The world would be much better off if certain leftists dared to stick their necks out and give full-throated resistance against imperialist aggression without prefacing it with umpteen excuses, extrications and disavowals designed to keep them in at least some of the good graces of ‘polite society’.
On 15 April, thousands of climate activists occupied key locations in London, taking Marble Arch, Oxford Circus, Piccadilly Circus, Parliament Square and Waterloo Bridge. These protests, called by the British climate activist organisation Extinction Rebellion, marked the beginning of days of protests across the globe, involving 80 cities in 34 countries. The actions in London have continued to hold, despite mounting police pressure, and seem likely to spill beyond their planned end date of Saturday 20 April. Red Fightback welcomes this development as a significant and positive step forward. We extend our solidarity to those involved in the actions.
In discussing these protests, it is crucial that Marxists distinguish between Extinction Rebellion – the organisation – and the “extinction rebellion” – that is, the protests. The former holds concrete and definable positions, with which we seek to critically engage. The latter is, in essence, the beginnings of a political movement. The significance of this is marked by the protests’ use of People’s Assemblies – open discussions between an hour and four hours long – as a direct and participative form of democracy.
In the context of such an open democracy, it is crucial that communists work amongst the demonstrations and engage in serious discussion of their politics and demands. This necessitates advancing arguments to bring the interests of the working class and oppressed to the fore of the movement. In this, we would like to work with those forces that share our aims – notably the recently founded Green Anticapitalist Front.
The practical importance of the communist approach to the environmental crisis is marked by the absence of imperialism from Extinction Rebellion’s ‑the organisation – analysis. This evident when considering war. As imperialism is reliant upon the exploitation of the oppressed world, it necessarily enforces its domination by means of military force. If we are to tackle the environmental crisis, then we must also address the system of global exploitation which necessitates this brutal violence. This is contained in a simple fact: the US military is the largest polluter on the face of the earth.
A further point must be made in relation to the organisation’s attitude to the police. Extinction Rebellion’s strategy of getting people arrested to promote social change turns the tactic of direct action upon its head. Throughout the demonstrations thus far arrests have been accompanied by friendly cheers. Communists must be clear: mass action is necessary to build a movement and refreshing on the streets of Britain; however, the policing of this action is political and it must be resisted. It is imperative that communists argue for political defence campaigns to support those arrested on actions.
Part of the danger of this view of the police is evident in its approach toward encouraging protestors to get arrested. In its leaflet, “Arrest Part 1: Preparation”, XR states: “As a mutually supporting network we are all responsible for ourselves, and while we support each other as best we can, your actions are your own.”, and “XR do not contribute towards court fines, court costs or legal costs”.
We can only assume that this lack of support comes from XR’s viewpoint that the police and the state are not dangerous, and that the British state will not punish this action to the extent of its ability. We can assure XR that this is not the case.
Given that XR has raised over £400,000 from the people in its network, we challenge XR to use this money to render that mutual support to the people that it has encouraged to be arrested, who have jeopardised their freedom, employment, and have become known to the state.
The adoption of this attitude to the police must be discussed earnestly, and that discussion must include class, race, disability, transphobia and misogyny. The working class and oppressed of British society face inordinate violence and oppression at the hands of the police, even murder. Arrest is not a trivial matter in the face of such state violence. The urgency of understanding and arguing this position is clear when one considers a struggle with which Extinction Rebellion draws a parallel – the suffragettes. The state did not change its mind in granting certain women the vote, it was forced by the resistance of heroic women, who faced the torture of forced feeding after their political arrest.
The failure of the suffragettes to secure voting rights for all women or an end to sexist exploitation also underscores the importance of the communist approach. To gain equality for all one must oppose imperialism, which the Suffragettes failed to do, all of the Pankhursts but the communist Sylvia supporting the British empire.
The changes required to solve the environmental crisis will not come from collaboration with the imperialists in power, who have proven time and time again that they prioritise the accumulation of capital above all else; they will come from the working class toppling the monsters of imperialism and capital.
With twelve years remaining to remedy our situation, the time for asking the bourgeoisie to save us has passed. It is time for socialist revolution, not rebellion. Red Fightback will work to argue for and advance this proposition in the coming struggle.
The fight is now. Socialism or Extinction!
 Arrest Part 1: Preparation – https://extinctionrebellion.files.wordpress.com/2019/03/arrest-part-1-preparation.pdf
 XR’s first crowdfunder – https://fundrazr.com/ExtinctionRebellion?ref=ab_1lVTa5eLTon1lVTa5eLTon
 XR’s current crowdfunder – https://fundrazr.com/Global_XR?ref=ab_1lVTa5eLTon1lVTa5eLTon