Tuesday, December 26, 2017

2783. Report from the First Ecosocialist International Launch Meeting in Venezuela

By David Schwartzman, December 23, 2017

The First Ecosocialist International  Convocation was held from October 31 to November 3, 2017 in the state of Yaracuay,  the home of mainly people of African descent. I participated as a delegate as a result of the endorsement of the call for this Convocation by the Committees of Correspondence for Democracy and Socialism. The lead organizer of this event was Quincy Saul of Ecosocialist Horizons; we co-authored a paper in Capitalism Nature Socialism in 2015  proposing to the people of Venezuela that they consider taking the lead for expanding solar power to all of Latin America (see Appendix for update).

Of the roughly 100 delegates to this Convocation, the indigenous community of the Amazon was strongly represented, joined by a representative of the Lakota tribe of North. Dakota.  Other participants included a representative of the Kurdish people, along with delegates from Argentina, Bolivia, Tanzania, Kenya, Indonesia, and Switzerland.  U.S. groups represented included Cooperation Jackson, the Labor Community Strategy Center,  Ecosocialist Horizons, a new black arts movement, Resistance in Brooklyn. I had the great privilege of participating in this historic event, as well as being the housemate of Manuel Criollo, the Director of Organizing of the Labor Community Strategy Center, which created the Bus Riders Union of LA. We stayed in the home of a local resident who despite her humble means welcomed us as members of the family. 

Participants joined five working groups to consider goals focused on the short-term (the time of struggle), medium-term (the time of construction) and long-term (the time of utopia).  I joined our FIRE group, working along with delegates from indigenous communities as well as Manuel Criollo and Kali Akuno, Co-Director of Cooperation Jackson, two exceptional leaders in the U.S.  We were joined by Professor Julio Escalona, an elected member of the Constituent Assembly.  The FIRE group focused on “strategies and actions to reclaim our economies of mutual aid, our ecologically and social appropriate and appropriable technologies, and our sources of renewable energy”. The other groups considered strategies and actions “to reclaim control of our cultures, models of civilization, and ancestral cosmovisions” (AETHER), “to reclaim the management of our liberating education and communication, for the defense of peace, rights, and living the good life (AIR), “to reclaim the management of our water and other common goods” (WATER), and “to reclaim management of our food and health” (EARTH). 

As an example, the following are the goals generated by the FIRE Group: 


Anti-capitalist struggles / Anti-nuclear struggles
· We declare a special recognition of the people of Taria, Palmarejo and Agua Negra, in the municipality
of Veroes and the state of Yaracuy, in the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, as exemplars of ecosocialist
· We will launch campaigns of information and concrete action all over the world against fracking and
nuclear war, as they endanger Mother Earth, the human species and all life.


Trade unions / Trueke [solidarity exchanges] systems and solidarity economies / Renweable energies and ecological technologies /
Climate justice / Cooperative industries / Migration to an ecosocialist economy

We will promote the radical transformation of trade unions, convoking them to lead from within, with organizational and economic strength, a global migration towards ecosocialism. In the first place, to divest from the extractivist economy of Wall Street, and to invest in solidarity economies, for example by supporting productive agroecology projects, cooperative industries, or enterprises of social property. Unions must also take responsibility for their principal role in the re-appropriation of social capital
captured by the capitalist class and their transnational corporations.

All over the world we will activate, spread, and consolidate systems of trueke – or solidarity exchanges, either by direct barter or with local tokens, but without the use of money – towards the free association of prosumers (conscious producers and consumers), for which the practices of original peoples and the experiences of trueke in Venezuela may serve as references. These systems have functioned as spaces of anti-consumerism, struggle, resistance, and recovery of the sense of community and identity, strengthening the bonds of friendship and de-commodifying our lives. They have also served to revalorize and restore the spirituality of our ancestors, to rescue and multiply our seeds and embryos for organic agriculture, and to offer Mother Earth new spiritual economies of mutual aid, based on need and not on greed.

We will create, develop and promote economies of solidarity which are explicitly anti-capitalist and based on ecology; for example, the alternative socio-productive units which incorporate the principles agreed upon in this First Ecosocialist International, along with other systems, cooperatives, forms of production and ways of life. These will attend to human needs and not to the satisfaction of greed. They will not depend on the capitalist system, and they will be used as foundations for a migration to an ecosocialist economy. They will move us towards creating new ways of thinking and undermine capital.

We will foster the awakening of the peoples of the United States, the European Union and other “developed” nations, that they may become conscious of their shared responsibility to both put an end to the system of death which endangers the human species, and to migrate towards a system in harmony with Mother Earth, which is none other than ecosocialism. This may be expressed in multiple and different ways. For instance, they might better control those who govern them; they may demand from
their governments the payment of economic reparations for the crimes of slavery and colonialism, for the wounds they have caused the world with their wars and with climate change, and for an ongoing genocide against Latin Americans and Africans, among others.

We will advance an international and communitarian solar energy project, focused on collectively raising funds to finance three to four solar farms every year, between the organizations and communities who form part of the First Ecosocialist International.

We will launch the creation of Universities of High Technology around the world, to develop the production of renewable energy, and to spread and share them with communities so that they may be reproduced. In the case of Venezuela, we request that the Bolivarian Republic re-start the wind farms in Guajira and Paraguana which are already installed, for the empowerment of the “Sembrando Luz” program, using solar and wind energy. There is already enough human expertise in our countries necessary for these kinds of projects, and the context of economic warfare in which we live makes it all the more urgent to diversify the economy and develop alternatives to oil.

We propose to the people and to the revolutionary government that Venezuela should lead a transition to 100% renewable energy in Latin America. Part of its oil may be used to implement an energy and technology system based on solar, wind, geothermic and other energies. This initiative could guarantee a migration to ecosocialism and towards solar communism; to create a possible world which uses energy from the sun and other renewable sources without the negative impacts caused by fossil fuels. This could work as an initiative of cooperation between Venezuela, Bolivia, Ecuador and Cuba, among others, including negotiations with China; towards an exchange of oil for the provision of solar and wind technology. The purpose is not only to produce energy, but to share it with other peoples.


The reflection of ancestral communitarian socialism into the future / Economic autonomy and self-sufficiency at the territorial level

We take responsibility for our utopia as an eternal journey, with stops and retreats; towards realizing the happiness which is possible in our dreams. We encounter ecosocialism in the aboriginal and ancestral peoples of humanity, in indigenous, afro-descendant and campesino peoples.

We will harvest the socialism of the 21st century and all centuries, until we arrive at a communism of the sun, wind and water, receiving all spiritualities together, towards the defense of the common, and the free integration of languages and forms of exchange, without any loss of autonomy or originality. We will be united in diversity.

The Convocation recognized that much of the world was not represented by active participation, i.e., China, India, Japan, the EU, etc., so this a beginning with big challenges remaining, nevertheless, there are already plans to expand this effort.  Here is the “ROUTE OF STRUGGLE OF THE FIRST ECOSOCIALIST INTERNATIONAL from the final program:

“We acknowledge the gathering which founded the First Ecosocialist International in the Cumbe of Veroes as a reference point for methodology and social relations: it has been based on an exchange of experiences which allowed communities and peoples to recognize each other, and cradled healthy collective living and apprenticeship with other cultures based on mutual aid and respect. For these reasons we propose that this experience and method be replicated as much as possible in the future encounters of the First Ecosocialist International; in the fulfillment of its plan and on its route of struggle.

Every year between October 31st and November 3rd, we will organize days of shared and synchronized work on a planetary scale for the fulfillment of this plan of action. We will facilitate “The First International Encounter of Sowers and Guardians of Water” in the Plurinational State of Bolivia, in November of 2018. The Bolivian people will decide on the exact location, but we suggest the following criteria:

¬ To recognize the communities of Cochabamba and their struggle for water.
¬ That it be hosted by grassroots communities and movements
¬ To recognize water as a tool for the construction of unity between all peoples who struggle for peace and their right to water.

· We will develop a route of regional conversations and seminars during 2018 and 2019 to promote and strengthen the First Ecosocialist International, focusing on gathering the forces of the five continents of the world to Reweave Pangaea.
· We will realize new encounters and convergences of the First Ecosocialist International, according to the criteria which seek to support those peoples who are most under siege and attack by the empire and the great powers of the world: We shall begin with Palestine, Puerto Rico (Boricua) and Hawai'i (Kanaka Maoli), as emblematic examples of decolonization struggles, and as stops on a Route of Struggle which will advance including all other peoples and territories who meet these criteria.
· To follow up and amplify the plan of action of the First Ecosocialist International, we will program a Pan African convergence, to promote the interrelationship of Our America with Our Africa.
· To follow up and amplify the plan of action of the First Ecosocialist International, we will program a Pan Asian convergence in Sri Lanka, to promote the interrelationship of Our America with Our Asia.

You can find out more about this Convocation and its recommendations at the Ecosocialist Horizons website (http://ecosocialisthorizons.com/) as well as from Quincy Saul's article, December 8, 2017, posted at https://www.telesurtv.net/english/opinion/From-the-Plan-of-the-Homeland-to-a-Plan-for-the-Planet-20171208-0010.html. Quoting from this article:

“At a press conference on November 4th in Caracas, Blanca Eekhout, minister of women and gender equality, greeted these delegates: “In 2012, our commander Chavez gave us a Plan of the Homeland, whose fifth historic objective [“an eco-socialist economic production model”] has to do with saving life on this planet.” The foundation of the First Ecosocialist International, she went on, embodies a leap forward in fulfilling the Plan of the Homeland, by taking it to the necessary next level: a Plan for the Planet.” 

My plans for the future include a return visit to talk to the university community and leaders in the renewable energy initiative. 


Can Venezuela lead a solar transition in Latin America ? 

The only governments in the world to explicitly call their path ecosocialist are those of Venezuela and Bolivia (Ecosocialist Horizons, 2017), although Cuba’s record especially with regard to initiatives in agroecology speaks to her lead in this respect. 

As a major oil producer, Venezuela has the potential to significantly contribute to a solar energy transition, using the fossil fuel with the lowest greenhouse gas emission ratio to energy consumed as an energy source to replace itself. 

‘We humbly propose to the people of Venezuela the outline of a plan by which Venezuela could lead a wind/solar power transition in Latin America using a small fraction of her liquid petroleum reserves, while still gaining revenue from oil exports as well as contributing to the same energy transition globally. Implementing this approach would be a critical component of Venezuela’s self-identified path of ecosocialist development” (Schwartzman and Saul, 2015a). Further, we stressed “Our support for “Oil for no one” only refers to the extra heavy oil in the Orinoco basin, not to utilizing the conventional oil reserves in the context of what we outline. Yes, the total proven reserves consist of mainly extra heavy crude (tar sands) of Orinoco, and if this is included the reserves range up to 1000 billion barrels. Venezuela has already extracted a small fraction of the extra heavy oil reserve from this basin. However, the recent exposure of corruption and arrests of officials of the national oil company PDVSA (Telesur, 2017), along with the cancellation of oil contracts has slowed down if not halted the extraction of extra heavy oil in the Orinoco basin.  

Most of extra heavy oil in the Orinoco basin must remain in the ground because its extraction would likely result in comparable destruction of the ecosystem to tars sands extraction in Canada, with hugely negative impacts on both nature and human inhabitants.  “With current production and transportation methods, heavy crudes have a more severe environmental impact than light ones. With more difficult production comes the employment of a variety of enhanced oil recovery techniques, including steam flooding and tighter well spacing, often as close as one well per acre. Heavy crude oils also carry contaminants. For example, Orinoco extra heavy oil contains 4.5% sulfur as well as vanadium and nickel.” (Wikipedia, 2017).

Furthermore, its extraction and the resultant greenhouse gas emissions from its use would significantly bring the world closer to climate catastrophe. Note: “With present technology, the extraction and refining of heavy oils and oil sands generates as much as three times the total CO2 emissions compared to conventional oil” (Wikipedia, 2017). Of course, it need not be added that this extraction would be in violation of Venezuela’s own recent ratification of the Paris Agreement, recognizing that much more radical curbs on greenhouse gas emission than presently committed are imperative to keep warming below the goal of 1.5 degrees centigrade. 

The proven reserves of conventional light to heavy oil in Venezuela are estimated to be 39 billion barrels, (excluding 259 billion barrels of extra heavy oil in the Orinoco basin) (IESA, 2016, p. 21), although the further expansion of this reserve has been neglected in recent years (Ulmer and Parraga, 2014), particularly since the downturn in the economy following the sharp fall in the price of oil. We have estimated reaching the goal of providing 3.5 kilowatt/person necessary for a high quality of life for 400 million people in Mercosur countries can be achieved in 15 years or less using 0.15 billion barrels of this oil per year. Even this conventional oil will not be exhausted for the wind/solar energy transition under consideration, lasting more than 30 years for a 1 billion barrel/year production rate (updated from Schwartzman and Saul (2015b). 

Given the present situation in Venezuela and Latin America we anticipate that what is proposed here for Venezuela’s lead in solarization in Latin America will not be possible to complete until there is a turn to the left in this continent. We in the United States building stronger mass movements can help make this happen!

IESA (2016). Venezuela Energy in Figures 2014-2015, Instituto de Estudios Superiores de Administración, Venezuela. 
Schwartzman, D. and Saul, Q. (2015a). An Ecosocialist Horizon for Venezuela: A Solar Communist Horizon for the World, Capitalism Nature Socialism, 26 (3), pp. 14-30. 
Schwartzman, D. and Saul, Q. (2015b). Supplementary comment, posted at www.solarutopia.org
Telesur, (2017). November 30, https://www.telesurtv.net/english/news/More-Venezuelan-Oil-Company-Officials-Arrested-for-Corruption-20171130-0006.html
Ulmer, A. and Parraga, M. (2014). ‘Venezuela’s crude imports show PDVSA picks pragmatism over politics.’ Reuters, October 27, [Online]. Available at: 
Wikipedia (2017) Heavy crude oil, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Heavy_crude_oil

David Schwartzman is Professor Emeritus, Department of Biology, Howard University, Washington DC 20059, dschwartzman@gmail.com

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