Hugo Blanco, issues this important statement as part of the “Worldwide Echo
in Support of the Zapatistas: Freedom and Justice for San Marcos Avilés and Sántiz López” Campaign. "The central task of the first phase of this campaign is to educate and raise consciousness at the international level regarding the severe repression and violence being carried out against our Zapatista sisters and brothers. In this letter addressed to “A quienes buscan un mundo libre” – or “To those who search for a free world” – our compañero Hugo consummates this task by offering us the gift of memory, as he throws light on the historical, economic, and political context in which this nightmare unfolds. With impassioned words, he makes clear the true reasons and forces which seek to do away with, what he calls, this “zone liberated from neoliberalism, where the people govern themselves.” For those seeking a free world
In 1994, at the full glorious height of the neoliberal system that oppresses us, a voice of rebellion arose, the Zapatista movement in Chiapas, Mexico. Naturally Salinas, the then president, launched a bloody military offensive thinking to rapidly crush the rebellion. Not so, the indigenous fighters resisted. The people of Mexico were outraged at the bloodshed and demanded an end to the attack.
The U.S. government was alarmed, because with the number of Mexicans and Chicanos who had been and were being oppressed in their territory, there was a danger that the Zapatista armed uprising might spread to the seat of the empire. Therefore they ordered the Mexican government to stop the attack, an order which, of course, their subject obeyed.
The rebels announced that they were obeying the people of Mexico, who were ordering the war to stop, and suspended the armed conflict.
The government offered talks, the Zapatistas accepted. With the democratic spirit they have, they would not wish to be the ones to speak on behalf of the indigenous Mexicans; they called on indigenous and indigenists from across the country to set out the indigenous demands. This task was completed, and their arguments were so convincing that the government commission had to accept many of them.
Both parties signed what were called the "San Andrés Accords." As these had to be in the form of a law to be approved by parliament, a commission was appointed with the task of putting them into the appropriate format. The commission completed its work and submitted it to both parties; the Zapatistas accepted, but the government did not. Instead they filed another document, thus betraying the agreements they had signed. The members of the chamber [of deputies] gave in to
this outrage and agreed to discuss and approve the government document. Therefore, the Executive, supported by parliament, betrayed the agreement.
The military government made a treacherous attack on the Zapatistas, trying to liquidate the leadership of the Zapatista Army of National Liberation (EZLN). They failed. But, (whoever is the current president), they do not abandon their intention of making this island of freedom that exists in the world disappear.
Do not forget that the first international gathering of those oppressed by the neoliberal system which is crushing the world was
called by the indigenous Zapatistas, and took place in the mud of Chiapas, years before the World Social Forum
Recently the attacks on Zapatista communities have been increasing, the chief and fiercest ones are those being suffered by the Zapatista autonomous community of San Marcos Avilés. The Good Government Junta ‘Towards Hope’ and the Good Government Junta ‘Heart of the Rainbow of Hope’ have also reported attacks.
These attacks and the continued detention of Francisco Sántiz López and Alberto Patishtán Gómez, are the spearhead of the attack to crush the zone liberated from neoliberalism, where the people govern themselves through the Good Government Juntas. This is seen as the great enemy by the transnational corporations (the 1% of humanity that crushes the 99%), as they are a living example of the fact that "Another World is Possible", "A World where Many Worlds Fit".
We hope that the insurgent rebel movement in Mexico, # yosoy132, understands that their essential task is to defend the island of freedom that is in their own country; if they crush the Zapatistas, #yosoy132 will be easily crushed. Let us fight in the defense of San Marcos Avilés and against other attacks in the area. Let us fight for the freedom of Francisco Sántiz López and Alberto Patishtán Gómez.
It is in the direct interests of humanity to defend the island of freedom that is the Zapatista area.
Welcome to the second of our 'virtual' meetings. It is our privilege to have access to the 'Schwartzman' mind - You may need to put your 'thinking caps' on for this one. Immediately below is Prof Schwartzman's short bio. This is followed by some background reading to introduce the reader to some of David's work and help stimulate questions.
You can submit your questions into the comments section below. You do not have to wait for a response to a prior question before submitting your own. A final edit of the questions and responses will be published here in due course.
Professor of Biology, Howard University, Washington DC; B.S. City College of New York, M.S. and PhD, Brown University (geochemistry). Dr. Schwartzman’s research has focused on the long-term carbon cycle, the evolution of the biosphere, the origin of life and environmental policy. His book Life, Temperature, and the Earth (Columbia University Press) was updated in its paperback edition in 2002. Papers on ecosocialism include: 2009, ‘Ecosocialism or Ecocatastrophe?’ Capitalism Nature Socialism Vol. 20, No.1, 6-33 (March); 2008, ‘The Limits to Entropy: the Continuing Misuse of Thermodynamics in Environmental and Marxist theory’, Science & Society Vol. 72, No.1, 43-62; 1996, ‘Solar Communism’, Science & Society, Vol. 60, No. 3, Fall, 307-331. Either posted full text at http://www.redandgreen.org/Documents/Marxism&Ecology_page.htm or available upon request: http://www.ecosocialistsunite.com/contact--comments.htmlhttp://solarutopia.org (this website represents the joint work of my older son Peter and myself)Solar Utopia – another future is possible!
Our Statement Utopia?
Yes we are seriously proposing a near future solar utopia on planet Earth, in spite of the horrible job humans are now doing. Tens of millions of our species continue to die of preventable causes every year, an annual genocide that dwarfs the record of the 20th century, the age of mechanized mass murder. The majority of humanity lives in misery while a privileged minority, mainly in the global North, enjoys a state of the science quality of life. (No wonder we are not invited to join the Galactic Club!*)
We are faced with two technological threats to the continuance of human civilization and biodiversity as we know it. The first is the continuing threat of nuclear war, not inevitable but deadly even if localized by virtue of climatic impact on agriculture. The second, catastrophic climate change (C3) is inevitable if carbon emissions to the atmosphere are not rapidly and radically reduced and the now unsafe atmospheric level of 390 ppm CO2 is not reduced by sequestration technologies to below 350 ppm.
Our main message: if we succeed in the near future to overcome the obstacles standing in the way of decarbonizing our global energy supplies by solar technologies such as wind power, we open up an unprecedented path to solar utopia.
We will demonstrate that Peak Oil/Coal is not a barrier to global solarization IF rapid solarization begins in the near future, before the supplies of fossil fuels start to rapidly decline and C3 becomes inevitable.
We submit the obstacles are not technological, rather lie in the political economy of real existing 21st Century global Capitalism, specifically in the Dinosaur sitting in the Room, the Moloch called the Military Industrial (Fossil Fuel, Nuclear, State Terror) Complex. Only a transnational movement for peace and justice can put this Dinosaur in the Museum of Prehistory where it belongs.
We argue that there are 3 critical requirements that will make solar utopia a reality: demilitarization of our global economy, agro-ecologies replacing industrial and GMO agriculture, and the creation of a high-efficiency solar power infrastructure replacing unsustainable fossil fuels and nuclear power. Energy poverty in the global South must end to ensure a state-of-the-science quality of life for all humankind. Expanding democratic, bottom-up control of the process of transformation of the global economy is necessary for its success.
Our website invites thoughtful critique and dialogue on the technological, social, political and economic aspects of our scenario. The modern energy paradigm (i.e., ancient sunlight and nuclear fission, in the hands of the powerful few, is an acceptable source of energy for the planet) must be shattered and we need to mobilize a global movement to make this happen.
* Assuming it exists; see David Schwartzman, 2010, SETI Redux: Joining the Galactic Club, at: http://www.astrobio.net/index.php?option=com_retrospection&task=detail&id=3503 How much Fossil Fuel is needed for Solar Transition? (and which one should be used ?)
Lets first be clear that solar transition must be parasitic on existing energy supplies, just as the industrial fossil fuel revolution was parasitic on biomass energy, so-called plant power, until it replaced the former supply with sufficient capacity. The higher the EROEI* value of the wind/solar technology used, the less unsustainable presently-used-energy is needed to effect the solar transition. Mainly because of its lower carbon emission footprint compared to coal, the preferred fossil fuel to make a solar transition is petroleum (oil and natural gas, but excluding
tar sands, fracked natural gas, and dangerous drilling on deep water continental shelves). Just how much petroleum is needed in our preferred solar transition model to insure a steadily increasing global energy supply with a minimum 3.5 kilowatt/person globally, accompanied by an early phaseout of coal, nuclear, big damaging hydropower and most biofuels? Recall this model has the following assumptions: conservative value of EROEI = 20, 20-30 year transition, and at its completion 2x the current global energy delivery is generated comprised of all wind/solar, no fossil fuel/nuclear/biofuels. We estimate that no more than 40% of the proven conventional reserves of petroleum (oil and natural gas, excluding
tar sands and fracked gas reserves) is needed, roughly 7 ZJ. The latter requirement will be reduced as higher EROEI wind.solar technologies are developed and put in place in this transition.
The relationship between energy consumption/person by nation versus life expectancy demonstrates that roughly a minimum 3.5 kilowatt/person is need for a state-of-the-science life expectancy level experienced by the world leaders such as Japan, Hong Kong and Iceland, with most of the Global South suffering from energy poverty and living shorter (and more miserable) lives. Cuba is an excellent example of how even a society transitioning to ecosocialism is still suffering from scarcity and energy poverty (mainly because of the unrelenting campaign of hostility and aggression from US imperialism): look at her life expectancy, now tied with the U.S. and Denmark at 36 in the world. The 3.5 kilowatt/person is not just the household use, but corresponds to the societal delivery to its residents. Now the world delivers 16 Tera Watts (trillion watts), so in one year the delivery is 16 Tera Watt Years of energy.
Yes, at the cumulation of this solar transition a global increase
in energy would be delivered to the world not a decrease, with many countries in the global North such as the U.S. decreasing their wasteful consumption, while most of humanity in the global South get a significant increase. To reach the minimum 3.5 kilowatt/person now (7 billion people) requires a delivery equivalent to 25 Tera Watts, with the present delivery equal to 16 Tera Watts (Energy consumed = Power x Time, so just multiply 16 TW by 1 year to get the energy consumption per year, units TWyears). The factors impact on this estimate are discussed in our Report posted on solarutopia.org
Aggressive energy conservation in energy-wasteful countries such as the U.S. would free up petroleum needed for rapid solar development in the global South. Oil rich countries in the Mid-East and South America (e.g., Venezuela) will be valuable partners in this solar transition by providing the needed petroleum. We are persuaded that this hopeful scenario requires global demilitarization a necessary condition for a global cooperative regime of transition. But if we wait too long without making a vigorous transition, then and only then will we likely face the gloom and doom scenario of Peak Oil and the virtually inevitable onset of catastrophic climate change, barring near future revolutionary solar technologies with much higher EROEIs. Nevertheless, carbon sequestration powered by agroecologies and solar power is imperative, and must start asap to have any hope of preventing the onset of catastrophic climate change ("C3"). The longer the excess carbon dioxide remains in the atmosphere the more likely the tipping points for C3 will be reached, therefore radical and early cuts in carbon emissions and carbon sequestration go hand in hand. And now we may have only 5 years left to begin radical cuts in carbon emissions "World headed for irreversible climate change in five years, IEA warns
, "If fossil fuel infrastructure is not rapidly changed, the world will 'lose for ever' the chance to avoid dangerous climate change" Fiona Harvey
, November 9, 2011.
* EROEI is the Energy return over energy invested ratio, i.e., how much energy does the technology such as a photovoltaic array or wind turbine generate in its usable lifetime divided by the energy needed to construct it and maintain it. My older papers: Solar Communism (1996). Science & Society, Vol. 60, No. 3: 307-331.
Abstract:A global economy powered by non-solar energy sources is limited by global warming, finite reserves and concomitant insults to the Earth’s biosphere, including our own species. Some of these impacts, such as loss of biodiversity, will be irreversible. Without constraints on the reproduction of capital, the global driver of the contemporary environmental crisis, these impacts will intensify. This is not a necessary outcome for an economy utilizing the high efficiency capture of solar energy, a conclusion informed by consideration of the heat budget of the Earth’s surface and the laws of thermodynamics. Such a solar-based economy managed by containment of the socially modified environment is a necessary condition for a global civilization realizing the Marxian concept of communism.
The main purpose of this paper is to provoke a rethinking of the Marxian concept of communism as a prospect for global civilization, particularly with respect to its energetic basis and the problem of optimizing society-nature relations now and in the future. This reinterrogation requires an understanding of the physical concepts of energy and entropy (i.e., thermodynamics). I will argue that these considerations lead to the conclusion that both solarization of the global economy and the application of the containment and precautionary principles are necessary for the ultimate realization of planetary communism, and these requirements should inform a viable socialist strategy. The Limits to Entropy: the Continuing Misuse of Thermodynamics in Environmental and Marxist theory (2008)Science & Society v. 72, No.1: 43-62.
Abstract:The continuing use of Georgescu-Roegen’s theory of entropy by neo-Malthusians as foundational support for their views comes as no surprise. Lately, those warning of a Hubbert Peak apocalypse have commonly drawn from the same conceptual well. But unfortunately even Marxist scholars still do the same. Paul Burkett’s recent paper supporting Georgescu-Roegen’s fourth law of thermodynamics attempts to seek convergence of Marxist theory with ecological economics. However, this attempt is undermined by the very shaky foundations of Georgescu-Roegen’s theory. In particular, Georgescu-Roegen’s proposed fourth law conflating isolated and closed systems is in contradiction with thermodynamic theory and leads to false conclusions regarding recycling and the prospects of a solarized economy. Red-green theory and practice should be firmly based on robust thermodynamic theory. With this guide and subject to the contingencies of political struggle, an ecosocialist transition in this century is within reach.
My older papers on this subject, including my 1996 Solar Communism, are available at: http://www.redandgreen.org/Documents/Marxism&Ecology_page.htm
My newer CNS papers include (please request a pdf or doc):
in press: Response to Degrowth
2011: Green New Deal: An ecosocialist perspective. Capitalism, Nature Socialism 22 (3): 49-56.).
2009: Response to Naess and Hoyer, Capitalism Nature Socialism 20, No.4, 93-97 (December)
2009: Ecosocialism or Ecocatastrophe? Capitalism Nature Socialism 20, No.1, 6-33 (March).Also see PDF Presentation Below
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Questions & Responses will be published here..........
Hugo Blanco led a successful peasant revolution for land rights in 1961 when peasants were being killed by land owners.
Praised by Che, Hugo then a leader of the Fourth International, was captured and placed on death row and only lived due to an international campaign of solidarity launched by figures like Sartre.
Now in the his late 70s he publishes 'Lucha Indigena', 'Indigenous Struggle' and is the foremost ecosocialist revolutionary on our planet.
The uprising in Peru of the Awajan and Wampis and other Amazon people, of the Aymara and Quechua have shown that indigenous and workers can organise to challenge the destruction of the Earth and to build a democratic alternative to capitalism.
Hugo Blanco argues that the revolution must be global and that the occupy movement shows that people in the North are joining the revolt against the 1% and for a democratic, ecological society for the 99%.
This editorial on the occupy movement and the global fight-back against neoliberalism has been roughly translated by Derek Wall & Martin O'Beirne. The Original is included below and suggestions for improvements would be greatly received.
The Global Movement Against Neoliberalism Grows Ever Larger
The World-Wide Rebellion Against Neoliberalism Grows Ever Larger The wave of rebellion against neoliberalism was started by Mohamed Bouazizi, the Tunisian Street Vendor who in protest against sustained police harassment and looting emptied fuel on to himself and lit a match. The flames of that fire are now spreading around the capitalist world. First they bought about the insurrection of the Tunisian town that eventually demolished the government. Egypt was next and there too the government was overthrown. The movement then extended to other Arab countries where the fight is on-going. NATO intervened in Libya to gain control of the incoming government and similar is expected in Syria. The rebellion jumped to the door of the sun in Madrid with the name 15M (It began on the 15th of May) extending to Greece and many other cities and European countries and recently to New York taking the name of Occupy Wall Street. This latest development is appropriate as it is the world-wide financial centre and from here spread to many other US cities. Then on the 15th of October a tsunami of global protest against the capitalist system spread to 951 cities in 82 countries. The brilliant slogan of the North Americans is “We are the 99% against the 1%” (the 1% that governs the world to satisfy it’s own narrow egotistical endeavours).
Neoliberalism reduces leisure, replaces human labour with automation and increases the age of retirement; which on one hand harms the elderly and on the other the young because it diminishes job opportunities. In the rich countries of the so-called ‘first world’ prior to the crisis bought about by the financial companies and banks, the attitude of the governments was to reward them with money from the public purse. Now, before the new economic difficulties, instead of increasing the tax on the millionaires, they load the debt on to the majority of the population, reducing the budget for health, education and other public services like support for disabled people, the elderly, and single parents. In order to create money numerous public workers have lost their jobs and then in turn their houses, or they have lost houses because repayments simply became too high. In either case many of them still have to pay to settle the debt.
In the so called ‘developing’ countries, the situation of hunger and misery is getting worse. Peru has been ‘desindustrializado’ which means the wages stagnate but prices for other things rise i.e. the relative wage decreases. In addition the ‘tercerizacion’ or services in which workers are not contracted to the factory in which they work but to another company creates a disconnect so workers are less able to negotiate a pay change. Another burden faced by the poor countries, besides global warming is the effects of the extractivist economy that provides millions for the great multinational companies. Mother Earth is knocked down with great insensitivity by hydrocarbon extraction, open-cast mining, high-ways and fast roads, the agro-industry, dams etc. All this in the name of ‘development’ and ‘progress’. To this end there are many ‘dealings’ between politicians and multi-nationals. The peasantry and indigenous and non-indigenous natives suffer the despoilation of water and of the soil, sinking in to greater misery. That is the reason they gave their lives in protest in Bagua, Islay, Juliaca.
In Arab countries, these evils have been added to by dictators who ruled with impunity, without allowing any criticism, committing every imaginable outrage. The governance of the world and of countries is less and less by states, which are becoming increasingly weak. Gradually governance of by corporations is gaining strength. Wars are driven by the arms industry.
There is more and more privatization, not only in poorer but also in richer countries. The privatization of education has led to the struggle of the Chilean and Colombian students. The combatants in the war, are increasingly employed by private companies. The prisons are also in the hands of private companies. In Peru state control of rail, post, road tax belongs to the past.
It is against all of this that the peoples uprising began with the "Arab spring" and spread to the "first world" with the Spanish indignants and " Occupy Wall Street." The rebellion present in the rest of the world is the same as we find with the struggles in our country (Peru), especially in defense of water and life. Although the rebellion is not yet sufficiently organized to demonstrate its effectiveness against the current system, much has been achieved.
One aspect worth mentioning is the revival of collectivist solidarity that characterizes the world's indigenous communities, such as the Aymara and Quechua ayllu (commons system) against individual egoism that is promoted by the capitalist system.
The organization of indignants in Spain and the United States occupy movement shows that in the areas occupied, there are not leaders but good organization, there is responsibility for food, rubbish collection, library, care of health, child care, signing for the deaf, translation, etc.. Furthermore, as shown in another article in this edition, solidarity grows in Greece: The striking doctors provide free care, electrical system employees reconnect those who have been disconnected for nonpayment. We read: "The popular neighbourhood assemblies rather than designing on paper "an alternative" are making everyday organized solidarity for those who are on strike, for those who are suffering most from the economic crisis, for neighbors, for the most weak.
In Madrid the community expelled the police who sought to capture an illegal immigrant, to cries of "No human being is illegal".
Also in Spain home evictions of those who were no longer able to pay their mortgages were prevented by the movement. In Granada there is a movement called "Stop Evictions Granada." In a sign that read: "You interest me much." It is seen that selfishness is artificially introduced and that human nature is united.
Some people criticize the lack of leadership. We see it as a merit, not as a deficiency, which has reached a profoundly democratic organization in which all rule, in which the concept has passed of the hierarchical class society, that one is born to rule and others to obey .
Another criticism is the lack of a finished program. There is no 'elite' and decisions are made by consensus, this leads to necessarily slow progress, but the main thing is said, the fight is 99% which is crushed by 1% of world population . As Vandana Shiva, the Indian activist has said, as repeated by intellectuals who signed a document supporting the movement in Madrid: "The G8 should be replaced by full humanity, G7, by the billions". The rest of the program is moving slowly but solidly, as shown above.
Marx said that as the working class face directly against the bourgeoisie, they are becoming the vanguard of society's struggle against capitalism. We believe that it was completely right and a matter of time. He also taught us that to see reality was better than reading a hundred books. Following this recommendation, we open our eyes and see a fierce attack from capitalism to all of mankind.
let us repeat what was said above: For the increasing global warming leading to the extermination of humanity - by the strong attack on nature in so many ways: open pit mining, hydroelectric plants, food processing, oil extraction, construction of roads, atomic energy, holes in the ozone layer, industrial water pollution, etc..
And also with the budget cuts for health, education and other social benefits with funds re-routed to private business whose only interest is profit, higher prices, poisoning the population with GMO and chemicals produced by the food industry, house evictions, power outage, etc..
Thus, all humanity is being directly attacked by capital in multiple ways. Each region, each uprising has its own character -
We are taking the first steps in that direction, through our collective struggles in defense of water and life, the "Arab spring" of indignation, The "occupy Wall Street," movement etc..
These movements show that it is still possible to save our species from extinction.
It's encouraging to see people are taking on board the idea of starting Ecosocialists Unite Chapters. I use the word chapters as opposed national groups because in theory they could be regional, county, village, virtual, think tanks, partitions embedded within existing groups etc. There is no steering committee, this is spontaneous and has occurred without prompting; it is 'bottom-up'. This is appropriate for a project that currently resides only in cyberspace and in the conscience of those who are taking note. It is not known what this project is likely to become, perhaps nothing more than a few interesting blog articles here and there. It is an attractive idea that despite it's virtual beginnings that it could lead to physical or real-world relations in organised groups that take the name. Of course the important thing is not the name but the content and if this helps inform existing groups or even create new ones the project will have been a success far and above what was first imagined. This Chapter União Eco-socialista
(Ecosocialists Unite Portugal) has just been launched as a facebook group and has attracted over two hundred members in it's first week and has been very active.
If I were to offer any advice to anyone wishing to start a network it would be that they maintain close links with those who already identify as ecosocialists. Contact ecosocialists unite first, either on facebook or on here. Ecosocialism despite it's relative immaturity has fairly well defined borders. Recommended guidance is by no means limited to, but can be sought in the works of Derek Wall, Joel Kovel, Ian Angus, Michael Löwy, John Bellamy-Foster and Hugo Blanco. I'm sure that their many writings have been translated in to most languages and I will endeavour to offer access to their work in any way that I can. Finally I would advise shared symbolism, using the unity tree and clear labelling to demonstrate the name of a given chapter.
Although União Eco-socialista is the first social networking group
that has developed directly from this project. In addition, during the time the Facebook Profile for Ecosocialists Unite was taken down
Lance Irwin created a page
'Ecosocialists USA' which can be found by clicking here.
Below is the translated foreword that heads the new Portugal group:
I'm Rodrigo Pereira from Portugal. I've created the Portuguese Ecosocialists Unite group to gather green and socialist forces here in Portugal. Capitalism doesn't understand how amazing our world is, and therefore, capitalists use all their power to destroy everything that comes in their way.
Ecosocialists don't have a country, neither nationality, there country is planet Earth, and they're citizens of the World. Being conscience of the Earth's problems is to be conscience about Humanities problems. The Human race will not survive if the Earth doesn’t survive, so it’s our job to make a better planet to all of us especially for the next generations. We can only fight for a better world, being anti-capitalists, because as I said before, capitalists use all their powers to destroy everything that comes in their way and they only think in profit and of exploiting workers of developing countries. Our world's civilized nations must come together and bring new ideas for a greener world. In Portugal we don't have much conscience about ecological crimes and how not to pollute, because we had a 48 years old fascist dictatorship that wasn't concerned about the environment. The Portuguese governments and schools in particular have very important work to do, to face this situation and change mentalities. It’s not easy to change the minds of 11 million people, mostly elderly; so it’s important to pass the ecosocialist message through the Portuguese population.
I’m a member of the Portuguese Socialist party, and it is now the second biggest party in Portugal; the Portuguese Socialist party is going through an identity crisis, like all the socialist parties in Europe, it is an identity crisis, which retires the entire socialist ideology and turns them into social-democratic parties, many of them almost neo-liberal. It is important that there continues to be socialist factions inside these parties so they can keep fighting for true socialism and green policies all over the European zone.
Only socialist policies can bring a greener world. Only a socialism that is sufficiently unconcerned with profits, to keep control of companies as essential as the water companies, electricity and gas. In Portugal, we are suffering an enormous offensive of the government, which is the privatization of almost everything, including the Portuguese Water company, “Águas de Portugal” (Portuguese Waters). We hope to build in Portugal the same thing that we want for the World. A sustainable society with socialist values.
Welcome to the first ecosocialists unite online meeting. The idea of these meetings is simply to encourage participation and provide a platform from which experts can share their knowledge and interact with anyone who may be interested. The aim of the ecosocialists unite project is to introduce, galvanise and expand the global ecosocialist movement. These meetings transcend many of the constraints and limitations of real-world meetings, be they financial, temporal, geographical or ecological. To these ends I hope this will be the first of many. It is fitting that the first of these sessions places Prof Michael Löwy in the 'chair'. No subject had been specified and the first 10 questions received were submitted. Below is Prof Löwy's Short bio, followed by questions and responses.
Michael Löwy, born in Brazil in 1938, lives in Paris since 1969. Presently emerit Research Director at the CNRS (National Center for Scientific Research). His books and articles have been translated into 29 languages. Co-author with Joel Kovel of the International Ecosocialist Manifesto (2001). Among his main publications: Romanticism against the current of modernity (with Robert Sayre), Duke University Press, 2001; Fire Alarm. Reading Walter Benjamin’s ‘On the concept of history ‘, London, Verso, 2005.
NB Let me thank all friends for their questions, all interesting, serious and challenging. I apologize for giving only short answers. In any case, the aim is not to close the debate, but to open it for other participants in the blog.
1. Steve Gwynne: If the view is taken that humans are an integral aspect of Nature, this means that their social, cultural, political and economic processes are essentially a part of Nature too. In turn this means that human structures and processes are also a part of the overall ecological system here on Earth. If this is indeed the case who or what within this overall ecological system is able to truly determine whether or not capitalism is just another evolving ecological process alongside numerous others? It appears to me that capitalism is for all intent and purposes able to survive due too its ability to adapt to varying circumstances unlike statist socialism which as an ecological process burnt out due to its inflexibility. Moreover, whilst socialism does exist to some degree in numerous formats - such as the NHS - why has not socialism been able to achieve some degree of ecological superiority in the face of capitalism considering its purported higher moral claims? I ask this not as a capitalist but as a person who is puzzled why socialism, mutualism and co-operativism have not been embraced as ecological processes en masse when considering the difficulties socialist MPs and councillors have trying to get elected and the fact that socialist communities do not emerge even on a very small scale? This leads me to think that as a society either we are not yet evolved enough to embrace and incorporate the values of mutualism, volunteerism, solidarity and co-operation into our daily lives or as of yet socialism has shown itself to be an ecological dead-end.
Response: Well, social, economic and historical process are, in a sense, part of Nature, but they are not "ecological"; otherwise, one would have to say that World Wars, the Hiroshima bomb, etc, are "natural." and "ecological". Yes, capitalism survived, but unless one believes in a perverted social-darwinistic theory of the “survival of the fittest”, that doesn’t prove anything; in fact, capitalism survives only at the expenses of destroying the natural environment. Statist pseudo-socialism has been a disaster, and for this reason we advocate ecosocialism, a quite different sort of project. Capitalist "success" is leading the Planet, and humanity, to catastrophic ecological consequences (eg global warming). The dominant capitalist ideology is hostile to cooperation and solidarity, but when people start to organize and struggle for their rights, or in defense of the environment, these values are re-discovered. This is our only hope, as ecosocialists.
2. David Colyer: Firstly, and most simply, what are eco-socialist alternatives to cap and trade / carbon trading? I ask this because while eco-socialist and climate justice activists are near universal in their condemnation of these pollution markets I’ve seen little in the way of policy alternatives.
Secondly, I’d be interested in his views on how eco-socialists can resolve the contradiction between the mainstream environmental movements (at least in the West / Global North) who demand reduction in personal consumption, but who work within the assumptions of neo-liberal capitalism, the labour movement which has traditionally supported increased consumption and economic growth, and the small minority of eco-socialists who seek to end the growth economy but with out massive cuts in workers’ living standards.
Thirdly, can capitalism survive the combined crisis of on-going recession, ecological devastation, resource depletion and the end US imperial hegemony?
Response : First : Carbon-Trade, in the form of the Kyoto Agreement, has been a dismal failure; it has been unable to stop gas emissions and climate change. The capitalist market mechanisms are utterly incapable of promoting a significant change in the productive system. The ecosocialist alternative to "carbon trade" is democratic, socialist and ecological planning. Instead of hoping that incentives will lead bankers and capitalists to “go green” thanks to market mechanisms- an illusion – we want the people themselves to get hold of the means of production and decide what to produce and what to consume, according to their real social needs - among which one of the most important is the need to protect the environment and prevent disastrous climate change.
Second : ecosocialism wants to cut growth by suppressing useless or dangerous – to human life and to the environment - branches of production - eg armament industry, nuclear and coal-fueled electrical facilities, advertisement, useless junk, etc, etc – not by reducing the wages of workers. We are a minority now, but so where the fighters for the abolition of slavery two centuries ago.
Third : capitalism can survive anything, it can go on and on, until the planet is devastated, and the sea-side towns submerged by the waters. As Walter Benjamin once said, “capitalism will never die a natural death” - we have to suppress it ! And if we want to get rid of capitalism, we have to act, before it is too late.
3. Umut Önder: To what extent can the degrowth critics to economic growth reconcile with the Marxist ecology critics to economic growth? What are the main possibilities and limits of the degrowth discourse under the global economic order?
Also to what extent can the degrowth discourse be considered as an alternative to the concept of sustainable development? And finally how can Prof Lowy regard that some Marxist ecologist scholars, such as Foster, do not have tendency to use the term of "eco-socialism" on their works? When I ask this question to Foster, he said Marxism was our roof, no matter you
identified yourself as eco-socialist or not. Does Lowy agree with this idea?
Response : Degrowth has the merit of debunking the capitalist ideology of “Growth” and criticizing Western consumerism; but it is a questionable discourse, because it seems to have a purely quantitative approach : “minus” instead of “plus”. Ecosocialists argue that we need not only to reduce, but to suppress many branches of production, but we need also to develop some others, such as : educations, health, public transportation, solar energy, biological agriculture, etc. In other terms, we need a qualitative approach.
The degrowth movement is not homogeneous. It has a right-wing, which entertains the illusion that degrowth is compatible with capitalism, and a left-wing, which is anticapitalist. There is a possibility of common action between ecosocialists and this anticapitalist tendency.
I much admire John Bellamy Foster’s works and highly value his contribution to a Marxist ecology. I regret that he doesn’t use the term “ecosocialism”, but since he advocates an ecological socialism, I think the difference is not so important.
4. Mark Sleboda: Recently in the climate change movement, the inability of the political classes in the US and UK to take any political action against climate change, acknowledge or convince even a simple majority of their own public that it is real has led many prominent thinkers to suggest that, considering the shrinking window left for action, that liberal democracy itself is the world's biggest obstacle to preventing catastrophic global climate change. How would you respond to this, and if it is true, where does that leave the Western ecosocialist movement?
Response : I have no illusions on the “really existing liberal democracy” in the US and UK, a very low-intensity democracy, where the real decisions are taken by the financial markets, and where public opinion is fashioned by Murdoch’s newspapers and TV chains. The “political class” has no interest in convincing the people of the dangers of climate change, because is serves the system which is responsible for global warming…But the alternative is not to suppress democracy ! It is to organize and develop social movements and struggles around concrete issues, forcing the “political elites” to act - like in Germany, where the government was forced to give up nuclear energy. And hoping that sooner or later there will be a process of radical change, leading to a real democracy, and to social-ecological transformations. There is no guarantee that this will happen, but there is no other way : or should we hope for an “ecological dictatorship” ?
5. Zeynep Bünül: Are there any clearly defined actors and/or agents for maintaining and/or achieving Ecosocialist revolution according to his perspective. If so, who are these actors and how could they achieve?
Response : The basic actors are the subaltern classes, the victims of capitalism and imperialism, and of ecological destruction, the exploited and dominated : workers, peasants, indigenous communities, women, youth - as well as their social movements : unions, peasant federations, students unions, ecological movements, women movements, etc. Of course, the actors are not the same in each country and each region. They can achieve immediate aims - such as preventing oil companies of destroying their forests, as the indigenous communities and the ecological movements succeeded in Equador – and, hopefully, an ecosocialist transformation in the future. In other terms : the agents for change are those groups and classes which do not profit from the capitalist system, and have the potential to understand the need of overcoming it in order to save the environment, and, consequently, humanity. Critical intellectuals also have an important role as agents of change, by developing radical thinking and radical alternatives.
6. Peter Garbutt: Given the increasing urgency of our message, how can we best present it in such a way that it will realistically be taken on board?
Response : We have to start with concrete, “realistic” demands which many people can understand : leave the oil under the soil (as in the exemple of Equador above mentioned), public transportation instead of cars and trucks, suppress advertisement (the city of S.Paulo, Brazil, did it on it’s public space), etc. Any demand that goes against the capitalist destruction of the environment and the suicidal course towards the abyss of global warming is to be supported , whatever it’s limits. Through such struggles, people organize, raise their consciousness, and can be won for a larger perspective : ecosocialism.
7. Steve D'Arcy: What do you think about the forms of environmental activism, falling outside the scope of public protest or labour organizing, that seek to construct community-based forms of popular self-organization in order to advance 'ecological' goals? I'm thinking of things like community gardens, guerrilla gardens, food cooperatives, and many of the community-based efforts associated with the "Transition Towns" movement. A lot of this strengthens grassroots popular self-organization and aims to partially decommodify food and public space. How do you think the radical Left can or should relate to these efforts?
Response : I think those grassroots initiatives are highly positive and should be encouraged. The radical Left should support them. But they cannot replace the larger social and political movement which is needed in order to bring down capitalism and open the road for an ecosocialist process. They are important in so far as they see themselves as part of a broader anti-sistemic movement, and are able to overcome the limits of local initiatives.
8. Caroline Molloy: What do you think of moves by some climate change activists back towards anti-capitalism, following the heavy oppression experienced by many activists in copenhagen that made them feel it is the whole system that needs challenging (as expressed by some in the film 'just do it' for example) - and what opportunities does this open up for working
Response : This is a very important trend among climate change activists ! There is a growing awareness that the problem is the system itself, i.e. capitalism, not bad individual consumption habits, or evil individual capitalists, or irresponsible governments. All these exist, but the root of the issue is systemic. Thus the Copenhagen protesters’ motto, “Change the system, not the climate”. This obviously opens great opportunities for ecosocialists, which have the only rational, coherent and radical alternative proposal to the capitalist disaster. It is important that ecosocialists be present at the climate change protests, and bring their message - as we did in Copenhagen. Hopefully, it will be adopted, in one way or the other, by an increasing number of activists.
9. Ewa Maria Studzinska: What do you think about geo-engineering and toxic chemtrails, and what steps should we take in order for the governments to admit to and cease this illegal activity?
Response: I think geo-engineering and toxic chemtrails are disastrous projects, and a real danger both for human health and the environment. I don’t have enough information to decide if these are already being implemented, or are only pipe-dreams of technocrats and capitalist governments. In any case, they should be denounced.
10. Sophie Hemery : What place do you think indigenous movements, and more broadly indigenous cultures (even those struggling to survive in a city environment), have in the ecosocialist movement? Do you think the union of people under the banner of 'ecosocialism' is necessary or do you think the more fluid ideas encompassed in indigenous cultures (which individuals may not relate to ecosocialism) are an equally promising starting point?
Response : Hugo Blanco, the world famous Peruvian indigenous leader, and ecosocialist activist, uses to say that indigenous communities “practice eocosocialism since centuries”. In a sense, this is very true, and ecosocialism has a lot to learn from the experience of collectivism, direct democracy, and harmony with the natural environment, from these communites. They are presently at the vanguard of the planetary struggle in defense of the forests and the rivers against destruction and pollutions by the multinationals and the agro-business. This is indeed a very promising starting point ! It is necessary to bring these communities into alliance with other forces, ecological movements, leftist organizations, fighting for the same aims. The Cochabamba Conference convened by Evo Morales in Bolivia in 2010, on Climate Change and in Defense of Mother Earth, shows that the participants - coming mainly from indigenous movements - share the awareness that capitalism is the root of the evil, and the reason for disastrous climate change. The next step is understanding that the real alternative to capitalism is an ecological socialism – whatever the name you give it.
Antonis Petropoulos is the Editor of ECOCLUB.com - International Ecotourism Club, a mutual aid network for ecological & socially just tourism. He is currently a co-Coordinator of the Tourism Section of the Ecologists Greens, the green party of Greece."The ingredients for Tragedy and a post-modern civil war, are present once more in the modern history of Greece, if they were ever absent. But a bigger, international, game is being played on the backs of the underpriviledged, again, as always"
The colourful popular protest movement against austerity measures is currently quieter, as July temperatures were hovering around 35 Celsius. A largely expected blow to the few determined left-over campers, "dregs"( as Nick Malkoutzis calls them in an excellent article
) of the "Aganaktismenoi" (Indignant) Movement in Athens' Syntagma Square, the focal point of the protests, took place in the form of an early hours police raid on Sunday 31 July, following a request from the pro-government mayor Kaminis and after repeated protests by big business and right-wing media, that "they were harming Tourism" and the image of Greece abroad.
Ironically, two of those arrested were french tourists peacefully waiting for the first train to the airport... while the new minister for
infrastructure Ragousis, inadvertently(?) opened a new front against the Taxi drivers, right in the middle of the tourist season,
with the declared intent of completely liberalising the sector, along with many others. The previous minister Reppas had just made a deal with the taxi union, thus the taxi drivers strongly protested both the insult and the injury by blocking main roads, airports and ports in Athens and in popular tourism destinations such as Crete.
Tourism is a key source of income and employment in Greece, generating as much as a fifth of GDP and one of the few sectors that have not been affected by the crisis that has seen the economy contract by 5%. The government looks to tourism and real estate as a way out of the vicious circle of deficit and borrowing from the IMF and EU, so the environment along with local communities are bound to suffer as the result of a possible construction boom. Big resort projects such as Cavo Sidero in Crete and Atalanti Hills in Fthiotida which have been stopped by local protests and environmentalists may restart, or at least such is the hope of investors, peculiar offshore companies with strong international and governmental backing. It is no secret that the two major parties have been financed in the past 30 years through such offshore vehicles.
Following a near-resignation/eclipse of the PM on the day of the last lunar eclipse in late June (!) and 3,000 rounds of carcinogenic teargas, currently there is a feeling of restrained optimism in the recently reshuffled government (but not shared by the majority according to polls) because there was a deal with EU & IMF which resulted in a lengthening of the repayment period for the EUR 340+ billion debt, and a 20-30% "haircut" off the value of greek state bonds while there is also an easing of requirements for receiving structural funds. The "fast-track" privatisation of the last remaining public utilities, the sale of public lands, and even oil & gas exploration are on the table, with the blessings of the "Troika" as the IMF-EU-ECB is called by the greek public.
The multi-fragmented Left, which has slightly increased its electoral influence to 15%, is as always busy reading the holy scriptures and calling each other names, proposing little more than a necessary but not sufficient "NO" to everything. The nascent Greens (Oikologoi Prasinoi), with a down to earth yet alternative and progressive approach in most issues,will probably pass the 3% and make it into parliament whenever elections are held, probably in early 2012, although even they, along with much of the Left, were not able to develop links with the peaceful "Indignant" movement, perhaps because the latter although experimenting with direct democracy, is largely comprised by former voters of the two major parties (center-left Pasok and center-right New Democracy) their unemployed offspring, and not so eco-minded teenagers.
In the meantime immigration flows - economic, war and climate refugees from Asia and Africa, continue and as a result of the EU's Dublin II Regulation
, immigrants are stuck in Greece. The far-right and even an unabashed neo-Nazi party has made unprecedented gains in recent local elections. Stabbings are on the increase in downtown Athens while 500 immigrants have been victims of beatings in the last 6 months alone according to reports from medical NGOs such as Doctors of the World. On the other hand, over half of the population is well-off by any global standards, greek banks are doing OK, even if they are no longer dominant in the Balkans, and the greek-owned merchant marine fleet, still the largest in the world, is expanding.
Even if capitalism (and barbarism), in Greece and beyond proves once more resilient (as always at the expense of environmental and social justice) and even if the PM and President of "Socialist" International George Papandreou proves as cunning as his father and grandfather, both prime ministers in our semi-hereditary, statist-offshore-hybrid democracy, it will be a difficult winter, especially for the unemployed quarter of the population, poor pensioners and immigrants. The ingredients for Tragedy and a post-modern civil war, are present once more in the modern history of Greece, if they were ever absent. But a bigger, international, game is being played on the backs of the underpriviledged, again, as always.
Editor, ECOCLUB.com(If any Ecosocialists Unite members would like to share their experiences, views or knowledge please contact us through the comments page)
Ian Angus edits the online journal Climate and Capitalism, edited The Global Fight for Climate Justice, and is co-author, with Simon Butler, of the forthcoming book Too Many People? Population, Immigration, and the Environmental Crisis.Some people believe that deep ecology is not just compatible with ecosocialism, but rather a way to improve it. That’s a profound misconception that ignores deep ecology’s anti-human core. The following was first posted on the online discussion group that was set up after the founding of the Ecosocialist international Network. I have added some suggestions for further reading.
Recently, some participants in this list have argued that ecosocialism would be enriched if it incorporated the philosophy and practice known as “deep ecology.” I don’t question their dedication or sincerity, but their argument reflects a misunderstanding of ecosocialism or deep ecology – or perhaps of both.
This is clearly illustrated by the post “Pachamama and Deep Ecolog
y” by long-time deep ecology advocate Saral Sarkar.
In the course of his superficial and condescending article about the ecological program of the Bolivian government, Sarkar writes:
“But if the Bolivian leadership really means what Morales has said … if it seriously takes the task it has given itself, namely, to protect nature against the onslaught of civilization, then it ought to press for the withdrawal of humanity from large tracts of the earth, which is now almost fully occupied by it. Then it ought to demand that such vacated tracts are allowed to again become wilderness. It ought to demand that large parts of the forests, savannahs, rivers and swamps are not changed anymore. And, above all, it ought to tell humanity that it must reduce its own numbers and immediately stop all kinds of economic growth.”
It is hard to imagine a clearer illustration of the political and moral bankruptcy of deep ecology.
Since his goal is to protect “forests, savannahs, rivers and swamps” from human depredation, the first to be expelled under Sarkar’s proposal would undoubtedly be the people who now live in such places. Indigenous people, the primary victims of capitalism and imperialism, would become the primary victims of deep ecology.
In order to create an unchanging wilderness that hasn’t existed since cyanobacteria destroyed their own environment by producing oxygen several billion years ago, the world’s poorest and most exploited people must be dispossessed.
Who will decide which human beings must leave the places where they and their ancestors have lived for millennia? Who will enforce the compulsory migrations, and how will they do it? Where will the victims be moved to? Sarkar is silent on such questions.
And, since we must also “stop all kinds of economic growth” – not just capitalist growth, not just ecologically damaging growth, but all
growth – how can we possibly meet the physical, social and psychological needs of hundreds of millions of deep ecology refugees? How will they survive in their new homes? Will they even have new homes?
You can call this deep ecology: a better label is ethnic cleansing.
Then he says humans must
reduce our numbers. He doesn’t say by how much, but other deep ecologists write of a return to pre-industrial levels, a goal that would treat 90% of all currently living people as dispensable. Does Sarkar favor some global version of China’s mandatory one child policy? Or perhaps a no-children policy? Once again, who will decide, and how will such draconian policies be enforced?
I have written extensively about the fallacies of populationism, and I won’t repeat those arguments here – but it is important to understand that despite its claims to philosophical profundity, deep ecology is ultimately just an extreme version of populationism, the view that the world’s ills are caused by human numbers.
For deep ecologists, people as such
are the world’s biggest problem. As Janet Biehl writes In her insightful critique of deep ecology:
“Deep Ecology … regards the mere biological presence of human beings in any large numbers as intrinsically harmful to first nature … Of paramount importance to deep ecology is a radical and potentially ruthless scaling-down of the human population – indeed, population reduction as an issue has been named the ‘litmus test’ of deep ecology.” (“Theses on Social Ecology and Deep Ecology
As a result, whatever the illusions and desires of its advocates, deep ecology is profoundly anti-humanist, anti-humanitarian, and anti-humane.
That’s why it is incompatible with ecosocialism, and why no attempt to combine the two can succeed. Further Reading
The founder of deep ecology was Norwegian mystic Arne Naess. His first public article on deep ecology was “The Shallow and the Deep,” published in 1973. He and George Sessions jointly drafted “A Deep Ecology Eight Point Platform
” in 1984. In 1995, Sessions edited the anthology Deep Ecology for the 21st Century
, which includes essays by Naess and others.
Radical ecologist Murray Bookchin published several very effective critiques of deep ecology. See, in particular, the article “Social Ecology versus Deep Ecology: A Challenge for the Ecology Movement
,” and the short book Which Way for the Ecology Movement?
Other insightful critiques, each raising different concerns, are Janet Biehl’s “Theses on Social Ecology and Deep Ecology
,” George Bradford’s How Deep is Deep Ecology?,
Frank Rotering’s “My Second Crack at Deep Ecology
,” and Brian Morris’s “Reflections on ‘Deep Ecology’
.” Too Many People?
by Ian Angus and Simon Butler, discusses deep ecology among other populationist currents. It will be published in October by Haymarket Books but can be pre-ordered now.
Finally, Climate and Capitalism has published many articles on populationism. Click here for a complete list.
To my Aymaran brothers: Thank you for defending the environment, Thank you for doing this for me, for all Peruvians, and all humanity. Thank you for defending it against the voracity of predatory capitalism that every day attacks people and planet in so many ways. Thank you for your courage before the killer government who defends its masters who persist in killing Peruvian citizens.
The great multinational capitalist system, in its daily gluttony to gain more and more millions of dollars, attacks every aspect of Mother Nature: It attacks it with the global heating produced by the great industries that release greenhouse gases, warming the air, dissolving the ice at the earth’s poles and the snows of the mountain ranges. In turn the sea level rises swallowing islands and flooding coasts, yet inland, streams are disappearing and rivers are narrowing.
From time to time the ‘great’ nations responsible for heating the planet in this way meet to discuss the subject. In Copenhagen they failed to diminish warming by a single degree. Cancún was yet more farcical where besides failing to reduce temperatures they converted the air into merchandise and advocated interventions that led to the evacuation of the indigenous populations from the forests; the forests that they have protected for millennia.
Heating produces a great climatic imbalance, not just in the form of damaging hotter spells but the inverse too with greater colder spells. It produces floods such as in Pakistan where a quarter of the territory was engulfed, or the deluge in Cusco last year when over a period of several weeks a mud river crossed the population of Zurite, destroying much cultural heritage and vast swathes of agricultural land.
In addition, heating produces hurricanes like Katrina that destroyed New Orleans in the United States. These disasters that they say to us are “natural”, will one day be every day events, until the day that is, of the extinction of the human species, just as animal and plant species are currently becoming extinct.
Another form of attack is the one that you the Aymaran and other indigenous peoples are bravely fighting against: Open-cast mining which destroys mountains in order to remove gold and other metals. This process takes water that would be used for agriculture and at the same time injects harmful poisons in to it. Another assault is the construction of hydroelectric dams such as in Salkapukara, Canchis, Cusco or the one planned in Inambari. These have expelling thousands of natives and farmers of their houses and separated them from their cultural homes. These dams also deflect water away from agriculture. Thanks to the brothers of Carabaya the government and corporate allies (members of the great capital) have backed down.
Another type of attack is that of the agro-industry. Water for small scale agriculture is robbed by the hands of the great capital, as has happened in Colca in Arequipa and Cusco. It robs the liquid asylum for native vegetables so that thirsty impractical varieties such as asparagus and artichokes can grow (these do not feed Peruvians) these are shipped to the United States, lining the pockets of the agro-industrial companies. This practice kills the earth with the intensive use of agro-chemicals (fertilizers, insecticides and weed killers).
Other attacks include the unsustainable over-fishing of our seas. Governments have enabled the continuation of this process. They continue to mount judicial processes against the defenders of nature; They are doing this whilst supposedly acting as our representatives.
Predatory capitalism uses it’s great apparatus against nature’s defenders: The police, army, judicial power, and the press and media that sustains them. With its money they continue attacking the environment and jail, maim or kill those who defend against their own crimes. They do this in the name of “progress”, of the “law”, the “order”. This “progress” they speak of is a progress towards the lack of water, the death of nature and the future extinction of humanity. We do not need nor want that “progress”!
In spite of this, resistance continues against such depredation. Resistance continues such as in Tambogrande in Piura. In Ayabaca and Huancabamba the people have shouted: “Life yes, mines no! ”, also in Cocachacra in Islay. In Arequipa Alan Garci'a ordered the assassination of 3 people and wounded a further 50. In awajun and wampis in Bagua Garcia's orders led to the assassination of around 200 brothers, not 10 as they say in the official numbers.
The assault of global capitalism against nature is not of course only in Peru, but everywhere in the world. There is grassroots resistance in towns world-wide. The Panamanian natives successfully blocked the Pan-American highway pro-mining legislation. Our brothers mapuches fight bravely in Chile and Argentina. In the United States our navajos brothers fight against the uranium-mining industry in Colorado. The natives dongria condh of India managed to prevent the mining on their sagrada mountain.
Unfortunately these fights are only regional; it is not all the population of a country that protests. This is certainly true of Peru. Nevertheless the fight in defence of nature is extending: A procession has entered Montevideo, capital of Uruguay, to protest against the attack to mother earth. In Santiago, Chile and the main cities of that country, we have witnessed powerful demonstrations against the hydroelectric project in the Patagonia, close to the South Pole. In Germany, following the nuclear disaster in Japan, activists have successfully influenced prime minister Merkel, who has now promised that nuclear power will soon be obsolete. The day before yesterday the Italian population approved in referenda that the water is not merchandise but a public service and that it will not be privatized. In addition it decided: “No to Nuclear”.
Our task in Peru is to educate the population so that it understands that the defence of nature is a task to be undertaken by all, because it’s destruction will have catastrophic consequences for every one of us. In addition it is our task to inform that to support the fight is not simply a shared or common act, but an act of self-defence of the Peruvian population and therefore of the human existence.
To my Peruvian brothers who marched yesterday; when you were in front of the Ministry of Energy and Mines, with suited ‘gentlemen’ “supposedly cultured”, that arrived in their cars, and looked upon you with disdain and contempt. The correct thing would have been that they stopped their vehicles, and engaged you; they are supposedly your ‘representatives’. They should be saying to you “Thank you for your courage for risking everything in defence of nature, for fighting for the right of access to water for my children and grandsons”. “Brothers, it is our obligation yours and ours, to educate the population of our country in which the deterioration of nature is an attack to all”.
We must resist the lies and propaganda scattered by the great mass media that acts in service of the great corporations that maintain them.
We can do it!
Hugo Blanco 14th of June of 2011
(Translated by Martin O'Beirne. The errors are mine)
Martin O'Beirne is an ecosocialist and activist based in the UK. He keeps a blog 'The Ecosocialist' He administered the facebook profile 'ecosocialists unite' which along with c.50 others was mysteriously deleted yesterday. News of the 'purge' first appeared on the blog anticutspace and later in The Guardian.
As we bare witness to the first revolutions of the 21st century it is impossible to ignore the medium that has propelled them. Professor Joseph Weizenbaum, philosopher and computer programmer said: "No playwright, no stage director, no emperor, however powerful, has ever exercised such absolute authority to arrange a stage or field of battle and to command such unswervingly dutiful actors or troops."
He was referring to the power of the computer programmer. It is not of course one individual (i.e. a computer programmer) that I refer to here but the medium that they have created and the collective will of the users of the computer and the internet. Never before have we been so connected and free to express and share every thought and desire with so many, with such coverage and at such pace.
This article swelled in my mind after the events of yesterday, when I discovered the Facebook profile that I administer for the ecosocialists unite project, along with c.50 others
had been closed down. Instantly I recalled the events in Tunisia and Egypt when social networking accounts were deleted and felt it an opportunity to write this brief essay.
Social networking websites have been a key player in the uprising and revolutions in North Africa and the Middle East. Detractors rebuke the significance of the role of the new social media arguing that revolutionaries have always used the tools of the age, be it the postal service, tape recorders, radio etc and that these tools have always been available on both sides, implying the playing field is always a level one. This misses some important points. Even though historians can quibble over the date the uprising began such as in Egypt, and thus the time period leading up to Mubarak’s ousting, I think we can all agree that what happened did so very quickly. Perhaps as we go back through time we can identify a correlation that is proportional to the advancement of the technology available at that time. However this is difficult to assess as history can identify outstanding events more accurately than it can the human consciousness or the collective will that builds in the minds of those heading toward revolt.
In Tunisia it is hard to imagine how much longer things would have taken without the internet and indeed if they would have happened at all. In September of last year the Tunisians were using twitter and facebook to mobilise. Mainstream media simply did not ‘catch on’. Time Magazine covered the story in January just days before Ben Ali was overthrown. An observation I would make is that the kind of additional networking capabilities offered by Facebook made it a more potent tool than twitter in the early phase. It has greater versatility with regard building the revolutionary consciousness, however once the ‘tipping point’ was established twitter became the most significant. Tweets initially contained hashtag #SIDIBOUZID (The name of the fruit and vegetable seller that set himself alight) a mark of respect and an identifiable revolutionary code. As soon as the regime awoke and intervened what happened? A purge of Facebook and Twitter accounts, as has just occurred here in the UK. For the Ben Ali regime it was however too late for the intervention which failed to extinguish the revolutionary flames. Activists adapted to the interference with a new code #ANONYMOUS . It was no longer Tunisians in isolation but rather the global cyber community using the hashtag. The purge of facebook and twitter accounts was deflected by others from across the globe sharing messages on each others behalf. ‘Hacktivists’ fought the regime and managed to close governmental sites and networks. The Tunisians won the war of the internet and accordingly the overthrow of Ben Ali.
In Egypt Mubarak was watching. When the uprising had spread to Egypt he used a different tactic. He simply killed the internet, period. Recognition perhaps of the power of the internet as a revolutionary force. It was however too late for the Autocrat. The kill switch failed to prevent the uprising. Messages still got out, the global internet community could not be silenced.Video footage still made it on to to youtube, proxy sites were set up from outside and cell phones were operational.
Outside of the nuts, bolts and geekery of the potent new tools available to the revolutionary forces there are features lacking in older technologies that warrant further attention. And may go some way to explain the nature of the rolling revolutions or Arab Spring as it is becoming known. The obvious being that anyone can contribute, the media is not being filtered in this sense by a revolutionary elite. It is more horizontal and participatory. In addition there is an extra qualitative or emotional component. The video for example so influential in the Egyptian uprising of the brave young woman Asmaa Mahfouz
urging her people to join her in solidarity in Tahrir square. In this example even a national internet kill switch cannot succeed once the tipping point of collective revolutionary consciousness is established.
With regards the global revolution that must occur not so much as a response to a lack of democracy and freedoms although surely includes this, is a revolution that must occur as a result of resource depletion, increased food prices, water shortages, natural disasters and so on and the threat of eco-fascism. We have soiled our nest so to speak. I believe in this case the additional unfiltered qualitative and emotional aspect of the new media will be enhanced. Perhaps tilting the playing field further in favour of the revolutionary force. Many of these items will be suitably covered and reported by the professionals paid to do so but will no doubt be enhanced by coverage provided by the people. The underlying cause however will not be featured. A striking feature of mainstream coverage of the Egyptian uprising was the TV news reports almost entirely composed of tweets and videos made by protestors.
There is also a less acute, subtle and pervasive component with the new media. This is perhaps best explained by the use of the word ‘meme’. The ecosocialist meme. A term I first encountered in a book written by the ecosocialist author Debal Deb
. This refers to a unit of consciousness that can be spread into the minds of the people. The new media, encourages the kind of joined up thinking that I feel has led people to take notice of ecosocialism in ever increasing numbers. An example of how this spreads could be that of a librarian that loses his/her job due to government cuts and so joins an anti-cuts group on facebook, then begins to consider that it’s actually capitalism itself that is destructive, whilst being outraged at the enormous bankers bonuses still being paid after his/her tax contributions kept them afloat, he/she notices food and petrol prices have increased then becomes increasingly aware of the deleterious affects of the capitalist growth paradigm, seeing news reports of floods in whichever country, he/she then begins to consider environmental issues and begins to link with different representative facebook groups and so on. Social networking augments this kind of ‘joined up’ thinking and he/she is in essence becoming an ecosocialist. We have to make sure he/she knows we exist.
I recently had a conversation with a socialist, about the issue of socialism and ecology. He regarded environmental destruction as an after-thought suggesting that after the revolution we will simply try and fix what’s left of the planet. Although we agreed on many aspects my opposition was the under-weighting or ‘backgrounding’ of environmental issues. This is in part due to timing.
Having been a socialist for 30 or so years environmental concerns have just been bolted on more recently for him. The new generation will gravitate more organically toward ecosocialism. The ‘eco’ drawing many towards socialism that may not otherwise have leant in a politically leftward or green direction
The challenge of greening the already established ‘left’ has been the great challenge of ecosocialism thus far. Indeed I would suggest there are now no socialist groups that fail to acknowledge ecological issues but I would suggest they seldom position them correctly. For example this years Marxism festival
in the UK has John-Bellamy Foster speaking but not in one of the main halls and at the same time as other popular academicians. I’m pleased to see he has been invited but I do feel he and the other ecosocialists or Marxist ecologists should feature more largely in order to fully represent accurately what scientific consensus deems is upon us.
In regard our mission as ecosocialists I feel we have to embrace the new media and relentlessly link the coming eco-catastrophe with the underlying cause. We have to represent the aforementioned Librarian. A quote which I have found informative and inspiring is by Canadian Ecosocialist Steve D’Arcy. “It is there at the point of intersection between struggles for social justice and economic democracy on the one hand, and struggles for ecological sustainability and other broadly ‘environmental’ issues on the other hand that ecosocialism must take root. It is these struggles that will pose the questions, in the minds of activists, to which ecosocialism can begin to suggest answers. If ecosocialism is to be a living political current, it will have to live within the ‘medium’ of mass struggles for social and environmental justice.”
The underlying causes of the multi-form inequalities and devastations that exist now and are yet to come will not be covered by corporate media. That would be corporate and political suicide on their part. Unless of course we manage political successes with Green Parties such as that in the UK that seems to be leaning further to the left than ever before. The caveat here is that political parties embedded within the capitalist order, even the greens have acted against core green values. The German greens supporting Bush's wars
for instance. Until such times of a genuinely ecosocialist revolution we have to spread the ecosocialist meme. Focusing on the untameable and relentless growth paradigm that drives capitalist production. In particular the neoliberal model that Friedman and the ‘Chicago boys’ first embedded as an experiment in Chile. Ironically evoking the most devastating affects in economic terms and in order for its survival required the accompaniment of the most appalling humanitarian abuses imaginable, mass murder and torture. In our lifetimes we have to question if we are advancing or regressing as a species. War, invasions, occupations, concentration camps etc are required to keep the neoliberal model alive. The system dies without this, it has to conjure irrational amounts of profits for the >1% and conjure it right now, it has to gamble to do this, it has to increase bonuses for the CEO’s and break the Unions that represent the majority, it has to privatise all services and even the military if possible as we have seen increasingly with the US occupation of Iraq.
After all that has gone on, we are reminded how little has changed since Chile. However, the world’s major super power with so much racism in both its history and present, elects it’s first black president, hope filled the hearts and minds of the repressed. As John Pilger writes " US President Barack Obama’s historical distinction is now guaranteed. He is the US’s first black president to invade Africa".
As we witness events unfold with the workers in Wisconsin we realise that nothing has really changed. In a symbolic sense we are reminded how neoliberalism marches on with Obama recently deifying Reagan, erecting a statue in his honour. Worryingly and despite the scientific but not yet functional death of the climate change deniers we have given over the future of people and planet to the boys in wall street, the gamblers blinded by any extra-economic criteria who we entrusted to design the miserable cap and trade system. Far from being a useful way to reduce CO2 emissions which still rise apace it has been a new form of market that works in the same unjust manner as you would expect from it’s creators.
Many scientists predict it is too late to prevent much of the damage to come, the aim here then is sadly one of mitigation. We are reminded of the enormous responsibility we have to ensure the response is ecosocialist in character. As an evolving ideologue we must also ensure we maintain this good character and not let it be hijacked by populationist radicals associated more accurately with deep ecology. To this end I look forward to the new book 'Too Many People'
that deals solely with this issue written by Ian Angus who keeps the blog Climate and Capitalism and Simon Butler who edits Green Left Weekly
. Hugo Blanco reminds us that the label ‘ecosocialism’ or it’s international derivatives is not used by indigenous peoples although the term has embedded within it much wisdom derived from these cultures. The principles of Usufruct. That we must pass on mother earth to every generation in an improved condition. It is encouraging to note in the news recently that Bolivia has granted legal rights to mother earth
, rights akin to those of a person. In contrast this reminds us of what could be regarded as the most damaging piece of legislation ever passed and perhaps the polar opposite of the developments in Bolivia. In the 1800’s US corporate 'personhood' was granted under suspicious circumstances as being a part of amendment 14. This is dealt with in greater detail in the book ‘Unequal Protection: The Rise of Corporate Dominance and the Theft of Human Rights’.
As we show solidarity to the men and women in Wisconsin we have to extend this to many of the indigenous peoples that are frequently at the front-line of capitalist injustice, being displaced as the land is raped for financial profits that provide very few people with very vast sums of money. Indeed if we look at the ‘rich list’ we see there are individuals that are essentially as wealthy as some countries. For more on ecosocialsm from an indigenous perspective see Hugo Blanco’s article
It is not the intention of this article to argue the case for ecosocialism in it’s entirety, I would need to do that in a book, but it is clear that we must accelerate our efforts and embrace whatever means are at our disposal to move forward. Even if that means using corporate services such as Facebook. Derek Wall once commented with regards the cyber commons that if Marx was alive today he would be a firefox user. I would suggest that if Marx was alive today he would be close to seizure when first learning of the potent tools available to the current revolutionary. I have no doubt he would be a facebook user although he may be encouraged to use a less conspicuous pseudonym. I imagine he would have been one of the 50 or so, that had just had accounts deleted and I also imagine he would be integral in mobilising for an open source equivalent to Facebook. Perhaps the blueprint for such an initiative could be this site.
As mentioned I’m writing this article in response to the closure of the Facebook profile that I administer for the ecosocialists unite project. Originally news of the purge appeared here
, and later on the Guardian
. The profile was live for only 4 months and in this time over 1000 people had 'friended' the account. Many of whom had never heard of the term 'ecosocialism '. In the past few weeks the number of friends finding the account was in the order of c.20 per day. These were spontaneous introductions, people mainly finding the profile because they shared so many mutual friends or had come across my various postings in groups, pages or other profile walls. I had predicted at the rate of growth that the account would reach it's maximum allowed number of 5000 within the next 3 or so months.
The wall was becoming a useful and expanding resource with contributors from all over the world sharing news and views. The account had also been granted admin functions in several ecosocialist and anti-capitalist groups, and to this end it was able to directly message several thousand people if so required. Just yesterday I was 'chatting' to a professor from Wisconsin a dedicated socialist who was interested in writing for the ecosocialists unite blog, also several other activists from eastern Europe and Africa. Over time I have 'met' film makers, politicians and activists that have a vast range of views that align with ecosocialism even though they had not heard of the term. A notable example was the production company for the film ‘Even the Rain’ which tackles the privatisation of water in Bolivia that led to one of the first significant uprisings of this millenium. Having read my blog article
about the film, shared through the ecosocialists unite profile, A series of tweets and facebook messages appeared from the production company with messages such as ‘Ecosocialism the perfect narrative for the fight of people and planet’ and so on.
I have been monitoring ‘ecosocialism’ tweets for some time and have been privy to witness the spread of the ‘meme’. Other tweets I have noted include such things as ‘ecology + socialism, genius, must read-up’. I am wedded to the term more than many that would perhaps regard the content as the only significant factor regardless of the label. I noticed a Danish ecosocialist once said, ‘who cares about the name, it could be Banana’. My feeling is that the name is useful in practical terms i.e. for the first time #ecosocialism has come into fruition on twitter which was otherwise used very infrequently with the exception of tweets referring to Doug Taylor’s blog Ecosocialism Canada
, Tweets from Derek Wall in reference to articles on his blog Another Green World
and more recently from the blog I maintain, The ecosocialist. In addition to the practicality of one unifying term, I would suggest it tackles head on an important issue for many newcomers that in contrast the use of the more politically acceptable term ‘the green left’ does not. i.e. Socialism. I think it’s important to come out of the closet as it were and say yes Socialism has had many failures, and could be argued has become one of the most vacuous words in the English language with so many interpretations and pseudo-incarnations. One thing however is quite certain, there has never been ecosocialism, which in many ways takes the baton and builds upon first epoch socialism.
The facebook presence was of great practical benefit because I was able to find many enablers that included a growing group of writers and translators. This is of course of great importance to such an optimistic project such as theecosocialistsunite website intended as a global networking initiative for ecosocialists or at least a blue print for one. A notable success this week was from a former resident of Peru now based in the UK who had responded to a call to translate for Hugo Blanco’s paper lucha indigena
The justification given by Facebook is that the name 'ecosocialists unite' is not my personal name. I would suggest c.10% of the accounts associated with ecosocialists unite had names pertaining not to the individual but to a collective, including many student protest groups, anti-cuts groups, indigenous solidarity groups etc. Having read some of the discussions taking place I would like to clarify a few things about how Facebook works: The following items are distinct:
- Personal Profiles
A personal profile assumes you are a person. You have to have the name of a person. And any one person is only allowed one account. You can not be involved in any of the following unless you have a personal profile. A personal profile can have a maximum of 5000 friends. Connections are often made more quickly with a personal profile because Facebook suggests friends who are mutual, e.g if ecosocialistsunite had 100 mutual friends you would likely request to be conected.
Any person can set-up a group (which is different to a page). You cannot ‘operate’ as a group. Groups have evolved recently and have become a more powerful means of communication compared to old style groups. It is now possible to ‘live chat’ to any members of a group. In addition a group can now add documents and run polls. There are currently some groups mainly American based using these functions to their full potential to organise for a general strike. Old style groups such as the ecosocialism group that I set up in 2006 lacks these functions. But you can directly message (like facebook email) all members of an old style group. An aspect I did not like about the old style groups was the necessity of a hierarchy. Admins and officers and members. Not the kind of participatory approach that suits an internet ecosocialism group. A group has no limit on the number of members.
Facebook has recently merged aspects of Pages and personal profiles. You can now operate as a page. A page has a wall that in some cases can only be added to by the page admin. Pages can be liked from other websites but do not offer chat. Even though you can operate as a page, you cannot set up a group or be admin in a group or set up a cause by operating as a page. It is a less versatile means of networking than the other options. I don’t think you can post on any other wall whilst operating as a page. A page has no limit on it’s number of followers. I’m not as familiar with pages so please correct me on any of these points.
Any person can set up any cause. These can be shared in numerous ways have a wall and have the option to send messages to friends. There is no limit to the number in a cause and you can even make financial donations.
Why go through all of this? Because it is an important part of what has occurred and people are talking in pages, groups, profiles etc as if they are synonyms.
It would appear (and I await confirmation on this point) that only personal profiles have been banned. Not groups, pages or causes. Please let me know if there are any developments here. However there is overlap that I have not seen mention of anywhere else. I had set up a separate group an ‘ecosocialists unite’ group intended as a kind of think tank for the ecosocialists unite project. This group was created by my personal profile ecosocialists unite. So now exists but I think is effectively dead, because I had set this group to operate in such a way that people could join by request only. I wasn’t being elitist here only that I felt this was a group for the future. When I had more time, I would have changed these settings. This is important because by banning profiles you can also dis-enable a group's ability to function. Also as noted there are maximum numbers of friends you can associate with a personal profile. I will not therefore be able to regain ‘friends’ of people that have since gained their maximum 5000. These are generally prominent people so this is a shame. In addition having my account restored as a page will not allow me access to all of the ant-capitalist and environmental groups that I had admin privileges for.
Here is a statement from a Facebook representative
. That is clearly complete nonsense: "The reason all of these profiles came down at once is simple. Facebook's security tools constantly work to maintain our real name culture by removing profiles that are 'fake' or don't belong to an individual person, but rather a campaign, an animal, or an organisation."
This is complete nonsense for the following reasons. All the deleted profiles are political and in addition (have not heard mention of this observation yet) all were British. So perhaps Facebook security tools isolates profiles in a national fashion which is highly unlikely and proceeds only to select left wing political groups. There are millions of profiles that have a name that is either ‘a campaign an animal or an organisation’
. For example has there been an outcry amongst account deletions amongst basket weaving groups, tapestry groups, fishing groups, football groups etc that were using personal profiles. I have not yet heard anything. They were all British, They were all left wing and predominantly quite young, student groups, anticuts groups, anarchist groups.
So we have a clear rebuke the closures were simply too focal. I will not Labour the obvious point. It was synchronous with the Royal Wedding.
But what about the who? Scotland Yard have said: "The Met Police did not ask Facebook to take down this content."
Well it’s possible there was no Police involvement. It’s possible the Police do not even know if there was some police involvement. As we know their undercover operatives sometimes get muddled. But who else? I can almost imagine seeing Prince Philip being hurried along by his family ‘Bloody wait would you, I’m taking down the bastard lefties on facebook’
Although the above assertion is daft it is possible that someone acting as an individual (but clearly motivated by the tax payer funded Royal wedding) selected the accounts and reported them as not having human names. I would suggest someone was spying for quite some time to have targeted the profiles it did. I must admit I am no friend of the royal wedding but it was something that was passing be my, my blog and my postings only alluded once as far as I remember and this was as an aside. I don’t know Facebook’s form with regards responding to an individual reporting inaccurate profile names, how long it takes them to delete accounts if they ever give a warning prior to closure etc. We certainly didn’t get any notification. It may be there are elements here that could be revealing with further investigation.
I was aware that setting up a personal profile under a non-human name was a violation of Facebook regulations. Aware also that this would become a more diverse way of operating. I thought it worth the risk. I would suggest to people that realise this and are prepared to take the risk that they should set up groups and pages of the same name. As a safeguard. In addition if you are granted admin status allowing you rights to message all group members in an old style group, you should ask to use a second profile (which is also a violation) to be added also. Any groups, pages or causes you administer add your trusted friends to the ‘admin’ so the group does not close or become dysfunctional.
Not yet mentioned are the successes of online petition sites and the blogosphere. Avaaz can already boast several major 'scalps'
. Another petition site, the 38 degrees
campaign, amongst it's victories includes the cessation of plans to build the noctorn mega dairy, or cow factory here in the UK. The blogosphere is real freedom of expression, the lifeblood of the 'cybertariat'. Not only integral in the more creeping pervasive sense of installing the ecosocialist meme but also in the acute sense, often covering news before the mainstream, discussing the real underlying issues from whichever perspective and with regards direct online activism fills the gaps left by the petition sites. A recent example was the response in arrest of 46 Zimababwean socialists
who gathered to discuss the Arab spring. I cannot recall any mainstream coverage but the blogosphere had stepped in. Articles that first appeared on blogs then taken up by more popular socialist sites led to a bombardment of messages to the respective embassies, Zimbabwean authorities and legal funds were gathered. 40 were released. Global people power in action (As I understand at the time of writing the campaign continues for six who remain in prison).
In conclusion the new media tilts the table in favour of the fight for global social and environmental justice. No other generation has had such potent tools. Sites like Facebook and Twitter, petition sites and the blogosphere are synergistic in their action i.e. the combined effect is greater than the sum of their separate effects. Internet victories do translate into real-world victories. New media is a more potent tool compared to older technologies and favours the revolutionary force. Content is not filtered by a revolutionary elite, is more participatory and horizontal and there is an additional qualitative and emotive component that 'fuels' the fire. It is doubtful the Arab spring would have sprung! if not for the additional qualities provided by the new social media. The internet is a key battleground for the fight of the ecosocialist meme. It may be the case that to reach a revolutionary 'tipping point' the hardest gains will be early on but once the tipping point is reached, recent history favours the revolutionary force. Joel Kovel once said ecosocialism is global or it is nothing. I believe there are signs that we are on our way to that new world. With regard our current rate of ecocidal activity in the context of finite resources ecosocialists need to organise now or this new world will be more ecofascist than it is ecosocialist.
Some quotes to finish with, from Susan B Anthony, Joel Kovel and Arundhati Roy respectively:"Organize, agitate, educate, must be our war cry” “Another world is possible, it’s called ecosocialism”"Another world is not only possible, she is on her way. On a quiet day I can hear her breathing."
Internet issues for another time include the threat of internet privatisation, the internet and the CIA, and Obama’s internet kill switch. I have work to do and a 1000 contacts to remake. The deletion of the account also means I no longer have the means to share articles from my blog so please check in from time to time. The Ecosocialist.
Indigenous struggle in defence of Mother Earth and its collectivist organization
(Transcripts of Hugo Blanco’s talks as Editor of Lucha Indigena after his tour around Great Britain (September - October 2010). This tour was driven by the Ecosocialists from ‘Resistencia Socialista’ (Socialist Resistance) and ‘Izquierda Verde’ (Green Left). It was before the disastrous Cancun Climate Change Summit
Translated for ecosocialists unite by Ana Rubio Fernandez Global Warming
When I was young I used to fight for a just society. I thought that if my generation would not achieve it, the next ones would.
Now I see I was wrong: There will be no future generations if we do not topple the predatory system. Therefore, if I fought for a just society back then, I now fundamentally fight for humanity’s survival.
The existence of global warming is unquestionable. The UN has had to bow down to the scientific evidence – just like the governments of the countries that warm the planet the most – produced by the big capitalist enterprises.
It is not that a group of mean capitalists has decided to lead humanity to extinction. This is not their aim, but to earn money. And if they need to bring humanity to its disappearance to achieve this aim, they will. It is possible that some of them yearn for the sub-product of their sacred commandment: Earn more money in as little time as possible.
Richard Branson, British businessman and owner of Virgin airlines, offered a 25 million dollar prize to anyone who can come up with a system for removing greenhouse emissions. People replied: “You are contributing to global warming with your airline”. In my opinion he gave an excellent answer: “What do you want? If I close my business down, British Airways will take its place”.
If there is a capitalist advocate whose love for his offspring stops him from setting up a factory that emits greenhouse gases, the next one will do it. It does not depend on the knowledge or morality of individual capitalists; it is the unstoppable wheel of the system that is leading humanity to extinction. It is not a matter of killing
a capitalist; we should kill the system which places humanity’s fate in the hands of the voracious big capital. Effects
Peasants, although most of them do not know its origin, suffer the effects of global warming more than urban people. Streams are disappearing. Rivers are getting thinner – there used to be rivers that needed bridges to be crossed, but theses are nowadays less needed. The Amazon River is as thinner as ever. Snow is melting. This is a disgrace, as they are sources of water. Icebergs are also thawing.
There was a time when the North Pole was a huge ice bloc; nowadays people can sail through it in the summer.
The oceans’ water level is increasing: the island known by its Indian inhabitants as New Moore and by Bengalis as South Talpatti has been eaten
by the sea.
The Lohachara Island, with more than 10,000 inhabitants, situated in the Indian region of Sundanbans, where the rivers Garges and Brahmaputa end in the Bay of Bengala, has also been eaten
by the sea.
A part of Greenland has split up from the rest of the island and has been called the Warming Island or Uunartoq Qeqertoq in Inuit (see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Warming_Island
The Republic of Kiribati, an Archipielago made of 33 Pacific Islands, asked for international aid to evacuate its 97.000 inhabitants. The increase of salty waters is devastating its arable lands and polluting its freshwater wells.
The territory of the Kuna people from the islands of Panama is threatened with extinction. It has also been argued that some areas in the Peruvian department of Piura are also threatened.
Changes in the environment triggered by global warming causes several climate disasters: Winters are harder than before, like the last one in the Northern hemisphere; or the one Puno (Peru) underwent recently, causing the death of many children.
On the other hand, extremely hot summers have been reported in Brazil and Africa.
Very recently, floods affected a fourth of Pakistan’s territory.
Some of the people affected by hurricane Katrina which affected New Orleans in the US, filed a case against the big enterprises responsible for global warming and therefore for the hurricane.
Big media outlets, in the hands of global warming producers, do not show these disasters as its consequences, but as “natural disasters”.
We know that they are not natural at all, but that they are caused by big businesses through the emission of greenhouse gases.
The central pages of our monthly newspaper “Lucha Indigena” (http://www.luchaindigena.com
), focus on the monthly effects of global warming against the planet, under the heading: “Big Capital’s attack against humanity”. Unfortunately, month after month, the two pages become insufficient.Managing the problem
The countries that produce the most greenhouse emissions, situated in the North, held a meeting in 1997 in Kyoto, Japan, in which they committed themselves to reduce 5% of their greenhouse emissions. One of the countries that did not ratify the agreement was the US, which with 4% of the world population is responsible for the 25% of all greenhouse emissions.
Very little was fulfilled from the agreement. In December 2009, in Copenhagen, a new meeting was held, also led by the UN. No agreement was reached. African countries, whose populations need to walk for days in order to fetch water, called for compensations to the big polluters. But the latter did not want to hear about this.
Out of the official meeting, Obama gathered some accomplices and made them sign a paper now called “the Copenhague agreement”, in which there is not a commitment to reduce greenhouse emissions, but only a demonstration of good intentions. Afterwards, the US bought more enterprises from other countries. Ecuador responded that if it was a matter of money, he would collect it and pay the US for it to sign the Kyoto Protocol.
The positive aspect about the Copenhague Summit was that there were 10,000 people outside the meeting venue yelling: “Let’s change the System, not the Climate!”
and “If the climate was a bank they would have already saved it!
In the face of the meeting failure, Bolivian President, Evo Morales, summoned the “World People’s Conference on Climate Change and the Rights of Mother Earth” in Cochamamba, Bolivia. It was a successful meeting to the extent that it gathered Nature defenders from different parts of the world. Unfortunately, the Islandic volcano prevented the European partners from attending. It was unfortunate that collective actions were not agreed. There was a table outside the meeting venue in which critiques against the political economy of the government were made, as it continues mining activities like previous governments and therefore affecting the environment.
The Big Capital continues to do all it can to deny or minimize the effects of global warming. Some months ago there was a campaign aiming at discrediting those scientists in charge of its study. It was later proved that these accusations were false. An association of big American businessmen hired journalists and “scientists” to deal with the issue in accordance with producers of greenhouse gases. The big media outlets which are in its hands continue to call “Natural disasters” to the effects of global warming. They try to convince us that similar disasters have happened in several historical ages, and that they are “natural”: They have said that the Mayas predicted that the end of the world would be in 2012. This has been denied by experts in Maya writings who declare that Maya people talked of events after that date. The Big capital does all this so that people resign themselves and do not fight against the system.
The UN has planned the next official meeting about this issue in Cancun, Mexico, from 29th November to 10th December 2010. It does not take to be a fortune-teller to know that nothing positive will come out of this Summit. Indigenous Resistance
I’ve already pointed out that peasants are the ones who suffer the most the effects of global warming. However, most people do not know its origins and still consider them as “natural disasters”.
But what they do understand is that these are attacks from Capitalism against nature -- Pacha Mama in Quichua (Mother Earth or Mother Nature) -- and that these are the anti-environmentalist attitudes of the system.
Indigenous peoples are those who benefit the least from civilization and know “progress” through the attacks of which they are victims.
We all live off nature, but in cities children believe that it is the supermarket who feeds them. Many adults are close to this position as they are not interested in the degradation of the land.
On the other hand, indigenous populations clearly feel that they depend on nature for their subsistence. This is why it is the indigenous populations who react to the attacks against Mother Earth. Let’s point some of these attacks: Mining.-
Especially open cast mines (these are more harmful than shaft mines) as they destroy mountains in order to extract minerals. It steals water from agriculture and poisons it, killing people, animals, vegetables and the land. Gas and oil extraction.-
It poisons the Amazonian rivers, killing the fish that feed the population and leave the people and animals without water.Construction of hydroelectric power stations.-
It takes the water away from agriculture in order to provide mines with electricity. Moreover, people working in the project of the dam in Inambari, Peru, are trying to evict thousands of indigenous peoples from their houses and their crops in order to build a big dam that will provide Brazilian multinational corporations with electricity.Logging for wood.-
As the fertile layer of soil in the Amazon is thin, this area will become desert after years of heavy rains. Logging for farming purposes.-
Forest peoples live off hunting, livestock is for urban people. The forest will also become a desert area because of such practices. The big agro-industry.-
It applies to nature the logics of factories: The more production of the same species, the better. This is why they grow the most productive varieties year after year. This is called monoculture and is harmful for the soil. They use agrochemicals: fertilizers, insecticides and weed-killers. All this will destroy the soil in a few years. After devastating the soil in Peru, they will go somewhere else in America, Asia, Africa or Oceania.
Indigenous peoples, on the other hand, thinking that their grand-parents lived off that land and that their grand-children will do the same, do care about it. After several centuries of agricultural knowledge, they know they have to practice crop rotation. They grow leguminous plants for a year so that they bring nitrogen to the roots; then the following year they grow potatoes that will use that nitrogen. They also practice associate crops – i.e. several species together – which is good for the soil and bad for parasites. They also know they need to leave the land fallow – “layme” In Quichua. Then they use that fallow land as grazing land. They use organic fertilizers. Seizure of indigenous lands for tourism.-
This type of attack is experienced by indigenous peoples in British Columbia in Canada, Chiapas (Mexico) and in Africa. Not only indigenous peoples fight for Mother Earth
This is done by those affected by the capitalist predation, like the brave people in Andalgala, Catamarca, Argentina. Urban people also fight in defence of water.All the world’s indigenous peoples
It was the indigenous push that established Evo Morales as President of Bolivia and it was him who called for an international summit against climate change. The new Bolivian Constitution recognizes the rights of Mother Earth.
Indigenous peoples in Peru, Chile, Argentina, Guatemala, Panama, Canada, United States, India (Dongria Kondh), Africa (Bushmen) and Australia are fighting in defence of Mother Earth. They reject nuclear waste.
This shows that the indigenous fight in defence of Mother Earth is not an ethnic issue, but a cultural matter.
Eduardo Galeano in his last book, “Espejos” (Mirrors
), wrote: How Could we? To be mouth or mouthful, hunter or hunted. That was the question. We deserved scorn, or at most pity. In the hostile wilderness no one respected us, no one feared us. We were the most vulnerable beasts in the animal kingdom, terrified or night and the jungle, useless as youngsters, not much better as adults, without claws or fangs or nimble feet or keen sense of smell. Our early history is lost in mist. It seems all we ever did was break rocks and beat each other with clubs. But one may well ask: Weren’t we able to survive, when survival was all but impossible, because we learned to share our food and band together for defense? Would today’s me-first, do-your-own-thing civilization have lasted more than a moment?
The great love for Mother Earth was a part of those general ethics in the dawn of civilization.
But it is not the only homogenous principle, there are others. The world’s indigenous peoples are the purest advocates of these ethics.
Let’s see the other aspects of the primitive human culture that is common to the world’s indigenous peoples: Collectivism
Problems affecting the community are resolved by the community; that is, not by an individual or a small group.
If this was the logics of today’s humanity, there would be no global warming, as it would not be businesses the ones deciding whether a factory emitting greenhouse gases is set up or not. But on the contrary, it would be society as a whole.
Wherever there are indigenous people, there are indigenous communities. These are small organisms with collective mandate, a small political power, although very limited by the central government. Sometimes, they are corrupted as they live in corrupted environments, but in general they are maintained as small governments truly democratic. They are recognized by several constitutions, like the Peruvian.
Sometimes there is a community of communities. These are found in Cauca, Colombia, and are recognized by the Constitution. Also in Cuna, in the Panama islands, a victory achieved with the 1929 revolution.
More clearly, this type of collectivism exists in a small area of Chiapas, Mexico, where indigenous peoples govern since 1994 through the “Councils of Good Government”. These are collective bodies that change regularly and their members are revocable. The Zapatista National Liberation Army is in charge of protecting the liberated zone from the attacks of “bad government” – which is the way they call the Mexican government. If one of its members wants to be part of the Council, he or she must give up the army. The members of the Council do not make money out of it, as they know and practice the indigenous principle which follows that the public office is to serve, not to be served. This is very different from our regimes called “democratic” in which everybody fights for a post, like dogs for a piece of meat, as they know they will make a lot of money, take bribes and give placements to friends and relatives.
Some time ago I attended a communal election. When the people proposed a friend of mine for president, he claimed he had already served the community in several occasions and asked the people to choose someone else.
The enemy knows very well that communal organizations are advocates of the environment, and this is why it attacks them. In Mexico and Peru, almost simultaneously, Salinas and Fujimori enacted several laws trying to dissolve them. In the flow of laws enacted by the government of Alan Garcia not only are there many people advocating for the predation of the environment, but also many others attacking the community.The indigenous community is an initial core for the construction of a horizontal society. A further step would mean the community of communities mentioned above
. Most indigenous people are not aware of this, but this does not invalidate such construction.
We obviously do not advice urban populations to follow suit. They should know how to proceed in the construction of a society that is not divided between those who govern and those who obey, against the capitalist logics that only works for more gain regardless of nature or peoples’ health. For example, the product called ‘Posilac’ from Monsanto is a hormone that makes cows generate more milk. That milk is carcinogenic but that does not matter, what does matter is that the owner of the cow makes more money out of it.
Examples of anti-capitalist steps are the factories administered by workers in Argentina, fair trade organizations, associations of producers and consumers, or any other attempt that brings alternatives to the capitalist logic. Ecosocialism The two characteristics pointed above about indigenous peoples – the great love for nature and their collectivist organization, were the ones that called the attention of our European Ecosocialist partners since these two characteristics are their goals. They know that the only coherent way to achieve respect for the environment is to take the power away from capitalist businesses and give it to horizontal populations.
Because of my role leading the Newsletter Lucha Indígena
, in which we publish the indigenous struggle for Mother Earth and for the defence of their collectivist organization, I was invited by Izquierda Verde
(Green Left) and Resistencia Socialista
(Socialist Resistance) to travel around Great Britain showing the indigenous struggle. The reaction of the audience was very positive. In several places I was told that my words had been “inspiring”, even though they were not my words what were inspiring but the reality of the indigenous struggle, still unknown in Great Britain. Good Living
Even though there is not such a word in Indigenous language, since for indigenous peoples this is simply living, I think this is an interesting input from indigenist
intellectuals. We can contrast this term with the capitalist concept that reads that happiness consists of making a lot of money in the shortest time possible in order to buy what advertising and fashion commands, and therefore be envied and respected by our fellow human beings.
Good living understands happiness as living satisfactorily.
Let’s see some examples to explain this:
A Quichua Indian once told me that the Amazonian peoples were idle, and to prove it he told me the following story: A farmer asked an Amazonian Indian to cut down a certain extension of forest in order to devote it to growing and told him he would pay him with a machete. The Indian did his job so efficiently and quickly that the farmer suggested: “If you cut down a quarter of what you have done, I will give you another machete”. The Indian looked puzzled at him and replied: “I only have one right hand, why would I need two machetes?” and he left. He did not want to improve himself, he just wanted to live. I am telling you this, not only to explain the concept of ‘good living’ of Amazonian peoples, but also to show that Quichua peoples are more domesticated than them by the consumer society.
Nevertheless, there are examples of Good Living among the Quichuas: When you ask an Indian what their land produces, he does not talk about quantities or prices. On the contrary, he replies: “¡hunt’asqa!” which means “complete!”, that is, it produces several species. Fair juries, teachers of the college of agriculture, know they should not reward those who grow the biggest potatoes, or the most by acre, but those farmers with the largest number of varieties, because that is what constitutes the indigenous pride.
I have found people selling a small quantity of a product. I suggested to them that I would like to buy it all, without reduction. However, they rejected the offer and replied: “If we sell all we’ve got to you, what will we sell to other people?” Selling is not only a commercial action; it is a way of social interaction.
Even though the love for nature and the search for a horizontal society are not exclusively indigenous, as ecosocialists also think this way, I have found the concept of Good Living in civilized people: A Swedish friend of mine used to like walking around supermarkets in Stockholm. When I asked him why, he answered: “I do it because of the joy I feel when I see all the things I do not need in order to be happy”. Love for their ancestors and their descendants
Elinor Ostrom, 2009 Nobel Prize winner in Economics said: “I am very thankful to North American Indians who have showed me that they think of the seventh generation”. They act according to this principle: thinking if what they do now will harm or benefit the seventh generation. This is completely different to the disdain shown by many people educated by capitalism, who do not care if their grand-children will have water to drink. Respect for Diversity
In Peru, dozens of Amazonian peoples, speaking different languages, came together in a single fist
in defence of the forest.
Each indigenous people dress differently and they all respect each other. In Chiapas, I was asked by an Indian if I was indigenous. When I answered that I was Quichua, he looked at me with disdain and asked: “Is that the way your people dress?” referring to the Western clothes I was wearing. Conclusion
I have presented the indigenous thinking in general terms, although not every indigenous person thinks this way. For instance, in Peru we had a president of Indian blood but who had a ‘Harvard brain’. His surname was Toledo.
I insist, the ethical principles I have presented here are not exclusively indigenous, there are many people in the civilized world who also think this way.
It is well known that those indigenous peoples who are less domesticated by the system, those called “savages”, fight better. This is seen in Peru and Ecuador. If we look at the past, we can still see this. When the European invaders came here, they found two advanced civilizations: The Aztec and the Inca. Both were quickly defeated, while the “savage” peoples continued the fight. In Cuba they had to exterminate them. In Argentina, President Sarmiento, “the Educator of the Americas”, continued fighting against them. It is interesting reading his racist sentences. In the United States they were used in Cowboy (Western) films.
There are indigenous people who have been fighting for centuries against their own oppression and who react with hostility to Western people and Western culture. This is understandable but fortunately they are the least. No significant indigenous organization thinks this way.
Indigenous people in Chiapas, Mexico said: “We are indigenous, we are proud of it and we want to be respected as such. We are the brothers of the poor in Mexico and all the world’s poor”. These were not empty words, but they call for the first summit “Against Neoliberalism, for Humanity” which gathered people from 70 different countries, including Europe and the United States. This was long before the World Social Fora.
European governments, representatives of the big capital, seek to unburden the crisis caused by them on the population, increasing the retirement age and cutting expenditures benefitting those sectors in need of support. In Greece, France, Spain, Great Britain, etc. people are rising against the abuse. The enemy of these people and our own is the same: the Big Capital which depletes our natural resources and unburdens the crisis it has caused on the world’s populations.
The depletion of our natural resources is not only detrimental to us but to humanity as a whole. Experience has shown that the solidarity displayed by our partners in rich countries in defence of the so-called Third World is fruitful. The depletion of the rich-in-resources Tambogrande Valley in Piura, Peru, was stopped thanks to the courageous struggle of its people and national and international solidarity. In this case, Canadian environmentalists denounced the devastating plans of a Canadian mining company. Similarly, British citizens protested before the Annual Shareholders meeting of Vedanta Resources in Westminster. This was very effective and made the servile government of India back down in the Dongria Kondh case. I believe that humanity can only survive if it regains its original ethics.
If we continue to accept without objection that large firms are those who govern and not society as a whole, we will be leading to humanity’s extinction.
To return to our original ethics does not mean a return to primitive life.
When science and technology are no longer at the service of the big capital but move to serve humanity, they will tell us what civilization’s benefits can we continue to enjoy without endangering Humanity’s survival. They will probably tell us that if we use wind and solar power, we can continue to benefit from many of the inventions of civilization. We should get to know each other more, understand the different ways of struggle and resistance. But we should not standardize them. We should collaborate with each other, respecting fruitful diversity. We should learn from each other without plagiarizing. Faced with the globalization of the world’s economy for the benefit of big business and against humanity, we must globalize the resistance of mankind for our own survival. Globalize the struggle, Globalize the HopeAdd your name to the ecosocialists unite list Hugo Blanco September – October 2010
Translated February 2011