Declaration of Convergence
Barton Vermont, 2012. By Quincy Saul
In August of 2012, in the one of the most beautiful and most poor parts of the state of Vermont, a group of about forty dissidents, young and old, with the help of the Bread and Puppet Theater, gathered on a hilltop for three days and nights. From near (Vermont, New York, Maine) and quite far (New Orleans, Chicago, Toronto) they came together, in the gauntlet of the end of the world, to talk about the best way to rise up. And they agreed that, as Piere Teilhard de Chardin said, “everything that rises must converge.” This was to be the first of many convergences hosted by Ecosocialist Horizons with the goal of facilitating the growth of an ecosocialist movement. Hosted by the Bread and Puppet Theater’s revolutionary “Circus of the Possibilitarians” and the awesome beauty of Windswept Farm, we talked, listened, struggled, laughed, performed, improvized, and sang, with campfire conversations going late into the night.
The following declaration is a synthesis, compiled from the conversations which emerged in those three days and nights. These are reflections, not reifications – these ideas belong to no one and to everyone. This doesn’t necessarily represent the views of everyone who attended the convergence, but neither is the purpose to articulate my own views. This declaration finds its mandate in the need to express and share in writing the powerful ideas which emerged in three days of discussion and strategy, music and theater, memory and prophecy. It is one version of an epic and never-ending story about revolution, which continues to carry us toward the next convergence. (Coming to a horizon near you.)
Apocalypse and Revelation
The popular movements that are sweeping the world are biblical in proportion. The multitude that is rising up in every city and on every continent prefigures the onset of revelation. The powers that be are having a crisis of legitimacy that we haven’t seen in many decades. The authorities are alarmed, and have no lasting answers. These elite are a little dumb, but not always. We have to know which and when. Those who can navigate the crashing waves of crisis have a big opportunity.
People everywhere are searching for a way to change things, for a way to get involved in the world. They are finding movements, and are going through cycles of euphoria and despair. Feelings and convictions of mass unity encounter major obstacles and fall apart. We’ve seen these cycles before, but they contain possibilities of qualitative breakthroughs. There is always the possibility of resurrection.
There is a renewed awareness of the commons, and people are reclaiming them. People are preparing, whether for apocalypse or revelation they are not sure. Mass movements disperse into smaller groups, who focus on specific issues and reflect and reconsider their recent past, pondering a reunited future. People know that history is accelerating, they know they have a lot to learn, and fast.
A truly global grassroots network has emerged. It is undeniable, feeling its way forward but unsure of itself. Idealistic activists have local significant work to plug into and are welcomed. People are active, traveling, learning. New technologies and the interconnectedness of our economic and ecological problems and solutions have created new dynamics of insurrection and renewal. Urban-rural inroads are opening. Generations are coming together. We are converging already, and this convergence is beginning to become conscious of itself…
Nonetheless we are often confused and uncertain. Sometimes in our local struggles we feel like we’re just putting a gloss on the system; fighting for band-aids on gaping wounds. But theorizing about revolution without a social base of concrete activity and organization is no better. How can all this local struggle converge into something bigger and better? We need a current to connect all the islands, a river to unite all the streams. The spirit of the times calls us to the horizon.
The Horsemen of the Apocalypse
Salvation does not fall from the sky. Many an obstacle stands between us and our liberation. We can see them as four horsemen of the apocalypse:
Fear: Legitimate and illegitimate, it is widespread. We are all poised on the threshold of panic. There is a general feeling that things are out of control. If fear is not immediate, there is still constant anxiety, nervousness, paranoia.
Political economy: The capitalist world system is coming apart, all at once, in a dramatic converging economic and social crisis. Authoritarianism and fascism rise, incomes fall, people rise up, and surveillance states crack down harder. The costs of resisting, and of not resisting, are going up.
Ecological collapse: Catastrophe is everywhere – if not already underway, then almost. Watersheds dry up, mountains are blown apart, toxic pollution permeates from the biggest to the smallest scale, and global climate tipping points lead us all toward ever more extreme weather.
The humanity in the mirror: We are our own obstacles. We must overcome ourselves to overcome our conditions. We are blinded and crippled by ego. We fight over sand-castles while tidal waves grow on the horizon. We take on the baggage of the world and collapse under its weight. Our communities of resistance are messy, rife with mental illness, male violence, alcoholism and more. We have been lacking in care and concern for ourselves or each other. We have often avoided all of this with the rationalization that “we’re on the move.” But the result has been that we dump our shit into our hope.
Falling Stars and Rising Suns
We converge on the horizon with our enemies and our friends, our hopes and our fears, our dreams and our nightmares.
We have lost the struggle to preserve the planet as we know it, and we now have to learn to play the end-game. And yet everything is always reborn, and from this rebirth something qualitatively new takes form. Another world is always imminently possible.
We feel the calling of the convergence, to rise up and organize in our own particular ways toward a united horizon. A calling is an uncomfortable feeling, because it comes when you are not ready for it. But nonetheless we are making ourselves ready.
If we take nothing else from religion, we take this: “Be not afraid.” The biggest selling commodity of this century has been fear. It is a mind-warp, wrapped up in fetishism and idolatry. Fear causes silence, and silence equals death. What is the opposite of fear? Perhaps, like Yeats said of truth, we cannot know it, and we can embody it. It is hope, but hope can also be a jail, when unconnected to reality. If it is anything it is love: for humanity, for land, and for the nature inside us and all around us.
The horsemen of the apocalypse charge toward us. The stars of the old order are falling, and the rising suns of the new worlds are growing on the horizon. How will we meet them?
We are not ashamed of big questions and mysteries. We are not afraid to acknowledge the immensity of the universe, and we are not too proud to understand how it is expressed in simple, humble things.
We are also not ashamed of high hopes and big demands! We are not afraid to express our fundamental fantasies! We dare to express the beauty of the wild!
We are ready for a ruthless critique of everything inside of us. We know that inside and outside are an illusion, and we are ready to overundercome. Possibilitarians unite!
We call upon each other and upon ourselves to transcend our cynicism, to reconnect, to move from observation to participation.
We search to discover and rediscover our connections to place, to overcome our non-attachment to place; to land, to culture, to history.
We move from fragmentation to coherence. People are crying out for a place to step back, share experiences and ideas, and find enthusiasm to refuel and recharge. We are converging.
We understand that an anti-capitalist critique must be the lens and context for our daily lives. We are also searching for a vision to take us beyond critique, beyond resistance, which can help us to connect our diverse, local work, into a positive transformation. The warmth of other suns is emerging, and we are feeling their heat, pulling us together.
We are converging around the vision of ecosocialism. The word doesn’t even exist yet according to the dictionary, and that is perhaps an indication of its power. It is an overarching concept, but it is not a mantra. The proof of the formula is in its material actualization. This is happening most of all in the global South; in Asia, Africa and Latin America. We aim to create a partnership for these ecosocialist movements in the global North. But a word by itself is not a magic spell.
We identify ecosocialism-in-action by two criteria: (a) how it resists the enclosures of capitalism and patriarchy, and (b) how it moves and breaks through to the post-capitalist horizon.
We know that we need strategy. May millions bloom! But our converging orientation must be prepared, declared, repaired, and re-declared!
➢ We will find, study and develop an ideological and strategic framework to fit our locally focused work into.
➢ We will follow a vision and a strategy which encompasses a longer arc than the trench war of single issues which most activism finds itself entangled in. We must see and comprehend this larger historic arc, if we are to bend it toward justice, as Martin Luther King Jr. promised it could.
➢ Popular movements for economic and environmental justice have not yet congealed in the global North. We need a larger synthesis of both our analysis and our action.
➢ We seek physical manifestations of our ideas: we will create organizations and train leaders to build popular bases and prefigurative examples of the possible worlds we want.
➢ We seek to train ourselves in how to deal with contradictions inside our movements, like male violence, mental illness, etc.
➢ Our movements must be connected with one another at the most fundamental level. Building this unity requires that we create the conditions necessary for us to speak and act together.
➢ We understand the absolute centrality of Third World women to the global capitalist system, and the necessary centrality of their leadership to any worthy revolutionary project. We are learning to use and apply this kind of deep class analysis.
➢ As internationalists, we are organizing by geography and bioregion.
➢ We are focusing on the structural bottlenecks and weak points of the capitalist system, investigating both disruptive and positive prefigurative work in these areas: Not only the means of production, but the means of reproduction, of distribution, and of communication.
➢ In order to realize all of this, we will prepare for mobility and secure communications for when the time comes – socially and/or ecologically. Only these pre-existing networks will make it possible for us to intervene in global events when crises emerge.
➢ We seek to organize in a wide but strategic variety of campaigns, in order to demonstrate and draw strength from the interconnectedness of all the issues, and to learn the only way possible – by getting our hands dirty in the real work.
➢ We seek to prioritize our understanding and practice of care work, both for children and the elderly.
➢ We are moving away from the abstract form or organizing that doesn’t prioritize a change in every-day life.
➢ We are working with internationally with youth, who have the necessary audacity to take on the world.
➢ We seek outposts, connecting the dots toward an underground railroad for revolution.
➢ Our strategy will be be global.
➢ Our strategy will be intergenerational.
➢ Our strategy will be led by women.
Revelation is Redemption is Revolution
“Every generation must, out of relative obscurity, discover its mission, fulfill it or betray it.”
-Frantz Fanon, Les Damnes de la Terre
Everyone who is alive today is part of the same generation, looking off the edge of an ecological precipice, as the generation before us looked off the edge of nuclear holocaust. Great revolutions are possible in periods of great crisis, and therefore our revolutionary opportunity is as global and unprecedented as the abyss which stares back at us. The mission before our generation is to seize victory from the jaws of defeat: to organize revelation in the armageddon of apocalypse; to find our redemption in the catastrophe of our damnation, and to prefigure revolution in the bright space of possibility between the nightmares of past generations and the shadows of the coming storms.
In the 20th century we asked “what is to be done”? Today we must continue to ask this question, more seriously than ever before. But now we are combining this question with another search. We are also asking, “what is being done?” We are discovering how all the already-existing movements for economic, political, social and environmental justice can converge as tributaries into a wider current, to unite humanity in a single river toward a delta of liberation.
Already we can identify the seeds of a global united movement which is moving toward an international ecosocialist horizon, even within the belly of the beast – the occupied territories of the United States. These are only some of them:
➢ The struggles against mineral extraction: from the 120-year old fight against the coal industry in the Appalachian mountains, to the newly emerging battles against hydro-fracking, pipelines, and other extreme forms of resource extraction.
➢ The struggles for the rights of immigrants: These are poised to surge in importance as the numbers of climate refugees increases many times over. Freedom of movement and the right to dry land will become the central, absolute demands of many hundreds of millions.
➢ The struggles of farmers for land and for food sovereignty converge with the global campaign against genetic modification of food, against biopiracy, and in particular against Monsanto.
➢ The struggles against mass incarceration and the rights of prisoners are poised to explode as the system collapses under its own weight and outrage.
➢ The struggles of veterans, particularly those with anti-war consciousness, who are looking to redefine themselves, and are increasingly conscious of our ecological crisis.
➢ The struggle to end the occupation of Palestine, in particular the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement, because it is highly emblematic of many struggles for economic and environmental justice, and because it is the central, most recognizable anti-colonial and anti-apartheid struggle in the world today.
➢ The struggles of women and against patriarchy, which take many diverse forms, from the movements of young queer women, to the movements of domestic workers, to struggles for reproductive justice and beyond. . . .
In these currents and in many others, a global ecosocialist movement already exists and is taking shape. Subcommandante Marcos, spokesperson of the Zapatista Army of National Liberation (EZLN), explains: “This isn’t about constructing a world rebellion. That already exists. It’s about constructing a space where this rebellion encounters itself, shows itself, begins to know itself.” This is the mission before our generation. We must find ways of uniting the leaders in each of these already existing struggles, and participate in their organized convergence toward the ecosocialist horizon. There are so many visionaries and leaders, who are not celebrities and who may not be obvious, who are already immersed in the struggle. If we can find the vision, a form to actualize it, and a culture to hold it together, this can be our revelation, our redemption, our revolution.
To accomplish this world-historic mission, six big things are needed. These are not blueprints or catechisms, but guiding ideas, principles, and koans: questions that we can only answer by moving forward; answers which can only be found on the path to the horizon.
Humility: Our humility must be as great as our dreams: We have to be willing to understand other people’s priorities, and be as sensitive as possible to their objective and subjective needs. If you’re willing to follow the people, they will go where you’re trying to go. We must return to the source; to the people, to the land, to nature. This is our Zarathustrian down-going, and our best hope for rising up. We should engage in local organizations and campaigns but not by competing. Don’t reinvent the wheel. Figure out where and how you fit in with a humble audacity.
Preparation: Prepare for the storms that are coming: (Note: One of us predicted that a major tropical storm would probably hit the Atlantic seaboard. This was two months before Hurricane Sandy did just that.) Do what governments should have been doing. Mobilize people and resources to interface with economic and ecological crisis in a helpful way, ranging from relief services to popular education. Don’t get trapped in patterns of reaction, and prepare for crises before they come. Prefigure solutions before problems arise.
Education: A massive popular education effort: Develop popular education about ecosocialism, and how this vision arises out of the converging crises of economy and ecology, caused by capitalism. Don’t only preach to the choir. Popular education is not simply a curriculum or a propaganda tool, but a learning process where people learn starting from what they already know. Education materials must be developed in vernacular, ordinary language, avoiding obscure terminology without dumbing down. We will provide and keep an anti-capitalist ecological message on the table of new formations and movements that are arising by the dozens, and help sharpen the analysis and strategy. We will convene study groups on ecosocialism, focusing on not only theory but practices which can be implemented to realize an ecosocialist reality. We will organize collective writing projects to create materials for this effort. To make this happen, we must reclaim and restructure: join the struggles to make public TV public, take back the airwaves, take back the libraries, resisting the destruction of public institutions. This public education effort is critical; none of this can happen otherwise. . . . Finally, the principles of ecosocialism will be best illustrated in on-the-ground work: Show, don’t just tell.
Diversity: We’re sick of “trying to be more diverse.” The basis of building a “diverse movement” is not “anti-oppression training”, it is a fundamental change of practices. We must create the conditions around which diversity coalesces, not attempt to build diversity upon a monocultural foundation. Diversity is only the most basic requirement of the movement of movements that we need; it’s just a first step! Diversity in a movement doesn’t eliminate oppression, it only creates the conditions for which this oppression can potentially be addressed and overcome. We must be guided by Third World populations, and by women in particular. Not just because they’re an identity, but because they are the revolutionary subjects most organically predisposed and poised to wage the fundamental fight against this patriarchal capitalist world-system. Diversity is not created by pulling individuals out of their bases, but by moving toward them; by returning to the sources from which the most revolutionary consciousness emerges. Where are the women? We need to be there.
The question of organization: We can’t build organizations the same way as the sectarian left. What kind of organizational form is most appropriate to facilitate the convergence of an ecosocialist movement? What kind of structure can accommodate and connect a regional, continental and international vision? Structure is one thing that brings us together. Another is vision/ethos. Another is a campaign/project. An organization must have all three. A movement is a living organism; it needs a strong skeleton to hold it together, but if this is not flexible enough it can easily grow up fragile, deformed or arthritic. We must protect and consolidate without mummifying, we must grow and expand without disintegrating.
Culture: We need a culture; an ethos that brings people by the thousands. We need a charismatic solidarity, not of individuals, but of the community. As anarchists mobilized better for Hurricane Katrina than many others, through a relatively unequipped network of infoshops, and as churches mobilize millions around faith, we must prioritize the construction of an alternative culture. Earth-focused artwork in search for humanity! Bio-remediation as art and art as biodremediation! Build communities of liberation and solidarity; linking traditional old ones with new nomadic ones! These are the force-fields to protect us against the enclosures of patriarchy and capitalism, and the front lines for a transition worthy of humanity.
This is not a job or a career. It is a life’s work. We need a vocabulary for this. We can no longer be ashamed of taking on the world. Our holistic vision is our strength.
This declaration doubles as an invitation. Join a global movement on the ecosocialist horizon.