Perspectives to Sustainable Futures

The Nordic joint transform! project brings together ideas on ecosocialist paths for future welfare states. These ideas were presented first time publicly at the Historical Materialism Conference in London.

transform! members Vasemmistofoorumi (Left Forum Finland) and the Swedish CMS (Centre for Marxist social studies) have worked on a joint project on eco-socialist transformations since last year. Eco-socialist transformations implies analysing the dynamics of progressive change and barriers to it, with a constant attempt to bridge the alleged conflict between the “red” and the “green”. The project will result in a book, due to be published in spring 2015, and a series of seminars.
The first possibility to discuss the outcomes of the project in a public event was at the Historical Materialism Conference in London in early November. In the large conference focused on Marxist theory, a workshop was organised under the title “The politics of ecosocialism”. The workshop included four presentations, which were by myself, Rikard Warlenius, Tero Toivanen and Andreas Ytterstad. Us former two are editors of the book while the latter two have contributed individual chapters to it.
My presentation was on the limits of green Keynesianism, especially on the potential power of governments in funding transformative agendas, and on the other the problems of relying on governments only in transformative politics. Warlenius discussed sustainable energy transition, especially from the point of view of analysing barriers to this transition. He focused specifically on capitalist barriers, a notion often absent from mainstream discussion.
Toivanen spoke on commons as a perspective to ecology and public services. He used the concept of “commoning” to describe an active process of upholding commons, thus making visible both forms of class struggle, capital vs labour and commodification vs “commonification”. Finally, Ytterstad spoke on his experiences in organising a climate jobs campaign. His examples of the Norwegian campaign are very encouraging, as the campaign has been able to mobilise real masses, including large sectors of the labour movement and the church.
So the discussion covered a variety of perspectives: the need for reformist/radical agendas, the capitalist barriers to transitions towards sustainability, new conceptual perspectives, and mobilising for change. These perspectives also reflect the intentional versatility of the forthcoming book.
Attendance was roughly 40 people, typical for the workshops of the conference. The discussions was lively, and touched on a variety of topics. Some commentators were interested on country-specific issues, such as what would be the Nordic way of creating “climate jobs”, or how does EMU membership affect possibilities for government-lead ecosocialist politics. Others discussed the political threats associated with the themes brought up: the idea of the “commons” being used as a pretext for state withdrawal from public services, or the environmental agenda in general being hijacked.
Also some challenges for strategy were discussed, such as the difficulty of mobilising for energy transition because of the necessarily changing geographical location of workplaces. It was also pointed out  correctly as the presenters noted  that the call for a shorter working day was not mentioned as part of the ecosocialist agenda.
The discussion will continue in publication seminars in spring.

See the full programme of the 11th Annual Historical Materialism Conference here.
Find the Book description on the Routledge page here.