Get Red Pepper's email newsletter. Enter your email address to receive our latest articles, updates and news.

×

To camp or not to camp?

Maya Stacey on Reclaim the Power, the climate movement and the ongoing struggle for diversity

December 1, 2014
4 min read

Exciting things have happened since Reclaim the Power (RTP) packed up its canvas in Blackpool earlier this year. Hundreds of thousands have marched for climate justice worldwide. Large-scale direct actions such as Greenpeace’s Cottam coal train occupation have drawn in new cohorts of activists. Universities, cities and even the Rockefeller oil billionaires have pulled out of fossil fuel investments. With the COP21 climate conference in Paris only a year away, and climate scientists stressing the urgent need for immediate action, it is more important than ever for the grassroots climate movement to mobilise widespread support.

So what does RTP’s revival of the mass-action ‘climate camp’ this summer have to offer in this context? The camp was successful in a number of ways. The location, Blackpool, was chosen in response to a call from local communities resisting fracking and the camp was set up alongside a group of ‘mums and grandmas’ who had already squatted the field. For six days, hundreds of people came together to take action for economic, environmental and social justice. Workshop topics ranged from ‘Workfare: know your rights’ to ’Building the culture of resistance’. On top of this there was skill sharing, training, networking and mobilising.

On the day of direct action, 13 co‑ordinated actions took place nationwide, including blockades, lock-ons and die-ins. No one was arrested, there was widespread media coverage and a clear message was sent to the fracking industry: extreme energy and fossil fuel extraction will be resisted. Most importantly, hundreds of people got a sense of their collective power to challenge corporate control.

The return of the camp model, then, was largely positive. It marks a significant change from 2011, when Climate Camp disbanded for a number of reasons. Many then felt disheartened by the lack of meaningful political action at the 2009 Copenhagen climate summit, and some suffered burnout. Others felt that the movement needed to broaden and shift focus following the financial collapse, the election of the coalition government and austerity. For many years, moreover, some in the movement have pointed to its overwhelmingly white, middle-class majority as a barrier to representing the diverse groups most affected by issues of social, economic and climate injustice.

The UK grassroots climate movement has since made important steps towards confronting these issues. Class and economic justice perspectives have been incorporated with the formation of new groups such as UK Uncut and Fuel Poverty Action. Sarah Shoraka, who has been involved in the movement for many years, says: ‘The climate movement needed to engage on issues of economic justice such as fuel poverty to be relevant. This has created a new intersectionality in the movement. It feels like RTP has a greater commitment to working in solidarity with local communities.’

This was evident in Blackpool, where local women took the lead and campers followed. Long-term community organising, supported by groups such as Frack Off, has built links between affected residents and activists with direct action experience. The result is a strong alliance, in which the distinction between so-called ‘nimbys’ and ‘professional protesters’ is increasingly difficult for the right-wing media to draw. In the camp’s closing plenary session, it was decided that, in order to engage with local communities not usually involved in such campaigns, the network should work at a more regional level.

The network also made efforts to make sure this year’s camp was accessible. Cheap transport was provided, donations for costs were optional, there was disabled access, and funds were available to participants needing to recoup their expenses. Nevertheless, the fact remains that most people would be unlikely to take time off to come to a protest camp. As Nick Bryer, another long-standing participant, points out, ’The potential for confrontation with the police, and the likelihood of being filmed, searched, etc. is likely to make attendance a more intimidating prospect for people from communities who suffer police harassment on a regular basis.’

Mass-action camps may always fall short of being fully representative, but they are an effective method for mobilisation, co-ordinating direct action and empowering groups and individuals. Localising is an important step forward, as is continuing to build solidarity with affected communities. Equally important is the use of diverse tactics. Camps consume huge amounts of energy and resources, some of which needs to be retained for other events and strategies.

Whether or not RTP decides to organise a camp in 2015, the network must continue looking outwards in the battle to achieve social, economic and environmental justice, and to challenge itself to be more representative. It is in solidarity with other tactics, movements and communities that the climate movement will be at its strongest.

Red Pepper is an independent, non-profit magazine that puts left politics and culture at the heart of its stories. We think publications should embrace the values of a movement that is unafraid to take a stand, radical yet not dogmatic, and focus on amplifying the voices of the people and activists that make up our movement. If you think so too, please support Red Pepper in continuing our work by becoming a subscriber today.
Why not try our new pay as you feel subscription? You decide how much to pay.

#MeToo is necessary – but I’m sick of having to prove my humanity
Women are expected to reveal personal trauma to be taken seriously, writes Eleanor Penny

Universal credit isn’t about saving money – it’s about disciplining unemployed people
The scheme has cost a fortune and done nothing but cause suffering. So why does it exist at all? Tom Walker digs into universal credit’s origins in Tory ideology

Meet the digital feminists
We're building new online tools to create a new feminist community and tackle sexism wherever we find it, writes Franziska Grobke

The Marikana women’s fight for justice, five years on
Marienna Pope-Weidemann meets Sikhala Sonke, a grassroots social justice group led by the women of Marikana

Forget ‘Columbus Day’ – this is the Day of Indigenous Resistance
By Leyli Horna, Marcela Terán and Sebastián Ordonez for Wretched of the Earth

Uber and the corporate capture of e-petitions
Steve Andrews looks at a profit-making petition platform's questionable relationship with the cab company

You might be a centrist if…
What does 'centrist' mean? Tom Walker identifies the key markers to help you spot centrism in the wild

Black Journalism Fund Open Editorial Meeting in Leeds
Friday 13th October, 5pm to 7pm, meeting inside the Laidlaw Library, Leeds University

This leadership contest can transform Scottish Labour
Martyn Cook argues that with a new left-wing leader the Scottish Labour Party can make a comeback

Review: No Is Not Enough
Samir Dathi reviews No Is Not Enough: Defeating the New Shock Politics, by Naomi Klein

Building Corbyn’s Labour from the ground up: How ‘the left’ won in Hackney South
Heather Mendick has gone from phone-banker at Corbyn for Leader to Hackney Momentum organiser to secretary of her local party. Here, she shares her top tips on transforming Labour from the bottom up

Five things to know about the independence movement in Catalonia
James O'Nions looks at the underlying dynamics of the Catalan independence movement

‘This building will be a library!’ From referendum to general strike in Catalonia
Ignasi Bernat and David Whyte report from the Catalan general strike, as the movements prepare to build a new republic

Chlorine chickens are just the start: Liam Fox’s Brexit trade free-for-all
A hard-right free marketer is now in charge of our trade policy. We urgently need to develop an alternative vision, writes Nick Dearden

There is no ‘cult of Corbyn’ – this is a movement preparing for power
The pundits still don’t understand that Labour’s new energy is about ‘we’ not ‘me’, writes Hilary Wainwright

Debt relief for the hurricane-hit islands is the least we should do
As the devastation from recent hurricanes in the Caribbean becomes clearer, the calls for debt relief for affected countries grow stronger, writes Tim Jones

‘Your credit score is not sufficient to enter this location’: the risks of the ‘smart city’
Jathan Sadowski explains techno-political trends of exclusion and enforcement in our cities, and how to overcome this new type of digital oppression

Why I’m standing with pregnant women and resisting NHS passport checks
Dr Joanna Dobbin says the government is making migrant women afraid to seek healthcare, increasing their chances of complications or even death

‘Committees in Defence of the Referendum’: update from Catalonia
Ignasi Bernat and David Whyte on developments as the Catalan people resist the Spanish state's crackdown on their independence referendum

The rights and safety of LGBTQ+ people are not guaranteed – we must continue to fight for them
Kennedy Walker looks at the growth in hate attacks at a time when the Tory government is being propped up by homophobes

Naomi Klein: the Corbyn movement is part of a global phenomenon
What radical writer Naomi Klein said in her guest speech to Labour Party conference

Waiting for the future to begin: refugees’ everyday lives in Greece
Solidarity volunteer Karolina Partyga on what she has learned from refugees in Thessaloniki

Don’t let Uber take you for a ride
Uber is no friend of passengers or workers, writes Lewis Norton – the firm has put riders at risk and exploited its drivers

Acid Corbynism’s next steps: building a socialist dance culture
Matt Phull and Will Stronge share more thoughts about the postcapitalist potential of the Acid Corbynist project

Flooding the cradle of civilisation: A 12,000 year old town in Kurdistan battles for survival
It’s one of the oldest continually inhabited places on earth, but a new dam has put Hasankeyf under threat, write Eliza Egret and Tom Anderson

New model activism: Putting Labour in office and the people in power
Hilary Wainwright examines how the ‘new politics’ needs to be about both winning electoral power and building transformative power

What is ‘free movement plus’?
A new report proposes an approach that can push back against the tide of anti-immigrant sentiment. Luke Cooper explains

The World Transformed: Red Pepper’s pick of the festival
Red Pepper is proud to be part of organising The World Transformed, in Brighton from 23-26 September. Here are our highlights from the programme

Working class theatre: Save Our Steel takes the stage
A new play inspired by Port Talbot’s ‘Save Our Steel’ campaign asks questions about the working class leaders of today. Adam Johannes talks to co-director Rhiannon White about the project, the people and the politics behind it

The dawn of commons politics
As supporters of the new 'commons politics' win office in a variety of European cities, Stacco Troncoso and Ann Marie Utratel chart where this movement came from – and where it may be going