This site is an archived version of Indymedia prior to 5th November 2012. The current site is at www.indymedia.org.nz.

Babylon by Bus

in

 

 Representing Te Ata Tino Toa, I took part in the Trade to Climate Caravan, which took 60 Activists from the global south from the WTO meeting in Geneva to Cop 15 in Copenhagen.

 In Geneva for the WTO protests (and ten years since WTO Seattle). The state has refined the art of how to contain & neutralise mass protests.

The Protest on the day was your typical symbolic march, until different groups decided to take direct action & burn cars & smash the windows of banks. At an evaluation about the protests our organisers on the caravan were apologising for the actions of the ‘black bloc’. Unfortunately for them the majority of my brothers & sisters from the global south recognise that direct-action works and had no problems in supporting the ‘black block and the direct action on the day.

Sina Brown-Davis, de Te Ata Tino Toa (organisation maori des îles Samoa et Tonga): «Pour les populations indigènes, l'OMC (WTO, en anglais) est la pire organisation terroriste du monde («Worst ou World Terrorist Organisation»), car elle détruit leurs vies, leurs terres, leurs modes de vie. Le néolibéralisme, c'est l'apartheid. Cette réunion à Genève est importante, car elle resserre les liens entre les peuples et les travailleurs qui ont un ennemi commun: le capitalisme et son bureau: l'OMC. Les gens doivent prendre conscience que la solidarité, c'est le pouvoir.

 During my time in Switzerland their government had decided to ban to building of new minarets. I am shocked at the growth of racism & a virulent form of anti Muslim racism &  Islamaphobia  that isn’t the preserve of racist right wing extreme but is being propagated in the parliamentary ‘democracies of European parliaments.

In response to that racist decision in Switzerland , Muslim youth led a spontaneous Candle light demonstration where they built a paper minaret and publicly stated that they refused to be marginalised & treated like second class citizens.

 

In France its becoming obvious to me that the French do not like being reminded about their colonial history and presence in the Pacific. Nuclear bomb testing, their current military occupations of the islands of Tahiti & Kanaky, (New Caledonia) their recent joint military exercise with Tonga, & their continuing colonisation and exploitation of peoples. I’m not impressed with the architecture because of the deep  denial that the wealth of their nations is built on the back  of the blood of the peoples of the third and fourth world.

 

Cops in Hagen.

 As soon as our bus was on the fringes of Copenhagen we were meet with a heavy police presence that escorted our bus to a school car park where they came on board to check our documentation. Clearly this was a physiological ploy on their part to intimidate us. It didn’t work but it gave us all a clear idea of the policing we would be facing during Cop15.

 Leading the march with other Indigenous peoples on the 12 December was a highlight for me, I marched with Malia Noberg & Fiu Elisara & was honoured to support them as they have been tirelessly fighting for Indigenous Rights in the Pacific over the past 25 years.  The NZ government with the support of the Maori Party, passed an emission trading scheme during Copenhagen. Why would some Maori support the Dairy industry that has been irresponsibly polluting our rivers and environment before the lives of our cousins in Tuvalu, Kiribati, Tokelau and the other many small island communities in the Pacific?"

"Putting the interests of the dairy industry and tribal capitalists out to make a quick buck before the lives and homes of small island communities should be condemned around the Pacific and by Maori who believe in the values of whanaungatanga and kaitiakitanga.

 There has been wide support within the global indigenous community that Indigenous Peoples rights needed to be protected in any negotiations that come out of Copenhagen.

This was articulated by the Indigenous Peoples caucus at the lead up
meeting in Bangkok when they said 'The recognition of our rights must be in accordance with international human rights law and standards including the UNDRIP and ILO Convention 169, among other human rights instruments. If there is no full recognition and full protection for Indigenous peoples' rights, including the rights to resources, lands and territories, and there is no recognition and respect of our rights of free, prior and informed consent of the affected indigenous peoples, we will oppose REDD and REDD+ and carbon offsetting projects, including CDM
projects.'

The bottom line to find ways to fund businesses who continue to pollute the planet and outrageous profits by robbing the poor to pay for their excesses.

"It's no surprise that Climate Change Policies and Treaties, (supposedly designed to address real emergencies, like rising sea levels, for peoples like the Kiribati) are being used to facilitate, and create the structures for a new round of capitalist, imperialist, 'primitive accumulation', i.e. where wealthy nations and multinationals accumulate profits off the backs of poor, and indigenous communities around the world, again."

Unsurprisingly that Cop15 was another white wash.

It was the stance of the Indigenous peoples in Copenhagen that was inspiring to me, the hard work of the Indigenous environmental network demonstrated the political strength when peoples self determine their own struggles in relation to climate change.

 The public face of activism & anarchism at Copenhagen & throughout Europe is mainly white. Shocking really when there are so many peoples from the 3rd & 4th world that have been in Europe for generations.  My main criticism of the organizing I saw in Copenhagen,is that it was Eurocentric driven mainly by Anglo & American activists, climate justice seems to be a bandwagon that everyone in jumping on.

We are fighting for the survival of our mother earth, in the Pacific our fight is for our lives & the continuation of us as peoples.  We are in a time of stand up & fight for it or loose it for ever. I don’t want to see another worldwide struggle neutralized by the control of western liberal activism.

By the end of my time in Copenhagen, I am getting tired of activists patronising the peoples from the third and fourth worlds ( the global south). What use is there in talking to disengaged Europeans, what will they do to tautoko the struggles of the peoples in the Pacific ? Only our people will free themselves

 The Pacific is in crisis now, the west will not sacrifice a fucking thing to ensure the survival of my peoples into the next century and beyond, they never gave a fuck when they invaded the Pacific and committed genocide to steal our land and resources, they don’t give a fuck now.

I came to Copenhagen with a heavy heart and anger as Pacific peoples face the loss of their lands, genocide desecration of their whenua, and our culture, traditions.  We are not climate victims in the Pacific we are fighting for our survival, but I know that the west will not give up its exploitative way of life to ensure the survival of the lands if Indigenous Pacific Islanders. Our only allies here in Europe are those peoples that close down coal stations and those people that directly confront  racism capitalism & exploitation in their own communities.

*****************************************************************

 a short (and somewhat critical) evaluation of the  protests in Copenhagen – a shorter version of this text will also appear in  the German language monthly paper ‘analyse & kritik’. We, the authors if this text, have been mainly active in anti-racist struggles in the last ten years, mostly together with self-organised refugee and migrant groups. In this context, one of our projects was the organisation of the anti-racist action day at the G8 Summit in Heiligendamm in 2007 (http://www.nolager.de/ ). For this reason, we’re very much aware of how difficult it is to organise large mobilisations like the one in Copenhagen. Over the last two years, one of the things we've been focussing on is an attempt to connect climate and anti-racist struggles with other social struggles and we‘re also involved in a local campaign for free public transport (which from the outset sought to make the link to the summit protest in Copenhagen).

Best wishes,

No Lager Bremen.

*At most a first mile-stone*

*Six **points about the summit protests in Copenhagen*

*The evaluation of the climate protests in Copenhagen is necessarily  double-sided: At the one hand they led to completely new links and  coalitions – importantly between global south and global north actors. At  the same time, there were serious weaknesses politically, as well as with  numbers and actions.

We think it’s important to put the weaknesses of the mobilisation centre-stage of a first evaluation – also as a prerequisite for strengthening the movement for **system change not climate change**, as ignited by Copenhagen.*

*Point I*: Despite the movement’s internal strength, its external resonance
were much more limited. At no point were social movements from the global
south really able to gain significant visibility. It wasn't really possible  to draw attention to how tokenistic and ridiculous it was that within the  official talks, C02 emissions were measured on the basis of national output,  as opposed to the much more sensible per capita measure. Consequently, in  the mainstream media China was almost consistently accused of being the  biggest ‘climate sinner’. Moreover, the protests didn't manage to initiate a  broader public debate about the kinds of solutions favoured by social  movements, for example, what low-carbon forms of organisation of mobility,  of production of food or of energy generation mean, or more generally, what  we mean by an immediate end to capitalist overproduction and  overconsumption.

*Point II:* These failures must be understood as failures of the  mobilisation: it was great that there were 100, 000 people at the opening  demonstration, yet in the following week only 3,000 activists stayed behind  – next to about 2,000 (constant) visitors of the counter-summit  (Klimaforum09). Of course numbers are not everything, but we shouldn't be  too pragmatic and overlook that this certainly was an opportunity for a  major mobilisation. Climate change is not a marginal topic, already now many  millions of people are affected negatively by its consequences. Copenhagen  is easily accessible by train, bus or car, especially for activists from  northern and western Europe; furthermore, it’s been clear for many months  that this summit would be a major public event and thus provided a perfect  backdrop for resolute climate protests. There should have been at least
15,000 to 20,000 people on the streets of Copenhagen. Not only would that
have been a better reflection of the severity of the current situation, it  would have also considerably upped the political temperature around the  official summit circus.

*Point III*: The weak Copenhagen mobilisation was certainly no coincidence,
it was much more an expression of the fact that large parts of the western  European Left are still not involved because they are lulled into a sense of
metropolitan luxury. The reasons for this are multiple, yet two stand out in  particular. First, there is a lack of internationlism (global solidarity) within the movement. A considerable gap exists between northern and southern grassroots movements with few common campaigns and organising projects. This
makes it much easier for (west-) European activists to screen out the social
consequences of climate change. Secondly, there is both a personal and a political uneasiness around whether ‘global climate justice’ may have to result in a massive reduction of life style in rich industrial countries. In this respect, it is hardly surprising that the central target of the protests were ‘wrong’ – meaning market-orientated – solutions. This is of course justified, but it is also merely the lowest common denominator that activists can agree on, particularly when so many have not yet really taken  on board that there can only be a 2 ton “allowance” of C02 emissions per year for each human being on planet, and not the 10-20 tonnes that are common in the global north.

*Point IV*: Against this background, it was immensely significant politically that so many grassroots activists from the global south participated in Copenhagen – whether in the Klimaforum09, the demonstration (in particular the agriculture action day) or in Reclaim Power, the civil disobedience action that unfortunately failed to occupy the conference grounds. Here, at least temporarily, the lack of internationalism (global solidarity) was counerbalanced. At the same time, many will have seen quite clearly what opportunities but also challenges there are for transnational and intercontinental cooperation.

*Point V*: Many actions in Copenhagen were very rudimentarily prepared. This
was of course not the fault of those who were involved at all with the preparations in the months leading up to the protests. What was annoying was
the way this was handled. Rather than openly and honestly talking about what
the state of play was (which would have provided an opportunity to improve
the actions and make last-minute plans), apparent problems and omissions
were not talked about in the meetings, were delegated to small groups or
were drowned out by self-reassuring sloganeering.

The latter happened not least because some of the facilitators confused their role with propagandist infotainment, which in one case was even mixed with manipulative manoeuvres that seemed to serve personal interests. A prominent example of this was Reclaim Power: Already 36 hours before the action it was clear that it was going to be impossible to hold the gathering of social movements (‘People’s Assembly’) on the official conference grounds.

For one thing, there were too few of us, but also, these kinds of actions require much more tactical and logistical precision in their preparation. Thus, nothing much happened at all, not even a registration of the People’s Assembly to prepare for the not so inconceivable case that we would not be able to get over the fences. The consequence of this was that the exceptionally repressive policing was able to rob Reclaim Power of the publicity it could have generated. And so,
whilst a People’s Assembly did take place in a rudimentary fashion, it happened without the attention of the world’s media.

*Point VI*: Copenhagen made two things visible: For one, the relative weakness of left-wing climate politics and the fact that reducing CO2 emissions is definitely not a priority in the face of global capitalist competition. At the same time, there is enormous potential, particularly if we take into consideration that grassroots social movements from the South were of course still very underrepresented at the protests. It seems apparent that there are (at least) three things that need to be done. First of all, we need to deepen local climate struggles that are rooted in
concrete goals; secondly, we must link up climate struggles with other social struggles – particularly along the South-North divide; thirdly, we need to have a debate about whether and how negotiations for a post-Kyoto agreement after Copenhagen should be accompanied by protests – whether this is at an interim meeting of environmental ministers in Bonn (June 2010) or at the next UN Climate Summit in Mexico City (December 2010).

NoLager Bremen

P.S. The Never Trust a Cop actions at the opening demonstration failed and  remained very marginal in the wider context of the protests. At the same time, they played an important role for many German-speaking activists and so we would like to comment on them:

At the opening demonstration on the Saturday, the autonomist-anarchist network Never Trust a Cop issued a call-out not to participate in the whole of the demo, but to stay in the city centre to leave the odd (militant) message behind. Whether this made sense politically is an open question.


Fact of the matter is that it didn't work. At the beginning of the demo a few hundred Never Trust a Cop activists linked up arms and rushed through the tail end of the march, whilst at the same time stones and fireworks were being thrown in the direction of cops that were standing around. The situation was quite harmless, but for more or less everyone very frustrating. People were suddenly drawn into a dynamic for which they were neither mentally nor physically prepared (and that they had made no political decision to participate in), plus, within the demonstration there were some quite hostile attitudes towards the (supposed) Never Trust a Cop groups.

The opening demonstration was therefore a reminder of how difficult it is to calibrate the diversity of tactics in a way that is both productive in terms of the overall effects and is characterised by mutual respect.