Extinction Rebellion (XR) has been a stunning success. Its action has helped to expose the urgency of the threat posed by climate change—and insisted that tackling it cannot be postponed.
The government and the corporations will feel defensive because thousands of people have courageously and defiantly filled the streets.
And millions more will have thought XR was right to rebel.
But the rich will have cheered Mayor of London Sadiq Khan’s call to the protesters to allow a return to “business as usual”.
Business as usual means continuing the system dominated by the 100 corporations responsible for over 70 percent of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions since 1988.
It means allowing the oil giants, the bankers and the bosses to continue putting profits before people.
It is this system that needs to be confronted, not championed.
Nothing we can do as individuals will ultimately matter as long as capitalism’s ruthless exploitation of people and the planet remains in place. As Greta Thunberg, the student climate activist, said on Monday, “We can’t focus on small things.
“Basically, nothing has changed.”
We cannot halt climate chaos in a system dominated by billionaires, and we can’t do it without action beyond national boundaries.
And for the movement to succeed, it has to be anti-capitalist, opposed to racism, and internationalist.
It will be most effective as socialist and revolutionary.
XR has opened new avenues for resistance, given new confidence and started new debates. It’s not time for “business as usual”, and it can’t be “anti-business as usual” either.
It would be a terrible retreat to see polite lobbying or reliance on “progressive” business or mainstream political parties as the next step.
XR has demonstrated the power of resistance beyond parliament and elections.
It is part of a global process where unexpected movements suddenly become the focus of a bitter and repressed feeling for change.
Now the message of resistance has to be taken to millions of working class people.
They have the power to shut down society, not in just one city or for a few days, but to win fundamental system change.
When asked if a general strike for the climate was a good idea, Thunberg said, “Yes”.
We should link climate change to other class questions and demand the union and Labour leaders start fighting the system that produces climate change.
Everyone should think how they can build the climate movement at a local level, support XR’s activities and back the next school climate strike on 24 May.