Extinction Rebellion promises ‘greatest acts of civil disobedience’ unless Tories meet its demands

Wednesday 19 April 2023 – https://socialistworker.co.uk/

XR issued the demands ahead of The Big One, a four day protest around parliament

An Extinction Rebellion supporter urges others to join the movement- the big one

An Extinction Rebellion supporter urges others to join the movement (Picture: Alisdare Hickson)

Extinction Rebellion (XR) has given the Tories an ultimatum—give in to its demands or it will “step up” action. 

XR is calling on the Tory government to end all licences, approvals and funding to new fossil fuel projects and for a citizen’s assembly to address climate change. 

The group issued the demands on Tuesday ahead of the start of its four day protest, The Big One, on Friday. It hopes to surround parliament with 100,000 people on Friday. Over 200 other organisations, including Greenpeace, Campaign Against Climate Change, Fuel Poverty Action and War on Want, backed the demands. 

If the government doesn’t promise to meet these demands by 5pm next Monday, XR says it plans to “unquit”. Rob Callender from XR told a press conference, “Four months ago, Extinction Rebellion announced, ‘We quit.’ We entered into a period of alliance-building with other movements and groups by temporarily stepping back from our tactics of civil disobedience. 

“Since then, the government has made policy announcements that effectively double down on deadly climate chaos. This is their last chance to show us that they are serious about saving our lives and our futures by agreeing to enter negotiations around our demands. 

“A failure to do so will mean that Extinction Rebellion has no choice but to unquit. And to step up our campaign to force the government to take the drastic and radical actions necessary to avoid runaway climate change. This time, we’re not alone—allies from this 200-strong bloc will be stepping up alongside us.”

The group’s “We quit” statement wasn’t popular with every one of its supporters. Some found it confusing and others thought it was bowing to repressive Tory laws such as the draconian Public Order Bill. 

One XR activist told the Cambridge Independent newspaper in January that he thought the “leadership has crumbled under pressure from the public saying you’re stopping me from going to work”. “But we should be intensifying, not slowing down our actions,” they said.  

It accelerated a debate about strategy and tactics within the climate movement whether to focus on mass mobilisation, disruptive action or combine the two.

XR says it’s in a stronger position than before because it built an alliance of almost 200 groups that back The Big One. And it’s a positive step forward that XR has said that it is willing to take “radical” action if its demands aren’t met.

Extinction Rebellion activist Marijn van de Geer told the press conference, “No single event can change the world, but The Big One will be a transformational moment for the groups and people involved. 

“It will be a collective opportunity to discuss and create new tactics that will make our voices heard and drive change. And there will be much, much more to come.”

Others at the press conference called for activists to get “creative” with the kind of action they take. Austin Harney from the PCS union told the press conference, “We have recently seen lawyers who had ways to disrupt their profession by refusing to take part in the prosecution of climate activists. 

“I can imagine people within the media, which continues to be guilty of untruths and misleading stories about the climate, developing their own ways of disrupting their own industry.”

Just Stop Oil has vowed to start a campaign of “slow marches” across London from next Monday just as The Big One ends.

Socialists support both mass mobilisations and direct action to achieve change—and the most effective movements combine both.

And there is an opportunity to link the strikes and climate mobilisations, the fightbacks in the workplaces and the streets. We need to make the battles over the cost of living crisis and the struggle against environmental collapse part of a common fight against the bosses’ profit system.