Saturday 29 August 2009

Some Thoughts On Climate Camp Day 4

I headed down at Climate Camp today and for those who haven’t been, I can assure you that this hacket job of the camp is far, far less accurate than this one, which at least comes closer to an accurate description of the majority of campers. But whilst there were many people who were, shall we say, ‘dressed down’ and a few hippies too, I certainly didn’t see any sign of everyone madly taking pictures – indeed, no-one was taking them in the workshops I attended - which just goes to show the dangers of commenting on something you know nothing about, Laurie.

After helping out with some washing up at the Yorkshire tent, I managed to attend some workshops, which were a mixed bag. The one on ‘Climate Justice: Views from the global South’ had knowledgeable speakers, including fellow RANista Nick Deardon from Jubilee Debt Campaign and Tim Jones from the World Development Movement, who covered a lot of ground but were interested in solutions and in learning from the experiences of movements in Latin America. They were joined by a visitor from Bolivia and the session was hopeful in suggesting that the environmental movement in the North has potentially powerful and well organised allies in the South.

Legal observer training was good too, with Estelle from NMP explaining the importance of taking information about how to intervene in a police stop & search and using it not only in a protest situation but anywhere - or everywhere. By contrast, the workshop on ‘Climate Action and Anti-Capitalism’, which was advertised as an opportunity to debate how climate action could relate to the wider social struggles against capitalism and the limitations of current approaches, was a complete mess. This was the session I had been most looking forward to, but it amounted to a vague discussion on why ‘capitalism is a bad thing’ and some very rudimentary Marxist rhetoric about how people would be persuaded to consume less because they ‘consciousness would be raised’ (which I have heard so many times before but seldom witnessed) in a ‘revolutionary situation’ (which doesn’t currently exist, despite the disastrous economic crisis). And the solutions on offer? The need for a ‘new workers’ party’ (that again, a subject that I think I have done to death already) or some new form of mass party of the left, a kind of New Old Labour. Respect for that idea...

What really surprised me is the complete lack of knowledge, in a new movement that claims to model itself to a certain extent on the Zapatista revolutionaries in Mexico, of alternatives like the horizontalism of protests in Argentina. It’s almost as surprising as the apparent belief that corporations and governments are disconnected and that everything is the fault of the former. And the startling claim that the Vestas dispute was only possible because of ‘Trotskyist agitation’ in the Isle of Wight (you’ve got to love earnest young SWPers for bullshit like this!)

On one level, Climate Camp is a bit like a mass, rather earnest, predominantly middle-class outdoor teach-in, which this time has been detached from any threats of the police storming the site, or of the immediacy of impending direct action like at Kingsnorth. But as one friend said to me today, the absence of potential conflict, the fact that anyone can come and go as they please, has created a situation where there is little conflicting debate within Climate Camp itself and has meant that moderates within the Camp have the upper hand. It all feels just a little bit – safe. Too safe.

On Tuesday, I’ll be at work, which means I’ll miss the day-long discussion in the Main Marquee on whether Climate Camp is too media obsessed, too liberal, insufficiently diverse and where it can go next. Another friend, who has been directly involved in the organisation of Climate Camp, has described this as ‘The Great Navel Gaze’, which is hilarious, but I know what he means.

The aftermath of the G20 protests and the police’s resulting low key operation in Blackheath has revealed that it is the police’s presence, more than anything that protesters do, which is the cause of violent confrontation. But the lack of intimacy and solidarity that this conflict instils has also revealed some fairly fundamental divisions, between those who believe that solutions can be found within capitalism and those who reject such solutions as impossibly naïve.

Navel-gazing would therefore have been fascinating to participate in.

Without doubt, the strangest leaflets handed out at Climate Camp were promoting the thoughts of Supreme Master Ching Hai, a Vietnamese-born multimillionaire restaurateur, fashion designer, self-publicist and barking online cult leader. We all need to embrace vegetarianism and visit her website, apparently. And I thought the silent hand-clapping signals in the workshops were peculiar...


HarpyMarx said...

I visited the Climate Camp this afternoon but only stayed for a brief time and unfortunately meant I didn't attend any of the workshops but will be going again Monday as there's one on Workers' Climate Action and on feminism.

As someone who has attended too many Trotfests for their own good I kinda liked the atmosphere, warm and friendly, and what I saw it seemed disorganised on some levels. And have to say I will be interested in the discussions in the workshops and the level of political debate.

Btw sorry I missed your the workshop you were involved in.

Oh, and that old favourite.... in a ‘revolutionary situation’ blah blah...'new workers' party' blah blah yada yada. Pissing in the wind. I must admit that as an old jaded cynical twisted former Trot I have the urge to exclaim, 'It aint gonna happen kids'!

Oh, and I certainly took pix of my time there but I certainly didn't see loads of people with cameras.

DAVE BONES said...

Great post cheers

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