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Extinction Rebellion (XR)

The Climate Strikes & the Social Strike: Working-Class Environmentalism and Social Reproduction

By Lorenzo Feltrin - We Are Plan C, June 18, 2019

Are the climate strikes “real” strikes? The answer to this question depends on our definition of what a strike is, which is in turn based on our political objectives. It is proposed here that the climate strikes, just like the women’s strikes, are part of the process that we call the “social strike”.

This argument rests on two theoretical assumptions:

  • An expanded conception of work and of the working-class composition;
  • A conception of working-class interests as encompassing both production (the making of commodities) and reproduction (the making of life).[1]

A strike occurs when workers withdraw their labour to pressure private employers or the state to make concessions. If we understand work as exclusively waged employment, then a strike only happens when waged employees perform a workplace-based suspension of production. However, if we adopt a broader definition of work, encompassing all activities – waged and unwaged, productive and reproductive – that are subordinated in both obvious and hidden ways to the accumulation of capital via profit-making, then work is not contained only in formal workplaces but is also diffused throughout society. It is done within households and communities (for a moment, just think of all the cooking, cleaning and caring that we call reproductive labour); through the means of communication (the production of data, emotions, entertainment, ideas that are captured and sold for profit by the internet giants); in schools (the formation of a labour-power adequate to the needs of the economy); etc. The social strike then, refers to a withdrawal of all kinds of labour, including labour in its most socially diffused forms.

A common mischaracterisation of the social strike idea is the accusation that, by giving to unwaged and reproductive labour the same “dignity” traditionally assigned to waged productive labour, it abandons all aspirations to fight the class struggle in workplaces. To the contrary! There is no reason why we should not strive for a social strike that touches upon the whole spectrum of work. The disputes about the primacy of this or that form of work appear as pointless to many of us, with the only concrete outcome of dividing us further. After all, work in capitalism is not a question of dignity but of coerced profit-making and social control, and as such it is a disgrace. Dignity is asserted by workers as resistance, overt or covert, against the toll work takes on life.

Workers and the fight for climate justice

By David Camfield - New Socialist, June 10, 2019

The push for a Green New Deal (GND) that’s become a big topic of political discussion in the US has come north. At the beginning of May 2019, the Pact for a GND was launched publicly in Canada. It was endorsed by a range of organizations and prominent individuals. Behind the scenes, staff from a number of major NGOs including Greenpeace and Leadnow are playing key roles in the initiative.

The Pact calls the GND “a vision of rapid, inclusive and far-reaching transition, to slash emissions, protect critical biodiversity, meet the demands of the multiple crises we face, and create over a million jobs in the process. It would involve the full implementation of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) including the right to Free, Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC), dozens of other pieces of legislation, new programs and institutions, and a huge mobilization calling on the creativity and participation of all of us.”

The Pact sets out “two fundamental principles” for a GND: “1. It must meet the demands of Indigenous Knowledge and science and cut Canada’s emissions in half in 11 years while protecting cultural and biological diversity”, and “2. It must leave no one behind and build a better present and future for all of us.”

Over 100 town hall meetings have been held in cities, towns and smaller communities to discuss what should be in a GND, and more are planned. The results of the discussions are supposed to be reported back and used to develop a package of GND policies. It seems that the contents of the package will eventually be decided by some of the people, mostly NGO staff, doing the work of the Pact for a GND Coalition. The Coalition, however, will not be campaigning publicly between June 30th and the federal election due to election advertising regulations. The GND policy package will be launched after the federal election, with the Coalition talking internally about doing some kind of mass mobilization around it.

The Strategic Importance of a Green New Deal Campaign

It does matter what the specific GND policies will be – but not only or mainly for the reason that some anti-capitalists think. Some radicals in the US have dismissively criticized the GND championed by Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and other Democratic politicians for not targeting the capitalist system itself. In a much more constructive reflection, British socialist Richard Seymour has asked if the GND depends “on magical thinking about technology and capitalism? Are the legislative tools it looks to adequate? Is it internationalist, or can it be? Does it risk further commodifying the natural world?” Seymour suggests “we need the GND plus something else.”

We definitely need accurate assessments of the enormous scale of change needed to carry out a just transition away from a way of organizing society that spews out vast quantities of greenhouse gases. As Samuel Miller McDonald argues, “we first have to be clear-eyed about the challenges involved.”

Internationalising the Green New Deal: Strategies for Pan-European Coordination

By Daniel Aldana Cohen, Kate Aronoff, Alyssa Battistoni, and Thea Riofrancos - Common Wealth, 2019

Climate politics are today bursting to life like never before. For four decades, market fundamentalists in the United States and United Kingdom have blocked ambitious efforts to deal with the climate crisis. But now, the neoliberal hegemony is crumbling, while popular climate mobilisations grow stronger every month. There has never been a better moment to transform politics and attack the climate emergency.

When the climate crisis first emerged into public consciousness in the 1980s, Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan were consolidating a neoliberal doctrine that banished the most powerful tools to confront global heating— public investment and collective action.

Instead, neoliberals sought to free markets from democratically imposed constraints and the power of mass mobilisation. Thatcher insisted that there was no alternative to letting corporations run roughshod over people and planet alike in the name of profit. Soon, New Democrats and New Labour agreed. While the leaders of the third way spoke often of climate change, their actual policies let fossil capital keep drilling and burning. Afraid to intervene aggressively in markets, they did far too little to build a clean energy alternative.

Then the financial crisis of 2008 and the left revival that exploded in its wake laid bare the failures of the neoliberal project. An alternative political economic project is now emerging—and not a moment too soon. As the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change put it, keeping global warming below catastrophic levels will require “rapid, far-reaching and unprecedented changes in all aspects of society.” In other words: public investment and collective action.

Fortunately, movements on both sides of the Atlantic have been building strength to mount this kind of alternative to market fundamentalism. On the heels of Occupy Wall Street and Black Lives Matter, Bernie Sanders’s 2016 Democratic primary campaign breathed new life into the American left and its electoral prospects. Jeremy Corbyn’s election as leader of the Labour Party, spurred by a vibrant grassroots mobilisation, gives those of us in the U.S. hope: if New Labour could give way to Corbynism, surely Clintonism can give way to the left wing of the Democratic party. In the U.K., drawing on tactics from the Sanders campaign, Momentum has developed a new model of mass mobilisation to transform a fossilised political party. It’s restoring the dream that formal politics can be a means for genuinely democratic political organising. In turn, U.S. leftists are learning from Momentum’s innovations.

The vision of the Green New Deal that has taken shape in the United States in the past few months is in many ways a culmination of the U.S. left’s revival. The Green New Deal’s modest ambition is to do all that this moment requires: decarbonise the economy as quickly as humanly possible by investing massively to electrify everything, while bringing prodigious amounts of renewable power online; all this would be done in a way that dismantles inequalities of race, class and gender. The Green New Deal would transform the energy and food systems and the broader political economy of which they are a part.

Read the report (PDF).

Plan, Mood, Battlefield - Reflections on the Green New Deal

By Thea Riofrancos - Viewpoint Magazine, May 16, 2019

Climate scientists are beginning to sound like radicals.

The 2018 IPCC report concluded that “unprecedented changes across all aspects of society” would be needed to limit warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius. In its devastating report on the dire state of the planet’s ecosystems, the UN’s panel on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services likewise called for, in the words of its chairperson, “fundamental, system-wide reorganization across technological, economic and social factors, including paradigms, goals and values.”

The first, and thus far only, U.S. policy initiative that addresses the severity of the crisis before us is the Green New Deal, introduced as a congressional joint resolution this past February. The resolution proposes, among other goals, decarbonizing the economy, investing in infrastructure, and creating dignified jobs for millions. And while this resolution is, from a planetary perspective, obviously limited by its domestic scale, transforming the U.S. along these lines would surely have global reverberations, for at least two reasons: the U.S. is a major impediment to global coöperation on climate, and political parties elsewhere in the world (e.g., the UK’s Labour Party and Spain’s Socialist Party) have already begun to adopt the Green New Deal as the frame for their own domestic policies.

After a few months of swirling discourse, we can begin to identify an emergent set of positions in the debate around the Green New Deal. The right-wing has resorted to classic red-baiting, decrying the nonbinding resolution as a “socialist monster,” a road to the serfdom of state planning, rationing, and compulsory veganism. The vanishing center is clinging tightly to its cozy attachment to a politics of triangulation: the Green New Deal is a childlike dream; serious adults know that the only option is to hew to the path of bipartisanship and incrementalism. The left, of course, knows that in the context of already-unfolding climate crisis, resurgent xenophobia, and the weakening hold on legitimacy of the neoliberal consensus, the real delusions are “market-driven” solutions and nostalgic paeans to American “norms and institutions.”

But on the left, too, there are criticisms, and outright rejections, of the Green New Deal (see here, here, here, and here). There is the charge that the Green New Deal, like the old New Deal, amounts to the state, qua executive committee of the bourgeoisie, rescuing capitalism from the planetary crisis it has created. In this rendering, rather than empowering “frontline and vulnerable” communities, as the resolution claims, the policy framework will amount to a corporate welfare windfall of investment opportunities lubricated with tax breaks and subsidies; public-private partnerships; infrastructure outlays that will stimulate real estate development; and, a jobs guarantee that will stimulate consumption—a win-win for the state and capital, but, by leaving the underlying, growth-addicted, model of accumulation untouched, a loss for the planet and the communities most vulnerable to climate crisis and eco-apartheid. There’s another twist. As sometimes the same analyses point out, this win-win-lose-lose scenario is itself based on a false understanding of contemporary capitalism. In a world of secular stagnation—declining profit rates, speculative bubbles, financialization, rentier-like behavior, and accumulation-by-upward-redistribution—the vampire-like quality of capital has never been more apparent. The notion that capital might, with a little inducement, suddenly overcome these tendencies and invest in productive activities is its own nostalgic fantasy.

Extinction Rebellion Must Evolve to Tackle Our Systemic Climate Crisis

By Steve Rushton - Occupy.Com, May 9, 2019

The movement known as Extinction Rebellion (XR) has pushed climate change firmly into the British consciousness, clearing the political hangover left by the never-ending Brexit fog. But there are constructive critiques to this monumental, London-centred climate activism that bear mentioning. Namely, what does this movement need to do to gather enough popular support and halt the ongoing climate meltdown.

XR takes over London

For 10 days in April, Extinction Rebellion created headline disruption, taking over prominent sites across London, including Parliament Square. They demanded that the UK government "tell the truth" about the scale of the climate crisis; enact legally binding policies to reduce carbon emissions to net zero by 2025; and do both through a Citizens Assembly (more on citizens assemblies here).

People last month participated in the tens of thousands, and many of then were new to activism. Holding these sites created space for public assemblies and direct action. When police arrested activists – more than 1,000 in total – more came forward until jail cells were full. Actions went far beyond London, from road blocks in Brussels to stopping a coal train in Australia, and die-ins as well as other actions from India to South Africa to Seattle.

Pressure from XR made Labour table a motion in Parliament to declare a climate emergency. The Welsh assembly did the same just days before. Now, as XR expands its effective activism globally, it is worth asking: what does this movement need to do to stop the climate catastrophe?

Statement by IWW Secretary, Russ Spring - Union calls for an end to the growing economy and the transformation of industry

Statement by IWW DEC Secretary, Russ Spring - Bristol IWW EUC, April 22, 2019

Statement delivered to Bristol IWW EUC, to be announced in solidarity with the Earth Strike climate protest on April 27th, 2019: https://www.facebook.com/events/777567979287005/

Regarding the passing of the IWW’s new environmental policy, calling for an end to the growing economy and the transformation of harmful industry.

“The threat of extinction is a very loud wake up call. Not just a wake up call to the needs of the planet but also a wake up call to the need for system change. Urgent and seismic action is needed for the immediate future and the long term survival of our planet.

The changes that are required are so substantial that capitalism cannot deliver them. System change not climate change is one of the placards and chants of the schools strikes.

That is largely due to the fact that it is a world driven by greed, self interest in the pursuit of private wealth, profit and privilege, that has brought us to the brink of extinction.

The best that a green capitalism can offer is a temporary truce in its war on the planet, before its insatiable appetite for more will push us again to the edge of catastrophe.

The terms of struggle have changed from the desire for a fairer world to the necessity of a fairer world and one that puts ecology before economy.

We are living at the most important time in human history. It is the time when the reality and consequences of human activity is laid bear like never before.

And whilst we are staring oblivion full in the face it is also a great time of possibility. A time for us to have the most radical shake up of our economics our culture and our relationships with each other and of course our planet.

BUT it is our last chance... screw this up and ...well it doesn't bear thinking about.

The climate change emergency is creating a vacuum throwing old politics to the sides and it is important that progressive ideas and actions fill that vacuum.

The small minded bigots of the right wing are already talking about the need to curb populations in Africa and Asia and pointing to other world economies such as China as the problem. We can expect to see climate change being used more and more to fuel racism, xenophobia and nationalism and the ideas of green fascism.

The school strikes, the XR occupations in London and events like this are a start but we must dramatically increase our efforts.

We must start to frame a clear vision of the future that we and the planet demand.

Sadly many on the left have dismissed ecological concerns in the past. Seeing environmental degradation as an inevitable consequence of the sacred cow of progress and the creation of jobs...at any cost.

All political parties, both mainstream and those on the fringes, are locked into the growing economy, standards of living and the right to consumption. The trade union movement following suit.

Quality of life, community and ecology have long been shoved off the agenda.

The question is does the left have the ability to heed the wake up call and adapt or are they due for extinction.

So the IWW, has since the 80s had in its constitution, sadly somewhat neglected, a line that says that we aim to build a world in which we can live in harmony with the planet.

We have now given new life to that desire by passing a long overdue environmental policy that calls for; an end to the growing economy and the transformation of harmful industries.

I think we will be the first trade union to do so. But we also commit that the IWW should seek to be a radical influence in politics and environmental debate and in particular the trade union movement which can be very protective of the most damaging industries.

So we aim to try and influence the trade unions that still have over 6million members.

We also acknowledge that this is not a time for political dogma. It is a time of political pragmatism.

So whilst we will keep our revolutionary aims we will work to bring about reforms to slow down climate change ….. by any means necessary.

The battle is on, and time is short. We need to be bold and draw on all our creative energies to bring about change in our individual lives but most importantly system change.

The time for squabbling among ourselves is over.

Lets get angry lets get passionate and direct it at those that are responsible.

An Open Letter to Extinction Rebellion

By Wretched of the Earth - Common Dreams, May 4, 2019

This letter was collaboratively written with dozens of aligned groups. As the weeks of action called by Extinction Rebellion were coming to an end, our groups came together to reflect on the narrative, strategies, tactics and demands of a reinvigorated climate movement in the UK. In this letter we articulate a foundational set of principles and demands that are rooted in justice and which we feel are crucial for the whole movement to consider as we continue constructing a response to the ‘climate emergency’.

Dear Extinction Rebellion,

The emergence of a mass movement like Extinction Rebellion (XR) is an encouraging sign that we have reached a moment of opportunity in which there is both a collective consciousness of the immense danger ahead of us and a collective will to fight it. A critical mass agrees with the open letter launching XR when it states “If we continue on our current path, the future for our species is bleak.”

At the same time, in order to construct a different future, or even to imagine it, we have to understand what this “path” is, and how we arrived at the world as we know it now. “The Truth” of the ecological crisis is that we did not get here by a sequence of small missteps, but were thrust here by powerful forces that drove the distribution of resources of the entire planet and the structure of our societies. The economic structures that dominate us were brought about by colonial projects whose sole purpose is the pursuit of domination and profit. For centuries, racism, sexism and classism have been necessary for this system to be upheld, and have shaped the conditions we find ourselves in.

Another truth is that for many, the bleakness is not something of “the future”. For those of us who are indigenous, working class, black, brown, queer, trans or disabled, the experience of structural violence became part of our birthright. Greta Thunberg calls world leaders to act by reminding them that “Our house is on fire”. For many of us, the house has been on fire for a long time: whenever the tide of ecological violence rises, our communities, especially in the Global South are always first hit. We are the first to face poor air quality, hunger, public health crises, drought, floods and displacement.

Toward Climate-Catalyzed Social Transformation?

By Diana Stuart and Ryan Gunderson - ROARMag, May 3, 2019

In the past weeks, Extinction Rebellion has continued to make news headlines with acts of protest in London, Boston, New York and other cities across the globe. In London, thousands of activists blocked roads and bridges and over 1,000 were arrested. These actions are a part of Extinction Rebellion’s ongoing strategy to disrupt the economy and pressure governments to meet their demands to address climate change.

In addition, the youth movement Fridays for Future continues to hold school strikes with an estimated 1.6 million participants across the globe on March 15. In the United States, the Sunrise Movement has just launched a tour to promote the Green New Deal, a possibly transformative resolution that targets both inequality and greenhouse gas emissions.

These movements are unprecedented, growing, and are unlikely to go away any time soon. In addition, meeting the demands of these movements would require significant social and economic changes through a radical political program.

Given the momentum of these movements, are we on the verge of a possible climate-catalyzed social transformation? And if so, what strategies for transformation will be most effective?

The Autonomous Earth Federation

By anonymous - May 2019

We are standing at a crucial crossroads. Not only does the age-old “social question” concerning the exploitation of human labor remain unresolved, but the plundering of natural resources has reached a point where humanity is also forced to politically deal with an “ecological question.” Today, we have to make conscious choices about what direction society should take, to properly meet these challenges. - Eirik Eiglad

In the wake of recent events, many anarchists and social ecologists have found their early concerns about Extinction Rebellion and Earth Strike confirmed: the movements appear destined for failure.

Activists under the green, black, and red are agreed that now, perhaps more than ever, an organised autonomous movement is needed to build towards insurrection and general strikes, as well as provide a clearly outlined ecological alternative to the capitalist industrial order based on one of communal ownership and democracy. What follows is the proposal for a rough set of guidelines towards the formation of a decentralised network of activists, united by a shared belief in this set of core principles:

  • Climate collapse is class war
  • Capitalism and centralisation have devastated our planet
  • Direct Action and Autonomy - not looking to elected representatives for reform
  • Climate issues are social issues
  • Consensus is key - All Power to the People!
  • Anti-Fascism
  • Rejection of the state and police
  • The climate struggle is an internationalist struggle
  • The climate struggle is an anti-racist, anti-ableist, anti-imperialist struggle

The Autonomous Earth Federation aims to establish an organised autonomous undercurrent within the wider climate and labour movements. There are no membership fees, no registration - anyone who agrees with our core principles can consider themselves a part of the AEF. We offer no support or affiliation to any political party, and have no officials or internal hierarchy - we are all leaders.

Avoiding “Hothouse Earth”: Organizing Against Climate Catastrophe and Extinction

By BRRN Radical Ecology Committee - Black Rose Anarchist Federation, January 24, 2019

Climate alarms are going off all over Earth, from the devastating wildfires that have raged recently in California to the mass-bleaching of the Great Barrier Reef, the warming of Antarctica from below, and the continued melting of Greenland, even in winter. In August of last year, 2017 was found to be the hottest year on record without an El Niño Southern Oscillation (ENSO) event, a cyclical phenomenon which periodically warms the Pacific Ocean, while the past four years (2018 included) have been the hottest on record.

Aptly summarizing our current predicament, Will Steffen and colleagues published “Trajectories of the Earth System in the Anthropocene” in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) in August 2018. The authors describe the risks posed to the “Earth system” by biosphere degradation and the surpassing of environmental thresholds beyond which feedback loops such as reduced albedo effects (from lost ice and snow cover) and increased emissions (from forest fires, lost phytoplankton, and/or liberated methane) render global warming a self-perpetuating phenomenon. These conditions would result in the irrevocably infernal conditions of an imagined “Hothouse Earth.” (See the image below for a visual representation.) Steffen and colleagues are clear about the implications of this framing: “Collective human action is required to steer the Earth System away from a potential threshold and stabilize it in a habitable interglacial-like state.”

Courtesy Will Steffen et al.

Besides this infamous “Hothouse Earth” paper, several other new studies have illuminated the proverbial sword of Damocles hanging above us: in its October 2018 report, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) concludes that we have at most 12 years to prevent catastrophic climate breakdown, defined as an exceeding of the globally agreed-upon target of an 1.5-2°C (2.7-3.6°F) increase in average global temperatures since the onset of industrial capitalism. Since the pre-industrial age, Earth has warmed by more than 1°C (1.8°F), so we are already on the knife’s edge. As the global temperature rises, risks to humanity and the rest of nature rise in tandem. See the Guardian graphic below for an illustration of some of the relationships between these risks.

In light of such cumulative risks, which the U.S. climatologist Michael Mann has likened to traversing a minefield—“The further out on to that minefield we go, the more explosions we are likely to set off”—the new IPCC report emphasizes the stark terms of the tasks before us.

“To keep warming under 1.5°C, countries will have to cut global CO2 [carbon-dioxide] emissions 45 percent below 2010 levels by 2030 and reach net zero by around 2050, the report found […]. To stay under 1.5°C warming without relying on unproven CO2 removal technology means CO2 emissions must be cut in half by 2030, according to the report.”

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