XR: The Faux Rebellion
07-10-2019: Extinction Rebellion (XR) are hitting the streets again, with a week of action throughout major cities in Australia – their so-called “Spring Rebellion”. We are in a climate crisis, they claim, and the time for action is now. Almost no one disagrees. Yet in reality XR are not leading a “rebellion” and they are not, in the final analysis, “rebels”. To be genuine rebels would mean to stand opposed to the profit system – the domination of privately owned capital over social labour and over the environment. The XR charlatans make no pretence of opposing even one corporation, let alone the system which allows corporations to freely pollute the land, sea, air and water humanity requires for life on earth. XR, and their semi-religious self-righteousness, need to be exposed.
From politics flow tactics
Those who place demands on the capitalist state, in the same manner as any politician or any liberal, or any lobby group, cannot be described as “radical” in any way. XR are making repeated demands for “the government” to “do something”. The same politicians who have overseen climate destruction despite repeated and ongoing warnings, can now, XR aver, be made to change their spots if only we – disrupt business as usual. XR whine that we have had years of marches and rallies, for no result. There has been no result so far because almost all climate politics has remained within the sphere of liberalism – plaintive cries to those in power. Despite XR adopting slightly different tactics, the politics of XR remain just as liberal, if not more, than those that have preceded them.
XR imagine that by changing the tactics of climate protest, the politics will follow, and demands will be met. XR have things precisely upside down. The politics are paramount, and if the politics are sharp enough, the tactics themselves become less important. Yet XR’s politics are woefully inadequate – even if the aim is to wrench a few small reforms from the capitalist state. XR are not anarchists per se, but they share the petty-bourgeois political approach of anarchism, which is shared with all elements of the petty-bourgeois “democracy” – the Greens, some intellectuals, small business owners and centrist “left” parties. Russian revolutionary leader V.I. Lenin, more than a century ago, wrote…”The philosophy of the anarchists is bourgeois philosophy turned inside out. Their individualistic theories and individualistic ideal are the very opposite of socialism.”
XR’s bourgeois philosophy turned inside out is revealed as soon as one tracks the corporate and capitalist government links of its spiritual founders Gail Bradbrook and Farhana Yamin. Granted, many of those attracted to XR actions do not themselves have high level links to government or the corporations they act for. XR, however, is simply appealing to the government – which under capitalism, is a “government of persons”. Whatever criticisms XR may have of all politicians for not “doing something” about climate collapse, they still firmly believe that the capitalist government is “theirs”, or indeed, “ours”. This reflects a purely petty-bourgeois outlook, which cannot see outside their class position.
Due to their class position, the petty-bourgeoisie is incapable of coming to a position of class independence from big capital. That is why they are not able to politically lead a struggle against the capitalist system. This role must be played by the working class and its special historical product – the Marxist vanguard party. But XR are not only light years away from socialism – they occupy a different universe to the working class. Hence their arrogant disregard for working class folk who may be blocked in traffic by a disruptive XR stunt. Working class people – many of whom overwhelmingly support urgent action to address the climate calamity – should not be prevented by self-appointed XR scions from driving to or from work, picking up their children from schools, or trying to go about their daily lives. Workers certainly can be won to supporting political action to address climate distortion – up to and including strikes against corporations and “their own” government – if they are given the opportunity to discuss and decide on the tactics of the movement in which they take part.
Workers must lead and decide
Yet this is precisely what XR denies the working class – or anyone else. XR explicitly deny the right of anyone who takes part in their actions to question their principles, their positions, their politics or their tactics. XR refuses, point blank, to work alongside other climate activists. Sure, they attend things such as the Climate Strike to wave their flag. But once XR is holding an action, ALL participants must subordinate themselves wholesale – in brain and body – to the high priests of XR. No one is permitted to question the framework of activity, its direction, or to question XR’s holy principles. Each one of these principles, at their core, is wholly compatible with capitalist imperialism – which is why XR expressly deny the right of socialists to question them. Anyone or any group proposing anything in politics must have their positions examined by the workers – no one is above criticism. XR is no exception.
In fact, XR must be criticised for one of its deadliest shortcomings – its support for the police of the capitalist state. Although some XR members and branches claim that they do not support the cops, it repeatedly returns to the surface. Recently XR VIC attempted to prevent XR members from calling cops “pigs” as they arrested one of their organisers. XR’s strategy of mass arrests first, which supposedly leads to political change, is a galling example of their base misunderstanding of the class nature of the capitalist state. Again though, the petty-bourgeois class does not have to face the cops too often in battle, unlike workers on strike, or Aboriginal people. Largely white middle class XR leaders can cope with being arrested, held for a few days and released. This is even their aim.
At the least, workers need to reject those who claim infallibility on climate protest tactics and aims. XR must be forced to argue their positions inside the climate movement like everyone else – there should be no special exceptions. There, workers should counter the lobbying of compromised politicians by putting forward such demands as: a 30 hour week with no loss in pay, an end to coal mining and the collective ownership of the means of production.
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