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Brexit, a Momentous Non-Event

By Arthur Sevestre / Deep Green Resistance supporter

Walk the line

“If they give you lined paper, write sideways.” ~Daniel Quinn

The UK is to leave the EU. The world will never be the same. Many feel that this will make many matters much worse in the UK. I agree. But I also think that matters would have been getting much worse in the UK if they would have stayed.

There were only two choices in the referendum: leave the EU, or remain. These options may seem quite fundamentally different, unless you take a few steps back and look at it from a bit of a distance.

Almost all the arguments for and against were framed around the economy. The leave campaigners said that leaving would be best for the British economy, and for trade and jobs. The remain side claimed it would be better to stay for the very same reasons.

When people are given a real piece of lined paper, literally or figuratively, then most will write neatly on the lines without much thought. This is what happened in the case of Brexit. If the paper was the full range of possibilities for people to react to the referendum, then the lines were a way to control and limit peoples’ minds and actions without them noticing. The lines drawn for the referendum suggested that only voting for or against Brexit was possible. Nothing else. Leave or remain, but no qualifications possible, let alone distinctly different options.

Sliding premises by people

“The first rule of propaganda: if you can slide your premises by people, you’ve got them.” ~Derrick Jensen

To say the above in a different way, the lines on the paper are what you might call premises. Author Derrick Jensen argues that if you want to make people accept opinions as fact, there is almost no better way than by using language to slide these things by people unnoticed.

When both leave and remain campaigners framed their position as being best for the economy, they slipped through the premise that a strong economy is desirable or even essential to live well. Citizens accepted the premise as a matter of fact, not a proposal needing consideration.

How could one even write sideways on this lined paper that was handed out? Not by ticking one of those boxes. Both boxes offered by the political and economical establishment were about growing the economy, increasing trade, and creating more jobs. This meant that every vote in this referendum effectively was a vote for growing the economy, increasing trade, creating more jobs In other words, every vote in this referendum was a vote for growing the economy, for increasing trade, for more jobs, for… hold on.. when was the last time a growing economy was about making things better for ordinary people? When did they get more money to spend, and better jobs which paid better? And what about the rest of the living world?

Hasn’t recent economic growth been the result of squeezing the last bits of money out of the poor classes to further fill the bank accounts of the rich? On a EU-wide scale, hasn’t it come from squeezing the last bits of money out of the likes of Greece, Ireland and Portugal, only to make the bankers in the richest countries richer? Hasn’t the EU as a whole squeezed empty other parts of the world, such as Africa? Despite its claims to virtue, the EU is not about fairness and making things better for all.

More importantly, a growing economy is at its very basis a measure for how efficiently the rich few manage to force the middle class and poor masses to work away health and life (jobs) to convert ever more of the living planet ever faster into dead products for the profit of the few (economic growth), and into toxic waste and a dead planet.

These are some of the very most fundamental lines on the paper provided to voters in this referendum. The leave and remain campaigns weren’t the first to draw them. These lines have been around for an awfully long time, which makes them seem even more set in stone. We’ve gotten so used to them that while they constrain nearly all our political discourse, they are more or less invisible. We notice them perfectly, or we couldn’t write neatly on them, but we are unconscious of our acceptance. What a trick.

Tick outside the box

“The smart way to keep people passive and obedient is to strictly limit the spectrum of acceptable opinion, but allow very lively debate within that spectrum.” ~Noam Chomsky

The referendum allowed voters to influence some issues. For example, travel within the EU may now be severely impaired for UK citizens. But the real matters – those determining whether we have an inhabitable planet for the foreseeable future, and thus whether we have anything to travel to – were not on the table. Their absence doesn’t mean the vote had nothing to do with them. Instead it means that every vote, leave or remain, was a vote against a planet still being able to support life.

Some suggest EU environmental regulations force the UK to greener standards. Others argue that an independent UK might set stricter regulations than one limited by EU rules. Voting with this in mind might be called a form of writing sideways on the lined paper they gave you. You were supposed to vote for a stronger economy, but you used your vote to try to say something you weren’t supposed to be able to say. You were trying to, if not bring about actual change, at least change circumstances so that real change can be more easily achieved.

So maybe, just maybe, it can be argued that writing sideways was possible. But the time and energy spent trying to do so could have been spent more effectively on other routes to change. The problem is that the rulers of neither the UK nor EU show any sign of putting the living planet first. Even if voters care strongly, the elite divert, convert, and pervert that into care and support for slightly different corporate industries, such as those which profit from “green technology.”

Industries such as Renewable Energy™ attempt, quite successfully, to slide premises past us. They call technologies “renewable” even though they depend on mined minerals and fossil fuel for their production. They limit us to lively debate about whether we will power our gadgets, tools and machines on fossil fuels or on these “renewables,” never allowing the question of whether we should use these tools at all. It doesn’t matter whether the chainsaws cutting trees run on petrochemicals or on water. It doesn’t matter whether the fighter bombers dropping depleted uranium on poor brown people living on top of “our” resources fly on kerosene or on biofuels. It doesn’t matter whether the mining equipment ripping holes into the earth runs on diesel or on hydrogen fuel cells. If you use technology to kill the planet, the planet will be killed. We need to be having that discussion.

Thinking outside the box so far that you realise that there is no box

“Understand: the task of an activist is not to negotiate systems of power with as much personal integrity as possible–it’s to dismantle those systems.” ~Lierre Keith

If we want meaningful change, it’s useless to accept the paper we’re handed and spend our energy trying to write on the lines with integrity. Even writing sideways won’t achieve much; not only the lines, but the very pieces of paper on which they’re drawn, constrain our thoughts and actions. To obliterate the limits they impose, we must throw away the paper altogether.

Consider the game of Monopoly. A player playing to win has no choice but to amass as much money as possible at the expense of the other players, with an inevitable outcome of one player ending up extremely rich and, because of that, the rest reduced to beggars. (A player indifferent to winning will simply become a beggar more quickly.) If the players feel the game isn’t going well, they might vote to replace the current banker. But the new banker is constrained by the design of the game such that nothing significant will change. The players cannot change the outcome unless they completely change the nature of the game. Effectively, they must replace the game with something else. We should keep this in mind as we evaluate the dominant culture.

We have more than just a vote. We are not limited to marking an X on a piece of paper to decide who rules us while we continue playing the same game. We can use our voices without the constraints of the lines or the papers. We can use our hands, arms, legs, feet, knees, elbows and hard heads to wipe the monopoly game off the table and replace it with a game which benefits all. Such a momentous change would expose Brexit as the non-event it is.

Open Letter to the UK Environmental Movement from Deep Green Resistance UK

Deep Green Resistance UK (DGR UK) is the UK chapter of DGR International. We are an environmental and social justice organisation based on the book, Deep Green Resistance: Strategy to Save the Planet. The book identifies civilisation, patriarchy, and capitalism as brutal arrangements of power which need to be dismantled if there is to be any chance of future generations enjoying a habitable planet. DGR proposes a concerted, focused, and serious resistance movement to stop the murder of the planet before it is too late.

If we think of Rachel Carson’s book, “Silent Spring” as the birth of the modern environmental movement, then we have had ‘environmentalism’ in existence for approximately 50 years and yet every biotic indicator shows that the planet is not improving, not even stable, but in decline. Countless species went extinct today. The planet is being destroyed, and no amount of recycling or renewable energy is going to stop that destruction. As Derrick Jensen illustrates in his essay Forget Shorter Showers, the majority of water and energy is used by industry, agriculture and the military, not individuals. Personal lifestyle choices, whilst commendable, will not make any significant difference. If we continue to focus on marginal personal contributions instead of working together against the larger machine as a whole, there is little chance of success. It is going to take organised political resistance to stop the trajectory we are on.

DGR proposes taking a new approach. The key difference between DGR and other environmental and social justice groups is that we have a long term strategy, named Decisive Ecological Warfare (DEW). DEW has two main goals.

The first is to disrupt systems of power and to dismantle those systems. In other words, we wish to remove the ability of the rich and powerful to exploit the marginalised and destroy the planet. See here for examples of what DGR is advocating for in the UK.

The second goal is to defend and to rebuild, just, sustainable, autonomous human communities, and to assist in the recovery of the land.

You can read the Decisive Ecological Warfare strategy.

Our culture currently rewards behaviour that benefits the individual at the expense of the group. Acquisitive and insane behaviour such as denuding the landbase of living systems makes powerful individuals rich, and this is the behaviour we see from those in power. This will continue while there is still money to be made, in other words the destruction will continue until there are no more living systems left to exploit. A number of respected scientists are coming to similar conclusions.

Solutions which make no attempt to destroy this culture, or which postpone action until the distant future, are worryingly misguided. The current system is one of arrogance, sadism, stupidity and denial. It will not change of its own accord. The British government’s stance on fracking, despite massive public opposition, is a testament to this and an example of this culture’s insatiable appetite.

Many in the environmental movement advocate transitioning to a sustainable society with clean energy. Kim explains in this article why this is unrealistic. We do not have the time. See this recent report by James Hansen, who has been right about global warming for three decades. Any political party who seriously proposes what is actually needed (near zero emissions by 2020) will never be elected. Neal Lawson describes how the UK Green Party’s election success is going backwards and we think most people reading this would agree that their policies are nowhere near radical enough. The simple truth is that most people do not want to give up their industrialised ‘first world’ privileges such as driving cars, watching TV and going on holiday.

DGR UK is reaching out to the UK environmental movement to state that we want to begin an honest dialogue about how bad things are and what needs to be done about the situation we find ourselves in. Not simply what we are comfortable with doing, but what needs to be done. We would welcome all those who wish an end to the destruction to start thinking like a resistance movement for life, rather than an environmental movement hoping for the best. If we are to create a real resistance movement, we need this culture of resistance to germinate.

DGR UK, and the whole DGR organisation is very young. We believe we have a valid perspective, analysis and strategy. DGR members know that we do not have all the answers, and that we will need support from our allies to help DGR mature. DGR has a strategy, but this is only part of the solution. We understand that there are many different ways to work towards protecting our planet, and that these are all important in creating a larger political struggle.

As Derrick Jensen says:

‘We need it all. We need people to take out dams and we need people to knock out electrical infrastructures. We need people to protest and to chain themselves to trees. We also need people working to ensure that as many people as possible are equipped to deal with the fallout when the collapse comes. We need people working to teach others what wild plants to eat, what plants are natural antibiotics. We need people teaching others how to purify water, how to build shelters. All of this can look like supporting traditional, local knowledge, it can look like starting rooftop gardens, it can look like planting local varieties of medicinal herbs, and it can look like teaching people how to sing.’

What we propose is that people in the UK environmental movement begin to consider whether their activism- be it community, political or radical- is effective and commensurate with the scale of the problems we face. Community gardens and anti-fracking protests are all part of this resistance movement, but unless they are linked to a larger political struggle, those efforts will fail. Regardless of what our differences might be, we need to start working in tandem.

Horizontal hostility, a term coined by Florynce Kennedy in 1970 to describe the damage caused when oppressed groups fight amongst themselves instead of fighting back against the powerful, is among the worst enemies of successful systemic change. Even if you do not agree with everything DGR proposes, we ask that you not dismiss us entirely, simply because we advocate for a more radical response to safeguarding our planet. After all, we all share the same goal: a healthy, just world for future generations of all living beings.

It is for this reason that DGR also firmly aligns itself with radical feminism. We believe patriarchy is a corrupt and brutal arrangement of power, and we want to see it dismantled, along with its cult of toxic masculinity which seeks endlessly to dominate women in the same way that it seeks to dominate the natural world and its resources. Our feminist stance has caused a great deal of controversy in the US. DGR members have been attacked by groups and by individuals for wishing to abolish gender and to preserve safe spaces for women. We make no apologies for this. We do not think of DGR as a panacea. We believe there are many groups doing great work out there and that it will take many more working together to bring down the system we currently live in.

We in DGR understand that the DGR strategy will not be for everyone. We believe that every option should be on the table and that each person is entitled to decide which they support, without necessarily rejecting the usefulness of those they do not wish to become involved with. To be clear – DGR does not condone or support violence against any human or non-human living being. What we wish to stress is that if something drastic is not done, our world is not just going to be a little hotter, but will become uninhabitable. Please read up about us and our strategy, discuss it with friends and make up your own mind. The DGR strategy is very broad and there are a lot of details to fill in so we welcome all feedback from our allies and supporters.

As Ben Barker rightly states in his open letter to liberals: “Every movement for social change has understood that when a system of law is corrupt, we must turn instead to the laws of the universe: human rights, the living land, justice. These movements are always deemed radical—and that’s because they are. Hope and prayers do not alone work to change the world. We’re going to have to fight for it.”

Underground Actions in the UK

This post will focus on underground actions in the UK where militants target infrastructure or companies responsible for destroying our world.

We in DGR UK believe this is the sort of action that is necessary to dismantle industrial civilization. Militant resistance already exists in the UK. There is a long history of resistance in Britain going back hundreds of years and examples from the past will be explored in future posts.

This post will not include any form of protesting or non-violent direct action (NVDA). These are essential resistance tactics but it is not in the scope of this post. It also will not include any underground actions related to stopping animal cruelty or against the arms industry. Again this is very important work but not in the scope of this post. You can find actions related to animal rights and against the arms trade on the www.directaction.info site. DGR supports this work and believes that any and all resistance to this culture, industrial civilisation is vital.

All the information about underground actions in the UK is gleaned from publicly available information (from 1998 onwards) so is likely to be incomplete and lacking insight is various ways. If you are aware of actions that are not included where the information is publicly available please email uk@deepgreenresistance.org It is important to remember that this analysis and perspective is not meant to be authoritative on, or instructive towards objectives, organisation and operation of how any underground individuals or groups operate. That is for them to determine.

DGR is advocating for an underground network of cells to dismantle industrial civilisation. See the DGR strategy Decisive Ecological Warfare. DGR believes the coordinated and repeated attacks against systemic weak points or bottle necks by an underground network, can cause systems disruption and cascading systems failure, resulting in the collapse of industrial activity and civilisation, which must be our goal if we profess any love for life on this planet.

It is very important that communiques about underground actions are NOT sent to the DGR UK email address as we are not equipped to receive these and ensure whoever sends them remains anonymous. See the DGR UK Security page for more information.

We will start off by looking at Scotland, followed by Wales, then Ireland and finally England.
There have been a large number of underground actions in Scotland, mainly directed against coal mines. All these actions were carried out by people that state in their communiques that they oppose coal mining taking place in Scotland because it causes climate change.

Scottish coal, the UK’s largest open cast producer were given permission to mine 1.7 million tonnes of coal from the Mainshill Wood in South Lanarkshire in February 2009. This was a questionable planning decision and it was one of four coal mines in the Douglas Valley. There was no community consent for any of the coal mines. In June 2009 the Mainshill Solidarity Camp was set up and stood in the way of the open cast mine with fortified bunkers, tunnels, tree houses, a giant scaffold tripod and fort. The camp was evicted in late January 2010, which took five days and forty three people were arrested.

Through 2009 and 2010 there were a number of underground sabotage actions against the Mainshill coal mine. In early October 2009, three heavy vehicles being used to clear trees had there locks glued. In late October, in solidarity with those opposing the Mainshill coal mine a group sabotaged another three tree felling vehicles by cutting wires, breaking lights/fixtures, spray painting windows and smashing a standing flood light. In early November 2009, a group of activists sabotaged a specialist drilling rig and other machinery in the Mainshill Wood.

After the Mainshill Solidarity Camp was evicted the sabotage continued. In April 2010, a group sabotaged two Caterpillar D9T’s and 170 tonne face scrapping earth mover. Both vehicles were made undrivable. In October 2010, the main gates were locked on two separate nights and a Works Traffic sign was repainted with the words ‘Stop Coal Chaos!’. In November 2010, a group sabotaged twelve large machines by cutting hydraulics and electrics (http://www.indymediascotland.org/node/22468).

The Broken Cross open cast coal mine is five miles from Mainshill Wood and is the largest in Europe. On the morning of December 25th 2009, a group sabotaged four machines at Broken Cross mine. In early October 2010, a machine was sabotaged at Broken Cross mine in solidarity with The Happendon Wood Action Camp (THWAC). In mid October 2010, four earth movers, two dump trucks and an explosive handling truck were sabotaged at Broken Cross mine. In late March 2011, two huge coal graders had their hydraulics, electrics and steel cables cut. One was as large as a three story building and used to load coal onto lorries.

There were a couple of acts of sabotage at the Glentaggart opencast coal mine in South Lanarkshire. In August 2009 a group disabled the conveyor belt that moved coal from the mine to Ravenstruther rail terminal, where the coal is sent to Drax power station in Yorkshire. These conveyor are hard to restart when they are heavily laden because they are a few kilometres long. In October 2010 extensive damage was caused to a mobile borehole drilling machine at the proposed Glentaggart East open cast coal mine in South Lanarkshire. The communiqué from this action finishes off with the words ‘End Civ Now!’.

In March 2013 a group sabotaged critical equipment, machinery and vehicles belonging to Scottish Coal at Powharnal open cast coal mine in East Ayrshire, Scotland.

In April 2013 Scottish Coal went into liquidation, closing all of its coal mines and cutting 600 jobs. Scottish Coal had not restored eleven old mines to their natural state plus there are the six existing mines and there is a dispute on the clean up costs.

Apart from coal mine sabotage, in the May 2011 two machines being used to construct a new ASDA near Loanhead on the outskirts of Edinburgh had their electrics and hydraulics cut. This was done in protest to ASDA’s use of GM products and because of how supermarkets treat people and animals.

In August 2007 in Wales, the Brecon Beacons gas pipeline works were sabotaged by a group acting against climate change and in defence of the earth. Eleven machines were made immobile including tipper trucks and excavators.

In Ireland, over the years there have been a number of acts of sabotage against the Quinn Group. The Quinn Group makes cement and concrete products, container glass, radiators and plastics. In April 2013 saboteurs cut down power and communication lines at their power plant in the Derrylin/Ballyconnell area in Ireland.

There have been a good number of actions in the South West of England over the years. In January 2013 two separate wind turbines were found toppled in Devon and Cornwall, bolts were found to be missing from their support bases.

There appears to be a number of very active anarchist groups in the Bristol area. In late August 2013 an anarchist group calling themselves the Angry Foxes Cell has claimed responsibility for the fire that ripped through the Police Firearms Training Centre in Black Rock Quarry, being built in Somerset. In their communiqué they state that they used an accelerate to burn the major electrical cables which led to the blaze. It took two weeks for the fire service to completely put out the fire.

An Informal Anarchist Federation (FAI) group claimed responsibility for sabotaging train lines in Bristol in May 2012. This was to affect the employees of the Ministry of Defence and other military industry companies near Filton Abbey Wood.

A group linked to the FAI and Earth Liberation Front (ELF) has claimed responsibility for setting fire to a TV and radio relay station near to Bathampton in the South West of England, in January 2013. Another ELF group claimed responsibility for the arson attack on the communications mast on Dundry hill in April 2012, that took out five communication services and took BBC Radio Bristol and Jack FM off air for more than 16 hours. It also disrupted Avon and Somerset Police radio communications. An ELF-FAI group destroyed a BBC transmission mast in August 2011 during the UK riots.

A group sabotaged construction machinery in Somerset in September 2009. In January 2009 a group glued the locks of RBS in the South West in resistance to the banks anthropocentric polices of investing in oil and gas.

In April 2008 a ELF and ALF group sabotaged a number of vehicles at a bridge building construction site in the South West.

In mid 2007 in Bristol, a non passenger railway line that transports cars and fossil fuels to the Midlands was sabotaged. A golf course, mobile phone mast and 4X4s were sabotaged.

In late 1998, at least 10 cement mixing lorries were sabotaged at Pioneer Aggregates concrete depots at St Philips and Avonmouth in Bristol. This was related to Pioneer Aggregates expansion of the Durnford Quarry into Ashton Court Park near Bristol.

In late 2007 saboteurs visited Barnstaple quarry aggregate industries in Devon. All electric cables in the building were cut, a truck and offices damaged and ‘Earth First’! written across a white board.

Now lets look at what is going on in the rest of England.

In late 1998, a earth-mover and two diggers were badly damaged on the A1-M1 link road between York and Wakefield.

In March 2001 Lee Himlin was on remand for six weeks for criminal damage to quarrying equipment at the Nine Ladies quarry on Stanton Moor in Derbyshire. He was then sentenced between May and June 2001. According to wikipedia permission to quarry at nine ladies was revoked in 2008.

In September 2001, two lorries and a number of diggers were badly damaged at the women’s prison construction site in Ashford, Surrey.

In 2003, a number of peat cutting sites in the north west that were sabotaged. This included damaging machines, slashing peat fertiliser bags and dropping of metal into piles of peat (which will set off alarms as they go into the process, stopping it until they have found all the metal).

In February 2008, an aggregates processing plant in the Yorkshire Dales National Park was sabotaged. A number of vehicles, including all bulldozers, had holes drilled in vital parts of their engines and their tyres. Both control rooms were broken into and all computers and instrument panels were smashed. Keys to all buildings and machinery were removed from the site.

In November 2008 at Kingsnorth coal power station in Kent, someone climbed two three-metre (10ft) razor-wired, electrified security fences, walked into the station and crashed a giant 500MW turbine before leaving a calling card reading “no new coal”. This person walked out the same way and hopped back over the fence. Their actions halted power for four hours and illustrate the potential which direct action has to really make people sit up and notice. This action also shows the vulnerability of industrial infrastructure and what’s possible if someone is motivated enough.

In May 2010 a group sabotaged a number of vehicles, an excavator, cut electrics and hydraulics at the Shotton opencast coal mine near Cramlington in resistance to environmental destruction and climate change.

In June 2010 a group entered a Cutacre coal mine near Manchester and sabotaged 7 monster-trucks used to transport coal around the site.

In mid 2010, a water pumping station at Axford near Newbury owned by Thames Water was sabotaged by environmentalists wanting to defend their local river system and the wildlife it supports.

In January 2013 members of the ALF/ELF sabotaged construction efforts in the Combe Haven Valley in solidarity with the aboveground efforts of Combe Haven Defenders and others campaigning against the Bexhill-Hastings link road.

All the above actions are very encouraging. There seems to be an active underground resistance network in the UK. It is targeting industrial civilisation’s infrastructure with a lot of success and only one arrest. DGR UK applauds all those involved in this work and we wish them every success in future actions. This shows that what DGR is advocating for is possible and has been happening for years. DGR believes that we need dramatically more of it and would encourage those thinking about underground actions in the future to consider how proven strategic and target selection tools might help them.

The ‘Nine Principles of War and Strategy is a great basic primer on good strategy. The list outlines nine simple strategic principles, tools for strategic analysis that can serve as a foundation for establishing strategy and devising operations. These are: Objective; Offensive; Mass; Economy of Force; Manoeuvre; Unity of Command; Security; Surprise; and Simplicity. This Time is Short column post explains more: Principles of War and Strategy.

When thinking about target selection there is another helpful tool called the CARVER Matrix. This is an analytical formula used by militarises and security corporations for the selection of targets. CARVER is an acronym for the six different criteria: criticality, accessibility, re-cuperability, vulnerability, effect, and recognizability. Again more details can be found in this Time is Short column post: Misdirection & Target Selection, Part 1 and Part 2.

Responses to Oppression: Legal Remedies

This is the first follow on blog post from the previous Oppression post that looks at legal remedies as a response to oppression.

Most activists groups are centred around legal remedies to address specific harm. This is for a very good reason. As Catharine MacKinnon points out, “Law organises power.” To be clear, when we talk about legal tactics, we’re not referring to tactics that simply obey the law, rather we’re talking about tactics that intend to use the law as a means towards achieving a goal. Legal tactics can look like anything from passing new legislation, bringing lawsuits against corrupt industry, voting, or lobbying those in power. Historically, they have run the gamut from being extremely effective to necessarily restricting and piecemeal. Most in the contemporary environmental movement have sanctioned legal tactics as the only legitimate way to engage in activism, many radicals have written off legal means altogether. Well, it’s important to note that legal tactics aren’t just for liberals.

Through the course of history, there have been legislative victories and court rulings that have substantially changed people’s lives and redirected the flow of power. If we’re going to try to reorganise power, we are going to have to grapple with the law in one way or another. The trick is to learn how to utilise the law as radicals, or in such a way that employs the law as a tool for creating material change. So let’s take a look at some of the legal tactics that have been used in the contemporary environmental movement.

The law has commonly been used to regulate, or to check unjust activities on the part of individuals or corporate entities. The most common subject of regulation is egregious industrial waste, in the form of toxic chemicals released into the air and water, as well as solid waste disposed on land. In the UK we have the Clean Air Act 1993, Water Resources Act 1991, and the various pesticide and herbicide regulations which all set standards for “acceptable” amounts of toxins released into the environment. This legislation has been considered radical by some, and have indeed been extremely effective in at least reducing the amount of toxins released, especially in comparison to the state of things before these acts were in existence. However, these kinds of regulatory acts are only effective insofar as those who are in charge of doing the regulating actually do their job. This doesn’t exactly work when those who are in charge of regulation are most always the same entities who profit from the very destruction that should be regulated—the government or the corporations themselves! The result of this is a plethora of loopholes made to accommodate profitable industry that doesn’t quite attend to the toxic limits.

The latest figures indicate that 29,000 people die prematurely from air pollution every year in Britain, twice as many as from road traffic, obesity and alcohol combined, and that air pollution is now second only to smoking as a cause of death. I don’t think anyone reading this would truly argue that this is “acceptable.”

So while most liberal activists are left wondering how to tighten regulation around industrial pollution, logging and sexual violence, as radicals, our job is to be asking the deeper questions. When did it become acceptable to drink and breathe in any level of synthetic poisons? How is clear cutting any percentage of living, breathing ecosystems justifiable? As radicals, we should recognise that no level of destruction and oppression is acceptable and we should be working to stop it, not merely lessen its blows.

Aside from creating new legislation, legal tactics are often concerned with putting pressure on people in power through methods such as lobbying, petitioning, calling or writing. One big problem with this is that, as many of us know, you can’t convince insane people.

To get more to the point though, you can’t convince people to stop destroying the natural world if they are directly responsible for upholding a system which necessitates that destruction. The current political structure is predicated on the material condition of infinite growth, meaning a necessity for continued resource consumption and imperialistic expansion. So we’re never going to simply convince them to stop burning fossil fuels or tearing apart forests because they simply cannot undermine the economic and political system they are responsible for running. It goes against their job description.

The Coalition Government looks to have little interest in meeting the legal obligations necessary to ensure the Climate Act (2008) targets are met. Read more here and here. In July the UK Government announced large tax incentives for fracking companies and it just so happens that senior energy sector bosses sit at the heart of Government.

In the same vein, voting new people into the same corrupt positions of power is not really going to get us anywhere. Hopefully we all know that the current environmental crisis won’t be solved by electing a new Prime Minister. Last year leaked documents indicated that the Coalition Government was trying to water down new EU targets on renewable energy and energy efficiency. So rather than expending so much energy trying to convince those in power to change or vying to put someone new in their place, radical legal tactics are concerned with giving people more control over their own lives, or redistributing power back to the people.

Whether it be giving marginalised classes more political leverage, The Representation of the People Act 1928 gave all women over 30 the vote or giving individuals more control over their own bodies and lives, the Slave Abolition Act in 1833, radical legislation seeks to empower oppressed classes, individuals and communities.

Of course, there are many circumstances where those in power have the control over legislation and we do have to convince them to wield that power in less destructive ways. It’s important to say though, that this pressure doesn’t always have to come in the form of supplicant pleading.

For instance, the suffragettes had to convince those in power to give them the vote. For generations they tried asking nicely, and when that didn’t work, they turned to tactics such as civil disobedience, hunger strikes and finally arson before finally winning the vote.

The moral of the story is, if you have no political leverage, then your best bet at winning is to engage in disruption, or moving the terrain of conflict outside of electoral politics or bureaucratic process. We will get more into these kinds of disruptive tactics in a later post, but for now we can simply note that legislative battles don’t always have to be won through legal means.

The final way that we can measure the effectiveness of legal tactics is by looking at the grander picture and considering whether the tactic supports a larger campaign or resistance movement. So this would be one of the circumstances in which our categories of tactics overlap in crucial ways. If a legal tactic can’t be a decisive action on its own, it can aim to support other tactics or the larger resistance movement.

The work that Green and Black Cross does is a great example of this kind of support. They provide legal observers on the ground, a 24/7 arrestee support line and follow-up advice for defendants and claimants. We need people who know how to navigate the legal system because whether we like it or not, the legal system is what many of us end up wrapped up in when we necessarily break the law to achieve justice. If we don’t have organisations like Green and Black Cross to support activists, then we won’t have anyone doing the work that needs to be done.

One of the key questions DGR aims to ask environmentalists is to consider approaches beyond the usual legal response. But if we would like to organise power in a egalitarian distribution, we need to grapple with the laws. The trick is to do this as radicals, which means asking the questions:

  • Does this initiative redistribute power, not just change who is at the top of the pyramid?
  • Does it take away the rights of the oppressors and reestablish the rights of the dispossessed?
  • Does it let people control more of the material conditions of their lives?
  • Does it name and redress a specific harm?
  • Does this legal effort support a larger resistance movement?

We can stand on the sidelines with a more-radical-than-thou attitude, but this attitude will not help a single gasping salmon or starving child. A transition toward direct democracy built on a foundation of both human rights and human participation in the life of the planet is not conceptually difficult. Law is not just for liberals. The question is, what actions will get us from here to there? Neither sneering nor despairing has ever proven to be effective. It’s easy for nothing to be radical enough, but an interior state of rage is also not enough. Structural change needs to happen. A radical analysis starts from that fact. How best to force that change is a strategic question.

This is not a call to behave and ask nicely. The UK State upholds a corrupt arrangement of power. It was written by white men who owned white women as chattel and black men and women as slaves. It was written by white men who feel entitled to plunder the planet for their own profit and and whose primary interest is to protect that disgusting arrangement of power. We have no moral obligation to respect it, quite the opposite: we need to bring it down.

The next post in this series looking at responses to oppression will focus on direct action.

Underminers: A Practical Guide for Radical Change

Keith Farnish has recently produced the excellent book Underminers: A Practical Guide for Radical Change. You can download it for free at his website or buy a hard copy. He has also recently launched the Underminers Network here for people to meet and discuss these ideas. At DGR UK, we’re obviously sympathetic to the notion of Undermining – our works complement each other well and we’re looking forward to seeing how we can work together in the future.

For more information about Undermining see the text below from the Underminers website:

Industrial Civilization is likely to be the last great empire humanity will ever see. If it is allowed to continue in its ravenous way then there is no future for humanity, for the natural systems and processes that allow humans to exist on Earth are the very things that Industrial Civilization is destroying. In fact, no form of civilization has ever been sustainable nor ever will be. In order for humanity to continue on Earth then civilization has to stop, and people allowed to return to a way of living that is connected to the real world.

We are not able to do this. At least not until we become Underminers. The industrial system depends, for its survival, on humans being disconnected from the real world and mentally attached to the machine that we fuel with our civilized lives. The Tools of Disconnection keep us in that state, and the only way to prevent us from being responsible for our demise is to undermine those Tools of Disconnection. Once we are free from the grip of the machine and reconnected with the real world then the myth of Industrial Civilization will die, and humanity will be able to continue.

Underminers is the timely follow-up to Time’s Up! An Uncivilized Solution to a Global Crisis. It takes up where that book left off, with a detailed, highly practical approach to the process of undermining in all its many hues. At once entertaining, shocking and inspiring, Underminers draws on the author’s own experience dealing at first hand with the lies of the industrial machine, and that of a wide range of other people who have their own unique take on the swath of topics covered in the book.

From the reasons we are unable to act, to the nitty-gritty of keeping ourselves and others safe during the undermining process, the first half of the book is an invaluable guide to navigating the industrial system and becoming a fully-formed Underminer. The second half details, with surprising openness how the reader can utilize their abilities and new-found determination to be an effective Underminer; whether that be undermining the advertising industry or the political machine, turning symbolic protestors into real activists, building self-determined communities or simply being ourselves – connected, free human beings.

We are the Underminers, and this is our time.

Go and check it out for yourself – then decide what you’re going to do about it all…