Towards a European Eco-Socialist Action Network

delegates came from across Europe

delegates came from across Europe

Andrew Burgin reports on the moves to found a European Eco-Socialist network

The increasing ecological crisis and impending environmental catastrophe that we all face, is leading more on the left to recognise that we have to be both red and green in our politics – we have to be ecosocialist. One without the other is not going to work. That is the strong message from the French left party, Parti de Gauche, which has called for the founding of a European network, opposing the environmental degradation caused by capitalism’s relentless drive for profit. The Parti de Gauche argues that it is essential to form an action network that extends beyond national boundaries and brings together activists and parties across Europe and beyond to halt the activities of the multi-national corporations that are destroying the planet. To this end they hosted a European conference on 19th January, to which Left Unity – as a new party of the left in Europe – was invited to attend and participate in.

Our founding conference in November makes clear our commitment to eco-socialism.

We are environmentalist because we recognise that if humankind is to survive, it has to establish a sustainable relationship with the rest of the natural world – of which it is part and on which it depends. We recognise that an economy based on achieving maximum profits at the lowest cost in the shortest possible time is destroying our planet. The current operation of industry and economy is totally incompatible with the maintenance of the ecosystem through the growing loss of bio and agro diversity, the depletion of resources and increasing climate change. The future of the planet can only be secured through a sustainable, low carbon industrial base designed to meet people’s needs on a global basis.

The conference drew more than 30 representatives from across Europe. From Belgium (ROOD, VEGA and the Mouvement de Gauche), from Spain (Eco Socialist Party of Murcia, CLI-AS, Catalunya Verda and Izquierda Unida), the Swedish Left Party, the Albanian Left, the Social Justice Movement and the Red-Green Alliance from Poland, Ensemble a Gauche from Switzerland, Syriza from Greece, Bloco from Portugal, the Left Party of Belarus, the Romanian Left Party and the Environmentalist and Green parties of Hungary. From Britain alongside Left Unity, the Green Left, the Alliance for Green Socialism and CND were all represented.

Tatiana Jarzabek from the Parti de Gauche and also Norwich Left Unity

Tatiana Jarzabek from the Parti de Gauche and also Norwich Left Unity

The morning session concentrated on reports from the various national campaigns and the afternoon session discussed the many proposals for joint action. Comrades from Parti de Gauche introduced the main declaration which all agreed to take back into their national forums for discussion and amendment. These included:

  • To reconstruct and expand the field of public services by promoting their free usage, and to defend social rights,
  • To leave behind us nuclear energy and extractivism, to limit the use of carbon-emitting energies, and to plan a true energy transition,
  • To ban the extraction of shale gases and oils and to put a stop to great useless building plans, to protect farmland and food sovereignty,
  • To defend biodiversity,
  • To reject green Capitalism, the carbon market and the associated financial mechanisms,
  • To develop socialisation, self-organisation and social and solidarity economy, and to launch a massive industrial plan for energy savings and renewable energies,
  • To re-locate production by favouring short production and supply chains,
  • To implement protection and a mile-tax at the borders,
  • To put an end to free-marketism and to the Troika’s austerity, and to develop a cooperation-based trading system,
  • To reject the EU-US Transatlantic Single Market,
  • To support the peoples’ struggle against the rich and powerful in developing countries so as to favour Ecosocialist cooperation among European countries and between the people on the planet.

This conference was the first in a series of meetings moving towards establishing a European action network on these and other issues. The next meeting will be in Brussels in early March. Romayne Phoenix from the Green Left offered to arrange the hosting of a follow up conference in London in June.

Despite the many difficulties in co-ordinating national actions and the very different tempos of the movements in Europe the conference was an important step forward.

Left Unity is already heavily involved in the anti-fracking campaigns springing up around the country and we have a commitment to building a strong eco-socialist component to our politics.

Left Unity broadsheets distributed at the conference

Left Unity broadsheets distributed at the conference

 


10 comments

10 responses to “Towards a European Eco-Socialist Action Network”

  1. Michael Ware says:

    This is a very welcome development. We are also trying to create a broad coalition of ecosocialists in North America. How can we connect with the European Eco-Socialist Action Network?

    Solidarity,
    Michael Ware
    Burlington, Vermont, USA
    a member of System Change Not Climate Change, the Ecosocialist Coalition

  2. On the whole I’m very enthusiastic about this project but I must say having anything to do with Jean-Luc Mélenchon of the Parti de Gauche is a worrying prospect. This man is opposed to the decentralisation of power away from Paris to the regions in the hyper-centralised French state. Equally he is rabidly hostile to the protection and promotion of Frances regional and minority languages. None of this being particularly green. You could also asking him what he thinks about the rights of Tibetans.

    • Tatiana says:

      Dear Philip,
      As a French citizen and a member of the Parti de Gauche, let me respond to the questions you are bringing up and which I think are very important.
      Firstly, the reason why we are opposed to the decentralisation of the state as it is being proposed by the neoliberals is that France has had, since the French Revolution, a centralised power to ensure equality among citizens. All reforms to decentralise the State done in the past decade have created terrible inequalities between the different French regions and départements, and with so many different levels of decision a lot of money is being wasted on fundings that do not end up where they should go (education, healthcare and transports). However, we are not opposed to decentralisation as a concept, as we defend the idea of public control over their local resources, and the relocation of industrial and energy-production sites. In our manifesto, it is clear that we want to “localise” decisions, but not to give the power over them to “decentralised” bureaucratic institutions: rather to the local communities.
      As for the defence of minority languages, I do not know how much of his writings you’ve read nor if you have listened to what he said on the subject, but it is not a black and white answer as you seem to think it its. Who can oppose the practice of regional languages and dialects? Who can oppose them being taught in schools? What we stand against is the institutionalisation of these languages that would end up creating inequalities among the territories: yes we are opposed to job contracts, judicial and administrative papers being written in regional languages, as it would discriminate those who come from a different region. But you cannot say that he is opposed to the “protection and promotion of Frances regional and minority languages”, that’s simply not true – and it would be very ironic for someone who speaks various languages like Mélenchon.
      As for the Tibetans… Well, instead of, again, asserting something that is clearly a manichean interpretation of what he said, maybe listen to what he actually said about Tibet: he is opposed to the claim that Tibet has over China, yes. Why? Because Tibetans are claiming back Tibet in its “original borders” – which means a quarter of the Chinese territory, and that would mean kicking out millions of Chinese people out of their homes… And for what? To implement a theological regime under the law of a religious leader (the Dalai Lama). You will understand that, as a strongly secular country, we cannot agree with that… This is not to say that we cannot criticise the Chinese regime for its breaking of human rights, but just because the Chinese government isn’t the most democratic doesn’t mean that the Tibetan one would be very democratic either.

    • Mel says:

      Easy to lie about the ideas of the Parti de Gauche and Jean-Luc Melenchon when people can’t read them directly in French.So someone has led you to think the contrary to what they say and fignt for

  3. MickyD says:

    Dreadful ideas which would lead to poverty and starvation if enacted : Against nuclear power and fossilfuels ??? Grow up the lot of you …you arent left wing at all but you are crackpots

    • John Penney says:

      A bit intemperate, MickyD – but as a radical socialist myself – who believes that socialism intrinsically involves achieving material abundance for the overwhelming majority of humanity, through the environmentally sustainable maximum exploitation of planets resources using our technological genius as a species – I too worry that a crude adoption of some “environmentalist” mantras will undermine our socialist objective.

      Of course so much of todays world production is devoted to luxury goods for the 1% of super-rich – and their war industries which are the intrinsic component of capitalism. So under socialism – all that total waste can go. Nevertheless ,to feed and cloth and house the teeming multitudes of our brothers and sisters currently living in destitution – and support OUR standard of living – we need to emphasise our continuing commitment to building UP our productive capacities .

      There is no intrinsic contradiction between this and an environmentally sensitive approach – if done right, in a globally planned way. The blanket dismissal of “Nuclear Power” is nonsense. Current dangerous nuclear power uses technology deliberately chosen because it also produces weapons grade plutonium . In contrast the Thorium cycle reactor (being developed now experimentally by over 6 countries – including INDIA ! ) holds out the prospect of limitless , safe, clean, power production. As does the continuing search for the right technology to create “Fusion” based power – getting much close now with the use of high power lasers to initiate the fusion process.

      We must not “buy in” to the underlying reactionary “Malthusianism” which permeates the entire Green Movement – and which partly explains the ideological attraction of the policy of never-ending “Austerity” to Green parties when in positions of power – to go along with the Austerity Offensive of their local ruling classes. As with the Greens here in Brighton – but Green parties across Europe too.

      We are “environmentalists”, yes, but we are primarily Radical Socialists – determined to abolish poverty, and inequality, with a new society of sustainable abundance, surely.

      • Phil Ward says:

        The problem with “achieving material abundance” through the “maximum exploitation of the planet’s resources” and our “technological genius as a species” is that it forgets that human beings actually also depend on natural systems to live. If we killed off all the phytoplankton in the sea and all wild plants, through maximum exploitation of the planet’s resources, we would no longer be able to breathe.

        Asserting that our species possesses technological genius does not mean that we are able to understand all the ecological processes that keep us alive. This techno-hubristic approach is much more a characteristic of capitalism than socialism and is, indeed, one of the excuses the system gives for doing nearly nothing about climate change.

        What John fails to recognise is that, for socialists, there is a difference between use value and exchange value. Use of the term “abundance”, and even worse, “material abundance” should have no meaning for people who understand this difference. This has been discussed for year by socialist environmentalists. I suggest John read something by Barry Commoner, for example. Although polemical, this article (from page 17) is a reasonable place to start:http://books.google.ca/books?id=pwsAAAAAMBAJ&printsec=frontcover&source=gbs_ge_summary_r&cad=0#v=onepage&q&f=false

        The reliance on nuclear power as a get-out for climate change practically borders on (techno-)religious faith. One estimate is that, to get a reasonable proportion of the world’s electricity from nuclear power would require 8000 reactors. That building about one every 1 1/2 days for the next forth years – and in perpetuity – as reactors only last 40 years. (So in 40 years’ time, one would have to be decommissioned every 1 1/2 days). don’t forget also that an “abundance” of energy from nuclear fission means an “abundance” of miners to dig the fuel out of the ground, with the health implications that we know, plus an “abundance” of fission product waste.

        Even worse, however, is to trumpet largely untried technologies like thorium reactors (which type, the one that was abandoned over 40 years ago, which was 1/40th the size of a commercial reactor and ran for 1/10th of the time, or the one that has never gone critical, uses largely unsuccessful breeder technology and is already 70% over budget?) and nuclear fusion, always “forty years” from coming on stream.

        The solutions to climate change are social and political, not technical. If they had been the latter, capitalism would have deployed them. After all, it is going to be difficult to extract surplus value from a population that is hugely depleted and largely confined to the Canadian and Siberian steppes, which is what the future hold for us should capitalism continue to exist.

      • MickyD says:

        We need to be more intemperate i would say …The Greens are the enemy …it wasnt so long ago Caroline Lucas was wishing for rationing and Monbiot was saying hurrah for the recession … These people stand for going backwards they are misanthropic anti human and anti science , they belong in the trash bin of history

  4. John Penney says:

    I actually fully grasped the difference between “use Value” and “exchange value” about 42 years ago , Phil, and in the context of the issue of the need to build a highly productive worldwide, planned, socialist society to abolish material scarcity – it is utterly irrelevant.

    You simply demonstrate the reactionary neo Malthusianism at the core of all too much of the extreme end of “environmentalist/Green ” ideology . Unlike you, I have confidence that the technological brilliance of our species, when operating within a socialist social framework can indeed create real material abundance for our species AND safeguard the biosphere of our planet.

    Criticising “material abundance” as a core objective of socialism is easy to do when you are, like me also, one of those fortunate to live in the material prosperity of the “first world” – complete with PC to carry on these debates , heat and light, plenty of food, medical services, housing and shelter, – not so easy when you are one of the tens of millions of our fellow human beings currently living in destitution – without even a clean water supply.

    No wonder so many “Green ” parties always fall hook line and sinker for the ideological attraction of “Austerity” time after time. Socialism must offer environmentally sustainable production systems and consumption patterns, but if you think the “socialist future” will have any attraction for anyone as a system of permanent rationing and continued scarcity of resources for millions of people, to supposedly “safeguard the environment” , then think again.

    • Phil Ward says:

      Read my articles against neo-Malthusianism on the Climate and Capitalism web site (google that, with my name). Also read the book by Ian Angus, who hosts Climate and Capitalism, written with Simon Butler: “Too Many People?”.

      I like the way you descend into irrational abuse, rather than defend your previous statements. It’s gives socialism a really good name.

      Just a small illustration of the difference between use value and exchange value: there are currently 800 million privately-owned cars in the world and many people who could use the transport provided by a motor car don’t have one. Please explain to me what resources are needed to ensure that everyone has access to such transport.


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