The seminal and transformative idea of “ecosocialism” is gaining ground all over the world as more and more people recognize that neoliberal fundamentalism being enforced upon the world by an international power elite has brought the world to the brink of collapse. Imperialism in its current form of globalization is destroying ecosystems all over the world, as it creates a punishingly iniquitous economic system, which ravages communities and crushes families. But, the much-needed pushback is on, and the people are fighting back. Recently, in the mountains of northwestern Venezuela, the first Ecosocialist International was founded, as one hundred delegates from five continents came to a consensus and made a covenant with Mother Earth, registered in a combined strategy and a 500 year plan of planetary action. The participants included organizations like the Mesopotamian Ecology Movement from Kurdistan, the Water Defenders’ School from Standing Rock, the Sarvodaya Shramdana Movement from Sri Lanka, and many other ecosocialist thinkers and practitioners from all over the world focused on creating a new paradigm for systemic change.
The Ecosocialist International was hosted by the celebrated “maroon” communities of the towns of Agua Negra, Palmarejo and Taria, in the municipality of Veroes and the state of Yaracuy. They are the direct descendants of the rebels of the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries, who escaped from slavery and colonialism and built maroon communities whose legacies of liberation are lived to this day. These maroon communities have always been internationalist; comprising Africans of many linguistic/ethnic groups; indigenous peoples of the region who were also resisting conquest, and even a few maroon Europeans from the underclasses of colonial society, who sought a different model of civilization outside the plantation economy. The capacity of the communities of Veroes to logistically host and politically inspire international delegates from five continents – in the midst of a national economic crisis no less – was a natural fulfillment of this maroon legacy, which for centuries has advanced a vision of revolutionary internationalism and guarded the seeds of its mode of production.
Any event on the stage of world history tests its would-be participants and historians, and this author’s best efforts are likely to fall short of their calling. This essay is a modest attempt to begin articulating something audacious. Hopefully, it may serve as an invitation and/or provocation to others, to add their voices and visions to the urgent conversation. What follows are preliminary answers to the “frequently asked questions” – the how, what and why of the First Ecosocialist International.
The defining sentiment behind the First Ecosocialist International is expressed in the popular slogan “only the people can save the people”. This underlines the principle that we should not beg or bargain with our enemies over the fate of humanity and nature, but take responsibility for our collective destiny. Thus we avoided as much as possible the recitation of demands and denunciations, with which so many conferences and convergences are occupied.
The methodology adopted for discussions during the gathering was that of collective construction – where every voice is heard and registered. But, we also didn’t want to replicate the epistemological schizophrenia of capitalist modernity – break up into groups, where one discusses mining, another agroecology, a third indigenous sovereignty, and a fourth women’s liberation. Doing that we can never arrive at the holistic understanding or practice necessary to confront the system as a whole. At last a solution revealed itself; our form of organization would be nature’s itself. We divided into the five elements – water, earth, air, fire and ether; or the milk, body, voice, energy and spirit of Mother Earth – understanding and insisting that all the elements of our struggles and solutions are interrelated and integrated. And, as the elements would orient one axis, time would orient another. We then synthesized the many themes of discussion into a spiral, expanding to encompass the short, medium, and long term – the calendars of struggle, construction and utopia. The radical idea, as expressed in the convocation, was that delegates would divide themselves into groups not just based on issues and practices, but something deeper – “being and feeling.”
The Ecosocialist International advocates for permanent communication between ecosocialist individuals and movements of all countries. Each adhering person and collective is sovereign, and this sovereignty is earned in practice; in the return to Mother Earth. What binds us together is our connection to the source, and our commitment to return to it. We work towards the coherence of a true network in which no center predominates; a galactic spiral of spirals for the convergence of free forces.
The First Ecosocialist International aspires to the global emergence of an ecosocialist mode of production. Where previous Internationals were anti-capitalist, the First Ecosocialist International is also anti-colonial, and this is reflected in a commitment to a mode of production premised not on fulfilling the stages of capitalist development, but on a return to the source. This entails turning the whole idea of progress – often as dear to Marxists as it is to liberal or conservative capitalists – upside down. An ecosocialist mode of production will not be designed on a rejection of a primitive past, as a communist mode of production was often imagined. Over and over, the plan of action repeats: “the return to ancestral cosmovisions and practices.” It imagines the revelation and reintegration of the ancestral forces and relations of production prior and contrary to colonization. “We are radicals,” the Ecosocialist plan of action insists, “we shall return to our roots and our original ways; we shall see the past not only as a point of departure but also as a point of arrival.” But we will not substitute blind allegiance to the future and modernity with a blind allegiance to the past. An ecosocialist mode of production will be a fusion of the ancient and the contemporary.
As would be expected the subject of “state” and its power as well as its role in transformation was a matter of serious discussion during the Ecosocialist International. We realize that the only lasting basis for survival, let alone political power, is the economic, political, and spiritual return to Mother Earth. The locomotive of the nation-state cannot take us there. But it is blocking the path. Our path of return to Mother Earth must traverse the state, but must not become lost in its many labyrinths.
The First Ecosocialist International differs from previous Internationals in its affirmation of spirituality. Its plan of action is meant to be not only revolutionary but redemptive; attending to the liberation and care of society and classes, and also of individual souls. It intends to restore and reclaim what Marx called “the heart of heartless conditions,” to redeem and resurrect “the soul of a soulless world.” This emerges most obviously in the centrality of Mother Earth. In the convocation, ecosocialism is defined as one of her many voices. This understanding and practice of ecosocialism is quite distinct from that discussed in the conferences of the global North, who tend unfortunately towards recapitulating the puritanical atheism of the eurocentric left. However, it is a natural expression of a spiritual ecosocialism which has been defined and defended for decades by the original authors of the first Ecosocialist Manifesto, Joel Kovel and Michel Lowy.
The foundation and program of the First Ecosocialist International is a covenant for “an exodus from capitalist modernity” – a covenant with Mother Earth, recognizing as hers the many and myriad ways of being and feeling, which should neither pull her apart nor be forced into any single rope to bind her, but interwoven carefully and creatively. Mother Earth is the spiritual center for this program, which reaches out in all ways and at all speeds to so many horizons.
The Ecosocialist International is an invocation and an initiation. In 2016 and 2017, the gatherings began with ceremonies in which ancestors were called upon and honored. Mother Earth is a universal source and horizon at which any and all faiths and religions may converge. With Christian, Muslim and Jewish, along with Yoruba, Marialioncero, Lakota, Wayuu, and other indigenous spiritualities and syncretisms present among the participants, it is very much a spiritual as well as a political alliance.
If it starts small, or if it seems powerless now, that is no reason to be discouraged. As the Internationale has been sung for generations, “we have been naught – we shall be all.” The preamble pledges: “We recognize that we are only a small part of a spiral of spirals, which has the profound intention to expand and include others until all of us are rewoven with Mother Earth; to restore harmony within us, between us, and among all the other sister beings of nature.”
This is a distilled and edited version of a longer essay by Quincy Saul, available in full at www.ecosocialisthorizons.com
Quincy Saul is a writer, musician, and a co-founder of Ecosocialist Horizons. He is the co-editor of Maroon the Implacable: The Collected Writings of Russell Maroon Shoatz. Saul has authored “Truth and Dare: A Comic Book Curriculum for the End and the Beginning of the World.” He is also the co-producer of The Music of Cal Massey. Saul’s articles have been published by Truthout, Counterpunch, The Africa Report, Capitalism Nature Socialism, Telesur, and more.
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