The planet is fucked, and it will be the poor who pay the price. It is happening now in some parts of the world where climate change has already begun to cause devastation. And without radical change, this is only going to get worse, much worse.
That doesn’t mean we are heading for social collapse in a decade as some of those in the growing environmental movement predict. More likely we will see a drawn out struggle for survival, as more and more parts of the planet become uninhabitable and competition for increasingly scarce resources escalates. As such we are likely to see the intensification of states and armies and borders, not their demise. And that is why any struggle against climate change must be a class struggle, that seeks not to abandon those fleeing sites of climate disaster, but instead builds a movement based on solidarity and mutual aid that places the blame for the fucked planet where it truly belongs – at the feet of the rich and the economic system that supports them.
It is capitalism that is killing the planet, the endless search for never ending growth to line the pockets of bosses, landlords and bankers. It is the rich who need to change their lifestyles not those already struggling to survive. And they won’t, they won’t change a fucking thing unless we make them.
The growth of Extinction Rebellion (XR) has shown there is a new and bold desire amongst the young to build the kind of movement necessary to at least stop the impact of ever increasing carbon emissions from getting any worse. Everyone who has taken to the streets or been arrested deserves credit and support. But passive non violence and mass arrests alone will not bring the change we need to see. And neither will citizen’s assemblies and other tokenistic gestures that are likely to see capitalism remain largely untouched.
The truth is that the kind of ultra passivity that the leadership of XR insist is necessary will in the end trouble neither capital nor states. Telling the cops what you plan to do in advance will only mean they stop you doing it. Parting the way as police drag people into the back of vans turns the clearance of hard fought for blockades into little more than a production line that just requires enough police, in the right place, to labouriously cart everyone off. It may be an annoyance, it may cause faux outrage amongst the right wing press, but at the end of the day London will return to normal and life will go on as before.
I walked round and watched the ease with which the last XR protest was finally driven from the streets. It was a depressing spectacle as property was destroyed and bodies bundled into vans. The police looked bored, the protesters were largely compliant and seemed more interested in penance than victory. Those arrested were cheered by a crowd that seemed determined to make the police’s task as trouble free as possible. I couldn’t help but wonder what would have happened if those assembled had sat in front of police vans, or generally made a nuisance of themselves, instead of applauding politely. There is considerable space between chucking bricks at coppers and the kind of extreme pacifism where arrest is fetishised as victory that the XR leadership promotes. An examination of that space, and what could be achieved within it, should be an urgent task for all those involved with XR.
To truly build a movement that will strike fear into those destroying our planet for profit a diversity of tactics is needed. There are many who will willingly take direct action, and risk arrest, but are not prepared to hand themselves over on a platter. There are those who will not passively stand by should police choose to employ force against peaceful protesters – and do not think for a second they won’t. The state has the perfect answer, every time, to non violence. That XR have not seen baton charges and bruises merely demonstrates that, as yet, they have not become a sufficient enough threat to public order. Only a movement that encompasses all of us, however we choose to resist, is likely to prove effective in bringing the radical changes that are necessary.
This is difficult to achieve but not impossible. In the past anarchists have worked with Quakers and NGOs with militants to combine forces, respecting each other’s right to fight back in the manner of their own choosing and creating time and space in which to do so. No-one should be forced or shamed into doing anything that makes them uncomfortable or compromises their values, but all can act in the spirit of non-judgemental solidarity towards a shared goal. There is a place for non-violence, and a place for showing your teeth, and any environmental movement that has any chance of winning needs to accommodate both.
This week a series of events are taking place organised by the Green Anticapitalist Front who recently hit the headlines after occupying the abandoned Paddington Police Station. A range of talks, workshops and film screenings will culminate in a demonstration in the City of London on Friday 28th Feb. Events are also taking place in other parts of the UK. A strong, angry and militant turn out could be the beginning of the movement we need to start to bring an end to climate chaos. For details of all events visit their website and please spread the world. The future kind of depends on it.