Our Times 3

Day Five At The 2009 World Social Forum

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The session I attended today was at the other university campus which is called the “rural” campus although it is only a few miles from the main campus. But it has a very different feel: much more sparse, most sessions were held in tents.

As well there were thousands of camper tents spread over fields. I had wondered where the tens of thousands of young people at the WSF were finding accommodation. There were the usual parades of chanting trade unionists and farm workers that happen every day at the Forum. A nice surprise happened along the way to the session I chose to attend. A hugging brigade of young people opened their arms and gave me (and other delegates) some of the best hugs I’ve had in a long time. And I bought a great T-shirt with a picture of a colourfully masked Che on a black background.

The three hour session on ecosocialism features two very good talks - ­ one by Joel Kovel, author of the fabulous book, The Enemy of Nature; the other by Terisa Turner, a prof at Guelph University in Canada. Both Joel and Terisa have contributed articles to Canadian Dimension sometime in the past two or three years.

Joel Kovel is really the father of ecosocialism. He described how this was the second gathering of ecosocialists from around the world, the first having taken place in Paris in 2007. There, a small group of mainly northern intellectuals decided that it was important that the second gathering include a large contingent of indigenous people from the global south. That’s why they chose to meet in Belem, smack in the middle of the Amazon.

Joel boldly stated that the only way to save the planet is to end capital’s compulsion to grow. Some form of world government is necessary to impose limits to growth­ which, if effective, would collapse the capitalist system since its existence requires endless accumulation. But societies will only transcend capitalism with ecosocialism ­ which he defined as production based on free association of workers combined with ecocentric means and ends. Whereas absentee owners can easily damage the environment, when workers come to own the means of production they work with, they are much less likely to damage, let alone destroy nature which they are part of, depending upon it for both their survival and their comforts.

In his concluding remarks Joel said that, inspired by the ecosocialist measures of Cuba and Bolivia under Evo Morales, he is convinced that ecosocialists have no alternative but to intervene in state formations as they currently exist ­ starting with a mass intervention at Copenhagen, site of the UN meeting to reformulate the Kyoto Protocol. Secondly, he urged the development of autonomous zones within capitalist societies that would establish islands of freely associated labour as capitalism lurches from crisis to crisis. Thirdly, he said that what’s needed now is a mass mobilization of society to demand a series of structural reforms to prevent climate change, reforms that capitalism cannot endure.

Terisa Turner offered the most optimistic prognosis of our immediate future. She described several examples of grass roots movements successfully stopping resource multinational corporations and keeping fossil fuel in the ground. She argued for a joint global strategy of all out support for these efforts of halting resource development combined with consumer boycott campaigns – which would deprive capital of energy and resources and markets. And direct trade deals that cut out the multinatinationals in place of capitalist trade/investment agreements, citing the arrangement between Cuba and Venezuela ­ oil for medical services.

She asked, who is engaged in these efforts? Indigenous peoples with women in the foreground.

What is their means? Direct action to shut-down production and keep fossil fuel in the ground.

She ended her presentation with a call for a people’s charter on climate change in opposition to the Kyoto Protocal and sanctions against governments and corporations that violate its measures. As for Copenhagen December 2009, she called for a mass organization to stop the proceedings, like Seattle 1999.

At the conclusion of this session I finally got the opportunity of traveling down the magnificent Amazon River on a small boat along with Joel and Terisa.

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