Our Times 3

2009 World Social Forum Report #4

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Today’s logistics were perfect. The three hour session I attended wasreally interesting. Sponsored by the Ecosocialist International Network, anorganization I’m active in, the session featured a discussion on indigenous peoples and ecosocialism with presentations mainly by Brazilian ecosocialists. The session was chaired by Beatriz Leandro of the Brazilian Network of Socialists.

The session opened with Ana Isla, a South American scholar now teaching at Brock University and on the editorial Board of Capitalism, Socialism, Nature, summarizing her research on the impact of the development of the rainforest in Costa Rica that eats up the soil and robs the people of the trees that produce their food and livelihood, eventually displacing them into the cities where women are forced into the sex trade.

Adilson Viera, Secretary General of the Workers Union of the Amazon, described how the resource workers he represents, like fishermen, are ecosocialists in everything but name, resisting the encroachment of capital that destroys their livelihood.

In his history of ecosocialism in Brazil, Mauricius Laxe (Brazilian Networkof Ecosocialists) described how it started back in 1991 with the ecosocialist manifesto for Brazil that attracted over a hundred supporters back then. A year later in response to the UN’s Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro, regarded by them as capital’s response to the environmental crisis, they organized the march of the oppressed.

In 1996 the association of socialists and environmentalists of northern Brazil was formed and signed onto the first ecosocialist manifesto drawn up by Joel Kovel and Michael Lowy on the occasion of the 2003 World Social Formation. A second ecosocialist manifesto has been drafted for this 2009 WSF meeting.

During the discussion following the presentation, Laxe said that the term ‘socialist’ is a drawback especially among peasants and indigenous peoples, and suggested that ecosocialism be replaced by ecopolitics. That generated awide ranging discussion. We were informed that the ultra violent Shining Path Maoist group has given socialism a very bad name in Peru.

Joel Kovel intervened to say that in the old USSR, Leon Trotsky expressed total contempt for rural existence, resulting in a troubled legacy for socialism among peasants everywhere. Joel went on to give a short discourse on how in his last ten years, Marx began to re-evaluate his theses that all peoples had to pass through several stages of history and that none could be skipped and in particular, that capitalism could not be skipped to arrive at the socialist stage.

He hinted towards the end of his life that communal societies might not have to go through capitalism. Joel suggested that ecosocialists need to return to this question as it relates to indigenous peoples in the age of globalization. By this time the ageless Peruvian revolutionary Hugo Blanco joined the session and offered a number of points including that the two features indigenous peoples “from Canada to Chile” have in common are collectivism and love of nature and that in their 500 year resistance to capitalist encroachment on their lands they are natural ecosocialists.

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