Dozens arrested at anti-fracking protests

Submitted by AWL on 18 August, 2013 - 12:33

Update

A number of activists, including Green Party MP Caroline Lucas, were arrested on protests at the Balcombe site. As of 4.50pm on 19 August, the No Dash for Gas Twitter feed was reporting that 19 activists had been arrested, "with more to be confirmed".

Activists also protested at Cuadrillo's Sheffield headquarters, and the central London offices of Bell Pottinger, the PR firm used by Cuadrillo. For updates, see the No Dash for Gas website.


This report, of a workshop at the "Reclaim The Power" camp, was written before the 19 August protests.

Hundreds of activists flocked to the "Reclaim The Power" protest camp at Balcombe, near the sites where energy firm Cuadrilla had been conducting test drilling for "fracking", the extraction of shale gas by fracturing rock. The camp relocated at short notice from West Burton power station in north Nottinghamshire. The a pre-existing protest camp in Balcombe nearer to the drilling site itself, is also ongoing.

On Saturday 17 August, around 80 activists attended a workshop at the camp on "just transition and work", exploring ideas around workers' agency in the fight against climate chaos and possible points of engagement between climate activists and trade unions. The platform speakers were Manuel Cortes (general secretary of rail union TSSA), Chris Baugh (assistant general secretary of the PCS union), Derek Wall (Green Party activist), Clara Paillard (PCS officer), and myself (a Workers' Liberty member who had been involved with the "Workers' Climate Action" network, a solidarity network active in the labour and climate movements from 2006 to 2010).

I argued for an approach based on solidarity (rather than one of two separate groups - "climate activists" and "workers" - trying to construct incidental alliances), and related the experiences of WCA in engaging with workers in high-emitting industries like energy generation and aviation. I suggested that the model of the Lucas Aerospace workers' plan could inform climate and labour movement responses to contemporary struggles such as the recently-announced Npower job cuts.

All the speakers emphasised the need for democratic planning at every level - from the workplace to the socio-economic - as the only possible alternative to the climate chaos wrought by market rule.

Other participants in the workshop said that the aim should be a situation where organised workers in the energy and construction industries implemented an Australian-style "green ban" on fracking sites, rather than those sites being disrupted "from the outside" by activists. That's a long way off - but it's the right aspiration!

With the 400ppm line now having been crossed, and the government intent on expanding fossil-fuel-based energy generation, and expanding "extreme energy" techniques, the climate movement (somewhat in retreat since the failure of the Copenhagen talks in 2009) must revive.

Marxists and other revolutionary working-class anti-capitalists in that movement can help shape its politics in the direction of class struggle, and ensure that it can be a movement that fights for a socially and ecologically just and sustainable society; in other words, a democratic-collectivist society where the working-class majority organises work on the basis of democratic planning.

In other words, socialism.