Sunday, 31 January 2010

Ideals and ideology

There are so many debates surrounding the Camp for Climate Action that I don't know if I could cover them all. But as someone who studies ideological morphology (the construction of an ideology, in a descriptive rather than pejorative sense, using particular arrangements of political concepts) there are certain elements I find particularly interesting. The general impression I get is one that may be counterintuitive to some - that the core of horizontal politics, rather than being weakened by infighting, may in fact be strengthened by the push to define itself.

Bear in mind here that I'm looking at this from the perspective of horizontal politics - where the core contains a conception of anti-hierarchy formed of components such as consensus, affinity and autonomy, shaped by adjacent concepts such as prefiguration (creating change in the here and now rather than waiting for a revolution) - and not of green politics, where the core is focussed more around saving 'the planet'. Yes, I'm simplifying a bit here. Long story short, from the horizontal politics standpoint, I don't find it shocking that activists with climate change on their agenda may also give priority to issues of wider social change.

In fact, from this perspective, it is those involved in the linked radio show who are missing the point. Yes, if the climate fairy could wave a wand and end climate change but leave the world otherwise unchanged, with people as mean and selfish and destructive as before, horizontal activists wouldn't find this a tolerable solution. (I'm not really sure how many greens would either tbh, but the person who ventured the suggestion seemed to think they should) The fact that her 'solution' wasn't greeted enthusiastically suggests that the Camp for Climate Action has a greater claim on being a horizontal movement with an ecological slant than on being purely a green movement.

Let's look at the original aims of the CCA. (source) One of the central themes is 'direct action' - including civil disobedience but also encompassing a wider theme of acting directly, at a grasroots level, in an autonomous fashion, rather than waiting for a leadership to do it for us. Under the question 'what kind of social movement?', the following answer is given: 'Grassroots, participatory and self-organised. Challenging consumerism, growth & capitalism. Strong anti-capitalist ethos. Slipping between anti-capitalist / anti-growth – an ongoing debate. Needed to embrace civil resistance / direct action – to challenge the 'democratic norms' which don't themselves challenge the system, and because its not about asking others do do things.' More, similar information can be found on the linked discussion thread.

Now, the debates. These arise largely due to the inclusive and participatory nature of the Camp, and in particular the inclusion of 'liberal' (in the pejorative sense as generally deployed by anarchists for those who see the state as a potential defender of freedom) elements. More pertinently, the last few Camps have openly included elements which see the state as the provider of solutions to climate change (arguably those who see it purely as an environmental rather than a social issue). The controversy stems from the favouring by some participants of solutions such as a 'green tax' or population control - described by the horizontals and anarchists in the vicinity as 'green authoritarianism'.

It is possible to speculate on these debates in terms of the potential for the Camp - and if you're really optimistic/pessimistic (depending on outlook) the wider constellation of horizontal movements - to be irrevocably decided. This I do not agree with, seeing instead the potential for a stronger and more coherent horizontal outlook - forced to define itself by the need for distance from the elements described above. This may mean a clearer definition of horizontal space - a decision to ask certain groups to work seperately - even an exodous by horizontals to start up a seperate space (although this would be a shame since the CCA is arguably their baby). But it will also mean that the anti-hierarchical - and by extension anti-hegemonic and anti-state - elements will be reinforced, through the need to defend them. I am hypothesising and also, as this is a matter of personal belief as well as acadmic interest, hoping!

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