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 http://www.thechangeagency.org/01_cms/details.asp?ID=110

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

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