Originally published in May 2008.
For many of us a visit to Indymedia UK is a frustrating experience. Its open publishing newswire reveals an array of bizarre opinion posts, advertisements for activist meetings, petition requests and photo stories mixed in with the odd action or demonstration report. However, the number and diversity of articles on the newswire are more than an inconvenience. Most exasperating are the countless posts obsessed with the Israel-Palestine conflict, which are telling of some of the political viewpoints we are happy to associate with.
Yes the conflict in the Middle East is one of the major atrocities of our time, as the lives of ordinary Palestinians are being destroyed by the bulldozers of a well-equipped army. The issues that are driving this conflict – nationalism, religion, imperialism – should be essential topics for the radical left. But to have a radical critique of those issues, we need to see beyond Israel=evil and Palestine=good. Mostly however, the opinions presented on Indymedia make the problems of the world seem like one big Jewish conspiracy. The question of what makes Indymedia UK so appealing to conspiracy theorists (see page 4) is worth asking. It’s not just the open publishing format. Rather, it’s the familiarity of the view that the world is run by a few multinationals, Americans and Israelis.
It’s worth pointing out again what we said in our first issue (and will continue to say): capitalism is not a conspiracy! There is no conscious effort by a few high-paid execs and political leaders to manipulate the rest of us. No one stands outside of capitalism; no one pulls the invisible strings: rather it should be understood as an inherently social process where domination is abstract.
Ultimately then, it’s a matter of targets. Theory does not translate easily into action. This year, the Climate Camp had another difficult target discussion (see page 16). This time it boiled down to the question of what presents the biggest threat to climate stability. Most would see the burning of fossil fuels as the greatest idiocy. But others cited figures that would suggest that the erosion of rainforests through the industrial use of biofuels is the bigger threat.
Targets are tricky. In 2007 we criticised the decision to hold the camp at Heathrow. We argued that “instead of showing the interconnectedness of the Social and the Ecological, Climate Camp [had] picked the individual as the point of attack” by focusing on the ‘unethical’ lifestyle choices of those who fly. Moralistic arguments against individual consumer behaviour did not allow for an anti-capitalist critique of society. In 2008 (as in 2006) the target is coal; applying our criticisms at the point of production offers a better platform for exploring the social roots of environmental problems. We’ve now got the opportunity to pick up our argument where we left it at Drax, and most importantly, to move forward with it. This year the Climate Camp has to talk about capitalism as a social process, and not slip back into talking about ethical lifestyle choices. E.ON, BAA and the government have no interest in furthering runaway climate change. But they are faced with the alternative of making profit (and burning fossil fuels along the way) or going bust. Like we said, no one stands outside of capitalism.
We cannot vilify the big multinational and glorify the small organic farm. It’s not a game of villains and heroes. This is what we find problematic with the Israel-bashing on Indymedia: it falsely personifies social forms of domination. When it comes to deciding on targets it should be these foreshortened critiques of capitalism (which can be dangerously reactionary) that are on the top of our list.