Climate Camp Criticism: Onwards!

This is one person's reactions to and reflections on Climate Camp 2010, intended to provide analysis, provoke discussion, and express love for the movement. I'm joining in the friendly-but-critical discussion that's been kicking off in the activist blogosphere (here, here and here), and I'm delighted to see us moving on from the liberal-vs-radical debates of last year to something more practical. There is always space for criticism, for reflection, and for moving forward.

Full disclosure

I've lived in Scotland since infancy, and now live in Edinburgh. I went to the Climate Camps at Kingsnorth and the G20, but haven't previously been significantly involved in helping organise the camps. This year, I came to it late, attending the last two regional gatherings, and then helping out in organising and facilitating meetings. So my perspective is of someone who's been around for a few years, but only recently committed extensively. These are fairly immediate reflections; they're not full of deep or thought-through analysis, but just a series of thoughts and reactions.

Brutally honest

I came to Climate Camp 2010 pretty cynical and disillusioned. Like several individuals and groups in Scotland, I'd been disheartened by the way Climate Camp decided to come to Scotland – both in terms of a lack of discussion with Scottish activists, and the decision to focus on a multinational bank rather than the fossil fuel infrastructure in Scotland. It seemed impossible to do effective direct action against a bank's offices, and I felt we'd ignored community struggles. I was also sceptical of Climate Camp's institutional record in terms of direct action – we have a tendency to go for a combination of protest spectacle and “throwing people at fences”, rather than direct action which genuinely seizes the means of production or disrupts the means of destruction. But despite this, I tried to come with an open mind, and I'm glad I did.

Throughout this piece, I'm going to be similarly direct and unapologetic in my criticism. That's because I did come away from Climate Camp inspired and optimistic about its potential, and eager to continue my involvement, and to help implement the suggestions I make – if they ring true with others at our gatherings. Every criticism I make is a loving attempt to think hard about what we're doing and trying to achieve, so that we can continue to get better and be stronger together.

Land and respect, visitors and hosts

When Jasmine Thomas, our visitor from the First Nations struggle against the Tar Sands, spoke to us at the camp-wide plenary about her culture, she spoke a great deal about respect, the land, and the culture of visitors and hosts. She said that, as a visitor, she had a debt of respect to pay the traditional land and the people of the earth there – in this case Scotland, and the communities near to the camp. She also said that in her culture hosts owe a debt of respect and gratitude to their visitors, and that they must take every care to look after them and not offend them.

These words chimed with me, and I suppose that's why, even though I felt my land had been disrespected by the way Climate Camp decided to come here, I tried to be a good host, to be involved, and to be open to having my mind changed.

Scotland is particularly thistley ground when it comes to attitudes to visitors, Edinburgh especially so during the time of the festivals. You have to understand two things: that whatever your interpretation of history, Scotland was brutally colonised by England over a period of hundreds of years, having its land and culture systematically destroyed; every August, the world descends on Edinburgh in its biggest ever arts festival, effectively having a passive party, leaving residents to clean up the mess. This made us all particularly sensitive to what could be construed as “protest tourism” and “holidarity”, and also to colonialist, touristic or tokenistic representations of Scotland in the build-up to the camp.

Sites and all the plumbing

Let's have some positivity. We are astonishingly good at taking, holding and building sites. We have a dazzling wealth of experience and technical know-how. I wish outsiders could understand that it's not just tents and marquees – that we can rapidly establish functioning and ecological electrics, plumbing, comms and defense. Not only that: we know how to take it down and clean it up again PDQ. We have a real commitment to leaving the land as we found it, or better. (Love and respect, see?) We have a real understanding of setting up temporary non-hierarchical and ecological communities. We don't sing our praises on this enough.

There is a but, though. We should regard our approach to welcome, to establishing safe and respectful spaces, and to continuing to strive for inclusive, empowering, non-hierarchical decision-making structures as just as much an essential part of the infrastructure as the plumbing. Process is and should be exciting! – it should feel as much like we're setting up a brave new world as building wind turbines.

Action

Sunday's incursion onto RBS grounds – when a crowd of biohazard-suited activists forced our way over the bridge, spilled around the building, smashed windows, and temporarily occupied the bridge site – really showed our potential for direct action. Looking at the photos and video, it's clear that at the beginning we completely thwarted the police. I've sat around laughing with friends at eight cops futile attempts to hold the bridge, and all the funny falling-over-hedges and stuff. We showed our ability to get past State and Capital's private army, and inflict some damage on an environmentally criminal institution.

That said, we failed to do any long-term damage that would really qualify for a strong direct action (disrupting the means of destruction, in this case), and all too quickly the cops did regroup and force us to retreat. Actually, looking at the video and remembering what happened, it feels more like we panicked and retreated before we had to. While there were some brave and inspiring de-arrests early on, we were not good at forming a line of protection for those trying to enter the windows, not good at breaking the police lines once they'd formed, and not good at supporting each other when things got hairy. We broke and run.

I want to make it clear that I don't blame any individuals for these events. Everyone has their own threshold, everyone has to leave an action when they have to leave. What I blame for us not quite reaching our potential is a current lack of a culture of preparedness: we're great at training support roles at climate camp (Legal, Medical, Media, &c), but not so good at teaching people direct action techniques that make for truly effective actions. Moments like Sunday are only fulfilled when enough people who are there are ready to take the initiative, protect each other, and get the job done. I disagree with those who claim this is mainly a failure of pre-organisation, because I think secrecy and surprise are important: I think it's about ensuring that enough of us are ready to act when the moment comes.

Consensus and Collapse

It is possible for consensus to operate quickly and still be empowering. It is possible for us to use consensus to win battles. It is not possible for us to achieve this if we don't work on our organisational understanding of consensus decision-making, continue to train, and respect the process.

At the RBS raid on Sunday, I felt the process collapse underneath us into panic, mistrust, opinionated people (mainly men) shouting, and poor decision-making. Much like at Bishopsgate last year, poor consensus process meant that a group of people trying to hold the line, trying to protect a site with a human blockade, were persuaded to give up their position by those who weren't themselves holding the line. I think this shows a lack of a culture of solidarity, as well as of a culture of consensus. Thankfully, this year this did not lead to a violent and traumatising rout, merely to a loss of a strategic advantage.

Again, this is not a criticism of individuals, but of our current level of understanding. I'm saying: we're good, let's get better. And it's worth saying that a number of the observers of Sunday's action who has felt, as I had, sceptical of Climate Camp's potential for real direct action, were genuinely impressed by what we achieved that day. Let's build on that. Let's go further.

Community, Solidarity and Image

After a rocky start, this year's camp got much, much better at supporting community struggles. It took an initial book, but eventually the camp got right behind Communities Against Airfield Open Cast, prominently supporting its campaign and its march on the Saturday. Better still, many people in many discussions recognised the importance of showing solidarity with local struggles. If Climate Camp is not just to be a summer holiday for action, not just going to be a technique for gaining media coverage of specific issues, but a strong part of the environmental protest movement, this approach must continue. When we choose to take a site, it should be part of our process that we look at the nearby struggles and find the best ways we can offer them our solidarity – whether it's through publicity, training, or attending their events. That way we can help build the protest movements across the company into something strong and united, but still diverse and flexible.

There's another reason community struggles are important. If Climate Camp wants to be seen as more than just the stereotyped dichotomy of “violent anarchist thugs” vs “smug posh rich eco-fascists on holiday”, we're not going to manage it by battling our portrayal in the media. We're going to manage it by finding out what ordinary people genuinely care about, and supporting their struggles against the institutions and developments destroying their lives. Not only will that improve our public image, it will also serve to help radicalise communities, improve the understanding and accessibility of direct action, and build a global and local movement.

This takes us beyond solidarity with indigenous struggles worldwide. (Not that I'm not saying that isn't vital – it is.) We mustn't, as someone said in Sunday's plenary, fetishise indigenous movements. Solidarity connects us to struggles at home as well as abroad – it takes us from Cousland to Cochabamba to the Carrier Nation. We're only a part of the many, many movements here and worldwide. Connecting and sharing solidarity across these movements is how we will win.

Media Circus

More on this: we're always going to lose the media circus, by the way. I realised that when I was chatting, oddly enough, to the police, about the fact that they always lose the media circus as well: they're always either too violent or too soft, rather like social workers. The media and the commenting public love to hate us, with a little positive comment getting through.

Yes, we have a fantastically effective media team, and their work is important: we do need media coverage, and it does help get ideas into the public consciousness. But that's only one small front of the battle to build the movement (full disclosure: when I say “build the movement” I mean “to a revolution”; when I see “build the movement”, I mean that the long-term aim should be for the whole of society to be involved in moving). It's useful to counter arguments, lies and smears on Twitter (remember we get beaten on these fronts becayse we genuinely have better things to do, and are doing them), but it's also extremely useful to do outreach on the grassroots level.

I only have one comment in both of these sections, really: remember to Give Up Activism.

A Frickin Siege Tower!

I don't think anything captured the camp's imagination more than the siege tower. It had  chickenwire and papier-mache rhino on the front, gorgeous paintings all round, and a catapult on the back. What more could you ask for?

Maybe for it to move a bit quicker. But I defend to the hilt any action's right to be utterly absurd and completely unworkable. In fact, sometimes that's even better. Whatever else happened, we pushed and hauled a frickin siege tower into police lines, crashing it into a riot van. Now that is an inspiring dream of direct action. An active spectacle. An image of our belief in creative resistance. Yes, it took a lot of time and energy, yes, it was raining, yes, we couldn't go anywhere in the end, but it was bloody beautiful. Not everything we do has to be constructive. Sometimes we can just get together to celebrate our culture in a vibrant, active, hilarious way.

Some people felt let down, and the argument over what to do the next day did escalate, and that's a terrible shame. People were tired and stressed and overwhelmed, and that means we don't always show our solidarity in the best way, don't always stick to our principles and intentions. What I want people to remember is how amazing that action felt at the time, and I want to take this moment to thank everybody who helped make it happen, which includes just about the entire camp. I will remember riding a siege tower into police lines screaming for freedom for as long as I live.

Also, let's keep doing this medieval siege warfare thing. I think we've hit on something there.

An Awkward Position

It seems well-understood that Climate Camp is a strange meeting point for many types of activist: fluffy and spiky, anarchist and socialist, those who believe in media spectacle and those who believe in direct action, localists and globalists, geeks, freaks and lovers. A culture of consensus is not a culture of compromise: it means we respect each other's individuality and autonomy, while finding ways we can work together. So I don't believe that Climate Camp can synthesise all these different aims and intentions. That's why our support for a diversity of tactics is essential. We use a diversity of tactics not just to struggle against oppression and destruction and this insane culture on every front at once, trying desperately to find something that works, though we do do that; we use a diversity of tactics and respect and show solidarity with others' tactics because that's what it means to work in a mutually empowering way.

We showed that really well this year, with our “decentralised mass action”, supporting the work of affinity groups in creating a huge range of different types of action, the vast majority of them incredibly successful and effective. Well done. Of course this step was creaky, of course some felt alienated, or badly organised, or unsure, but I think we're getting there.

But that diversity means we're always going to have arguments and confrontations. Because we're a network of many different types of group, and because everyone cares deeply for the organisation, we will rehearse over and over again the same arguments about peace violence, about direct action and protest, about process, about everything. And that's OK. Climate Camp will never be a stable, autonomous organisation; it is a place where people meet, connect, change, grow, and struggle together.

Tat Down and Beyond

I felt sad on Tuesday when it all started coming down. That's because I enjoyed myself, as a friend told me. Because I felt inspired and optimistic. And it was a happy kind of sad, because we were showing our real respect for the site and our ecological principles. But I always want every camp to last forever. The temporary nature of climate camp is strange, and it always feels a bit like a glorious holiday, a dream. As with the siege tower, I think that's a good thing. But as with the siege tower, I think we have to think hard about what that temporary nature means for our role in the movement. Should we embrace it, see Climate Camp simply as a place where people can meet and grow and exciting things can happen? Or should we be thinking about building a sustainable year-round organisation that works constantly to build our movements? Or . . . ?

Onward!

Comments

Re: Climate Camp Criticism: Onwards! Imperialist behavior in our

By Elinor

Thanks for your excellent, thought-full and honest article Harry you have touched on issues that we have been faced with when working with visiting English activists here in Ireland. I myself was born in England but have lived in Ireland for the past 30 years. For the last five years after being involved in many community campaigns I have been committed to the Shell to Sea campaign in Erris County Mayo a campaign that Irish activists were invited to come and support by residents in Rossport and Cill Common back in May 2005. This is not unusual here in Ireland many local campaigns have invited support from people outside their area but the general understanding is that the community affected make the big decisions and the solidarity movement respect this but have various degrees of autonomy. Due to this culture activists and political groups here have found the attitudes, assumptions and behavior of English activists puzzling and at times quite difficult to deal with. 

I have real admiration for your decision inspired by the respectful approach of Jasmine Thomas to put your frustrations to the side but there is a difference between being respectful and civil to your visitors and respecting their imperialist tendencies and behaviors ! I have come to the conclusion over the past couple of years that many (mostly) middle class activists from England are playing out unaware imperialist behavior patterns that need to be interrupted for everyones sake. I would see this dynamic as similar to the way that sexism was seen to be impeeding everyones growth in political and activist circles. The challenge is to find creative and compassionate ways to interrupt these behaviors while acknowledging the unintentional aspect. This is compounded in Ireland by Irish internalized oppression that makes it hard for Irish people to challenge English people vocally and decisively  due to several hundred years of keeping quiet for survivals sake.

Thank you also for the link to Giving up Activism I had never read it and found it useful in understanding activist culture in England.  

Climate Camp - too big for its boots?

By namaskar

Nice article Harry. I don't agree with everything you said in it, but I like how you managed to strike a tone of constructive debate and congeniality. It seems that this has allowed for a conversation to flourish devoid of the usual insult hurling that so often plagues indymedia and prevents genuine debate.

My personal concerns in regard to climate camp are more to do with just general confusion over the vagueness with which it defines itself. Is Climate Camp a banner, a heading under which to act? Is it a specific type of tactic? Or is it in fact an organisation as has been stated a couple of times above? Having seen it change and evolve greatly over the years, it is difficult for me to understand exactly how it sees itself, and its place in the movement.

I agree that fluidity and spontaneity are important aspects of anarchism. The ability to change and react to an ever changing world, and not get bogged down in tradition or stuck in certain ways without evoloving, is what makes anarchist ideas difstinct from dogma. However, I think that, what climate camp tries to be (or presents itself to be or represent) does effect people's view and potential criticism of it.. and as such it should probably work out what that is, so that people can decide for themselves their place in it and contribution to it.

I think climate camp could seriously benefit from providing answers to a lot of questions that it is increasingly presented with.. like, does climate camp support a diversity of direct action tactics? If so how does it support them? What is the aim of mass action and media spectacle? What is climate camps long term strategy? Does concensus decision making, the way that it is currently done, actually work on a mass scale with hundreds of people? Why is the central base of climate camp UK located in london? How does this hub function in regard to regional groups? How much say does each have in decisions? Does concensus decision making, infact, work in all situations (an issue that the person above touched on)? What is the climate camp "policy" in regard to decentralisation of the "organisation" and regional autonomy?

Obviously these questions are not just down to a few people to work out, but up to everyone involved in climate camp to address. However I do think that the failure to answer them coherently has been a source of a lot of contention for people.

The general absence of any clear climate camp "manifesto", breeds disconcent and frustration. At least with organisations where aims, tactics, and decision making structures are clearly laid out, like the IWW, one can choose whether or not the organisation represents them and if they want to be involved in it. Often with climate camp you are not sure what you are going to get: pacifists chanting 'this is not a riot', or window smashing. Obviously these are not mutually exclusive approaches, but which is climate camp promoting, one, the other, both or neither? It is unclear. Similarly with organisational structure, it is not enough to simply declare that "we are non-hierarchical" and expect it to be so. There needs to be a clear idea of how this is to be achieved, as an absence of, or minimal structure can in many cases be just as bad as an imposed beurocratic one. Both lead to hierarchy, that latter is just more ackowledged and formalised than the other.

Perhaps climate camps ambiguity has its appeal to some, and is a strategic way of unifying difference (by not really acknowledging it) but for myself it has resulted in a gradual drifting away to smaller local campaigns where i know a bit more about what the process is, what we are trying to achieve, and how. I am not suggesting that climate camp is a redundant idea.. I think anything that inspires people to come together to agitate for social change is a positive thing and I had many positive experiences being involved in climate camp in the past. But if it is an "organisation" then I think that it needs to figure out, and state clearly, what that organisation stands for.

 

 

 

 

Re: Climate Camp Criticism: Onwards!

By Anonymous

Harry - I have so much respect for you. You showed courage - in a non-macho way you encouraged everyone to stck with the principles of the camp and our agreed aim - to shut down RBS for the day. I think that aim was there but too many people quietly, secretly did not believe it was possible. This was similar to Kingsnorth - we didn't really believe we could shut down the power station - closing an admin building was much more achievable. This is a really interesting and articulate blog - Climate Camp will be stronger for your involvement in future!

Re: Climate Camp Criticism: Onwards!

By underclassrising.net

Firstly, it should be said that the camp was never going to bring down capitalism. That was never the point, and it would be a rare and special soul who went to the edges of Edinburgh with that idea in mind.

So why do it then? In the words of the Camp’s website;

The Camp for Climate Action is a grassroots movement taking direct action against the root causes of climate change. After mobilising and helping stop the proposed third runway at Heathrow and a new coal fired power station at Kingsnorth, we’re growing into a mass movement reclaiming our future from government and profit-hungry corporations.

The point is not some vague and impossible goal of “overthrowing capitalism,” but of challenging its advances in the present whilst drawing peoples’ attention to what is happening.

The choice of RBS as this year’s target is a case in point;

RBS is the UK bank that has been the most heavily involved in financing fossil fuels and corporate bad guys around the world. It took part in providing E.ON with $70 billion at the time it was looking to bust out 17 new coal and gas power plants across Europe, and underwritten $8 billion in loans to ConocoPhillips in the last three years, who apart from being active in the Peruvian Amazon are one of the biggest players in the Canadian tar sands. In fact RBS is the UK bank the most heavily involved in providing the most loans to oil companies that are extracting tar sands and in doing so trashing the climate and destroying Indigenous Communities.

Since the financial crisis, RBS has received billions of pounds of public money to keep it afloat, to the point where it is now 84% owned by the UK public. Communities in the UK are now facing years of cuts to health, education and social services as a result of bailing out the actions of irresponsible bankers. And now they are using our money to prop up the E.ONs and the Shells of this world.

Using public money to support banks in trashing the climate embodies the absurdity of the economic and political system we live in. We need to stop our money from being used to finance tar sands, coal and all fossil fuels, and we need to have democratic financial institutions that serve the needs to people, communities and sustainability rather than just lining the pockets of greedy bankers.

The only way to prevent catastrophic climatic change is to stop burning fossil fuels by leaving them in the ground and switching to the alternatives. The current growth-orientated economic system causes our society to be addicted to burning fossil fuels. In order for our species to survive we need to move beyond capitalism by radically transforming human social relations.

World leaders, Politicians and the Capitalists they serve are failing to prevent the destruction of our planet because they have a vested interest in maintaining profits through business-as-usual. The false solutions they offer (such as bio-fuels, carbon trading, carbon capture and storage, nuclear etc) serve only to “green” capitalism in the search for more growth.

Banks and finance institutions are essential to maintaining the social control of capitalism for the benefit of the ruling class. British banks such as Barclays, Lloyds TSB and RBS are also major investors in companies that extract and burn conventional and unconventional fossil fuels. While the economy is in crisis after the bailouts and austerity measures begin to bite we must ask: Why is it that elites are benefiting from the profits of destructive investments which are killing the planet all loaned with money they stole from the public in the first place?

This disastrous investment must stop because fuels such as coal and the tar sands will if fully exploited certainly lead to global climate catastrophe. The building of new coal power stations and the expansion of other polluting industries must also be stopped and existing plants decommissioned.

The exploitation of Coal, Tar sands, Oil and Gas affects the health and environments of communities the world over, often causing militarization and conflict. Many are resisting this locally and finding solidarity globally, the climate justice movement works in solidarity with these struggles against these corporations for direct community and worker control.

Direct community and worker control being not only the ultimate goal of the anarchist movement but also, as I’ve argued previously, the only way to seriously combat climate change. This cannot happen overnight, but only through serious efforts to educate, agitate, and organise.

Indymedia offers an overview of the camp’s actions to that end;

GROWING RESISTANCE

There was a day out from Climate Camp to Cousland on 21 August to participate in Growing Resistance, an event organised by Coal Action Scotland in solidarity with Communities Against Airfield Open Cast.
Report from the Growing Resistance event.

SUNDAY STROLL TO RBS HQ

On Sunday, several hundred climate campers, including lots in ‘greenwash guerilla’ outfits took a stroll across the bridge from the camp and into the grounds of RBS Headquarters. Undeterred by police attempts to keep them on the climate camp side of the bridge, a large number of activists reached the RBS HQ, where it appears that balloons full of molasses (dirty oil) were catapaulted at the building, a couple of windows got broken and some activists may have got onto the roof (unconfirmed).

MONDAY DAY OF ACTION

Monday’s Day of Action saw campers taking diverse actions against RBS and other connected climate criminals. Five activists were arrested following an occupation, lock-on and banner drop at the headquarters of Forth Energy in Leith, protesting against the company’s plans for four biomass power stations. In Edinburgh, a giant pig delivered and spilt a large quantity of ‘oil’ at the entrance of oil prospectors Cairn Energy, with more sprayed onto the walls; several branches of RBS also received attention.

In themselves, these actions have done nothing but cause some inconvenience to RBS and good copy for the media. The “climate justice movement” is not a big one, and its hestures are often tokenistic. Moreover, being an extremely broad-based movement, it is unable to build momentum based on class struggle.

In short, it holds lofty and admirable goals at its core, but is doing little more than tread water.

This is not to say that actions such as Climate Camp are a waste of time and should be scrapped. Far from it. If we are to take that attitude, we might as well simply declare that we are fucked, wash our hands, and wait for disaster.

More constructively, we need to see this movement become more explicitly anti-capitalist. If that seems a strange statement, then it is down to a fundamental misunderstanding of what capitalism is.

As an article on Infoshop.org explains;

Capitalism is the name for an entire social order. It is not just an “economy.” Thus, the international nation-state system is an integral part of capitalism, and has been from the very beginning. Capitalists took over the pre-existing state forms and turned them to their own ends, integrating them into their project of accumulating capital. The ability to make profit from privately owned productive properties would be impossible without the legal framework provided by governments, backed by police and military violence. Businesses and governments are in bed together, and have been for the past five hundred years (profit takers + politicians = capitalism). Yet even when a few climate justice activists do admit that capitalism has to be destroyed in order to stop global warming, they fail to note that states do too. Except for anarchists.

Though the mission statement and press releases from Climate Camp hint at exactly this perspective, talking of the “political and economic power” that “lies at the heart of the problem,” an anti-statist anti-capitalism is never explicitly laid out.

Indeed, as one commenter noted on Indymedia, “many come from an anarchist position, [but] others [come] from more mainstream (i.e. Labour, Conservative, and Liberal) positions.” This limits the potential of the Camp to offer a genuinely anarchist perspective on the matter or to push for the kind of broader social movement neccesary to enact real change.

Indeed, the dilemma Adam Ford described a year ago still holds true;

The idea of a class-based transformation of society is rejected – in some cases because of righteous disillusionment with traditional forms of class struggle, in many cases because the individual is from a relatively wealthy background. When such people see impending environmental catastrophe as the number one threat to their lives, their philosophy often becomes more anti-technological than anti-capitalist. Taking this perspective to its logical conclusion, capitalism and the state wouldn’t be much of a problem if they could somehow leave people alone in ecological peace, but since they can’t, both must be overcome. But with international class-based solidarity apparently ruled out, the result is that “setting an example” (as one woman put it) becomes the main method of ideological recruitment.
This sets green and black anarchism up for its own failure. Due to the built-in ideological structures of mainstream media and the state, the example set is of using those compost toilets, getting attacked by police, and putting yourself in mortal danger on your week off. Understandably, this is not an example that many are willing to follow.

Thus, a shift in focus is needed from the “lifestyle” of the Camp to germinating the ideas behind it amongst the working class. After all;

While capitalist ideas prevail amongst the working class, invasions of power stations are less direct action and more dramatic lobbying; ultimately impotent appeals to the government to see further than the short term bottom line, something it is organically incapable of doing.

Needless to say, overcoming this point will not be easy.

As the Infoshop article notes, effective and long-lasting action “will require an unprecedented, massive, global anti-capitalist (including an anti-statist) movement.” Such a thing may be beginning to emerge, but it remains in its infancy. Susceptible to easy diversion along less radical paths.

In both action and dialogue, we need to fight to ensure that doesn’t happen. In short, we need to turn direct action away from gesture politics and towards pushing more long-term change.

Re: Climate Camp Criticism: Onwards!

By Anonymous

(Without getting to personal. I know it's not 'you' but activism in general and everywhere is similar, a product of the system I suppose) 

You were on top of the tower, so good for you that you had a great time(trying to think of an 'ivory' pun). But there was genuine euphoria Sunday evening after the action. Slightly dampened though by the usual, boring, never ending 'violence against property' debate.

Absolute wasted energy on the Monday, for some pompous photo opportunity. You saved some nice pics?

I suppose, I (though I don't feel I need to give a semi biography) have had burnout from activism for a while, seeing it as elitest and clique'. I have come away from climate camp, though briefly abandoning my opinion for the good and near successful action on Sunday, more disilusioned than ever. We were completely treated like shit, I also think 'crashing the siege tower into the police van' is a bit overstated, what it did do was make things worse (for a time) for people holding the line at the time. If climate camp is just going to be about workshops and lifestyle activism, then warn people, because frankly i'd rather do other things with my spare time.

Your point about the consensus on the sunday action is right though, although in hindsight, I think we were only holding the captured end of the bridge because we were so amazed and -quite rightly- proud of ourselves. We had a small window (trying to think of another pun) of opportunity on Sunday, but we came so close.

My advice to people is to go abroad for all activist projects and be on the frontline. All that you can do in your home country is boost your ego if you're one of the privilidged few.

Re: Climate Camp Criticism: Onwards!

By Anonymous

Absolute wasted energy on the Monday, for some pompous photo opportunity.

I do understand why people feel like this, but I disagree, for the reasons I gave above. I know that a lot of us on the tower were disappointed things didn't go further with it as well -- there was a strong feeling that with a bit more solidarity and organisation we could have broken through and done something even better.

I very much disagree that we made it harder for people holding the line, though -- there was no line there to hold until the tower came along; it only formed as a point of tension and potential attack because people were grouping around the tower.

I suppose, I (though I don't feel I need to give a semi biography) have had burnout from activism for a while, seeing it as elitest and clique'.

I think this is a common and important sentiment. That's why I made the comment about solidarity across struggles, and why I think a lot of discussion can be summed up by rereading "Give Up Activism".

If climate camp is just going to be about workshops and lifestyle activism, then warn people, because frankly i'd rather do other things with my spare time.

I agree that CC has drifted to being about these things, along with media-focussed spectacle, in the past few years. But I know there is a really strong movement within the organisation to look hard about the possibilities and potential for direct action and supporting long-term struggle. All I can say is, and I know this can sound like an accusation, but still: If there's a way you want CC to be, get involved and try to help make it so, and only when that seems impossible can you give up.

My advice to people is to go abroad for all activist projects and be on the frontline. All that you can do in your home country is boost your ego if you're one of the privilidged few.

Scotland is the site of huge new open cast coal developments, and of enormous new proposed coal power stations. Check here for more details: http://coalactionscotland.org.uk/

If that's not a front-line, I don't know what is.

Re: Climate Camp Criticism: Onwards!

By Dylan Strain

It was my first climate camp and I was hugely encouraged. Like you Harry I didn't want it to end. A great place for people who are swimming upstream on their own coming together empowering each other.  We have no choice but to be positive and believe we can save ourselves from runaway climate change. This means working together in new ways, like people's assemblies and removing ourselves as much as possible from capitalism which is slowly unravelling for all to see and will do even further when the cuts start to bite in October. Let's compost capitalism together!  

Consensus not suitable *in* the thick of it

By von Moltke

Thanks for this valuable article - serious evaluation of actions is too often neglected in our movement.

I'd like to maybe start a debate with you, referring to your section 'Consensus and Collapse'.   I wasn't at the bridgehead (I guess that's where you're talking about), but in my general experience, consensus decision making is not a suitable form 'in the face of the enemy' (or when 'holding the line' as you put it).   Mainly because:

1. It is too slow for a tactical situation, with sudden threats and fleeting opportunities

2. It means uttering your deliberations in earshot of the cops - thus giving up security and surprise.

Consensus decision making is vital prior to action, for participants to educate each other about their values and desires, and to lay down parameters for action, but in action itself a much faster system of groups:

1. taking initiative to achieve the aims agreed previously by consensus, within the constraints agreed previously by consensus; and

2. using spokes, rather than mass-meetings, to make quick decisions.   I think Patton said that an OK plan carried out forcefully now was far better than a perfect plan carried out next week... by which time the circumstances would probably have changed in any case.

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