UK blogger Jeremy William, who works for the Christian charity Lifewords, commented on the Ecosocialist International Network in the ecology blog Celsias last week. He’s sympathetic and interested, but more than a little sceptical…
Last week saw the birth of a new movement. You may have noticed it, but probably not. In a hotel in Paris, delegates from 13 different countries convened the first meeting of the Ecosocialist International Network.
Now, I know for many people the alarm bells are furiously ringing at the mention of socialism, and sure, it’s a term that carries a lot of baggage. The socialists didn’t exactly cover themselves in glory last time around, and with the possible exception of Hugo Chavez in Venezuela, nobody has really proved socialism can work in the 21st century. The 60 delegates at last week’s meeting are hoping to change that, by making the greens more red, and the reds more green…
Socialism and environmentalism go back a long way. It’s debatable whether Karl Marx himself had any green leanings, but certainly many socialists have combined their politics with ecology, from the English novelist William Morris to US presidential candidate Joel Kovel. It works the other way too – plenty of ecologists find themselves drawn to socialism almost by accident, as they discover a common enemy in our runaway capitalist economies. In recent years the anti-globalization movement has repeatedly seen both groups protesting side by side, and there has been increasing crossover in Green Party politics. Conservatives have even had to invent a new term of abuse – watermelon – for people or policies that are ‘green on the outside and red on the inside’.
Ecosocialism in this particular incarnation was born in 2001, with the Ecosocialist Manifesto , written by Joel Kovel and Michael Löwy, both of whom were present at last week’s conference. Six years and a few books, articles and blogs later, the ecosocialists are formalising their network and laying out their stand. The conference press release sums it up like this:
“Ecosocialists believe that the driving force of the ecological crisis is the ruthless pressure of the capitalist system to expand, in a process which destroys not only the integrity of nature but also the ecological basis of human survival. Ecosocialism is a dynamic synthesis between ‘red’ and ‘green’ approaches. It has no fixed blueprints for transforming society and takes a critical viewpoint toward the experiences made in the name of socialism during the last century.”
Noble aims, but will putting ‘eco’ on the front be enough for people to give socialism a second chance? Time will tell, and you’ll find me in the ‘wait and see’ camp. So far the Ecosocialists themselves are optimistic. In the words of one conference delegate:
“Ecosocialism is a word that does not yet appear in any dictionary, yet we believe that it represents the single best hope for healing the planet and saving society from ecological devastation.”
(Thanks to Tim of Green Left Infoasis for alerting me to this.)