Not so long ago a dejected Roger Hallam stood on a bridge and with a sad face and said “our comrades on the other bridge have not maintained revolutionary disciple and held their bridges”… he’s sad because a police liaison just told him that they wont be arresting any more people today because they no longer pose a threat to health by blocking ambulance traffic to St. Thomas.
It’s a curious little clip that pretty much some up there problem for me. A PhD researcher on “effective radical campaign design” at Kings Cross London, he spends his time talking to the police, laughing and joking having convinced young activists that their only solution to the imminent Climate disaster is to get themselves arrested for the cause and via this very specific method, and if you don’t you lack “revolutionary discipline”. This ain’t his first rodeo, this model has been cooking for a while and Roger has been trying to get young spirits to get arrested for him for quite some time.
Activism is full of these demagogues, tin pot leaders who seek a gaggle of followers listening to their sage like words and following their into hades, well actually it’s usually being sent into the maw for them as they are usually required elsewhere, you know being the brains of the operation. Roger seems to have a bit of form for this, with several people highlighting of he would send large messages and appeals for people to get behind him, specifically young womxn and non binary people, seasoned and “green” activists alike being drawn into his thrall.
This power dynamic right here is deeply concerning wherever you come across it and when it involves getting people to declare themselves arrestable? Feck. Even worse it seems Roger has a tendancy to be wilfully negligent in informing folk about the consequences of putting yourself in those positions and the realities of being arrest and possibly facing conviction. This isn’t OK.
As organisers we has a duty to inform and support those we enlist into our movements. We don’t skip over the realities in search of numbers.
This casual attitude to being detained and arrested smacks of the same arrogance and privilege that the XR social media feeds so happily churn out. Snippets “I’m home by midnight but wired, I’m gratified that Newsnight has led with the protests and I’m tucked up by 2. I slept the sleep of the just.” and celebrating the numbers arrested while barely mentioning the four dozen people facing charges or the 8 being held on remand with bail refused have been noticed and no ones happy about it. If I’m honest I couldn’t find any examples of them sharing that info, but I might be wrong so will give them the benefit of the doubt.
The concerns aren’t just with the tact or the target for political martyrdom, it’s the curious and concerning things that have been said such as this extract from an interview on Common Dream;
“This is not a moral observation. Violence destroys movements. The Global South has been at it for a few decades. Violence just ends up with people getting shot”
Never mind the decades of non violent direct action from dozens of communities across the Southern Hemisphere, From the Indigenous communities marching against dams in Brazil, or the Mapuche hunger strikes, marches and occupation which all reflect XR’s modus operandi or the decades long struggles of Aboriginals in Australia to protect the environment from industrialists such as SEED .. the ease at which he negates their movements and later talks about “The intelligent people on the political left”… this is supremacy talking, this is empire. The “global south” means people who arn’t white and who apparently have never considored not being violent! maybe they lackin “revolutionary discipline”?, if only they had thought about non violent resistance then the police wouldn’t have been shooting them!
The sheer fucking arrogance of casting off the struggles of so many communities with “they been at it for a few decades” and then advocating this new dance you’ve invented called non violent direct action. Oh and then there is this…utter gem…
“The metropolitan police are probably one of the most civilized police forces in the world. They have a professional team of guys who go to social protests. We’ve been in regular communication with them.”
This is like fucking Micheal Gove talking about the DSEI protests a few years back “They have a right to protest and they protest will be facilitated by the metropolitan police” who were just outside pushing people around and giving them a smack. The met arn’t “civilized” pal, they are brutal tool of the oppressor that think nothing of batter innocent people and covering that shit up.
Roger said in an interview with Victoria Derbyshire that “the police don’t want to be arresting 84 year old grannies” and went on to explain that given such overt civil disobedience they would eventually “rebel” and side with Extinction Rebellion against the government forcing the core group into the room with (I assume) the Tories.
This has given birth to monotone chantings of “police, we love you” and XR posting comments calling the police “wonderful” and “undervalued”. This the radicals in the audience started thinking them as naïve and thought that some friendly advice from the people who have been on the front line of ecological action for years might be welcome. They were wrong.
Extinction Rebellions core group are not naïve, they are very well versed in political action and their have doctorates up the wazoo. This is all part of a very carefully put together plan.
From the use of stirring language such as “the rebels have occupied Marble Arch” to the use of cultish conformity and symbolism, there is craft here and it’s problematic.
Activists become designated as “arrestables” and they do so “for extinction rebellion” but it’s OK they are on “the right side of history” so liberals and radicals alike queue up to get arrested, at the time of writing that’s some 1000+, 40 or so have been charges, several are being held on remand for a month. I’ve not actually seen an XR feed talk about those who are actually being detained, if so, it’s minimal. Talking about the realities of rebellion would send people home. It would harm numbers and we can’t have that. It’s the same reason solidarity is minimal and why one can’t wear a mask or resist arrest. No, the XR core team have a plan, and right now through the next two weeks that’s for them to show that they can control the mob they are going to “pause” and use the street folk as a bargaining chip so they can sit with the big wigs. Heck, it might even work.
It’s still fucked up.
You are not a pawn.