… and on some key issues facing ecosocialists today
by Ian Angus
Canada’s Society for Socialist Studies met in Vancouver June 4-7. Cy Gonick, publisher of Canadian Dimension, invited me to speak on the Second Ecosocialist Manifesto at a session on ecosocialism, which I was eager to do. Unfortunately, I was unable to attend, and Greg Albo of Socialist Project very kindly took my place.
The following are the speaking notes I prepared for the talk I wasn’t able to give. I offer them here as a contribution to the discussion on the Manifesto.
Our goal today is to begin discussion of the Draft Second Ecosocialist Manifesto and its possible relevance for the left in Canada. To start things off, I will provide some background on the Manifesto, and raise some questions that the meeting may wish to consider.
The First Ecosocialist Manifesto was written by Michael Lowy from France and Joel Kovel from the United States, in 2001. It played an important role in defining the ecosocialist project, but although it was widely read, it remained a literary effort — a Manifesto without a movement, if you will. Joel Kovel offers this comment on it:
“The original Manifesto was largely a two-man operation. It was not responsive to the wishes of an already functioning formation (as was the case for the Communist Manifesto of 1848). It served to play some role in getting such a formation going. But once this happened, something reflecting the activity, and conceptions, of that new formation–the EIN–would be required. This is one reason we set up the process for drafting the Second Manifesto in such a way that the voices of the emerging collective could be registered.”
In the Spring of 2007, Joel and Michael, joined by Ian Angus from Canada and Derek Wall, a leader of the Green Left in England, issued a call for an international meeting in Paris, to discuss the possibility of creating some form of international collaboration among people who define themselves as ecosocialists. That meeting, held in Paris in October, was attended by 65 people from a dozen countries. People from another dozen or so countries expressed interest and support, but were unable to attend.
The meeting was a big step forward for the ecosocialist current, although it had obvious weaknesses. In particular, the great majority of attendees were from left groups in western Europe, and only a handful came from the global south. Much of the discussion focussed on ways of overcoming that weakness.
The meeting made four major decisions:
- It called for an “Ecosocialist International Network,” to be formally established at a meeting in Belem, Brazil in January 2009, in conjunction with the World social Forum.
- It selected an International Coordinating Committee to plan and organize the Belem meeting.
- It decided to launch a website and online discussion forum to promote the EIN and enable participation.
- It appointed a committee of three — Joel Kovel, Michael Lowy, and Ian Angus — to draft a Second Ecosocialist Manifesto. That Draft would be discussed and edited internationally and then brought to Belem for adoption as the political basis for the EIN.
The Draft Second Ecosocialist Manifesto was completed two months ago. It was then turned over to a separate 4-person committee that better represents the new forces we hope to attract, to organize the international discussion. (The new committee includes two people from Brazil, and three women. All are much younger than the three “old white guys” who wrote the draft!)
The public discussion is now taking place on the EIN forum on yahoogroups. We hope to be able to move on to preparation of a second draft, based on that discussion, by the beginning of July. So people who wish to contribute should do so quickly.
When making comments and suggestions, I think it is important to bear in mind that the Manifesto is not intended to be a comprehensive document covering all the issues and setting out firm positions on all disputed questions. On the contrary, it is meant to establish a framework for common action among the very wide range of people who consider themselves ecosocialists.
Most are Marxists, but some are not. Some favour building vanguard parties, some are very much opposed. Some believe the working class is the most important engine of social change; others focus on “social movements” of various kinds. Some are vegans, some are not.
We come from different backgrounds, and have very different experiences. Any attempt to impose answers to questions such as these would be at least premature, and may never be possible.
We need to have a basis for collaboration despite our disagreements. That’s what the Manifesto aims to be.
I’ll conclude my remarks with some questions that I think need to be considered by EIN supporters internationally, and by ecosocialists in Canada as well.
- What is, or should be, our relationship to other international initiatives whose goals overlap with ours? I’m thinking in particular of the Climate Justice Now Coalition, founded in Bali last December, and the international appeal launched by the “Climate Change / Social Change” conference in Australia last month. These are very important developments, and finding ways to engage with those activists will, in my opinion, be a fundamental test of the EIN’s viability.
- Similarly, how can Canadian ecosocialists work effectively with indigenous movements in this country? The most important practical actions and life-or-death battles against capitalist ecocide in this country have been initiated and led by First Nations. The fights against the tar sands in Alberta, and against uranium and platinum mining on Ontario are important examples. Again, I suggest that finding ways to engage with those activists, will be a fundamental test for the ecosocialist current in Canada.
- More broadly, how can we collaborate in Canada, despite our differences on many issues, to promote ecosocialist ideas in the left and green movements? While it is undoubtedly premature to create any kind of ecosocialist organization, we do need ways to communicate and collaborate. What role can existing publications and groups like Canadian Dimension, Rabble, Socialist Project and Climate and Capitalism play in facilitating this?
In short — where do we go from here?