5 Responses

  1. Paul Petit July 18, 2013 at 10:12 pm |

    Hi Ian, I met you briefly on your visit to Adelaide, South Australia, a few years ago. I would call myself an ecosocialist and I have to agree with much of what you say.

    However, I think that the “concrete proposals for actually making the necessary change” need to include concrete policies for advancing the struggle in the immediate sense.

    I am not convinced that the Australian Socialist Alliance has come to terms with this. It appears to me that, although they actively work in the climate movement, they tend to promote a maximalist program in place of concrete immediate demands and policies.

    I was also disappointed when I looked at the web site for “system change not climate change”. They show this “demand” – if you can call it that – at the centre of their banner in a rally. That seems to me to be completely inappropriate. Ecosocialists may well have this as their perspective that informs their policies but the role of socialists is to advance the immediate struggle and to focus on what needs to be done next.

    Such a slogan may help to build their particular organisation but it is not what the broader movement needs.

    Decades ago, when I was a member of the Australian SWP, I was continually campaigning within that party for activism around concrete demands instead of just abstract propaganda. My efforts had mixed results.

    – Paul Petit

  2. Richard Fidler July 4, 2013 at 9:21 pm |

    Ian, you make an effective case for the urgency of action to confront climate change. As you say, “fighting capitalist ecocide must be at the heart of… our activity.” And you call for “concrete proposals for actually making the necessary change” to socialism.

    But your argument would be strengthened if you could cite some examples of how this is being done, or could be done — what kinds of activity it entails. You refer obliquely, without particulars, to the Australian Socialist Aliance and the North American ISO current. And then you talk about what an ecosocialist government would do, and some principles for an ecological civilization. A distant perspective, I fear.

    But how can socialists help build and advance the really existing ecology movement?

    We have many examples here in Canada, a country strangely missing from the agenda at the ISO conference where you spoke, although the event attracted a number of ecosocialists from this country. (I leave aside another notable omission – the absence of any agenda item at Socialism 2013 devoted to Latin America, where some of the most far-reaching battles against climate change are being waged today, some led by governments that could self-identify as ecosocialist.)

    Let’s take one example, the current and mounting struggle in Canada against projects to pipe tar sands products from Alberta cross-country to Quebec and the Maritime provinces. As you yourself have noted, in other contexts, the fight against these pipeline projects, like Enbridge’s Line 9 reversal, has “profound local, national and global implications” and effectively challenges the Harper government’s commitment to making Canada an “energy superpower.”

    Popular opposition to these pipelines and the tar sands is uniting environmental activists and socialists in Canada with their counterparts in Quebec, and with the burgeoning indigenous grassroots movement Idle No More, in an unprecedented coalition of struggle against climate change and the federal and provincial governments hell-bent on pursuing catastrophic fossil-fuel development.

    As I write, th e Enbridge Line 9 terminal at Westover, Ont. is being occupied by a coalition of indigenous and non-indigenous activists.

    Within the next few days, activists from Quebec and the indigenous movements will be marching in Alberta with others from across Canada in the Tar Sands Healing Walk, which will include leading militants engaged in organizing a pan-Canadian social forum to promote dialogue and united action by these disparate social forces. These kinds of initiatives offer the potential to build an ongoing movement that bridges the major social, constitutional and historical fault-lines that have long divided progressive opinion and movements within the Canadian state.

    One aspect that is not clearly addressed by many of these activists has to do with the mega-politics of climate change issues.We have a problem in Canada: all the major political parties, including the labour-based New Democratic Party (NDP) and the pro-sovereignty Parti Québécois government in Quebec, are on record as supporting the pan-Canadian pipeline projects or moving to endorse them. And unfortunately, the leaderships of the major trade unions likewise support these projects and therefore continued tar sands exploitation.

    As might be expected, many environmental activists are accordingly inclined to focus solely on direct-action protests “on the ground” and avoid engaging critically with these parties and social movements that are still regarded by millions as their best hope for fighting the ravages of neoliberalism.

    Ecosocialists who are aware of the need to pose the question of government, as you do in your ISO talk, can and should play a vital role in helping the environmental movement to gain a perspective for political change that challenges the head-in-the-sand approach of the social democrats, Quebec nationalists, and trade union bureaucrats — a movement that can critically engage with NDP and labour militants without illusions but with the understanding of the need to build that mass political alternative that ultimately can reverse the headlong rush toward climate disaster.

    For a recent example of how these conflicts play themselves out, I recommend some of these articles by Vancouver-based activist Roger Annis, in relation to the recent British Columbia election and the political forces and environmental issues it involved (Apologies — it seems I am unable to post hyperlinks; however, these articles can be accessed through a Google search):

    * On the May 14, 2013 election outcome: British Columbia election frustrates labour, environmental and Indigenous activists, May 24, 2013
    * On the key environment issues in the province on the eve of the May 14 election: : All signs point to deepening opposition to the fossil fuel industry assault in British Columbia, May 18, 2013
    * An Oct 2012 article taking on directly the issue of trade unions in Canada and the climate emergency: A movement against tar sands oil, pipelines and tankers is on the rise in Canada
    * A comprehensive article on fossil fuel issues in Canada and BC (two parts), June 2010: British Columbia’s fossil fuel superpower ambitions.

    — Richard Fidler

    1. Ian Angus July 5, 2013 at 3:58 am |

      Richard, I entirely agree that we need much more discussion of ‘what is to be be done’ by socialists and others, to delay or turn back capitalist ecocide. Thank you for your contribution to that process. The articles you list can be found on Roger Annis’s website, A Socialist in Canada.

      It obviously wasn’t possible in one talk to discuss all the experiences we’ve had to date. But — to the credit of the organizers of the Socialism 2013, there was quite a bit of such discussion at the conference, and contrary to your impression, Canada was far from ‘strangely missing.” For example:

      ** Suzanne Weiss spoke on the Toronto campaign against Enbridge Line 9 in a excellent panel on ‘The New Environmental Movement.” This panel also featured a report on the global south, including the Cochabamba Conference

      ** Saskatchewan-based Cree activist Alex Wilson spoke on “Native American resistance: From Idle No More to KXL.”

      ** And there were many informal reports on socialist participation in environmental organizing in the U.S., Australia, and Britain, both in the 4 regular conference sessions on ‘Environmental Issues’ and in a well-attended workshop for participants in such struggles Friday evening.

      Obviously there could have been much more, but there was more discussion of environmental activism at Socialism 2013 that at any I’ve previously attended. It was an important step forward for ecosocialism in the organized left.

  3. Constance Lever- Tracy July 4, 2013 at 8:26 pm |

    A very interesting case on the implications of placing ecology at the core of a socialist movement today. The greater vulnerability
    of poor and developing countries to climate change is one basis for global solidarity, but important also to stress this is a shared threat – include references to hurricane Sandy, Australian bushfires, European floods etc

  4. Richard Levins July 2, 2013 at 3:56 pm |

    Thanks, Ian. A powerful and eloquent call for the revolutionary changes we need so urgently.

    In my current work I am underlining the ecological principle of succession, that eco- and ecosocial systems develop in ways that prepare for their own replacement and that each kind of society develops its own relations with the rest of nature.

    In the current disputes among radicals:

    If two plausible arguments reach opposite conclusions, the problem has been posed too narrowly;

    If movements for meeting human needs come into conflict they are asking too little;

    All theories are wrong which promote, justify, or tolerate injustice and ecocide.

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