We don’t have to settle for neoliberal half-measures.

by Liza Featherstone, In These Times

Anyone perusing Twitter or reading the works of Karl Marx will notice that socialists can get fractious with one another. But as one hardworking ecosocialist leader in the New York City chapter of the Democratic Socialists of America (NYC-DSA) will tell you, an existential threat to humanity like climate change can bring people together. ​“It’s not like we’re debating about Lenin,” Charlie Heller joked over coffee in June (though he acknowledged his comrades did have diverse perspectives on Lenin).

“Something about being focused on climate makes you crazy in a unique way,” Heller says. ​“We are here to win and we have to seize the power of the state, because nothing else can address this global crisis at a scale that can match it.”

activists protest for the BPRA in new york

Heller was reflecting on a major ecosocialist victory, a phrase that would have seemed oxymoronic five years ago. That victory was New York state’s Build Public Renewables Act (BPRA), a big step toward a Green New Deal. While other states have taken steps as well — Illinois’ 2021 labor-led Climate and Equitable Jobs Act comes to mind — New York is the first state to do so in a way that explicitly rejects the neoliberal obligation to put corporate profits first. Instead, the BPRA puts the publicly owned New York Power Authority in charge of building renewable energy with a mandate to do so in the interest of working people.

Ecosocialists in New York won because their goal was unabashedly socialist, because they’d built a bench of elected leaders, and because they were willing to try everything — even with great risk — while rethinking strategies that weren’t working.

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