Reclaim the Power’s upcoming camp - Power Beyond Borders - manifests an ambitious, dual resistance to the UK’s broken energy policy and brutal border controls.
The camp will amplify the demands set out by World Without Borders, which include an end to detention, an end to deportation and an end to destitution. In the same deep breath, the camp will demand a halt to the conversion and expansion of Drax power station, a move that would lock Britain into fossil fuel dependency for years to come.
Campaigners fighting for migrant rights and climate justice will unite at Power Beyond Borders for a weekend of workshops, skill-shares and conversations, then undertake direct actions and demonstrations together in the following days.
The stakes are high. Philip Alston, UN special rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights, recently warned that we risk full scale ‘climate apartheid’. This language is stark: the impacts of collapse will not be generalised, but will fall heavily on the shoulders of people of colour and the poor. The climate crisis is a racist crisis.
Before we can begin to fight this, activists must understand what’s at stake for each of us in the spaces we occupy; what our spaces make possible and what they shut down. We must pay careful attention to how we relate to one another.
Social movements must be accessible and accountable to communities that are excluded from and oppressed by centres of power. In the aftermath of the End Deportations action by the Stansted 15, Ewa Jasiewicz wrote: “When you walk into a courtroom, onto a rooftop, onto a motorway, how you look and how you talk can save your life … When you look around the camp or the room or the social and you see a privileged sameness, then the collective liberation, if not the camaraderie, that I think we’re aiming for still feels far out of reach.”
The word ‘solidarity’ is derived from the French word ‘solidaire’, meaning ‘interdependent, complete, entire.’ Genuine, radical solidarity brings as much as possible within reach for as many people as possible. It recognises that we each have something bound up in one another’s liberation.
We need to focus on the intersections between struggles, but we also need to move beyond those intersections. Writing about the language used by activists to talk about the Dakota Access Pipeline, the queer indigenous organiser Kelly Hayes argued that “intersectionality does not mean focussing exclusively on the intersections of our respective work. It sometimes means taking a journey well outside the bounds of those intersections.” We each arrive at an intersection from a distinct place; each place deserves safety in its own right.
Respecting this means fighting alongside those who are oppressed on their terms. This is about climate change and racism as much as it is about climate change as racism.
Reclaim the Power has always worked in solidarity with frontline communities, in the UK and beyond, and has long been committed to social and economic justice - tackling fuel poverty and dirty trade deals. But working in solidarity with migrant justice groups has meant really interrogating the network’s decision making processes, programming conventions, key messaging, and logistics.
As campaigners look outwards at unequal distributions of power and disparate impacts, we must also look inwards at our own spaces, privileges and processes.
The organisers of Power Beyond Borders have compiled an introductory reading list of articles on anti-oppression and eliminating racism. They have also produced an Action Consensus. This is a list of principles that participants in the camp agree to follow: “We intend our actions to be in solidarity with frontline communities affected by both new gas infrastructure and the Hostile Environment, and will respect expertise provided by lived experience”.
The Action Consensus emphasises non-violence and focuses on the reality that there is something different and more dangerous at stake for activists of colour and activists with a precarious immigration status.
Ensuring the safety of all activists explicitly rules out seemingly casual interactions with the police, for example. Policing has a long history of physical violence, deception, sexual exploitation and institutional racism. Increasingly, these functions are being imposed on other public servants: teachers, doctors and social workers are being called upon to work as covert border guards. Resistance to this coercive power has to be absolute.
The camp programme includes Know Your Rights and Anti-Racist trainings and a panel discussion on what effective solidarity looks like. There will be workshops from End Deportations, the Anti-Raids Network, Help Refugees, All African Women’s Group, Unis Resist Border Controls and many more.
Reclaim the Power hope that this will be the next step in building meaningful solidarity between movements. But it can’t end here, climate campaigners need to skill up, clue up and contribute to frontline activism in their communities.
Come along to Power Beyond Borders to find out how.
Marianne Brooker is The Ecologist’s content editor. She’ll be camping at Power Beyond Borders and hopes you’ll join her. The camp will run from 26-31 July at a secret location within an hour of London. Find out more here. Camp updates – including coaches to the camp are here. To support the camp, donate here.
Image: Reclaim the Power, Flickr.