Sunday 21 April 2019

Short Notes on Extinction Rebellion

Is there anything more to be said about Extinction Rebellion? Probably not, except it deserves the left's unequivocal solidarity, encouragement and support. There's little more to be added to takes by Richard Seymour and Lewis Bassett. Not that it's going to stop me from having my two penneth worth.

1. Extinction rebellion is both timely and untimely. Timely, because it's very much of the moment. David Attenborough and the BBC are spearheading programming on climate change, species loss, and environmental degradation. The public are prepped for it, and young people particularly are concerned - as the magnificent displays of climate school strike marches make clear. But this week's rolling non-violent direct action is untimely too. It's inconvenient for politicians more concerned with Brexit than environmental emergency, it's inconvenient for the hundred global companies responsible for 71% of emissions, and it's inconvenient for a government utterly uninterested in climate change and whose response to Extinction Rebellion is to issue threats. Extinction Rebellion is an embarrassment to our elite betters.

2. Extinction Rebellion is a symptom of left failure. On the self-described revolutionary left, the Socialist Party typifies this with their declaration that they're doing protest wrong. What we need, of course, is winning over the wider workers' movement to a programme of climate action. Well, the actually-existing labour movement in the UK already has with its green industrial strategy, something you wouldn't think has escaped the SP's notice. Then again, as it's in the process of lecturing its (soon-to-be erstwhile) Irish co-thinkers about how to run successful campaigns from the position of abstract moralising and revolutionary abstentionism, political developments may have passed them by. This does however condense the traditional far left response - formally correct critiques of the efforts of others while standing apart from (if not above) the fray, unless an opportunity to offload some unreadable newspapers presents itself. However, the mainstream workers' movement has been less than hot on green issues too. As we've seen a number of times, as organisations for the defence of and prosecution of workers' interests in the workplace, trade unions are susceptible to sectionalism and competition with other unions. Unfortunately, this often means the perceived need for preserving jobs, and therefore the subs base, comes before all else - as this Dan Carden's attempted defence of Unite's support for fracking makes clear. When the radical and mainstream sections of our movement give off anti-green and anti-environmental vibes, is it any surprise action against climate crisis comes from activist communities outside of it?

3. Extinction Rebellion's strategy of media attention-seeking worked. Clogging up the byways and the highways of the capital in a week Westminster took time off and there was a pause in Brexit always meant the media were going to cast around for something to fixate on. 24 hour rolling coverage duly obliged with extensive reporting on actions and arrests. They also featured some grumbling from the fuzz and politicians about "disruption" and the costs to business, but what the folk at home saw were mostly young people getting carted off in support of a cause in which there is widespread public sympathy. As latter day propaganda of the deed, the creation of spectacle ensured this most urgent and necessary of issues got top billing.

4. For all the moaning about elitist tactics, Extinction Rebellion has lowered the bar for effective participation. One needs time, proximity to the protests, and courage. The emphasis on getting hundreds of people to blockade roads means arresting everyone becomes logistically difficult - four or five coppers are needed to carry off a "floppy" protester, and with a lack of cell capacity in London, arrest usually means getting carted to the nearest station and getting let go again. By going for direct action of this sort, the carceral system is put under strain, police time is wasted, crowd control tactics like kettling and baton charges are completely inappropriate, and it's the forces of the establishment left looking embarrassed and befuddled. Effectively, the paralysis of the authorities, and the pathetic response from the government - just as it was with the climate school strikes - can only encourage a deepening of resolve, especially on the part of new activists, and again underline the fact that the Tories will forever put their class interests before the common interests of all human beings.


1729torus said...

The CWI are actually right to be concerned. Irish working class voters are unforgiving of leftwing parties that ignore them to pursue metropolitan liberal causes.

Irish Labour brought in gay marriage, they were still crucified in 2016 for supporting austerity and being snobby towards their voters.

Sinn Fein in turn thought that they could cuddle up media personalities and retain their working class vote. In fairness, this was not as arrogant a belief as it sounds. SF’s goes to great lengths to keep its voters loyal. But their growth started to stall and grassroots got grumpy, culminating in a disasterous performace in the Presidential election.

Since then, they’ve nearly gone completely silent on SJW issues to concentrate on leftwing politics and a United Ireland.

If the Socialist Party fight an election campaign on feminism and so on, they’ll risk getting outflanked from the left from SF, who’ll spend their time engaging on bread-and-butter issues like housing , or a United Ireland, or an EU Army.

The SP would be turning their best argument against SF - that it’s a quite a rightwing party in many ways - into an argument SF could use against them!

Anonymous said...

The question we need to ask is why are we being told by the government that the very survival of the planet is at stake and at the same time the government act as if there is ano emergency whatsoever, for example when make plans to build a third runway at Heathrow. This would seem to be a major anomaly.

The only conclusion I can possibly draw from this is that the government do not truly believe what they are telling us but find it a convenient way of extracting wealth from us.

If they actually believe what they are telling us they would be far more forceful in their solutions and would not actively implement policies that made things worse!

Free Julian Assange, the greatest journalist on earth today!

PlebJames said...

It's also untimely because if climate cahnge had been taken seriously when the science first emerged in the 80s and 90s, the changes to society needed to avert it would have been comparatively minor.
It looks like WW2 levels of government intervention in people's lives is going to be necessary if we are to prevent hitting those tipping points.

That's why I like Extinctions Rebellion's idea of people's assemblies to come up with measures - normal people will opt for the rich to pay It seems like way too much to expect, but I am up for radically changing my way of life if everyone has to too and it is done in a fair way. for lots of it - quite right too!