Three Kinds of Climate Strikes: Drone, Labor, and Peaceful
July 29, 2020 3:00 PM Subscribe
On September 20th, 2019, millions of people around the world took to the streets in the youth-organized and youth-lead Global Climate Strike, protesting against political inaction around the climate crisis. It was the largest environmental protest in history. And yet, it was not even the most impactful action against fossil capital which took place that week.
Six days prior, a squadron of armed drones struck oil facilities in Saudi Arabia. These unprecedented strikes caused massive damage to the Abqaiq refinery, the world’s largest oil processing plant, and infrastructure at the Khurais oil field, the second largest in the country. The immediate consequences were spectacular: 5.7 million barrels per day – nearly 60% of Saudi Arabia’s oil production, and 5 per cent of global production –shut down; global oil prices jumped 20 per cent. Responsibility for the attack was claimed by the Houthis, a populist Shia Yemeni movement engaged in a five year-long resistance against the brutal military intervention by Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and their Western allies. Negotiations were sparse prior to the Houthi attacks, even as the conflict fell into stalemate and the Saudi-UAE coalition pivoted into a bombing campaign and naval blockade pushing Yemen into a famine of genocidal proportions. The September 14th drone strikes brought the war to the Saudis’ doorstep, forcing them back into negotiations with the Houthis.Another kind of strike, this time in Ecuador:
Two and a half weeks later, transportation workers in Ecuador went on strike, blockading the roads and highways in protest of scrapped fuel subsidies. The transportation strike rapidly escalated into a civil insurrection, as La Confederacion de Nacionalidades Indigenas del Ecuador (The Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities of Ecuador, CONAIE) organized tens of thousands of its indigenous constituents to travel to Ecuador’s cities and join the barricades. Government buildings were occupied and ransacked, police officers were taken hostage, and street crowds met the security forces’ tear gas canisters and rubber bullets with molotov cocktails and petrol bombs. Meanwhile, in the Amazon, indigenous militants carried out sabotage operations against oil infrastructure, forcing a near-complete shutdown of Ecuador’s oil production. After nearly two weeks of riots, occupations, and blockades, the government relented, reinstating the fuel subsidies and agreeing to discuss alternative tax and spending plans.The conclusion:
Elements of a working-class decarbonization program have already been mainstreamed, under the banner of the Green New Deal, which in turn has inspired more radical programs like the Red Deal. However, even modest reforms, let alone revolutionary changes, require a militant mass movement. We need a movement which can cohere and coordinate existing networks (tenant associations, unions, direct-action collectives, student groups, environmental justice advocates, left-wing gun clubs) and different segments of the working class (nurses, teachers, truckers, taxi drivers, coal miners, fast food workers, IT technicians), and which dispenses with any illusions that we can peacefully and politely ask the elites to undermine their own wealth and power. The struggle for climate justice and decarbonization must ultimately be a manifestation of class struggle, and a leading front in the battle to overthrow the rule of capital.The author's notes:
And this is not a separate issue from that of building a working-class climate movement; if the left is not present, then popular reaction against neoliberal decarbonization initiatives will be the fuel that feeds the rise of fossil fascism. I had to cut this analysis out of “The Three Climate Strikes”, but we saw a glimmer of this potential future recently in Oregon, when an armed bloc of rural workers and paramilitary groups, in conjunction with the Republican Party, blocked a cap-and-trade bill from being voted on. The popular sentiment at the time was that this was an undemocratic and cynical attack on legislative norms – which is true – but the hidden undercurrent is that this was precisely a case where a neoliberal solution galvanized unrest among a largely working-class population, which has long suffered under neoliberal austerity, and accelerated its fall into the clutches of far-right/neo-fascist bloc revolving around rural extractive industries. And the main reason this process seems so smooth is because the left is absent from the field, restricting itself largely to the coastal metropoles, and content to tag along behind Democratic Party politicos and operatives in the non-profit-industrial complex.