Saturday, 19 October 2019

False claims of 'noble working class resistance' to Extinction Rebellion protests

Many leftists are mistakenly presenting the brutal violence against climate change protesters at Canning Town tube station as the 'understandable reaction of decent, hard-pressed working-class people'.
Even while condemning the violence, there's been a deeply misguided tendency to pitch such reactions as an 'admirable working class take-down' of 'self-indulgent, middle class eco-zealots'.
Alas, this particular 'weaponising' of class not only distracts from the overarching climate crisis, it merely divides potentially progressive forces, thereby serving the very class interests of those elites behind mass climate destruction.
Besides a statement of regret over the action, the bulk of Extinction Rebellion activists had already expressed deep misgivings over this kind of protest, seeing the obvious disadvantages of targeting relatively benign, low-carbon train travel and those using it.
Yet, whatever the questionable wisdom of such protests, the scenes at the tube station looked more like ugly, fascist-styled vigilantism than useful class-minded action.
Little wonder that both The Sun and a reactionary Tory MP could hail such responses as 'heroic working class conduct'.
There's a false but expediently used notion here that working class people are somehow peripheral to, or exempt from, the prevailing climate disaster, caught up as they are in the difficult daily effort to get by.
But this is just another face of the same neoliberal 'business as usual' narrative, helping to keep any wider population safely detached from the issue.
And for good measure, tabloid and other media 'champions of the poor' are ever-ready with the demonising refrain that XR and their 'layabout ilk' are just 'targeting hard working people'.
Perversely, even for many leftists, this incident has thrown up a false reading of 'class consciousness' in the face of a corporate-driven climate emergency that not only threatens the world's poorest most, but will ultimately bring all daily life to a standstill.
The chief villains of climate destruction - corporations and their political/media agents - should be the primary focus of protests and civil actions.
But people of all classes must come to realise, one way or another, that this climate calamity will reach every aspect of social and economic life. We're all involved as human beings.
If nothing else - with tactical lessons learned here - Extinction Rebellion are starting to get across their core message that the climate crisis happening now means there must also be commensurate disruption of the entire system that's driving it.
And that systemic disruption will mean increasing dislocation and require meaningful reflection for everyone.
Every previous attempt at raising awareness of the climate breakdown has failed. XR's alarm-raising actions, even in eliciting such polarised responses, are largely responsible for the mass mobilisation we're now seeing here and across the globe.
Any development of real class action on this life-defining issue now depends on an understanding that the corporate/neoliberal forces behind mass wealth inequality, warmongering and subjugation of the poor are the same forces responsible for the climate breakdown threatening our very existence.
Whether through that greater class awareness or any other form of collective engagement, the vital and immediate task of all humanity in resisting such destructive forces remains the same.

No comments: