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

Hacia COP16 en Mexico

Tord Björk | civil disobedience,class struggle,Climate,Summits,WSF | Thursday, June 3rd, 2010

Una mujer se abre el Foro Social Mundial Tematico en la Ciudad de México con discusiones entre el movimiento mexicana e internacional sobre la cumbre del clima en Cancun

Cinco iniciativas de movimientos mexicanos rumbo a la Cumbre del Clima en Cancun fueron presentadas en dos reuniones durante el Foro Social Mundial Temático del 2 al 4 de mayo en la Ciudad de Mexico y durante una reunión ad hoc durante las reuniones internacionales del Foro Social Mundial.
En parte las iniciativas se intercalaban entre si. El contenido político y qué organizaciones respaldaban las diferentes iniciativas era un tanto incierto. EN parte porque algunos no estaban presentes durante la primera reunión, como Klimaforum 10 y la Via Campesina, en parte porque lo que se necesita hacer y lo que esto demanda todavía falta por discutirse. Las cinco iniciativas fueron;

Plastica social, modernidad y cambio climatico – bandera en FSM tematico

1.       Las reuinones sin nombre, despues algunos nombraron estas reuniones como Frente Amplio, un clásico concepto de izquierda Latino Americana. 6 de dichas reuniones se han llevado a cabo. Los participantes son redes que cooperan internacionalmente con movimientos anti capitalistas y de otras índoles en America Latina, al igual que con ONGs como Greenpeace y otras organizaciones comerciales ecologistas, así como con pequeñas organizaciones ecologistas de base.

2.       La campaña por la Justicia Climática hacia Cancun, una campaña latinoamericana que tampoco tiene nombre todavía, es apoyada por organizaciones como RMALC (Red Mexicana de Accion Contra el Libre Comercio) que surge a partir de las luchas en contra del TLCAN. Este grupo participa en las reuniones amplias y describe su propósito como participando en las reuniones amplias para llegar a acuerdos con ONGs ambientalistas más grandes, generalmente tienen financiamiento internacional, trabajando bajo una plataforma en común hacia Cancun  (estas ONGs ambientalistas son algunas veces mencionadas como importantes, ya que estan organizando una campaña ambiental llamada “Pintale la Raya al Cambio Climático” http://pintalelaraya.org <http://pintalelaraya.org/>  Se debe hacer notar que en general, los afiliados en America Latina con grandes ONGs  comerciales como Greenpeace y redes provenientes del Norte como Climate Action Network (CAN) son un poco mas radicales que sus contrapartes en Estados Unidos o en Europa, pero por supuesto lejos de las posturas mucho mas radicales de las pequeñas  organizaciones de base ecologistas y de una claro punto de vista de Justicia Climática Ahora. Para ver la diferencia vean Pintale la Raya al Cambio Climático como ejemplo.

Taller informativo con Silvia Ribeiro de ETC sobre crisis climatico y agricultura campesina en FSM tematico

3.       Organizaciones de base y en parte o casi toda Via Campesina Mexico. Esto fue presentado como una rama que no estaba completamente integrada dentro de las otras iniciativas.

4.       Klimaforum 10 – una iniciativa de pequeñas organizaciones de base ecologistas con tintes de justicia social bajo una plataforma radical similar a la de Cochabamba y la declaración del Klimaforum 09 que excluye a Climate Action Network (CAN) y a su campaña tcktcktck promovida por Greenpeace y otros. Algunos de los grupos ecologistas detrás de la iniciativa del  Klimaforum10 tienen demandas mucho mas radicales sobre emisiones, crecimiento y cambio social que las ONGs ambientalistas y hasta Climate Justice Now, pero para tener una plataforma amplia para el Klimaforum10 basado en los derechos de la Madre tierra, los derechos humanos y derechos de los migrantes y la declaración “cambia el sistema no el clima” de Copenahague. En lo general la gente involucrada en el Klimaforum10 eran mucho más abiertos y transparentes en el contenido, ambos en sus puntos de vista y como para  lo que esperaban de una plataforma común. Estas declararon tambien los puntos donde las diferentes organizaciones de base podrían tener diferentes puntos de vista. Ellos dijeron: ellos están por los derechos de los animales, y para ir directo al punto están en contra del capitalismo, pero también están en contra del socialismo cuando éste es desarrollista, el cual es el caso de muchos partidos políticos de izquierda en America Latina y de acuerdo con su experiencia, también lo son en la Cuenca del Valle de Mexico. Esta es la razón por la cual todas están de acuerdo con la declaración de Cochabamba sobre los derechos de la Madre Tierra con una excepción, la noción del socialismo. Ellos han sido la única fuerza en las discusiones sobre justicia climatica aquí en las reuniones del FSM sobre cooperación sobre la justicia climática que han mencionado positivamente a los movimientos tipo Zapatistas mientras se han visto escépticos hacia los partidos de izquierda. Ellos fueron también los únicos que mencionaron a la  Mesa 18 crítica del sistema donde grupos de indígenas y grupos ecologistas coincidieron en oponerse a la minería y otros proyectos de desarrollo que causan problemas sociales y ambientales en Bolivia y en países del ALBA.  A la Mesa 18 no se le permitió ser parte de las reuniones oficiales en Cochabamba. Que el Klimaforum10 mencionara a la Mesa 18 no fue visto positivamente por algunos de los toros grupos presentes que pertenecían a la fuerza más poderosa de Cochabamba. El Klimaforum10 tiene a 18 personas involucradas voluntariamente y se reúnen dos veces por semana. Ellos se han puesto en contacto con la Secretaria de Relaciones Exteriores para apoyo en la infraestructura.

Grupos de base ecologistas muestran las cocinas solares

5.       Grupos de base ecologistas en la región de Cancun. Fundacion sin Fronteras que trabaja en temas ambientales y de economía solidaria, en conjunto con otros grupos con puntos de vista similares en la región presentaron su situación. El comité danés Peoples Climate Action (la coordinación de organizaciones grandes de ONGs de la campaña tcktcktck durante el COP15 en Copenhagen) visitaron Cancun y llevaron a cabo una reunión para todos los interesados. El gobierno local “de izquierda” han hecho una ONG con una sola persona en la posición clave, previamente del gobierno local.

Como las organizaciones locales de base son escépticas hacia el gobierno de izquierda, y sus antecedentes, ellos han mantenido en cooperación pero sin recibir recursos. La primera reunión fue llevada a cabo el lunes. La reunión fue moderada por una persona muy joven de la fundación Boell la cual está ligada al partido verde Alemán y es una de las principales donantes de las grandes ONGs Mexicanas  y de sus proyectos. La moderadora intervino bastante en la discusión. Se dijo que la principal contradicción en el trabajo Mexicano rumbo a Cancun era la relación con el gobierno. En que temas se llevaba esta relación no fue mencionado, lo cual hizo la discusión algo obscura. El  Centro Mexicano de Derecho Ambiental no parecia estar en contra de tener ciertos contactos con el gobierno, mientras la RMALC se oponía. Ambos grupos participaron en las discusiones amplias sin dar nombre.

La discusión fue extensa pero no hizo el contenido político claro. Existe una fuerte cooperación en America Latina entre redes bien establecidas que utilizaron las reuniones en Cochabamba para desarrollar su trabajo hacia Cancun. Era claro que también habían muchas organizaciones pequeñas de base, especialmente rurales que llevaban su propia discusión bajo su propia agenda. Todos los grupos declararon que no era necesario desarrollar más conciencia sobre el cambio climático y la justicia climática en Mexico.

Climate Justice and Class Struggles after Cochabamba

Electricians on hunger strike against privatization at Thematic World Social Forum at Zócalo in Mexico City 2010

Contribution made at Foro Social Mundial Tematico at Zocalo in the historical centre of Mexico City, 3rd of May, 2010 as a panelist on the theme: Change the system, not the climate saving the planet and constructing another way of life for humanity. The text has been constructed afterwards based on the notes made for the speech with alterations and additions, especially of quotes from declarations made in Copenhagen and Cochabamba.

Tord Björk

There are three cardinal points for solving the climate change issue. The first is the balance between rural and urban class struggle. The second hope. The third is the work for constructing alternatives to the dominant development model in the countryside, in the city and in the world by safeguarding existing or creating new ways of living well.

1. The balance of rural and urban class struggles

Climate change is a political question were the issue of social justice is central. Without social justice no long term solution can be found for the transition towards a sustainable society necessary for solving the climate dilemma. Thus both rural and urban class struggles are at the core of a solution to the problem. This social struggle is at times supplemented and even overshadowed by struggles that primarily are based on interests across class divisions as for transition to a carbon free economy, the nation state or the local community. Or struggles that are primarily focusing on ideological identities as reformism, degrowth, anti patriarchy, ecosocialism or revolutionary anti capitalism. Such ideologies are of importance to connect different local struggles. But in the end climate change is a material issue and thus class struggle with its immediate and situational conditions place a central role.

Climate justice is about changing our relationship with nature. Thus at the forefront are the direct producers in agriculture, forestry and fisheries. But also the direct producers in industry have a key role as workers in societies processing of raw material and material goods.

The importance of both rural and urban class struggles in important social issues and political struggles is not historically new. The first successful working class revolution started in Haiti 1791 among plantation slaves against the plantation owners who finally were thrown out of the country in 1804. The democratic and social progress during the 20th century built upon peasant revolutions in different parts of the world which paved the way for later industrial worker’s revolutions and reformist successes.

This has not been properly recognized. The left is primarily building its theory on an understanding were the urban proletariat is in conflict with capital ands rural population are considered as marginal or backward. Thus is the Russian revolution in 1902 that inaugurated the revolutionary era a hundred years ago made invisible in the way that the left wing writes history, in spite of that this peasant revolution was contributing the critical mass the coming decades to change the system in Russia. The Mexican peasant revolution in 1910 and the Indian peasant revolution beginning in 1917 shows the importance of the peasants world wide in struggling for social change against the system.

In Mexico we also see the differences between rural and urban class struggle were also left wing tendencies claiming to be more libertarian have shown its urban bias. In the 1910s the Mexican trade unions were among the strongest in all of Latin America if not the strongest. They worked in an Anarcho-syndicalist tradition in the Casa del Obrero Mundial preferring economic struggle and were critical towards political parties. Yet they quickly chose the side against agrarian revolution which they saw as an expression of backwardness and preferred seeing themselves as the civilized urban industrial vanguard. Furthermore they  were promoted by constitutionalist forces who struggled against both the old conservative institutions which threatened to recreate the dictatorship and the peasant revolution. With a constitutional reform the syndicates would in the future be given a role at the negotiation table of society. Thus the Anarcho-syndicalist trade union used its red battalions in the civil war against the Zapatismo. Once the peasant revolution was defeated with the help of the red battalions the constitutionalist forces that had promoted the trade unions turned against them, disbanded the red battalions and forcibly closed the syndicates. So much for the liberal promises of having a say at the stake holders negotiations tables.

The urban bias has been a problem in much of the struggle for social change the last one hundred years. Although anti colonialism and anti imperialism and the modern welfare state has been successes in many aspects the tendency is that the successes has been favouring the urban population more than the rural. Even when efforts are made to support production in rural areas the tendency has been to promote industrialisation of agriculture thus further moving power of the rural production out of the hands of rural communities to transnational companies and their offices in the cities or in the hands of state bureaucracies.

The main focus of the dominant struggles claimed to be left wing have also been either issues of redistribution of wealth or becoming a representative voice at different levels of governance as the Anarcho-syndicalists in Mexico hoped for in the 1910s. Recently this hope has especially developed around global institutions or renewed hopes for social partnership at the national or regional level, still a main strategy within the trade unions. The development model as such or the necessity of social revolutionary changes both rural and urban have been left out of focus.

That the urban bias still is a problem today is reflected after the globally important changes in government in Latin America. They are in many ways progressive and especially the Bolivian government puts an emphasis on the indigenous struggle and thus also the rural. The tendency is anyway that the dominant development model is continued including giving better conditions for the urban population while the rural population is lagging behind and environmentally and socially damaging extractive exploitation is continuing against the protests of local rural communities. This contradiction was also expressed at the Peoples Conference on Climate Change at Cochabamba in April 2010 when working group 18 (Mesa 18) that dealt with these issues was excluded from the conference

Thus the balance between rural and urban class struggles are important in all parts of the world as a key to understanding how to proceed in the struggle for climate justice. This is a balance that primarily is directed towards the need of the ongoing struggles and not any correct version of an ideology as when the Anarcho-syndicalists went to war against the Zapatistas in the 1910 as they were suspicious about the religious nature of the peasant revolution.

It is also necessary to look more precisely at what political demands can specifically help the rural and urban class struggles built upon climate justice. There is a class struggle going on outside the context of climate justice but it is only by linking the demands to the climate issues the specific new possibilities for alliances can be built to further strengthen the direct producers in their struggle against owners of means of production.

This means that in the case of peasants it is the struggle against agroindustry and its dependence on oil economy and the support of agriculture built on the photosynthesis in the hands of family farmers and small peasants or local communities that is a key to success when using the alliances on climate change issues rather than food sovereignty although the latter partly can be used as a model for building a sustainable agriculture. Likewise it is the struggle against the way that the industrial production is organized by the owners of the means of production making workers powerless and taking their creativity away by directing production towards fossil fuel based models and individual consumerist goods rather than goods of use for collective consumption. A political and economical struggle for other sustainable content of the production than that ordered by the owners of capital and their allies.

Of importance are both rural and urban class struggles mobilizating in conflicts concerning both production and consumption and the way the society is organized. Struggles sometimes to defend positions already gained important for climate justice but under threat. Such as more equal distribution of wealth of importance for changing consumption patterns and challenging the power of the rich, occupying a wind power plant as on Isle of Wight in UK in an attempt to stop the closure, or struggling against mining and other exploitation threatening the life of rural working classes and local communities. Struggles were also solidarity action are of importance.

The balance between rural and urban class struggle is not only a question for peasants and workers but also for others. Also wage earners in service and other occupations may have strong interest in the results of a united struggle against those in power of the means of production. At times such social forces that are not rural or urban direct producers may have a more consistent view on the need for changing society in ecological or feminist perspectives. In the climate justice issue such cross class alliance is soemtimes of crucial importance.

The NGO policy industry working within the limitations of the system can at times find issues of wider importance. But there is a great risk that the issues are framed in a technical lobby language making them socially neutral. How the issues are connected to daily life and the daily class struggle is in this way made obscure. The tendency may instead become fragmentization of politics separating an international level or national policy area from politics of interest and possible to influence by lay persons in their daily struggle.

There is also an academic industry promoting the self appraisal among NGOs proclaiming that the class struggle is dead and we instead have the almost limitless success of new forms of organizations, often stating environmental and development NGOs as the most advanced forms in modern politics. A global civil society replacing class struggles with NGOs focusing on well defined rational areas or ways of ways of working. Or identity politics instead of struggles in solidarity for material interests were the important matter is to have your voice heard and not so much changes in material relationships between human beings or between human beings and the rest of nature.

Alberto from Via Campesina Mexico and Silvia Ribeiro from ETC group at seminar at Zócalo

Contrary to this view on politics the rural class struggle have been central to the emergence of the anti-globalization movement and the democratization of global popular movements allied to each other. The most decisive political actor that has united and radicalized the climate justice movement is the peasant movement Via Campesina. This influence has been strongly felt in global politics since the creation of People’s Global Action (PGA) in Geneva in 1998 and the successful anti privatization struggles in Cochabamba ten years ago were also a PGA meeting was held in 2001. Together with the mainly rural indigenous movements and the Zapatistas Via Campesina has been able to challenge the mainly urban NGO lobby industry. Especially successful since the creation of an alternative to the policy and lobby oriented Climate Action Network by the more political and popular movement oriented Climate Justice Now in 2007. This became clearly evident during the combination of mass activities during the climate summit in Copenhagen 2009. Here Via Campesina was the key mass movement that supported the Reclaim power direct action at the Bella Center fomenting the alliances between the different forms of struggle with the same political message – System change not climate change.

In Copenhagen the Klimaforum declaration System change not climate change clearly acknowledge a community-based approach but also the need for both rural and urban class struggle as well as other contradictions within a local community or society. Community based approaches are not enough ” On the contrary, it will need stronger alliances within and across all borders between direct producers in agriculture, forestry, fisheries, and industry. Alliances also built on the strength of gender equality and on recognizing and overcoming unjust power relations at all levels.”

The Peoples Agreement issued at the Cochabamba meeting takes a step further in both criticising capitalism and promoting indigenous perspectives. But it is less clear about class struggle and which is the actor that can contribute to social revolutionary change. The primary actor in the agreement is a ”we” and capitalism as a system should be confronted to a large extent by demanding rights. Thus when it comes to class struggle and recognizing contradictions the Peoples Agreement from Cochabamba is a step backward.

The statement issued by the excluded working group 18 (Mesa 18) in Cochabamba have a message more similar to the Klimaforum declaration both in terms of its focus on community approach and social struggles: ”New Model of Managing Natural Resources to counter the capitalist production model still prevalent in Latin America. which is situated in industrial development and the consolidation of transnationals, funded in private property, individual gain and consumerism, aspects which have been put to judgement by the nations and the people of Latin America. The development plans of these governments, including the Bolivian government, only reproduce the development model of the past.

To challenge climate change humanity needs to remember its cultural collective communitarian roots – this means building a society based on collective property and in the communal and rational management of natural resources, where the peoples decide in a direct way the destiny of natural wealth in accordance with their organising structures, their self determination, their norms and procedures and their vision of how to manage their territories.

History teaches us that there is only one effective way to transform society and to construct a social alternative to capitalism, that is the permanent mobilisation and articulation of our struggles.
….
Because of the lack of the will from governments of the world – we demand the power, as social organisations and farmers/peasants, to define a new management model and direct control of natural patrimony. With direct control by the workers from the farm and the city to establish policies of managing biodiversity in relation to necessity and not the dependence of our countries.”

(From unofficial translation at: http://cochabamba2010.typepad.com/blog/2010/05/mesa-18-declaration-english-spanish.html)

So the Klimaforum declaration and the Mesa 18 declaration Cochabamba is a more important base for maintaining the understanding of a balance between rural and urban class struggle than the Peoples Agreement from Cochabamba. Making the balance of rural and urban class struggles is essential in the cooperation ahead which today means primarily to raise the awareness and solidarity with the class struggle of the peasants world wide, a task one can hope becomes central in the Mexican and international mobilization towards Cancun and COP16.

2. Celebration of hope

Jyri Jaakola with the Finnish solidarity ship Estelle

Hope is essential to us all. The hope that grows in our hearts when we struggle collectively without illusions and with love. With that almost all is said. I just want to add to the commemoration of the murdered activists Beatriz Carino and Jyri Jaakola killed a week ago in Oaxaca while defending an autonomous commune. As Jyri came from Finland I would like to honour him with a song from Finland. It comes from the Åland island which is a Swedish speaking part of the country. It has a content and a melody quite different from the way Beatriz was celebrated yesterday here at Forum Social Mundial with a standing applause. In the Nordic countries commemoration is rather made by calling for a minute of silence and our traditional songs are rather melancholic than moving hearts by clapping hands. I will sing the song first in Swedish and then explain it in Spanish.

In Swedish:

Vem kan segla förutan vind?
Vem kan ro utan åror?
Vem kan skiljas från vännen sin
utan att fälla tårar?

Jag kan segla förutan vind,
jag kan ro utan åror,
men ej skiljas från vännen min
utan att fälla tårar.

In Spanish:

Quien puede navegar sin velas?
Quien puede remar sin remos?
Quien se puede separar de un amigo
sin lagrimas?

Puedo Navegar sin velas,
Puedo remar sin remos,
Pero no me puedo separar de un amigo
sin lagrimar

(In English:

Who can sail without the wind,
Who can row without an oar,
Who can leave behind a friend,
Without just one tear to pour?

I can sail without the wind,
I can row without an oar,
But I cannot leave a friend,
Without just one tear to pour.)

The melody is simple. You find it at http://www.ifisk.net/svenskfinland/vemkansegla.htm

Tord Björk singing in honour of Jyri Jaakola

3. A constructive Program

How is it possible to combine hope and struggle? The key to this combination is a constructive program. Here Klimaforum09 is an example of how it is possible for small groups to do the impossible by focusing beyond demands in reaction to the official UN agenda. On the one hand by making alliances with the international popular movements built on democratic principles having a leadership that is representing the global majority and thus with strong third world influence to have a stable ground for rejecting the false solutions promoted inside the negotiations. On the other side primarily focusing on alternatives.

How is this than possible? International politics is both at the governmental and the so called civil society level dominated by the agenda set by governments. Highly specialized NGOs have emerged with professionals following these negotiations and scrutinizing the content. This is a necessary work to be able to understand and defend important political demands. But it is also important to win the hearts of people and make politics understandable to have a constructive program that shows ways to solve the social and ecological problem at hand.

This struggle for a constructive program is less of interest to main stream NGOs getting their legitimacy from contributing constructively within the frame work of the system to negotiations and public debate. At least if the constructive program concern conflicts and is not primarily ideas about how market mechanisms or technical improvements can solve the climate crisis or changes in individual moral or ideology.

In Denmark ahead of COP15 the problems was aggravated as main stream organizations were about thousand times bigger in membership than organizations promoting system critical constructive programs. With lack of economic resources and professional staff the system critical organizations seemed helpless compared to the huge organizations as the Danish Conservation Society with 140 000 members in a country with 5 million inhabitants.

Initiated by an international permaculture meeting in Brazil 2007 small Danish ecological organizations and soon also a small member organization of Via Campesina, an organization with fisherfolks and Attac started to prepare a proposal for a counter summit during COP15. As they all were small lacking resources they approached the big main stream NGOs for cooperation to be able to host the tens of thousands of expected visitors to the Climate Summit in Copenhagen and the many alternative activities. But the main stream NGOs refused as they saw no purpose in organizing such an peoples event. They had all the access to the politicians they wanted as they had gained accreditation to the official conference venue and was in no need of any other activity to reach their goal embedded as they are in the language and procedures of the official negotiations.

Thus the small organizations were left with no other choice than to go on by themselves and so they did. They applied for support from the right wing government that was faced by a severe problem of legitimacy as they more than the main stream NGOs knew that for the legitimacy of international negotiations to close the possibility for alternative independent voices to be heard is against international standards. The government did what they could to both give money for a civil society forum but hand the power of the money over to NGOs and the small organizations leaving to others to decide. This caused furious conflict between the big NGOs who now when there was money were eager to get control of the proposal for a Klimaforum and the small organizations that refused to back on their original plan for a Klimaforum based on refusal of false solutions against the interests of many main stream NGOs eager to present themselves as responsible and supporters of such things as carbon trading. The small organizations did not give in and thus Klimaforum could finally be established against the interest of both the Danish government and the main stream NGOs.

It was also partly against the interest of the well established network for popular movements and NGOs for Climate Justice policy making during the climate negotiations, CJN and of course against the interest of Climate Action Network, CAN that more firmly is adopted to the rules of the lobby system. The relationship between established international representative levels of organizations and the local and national level during such occasions as a summit is always problematic. The cooperation between different organizations internationally is already a delicate matter. Adding to that the specific circumstances in which every political culture acts and reacts to political initiatives makes the situation even more complicated. Not so much for specialized NGOs that can work far above local realities but certainly for popular movements with popular participation as their main force. This main force is primarily possible to mobilize inside the country were the summit takes place. It cannot with any sustained result be imported from other countries.

Thus there was a conflict between the Danish organizations and the established CJN network. The Danes wanting to built a broad alliance for climate justice focusing not only on demands towards the UN summit but mainly on alternatives and a sustainable transition while CJN saw a problem in yet one more statement and how problematic it is to get many organizations united. Against the will of the Danes to make a declaration at the Klimaforum CJN organizations noted that it took one year to come to consensus on three bullet points in their common CJN agenda.

But the Danes had already received good support for their declaration process especially from the third world and wanted to go along anyway, a difference of opinion that was finally solved by building on the positions of CJN in the part addressing the UN negotiations while going deeper into the issues of how a social change and a constructive program for agriculture, forestry, town planning, energy, transport and industry can be constructed. This was well received by 500 organizations world wide signing on to the declaration that gave a lot more political coherence to both the Klimaforum activities with 50 0000 participants and the political linkage of the system change not climate change bloc in the main demonstration 12´th of December and the Reclaim power action on 16th of December. There were differences in the views on what forms to chose for the struggle but not much concerning the content of the different climate justice mass activities in Copenhagen.

Thus Klimaforum09 was a breakthrough for going beyond a UN agenda addressing the need for social revolutionary constructive programs for rural, urban and industrial reforms. The Peoples agreement from Cochabamba was in this aspect a step backward as the main focus here was on demands in relationship to the UN negotiations or demanding a set of rights. Here again the working group 18 had more the same kind of focus as Kliamforum09.

Every movement needs to be able to defend itself, to mobilize enough resources for its actions and a critical mass that can make a difference. The Cochabamba meeting had these qualities. In spite of the limitations of the UN system it is also the result of earlier social struggles manifested by the victory over Nazi Germany in the World War II  and the declaration of indivisible social and democratic human rights. With all their limitations such rights have been important to defend people and overcome oppression at times. UN has also sometimes played a progressive role in the struggle against colonialism and imperialism and at least in earlier days on environmental issues as sulphur dioxide emissions. Contrary to many other global institutions as WTO, IMF or groupings as G8 or G20, UN is an institution that is not completely an expression of the will of the rich and powerful nations but poses a possibility for defending important principles in international affairs. But this possibility depends on the strength of popular movements and their influence on governments which in general at the present moment is weak in many countries. The Cochabamba meeting can be seen as an expression of challenging the super powers and the rich nations within the system in a way that creates important venues for differences among the elite which again can open up for new more offensive possibilities.

Thus focusing alone on well formulated demands in relationship to the UN climate negotiation agenda is far from enough. It is necessary to build further on both a more conflict oriented social struggles agenda and a broad based social revolutionary constructive program for land, urban and industrial reform. We need a transition of agriculture from fossil fuel based to photosynthesis based in the hands of direct producers, We need planting of nutritious native trees for local community needs, we need building and rebuilding of housing and other buildings including the energy and transport systems based on social needs and organized by commons or public efforts against the interest of privatizations of all services, we need town planning against the occupation of public space by consumerist propaganda and cars.

“The art of living well”, participants at the social forum at Zócalo 2010

In Copenhagen 40 percent of the population use bicycles for their daily transport and it is now discussed how to create waves on the bike paths to avoid the rush hour queuing at red traffic signal and instead make the cars wait. The construction workers in Denmark propose a program for rebuilding houses making them climate friendly and the Danish peasant organization member of Via Campesina promotes a land reform. In Malmö next to Copenhagen in Sweden young activist in the Reclaim the fields movement started by Via Campesina grow food for the activists that came to COP15 and served for free. Now they are building a urban farming movement to strengthen local communities. In the Cancun region local ecological groups in an area with very little social cohesion and heavy under pressure from tourism exploitation are trying to create solidarity economy and ecological alternatives to the dominant development model. All over the world constructive alternatives are possible to win and to struggle for and unite beyond alliances for demands towards international negotiations.

Thus one can hope that a combination of the Klimaforum declaration from Copenhagen and both the Peoples Agreement and Mesa 18 declarations from Cochabamba can inspire the Mexican initiatives towards Cancun and the international mobilization to bring us steps beyond the official UN agenda towards more of social struggle and a constructive program to solve the climate problem in a way that also can solve other social and ecological problems.

Tord Björk

Open letter to Latin American organizations on cooperation towards COP16

Mexican flag above the Thematic World Social Forum at Zócalo in Mexico City 2010

Open letter to Latin American organizations on cooperation towards COP16
Cc Concerned Mexican organizations, CJA and CJN.

As Latin American organizations you have in an open letter addressed the issue of cooperation towards COP16 and especially pointed at Mexican organizations involved in the Pintale las rayas al cambio climatico campaign as your prefered cooperation partner while opposing the Mexican grass rooot organizations supporting the Klimaforum10 initiative.

This choice of cooperation partners and criteria chosen for making the choice between the two is of global interest. COP16 is a challenge after the failure of the official process and the successful combination of mass activities in Copenhagen as well as the Cochabamba meeting to protect mother earth. Both the mass activities carried out by Climate Justice Action, Klimaforum09, and Climate justice Now with the common demand – ”System change – not climate change” and the Cochabamba meeting was a major step towards marginalizing the role of professionalized often Northern based NGOs in world politics, groups like Greenpeace and Oxfam with their main cooperation partners in Climate Action Network and the tcktcktck campaign.

Your proposal for carrying forward these alliances that marginalized the professional NGOs makes it necessary to put some questions.

1. The climate campaign Pintale las rayas al cambio climatico you state as a main Mexican cooperation partner. This campaign is dominated in my opinion by Greenpeace, Oxfam and Mexican organizations funded by the Boell foundation linked to the German Green party. This means a strong European influence in the climate cooperation towards Cancun you prefer. The promoters of the Klimaforum10 initiative are indepedent Mexican ecological grass roots organization as Ecomunidades and Cambios that do not have international funding for their daily work or are part of transnational organizations with the leadership in the North. Why do you criticize Klimaforum10 for being strongly influenced by European interests when in fact it is rather the cooperation you prefer who can rightly be questioned for the same thing? Why do you put geograhic critieria as a main argument for your position rather than political arguments?

2. The Mexican grass roots organizations are firmly against all false solutions on climate change and support fully the Climate Justice Now platform. The organizations you prefer have stated at the Foro Social Mundial tematico that they want to combine both CJN and Climate Action Network positions. Why do you prefer to disregard the steps forward taken in Copenhagen were Klimaforum09, CJN and CJA jointly were able to marginalise the CAN professional NGOs and replace their lobbying with a joint System change not climate change message?

3. Greenpeace, Oxfam, Iniciativa 350 México, (Initiative 350), Heinrich Böll Stiftung. Oficina México, Centroamérica y el Caribe. Boell Fundation – Mexican office for Central America and the Carribean, Centro Mexicano de Derecho Ambiental, (Mexican Center for Environmental Rights) Presencia Ciudadana, (Citizens presence) and Pronatura have in a joint Mexican position paper on REDD, reduction of emissions from deforestration and forest degradation, and other COP issues declared their positive affirmation of this instrument if it is not funded by market mechanisms and indigenous peoples rights are respected. But the concerns raised by many mass movements completly rejecting REDD like in India or among system critical organizations following the process are not only an issue of financing mechanisms and rights. It is also that in practice rights are quite often not followed  and the general push for saving the climate through monoculture plantations. Critical concerns about REDD that is also reflected in the statements made by the Cochabamba Climate Conference. The Klimaforum09 declaration does the opposite from what the Mexican NGOs prefer to do. In the declaration REDD is denounced  and instead a call is made for ”An immediate ban on deforestation on primary forests and the parallell initiation of an ambitious global tree-planting program based on native and diverse species in partnership with indigenous peoples and forest depedent communities.” These ideas are shared by the Cochabamba meeting as well as the Mexican grass root groups supporting the Klimaforum10 initiative, groups that have a long standing record of being indepedent from the envrionmental NGOs participating in sustainable development lobbying within the system. On which side are you politically in the conflict between main stream environmental NGOs like Greenpeace, Boell fundation and Oxfam and grass root environmental groups as Ecomunidades and the consensus reached in Cochabamba?

4. The Klimaforum09 did not allow political parties being members of the host committee although they in their own name could organize activities during the forum. The Mexican grass root organizations behind the Klimaforum10 are also sceptical towards political parties as members of a host committee. Is this a problem for you or your Mexican cooperation partners?

Tord Björk

On behalf of myself

Member of Friends of the Earth Sweden climate working group and the Peasant and indigenous committee

Message from Latinamerican organizations on Klimaforum10: http://www.aktivism.info/socialforumjourney/?p=1607
Report from Mexico by Christophe Aguiton and Nicola Bullard: http://www.climate-justice-now.org/the-mobilisation-for-cancun
Píntale las rayas al cambio climático: http://pintalelaraya.org
Mexican NGOs on REDD and other COP issues in Spanish: http://www.boell-latinoamerica.org/web/117.html or direct link to pdf file: http://www.boell-latinoamerica.org/downloads/10_puntos_Esenciales_Copenhage_final.pdf
A People’s Declaration from Klimaforum09: System change – not climate chnage:
http://declaration.klimaforum.org/declaration/english
Peoples Agreement, Cochabamba: http://pwccc.wordpress.com/2010/04/24/peoples-agreement

Mensaje de organizaciones latinoamericanas sobre Klimaforum10

Climate panel at the Foro Social Mundial tematico seen as a model for Cancun by some Mexican actors as RMALC opposing Klimaforum10. To the left Alejandro Villamar from RMALC, in the middle and to the right Francois Houtart. Tord Björk was the fourth participant in the panel here taking the photo.

La Alianza Social Continental, Jubileo Sur/Américas, CLOC-Via Campesina, Amigos de la Tierra América Latina y el Caribe (ATALC), REBRIP, RMALC, Marcha Mundial de las Mujeres, Coordinadora Andina de Organizaciones Indígenas (CAOI), la Convergencia de los Movimientos de los Pueblos de las Américas (COMPA) y CADTM Abya Yala estamos comprometidos en la construcción de un proceso de movilización conjunta en torno a la problemática del Cambio Climático, sus causas estructurales y sus reales soluciones.En este proceso, identificamos algunos momentos importantes en los próximos meses, como la cumbre Enlazando Alternativas, el Foro Social Américas y la realización de la COP16 en Cancún. Dado que el tema de esta última es el cambio climático, será especialmente estratégica para el conjunto del movimiento mundial sobre justicia climática.

Como se mencionó en la carta de la Asamblea de Movimientos Sociales, realizada en el marco de la Conferencia Mundial de los Pueblos sobre el Cambio Climático en Cochabamba “Evaluamos que la cuestión del cambio climático es importante junto a otras manifestaciones de la crisis sistémica global. Para confrontar realmente la ofensiva imperialista debemos frenar la militarización de nuestros territorios y la criminalización de los movimientos sociales, toda la agenda neocolonial contenida en los Tratados de Libre Comercio, el endeudamiento ilegítimo, el poder de las transnacionales y especialmente el modelo del agronegocio y extractivo que promueven en la privatización de la vida y la naturaleza”.

Durante la conferencia de Cochabamba discutimos y avanzamos en consolidar las alianzas con el ánimo de afianzar un proceso de movilización hacia Cancún, lo suficientemente sólido para darle continuidad posteriormente. En ese sentido, se resaltó la importancia de  retomar y seguir construyendo a partir de las experiencias anteriores, como la de la lucha contra el ALCA, que permitió identificar puntos de encuentro y luchas comunes entre los movimientos sociales del continente que nos oponemos a este modelo económico y social. Estas luchas han sido visibilizadas de muchas maneras, incluyendo a través de la realización de Cumbres de los Pueblos, que son momentos de resistencia, debate, construcción colectiva y movilización. Estas Cumbres constituyen una tradición para los movimientos de todo el hemisferio y tienen una legitimidad ganada como espacio de lucha frente a las distintas iniciativas neoliberales en contra de los pueblos.

En consecuencia, frente a la COP16 en Cancún, consideramos que es fundamental fortalecer el proceso continental, articulando con redes y organizaciones de otras regiones del mundo, como lo hemos hecho también anteriormente. Si bien respetamos y valoramos la experiencia del Klimaforum, éste respondía al contexto europeo y danés, específicamente. Intentar trasladarlo o importarlo a nuestra región implica desconocer la realidad de nuestras luchas, así como la identidad y la historia de las movilizaciones en el continente.

Reconocemos la importancia de llevar a cabo articulaciones con otras regiones, en especial en torno a este tema, cuyas implicaciones afectan a los pueblos de todo el mundo. De acuerdo con el espíritu de lo acordado en Cochabamaba, la prioridad es nutrirse y articularse con las campañas, redes y organizaciones regionales y globales que en los últimos años han trabajado para enfrentar el cambio climático y defender los derechos de la Madre Tierra, y otras redes, organizaciones regionales y globales sectoriales y temáticas que han asumido el mismo compromiso. Muchas de nuestras redes y movimientos tienen trabajo a nivel mundial. En ese sentido, creemos que la convocatoria y las movilizaciones de Copenhague fueron muy importantes y es necesario darle continuidad a las alianzas que allí se consolidaron y que también venían de procesos anteriores. Sin embargo, ello no puede resultar en un desconocimiento de los procesos nacionales y regionales.

En relación con el trabajo que se está desarrollando en México, consideramos importante plantear algunas precisiones: existen varios grupos de organizaciones sociales de todo el país que está trabajando en consolidar un espacio amplio de convergencia y movilización. Este trabajo es el resultado de una autoconvocatoria de todos los interesados (entre ellos RMALC, las organizaciones mexicanas que forman parte de la campaña “Píntale la raya al cambio” , Otros Mundos, organizaciones de todos los sectores sociales incluidos miembros de Vía campesina, y algunas ONG’s comprometidas con estas luchas). Dado que se está buscando una coalición lo más amplia posible, basada en el trabajo con las organizaciones sociales, se trata de un proceso que requiere su tiempo, en el que es necesario hacer actividades de difusión, formación y discusión para construir consensos de carácter popular en torno a nuestras demandas por justicia climática.

Apoyamos este proceso desde el nivel regional y creemos que el espacio que se desarrolle frente a la COP16, debe ser amplio, tener un carácter político y de movilización, en el que sea posible debatir con las distintas redes y organizaciones sociales a nivel mundial, para alzar nuestras voces de rechazo al modelo económico y demandar justicia climática.

Message from Latinamerican organizations on Klimaforum10

Alejandro Villamar to the left from RMALC, Mexican Network against Free Trade  that have signed the letter from Latin American organization below. In the middle Nicola Bullard from CJN at the discussion on Cancun at Foro Social Mundial tematico in Mexico City before the letter was sent.

The Hemispheric Social Alliance, Jubilee South/Americas, CLOC-Via Campesina, Friends of the Earth (Latin America and the Caribbean), REBRIP, COMPA, Jubilee South/Americas, Andean Coordinator of Indigenous Organizations (CAOI), Brazilian Network for the Integration of Peoples, the World March of Women and the Mexican Network against Free Trade and CADTM Abya Yala are committed to work  together in the construction of a process of joint mobilization around the problem of climate change, its structural causes and true solutions.  We have identified several key points in the coming months including the Enlazando Alternatives Summit, the Americas Social Forum in Paraguay and COP16 in Cancun.  Since the theme of COP 16 is climate change, it is especially strategic for the worldwide climate justice movement.

As stated in the letter from the Assembly of Social Movements, held during the World Peoples Conference on Climate Change in Cochabamba:  “We consider that the question of climate change is important, together with other manifestations of systemic global crisis. To truly confront the imperialist offensive we must stop; the militarization of our territories, the criminalization of social movements, the entire neo-colonial agenda contained in the Free Trade Agreements, illegitimate indebtedness, the power of transnational’s and especially the agro-business and extractive model which promotes the privatization of life and nature”.

During the Cochabamba conference, we discussed and advanced in the consolidation of alliances to build a process of mobilization for Cancun which is sufficiently solid to have subsequent continuity.  In this respect, the importance of building on pervious experiences such as the struggle against the FTAA, which enabled us to identify points of convergence and common struggles among the social movements of the continent opposed to this economic and social model.  These struggles are made known in many different ways including via Peoples’ Summits, which are moments of resistance, debate, collective construction and mobilization. These Summits are a tradition for the movements of the entire hemisphere and have earned legitimacy as spaces for struggle in the face of a plethora of neo-liberal initiatives against the peoples.

As a result, in the face of COP 16 in Cancun, we believe that it is crucial to strengthen the continental process, coordinating the efforts with networks and organizations from other regions of the world, as we have done in the past.  While we respect and value the experience of the Kilmaforum, it responds to the European and more specifically, Danish context.  An attempt to transfer or import it to our region would not respect the reality of our struggles, the identity or history of the mobilizations in our hemisphere.

We recognize the importance of joint actions with other regions, especially related to this theme, in light of the implications that affect the all of the peoples of the world.  In keeping with the spirit of agreements reached in Cochabamba, the priority is to strengthen ourselves and link eforts with the campaigns, networks, regional and global organizations that have worked in recent years to confront climate change and defend the rights of Mother Earth, as well as other regional and global sector networks and thematic organizations which have made the same commitment.  Many of our networks and movements are working at a global level.  In this respect, we believe that the convocation and mobilizations in Copenhagen were very important and it is necessary to continue the alliances that were consolidated there, and emerged from previous processes. However, this must not ignore national and regional processes.

In relation to the work that is happening in Mexico, we think it is important to make a few observations:  there are a number of social organizations around the country which are working to consolidate a broad space of convergence and mobilization. This work is the result of a call which went out among interested groups (including RMALC, the Mexican organizations which are a part of the “Drawing the line for Change” campaign, Other Worlds, organizations from all social sectors including members of Via Campesina and some NGOs which are a part of this struggle).  Given that the goal is the broadest possible coalition, based in the work of the social organizations; it is a process which requires time. Activities that provide information, formation and discussion must be carried out in order to construct popular consensus around our demands for climate justice.

We support this process from a regional level and we believe that the space being developed in preparation for COP16 must be broad, have a political character and be oriented towards mobilization, where a debate can be held with networks and social organizations at a global level, to raise our voices in rejection of the economic model and to demand climate justice.

Towards COP16 in Mexico

The discussion the second day at FSM tematico on Cancun initiatives

Five Mexican movement initiatives towards the Climate summit in Cancun were presented at two meetings during Foro Social Mundial tematico 2-4th of May in Mexico City and at an ad hoc meting during WSF international meeting. Partly the initiatives were linked to each other. Political content and what organizations actually backs which initiatives was somewhat unclear. Partly because some were not present at the first meeting as Klimaforum10 and Via Campesina, partly because what to do and what demands to put forward is still to be discussed. The five initiatives were:

Sandra Luna from CEMDA speaking and Jorge Villareal from Boell foundation charing the meeting during the first day of the discussion at FSM tematico on cooperacion towards Cancun

1. The meetings without a name, afterwards others have labeled these meetings Frente amplio, broad front, a classical Latin American left wing concept. 6 such meetings has taken place. Participants are networks cooperating internationally with Latin American movements on anti neoliberal and other issues, NGOs as Greenpeace and other rather main stream environmental organizations as well as ecological grass roots groups.

Alejandro Villamar from RMALC to the right together with Christophe Aguiton and Nicola Bullard during the second day of the Cancun discussions

2. Climate justice campaign towards Cancun, a Latin American campaign also still without a name supported by Mexican organizations as RMALC, the network against free trade that grow out of the struggle against NAFTA. This group  participates in the broad meetings and describes its purpose as participating in the open meetings to come to an agreement with the bigger environmental NGOs, often having international funding, on a common platform towards Cancun. (these environmental NGOs are sometimes mentioned as important as they are organizing the climate campaign “Pintale la Raya al Cambio Climatico” – http://pintalelaraya.org. It should also be noted that in general main stream environmental organizations and Climate Action Network (CAN) groups in Latin America are more radical than in the US or Europe but of course still far from the position of ecological grass roots groups and a clear Climate Justice Now standpoint, see Pintale la Raya al Cambio Climatico campaign as an example.

Silvia Ribeiro from ETC group at Via Campesina seminar discussing with local activist

3. Organicaciones de base ; almost grass roots organization, and partly or all Mexican Via Campesina. This was presented as a strand that was not completly integrated in the other initiatives.

From the left Eugenio and Ruben from Cambios and to the right Miguel Valencia from Ecomunidades, grass roots promoting Klimaforum10

4. Klimaforum 10 – an initiative by ecological grass roots organizations with social justice concerns on a radical platform similar to the Cochabamba and Klimaforum09 declarations excluding the Climate Action Network and tcktcktck campaigning promoted by Greenpeace and others. Some of the ecological groups behind the Klimaforum10 initiative have more radical demands on emissions, growth and social change than the environmental NGOs or even Climate Justice Now but want to have a broad platform for the Klimaforum10 based on the rights of Mother earth, Human rights and migrant rights and the system change not climate change declaration from Copenhagen.

In general Klimaforum10 people were more open about the content, both their own and what they wanted for a common platform. They stated also where the grass root ecological movements might differ from others. They said: they are for animal rights, and more to the point they are against capitalism but also oppose socialism when it is developmentalist (desarollistas) which is the case with many left wing political parties in Latin America and according to their experience in the Mexican capital region. This is why they are all for the Cochabamba declaration on the rights of Mother Earth with one exception, the notion of socialism. They have been the only force in the climate justice discussions here at FSM meetings on climate justice cooperation that have positively mentioned the Zapatista kind of struggle while being sceptical towards left wing parties. They were also the only ones mentioning the systemcritical Mesa 18 in Cochabamba were indigenous groups and ecological groups met opposing mining and other development projects causing social and environmental problems in Bolivia and ALBA countries. This Mesa 18 was not allowed to be part of the official Cochabamba meeting. That Klimaforum10 mentioned Mesa 18 was not seen positively by some other groups present belonging to the Cochabamba main stream.

Klimaforum10 have 18 people engaged voluntarily and meetings twice a week. They have contacted the foreign ministry for infrastructure support.

5. Local ecological grass root organizations in the Cancun region. Fundacion sin fronteras working on ecological issues and solidarity economy and likeminded small groups in the region presented the situation. Danish Peoples Climate Action (mostly big NGOs of the tcktcktck kind having a coordination during COP15 in Copenhagen) have visited Cancun and a meeting for all interested took place. The local “left wing” government have made and NGO with one person in key position previously in the government. As the local grass roots organizations are sceptical towards the left wing government and its record they have maintained their own cooperation but lack resources.

Discussion during the first day on initiatives towards Cancun

The first meeting was held on Monday. It was chaired by a young person from the Boell foundation which is linked to the German Green party and a main donor to many NGOs and environmental projects in Mexico. The chair intervened quite extensively in the discussion. The main contradiction in the Mexican work towards Cancun was said to be the relationship with government. On what issues was not presented which made the discussion obscure. Centro Mexicana de Derechos Ambientales seemed not against to have some contacts with the government while RMALC was opposed. Both groups participates in the broad meetings without name.

The discussion was extensive but did not make the political content much more clear. There is a strong Latin American cooperation between well established networks that used the meeting in Cochabamba to further develop their work towards Cancun. It was also clear that there were many Mexican grass roots organisations, especially rural, that had their own discussion on their own agenda. All Mexican groups stated that there was a need to develop more consciousness about climate change and climate justice in Mexico.

The most clear political agenda at the first meeting was promoted by RMALC, mainly stating it was climate justice and referring to Cochabamba and some general climate justice agenda as Latin American networks have formulated the issue. It was more presented as something that was well known already and not to be contested rather than in a critical manner showing what the differences could be in relation to other opinions or in relation to possible internal differences.

A more clear political discussion seems to be hard to have as the broad meetings was sometimes presented as only for information exchange and the participants so far in spite of many meetings have not made their opinion clear. At other times the purpose was presented as enabling to come to an initiative later.

The general Picture can be summarized: On the one hand there was a Mexican initiative emerging with RMALC as the key organization within the broad meetings getting their legitimation from their established position as a network working with many different summits and latin American networks as the Hemispheric Alliance. On the other hands Klimaforum10 with Ecomunidad and like minded organization as key groups that have a long term commitment to local ecological struggles also against the left wing regional government that was funding the FSM tematico. These groups lack international experience before going to Copenhagen, have coordinated the ecological part of Mexican social forums earlier when it was not as much in their mind coopted by the regional government. They also never recieved any international funding. Apart from these two groups the third dominant actor are environmental NGOs as Greenpeace and others often funded by Boell foundation who all have a key position in the Frente amplio meetings. These groups stated clearly their undecisiveness, that they wanted to have the situation open including cooperating with CAN and not only CJN. Via Campesina made it clear that they are going to have their own process to find out their agenda in different parts of Mexico.

Nicola Bullard to the left from Climate Justice Now and Focus on the Global Sotuh together with Alberto from Via Campesina Mexico and Silvia Ribeiro from ETC group

A problem seems that many Mexican groups except for the ecological grass roots groups who have for long been working on climate and environmental issues and RMALC who have a long record in international cooperation with other networks are uncertain about the issue and want to wait and see tofind out were possible cooperation partners are. RMALC and their closest cooperation partners seems especially looking at tactics in relation to election that will take place in the whole region of Cancun the following months. Thus a clear political picture is not possible until after this according some estimations. To get support from the regional government is seen as a key element for getting  resources by this group and then go to the federal government. Via Campesina had announced a sceptical meeting in Mexico City in connection to both FSM tematico and WSF International committee meeting. But this was postponed due to Mexican Via Campesina that needs more time to discuss their position.

Tord Björk

Miljöförbundet Jordens Vänner, Friends of the Earth Sweden

12 December Initiative – huge success or background for branding?

Content

Success or failure? see below.

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.

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

Success or failure?

A great success with 100 000 demonstrators in the biggest and most varied mass rally ever for the environment and the climate? Or a demonstration were system critical popular movements may be allowed to play a subordinate role as providers of cannon fodder for police attacks and raising the number of participants for carrying forward a message supporting the system?

Very few questions the image of success. The number of participants exceeds any other demonstration on climate change as well as any other demonstration at environmental summits. There has been occasions with higher number of demonstrators on environmental issues as when 200 000 demonstrated hand in hand along the sea shore to protect the Baltic sea in Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania in the late 1980s or 500 000 or a million demonstrated at the EU Summit in Barcelona 2002 were the question of water regulation and privatization was a main protest issue. There was also in total 200 000 demonstrating on climate change in different parts of Australia in 2007 but not in one place. From London there are reports of 100 000 in a climate change demonstration December 5 in 2009 but other sources than the organisers claim far less. In Copenhagen there were early reports on December 12 from the police and elsewhere stating 25 000 or 40 000. But they changed, more people came into the demonstration during the way and the police finally also reported 100 000 demonstrators. It certainly were far more than anticipated with participants filling a whole broad main street for 2,2 km.

At earlier environmental summits the demonstration figures have been considerably lower, 7 000 at the radical demonstration at the UN Summit in Stockholm 1972, 10 000 at the NGO and left wing party demonstration at the UN Summit in Rio de Janeiro 1992 and 5 000 at the more radical demonstration with favelaorganizations and their allies. 30 000 at the radical demonstration at the UN Summit in Johannesburg 2002 and far less at COP summits before Copenhagen if there was a demonstration at all.

In terms of numbers the December 12 demonstration at COP15 therefore was a success. Among the organisers there had been very early in the process talked about 100 000. But later this was reduced by all to ambitions of 40 000 and hopefully 60 000. Taking the small size of Denmark and its capital with 1 ½ million inhabitants and the cold winter into account it was a great achievement.

The diversity of the demonstration has also been put forward as a great success by many. In total there were at least 41different blocks ranging from NGOs like Action Aid to Libertarian Socialists. The demonstration was supported by 538 organizations world-wide.

Jonathan Neale, long time global climate campaigner in times of little support from Britain cannot refrain himself from making an emotional report:

”The march was long, loud, cold, bouncy, and energetic, about half Danes and half foreigners. I moved up and down the line, and everywhere people were chanting. This time the slogans were about climate, not some other issue, and they sounded and felt organic, rising up from the movement.
Every type of person was there. I marched with the Belgian unions, who kneeled and banged their green hard hats on the road and then rose and ran shouting, again and again. With the Swedish communists and their red flags. With the British campaign and our greenhouse, chanting, ‘Leave the Oil in the Soil, Leave the Coal in the Hole.’ The Danish WWF chanted that with us, and then taught us ‘Wa, Wa, Wa, PANDA!’
People were happy. No one had expected 100,000. For the activists gathered from around the world, this was the largest climate demonstration they had ever seen, by far.
From then on we knew a new global movement was possible.”

Yet many activists find that the demonstration lacked in promoting a strengthening and unifying message.

Planet First, People First march at Bella Center. Photo from tcktcktck campaign

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.

The Global Climate Day of Action 2009

The global day of action started well when the sun went up over Australia and soon 100,000 demonstrated all around Australia with 40,000 in Melbourne alone. It continued with 5,000 protesting in New Delhi and demonstrations at 20 other locations in India as well as places in Nepal and Bangladesh. The ‘Beat the Heat’ rally in the Netherlands gathered 10,000, a demonstrations in Madrid and South Africa thousands.

Meanwhile with the active involvement of the new international coalition of NGOs – the ‘Global Campaign for Climate Action’, and the newly formed “350” organisation there was a vast number of 3 224 vigils across the globe. in just about every country of the world. These mainly took the form of “Vigils for a Real Deal” under the Tck Tck Tck brand or candlelight vigils under the ‘350’banner – but there were also plenty of other actions or ones that mixed various elements of the internationally coordinated campaigns.

Photos from tcktcktck campaign web site:

Australia

Australia Sydney

China

Japan

Thailand

Jordania

Sarajevo in Bosnia

Johannesburg in South Africa

San Cristobal in Chiapas

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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