Diary of a Domestic Extremist – Carry on Camping?

The past week has seen the 5th Camp for Climate Action take place outside the Royal Bank of Scotland's headquarters in Edinburgh. In a passionately polemical column, Mikhail Goldman argues that the choice of target could have brought together a wide spectrum of greens and anti-capitalists, but that the timing was completely wrong. He concludes that although the climate camp movement has to be applauded for its considerable achievements, its prominence has come at a heavy price.

Columns, Diary of a Domestic Extremist, Politics - Posted on Thursday, August 26, 2010 2:01 - 9 Comments

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By Mikhail Goldman

The past week has seen the 5th Camp for Climate Action (CCA) take place outside the Royal Bank of Scotland’s headquarters in Edinburgh. This year it seems that the CCA, in a fit of mistimed populism, chose to go after a big bogeyman. There’s no doubt that RBS fits the bill to play villain for a wide range of people. The bank’s uncritical funding of energy giants like E.On and ConocoPhillips, involved in the environmentally catastrophic extraction of oil from Canadian tar sands, make it a worthy target for climate activists and environmentalists, whilst the UK government’s massive bailout of RBS, and the resulting cuts, mean that it is hated by class warriors and laid-off workers alike. The choice of target could have brought together a wide spectrum of greens and anti-capitalists and ended some of the rifts between the CCA and radicals who have become disillusioned with the camp. But the timing is completely wrong.

Anti-bank feeling was at its height in Spring 2009. It found a voice in the anti-G20 protests during which banks were attacked and widespread disorder was brought to the City of London, one of the world’s financial centres. CCA, to their credit, turned up and got involved, but their tent city was widely regarded as one of the more tame elements of the protests. Channelling the anger of Britain’s disenfranchised working classes, it was not. Whilst anarchists were bringing chaos to the City and Ian Tomlinson was being clubbed to death by the Met, climate campers were enjoying “drumming, dancing and facepainting” in a “mini-Glastonbury”. That’s a crude simplification, of course, and climate campers have been the victims of police brutality on many an occasion, but I think it’s fair to say that CCA’s anti-capitalism was rather less urgent than that of many others in the City that day.

The CCA have also been beaten to it north of the border. Back in March 2009, unidentified militants attacked the Edinburgh home of RBS CEO Fred Goodwin, smashing windows and damaging a car. The group’s communique was uncompromising: “We are angry that rich people, like him, are paying themselves a huge amount of money and living in luxury, while ordinary people are made unemployed, destitute and homeless. Bank bosses should be jailed. This is just the beginning.” It seems unlikely that the climate camp, with all its followers, resources and effort, will be able to channel the anger of the dispossessed as directly as this action did. The CCA’s decision to go to Edinburgh, long after popular anger against RBS and their ilk has been pacified and diverted by the mainstream media, seems to suggest that they’ve run out of ideas.

All this is rather negative. There’s no doubt in mind that, at various points during its lifespan, the CCA has been at the forefront of the grassroots movement against climate change and has facilitated some inspiring and effective direct action. But most of that was a long time ago. The voices calling for the CCA to be abandoned and for people to find new forms of resistance are becoming deafening.

The CCA had its roots in the mobilisation against the G8 meeting at Gleneagles in 2005. The Horizone camp in Stirling, which was home to the majority of people who took action against the G8, was conceived of as an alternative to the environmentally and socially destructive world of global capitalism. Whilst a few powerful men imposed their agenda on the world, we made consensus decisions and took everyone’s opinion onboard. Whilst their conference was lavish and massively resource-intensive, we recycled our waste, our water and shit and tried to live in harmony with our surroundings. As much as the direct action that it nurtured, the camp itself was an inspiration to many who participated in it.

Many of those responsible for organising the Stirling camp wanted to continue with and expand the concept. The Camp for Climate Action was the result and first manifested itself in the fields outside Drax power station in Yorkshire the following summer. This first climate camp retained much of the radicalism of the G8 protests and focussed on direct action as its aim. But already there were dissenting voices. Whilst the G8 was a one-off meeting that many felt was an important focus for anti-systemic protest, the Climate Camp was not responding to any particular event. In this case, some argued, why let the state know that you’re going to take action against Drax? Wouldn’t it be better to go there unannounced, without the eyes of the power station’s security, the police and the media on you? Many worried that CCA were more interested in creating a media spectacle than they were in using direct action. Indeed, far more than most direct action networks, CCA have courted the media extensively, leading to criticism that they have watered down their politics to cultivate a media friendly image.

The dissent within the climate camp rumbled away and reached a head at the 2008 camp at Kingsnorth. That year the police decided that enough was enough with these pesky hippies and started cracking heads. Repeated violent police incursions into the site occurred and activists had to throw bodies into the frontline at the gates to protect the camp. Meanwhile, inside the camp, prominence was being given to liberal environmentalists like George Monbiot and Mayer Hillman, who called for authoritarian state and corporate solutions to climate change. Monbiot even had the gall to claim that anarchists, the original driving force behind the camp, were hijacking the movement against climate change. Anarchists at the camp felt that their willingness to be on the frontline was being abused. Whilst they were fighting to keep the forces of the state off the site, the platform was being taken over by people who called for that same state to have a central role in the movement. The tension was such that the anarchists distributed an open letter to the climate camp’s neighbourhoods expressing concern that “the camp risks losing contact with its anti-capitalist, anti-authoritarian roots and appearing as a gathering that lends its support to top-down, state-centred responses to the crisis that climate change and energy depletion pose for capitalism.” An excellent collection of writings about the climate camp, including the open letter, can be read here.

Since Kingsnorth, the anarchists seem to have been proved right. The following year’s camp in Blackheath was notable as being the first in which CCA representatives met with police to discuss their own containment. Much fanfare was made about “actions” that turned out to be just a bit of street theatre, and the camp seemed to pose no threat to the powers that be. There seemed to be a growing number of climate activists who thought that the CCA had run its course and needed to be wrapped up in favour of new tactics.

The climate camp movement has to be applauded for the previously unimaginable levels of prominence that it has brought to the grassroots movement against environmental destruction. Unfortunately that prominence has come at a price. The media attention that brought the climate camp into the mainstream has become so desperately sought after that genuine direct action has fallen by the wayside. This mainstreaming has made the camp popular with liberals and the middle-classes who have brought their own state-centred and class-blind politics to the forefront. The camp has also become ossified – not a summer may go by without another camp which must follow the usual ritual. There are no surprises with the climate camp these days.

Direct action can only stay alive through constant innovation of tactics. The state quickly works out how to manage new forms of dissent and render them ineffective. In order to keep up the pressure we need to drop tired old tactics and come up with fresh ideas. The climate camp is not a holy cow and we should accept that it might be time to dissolve it and start something afresh.

Mikhail Goldman, (a.k.a. The Domestic Extremist) currently focusses his trouble-making and incitement in the Midlands area. His favourite activities are bringing down the system and enjoying a good cup of tea.

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Alex
Aug 26, 2010 20:36

I’m sorry, but this is not a good article. Please take the following in the spirit it is intended, nothing personal, but strictly business. It might be angry but let’s not make this a clash of personalities.

At G20, the CCA were busy facing down riot cops, who as you well know, as they attempt to truncheon them – the videos are on YouTube. Unlike the generally consensual and pointless protests going on in the city they were making a very direct and specific point about market based solutions to environmental crises. What precisely did the anarchists “bringing chaos to the City” add to the movement? Did they build a movement, radicalise anyone or achieve any goals? Were they organised and disciplined? Did it bring about any shift in the structures of power, even an iota? No they just let off steam. As authority has always know, there is nothing better for the continuation of authority than these occasional entirely consensual breaks in it – from the carnival and the festivals of misrule in the middle ages onwards. There is no point in direct action if it does not win.

In its main body this article is a repetition of critiques that the Camp are well aware of internally presented as if they were the shining light of insight. Hell, the reader you link was produced entirely to permit the kind of internal analysis that you claim the camp need to do – they spent much valuable time discussing it, as the minutes show, they have been discussed, almost ad nauseum. The whole ‘radical versus liberal’ question has been this year’s key question, as you might have known if you had followed the debates at all. Might I suggest that you have rather than attempting to provide a radical critique of Climate Camp have rather bought into the precise liberal narratives you piece declaims – that the camp is ineffective, that it is ‘a bunch of hippies’, and so on.

What the camp needs is constructive, comradely critique and actualsuggestions that are concrete as to how it should proceed, that are then actually brought up in its meetings or proposed as motions. It does not need another incredibly thin analysis that offers nothing but the repetition pretty tired themes of which it is attempting to work through as any level of research would have discovered.

If you are suggesting their hugely hard work should be thrown to the wall, then I am actually pretty speechless. The net effect of Climate Camp is not restricted to its own campaign, but is responsible for training skillful activists, who go on to do great things. There is even an argument that CC is actually unprecedented in its level of organisation – I don’t see any other organisation in my memory having done action in the mainstream media and been given forums to present their actual aims within it – I’ve seen occasionally the former, but never the latter – see a quick overview of the Scotish press which includes some pretty positive articles.

G
Aug 26, 2010 22:57

I dont feel i can reply with the clarity Alex did but there are some pertinent and important points in what he said.

Firstly and foremostly You make the innacurate claim that the choice of RBS was based around the failure of the banks and misguided populism: its not, its as much based in RBS investment in the tar sands and the devastating effect it is having on climate change and the indigenous communities in Canada, representatives of whom spoke movingly and eloquently at last years Climate Camp. This had, i would suggest, the lions share of the influence on choice of location. your failure to mention this is staggering- many press releases by CCA frequently mentioned the Tar Sands in some way. the choice of location was as much to do with solidarity as with the sort of mercenary populism you depict. Cimate Camp has been able to create a platform for this issue to be raised and you would do well to acknowledge that. Indeed in helping give a voice to the opressed its done more than a few bricks through goodwins window ever could.

As regards this:
“Monbiot even had the gall to claim that anarchists, the original driving force behind the camp, were hijacking the movement against climate change. Anarchists at the camp felt that their willingness to be on the frontline was being abused. Whilst they were fighting to keep the forces of the state off the site, the platform was being taken over by people who called for that same state to have a central role in the movement.” would this, if true, give anarchists and therefore the right to determine what gets said in the camp? If you’re claiming the ability to protect others as legitimate grounds for determining who speaks inside the camp, isnt that, well, statism? Its at least a dangerous rhetorical route to take.

I can absolutely see the frustrations here but I dont see an effective movement and climate camp as being totally divergent options. A more practical and open option would be to clarify Climate Camp’s limitations and abilities, and to work out, not just amongst anarchists, but all those who participate in the camp, exactly what they see its functions as being.

My opinion is that there are other occasions on which to take direct action that may be more effective-i dont think anyone in their right mind doubts this, and climate camp may still have a role in promoting those actions and engaging others in their necessity, as well as creating a state-free space, either through confrontation or a critically-driven negotiation in which to have the honest and frank discussions that are needed to facilitate actions, conduct training and build experience and friendships to challenge the systems that are destroying the planet.

Finally, yes, Climate camp may be built on anarchist ideas and organizing principles but many non-anarchists have also participated in building it too. To exclude their voice or see their achevements as contingent to those of anarchism is no better than the hegemonic socialism found in so many other movements we are familiar with. There are other non-anarchist viewpoints that share many of the features of anarchism and have contributed to it or even precede it; the Quakers, autonomous marxism, the Digger pamphlets and indigenous resistance organization in the americas, to name a few examples, are all openly acknowledged by those involved in organizing the camp. Anarchism cant claim any monopoly here, but it continue to work for inclusion and participation in the Climate Camp critique and actions, and therefore continue to add, as it has already sucessfully done, to the environmental discourse- here i disagree with monbiot: anarchisms biggest sucess and its most valuable contributions are those based in ecological critique- anarchism shows up on any environmental politics course. everyone has the right to walk away from a tactic if they dont think it is working, but what you suggest is to actively destroy the hard work of others in the process and to sever one of the most cruical voices in the ecology movement from its mouthpiece.

T
Aug 27, 2010 9:20

I commend the author for dissenting against dissidents. It’s always useful for activists to engage in a spot of critical self-evaluation. However, the two comments above level some important counter-points, to which I will now -in my rambling way- attempt to contribute.

The main aspects of the CCA at which you target your criticisms could be described as ‘outreach techniques’ could they not? Ie, the inclusion of educated middle-class liberals through the organization of accessible events; or active engagement with the mainstream media. These phenomenon are closely associated with ‘movement building’, one of the four pillars of the CCA. The reason for the inclusion of this objective, is a pre-existing belief that the small number of people in the UK we could describe as ‘activists’ cannot respond to a problem of the scale of climate change alone; and that effective action requires the inclusion and participation of a greater section of society, an active and effective movement. A handful of anarchists can take direct action until they are blue in the face and serving substantial prison terms but lets face it, that’s not going to be the solution to humanities woes.

You seem to suggest the fact that liberals and middle-class folk get involved in the camp is bad, and has resulted in the drowning of the original politics of the camp, but I have to disagree. For many, this may be the first time they’ve been exposed to anarchist politics or witnessed anti-capitalism in action. The camp is a fantastic opportunity for naive liberals to evolve their own political understanding. It’s not their fault they were born middle class! The trend is for liberals to develop more radical political understandings, when exposed to them, not the other way around. Because lets face it, liberal politics do not fare well in the face of rigorous critique. True some of the actions which emerge out of the climate camp are fluffy and media-friendly, but there is no ban on direct action. The actions that spin out of the camp are down to what individuals and groups are ‘up for’ and the nature of the target(s).

The rationale for criticising these aspects is that they necessitate (or result in) a toning-down of the radical rhetoric and resulting action. However, as Alex points out, there has been extensive internal debate about this issue of ‘the camps politics’, (available in the archive of meeting minutes). There is no mention or analysis of the ‘liberal vs anarchist’ debate which has been occurring within the movement, in your article. You insinuate that the concerns of anarchists have simply been ignored and shut out, which is not true. As Alex pointed out, those who have solutions and suggestions for how to move forward are encouraged to make proposals within the camp process, or if they wish, do their own thing.

I really have to comment on this sentence:
– “Whilst anarchists were bringing chaos to the City and Ian Tomlinson was being clubbed to death by the Met, climate campers were enjoying “drumming, dancing and facepainting” in a “mini-Glastonbury”.”
You yourself describe this as a ‘crude simplification’, but I prefer the term ‘crude misrepresentation’. The camp had a good festivalesque vibe throughout the day, which is no bad thing. Again that has to do with reaching out and drawing new people into the activist scene. Despite having an enjoyable atmosphere, the climate camp resisted a violent eviction by the coppers for many hours. In fact, wasn’t climate camp still going hours after all had fallen quiet in front of the Bank of England? That’s not to endorse the kind of ‘competition paradigm’ which you seem to subscribe to. After all, relative levels of public disorder and resistance to ‘the will of the feds’ do not always correlate well with effectiveness.

This article starts out by criticising the CCA’s latest choice of target and timing, but ends suggesting that CCA should disband altogether, to be replaced by ‘new tactics’. But what exactly do you envision as it’s replacement? Why does CCA need to disband for something new to emerge? Why can’t something else develop in parallel if needed? The value which climate camp adds to the activist scene in the UK and the global climate justice movement, is very significant, as Alex and G have outlined.

I would disagree with your assertion that: “The state quickly works out how to manage new forms of dissent and render them ineffective. In order to keep up the pressure we need to drop tired old tactics and come up with fresh ideas.”
I don’t think this is a universal truth, though it may apply in certain situations. Of course, if a particular tactic bears no fruit, then it is not sensible to continue with it. However, climate camp has had some notable successes. It’s ability to engage and galvanize large numbers of people from diverse sections of society is an almost unprecedented achievement in it’s own right. Sometimes in social struggles the path to success lies in strengthening and persevering in a particular tactic or organisation and movement, rather than whimsically abandoning it. Such persistence can be seen in the civil rights movement and 70’s anti-war movement in the US. True in each of these cases there were a diversity of tactics employed, but the UK’s climate justice movement could hardly be described as a monolith. If you or anyone else have some better ideas that you want to pursue, I’m sure no one will stop you from trying them out… (Except the cops, of course!)

jeremy
Aug 27, 2010 10:56

This critique is so last year. If the voices are becoming so deafening, start something else up. I’m sure people will vote with their feet if you’re right. Otherwise, you’re just another whinger.

Mik
Aug 27, 2010 11:28

Thanks for the comments.

Alex:
“What precisely did the anarchists “bringing chaos to the City” add to the movement? Did they build a movement, radicalise anyone or achieve any goals? Were they organised and disciplined? Did it bring about any shift in the structures of power, even an iota? No they just let off steam.”

I disagree. The people who were willing to cause trouble and give the police the run around absolutely did achieve objectives. They ensured that the G20 was challenged by the threat of massive unrest. It was a symbolic protest, I agree, but ensured that the capitalist establishment were under immense pressure. If there had been no anger it would have been a massive victory for the ruling classes.

“As authority has always know, there is nothing better for the continuation of authority than these occasional entirely consensual breaks in it – from the carnival and the festivals of misrule in the middle ages onwards. There is no point in direct action if it does not win.”

I think this criticism fits more aptly with the Climate Camp itself which is an annual festival of misrule. The G20 protests were more of an insurrection.

“There is no point in direct action if it does not win.”

Most direct action is taken as an ongoing war of attrition. Those who look for instant victories are not seeing the bigger picture.

“In its main body this article is a repetition of critiques that the Camp are well aware of internally presented as if they were the shining light of insight.”

I don’t see how you can claim that as I linked to a reader that has already voiced many of the same criticisms.

“Might I suggest that you have rather than attempting to provide a radical critique of Climate Camp have rather bought into the precise liberal narratives you piece declaims – that the camp is ineffective, that it is ‘a bunch of hippies’, and so on.”

Please point out where I say that the camp is ‘a bunch of hippies’. Saying that the camp is ineffective is not a liberal critique. The camp is very effective from a liberal point of view in terms of achieving mainstream media coverage and the support of establishment figures. From the perspective of every day struggles it appears as just a ritual spectacle, which, as I accept, has been very good at focussing the energies of climate action at points over the years, but perhaps needs to call it a day and find some fresh tactics.

“It does not need another incredibly thin analysis that offers nothing but the repetition pretty tired themes of which it is attempting to work through as any level of research would have discovered.”

Perhaps my themes are “tired” and are repetitions of what others have said because they still ring true?

“If you are suggesting their hugely hard work should be thrown to the wall, then I am actually pretty speechless. The net effect of Climate Camp is not restricted to its own campaign, but is responsible for training skillful activists, who go on to do great things.”

The hard work will not have been wasted if Climate Camp folds. Was the effort that went into the Stirling camp wasted because we didn’t protest the G8 next year as well? I’m not suggesting that anyone should stop taking action or building with the tools and methods we have adapted, merely that the process of adaptation continues, outside of and beyond the camp.

Something must be going wrong with Climate Camp because it seems like the numbers are well down on last year. People are tired of following the same old script. Give it up and new and creative possibilities will open up.

G:
“your failure to mention this is staggering- many press releases by CCA frequently mentioned the Tar Sands in some way.”

I did mention it.

“the choice of location was as much to do with solidarity as with the sort of mercenary populism you depict.”

I’m sure that’s true in the minds of many activists. Don’t get me wrong – I have good friends who I respect who were at the camp and I’m sure they have good motivations. However, I have seen nothing about indigenous solidarity in any of the press coverage of the camp. Seeing as positive media coverage has been one of the reasons often cited for continuing the camp that strikes me as a bit of a failure, don’t you think?

“Indeed in helping give a voice to the opressed its done more than a few bricks through goodwins window ever could.”

I have to disagree with you. I do accept that the Climate Camp has done a huge amount to bring the idea of taking direct action into the mainstream. However, I think it has failed in giving a voice to the oppressed. I have seen a lot of speaking *for* the oppressed but I don’t think that’s something to be proud of. On the other hand, the Goodwin action, whatever we might think about the ethics of it, was the oppressed taking action for themselves, spontaneously and directly. I would say this unmediated action is more powerful than the stage managed symbolic actions of the CC.

“”Whilst they were fighting to keep the forces of the state off the site, the platform was being taken over by people who called for that same state to have a central role in the movement.” would this, if true, give anarchists and therefore the right to determine what gets said in the camp?”

I think you’re misunderstanding me. There was an enormous amount of resentment about an apparent hierarchy within the camp between anarchist drones who were being sent out to fight the cops whilst the liberals sat around chatting. This class division shouldn’t have been allowed to occur.

“I can absolutely see the frustrations here but I dont see an effective movement and climate camp as being totally divergent options. A more practical and open option would be to clarify Climate Camp’s limitations and abilities, and to work out, not just amongst anarchists, but all those who participate in the camp, exactly what they see its functions as being.”

An understandable position to take. However, many within the CC, including Alex above it would seem, seem to think they have already done this “ad nauseum”. Presumably they also think they’re doing a good job of things now. I would say instead, let’s get together as activists *outside* the confining walls of the camp and think about the bigger picture.

“Finally, yes, Climate camp may be built on anarchist ideas and organizing principles but many non-anarchists have also participated in building it too. To exclude their voice or see their achevements as contingent to those of anarchism is no better than the hegemonic socialism found in so many other movements we are familiar with. There are other non-anarchist viewpoints that share many of the features of anarchism and have contributed to it or even precede it; the Quakers, autonomous marxism, the Digger pamphlets and indigenous resistance organization in the americas, to name a few examples, are all openly acknowledged by those involved in organizing the camp.”

Absolutely. A very good point. I think the reason that anarchists have been particularly angry about the way things have gone in and around the camp are that they have been scapegoated as the trouble makers and obstacles to progress by people like Monbiot and others who take for granted the efforts and energies of anarchists. It should be no surprise that anarchists have taken a long hard look at the CC and wondered whether we are welcome or would even want to be there any more.

“everyone has the right to walk away from a tactic if they dont think it is working, but what you suggest is to actively destroy the hard work of others in the process and to sever one of the most cruical voices in the ecology movement from its mouthpiece.”

Like I’ve said above, I don’t think it will waste anyone’s hard work. Surely preparations for next year’s camp haven’t started already – now’s the perfect time to plan something different. I genuinely believe that if people persist with the outmoded idea of an annual climate camp it will fall apart anyway as people vote with their feet and move on. This is already happening – very few green activists from my home city go to the camp any more. Just like tactics like Reclaim the Streets before it, CC had a shelf life; a brief window of opportunity where it could attract activists to it and open up exciting spaces, before the cops had it covered and it became another demoralising ritual. I think it’s passed it’s use by date.

Mik
Aug 27, 2010 13:55

T:
“The main aspects of the CCA at which you target your criticisms could be described as ‘outreach techniques’ could they not? Ie, the inclusion of educated middle-class liberals through the organization of accessible events; or active engagement with the mainstream media. These phenomenon are closely associated with ‘movement building’, one of the four pillars of the CCA. The reason for the inclusion of this objective, is a pre-existing belief that the small number of people in the UK we could describe as ‘activists’ cannot respond to a problem of the scale of climate change alone”

Absolutely. But my sense is that, rather than being drawn towards more radical ideas some of these people have militated against them in favour of authoritarian and lifestyle-based solutions. With such divergent discourses taking place, can we really say that they are part of the same movement?

Media attention is always a poisoned chalice and I would challenge you to demonstrate how courting the media has contributed to the dissemination of radical ideas.

“The camp is a fantastic opportunity for naive liberals to evolve their own political understanding. It’s not their fault they were born middle class! The trend is for liberals to develop more radical political understandings, when exposed to them, not the other way around. Because lets face it, liberal politics do not fare well in the face of rigorous critique.”

I think you’re right. But the liberals I was complaining about are those such as Monbiot and others who are fairly set in their ideology and are coming to convert people to their causes rather than radicalise people. You also need to ensure that the camp remains a radical space in order to radicalise.

“You insinuate that the concerns of anarchists have simply been ignored and shut out, which is not true.”

That’s not what I intended. My own experience is that most of the anarchists have simply got fed up and dropped out. I would question whether, as a result of the internal debates, much has actually changed. Perhaps you could say what you think has been changed and how it has dealt with the criticisms levelled at CC?

“You yourself describe this as a ‘crude simplification’, but I prefer the term ‘crude misrepresentation’.”

Yes – probably guilty there 🙂

“The camp had a good festivalesque vibe throughout the day, which is no bad thing. Again that has to do with reaching out and drawing new people into the activist scene. Despite having an enjoyable atmosphere, the climate camp resisted a violent eviction by the coppers for many hours.”

To some extent I agree with this. The best riots are also carnivals and I’m not against unlawful enjoyment! However, I think in a situation like the G20 rage was a more apt emotion to articulate than joy which sent out a strange message. Of course, po-faced activism is not always an attractive prospect to outsiders but there are certain situations that demand a more serious approach than partying.

“But what exactly do you envision as it’s replacement? Why does CCA need to disband for something new to emerge? Why can’t something else develop in parallel if needed?”

These are conversations that need to be had in every part of the country amongst people we know and trust. Flogging the dead horse of CCA takes time, people, energy and other resources away from doing anything else which is why I suggest giving it up and looking for a new path.

“The value which climate camp adds to the activist scene in the UK and the global climate justice movement, is very significant, as Alex and G have outlined.”

I think you’ve fallen victim to your own hype now.

“Sometimes in social struggles the path to success lies in strengthening and persevering in a particular tactic or organisation and movement, rather than whimsically abandoning it. Such persistence can be seen in the civil rights movement and 70’s anti-war movement in the US. True in each of these cases there were a diversity of tactics employed, but the UK’s climate justice movement could hardly be described as a monolith.”

Above all it is the centralisation of the CC that is problematic for me. The idea that we all have to trudge to the same field, at the same time, in a blaze of media and police attention in order to achieve anything. It’s all about the camp, rather than the movement and it’s not fair to compare it to the civil rights or anti-war movements which were decentralised and had many poles of attraction. Those movements did not prostitute themselves to the media – they made the media take attention of them. They articulated feelings that already existed in broad sections of society which is something I do not feel about CC so much. The problem here, I think, is that mainstream awareness of climate change is largely mediated through an alienating and alienated liberal discourse. I don’t feel that CC has managed to break through that and supplant more radical ideas.

Alex
Aug 27, 2010 14:04

“It was a symbolic protest, I agree, but ensured that the capitalist establishment were under immense pressure. […] The G20 protests were more of an insurrection.”

Sorry but I think this is ruthlessly naive. The Police get a run around when EDL or the BNP come to town. Does this advance the cause in any way? The Greek protests are an insurrection. The G20 protests were just a nice day out with a few smashed windows. I note that the G20 meeting went ahead with absolutely no hitch and the Conservatives were shortly after voted into power – how then was any pressure rendered? There may be bonds of solidarity and radicalisation caused by protest as well as training, but to imagine they troubled power is utterly without grounds.

Frankly I think the anti-capitalist movement in general needs to take a long hard look at street protest and recognise it achieves nothing other than a kind of sado-masochistic feeling of victimhood when the forces of the state unsurprisingly act brutally and everyone dances around saying how awful it is. We’ve been doing street protest since Reclaim the Streets, peaking at Seattle and it seems to me capitalism is chugging along just fine. It is remarkable that you claim CCA tactics are tired while praising the G20 protests for using a tactic you say has had its day!

“Something must be going wrong with Climate Camp because it seems like the numbers are well down on last year.”

There is a far more simple reason – it was in Edinburgh which was difficult for many to get to.

“However, I have seen nothing about indigenous solidarity in any of the press coverage of the camp.”

See Climate Camp TV for an interview with indigenous activists who were there to speak at length.

“Presumably they also think they’re doing a good job of things now.”

No one thinks this as you can see by the blog post generated within the movement after the events. Most of them are more critical than you in the proper sense of critical, ie getting to the core of the problems and moving forward.

“I genuinely believe that if people persist with the outmoded idea of an annual climate camp it will fall apart anyway as people vote with their feet and move on. […] a brief window of opportunity where it could attract activists to it and open up exciting spaces, before the cops had it covered and it became another demoralising ritual”

The sad thing about activism generally, and the left more broadly is that people don’t really have any sticking power. Successful political movements involve people remaining committed to certain organisation for some time – not certain tactics, but certain organisation. The problem is people too easily vote with their feet when they begin to feel slightly uncomfortable with how things are going – rather than trying to fix something recognising its strengths and powers they just leave. If there is something in the critique of anarchist politics as consumerism, this is it – people switch to another brand rather than thinking politically – they literally get bored – you can see this in meeting where no one wants to talk about the dull stuff. If you want the real class issue it is this. There is something very MTV about all this. You say you want to talk about the long term, which is perfect, but this requires a consistency of organisation. Right now, I think CCA provides the best model for this.

Sam
Sep 1, 2010 14:48

Diversity of tactics anybody?

Dwight Towers
Oct 9, 2010 7:43

The Climate Camp reader that keeps getting thrown around as a great example of self-criticism was…

mostly tosh. Mostly – but not entirely – blind, question-begging tosh.

http://dwighttowers.wordpress.com/2010/04/23/critique-of-criticism-without-critique-“a-climate-camp-reader”

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