We are experiencing a systemic crisis that can only be solved through systemic alternatives. What humanity is facing is not only an environmental crisis, an economic crisis, a social crisis or an institutional crisis. It is a crisis of humanity and of the Earth system. This systemic crisis has been triggered by the capitalist system, whose relentless pursuit of endless growth and profits at the expense of the planet and people has pushed species to extinction, biodiversity to critical losses, people to depravity and Nature to its absolute limits. This is not one more cyclical crisis of capitalism, of suffering a depression then recovering with record growth and continued expansion. It is a much deeper crisis that has spread to all aspects of life on planet Earth and that now has its own accelerating dynamic that will not reverse under the current capitalist system.
The most urgent task we face is to overcome capitalism if we are to stop this free fall of life. Humanity and nature will suffer, but capitalism will not implode because of its contradictions. Instead, it is reconfiguring itself and seeking new ways to increase profit until the last drop has been squeezed out of people and the planet. Everything can be commodified and converted into an “opportunity” for new ways of making profit. Natural disasters and tragedies, financial speculation and militarism, human trafficking and war – there are no limits for capitalism. Overexploitation and overconsumption are the main drivers of this system that seeks endless growth in a finite planet. Increasing inequality and destroying the vital cycles of nature are its lasting legacy.
Alternatives to the current system can only be built by deepening the understanding of the process of reconfiguration of capitalism. Capitalism has shown that it has great flexibility to adapt, capture, reshape and create options for itself. What begins as a progressive idea or movement is co-opted, transformed and absorbed to maintain and reproduce the system. The challenge is to build in the current situation a society that is capable of breaking away from the logic of capital and not falling into the trap of co-optation. Alternatives do not emerge in a vacuum. They emerge in the struggles of social movements, in their concrete experiences, initiatives, victories, defeats and reemergences. They emerge in a process of analysis, practice and proposals that are validated in reality. Many attempts have been made during the last century and have either fallen short or lost momentum. To build new systemic alternatives, we should explore why this has happened.
There is not just one alternative. There are many alternatives. Some come from our roots (such as the indigenous peoples) like the concept of “Vivir Bien” (living well). Others, like “degrowth,” are conceived of in industrialized societies that are approaching their limits. “Deglobalization” is a reaction to the process of globalization by transnational corporations. Eco-socialism is an attempt to rethink alternatives from a non-anthropocentric perspective. Food sovereignty has developed concrete alternatives for small farmers, peasants and indigenous peoples. Eco-feminism brings up the gender dimension that is essential to overcoming the current patriarchal regime. The Rights of Mother Earth calls for building a new way of relating with nature. The proposal of the “commons” highlights the ways in which humanity has and builds collectives. Other proposals like the Solidarity Economy, Economy for Life, the Transitional Economy are all pointing toward a different kind of economy. There are many other alternatives that draw their strength from our diversity, creativity and solidarity. All of these proposals have strengths, limitations, contradictions and commonalities. All of them are proposals in progress.
This project, Systemic Alternatives, is about engagement. Engagement in order to learn from others, from the different alternatives that are being discussed, and to seek creative complementarity among them. It is a call to look critically at its own perspectives, finding the limits, internal contradictions and flaws in order to recognize what is missing and what has been developed by other alternatives and see how to further build on each others proposals.
In synthesis, the key aim of Systemic Alternatives is to build creative interaction to go beyond our own perspectives in order to imagine, create, build and strengthen our alternatives.