climate action cafe

A space for discussion and analysis within the global climate movement

Summit hopping and movement building: some questions

Posted by KM on December 23, 2008

by Andy

Hey folks, as it’s christmas, I’ll be scrooge! I have some doubts on the copenhagen stuff, but I’m open to persuasion on why it might be a good idea, and will probably end up coming anyway…

I think re. copenhagen we should be asking ourselves some questions, and will certainly have to have come up with goood answers to them if a mobilisation is to be successful:

* In what way are summit mobilisations (especially ones that months in advance divert significant amounts of energy and attention from actions and mobilisations in the lived, everyday world of our communties) effective in ‘increasing the overall bargaining power of working people’ (to use the terminology of [’20 Theses Against Green Capitalism’ by Tadzio Mueller and Alexis Passadakis]) and pushing alternatives to capitalism? Is capitalism and capitalist solutions to climate change effectively opposed in this manner?

* Summit mobilisations, both watching them from afar and participating in them, are good ways to inspire and radicalise some people (hell, it worked for me!), but are they good ways to grow mass movements? Does the
innacessibility to people with little disposable income, little time for travel, heavy family or work commmitments etc etc make them attended mainly by a very narrow demographic?

* Were the G8 and other IFI mobilisations really effective? I’ve heard some involved argue that summit mobilisations pushed the anti-globalisation movement into a dead end cos the spectacle of resistance created at the big demos and riots wasn’t matched by any comparable concrete, material resistance to capitalist social relations in the places people lived and worked. Are we in danger of doing this with 3 climate camps (which now seem in many way similar to summit mobilisations, though originally intended to pull us away from them) followed by a trip to copenhagen? Aren’t we spending a lot of time on ‘one off’ big events where the same people keep turning up?

* What’s our message? The difference between copenhagen and the past summit mobilisations is that in the latter the objective is clearly to deligitimize the whole thing, to shut them down, to say they don’t have the right to make these choices on our behalf. What with the former? Do we want the conference to take place and run smoothly? Presumably yes, cos if it doesn’t it really will be ‘business as usual’. If so would we be better off supporting the lobbying efforts of more progressive nations (new zealand, sweden etc) and the global south?


I’m generally very confused about the question, ‘what is effective opposition to capitalism?’, or indeed how to build a mass movement against climate change!

I appreciate the need for a diversity of tactics, but am apprehensive about mis-alocation of scarce resources, if that makes any sense…

love andy


5 Responses to “Summit hopping and movement building: some questions”

  1. jody said

    I’ve had similar doubts and concerns over the direction of the climate camp in relation to copenhagen. Seems like the simple creation of a working group of people interested in international networking and looking into doing stuff around copenhagen has now by default set at least part of the agenda for the entire camp over the next year. Summits up with the process when we set ourselves on a course such as this without anyone apparently knowing why exactly we are doing it or what we are actually going to do when we get there. With limited resources I think we should be careful about how we allocate them and really be clear about our goals.

  2. nbo said

    absolutely the right questions. especially the one who can afford to take part in summit mobilisations. in the end it’s a “protest elite” (that has either plenty of time or mony or even both) even if they don’t regard themselves as that.

    there should be more coordinated local mobilisations on certain issues that take place at the same time globally (such as the anti-surveillance activities last october, – only as an example, that could be done much more effective).

    leave the politicians in their summit banquets they won’t be impressed anyway.

  3. […] never been a huge fan of summit-hopping, and I’m pretty dubious of the Cokenhagen approach as well, but I’m just sure of where […]

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