Monday, April 15, 2019

People Power

Thousands of people have joined a “climate rebellion” in London, blocking traffic and disrupting “business as usual” to demand action over the escalating ecological crisis. Climate change protesters have already blocked Waterloo Bridge. At 11am, protesters set up camps and roadblocks at Marble Arch, Oxford Circus, Waterloo Bridge, Parliament Square and Piccadilly Circus. The roadblocks are planned to continue round the clock at each site for at least a week in a protest reminiscent of the Occupy London camp outside St Paul’s Cathedral in 2011-12.

Organisers say they expect thousands to take part in peaceful acts of civil disobedience, bringing widespread disruption to the capital.
We don’t want to disrupt people, but our government’s failure over the last 30 years leaves us no choice,” an Extinction Rebellion spokesperson said. Governments prioritise the short-term interests of the economic elites so, to get their attention, we have to disrupt the economy.”

Yen Chit Chong, from Extinction Rebellion in London, said: "This is our last best shot at survival."

In what they call “Rebel for Life” the campaign group, Extinction Rebellion have embarked upon a strategy of non-violent civil disobedience such as blocking roads. The Socialist Party is not saying that people should never defy the law. There are occasions when they should. Protest is a response or reaction to being repeatedly and deliberately ignored, by-passed and abused on many levels. It is this the result of the denial of sufficient representation, a lack of democracy in decision-making processes, and the failure of having dissenting voices heard. The political process does not allow for meaningful involvement in any major decision-making on a social level. Governments believe that cursory elections every few years authorise them to make all the decisions on behalf of citizens. Sometimes we hear of 'consultations' when a particular location may be negatively impacted by a proposed scheme but, in reality, this usually means a small body or panel of chosen people, themselves not truly representative of the opposition movement, will be invited to give their perspective before a final pre-planned decision is given. (Albeit the 2016 EU referendum put a spanner in the works)

There's strength in numbers' goes the old adage. Among capitalist politicians such protests tactics will be tolerated so long as it is tending in their direction; if it is not, it is just as likely to be condemned as insurrection. The politicians are or become tools of the system and work in opposition to most of their electorate most of the time. The political system manipulates people into thinking issues can be tackled separately, that maybe they can have some minor influence here or there. It's convenient to allow small triumphs and gains to reinforce the feeling that maybe, just maybe, this particular protest might bear fruit. However, regarding the huge concerns plaguing world society such concerns are out of the hands of citizens whether or not a part of the electorate. Regarding the huge concerns plaguing world society such concerns are out of the hands of citizens whether or not a part of the electorate. Climate change and global warming and the vote is of no help in such matters. People have no part to play in decisions of this magnitude. People are excluded and will continue to be excluded – unless and until the people decide they will play a part. 

Extinction Rebellion are to be commended that they choose to raise their voices and to take action. The Socialist Party recognise that those who are involved in environmental campaigns are, at least, trying to gain some control over their lives.

We ask what would happen if millions stopped voting for pro-capitalist politicians and used the power the vote gives them to elect instead delegates mandated to use political power to end capitalism and usher in socialism. What we want to change is immense. It’s getting rid of the whole structure that created the climate crisis. Without change we will destroy the planet. It’s as simple as that. The way things are organised is neither natural nor inevitable, but created by people. People have a wealth of skill, intelligence. creativity and wisdom. We could be devising ways of using and distributing the earth’s vast resources so that no one starves or lives in abject poverty, making socially useful things that people need — a society which is life-affirming in all its aspects. While the immediate aim of those environmental activists may be "simply" to lobby government for ecological reasons, it should be recognised that this does not in itself mean that important issues of class are excluded. 

There is a very important question of power at issue here, which is always a vitally important element of class relations. Class and capitalism are inevitably involved in climate change debates. Working people are struggling for some degree of democratic control over their environment, which inevitably brings them into conflict with the state and with capitalist big business. What is particularly heartening, about this event is the strong element of solidarity involved. There is little enough such solidarity around at the moment. The laws of the state are made workable only by the active consent of its "subjects", the working class, and can therefore be made unworkable by the withdrawal of that consent. This is an absolutely basic lesson to be drawn from the history.

It needs to be said though that most struggles such as these are doomed to failure in the long term, and that when they are successful, they will lead only to further struggles ad infinitum, as long as the capitalist system itself continues to exist. The Socialist Party has reiterated time and time again, people need to stop putting their faith in reformism; capitalism will never, can never, be reformed in our interest. Good intentions will not solve the problem of global warming but there is a revolutionary alternative: "We must first destroy capitalism".


ajohnstone said...

By 2pm five Waterloo Bridge, Marble Arch, Parliament Square, Oxford Circus and Piccadilly Circus – had been blocked by thousands of protesters bringing widespread disruption.

ajohnstone said...

Swedish protesters held a die-in to occupy the country's Parliament.

The Oberbaum Bridge in Berlin was shut down by protesters

ajohnstone said...

So far a total of 52 arrests, five people were detained on suspicion of criminal damage at Shell's HQ.

ajohnstone said...

113 people had been arrested as of 06:00 BST on Tuesday.