The Global Socioenvironmental Forum organized by the International Socialist League has passed. The event surpassed all expectations. Hundreds of participants in countries from the 5 continents during September 10 and 11 interacted with panelists who shared territorial experiences, political conclusions and an alternative exit. A global overview of the ecocidal disaster of the capital, and a collective conviction: fighting for internationalist eco-socialism is the key to be the emergency break of extinction.
By Mariano Rosa, coordinator of the Red Ecosocialista of Argentina
A very clear power of the Forum was that it was an activist, militant event. That is to say: all the panels had the richness of presentations sustained by real commitment, by struggle. Whether to develop theoretical hypotheses or partial testimonies of concrete struggles. This aspect different from the many events that are held has an additional value, because it is rooted in real practice, in the movements of resistance to the predatory offensive of capital throughout the world. From Pakistan, Lebanon and Brazil, to the end with Central America as the axis and the strategic solution to the crisis of civilization, the attendees received and interacted with a true planetary assessment of the desperate situation in ecological matters, but also of protest movements and programmatic solutions.
The two-day event was diverse and exciting:
– From South Asia with the social drama of the floods in Pakistan, to Lebanon with the infrastructure and waste crisis, or Brazil, with that Amazon in retreat that hurts.
– Recovering the legacy of Bolshevism and the early years of the Russian Revolution as an advanced expression of ecosystem protectionism, to the balance of Stalinism and the restoration from Eastern Europe itself, direct scenario of that whole process.
– Extractivism permeates everything, including the capitalist matrix of the central countries and even health and education. Argentina, with its growing movement of street action and Brazil, with an advanced experience of popular veganism in the deep north.
– Oceania, plus Pakistan, socialist economic planning with advanced methods and the dispute for the post-capitalist transition, were also part of the debate.
– Africa from below, from the youth in rebellion, conscious and active in the continent plundered by imperialisms. It was exciting, a great stimulus.
– Central America, extractivist hitmen and experiences of resistance. Everything, everything in a luxury panel.
The Forum was a turning point, a re-invigoration for all participants. A reality check, information and tools to achieve the necessary revolution.
Between the irrefutable evidence and the (un) consciousness of the dangerous minority.
There has never been so much scientific evidence to substantiate in advance a global phenomenon such as climate, socio-environmental and therefore civilizational collapse. That is to say: a forecast of the inevitable -if drastic measures are not taken-, a planetary decontrol of nature. Since the end of the 1970s and with the regular reports of the IPCC since 1992, we have had ample evidence to affirm that without a radical change in the energy matrix and in the connected form of production and consumption, all known climate variables will become uncertain and uncontrollable, without human civilization being prepared for floods -50 times more dramatic than those of Pakistan-, temperature rises and falls without adaptation conditions and therefore multiplication of pandemics, such as COVID, as a new feature of barbarism in this era of capitalism (of crises, wars, revolutions and pandemics). But never as in this historical period has the inertia of a dominant social bloc, of those who rule, of the capitalists, the class interest of a minority been so dangerous and threatening for the enormous majority of people. Never has economic and political power been so concentrated in so few people, and its leading of the social process meant a global danger of such scope. Capitalist class consciousness, that is, its logic of maximizing private profit, private gain, of expanding economic profitability, is directly the foot on the accelerator of a train that is proven to be heading for a precipice. Therefore, there is no political or social condition for operations such as those that the ideological power plants of capital falsely try to install, of “green reconversion” of the system or of “green reformism” in the framework of an ecological awareness on the part of the 1%. And this has scientific, material, concrete and proven reasons. Fredric Jameson in one of his texts on “post-modernity” says that “it is easier for humanity to imagine the end of the world than the end of capitalism”. There is a common sense – deteriorated and weakened – which, on a mass scale, still has roots, which is the idea of a certain “eternity” of capitalism, and on this false ideology are based the operations of distraction, confusion, resignation, skepticism, adaptation to “the possible”, which the system is setting up and popagating. So, since denialism does not have -in the face of obvious catastrophes- much margin, there are two approaches to be taken into account:
– One is “green reconversion” based on market mechanisms to discourage pollution and greenhouse gas emissions, including the “lithium rush” in South America.
– The other is a kind of “green Keynesianism” with the idea of a plan financed with public funds so that companies can gradually mutate towards a non-polluting production matrix.
One good news and three challenges
The good news is that there is an exponential, enormous growth of socio-environmental and planetary awareness in the world, especially in the youth, but that is permeating to middle and popular sectors, and even incipiently to sectors of the working class (there have been strikes confronting laws enabling polluting industries and there is a growing awareness in education and health workers sectors). Therefore, based on this good news, the challenges we have are:
a) Explaining and becoming specialists in spreading our proposals of ecological socialism, of revolutionary ecologism or ecosocialism, as the most practical and realistic way out to ensure social rights, real political democracy of the masses and ecosystemic rescue of the planet. We have a transition program to reorganize the matrix of production and consumption on a global scale.
b) This pedagogical task, the struggle of ideas, we have to spread it as a positive pandemic in places of study, work and especially in the struggles for socio-environmental causes. The struggle of ideas is essential and for that political preparation.
c) And the third challenge and urgent strategic task, is to consciously activate political militancy of revolutionary ecology connected with an overall program for social transformation, of the economy and of the relations between people, of the political system, of everything. It is not environmentalism separated from a more integral road map that places the struggle for power to transform everything, but a militant political action, of construction of a key tool for all this: militant international organization, with its national organizations as tentacles of the urgent, unpostponable revolution.
The International Socialist League is the contribution we make to that decisive international task -the capital is internationalist, the ecocidal counter-revolution is international-, our response has to be on that scale now, today, urgent. And it is up to each party or national organization of the ISL in the international division of revolutionary and ecosocialist labor to win hundreds and thousands of new activists for this realistic cause of seizing power from the ecocidalists. There is no time for indifference. There is no margin for waiting: it is now and it is a struggle of many.
The catastrophe in Pakistan, the hardships of the Lebanese people, the Amazon that hurts
The first of the Forum’s panels was powerful. The speaker, Khkula Bacha from Pakistan, was compelling. Rafic Daw from Beirut explained the role of the governments, the regime and the native bourgeoisie in the deficient transport and waste infrastructure in the country, which has enormous environmental consequences. And Mauricio Matos, from Belen, presented the reality of the deforestation disaster in the Amazon, green lung of the planet.
She is a student of the University of Peshawar and an organizer of the Revolutionary Students Front KPK (Pakistan). She was categorical in her development, she provided unappealable information. She said that in her country every year, monsoon rains cause financial and human losses, but this year the rains broke the 30-year record. More than 55,000 square kilometers are flooded, equivalent to the territory of Costa Rica. The flooding swept away entire villages, rivers and dams overflowed, destroying houses, roads, bridges, schools, hospitals, public health facilities and any other infrastructure. She said, and emotionally moved, that about 33 million people were affected by the recent floods, 1500 people, including 400 children, have lost their lives and hundreds of thousands of houses have been destroyed. 110 districts of the country have been affected. One million houses have already been damaged and many people have been displaced. The official damage estimate is around 10 billion Pakistani rupees. Furthermore, it was explained that due to the lack of water drainage system and the negligence and incompetence of the government, entire cities have been under water for weeks and many diseases arise due to this stagnant water. Under the conditions of capitalism, Pakistan cannot build an advanced water drainage system, the entire infrastructure has to be rebuilt and requires a large amount of capital, which is beyond Pakistan’s reach under the present circumstances. Khkula concluded by raising as a slogan and banner of struggle a definition: there is no planet B!
From the shrinking Amazon to the Lebanese criminal bourgeoisie
Rafic Daw’s presentation was revealing. He explained how the bourgeois ruling class in Lebanon is a clear example of how the profit principle is preferred over environmental safety in general. Lebanon ranked fifth in the world in environmental pollution, and this is due to a long accumulation of environmental neglect and corruption. It can be traced back to the Lebanese civil war through militia practices of burying chemicals and hazardous environmental pollutants in the soil and burning forests. He also said that environmentally destructive policies continued after the end of the civil war and neoliberal brutality in the exploitation and destruction of nature worsened. Mauricio Matos, in turn, explained the drastic increase with the government of the right-wing and denialist Jair Bolsonaro of deforestation in the Amazon. Although he marked the continuity with the previous PT governments. Brazil’s logging has benefited the soy agribusiness, in addition for “rare earths” (the name of a group of 17 chemical elements found in nature and used in capitalist industry), and that some of its trees are used to coat luxury cars, showing once again the capitalist barbarism where the profits of businessmen prevail over life. Mauricio called on the Forum to take in our hands the defense of this true ecosystemic heritage of all humanity.
Putting things in their place: socio-environmental assessment of Stalinism and the restoration
This debate in another of the Forum’s panels was very rich and highly relevant. The ecological assessment of Stalinism in Eastern Europe and the deepening with the restored capitalism, in addition to very interesting expositions of referents of the region, was one of the high points of the event. Alejando Bodart, from the Executive Committee of the ISL; Oleg Vernik, president of the Independent Trade Union “Zahist Pratsi” (Ukraine) and also from that country, Dmitry Zaidov, activist of the environmentalist organization “For Clean Air” and member of the Ukrainian Socialist League. Finally, Manuel Romero García, from the Colectivo Hispanohablante CibCom, presented the central theses of this organization, which refer to democratic planning under an economy of transition to socialism.
Alejandro presented a key framing in the panel. He first explained how Stalinism was the antithesis of the October Revolution on all terrains. With distortion, obscuration and misrepresentation as resources of the bureaucracy hijacking workers’ power in the world’s first experience of a working majority country, really. And he emphasized a little known aspect that deserves a real historical rescue activism: the policy of the early years of the Soviet experience of conservationism and encouragement of scientific research in ecological matters. Under Lenin, and in the midst of the Civil War, protected areas were promoted for study in the region near the Volga. He referred to illustrious names in this field such as the geochemist Vladimir Vernadsky (who came up with the concept of biosphere). He is perhaps the most famous, but there were more, such as zoologist Kozhevnikov and botanist Borodin, with international reputations. Even the agronomist Podiapolski was the one who presented to Lenin, on the initiative of the people’s commissar for education Lunacharski, the proposal for a reserve in Astrakhan in 1919. With his presentation, he supported an insistent statement: all this avant-garde experience was buried by the Stalinist counterrevolution that ended in sinister disasters such as Chenobyl, not due to “socialism in general”, but to bureaucratic planning from above, without the intervention of workers and independent scientists, equivalent – Alejandro explained – to capitalist anarchy, and with similar results in socio-environmental matters. In this context, the other speakers continued.
From Ukraine, truths to the world
Oleg’s intervention in this panel was important as he exposed how the Stalinist bureaucratic anti-worker counterrevolution had an absolutely anti-ecological vector. He pointed out a number of important characteristics, and explained how already since the late 20s of the 20th century, the massive Soviet propaganda and educational system began to aggressively spread the thesis that man and nature were antagonistic. In the same vein, explaining that human economic activity was opposed to nature and was a priority for the development of the Soviet state, even to the detriment of nature. He quoted in support of these definitions a school textbook from the Stalinist era where it was said something like “we cannot expect favors from nature, taking them away from her is our task”. To close his lecture Oleg explained that with the restoration, everything that was already bad under Stalinism got even worse. The industrial enterprises of the Ukrainian oligarchs, in order to increase the superprofits of their private owners, refused – and refuse – to spend money on environmental programs at their companies. Ukrainian workers usually work in the most difficult anti-environmental conditions and any attempt of struggle by environmental and trade union organizations is met with strong resistance from the organized capital. In other words: with the restoration all the worst was reinforced in socio-environmental matters.
Anti-capitalist, socialist and advanced perspectives
On the one hand, Dmitry Zaydov developed the environmental impact of new digital technologies and Manuel Romero, from CibCom, presented the application of cybernetic tools to economic planning under socialism. Dmitry gave very accurate data on the use of huge volumes of electricity to produce bitcoins and the consequences of the use of graphics cards and other resources of the so-called advanced digital economy. In fact, he proposed as a socialist position on environmental issues, to prohibit the production of cryptocurrencies under capitalism against all the speculative fever-fashion on this issue. The representative of CibCom illustrated the potentiality of a democratic economic planning, based on the mathematical calculation of the real demand of social use values and measured production in labor time, and not in money, under the parameters of the anarchy of the capital. These last two expositions left very suggestive questions and clues of study and research for the ecosocialists of the ISL.
Indeed: there is life (and it is worth building it) beyond extractivism.
At the Global Socio-environmental Forum there was an in-depth approach to extractivism in its various expressions and the socio-environmental agenda in Argentina. Also from Curitiba, the experience of popular veganism was incorporated as a novelty. The internationally renowned Marxist professor Renán Vega Cantor, the young activist of the Red Ecosocialista-MST of Argentina, Jesi Gentile and João Ambrosi from Curitiba, Brazil, delivered presentations. The following is the synthesis.
Vega Cantor set the tone at the beginning of the panel, explaining in depth that the concept of extractivism as a pattern of capitalist accumulation in this historical phase extends beyond mega-mining or agribusiness and reaches the most varied areas of economic, social, cultural and sports life at all levels. He spoke of urban extractivism and the process of gentrification in Colombia, which displaced the native population for large-scale real estate speculation. He developed extractivism in the field of commercialized sports, with the commercialization of almost children, in the professional soccer industry, for example. He explained the contents of extractivism in education and health, and finally, he defined that this logic, previously concentrated in peripheral or semicolonial countries, had now entered the main capitalist powers in their eagerness to counteract the fall in the rate of profit. Professor Renan, in his closing remarks, stressed that there is no expectation to get hold of the new Petro government in Colombia, and that any basic reformist measure requires mobilization, anti-capitalism and international perspective. Relentless his development in the Forum.
The ” pincer ” phenomenon in Latin America
In turn, Jesi of the Red Ecosocialista of Argentina presented a complete panorama of the national situation, on the ecological level. To begin with, she transmitted a central definition: the dynamic of collapse in Latin America is crossed by two phenomena in a pincer: climate change and the capitalist extractivist model. The whole region is under this double pressure. In Argentina, in particular, the key is to understand the strategic unity of the entire bourgeoisie and the political caste, plus the trade union bureaucracy, around the excluding and semi-colonial purpose of “getting dollars” with the export of commodities, to pay the foreign debt to the IMF. Thus, a matrix is reinforced as State policy that is based on:
– Agribusiness, on a large scale.
– Mega-mining throughout the Andean corridor.
– Fracking with expressions throughout the country.
– Urban cementation
– Off-shore exploration in the Argentinean Sea.
– The new gold “fever”, now lithium
In all cases, the novelties are two: unity above traditional politics and big capital; and below, broadening of the sympathetic base of a growing socio-environmental movement throughout the country, which has as one of its main promoters in the activist vanguard, the Red Ecosocialista of Argentina.
From the deep north of Brazil: ecosocialism as a radical alternative.
Finally, the panel was completed by the development of Joao from Curitiba, who placed as a challenge for the internationalist left, the need for a radical solution in the environmental field. He explained that we need a system that produces food for those who need it, which must be made respecting the soil, fauna and flora. A model that seeks environmental balance, that produces food to supply cities close to where they are, that generates food sovereignty, that nourishes and helps social development. Food is not a commodity, hunger cannot generate profits. Quality and varied food should be a basic right for any citizen of any country. Only an ecosocialist production can satisfy such an important demand. Abolishing financial speculation of the plate of civilizations around the world is a challenge, said Joao. Ecosocialism is a radical civilizational alternative, founded on the basic arguments of the environmental movement and the Marxist critique of political economy. It opposes the destructive capitalist progress that is leading the world to an unprecedented ecological catastrophe with a policy based on non-market criteria: social needs and ecological balance. Ecosocialism is at the same time an anti-capitalist political strategy, which seeks the convergence of social and ecological struggles, and therefore, a necessity of the times.
No Planet B: ecological socialism and transition in dispute
From Australia to South Asia, with an ecosocialist perspective in the background and the controversies against the false ideologies spread by the machinery of capitalism, as well as the contribution of theses on the democratic planning of the economy by appealing to advanced tools of cybernetics, another instance was developed in the Forum.
Omer Abdullah, organizer of the Revolutionary Students Front of North Punjab, explained in depth the conditions of the humanitarian disaster with the floods in Pakistan, connecting this reality with the imperialist-capitalist subjugation of the country, the precariousness of the infrastructure and the contradiction between the technological advances privatized by a minority full of privileges and the inability to respond to the foreseeable rains due to global warming. The country’s obsolete drainage system has become the cause of a real social crime with hundreds of deaths and disappearances, in addition to the millions of dollars in losses caused by the water. In this context, Omer described the campaign that The Struggle, the Pakistani section of the ISL, is developing throughout the country, promoting material aid and grassroots committees, to denounce the diversion of funds by the government to pay debt to the IMF and not to the social emergency. Pakistan, a giant country with an enormous natural and human potential, under the conditions of a capitalism of terrible plundering and depredation, ends up making its poor people suffer a real hecatomb.
Australia: from fires to floods, crisis of civilization
Socialist Alternative Australia was represented by James Plested, editor of Red Flag. In his presentation he explained that Australia, a country-continent, is going through all the contradictions of the crisis of civilization, in socio-environmental matters. He recalled that his country went from seeing millions of hectares devastated by an unstoppable fire, less than 3 years ago as a result of the highest temperatures ever, to endure floods, also historical, which logically hit the working class and the popular sectors with their drifts. James gave figures of Australia’s exorbitant investment in military budget, far above the resources allocated to fire prevention or early warning mechanisms. It coincided, after all, with important definitions developed throughout the Forum on the systemic, planetary and dead-end character of the global crisis, which has in the ecological, one of its most acute and dramatic expressions, within the framework of capitalism.
Reforming capitalism or squaring the circle
Mariano Rosa, on behalf of the Red Ecosocialista and the MST of Argentina, argued against two of the false ideologies spread by the “green power plants” of world capitalism: ecological reconversion through fiscal incentives and the Green New Deal or environmental Keynesianism. The two conceptions are also presented with the idea that “capitalism has always adapted or reconverted” in times of crisis and that it could do so now. They even appeal to two historical analogies:
– The example of the two industrial revolutions of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, when the so-called “workers or social question” was not raised and the conditions of workers exploitation had no limit, capitalism itself ended up “granting” labor rights: the 8-hour day, the legalization of unions, even of working class political parties. “Why wouldn’t it adapt to ecological needs?”
– The other example they give is the so-called “Welfare State” of the second post-war period: if capitalism understood that it was better to “give up something, in order not to lose everything”, then, faced with the influence of the Russian revolution that improved the life of millions of workers and peasants, capitalism “decided” to give some social improvements, in order to avoid revolutions. And it had 30 years of survival until the 70s. This is also said. Rosa argued that the problem with these historical and mechanical comparisons, transferred to the socio-environmental civilizational crisis, is that the capitalist system, in its economic base, in the first place, has nothing to do with the expansion of the end of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th -the conformation of imperialism- which allowed it, from the colonial plunder, to give “improvements” to working class sectors in the central countries and delay the revolution (which they did not by “conscience” but by the workers’ struggle and enormous revolutions like the Paris Commune). But neither does the present stage compare with the decade of the 30’s of the last century or the end of the World War II, when in the reconstruction of Europe a rising capitalist power like the US accumulated such currency as to allow itself to “buy time” with the concessions of the Welfare State (forced by the Russian revolution and its influence on the working class), in which the rate of profitability falls and, therefore, activates all the brutal mechanisms of the system to compensate or counteract that fall of the global business:
– More labor exploitation -the precariousness of youth labor, the uberization of the labor world- responds to that reality.
– More oppressions for economic purposes: racial, gender and all kinds of oppressions.
– And, above all, more commodification of nature as a form of capitalist valuation (extractivism) and as a mechanism to reduce production costs (obtaining cheaper raw materials).
Therefore, neither conditions of green reconversion “yielding” profits, nor margin to make “concessions”, has capitalism anywhere, since it does not show vitality in any important country, and the struggle for hegemony between the US and China, even, is a “defensive” struggle in the framework of an economy whose rate of profit is receding, it is not a dispute in an expansive phase of the productive forces under capitalism. Therefore, the political space for an anti-capitalist, socialist and internationalist approach is enormous as an opportunity for the ISL in this front of intervention and militant construction.
From Africa to Central America: colonialism, plundering and perspectives
Africa, with a dramatic and objective x-ray of the balance of colonialism of plundering and depredation, had a special impact due to the very informed and solid explanations of the Kenyan participants. Finally, Central America, a territory of extraordinary biodiversity attacked by corporations and local governments, threatened by the imperialist plundering matrix, was the closing theme with contributions from Panama and Nicaragua, as well as a more global perspective from Marxism for a better alternative to the ecocidal disaster of the system.
The representation of Kenya, more specifically, of the Revolutionary Socialist League of that country offered a consistent exposition on the global panorama in that region of Africa. Comrade Joyce Wambui developed her intervention in an important process, linked to the enormous problem of waste processing in Nairobi. In turn, Okakah Rodgers gave a comprehensive framework of the continent subjected to 500 years of colonial-imperial penetration, and its consequences at all levels. Therefore, he raised the task of the post-capitalist transition, with an enormous gravitating weight of the ecological tasks of repairing and restoring the balance pulverized by the capitalist-colonial action over the whole of Africa. Ezra Otieno, also a referent of the same organization, completed with more data, the radiography of a zone considered for “sacrifice” by capitalism. An enormous contribution to the Forum was made by the comrades.
Central America: land of common goods, hired assassins and protests.
Since 2008 began the negotiation of land underwater wetland-lagoon Matusagaratí with 56,250 hectares, the largest, most biodiverse and largest freshwater reserve in Panama. It is also a resting place for migratory birds, nesting place for aquatic birds, fish spawning place, rich in all kinds of seafood. In addition, the Matusagaratí wetland is interconnected with the Gulf of San Miguel, in the Pacific Ocean. All these features made it the target of the capitalist offensive of foreign corporations in collaboration with successive Panamanian governments. The draining of the wetland for development and business was the purpose faced by Ligia Arreaga, activist and defender of the wetland along with other groups dedicated to the same cause. For this reason, Ligia received death threats and was persecuted. In the Central American land of Berta Cáceres, logically, these threats took on a dangerous concrete meaning. Today, Ligia is a Panamanian reference in the defense of the wetland and her participation in the Forum, an enormous contribution. For her part, Ariana McGuire, member of Alternativa Anticapitalista, Nicaraguan section of the ISL, summarized the peasant, indigenous and popular struggle in 2013 against Daniel Ortega’s attempt to grant a concession to a private Chinese company for the mega-construction of an inter-oceanic canal on the territory of the communities. Faced with this attempt, the organized uprising of the peasant movement made the project be abandoned. Doña “Chica” Ramírez was the spokesperson of that triumph, today exiled in Costa Rica.
A global and anti-systemic exit to the crisis
The final presentation by Professor Fernando Benjumea of Colombia landed a Marxist vision of the ecological crisis situated in the civilizational failure of global capitalism. In this context, Benjumea ratified that there are no margins for lasting reforms in the frameworks of the system, and that the way out for a true rescue of the planet in terms of its environmental health implies taking measures of a structural, anti-capitalist and revolutionary nature. In this sense, the speaker’s punch line was in tune with the main expositions that marked the same strategic perspective. Socialism, including a transitional socio-environmental program, or civilizational extinction. That is the central dilemma of our time.