Letter no. 5: Ecosocialist Meeting Report, Geneva 2014
Please find below the report and conclusions from the first European Ecosocialist Meeting that was held in Geneva from the 24th to the 26th of January 2014, as summarized by the organizing group.
We would first however like to thank you for your participation and engagement that made for such a successful Meeting.
We’ve been touched by the many messages of congratulations and thanks that we’ve received from you. We tried to provide you with the best possible welcome, in spite of our heavy workload during the Meeting, and to create a united and enjoyable atmosphere. We hope to have succeeded in this regard, and we apologize for any potential mistakes we may have made along the way. We had great fun meeting you all, sharing our experiences and struggles, and also of course a bit of partying. We’re sorry that you didn’t win the ham of the tombola, except the winner, obviously! Next time lucky!
We’re excited to know that our collaboration will continue and that next year, we’ll meet up again for a second edition which, we’re convinced, will be even better prepared and more festive than the first.
With this report, you will receive a list of the people signed up and who participated in the workshops. This list is missing, needless to say, the people who didn’t sign up. We invite you to visit our website (www.2014.alterecosoc.org) where you will find different articles that appeared in the press along with photos of the Meeting. We aim to translate into French and English Yayo Herrero’s speech on ecofeminism, as well as a sub-titled video version on the website. As soon as we get hold of all the workshop reports, a brochure will be sent to you.
Initially, when the ecosocialist group SolidaritéS proposed this Meeting, it was based on the following observations:
1) The inherent nature of capitalism as a system is incapable of resolving the problems humanity finds itself confronted by. On the contrary, it is the systemic requirements of capitalism that are at the origin of these problems: climate change, exhaustion of natural resources, loss of biodiversity, air, water and soil pollution, social degradation…the capitalist logic of expansion and unlimited accumulation of profit, consumerism and the fetishism of commodities are incompatible with the protection of humanity and nature.
2) Responses provided by the capitalist system (sustainable development, exploitation of workers and the destruction of socially progressive victories, the green economy, shale gas, nuclear energy, the carbon market, the monetization of nature…) are unacceptable and do not respond to the urgency of the ecological and social crisis confronting humanity today.
3) The response offered by the social democratic and green parties are also not equal to the urgency of the crisis, and these parties are becoming more and more integrated within the system (with the exception of progressive activists from these parties, with whom we work closely).
4) Our ecosocialist project requires a radical rupture with capitalism, without which we are not able to resolve these problems or construct a different society.
5) To confront this reality, the ecological and social movement (in the broadest sense) needs to coordinate. Indeed there are many different sectoral struggles, but we need a level of coordination to communicate these struggles, analyze together policies that affect us, learn from the experiences of one another, create networks, and proposal collaborative campaigns.
These were the primary arguments behind the origin of the Meeting, to move towards a radical change of the system and elaborate the beginnings of a rupture with capitalism and begin to outline our project towards an ecosocialist society (including social ecology, ecofeminism, and libertarian ecology, degrowth, etc.).
The call to the Meeting has been the catalyst for the project. We wanted the signatories of the Call to also commit to participating in the Meeting, a generally successful outcome.
Here are our observations on the Meeting process:
We wanted to begin the process of debate before the Meeting, taking as its starting point the various thematic contributions. The delay in the sending of contributions, but also the difficulty of translating into three languages, prevented this from happening. We received 34 contributions that stayed for the most part in their original language.
The majority of registrations and participations were done in the final ten days before the Meeting. We had more than 140 people register in this period. Not everyone who was registered came. We also had many people who participated without being registered. We estimate that, across the two days, nearly 180 people participated in the Meeting.
Participants came from many countries. Swiss, as the host country, was the most represented, followed by France, including a significant presence of friends from the neighboring region. Next was Spain, followed by the Basque Country, Catalonia and Andalusia. We also benefited from the presence of four Greek friends, two Portuguese, Norwegians, people from Austria and the Czech Republic, as well as an important delegation from Belgium.
There was also a diverse range of social sectors represented. First the agricultural sector with farmers of UNITERRE, of the Farmer’s Confederation, of SOC/SAT from Andalusia, of the Platform for Sustainable Agriculture, and of agricultural cooperatives. Next there was Alternatiba, networks such as CADTM (Committee for the Abolition of the Third World Debt), the Global Women’s March, Ecologistas en Acción, ATTAC (France, Switzerland, Canary Islands, etc.), the Belgian and Francophone Swiss Climate and Social Justice Coordination. It is also well worth mentioning the presence of unions such as ELA from the Basque Country, SOC/SAT from Andalusia, de Solidaires, FSU, the Swiss SSP, as well as social and political movements such as the network against growth (Switzerland and France), student associations, SolidaritéS (Switzerland), NPA, Together, Libertarian Alternative, the Left Party of France, the ‘Bloco’ of Portugal, Syriza from Greece, IR from England, the Belgian LCR, IU from Spain, CUP from Catalonia, representatives from the ecosocialist network of Quebec, and finally different representatives from social areas (against the privatization of water, against shale gas, for a social economy, etc.). It’s also important to mention the many interested parties and people who for one reason or another were unable to attend. We were in contact with people from Equator, Bolivia, Mexico, Chili and Argentina. Unfortunately, we had no representatives from Italy, England, Germany (despite the existence of an ecosocialist network to whom we sent more than one invitation), and countries from the eastern bloc.
The elaboration of the program took us a bit longer than anticipated. We had to change its content several times, according to the availability of those contacted to coordinate the workshops. We wanted to ensure truly participative workshops rather than simply a series of conferences, which is why we proposed thematic coordinators to introduce the topic. Our vision was for each workshop to self-organise in an autonomous manner in order to create a participative dynamic. We think that this aspect was not entirely realised, in part because not all of the coordinators took an actively participatory role and also due to the late and unexpected attendance to the workshops. This reflection must be taken into consideration by the organisers of the next Meeting.
We wanted to give the various meetings an international, and not just a European, dimension. The opening evening on Friday at Uni Mail was conceived with this in mind, notably with the speech from MariCarmen Garcia Bueno, member of La Via Campesina’s International Directorate, on the struggle of women living in the Global South as in the North in defence of the Earth, the talk from Daniel Tanuro on climate issues, and the presentation from Michael Lowy on the South’s potential.
Throughout the Meeting, we tried to underline that the ecosocialist project doesn’t exist without a consideration of feminism. It was very important for us that feminism be a cross-cutting theme in all the workshops. To mark this intent, we started the Meeting with the fantastic talk from Yayo Herrero on what feminism can offer to ecology and what ecology can offer to feminism. In short, we must integrate ecofeminism in our theoretical and practical corpus. Our ecology must be anticapitalist and ecofeminist.
A highlight of the Meeting was the solidarity shown with the struggle of Andalusian agricultural workers for the right to land and against the repression to which they’re submitted by the Spanish government. We were fortunate enough to benefit from the presence of MariCarmen Garcia Bueno from the SOC/SAT Directorate and the mayor of Marinaleda, Juan Manuel Sanchez Gordillo.
Our effort to not bring together only the older generation was met, as all generations were present.
Yet we must resolve two important difficulties. To affirm the anticapitalist dimension of this Meeting and at the same time open ourselves to other sectors who haven’t taken the step in this direction, and integrate them without excluding or using them.
This will also involve not giving too much importance to political parties at the expense of social movements. The establishment of equality, mutual respect and the preservation of autonomy of each individual are strong aspects to this report.
The continuation of this Meeting is due to the necessity to create an anticapitalist and ecofeminist movement for the construction of a society that will be capable of seeing difference as a source of richness. But, at the same time, it is also about bringing together political and social expressions in a common project and proposing radical alternatives in a quest for convergence that can be understood and accepted by a large majority of society in the short-term.
We must collaborate in other initiatives in the same way while retaining our organisational autonomy and our principal of convergence of social and political movements in an anticapitalist vision. The example of the recent European network initiated by the Left Party (France) in the framework of the European Left Party and the future European elections was mentioned in informal exchanges. Here again, we must learn to look for and develop areas of convergence, and discuss our differences and divergences; the only way to avoid sterile deadlocks.
We conceived of these conferences also as a space to meet, share, exchange, and grow solidarity and friendship. The society we envision must be happy!
This first Meeting is a first successful step. We were cognisant that we couldn’t tackle and resolve all the problems and issues in two days. The need to go further into the few themes that were raised is obvious. As a starting point for the work to follow, the conclusions by workshop will be sent to you as soon as all the reports are brought together and translated.
As final decisions, on the initiative of the organising group and in collaboration with other collectives, we proposed to participants during the final plenary session the following points:
1) The call for a second Meeting next year in the Iberian Peninsula. The place and date are to be determined by the organisers of this second Meeting with the partners of the region. Ecologistas en Acción will be the driving organisation behind the establishment of an organising group. The organising group from Geneva will be part of this group for the second Meeting.
2) The participants to this first Meeting will constitute an ecosocialist network at the European level, as grassroots groups in the broadest sense of the term: ecofeminist, social ecology, libertarian ecology, degrowth, etc. For the time being, the Geneva group will manage this list.
3) Complete minutes from the workshops and send them to participants.
4) Envisage the publication of contributions to the Meeting, in the form of a document gathering them together and making them accessible on the website.
5) We must participate in campaigns where there is shared common ground, such as: mobilisation against climate change (COP21 at Pairs), against shale gas, against free trade between the EU and America, as an anticapitalist and antisystem movement.
We will finish with the following proposals from the Coordination group, read out by Yayo to participants at the Meeting:
The Geneva Meeting has been highly positive. It brings out above all the geographic diversity and plurality of activists and their points of view: ecological organisations, political, unions, associations…
We thank the ecosocialist group of SolidaritéS (Switzerland) for its initiative and its work that made this Meeting possible.
We find certain lines of commonality in our work in different areas that will be able to give birth to coordination strategies:
- The fight against hydraulic fracking
- The objective of Paris 2015
- Energy scarcity
- Conflicts between production/unionism and the political practice of ecology
We hope for the organisation of a new Meeting (towards spring 2015) that will bring together anticapitalist sectors that have an ecological dimension as a strand of their work. The Meeting could express itself under the theme “Dealing with ecological and social crisis: struggles and alternatives to exit capitalism”.
This Meeting could take place in Spain. All the Spanish organisations present in Geneva manifest their interest in participating in its organisation.
We consider it appropriate that the ecosocialist group of SolidaritéS, the organisation that took this initiative and that accumulated organisational experience from the Geneva Meeting, be an integral part of the second Meeting. During the first quarter of 2014, the Spanish organisations will determine if they are in a position to assume this responsibility and so a working group to organise this next Meeting will be formed.
Geneva, March 2014
Alternatives to face ecological challenges