Thursday, 26 June 2008

Canadian dicussions on the Eco Socialist Manifesto

As I previously wrote, I was unable to attend the Socialist Studies
Conference in Vancouver, at which the Ecosocialist Manifesto was
discussed. Greg Albo (Socialist Project) and Cy Gonick (Canadian
Dimension) were on the panel. They have prepared the following report
on the meeting and discussion. I'm posting it with their permission.

Ian Angus

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Hi Ian,

A note on the eco-socialism session at the Congress in Vancouver from
Cy and myself, and the Eco-socialist International Network (EIN).

As these things go at the meetings, the session was very good, with
about 15-20 people there, and a spirited round of questions over the
90 minutes. The Turner position on boycotting oil made the
presentations a bit eclectic, but Cy presented on some of the basic
ideas of eco-socialism and the need for a green-left, and then I
presented in general on green-left political developments and the
materials on the EIN, and where it fits in relationship to left
politics today. The discussion that ensued was quite rich, with
discussion about a number of concrete issues, around carbon taxes,
shifting NGO positions, and so on. Nothing unusual. Jack Warnock
elaborated on the New Green Alliance experience and the evolution of
the Greens in Canada. Most were receptive about the EIN initiative
and the necessity of green-red political alliances today. I doubt if
you could claim that the initiative was pushed much further along at
the meeting other than familiarizing more people with the EIN. There
was really nothing in the way of more constructive comments on the
Manifesto that we can easily convey, although several mentioned that
they would pass on comments.

Here then are our comments on the Manifesto, with a few worked in from
the discussion, in no particular order.

1. The manifesto is mainly focused on climate change, and does not
really speak to wider sets of ecology issues. So, a question arose to
what extent it can speak to eco-socialism as a whole, as opposed to
laying out a position with reference to global warming?

2. There has now been many historical experiences of the green
movement now as political parties. What are we to make of these , and
how does this project differentiate itself? The manifesto does not
speak very much about organized political forces, yet directs our
attention in that direction and not like other green positions toward
localist and anarchist solutions. Some of these points are handled
quite well in Kovel's book. He has a great critique of mainstream
environmentalists, greens, localism, Bookchin, bioregionalism, deep
ecology, etcetc and how ecosocialism differs from these. Also how the
emphasis on individual life-style changes is insufficient. So the
drafters could easily incorporate his language etc. There is also his
discussion of the need to form ecosocialist parties. This should be
part of the manifesto.

3. There is a glaring lack of attention to class and race in the
manifesto. So the environmental justice agenda is all but absent as is
the question of green production and so on.

4. at times the Manifesto falls into the framework/language of
eco-catastrophism, leaving the feeling that capitalism will just
collapse rather than have to be confronted, and no room for a more
utopian casting of the green-red project. This is partly my own view
of what capitalism is capable of responding to, but also that solar
possibilities and non-carbon energy forms are more feasible within
capitalism than granted, but also that we really have no understanding
of the earth's capacities and adaptations. This is not a position
against forceful stmt of the problems and the way capitalism produces

5. The move to market ecology of so many ENGOs is not taken up, and
this misses something about the fundamental importance of the EIN

6. The eco-socialist programme could more strongly link to traditional
demands of the left for reduced work-time and an increase in leisure,
good work, public transport against the car as part of a green
transition, taking different bio-regions out of accumulation through a
massive expansion of parks and wilderness, preservation of other
species and diversity as an aspect of alternate production, and the
massive expansion of collective services.

7. The section on planning could be given more concreteness with more
illustrations of green planning alternatives both in form and in

8. A manifesto is not an academic statement and this draft already
reads too much like one. It also drifts into language fit for PHDs
and movement people eg "emancipation of gender" -- which is fine if it
is not meant to be read by less informed and committed folk -- but not
likely to engage a broader audience. Beyond the manifesto, we should
be thinking about some pamphlets that would enable us to go into some
of these things in greater depth.

9. "Reforms now" leaves out some very obvious ones like banning the
worst practices as, for example, extraction oil from the tar sands and
demanding that far more resources be invested in renewable energy

10. In terms of future plans, we need to develop our own
infrastructure. It is not clear what is happening elsewhere in the
world, but we need to have a national steering committee and some
local chapters. There are problem a range of people ready to go on
this. This of course also raises questions of duplicating existing
organization building, and efforts for left convergence (notably with
Greg, Sam and others in Socialist Project, and what many on the
Socialist Voice list-serve also express).

In any case, these are our comments from the presentation. The EIN is
a very good initiative. And we enjoyed the session and discussions
very much.

In solidarity, Greg and Cy

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