This report back has since been taken up and republished by Climate and Capitalism and LINKS: International Journal for Socialist Renewal.
This past Saturday, April 20th’s Ecosocialist Conference at Barnard College in NYC I would say was a massive success. Over 240 people showed up, when organizers would have be pleased if just 100 had, and 29 different socialist organizations, groups, parties and periodicals cosponsored the event. This is a massive step forward in rebuilding a stronger, more collaborative and more united far-left in an area of dire importance, environmental justice. There were some very minor issues – namely in areas of facilitation of speakers and talks and some other organizational problems for the conference – but for what this was, a big step forward in a number of different socialist organizations working together on a common event for the first time, I really can’t imagine how it could have been any better. Minor mistakes are to be expected, but in all this was a huge success and all the organizers should be incredibly proud of it.
In terms of the talks given, I think what we saw was a real cross-section snapshot of what the current state of ecosocialist thought is at the moment. We have a number of different socialist groups, organizations, parties and periodicals who have up until now, in whatever capacity they have been thinking about ecological-socialism, have been doing so largely parallel to each. For essentially the first time during the Conference we got to see where everyone is at and what we are all thinking. A lot of people have very interesting ideas, unique ways of phrasing and conceptualizing ecosocialism. But we also see that in a number of areas – specifically such as areas of gender, sexuality and race in regards to ecosocialism, along with the more scientific angle of how could we feasibly solve many of these environmental problems – our work up until now is still a little shallower and in need of further development. But that was the good thing about this conference, we got to see that all out in the open for the first time and are now able to carry on our theoretical developments from here and more collectively.
So that comes to that all important question, where do we go from here with this thing we have created. We started with a handful of groups coming together in a Ecosocialist Contingent at the Forward on Climate March. That was a huge success, so then it was thought we should have a Ecosocialist Conference. A far larger number of groups and individuals joined in on the work for this, and that was a massive success. An obvious next step is that we should try to replicate the success of the Ecosocialist Conference in other major U.S. cities such as San Francisco and Chicago, and see how that goes. But that is (relatively) easy at this point, the real question is not on just putting on a another ecosocialist conference (though we should) its about building up our ecosocialist praxis and activity.
Up until now we have had minor baby steps towards this direction of a more effective alliance and coalition between socialist groups, organizations and parties in this area of environmental work, with first the contingent then the conference. All of these different groups have a fair amount of political baggage and bad blood between us, so the fact that we haven’t descended into outright sectarianism as of yet and have built this working relationship is a huge accomplishment. So there is an argument, in my view, of taking the next big step for forming a closer alliance of ecosocialists in the US and beyond.
But this is not because of some grand notions of a great fusion or big tent organization of all of the socialist groups as of yet. Its rather related to a very key fact of the current political moment. All practice comes from theory and must be related to the needs of the current political situation. That present situation is that firstly the natural world is dying fast (and us with it) due to capitalism, and there is a severe urgency to stop that by any means necessary. The second big aspect of the current political moment is that there is now a very real environmental mass movement in this country and there is a pertinent need to relate to this movement as anti-capitalist ecosocialists.
There are millions of individuals in groups like 350.org or involved in movements to stop the Keystone XL pipeline, hydro-fraking, mountaintop removal, divest from oil companies and other pertinent ecological issues, who are angry and desperate in trying to save the planet, and we need to be all working together to engage with them. It is very easy to imagine a situation where this growing movement is brought under the total control of the Democratic Party, like so many others before it, and is then smothered by that corporate backed party. It is all but certain at this point that Obama will approve the Keystone XL pipeline. We need to be in the environmental movements as ecosocialists right now making arguments in a non-sectarian way for independence from the Democrats, and warnings about this impending betrayal of Obama. So that the moment when he does approve the last leg of the pipeline the immediate reaction of the movement isn’t to give up, but to explode and fight back.
Collaborating together closely in a loose alliance or as a tighter coalition, and combining our efforts as ecosocialists could be a huge help in this work to help push the environmental movement forward and to the left, to a more anti-capitalist direction. But those are just my thoughts on the matter. The devil will always be the detail in stuff like this. Many of the differences on the far-left between different groups are very small. Yet so is a pebble, but it can become a big focus of your attention when it gets in your shoe. That’s not to say we shouldn’t try, just to say it won’t necessarily be easy. The time to have such discussions about what it is that we want from this Ecosocialist Contingent and Conference is now.
Check the website to learn more: http://ecologicalsocialists.com/