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Ende Gelände is a great success of the environmental movement. We of the Interventionist Left were there and want to take a preliminary stock of the campaign. We are looking forward to your feedback and hope in the future we can fight together with you against coal, climate change and capitalism.
On August 15, 2015, we set out with more than 1,000 people from the Climate Camp in Lützerath (Rhineland) to set an unmistakable sign against the devastating lignite industry. We overcame a highway and numerous police cordons, we descended in the apocalyptic coal mine of Garzweiler and finally we blocked there conveyor belts and some of the gigantic coal excavators. The environmental activists overcame with determination and with a lot of phantasy all obstacles on their way. For example we would like to thank at this point the climbing people, who allowed many people to cross the highway by stopping the traffic with a descending action. We also would like to mention here the green “finger”, which was able to overcome a police cordon of 4 rows and so arrived first into the pit. It surely is beyond the scope at this point, to describe all successful activities. All fingers have to be thanked. The agreed action consensus was consistently kept to, and the mood in the fingers was marked by a strong solidarity among all participants. By this framework, especially many action inexperienced participants could experience a strong self-empowerment. Almost all activists succeeded to come into the pit and to achieve the action target, to largely paralyse the operation of Garzweiler for the whole day.
This success was achieved despite the surprisingly harsh police violence. In many places the officials attacked the activists massively with batons and pepper spray. They took more than 300 people in custody until late into the night and violated on blatant way the rights of several journalists. Above all, the acting of RWE’s own security service marks a new stage is in the co-operation of state repression institutions and private sector corporations. The thug gangs of RWE included nearly a thousand security guards and employees who, in close cooperation with the police, participated in the encirclements, in transporting prisoners away and attacking activists. Self-critical, we must state that we internally may not have prepared all participants adequately to the threat of attacks by police and plant security. All the more enthusiastic we were, as all have progressed unswervingly, no one being provoked by the attacks of the police officers or dissuaded from the action target. In particular, that hundreds of blockers deliberately refused to identify themselves and the police could do nothing more than to put them free again, gives us courage. The experience should be evaluated carefully with a view to future action.
We are convinced that the width of the alliance has proved successful in the end, despite the latent tension potentials. Ende Gelände united anarchist-inspired environmental activists around the group Ausgeco2hlt who organize since years Climate Camps and resistance in the region, growth critics who have been politicised by the degrowth congresses and concrete alternative projects, Post Autonomous who contributed the experience with the civil disobedience of crowds, and finally representatives of NGOs, who hoped to get tailwind for their anti-co2al work by supporting the campaign. To a social expansion of our concerns contributed the declarations of solidarity from many renowned developmental and environmental organizations a few weeks before the action, as well as the repeated occupations of excavators from the Hambach Forest have encouraged us before and after the action. We were particularly pleased, not least that about three hundred international activists from countries within and beyond Europe discussed, partied and struggled with us. This way a real transnational dimension of the environmental movement became visible. Different political points of view, different forms of organization and cultural differences challenged the alliance repeatedly, also during the action days. But the common life in the camp and the substantive discussions, the shared experiences and especially the impressive solidarity in action, made that the various participants, groups and spectra could move back their differences and thus have grown into an organic climate change movement during these days. Together, they made the action successful.
From the beginning the campaign Ende Gelände was accompanied by intensive press and public relations work. But it had to fight a long time for media attention. Only after the beginning of the Climate Camp, the journalists started to care for us. At the latest during the action, the public interest was focused on our struggle for a couple of days. Many representatives of newspapers, television channels and alternative media formats visited our camp and reported on our goals. Especially that we took “embedded” journalists into the action, again proved to be a major asset. As a consequence, most of the media reported very favourably on Ende Gelände, they partly criticized the repression openly and dealt in a surprisingly detailed way with our concerns.
Both the media and the action itself focused on our request for an immediate co2al exit. This focusing was right, because this way it was possible to unite the many activists for one target and to penetrate into the mainstream media. Our linking of the social with the environmental issue, but also generally our critique of the destructive necessity of capitalism to grow remained marginal in the media perception. However, these connecting lines had their place on the Climate Camp and in the action. Especially during the numerous workshops and panel discussions of the Summer School “Degrowth concrete”, which also took place at the camp, were debated equitable prospects for the coal workers, the relationships between climate change and refugees and the context of capitalist mode of production and global warming. On banners we carried in the pit, we showed our solidarity with the struggles against gold mining in Skouries (Halkidiki, Greece) and invited the RWE workers to a discussion on a socio-ecological transformation. We see it as a key task to leave the reduction of the environmental movement on the coal issue behind us and instead to link it stronger with various struggles. It takes anti-capitalist forces to prevent a merely “green” capitalism with its necessity to expand and to develop a global solidarity perspective.
The action was a key focal point of the climate movement. If it has to enforce sustainably the struggles of environmental activists, Ende Gelände should not remain a nine days’ wonder. In order to make an event like in Garzweiler playing a catalysing role, actual (energy) struggles must be articulated locally. There were plenty of them in recent years: In Tübingen, Bremen, Hamburg and Berlin initiatives struggle(d) for a free public transport. In Berlin and elsewhere broad alliances stand up for a referendum to democratise the urban power supply. In Hamburg the protest against the coal power plant Moorburg will continue. In the Lausitz region and in the Rhineland, a continuous resistance to the lignite industry is organized by means of the climate camps. In particular, the direct actions in and around the Hambach Forest cause RWE all year round troubles. The action of the Hambach Forest directly after Ende Gelände was perceived as very successful: Again excavators were occupied and a coal train blocked.
Ende Gelände is a success. He helps to encourage at all these struggles and to multiply them. The campaign in the Rhineland must be continued. But the struggle for climate justice must also be brought to many towns and cities in order to attract people for the project of a radical socio-ecological transformation. In order to win this battle against the fossil industry, we have to organize ourselves. Locally in our cities, in peer groups and on national and transnational levels. An important step in this direction is the action conference of Ende Gelände on the 7th / 8th November in Leipzig.
That was just the beginning: We will meet again – whether in the Rhineland, or in your city.
Carbon exit now – energy for all – socialize power supply – overcome capitalism!