International Socialist Organization targets ecological destruction through systemic change

By Christopher McDonald

The International Socialist Organization of Amherst held a meeting last week at the University of Massachusetts to discuss capitalism and its effect on the environment. The meeting, which involved a speech by Washington-based activist Brian Ward, stressed the incompatibility between capitalism and ecological sustainability.

The ISO believes that systemic overhaul toward a socialist society will help harmonize the relationship between man and earth. Its stance is based on the belief that socialism can allow for material production based on, as Ward put it, “human need, not profit.”

Based on the organization’s website, the ISO has upward of 80 branches across America. It publishes a newspaper, Socialist Worker, which comments on news of the day through the lens of Marxism. Socialist Worker centers itself on the idea that “War, poverty, exploitation, and worldwide environmental destruction are products of the capitalist system. … The alternative is socialism, a society based on workers collectively owning and controlling the wealth their labor creates.”

Ward started the discussion of capitalism and ecology in the wake of a massive climate change rally in New York City. Noting the far-reaching capabilities of the climate change discussion, Ward stressed the possibility of a partnership between environmental policy change advocates and a national socialist movement.

“Socialism is eco-friendly,” Ward said. In his opinion, capitalism can never bring about the change needed to help the environment because need for profit will always overshadow sustainable ecological practices.

The ISO believes that the solution to ecological problems is ending a capitalist system that promotes overproduction of goods, unsustainable growth and exploitation of labor.

David Woodsome, an ISO member, synthesized this point by stating, “Accumulation, accumulation, accumulation are the Moses and all the prophets of capitalism. Capitalism needs to expand or else it will falter.”

Socialism is the ideal system in the minds of Ward, Woodsome and their associates, allowing laborers to take back the means of production. This, according to socialist theory, will allow for a sustainable future based on the needs of all people, not just the needs of a profit seeking, powerful elite.

One of the major points of discussion at the meeting was multinational oil companies. The socialists see the companies’ refusal to limit fossil fuel extraction as an example of the incongruity of capitalism and ecological sustainability. This discussion led to the idea that the only way these companies can be stopped is through threat to profit by way of labor strikes.

The Socialist Worker explains that capitalism is “a system in which a minority ruling class profits from the labor of the majority. … Workers create society’s wealth, but have no control over its production and distribution.” To see change in the system, they call for the working class to withhold their labor, and therefore withhold profits.

As the service sectors of the working class start to strike across America, the ISO hopes other sectors will join. They know it is an uphill battle that starts with one conversation at a time and by challenging conventional belief systems.

ISO member Donna Stern exemplified this personal struggle with capitalism through a popular figure of speech.

“I was drinking the Kool-Aid, and Kool-Aid is bad for the environment,” she said.

The ISO of Amherst will continue to hold meetings regarding contemporary issues and how they relate to socialism throughout the month of October.

“Race, Class, & Rebellion: The Lessons of Ferguson” will be held Oct. 8 in the Campus Center at the University of Massachusetts. All meetings are free and open to the public.


Christopher McDonald can be reached at [email protected]