Extinction Rebellion, not political? “We occupied the center of Paris for five days! “


An article from Reporterre (translation by CPNN)

In response to those who criticize the political weakness of Extinction Rebellion, the authors of this platform claim that their “political message is in the action itself: another organization of society is possible.” And they repeat that strict nonviolence is a “calculated and determined” choice.

The week of action of Extinction Rebellion has elicited many comments: some purely anecdotal and others that are more political. Both sides miss what makes the reason for Extinction Rebellion. Here’s our explanations …

We will not go back to the many anecdotal comments that only serve to hide the important issues. We will try to focus on critics of the nature and methods of Extinction Rebellion.

“We are not a political movement in the classical sense.”

Some would like to find in Extinction Rebellion the slogans and the partisan positions against this or that political or economic power. These commentators reproduce the classic schemas of the political game and would like to bring back Extinction Rebellion into their usual framework of analysis. They make hasty – and often contradictory – conclusions about a movement that refuses rhetoric and incantation to choose action in a very specific context: civil disobedience.

(Click here for the original article in French.)

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Question for this article:

Can peace be guaranteed through nonviolent means?

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A concrete example of our approach is the occupation of the center of Paris from 7 to 11 October. Some have criticized this occupation for being light in political content. Really ? For five days, in the heart of the capital, we have removed a strategic public space from the public authorities. We made live a direct democracy (three general meetings held daily), places of exchange and training, collective kitchens open to all … We have maintained and cleaned the public space instead of the services of the City Hall . We helped the traders in their supplies and the cleaning services to ensure the collection of waste. All this only 100 meters from the police headquarters. Our political message is in the action itself: another organization of society is possible. It was discussed at “Nuit Debout.” We did it at Chatelet.

Our approach goes beyond the usual political framework. We do not dispute a particular regime, we question a system of values ​​that leads to the destruction of the living. And our proposition is that the citizens should seize the debate and make the choices themselves. We defend a direct democracy, because it alone will allow us to be resilient in the face of future crises.

“It would be naive, would not disturb the powers in place and especially would not take into account institutional violence,”

Here is a criticism that often comes up about the non-violent civil disobedience. It’s a complete counter-sense! Martin Luther King, apostle of non-violence, would not have seen or taken into account institutional violence? What is called non-violence is precisely a strategy that aims to reveal institutional violence. As in the martial arts, it is a question of returning the violence of the attacker (here the State) against himself.

When the police forced our non-violent activists at close range on the bridge of Sully in Paris, the images circumnavigated the world, and the condemnation was unanimous. Faced with force, the non-violent action is to divert the violence of the State to place it in front of its contradictions. It’s not being naïve, it’s a calculated choice. Purposeful. And we assume it in each of our actions. The state can dodge this confrontation just as it has done, but it is an unsustainable tactic in the medium term for power.

Some groups are calling for more radical actions, which they say will have a greater impact. They say that they will mount these actions themselves! Their galleries and open letters are only rhetoric. The incantation is without limits, the action will frame them. For Extinction Rebellion, nonviolent civil disobedience is both an ethic and a long-term strategy. Strict non-violence is the only inclusive strategy!