Building bridges between intersectional ecosocialism and radical climate justice and systemic transformation

“Collaboration” mural by Stacy Harshman and Garrison Buxton. Used with permission from the artists.

Strategic ecosocialist thinker Ian angus observed, with reason, that “there is no copyright in the word ecosocialism, and those who call themselves ecosocialists do not agree on everything”.

It’s true. One conundrum that many ecosocialists, especially here in the “Global North” seem to share is: Why is there so few ecosocialists? For most of us – I consider myself part of the ecosocialist movement – it seems intuitively natural to have a political orientation towards the world based on the principles of the interdependence of an ecological approach and the orientation of solidarity. universal, egalitarianism and social justice of democratic socialism. Indeed, what other sort can there be after the authoritarian horrors of the 20th century?

Why, then, are we so few?

In my country, some may speculate that this may be explained by the lack of awareness of the American working class of a world beyond capitalism, or by the pull that the values ​​of feminism and racial justice exert on a young generation preventing activists from recognizing the roots of the evils of the capitalist system which saturate our lives.

But aren’t they all caricatures? Are there not ecosocialists who have understood that race, ethnicity, nationality, gender, sexuality and indeed all systems of division intersect with class? Are there not workers and unions who live with the economic and political abuses of capitalism on a daily basis? And aren’t there young social justice activists who are keenly aware of how capitalism works to cause untold suffering?

Fortunately, there are in all of these cases, and their number continues to grow.

I started thinking about this essay in early 2020. Today, in the last months of 2021, people everywhere are living in a world transformed by pandemic, rebellion and multiple pre- and post-pandemic crises. who stay with us. In a way, this new world only underscores the importance of the promise of ecosocialism, and gives life and urgency to my thesis that 21st century ecosocialism will either be intersectional or remain marginal to needs and alternatives of our collective moment.

I remember calling for more or less spot-on “intersectional ecosocialism” in a brief remark to a regional rally of newly reinvigorated Democratic Socialists of America in February 2019. It seemed important in this emerging movement to center the climate crisis and the promise. open of the Green New Deal. To my surprise, when I searched the web for the term afterwards, I couldn’t find it. To this day, if you search for the term, in English at least, you still can’t find it, except in this paragraph from an essay I contributed in 2019 to an article on the Green New Deal and ecosocialism:

[W]We have a golden opportunity to have a chance to turn everything in a radical direction of true equality between rich and poor, people of color and white people, people of all genders, coming together for a deep political participation in a transition from nonviolent climate justice to everything beyond capitalism, and towards – dare we speak the words? an intersectional democratic ecosocialism.

But the force of events and movements modify the possibilities of our political imaginations and our organizational efforts. participation in coalitions for the kind of spacious and open organization centered on social justice that is demanded of us in the long climate crossroads of the 2020s.

That was still the goal, according to a certain founding figure, after all.

Four theses

My argument can be presented, as a good Marxist, in the form of a set of four theses:

  1. The official history of ecosocialism leans strongly towards the Global North, largely obstructing the presence of ecosocialists in the South, as well as the resistance of black, indigenous and colored communities in the North.
  2. Northern ecosocialism has been Eurocentric in composition, orientation and practice. Northern ecosocialists are, by and large, overly masculine, white, elderly, and privileged in terms of class, race, gender, sexual and national identities and positionalities, among other axes of power and inequality.
  3. The only way forward for northern ecosocialists is to learn and embrace ‘intersectional ecosocialism’ or ‘global South ecosocialism (understanding that there is a South in the North made up of communities marginalized by all axes. of power we’re talking about here). ”
  4. This will benefit the global ecosocialist movement as a whole, while making possible an ecosocialist perspective relevant to the urgent crises that beset us.

Intersectionality for beginners

Intersectionality is a term that comes out of the black feminist tradition in the United States. In what would become an influencer item published in the University of Chicago Legal Forum in 1989, scholar Kimberlé Crenshaw argued that when two or more systems of oppression overlap and come together, their intersection will cause further damage to individuals, groups, communities and movements. This generative idea has now been so widely adopted by sociologists and other academics that it has become second nature by invoking the trinity of race, class and gender.

Or as Angela Davis said so eloquently in a 2017 maintenance:

[I]it seems to me that [new] the party should be rooted in the idea of ​​racial capitalism – it would be anti-racist, anti-capitalist, feminist and abolitionist. But above all, it would have to recognize the priority of field movements, movements that recognize the intersectionality of current issues, movements open enough to allow the future emergence of issues, ideas and movements that we cannot even not start to imagine today.

I am an older (born 1955), white, increasingly gender-fluent upper-middle-class American. I have been teaching and researching at the University of California for 30 years, first on The twentieth century revolutions in the South, movements for deep social transformation in the 21st century, and for a dozen years the means to face the climate crisis by radical movements for global climate justice and the development of systemic alternatives. It is not for me to “explain” what intersectionality is. I am far from being an “expert” or an “authority” on the subject (words that we would do well to question, anyway, if not without them).

But I write and speak from my own experience in northern ecosocialist circles and from my own political and intellectual background. I will generalize knowing that there are exceptions, that I know individuals who are part of those exceptions, and indeed, that I hope to be one myself.

My goal with this article is to spark a conversation of many voices and build stronger and more vibrant ecosocialist networks wherever possible.

What might intersectional ecosocialism look like?

As someone deeply engaged in the spaces of the global climate justice movement over the past decade, I have observed the constant emergence of what I call radical perspectives and climate justice movements from Fridays4Future’s school strike actions to Extinction Rebellion, the Sunrise Movement and Green New Deal in the US, UK, most often led by young activists, many of whom have orientations anti- and post-capitalist, to radical movements the field experiences of Rojava, Chiapas and Cooperation Jackson in Mississippi, and the elaboration of systemic alternatives of all kinds in the North as in the South. Prospects such as degrowth and buen vivir flourish, just like indigenous cosmovisions in general, ecofeminism, ubuntu, convivialism, solidarity economy, commoning, radical ecological democracy and many others, can -be best seen when brought to a powerful juxtaposition in the 2019 co-edited volume Plurive: a post-capitalist dictionary.

These include movements for radical educational spaces such as the Alliance ecoversities, solidarity economy, Transition cities, the commons, and at home in Isla Vista, California, where I am part of a multigenerational youth-led project for a just and just transition we call Eco Vista.

Many perspectives are opening up today on the horizon of systemic transformation. Few of them fly under the banner of ecosocialism, although an explicitly intersectional ecosocialism can propose and build bridges to all of them.

Perhaps the best example of an intersectional orientation towards radical social change centered on the climate crisis is the evolution of the global climate justice movement itself. Today’s radical climate justice movements, then, seen as full-fledged projects for social justice fighting against the numerous the crises that beset us, connecting the dots with each other and proceeding with care for the whole person, may be the closest glimpses we have of a world and a path through the catastrophes that are inscribed in our to come up.

The question then becomes: How do we change ourselves to help change the world?

We have a way forward. It is to deepen our analyzes and our journeys through the sevenfold crisis,[i] find and work with our allies in related social movements and become open to working with all comers for a world beyond capitalism. Ultimately, perhaps, to help (with a little more humility, I would say to my fellow ecosocialists) to build the largest, broadest and most radical intergenerational global movement for climate justice possible. .

Openness, imagination, creativity, solidarity, compassion, love, joy, humor and more should be the words we keep close at hand in our pockets, hands and hearts. Our heads will follow if we devote our lives to it.

[1] The triple nested crisis of capitalist inequalities driven by globalization, bought-and-paid democracies, and pervasive cultures of violence – from our most intimate relationships to the militarism of the United States – has long been linked to the real bad guys. fourth crisis of climate chaos. To this we can add the moment of awakening from the corona crisis and the mounting resistance to patriarchy and racism that is falling on these structural and systemic burdens.

Teaser photo credit: Photo by Berenice Melis to Unsplash

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Estelle D. Eden

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