Parliament recessed for Easter and suddenly central London was occupied by a motley group of all singing and all dancing eco demonstrators, with a distinctive new brand: Extinction Rebellion.
Its logo, austere and yellow, is the same colour as that of the rebel yellow vests in France, but the similarities end there. With a few exceptions (that prove the rule), the yellow vests are working class, while the Extinction Rebellers are middle class.
Reflecting their different class position, yellow vests and Extinction Rebellers also have different demands. Most obviously, the yellow vests want to abolish President Emanuel Macron’s new carbon taxes so they can afford to use their cars to go to work at their low-wage jobs – jobs which outside the big urban areas are often a good distance from their homes. Their children’s’ schools are often also very badly served by public transport.
In contrast, the Extinction Rebellers want to increase carbon taxes, as they want everyone (except the elite on urgent business) to walk, bicycle or use the (in many places non-existent) public transport system.
As to the state itself, the yellow vests want President Macron to resign, but they do not just want him replaced. They want a whole new French constitution or ‘sixth republic’, which they want to have both a parliamentary and Swiss-style referenda element.
Above all, the yellow vests are tired of ‘democracies’ that deliver nothing for the masses, and instead they want a government that works in the interest of the working ‘people’, not the ‘elite’.
In contrast, Extinction Rebellion asks for no constitutional change, and though it shows preference for the Labour, Liberal Democrat, Green, Scottish National and Plaid Cymru parties, it is willing to work with whatever government is in power.
And certainly, May and Hammond’s brand of Toryism sees the same sort of advantage as Macron does in hiding increased taxes and austerity for the working class along with substantial grants to new green capitalists behind the need to ‘do something’ about climate change.
One of Extinction Rebellion’s ostensible founder-leaders, Dr Gail Bradbrook, let this slip in a heated exchange with Adam Boulton on Sky TV, when she revealed that a couple of her Extinction Rebellion colleagues had met with junior ministers and advisors, who had assured them that the government needed a ‘social movement’ just like Extinction Rebellion to help create the atmosphere that would enable the Tory government (or any other) to push through unpopular carbon taxes and similar innovations, which are always more onerous on the working classes.
Dr Bradbrook was totally oblivious to how she had revealed Extinction Rebellion as a government patsy, while Boulton was so irritated with Extinction Rebellion for blocking Waterloo Bridge that he did not push her on it either.
But then the media itself is either a patsy, or so obtuse that it might as well be.
Clearly, Extinction Rebellion was given carte blanche to close down swathes of central London for over a week, and the question to ask is: when has an anti-war, pro NHS or housing demo been given similar freedom?
Sure, there were 1,000 arrests, but except for the handful of demonstrators who disrupted the Docklands Light Railway (DLR), the police operated a catch and release policy, so that all the arrested were back demonstrating with hours.
This piece of theatre alone should show even the most political naive, that the Extinction Rebellion leadership is working hand in glove with the bourgeoisie, but for those a little slower on the uptake, there was also the stage-managed appearance via train of Saint Greta Thunberg of Sweden.
Looking like a twelve-year-old 1950s schoolgirl, the sixteen-year-old Greta, climate change activist extraordinaire, was whisked to Westminster, where Labour’s Jeremy Corby, the LibDems’ Vince Cable, the Green Party’s Caroline Lucas et al came to listen to her words of wisdom, and even the ‘governing party’ sent a representative in the shape of environment minister Michael Gove, to take a seat near the prim, pontificating wunderkind.
Greta told them that she spoke for the future, that they had all been slackers and had to pull their socks up if they were going to save the planet in the time she and David Attenborough gave them. All the bourgeois politicos agreed that they wanted to save the planet, but none of them seemed to have much of an idea as to how they could embark upon on such a task, let alone accomplish it. (Though carbon taxes affecting the working class and individuals declining to use plastic were both put high up on their ‘to-do list’).
If the issue were not so serious, it would be comical, but it is not, for one thing is certain: nothing in the capitalists’ playbook can save the planet. In the end, whatever capitalists spout, they just cannot see beyond making a profit, no matter what the cost to the rest of us.
And to any Extinction Rebel reading this: the first step to saving the planet is understanding that if you want to be really Green you have to be really Red.