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Protesta Y Propuesta: Lessons from Just Transformation, Ecological Justice, and the Fight for Self-Determination in Puerto Rico

By Brooke Anderson and Jovanna García Soto - Grassroots International and Movement Generation, February 2020

“De la Protesta a la Propuesta” (“From protest to proposal”). That’s the slogan that watershed protectors used when they successfully stopped open pit mining in the heart of Puerto Rico’s mountains then brought those same lands under community control. For those of us looking to build just transformation in place, we have much to learn from Puerto Rico’s social movements which are at once both visionary and oppositional, centering sovereignty and self-governance.

Just transformation, or just transition, is the work “to transition whole communities toward thriving economies that provide dignified, productive, and ecologically sustainable livelihoods that are governed directly by workers and communities.”

In the U.S., the term just transition was originally used by the labor movement to demand that with the phaseout of polluting industries, workers would be retrained and adequately compensated rather than bear yet another cost from working in that industry. Environmental justice communities on the fenceline of these polluting industries then built common cause with workers for a just transition that would not put the environmental or economic burden on workers or communities. In the U.S., the term has since further evolved to capture systemic transformation of the whole economy. While U.S. frontline groups often use the term just transition, some Puerto Rican social movements use the term just transformation—especially as a way to capture the necessity of achieving decolonization and sovereignty as part of any transition. As such, we’ll be using just transformation in this report, as well as other concepts such as self-determination and ecological justice.

Read the report (Link).

Beyond the Nation State: A Critical Look at Venezuela’s Current Crisis

By Brooke Anderson and Mateo Nube - Movement Generation, February 2019

Venezuela has made headlines in the last few weeks, as Venezuelan opposition leader and National Assembly head Juan Guaidó has declared himself interim President, throwing the country into turmoil. Current President, Nicolás Maduro has called the effort a coup. Meanwhile, thousands of people have taken to the streets on both sides, with a death toll of 26 and rising. The Trump administration, many Western European countries, and the right-leaning bloc of Latin American governments have recognized Guaidó as the legitimate president of Venezuela.  Meanwhile Russia, China and others are backing Maduro. A third bloc, most notably Mexico and Uruguay, are calling for a peaceful transition through new elections.

I recently sat down with my co-worker Mateo Nube, collective member of the Movement Generation Justice & Ecology Project, for more political and economic context to the current crisis. In the interview, Nube unpacks the history and promise of the Bolivarian Revolution in Venezuela and beyond; the roots and early warning signs of the authoritarianism we’re now seeing play out in Venezuela; the lost opportunity for Venezuela to leverage its oil money wealth toward a just transition away from extractivism and toward a regenerative economy; and the dangers of U.S. interventionism in the conflict.

Brooke Anderson: Your family came up under dictatorships in both Venezuela and Bolivia, so this is personal for you. Give us some context to how you come to the question of Venezuela.

Mateo Nube: My family has roots in Venezuela. We originally  fled the Holocaust in the 30’s and 40’s and settled in Caracas [Venezuela] from Berlin. My mom grew up under Marcos Pérez Jiménez, the military dictatorship that really marked and traumatized Venezuelans. In turn, I was born in Bolivia in 1971 and spent the first 10 years of my life under military dictatorship there. So I’m politically steeped in resisting military authoritarianism and building social movements to not only overthrow the military but to redistribute wealth and power. So the Venezuelan context really marked my family and informed my political orientation.

So the Venezuelan context really marked my family and informed my political orientation.

Brooke Anderson: What’s actually happening on the ground in Venezuela right now?

Mateo Nube: The situation in Venezuela right now is dire and painful to witness. It is a mixture of a political, economic, and humanitarian crisis. The man who is controlling the state of Venezuela is Nicolás Maduro. He is the successor of Hugo Chávez, who led the Bolivarian Revolution for the last two decades, prior to his death in 2013. Maduro is currently facing a challenge from Juan Guaidó, the current head of the National Assembly. Guaidó is arguing that Maduro is not a legitimate President and that the constitution dictates that he, Guaidó, is the next in line. This contestation coming from the opposition is largely the right wing.

Neither of these leaders has tremendous legitimacy. There are two men (representing two political factions) who are calling themselves President of Venezuela. They are both claiming power in a way that disrespects the constitutional process of Venezuela. We can definitely call Guaidó’s move an attempted coup and unconstitutional. If we do, we also have to recognize that Maduro won the 2018 elections after banning the main opposition leader, Henrique Capriles, and multiple opposition parties from running and dissolved the opposition-controlled National Assembly in March 2017 through a stacked Supreme Court. If a right-wing political party had made these moves, we would have loudly denounced them.

IPCC Report: First Thoughts on Next Steps

By Sydney Azari - Medium, October 14, 2018

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released an ominous report this week driving home an urgent and serious reality:without immediate action to transform society, climate catastrophe will not only be our children’s future, but our own.

The key takeaway from the IPCC report is this: if we do not radically transform every aspect of society starting NOW, we are facing ecological collapse and mass death in the short term. The report does not deeply analyse the geopolitical implications of such widespread environmental upheaval. Since human societies are inseparable from the environment, we know that the precarity resulting from collapsed ecological systems could lead to catastrophic and violent political outcomes as well.

The report has generated a shock through the consciousness of many people- mostly for what is unsaid. The foundation upon which we have built our lives is quickly crumbling. The American Dream, the white picket fence, and retirement will never be ours. It will never be our children’s. It will never be our children’s children’s. We are entering a time of uncertainty and pain that the hustle-and-bustle of everyday life hasn’t left much room to consider. This is a critical turning point, a challenge we must meet head on if we are to survive.

We cannot pretend that climate change does not mean that EVERYTHING we are accustomed to must change in response. Change is inevitable. Pain is inevitable. Uncertainty is inevitable. The outcome is unknown. The only variable that can be manipulated to change outright planetary collapse is our own agency in the situation.

Whether the shock of the report leads us to retreat inward or rise to the challenge will be determined by our capacity to locate meaning in the future and perceive a way toward it. Determining a direction forward is the difference between shock exhausting us or serving as fuel for the long journey ahead.

I hope these tactics can offer a light to draw us from the darkness.

The commons, the state and the public: A Latin American perspective

An interview with Daniel Chavez - TNI, August 2018

What are the commons and what is their political, social and economic relevance?

In recent years, many researchers and social activists from very different countries, like myself, have rediscovered the notion of the commons as a key idea to deepen social and environmental justice and democratise both politics and the economy. This reappropriation has meant questioning the vanguardist and hierarchical visions, structures and practices that for too long have characterised much of the left. This concept has resurfaced in parallel with the growing distrust in the market and the state as the main suppliers or guarantors of access to essential goods and services. The combined pressures of climate change and the crisis of capitalism that exploded in 2008 (a permanent and global crisis, which is no longer a series of conjunctural or cyclical recessions) force us to reconsider old paradigms, tactics and strategies. This means discarding both the obsolete models of planning and centralised production at the core of the so-called ‘real socialism’ of the last century and the state capitalism that we see today in China and a few other supposedly socialist countries, as well as the equally old and failed structures of present-day deregulated capitalist economies.

At first, the concept of the commons was disseminated by progressive intellectuals inspired by the work of Elinor Ostrom, the first woman to win the Nobel Prize in Economics, in 2009. Ostrom, an American political scientist, was a progressive academic, but could hardly be classified as a radical thinker or as a leftist activist. In the last decade, academics and activists from very diverse ideological families of the left have reviewed her contributions and have engaged in intense theoretical debates about the potential of the commons, based on the analysis of many inspiring prefigurative experiences currently underway.

Ostrom’s main contribution was to demonstrate that many self-organised local communities around the world successfully managed a variety of natural resources without relying on market mechanisms or state institutions. Currently, it is possible to identify various perspectives in the theoretical debates around the commons, but in general they all converge on the importance of a third space between the state and the market (which should not be confused with the Third Way outlined by Anthony Giddens and adopted by politicians as dissimilar as Tony Blair in Britain, Bill Clinton in the United States, or Fernando Henrique Cardoso in Brazil as a hypothetical social democratic alternative to socialism and neoliberalism).

Nowadays, a quick search in Google about the commons results in millions of references. Most definitions tend to characterise commons as spaces for collective management of resources that are co-produced and managed by a community according to their own rules and norms. We (TNI) have recently published a report on the commons in partnership with the P2P Foundation, in which we refer to this concept as the combination of four basic elements: (1) material or immaterial resources managed collectively and democratically; (2) social processes that foster and deepen cooperative relationships; (3) a new logic of production and a new set of productive processes; and (4) a paradigm shift, which conceives the commons as an advance beyond the classical market/state or public/private binary oppositions.

Reflections on the First Ecosocialist International and the Academic Left

By Ingrid Elísabet Feeney - Climate Justice Project, June 7, 2018

“Socialism is not a thing but a process.” – Richard Levins

“Sí hay un socialismo del siglo XXI: y se llama ecosocialismo.” (Yes there’s a 21st century socialism: and it’s called ecosocialism). The words, painted in strokes of white gold, leapt in bold relief against their faded blue background: a concrete wall about two meters tall which encircled the central meeting square of Agua Negra, Yaracuy, Venezuela. Dusk had fallen and the material boundaries of the wall seemed to melt into the thick indigo of the heady, sweltering tropical night, its message appearing as if emblazoned from stardust on the infinite horizon of the sky itself. Across the square, on the opposite wall, another message. A frenetic scrawl of soil black upon bright, vegetal green: “Hasta la victoria siembren!” (Sow towards victory!).

 The square was lined with long folding tables piled high with plantains and chili peppers, handmade clothing and works of art, artisanal soaps, second-hand toys, and musical instruments. Dense throngs of people, young and old, crowded around the tables to negotiate barter transactions: soap for plantains; bottles of home-made chili sauce for a well-loved drum. Groups of children dressed in colorful garments expressing their afro-descendent heritage lined up in preparation to ascend the plaza’s built-in stage, their peals of laughter punctuating gathering drum beats, heralding the performance to come. Amidst the ebullient chaos of this celebratory trueque[1], a crowd of globally-renown and up-and-coming revolutionaries circulated, exchanging exhausted yet exhilarated expressions of gratitude and affection: a Peruvian peasant resistance leader shook hands with a Kurdish freedom fighter. A Kenyan human rights organizer embraced an Amazonian land defender, laughing through her tears. The collective energy of the crowd was electric— they had just declared the First Ecosocialist International.

Richmond IWW May Day Platform

By Joe Sabo - Richmond IWW, April 25, 2018

May Day in Richmond this year has been organized as a celebration of working people and worker’s power. We will meet at Abner Clay park in Richmond at 5pm for a people’s banquet, music, comradery and other awesome events! This celebration has been collectively organized by the Richmond chapters or Organizing for a Free Society, Democratic Socialists of America, and the Richmond IWW General membership branch.

The following platform was penned collectively by the various representatives of each of the aforementioned groups and has been approved via consensus:

May 1st is International Workers’ Day. Unlike other holidays, it is not a day to commemorate bloody wars for empire. It is not a day for shopping. May Day is a day for the vast majority of us who must labor for the profit of a tiny minority. May Day is a day without borders, where workers of all countries unite in celebration of our collective potential and power, recognizing the capitalist bosses and their state as our common enemy, and liberation as our common goal. May Day is a day to reconnect with a more sustainable form of existence, for workers to share in the abundant harvest that is the product of our collective social labor.

May Day is widely celebrated throughout the world with protests, boycotts, sabotage, and strikes against a system of exploitation: it is a day without work. May Day is not recognized as a holiday by the rulers of the USA, though it originates in our country. However, despite this lack of “official” recognition, working people have always celebrated May Day. Before the capitalists kicked the peasantry off the land and privatized every aspect of our lives, May Day was a day to celebrate the fertility and abundance of the earth with communal singing, dancing, loving, eating, and drinking.

After capitalism began to spread its reach throughout the world, May Day became a day of working class resistance: on May 4, 1886, immigrant workers in Chicago went on strike for the eight-hour day, better working conditions, and higher pay. In response, the government arrested and executed 7 working class activists – the Haymarket Martyrs – in 1887. Since then, anti-capitalist workers have chosen the 1st of May to commemorate and continue their struggle for liberation. On May Day 2006, when millions of immigrant workers went on strike against workplace injustice and racist immigration policies in the USA, we were once again reminded of the real spirit of May Day.

May Day 2018 is a day of struggle against fascism and imperialism, and a day of celebration to affirm the value of life against the killers of the earth. We mobilize on May Day against white supremacy and in defense of Black Lives, Muslims, immigrants, and all indigenous people and people of color. We mobilize on May Day against mass incarceration and in defense of prison abolition. We mobilize on May Day against heteropatriarchy and in defense of queer and trans lives and reproductive freedom. We mobilize on May Day against the capitalist exploitation of the working class, against slavery and unpaid labor, and against the destruction of our environment. We mobilize on May Day because another world is possible.

Our goal is to foster collaboration among the multiple autonomous organizations and projects operating in the city of Richmond, Virginia. We hope that May Day can be an opportunity for horizontal exchange of diverse ideas and experiences, and to form bonds based on common affinities and commitment to revolutionary struggle.

Vivir Bien: Old Cosmovisions and New Paradigms

By Pablo Solón - Great Transition Initiative, February 2018

The concept of Vivir Bien (or Buen Vivir) gained international attention in the late twentieth century as people searched for alternatives to the rampage of neoliberalism. Imperfect translations of the Andean concepts of suma qamaña and sumaq kawsay, Vivir Bien and Buen Vivir reflect an indigenous cosmovision that emphasizes living in harmony with nature and one another. As these ideas’ popularity has grown, however, their meaning has been compromised. Governments in Bolivia and Ecuador incorporated Vivir Bien and Buen Vivir, respectively, into their constitutions and governing agendas on paper, but not in spirit. Rather than radical alternatives to the dominant paradigm of development and progress, these concepts have become new branding for (un)sustainable development. The lessons are clear: to avoid state cooptation, truly revolutionary change must be based on emancipation and self-determination from below. And to succeed in our interdependent world, proponents of Vivir Bien must link up with advocates of complementary global movements on the path of a better future for all.

Part of the 1st Ecosocialist International

By various - Ecosocialist Horizons, November 2017

It has been one year since “The Calling of the Spirits” in Monte Carmelo, Lara, when, with spirited minds and seeds in our hearts, we initiated a convocation titled “The Cry of Mother Earth.” Those who responded to this cry are now here: around 100 people from 19 countries and five continents, 12 original peoples from Our America, and ecosocialist activists from 14 states of Venezuela. We are here in the Cumbe* of Veroes, cradled in the enchanted mountains of Yaracuy, where the guardian goddess of nature lives. From the 31st of October until today, the 3rd of November, 2017, we have done the work demanded of us: the articulation of a combined strategy and plan of action for the salvation of Mother Earth.

We have made the decision and the collective commitment to constitute the First Ecosocialist International: To reverse the destructive process of capitalism; to return to our origins and recuperate the ancestral spirituality of humanity; to live in peace, and end war.

We recognize that we are only a small part of a spiral of spirals, which has the profound intention to expand and include others until all of us are rewoven with Mother Earth; to restore harmony within us, between us, and among all the other sister beings of nature.

The First Ecosocialist International is not just another meeting, nor another conference of intellectuals to define ecosocialism. We believe that ecosocialism will define itself to the extent that it is reflected and conceptualized in praxis; based on what we do and what we are. Nor is the First Ecosocialist International a single organization or a rubber stamp in constant danger of becoming a bureaucracy. It is a common program of struggle, with moments of encounter and exchange, which anyone may join, by committing themselves to fulfilling one or more of the various actions agreed upon here in order to relieve our Mother Earth. No person or process can be owner or protagonist of that which is done and achieved collectively.

We invite all peoples, movements, organizations, collectives and beings in the world to join the First Ecosocialist International, and to undertake the collective construction of a program for the salvation of Mother Earth. By restoring a lost spirituality we may arrive at a new one; a new and sometimes ancient ecosocialist ethic, sacred and irreverent, fed by the sun of conscience. We are recreating our spirituality with a new imagination and a new heartbeat, which may carry us to unity and diversity. The understanding and practice of this new spirituality will have the power to repel empire and capitalism which are powered by greed, and it will be able to strengthen our peoples and cultures which are conditioned by necessities. Because right now we are not living – we are merely surviving. We confront a contradiction: restore life, or lead it to extinction. We must choose.

We don’t have any doubts. We are radicals; we shall return to our roots and our original ways; we shall see the past not only as a point of departure but also as a point of arrival.

A collective birth towards a loving upbringing; we are an immortal embryo… Let’s dream, and act, without sleeping!

Read the report (PDF).

Digging Free of Poverty

By Thea Riofrancos - Jacobin, August 15, 2017

On March 8, 2012, a few hundred marchers set out from Pangui, Ecuador, a town in the southeastern Amazon, near the construction site of the massive, open-pit Mirador Mine. Just days earlier, a consortium of Chinese state-owned companies had signed a contract to exploit the mine’s copper reserves, the first agreement of its kind in the country’s history.

The demonstrators zigzagged through the southern Andes, where more mines are planned throughout the highland wetlands, which supply water to rural farmers and urban consumers. Reinforcements from the northern Amazon joined the march along the way, intentionally traversing the route of crude oil that has for decades flowed through notoriously faulty pipelines. After a seven-hundred-kilometer trek, on foot and in unwieldy caravans, the two-week long March for Water, Life, and the Dignity of Peoples reached its end in Quito, where the state coffers, voters, and armed forces form the complex of economic incentives, democratic legitimacy, and military repression that activists contend keeps the country’s extractive model in motion.

In their words and imagery, marchers proposed an alternative model: a post-extractive vision in which the polity was not a machine that ran on fossil fuels but a plural collectivity of cultures and ecosystems.

By the time they arrived in the capital city, their numbers had swelled to twenty-five thousand.

Climate Justice Alliance: Just Transition Principles

By various - Climate Justice Alliance, January 2017

What Do We Mean By Just Transition?

“Just Transition is a principle, a process and a practice” -- Just Transition Alliance

Just Transition is a vision-led, unifying and place-based set of principles, processes and practices that build economic and political power to shift from an extractive economy 2 to a regenerative economy. This means approaching production and consumption cycles holistically and waste free. The transition itself must be just and equitable; redressing past harms and creating new relationships of power for the future through reparations. If the process of transition is not just, the outcome will never be. Just Transition describes both where we are going and how we get there.

Download (PDF).

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