The strange phenomena of anti-capitalist blocks at climate protests

It has happened in Maastricht like in many cities in the world
during the past years, since the climate movement has risen
from the ashes of the environmentalism of the last century.
Movements, or rather different parts of the climate movement
have been picking on each other on the question of radical
tactics. Either one is too radical to be accepted by the majority
of the population, or too “soft” to change the status-quo. This
leads to an ongoing debate in the climate movement about
which tactics should be accepted and which condemned.

Still, from the Fridays for Future kids up to the green
anarchists occupying trees, all have been marching under the
slogan of Climate Justice. What is implied by this term is that
the aim of the movement is not to achieve carbon neutrality,
or global veganism, or any other environmentally friendly goal
without it being fair and equal for everyone. Justice implies
that we do not just save our civilization from extinction, but
we do so including everyone and fixing the very root causes
that have created the problem.

It so happens to be that the root causes of the climate crisis
(of global warming, climate change, or however one prefers
calling the current environmental issues) are deeply ingrained
in the system we live in, and cannot seem to be easily
reformed with the same tools that have created them. Yes,
Einstein said it too. The idea that exploiting land is necessary
to survive, that the human species is different and separate
from nature, the right to exploit other human beings, the
differences in treatment to people with different skin colours,
the wealth inequalities and the strong concentrations of power
in the hands of states and corporations are all factors that
contribute and cannot be separated from the crisis we are
experiencing. The important fact to face is that these are all
facets of what has become more than a global economic
system: the ideology of capitalism. 

We know that, while some people are billionaires and can
afford to live the most eco-friendly life available on the
market, we cannot blame farmers in the Amazonia for burning
down forests in order to survive, in a system that leaves them
no alternatives. We cannot blame it on them, therefore we
must blame it on the system that forces them to destroy our
chances of survival acre by acre.

We cannot condone the actions of nation states that create
wars to gain access to resources and then lock up in camps
and prisons the ones that run from these wars. The Italian
chapter of Fridays for Future – thanks to the condition of
having to organize their movement under a climate denialist
and racist government – saw this from the beginning,
declaring their movement antifascist since the first national
meetings. There can be no climate justice when migration is
criminalized and governments refuse to take up their
responsibilities towards migrants. 

Climate justice stems from the realization that what is
perceived as an environmental crisis intersects with many
different issues of freedom and equality. If we understand
this, we will see that many social issues must be solved next
to the one of excessive CO2 emission in order to really
achieve survival. In order to be able to survive with this
planet, we need to be able to survive with each other as

Indeed, another of the chants that must have filled your ears
if you ever witnessed a climate justice protest, must have
been “system change not climate change”. That system we
are talking about is capitalism. It is capitalism as a system of
production where the many produce and the few enjoy.
Capitalism as a system of beliefs based on the unconditional
extraction of resources. Capitalism as the ideology that lies
about the rising inequalities, and lie about where it is leading
us (us, humanity as a collective): not to universal comfort,
but to universal homelessness. Capitalism that, hidden behind
the catchword of freedom, gives freedom to the few and
enslaves the many. Capitalism that robs us of our democratic
powers by giving corporations more power of decision-making
than the citizens. Capitalism that rationalises us and makes us
numbers, and numbers don’t need territory to exist. It is
capitalism that slows down the consciousness-raising work of
Fridays for Future activists, because it is a system designed to
reproduce itself, meaning, to care about its own survival, and
not the survival of its workers. 

The system we have to change is capitalism because, under
the slogan of “letting the market show us what we need”, is
impeding us to do what we really need to do. Divide resources
to ensure everyone’s survival, stop overproduction, stop
pollution, save the magnificent forests that populate this
planet and the animal species in it. This is anti-capitalism.

Many people seem to think that the anti-capitalist block is too
“radical” to represent the climate movement accurately.
Concerns about the “image problem” sprung also in Maastricht
2 years ago when the first climate marches passed through
the centre, and the loudest screams where asking the end of
capitalism. Concerns were raised about this shifting the
attention and misleading the public about what the “real”
point of the demonstrations was. The climate.

The people raising these concerns should get clear on what
they are really asking for. They should get clear about it
before standing behind the banner of climate justice. If the
climate justice movement is not anti-capitalist, then it is
asking the state and the corporations to install an upgraded
version of capitalism that many refer to with the quasimythological term of “eco-fascism”. It amounts to demands of
zero emissions and more sustainable practices without any
demand for democratic transition. Such a “solution” would
mean at best the limitations in CO2 emissions by raising
prices of flights and meat, fuel and highways, and as such the
coercion would disproportionately affect the disadvantaged
sections of society (those who cannot pay for expensive
flights, and more expensive fuel to fill their car to go to work
every morning). 

While the same elites that are now ruling us would keep
profiting from this new eco-regime: billionaires with a private
jet would not mind too much about having to go to work every
morning by public transport, or the increased price of flights.
This regime would amount to new forms of oppression and
inequalities that we cannot yet imagine, because the material
conditions around us (availability of food and water, liveable
land, jobs) will be highly and unpredictably affected by climate
change in the upcoming years.

The only “good” news about this kind of climate solution (or
regime) is that it sure would not last long. Due to the inherent
extractivist nature of capitalism, the only possible
consequence of such measures would be a slower erosion of
the planet’s resources followed by an escape of the rich and
powerful to another planet, or to another way of life that
would exclude billions of “surplus” humans. 

In short, if the transition to a sustainable society is not
accomplished by eradicating the core problems that have
brought us here, namely the exploitative and extractivist
behaviour inherent to capitalism, it will not be the solution the
climate movement is asking for. It is no use condemning
radical standpoints, civil disobedience and resistance to the
law as “counterproductive” to the movement, because to
survive climate change, and to do it according to justice, there
needs to be work on all different levels of society.
Disobedience to unjust laws is inherent in a movement that
wants to achieve justice. And we must be honest and upfront
on what system we want to change.
So at the next climate march, don’t forget to support your
local intersectional, antifascist, anti-capitalist block. 

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