i, along with others, am embarrassed to be associated with the stunt-lobbying-at-it's-worst, lame-shit-that-doesn't-really-engage-anyone-or-confront-anything that some elements - often those who speak and act "on behalf of climate camp" - for example the 'Rambling Raffle of Resistance".
And i went to this year's camp with a degree of reluctance and an expectation that it had indeed been 100% taken over by posh middleclass student types whose "rebellion" is a reaction to being told by mummy to tidy their rooms - because that is overwhelmingly the impression an observer might get from the CCA website, much of the media coverage, and the CCA media strategy which seems to be to play on the good (MC, peaceful) protestor / bad (WC, violent) protestor and persuade the public that the CCA falls into the former category.
I went to the camp to find out if this was true, and i am very pleased to report that this is not the impression that i had.
Don't get me wrong, the middle class student element does form a disproportionate amount of the numbers at the camp, and is probably the most visible (more visible than the actual numbers) due to their dominating nature / eloquence and confidence in speaking in front of large groups. But that is certainly NOT THE ALL OF IT, and i suggest that any activists writing off the camp as an afluentstudent-liberal-lovein should GO and find out for themselves that there is so much more to it than that.
For example, on the Saturday afternoon there was an extremely well attended (250+ people) discussion / workshop on "green authoritarianism" and anarchy, led by (what seemed to me) the fairly disillusioned Sh!ft magazine collective. The discussion focused on whether the camp was indeed tending to reformism and losing the revolutionary anarchist politics of its originators.
Granted, once the discussion was open to the floor, there were many ('bout 50% of the total) comments from people coming from a liberal perspective, who literally had no idea what could possibly be wrong with using lobbying for political change as a tactic; the example posed by the sh!ft 'panel' was whether the CCA should do as Plane Stupid do and stunt-lobby for the implementation of policies such as higher taxes on air travel, and there were many baffled-looking expressions in the crowd on the faces of those who had never considered that this might be a self-defeating tactic for a movement that aims to destroy capitalism, hierarchy and the state.
Simultaneously, the other half of the comments were from those of a more anarchist background, who found it amazing that anyone at the camp might be unaware of the contradiction of a radical anti-state movement lobbying for the state to implement change.
And the conclusion of the discussion? One of the 'panel' tried to summarise the situation by saying something along the lines of "it seems like the CCA is dominate by liberals who might as well join the Green Party, or better the Labour Party as they will have more influence ont he policies you want, or even the Conservatives since they're going to be in power next year".
And, crucially, he was met with a barrage of shouts of "NO!" from about half of those in the room - those who do much of the work in putting on the camp who do hold those revolutionary anarchist values at the core of what we do. And who understand that most people in this country almost certainly do not hold those values, and this movement is going to have to try and spread them; and this means that people - whether they are liberals, conservatives or whatever - are going to come to what we do, often out of curiosity as much as anything else, and we CAN'T tell them to fuck off for being woolly liberals, any more then put them up against a wall and shoot 'em, but must be ready to engage and debate and convince and build both the movement's numbers and also the strength of its ideological foundations (which surely everyone will agree, debating with someone you disagree with does very effectively).
And taking the workshop as an example - i am sure that a good proportion of the 'liberals' in that discussion learnt a new perspective, came into contact with ideas they hadn't considered much before, and crucially wanted to explore those ideas more, born out by the small proportion of them bought a copy of sh!ft.
There aren't many forums where so many people who had had such little exposure to revolutionary anarchist ideas spent 2 hours engaging in debate about them (when does THAT happen at, say, the London anarchist bookfair?) and i felt it was fucking brilliant.
The Camp for Climate Action this year was more accessible than any previous camp for newcomers. While this remains the case, it being co-opted by a liberal agenda is of course a risk. but i don't think this has happened yet - apart from maybe the jollyhockeysticks-stuntlobbying brigade and the CCA media team which seems to be petrified of mentioning anti-capitalism and anti-statism - which is why it seems that those who DON'T GO to the CCA are under the impression that it has been co-opted (cos they just get their impression from MSM, and unfortunately the postings on Indymedia in the name of the 'Camp' which seem to be far more dominated by the jollyhockeysticks that by a broader representation of those who are there and do much of the work).
When the cops asked to be allowed to patrol the site, twice, there were liberal voices arguing that we should capitulate to these requests (based on observations of the Yorkshire neighbourhood meeting on the issue) -Yet the overwhelming weight of voices cried "no fucking way" and as a consequence (as of Monday morning) the coppers never came on site (in uniform, anyway). Is anyone suggesting that we have a liberal witch-hunt, and prevent those who hold those views from speaking, or from entering the camp? At the neighbourhood meeting those voices were convincingly out-argued. And that does unfortunately mean that there is a risk that the time will come when the liberal voices win the argument, and the Camp for Climate Action becomes a Friends of the Earth liberal climate love-in - which is all the more reason why those of us who hold those core values of the camp dear MUST BE THERE, must make the case, must defend our movement.
Those who pronounce the liberal co-option of the Camp are speaking too soon; it is a risk, but it hasn't happened yet. The action to take is not to just moan about it on Indymedia but to confront where it has become a problem (eg. the media team) and change it by the only way change to the Camp can be realised - by getting involved and doing something about it.
Otherwise, your absence will lead to co-option and takeover.
Comments welcome, particularly from others who were actually at the camp and haven't just formulated their ideas from inaccurate and incomplete media reports (is mine one of these???). Did you leave the camp feeling that it has been taken over by a liberal agenda? Or are you as optimistic as me?