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.

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: