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.

Life in movements and commemoration of Jyri Jaakola

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

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

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

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

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

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

Direct action against dam building at Koijärvi 1979

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

Estelle

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

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

Peace Station in Helsinki

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

Annikinkatu in Tampere

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tord Björk

Listen to their voices:

Jyri Jaakola interview 01.02.2010

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

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

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

About the murder: Mexico’s state of impunity

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

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

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

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

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

Dec12: Uncertain preparatory process

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

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

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

Planet first – people first web banner

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Why was social justice forgotten?

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

12 December Initiative and CJA debate in Malmö Sweden October 8

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

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

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

The hidden violence agenda

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Celebrity and parliamentarian speakers or from the movements?

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

Poster for the System change not climate change bloc.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Reacting to repressive culture

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

Mobilizing for Climate Justice Action Reclaim Power in Germany

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Violence of the system a non-issue

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

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

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

MS/Actionaid at 12 December initiative march. Photo:

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

Branding

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tord Björk

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

Success or failure?

Uncertain preparatory process

The global climate day of action 2009

The main demonstration

Three left wing parties supporting the police perspective

December 12 in the media

Movement analysis

A demonstration split twice

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

COP15 ALBA mass meeting: Full of lost possibilities

Content
The COP15 promising ALBA mass meeting, see below.

The lost left wing opportunity

How the left supported the police against demonstrators in Copenhagen

Day by day reactions on repression December 12 to 18:

Saturday 12th of December – Come safely to peaceful demonstration

The left wing cover up

Sunday 13th of December – ”we were violently opposed”

Monday 14th of December – ”unfortunately too many arrests”

Tuesday 15th of December ”It does not belong in a democracy”

Wednesday 16th of December – “No soft feelings”

Thursday 17th of December – ”Eat breakfast with Morales”

Friday 18th of December – International networks demonstrate against Danish repression

Danish self-criticism

Why is the left promoting police perspectives?

Danish political claustrophobia

The way the Danish left assess Copenhagen

The paternalistic Red Green Alliance

Trotskyist climate heroes without guts

Non-parliamentary left: A Waterloo for activists, not a new Seattle

From anti neoliberal left to authoritarian state-media governance left

Other material:

12 December Initiative – huge success or background for branding?

Open letter on Denmark’s freedom and legal situation

The whole world on trial

The Fall of the Bella Wall: Power Reclaimed

Activist setting up ALBA meeting posters. From ALBA meeting website

The COP15 promising ALBA mass meeting

Seldom has so many organisers been misusing a great opportunity for political intervention to support climate protesters and democratic rights in general as at the mass meeting at the Valby hall on December 17 at 16.00 in Copenhagen during COP15. What could have been a strong left-wing contribution to the climate justice struggle became more of an exotic political show for Western Europeans to hope for other parts of the world to bring about change. I will come back to these critical remarks in length at the end of this article but first a regular report from the meeting.

As such the meeting was predictable. It filled its purpose well of being a unique chance to meet many presidents or vice presidents from progressive regimes in Latin America and the Caribbean from the so called ALBA countries. Sometimes the feeling of being many at the same place sharing a hope together is of importance for sustaining everyday struggles. The role these countries have made it relevant during the Climate Summit to invite their leaders to share a moment of hope that it least somewhere changes can takes place in the whole society of social and ecological importance. Cuba for being the maybe best example on earth on practical transition to a sustainable society. Bolivia for being an example for promoting climate justice demands. In general all ALBA countries for being examples of creating better conditions for the majority of people bringing hopes for alternatives. As the title of the meeting stated: ALBA a solidarity and sustainable alternative.

The meeting started in traditional working class movement style with the Red Horn orchestra followed by welcome speach from the initiator Danish-Cuban Association and Anders Olesen, chair of the Danish Construction Workers Union, an organization also providing security guards. The Danish well known Savage Rose were playing as well as the protest singer David Rovics from the US who celebrated ”St.Patricks Brigade”, Irishmen who fought on the loosing Mexican side in the war against US 1846. Other musicians performing were Wayna Rap, Los Alejandros and Tamra Rosanes. There were almost 4 000 participants according to the organisers, 2 500 sold tickets at 100 Danish crowns and as many participants  according to the main stream press and 3 000 to 4 000 participants according to friendly press.

Poster on the ALBA meeting website

At 17.30 Esteban Lazo, vice president of Cuba entered the podium as the first speaker. He greets the meeting by saying that the first five years of ALBA has been celebrated in Havana. A human and solidarity alternative that shows that another world is possible.

The response greetings to Fidel Castro and the Cuban revolution by the participants of the mass meeting. ”Cuba Si! Yankee No!” is the call from the floor and Lazo answers, I bring greeting from the Cuban president Raul Castro, and the leader of the Cuban revolution Fidel Castro.

ALBA is not an alternative only for Latin America and the Caribbean, but for all people of the planet he continues. The Alba countries are today standing together with the progressive forces in the rest of the world in the struggle for the right of life and earth. We have to salvage this earth because we have no other.

This is why the most important battle of humanity is taking place in Copenhagen these days. Lazo described the problems in the negotiations and the need not to allow the control of CO2 emissions come into the hands of the market. We should not speculate in the future of our and our children’s future. We are fighting not only for social justice but also for human survival. The solution to the climate problems lies in a new economic model that puts people at the centre concluded Lazo.

Nicaraguan Foreign Minister Samuel Santos followed him stating that the ALBA countries alternative was the only sustainable. Santos made a similar speech as Lazo but was also responding to a comment from the audience in Spanish saying ”mujeres”, women. As the left wing Nicaraguan government have been accused by feminists movements for oppressive abortion laws the Foreign Minister was well prepared. He informed about free health care for women after and how mother care and family planning have saved many women’s life.

Chavez and Morales in Copenhagen, http://www.flickr.com/photos/tantundem/ / CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

The podium became more and more full of a mix of people, diplomats, an admiral in white uniform, security guards; from many members of the ALBA bloc. During Santos’ speech the atmosphere became more tense and people started to wisper that Evo an Hugo had arrived. Than from behind the scene they entered, the Bolivian and Venezuelan presidents that so many had waited for: »Compañeros!«. The cameras were flashing, hands shaken, bodies embraced at the podium and wolf whistling, chanting and applause from the audience at the scene and those sitting at the galleries comes forward to great the socialist leaders. »Venceremos! – Let’s win!«.

The Bolivian president enters the speakers tribune greeted by chanting from the floor:

»Evo – Evo – Evo de nuevo!«

Some presidents do not want to discuss the causes behind climate change, Morales started coming directly from the negotiations. I will tell you the cause: Capitalism. Capitalism is the worst enemy – both for life and the climate. – Let’s unite and defend our earth, Morales challenged the meeting.

Inside the Bella Centret the leaders of the rich countries defend capitalism, a society of abundance for a few and wastage, the president told the meeting.

»We are not alone on the struggle to protect Mother Earth. Only the support from blow can change the world. Help me say loud. The planet or death – Let us win! cried Evo Morales. The audience responded willingly.

Then the Bolivian president Evo Morales surprised by announcing that a popular referendum is underway, and has been proposed for the entire world, to find out whether the world’s citizens would support or reject ideas for saving “Pachamama” (Mother Earth).

His speech was greeted with applause on several occasions. Morales affirmed that even if the governments of the rich nations rejected such a referendum, the peoples represented in the organizations and demonstrations in Denmark had already expressed, with their protests, their initial approval of the initiative.

Evo suggested the following questions for a worldwide referendum on climate change:

“..Do you agree to restore a harmonious relationship with Nature recognizing the rights of Mother Earth…?”

Siiiii  is the positive response in Spanish from the floor.

“…Do you agree to change this excessively consumerist and wasting model, that is, the capitalist system…?”

Si once more.

“…Do you agree that the developed countries should reduce and reabsorb their greenhouse effect gas emissions so that the temperature do not raise more than one degree…?”

Once more the hall is in unity with the speaker.

“…Do you agree on transferring everything that is currently being spent in wars to create a budget higher than the defence budget to tackle the problem of climate change..?.”

Yet again is the answer from the floor Si!

”…Do you agree in setting up a special court to sentence climate criminals?”

The hall agreed loudly. All five proposals had been adopted. Evo Morales had proposed exactly the same demands at the official conference with some minority support (except for the limitation to one degree temperature rise if Fidel Castro’s reports is correct). He concludes that we now finally had agreed to a document at this summit.

As he was finishing his plenary speech for the basis for a world wide referendum Hugo Chavez came to his side. While Evo had used 15 minutes for his speech, Hugo now used two hours.

From telesur

“Long live the young people, the volcano of socialism, the volcano of the peoples!” So did Hugo Chavez start his speech. “On behalf of Venezuela, the Bolivarian revolution, the ALBA, I want to thank very much, the invitation to this event,” he said. It was all on live Venezuelan public service TV.

“Long live Bolivar!” continued the president, recalling that on December 17, but on 1830, Simón Bolívar died. “Bolivar was an example of what should be a young revolutionary”, assured Chavez to those present.

Chavez received his strongest response from the floor in the beginning of his speech when he declared himself a feminist, and said that all socialists and Marxists also must be feminists and support the rights of women.

From telesur

Only unity will bring us victory stated Chavez and quoted or mentioned both the Inca indian leader Túpac Amaru, Rosa Luxemburg, the Cuban revolutionaries Jose Marti, Fidel Castro and Che Guevara, Nicaragua national hero Sandino, Jesus, Muhammed and the Danish philosopher Søren Kirkegaard in his speech. He especially praised the activists inside and outside the Bella Centre conference and criticized strongly the brutality of the police.

– I have seen much hard repression on the streets of Copenhagen these days, Chavez cried out, repression that you do not see in Cuba, Ecuador or Bolivia. He specifically gave full support to the attempt by demonstrators to use non-violent civil disobedience to enter the Bella Centre. System Change not climate change, the slogan used by the protesters was many times repeated in his speech.

Chavez addressed the threat from US against the new socialistic revolution in the South and how new military bases are erected. Behind the facade of Obama the imperialists tries to stop this revolution and to threaten all the Latin American people. But we will resist and see to that that the empire will be defeated.

– The revolution in the North is coming. I feel it. People in the north, unite with people in the South and let us together make the great world revolution against imperialism, capitalism and death! The celebration of these words exploded when Chavez resounding voice and fist signaled to the committed mass meeting participants the socialists revolution also in Europe.

Have you red the Communist manifesto? Read it again! It will be relaunched. From Caracas we have called a meeting to establish a 5th International. As Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels established the 1st International, Rosa Luxemburg, was among those establishing the 2nd International, Lenin made the 3rd International and Trotsky formed the 4th International we are of the opinion that it is time to call for, to gather, to start the struggle for the 5th International. An international of both parties, social movements and trade unions building upon Marxism, socialism, communism and the true spirit of Christianity and Islam.

Organize, Chavez challenged the floor and the meeting became excited.

– A united people can never be defeated! Chavez! Chavez! Chavez! was chanted in chorus by the participants.

After his speech Chávez went down to Morales and put his arm around him on the podium.

– ¡Viva el socialismo! – Long live socialism they cried out.

– ¡Viva!, – Long live!, the floor responded.

”¡Hasta la victoria, Siempre!” – Towards victory always!
”¡Patria, Socialisme o Muerte! Venceremos!” Fatherland, socialism or death!

Shouted Chavez and he and Morales jumps down from the podium to reach out to all the outstretched hands in the front row. With them came rather surprised and not very pleased security guards and some somewhat lost Danish policemen while Hugo and Evo now slowly went along the barrier shaking hands and talked to people taking a good time doing it for almost half an hour. The band Somos una Venezuela could finally start very late after schedule while many now were leaving enthusiastic about their experience according to many reports. As one report concluded: They went from there with a hope in their hearts: Another world is possible.

The lost left wing opportunity

The mass meeting in the Valby hall 17th of December was a lost left wing opportunity to support the climate justice protesters. One can wonder why. In scale it had only two indoor competitors. Al Gore was supposed to speak at an indoor mass meeting organized by Berlingske, the most conservative daily in Denmark since 250 years. 3 000 tickets were sold but refunded as Al Gore chose to not come. The main stream climate campaigners gave walk over to the left. The other competitor was the other mass activity in Valby during COP15, the so called climate prison with the infamous cages were the detained got pepper sprayed by the authorities if they protested to much against their degrading treatment. In total almost 2 000 were detained during COP15, most of them in this Valby temporary prison. According to reports the protest spirit in this prison were at times as high as in the Valby hall, and maybe more lasting.

The ALBA mass meting on December 17 waspart of a dynamic between three other mass activities, see: http://www.aktivism.info/socialforumjourney/?p=742

The ALBA mass meeting was perfectly timed and placed in relation to the political process of inside and outside activities during COP15 7th to 19th of December 2009. In Copenhagen four mass activities were organised to politically intervene in the climate negotiations and/or build an independent climate justice movement. All four complementing each other both in form and their political direction. The December 12 demonstration built on the idea of a low common denominator and large variety of expressions, even contradictory. A market place for demands mainly to put pressure on governments for a ”real deal” and thus state centric in its dominant appeal. The Klimaforum starting on December 7 with a political unified goal to challenge the ideology and practical proposals followed by the dominant forces inside COP15 more focused system critique and on movement building and diverse local solutions. The Reclaim power mass action on December 16 challenging the official conference directly by attempting at disrupting it during a day of mass civil disobedience. And finally the mass meeting on December 17 with presidents from Venezuela and Bolivia supporting sustainable alternatives to the present model of development promoted by COP15 with a socialist state centric tendency at the bottom.

The mass meeting came the day after protests reached a peak when civil disobedience activists both on the outside and the inside demanded system change not climate change in the Reclaim power action. The mass action could succeed in political practice. Although the action was violently stopped by the police when the two groups were less then 50 meters from each others the protesters got full support from the tribune inside the general assembly of UNFCC by the president of Bolivia and Venezuela. What the mass action failed to do physically against a violent police force it succeeded by building a political alliance across the wall around Bella center.

Thus the presidents of the ALBA countries and those Danish organizations that arranged a mass meeting with them the following day had the best of opportunities to take initiatives for moving the struggle ahead. Morales or Chavez would certainly not stopping the Danish organisers to take such a political intiative. On the contrary they supported the protesters goal of system change as well as protested against the heavy repression. The situation was considerably helped by the facts that for the first time ever the police of a host country of a UN meeting had been violently attacking accredited UN delegates when they wanted to leave the official venue and furthermore that 918 demonstrators had randomly been arrested during a mass demonstration some days earlier in an act of police violence against democratic rights which probably lack any precedence in Europe the last 50 years. People from almost any kind of movement, young conservationists, Hare Krishna, Friends of the Earth and Attac members, Socialists and people’s high school students. For some reason had the Danish organisers not acted collectively defending their demonstrators. Some actually supported the police as the Social Democrats while the spokes person for the organisers made a press statement about disproportionate police behaviour as if these acts of diverging messages to the media was sufficient reaction on the massive degrading and anti democratic treatment of demonstrators.

The political content was already worked out in unity at the Klimaforum in the declaration process ending in the demand System Change – not climate change, something that all actors agreed to from the Climate justice bloc that was attacked in the demonstration on December 12 to the Reclaim power action to the ALBA presidents. The title of the mass meeting in the Valby hall fitted well in – ALBA a solidarity and sustainable alternative. A politically better situation for a system critical movement of movements had not occurred in many years when peasants, environmentalists, indigenous, women, workers, antiimperialists, pacifists and above all young people were building a long term political program for climate justice. The great obstacles had been differences in  tactics and the extreme level of repression.

Formal Danish organisation whether left-wing, environmental, trade unions or others had all with one exception been advocating that the problem were activists and especially activists that wanted to use civil disobedience at the official COP15 venue. This in their eyes would result in immediate violence which had to be avoided at any cost. In Denmark the formal system critical organizations stated in chorus it is impossilble to defend any civil disobedience at a legal assembly as the UN. Thus the Danish activist network that jointly organized the Reclaim power action together with global mass movements as Via Campesina, Jubilee South and People’s Movement on Climate Change was isolated by all formal organisations in Denmark as a threat to mass mobilisation in the form of a broad demonstration together with NGOs and celebrities as speakers.

Many actually accused the Reclaim power action for the new laws and extreme repressive police tactics that emerged in Denmark,. This trend has been going on for many years in Denmark both during the present right wing governments and earlier during the centre-left governments. By challenging this trend towards escalating repression those claiming the need of non-violent actions at Bella Center was accused of causing growing repression and thus also threatening the necessary large scale mobilisation for the broad December 12 demonstration. If only people stayed away from any confrontational actions, maybe did some civil disobedience far away from the politicians, police repression would be so much less was the political thinking behind this attitude. For many people from the third world this kind of Danish thinking was completely impossible to understand as if repression is the result of that some organizes non-violent direct actions and confrontational protest and not the result of social relationships and material conditions in society.

By December 17 there had been all chances to discuss the matter with the movements from the rest of the world willing to take part in the Reclaim power action as they had been in Copenhagen for more than a weak. The Danish system critical organisations whether ecological or left wing had all chances to have a dialogue with their international cooperation partners. After all the Climate Summit was not only a Danish business.

Preparing for anti repression demonstration at Klimaforum December 17. Photo Tord Björk

By December 17 it was also obviously clear to everyone that the Danish formal organizations were wrong. No violence was caused by the activists during the December 16 action at all. The very little bit of violence during COP15 had taken place on Saturday outside the demonstration close to Christiania when a policemen was reported being hit by a stone although no reports claimed any serious harm. Property damage was also not the case during the Reclaim power action and very little on December 12, a dozen windows broken by demonstrators who were forced into the main demonstrations contrary to their plans to go elsewhere. The repression excesses by the Danish state were completely exposed as outrageous to anyone able of doing some political work.

It was with other words a perfect situation to make a collective support for democratic rights against the governmental and right wing xenophobian and climate sceptical Danish People’s party to drastically raise already extreme repression laws and police tactics against protesters. 918 people had been arrested for doing nothing in a normal demonstration and then had the police used many kinds of violence to prevent a joint inside-outside People’s Assembly close to the fences of the Bella center area. If there was any chance to revert this drastic attack on democratic rights in Denmark with great risks for the rest of Europe and the world it was now.

There was certainly a sufficient number of left- wing organizations arranging the mass meeting. They included five local trade unions, four communist parties and the red Green alliance, Friendship organisation with Cuba, Venezuela, North Korea and Bolivia as well as some solidarity organizations with Latin America and the world and Artists for Peace.

Many of these organizations of course produced individual statements as did any serious environmental organisation or Amnesty protesting against the mass arrests. But to do something in common was far beyond what the Danish left-wing organizations thought of as necessary. Collective action and mass movement is a common word in the language of these organisation, but when this collective action is needed and the mass movement exist and is under attack the response from these formal left wing organisation is a refusal to do anything about it.

This extremist position to allow the police to freely use the new anti democratic laws which the Trade Union Central in Copenhagen  called police state laws needs an explanation. Why can we not anymore in a common European state trust the left-wing to defend popular movements, let alone their own interests anymore?

The resources were at hand. One of the Communist parties arranging the mass meeting publishes a daily, actually the only daily linked to any left wing party in Denmark. The parliamentary Social democrats, Socialist People’s Party and the Red Green Alliance long ago let their dailies and even weeklies sometimes pass away and lack own strong media to reach out with their message. But Arbejderen, The Worker, exists and reaches out to quite a few as it is the only left-wing daily in the whole country with more than 4 000 subscribers. Furthermore has most of the Communist parties as well as the Red Green Alliance youth groups that are quite a lot involved in the street actions going on and do not lack organizational capacity if needed. There is capacity to mobilize in Copenhagen among the left. Some hours after the police struck against oil war refugees from Iraq and violently started to deport them from the Brorson church in Copenhagen half a year ago 20 000 demonstrated in a fast reaction.

But this time the leftwingers chose to avoid initiating a Danish collective action to protest against the heavy repression in spite of that it would have been very simple to get broad support also from organizations as Friends of the Earth International and about any international organisation present. The only thing needed would actually have been to join the initiative on the way already for a demonstration the next day on December 18. The Valby hall meeting would be an excellent opportunity for Danish organizations to take a lead in mobilizing the Danish people against the degrading treatements and arrests. After all Danish organizations can better mobilize people in Copenhagen and follow up on the necessary anti repression work in this country than international organisations can do.

But the Danish left-wing rather clapped their hands when Chavez and Morales protested against the repression on the streets of Copenhagen than wanted to do something about it themselves with the support of the ALBA presidents.

So why did they chose to stay passive against their own self interest and against the need of the global mass movements that they so much talk about in their newspapers?

There are at least some factors behind this lack of solidarity. One is isolation. The formal left wing in Denmark had chosen to organise their own activities far from any interest in cooperating internationally or as a force inside movement building mass activities as the Klimaforum or Climate Justice Action. Only the cooperation with main stream NGOs who chose celebrities or party leaders as speakers for the demonstration was to them of interest as they could use this lowest common denominator activity to brand their own organization rather than to contribute to building a mass movement.

Thus contrary to e.g. Sweden during European Social Forum did the Cuban friendship association state that they were only interested in making their own activities at Klimaforum and not as the Swedish Cuban association state that they wanted both to make their own activities and contribute to the common work during ESF. In Sweden the Cuban association representatives became a coordinator of the program group and did many other tasks for the common good, in Denmark the main initiator behind the ALBA meeting, which officially was part of the Klimaforum program but placed elsewhere due to lack of sufficiently big hall, was the Danish Cuban Association who chose to isolate itself from any common responsibility for the Klimaforum.

And so did all their left wing cooperation partners that arranged the ALBA meeting. Why do something to enable a mass movement to evolve when one can sit in isolation to clap the hands in hope that people on the other side of the planet shall make the revolution for you or walk in a demonstration branding your organization were the media message is to a large degree controlled by NGO celebrities?

Furthermore the Danish organizers had no links to their international counterparts. The kind of traditional state centric left wing politics which dominates the organisers of the ALBA meeting have its strong counterparts on the international arena in the People’s Movement on Climate Change as well of course in the ALBA countries. PMCC was the most loyal of all international networks towards all mass activities in Copenhagen not imposing it own will but giving strength from the very beginning to common efforts thus uniting the Danish and international partners. While many other international networks had much of their own agenda and only slowly started to be interested in such an initiative as Klimaforum PMCC was there from the very start to the end. They insisted on the need for stating that the economic system have to change and national sovereignty as important but for the rest they at many times in the Klimaforum declaration process could contribute with consensus formulations from their long time work with mass movement cooperation mainly in the South and with migrant communities in the North. When I in October informed them about the ALBA meeting they knew nothing about it although it had been initiated already in the summer and PMCC had been clearly visible at the international CJA preparatory meetings in Copenhagen. But the Danish left wing is primarily internationalist in words and primarily with those in power at state level it seems. Internationalism in practice in the climate justice movement was not what interested the Danish Left wing 2009.

Reclaim power banner during the December 18 anti repression march, Photo Avenirclima.info

Another reason for the lack of interest in solidarity with the international movement in Copenhagen was that many left wing organisations in Denmark had been strongly advocating against the reclaim power action and instead promoted the December 12 demonstration. Their argument was that it would be impossible for the public to understand why a civil disobedience action took place to establish a People’s Assembly inside the Bella center area. If the mass movements from the South as Via Campesina which most of these left wing organisations strongly claim they support as long as they organise heroic struggles far from Denmark saw such a need, that was not of interest to discuss. Danish organisations are primarily Danish organizations and as such racist. It is useful to use Via Campesina as an exotic example in their propaganda but not as a cooperation partner then maybe something is at risk. The control freak of any Danish organization seems than to become a maniac against even his own interest with the exception of very few individuals or organisations that alone have to carry the burden of the many.

The daily Arbejderen was one of these left wing spaces used by representatives of the Communist party owning the paper to state that the Reclaim power action was bad and the demonstration on the December 12 was the good alternative. The chair of the construction workers union in Denmark who was the only Danish key note speaker at the ALBA mass meeting had the same opinion in a letter published in a few Danish dailies signed also by a fisherman and a peasant, both chairpersons of other social movement organisations. It took a very long time before any system critical formal organisation made their strong opinions against the Reclaim power action public but once they did so it seems as if nothing anymore can change their mind, even when it is clear that they were wrong.

The Danish super model that was selected speaker at the December 12 demonstration was on one main Danish television channel the only political messenger of the 100 000 voices in the demonstration. Between pictures of her catwalking in her model career she stated that there are quarrels in any family and so there is at COP15 but in the end the problems will be solved. The message of how police were beating UN accredited persons on their way to the People´s Assembly December 16 could not be misunderstood, the claims by some or many formal Danish organisations that the activists would become violent was shown to be completely false and the action got full support from Morales and Chavez from the inside. But why bother.

The activists had objected to the wise persons in the formal Danish organisations and thus had both them and all the 918 mass arrested in the December 12 demonstration broken a golden Danish rule, always trust a COP and their definition of what is violence. What the Danish left-wing might do is issuing individual press releases, but more cannot be expected. After all, heavy repression with targeted arrests of almost all spokespersons of a non violent civil disobedience action, is what one deserves if one have gone against the advice of all formal Danish left wing organizations and dared to unite with mass movements from all over the world in front of the nose of the hitherto monopoly actors in Danish radical solidarity work.

The organisers of the ALBA meeting had of course different possibilities of doing something. The organization that seems to have been most positive towards Reclaim power was a communist party still looking upon Stalin as an important ideologue.  Their capacity to mobilize many was limited both in terms of Danish support and any links to central international climate justice organizations. The Red Green Alliance had the opposite position and actually excellent possibilities both in Denmark and the rest of the world. They had the chance as a modern radical left-wing party and one of the few that at least for a while even had a proper agricultural programme strongly present in Summit protests since Amsterdam 1997 and in the global justice movement. They also played a central role in organizing of the December 12 demonstration, or at least one of their International Socialist members. On photos from the preparations for the ALBA meeting one can see Thomas Eisler from Red Green Alliance, member of the national board of the party and active in the Fourth international as well as European Social Forum last year.

Especially interesting it is that in 2002 the Red Green Alliance did a very good anti repression work from the early start of the preparations ot the EU Summit protests in December that year. Together with representatives from the Socialist People´s Party they acted as parliamentary shields when activists crossed the borders and at street actions constantly using the parliament as a tribune for the movement. The autonom or what also can be labelled libertarian leftist movement coming from the house occupation and anti fascists action networks used the opportunity for organizing a non-violent civil disobedience action at the Bella center. People dressed up in protective gear with some 700 supporters were able to push themselves into the Bella center area a little bit, a political statement was made and the political action dissolved without any escalation of violence. Thus the statements by formal Danish organizations that such a kind of non-violent action at a legislative assembly was impossible in Denmark without escalating into violence was false. It had been done before with a similar right wing government. and that time without governmental spokes persons inside welcoming the content and the form of the protest and full support from some global mass movements more than fully possible.

But not to the Danish formal left. It was not so that key organization did not know of the good experience from 2002. On the contrary. The organisation that arranged the action in 2002, Global Roots or Globale Rødder do not exist anymore. But many of the organisers of the action in 2002 are still politically very active. Quite a few are now employed at the parliamentary office of Red Green Alliance. Palle Dragsted, earlier international secretary of the party, now media secretary is one of them.

So how come than that the Red Green Alliance did not use the great opportunity to initiate broad protests together with many other Danish organizations and international networks on December 18 to free the climate prisoners and protest against mass arrests? The structural reason is simple. Since 2002 the party have drastically changed. Not on the surface but in the core of its way to act politically. In 2002 the party put a lot of energy including staff into be part of movement mobilisation. Now the same resources are instead put into media communication. Movements are interesting if they can deliver sound bites that the party can use occasionally in the parliament or in their press releases. It is not any longer of interest to be loyal to a movement and part of their daily struggle. Thus Red Green Alliance spokes persons can talk about in the media that it would be better if the police used the dialogue tactic which successfully was used to avoid escalation of repression in 2002, not to be self critical about the change of the way the party itself relates to movements in risk of getting repressed.

One of the actors in this change of the political culture of the Red Green Alliance are the organisers of the autonom non-violent action in 2002. Once they themselves were able to achieve a professional career in the party they seem to gladly abandon the solidarity character of the party that once helped them when they were movement activists and instead making the party more integrated to professional media and parliamentary arenas.

They are still able to mobilise. Many of the old global roots people have been behind the massive mobilisation against the deportation of the Iraqi refugees defending church asylum. But doing action during COP15 the old global roots activists saw as not useful as there were to many policemen to challenge. Rather contribute to such actions as Shut it down against the coal power plant in Copenhagen in September last year or actions after COP15 but not during was their mantra among them. They were quite a few, often male, half cynical, and always well informed about the latest thing to know for a radical belonging to a common culture in many different left wing organisations in Denmark. Interestingly this seems to include avoiding mobilisation against repression.

Thus what we see in Denmark is that all strands of the formally organised left wing are equally passive when it comes to strengthen the climate justice movement and the general struggle to protect democratic rights for everyone with the exception of individual activists in Klimax and Climate Collective and to some degree left wing youth organisations. Some of these youth organizations linked to political parties were as one could expect part of organising ad hoc protest at the Valby climate prison on December 12. But these left wing youth organisations were not organisers of the Valby hall mass meeting and seems in general be regarded by their parent parties as marginal youth phenomena not to be taken much seriously.

The different communist parties are mainly competing with each other. The trade unions whether social democratic or not are stretched between a perceived importance of good relationships with the government and the daily struggle against the further brutalisation of working conditions. They experience how their pickets against privatization of services are broken by the police with false promises of releasing an arrested picket leader. They criticized the hooligan law package as an attempt to repress all popular movements and non-violent actions, whether pickets, strikes or environmental protests and stated that they were expressions of a police state mentality. All social democratic and other trade unions in Copenhagen protested but the Social democrats seemed not impressed who supported the mass arrest of more than 900 innocent people to not talk about the government.

The Socialist People’s Party spokes person also supported the police and only after many protested withdraw the support somewhat for the police. The Red Green alliance with its two minority trotskyist fractions and a main stream that do not know what to do is at the moment not much of a party, more of a branding operation to support differing professional careers with the help of much volunteer work but little coherent strategy.

The autonom left is interestingly also very central in the lack of the support  against repression of the climate justice movement. The same kind of Danish mechanism that we saw in the case of the Communist party owning the daily Arbejderen and the construction workers union seems to be working also here although the arguments against direct action at Bella center are the opposite. We do not support the actions so we refuse also to protest against repression of the actions. The autonom left did to a great part avoid supporting action during COP15 due to an analysis based on the pragmatic idea that the police force was to strong to be able to win any substantial victory. As isolated in its Danish box as the rest of the left in Denmark to establish a discussion in solidarity with movements coming from abroad was uninteresting. To win a struggle in action was mainly seen in physical terms and numbers of participants, not political terms and ability to create new political horizons and alliances. Thus in their international contacts with their allies in other countries they put forward their scepticism including sharp criticism on how weakly CJA actions were prepared. Something they, with their sometimes longer experience, could have positively improved but chose not to. It was more interesting to be a clever observer than to intervene side by side with people from other countries coming and taking the risks these Danish autonom did not want to take. And as they did not support the actions they as many other Danish left wingers tend to avoid the immediate necessary strong anti repression response needed in December during COP15.

The result of the lack of leftwing support for mass mobilisation against repression of COP15 protests can be seen in such things as that Greenpeace activists in prison after a Gala dinner action get a very high degree of support and attention while the rest of the climate protesters get support to quite a large extent in falling degree due to if they have organisational backing or not. The massive mobilisation to support all repressed climate activists have lacked were it is needed most, in Denmark thanks to the lack of formal organisations supporting such a mass mobilisation.

Content

The COP15 promising ALBA mass meeting

The lost left wing opportunity

How the left supported the police against demonstrators in Copenhagen

Day by day reactions on repression December 12 to 18:

Saturday 12th of December – Come safely to peaceful demonstration

The left wing cover up

Sunday 13th of December – ”we were violently opposed”

Monday 14th of December – ”unfortunately too many arrests”

Tuesday 15th of December ”It does not belong in a democracy”

Wednesday 16th of December – “No soft feelings”

Thursday 17th of December – ”Eat breakfast with Morales”

Friday 18th of December – International networks demonstrate against Danish repression

Danish self-criticism

Why is the left promoting police perspectives?

Danish political claustrophobia

The way the Danish left assess Copenhagen

The paternalistic Red Green Alliance

Trotskyist climate heroes without guts

Non-parliamentary left: A Waterloo for activists, not a new Seattle

From anti neoliberal left to authoritarian state-media governance left

Other material:

12 December Initiative – huge success or background for branding?

Open letter on Denmark’s freedom and legal situation

The whole world on trial

The Fall of the Bella Wall: Power Reclaimed

Day by day reactions on repression December 12 to 18

Saturday 12th of December – Come safely to peaceful demonstration

Happy environmentalists on their way to the 12December initiative march. Photo: http://www.flickr.com/photos/nios/ / CC BY-NC 2.0

Prior to the demonstration December 12 the organizers had stated that it would be safe. Come safely to peaceful demonstration was one title on an article about the preparations. The article continued: “On 12 December is the great popular demonstration on the streets of Copenhagen – with 499 organizations from over 60 countries. Despite the many participants should there be no difficulty – the organizers have a grip on security.

The people behind the demonstration on 12 December has done a great job to avoid confrontations with police.

’We believe that the demonstration is in good order. We have among other demonstration guides from the union, and we have held several meetings with police,’ says Knud Vilby, press spokesman for the demonstration on 12 December.

The demonstration is divided into different blocks, each receive a series of demonstration guides. Many of the guides are from the Construction workers union MS, who also stood for the demo Safety, at the EU summit in Copenhagen in 2002. Moreover, the organizers of the rally, “12th December Initiative “, held meetings with all the more radical and potentially violent groups that have promised high and holy to remain at rest.”

The two most left wing parliamentary parties were the first to stand up on the side of the police version of what have happened on Saturday evening and thus legitimating the arbitrary mass arrest during the December 12 demonstration. They together with the right wing xenophobian and climate sceptical Danish People’s Party could together put their immediate efforts in favour of the police while the right wing governmental parties and the social democrats except for the Conservative minister of Justice did not need to do anything as the left wing parties did their job. It is more convincing if the organizers of the December 12 demonstration supports the police views against the demonstrators than if the right wing governmental parties which were not among the organizers would have supported the police repression of the demonstrators.

First to act was the Red Green Alliance, the most left wing parliamentary party of Denmark born out of the former traditional communist party, a trotskyist party and left socialist party. This party issued a press release already on the same day of the demonstration with the title: The Red Green Alliance denounces riot in connection to climate demonstration. The official party message continued by beginning to state:

”Red Green Alliance condemn the group of “activists” who used the main climate demonstration as a cover for throwing stones at windows and police. Hence they assume a heavy responsibility, if people in the future abstain from participating in peaceful demonstrations, because one cannot know for sure what smaller groups might abuse these demonstrations for and what consequences this may have for ordinary demonstrators” said Per Clausen, climate spokes person for the Red Green Alliance.

In contrast to the claimed riot makers attacking the police with stones the press release continued by appraisal of  ”the impression of a great and beautiful manifestation of 100,000 participants” which according to the party ”showed us how we can involve many people in a way that sends a clear signal to those in power that we are many that require a fair and effective climate treaty.” and concluding:  ”This is the way to create positive change”

The press release also mentions in the end that: ”Unfortunately, there is strong evidence that many completely innocent demonstrators were detained by police and they arrested unnecessarily came to sit three to four hours on the icy ground. Together with that the police apparently played an active role in pushing troublemakers into the peaceful demonstration this points at a need for an investigation of the role of police.”

The most left wing parliamentary party here sets the tone by adopting a description of the course of events which puts the main emphasis on creating a picture of one group violently attacking the police and the police that unfortunately does mistakes. The identification with the police has gone so far that even the chronology is rearranged to fit into the picture of inherently violent troublemakers on one side, from the outset peaceful police that might do some mistakes on the other side but never have a role that needs to be put into brackets and finally demonstrators with the role to always be peaceful and send signals to those in power.

The correct order of the course of events was that no stone causing any harm to the police was thrown at all from the demonstration. What happened was that a police man was hit by a stone after the mass arrest had taken place, without being seriously hurt and at a long distance from were the mass arrest took place and far away from the demonstration. By changing the order of events main stream TV managed to make the massive police arrests more acceptable, a falsification of history in favour of the police that also the Red Green Alliance decided as important to endorse. A main stream right wing organisation could not have done it better.

Per Clausen. Press photo Mads Nissen

While Red Green Alliance was busy telling the world a story favouring a police perspective built on rumours arrested demonstrators were in deep trouble detained in the Valby special prison for climate protesters. Organisations and friends were worried about their comrades and members. The Socialist Justice party of Sweden belonging to CWI approached Friends of the Earth Sweden to get information on what was going on and what to do. 40 of their party activists from all over the world had been arrested. FoE Sweden decided to initiate a press conference together with as many concerned organisations that could be reached. Within less than half an hour it was possible to find out that any kind of organisation had their members in prison. Nature and Youth Sweden, the youth environmentalist organisation connected to the Conservation Society, Attac, Hare Krishna, Friends of the Earth from at least four countries etc. None had seen any attacks on the police or windows smashed were they had been walking in the demonstration. After a while some of the detained were released and we could meet them. One girl had a more than two inch long and deep broad wound on her wrist. The plastic straps had been put on so hard that first her hands got swollen and then when the police should cut them off they had to cut into her body to get it done. When it was possible for a few Swedish organisations to find out in such a short time about many cases there must be many more.

What was now needed was capacity to organize a press conference, a room, international press lists, ability to contact each other from our very different places were we stayed and have sufficient common message and people that had been arrested to make the press conference fruitful. The most relevant organizational actor to ask was the Danish demonstration coordinators. They if anyone had the self interest in protecting their demonstrators.

I went to Jörn Andersen, the organiser that had been most visible to international organisations during the whole preparatory process. Andersen represented the Climate Movement Denmark but was also a member of the Red Green Alliance. He had a key position as he also belonged to the International Socialist fraction in the party, a fraction linked to Socialist Worker´s Party in the UK who were the key organisers of the Global climate action days both December 2009 but also earlier. He if anyone ought to be able and interested in helping us. But he was the opposite.

The first thing he said was in a rejecting voice, did I have some facts. That I had a lot of facts about what had happened to quite a few demonstrators that were in need for solidarity and anti repression work by the demonstration coordinators did not impress upon him. He did not believe that the Danish coordinators would act and coordinate any solidarity work for the detained demonstrators. It was up to us and others to help ourselves the best we could. His party had already chosen without us knowing it and without Andersen informing us to act collectively in immediate support of false facts favouring the police. To make extreme demands on facts supporting the demonstrators was than appropriate to support the version they already had given to the press.

So Andersen’s prediction was probably correct. As the most well connected organisation in both Denmark and internationally the Red Green Alliance had chosen what side they were on and what role they claimed the demonstrators had in the immediate reaction. And to his own trotskyist fraction at the core of the whole Global Climate Action Day internationally it was more important in practice to be servile in relationship to the alliance partners than to act in solidarity with the invited demonstrators. After all the demonstrators go home afterwards but the allied main stream left wing parties and NGOs behind the tcktcktck campaign continues to be a force to take into consideration is the thinking behind this kind of reaction. To change such a first position from the Red Green Alliance needed careful attention and then there was not time for any solidarity work for those that had been degradingly treated by the police with the exception of the youth wing who protested at the prison but waited many days until the party had changed their first position to comment upon what had happened.

Klimaforum offered help instead, a computer could be borrowed at their office for some minutes, the press room could be used, the press people kindly asked by the press staff to leave a room or stay to listen to the press conference, a cell phones could be recharged at a luxury hotel by a member of a main stream Swedish television crew that were upset about the exaggerated police activity. In some way Danish Attac, Nature and Youth, Friends of the Earth Sweden and Socialist Justice party were able to get our act together precise in time in spite of cell phones lacking sufficient payment for getting on the air, internet connections getting down, email lists missing and arrested people already gone home. Somehow in spite of lack of systematic press contact work the press conference room was more than full when we started. Le Monde, L’Unita, Main stream TV from Denmark and Sweden and a lot of other media were there and the message got out.

Meanwhile had the political line by the Red Green Alliance paralysed the whole demonstration committee. It was now time for any Danish organiser of the demonstration to act on their own against the demonstrators and support the police to strengthen their perceived image among the population via mass media. Thus was the first Red Green Alliance press release followed by a statement from the justice affairs spokes person of the Socialist People’s Party, close to midnight when still many were in prison. On her party blog under the title What happened at the climate demonstration? Karina Lorentzen presented the same false story as Red Green Alliance, this time with an additional touch to exaggerate the story further. People had chosen to throw cobble stones at the police  – or others who may happen to be in firing line.

Her conclusions was clear: ”When such an incident occurs, I think we all have an expectation that the police intervene and stop such incidents. The alternative could be a smashed city, people randomly hurt or that the large demonstration was stopped and the important message to politicians not delivered. I therefore fully support that the police intervened. It meant that most of the demonstrators could continue peacefully to the Bella Center which they should be thanked for.”

Here we can see the socialist future: If we as organisers of a demonstration do not fully support police intervention we would see how the whole demonstration would need to stop, the whole city being destroyed, anyone being hurt, to not talk about the message to the politicians not delivered.

Lorentzen started her statement by describing how ”wildly fantastic” it was to walk with 100,000 other in the demonstration meeting among others a panda, a horse on a bicycle, a giant snowman, and many other funny contributions.

She also addressed after fully supporting the police intervening in a sudden questioning mood that ”Nearly a thousand people were detained. It is quite a lot and now it seems also as that the complaints from people who feel wrongly arrested, are coming in. Only 4 charges are currently been raised and it may indeed be said to be negligible among one thousand people. It could provide for a good reflection on whether the police have gone too far. The Socialist People’s Party have against this background asked the Minister to explain the course of events – now we have to get identified what happened and criticism should be used to work forward looking to ensure that innocent civilians in the future not will fall foul.”

Lorentzen than explained why her party had been against the new hooligan law package that gave the police the possibility to intervene as they did. The party warned against preventive arrests and would like to have ensured the possibility that citizens could get a chance to escape and avoid incurring a withdrawal.

The juridical spokes person of the Socialist People´s Party ends with making clear were her main sentiments are directed: ”My final reply must be that I’m fucking tired of activists who use violence and vandalism in order to draw attention to their cause. Frankly, there is no justification – and it’s wildly unsympathetic that you hide among peaceful demonstrators to perform your misdeeds. Stop it, it does not benefit the cause and it shifts focus in the most annoying way from what is important – namely a good, binding climate agreement.”

The immediate response on this blog post was sometimes overwhelmingly positive, but to a growing degree critical. “Your entire second paragraph in your blog post have a problem – primarily because the facts are not okay. We know that the black group would not ’break into the peaceful demonstration’ as you write but that they were pushed into the demonstration by the police as they would go from Højbro Plads, although it was not their intention to go along. Already here all your arguments go wrong and hence your conclusion ”you hide among peaceful demonstrators to perform your misdeeds”.

With the two most left wing parliamentary parties decided to act individually and siding with the police the rest of the Danish organisers chose the same method, avoid any collective responsibility and at times make their own isolated statement to the press to wash their hands. Knud Vilby, the spokes person of the demonstration. stated to the press that the police had acted disproportionate.

Everything was by now very clear enough to act collectively in defence of the rights of the demonstrators and against the escalation of repression. The two main newspapers in Denmark had revealed in their immediate reporting that it was the police that pushed unwilling Never trust a COP activists in black clothes into the main demonstration. These activists had published plans on the internet that they wanted to protests in the city centre and not walk with the march to the South. When this group of activists according to the advice by the police came to the demonstration some windows at the stock exchange, one at the foreign ministry and one at a bank were smashed along the demonstration route. 1 km from the stock exchange and more than 0,5 km from the bank more than 900 people were arrested and detained in a specially prepared prison half an hour after troubles started. Jyllandsposten, the biggest pro-governmental Danish daily reported that ”It was an apparently well-prepared and rehearsed policing plan, which resulted in one of Denmark’s largest mass arrests”. After the mass arrest almost 1 km away at Christiania were four cars burnt and a policemen was hit by a cobble stone without being seriously hurt.

In spite of that it was clear that the Danish state had made a massive attack on democratic rights and the police according to the pro-government daily apparently organized an ambush against the demonstration the organisers chose to act individually as persons or organisations. The strong wording among the organisers were still directed against the non existent people in the demonstrations that had thrown cobble stones hurting a policeman, not to protect their own demonstrators.

The left wing cover up

Solidarity banner at the front of the social democratic youth bloc in the 12 December demonstration. Photo IUSY

The numerous witnesses about the abuses during the mass arrests made it soon necessary to shift tactics among the Danish organisers of the demonstration. This was done in an odd way. If the first statements had been the result of the risk of not having the full picture the day after this was not the case anymore.

The way the 12 December Initiative acted was to avoid any collective responsibility and instead give free possibility to Danish organisations in the initiative to use the situation as they liked. It would last until January 7 for the main spokes person Knud Vilby of the 12 December initiative to make a stronger call for critical discussion of not the role of the organisers of the demonstration but how Denmark had acted. So many weeks after he promoted the basic police perspective story implanted by the left wing parties and media together keeping it alive, a story that directly links the police intervention with cobble stones against a policemen getting hurt. The ”fantastic experience … was only marred by members of the ’black block’ who behaved, in particular with throwing cobblestones in Christianshavn. One policeman was wounded, and I know from demonstrators – including a group of college students – that they were glad when the police intervened.”

Instead of reacting collectively against the politics of the Danish state to organize mass escalation of degrading treatment of demonstrators individualistic competition in promoting diverse policy proposals via mass media started. The extreme support by the most left wing parliamentary parties on Saturday of a police version making repression in a scale not seen in many countries against a demonstration understandable, had to be replaced by something else. And why not with a quarrel among all left wing parties on different policy proposals. Here each party could raise its profile making some discrete retreats from the mistakes the first day in a clever cover up operation in close relationship with the media.

Why should the reporters ask troublesome questions to the parties that organised the demonstration why they not together with others in the Danish 12 December Initiative collectively defended their demonstrators. It was so much more politically uninteresting to promote a politically powerless quarrel on policy details between individualistically acting parties. Popular movements and an interested public in many countries all over the world would really have been interested in why the Danish organisations that had invited 100 000 demonstrators to come to Copenhagen did not want to collectively defend them. That was the politically interesting question that the Danish media and the Danish organizations in unity avoided.

Sunday 13th of December

Waiting fr transport to the cages in the climate prison. Photo: http://www.flickr.com/photos/kk/ / CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

On Sunday December 13 the papers were full of reports how the Socialist People’s Party together with the Danish People’s Party were the strong supporters of the police action against the demonstration. Lorentzen from the Socialist People’s Party continued to back the police by stating to Ritzau, the Danish news agency, that it is difficult for the police to see who is violent and who is peaceful. “- Police have a very difficult task. When they block a street off, there might be some who may not have anything with this to do.”

“Both Socialist People’s Party (SF) and Danish People’s Party (DF) supports the Police”. Ritzau December 13
(National news agency)

Troublesome for the Socialist People’s Party was a growing negative reaction at both the blog of the spokes person of justice affairs and the facebook group of the party leader Villy Søvndal. Hundreds of people reacted often very strongly against the position of the party and many questioned their membership.

Later on Sunday Lorentzen issued a press release in which she expressed that it is wrong to arrest people before they have committed any wrongdoing. “When the hooligan package was adopted, we very much pointed at that preventive arrests are problematic because it is an interference before people have committed a crime. This means of course that you might get some in the net who have not intended to start a turmoil”.

In the Red Green Alliance it was not the spokes person for justice affairs that acted but the spokes person for climate Per Clausen who continued to intervene. In a press release on Sunday the party clearly distanced itself from any form of setting the streets on fire during the climate summit, and continued in the words of Clausen that:

”It is however also necessary that the demonstrators who not have a desire to set the streets on fire, have the opportunity to make actions. Unfortunately, it appears that police arbitrarily arrested trying to prevent this. We therefore require an examination of police use of preventive arrests and other use of force in connection with the climate summit. Particularly, we think the police attempt to prevent the press’s work must be investigated”

The original version mainly condemning people using the demonstration for throwing stones at the police had changed and the focus was now on fire in the streets and that it ”appeared” as if the police had stopped people from using their right to express themselves. For some reason the party shows special interest only in one group were they ask for extra attention in the investigation they want to be conducted, the press.

When it seemed as a slight difference between the position of the Red Green Alliance and the Socialist People’s Party emerged Clausen was not late in using it. In the press he stated that the competing left wing party was embarrassing as it did not take a clear distance from unreasonable police preventive arrests of people who have done nothing illegal. It is important both to distance oneself from violence and vandalism and the police state, he concluded.

“Broad political support for the police”. DR, (Danish public service media).

The Social liberal non left wing party in opposition to the right wing government also expressed their concerns. They accused the government for the law that had permitted the police to make the mass arrest: This law ”made it easy for the police to detain people preventively. So before they ever have done anything.” The spokes person of the social liberal party continued about the law ”We were violently opposed at the time, and we are still.”

So what many left wingers would describe as a bourgeoisie party made the opposite to the left wing parties in three ways. Firstly attacking the government and not the police or other oppositional parties to the left. Secondly focusing on that it is wrong to detain innocent people. Thirdly using emotional wording as violently not from a police perspective but rather from a democratic giving emphasis on the concern the party had from the beginning and now even more had against the law and its consequences.

This made it obvious that it was possible to mobilise a broad alliance far beyond the left wing political culture to defend the democratic rights against the new mass arrest practice. The problem was not that it was impossible in Denmark to formulate the basis for collectively denouncing the attack on the integrity of the 12 December initiative mass protest. The problem was that both the left wing parties and the Danish organizing committee were unwilling to mobilise any collective response but preferred individualistic and disperse reactions.

During Sunday almost a whole demonstration was mass arrested on the way to the harbour were a non-violent action had been announced.

Monday 14th of December

“Socialist People’s Party (SF) wriggles in the case of mass arrests”, Politiken (Social Liberal press)

The course of events threatened the position of the Socialist People’s Party which presents itself as both environmentally more concerned than other parties as well as more concerned about democracy, most often also with social justice concerns. The conservative press noted with some malicious joy correctly that many of the arrested demonstrators were members of the party that now had supported the police in their action against the members. In the middle of the day on Monday Lorenzen made one more press release to explain herself with the title: SF supports neither mass arrests of innocent, or inhumane treatment of detainees. The emphasis in the beginning is now on how the party ”fought a brave battle against both ’the Hooligan package’ and preventive arrests, which are the tools used by  Police on Saturday.”

The emphasis also have changed in such a way that it is now the government rather than the police or activists which is criticized. The blame is: ”first and foremost on the responsible government politicians …. With their constraints and the Hooligan package they have whipped up a mood and clearly signalled to police that they should keep quiet in the streets at any cost. Even at the cost of freedom of assembly.”

She continues: ”we must focus on the perpetrators, rather than uniquely focusing on the police, who simply carried out what resembles a political order. Thus it is the police who carried out many arrests, but it is the government and the Danish People’s Party, which has shed the bullets to arrest disproportionately many innocent people.”

The rest of the press release is understanding the problems of the police when 100.000 are on the streets and ”mistakes” are bound to occur. It is the law which has a too ”broad scope” that is the problem and to this end the party demands an explanation from the police and the minister of Justice. She ends by a more strong emotional language:

”I would also like to stress that it was undoubtedly necessary for the police to act against those who threw the firecracker and cobbles in the middle of an otherwise fantastic and peaceful demonstration. This behaviour is in no way an expression of democratic sentiment. We have also previously seen some cities being totally devastated by the violent protesters: Berlin, Seattle and many more. Copenhagen should not be in this row.

Therefore I can not stress enough that we can and must take a deep distance from violent activists. And I’m in short, wildly offended that firecracker throwing troublemakers allows themselves to interfere with the ordinary demonstrators”

It was now necessary for the popular party leader Villy Søvndal to intervene. Two hours after the spokes person made her third statement after the demonstration with shifting focus and different content he wrote on his facebook page under the heading: Nice demonstration – unfortunately too many arrests.

He started by stating that ”we should be happy and proud that we can hold such a demonstration in Copenhagen … that showed Danish involvement in the fight for a fair and ambitious climate agreement” He continued that this impression ”should not be destroyed by a few troublemakers.”

”From my side it can not be said clearly enough: I will by no means accept that a small group of black clad thugs try to create unrest and violence in the shelter of a great peaceful and family-friendly demonstration. For me, democracy is that people can participate in demonstrations with their small children without fear of being recruited into street fighting and stone throwing.”

He continued: ”It is the police’s task to ensure peace and order. And therefore it is of course entirely appropriate that the police intervene if there are people who are rioting. But having said that, I also think that it seems out of proportion to arrest 1,000 people, when you subsequently only bring a handful of them to the court. It is of course quite untenable that the police let people sit for hours on the cold asphalt, so that people pee in their pants, etc. It must be possible to do it better.”

Søvndal concluded by criticising the government and stating that ”My position is that the hooligan package should be abolished under a future government.”

This was news. Before the Socialist People’s Party had voted against the new law package proposed by the government but not promised that if they came to power they would abolish the law, as the Social democrats. Contrary to the social liberal party and the Red Green Alliance they voted against the law package not on principle but to gain some attention while maintaining a wait and see position. Now the party leader had decided that it was the time to declare a more stead fast opposition while the emotional rhetoric still was much in support of the police and mainly directed against activist accused of intending to use the demonstration for street fighting.

During the day the No border demonstration to protect the rights of climate and other refugees went along without problem. In the night the police intervened at Christiania were Climate Justice Action had a debate followed by a party. The police stormed into Christiania throwing tear gas and arrested people meeting some resistance.

Tuesday 15th of December ”It does not belong in a democracy”

Social democratic youth bloc in the 12 december demonstration.

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

Tuesday was the time for the third left wing party to intervene, the Social Democrats. They did not see any reason to make much of public statements in the press before this as their positions on policing is very close to that of the Socialist People’s Party. But now their cooperation partner had gone too far.

The press could report that ”There are cracks in the otherwise close cooperation between Social democrats and Socialist People’s Party, when it comes to policing during the climate summit. While the chair of the Socialist people’s Party Søvndal has attacked the police handling during Saturday’s big climate demonstration in Copenhagen, a completely different message comes from the Social Democrats’ political spokesman, Henrik Sass Larsen.”

“We have confidence that the police acted properly. There is not something I would criticize the police for, ” says Henrik Sass Larsen.

Also justice affairs spokesperson Karen Haekkerup distance herself to Søvndal’s criticism.

”The police have done well. They ensured that the vast majority could implement a very popular, festive demonstration, without it being destroyed by the types here, ”

When asked if Søvndal do not understand this, says Hækkerup:

“I will not give character to Søvndal. I just think that we must take care to give police peace while they work and to show that Danes are behind them when they stand here in the extremely difficult working situation where they must provide security to the climate summit, and so that Copenhagen is not set on fire. ”

“Social democrats (S) and Socialist People’s Party (SF) disagree on police critique”, Berlingske (Conservative press)

The pecking order among the left wing parties all speaking at the demonstration was established. The one with the most privileged speaking slot at the best place and time for media attention at the demonstration, the Social democrats, most strongly and consistently in favour of the police attack on the demonstration. The two other left wing parties with less privileged speaking slots, in the beginning in favour of a police perspective making the police attack on the demonstration understandable and then in different degrees opposing the mass arrest and partly the police perspective. All avoiding initiating a collective response from the Danish organisers on the repressive politics carried out by the Danish state against climate protesters in Copenhagen. This new pecking order made it possible for the Red Green Alliance to more and more take the side of the climate protesters.

The most interesting thing with this day is how it is now revealed the way a left wing party and maybe all of them think strategically. One reason why the social democrats do not defend the demonstrators in the manifestation they themselves are collectively responsible for as organisers and among the privileged speakers is explicitly stated. It is not the way the police act against the demonstrators which is the main interest for this party, but the situation the police have when in general they ”must provide security to the climate summit”. A task presented not as related to the demonstration in the past but as a task in the present as the protests at Bella Center are not over.

Tadzio Müller distributing Turbulence at the 12 December demonstration. Photo Avenirclima.org

On Tuesday also the escalation of extreme repression of a new kind not seen for a hundred years under normal circumstances in Europe was put into practice. Police arrested the spokesman of the Climate Justice Action, Tadzio Müller, after he had held a press conference at the Bella Center with several NGOs and organizations.

This kind of targeted arrests was once common in attempting at stopping popular movements. But the experience showed in the long run that it was counter productive. By conflating the role of spokes person for a non-violent action with the possibility that someone in the non-violent action other than the spokes person might harm a policemen the state could put many people in prison. At the same time this was practical in short term as the opinion of the movement got stiffed or silenced and was an effective way to criminalize freedom of expression. But as the underlying causes still existed this caused even more unrest as well as undermined the whole rule of law with its principles of individual responsibility. Thus this extremely repressive politics had to be reconsidered.

Denmark reintroduced this state repression of freedom of expression a hundred years after it was seen as an unacceptable act against freedom and counterproductive way to postpone the solution of social conflicts escalating unrest instead of promoting political solutions. This is remarkable. How can a nation become so democratically backward that such state acts against freedom of expression reemerge without any collective response?

Line Barfod, Press photo Mads Nissen

The Red Green Alliance issued a press release with a protest. That was about all. Line Barfod, the spokes person on justice affairs of the party stated: Arrest of spokesperson is an error.

”- It is quite wrong to arrest the spokesperson from an avowedly non-violent organization. Were are we heading, if we begin to arrest the spokespersons from legal and non-violent political groups.

– Police should instead maintain dialogue with non-violent activists to ensure that their protest tomorrow will take place without violence from either activists or police, as also the activists want.

It is a very unfortunate signal to the world we send in those days. First mass arrests of hundreds of innocent protesters and now arrests of the spokespersons of the protest movement. It does not belong in a democracy.”

The Red Green Alliance also protested this day against NGOs being thrown out of the Bella Center:

It is totally unacceptable that NGOs are largely expelled from the Bella Center on Friday, when it expects to publish the outcome of the climate summit. The consequence is that critical voices will be gone and the world’s politicians will have the stage to himself and have the ability to sell a bad result as a success, says Per Clausen, climate spokes person for the red Green Alliance.

Environmental and global justice organisations made a last attempt at confronting the growing repression. Friends of the Earth Sweden, Climate Movement Denmark and Attac Denmark initiated a debate at Klimaforum with representatives from all continents in the South inviting all Danish parliamentary parties to come and listen to the views of international guests and give their opinion on repression during the COP15. Red Green Alliance turned up and the social liberal party would have liked to come but had problems on such a short notice. No other party was interested. The initiative to challenge Danish organisations to contribute to collective efforts against the repression ended in the same way as earlier, by individual statements and no commitment to act or even try to act collectively neither from a party or other formal Danish organisations.

Activist and police on agriculture protest day. Photo

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

The protest action on agriculture organised by CJA, Via Campesina, Friend of the Earth, A SEED and others went well.

Wednesday 16th of December – “No soft feelings”

This was the day of the Reclaim power action. Targeted arrests continued against two spokes persons Nicolas Haeringer and Tannie Nybøe of CJA before the call for making the push at Bella center against the police lines were made to establish a People’s Assembly together with people coming from the inside. Mass arrests of almost a whole so called Green bloc took place at Örestad and the bike bloc also had great difficulties. But thousands marched in the main blue bloc steadfast towards Bella center.

In the midst of the preparations for the inside Reclaim power action to walk out the Socialist People’s Party leader Søvndal is interviewed at the Bella center by Jyllandsposten, the biggest and the most right wing daily of Denmark. He supports tough behaviour against violent activists, but called the police preliminary efforts too “imprecise”

“There is ‘no soft feelings’ against the violent elements who come here. It is important that police bank them when encountering them and the police must not be criticized for this. Rather, it is a prerequisite for peaceful demonstrations to be arranged. In return, they are not good at hitting accurately”

Reclaim power action from the inside encounter with the police. Photo Avenirclima.info

Soon a historically new step in the repression against popular movements takes place nearby were the Socialist party leader was interviewed. The Danish police starts to violently bank UN accredited delegates from movements that are participating in the Reclaim Power action from the inside to stop them from reaching those coming from the outside. It is the first time to my knowledge that officially UN accredited participants are beaten by police of the host country when they try to leave the official conference venue.

A People’s Assembly is finally successfully established by those on the outside surrounded almost completely by police and finally a march together to the city centre in good mood ends the mass action. In total 260 people are arrested and detained in the special climate prison in Valby during the day, some 30 pepper sprayed and 10 wounded among the activists. No reports of any harm to policemen or anything else is reported.

The youth wing of the right wing dominating governmental party, Venstres Ungdom, also expressed their concern about what had happened during the summit. The spokes person for Justice affairs of VU, Ida Swan Grevlund, issued a statement on the homepage of the organisation under the title ”The Hooligan package consequences for legal certainty”

”The 12th of December 2009 will be remembered as the day when the rule of law and its basic principles had to give way for each individual policemen arbitrary assessment of how extensively the ’law and order’ were respected. This was the day where up to 700 demonstrators during the climate summit were arrested and taken to the temporary COP15 prison cells where the detainees had to adapt to many hours of waiting behind bars in appalling conditions.

Some of the demonstrators were certainly arrested on a valid basis – it is totally unacceptable to throw paving stones and attacking police to get a political message across. But there was also an unnecessarily high number of innocent people among those arrested as the hooligan package allows the police to make the so-called preventative arrests. It has thus become legal to detain a person for up to 12 hours, only if the police deem that he possibly could jeopardize safety. Man is no longer innocent until proven otherwise, however, you are guilty even before you have done anything criminal.

It is very problematic that the police have increased powers to make far-reaching interventions in the individual’s personal freedom. Detention, as an administrative arrest of course is, requires considerable control and security. An arbitrary discretion from a tired cop is not enough if the rule of law should apply.

There have been several examples where the government has breached the constitution and the rule of fundamental parts to accommodate “’special security challenges.’ Here one can mention for instance terrorist legislation and now the hooligan package. Liberal youth do not think you can combat threats by restricting the individual’s constitutional rights. The end does not justify the means, because no situation should be able to put democracy in a state of emergency. The government’s goal with the hooligan package is to maintain security during the climate summit – but security is in no way created by undermining the rule of law.”

This statement received immediate positive comments from fellow companions:
– I could not agree more – super article!
– It is elegantly written! Unfortunately it seems that the popular mood is happy about the actions, although every third are genuine opponents to the package.
– Frederick: I have heard it and it can be only explained by the fact that some want to give up freedom for security .. It is incomprehensible to us liberals.

The continued comments differed from what happened to the Socialist People’s Party blog posts. The discussion was clearly focused on facts and principles rather than the populistic tone of both the socialist party spokes persons and many of their commentators in opposing directions although of course also here existed discussions to the point. With the statements from the social liberal party and now the more right wing liberal youth it became even more hard to understand why the left wing parties had chosen a far less coherent and at times police perspective in the way of responding to the repression.

Thursday 17th of December – ”Eat breakfast with Morales”

The party leader Søvndal announces that he will eat breakfast with the Socialist president Evo Morales from Bolivia on his facebook blog. Søvndal especially emphasises that Morales is a winner, someone that is clearly victorious against the right wing in the recent elections. He very much looks forward to meet this winner.

The Red Green Alliance politics now more firm in the hands of the spokes person Barfod for justice affairs do not either take part in collective action but makes something out of a response from the Conservative minister of justice on the hooligan law package. The minister had responded to earlier critical questions from Barfod that ”Of course, detainees protestors would be allowed to go to the bathroom and get something to drink”. Relatives were also assured that they should be informed about the detention. ”It is in sharp contrast to the situation during the great peaceful demonstration on 12th of December, when 968 were detained.” Barfod stated in a press release.

Anti-repression demonstrators from CGT, Spain (No other carried organization banners). Photo Avenirclima.info

Others are more involved in collective organizing of protests against repression including the imprisoned Climate Justice Action spokes persons and the heavy crack down on both the inside and outside Reclaim power action, issues that Evo Morales addressed as speaker at the UN Conference but something Søvndal stays out of doing something about. In front of Christiansborg a fast organized vigil with protesters stating free the political prisoners and     takes place in the afternoon. The action is small, the media interest big.

At Klimaforum a seminar on popular movement cooperation against repression started. It was organized by Friends of the Earth Sweden, Climate Collective and others. A problem was that the Climate Collective preparing the seminar all were in prison.

At Valby hall not far from the climate prison thousands of people gathered to hear the Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez and Morales speak. They mainly addressed climate issues and the need for socialism but also strongly protested against the police repression in Copenhagen. The Danish left wing organisers continued to avoid any collective response to the repression and support the demonstrators as well as the opinion of Morales and Chavez. The biggest indoor mass meeting during the whole climate summit perfectly placed for making a call for action against the repression of the climate justice movement was not used for this at all. The Danish left did see no need in supporting international solidarity in spite of that they had all the chances.

Friday 18th of December – International networks demonstrate against Danish repression

December 18 march against repression. Photo here and below: Avenirclima.org

Climate Justice Action and Climate Justice Now! organized a demonstration supported by all the present international popular movements against the repression, the mass arrests and with the demand to release the climate prisoners. 1,500 people participated. The Danish formal organisations were still as passive as ever continuing to avoid collective responsibility for protecting the rights of those that had marched on their invitation in Copenhagen.

Content

The COP15 promising ALBA mass meeting

The lost left wing opportunity

How the left supported the police against demonstrators in Copenhagen

Day by day reactions on repression December 12 to 18:

Saturday 12th of December – Come safely to peaceful demonstration

The left wing cover up

Sunday 13th of December – ”we were violently opposed”

Monday 14th of December – ”unfortunately too many arrests”

Tuesday 15th of December ”It does not belong in a democracy”

Wednesday 16th of December – “No soft feelings”

Thursday 17th of December – ”Eat breakfast with Morales”

Friday 18th of December – International networks demonstrate against Danish repression

Danish self-criticism

Why is the left promoting police perspectives?

Danish political claustrophobia

The way the Danish left assess Copenhagen

The paternalistic Red Green Alliance

Trotskyist climate heroes without guts

Non-parliamentary left: A Waterloo for activists, not a new Seattle

From anti neoliberal left to authoritarian state-media governance left

Other material:

12 December Initiative – huge success or background for branding?

Open letter on Denmark’s freedom and legal situation

The whole world on trial

The Fall of the Bella Wall: Power Reclaimed

Danish self criticism

After the Climate summit it was time for reflection. It was started in a broader scale by Knud Vilby, the spokes person of the 12th December initiative. On the 6th of January his open letter on Denmark’s freedom and legal situation was published in the daily Information were he had been editor in chief in the 1970s.

His attempt was made in the by now typical Danish way to act regarding the assault on democratic rights during the summit. It was done on individual basis and made no appeal  for collective responsibility from the Danish organization that had invited 100 000 people to come and protest and then being degradingly treated by the police. Instead the former spokes person of the 12th of December initiative Knud Vilby addressed ”Denmark”.

On the 7th of January in an open letter with the title ”An open letter on Denmark’s freedom and legal situation”. He stated ”We must discuss the mass arrests, the police new judiciary, and the exaggerated reactions to peaceful, non-violent civil disobedience in Wonderful Copenhagen” and continue:

”Dear all
We need to have a thorough conversation in our society about the way Denmark changed in December.
• Huge popular climate demonstrations were – at a very few exceptions – very peaceful, but nevertheless resulted in 2,000 arrests or detentions. This has never happened before.
• The distinction between violent and nonviolent civil disobedience effectively disappeared when the police and courts responded with the greatest violence against the non-violent actions.
• The gap between the judicial and executive power faded from sight, and the distinction between guilty and innocent blurry as police condemned many innocent temporary imprisonment.

If we consciously forget what happened, and without discussion goes into 2010 with the same laws, authorizations and attitudes, we say yes to that the most authoritarian form of authority will have even more power next time it becomes crucial.”

The letter opens up for a much needed self critical discussion among Danish organizations and their international cooperation partners not only regarding the repression of the December 12 demonstration but also against Climate Justice action and other protests during the summit.

There are some clear limitations. That still the false story of cobble stone throwing black dressed activists having wounded a policemen which made demonstrators welcoming the police intervention is promoted is one such limitation. The other is the elitist and state centric view.

It becomes clear why many formal Danish organizations lack interest in being accountable. They believe in leadership and that the main focus should be the state and the laws. Thus Vilby states about CJA:

”The next major action was the Climate Justice Action’s action. It was to bring critical demonstrators with critical delegates together at the Bella Center area. CJA had put everything openly forward. It was civil disobedience, but peaceful and non-violent. Personally, I was however very worried that protesters would drop peaceful unity when police arrested a day before one of the leaders, a known moderate German CJA activist. It was contrary to common sense and the advice that the police had received as part of the dialogue with them. It became even worse when one arrested two young Danish CJA responsible leaders. It was e.g. Stine Gry, which was part of 12.dec. planning and who had collaborated and informed fully open. She was rewarded with phone tapping and imprisonment.

Responsible leaders will ensure that civil disobedience does not lead to violence. They ensure that the goal is not destroyed by the fact that activists are angry and frustrated and goes berserk. But despite the arrests, it succeeded. The only violence we saw in the media were police swinging their sticks. The protesters were disciplined. Although the leadership was sent to jail, they kept themselves to the adopted virtually entirely peaceful program.”

Vilby and many formal Danish organizations do not trust the people. To them it is a surprise that people without leaders can still hold on to the main goal of an action. One can hope that some of them now will learn, at least Vilby seems willing to.

The greater problem is the focus on the state while the rest of the people is supposed to behave under responsible leadership. Vilby address the division of power between judicial and executive powers and a vague ”Denmark” which somehow is supposed to put things in order until next time. He rightly not only criticizes the government but also much of the opposition unfortunately without being at all specific.

Mass arrest at the Amagerbrogade four hours on the ground. Photo: http://www.flickr.com/photos/kk/ / CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

But the most immediately responsible is not criticized, the Danish 12 of December demonstration committee. Democracy is not only coming to life via government and political party opposition resulting in laws and implementations by executive organs. It is even more nurtured by all agreements in daily life ruled by written or unwritten laws maintaining commons of different character. We meet and we agree upon things and build trust.

The Danish 12 of December Initiative have invited us to demonstrate and it is their duty to protect every participant and the integrity of the whole demonstration. Not to use the 100 000 voices for their individualistic interests and promote the branding of their own organization while turning their back at the whole collective responsibility as quick as they get the chance to find new ways of branding themselves.

That the state can behave extreme is not totally new. What is historic about Copenhagen is that the organizations of the host country supported the police against the demonstrators in a demonstration that they themselves had organized. It is the duty of all demonstration committees that have any decent sense of democracy to collectively respond to the kind of massive repression against a demonstration which was enacted by the police in Copenhagen.

Dogs used by the police inside the kettle at Amagerbrogade.  Photo: http://www.flickr.com/photos/kk/ / CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

It is also their duty to denounce those organizers of the demonstration that uses the opportunity to support the police perspective and the mass arrests thus escalating repression further.

The state has as we know many different limitations in living up to democratic standards based on equal rights for all. Already the geographic limitations makes this obvious in a case when those states that emits most green house gases are those that have economic power to marginalize the voices and the rights of impoverished countries that carries the main burden of climate change as well as many other effects of unequal distribution of wealth and environmental destruction.

Thus it is important to demand democratic behavior of everyone in society, especially when voluntary agreeing to cooperate and inviting demonstrators from the whole world as the Danish committee have been doing. This demand for accountability has the advantage of being much easier to fulfil. Danish organizations signing the agreement behind the 12th of December demonstration should have not problem at all to come to a collective decision in majority or consensus on what happened and how to respond to repression including demanding an answer from those organizations that chose to support police perspectives and mass arrests.

The days when Danish organizations can continue to act individually and maintain their democratic respect among organizations and movements in the rest of the world are over. The Climate summit was not an internal Danish business, it was of importance for the whole world. But it was only Danish organizations that fully could prevent repression and stop it from escalating. They have utterly failed to do so and instead used the opportunity for competing individualistically with each other with those Danish organizations that was elected to have speaker at the demonstration at center stage. Instead of being democratic and call a meeting and decide collectively how to respond to the repression of movements from the whole world the Danish organizations behave as branding actors on a market in their full right to do as they pleased.

This is to betray both democracy and a strong climate movement. The discussion in Denmark Vilby calls for on state behavior is necessary, but first we need a collective democratic effort to see who fulfilled their plight to the foreign and other guests and who did not. Maybe it would even be possible to find out why formally democratic Danish organizations when put to the test refused to use democratic means and take their responsibility as supporters and organizers of the demonstration to collectively counteract the state repression against their manifestation to which they had invited people trusting that the Danish organizers were reliable.

It is about time that we as movements starts to make code of conducts when cooperating and strongly criticize those organizations that formally claim they are part of the collective effort but do not follow the rules in self interest to brand their own organization. Democracy is here and now, reclaimed all the time in our daily lives, at the workplace, at home, when we cooperate in smaller or larger scale. It is not something as Red Green Alliance stated about the demonstration, a question about acting in a way” that sends a clear signal to those in power”. To instrumentalize participants in a demonstration or other form of movement cooperation stating that the only thing that matters is to ask others to do something is not democracy, it is elitism. When it is combined with refusal to collectively counteract repression it is anti democratic and paves the way for an authoritarian state.

The attempts by Vilby to open up for a self critical debate and the positions of organizations as the social liberal party, young right wing liberals and climate justice action activists in Denmark shows that there are forces and possibilities to learn from the course of events in Copenhagen. But we cannot come further without that concerned organizations in Denmark and abroad collectively takes responsibility, investigate in how the collective solidarity especially from Danish organizations failed and decide how this should be addressed in the future.

Especially important is it that those Danish organizations that had the key possibility to do something but did not are called into question by their national and international partners. It is especially three left wing parties, with important fraction five political organizations, that have failed to support collective solidarity and at times supported a police perspective or even fully support the police intervention. It is the Social democratic party, the Socialist People’s Party and the Red Green Alliance were both fractions of the 4th international and the Internationalist Socialist allied with the Socialist Worker’s Party in Britain play a crucial role in the mass activities during the Climate summit.

We need to know if these parties and other parties are willing to learn and change their individualistic behavior at COP15 in the future or if they will continue to constitute a threat to protest movements also after Copenhagen. We need to know if their international sister parties agree to what their cooperation partners did in Copenhagen and if one can expect the same behavior from them in the future or if they are willing to jointly with the peasant, environmental and the whole climate justice movement confront repression and criminalization of popular movements.

Tord Björk

Content

The COP15 promising ALBA mass meeting

The lost left wing opportunity

How the left supported the police against demonstrators in Copenhagen

Day by day reactions on repression December 12 to 18:

Saturday 12th of December – Come safely to peaceful demonstration

The left wing cover up

Sunday 13th of December – ”we were violently opposed”

Monday 14th of December – ”unfortunately too many arrests”

Tuesday 15th of December ”It does not belong in a democracy”

Wednesday 16th of December – “No soft feelings”

Thursday 17th of December – ”Eat breakfast with Morales”

Friday 18th of December – International networks demonstrate against Danish repression

Danish self-criticism

Why is the left promoting police perspectives?

Danish political claustrophobia

The way the Danish left assess Copenhagen

The paternalistic Red Green Alliance

Trotskyist climate heroes without guts

Non-parliamentary left: A Waterloo for activists, not a new Seattle

From anti neoliberal left to authoritarian state-media governance left

Other material:

12 December Initiative – huge success or background for branding?

Open letter on Denmark’s freedom and legal situation

The whole world on trial

The Fall of the Bella Wall: Power Reclaimed

Why is the left promoting police perspectives?

What is clear from Kund Vilby’s open letter and the support of the police from Social democrats is that the question is not repression of the mass demonstration but how to relate to all the protests and policing during COP15. This is of course in the mind of every left wing group or party with ambitions to change society or become government.

Consciously or unconsciously the Danish formal left wing organizations in their reactions on the repression of the December 12 demonstration had in mind the coming days during COP15 and especially the Reclaim power action which they all had opposed.


Attac the exception. Here Christophe Aguiton arguing at the police kettle at Amagerbrogade. Photo avenirclimat.info

All formal Danish voices from any kind of strands that had been raised with the exception of Attac in the last minute had claimed that the action was impossible in Denmark on moral grounds. The reason for this was that civil disobedience even if non-violent directed against a legislative assembly was of such a different nature than other civil disobedience against more acceptable goals to the public like shutting down a coal fire plant or organizing a picket to stop privatization of services. Attac changed their mind after that it became clear that in 2002 such an action had been successfully carried out during an EU-Summit at the Bella Center without escalating into violence.

There was also a second reason shared by many more including those that could see no hindrance in principle towards non-violent actions at legislative assemblies like the parliament, EU or UN summit. This reason was the fact that there was an additional reason to protect the Bella center compared to many other targets, a cause behind a police action. The politicians inside were known goals for terrorists and thus extraordinary ways was necessary to protect them. As one commentator summed it up in Politiken afterwards, the whole action was totally unacceptable as a murderer could hide among those pushing for coming inside.

The argument that terrorist attacks of this kind never have happened during summit protests is no reason for disclaiming this argument. The police are anyway in their full right legally and morally to act as if such a possibility could be a reality. That some arguing for the action at times were not aware of the seriousness did not make the situation easier. It had been stated once at a CJA preparatory meeting that there were no risks for getting shot by security guards as inside the Bella center were tens of thousands of delegates and so there were security measures in many layers before it would be possible to reach the persons that needed special protection.

This was of course partly true and an argument against the somewhat exaggerated opinion in Politiken against the action. On the other hand also naive. There were no reason to believe that the police or other security forces would regard reclaim power activists whether in a main bloc or separate affinity groups as the same as NGO delegates once they had overcome the first police barriers and further closer to the building at the entrance at the subway were the NGO delegates entered or elsewhere. On the other hand this was also an argument for that establishing a People’s Assembly inside the Bella center area which was in practice done at the EU Summit 2002 after pushing the police a bit did not pose a security threat to the well protected inside. There were not only many security barriers inside the building but also many barriers to overcome if the mass action had overcome the first police cordon.

There were at times an omnipotent language in the CJA preparations talking about disrupting the official conference for a whole day unspecified in what way by entering from outside and with the help of those inside making it unclear what the goal of the action was. To disrupt COP15 by establishing inside the Bella center area a People’s Assembly by the force of mass civil disobedience from the outside and with NGO and governmental delegates from the inside calling for a different agenda than the official. Or to disrupt the conference also physically inside the venue coming from the outside. Closer to the date for the action the goal to establish a People’s Assembly became more and more clearly expressed and both for this reason and that other goals were practically out of reach for the action arguments against Reclaim power became more and more invalid if taking into consideration the gap between the official arguments for the acute need for action on climate change and inability in the negotiations visible since many months or longer of that negotiations would fail.

What made the formal Danish organizations, many of them claiming to be system critical, anyway almost in unison totally reject the Reclaim power action in spite of the predictable failure of the conference and that the formal organizations claimed that another agenda was utterly important is of importance to find out. Are the Danish formal organizations less interested than they claim in a politics that can stop climate change? Are they seeing other more ideological goals as more important as the idea that all legislatives assemblies should for ever be excluded from any civil disobedience regardless of what decisions are made inside?

Another possibility is that the formal organizations do not trust people. Vilby may not be alone in his prior assessment that without leaders a mass non violent action may go out of hand. Is it out of question to take any risks for a formal Danish organisation were its leadership might need to answer on why they were so naive believing that people in common could be disciplined during a mass action were the police might provoke in different ways?

Police during the mass arrest of the December 12 march. Photo: http://www.flickr.com/photos/kk/ / CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

The other option was to play safely and unite with main stream NGOs stating as a main message from the 12 December demonstration the by December illusionary wish for a real deal with a secondary main ideological message, trust the leaders. This secondary main message was in total opposition to the message from the reclaim power action.

Faced with this reality the most resourceful left wing actors makes the choice to support a view in favour of a police perspective on what happened at the demonstration 12 December. Furthermore is no collective response organized among formal Danish organizations against the police intervention by the left wing parties supporting the integrity of the demonstration. The first reaction among the left wing parties is to internalize the views of the police, even more actually than the police themselves. The story that the mass arrests took place after a policemen was hurt by a stone is made up by the media and the left wing parties, it is not in the official police statement explaining the reason for the action. The Danish organizations gets paralyzed by the fact that they have made a choice. They are against questioning the official summit by non violent disobedience and have all instead opted for a broad mass demonstration. Then they have to follow the line completely and use the same arguments against the integrity of the demonstration as they use against the reclaim power action. Demonstrators in any kind of manifestation are dangerous and we need to understand that the police must intervene as the risks are far higher than we can imagine. If they do not exist we must help by telling that the risks in anyway existed and thus the reason for the police to intervene was by all means understandable.

Citizens against activist violence demonstrating in the middle of the gathering of the demonstration.

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

By internalizing a police definition on violence and reasons for intervening the formal Danish organizations becomes as integrated into the state as the main stream NGOs that chose to say no to participate in supporting a people’s climate forum in Copenhagen as they had all access to influencing the summit from inside the Bella center as accredited lobbyists. But the internalizing of the police definition of violence is more hidden. Those controlling system critical media are often strongly related to the same organizations that as in Denmark have chosen to support the police, at least in the decisive moment. There is much at stake for the formal organizations and thus they try as much as possible to act behind the scenes instead of openly.

But what happened in Copenhagen is historical also in the way that this time it became obvious how this internalization of the police interests is expressed and organized. The key argument against the Reclaim power action was that any kind of pushing a policemen at the Bella Center would immediately result in violence, and violence is if it is executed by the police or a demonstrator totally unacceptable. As the non-violent person pushing a policemen is the cause of this predictable violence this action must be totally rejected. There were more or less no objections to the political demands of the reclaim power action from organization demanding climate justice, only this that the violence that would occur due to an action at a legislative assembly was impossible to explain to members and the public and also to many morally unacceptable.

Tord Björk

Content

The COP15 promising ALBA mass meeting

The lost left wing opportunity

How the left supported the police against demonstrators in Copenhagen

Day by day reactions on repression December 12 to 18:

Saturday 12th of December – Come safely to peaceful demonstration

The left wing cover up

Sunday 13th of December – ”we were violently opposed”

Monday 14th of December – ”unfortunately too many arrests”

Tuesday 15th of December ”It does not belong in a democracy”

Wednesday 16th of December – “No soft feelings”

Thursday 17th of December – ”Eat breakfast with Morales”

Friday 18th of December – International networks demonstrate against Danish repression

Danish self-criticism

Why is the left promoting police perspectives?

Danish political claustrophobia

The way the Danish left assess Copenhagen

The paternalistic Red Green Alliance

Trotskyist climate heroes without guts

Non-parliamentary left: A Waterloo for activists, not a new Seattle

From anti neoliberal left to authoritarian state-media governance left

Other material:

12 December Initiative – huge success or background for branding?

Open letter on Denmark’s freedom and legal situation

The whole world on trial

The Fall of the Bella Wall: Power Reclaimed

Danish political claustrophobia

I have been using time since March 2009 trying to discuss with any kind of organizations and activists involved in climate justice movement in Denmark whether environmental, left wing, peasants or any other strand. As I live in Sweden two hours from Copenhagen by train it has been fairly easy to go there. I have never in my whole political life met such paranoid people willing to take any odd argument for their extremist positions against each other. Regularly it was impossible to actually find out what the different positions were. Instead of speaking up organizations and individuals chose to read into their opponents actions and statements only that which exaggerated the polarization further.

It was as if what actually people had stated or done was uninteresting, the only thing to focus upon was the possible worst case scenario of what they could have said or were going to do, most often far beyond any worst case scenario. The insensitive intervention by activists from other political cultures were omnipotent language was claimed to be necessary to mobilize people in contrast to the Nordic more consensus oriented political culture also among system critical movements did not make things easier.

Danish poster for the 12 December march in typical youth house occupant style. Photo Tord Björk

The paranoid perception of uncontrollable masses of potentially violent activists coming to a large extent from abroad had caught the minds of any of those in the leadership of formal Danish organizations. There were exceptions as the Permaculture Association, the initiator and main political force within Klimaforum that tried to calm things down. But in general it was impossible to get a discussion focused upon what people actually have said or stated at different points, many times it was even impossible to find the original quote when it was inaccessible on the internet. People claimed exaggerating things about what had actually been said but were uninterested in serving international cooperation partners with the actual statements and in Denmark none seemed interested in a constructive debate based on a fair assessment of what different actors stated.

This included unfair criticism of every actor including the main stream NGOs but was mainly directed against the reclaim power action. Typical for the formal Danish organizations to react is that they responded to what reached the media, not when they received the actual reports from meetings. It is as if the Danish formal organisations have left any respect for agreements made by movements together and instead have become market oriented with mass media as their central reference for how and when to act.

Thus the formal Danish organizations did not state strongly their critical opinion against mass civil disobedience at the Bella center at the CJA meeting in June. They did not even open their mouth when the minutes from the meeting was sent 11th of June. Only when the Guardian wrote an article in late July about the Reclaim power action were WWF Denmark stated strong criticism against the violence this would cause the Danish organizations to start reacting.

Part of the reason why Danish system critical environmental and left wing organizations do not speak up is the result of a consensus culture built on trust. Thus when the strong reactions against the CJA decision in June to disrupt the official summit for a whole day and entering the conference building from the outside came they were tempered by the fact that Danish CJA activists told others that they also opposed the decision and that it would be changed if one trusted the process.

CJA meeting in October at Christiania. Drawing Tord BJörk

This was also the case, at least partly at next CJA meeting in October when the formulation was changed from entering the conference building to entering the Bella center area. But the problem was that the formal Danish organisations actually were totally against any non-violent civil disobedience action at the Bella center. The only problem was that they had refused to state their opinion openly making it possible for concerned climate change persons in Denmark or the rest of the world to react to their opinion. To late in late October chair persons for three social movement organisations, a peasant, a fisherman and a construction worker stated what most formal organizations thought, a non-violent action at the Bella center would result in unacceptable violence destroying the focus on politically important issues. The formal left wing and environmental organisations chose a more secret way of doing politics, they in practice often were even more opposing than the organizations whose chair persons had signed the open letter, but saw it as tactical to in practice be against the reclaim power action more covertly than state it openly. To enable an open discussion was against the interests of many formal Danish organizations.

It was as if they looked upon the climate summit as entirely an internal Danish affair were open discussion with movements from the rest of the world was irrelevant. They had the chance and why not then take the privilege of doing as they wanted as they had all the key positions for doing so within the state of Denmark. After all, global popular movements as Via Campesina should more be seen as a problem for their role in domestic politics and a trouble in their relationship with the police and governmental donors than legitimate promoters of civil disobedience at the Bella center. To the left it was more important to sit and clap the hands at movements and governments in the rest of the world struggling for climate justice and freedom than to engage in any serious discussion on cooperation across boarders in a way that somehow would put their well entrenched position in domestic Danish politics at any risk.

But this chauvinistic attitude within formal Danish organizations is not sufficient to explain their support of police and media perspectives. The claustrophobic feeling the unwillingness to in time discuss the most conflictual actions with international cooperation partners as if Denmark is isolated from the rest of the world was matched by also other disturbing tendencies.

Regularly when trying to discuss with Danish organization it became clear that it was not only polarization between organisers of different larger activities and between separate organizations but also within. Thus it was almost impossible to find any collective responsibility for the actions of the organizations. In the case of CJA it was all open. The decisions were made in consensus at meetings and the minutes published openly at the web site for all to see. Here the actions supported by CJA as well as when there were criticism of the political content of the 12 December message was possible to find.

When asking formal organisations the most common was to find out that it was someone else that actually was the one to ask. Especially problematic was it to find out the position of the Red Green Alliance in spite of that their activists played a central role in all mass activities in Copenhagen and in spite of that I met with both key persons from the party both from the organizing committee of the demonstration and their national board. Some of the organizations, most obviously Friends of the Earth Denmark could elect new representatives who totally opposed what the former representative had stated after endless discussions impossible for anyone to understand outside Denmark.

While organizations acted as if they had no responsibility to make their collective position known to others or even themselves there was a much more effective collective actor at work. When trying to discuss political principles and how to relate to different organizations and networks quite often the discussion focused on persons. We do not trust Tadzio Müller would the answer be on questions regarding why CJA was not taken seriously. As if I at all were interested in their claims that there were something called we that had opinions about individuals. When this kind of politically irrelevant critique of a consensus based mass action was repeated by Swedish left wingers this we became explicit as a collective actor, an actor willing to avoid any serious discussion on collective decisions and replacing it with a narrative of the great broad mass demonstration and the violent actions. One could of course trace some statements from Müller two years back at some climate camp showing that he was totally opposing UN or something else. But did it matter? Any politically active individual to not talk about organizations change their positions. What is relevant when discussing CJA is not the personal quality of some of the elected spokes persons, it is the collective decisions and estimations of what the mass of people would do.

Thus the political atmosphere in Denmark among formal organizations is individualistic, claustrophobic, and chauvinist. The argument often used is that things have changed so much in Denmark that there is no other possibility. That this is the case compared to the 1970s or 1980s is clear when centre left governments and the position of popular movements  were stronger. But that it has substantially changed also after 2002 when the same kind of right wing government was in place during the EU Summit as know can be questioned. It cannot be only external factors that can explain the way formal Danish organizations behave.

Tord Björk

Content

The COP15 promising ALBA mass meeting

The lost left wing opportunity

How the left supported the police against demonstrators in Copenhagen

Day by day reactions on repression December 12 to 18:

Saturday 12th of December – Come safely to peaceful demonstration

The left wing cover up

Sunday 13th of December – ”we were violently opposed”

Monday 14th of December – ”unfortunately too many arrests”

Tuesday 15th of December ”It does not belong in a democracy”

Wednesday 16th of December – “No soft feelings”

Thursday 17th of December – ”Eat breakfast with Morales”

Friday 18th of December – International networks demonstrate against Danish repression

Danish self-criticism

Why is the left promoting police perspectives?

Danish political claustrophobia

The way the Danish left assess Copenhagen

The paternalistic Red Green Alliance

Trotskyist climate heroes without guts

Non-parliamentary left: A Waterloo for activists, not a new Seattle

From anti neoliberal left to authoritarian state-media governance left

Other material:

12 December Initiative – huge success or background for branding?

Open letter on Denmark’s freedom and legal situation

The whole world on trial

The Fall of the Bella Wall: Power Reclaimed

The paternalistic Red Green Alliance

The Red Green Alliance and non-parliamentary socialists and global justice generation are the central actors one could hope for among the left wing to act against repression. But the main stream Red Green Alliance have all through the process been unable to discuss serious issues. The fact that the official party platform for the Climate summit only included emission targets and inter state North South issues and had no social revolutionary components of the kind advocated by the environmental, peasant and other movements shows clearly that the party have internalized main stream NGO visions of politics and is not relevant for popular movements. The effort that Red Green Alliance made at Klimaforum to arrange a debate with other similar left wings parties in other countries on strategy showed clearly that those parties have little of coherence to say. The Left wing party leader from Sweden made an appeal for winning elections and for the rest it was hard to find something that caused any reactions outside the circle of already converted.

The dominant left wing media in Denmark is www.modkraft.dk set up when the Red Green Alliance did not afford to publish a weekly anymore. It is a broad publication reporting generously about civil disobedience actions, trade unions and the left in general.

The assessment at this news web site starts by asking if a new movement is born. The main stream radical left wing with Naomi Klein and CJA activists had predicted that there was a potential for a new climate justice movement after the global justice movement that can continue anti capitalist mobilization into a new era.

From Modkraft.dk: http://www.modkraft.dk/spip.php?article12296

Per Clausen from the Red Green Alliance then takes center stage in the article. He cannot for sure say íf a new movement is born but he is optimistic, especially due to the large participation in the 12 December demonstration.

” – It was far beyond my expectations and the demonstration had a clear political critique of market-based solutions, which were the agenda at the Bella Center. Copenhagen could well be the beginning of a movement in the long term.”

According to Per Clausen is the next step, to focus on two points. Firstly, local, by putting pressure on national governments and ensure that climate and energy policy change based on official declarations of intent from the COP15 meeting. Second, by holding an international perspective and build on the positive new departure in the climate movement, which marked Copenhagen.”

He continued:

”- Previously the movement was dominated by NGOs and lobbyists. Therefore, we must maintain the popular element and build on the strong commitment among other things expressed in Climate Forum, says he to Modkraft.dk.”

Finally the climate spokes person of Red Green Alliance had some words to tell about civil disobedience:

”Per Clausen also notes that the civil disobedient part of the movement, despite police mass arrests and imprisonment of the century people did not end in violent eruptions.

It is a great achievement that one maintained focus on non-violent protests and I think that the various elements of the summit-resistance played well together.”

This paternalistic clap on the head of the activists that so greatly resisted escalation into violence is interestingly combined with complete silence about the role of the left in individually supporting rather than collectively opposing this repression.

Tord Björk

Content

The COP15 promising ALBA mass meeting

The lost left wing opportunity

How the left supported the police against demonstrators in Copenhagen

Day by day reactions on repression December 12 to 18:

Saturday 12th of December – Come safely to peaceful demonstration

The left wing cover up

Sunday 13th of December – ”we were violently opposed”

Monday 14th of December – ”unfortunately too many arrests”

Tuesday 15th of December ”It does not belong in a democracy”

Wednesday 16th of December – “No soft feelings”

Thursday 17th of December – ”Eat breakfast with Morales”

Friday 18th of December – International networks demonstrate against Danish repression

Danish self-criticism

Why is the left promoting police perspectives?

Danish political claustrophobia

The way the Danish left assess Copenhagen

The paternalistic Red Green Alliance

Trotskyist climate heroes without guts

Non-parliamentary left: A Waterloo for activists, not a new Seattle

From anti neoliberal left to authoritarian state-media governance left

Other material:

12 December Initiative – huge success or background for branding?

Open letter on Denmark’s freedom and legal situation

The whole world on trial

The Fall of the Bella Wall: Power Reclaimed

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