Allan Todd writes: Have to say that, today, I’m angrier than I think I’ve ever been before – and there’s certainly been plenty of stuff since 1963 (when I first became politically-aware) to make me angry. But I don’t just feel angry about recent developments – I’m also feeling more ashamed than I’ve ever felt before: ashamed that I haven’t done more, and that I didn’t begin sooner, to combat these ‘monsters’ – especially as regards the Climate Crisis.
The title of this piece is taken from what Antonio Gramsci wrote on the rise of fascism – and the threat of war – in Europe during the 1920s and ‘30s. Those were certainly extremely dangerous and worrying times – with plenty of ‘monsters’. Sadly, I think we’re now in a time that’s even more dangerous than those decades. Because now – as well as facing a new rise of fascism, and increased threats of war – we’re also faced with the biggest threat of all: uncontrollable catastrophic Climate Breakdown, which will result in the destruction of a safe climate and thus the extermination of millions of Earthlings – including humans.
Obviously, here in the UK, we can’t have much impact on what’s happening around the world. But we CAN influence things here – and there are plenty of ‘monsters’, right here in the UK, than we can, should and must, face up to and deal with, as soon as possible. Over the past days, two particularly-nasty UK ‘monsters’ have raised their heads yet again.
Monster #1: ‘Creeping Fascism’
On 26 September, Braverman – the hard-right Tory Home Secretary in this most hard-right of all Tory governments – decided to take our country even further down the road to the ‘illiberal state’ that is Orbán’s Hungary.
By 2050, it’s estimated that at many as 1.2bn people could be displaced globally by the mounting impacts of climate breakdown. The ‘response’ of this monstrous Tory government is two-fold:
(b) to use this global human tragedy to deliberately stir up xenophobia, racism, hate, and rightwing populism, in order to spread their ‘creeping fascism’/ ‘Culture Wars’ agenda – in the hope that this will enable them to hang on to power at the next general election.
When making her speech, Braverman used the same language as that employed by far-right and fascist groups when attempting to stir up hatred of ‘other’ groups. The most extreme fascists rant on about the ‘Great Replacement Theory’ – some of the terms they often use were used by Braverman in yesterday’s speech. She claimed migration was “an existential challenge for the political and cultural institutions of the West”, and also referred to “developed nations being wiped out by a wave of economic migration.” Even though she’s in a position to know that the vast majority of refugees are escaping from wars and civil wars (often begun by the West) and, increasingly, from the impacts of global boiling.
Such language is not a ‘one-off’ for her: she was one of the speakers at the ‘National Conservatism’ Conference held in London in May this year. The Conference, organised by the rightwing Edmund Burke Foundation, attracted other Tory MPs, including Michael Gove, Miriam Cates, and Danny Kruger. Two months later, the latter two set up the ‘New Conservatives’ group of ‘Red Wall’ Tory MPs – to which Mark Jenkinson (currently the Tory MP for Workington, but also the Tory candidate for the new seat of Penrith & Solway). However, it wasn’t Tory MPs who attended that ‘National Conservatism’ Conference – other speakers came from various national populist backgrounds, often with links to far right groups in several European countries. One major theme at that Conference was…how ‘Western civilisation and culture’ is being ‘threatened’ by declining birth rates, liberal elite ‘wokism’, and by refugees and migrants. No wonder one reputable magazine worried that the Conference was a “Gateway to the far right”.
It’s thus not going ‘too far’ to accuse Tories like Braverman of deliberately playing with such far-right ‘fire’. Plus we should remember how Gary Lineker and Michael Rosen were able to show – convincingly – that many of the Tories’ policies and themes are “not dissimilar” from those pushed by the Nazis in 1930s’ Germany. Michael Rosen actually identified 9 ways in which Tory policies are “not dissimilar” – three of the most obvious being:
We’re clearly living in increasingly dangerous times – with neo-fascist groups exploiting people’s genuine concerns over the ‘Cost of Living’ Crisis, in order to build up support. To make the current situation even more worrying, this is happening whilst the Tories have severely restricted democratic rights as regards peaceful protest. Civic freedoms have been so eroded by this increasingly-authoritarian government that the UK is now “on a par with El Salvador.” While a recent international report on fundamental freedoms downgraded the UK to ‘obstructed’ – the same as the “illiberal democracies” of Hungary and Poland. It’s important to remember that authoritarian regimes always begin by victimising minorities – before moving on to wider society. Thus these political trends need to be vigorously opposed – now. Before it’s too late.
Monster #2: Tory ecocide
If all that was not enough, on 27 September we learned that the Tories have finally approved the Rosebank oilfield off the Shetlands. This will be the biggest in the UK – and is estimated to emit more CO2 than the annual emissions of the 28 lowest-income countries combined!
This decision was announced despite the International Energy Agency saying yesterday that we can’t have any new oil or gas projects – if we want to have a safe climate. Not surprisingly, there
has been a huge outcry from organisations and individuals not in the pockets of the fossil fuel companies. Chris Packham, for instance, had this to say: “this is no less than an act of war against life on earth.” The Rosebank decision comes just a week after Chris’s programme for Channel 4, examining whether the scale of the Climate and Ecological Emergencies – and the ecocidal actions/inactions of the government – justified breaking the law: https://www.channel4.com/programmes/chris-packham-is-it-time-to-break-the-law
For the past 12,000 years, the Earth’s climate has been relatively stable – allowing farming to emerge and thrive. But the Rosebank emissions will add massively to the ‘global boiling’ effect – and thus risk seriously weakening global food supply-chains by decreasing the areas where agriculture can be carried on successfully. That is the future which Sunak and the Tories are prepared to inflict on the people of the world as a result of their criminal recklessness.
This, after today’s decision on Rosebank – coming so close after Sunak announced the jettisoning of most of the Tories’ woefully-inadequate ‘green’ policies – the argument put forward by Andreas Malm, for climate activists to start sabotaging fossil fuel installations and infrastructure, quite frankly no longer seems quite as extreme as I’d thought when I’d first read his book, How To Blow Up A Pipeline. The film of the same name is maybe something which climate activists should now start showing around the country – and then seriously begin considering carrying out such ‘acts of self-defense’ as damaging trucks, tankers and cranes:
Resistance: Transform Politics
If all these ‘monsters’ are to be stopped, radicals need to come together as quickly as possible – whilst doing so is still legally possible. A step in the right direction was taken on 25 July, when Left Unity, Breakthrough Party, the People’s Alliance of the left and Liverpool Community Independents came together to launch the Transform Politics project, calling for the formation of a new radical-left ecosocialist party.
I have taken part in Extinction Rebellion actions (being arrested on Lambeth Bridge in November 2018, during the ‘Five Bridges’ action), and have huge admiration for the many Just Stop Oil activists. However, I have one criticism of the main climate activist groups: that they still don’t seem to get that the ‘System’ they rightly say needs to be changed – in order to prevent Climate Change – has a specific name: and that name is capitalism. There’s no need to invent words like ‘zombie’ to describe this Tory government and its reckless actions – ‘capitalist’ is the only description that makes any sense.
Because, quite simply, short-term profit is hard-wired into capitalism’s DNA – it can’t help doing what it’s doing. It’s why Marx early on noted that the operations of capitalism inevitably create a “metabolic rift” between humans and the rest of the natural world – of we are just one part, and on which we depend. That’s why we need to totally ‘Transform Politics’ – as quickly as possible. Another important step towards that much-needed transition will take place on 25 November, when Transform’s Founding Conference will take place in Nottingham.
It may well be that this project fails, in the end, to bring about the changes now so desperately needed. However, if we don’t even try to change things, then it’s certain the situation will only get worse. As I began with Gramsci, it seems only fitting to also end with another quotation from his writings, which shows precisely what attitude we should always try to maintain, no matter how bad things are:
“Pessimism of the intellect, but optimism of the will!”
Allan Todd is Acting Organiser for Transform Cumbria, a member of Left Unity’s National Council and of ACR’s Council, and an ecosocialist/environmental and anti-fascist activist. He is the author of Revolutions 1789-1917 and Trotsky: The Passionate Revolutionary – and the forthcoming Che Guevara: The Romantic Revolutionary (out May 2024)
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