A climate movement in Manchester? Wouldn’t it be pretty to think so.
What is a movement?
The environmental movement is simply a particular example of a social movement, and Italian sociologists Mario Diani and Elisa Rambaldo tell us that a social movement has three distinctive elements:
· dense networks of informal exchanges between individuals and/ or organisations;
· shared collective identities; and
· conflict with opponents.
Is there a climate movement in Manchester?
No. There are a series of different groups doing different things (which is as it should be!), but no formal/informal communicating with each other, no common ‘opponent,’ no sense of shared identity.
Further down in the wellsharp blog post quoted above there’s this gem-
“Interestingly, Diani and Rambaldo don’t consider what prevails when there is no conflict with opponents. Maybe it is self-evident that any organisation not engaging with an adversary in order to promote its interest can’t be considered part of a social movement. I would suggest without cynicism that in this case what we have is a club; I only make this point because there are many such environmental organisations….”
Why is there no climate movement in Manchester?
Boff, different people will have different answers to that. Here’s mine;
The Trotskyists, in the form of Campaign against Climate Change, were desperate to assume that role. After all, They Know Best. Fortunately, they were comically lousy at their efforts, (their announcement of leadership was ignored) and they have since fallen apart. And anyway, no-one wants a vanguardist ‘leadership’. That’s not what movements are about.
I’d say the problem is partly to do with local government campaigning being seen as pointless and weird unless it’s to protect a particular bit of land/law centre/etc. Information about local government is very hard to come by (especially if you don’t bother to read what actually exists in a timely manner).
It’s much easier to say “we’re going to a demo/ruck in London” than it is to say “well, there’s this scrutiny committee made up of local councillors and …” Humans, and groups of humans, generally take the easiest path available to them. And it is far far easier to go with the big crowd doing stuff that is getting (less and less) national media attention, and which offers chances for making friendships and contacts beyond the single city ghetto.
Of the explicitly campaigning groups
So, CaCC is gone (fingers crossed, anyhow). Friends of the Earth plods on, doing what it does best, anxious not to piss off the Council. [UPDATE: I use the term ‘plods’ in the lesser known Australian sense of ‘keeps on keeping on, with no unnecessary psychodrama.”] The various groups with Transition in their name (Hulme, City etc) have been a complete waste of time and space and money. Call to Real Action never recovered from the complete loss of momentum between April and August last year. The Green Party has had three candidates in one week for their most winnable council seat, and has had a rash of resignations, particularly from women. Manchester Climate Action updates its website every three months or so, and only meets weekly when there is a national event coming up (Climate Camp, Crude Awakening) and drops back to fortnightly otherwise, which may tell you something about its priorities. Its members don’t seem particularly interested in having an impact on local political processes. They will deny that, but inactions speak louder than words. Various other groups are popping up to stage one-off events with various degrees of local content, but they seem to be either denouncing Capitalism (fair enough) or advocating lifestyle change (fair enough, but hardly adequate to the scale of the problem).
Does it matter?
Only if you want there to be “effective” local government action on climate change. If you are happy for Manchester City Council to get a free pass for all its greenshit and bullwash, then you just go right ahead, fill your boots with whatever you’re doing right now. I mean, it’s working so well…
What could be done?
· make a commitment to educate their ‘core’ and their periphery about the local political realities and policy developments. And commit to knowledge and skill share
· agree to devote a percentage (50%?) of their time on local issues
· sort out their truly appalling methods of holding meetings, methods which reinforce the cliques and make it really really difficult for ‘newbies’ to get involved. The ‘churn’ rate of people attending one or two meetings and then buggering off is humungous.
· generally escape from the smugosphere
Groups could tell systematically other groups what it is that they are doing, and commit to spreading the information they get from other groups to their membership
There could quite easily be an item on all the groups’ meetings agenda saying “here’s what all the other groups in Manchester are doing.” You can say that “MCFly does that” but a) it doesn’t, not systematically b) it doesn’t really get read and c) it is finishing in November.