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Meet the green boss, same as the old boss...

One of AF | 26.08.2009 18:10 | Climate Chaos | Ecology | Repression

A brief look at some of the reasons why Climate Camp's so important, and some of the dangers it faces.

We all know why Climate Camp's so important, right? We all know how quickly climate change is getting out of control, we've all heard the terrifying predictions about just how bad things are going to get, and we've all reached that point where we realise that apathy and terrified paralysis just aren't good enough, and we need to start acting now.

But actually, there's more to camp than just that. The actions and the big debates aren't the only valuable things about Climate Camp; it's also exciting because of the way it's run – from the bottom up, with everyone having a chance to get involved in decision-making. This openness is a huge contrast to our everyday lives, where (whether we work, study, or try to survive on pitiful state benefits) we have little or no say over what we do or how we do it. At its best, Climate Camp isn't just a way of helping us move towards a saner world, it's a tiny glimpse of what that world might look like.

Just as we can overlook some of the things that make camp so great, it's also easy to miss some of the dangers that we face. At first, the enemy seems obvious – it's the fossil fuel industry and all the other companies making big profits from killing our planet. But when we start trying to act, things get more complicated – before we can ever approach the power stations or corporate headquarters, we have to deal the police, who are there to protect the rich and powerful, and are happy to use violence to stop us having a say. And, of course, the police don't act independently – they're just the most visible part of the state, that massive body that's decided that direct action is a crime, but environmental destruction is not, and will come down hard on any challenge to its authority. And the problem doesn't end there – before we can take on the state, we also need to tackle the arguments of those people inside our movement who insist that, because the crisis is so urgent and the state is so powerful, we need to be using that power to stop climate change.

When anarchists say that we can't use the state for our own ends, that's not us rejecting ideas that work because of our own abstract principles - that's us rejecting ideas that don't work because they don't work. Unlike Climate Camp, the state is not democratic, the violence it uses to crush opposing voices (like the camp in London during the G20 earlier this year) makes that clear. Calling for the state to tackle climate change means calling for the state to be made stronger, which in turn means making us weaker. Companies don't care about the climate because they exist to make money, and the state exists to protect the market economy, so any real, meaningful action against those companies can only be against the state, not through it.

What does all this mean in practice? We don't have all the answers, no one does, but we have a few suggestions about how our movement can be most effective. First, we should openly celebrate the camp's roots in the radical, anti-capitalist environmental movement, and the way that those roots influence the camp today. Living and making decisions communally as part of the camp is better than the crap we have to put up with in normal life, and we shouldn't be shy about saying this.

Secondly, we need to avoid getting divided over the question of militant vs. "fluffy" tactics - the police attacks on the London camp earlier this year showed that they're willing to attack totally non-violent protesters, so there's no point in avoiding militancy to try and avoid provoking the police. We'll never stop climate change if we stick to the limits of what the police will let us do, and at times it will be necessary to use force to break out of their control.

Third, we need to be a lot bigger than we are now. That means that we need to be careful to avoid seeming elitist or moralistic. Yes, changing our lifestyles is important and it's frustrating that people are so slow to realise how big the problem is, but no-one will want to listen to us if we come across as telling them off for not being better people. Collective action is far more effective than individual action anyway, so our priority has to be persuading people to get active, not lecturing them about renewable lightbulbs.

Fourth, of course, we need to constantly be on the watch for our enemies trying to find ways to use us. Green is big, and getting bigger, so we're already having to deal with capitalists and politicians trying to find ways to use our arguments to boost their popularity or bank balances. From biofuels to carbon credits, they've got no end of ideas that won't do much to fight global warming, but are great for making money. Whether it's buying green products or trusting the government to pass green laws, we need to expose these dead-end paths so we can be clear about putting forward real alternatives.

One of AF
- e-mail: info AT afed DOT org DOT uk
- Homepage: http://


Hide the following 7 comments

Is this getting distributed at CC?

26.08.2009 19:23

I hope this is getting distributed at CC. It tries to celebrate CC at the same time as trying to push things forward politically.

CC needs an injection of more radical ideas to percolate in it's collective conscious esp ones that begin to break down the moralistic arguments you hear all the time about how people live their lives and how they consume too much. That's only one side of capitalist consumerism but concentrating more on the structural and material basis of capitalism itself would be a useful starting point.


from the bottom up?

26.08.2009 23:52

I don't (and never have or will) understand why anarchists call non-hierarchical structures 'from the bottom up' - it's far from correct. The phrasing is still hierarchical as it's the idea of a vertical organising structure / pyramid scheme with somebody at the top and authoritarian as it thus promotes the idea of the people at the bottom being in control.

We don't want vertical organising structures, we want horizontal ones!
Vertical structures = Hierarchical
Horizontal structures = Non-hierarchical
Surely it's not that hard to understand?

Other than that, I thought the article/leaflet was very well put :-)


good article

27.08.2009 11:11

this raises some important points. plus great to see the more 'radical' part of the movement wanting to be part of the camp and discuss our political direction at it. the main marquee has been put aside for the whole day on tuesday to discuss where now for the movement, so I look forward to discussing these issues more then - and all week of course!

the full workshops programme is here:



27.08.2009 17:35

Looks like you'll all be busy talking and "being horizontal" (ie. getting nothing done). Without any central decision makers, it will just be a lot of talk with no clear action points assigned to anyone. At least it keeps you all occuppied and out of trouble so I can drive my new Audi and waft pass you



27.08.2009 21:20

Best thing I've seen written about Climate Camp. You're right in mentioning "the camp's roots in the radical, anti-capitalist environmental movement", but the problem is the withering of those roots and the hijacking of the whole CC project by liberals.

Neither, I'm afraid, is the open and inclusive decision making any longer what it's cracked up to be, due to the dead hand of "facilitation", often seeking to control the agenda and even, on occasions, trying to rig the outcome. My last involvement with Climate Camp was the big London meeting after Heathrow where it emerged that the agenda and range of discussion had been pre-determined by an inner circle and was outwith the influence of anyone not included. I arrived a bit early and they were still having their "pre-meeting" to organise this. Admittedly, that was London and I doubt that sort of thing would have been tolerated at the East Side or West Side post-camp barrio meetings, amongst others.

I think there needs to be a rethink about "campism". In recent years, the knee-jerk tactics over any major issue seem to be to have a camp. Not saying it's always a bad idea, but doing the same thing more than once of twice usually is (as with Stop the City and RTS). The knees which have jerked most readily have usually been those of the people who're not going to do the hard graft of organising and laying on the infrastructure for several thousand people in a field against police harassment.

Are endless (and very expensive) camps the best way to mount and spread the direct action needed to dispossess the bosses, whether old, green or tartan?

Sorry if this is carping. You're obviously there with the right approach. Strength to your elbow!


"Tartan Bosses" ?!

28.08.2009 22:57

"Red and Green should never be seen,
Except on the sark of a faerie quean"

A quean is any any eligible young woman -or faerie seemingly- of child-bearing age. A sark is a low-cut underskirt.

My granny told me that colour advice from ancient fashion designers, the premise being that those colours clash so much that you would only combine them if you were trying to draw attention to the garment - ie you'd only mix red and green if you were advertising yourself as more fuckable than anyone else at the ceilidh. Despite this advice, the classic clan tartans were composed of red and green elements differentiated by black, maybe necessitated by a lack of other dyes. I'd love to hear someone who knows about that to expound on it or correct it, but I'm simply using it as an anolgy for activist politics.
Red=socialism, Green=environmentalism and Black=anarchism.

In both cases red and green clash fundamentally, drastically, and the only time that that works is where they are differentiated by a smaller amount of black. You can have a green boss, a red boss, but you will never have a red, green and black boss because an anarchist stops being an anarchist the minute they become a boss. Or to put it in terms most Climate Campers will recognise...

Life is unfair
So I just stare
At the stain on the wall where
The TV'd been
But ever since
We've moved in it's been empty
Why I
Why I'm in this room
There is no point explaining
Life is a test
But I confess
I like this mess I've made so far
Grade on a curve
And you'll observe
I'm right below the horizon
Yes, no
Maybe, I don't know
Can you repeat the question?