Roundabout now: a few thoughts on XR

A man in a canoe blocks bank holiday traffic on the A40 outside Carmarthen, August 2020

Workers Party member Tess Delaney on how XR is diverting the energy and enthusiasm of its activists into ultimately futile actions.

A buddy of mine has alerted me to the fact that this weekend (30 August) some Extinction Rebellion protestors blocked the roundabout at Carmarthen. This roundabout is the main route into West Wales and on a bank holiday would have caused a considerable amount of disruption.

A row has broken out on social media of course, as it always does. My buddy’s point being that they are just pissing people off, and solving nothing by their actions. Their point is that they are using their right to protest and that protest has, historically, resulted in changes taking place in society.

As far as I can see. They’re both right. Protests have indeed changed much in our history, but there have also been many times where they have changed little. Take, for instance, the protest against the Iraq war.

But when they feel hopeless, what else are people supposed to do? How do they change things?

What’s going to happen, and what is already happening, is that big business will see this prevailing fashion for all things eco, they’ll see the ‘yoof’ mobilising themselves and organising, and they’ll reason that they need to keep this lot sweet, before  a revolution occurs.

They will have talks, and then they will release their new ‘eco’ plans, where the likes of Shell and Mobil start investing in solar tech, and more wind farms spring up, and hydros, and tidal power. This can only be a good thing, right?

Well, it depends.

The clue is in the fact that to run this set-up takes lots of dolla. The big businesses and corporations are the ones with all the dolla, so they’ll be the ones setting this up and becoming the heroes, with green versions of their logos stretching as far as the eye can see.

However, in this late stage capitalist society in which we find ourselves, everything that is done will be to provide a smokescreen to make us all be quiet and ignore all the other stuff.

In the same way that the invention of the NHS and the building of loads of council houses kept everyone sweet after the war, they will do the same here. They will have tag lines, like ‘investing in the future’, sustainability, eco this, eco that, green this, green that, and all the XR kids will be chuffed to bits, because they’ll think their protests changed things.

It’s not the protest that changed things; it’s your numbers. If you put those numbers behind, oh, I don’t know, smashing the capitalist state and instigating the beginnings of a new socialist future, where the workers are the ones who own and control the means of production, and where green technology would be developed to the benefit of all, and the planet, instead of the big rich guys, then, maybe, we might have a fighting chance of saving this planet.

While we have capitalism, we have no chance. Everything under capitalism will always be done for profit, with the intention of getting the worker to work as much as possible for as little as possible, yet somewhat placated that green energy is now commonplace, and you can see the wind turbines from your damp flat window or from the box in the centre of town that you’re living in because the economy is shot, but you were missing the point, and you got what you thought you wanted.

The ONLY way to solve this is for the people to be in charge. You are many; they are few. What you gonna do? There is only one big fight worth having. Stop wasting time.