Diane Abbott won enthusiastic applause as she joined Extinction Rebellion activists in Parliament Square on April 24. The Shadow Home Secretary told the crowd: ‘I think you’ve done an amazing job drawing people’s attention to the climate emergency. I also want to say this – in all the noise and kerfuffle of Brexit, the climate emergency is the most important issue facing us. I was pleased to be listening to our comrade Greta Thunberg yesterday with other MPs and she was amazing. I give her a lot of credit as a 16-year-old to go around the world and speak the truth to people twice and three times her age.’
Diane Abbott said: “I wouldn’t be in politics if I didn’t think change was possible. If things can change on the issues that I campaigned on when I was a very young woman, I think that things can change … on climate change and we can move towards the 2025 target.” Abbott suggested meeting Extinction Rebellion for a detailed discussion of policy aims – a proposal met with rapturous applause.
On April 15, the first day of the 2019 Spring Rebellion, John McDonnell joined Greta Thunberg in tweeting his support. Others on Labour’s Front Bench also backed the protesters, likening them to the Chartists, suffragettes and anti-apartheid activists.
Responding to a question in the Commons on April 23, Barry Gardiner said that alongside the strikes by thousands of schoolchildren, today’s XR activists reminded him of previous memorable struggles. ‘All of those victories were won by citizens uniting against injustice, making their voice heard. And Extinction Rebellion and the school climate strikers are doing just that,’ he said.
Outside parliament on April 23, hundreds of protesters gathered to demand action on XR’s three demands:
for politicians to tell the truth
for the UK to cut carbon emissions to zero by 2025
for the formation of a citizens’ assembly.
Shadow Health Secretary Jon Ashworth addressed the crowd, pledging to make climate change action central to Labour’s health and wellbeing policy and expressing his support for a citizens’ assembly. Inside the chamber, Ed Miliband urged the government to declare a climate emergency and introduce a Green New Deal. The protesters are correct, he said. ‘The truth is the planet is warming far faster than we are acting. Climate change is not some theoretical future prospect, but is with us here and now.’
Click here for Professor Jem Bendell’s assessment of the likelihood that social breakdown will occur as climate catastrophe gathers pace.
Earth Strike September 27
by McEver Dugan
Through all of this, as Greta Thunberg has said, one thing must be made clear. There is no greater way to capture the attention of the public, and the powers that be, than a general labour strike. An old and effective strategy, it is the holy grail of activism. And in such dire times, there is no question that a general strike is sorely needed once more. Earth Strike is seeking to revive the general strike in service of a global, apocalyptic problem – one that encompasses the lives of every creature on the face of this planet.
The reason Earth Strike exists is that shutting off the global labour supply will force governments and industry giants to listen. There’s no way to avoid the conversation when profits are in danger of eroding, and production has stalled to a halt. Every day we go into work and spend our time and labour building a system that is burning us alive. The top polluters in the world are directly dependent on this effort. It is time to withhold it.
Some will inevitably argue that labour action is too disruptive, and too messy, but that’s the very point. The system causing this crisis needs to be disrupted. A general strike is an exceptionally powerful tool with a long history of gaining concession. In Iceland in 1975, a women’s general strike was instrumental in guaranteeing equal pay; and in India earlier this year, a general strike by between 150m and 200m workers illuminated the injustices inflicted on them by Narendra Modi’s Bharatiya Janata party. We simply don’t have the time to forge a new tool from scratch.
In fact, the opposite reaction is more likely. 27 September is only the first strike, and sympathisers all over the globe are bound to take notice. To those who do not feel like they have the power alone, organise. Unions and workers must work together in solidarity. The growing number of participants in this general strike, numbering in the tens of thousands, are already talking about what will come next. For whatever comes, we will fight, and strike, together.
Despite its massively positive contribution to public awareness of climate science, and despite its value as a framework within which truly rebellious direct action can now be co-ordinated and publicised, no one should imagine that Extinction Rebellion is straightforwardly anti-capitalist or even progressive in its statutes, constitution or stated aims. For an uncritically supportive account from George Monbiot, click here. For a particularly savage critique from the left, click here.
For Greta Thunberg’s reply to the conspiracy theorists and their hate mail, click here.
Dulwich and West Norwood CLP