Dead Centre

Did the October Rebellion ever happen? I walked the streets of the centre of London last Saturday to find little or no sign. By midday, the lawn at Parliament Square had new protesters and organisers testing the giant screen and sound system readying themselves for a different protest. The centre of Trafalgar Square was all but dead, the XR tents and banners all gone. Instead, passing by from the West came an endless procession of well-clad humanity, tight-packed and stern, waving blue banners emblazoned with rings of golden stars.

One million people were marching to Westminster, not to protest the inaction in the face of catastrophe, but the inaction of Parliament over Brexit. These were “Remainers” in the main, and my crowded train journey home found them overwhelmingly white, middle class and self-protectionist. The European Union, albeit flawed, was their hope for the future, whatever the science of global heating might predict.

I was attending a conference on the other side of Westminster Bridge about war and nuclear weapons, and used the lunch hour to observe the parade. The Conference debates rang in my ears; detailing the new AI assisted industry producing “useable” nuclear weapons offering low-yields of destruction of “theatres of war”. The current computer-aided militarisation of Space adding as great a threat to our future as the looming climate catastrophe. And, thoughtfully, the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament resolving with great clarity the need to address the conjoined relationship between climate and war.

There is no doubt that climate breakdown will produce more wars, and such general conflagration will precede the global climate catastrophe. It is with us already. The endless wars for Oil have dominated the twentieth and twenty first centuries, decimating civilisations and destroying countless millions of lives – human, animal, insect and plant. This month’s invasion of Kurdish Syria by the Turkish State has an oil pipeline as a backcloth, and the Saudi genocide in Yemen displays the vulnerability as well as the power of Oil. The devastated proxy battleground of Syria symbolises the battle for resources in an era of environmental collapse. 

The President of the most powerful nation that the human world has ever seen is increasing expenditure on military hardware whilst denying discussion, let alone development, of adaptation to avoid climate breakdown. And the total energy and efforts of up to seven million protesters across the world shouting out “System Change not Climate Change” across October have appeared to have no resonance with those who hold the Power. What will it take?

Observing the Big Picture, it would appear that the centre cannot hold. There is such tension in the human world, huge protests in Sudan, Ecuador, Haiti, Iraq, Egypt and Puerto Rico, Hong Kong, Lebanon, Chile, Catalonia and even London, that the forces of power and privilege are being laid bare for all to see. The State repression, Police guns, grenades, beatings and prison-cell torture, all signals of a frightened and cornered ruling class determined to smash opposition before it starts.

On the other side, the searing inequality burning the flesh and consciousness of the poor of the World is producing the inevitable resistance and challenge, humans hurling themselves at the authors of such injustice. This is a time of passion, the cry for action, the sacrificial charge for change. The centre shall not hold. But the ruling class will use all means at their disposal to cling-on to their power and privilege. War will precede climate breakdown and hasten it.

Saturday’s million-march of the Remainers was motivated more by the conservative wish to stay the same, for defence of the Status Quo than it was a demand for progress. Of course, there are no absolutes, and the Left contingent marching for Europe, self-labelled “Another Europe is Possible” would condemn and decry me even suggesting they’re for more of the same. Yet even their adaptation of the banner of the Movement of Movements, “Another World is Possible”, exposes their reformist reserve against whole-System Change. 

In a world falling apart, the defence of a system that is knowingly raping the planet and denying access to those fleeing war and climate collapse, the idea of the EU as potentially progressive is pie-in-the-sky. I’m not blaming them for marching. I am questioning why the superficial issue of Brexit appears more important than the fundamental challenge of global heating. In or Out of the EU, we will have neoliberal governance in denial about the requirement for no-growth, zero-carbon economies.

Unlike Saturday’s “March to Remain” (oh, the irony), most uprisings, those riots and mass protests, the global spread of festivals of the Oppressed and Exploited, are demanding Another World. Peace and Social Justice. There is a growing and deepening divide apparent between the forces of progress and the forces of reaction. These are the signs of a global civil war in embryo. The revolutionaries are going to have to grow faster and larger than the forces of reaction and stasis if we are to have any hope of survival. The Centre must not hold. 

Wednesday 23rd October 2019

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