Yankies Go Home! An answer to Tim Simons and Ali Tonak

Yankies Go Home! An answer to Tim Simons and Ali Tonak

By Tord Björk, Kristianstad, 9th of January 2010

The article The Dead End of Climate Justice by Simons and Tonak you find at:

www.counterpunch.org issued 8-10th of January 2010

How is it over there in the US? Do you have a nice and cosy time sitting in your left-wing ghettos throwing accusations at each other for not being omnipotent enough?

I must say that it is a bit amusing from the sidelines. Although I am in general critical towards how domestic US problems and examples of less universal interest is overwhelming many international email lists the one by Tim Simons and Ali Tonak accusing CJA for manipulating the movement into supporting NGOs and turning nature into investment capital is a real goodie.  A conspiracy theory worthy of any US main stream thinker or left wing competitor.

The authors make their claims mainly based on two occasions. One is a plenary at Christiania on December 14 organized by CJA with a panel consisting of Naomi Klein, Michael Hardt, and Tadzio Mueller. The other is the Reclaim Power action on December 16 organized by CJA and CJN. For some reason the authors in the national publication Counterpunch have to claim that Lisa Fithian, the moderator of the session, was a US non-violence guru.  When I made a search on the internet she was accused of being a terrorist.  Must be somewhat of a women when the different male authors labelling her both guru or terrorist has to make such incapacitating remarks.

Why CJA to such a large degree selects North Americans to dominate their so called high profile plenary debate I do not know. I have as a Swedish environmentalist noticed that left wingers also in Sweden seems to be impressed by North American intellectuals. I am not. I prefer to listen to Walden Bello, Medha Patkar, Josie Riffaud or Joao Stedile rather than North Americans lacking democratic roots in movements or political parties.  Although I must admit that Naomi Klein at several occasions when I had the chance to listen to hear in Copenhagen said good things. I also do not share the estimation by Tadzio Müller and many others that Seattle was so important neither for the global justice movement nor the climate justice movement. It was rather in the Laconda jungle in Chiapas, in the GMO soya fields and Eucalyptus plantations in Rio Grande do Sul or among the Chipko movement in the Himalayas that both the global justice movement and climate justice movement emerged long before Seattle and still have their most solid basis.

Climate debt a way to commodify nature?

But when the CJA plenary debate and the Reclaim Power Action is so much criticized it is appropriate to bring up some facts and perspectives that seems lacking in the Californian analysis of Copenhagen.

Firstly it is of course useful that criticism is brought forward. The best of this criticism ought to be taken seriously. As far as I understand the criticism concerning making turning nature into investment capital comes from the argument that in the CJA organised debate Klein stated: ² ‘Wait a minute, we are the creditors and you are the debtors, you owe us a huge debt’ creates an equalizing dynamic in the negotiations.” I guess it is the line equalizing dynamics in the negotiations that causes the criticism. The point made if I understand it correctly (English is not my mother tongue) is that it is not only carbon trading and offsetting which is a problem causing marketization of nature but that debt payments in the name of climate justice negotiated through the UNFCC would have the same or similar result.

This is of course a criticism to take into consideration. When Bolivia and others makes these claims it may well be in the self interest to rip off some money from the process and maybe even excepting some kind of marketization of nature if this is the only way to get hold of the money.  This is not so much different from development aid which is also constrained by many factors making it a tool for dominant forces in the world.

Yet the environmental movement has since decades demanded payment of the ecological debt and so are many others doing with Jubilee South and many key movements in the Global Justice movement in the forefront. Are we all idiots? Well partly yes. Politics is always full of risks. But what we say is not the same thing as Naomi Klein is claimed to have said. In the Klimaforum declaration is stated on this issue: ²Reparations and compensation for Climate Debt and crimes: We demand full reparations for southern countries and those impoverished by northern states, TNCs, and tax-haven institutions. By this, we partly address historical injustices associated to inequitable industrialization and climate change, originating in the genocide of indigenous nations, transatlantic slave trade, colonial era, and invasions. This must be accompanied by an equally clear strategy for compensating impoverished people for the climate and broader ecological debt owed by the enriched. A global and democratic fund should be established to give direct support to the victims of climate change.  Developed countries must provide new, mandatory, adequate, and reliable financing as well as patent-free technologies so that developing countries can better adapt to adverse climate impacts and undertake emission reductions.  This would allow developing countries to play their part in curbing climate change, while still meeting the needs and aspirations of their people. International financial institutions, donor agencies, and trade mechanisms should have no part in reparations.² and furthermore: ²A rejection of purely market-oriented and technology-centred false and dangerous solutions such as nuclear energy, agro-fuels, carbon capture and storage, Clean Development Mechanisms, biochar, genetically ³climate-readied² crops, geo-engineering, and reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation (REDD), which deepens social and environmental conflicts.². (the former a quote from the full text, the last quote from the summary).

The Klimaforum has been initiated by the Permaculture Association and 26 other Danish smaller ecological, peasant and fishermen organisations. Together with mainly movements from the South the declaration was finished including an open process the first days of the forum. I cannot see that the criticism against the climate justice movement has much relevance for what the movement actually states collectively. One can of course claim that any kind of argument that claims that the industrialized countries owes a climate debt to the impoverished countries means automatically some kind of financialisation of nature. The authors states that: ²The foreign aid and investment (i.e. development) that will flow into countries of the Global South as a result of climate debt reparations will have the effect of directly  subsidizing those who seek to profit off [..] and monopolize these emerging climate markets.²

It is quite clear that what Western countries wanted with the COP15 was to establish in practice a global investment regime making them able to do in practice what they partly were stopped from by the defeat in the struggle against the multilateral investment agreement which signalled the era of anti-globalization struggle. Why this has not been expressed clearly to my knowledge I do not know. Maybe because the environmental movement and their allies in like minded popular movements strongly have opposed the kind of market mechanisms and technologies in the hands of Western TNCs which would be the practical content of such a revival of large scale private investments in the South.

One can claim that automatically the kind of demands put forward by the Klimaforum declaration will end in ²green capitalist projects² in ²conjunction with aid given under the logic of climate debt and will help to initiate a new round of capitalist development and accumulation, displacing more people in the Global South and leading to detrimental impacts on ecosystems worldwide.² The specific tool that the climate debt argument would enable according to the authors was Clean Development Mechanism which the climate justice movement reject but according to the authors in practice will promote.

But rather than looking upon politics as a game with automatic results it is rather important to estimate the power relationships and what kind of demands might strengthen such classes that can contribute to a sustainable transition. In the combined class struggle and alliance building which is at the core of the climate justice movement the mass criticism against false solutions described as market based and technological as well as constructive solutions as food sovereignty has been at the core of the common platform. This should be seen in combination with the climate debt argument. Together they form a basis which might be possible to make better but is at the moment sufficient for addressing the problems brought up by the Californian comment. If Naomi Klein makes a statement that climate debt is the most central for the climate justice movement as it is useful inside the negotiations it is her standpoint and have very little to do with what the popular movements are struggling for outside or inside.

One could say that the accusation by the Californian authors that the same movements that once brought about the global protests against neoliberalism and debt now suddenly do not know what they are doing is more of falsifying history than making a serious assessment. What one left winger states that is not part of a democratic climate justice movement might be a slip of the tongue or rather something that by the Californian authors is grossly over-emphasized. To claim that the hundreds of movements from all over the world that have signed the Klimaforum declaration or the CJA and CJN platforms are lacking the insights that the West Coast Seattle protesters had ten years ago is not so much a serious attempt at discussion.

Is CJA oppressing the movement?

The second part of the authors argument is also interesting. They claim that CJA have caused ²the pacification of militant action resulting from an alliance forged with transnational NGOs and reformist environmental groups who have been given minimal access to the halls of power in exchange for their successful policing of the movement.² Their empirical evidence is summarised as:

²The concept that those in the streets outside of the summit are supposed to be part of the same political force as the NGOs and governments who have been given a seat at the table of summit negotiations was the main determining factor for the tenor of the actions in Copenhagen. The bureaucratization of the antiglobalization movement (or its remnants), with the increased involvement from NGOs and governments, has been a process that manifested itself in World Social Forums and Make Poverty History rallies.  Yet in Copenhagen, NGOs were much more than a distracting sideshow. They formed a constricting force that blunted militant action and softened radical analysis through paternalism and assumed representation of whole continents.

In Copenhagen, the movement was asked by these newly empowered managers of popular resistance to focus solely on supporting actors within the UN framework, primarily leaders of the Global South and NGOs, against others participating in the summit, mainly countries of the Global North. Nothing summarizes this orientation better than the embarrassingly disempowering Greenpeace slogans “Blah Blah Blah, Act Now!” and “Leaders Act!” ²

The rhetorical trick used by the authors is to conflate CJN popular movements and NGOs with any NGO and the Bolivia, Tuvalu and some other governments with any government. Then to attack CJA and CJN for what Greenpeace does who is not a member of neither of the two networks. On the contrary is CJN and CJA started as a critique and outspoken alternative to the kind of NGO demands claiming leaders have to act restricting oneself to the official agenda. The purpose of the Reclaim power action was to disrupt the official process and by civil disobedience establish a People¹s Assembly to state another agenda demanding system change not climate change. This purpose was also achieved in practice politically although the police were able stop the inside and outside action to reach each other by using violence. We came as close than less 50 meters from each other and the People¹s Assembly than had to be established by the outside action with the support by Bolivia and Venezuela from the tribune inside the negotiations.

Thus instead what the authors claim that all mass actions in Copenhagen was organized by ²newly empowered managers of popular resistance² to ²focus solely on supporting actors within the UN framework² the opposite happened.  The main trust was in building an independent climate justice movement that by civil disobedience will change the world in alliance with a few progressive governments like Bolivia.

The precise formulation which is used to create a modern myth about how some leaders of the movement have stabbed the once radical anti-globalization movement in the back is ²newly empowered managers of popular resistance². By this one cannot mean Greenpeace or Oxfam as they have been existing since many years, it can only mean CJN and CJA. This is why the article in Counterpunch is falsifying history and should be denounced as such.

The reason is simple. CJN is not any popular movements or NGOs, actually it is not even primarily NGOs. The driving force behind establishing CJN are Via Campesina, Indigenous Environmental Network and other popular movement organisations. So why do not the authors name them and blame them? Well it would destroy their image of being radical and supportive of system critical movements and would make their false historical myth impossible. It is true that a few NGOs like Focus on the Global South also are active in CJN. It is also true that system critical mass movements do not have much resources to come in large numbers to Copenhagen. But I counted the flags in the Reclaim Power action and it was totally dominated by Via Campesina. There were also some from Jubilee South and fishermens organisations, some few environmental organisations like Robin Wood, the young Greens from Munich and what I could see one single left wing flag of what I guessed was NPA from France. The mass movements of the South dominated the scene in terms of visible organisation symbols. And so they did as speakers at the People¹s Assembly.

Maybe the left wing in California is unable to make the distinction between NGOs like Focus on the Global South or Oilwatch and other NGOs. I can tell mass movements in the South are not. I belong to the environmental movement who have since the 1980s criticized NGOs strongly and sometimes been somewhat puzzled by the consistent defence of some NGOs by system critical movements in the South. I guess the reason is simple, they live in a real political world and have to make distinctions concerning who their enemy and who their friends are so they do not get fundamentalistically isolated in a corner but when need be uses some NGOs willing to cooperate on system critical terms and serving the mass movements. In my view this is how CJN emerged. The story the Counterpunch authors tries to tell us is a paternalistic piece of left wing movement imperialism. They try to tell the mass movements of the South what to do instead of building their arguments on the actual reason why the alliance between system-critical movements and NGOs have emerged.

The authors are not only lazy and manipulative in their way of presenting CJN, they are also arguing against their own premises. They present themselves as totally against any government or influencing a UN negotiation as if the only thing that matters is the movement outside. But they admit that Bolivia is an exception. They do not do the same with the popular movements and NGOs inside. Actually they do not even acknowledge that there are popular movements inside but falsely claim that there is only NGOs (if we by the word NGO do not mean everything and nothing including system critical popular movements whether inside or outside). Nor do they name any possible exceptions as they did when they gave some approval of Bolivia.

This shows how uneven the authors estimate different actors in society. When it comes to popular movements and NGOs they are to lazy or manipulative to mention any exception to their rule that anyone inside is supporting the system. When it comes to governments they do the opposite. This asymmetric way of giving importance to governmental actors but being less accurate and feel free to misjudge popular movements and NGOs makes it clear what the authors see as most important. They look for celebrities and what main stream media see as important and makes invisible the mass movements. Very many knows about the Bolivian example and thus it is wise to acknowledge this as an exception to get the reader to feel that the authors are balanced and progressive. Very few I guess in the US has any knowledge about Via Campesina so why mention them. It would not be a way to win easy approval and thus lets forget about these 200 million organised peasants all over the world. After all what are these 200 million people worth in relation to one single left wing North American celebrity were it is possible to gain some ideological pin points in the internal US left wing ghetto price awards. As a whole it is to the authors more important to use readers unawareness of the existence of such things as system critical mass movements and NGOs in the CJA-CJN alliance and instead focusing on exceptional governments and celebrities like Naomi Klein. After all why not stick to the already by main stream media given political realities and main actors and get some cheap arguments instead of doing the hard work and start to make the collective system critical actors visible.

But it is not only by conflating system critical popular movements and NGOs with any NGOs that the authors claim CJA and CJN were oppressive and distorted the protests in Copenhagen. They also state that CJA pacified all militant actions and destroyed the diversity of tactics concept so important for anti capitalist mobilisation ten years ago.

This accusation builds on the idea that CJA had monopoly on initiating actions in Copenhagen and did everything to attack others that wanted to to use different tactics. It is true that CJA made a political statement against the dominant political message of the December 12 demonstration and refused to be among the endorsers although they marched in the system change not climate change bloc. But they did inform about more militant actions and as far as I know refused to take part in attacking more militant initiatives. What they did do was to state that the action they organized should use a strict non-violent code of conduct which is not working against the diversity of tactics concept but according to it. Personally I am critical towards the diversity of tactics concept as I am against branding tactics by professional NGOs which I see equivalent to and reinforcing elitist militant action by the few building identity rather than being part of class struggle and mobilizing people in common. But CJA cannot be accused of what the authors wrongly accuse them for.

The way the authors assess the Reclaim Power action makes it clear what they see as most important in judging the result of different tactics: ²In the end, the display of inside/outside unity that the main action on the 16th attempted to manifest was a complete failure and never materialized. The insistence on strict non-violence prevented any successful attempt on the perimeter fence from the outside while on the inside the majority of the NGO representatives who had planned on joining the People¹s Assembly were quickly dissuaded by the threat of arrest. The oppressive insistence by CJA leaders that all energy must be devoted to supporting those on the inside who could successfully influence the outcome of the summit resulted in little to no gains as the talks sputtered into irreconcilable antagonisms and no legally binding agreement at the summit¹s close. An important opportunity to launch a militant movement with the potential to challenge the very foundations of global ecological collapse was successfully undermined leaving many demoralized and confused.²

This assessment is biased in different ways. The claim that the action was a complete failure shows how physically or even militaristic the authors look upon political action. It is a fact that the People´s Assembly was established by the civil disobedience action and got support from the tribune inside the official negotiation by Morales and Chavez both in its political demand for system change not climate change and in its way of protesting shows a political success of the action. But to the authors everything less than a militaristic victory is a complete failure.  Furthermore the authors tries to degrade the action by labelling the inside participants in an incapacitating way. They claim that the inside action was failing because of threats of arrests when in fact it was stopped on a narrow bridge by severe police violence.

There claim about a complete failure for the Reclaim power action has also as a cornerstone the necessary supporting argument that if not the leadership of CJA had betrayed the militant tactic there would have been successful actions in Copenhagen with sufficient numbers of committed activists to storm the Bella center, the harbour or any ²massive effort of companies such as Siemens, Coca-Cola, Toyota and Vattenfall to greenwash their image and the other representations of this market ideology within the city center² to quote their article.

Well who stopped them? Actually a number of actions against the greenwash goals mentioned by the authors were announced. But this is ignored by the authors as they use double standards. Their own preferred kind of tactics, without strict non-violent code of conduct is given a constant approval and the results in reality are simple wiped out of memory while Reclaim power action is declared a complete failure also according to the authors on their own merits. Many militant actions or half militant actions like blocking the harbour or attacking capitalist targets in the city centre were announced.  But they were either stopped far from reaching its goal when almost everyone got arrested or were pushed into the main demonstration on December 12 by an overwhelming police force before even getting started. Here we can talk about complete failure if we should not include that the police used the city centre Never trust the COP action to provoke some smashing of a dozen windows which was the result when the city centre action was forced into the main demonstration and one hour later made an excuse for mass arresting more than 900 people in another bloc.

There is in Denmark a left wing discussion claiming that both the militant and the Reclaim power actions were a failure according to the same militaristic logic as the Californian authors use. The Danish discussion is contrary to the one in Counterpunch fair in assessing all activities in Copenhagen with the same focus on physical rather than political result. But equally unable of making a political judgement based on a combination of physical and political factors. The Californian version starts with the same factual points as the Danish, the mobilisation failed in terms of to little people. But contradictory to the Californian version the Danish include also the more militant tactics and declares all the mass actions as failures.

I do the opposite. Although city centre anticapitalist actions on December 12 was a complete failure both politically and physically the other militant or half militant actions were not. The many actions against business, refugee politics, agriculture politics etc. highlighted the political conflicts almost every day during the summit marginalizing the NGO social media and business sponsoring activities. Concerning the claim that if not only the oppressive CJA leadership had not been there a sufficient number of committed militant activists would have stormed the fences around Bella center and any greenwash capitalist activity in the city centre: it is a cute little omnipotent Californian dream.

The left in the hands of the NGO development industry

One point I do share with the Counterpunch authors is the criticism against focusing solely on North-South relationships. I agree that there is a tendency towards ²the obfuscation of internal class antagonisms within states of the Global South in favor of simplistic North-South dichotomies² but would add that social conflicts everywhere sometimes are avoided.  Contrary to the leftist Californian writers I claim that this is primarily the result of the key left wing actors who betrays the more socially conscious environmental, peasant and indigenous movements and tries to put a main focus on North-South interstate relationships. These left wing actors are also the same that betrays the demonstrators by not joining hands with CJA, CJN and other popular movement actors in a united struggle against the repression. Deeply entrenched  in their competitive parliamentary, non-parliamentary or anti-parliamentary boxes the strongest of them as the Social democratic party and the Socialist People´s party aggressively attacks the demonstrators by identifying with the police definition of violence while others claim they have done enough by sending a press release stating that the police operation was ²disproportionate² if they are the key main demonstration organiser or make their isolated statement a bit stronger if they are not.

Why the left replaces the struggle for social justice by solely addressing the issue of global justice is a matter for the left to discuss internally.  For the rest of us outside this in Copenhagen mainly reactionary left wing force with their internal quarrels and incapacity to react to repression nor address the social issues it will be interesting to enjoy your blaming on others for your own problems.

As an environmentalist believing rather in the rural class struggle than the much advertised struggle of the male urban industrial or big city left wing anti capitalist elite and refusing to split my identity into left wing revolutionary or bourgeoisie reformist it was interesting to see in Copenhagen how the left operates. The sudden left wing opportunistic interest in ecological matters which cuts across some different class aspects than they are used to in a global political reality were the internationally organized trade unions are the reactionary force and the peasants, environmentalists, indigenous, women and pacifist are the progressive with third world leadership in global organizations produces some odd results.

This is not the case when it comes to CJN which is mainly an expression of global mass movements and some allied NGOs questioning marketization and the false solutions that is promoted in the negotiations. Our main focus is not on climate debt reparations the way the Californian authors claim but rather opposing the main technological and market based fixes whether in the North or the South which than by definition has a social critique in every society built into the demands.

The organisations of importance solely focusing on interstate North South relations are left wing organisations. So are also some NGOs like Oxfam and the Make poverty history kind of campaigners that CJN and CJA are in opposition to. But these NGOs have no influence of the climate justice movement other than that the left wing organisations tries to give them.

To many left wing organisations the main tactic has been to mobilise as many people as possible and to focus upon global justice and not climate justice.  The key organisers behind the mass demonstration December 12 are left wing parties with the Socialist Workers Party in Britain and their síster organisations in a central role. To them broadness is everything including excepting top model celebrity speakers which is quoted in the mass media as the sole voice of the 100 000 demonstrators stating reactionary messages. I agree with the need to make ones hands dirty in politics and a mass demonstration has to some degree be a compromise but why these left wing actors do accept top models and do not jointly with all the environmental, CJN, CJA and whatever could be mobilised denounce immediately the betrayers of the demonstration as the Social Democrats that also were selected speakers and organisers of the demonstration while supporting the police excesses against the demonstration, that I cannot understand or accept.

Furthermore the main problem is not using the tactic of doing compromise by organizing a broad demonstration but that the left wing organizations put their almost only effort into interstate North- South issues and betrayed the need for strongly addressing social justice. Thus the key Danish modern and radical left wing organization, the Red Green Alliance chose to solely focus upon levels of emissions and oppose carbon trading. The trotskyists were everywhere and nowhere happy about that they could have one speaker at the main demonstration from SWP, a Vestas worker, while also celebrating their cooperation with the tcktcktck campaigners and avoiding the radical CJA mobilization. The last trotskyist attack on radicalizing the movement came in the final CJN plenary in Copenhagen when Ian Thompson from Global Climate Campaign opposed that there should be any other mass mobilisation than a new huge global day of action 2010 of similar kind as on December 12 2009. Why have a System change not climate change mass manifestation when one can solely repeat the Peoples first Planet first appeal to world leaders once more with a trotskyist worker as a decoration on the NGO lobbyist band wagon.

We ecologists had our own ways of marginalizing the NGO band wagon and as it came out also the formal Northern left wing organisations with their opportunistic tactics. We initiated the Klimaforum with some 50 000 visitors. We refused to give in to the sweat promises of the NGOs to allow them to take over which was the result of hard political battles but also due to the fact that NGOs becomes more and more marginal in politics as they are more interested in being inside negotiations than being with the people, they are with other words today new governmental organisations and not at all non-governmental organisations. We also refused the sweat left wing marriage with NGOs with their social forum open space concept to promote political consumerism and opted instead for a declaration process to unite the climate justice movement. A joint declaration was adopted by the whole Klimaforum as a common political challenge against official agenda negotiated at COP15. That was an easy battle to win as we environmentalists as well as movements like Via campesina always have been sceptical about the social forum process with its left wing and trade union bias lacking ecological awareness and above all market way of organizing a forum demobilizing people in the end if not conscious attempts are made as in the US to oppose the negative aspects of the social forum formula. In Denmark none believes in the social forum concept anymore so the politically more radical ecologists could easily convince the whole Klimaforum initiators to make a political declaration process.

The result has of course quite a few weaknesses. There were severe lack of resources for translation favouring the English speaking as so common. In general the Klimaforum had about one tenth of the personal staff compared to when the NGOs organised the main alternative summit at the UN conference on social development in Copenhagen 1995.

But when it comes to social justice and the need for class struggle there were no problems at all to have such content included. As a non leftist environmentalists I was a bit amazed about that it lacked in the first draft but made a proposal and none rejected it, on the contrary. Of course as it is a climate justice statement the relevant class struggle are different from when the formal left wing formulates the issue, thus it states about the sustainable transition: ² it will need stronger alliances within and across all borders between direct producers in agriculture, forestry, fisheries, and industry.² It would have been good to address class issues more and I am sure that it would have been added if others also had contributed. As such there were no blocking of class issues or social justice questions in the declaration process whatsoever. It is the left wing organisations that chose to make interstate North-South relation their main message in Copenhagen and maybe a left wing individual in a CJA plenary debate, not the climate justice movement.

Why the environmental and peasant movement can get so little support from left wing organisations when it comes to addressing class and social justice issues is a bit astonishing. The reason why the left wing is so reactionary can be seen in its old fashioned class definition. Already Karl Marx talked about the countryside as unworthy of becoming important in political struggle. That it is rather the rural classes than the urban male industrial that are in the forefront of today’s struggles seams  to make the left wing perplex. Instead they stick to old fashioned ideas about more equal relationships between nations in the hope for some role for the established left in managing the power balance between the working class and other social actors in the national state. While loosing the actual social struggle at home out of sight they want to represent the masses in the South, the victims. They adjust more and more to a NGO identity managed by the mass media.

We environmental movement activists have a different view. We believe in the necessity of changing our own societies as the primary solidarity action.  The struggle to change production and consumption patterns in the North is the key to a sustainable transition, not to try to become a state-centric actor focusing on helping the victims in the South or identifying oneself with the oppressed people in other parts of the world while escaping for taking responsibility for changing the society you live in.

You may have environmental NGOs with other messages, but that is in odd not so important parts of the world when it comes for changing transnational movement cooperation as the US. In Sweden we have been defeating your US kind of environmentalism since it first tried to influence the world at the UN Conference on Human Environment in Stockholm 1972 with fascist and capitalist ideas about forced sterilization of people in the third world and making the environmental issue an individual moral issue. We defeated this dominant Anglo American ideology already then with the help of Womens International League for Peace and Freedom and many other popular movements joining our efforts with activists from the third world who could come in the last minute when we put pressure on the government to fund their participation. Your odd US kind of necessity to establish a specific environmental justice movement never have been necessary here or in many other countries were social justice is self evident for the environmental movement. Today the kind of extremist Anglo-American environmental NGOs are more marginalised in practice although they live their zombie life in the mass media sphere. They are marginalized thanks to a large degree for the long term organizing of global democratic popular movements as Via Campesina and Friends of the Earth International and recently especially CJN!

Why all system critical left wing parties or organizations in Denmark refused to support the Reclaim Power action to not talk about Never trust the COP I do not know. But it is a fact that when there was a historic opportunity for the left to contribute to the emergence of an independent climate justice movement built on both social and global justice awareness the formal Danish left with one last minute exception in the small radical Danish Attac refused to participate. And Danish left refused certainly on grounds totally opposite to those put forward in the Counterpunch article.  The  formal Danish left-wing even refused to make any serious attempts in helping us counteract repression.

Contrary to what the Californian authors believe the future lies not in movements defining themselves as strictly left wing. On the contrary left wing organisations in Denmark showed themselves to be the most reactionary among the possible allies of a climate justice movement. The future lies in movements cooperating in alliances as CJN and CJA whether identifying themselves as left wing or not. It is here the force to confront the refusal of bringing up social justice and class struggle issues by left wing and NGOs organisations exists. It is also no coincidence that the only effort to confront the political parties including the left wing in their lack of counter acting against repression was taken by Friends of the Earth Sweden, Attac Denmark and Climate Movement Denmark at the Klimaforum on December 15 together with representatives of mass movements from all Southern continents. It was on short notice and only Red Green Alliance turned up but also the social liberal party was interested, actually the parliamentary party that consistently been criticizing the new anti democratic laws and the policing of the demonstrators in opposition to the Social democrats and the Socialist Peoples Party as well as the government and the right wing extremist Danish Peoples party.

Why we not anymore could trust the left wing to make collective initiatives in Copenhagen to bring up social justice issues in climate struggles or act against repression is historically interesting. Such initiatives rather came from us defining ourselves as not belonging to a left that sees the main conflict in society defined by the conflict between capital and the working class. We who maybe only think that there are other values than economic efficiency and that nature cannot be reduced to a goal for short term profit. Or we who claim that there are other conflicts as well, other classes to see as important or not only capitalism but also patriarchy or ideological paternalism of the left wing kind as a problem. In times of changes main conflicts can occur not only between capitalism and the working class but also between those with organizational resources in trade unions and NGOs or left wing organisations using their intellectual capacity to create unnecessary splits between reformists and revolutionaries dividing movements according to their ideological wims rather than serious building of solidarity.

Conclusion: Yankies Go Home!

The conclusion of this criticism of the article in Counterpunch is simple:

Yankies Go Home! We do not need your internal quarrels and lack of interest for collective processes. We do not need left wing movement imperialism going to other countries as if the political culture in the country you go to do not exist. We do not need paternalistic claims that the serious worries by third world movement activists for being deported and not allowed back to EU is to be ignored. We do not need double standard assessment of different tactics to strengten attempts at causing ideological splits. Come back when you have done your home work by building some kind of class struggle movements that are defined not primarily by their reformist or revolutionary ideological quality but their capacity to mobilize people and being part of global democratic movements. Come back when you are willing to learn about other political realities than the Anglo-American. The days when Anglo-American political culture could dominate the world by the establishment of the sustainable development NGO system are over and so are those political forces that sees this reactionary American political NGO model as the main enemy also were it do not exist. This American form of NGO management was defeated in Copenhagen by a combination of mass activities with the alliance between CJA and CJN at the core of it. The world will not be the same and the US is from now on placed among system critical movement were it belongs, as one among many political cultures. There are still those in the left wing elite that looks upon Anglo American left wing celebrities as the utmost of global intellectual thinkers. Those in CJA the selected the panel for the plenary at Christiania December 14 obviously did. The rest of us in the non-leftist climate justice movement do not. Your time is out.  Please come back when you are willing to work in solidarity with the rest of us.

Tord Björk

E-mail: tord.bjork@mjv.se


~ by Cory Morningstar on January 9, 2010.

2 Responses to “Yankies Go Home! An answer to Tim Simons and Ali Tonak”

  1. I’m not sure what is, precisely, the critique being expressed. I found this sentence interesting: “The rest of us in the non-leftist climate justice movement …” Is there such a thing?

    I guess, at the end of it all, what we have here is a European cultural imperialist berating North American cultural imperialists. Meanwhile, Evo Morales leads the way independent of either.

  2. Today I have just published a related article that critiques the United Nations role in promoting corporate environmentalism, see

    Taking Strong Action for Capitalist-Led Environmental Destruction, Swans Commentary, January 11, 2010. (Critique of the United Nations, the Stockholm Conference, and the Earth Summit.)


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