Nafeez Ahmed levels two criticisms against Extinction Rebellion’s strategy. First, by prioritising “arrestable” action ahead of disruption that directly targets and challenges specific structures of oppression, XR misunderstands the social movements it purports to emulate: the US civil rights movement and the Indian independence movement “were successful because the institutions they disrupted were precisely the institutions of violence that needed to be overwhelmed by mass disruption in order for them to change, so that the costs of continuing that repressive violence would be increasingly difficult to sustain or justify. … [T]he idea that mass arrests of largely privileged white people will overwhelm the police system — paving the way for the government to capitulate to XR’s demands about climate change — does not follow from the logic of these historical cases.” Second, XR relies on the theory that if 3.5 per cent of a population are involved in mass protest, change will follow — but the study this is drawn from considered the overthrow of authoritarian regimes, not demands for new policy within Western liberal democracies. The whole essay is worth reading.
1 November 2019