Interview with international activists from Ende Gelände
First published in ak – analyse & kritik Nr. 615 19.4.2016, akweb.de
Last year over 1500 people blocked the coal mine and diggers at Garzweiler, in the German Rheinland. Over 300 internationals were part of the action. In 2016 “Ende Gelaende” will head to Lusatia (near the German polish border) and the international participation is expected to be a lot higher. Over 40 internationals from 14 different countries travelled to the international preparation meeting in Berlin (12. to 14. February).
We asked: what makes Ende Gelaende so appealing to people from other countries? How could one explain the transnational nature of an initially German campaign? Ende Gelaende spoke about this with Juliette Rousseau und Petra Němcová . Juliette is active amongst other the climate movement in France. Petra is speaker of the Czech grassroots movement against coal Limity jsme my (We are the limits).
EG: You took part in the preparation meeting in Berlin and would like to mobilise for Ende Gelaende in your countries. What motivates you to be actively involved in Ende Gelaende?
Juliette: Last year’s action was a great inspiration for those of us from France who were there. It happened a bit randomly: we heard about the action from friends involved in the organisation and decided to show up. But we weren’t that many and felt we should have brought more people along, which is why we feel like the experience should be shared more widely this time. Going to Lusatia, taking action together is also a way to strengthen our own dynamics back in France, empower people to take more action and connect further the movements at a European level.
Petra: I was in the middle of an anti-coal struggle being fought in the North of the Czech Republic – quite near Lausitz mining region – when I saw a video from Ende Gelaende. Just seeing the footage was so inspiring and energising that I immediately decided to contact the organisers to find out more, especially to see if there was going to be another Ende Gelaende action. Then when I was sitting in front of the Eifel Tower during D12 after the Paris Climate Conference I got a leaflet inviting people to join Ende Gelaende 2016 in Lausitz. There were about 40 of us – people from various Czech social movements – who came to Paris to show that we would continue fighting for climate justice. Ende Gelaende 2016 seemed like a perfect opportunity to regain momentum. By participating at Ende Gelaende 2016 we hope to show our solidarity to people endangered by coal mining and burning. We also hope to learn to carry out actions of civil disobedience back in the Czech Republic – the time has come to take a step further and begin reimagining the future towards just, democratic and ecological energy systems. We need to be disobedient to achieve that.
EG: What do climate struggles in your countries look like. What are similarities and the differences to an action like Ende Gelaende?
Juliette: Climate struggles as such don’t really exist in France. Though we have active struggles around energy (nuclear, fracking), transport and development (Notre Dame des Landes, Sivens, Roybon) and smaller action groups targeting specific events or institutions, most of them still don’t identify as part of a climate movement. In the meantime, the more intense the struggles, the tougher the repression. Mass action, when well prepared, can be a way to lower repression: bigger groups with clear goals are harder to tackle than small ones. I feel like we need to learn how to organise bigger disobedient actions rather than leaving the action dimension to a handful of radical “happy few”. It’s clear to me that on many levels, blocking or occupying can get your demands to be met much quicker, and in the case of the climate crisis, the emergency requires that we start using that strategy more broadly.
Petra: There´s another reason I feel motivated to mobilise for Ende Gelaende: Czech state company wants to buy mines and coal-fired power plants in Germany. The investment is extremely risky and makes absolutely no sense taking into account the situation in the biggest Czech mining region around the city of Ostrava. The hard coal business is going bankrupt and about 15 thousand people are in danger of losing their jobs as a result. Why to go to Germany and face the same risks but under German political and public scrutiny in the presence of ‘Energiewende’? The other major energy-related issue is the fight for phase-out in the North of the Czech Republic for which the local people and municipalities have been struggling for the last 25 years. This struggle is very similar to the one in the Lausitz region. Short-sighted decisions have already put a whole region on the verge of a social and economic disaster and the other into an agony of never being sure whether there´s future for you and your family in a mining area where the government have not been able to keep a promise to end the mining. We need to express powerfully that the investment risk is huge. If Czech state company ČEZ buys Vattenfall’s assets in Germany, they´re also buying a massive resistance. But also we need to show that this resistance is an opportunity for development towards more just, democratic and ecological energy systems. In that sense I guess Czech energy-related struggles are seen as part of the global climate movement – nevertheless, a few still identify themselves with the climate cause itself.
EG: Do think you are part of an transnational climate movement? What characterises such a transnational movement?
Juliette: I definitely think there is a transnational movement. It first appeared around the COP process and focused on institutional solutions to the climate crisis. Now more recently we’ve seen that the links and connections were being made around other elements, such as Ende Gelande last year. Its international preparation meeting in October helped gathering few european groups that later formed a network called CJA (Climate Justice Alliance). People from the Netherlands, France, Great Britain, Belgium, Germany, Portugal and other countries have been meeting regularly ever since to coordinate different mobilisations and share experience. But it’s only a beginning, I believe that we need to renew the way we conceive of solidarity : beyond communicating and joining the struggles of others we need to improve experience and skill sharing. That’s clearly what I’m looking for in Germany, I’m still amazed by the skills that the Germans have managed to develop around Ende Gelande, and I want to make sure that some of that knowledge can be passed on to French movements looking at organising similar actions.
Petra: Definitely. Being at Ende Gelaende is a great learning and networking opportunity – exactly the kind of cooperation that makes the movement stronger and more powerful. We´re looking for a wide range of messages – stories we can tell to different people from various walks of life about the importance of the struggle for climate justice. There are many and they vary in different countries. These storylines have no borders, though, since they all have the same ending: empowerment. We’ll either stand in solidarity, or loose the fight. Our aim should not be to be exclusive, but inclusive. For that to achieve we need to make people understand that climate movement is about empowering people to change things for the common good. That is why I like the idea of having more levels of engagement at Ende Gelaende 2016.
Ilana Krause and Mara Plock are active in the Ende Gelaende process and are organised in Prisma / Interventionist Left Leipzig.
Ende Gelaende is part of a world-wide uprising against extractivism. Between the 4. and the 15. of May 2016 people of five continents will carry out disruptive actions of civil disobedience against the infrastructure of the climate catastrophe. Together we will show that the time has come to “Break Free From Fossil Fuels” (breakfree2016.org/)
We are part of a world-wide movement, that stands up for Climate Justice and a global Energy Transition from below.