Second meeting is larger, with strong representation from the global south
By Cy Gonick
On February 2, the day after the concluding session of the World Social
Forum in Belem, Brasil, an estimated 110 delegates turned up at the second
ever meeting of the Ecosocialist International Network. The first meeting
of the EIN, attracting 60 ecosocialists, was held in Paris in October 2007.
That meeting, made up mainly of northern intellectuals, concluded that the
second meeting needed to bring in ecosocialists of the south including
indigenous peoples. That goal was fully accomplished at Belem. By my count
fewer than 25 of the delegates were of the north (three from Canada, the
others mainly European). The rest were South Americans, mainly from Brasil
with a sizable group from Peru including the veteran revolutionary Hugo
Blanco, and one each from Africa and India.
One of the main objectives of this meeting was to consider the draft of the
Ecosocialist Declaration, a revised verion of the Ecosocialist Manifesto
written by Joel Kovel and Michael Lowy nearly a decade earlier.
A fair amount of the discussion occurred around the wisdom of using the term
‘socialist’ with its negative associations in Peru where the Shining Path, a
Maoist group, killed thousands of peasants over a decade or so but also in
Chile, where a weak kneed social democratic government calls itself
socialist, to say nothing of the abuses and environmental catastrophes of
the old USSR.
The conclusion of this discussion seemed to be to retain the
name ‘ecosocialist’ but to remind people that this is 21st century socialism
of Cuba and Venezuela, not of the Shining Path and Chernobyl.
Joel Kovel explained that if traditional socialism focused on more
production and more work, ecosocialism is about the conversion of production
and the reorganization of cities along ecocentric principles; and about the
reduction of work hours and the democratization of the workplace. Only
limits on accumulation will save the planet, he said, concluding that
society will transcend capitalism only with ecosocialism
Kovel said that ecosocialism is a new idea, an historic idea with the
potential to mobilize millions into action to meet the challenges of energy
security, food security and climate change. While the ecosocialist
declaration is an evolving document, with vigorous effort and good
organization the network, he declared, could get a million signatures
world-wide endorsing the declaration, or 10 million and even a hundred
And ecosocialism needs to be taken into the state, the unions and
everywhere. But that requires an organizational structure and a budget, that
does not currently exist. The EIN is almost entirely a virtual (on line)
organization. An organizational structure now exists in only a few
Although none of the indigenous Canadian organizers of the Defenders of the
Land Gathering held in Winnipeg last fall were present at this meeting, I
had the impression throughout that they would feel very comfortable here and
in terms of their struggles against resource exploitation that they would be
in the vanguard of the EIN.
Several delegates emphasized the importance of getting ecology accepted as a
central issue within the WSF and introducing ecosocialism to the larger
environmental movement. At the moment, ecosocialism is still marginal and,
being anticapitalist, anti-imperialist, anti-racist and socialist at the
fringes of today¹s environmental movement.
Upcoming 2009 events for mobilizations include the October Defenders of
Mother Earth in Peru and the December UN Kyoto Round Two meetings in
Copenhagen, the latter of which is expected to attract vast numbers of
environmentalists some of whom aim to shut down the meetings.
As it turned out, the meeting decided that further work on the Ecosocialist
Declaration is necessary in particular to make it a shorter, more popular
statement and one with more punch. And little was actually decided about
organization except to work towards establishing national and regional
committees and ultimately an international office.
Obviously, much work lies ahead.
Video of this historic meeting: http://youtube.com/watch?v=II3_DD0mqwU