Open letter to Latin American organizations on cooperation towards COP16

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tord Björk

On behalf of myself

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

Message from Latinamerican organizations on Klimaforum10:
Report from Mexico by Christophe Aguiton and Nicola Bullard:
Píntale las rayas al cambio climático:
Mexican NGOs on REDD and other COP issues in Spanish: or direct link to pdf file:
A People’s Declaration from Klimaforum09: System change – not climate chnage:
Peoples Agreement, Cochabamba:

12 December Initiative – huge success or background for branding?


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: / 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: / 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

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: / 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: / 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 Phot

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: / 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: / 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: / CC BY-SA 2.0

MS/Actionaid at 12 December initiative march. Photo: / CC BY-NC 2.0


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: / 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: / 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: / 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:

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: / 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: / 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: / 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: / 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: / 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.

Danish political claustrophobia

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

CJA meeting in October at Christiania. Drawing Tord BJörk

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tord Björk


The COP15 promising ALBA mass meeting

The lost left wing opportunity

How the left supported the police against demonstrators in Copenhagen

Day by day reactions on repression December 12 to 18:

Saturday 12th of December – Come safely to peaceful demonstration

The left wing cover up

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

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

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

Wednesday 16th of December – “No soft feelings”

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

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

Danish self-criticism

Why is the left promoting police perspectives?

Danish political claustrophobia

The way the Danish left assess Copenhagen

The paternalistic Red Green Alliance

Trotskyist climate heroes without guts

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

From anti neoliberal left to authoritarian state-media governance left

Other material:

12 December Initiative – huge success or background for branding?

Open letter on Denmark’s freedom and legal situation

The whole world on trial

The Fall of the Bella Wall: Power Reclaimed

Open letter on Denmark’s freedom and legal situation

We must discuss the mass arrests, the police new judiciary and the exaggerated reactions to peaceful, non violent civil disobedience in our capital

Dear all

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

Copenhagen was the center of world attention, but there was not much ‘Wonderful Copenhagen’ about it when there were blue lights flashing in the city. On top of a chaotic and unsuccessful climate summit comes the concern about the unique Danish forms of law enforcement.

And on top of that comes even more democratic sadness that everything that happened, was backed 100 percent. up by the government and much of the opposition.

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

Peaceful demonstrators

The demonstration on 12 December was a fantastic experience. 100,000 people from around the globe participated in a moving public celebration, which sent a strong signal of seriousness and impatience. It was a demonstration of all colors and ages. It was marred only by members of the ‘black block’, who behaved, in particular with throwing cobblestones in Christianshavn. One policeman was wounded, and I know from demonstrators – including a group of college students – that they were glad when the police intervened. But the scale and form, with hundreds of people handcuffed put to ground in train position on a freezing Amagerbrogade was indecent. One could have sorted the innocent out, one could have made a focused action. We could – because too many were arrested – have apologized and corrected. But no.

It is well documented in articles in Politiken and that part of the ‘black bloc’ was sent into the rally by police. These activists were on their way elsewhere in the city, but was stopped by police and was told that the only demonstration opportunity was the big demonstration. They were not a part of the popular demonstration, which was as popular as announced.

I was the spokesman for 12th December-rally, and I was asked countless times about the risk of violence. We distinguished clearly between groups like Never Trust a Cop (NTAC), which announced violence, which we denounced, and the Climate Justice Action, which openly put forward that the other day they would commit nonviolent civil disobedience, but was loyal participants in the 12th December-demonstration. We felt that if there ever came turmoil, it was in the city, while others went to Amager. It was what NTAC announced, but what the police wanted to hinder. Instead, some of the violent were sent after the peaceful demonstration. It was unfortunate because it made people scared because it led to the arrest of innocent people and because it could have made the demonstration to beak apart and into panic.

There was good cooperation with the police prior to the 12th December. There was coordination and which made sense. But an evaluation includes determination recognizing where it went wrong. And it went wrong, both because when the violent were sent into the demonstrations, when one arrested peaceful demonstrators in bunches, and when one treated them in violation of decency and common sense. This first of the great days were 968 people arrested. Almost none were sighted. The vast majority were given only to the ruling given by the police without court involvement. First sentenced to chill handcuffed train positions, then climate cages, and some to pepper-spraying.

Stood the test of time

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

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

The concept of democratic, non-violent civil disobedience has stood the test of Gandhi’s India to the U.S. civil rights movement and today’s Iran, and it also kept here. But despite police efforts. There were again plenty of detainees and a handful sighted.

Now the frustrations were so large that there was nocturnal unrest in Copenhagen, but despite the provocation, the city was still more peaceful than in many other periods Copenhagen has experienced.

Greenpeace happening

Next activist event with great media attention was the Queen’s dinner, with Greenpeace’s happening where dressed up activists came into the royal chambers and dropping their banners. Police management was so embarrassed by its own failure, that police lawyers were sent to overtime to find the greatest number of articles, you could swipe these peaceful activists for.

Where courts have been allowed to interfere, they would have been more reluctant than the police. Very few were sitting in prison during Christmas But typically, most long-term prisoners, were those who had participated in peaceful and non-violent actions and happenings.

Think about what signal it sends in the activist environment. ‘You should not think that it gives a discount to participate in non-violent political action, with a positive purpose. We punish as many as much as possible. Violence or nonviolence. ”

How to use a package

Police Chief Inspector Per Larsen was almost too happy. Police action had gone by the book. The so-called lømmelpakke with expanded opportunities for preventive detention was used only once.

But packages can be used in several ways. Police have never before been able to act from an overall confidence that the government gave full support to whatever the police might find out. Brian Mikkelsen, cheering on the sidelines and talked about a Denmark that is so incredibly generous that there is no prohibition on the complaint. (It’s just been inconceivable that one can get rejected).

“Do what ye will,” said government police. Or maybe he said ‘Do what we want! ”

What was all in all the violence? A few paving stones, some fireworks. (None of the bombs Brian Mikkelsen was talking about). Some nocturnal burning of cars. It was far less than we have experienced on several occasions.

Hundreds of activists worked hard for months to organize peaceful demonstrations, and they lived up to their responsibilities. One hundred thousands of peaceful participants testified that they take climate threat seriously and want responsible action. Actions testified in no way a brutalisation of society.

The answer from the state which should have welcomed the popular support, was authoritarian and restraint. If this does not lead to a thorough and self critical discussion, it will be worse next time.
Knud Vilby is a journalist and spokesperson for the 12th December-rally

First published in Information 6h of January 2010

Note: Brian Mikkelsen is Minister of Justice

The open letter is translated with the help of googl and some corrections into English by Tord Björk. You find the original Danish version at:

Other material: on this issue:

12 December Initiative – huge success or background for branding?

The COP15 promising ALBA mass meeting

The lost left wing opportunity

How the left supported the police against demonstrators in Copenhagen

Day by day reactions on repression December 12 to 18:

Saturday 12th of December – Come safely to peaceful demonstration

The left wing cover up

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

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

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

Wednesday 16th of December – “No soft feelings”

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

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

Danish self-criticism

Why is the left promoting police perspectives?

Danish political claustrophobia

The way the Danish left assess Copenhagen

The paternalistic Red Green Alliance

Trotskyist climate heroes without guts

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

From anti neoliberal left to authoritarian state-media governance left

Other material:

The whole world on trial

The Fall of the Bella Wall: Power Reclaimed

The Fall of the Bella Wall: Power Reclaimed

The invisible wall in our minds was going to fall. The wall between between the unprivileged and privileged humans must fall. Together with the wall between humankind and the larger living world they all fell on the 16th of December 2009. The wall of beautiful power, the Bella wall, came crumbling down when the people decided to lead towards a People’s Assembly at the Bella center of the World. The leaders of networks and organizations had to follow. Heads of states and the so called world leaders have to follow. Climate Justice is the cause. System change – not climate change the idea of how to achieve the goal. The People’s Assembly the goal and the starting point to tear down the wall between people and power liberating in one act both people inside and outside the parliamentary assemblies reuniting our bodies with our heads, and people with nature.

Reaching Tårnby square from the back it seemed already full of police attempting at arresting everybody. Photos by Tord Björk Creative Commons in this post unless otherwise stated.

We  started at Tårnby railway station in cold windy winter weather. I had locals guiding me on bike so we easily could move quick wherever we wanted strolling along the Bella center fences before we finally reached the place where the blue block were suppose to gather.

FoE Sweden activist in the midst of the wind and the crowd at Tårnby square

Classical finger tactics were supposed to be used. The idea behind this is to allow for some diversity of tactics so people can choose what degree of confrontation they like to be part of. As the whole Reclaim power action had agreed to strict non-violence code of conduct including not responding to violence from the police the room for diversity of tactics was quite small. As the Danish police had shown that it was prepared to use the new laws against peaceful non-violent protests arbitrary far beyond what can be sustained if the state wants to maintain order and democracy in the long run it was quite clear that the whole Reclaim power mass action could end in complete failure.

Map of Southern and Central Copenhagen with Tårnby at the exclamation on a red triangle at the bottom. The blue bloc was supposed to march via the yellow road to the North and then take a bend to the left to end at the gate of the Bella center, here marked as a volcano. Here people from the inside together with people pushing from the outside should create a space for a People’s Assembly for climate justice. After the Assembly a march could go back to the inner city on the West side of the Amager Fælled, the Amager Commons. Örestad, the gathering point for the green bloc is situated at the railway and motorway straight South of Bella Center.

The Blue block had applied and received a permit to march towards the Bella Center from Tårnby square, the green bloc were suppose to converge at Örestad railway station and then find their way to the same goal. Smaller affinity groups would find their own way. Our goal was to organize a People’s Assembly by somehow get into the Bella center area or at least after pushing as much as possible make the assembly at the fence together with people coming from the inside walking out.

Peasants from all over the world organized in La Via Campesina

The political core of the action was global mass movements with many representatives from the third world. In the last call-out for the Reclaim Power action it is stated: “The assembly will give a voice to those who are not being heard, it will be an opportunity to change the agenda, to discuss the real solutions, to send a clear message to the world calling for climate justice.”

People gathering at Tårnby under Jubilee South and Via Campesina flags

Originally there had been a bigger emphasis on voices from the third world. In the minutes from the Climate Justice Action meeting in June 2009 were the Reclaim Power action was decided it is stated about December 16: “On this day, the regular summit programme would be impossible. It would be the hour of the movements from below, who would speak for themselves and  decide the agenda. In particular, the voices of those affected by climate change from the Global South would have a forum.”

A very young disciplined Latin European bloc at the end ready to march at Tårnby in as good mood as everyone else.

The change from focus on being supporters particularly for voices from the South to only speak in general terms of all voices who have not been heard was a good move. Unprivileged people are everywhere and certainly among the many young activists that formed the back bone of the Reclaim Power action. The representatives from third world countries made the action strongly legitimate being able to manifest the interest of billions of people all over the world.

The mood was very good. The cause was rightful. The participants well prepared and willing to interact with whoever turned up. Everywhere there was a smile to find, a laughter to get, people willing to make humor married to politics so even the police could not resist from getting influenced.

To annoy us lobbyists for profitable climate solutions entered the scene making propaganda for the only realistic solutions.

Obviously they had a nice time in elegant white clothes, cocktails glasses in their hands, grapes to eat and posters like messages in a silent movie presenting the solutions to the world, Africa stop whining! Bangladesh buy rubber boots! or more to the point: STOP GLOBAL WHINING! But global wine drinking for all the rich is of course not to be stopped, on the contrary it is to be supported as we all know that when some get rich also some drops of wealth also will also drop on the impoverished, oh I am sorry, the poor. There is no end to the creativity of the rich and powerful entrepreneurs. They can at the same time both make all inventions necessary and write all soundbites necessary that makes the mass media happy. The act was so convincing from the beginning that some demonstrators thought it was for real.

But there is plenty of room for creativity also for everybody else in the march. Many cannot hold on to themselves and start singing. Especially British activists get more and more spirited with the help of an excellent vocalist giving us all the tune.

POWER TO THE PEOPLE – PEOPLE GOT THE POWER! The song and slogans gets us all in a better and better mood waiting for starting to move.

It is as all climate camp activists are with us from all over the world. Nothing can stop us now!

Are we ready to march? Yes we are ready to march! For Justice to fishermen (the blue banner), peasants (green Via Campesina flags), workers and everyone. For real solutions to the climate crisis and not false solutions like Nuclear power or a global market for carbon trading promoting land grabbing at the expense of sustainable food production by family farmers.

And of we go! Time to move towards the Bella center. According to Indymedia we were 500 at the Tårnby square. To me it looked as we were somewhat more.

The Reclaim Power March to the Bella Center

Along the road there were street lamps possible to climb. Well your feet will hurt a bit but you get another view. Using my bike I could go ahead and get a view from above. What will follow is an impression of the whole blue block on the way to Bella Center.

The march is surrounded by police walking, to the left also a whole row of police vans. Everywhere also police in plain clothes. Quite often easy to identify from there sturdy shoes, all the same, their branded black block look alike clothes and their standard Palestine scarfs. For a more systematic report on undercover police operations and surveillance at COP15, see:

No one is illegal anti racists and precarious united banners in the march. No borders actions to address the issue of climate and any refugees received attention on the 14th of December action.

The demo van in the end of the blue bloc

The police with the full support of the government have been attacking the Reclaim power action by many different means. Mass lodging had been raided at several occasions starting more than a week in advance. CJA spoke persons of any kind have had up to six civilian police following them from the foot step their home to were they were going. More than 900 people were mass arrested, hand cuffed and abused with degrading treatment sitting on the street for hours with many forced to pee in their pants resulting in finally three people getting accused for something. Most were put in cages in a special “climate prison” were the unbroken spirit of the demonstrators made the police attacking the imprisoned with pepper spray to maintain total control. A massive police action against innocent protesters with the full support not only from the right-wing government but also in practice by the social democrats and socialist people’s party stating that their opposition to the new laws making this possible was not necessarily on principle and once they were used arbitrarily leading politicians from both parties showed a strong defense of the police as their primary task. It could not be stated more clearly, the police can do whatever they want and the organized Denmark will support them.

Our climate is not your business banner ready to continue the march. This message was one of the messages among protesters in Copenhagen that received attention by a whole day of action on the 11th of December heavily repressed by the police.

Apart from arbitrary mass arrests and degrading treatment to scare people from participating targeted actions against anyone that appeared to be coordinator of the action was also used as a means to further create disorder. This tactic to destroy the leadership of a movement was once used centuries ago before democratic development paved the way for the understanding that arresting the leaders for things they had not done but what was perceived as that the movement might do was an old fashion contra-productive way of handling social unrest and needed to be modernized. Thus it became committed acts of violence or explicit support of violent acts that was criminalized and not general support of revolution or leadership of a movement were someone might do something criminal that became the rule.

But not so in Denmark 2009. Here Tadzio Müller on the eve of the Reclaim Power action was arrested on no grounds what so ever. This was an arrest on fake grounds and he will not be sentenced in any normally working European court of justice. The Reclaim power action have been non-violent in its code of conduct from the very beginning and so has Tadzio Müller presented it. The arrest was once more a way to show that the Danish state with almost full parliamentary support was willing to do anything to intimidate, criminalize and oppress a regularly non-violent civil disobedience action and even normal demonstrations. The organized Denmark acted almost in unison as if thousands of participants in the Systems Change not Climate Change bloc in the December 12 demonstration and the Reclaim Power action were part of militaristically planned operations in need to be met by similar militaristic means while still maintaining a democratic face to the world. Targeted and mass arrests to scare people but still  letting those who did not want to adjust their moral to the rules of the Danish state and were willing to take risks to save the planet march under constant insecurity.

Especially risky for the Danish state was the presence of people from the third world in the march. As Denmark in the official negotiations have systematically avoided to listen to the impoverished nations and instead used its privileged power to make UN a power game for the rich and powerful it would be utterly dangerous to also on the streets attack the interest of the global majority. Thus were people from the third world released immediately after they were identified during the mass arrest at the demonstration 12th of December. At least this was the case of all third world people in a delegation were 40 people were for a longer time arrested with the exception of those from Lebanon and Corea. It may well be so that what safe guarded the Reclaim Power action were the participants from mass movements in the South. And as the march was allowed the van with loudspeakers was also a symbol of acceptance of democratic rights.

But for the rest the police constantly attacked everything else that could be seen as possible coordination following the militaristic logic which the government had approved. Nicolas Haeringer, one more of CJA spokes persons was suddenly attacked when marching by civilians not presenting themselves turning out to be policemen.

Small groups of well equipped and coordinated policemen could attack and take out whatever they wanted from the demonstration. Here above you can see them in happy mood after violently beating Nicolas to the ground and then arresting him as their successful goal was attained.

Meanwhile the green bloc was also arrested at the Örestad meeting point en masse.

Some were able to escape and made it to the Reclaim Power action at the Bella center.

Meanwhile the blue bloc had to make it and establish a People’s Assembly. Contrary to the militaristic thinking of the police the Reclaim power action functions differently. All the way to the Bella center we are chanting, what do we want – climate justice, how do we act – non-violence. The van in the back of the march repeats the messages and we follow suit. For the first time in many decades I also here from the van and people responding, we are disciplined, we are non-violent the whole code of conduct of non-violence against the police is not only soemthing written on a piece of paper, it is embedded in our bodies while we walk and talk, or rather dancing and singing our way to the Bella center.

May I take a photo and put it on my blog? Yes of course! An activist from the Italian large environmental movement Lega Ambiente is happily with many of here friends carrying a No nuke banner in the Reclaim power action to make her and their statement at Bella center.

The first time I encountered this profound way of collective discipline, joyful and knowledgeable cooperation in a mass of politically motivated people were at Järntorget in Gothenburg 2001. 800 riot policemen surrounded 500 people who were protesting at the violent behaviour of the police during three days at an EU-Summit. After many proactive mass arrests and violent attacks at demonstrations triggering riots the police shot one demonstrator whose life at the time of the protest still was in danger. Now when the EU Summit was over the police could use its full force and so it did. With the riot shields were the demonstrators pushed into a small spot and completely surrounded. The mass arrest of everyone was supposed to begin, at least for six hours detention in a special EU prison set up for the Summit with cages.

But it took time to implement the arrests. Policemen dressed up as black bloc went around outside the police cordon and tried to identify people and then the police tried to ran into the mass and grab someone. This was not popular and people stuck to each other. The proposal to leave voluntarily making it easier for the police to arrest the rest was met with the same stubbornness, here it was the time to stick together. Thus slowly  the police were able to bring out people one by one now stating that everyone still there should be arrested.

Meanwhile the chanting of slogans, singing and political teachings started. As the mass was big the way to repeat what was said was used, the same method that now was used in the reclaim power  march. The right to protest was underlined. All the songs one could think of from the International to We shall overcome and most popular Swedish children songs was sung with enthusiasm making people in a good mood. My task was to be a negotiator. Peeing was a problem. Soon some handful needed to pee so I went to the police. After a while it was possible to get contact with one of them. It was obvious that it was a problem none had thought of and that the police wanted to take a solution into consideration. He asked how many it was and I turned around asking how many needed to pee, hans up! Almost the whole square raised their hands and seemed to need to immediately go to the toilet. I could not but laugh and so we all did, the protesters and the police. The solution was than that people went to the side of the square at the building and made what they needed to in the open air.

While the police as gently as possible arrested people one by one the mass meeting continued in a better and better mood. As the demonstrations had demanded that the public sector and nature should not be commodified protection of public service was one of the political themes discussed. We came to the conclusion that there has to be better wages for the employed in the public sector, and soon the logics of the argument ened in the demand Better wages for the police! By now the barriers between the police and the demonstrators after many hours together started to brake down. Policemen were seen giving their bananas to the encircled mass of protesters. Finally after almost five hours the police in charge sent a message to the central command stating that he could see no law paragraph that allowed him to continue forcing people from leaving. If there were no answer in three minutes he would give order to the riot police to go away. There were no answer and so he left with 800 hundred policemen and two hundred or more protesters had a party.

Now the feeling was the same of commitment, humor and communication with everyone willing to listen. The predominantly very young activists were walking and talking, chanting and singing their way to Bella center. The van filled in and addressed the police, we know it, the chant went, but we seldom say it, you sexy, you sexy beneath that uniform, the message was clear to take of the uniform.

To get the march working there are lots of functions necessary. The music made by the drums gives energy to everybody and a meaningful task to many using the sticks in a rythm we all like. The clowns are a constant reminder of another world walking behind, in front or anywhere repeating the body language of the policemen until not even the police can resist and must smile or even laugh. The animals are many. Any kind of animal, polar bears, leopards, elephants, you name it. In general quite a few demonstrators hare small wonders of joyful dramatic acts. Top hats, rainbow caps, Inka caps, anything on top of your head. And banners of any kind and any color.

Another important function are the medics team and the legal team. The medics you can spot by their black cross with appropriate backpack. Alternative media is everywhere so the message does not get distorted, corporate media as media often is labeled among activists are also well represented. The large amount of media can one also suspect means that there are many policemen using media as a disguise for registering participants. After corporate mass media makes it a scandal that one of the plain clothes policemen had been wearing a DR jacket only to be used by the Danish public service TV. This recieves in main strem medie almost as much attention as the coverage of the whole Reclaim power action. But of course also many of the more anonymous media attention could have been policemen at work.

Communication is another function of importance, a function that the police on purpose tried to destroy as much as possible by arresting targeted person in advance and during the march to make as much harm as possible to the action as well as the capability to give messages to the press. The attempt works according to a militaristic principle to constantly separate the enemy scaring the supposed rank and file participant from doing any confrontational act and diminishing the capacity of the leadership to communicate at all accept for the van were communication can be heard of everyone and is necessary to maintain an image of still existing democratic rights.

Communication is still a task necessary for a march to be able to have some knowledge what the rest of the action is doing and in this case also what is going on inside the Bella center. When it comes to mass civil disobedience the mistake by the police is to believe that this is lead by someone and when the leadership disappears than the civil disobedience disappears as well. The kind of horizontal mass education and unification by means of consensus decisions before and chanting during the protest makes it very hard to penetrate and weakening an action by taking away the leadership, only brutal force is fit for that and this is maybe also the idea behind much of the police tactics supported by the politicians in Denmark. Non-violent protests should be treated as if it actually is directly violent and those stating themselves willing to use non-violence should know that they will be treated as if they are inherently violent and can be beaten and criminalized for whatever they think of doing if they oppose the government and its laws.

One of the groups strongly present at all actions and demonstrations in Copenhagen were Robin Wood from Germany. This organizations regularly carries out civil disobedience in the protection of rain forests or the climate. They had their share of people getting hand cuffed and arrested in Copenhagen as one can see on their well illustrated blog with reports from the very start of COP15 to the end. Here they are making their statement: Shopping center vegetables = Climate killers. because of this: Luxury for everyone – bio (ecological food) for all!

And here they are in the Reclaim power march approaching Bella Center stating leave it in the ground! No more new open pit mining. More pictures and reports in German you find at their blog:

To totally wipe out the possibility for non-violent civil disobedience would mean to say goodbye to anything but secret violent resistance and goodbye to more than a hundred year of establishing democracy with civil disobedience as a main tool. Thus it was necessary to allow the Reclaim power march under the threat of immediate arrest of everyone with the most random excuse. But the capacity to communicate should be wiped out by arrests on fake grounds.

System change not climate change banner from the not so well funded network Climate Justice now with Bella Center visible to us all at the horizon.

But similar to the capacity for mass civil disobedience the capacity is there for filling the ranks of special functions. In general the kind of flat organizational structure which is characteristic for both networks organizing the action, Climate Justice Action and Climate Justice Now means there is very few involved in any central coordination. Normally this would mean that by taking some people out the whole coordinating capacity would be paralyzed. But what happens instead is that new coordination functions are established on the spot. I have seen it working in Geneva once at an international anti WTO demonstration. All the locals had left us alone to take part in another demonstration organized by Swiss organizations and there we were without knowing where to go or what to do. Somehow order in the demonstration had to be established by stopping one person from doing unnecessary things while others made us find the way. The problem is of course that by drastically taking away leadership as the Danish police systematically did more disorder can follow rather than their possible aim to maintain order.

Stop consumer terror banner very few steps from the main Bella center entrance.

It can of course result in a split among the participants causing some to make more confrontative action while others gets passive, which might be seen as the exact strategy of the Danish government. When they argued that the new law package was directed against violence when in fact according to the Danish ministry of justice it was only directed against acts of non-violent behavior the government showed the way. Create total confusion to enable a situation were any act of non-violent civil disobedience immediately is regarded as violent and thus give the police free hands to use military tactics to create constant split among protesters. What was the final purpose of this governmental strategy? To stop any social unrest in Denmark from becoming better organized also in the future as all the trade unions in Copenhagen have stated. The new law package is directed against us, against picketing, strikes or any kind of civil disobedience that have brought us democracy. The trade unions accused the government for wanting to establish a police state. Should they succeed?

Automatic metro public transport passing above the demonstrators, a means of transport many climate justice movements asks for besides bicycles.

The other strategy might have been to avoid by all means that Denmark could be seen as having the same strategy on the streets as inside the negotiations to silence all unwanted voices. To make it appear as the only voices inside that really opposed the deal that rich countries including the merging powers in the South were about to make were very small and marginal has been crucial to the strategy of Denmark. I made a mistake in my pre-assessment of repression during the summit that Denmark would avoid repression of UN delegates walking out of Bella center. Such a repression would be a great obstacle for the future of the UN. At stake was a long tradition of the image of Nordic countries supporting the voices of impoverished countries and protecting the environment in the self interest of maintaining the UN as a legal way to strengthen small nations in world politics. But maybe the Danish agenda was different. Maybe it was to maintain a media image of being democratic by allowing protests under constant repression presented as the only way to avoid violence on the street while at the same time repressing the impoverished nations inside and de facto establish a new world order without any UN there to protect the rights of every nation. In such a case a People’s Assembly would be an extreme threat to the wishes of Denmark to completely handicap the UN and the impoverished countries. The media image of isolated marginal and obstructive countries would be impossible to effectively be maintained when people from the inside were going to meet people from the outside representing mass movements from all over the world. Whatever the Danish arguments were against a People’s assembly- should they succeed stopping it, one way or another?

No nuke protesters arriving at the spot where the attempts for pushing for climate justice and establishing a People´s Assembly soon will be made. The anti nuclear activists supported by more than 800 organizations also made strong actions throughout COP15 demanding that nuclear power should not be included in any climate agreement.

These were questions to ask on our way to Bella Center. But we also had to get there by knowing wich direction to go. The march was saved by the police when it came to the crossing were it was supposed to bend to the left without knowing what to do. But soon communication was established between the front and the van as well as with the walk out action inside the Bella Center. We were approaching the main gates were we at 12 should start the Peoples Assembly by pushing from the outside and meeting those coming from the inside.

Reclaim power and push for climate justice from the inside

Inside Bella center Reclaim power action. Photo with restricted copyright,

The participation from the inside became massive. With banners stating Reclaim power and chanting a hundreds of people with many of the leaders of the global movements participating started the walk out. The indigenous in the front as during the mass demonstration on December 12. It was the same inside as outside with lively chants keeping the collective together while the blue block advanced towards the main gates (From Democracy Now report):

The chant began with Josh Kahn Russell making the announcement.

    JOSHUA KAHN RUSSELL: When I say “climate,” you say “justice”! Climate!

    PROTESTERS: Justice!


    PROTESTERS: Justice!

    JOSHUA KAHN RUSSELL: When I say “reclaim,” you say “power”! Reclaim!

    PROTESTERS: Power!


    PROTESTERS: Power!

    JOSHUA KAHN RUSSELL: When I say “take back,” you say “the talks”! Take back!

    PROTESTERS: The talks!


    PROTESTERS: The talks!

    JOSHUA KAHN RUSSELL: When I say “climate,” you say “justice”! Climate!

    PROTESTERS: Justice!


    PROTESTERS: Justice! Reclaim power! Reclaim power! Reclaim power! Join the People’s Assembly! Join the People’s Assembly! Join the People’s Assembly! Take back the talks! Take back the talks! Climate justice now! Bolivia! Bolivia!

    TOM GOLDTOOTH: We’re here to support our brother. We’re here to support our brother Evo Morales, who is coming today. He has given us direction, that these negotiators need to make a commitment. We need to save Mother Earth by having strong binding agreements. They are demanding 49 percent reduction targets—49 percent reduction targets by 2020, not a sellout position like United States, who’s coming here saying they’re entertaining four percent reduction levels. That’s an outrage. They are here to demand that the Annex I countries pay up, pay up their ecological debt. So this is a support of Bolivia.

    PROTESTERS: Join the People’s Assembly! Join the People’s Assembly! Join the People’s Assembly! Join the People’s Assembly! Take back the talks! Take back the talks!

    JOSHUA KAHN RUSSELL: So what’s going right now is that we’ve had a group of people from civil society inside the talks who have come outside the talks to have a People’s Assembly to put a new agenda for the talks, to reset the dirty, false solutions that are being discussed in there, to put real solutions for communities.

    PROTESTERS: We are peaceful! What are you?

Photo with restricted copyright,

Here the insider protesters with Tom Goldtoth from Indigenous Environmental network behind the drummer and Ricardo Navarro to the right from Friends of the Earth El Salvador (with a badge from another organization).

Photo with restricted copyright,

Here were Henry Saragi, general sectretary of La Via Campesina International to the right, a mass movement with 200 million members.

Photo with restricted copyright,

Here were Wahu Kaara from Kenya Debt Relief Network, representing the international alliance of People’s movement on Climate Change.

Photo with restricted copyright,

And many others but not Friends of the Earth International who had chosen to stage their own protest against being thrown out of the Bella center. Instead of supporting their claimed main cooperation partner Via Campesina who participated fully both in the inside and on the outside. FOEI chosed to stand aside and make their own sit in to protest against the treatment of themselves and some few other NGOs temporarily stopped from coming inside.

The Reclaim Power march from the inside became powerful with a lot of commitment, chanting and music.

Meanwhile the blue bloc came closer and closer to the main gates of the Bella center and were soon to be seen some 200 meters away by the bloc with yellow UN badges of walk out people from the inside. The question is what should happen?

Survival Media’s photostream at Flickr web site

The walk out bloc moved towards the fence from the inside. The police had told them not to in spite of that the situation was totally under control and the bridge over some muddy water were the inside Reclaim power could come out in the right direction was very narrow an allowed only a few to come across at the time. Thus it would have been easy to arrange so that few people at a time in good order could join the march on the outside.

Photo with restricted copyright,

The walk out bloc advanced when the police started to beat the UN accredited delegates violently. I must admit that this I thought never would be possible. That the host country of a UN conference beats up masses of UN accredited persons to stop them from walking out to attend a People’s Assembly.

Photo with restricted copyright,

On that bridge only 20 meters close to the people outside history was made. For each beating of danish sticks a grave was dug for the future of governments from small nations to have a say in world politics. Only the people in these nations allied across boundaries with people in other nations can now save the small countries from disappearing as a voice in international affairs.

For a full length commented video coverage of this action, see:

The outside push for climate justice

Meanwhile the lack of communication in the blue block caused some confusion. The march went to far and a group that was not supposed to come in front of the fence was suddenly facing the need for making a push which they were willing to but others as well. Some people from the front had to make their way through to some to the spot were the push for climate justice should start. But things were sorted out quite quickly it seemed. The number of participants was all the time limited and in general the whole code of conduct was such that any serious attempt of entering the Bella Center area more than symbolically for some meters and together with people from the inside there establish a Peoples Assembly had always been the only possible option. And so it was now with the second option to arrange a People’s Assembly and the Bella center fences on the outside.

Photo from Climate Justice Action website, Logan Dogan

The police started to kettle the demonstration coming with a row of sturdy police vans from the East. Order to go away in the name of the Queen was issued three times each in different languages. Loud and clear. Old mistakes on this point by the Danish police causing chaos should not be repeated.

Photo from Climate Justice Action website, Logan Dogan

The police advanced slowly. People were getting prepared.

Medic teams stayed closed to take care of people if necessary. Here everyone was necessary. People willing to push, people willing to be there, people prepared with treatment against the panic that easily took the grip of anyone getting pepper spray in her or his eyes, clowns making everybody happy and maybe even those who mainly were observers as myself trying to maybe do the best we could.

People were mainly young but there were also elderly. The situation became more and more tense.

In front of the police vans a barricade of bicycles was made to protect the van belonging to the demonstrators. The van was seen as crucial to maintain togetherness among the participants.

A first attempt at pushing towards the fence was made.

The police in action. Photo from Indymedia

The van was soon lost and two more CJA spokespersons arrested. People continued to push. In Swedish activist discussion forum,,  there has been some criticism of the unrealistic way the whole action was planned and how the continued attempts at pushing caused harm to many. In the front were some 30 people pepper sprayed making their eyes burning and 10 people got injured according to Indymedia reports. One activist were able to climb on top of a police van but was beaten to the ground by the police.

Many people have problems or get treated for getting pepper spray in the eyes while others are prepared for action with goggles.

People that were pepper sprayed by the police got helped by the medics to ease the intense buring feeling that easily causes panic.

Mass arrests started. In total some 250 people were arrested during the Reclaim power action.

The black and white photos above are from

Photos and report from Indymedia,

Also other made attempts and some actually succeeded. A raft was constructed and people advanced across a dike. Here they were pepper sprayed and met by a dog but made it anyway to the other side thus entering the Bella center area. The People’s Assembly had managed to establish a bridge head inside at least symbolically. The people were very quickly arrested.

Seven young farmers also made an attempt according to a report made by the representative from Via Campesina at the Post-COP15 session at the Klimaforum. In line with the slogan of the young movement, Reclaim the fields, the golf course directly close to  the Bella Center was occupied to enable further advancing towards The Bella center area. Police dogs were quickly  chasing the young farmers who escaped in a tree until they were caught by the police.

Later in the evening six activists was once more able to enter the Bella center area by sneaking through the main entrance but quickly taken them as well.

The affinity group tactics made at least one symbolic victory but in general it failed. What was left after that both the affinity groups and the walk out bloc had not succeeded to establish any significant people’s Assembly inside the Bella center area was the blue bloc outside. The only remaining mass force in the action able of doing something.

But this group was heavily surrounded by police. From the North police vans came closer with riot police advancing in military style behind each van kettling the mass action completely from the North and the East. To the South was the well protected Bella center area. When no stones were in sight the police came forward and advanced in chains chasing people in front of them. Far to the West one could see police vans also approaching. The only escape now seemed to be through the marsh probably getting once feet wet.

The push for climate justice from the outside and the inside at the main gate seemed to have failed and the remaining forces trapped alone outside.

For very many pictures from the confrontations outside and some inside, see: and:

Renewed support from the inside

The police continued to push the masses away from the main gate into what still looked like a kettle operation enabling the police to arrest everyone at any moment.

I could not come out anymore but let myself to go aside on an isolated island in the midst of the kettled area.

Here one could see behind us three gigantic statues as witnesses with the Copenhagen coal power plant run by the Swedish state owned Vattenfall in the back ground.

Someone waved his rain bow peace flag facing Bella Center.

On top of a construction on the island others put a huge banner with a democracy arrow pointing at one direction and a Copenhagen arrow pointing at the other direction.

At the same time inside the Bella Center there came renewed support for the protesters outside and this time not possible to silence. From the main speakers tribune in the general plenary of the COP15 negotiations president Evo Morales and Hugo Chavez addressed the protesters and messages on the streets. The inside – outside action for climate justice was still there, highly present at the moment and for the future.

Hugo Chavez speaking to the Climate Change Summit in Copenhagen. Photo from Telesur.

In his statement he made it clear:

“There are many people outside… I’ve read in the news that there were some arrests, some intense protests there in the streets of Copenhagen, and I salute all those people out there, the majority of them youth… They are young people concerned for the world’s future,”

and furthermore:

“I have been reading some of the slogans painted in the streets… One said, ‘Don’t Change the Climate, Change the System!’ And I bring that on board for us. Let’s not change the climate. Let’s change the system! And as a consequence, we will begin to save the planet. Capitalism is a destructive development model that is putting an end to life, that threatens to put a definitive end to the human species.”

The complete speech you find here:

Evo Morales equally addressed the voices of protests outside in the general assembly at COP15. Yoiu can read an interview by Democracy Now with him here about his position, “policies of unlimited industrialization are what destroys the environment.”:

Miguel Palacin, chairman of the Andean coordination of indigenous people protesting at the Reclaim power action just before leaving for the airport. He is standing in front police vans and actvists at the Bella center were Hugo Chavez and Evo Morales were speaking on behalf of the Andean and Carribean people in the ALBA alliance.

After a while the police also cleansed the island where I had been standing for a while. I managed to get out. Here I met people being arrested.

Once more I could see the spontaneous disciplined organization at work. Or rather the verb organize rather than organization working. Immediately when the arrested boy came towards the police van someone approached him and asked about his name and the causes for his arrest.

Afterwards I saw the women talking to someone in the legal team. I asked her if she was a member of the legal team herself. She was not. But it was easy she said. Anyone could do it. It was just to ask for basic information if someone got arrested so none would be taken unnoticed and all should feel that their voice is getting heard. Horizontal, spontaneous and specialized functions in action. Needless to say food for the actvists all over Copenhagen was organized the same way by volunteers. In the streets and at the alternative media centers people worked hard to sustain correct information serving the movement in Copenhagen and the rest of the world. Hundreds and hundreds of unpaid volunteers each doing their task to help the collective effort.

I continued towards my borrowed bike hoping it still was placed were I left it. So it was. Now it was easy to make a long tour around the the police cordon and advancing towards the remaining blue bloc through the Amager commons marsh.

The People’s Assembly

And there it was after making ones feet a bit wet! Finally I were in the midst of the People’s Assembly. All the friends from the unified rural and urban struggle for food sovereignty, against economic globalization and for social justice everywhere also on the countryside and not only for urban and industrial people seemed to be there. There were Friends of the Earth Uruguay who together with Friends of the Earth Finland and Sweden were present already when People’s Global Action against “Free Trade” and WTO was established in Geneva in February 1998. Now we met again only missing our absent Finnish friends. The confrontational left were nowhere to be seen, at least their banners were gone. This was a gathering of the global South and their allies, with Jubilee South still proudly wavering their banner demanding: Change trade – not our climate and the people from Via Campesina wearing their green scarfs.

The People’s Assembly had been going on for quite a while. Documentation is easy to find via Indymedia: “The Peoples Assembly was streamed live thanks to the IMC-Radio crew, which was a great thing. Due to cop violence we missed the initial opening of the assembly (there was much chaos and running about)” You find three long webcast radio files at:

Photo by Climate Justice Action

Above all were there at the People’s Assembly many green Via Campesina flags and foremost Josie Riffaud, my favourite flower farmer from Bordeaux in France. Someone helped us and I could get the photograph made below with the Climate Justice Now! banner in the background.

Josie Riffaud to the left from Via Campesina International and Tord Björk, member of Friends of the Earth Sweden Climate Group and the author of this report in the hat with a Reclaim Gandhi sticker on the coat.

The Assembly was going to move after a while. The good mood from the whole march from Tårnby to the Bella center was still there. At the police line stopping us from going to the west were young people playing limbo with the plastic band stopping us from leaving.

The march to the city center

Now we were ready for marching again, a long march to the city center. The helicopter above us was ready borrowed for the occasion from the Swedish police to be able to carry heavy video machinery. All the police vans following us were ready, all the policeman walking at both sides of us were ready and so were we. Once more I tried the man in the hat trick. It did not work inside the kettle in front of the Bella center but here I hoped it could work as many times before. And so it did. I was able to get out to find my bike again and recatch the march later cycling through the Amager Commons.

So I did. The march was still in the very good mood it had been for the whole day.

Surrounded by the police we marched on and on.

Here I used the opportunity to finally escape and get a final view from a house far above the demonstrators coming from the Peoples Assembly. A long action day was over. The Bella Wall between people and power will never be the same.

Tord Björk

New call to action – Reclaim Power!

On the 16th of December, at the start of the high-level “ministerial” phase of the two-week summit, we, the movements for global justice, will take over the conference for one day and transform it into a Peoples Assembly.

Our goal is to disrupt the sessions and open a space inside the UN area to hold the Assembly. The assembly will give a voice to those who are not being heard, it will be an opportunity to change the agenda, to discuss the real solutions, to send a clear message to the world calling for climate justice.

There will be a legalized starting point, which will be announced to the media and the police. From there, the climate justice bloc will move on towards the Bella Center. Affinity groups will make their way to the border of the conference area from various directions. The aim is for all groups coming from the outside to start entering the UN Area at 10am. At the same time, groups inside the Summit will start to disrupt the sessions and mobilize people to leave the  negotiations and participate in the Peoples Assembly. The assembly will start at 12pm at the main entrance to the Bella Center inside the UN Area.

Reclaim Power! is a confrontational mass action of non-violent civil disobedience. We will overcome any physical barriers that stand in our way – but we will not respond with violence if the police try to escalate the situation, nor create unsafe situations; we will be there to make our voices heard!

The Peoples Assembly, in opposition to the false solutions being negotiated at the Climate Summits, will highlight alternatives that provide real and just solutions: leaving fossil fuels in the ground; reasserting peoples’ and community control over resources; relocalising food production; massively reducing overconsumption, particularly in the North; recognising the ecological and climate debt owed to the peoples of the South and making reparations; and respecting  indigenous and forest peoples’ rights.

After 15 years of negotiations and no real solutions to the climate crisis, we say enough! No more markets based solutions, no to corporate greed and short term politics deciding our future! No to colonialism and the land-grabs taking place in local and indigenous communities!

In December, we, from our many different backgrounds and movements, experiences and struggles, will come together. We are indigenous peoples and farmers, workers and environmentalists, feminists and anticapitalists.
Now, our diverse struggles for social and ecological justice are finding common ground in the struggle for climate justice, and in our desire to reclaim power over our own future.

See you on the streets!

The Heat Is On, nr 4 Copenhagen process update Dec06

Tord Björk | Environmental movements,International action,Uncategorized | Sunday, December 6th, 2009

The Heat Is On, nr 4 Copenhagen process update Dec06


1.   Four mass activities can create the most dynamic summit ever

2.   Time to comment!: System Change – Not Climate Change – Klimaforum declaration.

3.   Call for celebration, funeral and alternatives December 6

4.   Demonstrations

4a.  December 12: speakers, backing from 462 organisations, and a System Change not Climate Change bloc!
4b.  5 000 in anti WTO demonstration in Geneva November 28
4c.  40 000 in Stop the Climate Chaos demonstration in London December 5

5.   The Danish letter that saved us from a split

6.   New call-out for Reclaim Power December 16

7.   The new media-hype: The Never trust a COP

8.   A dynamic Via Campesina in the key position

9.   Friends of the Earth European Climate campaign meeting

10.  Students revolt in Austria and the linkage to Climate change

11.  Repression

11a. Police tactics at COP15
11b. Unsuccessful protest demonstration in Denmark
11c. Police in proactive operation hand-cuffing activists on false grounds


Conflicts between dualistic and consensus political cultures among actors initiating mass actions in Copenhagen have been sharp. But important steps have now been taken in Denmark towards more fruitful relations. Meanwhile the confrontations in the official process gets more and more sharp. The prime minister in Denmark sounds like a new Bob minister in Bagdad repeating his sound bite there will be a legally binding agreement. None else seems to care. But the last days a new tone is there. An non-binding agreement that is far from the historical binding agreement once stated as the only possible outcome is now promoted by main actors as governments in rich countries, UN general secretary and some new industrialised countries. A non-binding agreement against the interest of impoverished countries and far from solving the climate crisis even possibly bringing us on a wrong course. The Danish minister of Climate is enthusiastic about the decision by the US president to attend COP15 at the final negotiations in his attempt at steam rolling any hope for the binding agreement that once the Danish minister of climate claimed was the only option. In the world of spin doctors things move fast. You can follow the official game in many newspapers.

Lets take one of many out of the box, Berlingske, a leading conservative Danish daily: Rhetorically acknowledge the gravity of the issue and maximum 2 degrees increase in temperature, long term goals for reducing emissions globally by half until 2050 including funds for the South and almost no goals for the coming decade, rather 5 percent decrease instead of the 20 to 40 percent which UN scientists at least have been aiming at. No immediate specific targets for countries, no sanctions for not following an agreement, no specific resources for Southern countries. The last point one could add that it would be in accordance with media spin and oppressive negotiations to give some money to some Southern countries in the last minute that are far from close to what is needed, just to be able to state there was a climate justice component in the deal.

In this number 4 of The Heat Is On you will instead of the official power relations reporting get inside updates on the dynamics of the mass actions, the development of the relationships between different movements and political parties in Denmark and internationally. Both concerning political content, the cultural spirit, repression and other aspects of interest for popular movements. There will also be some travel reports and impressions from Copenhagen just before the COP starts.

For the official messages from mass activities and main actors you can find an updated overview with links and including map information on:

For the best inside information, the best is always to get involved.

Tord Björk

Avoiding the post COP doldrums part I: Another tactic than Anglo-American is possible

A first part of a response to the article: De-mobilisation: Avoiding the post COP doldrums

Tord Björk

Make Copenhagen a starting point for social change

originally written on 4th of July and sent to the Climaet Justice Action emaillist.

How can the popular movements involved in climate change become a social movement for building a sustainable society? The political situation becomes more and more clear. There will be no agreement in Copenhagen with substantial content that will bring about changes necessary for stopping global warming. Hopefully some of the outcome might be useful. But as been analysed by Anthony Kelly also results that can be presented as successful poses a problem for the movement. A climate treaty that is presented as a great success may serve to undermine and co-opt a social movement while in the long run when the movement is de-mobilized the treaty do not result in any substantial action.

Kelly makes one of the most interesting contributions to the discussion on climate movement future. Together with Walden Bellos analysis of a new green deal as a way to develop capitalism in response to the failure of neoliberalism these two texts, on the one hand focusing on tactics, on the one hand on politics, poses a challenge to the global climate movement.

Kelly begins his article in a defensive mood, ”avoiding the post COP doldrums”. It is primarily addressed to all different climate movements in Australia from civil disobedience groups to main stream NGOs with some preference for the first groups. But it uses global experiences of other movements as the peace movement and claims to use insights in movement tactics of relevancxe to the whole developed world.

I will in this critical assessment overemphasize negative aspects of Kelly’s article. This should not overshadow the positive aspects which are a well-funded argument for everybody to put the Copenhagen summit in a longer perspective and start to plan for how to continue the struggle after Copenhagen. Arguments that are addressed effectively to all parts of the movement. An emphasis on the need for civil disobedience including the dangers of relating to much on lobbying and the dangers of desperate actions that isolates the movement. The attempt at bringing in long term analysis on tactics with examples of more universal interest.

This response to Kelly’s article is trying to further develop discussion in four areas. Firstly the question of tactics, both in relation to how the climate movement in the whole world can further the struggle and in relation to the Climate Summit. Secondly what lessons can be learned from historical and situational circumstances. Thirdly the issue of strategy and social change. And finally the issue of politics bringing in a critique of Bello’s analysis of a shift from neoliberal capitalism to ”global social democratic green deal”. (The two last areas were never written, the historical you find below on this blog.)

I. Another tactic than Anglo-American is possible

Australian and other Anglo-American climate movements are of global importance. The impressive climate walks in Australia outnumbering all other activities in the world on global climate action days and the climate camp movements are showing us the strength of Anglo-American political culture. Thus how the movements in countries dominated by this political culture are acting is of importance to popular movements involved in climate issues in other countries. It is in London global climate action days are coordinated and many globally important meetings for climate interested movement have been held, climate activists from civil disobedience or main stream NGOs have sometimes a dominating role at international meetings but primarily the Anglo-America movement produces a wide range of political activities which sets an example for other countries and gives energy to many of us.

Thus Kelly’s partly critical assessment of the movement and his tactical visions are of interest. He builds his analysis on universalistic claims, at least for the developed world. Furthermore he claims to say something substantial of general concern about the UN Climate Summit, a summit that is seen as important to many others than those from Anglo-American political cultures. Even indigenous peoples far from not only Anglo-American but also other Western political cultures have regularly taken an active interest in using UN processes for their purposes and is so doing this time as well.

The tactical insights built on analysis of ”contemporary social movements” that Kelly uses are according to him widely used by movements ”throughout the developed world”. These tactical advices mainly builds on the typical Anglo-American dichotomy between grassroots and leaders, civil disobedience and lobbying, violence and non-violence. This tactical dichotomy has proven to result in fascinating outbursts of political energy in the countries concerned. But it is not used or necessary relevant for all the developed world, neither it is for the majority of the movements involved in the global climate movement. And as the climate issue is a global issue were emission of green house gases and deforestation has global impact  we have to take into consideration tactics that are fruitful in all political cultures. Both our own political culture and at the same time be aware of the necessity of understanding the tactics of other political cultures and when it comes to international or global actions in common campaigns or at Summits build a tactic useful for a dynamic contribution to all political cultures creating a simultaneous transnational change in power relations. Especially important are those political cultures used by people who are more severely victims of the climate crisis and the present world order than those belonging to Anglo-American or other political cultures of the rich. It is of great importance that we try to search for the truth about tactics and do not limit ourselves to what is widely distributed as universalistic knowledge by the Western university system and similar institutions while it in the end is tactics linked to a very specific kind of political culture imposed on many others but of less importance if we want to change the world.

Both have a tactic for life after Copenhagen but also during the Summit

Kelly’s advice are three-fold. Firstly ”Don’t put all eggs in one basket”. Here he specially criticises NGO campaigners claiming Copenhagen to be the ”last, best hope” possibility. Kelly claims that ”Movement leadership and spokespeople need to encourage and assist people to locate themselves along a movement trajectory that is longer than 2009 and goes far beyond Copenhagen in December.” This sounds trivial and is anyway useful to say. The problem is that when it is addressed to some parts of the most professionalised NGO industry as if it will be taken seriously this causes illusions about the role of this NGO industry. It is part of the way NGO industry work that they constantly have to come up with ”campaigns” claiming that now we have the only unique chance to change the world if we only follow the line as advocated by NGOs with professionals spokespeople in the center of attention. If they don’t they cannot sell their organisation via commercial mass media or to public funders in a system based on political consumerism. It is not so hard to shift to a new unique message according to the rules of commercial or state funded relationships and so these professionalised NGOs do. Although this time maybe a bit harder than normal as the main stream science and media regularly address the consequences of climate change and may well continue to do so after Copenhagen at least to such a degree that the issue cannot be silenced drastically.

With the easiness for NGO organisations to shift focus in mind Kelly’s point is anyway important especially as it goes beyond only addressing the most radical activist groups and include also NGOs or hopefully also other kind of organisations. As the NGO concept is a typical Anglo-American as well as UN concept constructed to destroy political understanding by labelling many different kind of organisations into a concept without any positive character. Only negatively defined as non-governmental. It is of course so that many NGOs can have another character than that of being absorbed by a professional NGO industry. Thus the main purpose of Kelly’s advice is unquestionably important, we need plans going beyond Copenhagen.

Yet Kelly avoids the important issue of tactics in relationship to the Climate Summit before and in Copenhagen. This makes his argument weaker. As it is now his point could be useful in countries similar to Australia, but the climate movement or whatever we want to call those popular movements involved in the Copenhagen process and beyond also needs to address the tactical issues of more immediate concern. Here a main proposal has been ”Diversity of tactics”, an idea that helps fragmenting the movement and gives everybody the feeling they are doing the right thing. Both Kelly’s silence on the matter and diversity of tactics ideology shows the intellectual poverty of the movement but also represents an interesting tactical challenge.

Highlight both successes and failures

Kelly’s second advice is to highlight successes. He qualifies it rightly by stating genuine successes. To him it is vital that we celebrates what we have achieved, not what political elite have told us to celebrate. Thus not unfulfilled promises of political statements or policy positions. Instead for Australia he points at that the coal industry admit that coal now is a malign product, that a broad movement and many direct actions have emerged and climate science is spread widely. Now this again is a useful advice. One may include positive actual outcomes of political decision when there has been an effect on climate change for the better.

But equally important may be the point at failures and unfulfilled promises in what has been stated or decided by governments, corporations or for that matter NGOs. Especially to avoid the NGO industry trap constantly claiming new possibilities for unique changes. As one Indian observer claimed when NGOs came to India, ”I never heard so much about successes before”. To only focus upon success stories without at the same time showing how the actual outcome of different decisions and strategies have been is not enough.

Non-violence tactical ideology might trigger violence

Thirdly Kelly advices us to locate the movement in a trajectory highlighting the years of struggles  behind and in the years ahead. Again he states the need to see it as equally important to mobilise towards Copenhagen as to have people plan activities in 2010 and beyond to inspire and maintain momentum in the post COP period. But mainly Kelly focus on theories of  stages theories from Bill Moyers on how movements can relate to changing situations. Here strong emphasis is put on having tactics in  relation to what stage the movement is in. Although there is an emphasis on activities that engages people in common and the need for civil disobedience the theory never makes a final conclusion on what is most important. Sometimes criticism of lobbyism seems most important, and in the next minute most emphasis is put on the role of the so called ”negative rebel”. When the movement is perceived as having a failure which might be a possibility after Copenhagen the risk for a negative trend emerge through ”activists willing to take high risk actions without movement support” who ”garner negative public attention, which further alienates concerned people.”

One can say that in this way Kelly anyway addresses the issue of tactics in Copenhagen in an indirect way. With the emphasis on the negative rebel a problem is addressed that can be felt by many as important. His solution to make it understandable by pointing at the different stages a movement is in is also useful. Especially that the criteria for seeing certain actions as problematic for the movement is not if they are legal or not but how they are perceived by people in common. Many times radical activists are as problematic as professional NGO spokespersons, both being part of a system to make people in common passive and seeing their own role as the only important while blaiming the other opposing elitist movement group for the problems that the movement might face.

But there is anyway a problem with the arguments by Kelly and more so those of Moyers. When it comes to tactics it is necessary to include what is happening in all different political cultures. Recently 60 Indians were massacred in Peru while defending their land against oil exploitation. Sometimes the indigenous people include violence in their actions. The very first victory against economic globalisation in 1977 was carried out with arrow and bows against a World bank funded dam building. Demonizing violence and even worse as Moyers thus include material damage in the definition of violence and not only personal injury is no help for the movement.

In our present fragmented capitalist society violence becomes more common in protests or as expressions of social discontent. Moral arguments against violence are important but not sufficient. History tells us that many popular movement has failed when, even if it had nothing to do with a decision made by the movement, violence was used in a way that people in common could not understand the need for. And people are many times more critical towards violence seemed as emanating from a popular movement than they are against violence in the name of governments or even corporations. The reason is simple. People in common have an understanding of the risk inherent in challenging the whole system. Thus they see a need for solidarity and to stay together when times get tuff as well as that when change really is needed the cost may be very high and thus that there is needed a strong cultural discipline and solidarity, a fragmented movement were many do as they please without interest in how people in common react is seen as weak and not trusted to support.

The problem is when the issue of violence or non-violence becomes the dominating discussion in a movement leaving the long term goals at the side. The negative rebel metaphor is a common kind of arguments among movements and have been used before with predictable outcome. Contrary to the history claiming the mass protests against summits started in Seattle 1999 at the WTO Summit or Berlin 1988 at the World Bank Summit they started a lot earlier. The first historically documented mass protest took place in Copenhagen 1970 against a World Bank meeting. There were conferences and seminars organised by popular movements, educational material produced about the World bank and many of the kind of Summit activities we see today. 10 000 people demonstrated day after day and heavy clashes with police took place. Policemen provoced the masses by driving their motorcycles directly into demonstrators risking their lives. The response was to burn the motorcycles. Molotov cocktails were prepared and used and the conference center doors was attacked by a Danish terrorist groups with bombs. Luckily so technically badly prepared that no significant damage was made.

Now one could see this as a perfect example of how negative rebels pose a problem. One can also see it in the total other way around. What happened in Copenhagen 1970 was not coming from nowhere or mainly from evil extremists and their ideologies as the main stream arguments go. Not of lack of criticism against violent radicals but rather the opposite. In April 1968 there was a mass demonstration with some 25 000 participants in front if the US Embassy in Copenhagen. It was organised by the anti Vietnam war groups in Denmark with in total some 200 members. The success of the demonstration can be seen as the result of the failure of main stream organisations to formulate a mobilising political demand strong enough to get people to demonstrate while the small radical groups achieved this with some alliances with other organisations.

Now some tomatoes and the like were thrown at the embassy causing no severe harm and a speaker from Berlin stated on the way to the embassy the need to make actions against the embassy which the organisers immediately opposed. At the embassy the organisers told the demonstrators to dissolve when the program was over but before this could happen the police attacked the demonstration hitting each and everyone they could reach including two people with baby carriers and a long range of other people. Instead of standing up jointly against this massive state repression the main stream organisations made the choice to criticise without qualified arguments the small but effective anti Vietnam war groups. This betrayal caused a total split in the movement. What the main stream organisations wanted was to keep their own hands completely clean and stick to the false official version of what had happened with the result that they produced exactly the kind of negative rebel which they claimed that they did not want. The trials that followed showed clearly that the main stream organisations had been wrong but they did not change their opinion anyway. The accused demonstrators were sentenced but mildly and the facts revealed during the trial showed that it was the police that had been escalating violence, not the demonstrators. Thus the main stream organisations interest in licking the asses of police brutality and sit in the lap of governments or corporations is a lot bigger problem in many cases causing violence. They base their position on the view that the only problem is those using violence which in the case of Denmark did not exist or seem to be close to those that might use violence. The truth is totally unimportant to those organisations in some such situations, the only thing that matters is to be perceived as trustworthy in media and by the established institutions in society.

Personally I believe in Gandhian ways of changing society and sees a need in constantly questioning the tactics we use as a movement. But I belive in Gandhian thouhts in a more Indian sense than the diluted Western ways. Truth is most important as well as resistance combined with constructive program, not anti violence as a tactic separate from the task of struggling against imperialism and oppression.

Of course everyone is responsible for their actions. The group that made the attempt at bombing the doors to the Summit conference later in the 1980s turned into bank robbery to give money to the struggle in the third world finally shooting a policeman. That is the more or less only terrorist group in modern Nordic history with the exception of groups in the Finnish national liberation movement that used terrorist tactics in the early 1900s. Everyone using such tactics are responsible for their acts but at the same time so are those using other tactics which may be seen as letting the present violent world order go on without protesting clearly.

Coercive non-violent direct action necessary

Finally Kelly stresses ”tactics and strategies that don’t rely on elites.” Here he strongly criticises that actions in Australia mainly have been tools for lobbying. Also direct actions against coal infra structure attempting at influencing governmental policy he sees in he same light. He ends by stating ”The development of tactics and strategic framework that does not rely upon elite endorsement of the movements’ policy objectives is a vita process, particularly in the context of a widespread perception of failure in a post COP period.”

One can question the conflation of direct action to change governmental politics with lobbying. There is if definitions should be useful best to see that lobbying is a tactic were  direct influencing decision-makers in a dialogue is the key content while involving people in common or not is a question of tactical concerns for the elite involved in lobbying. Direct action to influence politics might be something different. It is at times necessary to win struggles and not constantly struggle and mobilise people. Thus to produce political facts by direct action or mass mobilisation of a broad majority of people making it necessary for decision makers to change politics whether they like it or not is a tactic that should not be equalised with lobbying. Kelly also makes this more clear stating that non-violent tactics is a coercion strongly needed in the coming years. Together with Peoples Global Action that have stated the same since 1998 one can only agree.

Elitist Anglo-American contradictions

In spite of its many positive aspects there are some problematic contradictions in Kelly’s tactical advices and the theories he built upon. At the face of it his arguments look much oriented to people in common and critical towards elites. But when it comes to the key agents he address it is ”movement leadership, communicators and activist educators” or ”spokespeople”. Somehow it is an elite in the movement that needs to understand the arguments put forward by Kelly and that have to ”provide views”. There are two problems with this. Firstly the question whether it is realistic to believe that many spokespersons will do. Among those Kelly count belonging to the climate movement even maybe the majority are constrained to put forward Kelly’s questioning of the way political change needs to take place to save the climate. Many would probably stick to the agenda of professional NGOs. One example is the international call organised via the so called Climate Action Network with Oxfam in the lead. Here the Swedish EU-presidency is asked to take action in its central role during the autumn towards Copenhagen as Sweden has shown that it is possible to delink growth from growth of carbon oxide emmissions. This kind of political content shows clearly how some main stream NGOs think. In spite of that there are no whatsoever theoretically based  argument that economic growth will contribute to a better environment or climate and in spite of that Sweden is a country totally integrated in the present world order as part of an imperialistic system gaining its resources from oppressed countries one chooses anyway to put forward a message that maintains a role for NGOs as legitimizing the present system. The question of what official spokespersons of NGOs say is not necessarily a question of what the person in question think for himself. The policy of an NGO is often decided by other factors than the insights of what a campaigner responsible for being spokesperson on a specific subject thinks. She or he may well have different opinions but may anyway be ordered to not speak up against e.g. agrofuels as this would jeopardize the so called realistic image that an NGO want to have in the eyes of mass media and government.

The second contradiction is that Kelly addresses leaders and not all participating in the movement. He interestingly adds communicators and activist educators to more common roles as leaders and spokespersons. Such roles are at least in many rich countries and within many NGOs professional roles. The way Kelly positions himself as an advisor to such leaders and professionals in the movement while claiming at the same time to advocate strategies that don’t rely on elites becomes somewhat schizofrenic. This is furthermore highlighted by stressing the importance of making non-violent action a key to strategic success of the movement.

This dualistic contradiction can be seen as a main weakness not only in Kelly’s argument but generally in the Anglo-American culture. The movements here tend to oscillitate between hectic years of mass civil disobedience within one sector of politics paving the way for professionalised NGOs and careers within the established political and economic system and then again go back to a new civil disobedience period within a new limited sector of society. This has been in many cases very important for the global struggle as it has produced such extraordinary movements as the civil rights movement from 1955 and onwards, the Anti Atomic bomb marches from 1957 and onwards, modern feminism, gay and environmental movements or to look at earlier times the workers movement for 8 hour work day movement starting in Australia in the 1860s becoming international 1st of May 1890, abolitionist movement against alcohol of suffragets, all of international importance.

Kelly build much of his arguments on Bill Moyers. In his last lecture Moyers claim that there is a split between local groups and the main offices of NGOs in big US cities. Instead of addressing this question concerning democracy in a movement many Anglo-American contributions whether radical or not sees this as an impossible task to solve or maintain their silence. Thus we get Kelly’s advice to the elite in the movement, and the radical interventions in the Climate Justice Alliance email list claiming that local groups in Friends of the Earth are OK but the leadership at the main office is not. In this way false dualism is created. Maybe that the observations made by Moyers are correct in many cases, but in the case of Friends of the Earth England, Wales and Northern Ireland it is not according to my own observations. Of course there are severe problems of the kind that is criticised but there are also problems with elitism in direct action groups and most importantly, the issue of democracy in the movement have to be addressed in such a way that the Anglo-American dichotomy is by-passed.

There is in the English language many obstacles for doing so. One is the commonly used concept of grass root-. This fits well into the interest of the elite on the movement or the established society that sees a point in a metaphor that puts people in common constantly in an subaltern role: In many political cultures it is impossible to translate the word grass root. And yet English speaking movement activist whether radical or not tends to use it as if was a universalistically understood term. Together with other English concepts as NGOs, pressure groups etc these concepts is an obstacle for developing more useful political tactical concepts in a multicultural world. The Anglo-American political culture between heroic moments of civil disobedience and back again to professionalised politics with grassroots as a decoration in different campaigns is not a model for a tactics towards Copenhagen and beyond, not in the rest of the world and maybe not even in Anglo-American countries if the climate crisis with its both ecological and social aspects will be taken seriously.

Global democratic movements integrating a movement

Are there at all other options? Well one has been emerging that crosses the dichotomy and that is growing democracy within movement. Thus both War Resister’s International, Friends of the Earth International, World Warch of Women and Via Campesina all have a global leadership elected in such a way that the global majority gets a strong influence. In spite of that at least WRI and FOEI have the membership mainly in the rich world the leadership is more and more influenced by the third world. This in direct contrast to the trade union movement were ITUC is heavily influenced by the interest of Western labour.

To WRI, FOEI and Via Campesina both civil disobedience and a range of other forms of tactics is sued, sometimes supported sometimes organised by parts of the organisations. All see local groups as important. In practice it may well be problematic but when it comes to the international development there is no question about it. FOEI have decided to see oneself as a social movement and discussions are now taken place in the whole world for what consequences this will have for the future. One change is already clear. FOEI sees other popular movements as key partners in social change, especially Via Campesina but also indigenous movements. This means that FOEI brakes out of the environmental policy sector and claims to be part of a broader social movemnt alliance for social change.

It goes without saying that this change of tactics will not be easy. Many FoE groups are strongly professionalised main stream NGOs. But professionals are not per se anti radical. If they are put in a political culture turning them into an elite addressing people in common as they, the grass roots they will of course be part of the established professional system for managing discontent in modern capitalistic society. But if  they are part of a globally democratic organisation were politics is decided in a popular movement framework beyond the environmental policy sector set up by the established society, than things can change.

This brakes with the Anglo-American disinterest in creating democratic relationships in a movement on national or global level and brakes also with the limitations of a dualistic movement were radicals are set up against system approving groups within a policy sector decided by the established system. Thus instead of claiming a better climate treaty in Copenhagen FoE groups claim Climate jutsice together with mass movements especially from the South.

The interesting aspect of this tactics is that it can also involve movements in countries with other immediate concerns than climate change like Eastern Europe. A tactic primarily built on the short periods when people can sustain the costs of civil disobedience have weaknesses. It is of importance to also include opening up avenues which can relate to the interest of peoples daily life in different countries. A tactic that focus on the social justice aspect of climate change solutions may open up for new alliances and be part of a general attack on the whople way the present financial world order is run. As Saskia Sassens states about the financial crisis, ”it could help us refocus on the work that is needed to be done to house all people, clean our water, green our buildings and cities, develop sustainable agriculture, including urban agriculture, provide health care to al an so on. It would employ all those interested in working.” There are other tactical options than single issue heroism. But is is of course hard to or actually historically have been impossible without direct actions to enable such constructive programs to be part of popular movements way of changing society.

Popular movement culture in Sweden

One can also look at other political cultures different from the Anglo-American but in countries in a similar position in the present world order. To be of universalistic interest tactical arguments for how the global climate movement can act can be enriched by such a study. The movement in Sweden uses some of the same methods as in other countries including civil disobedience. Among those who have been sentenced on charges for attempts at sabotaging air traffic is one of the co-chairs of Friends of the Earth Sweden which might show some difference between the movement in Sweden and other countries were a chair of a half radical main stream NGO would not be willing to take such risks. But in general there are less willingness at this stage to get strongly involved by a mass number of people in civil disobedience. In general the Swedish political culture works in a different way. It is still the most extremist country of all civil societies in the Western world with a higher percentage of people in the population belonging to a democratic association of some  sort, often popular movements organised all over the country. 73 percent of the workforce is unionised. This democratic structure sometimes makes it easier to influence the system causing desperation among the elite when as few as 5 000 people demonstrate for asylum for all refugee families can cause some positive actual changes in the politics towards refugees. The same goes for environmental and some other issues. The problem is that the system is very well fit to co-opt any opposition. But also that it provides results. Thus Sweden is according to some estimations the must successful among rich developed countries in creating politics against climate change. We as a movement sees the limitations in this claim based on exporting the problems to other countries by not including the ecological cost of imported goods, how Sweden in its general development is increasing its use of environmental space far beyond what is globally fair and that the general trend in the present politics in fields as finance, trade, transport, housing, privatisation, energy, agriculture and forestry that have negative climate consequences goes in the wrong direction. Yet there are some substance to the claims if one looks at the result of Swedish policies in relation to other similar countries. Thus tactics as used by the Turkish and Australian movements to demand that their government signs the Kyoto protocol or has to double its standards or more in all climate related policies have some problems in being politically effective.

The Swedish political culture have shown some weakness in being to reliant on belief on a close relationship with established political institutions and shows today great problems in mobilising against the present social and ecological crisis. And yet is there some results still produced by focusing on creating strong alliances among different movements as in the case of the refugee asylum campaign between anarchist, the Swedish Church which most Swedes belong to, NGOs and immigrant organisations. This rather than on being as radical as possible. Some of this popular movement cooperation tactics is now also developing in the global level between organisations as Via Campesina and Friends of the Earth so some aspects of the Swedish political culture may pose an alternative to the Anglo-American model of some importance.

Theoretical alternatives

There are of course problems in making statements about tactics that is of relevance to the global climate movement. But still it may be seen as necessary although almost impossible task. Most theories on such tactics state as Moyers the need for including different kind of aspects into a dynamic whole. Myers speaks about the role of a social movement both as rebels, reformators, change makers and citizens. All of these roles can be exaggerated and thus become negative he claims. The strength and limitations of this theory of tactics has been outlined above.

There are also other theories on tactics that can be derived out of theories on how social movement can contribute to social change. In a mainly oral Swedish tradition popular movement are characterised by the capacity of combining simultanously to change the whole society and live as one preaches. The well established academic theory och social movements as cognitive practice set the criteria that a social movement have to simultaneously challenging the ruling order both at cosmological, technological and organisational levels.

Both these theories can be claimed to be far more hard to live up to compared to the theories advocated by Kelly and Moyers. There are similarities with Moyers and Kelly’s theory. But at the core both the popular movement and the cognitive praxis theories have less of the unsolved problems of how a movement can avoid dualism in terms of split between ”grass roots” and movement elite. A movement that both aim at changing society and live as one preach cannot accept this split nor a movement simultaneously challenging both present cosmological, technological and organizational patterns of the ruling order.

The popular movement theory also challenge more the pragmatic side of the Anglo-American tactical theories that focus upon resource mobilisation and have a tendency to promote single issue campaigning. Although it is Swedish it has some character of being easily understood at least outside the Anglo-American political culture also in other countries where the understanding of society as a whole and politics as a singular concepts and not as in Anglo-American culture plural as if society and politics only can be perceived as contracts between individuals or roles individuals use. The cognitive praxis has the advantage of being well established in the international academic discussion on social movements as one of the more elaborated theoretical models which helps us avoiding to simplistic theories.

Brazilians show it is possible

But can the two demanding theories at all be applied to the pragmatic realities the climate movement is facing. One can look upon how a movement strongly involved in climate related issues deal with the present situation outside both the Anglo-American and other rich countries as Sweden. In Brazil the landless movement MST have responded to the present social and ecological crisis by confronting the corporations. Thousands of female activists have been occupying corporations most damaging monoculture plantations, a harbour were their products are exported while paper mill industry workers went on strike for higher salaries and better working conditions. Both movements confronted the present development model questioning how the financial system including state subsidies goes to corporations with the claim the it creates jobs while in fact less and less jobs are coming from these corporations. The landless movement is directly confronting the present unsustainable development model that also causes so much negative effects on the climate. They actively stops the deforestation in the Amazon and challenge the unsustainable monoculture praxis including agrofuel plantations with the agrarian reform built on ecological agriculture and family farms. They put their actions into the contexts of a peoples project against the capitalist project. They look upon Che Guevara as a hero in the struggle for Latin American alternatives to US imperialism and capitalism and are thus far from Moyers visions. They have combined a democratic structure of direct democracy in affinity groups of ten people or families that together organise camps, settlements, schools and other movement activities while at the same time have a representative structure for some limited tasks on state, federal and international relations level. Thus they at least in principle tries to avoid the kind of elitism that Kelly have fallen into. In some way one can see how MST integrates much of both so called old and new social movements, building on liberation theology and earlier peasant movements tradition in Brazil as well as leftist traditions combined with female activists in the forefront, ecological awareness and a sense for international solidarity. This movement with its 2 million members can be claimed live well up to both the popular movement and cognitive praxis criteria for how a movement tactically and strategically can find ways for changing society.

So another movement and tactic is possible that live up to more strict criterias. But is it also possible for far less impressive movement as in Brazil? If one scales down both the popular movement and cognitive praxis theories and maintain that the combination they both include must remain it is still possible to see these theories as tools also were the conditions are less favourable to mass collective action as in Brazil. One could see it as simple that the demand of having your own cosmological view mean that one avoids being a part of the established climate policy sector, demanding climate justice and confronting the actual current politics that have climate consequences rather  than demanding a more radical climate treaty. It could be that a movement although small address simultaneously both the world view behind the present climate policies, goes against the trend that the main organizational method is to promote the idea that it is mainly experts on climate science, communicators and official spokespersons of organisations that formulate tactics which political consumers than adopt and instead built upon people in common and what they can do and finally questioning the technological model for climate change solutions presented by society. One can claim that the cognitive praxis model is part of Anglo-American culture as it has been developed by two Americans in Sweden. But there are some important differences from both main stream resource mobilisation theory and the way many activist educators within the Anglo-American political culture express theories on how movements can change society. It is more close to oral Swedish popular movement traditions. Also this poses a problem as they belong to political cultures in the rich world. But at least they might be a bit more able to include what movements in a country like Brazil is doing. As a step towards challenging the dominant Anglo-American models they might be useful opening up also for much more different theories and models from movements outside the rich countries, something that is now on the way through such initiatives as Minga by indigenous people focusing on collective work and not as individualised as many Western ideas.

The single issue oscillation between hectic civil disobedience and main stream professional management, a constant shift between individual rebels and reformators, between radical positions and system approving within in a policy field is not the only tactic possible. There are alternatives to Anglo-American theories.

Tord Björk

member of the Climate working group of Friends of the Earth Sweden

Avoiding the post COP doldrums part II: Historical experience

II. What lessons can be learned from historical experience

A text originally sent 13th of July on the Climate Justcie Action email list.

This is the second part of my response to Anthony Kelly’s article: De-mobilisation: Avoiding the post COP doldrums. I mainly add to the historic arguments put forward by Kelly. But once again it is challenging the assumptions among many Anglo-American NGO campaigners. There is both another history and thus another future possible for the climate justice movement than that spread by the dominating Anglo-American media and NGO campaign professionals, and some insight to win from listening to them as well.

The Climate Summit and Global Warming are issues of such a magnitude that there is a need for reflections on what we have learned from earlier occasions on similar situational contexts as a Summit or from the history of earlier movements.

Kelly in his article on avoiding the post COP doldrums is effectively doing this by using the experiences from the mass nuclear disarmament movement that twice was confronted by treaties signed by the most powerful nations seemingly agreeing with some of the demands of the movement. The result was a massive decline of the movement while nuclear weapons were still maintained as a key instrument in the arsenals and continued to be spread and still poses an extreme threat to the future of mankind.

One could add though that there is a strong difference between the two occasions. While the test ban treaty in 1963 made the nuclear weapon movement passive in short time the movement inspired a long range of other so called new social movements including the anti Vietnam war movement, the environmental movement and many others. This in spite of or thanks to being often very single-issue oriented it did open many new doors as the first movement together with the non-alignment movement able to strongly question the cold war political culture stopping any system critical demands however single-issue framed they were. Thus the effect of the movement was very strong. When the same thing was repeated 20 years later by the nuclear disarmament movement the opposite happened. Once more single-issue tactics was used, complemented with a double issue of liberation within the European context meaning liberation of Communist states in Eastern Europe but not liberation in the Third World from Western domination. Especially the Women’s peace movement tried to confront this double issue limitations but were marginalized. Single issue civil disobedience was hailed also by leaders of main stream organizations in the movement. Millions turned up at demonstrations, far more than the environmental movement ever have been mobilizing. At the nuclear disarmament summit at UN headquarters in New York 1982 up to 1 million people demonstrated far more than at summits on any issue before and almost all after after. But in spite of this the movement failed and gave contrary results to what happened in the 1960s. Then the nuclear mass movement inspired and nurtured mass movement with lay people involved in a broad range of issue, in the 1980s it ended with professionalizations of the so called new social movements and the integration of the former social movements into a global sustainable development NGO industry with the linking of the disarmament movement with the development organizhations as the first step in 1987. The delinking of the issue of freedom in Europe from the rest of the world resulted in a good thing in terms of change in Eastern Europe. But at the cost of legitimating this liberation with the help of making Western domination of the third world invisible. When it comes to the issue of climate change this is not possible. The issue as such is intertwined on a global level and the effects in other parts of the world cannot be excluded.

The experience of the nuclear disarmament movement are important. But it may be of even more interest to look at the experience of the environmental movement and global negotiations on environmental issues. Both peace and environmental movements are built on class alliances as their issues are such that it effects all classes. Sometimes they are very close to governmental positions and sometimes totally in opposition not only to governments but also to the development or defense models promoted by other popular movements and governments. As such the environmental movement have strong similarities with peace movements. The environmental movement is the result of the understanding that nature and health are part of the same issue. This was an understanding that emerged in the 1960s creating a movement that united two earlier different strands. On the one hand the working class movements interest in public health, on the other hand upper class and some middle class interest in conservation. The understanding of the interconnectness enabled a movement to emerged that in local conflicts was carried by a broad alliance of classes with many working class participants on the countryside or in urban areas, often women. But the national organisations became dominated by middle class.

The first UN Conference on Environment

When the environmental movement were rising the response by the established political system was to organise a UN Summit which was held in Stockholm 1972. The outcome of this Summit called United Nations Conference on Human Environment was the establishment of UNEP, United Nations Environmental Programme based in Nairobi and that ministries of environment and similar environmental governmental bodies was established in a few years time in over hundred countries.  Due to third world questioning there had also been an environment and development preparatory meeting in Founex that resulted both in a continued discussion on alternative development as well as more established aid and growth centred theories later becoming central to international environmental negotiations.

The environmental movement reaction to the response was diverse and yet effective. The main stream conservationist organisations were mainly ignorant as their politics was to depoliticise environmental issue and thus they saw a parallel scientific UN process as more interesting than the official political UN Conference in Stockholm. The stage was left for others to fill. Here the Anglo-American environmental movement leadership with some hippie activists hoping for a mass youth event with 10 000 participants formed a strong group. They were challenged by the Stockholm local direct democracy and environmental group Alternativ Stad in an alliance with the Swedish popular movement culture who also linked up with radical activists from the third world. Then there were also the Marxists and the strong Anti Vietnam war movement.

The Anglo-Americans had a biologically and morally centred cosmology with some extreme views that were considered as main stream. Thus Friends of the Earth distributed 2.5 million copies world wide of the book Population bomb which explicitly propagated coerced mass sterilization in the third world to save the environment. This eco-fascism as well as other aspects of a depoliticizing Anglo-American cosmology as expressed in e.g. Limits to Growth was effectively confronted by the alliance of Swedish popular movement culture and 60 third world activists invited by the Swedes. The kind of arguments that was put forward in the FoE book Population bomb and in milder form in the official FoE book Only One Earth was totally marginalised and today Friends of the Earth has completely changed its cosmology on this point putting social justice and changes in the political system as central and biological ways of looking upon social conflicts nor framing environmental issues mainly in an individualistic moral perspective.

Thus with the main stream conservationist organisations marginalizing themselves, the main environmentalist ideology promoted by Western media marginalised by popular movements and third world activists the situation was somewhat volatile. The Marxists were mainly interested in everybody using as radical ideological language as possible and then only of their own kind. The did not even want to link to the third world activists present and were uninterested in contributing to the building of an independent environmental movement. Instead they focused on the ecocide in Vietnam successfully together with main stream Swedish popular movements that were equally upset about this mass destruction of forest killing also the future of the people. The hippies allied with the official US delegation and organised a demonstration against whaling, an useful target as no US whaling industry existed with economic interests. They were able to attract some hundred participants while the demonstration against the Ecocide in Vietnam attracted some 7 000 demonstrators. The third world activists were able to make a lot of influence on the different meetings that took place but propaganda from the Marxists made their organizational weak and almost no follow-up took place. It would take until the start by Friends of the Earth Malaysia, consumer organisations and other movements in the South of the Third World Network in 1984 until a strong third world voice on environmental and related issues again could be heard.

The final outcome was anyway strong. The official negotiations had very little interest, The follow-up process for NGOs gained less and less interest for each year that followed. The setting up of governmental and UN official bodies did not impress very much. It was of course a step forward that authorities were created for environmental protection, but at this time environmental issues was regarded as important by the movement that this did not impress much.

The most influential group became the anti nuclear disarmament movement and especially Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom WILPF. They confronted the technological single issue approach of many environmental organisations by questioning that so many promoted nuclear power as an environmental alternative to construction of dams. It was also these female peace activists that had strong enough position in the established political system and broad enough social interest to be able to pressure the government to fund the third world activists to be able to participate at the Stockholm conference.

Thus what happened is that before the Stockholm conference nuclear power was seen as a solution by many environmental organisations and after almost everyone turned against nuclear power and an independent anti nuclear power movement emerged in Europe, North America and Latin America that was crucial in questioning the dominant Western development model whether it was administrated by capitalism or planned economy states.

Together with movements as the three huggers in India starting in 1973 this created a lot of environmental protests as well as construction of collective alternatives all over the world. From 1977 an onwards single-issue campaign networks also began to emerge at the global level starting with IBFAN, International Baby Food Action Network, PAN, Pesticides Action Network and WRM, World Rain Forest Movement. In Sweden the anti-nuclear power movement also initiated international struggle in Europe against acid rain and together with environmental organisations set up the International acid rain secretariat. Together with other efforts this resulted in negotiations helped by UN Economic Commission for Europe to reduce sulphur dioxide emissions which was fairly successful.

The environmental movement was quite successful in addressing some of the most pressing concerns at least in rich countries. Also a system-critical work was promoted. Especially in the South were the environmental problems were put into a social context of global justice and questioning of the present world order. But also to a less degree in the North. In Eastern Europe environmental issues became important in the struggle against communist party regimes and in Northern Europe the development model promoted by European roundtable of Industrialists (ERT) were challenged. Inspired by the three huggers movement in India a Swedish three hugger movement emerged to stop the motorway plan promoted by ERT along the Northern West coast of Sweden. Mass civil disobedience resulted in 400 activists sentenced for attempting to block the construction of one of the proposed ERT motorways in the biggest political trial in modern Swedish history. The action failed and so did the attempts to build a coalition with other popular movements against all the plans of ERT which included not only building motorways but also reduction of social welfare and deregulation of transfer of capital and trade. The trade unions nor the left in Sweden or elsewhere in Europe were at this time in the late 1980s not interested in common struggle for social and ecological justice. They were focused on their concerns for questions concerning redistribution of wealth and not in the issue of challenging the power of business and questioning the present development model.

But some years earlier the Swedish environmental movement had initiated the European Youth Forest Action which was able to make actions in both Eastern and Western Europe in 1986 and build a lasting youth action movement. In the other Nordic countries mass movements were influential. In Denmark by stopping nuclear power and mobilizing thousands of local alternatives saving energy and building wind mills, in Finland by protecting the forests and lakes and in Norway y organizing massive civil disobedience against the building of the Alta dam in the middle of the Samic land, a protest that had to be repressed by sending every 7th Norwegian policemen to the remote area in Northern Norway to brake the resistance. In Germany the environmental issue continued to cause severe conflicts with almost 700 people in prison for political protests in 1987 in the many struggles against different stages of the nuclear power cycle. The radical protests also resulted in a growing concern in the parliamentary system with new green parties establishing themselves and new environmental management professions getting wider support.

The second UN Conference on Environment and the global sustainable development NGO industry

Once more the politicians in the established system of governments and parliaments saw the need to respond to this rising concern for the environment from a radical movement and their sympatizers. Once more a UN Conference was called upon but this time more prepared by both governments, the industry and NGOs.

For the task it was necessary with both governmental and civil society leadership. As in many cases during the cold war social democrats in Nordic countries were suitable for the task. Perceived as having a standpoint sometimes between the blocs and having long time social demo0cratic rule the Nordic countries had a far larger share of leadership in international institutions in these days than what can be understood only from the very little number of inhabitants or there rich but rather small economies.

The Woman for doing the job was Gro Harlem Brundtland, Norwegian prime minister, who learned the political skills in here struggle as environmental minister against the mass civil disobedience movement to stop the Alta dam building. Brundtland became chair of the World Commission on sustainable development that in 1987 published the book Our Common Future, also named the Brundtland report. This report became in practice a UN report and the ideological frame for the UN Conference on Environment and Development which was planned to take place 20 years in Rio de Janeiro after the first environmental summit in Stockholm.

The core idea of the Brundtland report was sustainable growth. The theoretical argument for this concept was that one could replace one technology with another more environmentally friendly technology thus using less resources and still get the same or even a lot more out of them than before. Such an argument can easily be supported by examples from human history but are false on two grounds. Firstly because if one can point at some examples it does not say anything about the possibility of changing most of technology or a whole technological system. Secondly and more important it is false to believe that a technological change even in more limited examples have taken place without a simultaneous social, economical and political change. The whole idea that technological change is something separate from the rest of society have no theoretical basis.

Thus the core concept of the proposed environmental strategy was devoid of intellectual content. This was glossed over by using the concept of development. Equally socially neutral as sustainable growth sustainable development was the key tool for framing the sustainable growth strategy. All conflicts here and now could be postponed into the future when development and growth could take care of the problems.

This became a winning concept. The third world elite was by this means taken on board by a concept which had been used by both themselves and those politicians in rich countries who claimed interest in developing countries and different kind of development according to what at the moment was seen as important. But far better. The concept was also useful on the most local level in any society for the elite. It embraced environmental concern while at the same time taking all teeth out of the issue by a sustainable development concept were environmental issues should be balanced with other concerns in such a way that growth was promoted. The concept sustainable development was so successful that it became the over-arching ideology for all development issues and organisations as EU.

The success of this empty concept was than filled with the full recognition of business as a key partner to achieve sustainable growth and thus sustainable development. Who could be better suited for this than the industry well-known for their interest in growth? Last time in 1972 the strong influence from business circles was kept secret and no official process including industry took place. Mikael Nyberg wrote the book Green Capitalism twenty years later showing how influential business anyway had been in establishing the conceptual frame work of the first conference with the conference secretary Maurice Strong from a Canadian energy corporation in the leadership. This time business were allowed in the open inside of it all and officially in the process. Maurice Strong was chosen once more as secretary for the governmental conference. For the parallel civil society conference one of his Oil corporation directors colleagues was chosen as coordinator.

With concepts as stake holder and NGO other concept as social movement was to be replaced in an orderly world were everyone was presented as winners if they participated in the sustainable development process. Problems should be avoided simply by – avoiding them. Why think when one could act? All focus should be directed towards win-win solutions.

This was magical. To many that had used years of struggle in a long battle in the environmental movement here came the time to make something out of your private cultural capital at the same time as a mushrooming of environmental departments and programmes at both public and especially private sector showed progress.  This type of change are partly necessary. It is not possible for a social movement to mobilise all people on all issues all the time. That certain problems raised by a movement is taken care of by professional routines in government or corporations are not necessarily bad, quite often it can be good. But that the core of the environmental movement was lost when it could not stand up against the sustainable development ideology was a true problem. Even Noah, the radical Friends of the Earth group in Denmark now in a key position for global climate justice initiatives at the Climate Summit in Copenhagen that time lost its perspectives. Noah labelled its work group on global environmental issues preparing for the coming UN conference the Brundtland group. The Brundtland ideology was successfully marginalised only in Finland among Western countries by popular movements, a country where new social movements emerged late but in a more integrated way with each other than in most other countries thus still having capacity for jointly challenge the new integrated ideology coming from the established system.

The ideological success was combined with an equally successful organizational model. As indicated already the new point was to take everybody on board. The choice seemed simple. Either be part of the process and influential or marginalised. Instead of opposing the environmental movement make them part of a common project. At the same time invite business to do the same and all other actors one could think of.

This model got its strength from a shift in the neoliberal ideology. In the beginning of the 1980s the formula had been that market relationships should solve everything. Now one understood that there was a more effective way to marginalise the power of the state. That was to include so called non-governmental organisations in the process. With this organizational model in mind and the strategy to solve problems by sustainable development through sustainable growth the established political system was prepared to make a new attempt at taking control of the environmental issues.

But models needs carriers, preferably actors perceived as being independent from the state and preferably also from business. Here the key actor became what is labelled as development organisations. This kind of organisations have their strong base in the North and are centred around a concept of development of other countries, not the society were they are based which is considered not to be included in the work area of development organisations. This kind of globally dualistic kind of organisation became the prime tool to integrate social movements behind the new organizational model for global governance. It started with the peace movement lumped together with development NGOs in 1987 with a meeting on disarmament and development the same year the Brundtland report was issued.

The grand test became the UN Conference on Environment and Development also called the Rio conference in 1992. Here 118 heads of state, numerous business people and 20 000 NGO people met to find a model for cooperating to support sustainable development. An what a success. In 1972 women and youth were it he leadership of joint popular movement initiatives that made independent activities were the dominant Western discourse was challenged or organised demonstrations. This time the popular participation was orderly sectorized with women separate in their part of the process and youth allowed to make actions delinked from other groups efforts in their sector. There was a lot more talk about  women and youth, and a lot less influential. Especially there was a lot talk about local action which meant that there was a total interest of the local environmental groups in the Rio de Janeiro state. 80 local environmental groups were organised in APEDEMA-RJ who had a central role in initiating activities for NGOs and social movements during the summit. They had longed for the moment when 20 000 activists from other parts of the world would come to Rio to discuss and cooperate with them. But this did not take place. The NGOs were interested in sustainable development programmes and stake holder processes. This meant on the local level to cooperate in win-win cooperation with all sectors of society. For the local environmental groups there were no interest.

With the sustainable development formula everyone had their piece of the cake in the documents coming out of the Summit, the Rio declaration and Agenda 21. The magical bullet that should be the motor behind sustainable development was free trade. In the Rio declaration  it was even stated that environmental concerns should not be a trade barrier. The established political system built on postponing conflictual issues by glossing them over with concepts of sustainable development and sustainable growth had their winning tactical policy for promoting their strategy and business loved it while the environmental movement and the development NGOs mainly went along. The non-binding Agenda 21 was supposed to solve both environmental and social concerns with the help of 150 billion US dollar in additional development aid. The youth environmental movement protested but in their corner and the radical environmental groups were to badly focused and organised to challenge the dominant new cosmology.

In spite of that for the first time since development aid was counted in the 1950s there was a decrease the year after the Rio conference and very little was achieved the model became a success anyway. A range of conferences on different subjects as human rights, social development, women etc. was organised under the sustainable development conceptual frame work with a big participation of NGOs and business whenever they liked. The trick to get everyone along was simple. In spite of lower development aid levels in general more and more according to the neoliberal paradigm was channelled through NGOs. Thus the piece of cake for NGOs were growing while the aid in general became less. With new seemingly ambitious goals new models were constantly presented. The lower levels of development aid was glossed over by th fact that private investments were growing in the South as if private investments and aid were similar kind of money and especially as if private investments to a few countries as China was the same as promoting sustainable societies in most of the third world. At the Social Summit in Copenhagen 1995 the goal was not any longer raising the level of development aid but to guarantee that at least 20 percent of the development aid went to social expenditure. The NGOs had learned quickly to become realistic and played along with the new tones to state relative goals instead of general goals in absolute figures. Five years after the Rio conference the development aid instead of being raised with 50 percent to achieve the goal set by UN already 1970 and fund Agenda 21 the development aid was reduced by a third. Main stream NGOs were busier than ever to participate in diverse process and stake holder conferences on one issue after another avoiding to analyse why the whole sustainable strategy was failing.

Thus one can see the results of how the environmental movement related to international negotiations as more problematic the experiences of the peace movement with nuclear disarmament treaties.

The class struggle in the South challenge the sustainable development global governance model

There was one problem for the NGOs and especially for the development NGOs.  That was the class struggle in the South. In this class struggle emerged new strong organization as Via Campesina for family farmer, indigenous  movement often as expressions of the same rural classes and anti debt movements. This in spite of that peasants represent a smaller and smaller part of the world population and that class struggle according to both NGOs, mass media and governments to not talk about business was something totally outdated.

With the Zapatista uprising in 1994 against the North American Free Trade Agreement a completely opposite strategy from the Rio conference was clearly expressed. In 1998 Peoples Global Action against ”free trade” and WTO started in Geneva. It was anti WTO, anti NGO and anti EU and other institutions built on the idea to promote market economics according to corporate interests. It was dominated by the mass movements from the South but there was also Friends of the Earth from Finland and Sweden and squatters from all over Europe as well as farmers. The illusion that the organizational model of stake holder processes would save the environment and create social justice was broken.

What happened now shows that the NGO system is not working in the same way as government. It has a intermediary function and as such can easily become coopted by resourceful governments and business including media. But it is also possible to influence this system by popular movements. In short time the NGO shifted positions. From being part of any process and legitimating it as long as they were invited and given resources to be part of a dialogue they had accepted it. Now they shifted opinion with the help of the Southern mass movements and some NGOs in the South as Third World Network. The multilateral agreement on investments that was a new aggressive tool by governments support Northern transnational corporations to establish new open markets in the south was rejected by all, NGOs and popular movements. When also the French government said no in October 1998 MAI was a failure. Now popular movements and NGOs also started to be against becoming part of a new process, the expansion of WTO. Once more some 1500 popular movements and NGOs said no while Peoples Global Action started international action days getting more and more support for street action against economic interests. With the Battle of Seattle 1999 the old organizational model from the Rio conference seemed to have lost.

It made new attempts. The ten year follow-up conference on sustainable development in Johannesburg 2002 was no success and soon forgotten in spite of large number of participants. The mass movements in the Johannesburg suburbs aligned with Via Campesina groups and other popular movements from the rest of the world in organizing protests. The consensus that seemed to be the result out of the Rio conference could not be established again.

But one more great attempt was made. When environment was not the issue anymore to create a successful carrier of hope behind governmental messages poverty became the new formula. UN set up the millenium goals with the goal to reduce poverty by half until the year 2015. Once more sustainable development was part of the ideology behind the goals out of which many was important to peoples daily life as access to clean water. But the underlying concept was once more geared toward the way the global economic system was modelled by the World Bank and other institutions controlled by Western countries

Now once more in its most brilliant and charming way the NGO system rallied behind the latest governmental concept. With the help of generous governmental funding the so called non-governmental organisations started the Making Poverty History campaign. The numbers of participants in different activities were as high and impressive as ever. Nothing seemed to possibly go wrong. Media and governments liked the campaign that in the fore front used media attuned celebrities.

There was only two little problems. The new concept to reduce poverty by half with British prime minister Blair and US president in the leadership for a programme that at its basis had the global economic institutions controlled by Western countries was a model from the very beginning to fail. Out of this could come some details of importance but no real step forward in really crating a more just economic world order which is necessary to stop poverty or even reducing it with half.  Secondly the price for having celebrities in the forefront was that the spokespersons for the campaign in the public eye became these celebrities.

It all ended in a disgrace for the NGOs and more so for the people in the third world that very much needed true debt cancellation and other measures so they are not made poor. The outcome of the G8 meeting at Gleneagles in Scotland became a great media success for Blair and Bush. They presented some plans for reducing debt that never really materialised in any strong way and for the third world nothing really changed. The celebrities and spokespersons for Making Poverty History talked about historic success of Blair. End of story.

Tord Björk

active in Friends of the Earth Sweden

July 12th 2009, Kristianstad

Link to Anthony Kelly’s article: De-mobilisation: Avoiding the post COP doldrums

The two climate campaigning stories

Tord Björk | Action,Climate,Environmental movements | Friday, November 27th, 2009

It was in the middle of this context climate negotiations begun in 1990. British neoliberal prime minister Margaret Thatcher took the leadership. Coal miners were already a headache for Thatcher. She wanted also not to be cought passive in relation to a new environmental issue that had been the case with sulphur dioxide emissions and the ozone hole.

Apart from governments and business addressing the issue there was also the NGOs and the radical environmental movement. Chris Rose, a British professional NGO campaigner, makes an interesting analysis on his webbpage on how the climate negotiations emerged and why campaigning on climate is difficult. He makes in 2005 a not exhaustive list of reasons why it is difficult: Scientists defined the issue, Governments ran off with the issue, NGOs adopted secondary roles, The issue had no public, The media were left to define the issue in visual terms, Governments soft pedalled on the issue, Scientists led calls for education of the public, Many NGOs tried to make the Framework Convention ‘work’, Other NGOs tried to connect it with “bigger issues” and There is no common proposition.

Rose states that NGOs can claim some specific successes. ”But overall it is true that action remains disastrously inadequate, the engaged are too few, strategies are largely uncoordinated and many efforts could probably be better placed elsewhere.”

The climate issue had been discussed already prior to the UN Conference in Stockholm 1972 but received wider attention only in the late 1980s. As Rose states the dominant answer was to be focused on international environmental negotiations that started officially in 1990 and got a first step forward at the Rio conference 1992. But the way that the NGOs framed the issue made them caught in the process started by governments rather than able to develop an independent position. Rose claims that from the start ’climate change’ have been conceived through scientific models and framed and interpreted by scientist’s ideas of how progress can be achieved. Causes were described as ”emissions” and thus actors critically responsible as fossil fuel, car and chemical industries stayed outside the picture. NGOs were busy finding out what was actually going on in the negotiations according to Rose and were not able to do anything else than trying to catch up with the governments that had run off with the issue. No action which ordinary individuals could participate in was organised by the NGOs who were stucked in someone else game. Thus the issue became something of internal interest for something the British call policy community including governmental and NGO actor active within a specific political field. Rose states:  ”By the time NGOs (and now governments) started to try and create one (with climate witnesses etc), the problem and solution had been defined in elite, inaccessible terms.” The result was described by Rose as: ”Having become the controlling ‘owners’ of the issue, by the mid 1990s governments began to lose the will to do what was needed to fast-track industrial change. The progressive ‘like minded’ turned to NGOs to take on leadership and ‘put on the pressure’ but NGOs lacked the army, authority and even the visual iconography to do so.”

In this situation once again scientists became active: ”Faced with inadequate political responses and significant intransigence from many powerful industries, concerned scientists led calls to ‘educate’ the public, so ‘awareness’ would lead to ‘action’. Unfortunately education (especially about the functioning of the global climate) is not a good way to achieve action. This fallacy was reinforced by many pundits who had pronounced climate change as huge, complex and hard to deal with. Not exactly conducive to engaging anyone in trying.”

Most of the NGOs focused on ”Kyoto” and the framework set up by the climate Convention, more eager to save the climate treaty than to save the climate. Rose is no less critical towards this way of campaigning: ”a literal approach of trying to mobilize public pressure by overt calls for technical policy measures is a bloodless stratagem, lacking drama, agency and short term rewards.” He also states that other NGOs that tried to link to other ”bigger” issues as sustainable development or globalisation failed to add any additional influence to promote climate action. He concludes by stating that many NGOs in this situation are committed to special niches within ‘the climate issue’ as defined by the administrative architecture of ‘the problem’. He states that ”This ‘niche specialisation’ works against a common focus of public pressure. An effective campaign proposition usually requires an identification of the responsible party, the overall problem and solution, the specific action needed and the consequent public benefit”

It is with other words not only sustainable development that have failed as a strategy but also single issue NGO campaigning when it comes to climate change. Still scientists arguments is framing much of what campaigns focus upon, to educate rather than to win political struggles is still much of what is happening both from NGO side and by the left. The left seems often more interested in educating people that it is capitalism which is the problem rather than find struggles to win. The NGO lobbyists wants to educate people on all the constantly new new abbreviations they are working with in their important job to influence politicians. The eagerness to be part of the process is still there, much expressed by Climate Action Network and their way to try to frame what NGOs state within the framework of what governments find acceptable and thus focus on that growth can be achieved together with reduction of CO2 emissions, perfectly in line with the attempts by G8 to restore the focus in the failed investments agreement from 1998 by introducing private investments as the main tool for saving our climate.

But there is one false part of the history that Rose makes. It is not true that the way British and other NGOs reacted was the only possible way to start climate campaigning.

Another way was shown by the same movement that alone in Western Europe stood up against the Brundtland ideology. In 1990 the Finnish anti motorway movement protested against a new project between the two biggest cities Helsinki and Turku by a March along the planned route with people from the third world at the front of the march. Finland became a key country in mobilizing globally for stopping climate change by an independent popular movements  strategy- Together with Environmental federation in Sweden. later in 1995 merged with friends of the Earth Sweden, and together with international youth activists networks European Youth Action and the global Action for Solidarity Equality, Environmental and Development climate action days were organised 1991-92 in 70 countries on 500 places. No main stream NGO wanted to support the international climate action days in spite of that they were proven to be a success. They were built on the contrary concept from how the main stream NGOs worked. The idea was to focus on local conflicts all over the world stating that it was in this conflicts on deforestation or car traffic and similar issues that the future of the possibility for saving our climate rested. And by the side there was also information on how to pressure governments.

The result can be compared with the international climate action day 2008 with wide support from all big NGOs and a lot more media attention. Last year action took place in 64 countries, six less than in 2007 and in 1991-92  The international climate action days nowadays have been more geared toward being grassroot support for NGO lobbying rather than placing the main climate conflict in the local communities were people live.

There has been and still is possible with another strategy than that of the main stream Northern NGOs. What happened with the Finnish-Swedish-Youth climate campaign was that lack of resources to continue, that the mass movements in the South not yet were interested in the issue and disinterest among so called climate action NGOs caused this first attempt at global climate campaigning to disappear. But the main character of the campaign have still been in environmental issues, to link up with conflicts felt by people all over the world. With the mergence of Via Campesina and other movements in The South throughout the 1990s. Now with the Climate justice movement it is possible again to build a movement on another strategy than that based on educating the public on the importance of science and NGO participation in international negotiations and instead focus on questioning the politicians and going in conflict with corporate interests.

July 2009, Tord Björk

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