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Radical Flank Strategy 2.0: Climate Disobedience for All!

Hi all,

Lützerath "worked". The climate movement is one movement once more, it no longer flutters single-winged and unloved above Germany's Autobahns, but has a radical, and a moderate wing again - and what's more: since Lützerath, both wings are disobedient! This means we are finally capable of collective strategic action, and begins to answer the question of how the climate movement will react to the inevitable, in fact already ongoing transnational large-scale attack carried out by what I've called “the sublimation society (Öffnet in neuem Fenster)”: with. More. Climate disobedience! On the one hand from the cool disobedient, on the other hand from the annoying disobedient wing.

How do we build movement power?”, not “whom should we vote for?

But first things first, as many of us are still stuck in the debate that we might call “how to solve a problem like the Greens?”: quite a few of my last texts were about the "Greens (Öffnet in neuem Fenster)", engaging with the question of whether or not, and how, after Lützerath and before various local and regional elections in the first trimester of 2023, that party might serve as political levers or transmission belts to translate our new-found movement power into the political system – side note to the many Green Party-defenders who kept asking why, post-Lützerath, there was criticism of the Greens than of our more conservative political opponents: because politics, and that's what we do as a movement, isn't about good intentions, it's about power, about force in the physical sense, and since Archimedes, we know that, íf you have only limited power at your disposal, you have to think about where to direct and applay that limited limited, and there is more leverage with the Greens than with the Conservatives, q.e.d...

However: while voting is certainly important, "whom should I vote for?" is not the most important political question a climate activist can ask, and elections are traditionally not particularly easily influenced by movements (which usually make "clear", i.e. simple, demands on a limited number of issues), the decision to vote for a party is a complex one, and it is extremely difficult to link voting decisions directly to specific positions of individual parties.

In other words, the question "should I, and if so, how can I, punish the 'Greens' for Lützerath?" is only a sub-category of the much more important, the central question: what strategic conclusions does the climate movement draw from Lützerath, how do we use the upswing that we've experienced in society's appreciation of our actions to continue building movement power, and thus enable the implementation of our positions through our own practice and by whichever party is in government at that point?

The German climate movement after Lützerath

First, the premise of the question, i.e. the statement that "Lützerath" not only proved again the social breadth and power of the climate movement, but in fact expanded it. First, there is the empirically measurable "Lützerath effect (Öffnet in neuem Fenster)": the share of the population whose climate policy expectations are not met by "any party" increased from 12% to 17%, suggesting that the (potential) social base of the climate movement has broadened significantly. More positively, but based solely on anecdotal evidence (a conversation with my weed dealer (Öffnet in neuem Fenster), a typical young man from Neukölln, far from the middle class climate-bubble, who thanked me for being in Lützerath; the smiling faces of both customers and employees in my local pharmacy when I mentioned Lützerath; my niece, whom I had never known as an "activist" before, but whom I then suddenly and unexpectedly met during the epic mud battle of Lützerath (Öffnet in neuem Fenster)) I would say that since Lützerath, society's view of the climate movement has much improved over 2022, where the – incidentally completely correct & largely excellently communicated – actions of the Last Generation (Germany's equivalent to Just Stop Oil) were so powerfully rejected by Germany's sublimation society (Öffnet in neuem Fenster) that in the end the general impression was that climate activism is something that just sucks, that is completely and exclusively annoying (Öffnet in neuem Fenster). We all felt this pressure, this aversion of mainstream society, and I think many of us suffered from it.

Since Lützerath, however, we are once again in a stronger position to frame climate activism as a not only reasonable, but hopeful, even inspiring cause, because this discourse is now once again resonating with(in) wider society: the images from Lützerath simply spoke too clear a language (Öffnet in neuem Fenster). On the one hand, the stable unity of the movement, which, as the successful defence of Hambach Forest showed, is much easier to establish the common defence of a physical place (Öffnet in neuem Fenster)than in a fight for some shades-of-grey policy goal (it's easy to disagree, e.g., on the date of a coal phaseout: 2028 or 2025? Whereas a tree or a house are either there, or not there, there's no gradations). In essence, around Lützerath, the framing was clear: life vs. death, good vs. evil, reasonable vs. fossil capitalist insanity.

And here it is of course relevant to talk about "police violence", dear comrades @ IL Frankfurt (Öffnet in neuem Fenster), not because it is at all surprising that cops would resort to violence to defend fossil capital(ism), or because there was no militancy on our part, but because the climate movement in Germany has never been beaten up so brutally, and this experience was and will become a turning point for many, many thousands. Because that is also part of the story of Lützerath: (almost) nobody was there to "obediently" walk from Keyenberg to a manifestation in the middle of a muddy field and then stop there. No, 35,000 people were there to liberate Lützerath, and most of them also participated in one way or another in the attempt to reach and overcome the fence.

So if it is (only?) in the common defence of a place against the fossil capitalist madness that a united, popular, and, in its mainstream, disobedient climate movement can emerge - isn't it then absolutely necessary for the climate movement to create such sites, such symbols of resistance, places where we stand united, and can be seen by society as "the good guys", as an expression of a universal or at least general societal rationality? This would be exactly the kind of work that, for example, Ende Gelände, Fridays For Future and the anarchist parts of the climate movement, which has steadily been growing stronger and more central since the fight to defend Hambach Forest, could divvy up amongst themselves - for example, in the fight against new Autobahn construction (such as with the Berlin A100, or the fight for the #Fecherbleibt in Frankfurt), or the new construction of fossil gas infrastructure - while the Last Generation continues with its strategy of disrupting societal normality.

Radical flank strategy 2.0

This, then, could be a new division of labour in the climate movement: the last generation plays its clever strategy, continues to do its thang as the "radical (in this sense: disruptive) flank" of the movement (hat tip Andreas Malm), while the others take over the "inspiring" part, the epic battles of good vs. evil, but – and this must be clear since Lützerath: disobediently. Places cannot be defended by big marches and petitions alone - only the threat and the reality of mass-scale rule-breaking has a chance to put a stop to a profit- and power-driven opposing side.

The division of labour would thus be between two disobedient wings of the movement, one that says "if you don't keep your Paris promises, we'll paralyse your everyday life - we're not doing this because we want to, but because you're forcing us to", and one that says "look how right, important and awesome the fight for climate justice is, how much fun it is - & how much it acts in society's general interest".

Two disobedient wings - one cool, one disruptive. One says: hey, come with us to block &/or peacefully sabotage the expansion of fossil gas infrastructures, because, it's necessary, right and awesome; another one that says: since you unfortunately didn't join our mega-cool blockades of fossil energy infrastructure and other insane projects like Autobahns, we now unfortunately have to block your insane everyday life. Sorry, your call, you apparently made the wrong one.

What do y'all think? I am looking forward to strategic debates in which I am finally not desperate again :)

In solidarity


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