London Conference: A Model of Ecosocialist Collaboration

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On September 12, about 100 people attended “Climate and Capitalism,” a one-day conference in London, England, organized by Green Left and Socialist Resistance.

by Ian Angus

I was invited to participate as editor of this website, and as editor of The Global Fight for Climate Justice, published this summer by Resistance Books. (The meeting was in part a launch-event for the book.) I spoke at the opening plenary, and in a workshop on the Global South.

Often, meetings like this are actually organized by one group, with one or two others as passive sponsors, named on the poster but otherwise not very involved. That was decidedly NOT the case this time. In fact, from everything I could see, this was almost a perfect example of collaboration between two groups – Green Left, the organized ecosocialist tendency within the Green Party of England and Wales; and Socialist Resistance, the British section of the Trotskyist Fourth International.

In his talk to the final session, Liam Mac Uaid of Socialist Resistance explained the approach that both groups took to planning the event.

“We very deliberately set out to make it internationalist and pluralistic. As you will have seen it was a genuine collaboration between Socialist Resistance and the Green Left. Both of us brought something of our own approach. Neither side was interested in ‘poaching’ a couple of the other’s members.

“I’m not privy to their inner secrets but I’m guessing that Green Left is not planning entry work in Respect anytime soon and we won’t be joining the Green Party either. It has been a genuine example of two currents who agree on the importance of ecosocialism working together. Nothing more and nothing less.

“The result has been a better event than either of us could have pulled off left to our own devices. Being in separate organizations is a lot less important than agreeing on many aspects of the politics and the event today shows that it is possible to organize together around those parts of politics on which we have a shared understanding.”

Such collaboration is an absolutely essential part of building a mass ecosocialist movement. Quoting Liam Mac Uaid again:

“If we are to are to build a mass movement to successfully challenge the climate change that capitalism is creating those of us on the traditional Marxist left have to admit that we have a great deal to learn from those individuals and organizations which have taken the issue much more seriously than we have for a great deal longer than we have. …

“You don’t do that without listening to our guests from the Climate Camp, the Campaign Against Climate Change, Harcan Clearskies and the experiences of those for whom climate change is already a life or death in the global south.

“Marxism was greatly enriched by the women’s movement. It has as much to learn from the environmental movement if it is to retain its relevance as an instrument for changing the world in the coming decades. If you have not realized that today you can’t really have been paying attention.

“It also means that Marxists have to get away from the increasingly bizarre and unsustainable idea that integrating ecology in a meaningful way into political practice and programme is in some way a retreat from class politics motivated only by a desire to either recruit a tiny number of members of the Green Party or an abandonment of class struggle.”

Liam has posted the full text of his remarks on his blog.

Every session of the meeting – plenaries and workshops – included speakers and moderators from at least the two sponsoring groups, as well as others, including the Scottish Socialist Party, Permanent Revolution, the Campaign Against Climate Change Trade Union Group, and independent activists.

Even more significantly, every session I attended or heard about included full and comradely discussion and debate from the floor. There was an impressive and refreshing willingness to express and listen to different views on analysis, strategy and tactics. Those discussions spilled out of the formal sessions into the hallways during breaks, and they continued for several hours in a nearby pub.

I won’t try to summarize all the discussions — in any event, with four simultaneous sessions in the morning and afternoon, I couldn’t attend them all. Fortunately the organizers had the foresight to record all of them. Some are already posted on the Green Left blog – I recommend them highly.

Obviously 100 people don’t constitute a mass movement. But by organizing this event, and carrying it off in fine style, Green Left and Socialist Resistance have set an example that ecosocialists worldwide should learn from and emulate.


  • Laugh out loud.

    AWL is a tiny sectarian group? And yet

    1. We’re probably about twice the size of Socialist Resistance (in addition to actually having some, you know, young members, trade unionists etc).
    2. We have played an important role in, for instance, the left wing of Climate Camp and, of course, in the Vestas struggle. How do you account for this?

    Derek, doesn’t your last comment come down to: “I don’t like being criticised, so now I’m going to sulk by refusing to report on any good initiatives if the AWL is involved!”

    This is not a good way for the left to operate. Let’s continue to work together and publicise each other’s activities, while also criticising in a sharp and revolutionary manner!

  • AWL are a tiny sectarian group and very hostile to the positive changes occuring in Latin America, don’t worry about them….nobody in the UK does.

    I have supported some of their work before and blogged about it, this I have concluded was a mistake.

  • Hi Ian,

    If you’re not a Trotskyist or a member of the Fourth International – our mistake. Let us know the score and we’ll post a clarification.

    1. The reason we left was that we had an event of our own in the afternoon. It wasn’t fleeing from the scene in terror of your polemic or whatever. As a matter of fact I went to look for you shortly before we left, but couldn’t find you.
    Feel free to post some comments on our website to continue the debate.

    2. We are hardly sectarian bandits of the Spartacist-type. As Paul points out, our work at Vestas, in Climate Camp, in Workers’ Climate Action, the CaCC etc etc has been extensive. Rather more than that of the school’s organisers, in fact. Our theoretical work on these issues has also been pretty extensive, as Paul’s links show.

    3. Which is why it was, to put it mildly, pretty sectarian not to invite a Workers’ Climate Action speaker (whether AWL or not) to speak.
    Imagine if a group of young activists had played the role at Vestas or in Climate Camp that WCA has – but there was no connection to any socialist group. They would have been invited to speak at the conference like a shot. Quite transparently the request to speak was refused because of sectarian hostility to the AWL.
    Meanwhile we had speakers including someone from Permanent Revolution, who have not been nearly as active in any of these movements (though to their immense credit their speaker did plug WCA, which I believe they support). And a Climate Camp speaker who is basically a liberal and has had nothing to do with left-wing, class-struggle activity in the Camp!

    4. Workers’ Climate Action conference is on 10 October.

  • Ian,

    It’s a pity you don’t actually engage with the arguments the Alliance for Workers’ Liberty (AWL) puts forward, particularly as our comrades have played a central role in the recent Vestas struggle in Britain, as well as in Climate Camp, Workers Climate Action and other red-green campaigns, particularly in Britain. The organisers of the London conference refused to allow any of our comrades to speak from the platform on these matters – hardly a sign of the non-sectarian approach you advocate.

    You might want to read the review of your book published by the AWL in our fortnightly paper Solidarity before the London conference and distributed as a leaflet at the event.

    For the record we also attended the founding of the Ecosocialist International in Paris, though we do not think the Belem declaration is a coherent basis for building a current.

    None of this means we ignore the merits of other socialists like you, Trotskyist or otherwise. We do work with greens and socialists in united fronts, such as the Campaign against Climate Change. However we also believe that political clarity is essential – something the book and conference sadly lacked.

    Paul Hampton

  • Postscript: On the sidelines

    It seems that no left wing meeting is complete without someone complaining that the organizers have abandoned Marxism. In this case, that role was played by three members of something called the Alliance for Workers Liberty, who complained in one of the workshops that my talk to the opening session was “ecopopulist” not ecosocialist, because I didn’t say enough about the working class. They have since expanded on that criticism on their website.

    “Angus gave an essentially classless view of the capitalism system; capitalism and imperialism were indicted, but their flipside, the development of the working class and the class struggle, were strangely absent. …

    “This is a regression from the insights of Marxism to utopian socialism – utopian because it is a good idea in general, but there is no social force than actually put it into practice.”

    I tried to find an AWL member to discuss their criticisms, but they vanished at lunch, and so far as I could tell they never came back.

    (Minor quibble: The AWL article says I am a Trotskyist and a member of the Fourth International. So much for accuracy.)