As climate catastrophe draws near, we are impressed and encouraged by the movement that Extinction Rebellion is building. This mobilisation has reinvigorated environmental activism at a time when we most need it. XR has been bold in its aims when much of the established movement has been cynical, and has managed to tap into a broader sense of alarm over environmental degradation, and mobilised many people not previously involved. XR has grown at a speed that many people would have thought impossible before we saw it happen. XR has also been far more radical in this broad appeal than many people would have thought, pursuing a strategy built around both local direct action while maintaining an international orientation. We cannot overstate the overwhelmingly positive effect that XR is having on environmental politics.
Those of us already involved in various radical and green movements have been attending XR meetings and actions and found them deeply inspiring. However, at the same time we also have doubts about some of the tactics that XR has adopted in its pursuit of a green future, and we have discussed how we should bridge the differences between our views and those of XR. We do not want to undermine the important work that XR is doing, but we also feel that there is a conversation that needs to be had about some of XR’s tactics.
While we hope that these tactics do work, we are dubious that they will be enough. We fear that the government will be less willing to negotiate in good faith and more willing to use violent repression against a truly disruptive campaign than is assumed. Capitalism systematically incentivises environmental destruction, and we worry that the costs of any government initiative to combat climate change will fall on the poor and powerless unless a clear anti-capitalist stance is articulated. We will never be free from the spectre of environmental crisis while the profit of the few is put above the lives of everyone else.
Against the existential threat of human extinction hanging over us all, cooperation is our greatest strength. We feel that a separate organisation that works alongside XR while allowing for a greater diversity of tactics is the most honest way to do this. We want to support XR with a parallel mobilisation that has a greater focus on the capitalist roots of climate catastrophe.
We believe these actions can be mutually supportive and bring a zero emissions world closer to reality. See you on the streets.
We are encouraged by the ability of Extinction Rebellion to call people onto the streets and push their demands for zero emissions. However, we believe that meeting these demands will not be possible without abolishing capitalism, a system reliant on the total exploitation of nature; whether that be sacrificing our clean water to frack for hydrocarbons or sacrificing our children to the production line. We must develop our ideas of what a different future may look like outside the constraints of both capital and fossil fuels. We must also critique the false solutions offered by ‘green capitalism’ and increased state control. It is our contention that the world in fifty years will look radically different from what we see now. The question is whether we are moving towards a sustainable future for humanity, or one of catastrophe. We are calling for a broad anti-capitalist environmental movement based around the following points of unity.
We are entering uncharted territory, in terms of how the earth’s ecosystems may respond to the ever-increasing pressures capitalism places upon them. Left unchecked, the current fossil fuel economy will continue to wreck the climate with the burden on impacts falling on the working class and LEDCs. We do not have faith that capitalists – or their parliamentarian representatives – will act in time to limit climate change in a meaningful way. The crisis they perpetuate can only lead to an increase in state control of the economy, of our lives, of the borders, as the ruling class seeks to contain social unrest and keep out climate refugees. We must take back control of our energy and production systems to create a new model of equality between peoples and harmony with nature.
Yours in Solidarity
GREEN ANTI-CAPITALIST FRONT ■
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The idea of an Anarchist Party came from concern about the lack of anarchist action in the UK in the face of growing social distress - as the result of economic and political policies, and climate change.
It seemed wrong that the movement should be so quiet here when there were so many people suffering and so many issues to address, while anarchists in other countries, in much more difficult circumstances, were fighting effectively to improve the lot of ordinary people and to promote revolutionary social change.
This is not to say that the UK experience is unique, voices from elsewhere make that clear, but the analysis here is local.
A big part of the explanation is the development since the 1980s of two extreme ideas of anarchist action; the predominantly working class, physical, direct action approach associated with Class War and a more intellectual, middle class, propagandist focus of many of the Anarchist Federation; leaving the middle ground of community activism almost completely empty.
There were good reasons for this:
a. The disintegration of poor communities, in the 1970s and 80s, as a result of the failure of the trades union movement to protect manual workers against 'free market' capitalist economic and political strategies, the subversion of the working class by offering them a stake in the capitalist project through home ownership and cheap debt, and the isolation of poor communities geographically by deindustrialisation and centralisation.
b. The success of the movement in the 80s and early 90s in establishing 'anarchist' communities - drawing people in, followed by the shrinking of the wider movement in the later 90's as the political cycle followed its course.
c. The media focus and the satisfactions of large scale direct actions.
d. The raising of ambitions by the popularisation of Anarchist theory and the recognition of the movement by the mainstream.
As a consequence, the movement, which had been so decentralised and socially integrated in the period of punk popularity, became increasingly divorced from its local community roots and centralised in distinct communities in major cities, dis-functional rural townships and on the road. The social connection was broken and the major focus became big-picture conflicts like the G20s and the ambition of educating the wider public.
Every shade and mix of the extremes exists, but what matters is that the centre ground is largely empty but for campaigns like anti-gentrification or occasional support for industrial action. Critical discussions and action across the movement, like defending the poor from Austerity, relating to XR/climate change and dealing with the changing tactics of the far right are just not out there. The space for community activism is occupied by Community Interest Companies, charities and the state, all of which are apolitical or, at best, cautiously reformist. We have a steadily declining status quo - government does whatever it wants. The movement is failing those who need it most and who are the fundamental source of its support, energy and legitimacy.
Despite all this though, it is also clear that Anarchism really has become the default political philosophy for many young people and is entrenched in the mainstream conversation. The actions of the black bloc have demonstrated our integrity and kept us out there in the media and the public mind, and AFED have provided theoretical consistency and maintained a connection to broader political issues.
The obvious conclusion is that it is necessary to start from the ground up; that modern times need a modern approach. That what we have is a powerful legacy, not progress. The organisations of the past have brought us here but it is time to move on; to build a refreshed movement that can be owned by a new generation of activists, reflect their take on the world and address the issues of today, in communities, on the streets and on the global stage.
For Anarchists prescription is difficult, so what follows does not explicitly reference existing AP's, is intentionally empty of detail and as loose as possible; Anarchists will make of it what they will.
An Anarchist Party will have a broad program balanced across community activism, legal direct action, activist resources and propaganda. It can still support activists breaking the law, intentionally or otherwise, after the event.
It can benefit from being a legal political entity and demand a public presence with credibility and self esteem.
It would seek to attract members from across the community, accepting that many would be politically inexperienced and many of anarchist inclination only; and be prepared for the influence that would have on group formation, discussions and actions. This not the 1980s, when many young activists already had years of experience and aggressive anarchism was the norm in a vibrant subculture. The communities we move in now are poorer, more oppressed, more under surveillance and way less at liberty to act. We have to organise in a more careful, developmental way; a process that builds confidence with group solidarity, experience and theoretical coherence. We can expect regular incursions by leftists in search of power and an ever present appetite for reform and the exploration of internal politics, but at the same time we will be building a deeper, broader movement, appropriate to our demanding time. ■
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