“We didn’t bang on about climate change because it would have lost us votes” (Green Party member on Facebook)
Conventional environmentalism is rationalist, repressed, and reformist.
Compare the quote above with the mantra of probably the most effective direct action movement of recent decades, ACT UP:
"We didn't give a fuck what people thought of us, and that was our strength" (Larry Kramer).
As the originator, and strategic designer behind Extinction Rebellion, and based on five years of field research with a variety of radical campaigns -from rent strikes to casualised labour mobilisations- I can say, without any hesitation, nothing changes without disruption – the breaking of the law.
"Upsetting" disruption and "irrational" emotion. The total opposite of the nicely-nicely approach of environmentalism.
The very term "environmentalism" betrays its fundamental incoherence. It is based upon the ridiculous cartesian assumption there is us, and then there is the world; myself and "the environment" out there, to be exploited, raped, and patted on the head when it gets a bit tricky.
Understanding this every present threat to humanity requires we get over this disastrous division. Is COVID an environmental issue? Are our bodies part of Nature? Are our children (who will die from starvation as climate breakdown goes non-linear) part of "us" or part of the "environment"?
Nature is us, and we are Nature. Get with the programme before we go extinct.
The issue is not "the environment"; it is political corruption and criminality. Why focus on the conduit of this Evil rather than the Evil itself? What we need to look at is who is doing the destroying and what is the outcome.
The ruling class are the culprits, and the outcome is social collapse.
We are not looking at higher temperatures, burning forests, and rising sea levels – that is physical reductionism. We are looking at twenty World War Twos by the end of the century (maybe 5 maybe 50 – take your pick on where you place the risk distribution curve).
War is the outcome of elite pathology, and the interlocked compounding social effects that come with it – mass slaughter, mass rape, mass migration – the emptying of cities, and disintegration of state authority. Starvation drives genocide and genocide drives starvation. This is first and foremost an existential security risk. It is "post green". It's a million miles from allotments and green wellies.
The only effective response at this stage is the revolutionary struggle. There are only two optional endpoints – radical state-based democracy or fascistic state-based autocracy.
When an existential crisis hits there is an iron rule – the state takes control. The issue is who controls it – the people or the elites. We know this is coming with absolute certainty because we are not talking here about social processes, which are difficult to predict, but geophysical processes which are absolutely set.
Ice melts when it turns hot. Forests burn when it turns hot. Permafrost melts when it turns hot. It has turned hot. When you drive a lorry at 100mph into a concrete wall, you cannot stop the crash when you are 5 metres away. We crossed the 5-metre point around 10 years ago. The crash has already happened.
(Ironically it's environmentalists who cant see this non-brainer deduction from the data.)
The essence of environmentalism is the humanist dogma that Nature is inert. We can exploit it and yet must protect it. It is the slave owner mentality. It is inconceivable that it will kill you and so you cannot conceive of it. COVID is the stab wound, but still, the denial is hanging on.
For the next few months or years, we have left environmentalism to try to prevent revolutionary preparations by insisting on continuing the death spiral of backwards-looking pragmatism, with its grotesque formulation: don't mention climate as it puts off voters.
No one wants to tell the truth, because no one else in the public sphere is telling the truth – the government, the environmental movement, and the public are playing a suicidal game of mutually reinforcing denial.
No one wants to say it's now too late and that collapse is now locked in.
The environmentalist gatekeepers cannot understand that only revolutionary political action to take control of the state will prevent the slide from inevitable collapse to possible extinction ("functional" or "absolute" –take your pick).
Revolutionary action, to be clear, is no rehash of the elitist middle-class direct action movements of the past three decades with their "poor me" individualistic narcissism and obsession with
catastrophically ineffectual horizontalism (a chronic phobia of structure, functional hierarchy and leadership). Instead, we have to look to civil resistance struggles in the global south and our radical collective mobilisation traditions before 1990. This means a fusion of the end of the month and end of the world narratives.
It means a rediscovery of strong and disciplined vanguard organisations which trigger the political confrontations that will bring the 3.5% onto the street. And then, they have to have a clear democratic mandate to negotiate with the government to replace it with citizens assemblies.
This massive turnaround in radical political culture has to happen now; otherwise, the fascism will easily overpower leaderless and dispersed social protests with violence and their billionaire funding.
The revolutionary demographic needs to be the focus of mobilisation – the ignored and humiliated working class and lower middle class of regional towns and cities which have always provided the ground troops of social upheaval. The urban liberal middle class talks the talk but will never walk the walk because they have too much skin in the game.
The old environmentalist alliance is dead. The new alliance will include a minority of middle-class activists who understand they have to now be in service to a new populist street talking mass
mobilisation and the rest of the old alliance will become historically irrelevant. This will be 10 or 20% of people from the radical NGOs, Green Party and Extinction Rebellion and such like. They will combine with a working-class led anti-austerity social media networks from the North, Wales and the South West, in alliance with the embedded community activist networks from the inner cities.
Beyond Politics/Burning Pink, which I helped to set up, is working on creating this new alliance. It is not clear whether it will succeed or not – the forces of denial are still strong. But something along these lines needs to happen, and there is no time to lose. We have a small window before fascistic forces take over. The decisions we make now will have massive consequences, beyond our imaginations.
Let's not delude ourselves any longer. History had returned with a vengeance and it is time to get real.
This article was written by Roger Hallam, 48 hours prior to his arrest and imprisonment today, 25th of August, 2020.
This is the film my friend Sasha made with Sylvia and myself. I haven’t really got much to say about it. It’s over to the people watching it now – whether they want to be on the side of Life or Death. If you wish to stand for Life then you have to break the government’s laws in order to stop the breaking of the Universal Law: don’t do to others what you would not wish them to do to you.
The next Rebellion starts in September.