Winning Kingsnorth, Winning the Struggle
The dust has now settled after the shock announcement that Kingsnorth is going nowhere for 3 years at least. Naturally I’m delighted, to the extent that I raided my alcohol supply for a swift one and bounced around the living room with my housemate. But politics is complicated and victories rarely more than partial. Also, sorry for lack of posts, life is just moving too quickly. Edit: And now we’re back in shock mode, as the Telegraph announces BAA’s decision to scrap the Third Runway at Heathrow. This post is probably only more timely because of it.
Greenpeace have issued a statement saying, amongst other things, that they think it was a mix up over whether Kingsnorth could still get Carbon Capture money. And I do agree with those who say that this could be as much a campaigning move by E.On as a victory for campaigners against coal usage. E.On has plenty to request from the government: more subsidies, less legislation, and above all, to stop Gordon Brown talking (even if not acting) against industrial CO2 emissions.
After all, Head Quarters are likely to be very much focused on Copenhagen even if national divisions are still more worried about lack of ‘local’ government support. But equally, the head office may be worried that the UK government is not ready to provide enough security to the building site for a new power station. E.On may have been calculating on Climate Camp in the City style policing to get people out of the way, and now they’re probably pretty disappointed.
Also, the context must be remembered. E.On are at least trying to claim that this decision is due to a lack of demand for electricity. This isn’t because of a transition to a bright new world, but because there are less people working; someone is losing out, and its not the bosses of E.On. Perhaps this will continue to be the case, but I suspect the demand will increase again as we leave the recession, perhaps in 3 years time, just as they said. After all, and I want to return to this during the next week, the economic recovery will come long before the jobs market recovery.
There is also the possibility that part of both these actions was a calculation to try and wind the Climate movement. One of the biggest threats to any movement is demobilisation; people perceive that a goal has been reached, and therefore go back to life as normal, move on to something else, or just tune out. In one sense, I think its because people get worn out by protesting, and wanting a rest, look for a good moment to get off the train of endless action. Its totally understandable that people might want to do this, but we must not allow a sense that we’ve solved the Climate Crises to sink in any time in this first half of the 21st Century at the very least, or the old ways will return. With two significant victories in a week, it would be easy to think the whole thing is over, but at least one more coal power station is planned, and more than half a dozen airport expansions, including Leeds Bradford and Manchester, remain on the cards.
It is very important that we take time to celebrate, but it must be in the context of present and ongoing struggle, not as a form of closure on a campaign. To say this is the start of a new chapter might be clichéd but its worth saying. We must use this as victory as a tool, it must become functional, and it must become present-tense continuous; we are winning. We must be mindful that, although we won, E.On have the initiative over us, and we’re in a position of playing catch up.
Its not often those words can be used by activists. The mood is changing and things are moving on. The problem, however, is that the arguments we used to win this round are arguments we’ve grown to feel comfortable with, as they have become second nature. Once a small victory like this has taken place, the landscape rearranges and we must press forwards to find new arguments that extend our position in the new reality. In a sense, movements very easily become victims of their own success, because in success they are unable to make clear arguments of the sort that can unite a movement.
In a way, the great pity is that Climate Camp UK lacks the time to put together a properly adjusted set of messages in order to keep people updated before its next action at Ratcliffe-on-Soar next weekend. And this must not be allowed to demobilise those who would otherwise join events like the York and London “Wave” events, or the 350.org day of action activities around Britain. This must be turned into fuel for further action, not an excuse to wallow in apparent success. It would not do to think we had won Kingsnorth, only to sit back and watch the planet’s eco-systems collapse.