Dec12: Movement analysis

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

COP15 Don’t buy the lie action December 11.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

People first – planet first demonstration at the starting point. Photo: / CC BY-SA 2.0

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tord Björk

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

Success or failure?

Uncertain preparatory process

The global climate day of action 2009

The main demonstration

Three left wing parties supporting the police perspective

December 12 in the media

Movement analysis

A demonstration split twice

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


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