Westside Action

a motley crew of anarchists and activists from Bristol, Bath and South Wales

Archive for climate chaos

Copenhagen Day 3

Protests Inside Bella Centre: Some African Delegates Threaten to Walk Out/Border Crossing Point Info for Activists

Lumumba Di-Aping of Sudan, the head of the 135-nation bloc of developing countries, said the $10 billion a year that has been proposed to help poor nations fight climate change paled in comparison to the more than $1 trillion already spent to rescue financial institutions.

“If this is the greatest risk that humanity faces, then how do you explain $10 billion?” he said. “Ten billion will not buy developing countries’ citizens enough coffins.”

Stuck at The Border? Important Numbers to Note before you Leave

While it seems that police is strengthening border control, we have updated the relevant section in the practical info on the website.

Constant updates about borders can be found here borderwatchcop15.blogsport.de

Flensburg (German/Danish border): Phone 0049 (0)15153610132.

Rostock (German/Danish border): Phone 0049 (0)15224551075
grenzsolicop15-rostock@riseup.net
download public key

Malmoe (Swedish/Danish border): 0046 760188650

Read more about border control here http://www.climate-justice-action.org/practical-info/copenhagen-info/#Border%20control

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Putting “The Fun Between Your Legs” in Copenhagen

The Laboratory of Insurrectionary Imagination and Climate Camp are plotting together to design and build a new tool of civil disobedience for the RECLAIM POWER mobilisations taking place in Copenhagen, during the UN climate summit in December. Made from hundreds of recycled bikes, The Bike Bloc will merge device of mass transportation and pedal powered resistance machine, postcapitalist bike gang and art bike carnival.

Everything we take for granted: the weekend, gay rights, contraception, women wearing trousers, the right to strike, to form a union, the abolition of slavery. Everything was won by disobedience, fought for by people who refused and resisted, claimed back from those in power. Their disobedience was a gift to our future.

Every form of rebellion we know, from protest marches to lock-ons, barricades to boycotts, factory occupations to street parties, super glue actions to climate camps was invented, dreamt up and designed. More often than not, by a small group of people huddled together, laughing and creatively conspiring with each other; engineering the art of resistance.

The Laboratory of Insurrectionary Imagination and Climate Camp are plotting together to design and build a new tool of civil disobedience for the RECLAIM POWER mobilisations taking place in Copenhagen, during the UN climate summit in December. Made from hundreds of recycled bikes, The Bike Bloc will merge device of mass transportation and pedal powered resistance machine, postcapitalist bike gang and art bike carnival.

Bike hackers, welders, climate campers, artists and engineers will be working together to design and build The Bike Bloc across two cities: Bristol (Arnolfini Gallery 15th 30th Nov.) and Copenhagen (4th- 18th Dec.) Come and take part, either designing and building the prototype in Bristol, putting together the real thing in Copenhagen or swarming with us on the day of civil disobedience on the 16th of December.

*Put the fun between your legs, become the bike bloc.*

For times and how to get involved:

funbetweenyourlegs.info

bikebloc@climatecamp.org.uk

Kingsnorth Police Report: Poor Handwriting Slammed

You may have thought that unjustified stop and searches, assaults and raids may have been the focus of the report. But apparently, the fact that some Officers have ineligable handwriting is, as Emily Apple of Fitwatch and now the Guardian (!) says in her article (below) is  apparently of more concern than, for instance,  the fact that her and Val Swain were brutally arrested and then remanded for 3 days, only later to have their charges dropped.

Emily Apple (Guardian Article) :

The soundbites sound good. A report into the policing of Kingsnorth has stated the use of blanket stop and search powers were “disproportionate and counterproductive” and show a failed command structure displaying incompetent leadership and poor communication.

However, the motivation behind these findings needs to be examined. The report is not concerned with the rights of protesters but protecting the integrity of the police force. Yes, the searches were criticised, but not for the right reasons. Instead of finding the searches contravened civil liberties, the report worries about the effect a judicial review might have on the force, stating they were “counterproductive” because of “organisational vulnerability through legal challenge”. Instead of using the opportunity to condemn the blanket use of section 1 stop and searches as an abuse of civil liberties, even more draconian legislation is called for asking for further powers, presumably to counteract the effects of any pesky judicial interference.

None of the civil liberties concerns raised by activists and politicians in relation to the camp are addressed. In fact, the report praises the police for meeting one of their key objectives of “facilitating peaceful protest”, which is simply not true. Facilitating protest must include adherence to all human rights law, including the rights to privacy and freedom of expression. Stating that, during a protest which extended over several days, the police facilitated one march at the end of the week ignores all the civil liberties abuses which took place at the camp itself.

While no mention is made of the use of excessive violence by officers using batons strikes against peaceful protesters, the handwriting of officers is criticised, with fewer than 25% of all forms legible. However, instead of criticising the need for 8,000-plus searches, the report laments the fact there weren’t more details to put onto the police database. The fact details of thousands of protesters has been entered into a database is not examined, nor is the admission this information is disseminated to the Forward Intelligence Teams (Fits), and that people should not give the police personal details if they do not want to end up on such a database.

Meanwhile, another report commissioned by the National Policing Improvement Agency (NPIA), has not been released, even to the IPCC. The findings were seemingly not to the liking of senior police officers, who ordered this current report to be written instead. Despite promises by the policing minister, David Hanson, to publish the original report, this has not been done, and we are left with a report which is hostile to demonstrators and repressive in tone.

The recommendations of the HMIC report to move towards a less confrontational model of policing will never be achieved unless the attitude of the police changes towards demonstrators. However, the biggest test for all the reports will be seen on the streets over the next couple of months. Climate Camp is returning to London in August, while in September activists return to the City for a mass protest against the DSEi arms fair.

It is clear from this report, and from examples such as the suggestion, made by City of London police during a meeting with the family of Ian Tomlinson and the IPCC, that Tomlinson might have been attacked by a protester “dressed in police uniform”, that the mindset of the police has not altered. It is important they are held to account on the streets, and anyone who has any concerns over the policing of protests and civil liberties should attend these events to monitor and challenge this policing for themselves.

Vestas Workers Besieged by Riot Cops

Taken from http://workersclimateaction.co.uk

Link to channel 4 report: http://link.brightcove.com/services/player/bcpid1184614595?bctid=30341056001

Wind-turbine-workers-stag-001

Workers staging a sit-in at the soon-to-close Vestas wind turbine plant on the Isle of Wight are being starved out by police.

The police, many inside the factory and dressed in riot gear, have denied food to the workers who took over the factory offices last night, to protest the closure of their factory. The police, operating with highly questionable legal authority, have surrounded the offices, preventing supporters from joining the sit-in, and preventing food from being brought to the protestors.

Around 20 workers at the Vestas Plant in Newport, on the Isle of Wight, occupied the top floor of offices in their factory to protest against its closure which will result in over 500 job losses.

Acting without an injunction, on private property, the police have repeatedly tried to break into the office where the protesting workers have barricaded themselves, and have threatened the workers with arrest for aggravated trespass, despite the fact that no damage has been done to the property where the protest is taking place. Police have also forcibly removed people from private property, another action that is of very questionable legality in the absence of a formal injunction.

The office involved in the latter action was number 3606. The officer who appears to be in charge is 3115.

This heavy handed response is the latest in a long line of over-reactions to protest by various UK police forces.

vestas

The Vestas workers inside the factory released a statement earlier today:

“As workers at a wind turbine manufacturer, we were confident that as the recession took hold that green or renewable energy would be the area where many jobs could be created – not lost.

So we were horrified to find out that our jobs were moving abroad and that more than 525 jobs from the Isle of Wight and Southampton were going to be added to the already poor state of island unemployment.

This has sent, and will continue to send, shockwaves of uncertainty through countless families on the island – many of which are being forced to relocate away from the island.

We find this hard to stomach as the government are getting away with claiming they are investing heavily in these types of industry.

Only last week they said they would create 400,000 green jobs. How can the process start with 600 of us losing our jobs?

Now I’m not sure about you but we think it’s about time that if the government can spend billions bailing out the banks – and even nationalise them – then surely they can do the same at Vestas.

The people of Vestas matter, and the people of the island matter, but equally importantly the people of this planet matter. We will not be brushed under the carpet by a government which is claiming to help us.

We have occupied our factory and call on the government to step in and nationalise it. We and many others believe it is essential that we continue to keep our factory open for our families and livelihoods, but also for the future of the planet.

We call on Ed Miliband as the relevant minister to come to the island and tell us to our face why it makes sense for the government to launch a campaign to expand green energy at the same moment at the country’s only major wind turbine producer closes.

Please show your support.

Protest at Newport Vestas at 5pm today (off Dondor Lane – Monks Brook Newport, Isle Of Wight, PO30 5WZ)

Demonstrate Friday 24th of July Friday 5.30pm St. Thomas square Newport”

Contact details:

(ed) 07775763750

(martin) 07950978083

savevestas.press@googlemail.com

http://savevestas.wordpress.com

UPDATE:

Mass Walk-In Breaks the Siege

On July 22nd, 2009 Stuart says:

Taken from: savevestas.wordpress.com

At 5.10am this morning, a climate activist at the protest outside the Vestas plant attempted to take a bag of food to the occupying workers by means of a rope which the workers had lowered from the balcony. The activist was grabbed by 5 police officers and arrested. On his release he obtained the police report of his arrest, which stated that the reason for his arrest was that, as his bringing food to the occupiers had the stated intention of prolonging the protest, it was facilitating a breach of the peace – clearly ludicrous as the police have themselves admitted that the protest is not breaching the peace.

At 1248, a large number of protestors walked through the line of police holding food in their hands which they threw up to the balcony. The police pushed some of the protestors and attempted to obstruct the line but did not offer substantial resistance. One protestor was harassed by a security guard, and asked a police officer, whose number was 24266, if he intended to do anything about it; the officer said he didn’t. Another protestor saw a police officer grabbing the arm of an activist as he attempted to throw food to the balcony – the activist told the police officer that this constituted harassment, the police officer took no notice.

A second climate activist was arrested and taken through the front doors of the factory. Later, a sergeant whose number was 3027 came out and said that no-one had been arrested for carrying food, but that one activist had been arrested for assault. Other protestors present have commented that as the activist in question, who has not given permission for his name to be released, is a christian pacifist, this seems unlikely.

Security have started putting up a fence around the site, with protestors outside attempting to get a second food-carrying walk-in past the police before its completion. There are currently around 50 protestors outside the factory, over 30 of them Vestas workers, and sources say they expect numbers to increase drastically around 6pm when the protest starts.

Co-Mutiny: Next Meeting/COP 15 – Mobilisation

Next C0-Mutiny Meeting– Thursday 6th August 7.30pm. Kebele, 14 Robertson Rd, Easton. BS5 6JY

comutiny-poster-and-flyer-front1

Never trust a cop!

blog address: http://nevertrustacop.wordpress.com/

Climate Change is not an Environmental Disaster it is a Capitalist Disaster

While remaining part of the Climate Justice Action umbrella group, a more radical voice was needed for the mobilisation around the COP15  (Conference of Parties meeting, no. 15) this December in Copenhagen.

The mobilisation will be massive – tens of  thousands of people will converg on copehhagen – but will it be more than an ineffective lobbying exercise ? The Choice is yours.

e-mail westsideclimateaction@gmail.com for local mobilisation advice/suggestions.

http://nevertrustacop.wordpress.com/

GRAPHIX

Against COP15 summit, Copenhagen Dec. 2009

The catastrophe is real and climate change is one of its many symptoms.
The COP15’s inevitable talk of “saving the world from the climate
crisis” is an elaborate hoax to disguise the COP15’s true purpose: to
restore the legitimacy of global capitalism by inaugurating an era of
“green” capitalism. A new rhetoric of “saving the climate” will exist to
justify their repression, their fortified borders, their colonial
resource wars. To give the Emperor new clothes. Our response to this
astounding lie is an uncompromising and absolute NO to their system.

More has to be shaken than our holiday habits to sustain the world for
times to come. It would be foolish to pin our hopes upon the very people
who continue to kill off the planet for money. At Copenhagen, they will
argue over how to properly create a market to commodify and so pollute
the biosphere, dispossessing millions of people from their land to
profit from destroying what remains of our earth. Governments and
corporations will not sacrifice their growth to reduce carbon emissions,
or only do so in order to create a new authoritarian regime for themselves.

The entire rhetoric of the “climate crisis” and the “financial crisis”
is a cynical maneouvre by the state spin-doctors to deny the
all-encompassing crisis of self-declared civilization. The COP15 will
only attempt to hide the war that capitalism is waging against all life
on the planet, a war that has spread across the entire globe for the
last five hundred years, a war that encompasses the totality of even the
oceans and atmosphere. In the midst of war, one does not talk of
management and “technical solutions.” You cannot fight a war by
pretending the war does not exist, by blinding yourself to repression
and becoming complicit in accepting the false-promise of a petit
bourgeois tranquility. Instead, one recognizes the enemy. One chooses a
position. One fights.

Only by ridding ourselves of those who claim to be representing us and
by defeating the ideology of endless economic growth, industrial
production and consumption can we take control of our lives and planet.
It is time to state: we are going to consciously attack the structures
supporting the COP15: we will break through the lines of their police;
we will refuse to negotiate with warmongering governments and the
embedded media; we will refuse to side with sell-out NGOs and all the
would-be managers of protest; we will refuse all governments and
governance and not just de-legitimize the present ones. It is time to
state why we think that insurrection is needed to actually begin the
change everybody is so desperate for. Acting together in fundamental
opposition to those in power we might get a first glimpse of the
richness and opportunities possible when ideas, experiences and concepts
are shared amongst people from all over the world.

Against COP15 summit, Copenhagen Dec. 2009

The catastrophe is real and climate change is one of its many symptoms.
The COP15’s inevitable talk of “saving the world from the climate
crisis” is an elaborate hoax to disguise the COP15’s true purpose: to
restore the legitimacy of global capitalism by inaugurating an era of
“green” capitalism. A new rhetoric of “saving the climate” will exist to
justify their repression, their fortified borders, their colonial
resource wars. To give the Emperor new clothes. Our response to this
astounding lie is an uncompromising and absolute NO to their system.

More has to be shaken than our holiday habits to sustain the world for
times to come. It would be foolish to pin our hopes upon the very people
who continue to kill off the planet for money. At Copenhagen, they will
argue over how to properly create a market to commodify and so pollute
the biosphere, dispossessing millions of people from their land to
profit from destroying what remains of our earth. Governments and
corporations will not sacrifice their growth to reduce carbon emissions,
or only do so in order to create a new authoritarian regime for themselves.

The entire rhetoric of the “climate crisis” and the “financial crisis”
is a cynical maneouvre by the state spin-doctors to deny the
all-encompassing crisis of self-declared civilization. The COP15 will
only attempt to hide the war that capitalism is waging against all life
on the planet, a war that has spread across the entire globe for the
last five hundred years, a war that encompasses the totality of even the
oceans and atmosphere. In the midst of war, one does not talk of
management and “technical solutions.” You cannot fight a war by
pretending the war does not exist, by blinding yourself to repression
and becoming complicit in accepting the false-promise of a petit
bourgeois tranquility. Instead, one recognizes the enemy. One chooses a
position. One fights.

Only by ridding ourselves of those who claim to be representing us and
by defeating the ideology of endless economic growth, industrial
production and consumption can we take control of our lives and planet.
It is time to state: we are going to consciously attack the structures
supporting the COP15: we will break through the lines of their police;
we will refuse to negotiate with warmongering governments and the
embedded media; we will refuse to side with sell-out NGOs and all the
would-be managers of protest; we will refuse all governments and
governance and not just de-legitimize the present ones. It is time to
state why we think that insurrection is needed to actually begin the
change everybody is so desperate for. Acting together in fundamental
opposition to those in power we might get a first glimpse of the
richness and opportunities possible when ideas, experiences and concepts
are shared amongst people from all over the world.

Corporate Land Grabs in Africa

Western Corporations buying up land in the Global South for Carbon Offsets, Agrofuels and ready for  profiteering at the next food crisis.


The International Food Policy Research Institute has just released a
detailed report on huge corporate purchases of land in some of the poorest countries in Africa. In the next food crisis, huge profits can be made, while millions starve. Some secret agreements came to light during last month’s rebellion in Madagascar. See more details in the IFPRI food blog and Geoffrey York’s report on what he calls “the new colonialism” in the Globe and Mail 5 May 09.

As startling as the facts is the source: IFPRI could hardly be more official, headquartered on Washington’s K Street, headed by a conservative Australian economist, financed by governments and foundations, one of 15 CGIAR research centres stuffed with academic agricultural specialists, some of whom have supported GMOs. That such a source would sound the alarm of a massive threat to the global commons and food security speaks volumes. Many of the land grabs are European carbon fund investments, the new casino of the financiers. Africa is not the only target: see IFPRI map “Land Grabbing” by Foreign Investors in Developing Countries and Stephen Leahy “Global land rush” in IPS News 5 May 09 citing deals in Pakistan, Phillipines, Burma, China and Latin America. Grain has an even longer list (Nov 2008), backed by a blog of clippings.

The semi-official IISD, in Thirst for distant lands (May 2009, pp.11-18) warns that such leases constitute “property” under international trade law. A host country trying to stop subsequent environmental damage due to chemicals, loss of water or food supply, could face $million lawsuits from the “owner” similar to NAFTA chapter 11.

Here are some of the African deals reported by IFPRI (One hectare = 2.47 acres).

Angola
Lonrho (UK) rice lease: 25,000 hectares

Democratic Republic of Congo
China biofuel oil palm plantation: 2.8 million hectares

Egypt
Jenat (Saudi) barley, wheat and livestock feed: 10,000 hectares

Ethiopia
India $4-billion (U.S.): in flower-growing and sugar estates
Dubai World Trading Co. tea: 5,000 hectares
Flora EcoPower (Germany) biofuel: 13,000 hectares
Sun Biofuels (UK) jatropha, a biofuel crop: extent unknown
Saudi land lease: $100-million (U.S.)

Kenya
Qatar fruit and vegetable lease: 20,000 hectares

Madagascar
Daewoo (South Korea) corn: 1.3 million hectares, cancelled when the scandal broke.
Varun International (India) rice: secret lease of 465,000 hectares

Malawi
Djibouti land lease, extent unknown

Mali
Libya lease for rice: 100,000 hectares

Mozambique
China proposed $800-million (U.S.) for rice, cancelled after protests rose.
Skebab (Sweden) biofuel: 100,000 hectares
Sun Biofuels (UK) jatropha biofuel: extent unknown

Nigeria
Trans4mation Agric-tech Ltd. (UK): 10,000 hectares.
China (unknown company rice: 10,000 hectares

Sudan
Egypt wheat land: 2 million tons a year
Jordan leases for livestock and crops: 25,000 hectares
Kuwait: a “giant” strategic partnership, details unknown
Qatar set up a joint holding company in agriculture
Saudi Arabia lease for wheat, vegetables, and livestock: 10,000 hectares
South Korea lease for wheat: 690,000 hectares
United Arab Emirates lease for food crops: 30,000 initially, seeking another 378,000 hectares

Tanzania
Saudi Arabia proposal for 500,000 hectares
China rice lease: 300 hectares
CAMS Group (UK) sweet sorghum biofuel land purchase: 45,000 hectares
Sun Biofuels (UK) jatropha biofuel: 5,500 hectares

Zambia
China jatropha proposal: 2 million hectares.

Climate Activism and the Economic Crisis

We are in the middle of two crises, the climate crisis and the economic crisis. Although we we seem to treat them as separate, it can be argued that they are completely entangled. Tackling one without tackling the other is impossible and fruitless, but the connections are complex and shifting. To intervene effectively, we need to look carefully at how we think about time and change, and how we relate to markets and the state. But first, let’s look at how the economic crisis arose and draw some link between this history and the problematics of climate politics.

The Last 60 Years

To understand the current economic crisis (and the collapse of what we call neo-liberalism, the most current phase of capitalism), we have to understand how it arose. And for that we have to go right back to the end of the Second World War. The post-war productivity boom was based on a ‘deal’ of higher wages in return for improved productivity – those were the days when we were told “you’ve never had it so good”. But by late 1960s this period of growth was being derailed by a wave of strikes and global unrest: in the workplace there were a growing number of struggles over time & quality of life (rather than money), while there was an explosion of anger from those excluded from this deal (i.e. anyone who wasn’t a white, skilled, male factory worker).

In the face of this, the post-war settlement was killed off in the mid- to late-1970s by a capitalist counter-attack which laid the foundations for ‘neo-liberalism’. You can pick any number of key moments – the coup in Chile in 1973, the defeat of the US air traffic controllers strike in 1981, or the defeat of the miners in 1984/5 in the UK. They were all part of a much broader systematic strategy, which played out here like this.

First, the old centres of workers’ militancy (mining, manufacturing) were dismantled and outsourced to low-wage economies overseas. In the UK in 1971 over 70% of people were employed in primary industries (like mining) or manufacturing, today over 70% of workers are in the service sector.

Second, the banking sector was massively deregulated. All sorts of complicated ‘derivatives’ markets were created. When this started to unravel in summer 2007, it ultimately resulted in the credit crunch – because no-one knew what all these pieces of paper were really worth.

Under neo-liberalism, wages were driven ever downward. Many of us are have found that every pay rise we’ve had over the last 15 years has been below the rate of inflation. But while this boosts profits, the problem is that it keeps consumer spending (= economic growth) down. This problem was ‘solved’ by extending massive consumer credit, based mostly on rising house prices. This gave us the spending power to purchase all those lovely commodities coming out of the new manufacturing centres in the Far East and elsewhere. Hence the anomaly where our living standards in the UK rose at the same time as our wages as a proportion of profits kept falling.

Without primary industries or manufacturing the economy came to rely more and more on the banking and financial sector. This sector was in turn heavily reliant on rising house prices: complicated ‘mortgage derivatives’ were one of the major assets held by the big banks. So when the housing bubble burst, everything started to unravel – banks teetered on the brink of collapse, credit dried up, and the economy nose-dived.

We are in uncharted waters. Despite comparisons to 1929, this level of collapse is unprecedented. How things pan out is of course partly down to us. But we don’t need a crystal ball to predict the storm that’s coming: in the UK, we’re already facing redundancies, wage cuts, benefit cuts, wage cuts, public service cuts, repossessions & evictions. Globally, there is mass social unrest on the horizon: workers laid off from thousands of factories in China have taken to the streets; food riots exploded in over 30 countries across the globe this time last year; and in the last few months we’ve seen violent battles in Latvia, Bulgaria & Iceland, not to mention Greece, Italy and France…
What Has All This Got To Do With Climate Change?

In the ‘liberal’ media and in the thoughts of many, there’s a shift of focus away from climate change, affecting us as citizens/campaigners/workers/claimants but also for NGOs and local and national government. Plus we now have to deal with the fact that a huge slice of public funds have been diverted into propping up financial institutions.

But we need to dig deeper. We talk about it as a “climate crisis” but from the point of view of capitalism (seen as a thing, an endlessly expanding dynamic system) it’s actually an energy crisis. And it’s an energy crisis that capital has to tackle in order to re-launch a new cycle of accumulation. This isn’t something new: the idea of “limits to growth” were an endless headache for capital in the mid-1970s before neo-liberalism took hold and unleashed new levels of exploitation.

In fact energy in its widest sense has been a permanent problem for capitalist development. Capitalism is an exploitative, ecologically destructive system but it is also incredibly dynamic. 300 years ago, when it faced down a similar twin crisis of a rebellious population and ecological crisis, its salvation was coal. Unlocking these carbon resources played a crucial role by allowing capital to substitute machinery for our labour, at a price that could sometimes be fixed years in advance and without risk of strikes, sabotage or go-slows.

It’s impossible to think about patterns of energy consumption, and therefore about global warming, without thinking of those social relations – capitalist social relations – that have shaped those patterns. The collapse of neo-liberalism and the climate crisis are intimately linked – so much so that they’re almost impossible to separate.

This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, for us. At the back of much of the talk around climate change has been the idea that if we can just get people to accept the thesis of “peak oil” or “global warming”, then we will be able to magically pass into a different sort of world; as if we could switch off a carbon-based economy without also switching off the material social relations that surround it; as if the relentless drive for economic growth is some sort of mad aberration that we can turn off, or tone down. It’s not. There is no accident. There are structural causes at work here: the way we reproduce ourselves socially is bound up with the way we reproduce ourselves economically and the way we reproduce ourselves ecologically. But – and this is the key thing – the global financial meltdown could lead to a recomposition of social forces that would enable the rapid switch-over we need.

To get that switch-over right, here are four related areas worth thinking about.
1. How Do We Think About Time?

By this we don’t simply mean the time-scales we need to think about, although they are also important. There’s a time lag in the economic crisis which mirrors the time lag in climate change

* the first cracks in the sub-prime sector began Aug 2007 = implosion last year
* credit crisis from last summer = redundancies & layoffs now
* £500bn bank bail-out last autumn = massive public sector squeeze for the foreseeable future

This disconnection makes our responses very difficult – by the time we act, it may be too late. But there’s an even more important aspect to this time lag. Neo-liberalism has been built on a massive expansion of debt. By mortgaging our futures (quite literally in the case of pensions) we’ve been able to put off dealing with the fact that a few are reaping massive profits on the back of our falling wages. The same deferral, the same displacement of antagonism into the future, has also been going on with climate change. However, we know that process to be non-linear: once we reach a tipping point, change will become irreversible, so that when the time comes to ‘pay’ we’d all be screwed.

This leads into a deeper connection. Capitalist social relations are based on a particular notion of time. Capital is value in process: it has to move to remain as capital (otherwise it’s just money in the bank). That moving involves a calculation of investment over time – an assessment of risk and a projection from the present into the future. The interest rate, for example, is the most obvious expression of this quantitative relation between the past, the present and the future. It sets a benchmark for the rate of exploitation, the rate at which our present doing – our living labour – must be dominated by and subordinated to our past doing – our dead labour.

It’s hard to over-state how corrosive this notion of time is. It lies at the heart of capitalist valorisation, the immense piling-up of things, but it also lies at the heart of the production of everyday life. To paraphrase George Orwell, if you want a picture of the future, imagine a cash till ringing up a sale, forever. This is true at all levels, whether for capital’s planners meeting in Davos or for us trying to make ends meet.

But this is the deeper meaning of the meltdown: just like global warming, it has brought the future crashing into the present. Interest rates are now effectively below zero. We have reached a singularity. Capital’s temporality depends upon a positive rate of interest, along with a positive rate of profit and a positive rate of exploitation – all that has collapsed. And just as with climate chaos, the debts are, quite literally, being called in.
2. How Do We Think About Change?

The word ‘crisis’ has its origins in a medical term meaning turning point – the point in the course of a serious disease where a decisive change occurs, leading either to recovery or to death. So capitalism may be in crisis, neo-liberalism may be over, but that doesn’t mean we’ve won. Far from it. Crisis is inherent to capitalism. Periodic crises allow capital to displace its limits, using them as the basis for new phases of accumulation. In that respect, it’s true to say that capitalism works precisely by breaking down. But that’s only true in retrospect – after the resolution of the crisis. In fact crisis is mortally dangerous to capital, because it means an openness to other possibilities.

The critical instability we’re living through offers a chance for a phase transition, a rapid flip from one form of social organisation to another – or to many others. From capital’s point of view, it’s exactly this sense of openness, of possibility, that needs to be closed down. At the three major summits this year (G20 in the UK in April, G8 in Italy in July, and COP15 in Denmark in December), world leaders will be looking to contain things, to rein in our desires, and draw a line under the events of the past few months. “Move along now, there’s nothing to see here…” Every ‘solution’ that’s touted at these summits will also be an act of closure, an attempt to reintroduce capitalist temporality, one that sees the future rolling out inexorably from the present. In other words, get back to work: normal service will be resumed as soon as possible.

We have to do a fine balancing act here. On the one hand, as recession deepens, we’ll resist any measures that restrict our immediate freedoms. That might mean pushing for ‘solutions’ that are slightly less damaging, and which may therefore help capitalism off its sickbed. Individually we may accept pay cuts rather than risk redundancies (although historically one hasn’t ruled out the other). Similarly, the catastrophic build-up of greenhouse gases means that we need to act quickly and decisively.

But on the other hand our greatest chance of something different lies in keeping the crisis ongoing, in keeping the future open. So we also have to resist the pressure from capital’s planners for a quick fix, whether at the G20 or at Copenhagen. As soon as crises are ‘solved’, our room for manoeuvre is diminished.
3. How Do We Relate To The Market?

As crises are closed down, the way the question is framed moves back on to a safer terrain for capital. We drift back into its particular form of temporality.

Climate change becomes a matter of carbon trading, or investment, rather than circulation of capital. It becomes a question of technical solutions and national/international policy decisions. Funnily enough, as climate change becomes the major topic at summits, it becomes fundamentally depoliticised. It’s easier to debate carbon parts per million in the atmosphere, rather than ask ourselves what sort of worlds we want to live in.

It’s the same with the financial meltdown. Since last summer, it’s gone from a “banking crisis” to a “credit crunch” to an “economic crisis” to “negative economic growth” to “recession”. For months the use of the word “recession” was discouraged on the grounds that it would become self-fulfilling. But if there’s no name to what we’re living through, it can’t be normalised. And if it’s not normal, then we can behave exceptionally… So it’s officially a Recession.

We can see this move from “crisis” to “recession” in another way: a crisis for capital has become a crisis for us. Costs are shifted on to us. The massive bail-out of the banking system in the UK and the US is just the tip of the iceberg.

And it’s exactly the same with climate change. It’s obvious that costs of climate change are met disproportionately by the poor: globally it’s the poor who are most at risk of flooding, spread of disease, crop failure, resource shortages etc. And without a structural change, the costs of alleviating climate change will also be met by the poor. Three examples: green technologies are likely to remain expensive, so the poor will be shut out and forced to use “dirty” energy; agrofuel schemes which are still being forcibly rolled out across the global South (and in the US) in the face of widespread opposition; increasing enclosure of common land in the name of “conservation”, driving people away from resources that they have traditionally worked in order to sustain themselves. And in fact, as well as excluding the poor, all three have disastrous environmental consequences…

If we frame the question in this way, if we support attempts to resolve these crises through the market, and through the state, then we run the risk of engendering a green Keynesianism. In other words, a new regime of capitalist accumulation based on any combination of renewable energy, nuclear power, so-called clean coal or agrofuels. It’s easy to see how this could make sense. You start off with the idea that in terms of life on earth “we’re all in it together”; but we need to save the economy first to enable us to have the resources to tackle the challenge…

In fact, far from being a ‘problem’ to overcome, the hope is that climate change may actually become a primary source of revenue to solve the massive fiscal problems faced by Europe and the US (but not those of the global South). Renewable energy, for example, is a huge growth sector, where demand far outstrips supply. And according to the head of UN Climate Change Secretariat: “The credit crisis can be used to make progress in a new direction, an opportunity for global green economic growth… it is an opportunity to rebuild the financial system that would underpin sustainable growth … Governments now have an opportunity to create and enforce policy which stimulates private competition to fund clean industry.” Or as the European commission President puts it when the EU signed a new climate change deal in December “We mean business when we talk about climate”.

But if the key question isn’t whether we shift away from fossil fuels, but how, then framing the answer in terms of the market and growth is a huge and explosive contradiction.

The problem of adopting the market as a frame of reference is that capital monetizes everything, it turns everything into money. And with financialisation, that trend has become even stronger. Under neo-liberalism, one of the most important roles of the the state, locally and globally, has been to impose “good governance”. In other words, to reinforce the idea that every problem raised by struggles can be addressed – on one condition: that we address those problems through the market. There’s a solution for everything, as long as we buy it. Or rather as long as ‘we’ (meaning the world’s poor) pay for it. If neo-liberalism had a slogan, it would be “stop me and buy one”.

Ironically some of the pressure for this has come from green campaigners who have argued, correctly, that capitalism takes no account of environmental costs when calculating price. But under the dictatorship of the market, money has become the measure of all things. The market tries to make commensurable things that are incommensurable. But how can you ‘sell’ the right to emit carbon? Or to poison water supplies?

This isn’t simply an ethical question, one of value (as imposed by capital) against values (what we hold dear). The idea of price is also based on linear dynamics. What price can you put on something when you can no longer calculate the probable outcome? As sea levels rise, it’s easy to predict coastal flooding. But then there’s the amount and pattern of rainfall, a probable expansion of the subtropical desert regions, Arctic shrinkage and resulting Arctic methane release, increases in the intensity of extreme weather events, changes in agricultural yields, modifications of trade routes, glacier retreat, species extinctions and changes in the ranges of disease vectors… Put that in your calculator.
4. How Do We Relate To The State?

With neo-liberalism in crisis, and the threat of irreversible climate change, the state’s role is going to become increasingly crucial. A de-carbonised global capitalism is not impossible, but it would require even higher levels of “discipline”. Austerity would have to be enforced on a massive scale.

As we said earlier, capitalism is value in process – like a shark, it needs to keep moving or die. But this drive to self-expansion means it needs an ever-increasing energy base. Let’s look at it from the perspective of capitalism. The logic of capitalist growth is that it will always seek to externalise its costs. If we imagine there’s a three-way relation between capital, us and the environment (although none of these three things are actually discrete), then limits enforced in one sphere re-surface as intensified exploitation in another. If capital can’t rob one, it will rob the other. Leaving the coal in the hole, with no other change, means more energy sucked from our bodies. Let’s not forget that the last capitalist era of renewable energy (the age of sails and windmills) was also a time of slavery, genocide and enclosures on a massive scale.
Conclusion

There are no easy answers here. The ground on which we’re fighting is shifting far too fast for that. But one thing to bear in mind is that movements rarely take straightforward forms.

In 1905 the Russian revolution which threw up the first Soviets began with a small strike by typesetters at a Moscow print-works: they wanted a shorter working day, a higher rate of pay, and the right to be paid for apostrophes. In France the uprising of May 68 was sparked in part by a student protest which began in Nanterre with a fight over demand for boys to be let into girls’ dormitories…

Last week a wave of wildcat strikes swept through UK oil refineries. They were hugely controversial, unpredictable, and came out of nowhere. Who knows their long-term meaning? And is it a coincidence that they happened in the energy sector?

What we’re trying to say is that real powerful interventions around climate change may well come from people and areas who don’t explicitly identify with climate change politics. They may take the shape instead of food riots, struggles against property developers, fuel poverty campaigns etc.

There are two key points of intervention coming up. On 2 April the G20 are meeting in London’s Docklands. There’ll be a Climate Camp in the Square Mile in the City of London on 1 April. Then in December Copenhagen sees the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP15). There’s a huge mobilisation underway amid an ongoing debate about what attitude we should adopt. Inside? Outside? One foot in? It’s been given added significance because will be almost exactly 10 years since the WTO shutdown in Seattle.

Before that, We Won’t Pay for Their Crisis are having a meeting on Saturday 28 February. It’s called ‘We are an image from the future’ and we will be picking up some of these themes and trying to relate them to recent events across Europe.