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

ASM – Assembly of Social Movements

EUROPEAN SOCIAL FORUM
ISTANBUL 1-4th  JULY 2010

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

The final Assembly has been divided in two parts:

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

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

Final declaration

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

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

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

Assembly on Freedom of movement, right to stay

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

Antirepression network

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

Climate justice Network

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

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

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

War and peace Assembly

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

Assembly on Labour

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

Assembly “Solidarity of the East and the West

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

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

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

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

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

•    Assembly
“Solidarity of the East and the West”

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

•    Assembly
“Peace and War”

•    Assembly on Labour

•    Antimperialist Assembly

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

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

Presenting the climate justice network statement to ASM

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

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

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

–    29/9: European trade union day of action

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

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

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

ESF 2010 – Old surface, young undercurrents

Singing in the ESF demonstration

The European Social Forum in Istanbul 2010 was fun. As the practical capacity has weakened as shown during the ESF in Malmo 2008 and even more so in Istanbul 2010 there is no host organizer or European Preparatory Assemblies able to provide political direction or a market place of interest to NGOs. The old leadership building its strength on a costly model for participating in the preparatory process have lost its appeal and there is no alternatives in sight. In this situation of uncertainty there is space for experience exchange on agricultural farming in the Mediterranean, initiatives against the repression of climate justice organizers or establishing systematic knowledge of the consequences of the crisis in Central and Eastern European in a way that can influence the total outcome of ESF in spite of being in the periphery. There has always been space at ESF for a myriad of activities, the difference now is that there is a loss of one hegemonic mainly Western European radical mainstream left wing predicable outcome.

ESF 2010 began with a seminar on the future of ESF. There were 3 speakers introducing the subject and 15 making interventions, in total 18. Out of these speakers 2 came from Central and Easterna Europe including Turkey, one from Russia and one from Mesopotamian Social Forum, 16 from the West. One was young, the rest were old, mainly 50 years and above. 4 women were speaking. 6 of the contributors to the debate came from France, 2 from Italy and Belgium and 1 each from Austria, Germany, Greece, Norway, Spain, Sweden, and the two Eastern countries already mentioned. Many were left wing trade unionists including the two introductory speakers from the West saying things which everyone could agree to as there is a crisis in Europe not only for the society but also for the social movements. The speaker from Mesopotamian Social Forum included the ecological crisis but was fairly alone. Among the audience there was none from rural or peasants movements and maybe 4 out of 80 environmentalists. Among the more odd left wing syndicalist analysis of ESF was the point made that small NGOs at ESF with lobbying as their main poliical tool was a problem. Such organizations have become very rare in the process at least since ESF in Malmo. More important was the notion that there is a need for more general debate on the linkage between different issues, a proposal made by Via Campesina ahead of ESF 2008 and then rejected by a French trade unionist but now when it is put forward by trade unionists might be excepted. The class, gender and ethnic conscious methodology of the two recent successful US Social Forums was rigthly promoted by several speakers as inspiring and one of few challenges for the ESF future put forward which was concrete although limited to form.

Instead of a lively political reference to a common platform as the World Social Forum declaration or addressing the problems in the region were the global financial crisis is hitting harder then anywhere else in the world which is in Central and Eastern Europe the reference is instead ”the left” and Western European problems which should be addressed at ”the European level”. What this omnipresent term left is or how this European level looks like is not very well defined. Except by the only young voice in the debate coming from Germany and the trotskyist 5th International. This international organization is extremely small and specialized in producing youth activist speeches proclaiming the same solution to every problem, mass mobilization at the European level on whatever opportunistic left wing issue that seems of current interest for the moment, a mass mobilization that should be carried out by others, mainly trade unions. Others at this debate on the future have not much more to offer for the role of ESF than being this left wing support to convince big trade unions to act although using another language.

Young undercurrents beneath the old surface

Struggling collectively for better and cheap or free public transport was one of the answers on the problems of cars dominating the cities and causing environmental problems. And what a struggle. Students from Istanbul showed us at a seminar and asked us all to join. It was a street theatre they performed to make people aware of the problems for students with longer and longer travels by buses they cannot afford.

It all started with an explanation of the situation for students in Turkey and the daily struggle to get to the university. In a corner the music started and suddenly were we all encompassed by the atmosphere of lively streets, moving bodies and the daily controversaries to get on board on the bus. Four green banners demarked the inside and outside of the bus, a driver stopped the students from entering whenever there was something missing, and there was often something missing. But the collective helped and argued and somehow it seamed as if the male bus driver always lost the battle against the mostly female students. Chanting, singing and arguing the student collective and their driver moved on and we all were moved, by the energy of the political statement, the music and the laughs and the joy.

In the next room the Russian Institute of Law had a seminar on right wing extremism. The daily struggle was as present here, in an even more physical form. First they came and beat us with the fists and we had to learn how to fight with fists to. Then they came after us with knives and we had to learn to use knives to. Now they come with pistols, first using rubber bullets and them live ammunition. The leader of the Institute of Law was shot down and killed together with a young journalist right on the doorsteps in the middle of Moscow one and a half year ago. Both participated at ESF in Malmö and were involved in exposing Russian crimes in Chechenya.

The immediate threat of violence is not only present when the young antifascists speaks, Anarchists rather than Communists or Social democrats. It is also very present in an exhibition made by a young artist on antifascism. Here violence is also very present, and the need to fight back. The rebellion in the Sobibor extincition camp in 1943 is a starting point in this presentation of anti-fascism. Some 300 death camp prisoners rebelled under the leadership of the Communist Aleksander Pechersky. One of very few rebellions in the death camps and the most successful. Most of the escapees were hunted down by the Germans and their Ukrainian helpers but more than 50 made it conquering freedom. In total between 150,000 and 250,000 jews losts their lives in Sobibor, 50 survived the war. In the exhibition is also the 150,000 volunteer partisans mobilized to defend Moscow from the enclosing German troops presented as an example. Ulriche Meinhof is also presented as an example of how the children of the Nazis generation rebelled in Germany. But the main focus is on today’s antifascism. The Russian antifascists that get killed, people willing to fight back. The statistics is also there, being an antifascist in Russia is risky. The exhibition ends with a statement on sorrow and pain. The picture that the organizers liked the most was a a human being with the back against the viewer and the muscles without skin upon one of the shoulders with the message under: ”And if somebody says to me: we are the wall. I’ll say I am the shoulder.

The official image in Western Europe of Russia is that it is fixed to the history of World War II as the result of manipulation by the authoritarian government. The maker of the antifascist exhibition cannot be accused of hoping for the Russian or any government to come and help people. It is up to ourselves also in the worst conditions. And in spite of this perspective far from giving up in front of authorities the theme is partly the same as that promoted by official Russia, the efforts made to stop fascism during World War II. But with another focus that both governments and their allies in media industry have in both Russia and the West. That of activists willing to fight voluntarily, often young activists and often if not totally left out in the history making especially in the West. Millions are spent on how horrible the Nazi death camps and war was, but what do we know about the most successful violent revolt in the death camps? The antifascist story does also not end there. It continious until today when the struggle is also a question of life and death.

Statistics on number of people killed and injured by fascists in Russia the last years.

One of the criticism against the Istanbul ESF states:  ”For us the greatest criticism of this forum was its failure to provide non-hierarchical, participative, polycentric spaces in the meetings themselves. With notable exceptions, every seminar or workshop (there seemed little difference between the formats) was conducted in the same way: the ‘experts’ sat at the front, the floor listened to them reciting what they already knew. This series of laborious, monotonous monologues would come to an end, after two and a half hours, to allow for ‘questions’ – and a further 30 minutes of non-sequiturs. Even when direct questions were asked, the sessions were so poorly facilitated that those asked the questions were rarely given the opportunity to answer. All this made engaging and productive dialogue a practical impossibility”. (From Red Pepper, link se below).

This was not a problem for the seminar on right wing extremism. The atmosphere was young, sincere and open minded. An exchange of experience took place and different means of communications including both speaches, videos and the exhibition filling the walls and giving a different character of the space then that of an academic setting. All were young, the organizers, the speakers and almost all the audience. And the speakers did not comment on antifascism, they were antifascism. There also lacked afraidness for being intellectual. The exhibition started with a quote from John Heartfield: ”One has to make an antifascist exhibition, not an exhibition about antifascism. You see the difference?”

Climate justice transition and food sovereignty seminar making the room more suitable for horizontal experience exchange

Many of the environmental workshops and seminars were also vital with many young participants, a lot of experience exchange and young leadership of the political merging process towards a common statement on just transition to solve the climate crisis. The seminar on sustainable transition lost most of the speakers due to misunderstandings and that it was taken out of the Turksih version of the programme. The hieraric way the room and furniture was arranged did not encourage much vital discussions either. But these disadvantages was turned into its opposite. Among the participants there was a lot of experience from both small farmers, trade unions, and environmental activism to turn the seminar into inspiring each other while finding ways to address ways to strengthen direct producers in agriculture and industry  as well as building new ways of direct relationships between producers and consumers promoting both sustainable agriculture, food sovereignty and more power to direct producers and consumers.

The climate justice drafting group in a successful attempt to occupy a piece of grass

The strength of ESF showed itself when an open drafting committee met to discuss the formulation of a climate justice statement from the seminars to be presented at the final Assembly of Social Movements. At such occassions one have to count on very different backgrounds of the drafters, very limited time with few of any more chances to meet, practical problems of finding a place to meet, write a draft, copy and distribute it. The climate justice movement have been bogged down after the successful mass actvities in Copenhagen during the climate summit in a lack of making a difference between defensive and more forward looking strategies. The movement have to a large extent avoided combining a system critical direct action resistance with a broad appeal for sustainable transition addressing questions of interest for people in their daily life. In this way the movement have been caught in either demanding every action and alternative programme to be equally radical and denouncing every bit of defensive actions within the present system as least say the UN negotiations or issues of interest to main stream trade unions as green jobs or environmental NGO pragmatism losing the system critical goal out of sight. Instead of struggle ideology has a tendency to become the most important, to some anarchists the question of work has been seen as adjusting to the system and instead of a constructive program that can give jobs to many access to resources has been seen as the only demand that the movement should put forward. Other see clear ideology as the most important step at the moment, be it degrowth or ecosocialism.

All these dead end streets were avoided quickly. Degrowth was seen by all from very different backgrounds as an important topic to discuss but not to use to frame the whole statement. Instead the issue of work and social revolutionary perspectives were put forward as most important. The issue of the need for broad social alliances was also something that was not necessary to discuss. Within the ESF frame work what can take time in other situations is immediately avoided here as cooperation between social movement is at at the core of ESFand thus a starting point for discussion, not a point to get bogged down by. All reports from different seminars also pointed in the same direction, there is a need for both strong resistance and alternatives. Thus contrary to many other arenas ESF was very useful for finding common system crtitical common ground without getting trapped in one or another mainly ideological main point. The resistance against the main proposed outcome of the ESF Assembly of Social Movements, a call out for participating in the mobilization on the 29th of September against poverty was also clear and yet not secatarian. The slogan made by the European Trade Union Confederation for this event is to demand jobs and growth, soemthing that is contrary to the social-ecological concerns of the climate justice movement. The point was made hilw at the same time the main focus is on establishing own actions in October for System change – not climate change and hopefully influence also other social movements to become more ecologically conscious while promoting a just transition for both rural and urban areas which cannot only solve the climate cirisis but also be a tooo  for social justice and thus provide a much needed alternative vision for the future of Europe.

Parts of the Swedish ESF delegation

There were of course a lot more young undercurrents. To my surprise the Swedish delegation was dominated by many young people interested in environmental, urban agriculture movemnts, trade union issues and the financial crisis. One aspect was that some of the present young researchers were involved in finding out more about agriculture and the situation for the rural population. This young and often female intellectual energy going into issues of less interest to young actvists in earlier times is an interesting phenomena. More predictable was that the visible and vocal youth presence came from small left wing radical groups which is not so much an undercurrent but part of the old ESF pattern. But it is of special interest when it reflects new mass mobilizations as that among students in many countries.

How important are the young undercurrents?

Other observers seems not to notice the young new undercurrents that here is described. One can ask how important they actually are. Before more extensive reporting from ESF in Istanbul is accessible, specially from young activists themselves it is of course har to make a good assessment. But some notions can be made.

Turkish left wing group not afraid of new global environmental and other issues. To a large degree were young activists in Turkey involved in both social and ecological struggles on water, climate, agriculture and public transport.

Firstly it seems as at least among the Western participants the young currents can be divided into those that are fully noticed by observers from small left wing groups and those that are not or rather indirectly seen as a threat to making something mobilizing out of ESF. (See links below) Thus the vocal 5th International trotskyists highlights the strong anticapitalist and antiimperialist messages from the antiwar and education networks during ESF while for the rest sees ”bland NGO” politics in other issues. The young new undercurrents that are involved in system critical agricultural, climate, public transport or antifascism conflicts are disregarded or maybe seen as part of the bland NGO politics to be criticized. A member of the German trade union youth is taken as an example of how bad influence there is from less radical groups not believing in the possibility of ”the idea of developing from the social forum movement, a movement to change the social system.”

So those that take notice of young participation seems unaware of the new system critical undercurrents at ESF. To some degree they have always been there and may not have more weight then earlier. Two factors may show that there is a difference and the young undercurrents goes beyond occasional presence in some seminars and other activities at ESF. One is that the strength of agricultural, rural, water, climate and other envrionmental or social ecological issues to much a degree is built on youth participation and have maintained it steps forward after ESF in Malmö. This interestingly in spite of that central actors in Malmö as Friends of the Earth and Via Campesina promoting these issues was much less present at ESF in Istanbul. The other factors is the central role played by open minded Central and Eastern European youth. There were also quite large youth participation from some Western European countries. The difference is two folded. Altough the CEE participants are involved in many different issues as the social and ecological crisis, antifascism or feminism and come from different at times opposing ideological trends they tend to see themselves more as part of a joint alternative movement and furthermore come more collectively organized often brought by some of the social forum cooperation. While some Western youth seems mainly focused on one aspects as the need for a new methodology at ESF or avoiding or letting small left wing groups dominate CEE youth have a more general view integrating both methodological and political concerns while at the same time being more central in the delegations from their countries. They seem also to have less problems with the old ESF leadership from their countries and in some cases like Ucraine be totally dominated by young activists from different strands.

Your observer resting for a while at a seminar photographed with his own camera by some anonymous activist interested in complete documentation of ESF. The T-shirt states in Finnish We snowmen against global warming.

Conflicts

Under the circumstances of and old left wing and trade unionist leadership in decline and yet still able to make ESF happen according to the ideas of an open space to anyone willing and resourceful enough to make it while new young undercurrents yet has not formed a strong self understanding and presence the conflicts that occured during ESF in Istanbul are to a large degree obscure and short lived though at times disruptive. The visible predictable conflict is between different parts of the left mainly sharing the same urban and trade union bias in loocking at how to move forward while strongly disliking each other. Different trotskyist groups of the smallest kind tries to convince a smaller and smaller number of ESF participants to mass mobilize on an European scale against the social crisis, left wing trade unionists do the same but with less anticapitalist and antiimperailist slogans. The weakness is there for everyone to see. The main outcome at the final Assembly of Social Movement is not to call for a coherent systemcritical mobilization on the issues discussed at ESF with success, but to call for participation in a mobilization called for by ETUC without having an own agenda.

In the seminar on how to struggle against right wing extremism a conflict occured that highlights the problems of ESF and the European social movement. Here mainly Central and Eastern Europeans came together but also Western Europeans to discuss and make contributions from different parts of Europe and different perspectives. In the exchange of ideas a young women from Ukrainian Social Forum came to notify the audience about a climate change meeting that will take place in Kiev. It was clear that the audience had very different back ground from strong antifascists struggling daily to defend their lives to more broad campaigning for tolerance against racism or antifascism seen in the light of the social and ecological crisis and possible to put i a wider context. A German journalist and expert representing a trade union made an excellent overview of the European situation. The diverse discussion though annoyed him so much that he angrily had to state why he left before the seminar closed. The discussion in his view had not at all been about what he had come for addressing the struggle against right wing extremism at the European level. The petty national and diverse contributions did not impress upon him. He did represent a trade union with many million members and he had expected a lot higher quality we understood. At the surface he was fully correct. The discussion had been diverse. The problem is simple. In most countries in Europe the number of actvists and resources are so small that an issue as right wing extremism has to be put into context. Whether this is how right wing politics is part of nationalism with neoliberal practice selling out the national naturqal resources to Western capital causing social and ecological problems like in Southern Caucasus, or that right wing politics is the main force behind climate scepticism and denial of environmental concerns. Many in the audience are well aware of that what they say may not be highly relevant immediately to the topic. But they are also aware of the limitations of the movements and countries they come from and fully willing to learn and see if it is possible to connect experience from different countries, get inspire and do something in spite of not being a trade union with millions of membersor being payed for coming with well researched material on the situation at the European level of right wing extremism.

Turkish activist agricultural action in the ESF demo

Another conflict which I heard about from different sources with very different interpretations seems also interesting and have bearing on the way ESF is heading. Young Turkish activists claimed that rural issues were blocked from becoming important in the Assembly of ecological crisis. The group that especially blocked this Turkish intervention was Anarchists from Germany. The other version was that Turkish activists were unable to understand how their specific national concerns had to put into a wider European level to be of interest in a common statement. In one version the conflict is about disinterest for rural issues, in another version the difference is between more narrow minded national understanding and a more higher European level of thinking.

Thus what we have is an old left calling for action at the European level, seemingly opposing each other whether they are main stream trade unionists, left party of some kind or sometimes even anarchists, all from Western Europe. The mindset seems often to be that of either organization with plenty of resources to have experts on European level negotiations and issues or specialized in European rhetoric and little action. On the other hand we have a more lively participation especially from Central and Eastern Europe. Thus a young women from Armenia can get inspired by the concrete experience of repression during the Climate Summit in Copenhagen last year refering to here many arrests by the police herself back home. National and local experience can be part of a vivid international exchange of ideas.

Dancing during the ESF demo

Conclusions

Politically what we see is a conflict between periphery and center of Europe. Issues, countries and movement regraded as of less importance for the power positions of the European left are systematically and mainly without intent marginalized. With a hard defensive struggle ahead left wingers and trade unionists cling to each other more and more desperately hoping for that well informed, well organized mass mobilization at the European level meaning under Western European leadership with very little interest of rural or environmental issues.

This position in all its forms, from trade unions the left wing parties of all sorts are now disintegrating. New movements like the climate justice movement is no alternative. While the environmental movement with it s long time social justice concerns ir of vital importance for carrying forward a just transition alternative equally important for solving both the ecological and social crisis there are strong deficits. To a large degree the climate justice and environmental movement is a movement without theory with problems of becoming relevant for people in common in their daliy life.

Climate Justice speaker at the final assembly from the UK climat camp movement discuss with Swedish actvist after ESF

The situation is thus more open than ever, and maybe more hopeful for ESF than one could think. The World Social Forums have similar problems but is more vital. It is no coincidence that when Europe failed to support the CEE participatiion substantially it was WSF that in the last minute put forward some resources to enable a larger presence in Istanbul from the region most severely hit by the global financial crisis. The US Social forum is an excellent example on how the forums can be used for social movement experience exchange and mobilization. The advances with the Mesopatiam Social Forum and other forums in the Maghreb region is also signs that the social forum might have a future also in Europe. Because what is the alternative? Where else is all social movement challenged to participate in a common exchange of experience and assemblies to mobilize. The decline of ESF might therefore be a good sign. To at least social forum organizers in CEE coutries Istanbul showed some strenght. For the first time an All-European Assembly could be arranged at ESF with a balanced participation both from the West and the East. Mirek Prokes from Czech Social Forum was pleased with that 21 countries were present and finally 150 participants came from CEE countries in the last minute in spite of that there were only 60 announced some weeks before. The strong young leadership in the CEE delegations is also a positive sign for the future as well as the ideas to continue follow-up by organizing regional events in the All European process and the Prague Spring II network against right wing extremism. Many at ESF from different strands seams also to agree on the need for avoiding the same old formula hoping for an evermore larger ESF but rather becoming more diverse and strengthening both intellectual and mobilizing activities in a joint ESF process. Such a transition period might lead to disintegration but also result into something new more capable of overcoming the mehodological and political problems of the ESF to face the social and ecological crisis and being a mobilizing strength for popualr movements.

Tord Björk

Friends of the Earth Sweden, coordinator of the EU committee

Some links to articles on ESF:

Sad Spectacle in Istanbul
08 July 2010
By Boris Kagarlitsky

The Sixth European Social Forum ended in Istanbul on Sunday. For those who had attended previous forums in Florence, Paris, London and Athens, it was a sad spectacle indeed. There were few participants and the speeches of the delegates resembled a superficial retelling of the discussions that took place at similar meetings in previous years.

There was genuine enthusiasm after the first Social Forum eight years ago.

http://www.themoscowtimes.com/opinion/article/sad-spectacle-in-istanbul/409968.html

Report from the ESF in Istanbul

The sixth European Social Forum was dominated by bland NGO politics and obfuscatory Maoism, about 3,000 people participated in the sixth European Social Forum (ESF) in Istanbul. There were 200 seminars about the economic crisis, climate change, students’ protests and many other topics.

http://www.permanentrevolution.net/entry/3099

Parteien & Demokratie  Montag, 05. Juli 2010
Organisierungsschwäche und relative Orientierungslosigkeit
Das sechste Europäische Sozialforum in Istanbul. Ein Resumee von Urlich Brand.

Im Mittelpunkt des sechsten Europäischen Sozialforums in den ersten Julitagen in Istanbul – nach Florenz 2002, Paris, London, Athen und Malmoe 2008 – stand natürlich die aktuelle Krise. Schwerpunkte waren die Wirtschafts- und Finanzkrise, dieses Mal besonders prominent die Klimakrise und, bedingt durch den Austragungsort, Energie- und Wasserkonflikte.

http://www.rosalux.de/themen/parteien-demokratie/nachrichten/nachricht/datum/2010/07/05/organisierungsschwaeche-und-relative-orientierungslosigkeit/thema/sprachen/parteien-demokratie/priorisierung-regional.html

ESF 2010: Das Europäische Sozialforum am politischen Abgrund        PDF         Drucken         E-Mail
von Martin Suchanek, www.arbeitermacht.de        06.07.2010 – bisherige Aufrufe: 651

„Das Sozialforum ist noch nicht tot, es vermodert nur am eigenen Laib”, so fasste ein Teilnehmer ironisch-verärgert, das Europäische Sozialforum (ESF) 2010 zusammen. ….. Auch wenn es momentan der einzige „Raum” auf europäische Ebene ist, wo Tausende zusammentreffen und hunderte VertreterInnen verschiedener Organisationen die Koordinierung des Widerstandes vorantreiben können, so zeigte sich in Istanbul auch, dass eine große Mehrheit der informellen Führung des ESF, der dominierenden Kräfte aus linken Gewerkschaften, von attac, auf Vereinigungen, die der europäischen Linkspartei nahe stehen usw. das einfach nicht wollen.

http://www.linkezeitung.de/cms/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=8996&Itemid=1

Why Low Turnout at ESF March?

Bianet has asked international and Turkish activists why so few people joined the march of the European Social Forum on Saturday.
Istanbul – BİA News Center
05 July 2010, Monday

On Saturday, 3 July, around 3,000 people joined the march of the European Social Forum (ESF) in Istanbul.

http://bianet.org/english/world/123174-why-low-turnout-at-esf-march

European Social failure?

The sixth European Social Forum took place in Istanbul at the beginning of July. Sophie Haydock and James Robertson found it left something to be desired

What location could be better for this year’s European Social Forum (ESF) than historic Istanbul – where, in tourist-brochure lingo, ‘East meets West in spectacular style’. What a fantastic opportunity to explore Turkey’s domestic issues: the Kurds, relations with Greece and the Turkish military presence in Cyprus – and perhaps, most crucially, how the people of Europe should respond to the financial crisis and get the P.I.G.S out of the IMF/EU pen?

The opening ceremony on the Wednesday 30 June certainly showed that some of this initial optimism was not unfounded, featuring a large Kurdish delegation performing a traditional dance. Under normal conditions, that action would have resulted in the swift and heavy-handed arrest of those involved. What’s more, the 2010 European Social Forum took place just five weeks after Israeli soldiers shot dead nine Turkish activists on board the flotilla bound for Gaza. Surely Istanbul would be the place to unite those wishiing to work together to end the siege of Gaza and challenge Israel’s impunity?

http://www.redpepper.org.uk/European-Social-failure

ESF Istanbul 2010
Another Social Forum was possible

www.socialistworld.net, 07/07/2010
website of the committee for a workers’ international, CWI

Support for European-wide protest on 29 September

CWI reporters

With Europe in crisis, and Turkish undergoing deep changes, the European Social forum was merely business as usual, with a declining number of participants. The summary of the forum merely made reference to the European-wide day of action on 29 September, rather than discussing and developing a strategy for the movement.

http://www.socialistworld.net/doc/4389

VI. Európai Szociális Fórum – Isztambul 2010. július 1.-4.
A harc folytatódik
Minden szervezési probléma ellenére az isztambuli fórumot sikerült megrendezni, amelyet pozitívumként kell értékelni, mert kb. 3-4 hónappal ezelőtt úgy látszott, hogy a fórum elmarad. A rendkívül szűkös anyagi háttér és humán erőforrás ellenére a VI. ESZF lehetővé tette az európai baloldal képviselőinek, civil csoportjainak az ismételt személyes találkozókat, a véleménycserét. Találkozhattunk a török szociális mozgalmak különböző áramlatainak aktivistáival, megismerhettük a Törökországot alapvetően foglalkoztató kérdéseket: a kurdok szabadságtörekvéseit, a gázai flotilla szomorú ügyét, a török szakszervezetek követeléseit.
Beszámoló az isztambuli ESZF-ről

http://attac.zpok.hu/cikk.php3?id_article=1191

Some more pictures from  ESF in Istanbul

http://www.flickr.com/search/?s=int&w=all&q=Istanbul+ESF&m=text

http://www.flickr.com/photos/onesolutionrevolution/sets/72157624451945052/

12 December Initiative – huge success or background for branding?

Content

Success or failure? see below.

Uncertain preparatory process

The global climate day of action 2009

The main demonstration

Three left wing parties supporting the police perspective

December 12 in the media

Movement analysis

A demonstration split twice

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

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

Success or failure?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dec12: Uncertain preparatory process

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

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

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

Planet first – people first web banner

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Why was social justice forgotten?

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

12 December Initiative and CJA debate in Malmö Sweden October 8

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

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

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

The hidden violence agenda

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Celebrity and parliamentarian speakers or from the movements?

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

Poster for the System change not climate change bloc.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Reacting to repressive culture

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

Mobilizing for Climate Justice Action Reclaim Power in Germany

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Violence of the system a non-issue

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

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

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

MS/Actionaid at 12 December initiative march. Photo:

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

Branding

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tord Björk

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

Success or failure?

Uncertain preparatory process

The global climate day of action 2009

The main demonstration

Three left wing parties supporting the police perspective

December 12 in the media

Movement analysis

A demonstration split twice

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

The Global Climate Day of Action 2009

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

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

Photos from tcktcktck campaign web site:

Australia

Australia Sydney

China

Japan

Thailand

Jordania

Sarajevo in Bosnia

Johannesburg in South Africa

San Cristobal in Chiapas

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

Success or failure?

Uncertain preparatory process

The global climate day of action 2009

The main demonstration

Three left wing parties supporting the police perspective

December 12 in the media

Movement analysis

A demonstration split twice

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

COP15: The main demonstration 12th of December

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Flood, the churches and the Christiania feed in

The flood starting at Halmtorvet.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Speeches and chanting

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Protesters chanted: “Carbon trading: big lie.”

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

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

The start, NTAC and the police provocation

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The mass arrest of the 918

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

Candlelights at Bella Center and vomiting and urinating at Amagerbrogade

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mobilization outside and inside the prison

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

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

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

Tord Björk

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

Success or failure?

Uncertain preparatory process

The global climate day of action 2009

The main demonstration

Three left wing parties supporting the police perspective

December 12 in the media

Movement analysis

A demonstration split twice

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

Three left wing parties supports police perspectives

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tord Björk

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

Success or failure?

Uncertain preparatory process

The global climate day of action 2009

The main demonstration

Three left wing parties supporting the police perspective

December 12 in the media

Movement analysis

A demonstration split twice

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

Dec12: Movement analysis

Analysis from a movement perspective on the December 12 demonstration are few. Climate Indymedia states that the ”Copenhagen climate negotiations have sparked a global justice movement on climate.” referring in general to quantity in participation in the demonstration in Copenhagen and on other places globally, more than 13 million petitions signatures for an ambitious fair and binding treaty, and direct actions in the US. This analysis ends with an appeal ”to continue to pressure national Governments to take decisive action on carbon emissions and for policies that avoid Climate Colonialism”.

Quantity is also a dominating argument in the few other more specific assessments of the demonstration. Often combined with the notion that a new movement was born.

” Copenhagen saw the birth of a new global movement. The first reason was the demonstration on Saturday. The official police estimate was that there were 100,000 marchers.” Jonathan Neale, SWP

The Red Green Alliance marching toiwards Bella Center December 12. From RGA website.

Per Clausen from Red Green Alliance could not say to Modkraft with certainty whether a new movement is born. His arguments echoes that of the other left wingers: ”But he is optimistic. Particularly in view of the large attendance at the 12th-December rally ‘People First – Planet First’, which gathered 100,000 people.”

Another Red Green Alliance activist, Thomas Eisler, member of the national board and also active in the trotskyist 4th International makes a similar judgement together with .. in International Viewpoint:  ”certainly the number of demonstrators on the streets of Copenhagen is a proof positive that it is possible to develop mass mobilisations on the issue of global warming.

Political parties, trade unions and peasants organisations were also present in this colourful, radical and truly internationalist demonstration through the bitterly cold streets of Copenhagen to the fortress of the Bella Centre where the summit itself was taking place. If the majority of the official negotiators seem to have no answers to the threat of climate chaos, those on the streets have many.

But it is what happened on December 12 that sums up the real step change for the movement for Climate Justice. That mobilisation itself was of course proceeded by significant demonstrations in many individual cities and countries across the globe as the summit began on December 5.”

The indepedent left winger Rene Karpanschof is less positive. Also he starts with the quantity argument. ”The massive demonstration on 12 resembles an immediate success.” But he continuous: ”At the Bella Center experienced many, however, a sort of anticlimax. No political statement or action which could translate the huge crowd to put further pressure on the negotiators inside the center.”

He states that: ”Large crowds signal that ‘we are here and so many are we’, the ‘this is what we want’ and ‘we can create problems. Demonstrations are a signal that many committed people might continue with various activities, criticism and exposure of the public to a degree that politicians have to take stock of.  … Politicians are particularly susceptible when sympathy for the protesters spread and when the protests proliferate, so it seems unpredictable and uncontrollable, what it all can become. Normally, a march of the format there appeared the 12th December impress. This time, however, it was all sorts of decision makers who would be affected, and as we now know, neither led the peaceful demonstration or pressure from numerous NGOs to any climate agreement. So, only partial success for the peaceful strategy.” Karpanschof did not bring in the mass arrest in his overall assessment of the demonstration which is remarkable.

COP15 Don’t buy the lie action December 11.

A communique from parts of the Black Bloc during the demonstration made the repression their main focus. Shortly after releasing this communique, windows of the Danish stock exchange and Foreign Ministry were broken.

This communique opens with the claim that ”There seems to be a common logic between the government delegates, the NGOs who control the march, and even the radical ecological activists: we are all saving humanity together. Who would not want to fight for this? And even if you did not, do you even have a choice?”

And continuous: ”What does it imply to have faith in the existence of a single political unit that binds us all together? In the united and pacified world imagined in Copenhagen, politics become obsolete. What if the mobilization of the entire city and even the protests were nothing but an immense peacekeeping operation?”

The message from some in the black bloc concludes by linking a criticism of a perceived socially neutral ecology vision with the emergence of a global police state: ”The enthusiasm with which all political stripes have been converted to ecology teaches us about the true nature of this new green universal religion. From the heart of the Bella Centre to the most passionate of activists, beyond all differences in tone, one can hear the single and only call to submit yourself. … To control our desires, and most of all, to not disturb the delicate equilibrium. Ecology presupposes the same conception of existence that characterizes the police: danger is everywhere, and first of all, in ourselves.” The analysis from parts of the black bloc concludes: ”And if police, in all its forms, is the new essence of global politics, What do you think we should do?” (the last part of the sentence put in uppercase)

The internal discussions at the Danish anarchist forum became very fierce on the views in this communique. In general the criticism against Never trust a COP among some 200 contributions was very strong. In spite of that the most common position in this forum is to accept black bloc tactics when seen as appropriate it was seen as totally against the ideas of respect for different tactics to enter the main demonstration and use this tactic from there. Although the arbitrary mass arrest was blaimed on the police many also accused the Never trust a COP activists that started to throw stones at windows to give the police the excuse they wanted.

At the Swedish socialism.nu forum the discussion has been less in the direction of blaiming the NTAC for giving the police an excuse for intervening against the demonstration. Here it is many regarded as a fact that the new hooligan law package was attempted to be used against innocent demonstrators and activists:

” ’The Hooligan package’ went through to be used. The police had prepared for a mass arrest in several months. Exactly how the police subsequently legitimize the arrest is of little importance. The package’s core was to arrest people, without that something needs to have happened. The fact that a certain degree of militancy and civil disobedience had been seen before in large demonstrations were reason enough to use package. It is therefore entirely useless to sit and speculate whether it was the rock against the Danish bank or rocket against the police van 1328e that was the problem.”

At the Swedish left wing forum the discussions is more lively with more than 700 contributions in the thread about COP15. While the Danish discussion gest bogged down in status war on how good or bad the NTAC tactics had been the Swedish discussion sometimes attempts at getting further. Here is one person after claiming that NTAC obviously could not implement the tactic they had chosen as it was based on a wrong understanding of militancy from the very beginning of old fashion summit protests ”without having anything to stand on more than a vague black block community”:

” I see a problem with the radical left, which is larger than the “black block”. And it is that we move away from the other left more and more each year. .. We even can see our comrades in the broad Left imprisoned by the thousand, and yet see how they turn the anger against us instead of repressive police tactics and the right wing politics.

Of course, this is partly a legacy of past summit riots and so on. (as many pointed out), but far from only. This marginalization has been highly self-selected and sustained for many years. Communication between us and the broader Left is completely absent. And I do not mean planning and cooperation. We fail to communicate our own policies, even against people who have the most basic understanding of left politics. If we fail to reverse this trend at large than we’ll have to sit many more hours in climate prisons, rolling arrests and in urinating spots on Danish shopping streets in the future.”

People first – planet first demonstration at the starting point. Photo: http://www.flickr.com/photos/americagov/ / CC BY-SA 2.0

There are at least three more political contents that are put forward in the analysis made. One puts the emphasis on ”a ‘real deal’ that adheres to scientific targets”, another on climate justice and a third on criticism against profit based society. As one commentator puts it: ”While the delegations from the countries from the Global South were necessarily smaller than those from the Europe their presence was warmly welcomed – and the popular slogan of Climate Justice Now was clearly seen by most protestors as meaning the leaders of the rich countries needed to listen to the demands of the global south – and was also seen as one of the essential demands of the day.”

Left wingers finds it important to stress that ”Indeed the radicality of the slogans which dominated a mobilisation which involved most of the large non-governmental organisations as well as more radical sections of the climate justice movement was noteworthy.”

Another conclusion by Socialistiskt Arbejderparti, a section of the 4th International and active in Red Green Alliance, is ”that an inspiring movement have been born in Copenhagen. So far the climate negotiations have been dominated by big NGO’s and organizations attempting to perform ’progressive lobbying’. But the 12th of December demonstration proved, that climate changes have become an issue, that compels thousands of people to take the streets in one of the largest demonstrations in Danish history and one of the largest ever on the issue of climate change. Many of the people, who took to the streets on the 12th did so under slogans critical of the system such as ’Planet – Not Profit’, slogans, that had been chosen after an internet vote and in this way expresses a growing critique of the profit based and -oriented society.”

But most interesting assessment goes beyond figures and tries to tell us something more. Madeline Kovacs writes: ”Sometimes it’s hard to describe an experience. Sometimes words, film, or photos fail to capture the overwhelming feeling that we are witnessing something truly extraordinary. We say, ’You just had to be there.’ …

The positive energy around the march and the speeches was overwhelming, and those who where there came away with a sense that they had just been part of a great moment in this movement, and in our planet’s history.

Yes, arrests happened. Yes, it’s important to mention that. Arrests are sexy, and it’s okay to maybe even give them a bit more attention than they deserve. But the main story was that hundreds of thousands of peaceful walkers showed united support for a solution to climate change. That this message is quickly being drowned out is worrisome.

As a young person, I am determined to share the positive side of this day’s events. My generation cannot afford the continuation of a polarizing conversation around climate change, based on selective and sensationalist media coverage.

Youth need the world to hear the core message: There were millions of people this weekend who stood up and declared their support for a ‘real deal’ that adheres to scientific targets, to come out of these talks. And, encouragingly, they are ready to take positive action, and demanding the same from our world leaders.”

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.

A demonstration split twice

Tord Björk | 12 December Initiative,Action,International action,police,Summits | Sunday, March 14th, 2010

How can than in the future broad demonstrations contribute to uniting a movement? It is necessary to start by stating the truth. The demonstration was divided twice. Firstly physically by the lack of interest or capacity to confront the repressive Danish political culture and provocations. Secondly because the masses in the demonstration was allowed to be used by organizations to promote their self interest rather than as a common force in challenging the political agenda.

Two demonstrations?

What happened on December 12 in Copenhagen was destruction of trust in a democratically organized demonstration. The branding mentality of both NGOs and left wing parties turned the collective manifestation into a decoration for sending messages via mass media to politicians and people. The collective democratic duty to protect the integrity of the demonstration was replaced by the effort to compete with other organizations to appear as the right choice to support for preselected target groups.

Thus what we could see on the street of Amagerbrogade was the graveyard of democracy as we know it and a Danish committee of organizers fully willing to betray its collective responsibility and instead turn the occasion into a possibility for branding their own names.

This separation of the demonstration into two, one graveyard and forgotten and one colourful and peaceful manifestation at Bella Center was equally promoted by Greenpeace, social democrats, left wing parties and even independent left wing intellectuals. In its video about the December 12 demonstration Greenpeace only gives a rosy pictures. The strong feelings about attacks on democratic rights and repression at COP15 is primarily directed towards self defence of own well paid directors and activists when they are put into prison, not when people in common are mass arrested.

To very many, environmentalists or left wingers, the issue of repression against the December 12 demonstration is disturbing. Something that should not be addressed too much as it takes away the focus from something claimed to be more important, the climate negotiations or something that should be put into the box of routine criticism of the police and the repressive state. Why make the whole demonstration a part of the assessment of the result of the December 12 demonstration when it is so much easier to avoid making the arrests of nearly one thousand demonstrators a central part of understanding what happened. Such an assessment would maybe even open up for some self-criticism for lack of collective response and thus questioning of the whole model for the demonstration, a questioning that would come close to the unquestionable basis of the concept of broadness and full liberty for branding as always better than a platform with some more clear demands or a culture of collective responsibility for solidarity with all demonstrators.

There is no excuse whatsoever for letting the police arrest 918 demonstrators because the person or persons that half an hour earlier smashed a bank window in the same section of the demonstration might still be there. It is an insult when the police first guides a group of protesters that had announced to make actions without a strict non-violent code of conduct into the demonstration with a rather predictable result in some broken windows and then claim that what the police did was to protect the demonstration by mass arresting people. And so is the weak individualistic response from the Danish organisers ranging from full support of the police to talks about disproportionate police behaviour. The mass arrest of 918 demonstrators at Amagerbrogade was not disproportionate, it was totally unjustified and an attack on democracy and the whole demonstration.

WWF, Natur and Youth, Danish Climate Movement, Actionaid and others at a PostCOP15 seminar at Valby in Copenhagen. Photo Tord Björk

The responsibility for this separation of the demonstration into two parts is not only to be put on the police. The main actors behind the demonstration accepted this separation by refusing both to collectively respond to the assault but also to maintain the separation afterward in the assessment. Even an independent left winger as Karpanschof states the demonstration as at least partly a success while claiming that the direct action were failures including Reclaim power on December 16. His assessment that the mass demonstration was more successful than the other action in Copenhagen is also a conclusion made by many others.

But can at all a demonstration were such an extreme amount of people were mass arrested really be stated as even a partly success if the organizers do not make a political analysis of the situation and jointly are able to strengthen both the common climate demands and demands for democratic rights. After all the mass arrest was historically extreme and completely unacceptable. How come that such a successful demonstration could accept this attack on democracy at such a historic stage of international importance?

The claims that the mass demonstration was successful while the direct actions were failures becomes especially problematic in the light of that the political force most consistently opposing the attacks on the demonstration was Climate Justice Action. It is the CJA van that tries to return to support the people that have been mass arrested. it is from the same van that people in the demonstration are told the truth about what have happened and calls are made for solidarity. The Danish organizers of the demonstration make competing individual statements, often against each other, and refuses to make any collective efforts opposing the repression. This while CJA continues to organize collective protests with those willing to cooperate.

Medics and international Friends of the Earth flags at COP15 anti-repression demonstration December 18

How little interest the Danish organizers and how big interest CJA have in defending all demonstrators and democracy became evident at the demonstration on December 18 against the repression of the climate protests. Here CJA was key organizer while the many Danish organisations responsible for inviting people from the whole world to the December 12 demonstration with very few exception showed their complete lack of solidarity. Once each Danish organization behind the demonstration could gain most out of it for themselves there was very little interest anymore on what happens to democracy when almost one thousand people arbitrary can be arrested in a demonstration the Danish organizations are responsible for.

Also in January the main Danish demonstration organizers maintained their individualism while activists belong more to a collective and solidarity culture nurtured by direct actions started networks against the repression and solidarity work. Thus it is not the dominant forces organizing the demonstration on December 12 that are interested in defending democratic rights, it is activist networks based on direct actions.

A mobilization meeting for Copenhagen in Sweden with CJA spokesperson Tadzio Müller and 12 December spokesperson Andreas Malm. Here the accusations among Deecmber 12 organizers against CJA and December 16 was addressed. Malm later as one of few changed his mind and endorsed Reclaim power. More on this meeting and on the relationships between Deecmber 12, December 16 and Never trust a COP you find at:

This is true not only in relationship with the state and its police but also in addressing mass media, NGOs, popular movements as well as radical groups. It is CJA that most consistently tries to politicize all activities in Copenhagen, and early on with a strict code of non-violence challenges more radical groups. Thus when some of the demonstration organizers attacked CJA as the cause of the repressive measures taken by the government, parliament and the police and claiming the December 16 action as the biggest problem the reality soon became obvious. It was rather December 12 that had problems with its vague political platform and concept of promoting a variety of expressions. Even here it was CJA that most consistently emphasized the need of politicising all protests and challenging Never trust a COP with a strict code of conduct making more for creating political focus on December 12 than the organizers of the demonstration.

The basis for many assessments of the demonstration is false when trying to separate the action into different parts. In reality a political assessment must see to the indivisibility of a demonstration as a political fact. The historically arbitrary mass arrest must be explained in terms of its context.

The repression of the demonstration is directly linked to the repression inside the negotiation process as part of the present development model. It is not only on the streets that people get arbitrary mass arrested. Also inside the negotiations the whole idea of a United Nations of sovereign equal people was as historically radically erased as the democratic rights outside. This with Denmark in the key position as chairing the conference, to a large extent helped by Sweden in their role as presidency of the EU. Both countries decided to forget about 50 years of efforts from Nordic states to sometimes support opinions from developing countries, being pioneers in bringing up the environmental issues internationally and believing in the UN as a protection of the rights of small nations in international affairs against big powers. Denmark and Sweden used their key positions to have only informal contacts with big powers and openly going against the interests of developing countries to maintain a track for the Kyoto agreement. This in line with the Danish foreign police doctrine to stick to US positions as the main direction and the Swedish position to support Western powers and corporations. The period in world politics when Nordic countries had a balancing position and defended small nations and the UN is over. The polarisation in the world have turned harder between those with material force to impose their power on others and those lacking these resources.

Thus instead of promoting the ideal that every human being is equal as a basis for the politics enacted at the COP15 Denmark did the opposite. This was well known to popular movements already confronted with the result of the present climate politics and thus they supported unification of a climate justice movement and mass activities in Copenhagen as the Reclaim Power action, 12 December initiative and Klimaforum.

Flyer for Planet first people first December 12 demonstration focusing on the power world leaders have to change history in Copenhagen.

To many Danish organizers of the December 12 demonstration this was a threat to their social partnership with he Danish state. Instead of addressing the clear political interest of the Danish state to turn the COP15 process into an event to replace UN with ad hoc agreements between big powers and promote Copenhagen as a global center for environmental trading and business the choice was between two main messages. One was to have trust in ”world leaders”, a message explicitly in coherence with the interest of the Danish state, the other a ”real deal”, a message that implicitly could be seen as against the interest of making agreements only between big powers and like minded countries. The rest of the common platform was also lacking explicit demands against the false solutions promoted by Denmark and other states promoting the interests of corporations.

Peoples’ Assembly

When global popular movements came to the conclusion that it was necessary to confront the political content of the COP15 by establishing a People’s assembly by both governmental and NGOs from the inside and a civil disobedience mass action from the outside this caused a break down in the ability of presenting the December 12 platform as politically relevant to the political situation inside the negotiations or in relation to the violence that would be the result if Denmark and other rich countries would have their will come through. Instead of radicalizing the political content of the demonstration in the message on leaflets and by selection of speakers a lot of effort was put into addressing the possibility of violence on the streets. Especially under attack was Reclaim power and mass organisations as Via Campesina and later Never trust a COP.

When the violence finally came directed against more than 900 innocent demonstrators the political choices made by the Danish organizers turned into betraying their own demonstration. As there was lack of interest in opposing the violent and false solutions promoted by Denmark and like minded countries inside COP15 in the December 12 platform there was also no interest in opposing the Danish state violence on the streets.

Branding against rank-and-file culture

It is of course possible to make another kind of assessment. Daniel Tanuro
in International Viewpoint states that in the face of ”total collapse” of COP15 the international demonstration on Saturday 12 December fortunately brought together some 100 000 people which ”was a magnificent rank-and-file victory.”

Anticapitalist banner in a green and yellow sea of flags and placards below a blue propaganda advertisement against acting now on cutting CO2 emmissions by the government funded instute led by Björn Lomborg.

”Copenhagen symbolizes this new consciousness. It was the expression of participation of social movements that until very recently were on the sidelines of ecological issues, and sometimes even suspicious of them: women’s organizations, peasant movements, trade unions, North-South solidarity associations, peace movements, global justice movements etc. Indigenous people are playing a key role by struggling against forest destruction (in a power relationship worthy of David confronting Goliath!), symbolizing at once resistance to the dictatorship of profit and the possibility of another relation between humanity and nature. Yet all these forces count more on collective action than on lobbying, so dear to major environmental associations. Their coming onto the scene has radically moved the centre of gravity. From now on, the struggle for an ecologically effective and socially just international treaty will play out in the street – more than in the corridors of summit meetings – and will be a social battle – more than a debate among specialists.”

This kind of popular movement perspective is of course the most important, in the long run. That Tanuro reflects a false media impression of the environmental movement is a problem for the left with their lack of knowledge and interest in respecting other movements than their own. The environmental movement and organizations have as much mobilized on the streets but also in the fields and forests in mass civil disobedience as left wing movements in a scale that is equal to any other movement.

The constructive part of this left wing analysis can only become important if the inherent contradictions in the December 12 demonstration are addressed. This must include the relationship between the incapacity to respond to the state violence and the lack of a political platform that opposes violent and false solutions. But it must also include the contradiction between a demonstration that is primarily organized as a back ground for different branding operations by competing organizations within the limitations of the present media logic and a broad rank-and-file mass manifestation.

This is not a simple question were organizations claiming themselves to be ideologically radical states that environmental NGOs as a whole are bad. Contrary to some earlier NGO influenced campaigns as Making poverty history in 2005 during the G8 summit in the UK this time the demands made by the broad campaign was not completely possible to use to legitimate the outcome of COP15. Especially the demands for a real deal but also the broad use of climate justice was paving the way for more system critical approaches.

It is also true that the mass action on more than 5 000 places on October 24 by 350.org have popularized scientific arguments rather than arguments that puts a main emphasis on trust in business and world leaders as the most important way for solving the climate crisis. We have passed the 1992 Rio conference with its win-win message and obscure sustainable development defined as sustainable growth model for solving the environmental and social crisis and enter a new era. Branding is then a main problem, but not only when environmental and other NGOs use this tactic. Also left wing groups and political parties uses the same problematic methods in the December 12 organizational efforts and especially afterwards the dog fighting between left wing parties was more of a problem than the role played by environmental and other organisations as well as the social liberal party.

The way ahead must build more on material analysis than ideological. People do not get mobilized primarily by ideological motivations and differences between competing mobilisations on ideological grounds. This is in the interest of groups either supporting the system in full claiming that the only problem is lack of knowledge or the only problem is lack of ideologically conscious system critical viewpoints in the movement. What is important is to put a focus on material interests as that which have brought Via Campesina to the central point of the mobilizations. A material interest that is not hindered by social partnership limitations or media logics but addresses the daily life issues both in production, consumption and culture. The platform for such cooperation was formed by CJA, CJN and Klimaforum in Copenhagen and can have a positive influence on more indivisible mass demonstrations in the future. Manifestations able of addressing both a broad appeal to people in common all over the planet for what we are against and alternatives, while at the same time opposing jointly repression inside and outside negotiations.

Tord Björk

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

Success or failure?

Uncertain preparatory process

The global climate day of action 2009

The main demonstration

Three left wing parties supporting the police perspective

December 12 in the media

Movement analysis

A demonstration split twice

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

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