Last Tuesday was Shell’s annual shareholder meeting. Throughout the Netherlands and beyond people took action against the oil giant. The action group “Shell Must Fall” called for people everywhere to organise these actions, and demands the major polluter to be dismantled by any legal, economic and political means necessary. In Leiden on Tuesday night some people spray chalked slogans and left bloody hands at two public institutions collaborating with Shell: Boerhaave Museum and Leiden University. Today Doorbraak received these pictures of the action and also the text that the activists left at these institutions.
Fossil-Free Leiden, Now!
Neoliberal market capitalism has set out to accomplish the privatization of every aspect of life on this planet. Shareholders and employers long for ownership over lands and their resources: water, forests, the very insides of the Earth with its mines rich in minerals. They want ownership over our intellect and numerous talents too, as they exploit our labor and patent our discoveries for the sake of their wealth and power. We – the workers, the scientists and the disenfranchised – study, invent and produce life-saving medicines, groundbreaking technologies, foodstuff and houses for the benefit of the whole of humanity and nature. Yet they – the CEOs and the wealthy – keep reaping the fruit of our efforts and altruism. Our toil used against us, sold for profit on the market and often made contributing to ecological destruction and human rights violations.
But knowledge belongs to the people; we must hold firm to this truth. Knowledge belongs to the people, so its fruits ought to be given back to the people. Knowledge belongs to the people, so its outcomes ought to be independent from the profit-making machine that corporations, venture capitalists, financial institutions and shareholders represent. Knowledge belongs to the people, so it ought to be free so the people can be set free with it. This conviction drives our today’s actions against Shell, Leiden University and Rijksmuseum Boerhaave. We spray chalked several slogans and left this letter. The bloody handprints represent the people killed by Shell. In the struggle for the emancipation of knowledge from economic exploitation and freedom for all, we want that all public institutions in Leiden cut their ties with the fossil fuel industry, starting from Shell, which is at once responsible for the destruction of our lands and the abuse of our communities all around the globe. This is why Shell must be dismantled, and all other institutions must decide on which side of the fight they want to be: the people’s or Shell’s.
Exactly one year ago, Extinction Rebellion Leiden and Code Rood started the fight to end the partnership between Shell and Rijksmuseum Boerhaave Museum. Shell provides the Museum with a scanty sponsorship for it to organize an annual science fair for kids. In exchange, the Museum dedicates a considerable part of its exhibition to a well-polished version of the history of Shell, features Shell Netherlands’ CEO Marjan van Loon in a video alongside Nobel Prize scientists, and fills its science fair with the corporation’s greenwashing lies, making the museum the fertile ground for Shell to recruit talent and promote its image as a socially responsible business. Further, Rein Willems, former president of Shell and openly a climate denier, has remained on the supervisory board until last year. After a long year of campaigning against this abomination, by means of demos, press releases and letters to the museum, all that has been achieved is a meeting with the Museum’s director Amito Haarhuis; a meeting that was filled with empty promises, excuses and no concrete steps toward liberating the Museum from Shell’s influence and financial dependency.
Leiden University isn’t any better, as it is also complicit in the privatization of knowledge and its use against humanity and nature. As denounced in the campaign Never Mind Warm Sweaters, the University hasn’t disclosed the full extent of its partnership with the fossil fuel industry. What is more, the University forces scientists and researchers to work for corporations. Even though private capital is known to contribute little to innovation, corporations have become a major controller of the University’s research aims and programs, especially in the Science Department. Just last year, Shell entered a 5-year collaboration with Leiden University and VU Amsterdam to study quantum computers. The results of the study, declared Shell’s Chief Scientist Detlef Hohl, represent a business opportunity for Shell. So while public money is invested in our researchers’ education, their talent and efforts are wasted and exploited for private interests.
We can’t allow this mechanism to continue any further, as well as the effort of the activists that came before us to go wasted. For this will cause additional environmental destruction, abuse of communities everywhere in the world, and privatization of knowledge and its fuits. At the same time, we must realize that wherever private interests come before public welfare, attempts to collaborate with officials and institutions are bound to fail. The time of campaigns, petitions, and negotiations with authorities is over. Because one must demand, not negotiate and compromise, what is necessary for the survival of humanity and nature, and carry on organized resistance until such demands are met. Such is the sole essence of true and full liberation of both people and nature from the yoke of any form of social, political and economic abuse.
We demand Leiden University and Rijksmuseum Boerhaave to immediately interrupt any relationship with Shell. Until then, expect resistance.
The Workers, the Scientists, the Disenfranchised…the People