Skip to content or view mobile version

Home | Mobile | Editorial | Mission | Privacy | About | Contact | Help | Security | Support

A network of individuals, independent and alternative media activists and organisations, offering grassroots, non-corporate, non-commercial coverage of important social and political issues.

Interview with Dave Douglass about the Climate Camp

Dave | 31.10.2008 12:56 | Climate Camp 2008 | Analysis | Workers' Movements

This is an interview with anarchist and labour movement activist Dave Douglass published in the latest Shift. It's a good introduction to the debates that will be had at this weekend's Labour Movement Conference in Newcastle:

Labour Movement Conference: Class, Climate Change and Clean Coal: the Climate Campers and The unions
1st November 2008 11-30 - 5-30
The Upstairs Lounge, The Bridge Hotel, Castle Garth, Newcastle Upon Tyne
more info at

Interview with Dave Douglass

At the camp you joked about the police presence being nothing compared to your previous experiences. How did you find the Climate Camp this summer?

Well I’ve been up against the law since the age of 14, arrested for hitting the prime minister with a tomato and assaulting the police at 15, through to Holy Loch and Aldermaston’s right up to the late 60s. Grosvenor Square, London. Dam Square Amsterdam, Belfast, and pickets in the 72 / 74 miners strike. Mass confrontations in 84/5 Orgreave, hit squads and petrol bombs, the cops weren’t a surprise at all, but I was just making a joke I wasn’t trying to ‘pull rank’ or see who had the raggiest arse.

Before the camp you wrote an open letter to the Climate Camp, why did you choose to do that?

I was incensed. Because it seems to me, the miners throughout history have had nothing but betrayal and being stabbed in the back. ‘The Green Movement’ we had foolishly thought was our ally. An ally who could see that we stood against nuclear power, civil and military, were against opencast mining, and were for practical renewables.

We thought they understood the politics of energy and why it was the miners had been almost wiped off the face of the earth (in Britain) in class war. We had set up an alliance Energy 2000 way back in the mid 80s with Greenpeace and environmental groups (by ‘we’ I mean the NUM) to campaign for Clean Coal Technology, and an end to Nuclear power, for solar, tidal, and geo-thermal and phasing in practical world applicable programmes like solar power farms in the worlds deserts to supply the world with ever lasting power, free and clean, with clean coal buying us the time. Then just when we are on our last chance for survival, just when we are trying to knock back the major nuclear construction programme in favour of clean coal and carbon capture, the Climate Camp marches in and attacks Drax.

The shrill middle class instruction that there was no place for coal in Britain energy supply, came as a slap down, and a warning to keep our place and be quiet. Our betters knew better than us, and coal had to go, it had been decided. Well it drew a furious response from me. I am not, by the way saying the Climate Camp is entirely middle class, nor am I saying that a largely middle class milieu invalidates their argument just because of that. I am saying that that particular bright young middle class thing, appearing on the TV news that night, and telling us what was good for us, did produce class anger, and it reinforced a class divide of perception.

I have been associated with protest organisations since I was 14, many of them heavily composed of middle class people and full of muddled middle class shite ideas, but the cause, the anti bomb movement for example, the anti nuclear movement demanded that the working class add its own colours to those movements and debates. This was another reason for responding to Climate Camp instead of bricking them.

In your letter and at the camp you made the case for the continuation of the coal industry. Does this not put you on the same side as the government, the police and the E.ON bosses?

Well the cops didn’t seem to think so when we got nose to nose on the gate on Wednesday afternoon. But let me ask the same question, on the day the Camp opened, Brown made a statement saying he too was concerned about coal and CO2 and this was why they were investing in Nuclear Power. The stink against coal is fuelling a revision of ideas among so called socialists and environmentalists, who now are panicked into believing nuclear provides the only answer. The fact is the choice for base load generation, is either coal or nuclear, the camp keeps bashing coal, which is promoting nuclear.

This just so happens to the Government’s policy and has been since the Ridley Committee drew up plans in the late 70s to take out the miners as a social threat to the system. The camp is acting on the side of the state and government. We fought the cops, whole communities of working class people fought the cops and some think the army too, to stop pit closures, against state and government plans to wipe us out. Now the Climate Camp shouts Leave It In The Ground, and defacto Shut The Pits. The cops helped shut the pits, the government closed the pits and coal power stations, this is the same demand as the Climate Camp now advances. So you answer the question whose side are you on?

By the way, when mass protest movements stand against the big power generators investing in land based wind turbines and political arm-twisting, patronage and sheer bribery is applied to force Wind Turbine estates into rural lands, where do the Climate Camp stand? Not on the side of the protesters, not against the environment being utterly despoiled by industrial turbine estates, but on the same side as the capitalist power generators N Power and the others, getting £300,000 per turbine per year whether it turns a blade or produces a watt of power. So which side and whose side? Fact is the government is anti coal, anti coal communities, and those who support that side support the government and state, touché.

Many who attended the Climate Camp, yourself included, are not just concerned with climate change but with radical social change. If this is our goal does there not need to be a fundamental change in industrial infrastructure, the nature of work and the role of trade unions?

Whey aye, why do you think we want a working class revolution? We want minimal amounts of work, an end to the wage slavery of capitalism, an end to useless duplication of production and waste. We want real fundamental needs met, like water, housing, clothing, education, food, and freedom not invented needs, which we don’t need. But we believe only the organised working class, organised and conscious of its own existence and role in changing society and smashing the old order can deliver this change. For that, we need progressive unions like the NUM, visionary working class communities like the pits, docks, factories etc. That’s why we defend their existence and the ruling class will at every turn try to wipe us out, close us down, disperse us, or divide us. That’s why they closed the pits here only to import 70 million tonnes of coal from countries where the union doesn’t exist and miners toil in conditions we fought our way out of over a hundred years ago.

It’s not just about work, its not and never has been just about jobs, it’s about the right and ability to intervene into life and challenge the system, and bring about a new social system.

We thought that the decision to invite NUM members to the camp was definitely a step in the right direction. Where do you see divergences between your own goals and those of the Climate Camp?

Well we’ve organised a Labour Movement Conference on Class, Climate Change and Clean Coal in Newcastle upon Tyne on Nov 1st, with myself and Arthur Scargill and others speaking at it. We invite the Climate Camp spokespersons to come and debate these issues with us. (Venue to be finalised) The Climate Camp is a thoroughly undemocratic movement, which is led by some strange impulsion, which seems not to debate targets, or strategy or goals or class before it arrives at a new enemy. It takes for granted, coal for example is the enemy. It is deeply offended to be offered a different vision. I was asked about ten times as I gave out our bulletin if I had had permission to give these out in the field. Seriously. I will not tell you how I responded.

The Climate Camp needs to engage itself, and it needs to engage and understand the working class movement. It needs to accept that the working class movement, the union movement and the socialist / anarchist movement have a vision too, and we don’t necessarily agree. They need to engage us more and confront us less. They need to intercept the demands and goals of the workers movement with questions and ideas on how they relate to the environment and climate change for example.

I say again I am not saying there are no trade unionists and working class people engaged in the camp, there clearly are, but the camp overall is not represented by that small tendency, and will frequently confront their own class positions and they will find themselves in contradictory positions. It must also be said that elements of ‘the left’ have jumped on this environmental bandwagon and is free loading. It hopes to seem relevant to a powerful movement because it despairs of the working class. Abandons traditional working class areas and unions to seek new shiny platforms on which to lead and appear relevant.

The Climate Camp aimed to build a movement against the causes of climate change. Can you see an emerging no borders movement?

On the one hand yes, the number of active No Border groups in the UK has certainly grown since the camp and there are projects and actions going on, which link these groups into a network. There are big questions which we will be discussing at an up-coming national gathering, about how any No Borders network could be strengthened and made more effective. As well as challenging the construction of new immigration prisons and deportations to possible death and torture, a No Borders movement would have to build widespread agreement that such things are morally unacceptable. Each case that is highlighted by anti-deportation campaigns, every action against a forced removal is part of building towards that point. There may well be a growing movement against the companies that carry out deportation flights for example or the detention estate, run by private companies for profit. Educating ourselves about the immigration system, the harsh reality of ‘illegal’ economic migrants, challenging racist officials and laws and acting in solidarity with all the struggles against these things I see as part of an emerging No Borders movement.

Given the need for some kind of response to climate change, could you see trade unions such as the NUM ever having a productive working relationship with 'radical' greens such as the Climate Camp? Is a red-green politics possible?

As I say we started this way back first with CND, and Trade Union CND, and then with Energy 2000, With The Anti Nuclear Campaign, in the 90s in joint campaigns against open cast mining which was being undertaken at the expense of the deep-mined industry. But with a collective perspective on clean coal, and practical renewables, (solar can be made practical on a world scale, geo thermal on a limited scale and tidal too –but land based wind turbines are classic ‘green wash’ and a cheap trick which is decimating huge tracts of unspoiled countryside and wilderness.) We can and must co-operate. Hopefully lots of people will come to our November conference and we can debate it further.

- Homepage:


Hide the following 5 comments


31.10.2008 13:03

admins - coudl you remove the last two answers/questions. seems to be added by mistake...


Good points made

31.10.2008 13:13

There are some good points made in the interview above - I just hope that people understand them. If I was able to be there on !st Nov, I would be. Best wishes to all involved.


Good interview

01.11.2008 00:39

I don't agree with Dave about "clean coal". It's a greenwash chimera.

I do agree with him about wind farms. The fundamental problem about them, though, is the same as the problem with the solution he envisages. It's based on a centralised industrial model of power production and the national grid, which is both socially and technically a clapped-out idea as much as it's a clapped-out assembly of plant. When you start trying to plug over-scaled renewable generation into that system it's immensely wasteful through transmission losses, just not appropriate use of the technology, and another load of corporate greenwash. We need it local, we need it small, and we need to face the fact there's no sensible way to use wind or solar power without a storage system. Currently that usually means batteries and 12v. This is where we need ingenuity and development. Geo-thermal is always going to be localised anyway and hydro should be too.

NO NEW COAL is a fucking stupid slogan emanating from the "bright young middle class things" Dave mentions. They just haven't thought it through. Here's some things which can't be made without coal:

Wind gennies
Solar panels

You want to make these from recycled materials? Good! That'll be another load of coal, then. A bike isn't as big a heap of coal as a car, but still quite a large one.

Oh, and you can't have an injection or a drip without coal, and when the cops whack you over the head with a baton it can't be stitched up without coal either.

Then there's plastics. Made from oil, shipped round the globe, but can also be made from the coal that's right here. Most of what's made from plastics is crap we don't need. Some is for disposability when things should be made durable. But there are some things for which plastics are the best or only material. Take your small household or community wind gennie, for example.
Will that be plastic rotors or aluminium, sir? Aluminium, I see. Know anything about bauxite mining? Been on the front line in Iceland in the last few summers? Plastic it is then. Local coal or Saudi oil, madam?

So there IS a future for extracting coal! Not by open-casting, and in the safest possible conditions
by people well paid for a hard job, obviously.

What there's NO future in is burning the stuff for wasteful, centralised power generation. Far too precious for that!

I do agree with most of what Dave says about Climate Camp (whatever happened to the Camp for Climate Action?) and the alienating class-based attitudes it puts out. Not just puts out, but builds in, too. Here's a snippet from one of the Climate Camp lists:

"The emerging class divide of plentiful clerical/admin/networking people and scarce hands-dirty volunteers is fundamentally dishonest to our anarchist principles about the division of labour, and will be the main point in our gathering-wide feedback tomorrow."

I looked at the minutes of that gathering-wide feedback and there was no mention of it. I'm sure the point was made, but not an important enough "main point" to be noted, obviously. Too many important "networking", "facilitation" and media issues to discuss and too many reams of naff, incomprehensible, clever-clever, student-oriented, publicity to churn out at vast expense. Anyway, these people are always moaning, aren't they?

I do wish the Newcastle conference well and hope some new directions and alliances come out of it. Just sorry I can't be there.


It's not only coal miners who've been left out...

02.11.2008 02:25

there's also car manufacturers and garage workers (electric cars will be dreadful for them requiring so little servicing), oil industry workers, airport workers and aircrew, loggers, dairy farm workers, chemical industry workers, dockers, sailors, incinerator crews... We're just gonna have to devise the technology to ensure they can all stay in the same jobs, guys!

Come to think of it, what about all the working people who mine uranium ore, or drive trains or ships with ores or waste, or the forklifts around nuclear power stations Dave???


and when the sea water pours down your mineshafts

04.11.2008 02:09

you will still be whining that mining jobs are more important than climate change. you really are so stuck in the past and making the most ignorant claims like "the environment being utterly despoiled by industrial turbine estates" presumably these are far more destructive than mass extinction of species as global temperatures soar from more and more coal burning? coal mining belongs in the dark ages. i doubt you would even get today's school leavers to work underground so we would be flying in a load of exploited foreign workers. this is union mentality at its worst. utterly fixated with preserving the old at all costs, you just cannot imagine the idea of retraining for other more socially and environmentally acceptable jobs now that the whole world has changed.

further bad science added by stroppyoldgit who states that the national grid is clapped out and "it's immensely wasteful through transmission losses". oh really? well if that is so, why was it ever made that way in the first place? precisely because it is efficient, do you really think the profit obsessed capitalists who designed and built it would have done so if that was not the case? look up high voltage transmission on wikipedia so you know what you are writing about. or maybe you got your information from one of the workshops at climate camp where an ill informed speaker boldly stated that transmission losses between didcot and london were 66%. more likely 6.6% but scientific illiterates love to grasp hold of wild inaccuracies if it suits their political and philosophical beliefs. microgeneration is complete nonsense in urban areas and wind gens there are unlikely to reclaim the energy of their manufacture because high buildings cause so much turbulence that wind generator outputs are way below what can be achieved in a remote and elevated position. not only that but when the wind is calm in one area of the country, the national grid can bring in energy from other nearly always windy regions like the coast. 12 volt battery systems may suit crusties living in benders lit with candles but try telling the ordinary public that they have to endure darkness in calm local conditions and they would queue up to connect your balls to 400,000V. and furthermore you do not have to use coal to make steel, it is just presently cheaper to do so. best quality steels come from electric furnaces. solar panels don't need any coal, nor do wind gens nor do bikes nor do medicines. it may be possible to make plastics from coal but just like the old and very polluting oil from coal process, it would consume far more energy than starting from oil. plastics manufacture uses far less oil than transport and power. please stop spreading all this bad science as all the others who are as similarly ignorant as you will believe it too so it becomes very dangerous.


Upcoming Coverage
View and post events
Upcoming Events UK
24th October, London: 2015 London Anarchist Bookfair
2nd - 8th November: Wrexham, Wales, UK & Everywhere: Week of Action Against the North Wales Prison & the Prison Industrial Complex. Cymraeg: Wythnos o Weithredu yn Erbyn Carchar Gogledd Cymru

Ongoing UK
Every Tuesday 6pm-8pm, Yorkshire: Demo/vigil at NSA/NRO Menwith Hill US Spy Base More info: CAAB.

Every Tuesday, UK & worldwide: Counter Terror Tuesdays. Call the US Embassy nearest to you to protest Obama's Terror Tuesdays. More info here

Every day, London: Vigil for Julian Assange outside Ecuadorian Embassy

Parliament Sq Protest: see topic page
Ongoing Global
Rossport, Ireland: see topic page
Israel-Palestine: Israel Indymedia | Palestine Indymedia
Oaxaca: Chiapas Indymedia
All Regions
South Coast
Other Local IMCs
Bristol/South West
Social Media
You can follow @ukindymedia on and Twitter. We are working on a Twitter policy. We do not use Facebook, and advise you not to either.
Support Us
We need help paying the bills for hosting this site, please consider supporting us financially.
Other Media Projects
Dissident Island Radio
Corporate Watch
Media Lens
Earth First! Action Update
Earth First! Action Reports
All Topics
Animal Liberation
Climate Chaos
Energy Crisis
Free Spaces
Ocean Defence
Other Press
Public sector cuts
Social Struggles
Terror War
Workers' Movements
Major Reports
NATO 2014
G8 2013
2011 Census Resistance
Occupy Everywhere
August Riots
Dale Farm
J30 Strike
Flotilla to Gaza
Mayday 2010
Tar Sands
G20 London Summit
University Occupations for Gaza
Indymedia Server Seizure
COP15 Climate Summit 2009
Carmel Agrexco
G8 Japan 2008
Stop Sequani
Stop RWB
Climate Camp 2008
Oaxaca Uprising
Rossport Solidarity
Smash EDO
Past Major Reports
Encrypted Page
You are viewing this page using an encrypted connection. If you bookmark this page or send its address in an email you might want to use the un-encrypted address of this page.
If you recieved a warning about an untrusted root certificate please install the CAcert root certificate, for more information see the security page.

Global IMC Network

satellite tv


estrecho / madiaq
la plana
northern england
nottingham imc
united kingdom

Latin America
chile sur
cmi brasil
cmi sucre
puerto rico


South Asia

United States
hudson mohawk
kansas city
minneapolis/st. paul
new hampshire
new jersey
new mexico
new orleans
north carolina
north texas
rogue valley
saint louis
san diego
san francisco
san francisco bay area
santa barbara
santa cruz, ca
tampa bay
united states
western mass

West Asia


fbi/legal updates
mailing lists
process & imc docs