Iceland, Denmark, Tunisia, Egypt, and Climate Justice

Abstract: This article looks at how the national mass protests against neoliberal regimes in Iceland, Tunisia, Egypt and other African and Arabic countries and the Wisconsin in the US are linked with the climate justice movement. Both national protests and the climate justice movement are developing unevenly. National protests in some hot spots, the climate campaigning more even all over the world. By looking at how countries like Denmark and its organized civil society acts it can be possible to understand how the struggle both for defensive goals and constructive solutions can strengthen each other by what lacked in Denmark but exists on the global level. That is solidarity against repression and building resistance which enables solutions uniting antineoliberal struggles in general and specific areas. This is important both at transnational level and in countries that are more advanced in this struggle as well as those lagging far behind their objective potential like Denmark or Sweden. The challenge is how to combine the strength of the workers movement lacking a global democratic organization representing the working class also in the South and peasants, environmental, women and indigenous people who have established such global democratic organizations. The argument is that the key lies in combining the workers movements strength in defending the common interests with the offensive constructive program promoted by popular movements that have established global democratic organizations and organize solidarity against repression of all popular movements.

The commodification of all human beings and all of nature is at the core of the present development model. The resistance against this model is now enabling alternatives to emerge at both national and on specific fields also the transnational level ultimately paving the way for abolishing the present unsustainable development model. By bringing the two ways of challenging the present development model together and critically examine while also celebrating them it might be possible to find new ways of struggling and winning against the rulers of the world. Both the national uprising against authroritarian neoliberal and austerity regimes and the climate justice movement are part of the same democratic momentum questioning the global world order in all kind of countries all over the world.

The mass climate movement must go beyond the neoliberal agenda

Solutions to the climate crisis is a field were those holding on to the present development model are especially aggressive. They push for a new global land and air grabbing regime with the aim of oppressing the poor to give their fair share of the global commons to the rich and wealthy and into the hands of transnational corporations.

The incapacity of those in power due to the present development model to address global warming have caused growing wide-spread concern. In 1991 people in 70 countries on 500 places participated in international climate action days, in 2009 there were actions on 5000 places and last year 7000 places in almost every country on earth. This incapacity also have caused the rising of the climate justice movement which not only asks for action but also resistance against the present development model and promote constructive solutions beyond the limitations set by those in power.

A primary force behind this climate justice movement has been the anti-debt movement emerging from the riots against International Monetary Fund policies imposed on countries who are oppressed and been given the role of delivering their economic resources to those who already are rich owners of capital, riots that erupted in Peru in 1976 and Egypt in 1977 and since then spread all over the world.

Another force has been the resistance against development projects imposed on local communities in the interest of transnational corporations and the capitalists that owns them. This resistance erupted also at the end of the 1970s when the indigenous Katinga and Bontoc people started armed resistance with arrows and bows against the Chico dam project in the Philippines which was supposed to be financed by the World Bank. Many died in the struggle but the Katinga and Bontocs never gave up in spite of the violence and attempts at bribing their leaders gaining both local, national and international support. The conflict ended with victory paving the way for indigenous and other movements protesting against the present development model in all parts of the world. A movement of oppressed indigenous and local communities that have grown stronger and stronger which was expressed at the international Cochabamba gathering in Bolivia last year with 33 000 people calling for climate justice.

These strands in a global popular movement against the present development model together with the peasant, women’s and environmental movements formed in 2007 the Climate Justice Now! Network. Thus a system critical movement had been established as an alternative to the global coalition of well funded environmental and like minded foundations and other organizations often lacking democratic accountability like Greenpeace. A coalition that in different forms address global warming and other environmental issues as mainly technical and individual moral issues claiming that what is necessary is media attention and pressuring politicians but not changing any social order.

This coalition has been dominated by Western organizations lacking global democratic accountability while the climate justice movement builds on the oppressed peoples and global democratic popular movements like Jubilee South, Via Campesina, Friends of the Earth and Women’s World March. They all have a leadership very much from the third world and build on ideas of equal distribution of power in the movement instead of top-down management.

What is lacking is the perhaps most important movement in resisting the present development model or at least in defending peoples interests, the workers movement. But the trade union is the only larger global popular movement that has refused to build on democratic accountability towards the global working class- ITUC, the International Trade Union Confederation has instead chosen to be dominated by the working class in the rich and wealthy countries and no strong alternative to ITUC have emerged which the other popular movements can cooperate with for building a joint resistance and constructing alternatives to the present world order. ITUC promotes social dialogue with business, IMF and G-20 instead of organizing the global working class.

This was criticized at the Open World Conference against War and Exploitation held in Alger 27-29 novemeber 2010 with 400 mainly trade union participants. Abdel Majid Sidi Zaid. General secretary of the Algerian TUC (UGTA), stated in his inauguration speech that employed and people in common had disappeared from the economic agenda. The only thing that seems to count is to give tax payers money to the capitalists. Sidi Zaid criticized how ITUC gradually slipped into becoming a social partner with business, G-20 and governments instead of representing a different interest than that of the employer.

But the voices of North African and other third world working class cannot be heard in the way ITUC excludes the large working classes to have their proportionate say as only number of individual members is counting making it possible for the rich countries with smaller working class but higher percentage of enlisted member to dominate the international organization. This weakens the trade unions everywhere and so also their ability to cooperate with other movements who are independent and not necessarily sees a solution to every problem social partnership with business and government. Thus is the trade unions a problematic ally as their lack of global democracy in their main international organization effectively excludes the third world working class from influence, the same working class that is so necessary to have as allied for popular movements struggling for climate justice.

Without a strong international cooperation partner among the trade unions it is necessary to find other ways to win the majority against false solutions to the climate crisis and for a just transition. The strength of the climate justice movement so far has been several. The commitment of activists in indigenous struggles against exploitation or climate camps and other forms of struggle has a key role. That strong organizations with a multi issue interest in both social and environmental concerns have been able to cooperate in CJN is another factor. So are the well articulated arguments against false solutions like carbon trading, nuclear power or monoculture biofuel. But what is lacking is a program for solutions, for just transition of housing, industry, transport, agriculture, forestry and many other sectors. It is not enough to know what we are against. We need alos something to long for.

Such a programme is indivisibly linked with going beyond the neoliberal limitations set by the social partnership agenda. Without a clear idea of how to socially mobilize for just transition domestically and internationally the struggle for change will become fragmenticized and easy to diverge into ideas of socially neutral technological plans or moral appeals without substantial economy and social forces to enable a just transition

Protests against the general neoliberal politics

While the climate justice movement is a growing wide spread protest in every corner of the world building momentum in small and large scale it has its limitations. What is also needed is challenging the system at the general political level. That is what is going on in some countries at the moment while in many others the situation is passive. While the climate justice movement and the general concern about global warming is spreading rather steadily all over the world the mass protests against the neoliberal general politics and the strongly connected wars and occupations to control the supply of natural resources are more volatile.

In general at least in Europe antineoliberal mass movements are on the defensive and especially trade unions are under pressure if they do not accept worsening working conditions. In elections right wing parties are the dominant force on the whole continent. When mass protests occur as in Greece two years ago the result can be worsening of the situation and even more neoliberal policies put in place to save the foreign banks and make the people pay.

The solutions accepted at the national level by some popular movements causes serious problems in other countries. The German trade unions accepted wage dumping in exchange for maintaining jobs. In other countries workers were able to maintain their salaries in par with the increase of productive instead as in Germany were the productivity increase worked in favor of the owners of the companies and growing export. If every trade union had chosen to follow suit the result would have been an even deeper crisis. But finally drastic contradictions in the European neoliberal politics reached Eastern, Southern and North Western European periphery as well as North Africa and many other places. The role of the periphery is clear, to feed the banks in the richest countries and owners of capital living on speculation while living with rising food prices and social cuts as a result often of demands by IMF. This has been a problem in many parts of the world for long but have now reached also Europe. The renewed axis between Germany and France to promote even more austerity politics with the help of EU will only deepen the contradictions and crisis.

But when the neoliberal authoritarian regimes following the demands by IMF and supported by EU and the US in North Africa started to fall down like in Tunisia and Egypt and now on the way in other countries this model meet severe resistance by movements that had started to protest against their politics already in the 1970s. These uprising are now often supported from the right to the left, with some similar claims and some different, all too limited from an environmental and climate justice movement perspective.

The common statement by the right and left is that this is a struggle for democracy in the Arab region against authoritarian regimes or dictatorships. This is misleading from an antineoliberal environmental point of view. From this point of view politics, ecology and economy are indivisible. Struggle for democracy is thus necessarily linked to the ecological and economical side of the protests. It is quite clear that the neoliberal model is directly in contradiction with the food sovereignty politics demanded by Via Campesina, Friends of the Earth groups and many others. With the total industrialization of agriculture which neoliberalism aims for with the exception of a small niche production of ecological food for those wealthy enough to afford it. The sky rocketing food prices which is the result of a volatile speculation economy combined with the destruction of domestic peasants by subsidized food from rich countries agriculture industry is a devastating combination together with the general assault against working people like the textile female workers in Egypt which with their strikes is a main factor behind the uprising.

Thus the linkage between an ever growing capitalistic speculation economy and a development model based on ever growing consumption of natural resources including destruction of ecological friendly ways of domestic production of food is at the core of the conflict behind the uprisings. A politics promoted by neoliberal regimes in rich countries unto the rest of the world in alliance with authoritarian segments in oppressed countries. In the case of the Arab world this is further emphasized by the role given to the region of the rich countries with their fossil fuel based economies as a region controlled by smaller privileged nations with less population that are supported by the rich countries to see to that the countries with larger populations are kept under control by their oppressive leaders and massive intervention from the West, at times with brutal force as the help to Iraq to make war with Iran and the later war against Iraq.

From an environmental point of view the struggle in the Arabic world is thus intimitely linked to the struggle against a development model devastating nature and built on aggressive control of fossil fuel sources which for certain is not a struggle which can be limited to the Arab world but is a common task. To the environmental movement in Sweden have since decades stated that the primary solidarity struggle is to change production and consumption patterns in Sweden so that it is not based on overuse of natural resources from other countries. As long as this development model claiming that people in rich countries are entitled to use more than their fair share of the natural resources on earth is in place it is causing the support by so called democratic countries as EU member states to oppressive regimes in the whole world.

The right and the left have some differing point of views on the uprisings in the Arabic and African world now spreading to the mass protests in Wisconsin in the US. The right delinks politics from economy which is helpful for avoiding the connection to the ecological and social justice problems which are a part of the economy promoted by the rich and proclaimed democratic nations. To the right winger whether liberal or conservative democracy is a question of form and have nothing to do with content. The geographic limitations is also self evident to them and thus there is no decisive connection between formally democratic countries in the West and the oppressive authoritarian regimes in countries with a central role in seeing to that rich and formally democratic nations is secured cheap natural resources. Under all circumstances there is no reason to reevaluate the own politics at home due to the uprisings in the Arab world.

To the left winger in rich European countries the dominant view seems to be that of revolutionary romanticism, general US criticism and delinking the struggle in the Arabic world from the struggle in their own countries. Appeals are made for mass protests in Palestine against the Israeli occupation in this leftist version of constant exotism appealing to revolutions sometimes in the future or in other countries rather than to reevaluate the struggle at home and also under other conditions than utter desperation like after 60 years of occupation supported by the rich countries.

US as a main enemy of the left is also a way to avoid focusing on politics were one can make a difference at home. In Sweden the left has mass produced articles about how bad the US is with their war and occupation of Iraq. There are hundreds of left wing articles in Sweden strongly criticizing the US for making false claims on the existence of weapons of mass destruction to start the war against Iraq causing the death of hundreds of thousand people. I have seen not one article about the responsibility of Sweden causing the death as many or more people in Iraq as we and others were supporting the economic sanctions against Iraq with devastating effects on the population built on exactly the same false accusations as those used by the US to start the war. The weapons of mass destruction did not disappear suddenly the day the US invaded, they had long gone before in a time when economic sanctions caused the death of hundreds of thousands. The left seems sometimes to have become part of an international literature market were it is more important to appoint big names as enemies than to do the home work in the municipality or country you live in instead of putting all your energy into criticizing other countries or calling for Palestinians to do one more dangerous intifada. From an environmental point of view EU and its member states is as much of a problem as the US and have supported ”stability” in the Arab region and Africa in similar and devastating ways.

The struggle to change production and consumption patterns and politics at local and national level including foreign policy is of course at times not as spectacular as large uprisings in other parts of the world or omnipotent ideas about shifting EU to become a progressive political force. But it is here we need to see what we can do and how the challenges in the world model for an economy based on cheap natural resources as fossil fuel by the uprisings in the Arab or other regions also means something for the daily struggle in every corner of the world also when it is not spectacular. By simultaneous struggles at all levels combining daily struggles and organizing solidarity across borders when necessary also in less spectacular cases is an internationalistic way forward. But this seems to be outside the view of many left wing commentators. They seem to draw the same conclusion of the uprisings in many aspects as the right – Under all circumstances there is no reason to reevaluate the own politics at home due to the uprisings in the Arab world.

The successful uprising in Western Europe

This becomes clear when seeing what both the left and right excludes from their analysis but the environmental movement have to include and all other opposing the present world order. That of successful uprising against neoliberal politics in a rich European democratic country were the government had no choice but to step down or call in the military from an EU member state to survive against the confrontative demands by the people. What is going on in Tunisia and Egypt have already been successfully accomplished in a Western European country. Thus the claim that what is going on is uprisings in the Arab world is wrong, the uprisings are also going on in other parts of the world with similar form and content including the best and richest of formally democratic nations. Why the right commentators excludes this fact from their analysis is after all understandable although makes their intellectual position utterly weak. After all it was 20 years of right-centre neoliberal government that was thrown out of power with a large scale popular uprising. Why the left also is excluding this Western European country in the same way is a fact at first thought puzzling, at second thought possible to understand as the example point at the necessity of change of the form and content of left wing politics in Western Europe.

The successful uprising started in the autumn of 2008 and reached a climax in January 2009 when people after demonstrations every week broke all restrictions of the police and forced their way through the police lines and smashed more or less all the windows of the parliament making it very clear that the government had no whatsoever control of the country any longer and had to go. The actions were disciplined and no harm was made to policeman but there was no way to not understand the message, you have to go as you have no power anymore. The police force was to small to control the growing protests. For the first time since 1949 the police used tear gas but it did not help. The only choice left was to call in the military from the EU member state Denmark who were staying on ships in the outer harbour of Reykjavik. But to call in the former colonial power that gave the freedom to Iceland as late as 1944 was not a popular option so the right-centre government resigned and new elections were held which brough a left-centre government to power.

Both the form, the content and the result of this successful uprising in Iceland brings in question the left in the rest of Western Europe. One is that the uprising was disciplined and all the different strands with the anarchists and environmentalists as those most radically questioning the present development model in Iceland both in content and in the way protests were organized as well as more moderate political forces all keeping to a strict code of not using violence against people. This in contrast to the unclear notion of diversity of tactics which is splitting the movements into factions in some countries. Thus when repression hit the Icelandic movement there is a lot stronger solidarity then in other Western countries were solidarity sometimes is lacking almost totally. This becomes clear before and during the trial against the Reykjavik 9, protesters standing trial in January 2011 for a peaceful action inside the parliament in 2008. In Iceland all the main stream press have declared them guilty of violence for months and stated that what they have done have no precedence in Iceland and thus many years in prison is reasonable. The foreign minister declared the opposite in the court room. In other countries like Sweden even the most self proclaimed revolutionary left wing party either joins the police opinion and declares the activists as more or less terrorist in need of policing or gets totally paralysed due to the media accusations of violence and starts to fight each other instead of the repression.

The political result of the uprising is also a fact showing that what more or less all the left with some parliamentary power is doing in Western Europe is wrong. The Icelandic people did not only make one uprising, they made two, both successful. With the new left-centre government in place Iceland started to negotiate to come out of the economic collapse that the former government had put the country into. They tried to make a deal with several foreign countries and institutions as IMF. The people did not accept the deal and started protesting again and thus the government found a clever way out. A referendum were a clear majority rejected the deal. Now the government could go into negotiations again making a better deal than before.

What Iceland did was directly contrary to the solutions forced onto countries like Greece and Ireland. Iceland placed its biggest lenders in receivership. It chose not to protect all creditors of the country’s banks. “Iceland did the right thing by making sure its payment systems continued to function while creditors, not the taxpayers, shouldered the losses of banks,” stated Joseph Stiglitz to Bloomberg.

The successful politics in Iceland after the uprisings are seen as good also by main stream economists. So why do we not hear about this solution o the crisis? The reason might be simple. The parliamentarian left is so occupied by being respected as responsible and accepts the core of the solutions in saving the banks instead of challenging the whole model by stating Iceland as an example and pointing at the economic catastroph in for Greece and Ireland when domestic debts possible to reduce by domestic decisions are turned into international debts making the EU the powerful collector for the foreign banks. What EU does is the opposite to Iceland, to force countries and thus their tax payers to make the creditors of the banks completely irresponsible and fully paid for their speculation without risk. To stand up against this way of saving the banks by letting people pay is not what many or any left wing parliamentary parties do by pointing at the Icelandic alternative. Instead general ideological rhetoric stating we do not pay for their crisis becomes a way for these parties to avoid using the parliament as a platform to build political opposition.

What they are doing instead, at least in Sweden, is playing political theatre. This became obvious in the last election when the left party formed an alliance with the Greens and social democrats. To very many in the left party it was obvious that the political platform of this Red Green alliance had no substantial difference from that of the right wing alliance which has now for the first time since 1932 been able to govern the country for a second term. One radical left winger in the party concluded that if the left party should have formulated a stronger political platform which he sees is needed and stayed outside of the alliance between the Greens and the Social democrats the party would have been totally ignored by media and would not have been able to come into the parliament. Thus was the support from the left party of the Red Green alliance necessary.

So at least some Left parties also with a long record of being system critical and still having substantial knowledge of what political opposition is necessary are not independent political actors anymore but extensions of the mass media playing a role in their political theater. To such political parties Iceland is a threat to their image as radical and it is better to exclude this example from people’s memory and continue using anticapitalist rhetoric while not opposing the core of today’s politics in parliament.

The non-parliamentary left have equal strong reasons for excluding Iceland from their understanding of the present situation. If they see parliamentary politics only as a problem and their own role as being non-parliamentarian is it not useful to claim that the Icelandic parliamentary politics and its solution to the crisis is of interest for the rest of Europe. If it furthermore includes member of the governments that defends anarchists the identity politics of much of the non-parliament falls into pieces. Such central politicians cannot have a progressive role when the main stream press is totally against the anarchists claiming that they are violent so Iceland cannot exist. It is too much a threat to identity politics of both the parliamentary and non-parliamentary left.

Iceland is not only a threat to the identity politics of the left at the tactical level but also on the strategic. The strongest supporter of the 9 accused Reykjavik activists comes from the environmental movement Saving Iceland. And if there is a left wing strand among the accused activists it seems to be anarchistic while traditional radical left wing organizations are not a visible actor anymore, at least not presented well abroad. Furthermore it is claimed in the support brochure for the Reykjavik 9 that : ”In interviews and other coverage of the court case, the Reykjavík Nine have shown that their participation in that winter’s uprising was rooted in their opposition towards the whole system – not only the economic collapse and “the crisis”.” With other words the activists are not belonging to a single issue movement or ad hoc group but a system critical movement with more long term goals than replacing one government with another to make some shifts in the costs for the bankruptcy of the banks for the Icelandic people. This threat is fully understood by the neoliberal press who have called for hard sentences against the Reykjavik 9 and claimed that they not only were violent, but also introduced a culture of violence into Icelandic protests. Thus they are also guilty of the escalating protests that continued during the winter and finally forced the government to resign.

In Many Western European countries the non-parliamentarian left is still to quite some extent influenced by parties claiming they are revolutionary and their press. To this left Iceland is a threat showing how a new radical system critical movement is emerging, so better keep silent about Iceland. One good exception is the German MP who have actively engaged in the case. He also makes a connection between the case of the Reykjavik 9 and the recently discovered British spy that was sent into the Saving Iceland movement as well as direct action movement in many other countries and asks if this is part of a European–wide policing of movements.

The case is similar for the environmental movement. In Iceland it is the system critical direct action movement that is strong and not so much environmental NGOs which is the opposite to most other countries in Western Europe. Neither the strong solidarity between the environmental movement and the protesters against the neo-liberal regime or civil disobedience as a form of action are not what many environmental NGOs sees as important.

In spite of that the Icelandic experience is relevant for a number of political reasons it is thus largely ignored both among the left and the environmentalists.

Connecting the hot political spots and the weak

The case of Iceland becomes also interesting when seeing if there is a possibility of connecting struggles in hot spots with successful uprisings and the more daily struggle and even defensive struggle when things gradually gets worse.

Here the climate justice connection can serve as helpful. The climate struggle is going on almost everywhere helped by the fact that any emission or deforestation anywhere on earth are contributing to global warming making our destiny as a human race ultimately connected.

Thus we here can see both an issue and a struggle different in the form in terms of a more steady increase forward and less volatile as the struggle against the economic crisis.

What are than the connections? One is the political content. In both cases is antineoliberal politics at the core of protests. In the case of the climate justice movement the stand against carbon trading, in the case of Iceland a general protests against neoliberal politics. There is furthermore some deeper connection. One is that the banks that brought Iceland to de facto bankruptcy earlier were state owned and then privatized, a privatization with some consequences. One other that the Icelandic crisis have a root in exactly the same idea which is underlying carbon trading schemes, that of establishing a market mechanism for selling nature. A speculation boom like the one promoted by the privatized Icelandic banks has to built on some cash flow and this was created by the decision to allow the selling of fish quota in Iceland.

This points at two complementary ways of challenging the neoliberal hegemony by general political uprising in some countries and a world wide challenge against the expansion of a neoliberal regime in one important sector, nature.

The other connection between the hot spot Iceland and more weak struggle in many other places is the form. Here Iceland has set an example that will tear up some of the hardest resistance against challenging the neoliberal world order, the resistance among many organizations claiming themselves to be anti-neoliberal or even revolutionary.

This resistance was clearly evident during the climate summit in Copenhagen when Denmark was a host to a meeting of global importance. Every revolutionary and other left wing parties in Denmark as well as every other environmental or social organization built on membership and representative democracy chosed to claim that non-violent civil disobedience towards an assembly of legislators which is a central character of a UN conference is an impossibility in Denmark. It would automatically result in violence to be blamed on those initiating the non-violent action and was thus unacceptable in a Nordic political culture like the Danish.

This is correct in the sense that a majority of the Danish people according to opinion polls claims that the violence used by the police against non-violent demonstrators is not actually violence committed by the police but violence caused by the non-violent activist. This is totally different from lets say an Egyptian policeman beating demonstrators with his stick in Cairo to protect the stability of the state who according to the same world view now is committing violence which everyone can see as easily as she or he can see how the policeman using his stick at the Climate Summit conference building is actually not using violence as the violence is caused by the demonstrator who does not understand the self evident need of the stability if the Danish state.

It is also correct in the sense that main stream media and the large majority of the parliamentary parties in Denmark have the same view. The media uses a model for shifting chronology or placing people in false places to make believe the story about police behaving properly and those under violent attack from the police as the cause of violence.

Thus if the only stone thrown at a policeman at the Climate Summit that actually harmed a policeman causing only light injury was thrown as an reaction in another part of the city after that the police mass arrested 918 innocent demonstrators this is by the media presented as preceeding the violence of the police against the demonstrators.

Similar is the way the mass arrested demonstrators are presented as causing their own mass arrest as some few demonstrators were smashing a dozen windows at the stock exchange and foreign ministry. But this was in another section of the demonstration where the police had guided activists into the demonstration that intended to go elsewhere but the police wanted them in the demonstration. It was also in another part of the city far away from the mass arrests. By claiming that there is a connection between the section that was mass arrested and the material damage at the stock exchange and the foreign ministry media presents a model for how the violence against the demonstrators is caused by themselves.

All parliamentary parties from the most radical left to the right with the exception of the social liberal party in the center followed the same pattern in their firsts comments on what had happened. Emberessment was not directed against the totally unacceptable mass arrest of 918 demonstrators who all later in court have been found the right to receive damages as innocent and victims of police abuse. The emberessment was instead directed against stones thrown at the police fueling furthermore the false chronology and misplacing of the mass arrested section in relation to the course of events.

With other words we have a people, mass media and parliamentary parties supporting the police view that the violence used by the police is not violence but actions by non-violent demonstrators and activists is the cause of the violence for everyone to see. Such a country is not at all a police state but a police nation, a situation probably similar to that in many other countries and of importance to deal with if a simultaneous protest movement against the present social and ecological crisis should be able to emerge in more than a few countries under extraordinary circumstances.

In such a police nation it is understandable that representative democratic organizations claim that non-violent action against a UN-conference will be perceived as guilty of the violence that automatically will take place according to this logic. But it is not acceptable. Every organization have their own responsibility towards their stated goal. If the rest of the nation have turned into a police nation this is no excuse for any organization to join the band wagon and even make a principle about it. To claim that only temporary activist networks should carry the whole burden against the violence of the police nation or even see to that when this violence occurs the victims should receive no solidarity is not standing up for the truth which is the basis of our society.

The claim by all formal Danish organizations rejecting to support a non-violent direct action was that the political culture in Denmark was such that by action, non-violent or not, against an assembly of legislators would be regarded as completley unacceptable by everyone except for an isolated small group. This was wrong as such a non-violent action took place at the EU-summit in the same conference center as COP15 was held but this fact was hidden to international cooperation partners or forgotten. More important is that Denmark cannot claim that their political culture is significantly different from that of Iceland sharing history for almost a thousand year and with stable democratic institutions.

As the Icelandic people have been able to make an uprising and storming the parliament successfully in a non-violent manner, this form of action cannot in principle be said to be impossible in Denmark. Furthermore can the Icelandic popular movement show results in combating neoliberal economic politics that most or all the left wing and environmental organisations in Denmark also would like to achieve.

The key point therefore is a question that concerns any European antineoliberal organization, is the kind of non-violent action against a parliament in principle always unacceptable this also means to say not to both the political antineoliberal success and form of the protests in Iceland. As Via Campesina and others in Copenhagen showed was it possible also at a Climate Summit to do the same thing as the Icelandic popular movement did, although it had less success due to that Danish left wing and environmental organizations opposed the non-violent action. It is well argued to claim that Iceland has similar political culture as Denmark. The conclusion of this is that the left-wing and environmental organizations in Denmark are not anti neoliberal or interested to protect the environmental but prefers to be part of a police nation and protect the state when given a choice.

It is necessary in every country were these kind of organizations dominate the political space for opposition to demand clear principles that shows respect for the Icelandic people. There are always specific conditions in each circumstances but there are also a general level were similarities exists. Iceland is a long term democratic nation and their experience should be reflected in any antineoliberal organization in a Western democracy. It gives possibilities of strengthening simultaneous struggles in different countries which also are of importance at Summits when global popular movements can combine their efforts with local mobilization to challenge the present world order.

Linking climate justice to anti neoliberal general political uprisings

Many left wing and environmental organizations are today not only part of the police nation but also accepting the limitations set by mass media. They see the unity with organizations having access to media as more important than to build on clear demands against false solutions on the climate issue. In spite of that key global democratic movements as Jubilee South, Via Campesina, Friends of the Earth International and the whole Climate Justice Now network is opposing carbon trading and offsetting most organisations prefer signing such statement and go home afterwards not taking them seriously.

If it is not media attention there are other tactical reasons for not taking international declarations seriously. One is the interest in cooperating with social partnership trade unions who refuse to take an antineoliberal stand in the climate justice issue. This is why the global day of action has such a out of date watered down platform.

But the antineoliberal climate justice movement is sufficiently large today to enable a stronger uniting initiative leaving the old claim for more action and a real climate deal behind. This was attempted at the Cochabamba gathering but with some problems. One was the exclusion of the Roundtable 18 (mesa 18) which also critically addressed social changes within countries including Bolivia. Another was the rather big ideas about a global referendum but no idea on the immediate term for uniting the climate justice movement.

But this is crucial for the ability to strengthen both the climate justice struggle and the general antineoliberal uprisings and struggles. By using the capacity of the climate justice movement to be present in almost every country a real important force would be added to the general antineoliberal uprising at national level. This would also work well in reverse. By politically showing more closeness to the political energy coming from the uprisings against authoritarian regimes whether in the West or other parts of the world the climate justice struggle would also be strengthened.

The climate justice movement could also learn from the Icelandic experience concerning solidarity. In spite of that all the press was in the hands of neoliberal perspectives and nine activists put to trials were presented as violent while making an action inside the parliament the movement kept together. 705 people claimed they had done the same crime which according to the attorney should result in minimum one year in prison. The trial ended with the verdict not guilty for most of the activist, a fine for two and suspended sentence for two others. The nine activists refuses to accept the verdict claiming that only full aquittal is acceptable.

After COP15 the trials are not yet over and two spokes persons for the non-violent action have been sentenced to four months in prison, verdicts that are up in court once more in the end of May. The massive solidarity in Iceland have lacked in Denamrk, especially during COP15 but also compared to Iceland afterwards. Without solidarity, the movement dies.

The antineoliberal uprisings can learn from the climate justice movement work for a constructive program for both agriculture forestry, industry, rural and urban planning to solve the climate crisis in ways which also solves other social and environmental crisis. Inspiration can come from the Klimaforum09, Assembly of Social Movements at European Social Forum in Istanbul and the Cochabamba roundtable 18 declarations that focus much on social justice and constructive solutions. A popular movement cannot only be against if it shall be able to win in the long term, it also needs something to long for, something that can attract more sympatizers and bring about change.

During a long period since 1980 all the results of the productivity increase have fallen into the hands of owners of capital. This has enabled those in power to penetrate every mind and every movement with the message that the market can solve everything while others cling to the defensive hope for the state or EU to challenge the market. The uprisings in Iceland, Africa and Western Asia challenges this model for controlling societies and limiting protest to defensive demands. The key way to try to limit the effect of the uprising in Africa and Western Asia is to claim that this is only a rebellion against dictatorships limited to the Arab world. Here Iceland is an example showing clearly that this is false. Together with the uprising in Wisconsin in the US inspired by the revolt in Egypt we here have examples showing that it is all authoritarian neoliberal and corrupt economic regimes that are challenged.

Together with a global action against neoliberal solutions to the climate crisis combined with a program for just transition the uprisings and the climate justice movement can make 2011 into a springtime of the people. A year of simultaneous struggle in many countries building a solidarity across borders that can bring us a decisive step towards making another world possible.

Tord Björk

Background on the COP15 lack of solidarity and trials:

The whole world on trial

Final count down for political theater at COP15 trials

Danish law 1243: Truth! 2010: Power?

Historic COP15 victory against summit repression

Call for solidarity actions with the accused spokespersons for the Climate Justice movement and update information:

Strategy appeal made at World Social Forum tematico in Mexico May 2010:

Climate Justice and Class Struggles after Cochabamba

Reykjavik 9 and Iceland material:

Facebook cause Support the 9 Reykjavik and COP15 Activists!

Background material on the Icelandic situation:

Solidarity web site for Reykjavik 9

Iceland’s Decision To Let Banks Fail Gaining Appeal by Paul Nikolov

Report from Bloombergs with quotes from Stiglitz on Icelandic example:

Biking to Copenhagen

Tord Björk | Action,Climate,Summits,Travel | Sunday, December 6th, 2009

Yes they do it! From Australia and Holland they come by bike to the Copenhagen Summit. Today Sunday December 6. As an old biker that have cycled from Norway to Sicily arriving in Italy in December it is really warming to hear these good stories. Read and look at pictures:

Kim Nguyen ending his over 15.000 km and 16 months long bike trip from Australia accompanied by a bike caravan into Copenhagen today.  The final action is called Ride Copenhagen, calling upon politicians to act. Ride to Copenhagen begins in Roskilde at 10 o’clock and ends at Borups Højskole in the centre of Copenhagen. read more:

With him comes company from Holland:

Hi everyone,

we are Sebas and Nick two students that want to show that a zero-carbon
footprint is possible for everyone. For that we are cycling from Amsterdam
to Copenhagen on our old Holland bikes.

What we need is attention for our action and for that we would ask you to
post a link of our web site from your sites/blogs or write an short
article, tell your friends etc. Every bit of help is very much

Please visit our site:

Thank you very much for all your help!!!!

In solidarity,
Sebas & Nick

Propaganda for or against capitalism?

Tord Björk | Propaganda,Travel | Tuesday, September 22nd, 2009

In Berlin at the main railway station there was a huge banner showing how the kitchen revolution in Central and Eastern Europe was carried out in 1989. What happened was that a tuff US sheriff arrived making people courageous at High Noon. That is how Solidarinosc and the other movements started and fulfilled their role in changing society in Poland and other countries.

In Wroclaw there was also pictures presenting how the change took place. At the central square poster with pictures from the year 1989 was set up, here with Lech Walesa, the leader of the trade union Solidarity.

Here we can see that the way the change in Poland was presented in Berlin was true. The US is an ideal for those that dare to confront the police.

But what is this? Lenin together with the US flag.

And what is this? That mustache looks very typically polish and whatever the women have in her hand, it is not a pistol.

And this looks somehow familiar, riot police to the left and black block to the right. In full mood for fighting and even prepared behind barricades, one with a mask. Maybe the bandit that the US sheriff must arrest?

Certainly this as well looks familiar. To have children to bring forward a political message is a favorite among all regimes. Stalin loved to be photographed with children and many movements have used children in the forefront of their protests. One of the most successful was Barnetogene, the Norwegian national liberation movement against Swedish imperialism that organised special children marches in the late 19th centrury that still today every 17th of May are very popular. So it seems they were in Poland.

Here is one more familiar scene. Green federation and others are protesting against radioactive risks if I understand the message correctly. This is certainly any European environmental protest in the 1980s. My experience from traveling in these days and visiting the illegal or half illegal environmental movement is that they took an active part in overthrowing the communist regimes … and the first one at least in Poland to take action against the new government to stop nuclear power.

The peace movement was also active of course also looking more like modern European popular movement activists than US sheriffs.

And what to say? How to win the kitchen revolution, so labelled after the places it was organised. By pistols or flowers? The dominant explenation in the West is that it was the US sheriff and his armament that forced the change to take place. The people on these pictures were of no importance nor all other Europeans that struggled for peace in the world on both sides of the split between the so called East and West, for the envrionment, human rights and social justice. What matters is the pistol not the flower. But somewhere there might grow new flowers.

Once upon a time the propaganda resurces of the countries ruled by communist parties in CEE countries was immense. Here is the view of the Karl Marx Allé in Berlin from the Alexander Platz tower.

Today the resources for making communist party propaganda is meagre. Here is the Communist party propaganda machine in Wroclaw.

Propaganda Berlin-Wien-Wroclaw

Tord Björk | Propaganda,Travel | Tuesday, September 22nd, 2009

On my tour from Friends of the Earth European Annual general Assembly in Lenzen to the ESF meeting in Vienna I passed by Berlin. As an old neon-sign designer I regularly get neck problems when visiting cities, always glaring at signs above my head. This time it was rewarding. At the main ublic entrance to the city, the new impressive main station with traisn on top of each other in many layers and all directions there was a great neon-sign: Vattenfall.

Last year when I toured Central and Eastern Europe to promote ESF in Malmö I camer to the Warsaw railway station. It was impossible to find the way to the ticket boot. All over the place there were signs advertising for the private businesses that swamped the whole basment and endless corridors under the main hall making it hard to find the public information. I thought this is as a bazaar and the bizarre result of the drastic changes that has taken place in CEE countries after the transition to capitalist economy. Back home in the West we do not allow such total confusion so people cannot find the ticket boot anymore.

Such a mistake. Well it is possible to find the ticket boot at the Berlin main station, but private enterprises rule the world also here with proganda all over the place. And proudest of them all is Vattenfall. This is a Swedish state company that has been ordered to get out as much profit as possible out of its operations. The basic income comes from selling electricity from the many dams in Northern Sweden. With this income the company has been able to buy a lot of coal plants and open pit coal mines in Germany causing many conflicts wwith local popualtions and the envrionmental movement. Sweden that promotes itself as the best climate policy state among rich countries gets profits out of this company that creates alone more green house gas emissions outside Sweden than the whole country of Sweden. Sweden talks with a double tongue in the climate negotiations and has finally conquered Germany, this time with energy as the weapon.

Conservative gender propaganda is of course also a favourite at railway stations. Conquer the world and women with the help of beer… and what is so prickelnd, ..

In Vienna new and old propaganda were mixed in an effective way. I remember reading a book about Austria only some 50 years old. It described all of the country in the text. The illustrations were as I remember half of then chruches in the countryside and the villages. The rest was to a far degree nature. It was as if the life of the Austrians only had to do with these buildings. I like churches. Somehow they are places were people have gathered because they had a hope, because they needed each other. I am not religious myself but I respect these places. But in the book about Austria it became to much. In Vienna there are a lot of Churches.

There are also a lot of grandiose buildings and statues. These buildings and statues are far to huge for the country they now decorate with their presence from older days when the empire extended so far in all directions.

These heavy buildings making propaganda about the glory in the past becomes today parts of a holy temple of consumerism.

A consumerism that presents itself as full of the sense of lightness of luxury, a spiritual matter above all material concerns,

a spirit full of being swept away on a white horse.

In this classical city modern advertising also adopted the most modern form. At a crossing two young persons with a banner went in front of cars with a message. It looked very familiar from many environmental actions against car traffic. It is the same phenomena as when out door posters have pictures on young people making graffiti in branded jeans while the municipality in the city with these posters starts big campaigns against those making graffiti.

Looking at the whole picture it is quite clear what kind of prpoaganda that dominates a city like Vienna today, that of consumerism with specific gender roles.

After Vienna I took the train to Wroclaw in Poland, or the former German town Breslau. This big city was bomber in the late parts of the war but has been rebuilt and many historical parts are well kept.

Here I found walking forks making propaganda for a restaurant. Somehow this felt more to the point and a bit humouristic. As a teacher in exhbition design it was fun to see this classical Sandwichmen walking around in a time when it is claimed that only internet will be the way for marketing in the future. But I should not have thought in that way. Back home I traveled in a car with my collegue Roberto Finoli. He allt he time spoked with a soft volice to Lisa. He told her that she was so kind and that her voice was so much more gentle in Swedish than in Italian. She guided him so well through all his obstacles on the way to a meeting. Lisa was the name of his new GPS. As far as i understand this is the future. Everywhere one can get information about both which roads to take, restaurants to eat at, which museum to go to, which hotels to slepp at and whatever you need. There is new future for walking forks or people with banners anymore, or?

EPA in Vienna – ESF: a Leftist Kindergarten or Social Movement Cooperation

Tord Björk | ESF,Friends of the Earth,Travel | Tuesday, September 22nd, 2009

The European Preparatory Assembly (EPA) for next European Social Forum to be held in Istanbul 2010 took place in Vienna in June. In short it was a step backward in spite of Austrian great efforts to strengthen the process. In Turkey the key organization and people that have carried on the preparations so far for almost two years have stepped aside and new people and organizations took over. Central is a committee of five trade unions. The new Turkish cooperation partners said no to strengthen the preparations and the momentum have at least temporarily been broken. The network meetings were few and not well attended but with soem good results as the CEE network. The Climate change network meeting also resulted in a useful outcome stressing the need for cooperation between different movements and constructive programs that can address both climate and job crisis.

I arrived early with the night train from Berlin. Things had changed completely. I needed a telephone book to find a number and address but was told that this did not exist anymore. Nor were there any internet cafés open at the Westbahnhof or nearby. It took me many hours to sort things out. Global 2000 was a great help. This organization is a member of Friends of the Earth. Last time I visited them the office was placed quite far out, filled with activist equipment, placards and the like. This time there was a new office closer to the centre in some less luxurious blocks easy accessible. This saved me and my need to use internet. I also bumped into an office meeting and made a report from FOEE AGM. Global 2000 is an effective NGO with many professionals in the staff working on controversial issues as GMO and nuclear power. There was a sense that the contact with lay activists had been lost and now needed more emphasis. There was a sense of rationality in the air, of high level intellectual and goal-oriented professional action reaching out to the political consumer. Quite far away from the less resourceful Friends of the Earth Sweden.

Finally I found Leo Gabriel from the Austrian Social Forum who had invited me at the anti-racist rally outside the parliament.  Austria have continued to make more and more strict laws against the interest of refugees and immigrants. Also people accused of having a fascist and antisemitic background were members of the parliament and Jews were amongst the protesters in the anti-racist rally which gathered a very large number of participants.

Among the demonstrators was a Swede according to Leo. He presented me to Peter Kreisky who was brought up in Sweden during the war when his father was a refugee.

We talked about the can company Felix were Peter worked as a boy while his father Bruno struggled in the exile resistance against fascism. It was nice to meet someone so well acquainted with Sweden down in the emperors city which Sweden as so many others failed to conquer in its imperialist days. Here the Mongols, Turks and Swedes have failed, only Hitler was well received and could conquer the city without any resistance after the fascists had massacred the workers movement with the Ottakring district as one of the last strongholds for the workers in 1934.

The EPA meeting took place in a Volkhochschule, a People´s high school in the midst of the old worker´s Ottakring district of Vienna established in 1905. It was a hundred years old and still a busy place were people go and learn things, in the old days both workers and women’s liberation activists and today participants in “democratic and intercultural” education. It is one of the oldest schools for education of after adulthood inspired by the Danish peoples high school movement and celebrated equally by social democrats and communists.

Here we entered among the many busy students. The network meetings took place in smaller appropriate rooms. Attendance was low compared to earlier EPAs. The environmental climate meetings though got for the first time a wide interest from others than environmentalist, small farmers and climate campaigners. We were very few from these movements, basically myself from Friends of the Earth Sweden and Alexandra Strickner from Institute of Agriculture and Trade Policy and Attac. The Danish delegation from Climate Forum 09 would arrive later to the plenary session on Saturday. Some 40 people attended interested to hear about the preparations for the Copenhagen Summit. The divergence became very clear. Trade unionists from Belgium were especially ambitious in the practical planning. A train for some 700 people was in the preparation for participants to go from Brussels to Copenhagen and the Summit Summit in December. They also stated their political purpose clearly. It was only to support the politicians. This is in strong contrast with the different actions and the Climate Forum 09 that is in preparation. Here the basis are political platforms with specific demands both for constructive solutions and against solutions that will have a negative effect on both environment and social justice. It is clear that participants in the ESF-process have very divergent agendas.

Still yet the network meeting could conclude in making a statement that is useful in the preparations to promote political goals that hitherto have been marginalised. Political goals that are important for building alliances between different movements and for reaching out to the general public. The political demand was to focus on the need for a constructive solution to the climate crisis that will bring about jobs. So far in the preparations the radical activists in the consensus process used in the Climate Justice Action network have blocked this demand from getting wider support. The environmental NGOs tend also to see this demand as marginal and the radical environmental groups tend to focus on degrowth in a socially neutral way and thus also avoiding this issue. Only in the ESF process has it been possible to get a broader support among different movement for this demand.

The next day the European Preparatory meeting started. The main hall were this meeting took place was impressive, once financed by the baron Rotchild who saw the need in supporting education of workers. The assembly was dominated by a struggle between the Austrian organisers and Western Europeans, mainly French attempts at questioning the leadership of the meeting. Under the surface was the fact of the change in leadership of the Turkish Organizing Committee.

The Austrian organisers had untactically named its proposal for a European preparatory group European Organizing Committee. Thus the name was the same as that of the organisers in the host country which is normally also called organizing committee. Such labelling caused confusion. There was also not enough flexibility from the Austrian side once the criticism was expressed although in the end willingness to change the name. The label European Organizing Committee was kept in the discussion to long in spite of that it was not intended to have the same postion visavi ESF as the organizing committee of the host country/ies.

Probably the Austrians felt that their proposals was in the interest of all. They had especially gone to Istanbul to meet the new TOC and present their idea of the need of a European preparatory group that continously could help the Turkish preparations.and that the Turks had agreed to the idea. The need for a better organisation have been clearly seen in the preparation for the ESF 2008 in Malmö. There are numerous practical tasks left without follow-up between the ESFs. The haphazardous way important things as supporting CEE participation, fund-rasing or spreading of information is managed causes severe unnecessary problem. The fact that most ESFs have left big debts behind of hundreds of thousands Euros shows that there is something basically wrong in the preparation process.

But no arguments helped. The TOC opinion, if they ever accepted the Austrian idea in the first place at the visit in Istanbul, was now that they did not want any European group that continously helped with the preparations whatever label it had. To talk to the TOC representatives was as talking to empty eyes. I must admit that it made me very uneasy to sense this lack of interest in practical preparations. It was not only disinterest in the idea of setting up a European preparatory group. Worse was the disinterest in any specific practical experiences from preparing a ESF. As experience tells us that to start in advance is crucial to many aspects as fund-rasing, CEE participation, getting new groups involved etc it was discouraging to to feel that the new TOC tin the hands of trade unions was disinterested in not only a group but also specific ideas and practical needs of immediate nature for improving the organizing of next ESF

Discouraging was also the unqualified assessment of the ESF in Malmö. The practical problems with dispersed localities and unsufficient number of volunteers for organizing the event are well-known facts. In the case of the localities it is trivial. As there were no other option than Malmö to place ESF and as there were no other localities to be found in this small city there were no alternatives. The lack of volunteers could have been different. When similar or higher amounts of people took part in the activities at the EU Summit in Gothenburg these problems did not occur (instead the police caused severe problems). The trade unions and Attac who dominated the board of the Nordic Organizing Committee had chosen a model for the preparations that promoted professionalization and thus activists were marginalised and the mobilization of volunteers failed. The Swedish trade unions were as disinterested in practical preparations as now it seems that the trade union dominated TOC is.

Criticism on these practical matters are well deserved and not much to be embarrassed about. What is discouraging is that the ESF in Malmö also was in general dismissed politically as well. This is false. The assessments made by a large number of groups states the opposite. This becomes obvious when reading some 2000 reports on the internet about ESF in Malmö including many from outside the Nordic countries. More or less all movements report from Malmö that it was a political step forward for them and for cooperation with other movements. What was lacking was a general political debate about the connection of issues and the different crisis. But this was stopped not by the Nordic organizations but by a French intervention against a Via Campesina proposal at a European programme meeting. The political attack on the Nordic organisers coming to a large degree from French delegates is misdirected. It became clear in the discussion that few of the EPA delegates build their judgements on serious analysis and studies. Instead superficial opportunistic arguments dominates the discussion which do not bring the ESF process forward. The experience from the ESF 2008 preparations is also that many Western European organisations claim interest in supporting the practical preparation including funding of the Solidarity fund and then afterwards quickly forget it while an overdimensioned interest instead is put into discussing the programme at high costs at special meetings outside the EPAs.

The Austrians had done a lot of effort in preparing the event. They made strong effort in translation and had interpreters organised. They also made a lot of fund-raising for CEE participants. Thus the tradition to maintain a strong CEE presence in the process from the ESF 2008 process was maintained. The journey to meet the new TOC in Istanbul also shows a clear committment to the practical needs of preparing next ESF. Instead of seeing the psoitive side of these efforts and the need to enforce the practical preparation the meeting tended to act in a rather disgraceful manner. Partly this was due to inflexibility from the Austrian chair but it certainly could have been done in another way. In practice the meeting ended with that the secretary took over and the Austrian leadership of the meeting was put aside.

If the discussions in plenary were discouring the discussions in the corridors was much more so. Thanks god for not being a leftists! I do not mind cooperating with the left and as independent of them I tend to be told all bad things about the others. My own experience is that all strands have positive aspects and that the way criticism against the others are handled sometimes become comical and a way to avoid the problems the own left-wing tendency have. What happened was a big shift in the view of the former main collaboration partners in Turkey. A key organisation in the former TOC was the Socialist Workers Party in Turkey, SWP. Their main strength had been in building broader coalitions working against war and also campaigning on climate change. Now when the power relations shifted in Turkey suddenly many reminded themselves of hw this trotskyist tendency which SWP belongs too was an obstacle to many in different parts of Europe. Whether this was relevant for the case of Turkey seemed not of interest. My experience of the SWP tendency in different countries is different from situation. I do ot like the opportunistic tendency to put only one issue a a time as the only important thing but the activist commitment is many time sincere and important in a European political were politics more and more is based on dependence of donors, a problem which is very clear in the environmental movement. My experience as coordinator of the European contact group for ESF 2008 is that the former TOC was a great help in the preparations that time upon time helped out in practical problematic situations, directly contrary to the experiences which now was brought up from other countries. Two times I also visited EPA meetings in Istanbul and both times it was clear that the participation from  environmentalists and other kind of movements was broad. The climate change network meeting had 55 participants, larger than any other environmental network meeting during EPAs that I know of. The discussion also had a high level, more so than in Vienna. It is as if the left that dominates the EPA process opportunistically changes its assessments according to who is in power and not according to principles and relevant serious judgement.

Now what caused the split in Turkey was never really clear. The SWP people stated that it was political and part of a great split in the whole left in Turkey and due to the developments when five trade unions established a  special committee within TOC to guide the work. Thus they saw both political developments outside TOC and thus only informally connected to the ESF process as well as the formal aspects within TOC as an argument for leaving their active participation. The new TOC organisers claimed that the informal political aspects was irrelevant and at the formal level that SWP at first had agreed to the new group of five trade unions as guiding and not controlling the TOC. Only when, in the new situation, SWP people presented the idea that some of them should be part of the professional staff to prepare ESF and were refused so the SWP left. The two stories are not necessarily contradictory. What is illogical is the way the new TOC treats the two similar ideas to have guiding groups supporting TOC, in one case consisting of five Turkish trade union, in the other case European organisations helping with the preparation. In the case of the five trade unions guiding group this is not only willingly accepted but also claimed to be of no importance for the possibility for TOC to have a open and democratic decision process. In the case of an All-European support group the claims are exactly the opposite and the idea bluntly refused.

My role at the meeting was rather ungrateful. I reported about the bankruptcy of the Nordic organisers after ESF and the failure in paying the costs of Babels and cultural workers as well as others. This issue is something I might come back to in later contribution on my blog socialforumjourney. The reactions on the report were firstly to the point but after a while there were tendencies to state things against a position that was claimed to be ours in the Nordic countries when it fact in was a speculation made by the person thus enabling himself or herself to make a stronger statement against a non-existant position. It was also discouraging to sense a lack of interest in being committed to the idea to expand the ESF process to the Nordic countries. It was if the challenge to integrate the Nordic experiences was a to hard task for the original initiators of the ESF process in Southern Europe and that they now gladly retracted back to the Mediterranean waters.

In my role as one of the few environmentalists it was more fun. The statements on climate change and job-creation in plenary and in the network meeting is most helpful. I found two French delegates that helped my out a lot with the climate network meeting. As I have a private ”campaign” blaming more or less all bad things about the ESF process on the French it was lovely to find some French delegates who both talked and did things in a focused and  efficient way. It is nice to get my prejudices contradicted. So it was when reading the reports from ESF in Malmö. No country had as diverging reports as those in France. Both experienced activists as Christophe Aguiton and young activists as one contributor to L’Humanité had strong positive evaluation of ESF 2008, in L’Humanité the message was that Malmö was young and energetic. In not other country were the opnions as contradictory and strongly expressed as in France to my knowledge. But the positive judgements now seemed wiped away from the minds of the French.

Conclusions are hard to make. My obsession with the problems dealing with a consensus process in practice dominated by internal French positions that quite often are contradictory was met by a commentator from the old TOC, this is a French affair and it is just to love it or leave it. Another Greek comment was that ESF 2101 will be a Turkish affair and that this is good. The Turkish mass organisations have the capacity to carry out the task well practically. To a large degree this EPA behaved as a leftist kindergarten.

In general the kind of movement that participate in the ESF process are of utmost importance for the strand of the environmental movement that I belong to. Many environmental organisations only focus on environmental issues and often only on lobbying. My strand sees the necessity of alliances between different social movements. In the preparations for the Climate summit and the building of a movement of movements for climate justice this is of great importance. In the ESF process there are both in Eastern and Western Europe many of the only really existing social movements able and actively interested in building such alliances. But that the dominant leftist forces sees the trade unions as the cardinal and unquestionable central movement creates problems, also for the trade unions that in this way are not confronted with the need to treat other movements as equal cooperation partners.

What was really fun was to meet all the CEE participants, the famous Matyas Benyik and Endre Simo from Hungary, Peter Damo from Romania, Mirek Prokes as always administrating all our needs for minutes and order in the papers, the nicely provocative Alla Glinchikova from Russia as well as  Svetlana and Yulia from Law Institute in Moscow. Together with the Austrian pacifist Mathias Reichl and the Russian women the EPA meeting in Vienna ended with all the human benefits that one can get out of political meetings.

We talked a lot about Stanislav Markelov from the Law Institute in Moscow that did so much for the ESF process at the EPA meeting in Kiev and as a strong advocate for Caucasian cases at ESF in Malmö. He was murdered in January directly outside the court building in Moscow together with the young activists Anastasia Baburova directly after a trial against someone accused of human rights violation in Chechnya. It was clear that is very hard to replace this very committed lawyer who have helped so many social movements in Russia. We strolled along the streets in Vienna guided by our Austrian friend, went to the empress castle and looked at an exhibition of paintings and drawings from the time of Rembrandt. This made me leave Vienna in a nice mood.

PS You can read about Stanislav’s adventures during ESF at the mayors dinner and with the police on this blog:

A Strategic Meeting for Friends of the Earth Europe

Tord Björk | Environmental movements,Friends of the Earth,Travel,Uncategorized | Tuesday, September 15th, 2009

There was with some curiosity I headed for Friends of the Earth Europe’s Annual General Meeting on my search for an answer on the question: Where is the environmental movement heading? The FOEE AGM took place in a ”Small little town in Germany”. This small town still had a lot of memories from the cold war as it was placed just at the old border to the Federal Republic of Germany (BRD) on the Peoples Democractic Germany side (DDR). As many small towns in the east not in the frontline during the war very little have changed since some century ago. The economic development have been slow and thus few new houses have been built. Some of the old houses are renovated while many are warned and yet gives a character for a foreigner to the place.

The town is called Lenzen not far from Wittenberge in North Eastern Germany. It is close to the river Elbe. Here BUND, Federation for the protection of environment and nature in Germany, a FoE member group with some 400 000 members have received a castle as a gift. It was given back to the old owners after the reunification of Germany and the owners than gave it to BUND. It is a small castle, well suited for courses and excursions in the environs.

One of the great pleasures of being an environmental activist is that every time now and than at meetings one can get out to have a look at birds, take a swim or just walk around enjoying nature. Lenzen gave a lot of these possibilities combined with walks through the small town and a visit to the old watch tower were the DDR police was supposed to stop people from fleeing to the West. It seemed a distant passed when we strolled along bicycle paths and looked at many Storks and people enjoying life in the open fields.

When I arrived I was alone from Sweden but the day after Hanna came as well. I only had met here briefly once. She is a member of the board and have studied the external effects of consumption in Sweden and the need for included this in our estimation of what Sweden consumes. It was good to be two at the meeting finding out what was going on and sharing some thoughts of the differences between Sweden and some other countries. We both were quite amused by the way some talked about members of FoE groups as grassroots and them, as if not the members are the basis of the FoE groups and those that democratically decide upon strategy and which direction they want the movement to go. Of course we in FoE Sweden have groups working with specialist issues as making qualified reports on specific subjects and of course we alos take direct contacts with politicians. We are even sometimes pointed at as inventers of modern lobbying in Sweden which can be seen as somewhat overestimating our role but anyway we are not unconscious about what is presented as new ways of doing politics. But at the same time we see the communication and acting together as people in common as the basis for our work. Thus how to make a specialist report accessible and used by people in common is something we see as quite obvious, and people in common are not them, we are one of them.

In general FoE groups are fairly small with as in Sweden 2 500 members but some are big like in Switzerland, Germany, UK and the Netherlands. In Sweden as in many countries we have to heavily rely on volunteer work and lay activists do much of the qualified work as we in total only can have 2 ½ person employed. In other countries the situation is quite different.

The strategic plan

The main task we had at the AGM was to decide upon a four year strategic plan for the first time in the history of FOEE. It had been prepared it was stated with a lot of effort by the staff and with consultation f all interested FoE groups. It was a hard work we understood, but the what had been so hard in finding out the political content in the strategic plan was not presented. What was important was that the process had been formally correct which I am quite for certain that it had been. But to shortly address the main political obstacles and the solutions to these obstacles and thus also motivate us the see the political importance of the document was not part of the culture at this meeting.

In general though there were a great deal focus on issues building strategic alliances as the food security question. Here cooperation with Via Campesina have been important. Climate Justice was also an important part of the strategic plan including many social aspects although the criticism of false solutions in the climate negotiations are a lot stronger and more developed than notions on a constructive program that could solve both the environmental and social crisis. It is quite clear that those radical anticapitalist activists in England accusing FOE EWNI (England, Northern Ireland and Wales) from being two separate fractions in one organization is not correct on this field. There is a vital radical discussion among many FOE groups both among lay activists, staff and elected boards on climate justice which makes such a judgement misleading.

The dangers of talking without action and legitimating the present world order

Tord Björk | MST,popular movements,Travel | Thursday, February 26th, 2009

Maybe Robert Nilsson shows us a general way out of the idealistic trap in North South relationships when he states that we have to focus upon the task to change our own societies and see our cooperation with MST or other popular movements in the South in the light of this.

My own experience have made me very criticial to much of the Northern solidarity and NGO development work. I belong to a Nordic popular movement tradition claiming the importance of a movement to have a local base and simultanously strive for changing the whole society and live as one preaches. The fragmentation of such movements into specific trends that suddenly due to media, business or governmental incitaments becomes suboptimized always have seemed comical and at times dangerous to me.

In the history of this nordic popular movement tradition one occasion strikes as typical of the swedish political culture. In the end of the 1970s a radical alternative movement emerged with its roots in the smaller origins in the 1950s among volunteer international work camps and direct action to promote dismantling of the swedish army using military resources for stopping world hunger and give foreign development aid. Consumer cooperatives was started again after 50 years when no new cooperatives had been established. The peace movement declared itself as part of a wider alternative movement and so did feminists and environmentalists to a large degree, all seeing third world solidarity as important as well as changing social and ecological relations in industrialised societies. This movement was even able to start struggling for alternative production by supporting female textile workers in their struggle to maintain production in a factory in North of sweden.

The most clear symbol of alternative production at this time was Lucas air space, a military company in Great Britain on its way to make cutbacks in its operations. Here the workers and engineers as Mike Cooley had been able to both plan and make some alternative products as alternatives to the weapons they mainly used to produce. As the peace movement in the end of the 1970s was on the way up Lucas air space became internationally very popular and recieved many foreign guests, among them very many Swedes. After a while the activists at Lucas air space found out according to the oral tradition in Nordic popular movements an odd reality. While other foreign visitors produced results using their visit to Lucas air space for domestic purposes or solidarity action the Swedes went back home and then nothing was more heard of them. It went so far that Swedes became blocked from visiting the alternative production at Lucas Air space as the British activists could see no use in swedish people coming there. This unbalance between claiming a serious interest and being able to constructively support alternatives in practice was also seen in Sweden. At a meeting on practical alternatives in North of Sweden with 50 participants only 3 were people who did something in practice, the rest were people writing about those that did something.

The reason behind this suboptimized interest in alternative production came from the compromise between the two main popular movement parties in Sweden at the time, the Center party with its links to the peasant movement and the many farmers cooperatives and the social democratic party with their links to the workers movement and their many consumer cooperatives. Thus there was an overwhelming amount of resources to study practical examples of local production with workers involved in managing the production while there was nothing or very little to study the popular movements as a whole and how to change society.

Ten years later 35 young Norwegian came into a meeting in Delhi with a new well-funded Nordic trend backing their presence, that of sustainable development as presented by the Brundtland commission that gave birth to the UN Conference claiming free trade as a solution to environmental cirisis. The purpose of such a big group coming to India was unclear, but there was a huge amount of money for anyone in Norway that wanted to jump on the band waggon of sustainable development promoted by a dialogue between governments, business and NGOs. In some few years the Norwegian envrionmental movement who had been among the most radical if not the most radical in Europé with a strong criticism against growth societies shifted opinion completly. Using the sustainable development concept that the Brundtland commission claimed was possible to achieve through technological effectiveness and thus made sustainable growth possible the movement turned into professionalised NGOs promoting technological solutions rather than social change. A huge NGO sector for environment and development was created with the help of governmental funding based on the principle that the international NGO developemnt work had to be disconnected to work to change Norway. In this professionalised sustainable devlopment NGO sector radical activists could find a good living and soon claimed themselves to be the vanguard of global democracy.

In general NGO development cooperation has been a method for creating an avenue for copncerned people to become active and feeling that they can do something valuable. As both economic resources and the dominant discourse in society splits development issues from changes in the societies were Northern development NGOs get their resources from these NGOs trends tend to create a split in political awareness. It becomes very important and economically possible to explain to the public an ever growing number of political interventions in the South as WTO, IMF, WB, SAP, TRIP. TRIM, FTAA, MAI etc while political concepts that unites the experience among people in common in the South with the experience of people in the North was more marginalised as privatisation whether this is carried out by the local parties, national government, EU, NAFTA of Bretton Woods instutions.

As NGOs also live on market mechanism for their survival collecting money from people they also tend to create images that maximises their income as studied by Jörgen Lissner in his seminal book The Politics of Altruism in 1977. To present people in the South both as victims and that there is no connection between the potential supporter of charity and the one that is supposed to recieve the gift is the two mechanisms for maximizing income. Pictures of starving children begging for help is the most effective image. The result is that people in the North believes that the situation in the South is worse than it is as well as that the global majority which is mainly based in the South is not seen as a subjective to work together with democratically in solving todays ecological and social crisis, they are instead seen as obejctives for charity, people to be helped.

If the opposite takes place and movements are seen as subjects in history, they regularly are put in an exotic context. Via Campesina in Sweden, Nordbruk, can point at many occasions when Via Campesina from Southern countries as MST are invited to Sweden while their national counterpart here are excluded from the discussion as if agriculture and developemnt is something that should be seen separate from what happens in Sweden. Visits of organisations from the South becomes a decoration for showing how global justice oriented we are at the same time as the need to change our own society gets excluded from the cooperation as well as the possibility for the Southern organisations to make contacts and cooperate with their counterparts in Sweden.

How can than the Nordic delegation at the MST 25th anniversary be seen. The future action will tell. As we know also the best intentions can turn out in the opposite direction from what was orginally thought. What is clear is that the number of partcipants is no argument at all for something good, maybe it rather can be seen as problematic if it is a part of a trend that creates exotic indvidualised political tourism rather than collective change in the Nordic countries. But the diversity of the delegation points in other directions. The age balance was more or less complete, from very young children to very old men. In Sarandi half was young and later the young participants became slightly more in the delegation, thus there was an age balance which is needed for dynamic results.

At the surface one could guess that the male dominance was strong among the senior members with access to some established resources. But this is partly a false image. It is true that Berge Furre had resources of both political and economical capital exceeding well the total capacity of the rest of the delegation. But these resources was not linked to any wider popular movement cooperation internationally and could rather be seen as a bilateral development cooperation than part of  growing dynamic cooperation involving both established and new movements although hopefully there could be such potentials in the Norwegian support of MST. The Finnish and Swedish nestors were both of a different kind. Pertti Simula has lived since 1973 in Sao Paulo, first working for the Finnish tractor company Valmet and than as a psycho therapeut. More or less a naturalised Brazilian but with strong ties to Finland and Sweden were he goes on lecture tours every year he has not the kind of connection to established resources in the Nordic countries but is rather an actvists in MST pedagogical development. As MST puts much effort into education this is an important field but the role here is not to give aid from Nordic countries to the South but to be one of the activists of the movement. Lennart Kjörling is also primarily in contact with MST in his professional job as journalist and as an activist rather than having good links to established resources and being part of an NGO bureacracy. He also have been living in Brazil for a long time and has thus qualified experience and knowledge of how MST and the Brazilian society has developed as well as the possibilities and difficulties in getting mass media in Sweden to present what happens in Brazil. He is also active in Friends of MST.

The person with maybe most flexible and considerable resources at her disposal is rather Kirsi from the Siemenpuu foundation. Although of young age her position is strong and the goals of the environmental foundation is such that it can contribute to strategic projects of interest to both environmental, landless, peasant and indigenous movements. Thus the gender balance is better than it looks at first sight. The biggest group are the activists in Friends of MST in Finland and Sweden, a strength as this organisation has support of MST as top of their agenda and thus a long term commitment of importance rather than having MST as an example they temporary are interested in according to a more wider goal. Here many activists have an interest in producing media. The young activists as their counterparts in MST are interested in making videos.  Mika Rönkkö and Ruby van der Wekken have long lived in Brazil and developed good contacts to many popular movements and have both specific fields were they are active beyond the development cooperation, he as journalist at Le Monde Diplomatique in Finland and active in Attac and Friend of MST and she as coordinator of Network Institute of Global Democracy. Robert Nilsson with his background as historian and in dialogue with historians and activists in the MST movement broadens the capacity of the Nordic delegation further. The students of the social forum process from Finland and Norway as well as an activist from Attac Norway also became part of the Nordic delgation in the Carajas Social Forum part of the MST celebrations. Finally the two environmentalists from FoE Finland and Sweden complemented each other well, Noora Ojala who continued the tour after Belem to Montevideo to meet other FoE groups and the World Rain forest movement and Tord Björk who went back to Sweden.

How many in the Nordic delgation that actually will cooperate after their MST journey is an open question. Friends of MST and Friends of the Earth in Finland and Sweden have already established joint campaigning to support MST which was further well developed during the trip. How much also other people and organisations can be involved the future will tell including the need to incorporate Denmark an maybe the rest of Europe as well in a wider campaign. How much it can become a part of real change is also an open question. One can hope that the diversity of the Nordic delegation were each one have a separate interest and people in MST to cooperate with who have similar interests could result in a more equal partnership resulting in change in both the North and the South. As the saying goes in Friends of the Earth Sweden, the most important form of solidarity with the the South is to change our own societies and tus stop them from exploiting the South.

Robert Nilssons way out of the idealistic Global North exploitation

Tord Björk | MST,popular movements,Travel | Thursday, February 26th, 2009

In  tradition with the critica-autocritica of the MST movement it can be appropriate to say something about the role of a Nordic or any Western delegation in a third world country. Robert Nilsson have set a good example. In his blog Historias Sem Terra he critically examines his own project to answer the question: How makes MST its contemporary time historical and with this themsleves historical? (Badly translated, the Swedish original text: Hur gör MST sin samtid historisk och därmed sig själva historiska?).

Nilsson ask himself if MST needs a Swedish historian. He wonders if MST ”that uses history as critical reflection, as a mobilizing force, as ideological critique and counter hegemony, as a strategic resource” have to accept the examinating view of  a Swedish historian. He asks himself if he does the same thing as many researchers from the global North has done before him, explore and study people in the South as there were no knowledge and history before his own arrival. It it is just and ethical to build his own career on their daily life and struggle? That he himself is an activist he sees as an unsufficient answer. It is he who goes to Brazil to turn his view on them. They do not have the same opportunity to do the opposite move. They do not either have the chance to avoid his gaze. It may even be so that they need his look he argues, they are forced as a way to get support for their struggle.

His conclusion is then obvious: ”MST certainly do not need any historian from Sweden. Historians from Sweden though sometimes need MST. One have to understand the purpose of the paper correctly. The purpose is not to describe MST, but to learn something about how change is created and by doing this create development in Sweden.”

His goal in studying how MST uses history is focused on how this is creating people that believe and act as if they have the power to change society. ”To make oneself historical means to study and take power over the historical, social and collective circumstances to make changes real.” One can finns a lot of material on MST with many voices and general reflections on his study at

Lost in humidity for ever

Tord Björk | Travel,WSF | Monday, February 2nd, 2009

I tend to miss all important events at bigger gatherings. I missed to meet president Lula and more importantly I missed the greatinauguration party of the rubber tappers office in Para state, the CNS gathering with all the people I met 1991 like Julion Barbosa and Gatoa. But at the party was also a captain and head of CNS reserve across the river from WSF. So a gang of us went by ship and went and went into another world of dieselboats, canoes, houses on poles and small narrow  rivers ending at the captains village and his house. Here when we finally came inside the rain started to fall and fall, warm soft rain. There is only one thing to do, to join the rain and the river and all nature.

Thomas Wallgren from Helsinki goes first. The last things he was told before the trip by an Amazonas expert was that one should never swim in the Amazon.

This time I did not miss the most important things. I followed. If there are no more reports from us you will know were to find us.

Some more pictures from the tour we made to get lost in humdity

Lost in humidity

Tord Björk | Travel,WSF | Saturday, January 31st, 2009

Precisely when we are lost and in need of both telephone and toilet Max turns up from nowhere and asks if we need some help before we have had the time to ask him. The hospitality among the volunteers helping the WSF participants is warm and friendly. And there are plentiful in sharp contrast to the European Social Forum in Malmö were lack of volunteers caused severe problems.

I give Marcio an ESF badge and tells him it is a gift to him and all the WSF volunteers for all the great job they are doing. Than I want to tell him that he shall tell the other volunteers that the commitments from so many people to help the participants voluntarily is really good compared to a European country as Sweden. He cannot listen to this message. He is so focused on getting a message that tells him what he can do to help so he cannot at first understand that the message is to honour him and is volunteer friends. When he finally understand his face get red. He is proud of recieving the ESF badge. Unfortunatly I cannot upload the photo now.

The chaos with lack of printed correct information, cancelled activities or the sheer obstacles in finding the many different places at two separated university campuses is creating great problems as always, or maybe even more. But it is all in a humid antivirtual atmoshpere. Everywhere are umbrellas, in the hands of people, tied to the bicycle or simply constantly used in the form of the hatumbrella protecting you all the time leaving both hands free. It is a double purpose tool of utterly usefulness as it is either hot sun burning you without the umbrella protection or rain making you wet. From the rain forest which start 5 meters from the main track through the campus at many places the sound of animals, hopefully birds, can get overwhelming. The signs states things clear, watch out poisonious animals. The temparature is all the time 28 degrees, sometimes a little bit more, sometimes a little bit less. Every day it rains. Drops of water that are unimaginably soft. That leaves no feeling of coldness directly nor after a while as rain in Northern Europe. It simply rains for a while and then it is over and you soon get dry again if you are not having an umbrella on top of your cap.

Time disappears. There is no way anyway to advance faster along the only path through the rural university campus. The Youth camp have this time been put centrally in this campus with many activities and the path is invaded by people having a good time, dancing with each other looking at people perfoming avery kind of street theatre or just chatting for fun or because you meet someone you have not met for ages. The border between your warm fluid body, the warm fluid air and other warm fluid bodies disappears.

Trying to maintain your practical priorities becomes impractical. You are lost if you do not find the small tricks to get away. The best instead of the endless walk along the main path to get to the main actvitity area is to go down to the river through a stretch of rain forest and take a small riverboat protecting its passengers with a roof but no walls to the other university campus in a less huge space but with more localities for actvities. At the river there are no houses on either side and you suddenly are in the Amazon basin with its many rivers. You are lost again in an eternal world of humidity, this time liquid under you. Far away there might be a modern city like Belem. But it is hard to know.

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