement: Nazis, Communists, and, now, Peakers. Apparently, Mr. Hanson is almost completely self-taught. I cannot find any reference to a university background of any type. Like many such people Jay made money in the computer business and, probably, considers himself a self-made man. Regrettably, some people of that description are given to right-wing tendencies. Presumably, they imagine that, since they “made it”, everyone can make it; and, it’s their own fault if they don’t. Jay belongs to the right wing of the Peak Oil movement whereas I belong to the left wing.

From time to time, Jay has provided a list of background subjects and associated reading material, not for our personal study as he claims, but to mark out territory throughout which he pretends to have complete intellectual mastery. He claims to be willing to answer our questions, but only if we are willing to sit at his feet. Nor does he tolerate dissent {7}. Although the subject matter is science, scientific doubt and fallibility are completely foreign to his nature, which is anything but scientific. Moreover, he has very little math. Thus, he is vulnerable to the most egregious errors in the interpretation of scientific and numerical data from which he has no chance to recover. In the remainder of this note I discuss the inconsistencies in Jay Hanson’s versions of the Sloth Economy and War Socialism.

The Sloth Economy and War Socialism

Both Wayburn and Hanson have observed that market economies are efficient in one respect only. They transfer wealth from the poor to the rich with the minimum effort by the rich at a catastrophic cost to the energy efficiency associated with earning a living by those who serve the rich. In the United States, the market economy itself consumes between 50% and 90% of the total energy budget without producing one single thing we need to live {2}. Thus, both Hanson and Wayburn recognize that the only chance to mitigate the worst effects of Peak Oil is to effect fundamental political change. Wayburn's Natural Economy {3} replaces the market economy with a consumer-planned economy in such a way that the energy budget can be met by Maximum Renewables {4}only, provided that population growth can be checked. Hanson's War Socialism attempts to reduce the energy budget with rationing. This is too little too late, as we shall see, despite the somewhat misleading title War Socialism Is a Step toward a Natural Economy {5}. The following entries to The Dematerialist's Journal will be useful to see the important differences: June 16, 2007. Jay Hanson's War Socialism is a point on the path to the Dematerialist's Natural Economy {6}supplemented by Hanson's Last Stand {7}, which is a slight modification of the journal entry for July 9th, and July 27, 2007. Communism and Some Idle Thoughts on the Excesses of Capitalism {8}, which is a useful rebuttal to opponents of communism and defenders of Marxism.

Thus, Jay Hanson's scientism fails Popper's fallibility criterion and his alternative to the free market is inconsistent with sustainability.

Tom Wayburn
Houston, Texas
September 25, 2007










This paper:

Fault with the Russian Revolution did not originate with Stalin

This is a response to the article - admin Democratic Centralism the underlying flaw pf the Communist movement In a nutshell, I think that your faith in the Russian Revolution is misplaced. Like many critics of Stalin, you don't see that the fault does not originate with Uncle Joe but with Lenin's concept of democratic centralism, a concept that made Stalin, Mao, Castro, and Ho Chi Minh inevitable. Trotsky was a Stalinist who lost a power struggle. His firm resolution and ruthless determination to win was demonstrated by how he put down the workers at the Kronstadt "revolt" where he said he would shoot them down like rabbits - and he did. It is unlikely that there ever would have been a successful revolution without Lenin and his idea of what kind of a party it takes to capture power in an agragrian society. It could not be a party like the German Social Democratic Party. The SPD could afford to be a bottom-up organization because it was operating in an industrialized country where 80% of the population were potential supporters--working class. And in a political environment of much less persecution. Lenin's Russian Social Democrats were organized around the clandestine distribution of a newspaper, Iskra. He knew a successful Russian revolutionary party had to be disciplined like an army and led by a General Staff. His favourite book was "On War" by Clausewitz. The Mensheviks and the Social Revolutionaries were far too loose. Trotsky was originally a Menshivik but he came over to Lenin's thinking. For him, democratic centralism was a compromise between dictatorship and democracy. A political party that represents only 10% of the population cannot be open to the 90% of peasantry whose behaviour historically was unruly and unpredictable. The peasants must be led, not followed. Other communist parties have given different weight to each part of the 'worker-peasant' alliance, but in all cases, it is the party, not the classes, which is in control. Does it make such a difference if it is rule by committee or cult rule by one man? Marxist-Leninism a strategy for seizing power in a pre-industrial society So Marxist-Leninism is a strategy for seizing power in a pre-industrial society. It was not meant to be the template for socialism. Lenin and his colleagues assumed that a Russian Revolution was only a stop-gap until a larger revolution in Europe would occur, dethrone capitalism, and then a socialist Europe with its industrial might would come to the rescue of the Russian revolution and save it from barbarism. No one in Russia for a moment believed in "socialism in one country." Not in a peasant society. The peasant commune had broken down and if it hadn't it did not have the material basis to provide for a decent living. Lenin defined utopia as "socialism plus electricity". But the European revolution did not come. Barely. History's turning point was 1919. Not just in Europe, but in North America too. That is when we had capitalism on the ropes. Mass strikes everywhere. We came ever so close. Read a book called the Red Mirage. Last year I read a couple of novels about Rosa Luxemburg and the German Revolution of 1919. That was the Marxism that the world was supposed to know. Democratic and free as well as egalitarian. And no personality cults. Instead, the world knows only Leninism and social democracy.(Labourism). This is the failed revolution you should be lamenting, not the Russian one. Socialist attitude to nature And what of the socialist attitude to nature? Well, I am skeptical that Marxists of any kind would have accepted limits to growth. They were captured by the Victorian zeitgeist. There is a tradition however of pre-Marxian socialists who were affected by an appreciation of nature. William Cobbett comes to mind. I am sure there were Russian socialists of that order too (Chernashevsky?) This is an area I would love to explore. What I have written above comes off the top of my head from memory cells that have not been accessed since the Beatles were number one on the charts. Some of my "facts" might need checking. Everything I wrote then is stored away in a locker somewhere. God knows where. Could socialism have ended unsustainable growth? The argument you put forward is interesting and the is what interests me most. If we were able to disarm the profit motive from society and dismantle Madison avenue, would that alone be sufficient to undercut the most decisive lobby for population growth in our countries? Would that put an end to growthism? The environmental record of the Soviet Bloc, China, North Korea, Nasser's socialist Egypt, was appalling. Social democratic governments in Canada permitted Crown corporations to do much damage as well and currently both regimes are committed to population and economic growth. Where in the left-wing mindset is there, necessarily, a Malthusian inhibition? My feeling is that that understanding issues from an intuitive understanding of our predicament, not a scientific, or "ideological" one. That is why I am no longer a "scientific" socialist. Someone Marx had no time for.