Social anarchism and non-violent direct action

by | Aug 10, 2008

(pic – yesterday’s non-violent direct action at Kingsnorth, courtesy of Indymedia)

I’m back from this year’s Climate Camp, and was deeply impressed with what I found there, both in terms of the organisation of the site (carried out largely by social anarchists) and the attitude and behaviour of the protesters.

The Camp is still running as I write, and I know large numbers of people are remaining to clear the site of all traces of our presence (in line with the request of the landowner), but for me it has been the most enjoyable, inspiring and re-energising of weeks. Judging by the media response I wasn’t alone in this.

The New Statesman featured a very complimentary piece, which actually singled out the workshop I ran with Adam Thorogood of the Centre for Alternative Technology and went so far as to suggest that Gordon Brown and his Government are missing out by not engaging more fully with us and the rest of the brilliant people at Camp! The author also couldn’t fail to mention the truly exceptional organisation of the site itself and its facilities.

This was arranged in a totally non-hierarchical fashion, but the bulk of the work was carried out by advocates of social anarchism, and it was impossible not to be impressed upon seeing their philosophies in action. The police were excluded from the site, and in the absence of any authority figures what I found inside was great locally-sourced food, clean user-friendly composting toilets, solar-powered showers, electricity, internet access, film screenings, unimpeded passionate debate, music, dancing and a warm sense of welcome and community spirit. What I didn’t find was any crime or fear of crime, or even any litter. And all this without the need to part with a penny in payment (voluntary donations welcome, but not solicited). It certainly gave the lie to the media’s one-dimensional portrayal of anarchists.

Yet for me the most impressive aspect of the week was the non-violent direct action on yesterday’s Day of Action at Kingsnorth Power Station. As illustrated above hundreds of people converged on the perimeter fence of the power station and dismantled one fence to make a bridge over another. Having successfully crossed this fence and a moat they then scaled the inner (electric) fence and erected banners before a few decided to climb over into the power station grounds (and the waiting arms of the massed riot police), braving both physical harassment and certain arrest to ensure that the symbolic barrier was breached (see Indymedia for photo/video coverage).

Canute police

For their part the police were on the whole respectful (and in some cases even supportive), but there was a significant minority who were unnecessarily aggressive. I saw a number of protesters (including a city councillor) physically assaulted, but what most impressed me was the total lack of retaliation, just as was agreed during the preparatory workshops at the Camp. Protesters linked their arms and put their bodies on the line to protect their fellow campers, but I did not see a single blow or item thrown at the police. In the whole day I only saw one man even taunt the police, and he was quickly told to shut up by his peers.

According to the Climate Camp website E:on’s top PR spokesperson Emily Highmore was close to tears about how badly the week has gone. Maybe the public are finally starting to see through the spin and realise that these unpaid peaceful protesters are simply highlighting a massive threat to our collective future.

Even mainstream figures like MP Chris Davies are starting to speak out:

“It is my job as a parliamentarian to help make law, but in this instance I welcome the fact that there are people prepared to break the law…Without the use of CCS technology to prevent the CO2 escaping into the atmosphere (new coal power stations) must not be allowed to proceed. If that means politicians joining with other climate change campaigners to sit down in front of bulldozers, then so be it.”

Hear hear.

And finally, I couldn’t possibly finish this post without sending my huge respect to the world’s smallest climate campaigners, who successfully made it to the top of Kingsnorth’s smokestack!

Well done to them, and to everyone who attended this year’s Camp for Climate Action.


  1. martin

    Thanks for this report Shaun, it is inspiring to hear about Kingsnorth, I wish I had been able to get down there…

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