Why we need solidarity with Russian environmentalists and antifascists

Men on their way to beat up people protecting the Khimki forest, some with right wing extremism symbols on their clothes.

More than hundreds activists have gathered at Eda climate camp North of Stockholm 2-8 of August  organized by Friends of the Earth Sweden and educational organizations.  Here we were reached by the news from Moscow. Right wing extremists have been used to attack environmental activists protecting the Khimki forest and protesting against a high way project. The police who came late to the site reacted by arresting the environmental actvists. Two environmental and anti-fascist protesters are now also facing severe charges for continued protests. Thus we issued a solidarity statement see, below. There are many ways to make international protests both against the repression and against the European investment Bank and EBRD who are possible funders of the toll high way project. See links below.

Transportation and urban planning is at the core of the climate issue. Emissions from ever increasing road transport is frequently addressed as the main problem for solving climate change in industrialized countries and targets set for diminishing the climate effects of transportation is  as frequently among the biggest failures in climate politics. The present development model built on increasing social injustice domestically and internationally needs ever increasing transportation and urban planning segregating people to maintain its dominance and continue exploiting nature and human beings. Thus it is no coincidence that some of the severe environmental conflicts concerns road traffic and urban planning.

Furthermore we see a growing convergence of different movements in a time of stronger repression. This calls for solidarity between different movements and internationally. The growing repression we face have resulted in a volatile situation for protesters and big fluctuations in the ability to mobilize. Popular movements needs not only mass support in their own countries but also that simultaneous struggles goes on in other countries as well as at times international solidarity. This has been especially hard in Central and Eastern Europe where people in common have lost much of their faith in collective protests. Movements work under extreme conditions with lack of visible popular support confronted by severe repression and violence from civilian supporters of a strong national state or corporations. Thus one activist was killed in an environmental camp against a uranium processing plant in Siberia by right wing extremists attacking the small camp beating most of the people in the camp in 2007. The authorities responded by accusing the camp organizers for provoking the attack.

The situation in Moscow is similar. Very few dare to take up a fight and when they do so they get easily beaten or murdered. At the European Social Forum 2010 Rule of Law Institute from Russia organized a seminar on right wing extremism in Russia showing how more than a hundred persons get killed each year due to the right wing violence. When the former leader of the Rule of Law institute, the social democratic lawyer Stanislaw Markelov who often defended antifascist anarchists came out from a press conference on the crimes made by Russian military in Chechnya he was together with Anastasia Baburova gunned down on the footsteps of the building in the middle of Moscow.

One year later a mass manifestation in their memory of the two murdered activists was organized on January 19. It was the biggest demonstration in Moscow for four years with one thousand people attending from many different strands in the movements in Russia with the police harassing the demonstrators and anarchist antifascist as a strong component. In many political struggles in Russia as the environmental or violence against migrants or people from the periphery of the Russian federation antifascists are the main organizers of solidarity and the strand of the movement that do not give up neither in front of right wing extremism or repression. This is of utmost importance in times of lack of visible mass support. The unifying event on January 19 made it possible to gain strength and renew efforts to confront strong economic interest as in the case of the Khimki Forest. Earlier the exploiters closely linked to the local Khimki government had succeeded in stifling the movement by violent attacks on one of its voices, the journalist Mikhail Beketov. The attempted murder in 2008 did not succeed and there are no official results of the investigation but many Khimki residents believe that the local authorities were involved in the attack.

A strong force behind the exploitation is the Transport Ministry and the “non-commercial organisation”, Avtodor which combines the functions of a government agency and a business. The project is planned as the first large-scale public-private partnership with the involvement of western investors – the EBRD and European Investment Bank. The intermediary link will be the North-West Investment Company, backed by the French firms Vinci and Eurovia, who have extensive experience of attracting European investments. But the environmental laws were in the way.

Protesters tried to stop the illegal cutting of the forest for the road project but were confronted by a combination of forces. One was the police who helped the illegal exploiters in spite of a court ruling in favor of the protesters.  Another was the general lack of trust in protesting collectively in Russia which makes the number of protesters small in spite of a very broad support ranging from liberal party leaders, the alternative globalization movement going to European Social Forums, a famous  rock stars to Anarchist and traditional environmentalists and local citizens previously not engaged in conflicts. Finally when the protests continued right wing extremist were called in to beat up the protesters followed by the police arresting the protectors of the environment.

In response to the repression of the movement some 90 or 300 activists anonymously attacked the municipal headquarter smearing it with stones and graffiti. None was arrested at the occasion but afterwards Maxim Solopov and Alexei Gaskarov got arrested. As both are publically known spokespersons for the Anti-fascists they are easy to find for the police who needed result in their reaction to the direct action against the symbols of power in Khimki. There is serious questioning against the claims made by the police as there are no proofs of their presence and that it is hard to see a reason the very few persons known by the public and the police should have participated in the action. In the general “anti-extremism” change of laws the action against the municipal building is claimed to be very serious and can result in 7 years of imprisonment. 

The following violent arrest of the leader Yevgenia Chirikov of the Khimki protest movement on August 4 shows clearly that the authorities are lying and playing a political theatre orchestrated by other interests than protecting law and order. She has been contacted by the police at several occasions and appeared at voluntarily police stations as a witness in the case of the murder of lawyer Stanislaw Markelov and the assault against the journalist Mikhail Beketov. Now she was arrested in speculative and brutal manner by the special police force OMON used against riots and terrorists directly after a press conference against the arrests of Maxim Solopov and Alexei Gaskarov .  A spokesman for the Moscow Region Directorate of Internal Affairs (i.e., the police for the region around Moscow, not the city itself) later claimed that Chirikova was detained because she had failed to respond to a summons in connection with the investigation of the attack (allegedly by anarchists and antifascists) on the Khimki administration building. But Chirikova was never given a summons and thus not given the possibility to voluntarily come to the police station as the system chose to organize a political theatre instead based on false claims of the refusal of Chirikova to appear voluntarily. She commented afterwards that her arrest resembled a “demonstrative action” directed against environmentalists.

Was it at stake is not only the Khimk forest and profit interest high up in the local and national government linked to abuse of the police to protect those interests. It is also the question of the legitimacy of the present development model in Russia which is much based on the same kind of close linkage between private exploitation interests and the government keeping people in common passive with the help of mass media and a combination of police and right wing extremist violence. As this authoritarian system lacks a belief in its capacity to get spontaneous support for their exploitation they see any kind of protest also when it only concerns a local matter as a threat to the whole system.  This makes it utterly dangerous for those that are organizing protests.

What is at stake is the future of the whole international/translocal climate justice and other system critical movements. We are not stronger than our weakest links. Furthermore the growing repression we see in Russia is also taking place everywhere. With authorities that are given ever increasing juridical means to stop any kind of protest as being caused by “extremism” leaving all traditional juridical ideas of individual responsibility and evidence behind. The Khimki protests against exploitation is a case were especially the accusations against  Maxim Solopov and Alexei Gaskarov are crucial to challenge by combining environmentalist and social justice concerns in a joint struggle against repression.

What is remarkable is that  those promoting the toll high way through the Khimk forest refuses any compromise with the wide spread environmental opinion against the exploitation in spite of that they are in a politically fairly vulnerable position. 2/3 of the investments is planned to come from Western funding through EBRD and the European Investment Bank, both known to keep an eye on the environmental impact at least when the negative effects are too obvious and concentrated. They also do not like to be connected to projects that becomes too controversial including violent repression. In spite of this political vulnerability those in power have chosen to continue escalating the pressure against the protesters in an attempt to split the opposition hoping for creating an image of violent aggressive activists working against society and peaceful but harmless opinion makers. Thus the exploiters are challenging the whole European environmental opinion trying to establish a de facto acceptance of European Bank support of any environmentally destructive project regardless how easy a better alternative could be chosen which should save the forest but not the highest level of profit. If the exploiters win and are able to get the financial European support they need it would be a historical defeat for the European environmental opinion.   

The Russian opposition has chosen to show its strength by sticking together. The protest leader Chirikova who by all means can be described as a main stream environmentalist with modest and well informed arguments was among the speakers at the press conference to defend the arrested anti fascists Solopov and Gaskarov. It is hard to believe that the spectacular arrest by special riot and anti-terrorist police force of her directly after this press conference is anything else than an attempt to put a violence stamp on the whole environmental protest and create fear. But those in power failed to split the Russian movement. The 19 of January committee which is the result of the unification of forces during the comemoration of the murder of Markelov and Baburova calls for solidarity. It is now up to international movements to show that the provocation against the European environmental opinion in completely disregarding the local opinion against building of the toll high way through the Khimk forest and still believing in financial support from Europe is met by a strong no. It is even more up to the whole global environmental justice and all popular movements to show that the attempts at using right wing extremism combined with repression against a movement is not accepted in Moscow or anywhere else.

The growing repression we have seen at the Climate summit in Copenhagen, against the landless movement MST in Brazil, against migrants and protesters of all kinds not only in impoverished countries but also the rich and industrialized must be confronted by common efforts. The authorities start to leave all earlier notions of freedom of expression and individual evidence for committing a crime behind.  The heavy possible and necessary involvement of EU funding in the project through EBRD and the European Investment Bank makes it also possible to mobilize substantial protests against the project. We have to join hands across borders and movements to build solidarity.

Tord Björk

 

Protest against the arrests of Maxim Solopov and Alexei Gaskarov

We are protesting against the arrests of environmental activists in connection with protests against highway construction around Moscow at Khimki forest. We look with concern on how both the right wing extremist violence and state repression is used against the protests. Everyone’s health and the right to a living nature for future generations are at stake in environmental conflicts. The authorities ignoring the right-wing violence and repression against the protests are unacceptable.

 

Participants at the Climate camp in Eda organized by Friends of the Earth Sweden and educational organizations.

Links

The Battle for Khimki Forest, Yevgenia Chirikova, 17 March 2010

http://www.opendemocracy.net/od-russia/yevgenia-chirikova/battle-for-khimki-forest

Another Beautiful Day in the Russian Capital: Khimki Forest Defender Yevgenia Chirikova Kidnapped by Police after Press Conference

http://chtodelat.wordpress.com/2010/08/04/another-beautiful-day-in-the-russian-capital-khimki-forest-defender-yevgenia-chirikova-kidnapped-by-police-after-press-conference/

The Kidnapping of Yevgenia Chirikova (4 August 2010, Moscow)

http://chtodelat.wordpress.com/2010/08/04/the-kidnapping-of-yevgenia-chirikova-4-august-2010-moscow/

Yevgenia Chirikova on Her Kidnapping by Police

http://chtodelat.wordpress.com/2010/08/04/yevgenia-chirikova-on-her-kidnapping-by-police/

Khimki: Police Repression as an Aid to Deforestation, On the arrests of Max, and Alexei.

http://chtodelat.wordpress.com/2010/08/03/khimki-police-repression-as-an-aid-to-deforestation/

Khimki: Territory of Lawlessness with more links to Khimki articles

http://chtodelat.wordpress.com/2010/08/02/khimki-territory-of-lawlessness/

Antifascist Russian news in English regularly updated about the Khimki protests:

http://www.avtonom.org/en/khimki

 Links to articles in different languages:

http://www.europe-solidaire.org/spip.php?mot6748

Take Action!

Send protest letters or go to the Russian embassy or consulate to demand the realease of Gaskarov and Solopov. For arguments see the facebook group below-

Join the protests on facebook:

Freedom for Russian antifascists Alexei Gaskarov & Maxim Solopov! 483 members August 5.

http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=123233894390151

Khimki: Save The Forest! A newly started facebook group. 17 members August 5.

http://www.facebook.com/#!/group.php?gid=133292676712838&v=walli

Put pressure on the European banks:

Sign the online letter below and ask the European Investment Bank and the European bank for Reconstruction and Development to condemn publicly illegal acts of deforestation and violence against peaceful demonstrations.

http://bankwatch.org/involved/index2.shtml?x=2237867

Put pressure on the Western European corporations:

Greenpeace Russia: Help Defend the Khimki Forest!

http://chtodelat.wordpress.com/2010/08/04/greenpeace-russia-help-defend-the-khimki-forest/

Send protest letters to European banks and President Medvedev:

 

Protect Moscow’s Khimki Forest—the land, the trees and local environmentalists desperately need help

http://www.earthaction.org/2010/07/protect-moscows-khimki-forestthe-land-the-trees-and-local-environmentalists-desperately-need-help.html

 

ESF-6 Istanbul 1-4th July 2010 Final Assembly of Social Movements

ASM – Assembly of Social Movements

EUROPEAN SOCIAL FORUM
ISTANBUL 1-4th  JULY 2010

FINAL ASSEMBLY
(Notes taken, documents organized by Mariangela Casalucci and Elettra Anghelinas)

The final Assembly has been divided in two parts:

10 – 11.40        Information about the ESF, presentation of final declaration  and debate
11.40 – 13.00  Outcome from thematic assemblies and debate

It was significant to have an ESF in Istanbul, 3000 people participation, 200 meetings between workshops, seminars and assemblies and a very successful demo with more than 5000 people participating
We have held this ESF in the framework of the crisis. There were a lot of seminars and workshops focusing on this. All seminars have brought similarities and differences.
What is clear is that we want to work together and go further together without letting anybody destroying the wish of networking mobilizations all around Europe.
So we are here together to find spaces to coordinate our effort to struggle against the attack we are facing. There will be concrete actions and in the framework of the ESF we are going to join our forces

Final declaration

From the Final Assembly of the 6th European Social Forum
1- 4th July 2010
We, the participants at the Istanbul ESF, affirming that we have a strong  engagement against all war and occupation  and that we are for a political resolution of the Kurdish issue, have made the following resolution :
Act together in Europe against the crisis
In the context of a global crisis and faced with the EU, the governments and the IMF offensive to impose austerity and social regression policies, the social movements which have gathered in the ESF in Istanbul issue a call to act together in Europe.
Mobilisations and resistance movements are developing across Europe to challenge these policies. It is urgent to build, on the long term, a convergent struggle in Europe, which brings together social movements, trade unions, associations, organisations, and citizen networks. This is why we issue a call for a first step on the way to developing mobilisation across Europe, on the 29th of September and the surrounding days.
We must impose alternative policies, which enable us to fulfil social needs and ecological requirements.
All social movements call for a European assembly on the 23-24th of October (or 13-14th of November) in Paris to further our mobilisation and the coordination of our movements and also to make valuation and discuss the future of the ESF.

Outcome of the thematic assemblies and networks
held in the frame of the European Social Forum on the 3rd of July 2010
(please notice that the summaries are followed by the final declarations of each assembly in which are listed all the calls, the proposals and the appointments for the following months)

We are the people, women and men participating to workshops, seminars, assemblies and networks in the European Social Forum in Istanbul, 1st – 4th July 2010 and we call on social movements to participate and networking for the concrete actions which were discussed, proposed and now listed in the final declarations of the assemblies at the forum

Assembly on Freedom of movement, right to stay

We, the people and activist groups participating in the workshops, seminars and actions organized by the Migrant Network call on fighting for the freedom of movement and the right to stay. We call on movements, organizations, individuals all over Europe in order to struggle against the murderous European border regime in which Frontex is the driving force and for the closure of all detention centers.
We call on movements, organizations individuals all over Europe to support the struggles of workers focusing on the ones without papers and rights and to fight against the racism and the precarization and exploitation of migrants, increased in the context of the global economic crisis.
We support all the campaigns, initiatives and struggles and we call on people here on continuing and strengthening networking and proceed in common transnational struggles.

Antirepression network

We, the people involved in the initiatives of the antirepression network believe that the repression issue will be of much bigger importance in the near future because of the crisis and the social struggles emerging from this crisis. Intensify and special measures will be taken against those who right for their rights, their social security and diversity. Despite our different political opinions we call on the release of all the political prisoners, the closure of the black lists and any other measure of the global war against terror. We claim to shut down all the migrants’ detention camps and any kind of guantanamos.

Climate justice Network

We from climate and social justice movements who gathered at the European Social Forum in Istanbul call for system change not climate change for a just transition towards a good life for all. Social and ecological justice, do not contradict each other. They are and have to be complementary. We are calling for a just transition in the way we work, in the structures of production and consumption.  We need to expand community-controlled renewable energies, food sovereignty as well as public services. This would create millions of socially and ecologically useful jobs.
We in Europe are only now starting on the road towards climate justice, creating and resisting in many different ways, such as direct action, the building of local alternatives, civil disobedience or public campaigning to name a few. We call upon social movements, trade unions and civil society in Europe to engage in the struggle for a good life for all.

Education Assembly Rise up! An other answer to the crisis is possible: Public Education

We, people of the public education, gathered in Istanbul for the sixth European Social Forum call for a period of mobilization next autumn
We want to use  the 29th  of September, a day of demonstration and trade union actions across every country of Europe and the surrounding dates, to extend the mobilization and  to act together in Europe on our platform.
During this period, from the end of September to the beginning October, we call for mobilizations,  strikes, demonstrations and actions all around Europe to reaffirm the right to free public education for everybody and to defend and increase  workers and unions rights on the basis of our platform.

War and peace Assembly

The war and peace assembly denounces that at a time of economic crisis, European states are increasing their military budgets and trade of weapons. The European Union  is not the “soft power” it meant to be. To protect peace and social needs, we call peace and antiwar movements to join the trade unions protest on the 29th of September and the Week of Action against the NATO summit of 15-21 November 2010 in Lisbon.  We call for an immediate end of the war in Afghanistan and we will mobilize for the tragic anniversary of the invasion on October 8-9. The assembly strongly supports the mobilization of Kurdish and Turkish movements for a peaceful and democratic solution of the Kurdish issue, and endorses the Palestinian civil society call for a campaign of boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) against Israel until it complies with Palestinian rights based on international law. There is no military way out of these conflict. We  support the demilitarization of Cyprus, the whole Caucasus and we stand in solidarity with the Iraqi civil society that is struggling to protect its people. All these causes and campaigns will be celebrated in the International Day of Peace, 21 September, and in the Thematic Social Forum for a Culture of Peace in Santiago de Compostela on 9-12 December.

Assembly on Labour

We call for support workers and TU in Turkey who are struggling for their rights against the severe oppression by the government and the huge attack of the transnational companies, information campaign all over Europe in order to strength unity and solidarity and prevent workers from being played out against each other; support across Europe the workers struggle against austerity programs and attacks on wages, working conditions, pensions and social programs; debate in European TU and social movements about how to adopt more aggressive initiative and strength the international prospective and coordination; the demonstrations planned for the 29th of September and surrounding days should be organized as European events in Brussels and general strikes where possible

Assembly “Solidarity of the East and the West

With regard to the upcoming European mobilisations it was said that it is preferable to develop simultaneous activities against crises, poverty, unemployment in many countries during the time of the big demonstration on 29th September in Brussels. The slogan ”Human beings are more important than banks” was suggested as well as the integration of our struggle against racism and xenophobia.
The open All-European Mobilizing Committee should support the co-operation and participation of CEE movements for the next EPAs and ESF, based upon the good experience with frequent Skype conferences.
The open-esf website should be renewed and continued with a better balanced participation of women and of CEE movements.
Everyone is invited to participate in the network “Prague Spring II” and to integrate other issues into its work, e.g. women’s issues, sustainability or social issues.
The next ESF should take place either in a CEE country or in one of the neighbouring countries like Austria.

Antimperialist Assembly (see the final declaration in the following part)

Final declarations
of the thematic Assemblies
held in Istanbul
on the 3rd of July 2010
VI European Social Forum

•    Education Assembly
Rise up! An other answer to the crisis is possible: Public Education

•    Migrants Assembly
“The freedom to move, the right to stay”

•    Assembly
“Solidarity of the East and the West”

•    From the network Climate justice
“System change, not climate change! A just transition towards a good life for all”

•    Assembly
“Peace and War”

•    Assembly on Labour

•    Antimperialist Assembly

ESF-6: System change, not climate change! A just transition towards a good life for all

From the climate justice network
“System change, not climate change!
A just transition towards a good life for all”
6th ESF Istanbul, 3rd  July 2010

Presenting the climate justice network statement to ASM

The newspapers may speak of financial and economic crises, but when we look around ourselves, we don’t see derivates and financial markets – what we see is the destruction of communities, of our social and natural environments, of our relations to each other. What we see is capitalism destroying us. Against this destruction, and the austerity that follows in its wake, people are resisting, people are fighting back, people are beginning to create the new worlds we know to be necessary: from Ghana to Greece, from Copenhagen to Cochabamba, from Bangkok to Brussels. We from climate and social justice movements gathered at the European Social Forum in Istanbul, are a part of and inspired by these global processes of resistance and creation, but also realise that we need to fight where we stand: to create another world, we also need to create another Europe and tear down the walls of the fortress that surround it.
Against those who try to create divisions between social and ecological justice, we assert that they do not contradict each other. They are and have to be complementary. Our vision is of a good life for all, not a nightmare of authoritarian eco-austerity.
Against those who oppose people’s desire to have good and well-paid jobs and to move beyond the madness of infinite growth on a finite planet, we are calling for a just transition in the way we work, in the structures of production and consumption. While there are many things we need more of, there is much we need less of. For example, we need to stop the destructive energy production practices involving coal, oil, nuclear and hydropower, or to end the madness of building individual cars for everybody. At the same time, we need to expand community-controlled renewable energies, food sovereignty as well as public services that contribute to our goal of a good life for all, like free public transport, health, housing and education. This would create millions of socially and ecologically useful jobs.
This is what we mean by just transition, by climate justice: it does not mean having the ‘right’ position on what is being negotiated at UN-climate summits. It’s not about parts per million of carbon in the atmosphere. Although it is important to change our individual behaviours, climate justice is about fundamentally changing our model of production and consumption of food, goods, energy, of our entire lives. It is about finally making amends for the ecological debt we owe the rest of the world.
We in Europe are only now starting on the road towards climate justice, creating and resisting in many different ways, such as direct action, the building of local alternatives, civil disobedience or public campaigning to name a few. There are many opportunities already such as:

–    26/8: solidarity actions coinciding with the trial in Copenhagen of Tash Verco and Noah Weiss

–    Summer 2010 : Climate and No Border camps are happening all over Europe

–    29/9: European trade union day of action

–    between the 10th and the 17th of October, different networks are calling for action on climate justice: the 12th will be a day of direct action for climate justice; the 16th a day of action against Monsanto

–    From the 29th of November to the 10th of December, the 16th UN-climate summit will be held in Cancun, Mexico: we will be creating a ‘thousand Cancuns’ to protest their false solutions and point the way towards real climate and social justice

French rural activist exchanging experience at one of the seminars on just transition

ESF-6: Declaration for the solution of Kurdish problem

Tord Björk | ESF,Repression,Uncategorized | Thursday, July 29th, 2010

Presented at the Assembly of social movements

Kurdish women protesting repression during ESF

An initiative should be formed as soon as possible by people working in the European Social Forum which will initiate the process of democratic and peaceful solutions to the Kurdish problem.

For the permanent solution of Kurdish problem, military and political operations should be stopped urgently,  the children and politicians whose number is around 2000 that have been imprisoned in the 14th April operations should be released as soon as possible.

The political leader of Kurds Mr Abdullah Öcalan should be included in the process of peace as addressee of the solution and in order to play his historical role, instead of being in solitary confinement in  İmrali, he should be under house arrest in an appropriate house.

A strong commission that consists of well-known women activists should be formed so as to contribute to active participation to the campaign of “Raise the freedom struggle and destroy the rape culture” that has been initiated by Kurdish Women Freedom Movement.

Within the slogan of “No to the 12th September Constitution”, a pluralist, libertarian, fair and equal constitution which will represent and enable  to all groups, minorities and peoples to express themselves freely must be formed.

A number of democratic, deterrent and affective actions must be planned and a local and international mixed commission must be formed against ecological and cultural genocide which is exposed against Kurdistan and all humanity.

The YİBO schools which are cultural and language assimilation tools and used to expose to be spies of states against the Kurdish children must be accepted as a humanity crime and and closed if possible, if not the initiatives in the national and international platforms should be formed for the discovery of the events.

ESF should form  a delegate of alive shields which consists of well-known Turkish intellectuals and writers, BDP MPs and mayors and this delegate should work in the Kurdish region in  order to prevent the lossed of lives in Kurdistan and Turkey

The execution policy of Iran  against the Kurdish women and all the other dynamic, democratic and peaceful  groups who are in favour of the change, should be condemned severely, and a call should be done that the executions are the crime of humanity and should be removed from the Iran constitution.

A commission for the investigation of the facts which consists of intellectuals, artists, NGOs and scientist should be formed and this commission should investigate the facts of the war that have been carried out in Kurdistan for 26 years and share it with the public.

Life in movements and commemoration of Jyri Jaakola

How can you come from Mexico? Do they not murder everyone there? This was the question I was asked by children at the activist community Annikinkatu in Tampere when I told them that I just arrived from a social forum in Mexico.

I came to late to Jyri Jaakola’s funeral in his hometown Tampere in Finland followed by a commemoration among friends at Annikinkatu collective in the center of Tampere. Jyri Jaakola was murdered together with Beatriz Carino on April 27 while being human rights watchers to defend an indigenous autonomous commune in Oaxaca in Southern Mexico.

My work in Sweden stopped me from coming in time. But there was a commemoration also during the Tampere Social Forum later the same day were I finally could join in. As traditional in Finland a minute of silence was capturing our souls in memory of an activist that so many knew and respected. But there was also as so many times in Finland a throughout analysis of the situation for indigenous people in Oaxaca, Mexico, and other places as India and Brazil.

Outi Hakkarainen to the right and Ville Veiko Hirvelä to the right at Tamoere Social Forum commemoration of Jyri Jaakola 20th of May 2010

Outi Hakkarainen who have been many times to Mexico highlighted the polarized conflict in Oaxaca and in general the indigenous conditions in Mexico. Clarissa Abreu from Friends of the Earth in Brazil brought up the Amazonian problems and Ville Veiko Hirvelä the conflicts for Adivasis, the largest group of indigenous in the whole world with some 80 million people facing similar problems as in Mexico and Brazil. Living on land rich of natural resources and often without Western kind of formal ownership of their land they are faced with severe threats against their livelihood and the future of their people. In many places on earth the violence against indigenous peoples are increasing, and so sometimes as well against those that commit themselves to defend their rights.

In few or no other Western country is the closeness between practical commitment, intellectual efforts and politics as close as in Finland. Jyri Jaakola belonged to this tradition. It is no coincidence that he was willing to take risks to support the building of alternatives in Mexico. He did the same in Finland contributing to the solidarity efforts of the Finnish alternative movement.

Direct action against dam building at Koijärvi 1979

The alternative movement struggling for solidarity across all borders and ecological awareness came late to Finland. But when it came it all happened at the same time. It was heralded by a Gandhian style direct action to prevent the building of a dam at Koijärvi in 1979, a breakthrough for civil disobedience in the consensus oriented Finnish political culture. Soon followed occupation of houses and a music movement, mass peace movement, trade union revival and a strong movement in solidarity with the third world. In a year or two a political campaign had gained momentum gathering hundreds of people at seminars on the third world issues while activists showed their naked ass towards politicians at the step of the parliament in disgust of political unwillingness to raise the development aid.  Huge part of the population was soon informed about every popular movement aid project and given the possibility to voluntarily tax themselves of 1 percent to any of the projects. An initiative that soon gathered millions of euros each year in stable income for a wide range of projects and formed tha basis of a new organization, the Service Center for Development Cooperation with both the churches, trade unions and most other mass movements joining it making the sum of added members exceeding the total number of inhabitants in Finland. As one can imagine the campaign was a success and was able to double the amount of Finnish development aid but also became a NGO which made it necessary to also establish more radical organization as Ympäristö ja Kehitys, Center for Environment and Development. It was from this third world solidarity movement that the radical Finnish environmental movement emerged that already 1990 put the issue of climate justice on top of their agenda with people from India leading marches against the building of motorways and coordinating climate action days in 1991 in 70 countries. And thus it was no coincidence that Jyri Jaakola not only was a strong third world solidarity activists but also active in Climate Justice Action.

Estelle

Important was that the organizational efforts was backed by strong practical initiatives. Three were central with Jyri Jaakola engaged in the foremost symbol, the fair trade sailing ship Estelle. It started as the other two in the mid 1980s with an effort of building on the old sailing traditions in Finland, the last nation to have shipping companies with sailing fleet until the 1930s with their main headquarters on Åland islands. An old ship was rebuilt in Turku and finally after very many years it could sail and participate at many campaigns and summits starting its first long trip if I remember correctly at the EU Summit in Amsterdam 1997.

Jyri Jaakola belonged to this special activists community of sailors and made it to the European Social forum in 2008 were indigenous people had a special place to be at Estelle in the harbour and many sailors from neighbouring countries and more far away had their gatherings.

Peace Station in Helsinki

The two other practical Finnish initiatives from the mid 1980s has the same stubbornness stamped on them. One is the Peace station, which is exactly was it says. One of the central railway stations in Helsinki was to be teared down, one of the last traditional wooden stations in the capital surroundings. Now the station was surrounded by only new huge modern houses and no traditional wooden houses were more to be seen. So what did the Finnish movements do? Well they put the house into parts, moved it some 500 meters and put it up again as a center for all peace organizations in Finland, and still it is.

Annikinkatu in Tampere

In the mid 1980s there was also a fight in Tampere, the second biggest city in Finland and the most working class town of them all. Here as in Helsinki modern times brought the idea to destroy any sign of the working class poor past and tear down every wooden house bloc in the city center. But people started to make resistance. In the Annikinkatu bloc the residents were able to influence the selection of those renting the apartment. While all other wooden blocs in the city with people living in them disappeared this bloc is still standing.

The threats against the collective have been numerous and the rights of those living there insecure. But finally after 25 years there now seems to be a solution nearby.

It is at Annikinkatu the activists gathered to commemorate their fellow Jyri. Here the spirit is kept alive in what is labelled sometimes as the inland harbour of Estelle. Here children and grown ups are living while activists from the neighbouring community and from far away can gather strength. The future of Estelle is uncertain. The costs of maintaining the ship is very high and it is hard to make longer trips anymore. But Peace station and Annikinkatu is alive and so are we on visit.

Two days after the commemoration of Jyri Jaakola a new child with parents living in Annikinkatu was celebrated in the midst of the wooden house bloc. Flowers and presents were carried forward and there was singing. New life was welcomed.

The Mexican filt that I brought with me from Mexico was also well received among the Annikinkatu children. After the first mystery was solved, that not everyone visiting Mexico was murdered the Mexican colours was something to hug dearly. Lets hope that the Mexican rug gets a long life at Annikinkatu helped by the solidarity of Jyri Jaakola and all his likes in all the world.

The commemoration at Tampere Social Forum ended in a Mexican way. Contrary to the Finnish tradition of being silent in memory of a person the Mexican way of doing the same thing at the social forum in Mexico City was adopted. Thus the commemoration ended by a minute of applause for Jyri Jaakola and Beatriz Carino, a ceremony that was well adopted and did not only make the hands warm.

Tord Björk

Listen to their voices:

Jyri Jaakola interview 01.02.2010

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tMy7yTvFiNU

Discurso de Bety Cariño. Tecuán News – Kolectivo Azul. Embajada de canada, 3 de diciembre de 2009

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TWPkLcoVoaI

About the murder: Mexico’s state of impunity

http://www.cipamericas.org/archives/2349

SIPAZ Peace blog posts about the caravan attack with many links:

http://sipazen.wordpress.com/2010/05/03/oaxaca-information-update-on-observation-caravan-attack/

http://sipazen.wordpress.com/2010/05/01/oaxaca-the-peace-network-condemns-armed-attack-against-observation-caravan-in-san-juan-copala/

http://sipazen.wordpress.com/2010/04/29/oaxaca-attack-on-observation-caravan%E2%80%942-dead-and-4-missing/

Right wing extremism in Romania

Tord Björk | ESF,political culture,Repression,right wing | Wednesday, April 14th, 2010

Presented at the Prague spring conference 2010: Alternatives to right wing extremism in a time of social and ecological crisis

BEYOND THE TRUTH – AN ANALYSIS OF RIGHT WING EXTREMISM IN ROMANIA

1. AN INTRODUCTION

In a time of trouble when xenophobia and racism are soaring in many European countries, Romania seems to remain an oasis out of the revival of the Far Right. Such typical traits of Right Wing Extremism are presently to be found and documented neither as social phenomena nor as organized movements.

On the contrary, Romania has lately opened its borders to immigrants from African countries to the Middle East and even to countries from the Far East as China and Vietnam, and there are dozens of documented cases that prove the kind, open and hospitable manner these people have been treated and helped integrate into the society. Prior to the EU accession, legislation has also been adjusted to the new reality and to comply with the European standards.

The tradition of welcoming people from afar and not showing xenophobic and racist attitudes towards them dates back long before 1989: members of the Greek ‘Eteria’ (that reads ‘Brotherhood’) liberation movement found refuge and support in Romania in the 1820s, Armenians, Jews, Italians, Greeks, Albanians and others came in waves as migrants mostly in the interwar period establishing flourishing businesses in trade, banking and sweets manufacturing, Polish refugees were offered aid and temporary home from 1939 to 1940 when fleeing from the Nazis and their national thesaurus was safeguarded until it was shipped to the US, to end up with the many thousands of Arab, African and South American students throughout the 1970s and 1980s who, after graduating, chose to remain, married with Romanian women and settled down in Romania.

Nevertheless, Romania is a case of a different kind in terms of what is being labeled as ‘Right Wing Extremism’: unlike in most European countries, the vectors of the Far Right are neither xenophobia, nor Islam phobia, nor racism, nor fascism, nor neo-Nazism, but extreme nationalism, ethnocentrism, traditionalism, conservatism, patriarchalism, and a broad intolerance toward gay phenomena.

2. AN EXPLANATION

The explanation of the aforementioned is, at least, threefold.

Firstly, historically and psycho-socially speaking, the innate structure of the Romanian people proved to be hardly tractable along the lines of xenophobia, fascism and racism.

Secondly, historically speaking, the genuine Romanian Right Wing Extremism has naturally died out.
The members of the notorious ‘Legion of Michael Archangel’ originally founded in the 1910s, and later renamed ‘The Iron Guard’, could not fully pass on their legacy to a new organization. It was the legacy of a paramilitary structure which had its heydays during the 1930s and 1940s and did contain elements of violent xenophobia, racism against the Roma and anti-Semitism. Their doctrine relied heavily on exacerbated nationalist feelings and Orthodox religion. It is notorious that combining extreme nationalism and ethnocentrism with Orthodox religion is a method of manipulating people in Eastern Europe and the Balkans, people who proved to be tractable along this course since times immemorial – the Civil War in Yugoslavia is probably the bloodiest and the nearest example in time in this respect.
The ‘Iron Guard’ spread terror throughout the country and carried out pogroms and individual executions of respected scholars, politicians, and even of prominent members of the Government.

“They murdered an entire series of former ministers (60 ministers and high officials were murdered at Jilava, in November 1940)” [Djuvara, Neagu, page 248].

The ‘Iron Guard’ had rather good connections with Hitler and even managed to rule the country for a brief, chaotic and bloody period of time between the close of 1940 and early 1941. After a two-day civil war waged between the Army and the ‘Iron Guard’ in the end of January 1941 the latter were defeated and its top leaders found refuge in Germany thereafter.
So feared and undesirable was the ‘Iron Guard’ that Hitler would occasionally resort to recall their potential menace in order to blackmail the Romanian Government and force them taking certain decisions.
The ‘Iron Guard’ was eventually dismantled and outlawed by the newly installed Communist regime in 1945-1946. Its members were declared enemies of the people, of the State and of the new social order and were hunted down ending either killed or in extermination prisons. The forty-five years of Communist dictatorship, as well as the generation gap that has gaped in time between them and any potential followers, took their toll and made their ideological legacy fade away.

Thirdly, and most importantly, both historically and psycho-socially speaking, Romanians are tractable along other vectors of the Far Right than xenophobia, fascism and racism, namely extreme nationalism and ethnocentrism.

3. THE FAR RIGHT EPIGONES

Albeit after 1989 until the late 1990s the last elderly surviving members of the ‘Iron Guard’ who escaped from the Communist Gulag tried to make a comeback and recruit new members whilst the new political regime was showing tolerance and permissiveness towards them, the Legion has never recovered. Petty bickering and long-repressed disagreements on the would-be political doctrine split the movement into several political groups, each claiming to be the one and only holders of the true legacy of the Legion. Obviously, such groups of very old men were mere shadows of the past and their Right Wing extremism would be expressed only in discourses attended by few believers and some curious people.

Even if some of the members of the Legion, particularly poets and priests, have been somewhat rehabilitated, their works published, their tombs turned into shrines, and their sufferance and endurance in the Communist extermination camps have been turned into heroism mostly to comply with the political needs of the new political System-Machinery, the public appeal of the ‘Iron Guard’ doctrine has come to naught.

The attempts to found a New Legion in the image of the former glorious one with young people fell short because of the lack of the unity of the surviving patriarchs, of the generation gap and broken continuity, of the new political and legislative conditions, and because of lack of financing.

The only epigone organization that maintains partly the legacy of the ‘Iron Guard’ is the ‘Association the New Right’. Strangely enough, they have been legally registered as an NGO and thus they must walk on a thin line that separates the realm of Law from the realm of offense and crime. Consequently, the organization is not officially labeled as of ‘Extreme Right’. Nevertheless, they do have the features of Right Wing extremism at least in terms of ethnocentrism, extreme nationalism and intolerance towards sexual minorities. They would rise to the occasion and organize counter-manifestations against Hungarian ethnic minority and against homosexuals and lesbians, but they try to keep their actions non-violent and merely at the level of aggressive political discourse. They are battling against the claims of the Hungarian ethnic minority particularly from the districts of Harghita, Covasna and Mures in Transylvania, and, particularly, against the Hungarian ‘HVIM’, a Right Wing extremist organization that has established a branch in Transylvania and militates for border changes and re-annexation of the territories Great Hungary possessed before the Trianon Treaty.
The ‘Association the New Right’ is led by some young intellectuals and students. It is striving hard to gain an image and legitimacy both inside the country and across the borders. The organization’s financing sources remain a subject of speculation.

4. ABOUT NATIONALISM AS PILLAR OF THE FAR RIGHT

Nationalism, according to Albert Einstein, is a childhood disease of the human society, like measles is in case of the individual. In other words, the more exacerbated and virulent the nationalism, the less developed the society, and vice-versa.

“Albert Camus […] correctly noted that nationalism is a pathologic form of national identity.”  [Keane, John, p.118].

Since this is a critical work, we will not insist on the merits and benefic aspects of nationalism, elements which should have already ended their historic role in the consolidation of the nation and of the state throughout Europe.

In Romania, similarly to other European countries, the first notable turn of the nationalism that played a constructive role in the formation of the Romanian nation state during the first two decades of the 20th century into extreme, aggressive and violent nationalism appeared in the early 1930s and continued up to the end of the Second World War. Not by chance, it was a period of global crisis that ended in a world scale war.

There are four elements that may be regarded as being amongst the most negative features of nationalism.
Firstly, nationalism creates Myths and fosters Mythical Thinking in the terms of Ernst Cassirer. We believe the time of myths has gone and the 21st century should not be a time of the creating Myths and of Mythical Thinking.
Secondly, nationalism helps spreading neoliberalism and populism with the creation of so-called providential Father Figures and grand Saviors of the Nation. Thus, it helps the maintaining of the self-entitled ‘Elites’ in Power.
Thirdly, nationalism seems to have a natural tendency of combining with religion, which, more often than not, has led to social, cultural and economic catastrophe.
Fourthly, nationalism is being used to manipulate and divert the attention of the public opinion from real issues in the state during times of political and economic crisis.
In real life, these four features of nationalism appear blended and have always been harnessed by those in Power to extend, deepen and prolong their domination over the masses.

Nationalism and its extreme forms are, along with Religion and its extreme forms, ways of venting out Weakness and Fear, Failure and Frustration by means of inventing a non-existent reality that satisfies the expectations of the ego of the individual and of the group. Both Nationalism and Religion heavily rely on Myth production and Mythical Thinking that involve taboos, rituals, and worshipping God-like founding heroes and past embellished events. The pattern has been similar all over the world since ancient times.

“For Armstrong, the group identity named ‘nation’ is simply a modern equivalent of the pre-modern ethnic identity which existed throughout the entire recorded history. […] Following Barth’s analysis concerning the social organization and group boundaries, Armstrong sees the set of perceptions called by us ‘ethnicity’ forming and dissolving in each period of history. Some of these, supported by various myths and symbols resisted for centuries and constituted the foundation for the emergence of the ‘national’ identities later on. […].” [Smith, Anthony D., p.174-175

5. THE NATIONALIST STRUCTURES AFTER 1989 AND THEIR LINKS WITH THE PAST

In a strange and ironic twist of fate, the Far Right legacy in the form of extreme nationalism and ethnocentrism contributed, along with other factors, to the establishment of dictatorial Communist regime in Romania and, thus, to social dissolution, cultural decay, and oppression of the people.
A relevant argument in favour of this thesis lies in the fact that many prominent historians refer to certain stages of Communism by using the term ‘National Communism’.

An even stronger argument lies in the emergence after 1989 of a number of political structures and personages which promote extreme nationalism, chauvinism, ethnocentrism, intolerance and hatred directed against ethnic minorities, parties and individuals which emerged directly from the former dictatorial Romanian Communist Party (PCR), from amongst the circle of court poets, as well as from the former the top State apparatus.

“Ever since the ‘velvet revolutions’ of 1989-1991, the nationalist card has been played not only by the communist parties and by the organizations struggling to maintain their power – Milosevic in Serbia, Kravciuk in Ukraine, and Iliescu in Romania are but a few examples.” [Keane, John, p.124].

5.1. THE TRADITIONAL NATIONALIST STRUCTURES

The Party of the National Unity of Romanians (PUNR) was founded in mid-March 1990 on the basis of a so-called civil organization called ‘Vatra Romaneasca’, that reads ‘The Romanian Hearth’, which, at its turn, had been initiated by an obscure Orthodox priest. Once again, the link between nationalism and Orthodox religion inevitably leads, like a déjà vu, to the model of the ‘Iron Guard’.

An objective analysis of the bloody inter-ethic conflicts of 15th of March 1990 that caused many casualties on both sides as well as a serious damage to the international image of the new-born Romanian State could not dismiss the role these extreme nationalist organizations played in its ignition and fueling.

Official historical versions insist in explaining its emergence as a genuine popular response to the allegedly rising danger of the Hungarian ethnic minority backed up by the Hungarian State claiming rights and liberties that would, allegedly, jeopardize the national unity of the State by the separation of Transylvania from the motherland. Some of them even went that far to declare that the events in Transylvania had been an experimental embryo for the operation of dismantling former Yugoslavia the following years, experiment carried out by the powerful Western States that did not want Nation States in the region.

The PUNR used to promote a nationalist discourse mainly directed against the Hungarian ethnic minority living in Transylvania.

“The jingoistic discourses are meant in the best case for ‘internal usage’, if one may still be hoping that they can cover the deplorable state of the Romanian society. But they do not help at all abroad. On the contrary, this is precisely the kind of discourse which discredits.” [Boia, Lucian, p.388].

The PUNR has become lately a mere shadow of what it used to be in the turmoil of the early 90s, undergoing some obscure period of transformation. Some of its top leaders left the party for the Great Romania Party and, eventually, it seems it was, in the early 2006, silently absorbed into the Conservative Party whose discourse became imbued with stronger nationalistic tones.

The Great Romania Party (PRM) is a notorious Right-Wing party that used to promote in the past an ethnocentric, anti-Hungarian ethnic minority, anti-Roma ethnic minority and anti-Semite political discourse. Their European political family is composed of the French Le Penn, the Austrian Haider, and the like. Presently their discourse shifted to milder tones but nevertheless, elements of ethnocentrism, extreme nationalism combined with populism remained obvious.

“The Grand Romania Party is a nostalgic party […]”. [Gusa, Cozmin, p.32].

It is relevant to remark that the founder and the president of the Great Romania Party was one of Dictator Ceausescu’s court poets and shared all the privileges of the Nomenklatura, though he presently denies it. This confirms again the inseparable connection between the present-day nationalist structures and the former dictatorial structures.

Both the aforementioned parties are infested with retired Securitate and Army high-ranking officers, with Ceausescu’s former henchmen, and with priests, in the attempt to psychoanalytically exploit primeval drives of the individual and of the group.

At the last Euro parliamentary elections of 2008 the president of the Great Romania Party (PRM) managed to get a seat in the EU Parliament showing that the nationalist and tough redeeming political discourse is rather appealing and dear to the Romanians. Beyond that, such a high score indicated the need of Romanians for healing, for Justice, Truth, and a Better Life, ultimately, the quest for an alternative.

Article on the left wing nationalist attack on Romanian Social Forum

5.2. A CASE STUDY: THE RIGHT WING EXTREMISM OF THE RADICAL LEFT

The Socialist Party of Workers (PSM), later on turned into the Socialist Alliance Party (PAS), is a case of a different kind and requires an attentive analysis since it is the only party in Romania that declares itself as Radical Left.

The party was initially structured on the traditionalist hard-liners of the former dictatorial regime and some top former apparatchiks in the 2nd and 3rd echelons of the PCR. The passage of time has proved that their only supporters remained the nostalgic, the frustrated who could not adapt themselves to the new dynamics in politics and lost their positions as strongmen, few of the workers and peasants, some of the poor, some of the older generation, and, unfortunately, lately, some opportunists and upstarts.
They managed to get access into the Parliament only in the very first period of the 90s, gradually fading away since then. The PAS tried hardly to catch the new and democratic European Left Wing political style and pace by joining the European Left Party (ELP) in 2004 in Rome, but they could not reach the political honesty of publicly denying Stalinism and Ceausism.

The PAS leadership still publicly claims that Ceausescu’s dictatorship had in fact been a ‘Nationalist Communism’ and an ‘Illuminated Communism’ for the benefit of the Romanian people. One of the satellite NGOs of the PAS, the Association ‘Genius of the Carpathians’, bears one of the worshiping addressing names imposed to Romanians by Dictator Ceausescu.
Many a time, PAS revealed that it relies on and it employs extreme nationalism as a manipulating political tool, the same way as the Ceausescu had been doing. Populist demagogic Right Wing phrases embellishing the past such as ‘the grand Romanian people’, ‘our grand nation’, ‘our grand past’ and ‘our grand heroes’ are permanent ingredients of their so-called ‘Left’ political discourse.

Presently the importance and influence of the PAS in Romanian political life has become practically insignificant, and their political chances are close to naught, most likely because of the presence in the party of nostalgic followers of Ceausism and Stalinism.
The proof lies in the disastrous scores the PAS obtained in the 2004 and 2008 elections when they hardly managed to get 1% of the votes in certain ‘red’ areas of the country like the Southern Counties. Rotaru Constantin, president of PAS, scored rather poorly when running for the Presidential elections of 2009 only to finish before the last. Such performance and scores dismiss their political approach and signal the historical need for the emergence of a completely different Left Party in Romania.

In spite of all the political failure, the president of PAS, Rotaru Constantin, is a well-to-do businessman who holds the monopoly of flag manufacturing in the country and has founded a Media trust. His company ‘Rotarexim’ has a publicly declared an annual turnover that exceeds 1,000,000 Euros. In such circumstances, the Media is not far from the truth when writing that his businesses may well keep the flag up but Capitalism does not match with Left ideology.

On 26th January 2008, the Association for the Development of the Romanian Social Forum (AD FSR) and the Romanian Ecological Action Foundation (AER Foundation) were the only to legally organize a social-environmental and cultural event in Romania in the frame of the series of events of the Global Day of Action launched by the World Social Forum.
Rotaru Constantin, president of PAS attacked the event, the participants, and the organizers in a libeler newspaper article that had all the characteristics of Right Wing Extremism: extreme nationalism and ethnocentrism, ethnic discrimination and chauvinism, intolerance and hatred discourse against the Hungarian ethnic minority, political harassment, populism and inciting authorities to take action against innocent people.

Consequently, the president of the Romanian Socialist Alliance Party (PAS) was sued for the offence of publicly promoting Right Wing Extremism in the form of multiple discrimination, political harassment, and hatred discourse.

In his sole written defence, Rotaru Constantin insisted that ‘that was a political position’ and ‘he did not express himself a private person but as political leader’. It is beyond any doubt that such statement made a very bad impression on the Judges because it implied that a political leader may have immunity to do whatever he wants against people. Moreover, the statement confirms once again that the Left Radical Socialist Alliance Party admits that they promote Right Wing Extremism in the form of extreme nationalism, ethnic discrimination, and hatred discourse.

During the trial, the High Court admitted as proof a document that consisted of a newspaper article according to which the Socialist Alliance Party (PAS) has close connections with the Great Romania Party (PRM) with which they were to establish an electoral alliance in the autumn of 2008. It appears that one of the common denominators of the two parties is extreme nationalism and ethnic discrimination targeting mainly the Hungarian ethnic minority in Romania.

After more than a two-year long legal battle, the Highest Court of Justice in Romania (ICCJ) ruled in early February 2010 that the sentence of the High Court of Appeal of Alba County in the case no. 292/57/2009 was right and legal.

Therefore, Rotaru Constantin, president of PAS, was sentenced for promoting  multiple discrimination and political harassment as offender of Law no. 137/2000 corroborated with Recommendation no. R (97) 20 issued by the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe regarding the hatred discourse, as well as with the judiciary practice of the European Court of Justice. The president of PAS was also sentenced to pay a contravention fine. The judgment of the Highest of Court of Justice in Romania is final and irrevocable (see: http://www.scj.ro/dosare.asp?view=detalii&id=100000000209313 ).

This judgment puts the European Left Party in an unprecedented embarrassing position since one of their founding party members has been sentenced for publicly promoting Right Wing Extremist policies directed against innocent citizens and social actors engaged in the WSF and ESF processes.

24th-26th of March 2010
Aiud, Romania

Petre Damo

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Appeal for Anastasia Denisova.

Tord Björk | ESF,Propaganda,Repression,right wing | Wednesday, April 14th, 2010

Governor of Krasnodar krai
Tkachov Alexandr Nikolaevich
Krasnodar, Krasnaya, 35.
Tel/fax: +7 (861) 262-57-16,
fax: +7 (861) 268-35-42

with Copy to:

Plenipotentiary of President of the
Russian Federation to South Federal District
Ustinov Vladimir Vasilyevich
Rostov-on-Don, Bolshaya Sadovaya, 73
tel. +7 (863) 249-99-43, fax +7 (863) 249-99-47

APPEAL

We are extremely concerned about the situation with human rights activists in Krasnodar krai and, namely, the criminal charges filed against Anastasia Denisova.
Anastasia Denisova is our colleague, a 27-year-old human rights defender and an expert in counteraction against xenophobia, racism and intolerance. Anastasia is the president of Krasnodar krai non-governmental organization Youth Group for Tolerance “ETHnICS”, a member of the Coordinating Council of the International Youth Human Rights Movement, an employee of Human Rights Centre “Memorial”, Analytical center SOVA and co-coordinator of the ”Green Alternative” group in the region of Krasnodar.
We know that Anastasia has done a lot in the sphere of non-violent antifascism, both practically and theoretically. For several years Anastasia Denisova and NGO “ETHnICS” have been subdued to harassment and inhibition of professional activities (presence of outsiders during the Federal Registration Service check-up; groundless claim of damages from Tax Inspectorate, as a result of which the activities of the NGO were brought to a halt; regular delays and examination at crossing the border of the Russian Federation; prevention of her departure to the OSCE meeting in Warsaw, etc.). This high-pressure situation culminated in late 2009 when the criminal charges were brought against Anastasia Denisova. At the same time the criminal case is centered around examination of computer equipment which does not belong either to Anastasia Denisova or NGO “ETHnICS” and as far as we are informed which was confiscated with the violations of the Russian Federation legislation. The criminal case is based on the expert advice the validity of which is highly doubtful.
Systematic prevention of Denisova’s activities allows us to suggest that this criminal case is again a form of pressure on behalf of the authorities of the region. We are amazed that monitoring manifestation of xenophobia, and discrimination of ethnic minorities, cultural and educational projects that Anastasia does – are not welcomed and supported by the authorities of Krasnodar krai. We express out deep concern about the rise of right-wing extremism in Europe and in Russia and call for respect for people who decide to act against it.
At the same time mass media is covering other incidents of harassment of human rights and civil activists in Krasnodar krai. These cases instigate a very unpleasant atmosphere around Krasnodar krai, which seriously influences the image of the Russian Federation, especially on the eve of Olympic Games in Sochi in 2014.

In this respect we call upon for:

1.    personal control of lawfulness of the court trial against Anastasia Denisova
2.    assistance to ensure secure functioning of civil society institutions in Krasnodar krai.

Date
Name of organization / Name
Signature

Dec12: Uncertain preparatory process

Planet first – people first demonstration posters in Copenhagen. Photo: http://www.flickr.com/photos/americagov/ / CC BY-SA 2.0

The preparatory process had been quite uncertain. The political signals coming from the meetings of the organisers shifted quite strongly. The first call was made by a number of environmental and climate organizations at the COP14 meeting in Poznan in Poland in December 2008.
A first preparatory meeting in Denmark took place March 10 in 2009. The Participants can be grouped in seven categories: Climate and environmental movement including activists from KlimaX, The Danish Climate Movement and Friends of the Earth Denmark, NGOs including the 92 group, a coalition of the biggest environmental and development NGOs in Denmark and Greenpeace, The Danish Church through its development aid organization, Marxist Leninist and popular front organizations including the Daily Arbejderen (The Worker), The Communist Party and Danish Cuban Association, Youth organizations including Pedagogic students and a Socialist Youth organization and one small trade union. Phil Thornhill from Global Climate Campaign also participated.

Inspiration for the organization model came from an earlier Stop Bush mobilization when some 25 000 people demonstrated at the visit of the US president in the middle of the summer some years ago. The idea was to build a broad coalition by arranging open meeting approximatly once a month and set up working groups and a coordination group for what had to be done between the meetings. Decisions was the hope should ”in all large extent taken by consensus rather than by vote.” Special concern was in a preparatory paper put on ”mutual respect for each other’s diversity: that ’activists’ understands that ’organizations’ is important in getting a sufficient width, although they only meet up with some representatives at a plenary meetings. And that organizations understand that the activists are important to get out and get things done, although they may not represent anything other than himself or much smaller organizations than, say, trade unions, the WWF, DN etc.”

Planet first – people first web banner

The first meeting called for a ”big, broad and popular” demonstration with central demands calling for ambitious acts now and solutions that are socially and globally just. A coordination group was set up with almost only climate organizations, the climate movement, KlimaX and a Climate network as well as the Socialist People’s Party Youth.

At next meeting in early May nothing much had happened. The coordination group was supplemented by DanChurch Aid. But in late May the platform for the demonstration could be decided restating the vague general call for the global climate day of action 2009:

“We demand that world leaders take the urgent and resolute action needed to prevent the catastrophic destabilization of the global climate, so that the entire world can move as rapidly as possible to a stronger emissions reductions treaty that will be effective in minimizing dangerous climate change while maintaining principles of social and global justice.
We demand that those industrialized countries that have emitted most greenhouse gases take responsibility for climate change mitigation by immediately reducing their own emissions while investing in a clean energy”

The aim of the demonstration was stated as: ”To carry out a peaceful demonstration with tens of thousands of participants representing a broad spectrum of people from Denmark and around the world. To call on world leaders to take urgent actions on climate change and show that climate issues have broad public interest.” Internationally the aim was ”to stage synchronized peaceful demonstrations around the world in as many places as possible” The kind of participants asked for was stated as follows: ”In order to make the demonstrations as strong as possible, our principal aim is to secure a diversity of participants, including people from NGOs, labour unions, and private individuals.”

In spite of that there were not many more organizations present there were now strong hopes for the important construction workers union and the economically resourceful WWF had together with the equally strong MS/ActionAid Denmark entered the scene. The coordination group was supplemented once more, this time with MS/ActionAid.

Politically the earlier message to put equal emphasis on social and global justice now changed. Gradually all notions concerning social changes were marginalized to part of a phrase on principles. Instead the demands for ”leaders” to ”take the urgent and resolute action” and North-South interstate relationships became the only central points in the political message.

The organization cooperating in the tcktcktck campaign as Oxfam had strong influence on the 12 December Initiative

With the entry of Oxfam in the early autumn this shift became even more accentuated. The result was a chocking pink flyer with a text in yellow and white stating ”Planet first! People first!” and then ”family-friendly climate-demonstration”. Furthermore the texts reads ”It is now something happens”, ”the future of the planet will be decided”, ”the watch is ticking” – all part of the big NGO tcktcktck campaign rhetoric for COP15. The leaflet claim that ”the leaders of the world have the power to change the course of history in Copenhagen. If we are many enough, that demands action they cannot ignore us.” It ends by saying join a peaceful and colourful Global Climate Action Day in Copenhagen. It is hard to make a leaflet less political or more devote in its approval in advance of whatever the politicians decide. On the back page was the official platform and the list of organisations supporting the initiative. The proposal from Oxfam had been happily received by all in the organizing committee.

Why was social justice forgotten?

As many of the central organizations involved had left wing people representing them it was rather confusing. Their whole concept of the December 12 initiative was to be broad. Thus they promoted a platform for many different messages rather than a joint manifestation. And a main message within the NGO and parliamentary focus to send signals to politicians and global justice concerns framed as and issue of North-South relationships between countries. This means that there was less common political commitment and quite contradictory messaging.

12 December Initiative and CJA debate in Malmö Sweden October 8

In Sweden a representative on the left wing of 12 December initiative claimed that the risk that the demonstration would be coopted by the establishment was minimal: The left seemed not to worry about the main political message from the demonstration. This was not only in their understandable concern for making a broad demonstration happen. It was also due to that key left wing organizations have chosen opportunistic politics rather than seeing the social revolutionary potential in the climate issue. Thus the most radical and social movement oriented left wing parliamentary party in Denmark, the Red Green Alliance had as their political demands towards COP15 demands for emission targets and interstate North South issues as demanding that rich countries use big sums to aid the developing countries and no to global carbon trading.

Thus there were no problems for this party that the issue of social justice was erased from the main messaging. In Sweden the organization mostly involved in the Copenhagen preparatory for the demonstration was Klimataktion, a newly established organization dominated in its leadership by left wingers, many journalists from the anarchosyndicalist trade union weekly. This organization to quite some extent delinked the climate issue from its broader ecological and social political context and reframed it into climate policy concerns. War metaphors and the need for a global carbon trading mechanism based on individual rights was promoted by these left wingers as solutions as well as the need according to some of them to continue using nuclear power. The lack of social revolutionary perspectives or even lack of strong criticism against false solutions was not much of concern for this organization either. During COP15 they merged their twitter from Copenhagen with that of the tcktcktck campaign.

The environmental movement was concerned. With growing tensions between more social movement oriented organizations as FoE and NGOs like WWF there were problems. Thus FoE organized a flood action to feed into the demonstration with one main message, to go against the carbon trading mechanism proposed for the COP15, proposals supported to quite some extent by both WWF and other NGOs. In the second broad initiative in Copenhagen, the Klimaforum dominated by many small ecological and system critical organizations and with the left and NGOs more or less completely marginalized the concern for social revolutionary perspectives were a lot more present. The call against false solutions as nuclear power or other ”technological fixes” was  explicit together with the idea to promote a change by another economic system and base the solutions in local communities rather than trusting politicians to become agents of change. The Danish organisers also were able to make an alliance with global popular movements with social justice concerns strengthening a joint system change not climate change message from Copenhagen. As Klimaforum had 50 000 visitors it is clear that a lot more radical platform than the 12 December initiative call also could achieve broad participation in Copenhagen.

The hidden violence agenda

Police a the end of the 12 December climate march. Photo Avenirclima.info

While the open agenda of the 12 December Initiative was a least common denominator biased in the interest of NGOs and political parties the hidden agenda was also biased, but in a even more problematic sense. At the core of the present Western liberal model lies a denial of its inherent daily violence used against those opposing the militaristic, social, economic and ecological consequences of this present world order. At the core of the dominant solutions promoted by COP15 lie the same problems. The consequences of violent non-solutions or false solutions to climate change are already there to be seen. Violence through promotion of biofuel taking land for local food production in the interest of corporations. Carbon trading promoting land grabbing as well. Individualistic consumerist solutions which supports ever growing social inequalities replacing necessary social change and the violence that follows from this. Lack of action against fossil fuel dependency causing the oil wars and occupation organised primarily or only by the liberal Western world. Refugees from these oil wars as well as climate change refugees violently stopped at the borders or thrown out of the Western countries to mention some of this violence.

Instead of addressing this violence by explicitly opposing false solutions as Klimaforum and Climate Justice Action did the 12 December Initiative chose to keep silent while instead talk more loudly of how peaceful the own demonstration should become. This position could easily by used by such NGOs and trade unions that promote social partnership politics were they together with industry and governments comes to solutions within the framework of the present system. Thus the inherent violence of the system is excepted and what remain the main issue is to oppose any violent forms of protest, or any forms of confrontational non-violent protests as well.

Tcktcktck office in Copenhagen housing the joint big NGO coordination. Photo: http://www.flickr.com/photos/kk/ / CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

Thus WWF Denmark announced its position against non-violent system critical protests during COP15 in the British paper The Guardian in July. While Climate Justice Action promoters of non-violent actions talked about that “Everyone close to the negotiations knows that nothing is on the table.” and “Copenhagen will be dominated by false solutions like biofuels and carbon trading,” WWF Denmark disagreed. “We want to influence the summit by engaging as widely as possible ” and dismissed Climate Justice Action’s description of its tactics as “a contradiction in terms”. “You can’t force your way into the conference centre and remain non-violent at the same time,”

In Sweden David Jonstad, one of the left wingers in Klimataktion also strongly opposed Climate Justice Action in a more fully expressed way. He started by presenting a picture ”as in any political movement” there is a conflict concerning forms as if the conflict not was mainly about political content. He phrased the conflict as existing between ”On the one hand, a small group of activists who usually run their own race, does not fear physical confrontation and which represent a more uncompromising line. On the other hand, the political sprawling but larger collection of activists who are set to more non-confrontational demonstrations and protests”. After presenting the case as an eternal conflict and thus not the result of political differences that ought to be addressed nor the possibility of changing the mind of the many and bringing more people into confrontational protests Jonstad continued by appealing to worried people in common:

”I fully understand the desperation that many feel about the poor prospects for that a sensible climate change deal becomes a reality in Copenhagen. But even if the meeting is a failure, it is not the last chance. It may well be the start of a new process in which the criteria for a new climate change deal increasingly becomes marked by greater social justice.”

The outcome in Copenhagen is with other words not interesting, it is only a start of something that will come later. Thus there is no need for a platform for broad protests in Copenhagen strongly going against false solutions and promoting social justice against the solutions promoted at COP15, the only thing we need is distance ourselves from being weakened ”by the fact that a small group riots dominate the external perception of the protests.”

After this clear message were the violence to be confronted mainly lies Jonstad comes up with an even more clear message: ”One issue Climate Justice Action should ask themselves is whether their agenda has greater legitimacy than that set by a meeting under the UN Climate Change.” With other words, Climate Justice Action cannot be right in pushing for its political demands as in the final end, the only thing that counts is that the COP process is more legitimate than any popular movement based solutions. The former journalist at the anarchosyndicalist weekly and now editor of the climate magazine Effect ends by firmly placing the accusation of violence not onto the solutions promoted by COP15 but against the non-violent Reclaim power action: ”I would predict that the people who are most in need of climate justice, the world’s poor, do not feel particularly helped by a violent storm of the climate meeting.”

Thus the threat of violence was as firmly put outside COP15 as it was firmly put outside of the platform as something to oppose in climate politics for the demonstration on December 12. The only violent threat remaining to address was speculations regarding other protesters to be able to present the own initiative in as positive manner as possible.

Celebrity and parliamentarian speakers or from the movements?

In October the power relations changed drastically in favour of a more clear political message. The global popular movements Via Campesina, Jubilee South, indigenous organizations and many others in the network Climate Justice Now! Decided to organize the Reclaim power action togeher with Climate Justice Action. The key organizations in the network were also invited to become members of an international advisory board for the Klimatforum. It was decided that the Klimaforum declaration title would be System Change not climate change, the same as the title of a joint CJA-CJN bloc in the 12 December demonstration. CJA also made a change in its Reclaim power plan by stating the goal as entering the Bella Center area, and not the building.

Poster for the System change not climate change bloc.

The new power relationships within the mass activities was expressed in the debates on speakers at the December12 demonstration. Strengthened by the idea of a joint bloc for all climate justice popular movements including Via Campesina, Friends of the Earth, Attac, Southern based movements, CJA activists, socialists and many others hoping for mobilizing a great part of the demonstration the negotiations could start. But it was a very depoliticized process. For some reason it was only going in one direction. The Danish representatives asking for more and more names while the principles for electing this or that speaker was kept outside the discussion, a depoliticizing procedure that by far was excepted by CJN and CJA. Any organiser of a demonstration of course wants to have a large number of proposals to pick from, the decisive issue is according to what criteria.

On one point early criticism against the proportion of the speakers were only one third would come from the South was criticized. It was changed to half by the traditional method to extend the number of speakers. The original idea was to have three speakers from Denmark, three from other Northern countries and three from the South.

The new promise of having equal amount of speakers from the North and the South was solved in a paternalistic way. 8 of the speakers came from the South and 10 from the North. Added to the 8 speakers from the South were 8 ”witnesses” from Southern continents on climate change presented not by themselves but by the professional advocacy NGO Greenpeace and the NGO Action Aid. 5 witnesses coming from Asia, 2 from Oceania and one from Africa but none from Latin America. Formally the promise of having half of the speakers from the South thus was solved.

Bollywood actor speaking at the 12 December demonstration. Photo: http://www.flickr.com/photos/americagov/ / CC BY-SA 2.0

Concerning the character of the speakers, an issue characteristically never really discussed, the proportions between speakers from activist networks and popular movements on the one hand and others as celebrities, political parties and professional NGOs was clearly in favour of the latter. Not one speaker was from an activists network as the climate camp movement, 6 can be described as coming from popular movements, Jubilee South, the anti nuclear power movement, indigenous movement, FOEI, the Vestas workers and ITUC. The strongest popular movement in Copenhagen, Via Campesina representing 200 million peasants world wide was not allowed to speak, probably because they upset the Danish organizations by their strong support of the Reclaim power action. Instead a number of celebrities and political parties took centre stage. A top model and an artist from Denmark, a former head on the UN Human Rights Commission from Ireland, a Bollywood artist and a celebrity environmental speaker from India strongly opposed by Indian popular movements and four parliamentary parties from Denmark. Besides these celebrities and political parties there was also one youth lobbyists active inside the Bella Center from India, one representative from Action Aid India and the head of Greenpeace from South Africa elected as speakers. To have speakers from the South did with other words not help getting popular movements on the centre stage, on the contrary were the third world speakers also dominated by celebrities and establishment as the speakers from the North, although some were added as victims presented by forceful NGO actors.

Furthermore were the speakers given very different places to speak. In the beginning at the most privileged time for reaching out to mass media were only celebrities and the political party that later fully supported the police attack on the demonstration as well as ActionAid and Greenpeace with their witnesses allowed to speak. The popular movements were all placed at the very end of the speakers list at the Bella Center with the exception of the indigenous speaker who was allowed to come a bit earlier.

Reacting to repressive culture

The polarization between the different mass activities in Copenhagen remained after the strong intervention from Climate Justice Now in October but became less severe. A fishermen, peasant and worker, all chairpersons of organizations in the interest of a living sea, small farmers and construction workers, signed an open letter criticizing the idea of civil disobedience at the Bella Center claiming COP15 as more legitimate than CJA.

Mobilizing for Climate Justice Action Reclaim Power in Germany

But in general the criticism against CJA lessened from the circles claiming that a big broad demonstration was the best way to put forwards demands in Copenhagen and that CJA was a threat that by choosing a form of action that would cause riot and violence scared people in common off from protesting. One of the reasons was that it became clear to more and more that it actually was CJA that tried to avoid escalation towards violence in Copenhagen while the risk was bigger on December 12 by groups organizing an anti-capitalist bloc in the demonstration used violent rhetoric in their mobilization material. In Copenhagen and on the internet posters signalled symbols for fighting the system and the police with activists in front of a burning city and police cars signed by a network called Never trust a COP, NTAC. Facts that became public in the movement but did not reach the mass media at once.

Meanwhile the Danish People´s Party who denies the need for strong measures against climate change but is all for strong measures against demonstrators proposed stronger laws to enable the police to stop protests even more. The right wing government supported the idea and launched a ”hooligan law package”, directed not against violence as it was stated by the media, but primarily against non-violent bystanders when disorder could happen in a manifestation. The law gave possibilities to mass arrest people arbitrary at the wishes of the police for 12 hours instead of 6 hours and the sentences for not following orders from police and remain in solidarity with others non-violently holding each other arms in non-violent protest was raised from a fine to 40 days in prison at maximum.

Mobilizing in France. Photo Avenirclima.info. Phot Avenirclima.info

The Trade Union Central in Copenhagen reacted strongly seeing in the new law a threat of a police state against any non-violent protest as pickets, strikes etc. Also a coalition of mainly large NGOs, People´s Climate Action reacted strongly while both 12 December initiative and Klimaforum reacted with less force. The general extreme measures by the government  created an image of huge numbers of violent demonstrators coming from abroad to Copenhagen which was negative for the mobilization for the demonstration on December 12 and for all organizing mass activities during COP15. Thus a certain degree of tolerance between 12 December initiative, CJA and Klimaforum started to evolve helped by Jörn Andersen, a key organizer of the mass demonstration and CJA inviting Danish organization for a dialogue. NTAC directed their plans more and more towards own goals during December 12 in the city centre instead of going as a bloc in the mass demonstration to the Bella Center.

The information coming via Danish organizations involved in the demonstration and meetings with the police became more and more odd. One report stated that the police claimed that they did not need the new law package, they could already do all the things that the new law package included. This was true. The only difference was that the sentences now became radically much stronger. This was a clear signal from the majority in the parliament that they wished that the police should be free to interpret the existing laws more generously in their own favour while anyone protesting against this now can get a lot harder punishment and as well not knowing in advance how much as the new law package made drastic changes stating either a fine or prison terms  for minor offences. That the head of the police, Per Larsen stated the opposite from what the police said in the negotiations with the demonstration organisers and strongly supported the new law package instead as the policemen meeting the demonstration organizers claiming that the new law package did not add any new possibilities for the police. Rather then using these contradictory messages it seemed as if the Danish demonstration organizers were paralyzed by the repressive political climate.

Another extraordinary message from the police widely disseminated to the world outside Denmark. The police claimed that if a foreign demonstrator was caught by the police and did not have his pass port with him he could get immediately deported. The risk when tens of thousands of foreign people are participating in a political manifestation that one or some by mistake have forgotten their passports were they stay is obvious. Instead of addressing this very provocative statements by the police the Danish organizers was disseminating the police message as if it was uncontroversial and their single duty to help the police with any demands from the police.

Sticker in Copenhagen proclaiming social war not climate chaos. Photo: http://www.flickr.com/photos/americagov/ / CC BY-SA 2.0

Suspicions remained between different actors in Copenhagen and when the news about Never trust a COP mobilization rhetoric reached the mass media in Denmark it caused turmoil. The trade unions were on the brink of leaving all cooperation both with 12 December Initiative and Klimaforum afraid of being linked to violent protesters. The security police predicted that the problem was how violent protesters would use the mass demonstration for starting violence. The pressure was also directed against CJA who had links to NTAC actions on its web site. Finally NTAC was dissolved, as it was claimed that the purpose of the network was fulfilled by mobilizing people to Copenhagen, a model also used during British mobilization for G8 protests in Heiligendamm in Germany 2007.

Violence of the system a non-issue

While the violence of the system was hidden there was instead much propaganda to solve the climate crisis by broad coalitions with corporations which were major cooperation partners in the Hopenhagen project. Photo: http://www.flickr.com/photos/americagov/ / CC BY-SA 2.0

Meanwhile the debate on the violence of protests shifted during the autumn the debate on the violence due to the official politics was more and more marginalized. Friends of the Earth Sweden made an attempt at getting Danish organisations to sign a protest against violent results of the present fossil fuels based society causing refugees and wars as well as the violence caused by land grabbing in the name of solving climate change. No single system critical environmental or left wing or any other organization responded. The arguments against shifted from not mixing policy areas to seeing it as impossible to link the strong protests against deportation of Iraqi refugees to the climate issue. Many key radical left wing organisers of the mass mobilisation of protests against the deportation which within 24 hours mobilized 20 000 on the streets saw now possibilities in doing climate actions during the summit as there were too many police mobilized. And thus they saw no possibilities in linking the issues politically either. The criticism against the violence of the present system and the COP15 agenda was by the Danish organizations and their allies marginalized from the December 12 demonstration into the corner by a No Border Day of Action on December 14. Here it was stated that “Climate Change is an issue in terms of migration because the Global South is suffering and the borders are trying to repress them“. At the Klimaforum an ‘International Campaign on Climate Refugees’ Rights’ was launched by indigenous people from across the globe who called for an opening of the borders in the face of increasing climate chaos. A protest on the climate refugee issue was also made by the parliamentary social liberal Radical party during COP15.

Hopenhagen advertising by Coca Cola i hand written style to look more genuine sabotaged by “Our climate not your business” poster. Photo: http://www.flickr.com/photos/americagov/ / CC BY-SA 2.0

MS/Actionaid at 12 December initiative march. Photo:

http://www.flickr.com/photos/nios/ / CC BY-NC 2.0

Branding

Another divisive issue regarded branding. This fairly new concept in participatory democracy was strongly used in Copenhagen, especially by Anglo-American actors. The idea is that it is of importance to show the brand of your organization in as many and positive circumstances as possible and especially in mass media. The winner is the organization that can get most attention for its brand with the masses at a demonstration or victims of indisputable hardships in the visible background.

The idea to promote organizational banners in a demonstration for a common goal was for a long time not common in Scandinavia. In recent years it has become more and more common to provide a platform for different organizations to send their own messages if this is not against the often very low common denominator. The left wing and NGOs have made this into a formula proclaiming it to be especially democratic with the open space concept for social forums. Here no common message can be made on behalf of all participants, only each and everyone making their own activity and thus providing a platform for competing brands in the NGO and left wing sector.

Communist party at 12 December initiative march. Photo: http://www.flickr.com/photos/nios/ / CC BY-NC 2.0

This maybe have been useful in countries with extremely split left wing unable to cooperate unless extreme formulas are put into place. To the radical ecological movement this was a threat against building a system critical climate movement. They opposed the social forum formula and instead started an open democratic declaration process for the Klimaforum to make a joint forum statement to be adopted by the Klimaforum and all signing organisations as a whole.

In the December 12 demonstration process this conflict was marginalised by the way it was organised. From the very start the idea to link the demonstration to any political open discussions on the issue was unquestionably uninteresting to the initiators. Thus the whole preparatory process became strongly depoliticized. This can be seen as partly positive as it opened up for the small ecological Danish organization together with global popular movements to build a system critical platform for the counter summit. But it also made the demonstration preparations lacking in transparency.

In the beginning during the spring the meetings were open and reports posted on the official website, all signed by Jörn Andersen. But in the autumn when things started to shift quite dramatically and hard to follow for outsiders the reports were not posted anymore. By mouth one could get information making it possible to understand why a flyer suddenly became chocking pink with a devote support of the world leaders as Oxfam had the necessary money to print them. But in general it was hard to follow what was going on. The last flyer suddenly shifted the image once more, now in neutral blue colour with a somewhat more tuff design and the text changed more accordingly to the official platform although a reference to tcktcktck campign still was there thus stating:

”Between the 7th and 18th of December the future of the planet will be decided at the UN conference in Copenhagen. There is still a chance to build a more green, secure and more fair world, but the clock is ticking. Go together with people from the whole world in a peaceful and colourful global climate action day in Copenhagen”

On the backside social justice was now totally erased and the message was boiled down to three points: ”1. World leaders have to act now to prevent
catastrophic global climate change. 2. The rich countries have to make ambitious cuts in their emissions and help poor 3. The rich countries bear the greatest responsibility for the climate crisis. They have to pay to people in poorer countries, which are hardest hit, so they can adapt to climate change.”

The Friends of the Earth flood action. Photo: http://www.flickr.com/photos/kk/ / CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

Throughout the preparation process and also during COP15 and afterwards there were two environmental organizations at the core of the process, Noah, the Danish member of Friends of the Earth International, and Klimabevægelsen, the Danish Climate Movement. Here FOEI influenced the relationships by putting much economic resources into focus upon making its own activity on December 12. As the beginning this was planned as a flood action through Nörrebro district starting at the Agenda 21 local office and ending at Israels plads by forming SOS Climate with bodies coreographed by experts on these kind of action which had been carried out with great success by FoE in other countries. The flood action was mainly seen by FOEI as an issue of logistics as FOE Denmark representatives had agreed to the plans at international preparatory meetings.

This model for choreography action and branding motive caused some debates within Noah were other representatives at the same time were more involved in movement building and cooperation between activist groups. It also meant that Noah representatives at times saw upon the main December 12 demonstration as of less importance and that some other organizations were critical towards the way Friends of the Earth stressed their own activity. The original flood action idea run into several problems. One was that it was hard to gt the political motivation for the content to work in Denmark. The original SOS climate was early on changed into Climate justice but when asking young people at Roskilde festival about this message most people did not understand the point in it. After the confrontations in the middle of Nörrebro in support of Iraqi refugees other issues took the interest of key people in the district. Finally the flood was turned into a feed in demonstration from close to the Klimaforum to the main demonstration with the aim to destroy a huge offset market set up for the occasion at Christiansborg. Once the flood action had dismantled the offset trading point the main demonstration should gather at the same spot for walking to the Bella Center.

Klimabevægelsen did the opposite and put a lot of effort into strengthening the common work with mass activities as 12 December demonstration and Klimaforum. In the end no speaker came from any of the new organization mainly focused on climate while friends of the Earth had a speaker. To put much effort into strengthening ones own organization rather than in solidarity put much effort into organizing something in common seems less successful. After COP15 Noah and Klimabevægelsen have continued a similar division of roles. Both organizes follow up meetings on their own but when Noah mainly focus upon their next campaign for climate law in Denmark Klimabevægelsen makes a very broad meeting with many voices and movemnts present to discuss how to create a broader movement carrying forward the result of the mass manifestations during COP15.

The branding culture thus have two faces. One is the most obvious. That of using the common activity to promote your own organizational identity. The other is to see to that the whole mass activity is a good background for your logo or other branding activity.

Oxfam at 12 December initiative march. Photo: http://www.flickr.com/photos/kk/ / CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

The most obvious branding is that of making an organizational logo or designs linked to a campaign as a promotion of a specific organization effectively visible. Here we have the pandas that for the specific global warming occasion have big red and orange flames coming from their heads so hot that they burn. Here we also have the man and women in red suits, red ties and black shirts with the same professionally designed placards fitting the way they dress with the message from the Action Aid global campaign on climate change. Without being very many participants in this kind of stunts dressing, speaking and acting quite often according to the choreography and manuscript made by professionals the result in attention can be quite effective. This kind of activity does not necessarily is limited to undemocratic organizations as WWF or Greenpeace were members cannot influence the political content and most of designs and action preparations are in the hands of a handful professionals with lay people as those carrying out plans made by others.

Also trade unionists used the same method in Copenhagen carrying green working men helmets and equally green clothes under equally green banners with their demands for green jobs. The dress code of different activists groups of more hippie, more young and funky or black bloc design can be seen as similar efforts in sending visible message of group identity although it is not always a specific organization that is promoted. In the case of the black bloc it is also other factors as creating greater problems for police to identify participants that is a reason for the choice of clothes.

When it comes to organization logos it is very clear that this is a branding method used by very many. Organizations with a lot of money but less number of activists can compensate this by mass production of their logo on professionally produced visible objects as big balloons, many small buttons or huge banners. One can also as Greenpeace make huge demonstration objects like many marrionets controlled by a corporate man or a globe with a saving ring and in both cases the Greenpeace logo clearly visible. Organizations with committed activists but little money can make large logos preferably large by hand at a lot lower cost. But especially NGOs and political parties alike but also quite a few popular movements are in different ways today trying to influence the visible impression of a mass demonstration by the use of many organizational logos.

These different branding actions needs a supporting background. It is useful with a very large number of people to create the feeling of representing many. Preferably dressed as people in common and in a happy mood, yet with a serious message and not to competing with the message of the own organization. In this respect the December 12 demonstration was almost perfect. As the common denominator was quite or very low it gave the possibility for many different actors to brand themselves with their logo and message. The only formal limitation was that it should not contradict the common platform. At the same time it included a risk. That of one or some messages standing out very much in a way that would contradict the own message.

If the whole demonstration was embedded in a culture excepting totally the limitations given by the rules and practices of how mass media, police and other established forces want to impose on any protest this would be problematic for some. If the main message was limited to sending signals to the politicians and giving as high establish status to main messages by selection of speakers and use of technology and design for scenes this would be biased in favour of organizations unwilling to take the common platform in any way serious if this would include confrontation with the established society. If the whole atmosphere in which the demonstration was supposed to make a call was embedded in a city full with commercial messages on how the market and thus the established system would solve the climate change problem this posed a problem if not accepting the established order was a main message from the demonstration.

The tcktcktck campaign is an award winning project initiated by advertising companies and sponsored by NGOs and corporations in a flexible manner hard to get an overview of. An interview with executive director Kelley Riggs at the award winning We Media conference you find here: http://tcktcktck.org/stories/campaign-stories/changing-game-tcktcktck-receives-media-innovation-award

This becomes even more accentuated if the demonstration is embedded in general commercial advertising making propaganda for more consumption of goods produced and transported in a manner causing climate change. It also becomes accentuated if the most economically resourceful campaign by some of the organization with speakers and strong influence on the main message of the demonstration in parallel runs a world wide campaign. This with the help of social media building a ”movement” organized by advertising agencies and promoting companies as Coca Cola and BMW as is the case with the cluster of campaigns centred around the tcktcktck brand.

Raise your voice was one of the main messages from the tcktcktck campaign. A call that was helped by a massive social media campaign and as here by different corporations coming together at the central square in Copenhagen sponosored by the municipality and named Hopenhagen. Photo: http://www.flickr.com/photos/americagov/ / CC BY-SA 2.0

The other problem would be if groups mainly focused on other issues than those clearly related to the platform sees the opportunity to show how radical and willing to confront the established forces they are in general. By destroying general symbols of capitalism or seeking confrontation with the police without a clear purpose. This turns not only those away who might be interested in misusing the demonstration call for the opposite general ideology, claiming total acceptance of whatever limitations the politicians, police or mass media puts on a demonstration. It would turn also very many away who are truly concerned about the issues raised in the common platform.

For some reason more or less the only problem discussed was that of speculations concerning the possibility of violence at the demonstration. Also this issue was awkwardly addressed as if the only cause of violence or disorder can arise from small provocative groups among the demonstrators, not because of lack of discipline and political clarity among the main organizers or by provocations from the police. This in spite of numerous circumstances that the two latter ways often been the main cause of such problems.

Instead of balancing the two risks almost all attention was given to the direction that main stream media, politicians as the Danish People´s Party and the right wing government and the police wanted. CJA was more or less alone in distancing themselves from the dominating message of reducing the role of the demonstration to send signals to politicians as sufficient means for changing politics. This caused a very defensive position towards the the limitless apatite for producing an image of a great threat. The security police PET stated that the threat against security was equal to a threat by Al Qaida. The police stated that the great risk was how violent activists would use a peaceful demonstration to hide and start riots from. The Danish People´s Party and the government could raise the level of expected extreme levels of violence further by introducing extraordinary laws not seen in any other country. This with the help of media who accepted that the laws who were directed against non-violent civil disobedience were presented falsely as directed against violence. That politicians were taking such extraordinary measures seemed well fit into the predictions by the police of a threat as big as a terrorist attack by Al Queda and fitted also the logics of the mass media industry. The mass media seemed to long for spreading news about violence against the system. This instead of revealing the self interest among the police and politicians to paint a dark picture in need of more resources for the police and law and order policies while the daily violence organized by the way rich countries solves the climate crisis goes unexposed.

Attempts were made to counteract the repressive attacks against protests during COP15 but primarily by making individual statements by organizations and avoiding collective stronger efforts. A demonstration against the new hooligan law package gathered 200 participants and now wide support. The dominant branding culture puts the main effort on each organization by themselves eagerly trying to present their organization in mass media as positive as possible while common concerns more easily gets neglected. In the end if ten out of one million demonstrators throws something in the direction of the police without causing any harm, this becomes  the main problem and not if the police arbitrary mass arrest 10 000 of the demonstrators. Collective solidarity against the provocations from mass media, politicians and the police becomes uninteresting, saving ones own name everything.

The most clear opposing methods from the main branding culture of the demonstration came from two different actors. Quite surprisingly one was Greenpeace. The other was CJA. Greenpeace introduced a new innovative method for making banners for the demonstration. In the old days it was quite often in the hands of the participants to bring their own placards and handmade banners, a back to basics model also used today at least at smaller rallies. Then came the period when at mass demonstrations quite often were mass printed material, preferably with a branding logo on it. Greenpeace now came upon the idea to let people decide what message should be on the placards they were willing to sponsor, and furthermore without putting their own logo on the message. The most popular result of this new participatory democratic method was that message “Planet not profit”. As one commentator stated: ”The dominant placards on the march were those distributed by Greenpeace – though they didn’t carry that organisations logo – or reflect their politics!”

Greenpeace sponsored sign at 12 December initiative march. Photo: http://www.flickr.com/photos/greenpeacefinland/ / CC BY 2.0

How much this really was a genuine democratic idea receiving positive comments everywhere or something else can be discussed. The executive director of tcktcktck campaign states in an interview that what was especially inspiring was that there was so many signs at the big demonstration in Copenhagen with no branding on them, “People just created signs for the global good.” She talks about how  a “massive organism” rather than individual campaigns competing for attention have emerged.

Greenpeace bloc with huge demo puppets and “unbranded” placards all around. Photo: http://www.flickr.com/photos/greenpeacefinland/ / CC BY 2.0

The organization that funded the massive amount of non branded yellow signs at the 12 December march was Greenpeace which also was chairing the tcktcktck campaign. It is hard to believe that the executive director of the campaign do not know what the chairng organization of the same campaign is doing. It is true that people were invited to create the message on the signs but if Greenpeace and th tcktcktck campign made the sign for “the global good” can be questioned. It is rather understood by professional campign makers that if one runs a campaign hevaliy supporting the culture of bradning it is also udeful to avopid making it to obvious. A neutral unbranded background fits better for those that can afford branding by many means. Thus creating “a massive organism” embedding the whole climate protests and the streets of Copenhagen with a unifying message which takes no opposition for the oppressed countries of th world against the big countries nor any stand against corporations. A branding operation in need of a clever idea of not branding every sign on the 12 December march.

Old fashion hand made banner by JAK, a Swedish alternative bank with the roots in the 1960s. Photo: http://www.flickr.com/photos/nios/ / CC BY-NC 2.0

Climate Justice Action also made attempt at the final meeting preparing the joint system change not climate change bloc organized by CJA and CJN. Against the branding interests of organization the CJA people claimed that they saw now need in separating the joint climate justice bloc. Instead they argued that it should be a part of the demonstration were everyone joined supporting a joint message for system change not climate change. The arguments against were of course weak in principal as strong they were in terms of vested interests. The solution obvious from the very start. Those that did not want to go in a specific part of the system change not climate change bloc braded by some specific part of the climate justice movement but only support the general demand could walk in the CJA section. But the principal arguments raised against branding whether it was directed against NGOs of left wing parties or ideological groups was raised.

Hopenhagen at Rådhuspladsen. Photo: http://www.flickr.com/photos/americagov/ / CC BY-SA 2.0

Tord Björk

Content 12 December Initiative – huge success or background for branding?

Success or failure?

Uncertain preparatory process

The global climate day of action 2009

The main demonstration

Three left wing parties supporting the police perspective

December 12 in the media

Movement analysis

A demonstration split twice

You find extensive more material on the lack of left wing collective response to the repression December 12 – 18 and analysis at: The ALBA mass meeting: Full of lost left wing possibilities.

COP15: The main demonstration 12th of December

Photo: http://www.flickr.com/photos/greenpeacefinland/ / CC BY 2.0

The huge square in front of the Danish parliament Christiansborg was from the very start filled with the flood and more and more people poured in. The official programme of the joint mass manifestation was supposed to start. Few could hear and even less could see the speakers in spite of effective loud speakers. There were simply too many people and very many things and messages to look at. A forest of yellow placards filled the air stating “Nature does not compromise”, “There is no PLANet B”, “Bla Bla Bla .. Act now”, “Change the Politics not the Climate”, and “Climate Justice Now”.

These were messages that people had stated as important when Greenpeace made the unusual experiment and asked people to suggest slogans via their website and then produced the most popular.

Photo: http://www.flickr.com/photos/americagov/ / CC BY-SA 2.0

A gigantic Karl Marx roomed around with the message It’s the economy stupid, an angry mermaid together with children dressed up as mermaids was swimming in the air and the banners of climate movements, environmental organizations and political parties filled the cityscape. Many had creative dresses of varying sorts which they had done themselves while the resourceful organizations made their stunts with equally dressed people and professionally designed banners and other material.

Photos: http://www.flickr.com/photos/americagov/ / CC BY-SA 2.0

The Flood, the churches and the Christiania feed in

The flood starting at Halmtorvet.

Photos: http://www.flickr.com/photos/kk/ / CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

It all started at Halmtorvet close to the main venue of the Klimaforum. Here thousands of activists dressed up in blue ponchos, some as polar bears, penguins or plain clothes demonstrators. It was the flood action organized by Friends of the Earth International with the support of Via Campesina. The two thousand FoE members coming from abroad had been supplemented by many more Danes and fellow activists making the march lively with some 5 000 participants.

Photo: http://www.flickr.com/photos/nios/ / CC BY-NC 2.0

The sun was shining, the mood creative and the message clear, not to false solutions! No to offsetting with global carbon trading! It all ended in front of the former castle Christiansborg and now parliamentary building with speeches by Henry Saragih, general secretary of La Via Campesina International, Nnimmo Bassey, chair of Friends of the Earth International and the participants making a Mexican wave to flood the temporary carbon trading exchange which could not resist the pressure from the people.

Climate Justice action at Vor Frues church. Photo: http://www.flickr.com/photos/kk/ / CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

Other feed in activities contributed also to the mass demonstration. “What do we want? – Climate justice! When do we want it? – Now!”. This was the chanting when World Council of Churches gathered with cooperation partners eported on a Swedish Diakonia activist blog. ”It was a nice feeling of inspiration that was spread in my body when we yesterday met at the Vor Frues Plads, here in Copenhagen, for the big demonstration. People from different countries who all were involved in the Countdown to Copenhagen campaign. Now it was finally time! Placards bearing the campaign slogan “High time for climate justice” in a variety of languages had been printed up. So began the long journey to the Bella Center.” From the Bottom meeting Windows of Hope at Christiania people joined the demonstration later in Christianshavn.

The flood taking centre stage were soon the main demonstration starts. Photos: http://www.flickr.com/photos/kk/ / CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

Speeches and chanting

Vandana Shiva speaking from the demonstration stage at Christiansborg. Photo: http://www.flickr.com/photos/americagov/ / CC BY-SA 2.0

Hajeet Singh from Mellemfolkeligt Samvirke/ActionAid Asia, India, started by presenting climate witnesses from Samoa, Indonesia, Colombia og India.. The first speaker was Rahul Bose, a Bollywood artist followed by Vandana Shiva who explicitly pointed to capitalism as the source of the current environmental crisis, telling demonstrators: “This is what democracy looks like, and the COP15 is trying to kill democracy.”

Kumi Naidoo from Greenpeace and the tcktcktck campign. Photo: http://www.flickr.com/photos/americagov/ / CC BY-SA 2.0

The chair of the Danish Social Democratic party followed, Helle Thorning-Schmidt and the Danish artist Thure Lindhard and Helena Christensen, a model and photographer. Kumi Naidoo, international general secretary of Greenpeace and chair of the tcktcktck campaign from South Africa made a speech and presented climate witnesses from Uganda, Bangladesh, Tibet and Kiribata. Singing and speaking was also Angelique Kidjo born in Benin in West Africa, ”a Grammy award-winning music recording artist deemed “Africa’s premier diva” by Time Magazine.” according to the official web site information.

People were chanting, singing and dancing. Not many could here the speakers but there was very much other things to do. Hundreds and hundreds of different messages on banners and huge stunts of different sorts ranging from NGO lobbyists to anticapitalists.

Photo: http://www.flickr.com/photos/kk/ / CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

“Say hééé! Say hooo! Say Climate Change has got to go!” characterized the atmosphere among the young greens from all over Europe who met and protested together ”for a fair, ambitious and legally-binding agreement.”

The protest involved mainly youth. Jubilee South and Action Aid called for reparations from the First World to repay their ecological debt and aid sustainable development in the Third World.

Green Left Weekly reported vividly from the ”carnival-like atmosphere”:

”An Australian contingent highlighted the issue of global dependence on fossil fuels for power, chanting “Aussie, Aussie, Aussie, quit coal now!”

A satirical contingent of green capitalists raised the issue of greenwashing —dressed tastefully in white, they carried platters of grapes, glasses of champagne and placards reading “Greed is green“, “Bangladesh: buy rubber boots“, “Stop global whining”, “We heart green capitalism” and “We love green, but we love fossil fuels more”.

The lead banner screamed, “Carbon trading: the final solution”. One faux banker urged the crowd to “go home and buy some carbon offsets”.

Protesters chanted: “Carbon trading: big lie.”

Despite the widely acknowledged, clear failure of the COP15 talks, the sentiment among protesters was jubilant, positive and determined. Protesters chanted “Our climate — not your business”, “Our world is not for sale” and “Change the system, not the climate” — in fact, radical politics dominated the crowd, if not the platform.”

Photos: http://www.flickr.com/photos/americagov/ / CC BY-SA 2.0

The start, NTAC and the police provocation

The demonstration was on the move. Tens of thousands followed the indigenous in the front along the stock exchange and across the bridge towards Christianshavn and the South. 41 different blocs were in the demonstration but the decided order was seldom followed. After the indigenous came a banner stating Politicians talk, leaders act with the Greenpeace bloc including both a huge snowman and a globe with a lifebuoy. Then followed the rest of the tcktcktck campaign with 350.org and a van for the Socialist People’s party surrounded by blue balloons with the party logo. After a while followed a new van surrounded by lively social democratic youth from Sweden singing Bella ciao socialists sons from Italy. Soon after Lega Ambiente from Italy and others proudly carried the yellow Don’t Nuke the Climate banner. Spread out were peace organizations and supporters of liberation of countries as Tibet or Iran.

Belgian trade unionists. Photo: http://www.flickr.com/photos/americagov/ / CC BY-SA 2.0

Especially popular was the union bloc with a front banner stating Just transition and people all dressed in green including green helmets. Their popularity along the road was raised as they stopped and then started running quickly. After the union came a banner stating Greenwash warning – Stop false solution made by Friends of the Earth Sweden and then a variety of messages including Radical Climate policy – now or never! WWF followed between red flags with the message Vote Earth for a real deal. A van stating system change not climate change and a banner long after stating the same followed with Socialist parties as the red Green Alliance and the New Anticapitalist party NPA from France. Soon after Attac came carrying a banner saying “Don’t let corporate lobbying destroy our climate” together with groups from everywhere including the libertarian socialist bloc. In the end came development organizations as Action Aid and others. Thus the march had started in a bit of chaos but anyway managed move forward to the South.

Meanwhile at Højbro plads, gathering place announced by Never trust a COP, many hundreds or almost thousand was faced by many policemen. The police started to ask if not NTAC wanted to go along with the march that was not far away but in the opposite direction from what was stated in advance.

Many pictures from the 12 December demonstration including Never trust a COP you can find at gipfelsoli.org here 1, 2, 3

When unwillingly moved towards the main demonstration the black dressed people from the NTAC gathering got a bit dispersed. One bigger part came straight into the Action Now bloc consisting of left wing parties as Red Green Alliance, New Anti Capitalist Party from France and other like minded organisations walking in front of the Climate Justice Action bloc. This caused some confrontations including an incident when one person dressed in black was beaten to the ground by someone in the Action Now bloc. The black dressed newcomers were not especially welcome and able to create disorder in the bloc partly separating it. Soon also stones were thrown at windows at the stock exchange. 9 double windows were broken. Soon after passing a bridge one window was also broken on the foreign ministry at the Christianshavn side of the harbour, a police van was hit and things like firecrackers fired in the direction of the police but no reports state that this did any harm. After these incidents the situation calmed down and the police did not intervene here or later against this part of the demonstration.

Socialist libertationist bloc starts walking. Photo: http://www.flickr.com/photos/americagov/ / CC BY-SA 2.0

Another black dressed group that all along had planned to participate in the main demonstration walked far behind at the end of the large joint system change not climate change section starting with the CJA bloc. After CJA followed among others Friends of the Earth with a sizeable delegation, Via Campesina and movements from the South, Attac and a socialist liberationists bloc were some were dressed in black. From somewhere in this last part of the demonstration one bank window was smashed at the central square in Christianshavn.

The mass arrest of the 918

The police kettle at Amagerbrogade from the Northern side. Photo Avenirclima.info

Half an hour later after passing one more bridge leaving Christianshavn and walking into the Amager district this part of the demonstration was seeing themselves surrounded by heavy police equipment on the Amagerbrogade. The more experienced were able to escape in advance suspicious about the many police vans around. Soon the whole part was stopped very fast by police vehicles that blocked the demonstrators from leaving both from the back and from the front. Only one way was open seemingly without any police in sight. Here a black dressed group started to move quickly soon to be trapped by the police.

Inside the kettle at the beginning. Photo: http://www.flickr.com/photos/kk/ / CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

On Amagerbrogade many people were in quite a good mood as they believed the demonstration only was temporarily stopped by the police as none had seen any immediate reasons for the police to intervene and very few any unruly things happening in their part of the demonstration all along.


At the frontline. People and a public transport activist group from Sweden inside the kettle. Photos: http://www.flickr.com/photos/kk/ / CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

Soon all the rest also on the main street one by one got handcuffed and put into degrading positions shaping line after line in so called fishbone rows. People who had escaped into shops and restaurants were dragged out and all arrested. Some very few were allowed to leave as TV crews and a few other special cases.

Arrested at Amagerbrogade. Photos: http://www.flickr.com/photos/kk/ / CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

Outside the police cordon the reactions were different. At the Bella Center for the first time the TV monitors showed constantly for many hours pictures from the outside world from above on the mass arrested hundreds and hundreds of demonstrators sitting in their fishbone positions hours after hours while delegates looked upon the presented situation. On the street the police had cut the demonstration so both parts of the Attac and the socialist liberationist bloc were trapped but also very many demonstrators of all other kinds as some members of Friends of the Earth, young conservationists, people’s high school students, Hare Krishna nuns, well dressed concerned climate protesters in suits belonging to no group, people from all parts of the world etc. What kept the spirit high was the samba orchestra. Let them go! Let them go! Let them go! the chanting sounded across the police vans between the walls while the drumbeat was shaking the bodies and warmed the hearts. The organizational flags most present outside the police lines were from Attac. Quite a group stayed behind to show their solidarity with those inside the police kettle.

The CJA loud speaker van tried to return to the spot of the arrests but were forced by the police to leave and continue with the main demonstration towards Bella Center. The very last end of the demonstration was directed outside the kettle and joined with the main demonstration. The main demonstration in the hands of the Danish organizers did not bother. On the contrary were the only reported appeals against the mass arrests made by the CJA van outside Bella Center.

Candlelights at Bella Center and vomiting and urinating at Amagerbrogade

Instead the demonstrators were welcomed by disc jockeys and a speech by Mary Robinson, who also started the candle light sea as a sign of hope. The crowd was so huge that most could not see the platform or hear the speakers — instead, the demonstration became a candlelit street party.

At the Bella Center. Photo: http://www.flickr.com/photos/kk/ / CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

Speakers following Robinson were Deepa Gupta, from the lobbyist group inside the Bella Center, Indian Youth Climate Network made her speech before Tom Goldtooth from Indigenous Environmental Network in the US made his contribution. After him followed three Danish parliamentary speakers; Margrete Vestager from the social liberal Radical party, Villy Søvndal, party leader of the Socialist People´s Party and Johanne Schmidt-Nielsen, from red Green Alliance. The parliamentarians were followed by João Felicio, from the trade union CUT in Brazil, speaking on behalf of ITUC, Helen Caldicott, anti nuclear power veteran from the US, Ian Terry, Vestas-worker from Isle of Wight, Lidy Nacpil, from Jubilee South and the Asian Pacific Movement on Debt and Development, the Philippines and ending with Nnimmo Bassey, chairman of Friends of the Earth International, from Environmental Rights Action (ERA), Nigeria. Finally a reused sail with climate messages was delivered to the negotiators represented by the head of the UNFCCC secretariat, Yvo de Boer.

At Amagerbrogade. Photo: http://www.flickr.com/photos/kk/ / CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

Meanwhile the front of the demonstration celebrated its political awareness and peacefulness while sending signals to the politicians inside Bella Center at Amagerbrogade the part of the demonstration left behind in the hands of the police were more and more treated in a degrading manner. ”People fainted, vomited, lay in their own vomit and urinated on themselves when they were refused to go to the bathroom. One guy was unconscious for an hour before he got help. The atmosphere was very unpleasant, and those who stood up because they were unable to sit anymore were brutally suppressed. Victoria and Olof had to stay tied on the icy sidewalk in very uncomfortable positions for more than 4 hours and Olof then transported to jail (as one of the policemen called “Denmark’s Guantanamo”) where he was forced to sit in the intolerable position in several more hours, still without food, water or access to toilets.” – Witness report from Anton Törnberg, Siri Sandin, Viktoria Viklander, Olof Öhrn.

Countless reports made similar statements. In total 918 people were detained. The police had problems transporting the detained into the special prison set up for the occassion at Valby with cages inside a big warehouse. People were thus forced to sit on the cold ground for 4-5 hours.

Also the media was more severely effected then normally. Main stream press and TV reported that unnecessary violence was used when they were taken away from the scene, that policemen consciously blocked the possibility also to cover what happened with tele lenses and that camera equipment was broken by the police or even that journalists were beaten by the police.

Mogens Blicher Bjerregaard, head of the Danish Union of Journalists, demanded a meeting with the chief of police, and says in a statement that he’s never seen so much criticism of the police at the same time.

The head of the police operation Per Larsen told the press that he was sorry if some innocent people have been subject to mass arrests, but that a rapid and consistent effort had been necessary. In a press statement the police explains the reason for the mass arrest: “As a background to the decision to detain the violent group of demonstrators was also to be taken into account the great importance of the large popular demonstration to not be disturbed by people with another agenda,” Thus the police claimed that it was unfortunate that some innocent were among those mass arrested as those detained was a violent group that was a threat to the great demonstration, or as Larsen put it on TV, the dignified manifestation in contrast to the violent group that was necessary to detain to maintain order. The situation was open for the organisers of the demonstration to state if they shared this opinion of a mass arrest of almost one thousand demonstrators.

Mobilization outside and inside the prison

At Christiania on a distance from the demonstration route and after the mass arrests took place some confrontations started with the police. One policemen was hit by a cobble stone but it soon became clear that he was not seriously hurt contrary to some first speculations in the media. One Swedish activist was also slightly injured as a two-inch firecracker he was carrying exploded. Four cars were set on fire. 55 people were arrested in these confrontations.

The strongest response on the mass arrests came inside the prison. ”Suddenly we heard from the room next to us, protesters who are locked in cages and shout ’Let us go, let us go’ and ’no justice no peace fuck the police’. Rapidly the morale increased and the chanting really made an echo, when hundreds join in the choir inside the warehouse. We are denied water and the room fills up more and more.”

Outside the prison there were also protests by people following the call of CJA and some Danish youth left wing organizations. 250 demonstrators demanded free the political prisoners and were met by a strong police force that used their sticks only once keeping the demonstration 300 meters away fro the prison. One person was arrested.

Tord Björk

Content 12 December Initiative – huge success or background for branding?

Success or failure?

Uncertain preparatory process

The global climate day of action 2009

The main demonstration

Three left wing parties supporting the police perspective

December 12 in the media

Movement analysis

A demonstration split twice

You find extensive more material on the lack of left wing collective response to the repression December 12 – 18 and analysis at: The ALBA mass meeting: Full of lost left wing possibilities.

Three left wing parties supports police perspectives

Tord Björk | 12 December Initiative,Action,Climate,police,Propaganda,Repression,Summits | Sunday, March 14th, 2010

Protest outside the Danish parliament december 17. Photo Avenirclima.ínfo

Two left wing parliamentary parties took the lead in addressing the conflict. First was the Red Green Alliance, the most radical parliamentary party in Denmark. In a press release the party strongly condemned activists throwing stones at windows and police. These activists was the main threat against ”peaceful demonstrations” and the cause behind ”if people in the future abstain from participating”. What was important was to involve many people in sending ”a clear signal to those in power”. After this strong message in support of a police perspective placing throwing stones at police and windows in plural on what had happened before the mass arrests the party ended by calling for an investigation of unfortunate police behaviour. A second left wing party followed suit the same evening. The justice affairs spokes person of the Socialist People’s Party, chose to present the same story about activists throwing cobble stones at the police followed by the conclusion: ”When such an incident occurs, I think we all have an expectation that the police intervene and stop such incidents. The alternative could be a smashed city, people randomly hurt or that the large demonstration was stopped and the important message to politicians not delivered. I therefore fully support that the police intervened. It meant that most of the demonstrators could continue peacefully to the Bella Center which they should be thanked for.” The social democrats supported the police even more.

The issue of discipline and capacity to defend participants in a demonstration must be addressed in a time of repressive political climate. But it can be done from a perspective of collective responsibility. One such is made by Gunnar Westin from the 5h International”

”The lack of organisation also meant that a smaller group could break the agreement that had been made with the reformist wing of the movement, about refraining from any actions that could provoke the cops during the march. The attacks on the stock exchange building and the bottle-throwing gave the cops a pretext to attack. Even if the cops bear the responsibility and need to be condemned for their violent practice, the breaking of discipline was a major error. During tightly guarded demonstrations with little preparedness for defence, such actions are irresponsible to say the least.”

The left wing and other Danish political forces responded to the repression in different ways soon changing their positions and starting to criticize each other rather than to defend the democratic right of the climate protesters in Copenhagen. You can follow how different actors chose to state their often shifting opinion day by day here: http://www.aktivism.info/socialforumjourney/?p=1169

Tord Björk

Content 12 December Initiative – huge success or background for branding?

Success or failure?

Uncertain preparatory process

The global climate day of action 2009

The main demonstration

Three left wing parties supporting the police perspective

December 12 in the media

Movement analysis

A demonstration split twice

You find extensive more material on the lack of left wing collective response to the repression December 12 – 18 and analysis at: The ALBA mass meeting: Full of lost left wing possibilities.

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