Abeyance structure The political organisations and networks of people who keep a political movement alive in times of relative inactivity. Abeyance structures are often hidden from the wider public, but they play a special role in ensuring the continuance of radical ideas, tactics, identities and traditions.
(from “Activist Wisdom” by Sean Scalmer and Sarah Maddison)
The days of “mass mobilisation” around climate change seem* to be behind us.* The period that began roughly in 2006, with UK Climate Camp #1, Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth, the Stern Review and then the IPCC’s fourth assessment report (Feb 2007) closed with the Copenhagen debacle (November 2009). We now stagger on in the aftermath, numbers falling, outfits folding all around.
So, what now?
Serious climate activists have a few tasks ahead of them, IMHO
a) a clear-eyed assessment of how we blew the chances we had in those ‘golden’ years so that we are less likely to screw it up in precisely the same way if there is a “next time”
b) continuing to skill ourselves up and try to retain the (trickle of) people who will come looking for useful work to do, even while the issue of climate change is studiously ignored by the media and government and in the “too hard” basket generally
c) sustained ongoing discussion and relationship-building with groups who don’t see climate change as Their Problem at present, so that.. well, see below.
d) continuing to push, even with our reduced numbers and smell-of-defeat around us, for a rapid reduction in greenhouse gas emissions from human sources and a build up of social and ecological “resilience.” that will mean doing it smarter… This will mean focussing on local resilience in constructive ways
Essentially, what I am advocating is “abeyance structure” work. It’s not sexy, it’s probably pointless. (because by the time everyone pays attention to climate change again as they seemed to do in 2006-9, the water will be lapping around our ankles. But I don’t see the extremes of continuing to make Big Plans for Big Demonstrations and “Giving Up” as options. This seems like the Third Way?
To be ready for… what?! Well, at some point this species may wake from its slumber. Not all at once, but when there is next a “policy moment” we need to be ready with viable alternatives that are understood. We need to be able to apply pressure to counteract the people who are currently benefitting from the set up as it stands. Alongside this, of course, and intimately part of it, is the need to be building alternatives, “prefigurative” structures. By doing so we reality-test our grand dreams and theories, which is always a good idea…
Some key terms
War of position (Gramsci)
The war of position is intellectual, a culture war in which the anti-capitalist agitators and organizers seek to create a counter-hegemonic block based around the proletariat against the bourgeoisie. Once achieved, this position will be used to increase class consciousness, teach revolutionary theory and analysis, and to inspire revolutionary organisation.
The combination of state and corporate power to defend the existing power holders (mostly white, mostly male), especially using ‘ecological protection’ as an excuse, a tool they’ve used for well over 100 years.
* I could of course be completely wrong. A year from now there might be hundreds of thousands of folks on the streets, in their town halls and outside corporate HQs demanding action, and taking it themselves. I don’t know how that would happen, but it’s theoretically possible