On February 17, US. environmental activists will gather in Washington to protest the planned Keystone XL tar sands pipeline from Canada to Texas. Chris Williams, author of Ecology and Socialism and a frequent contributor to Climate & Capitalism, writes that the movement must be clear about who its allies and enemies are.
In particular, he challenges the view that green activists should support the Democratic Party and Barack Obama. He writes:
Given that an overwhelming majority of Americans, and even most people hostile to climate science, are in favor of action, why is it that the overwhelming majority of politicians, who presumably are subject to the same weather as the rest of us, can’t seem to see the need? Why aren’t our elected representatives proposing serious measures to prevent it from getting worse?
How one answers this question is not one of semantics. Rather, it is of decisive importance because it determines how one should fight and with whom one should forge alliances. …
A number of activists and organizations will go to Washington hoping to persuade someone they see as a potential ally in this fight against the fossil fuel corporations–to persuade President Obama to go beyond the stirring words in his inaugural address and act on climate change.
In spite of the rhetoric of his inaugural address, the pivotal question remains: Is Barack Obama—or any Democratic leader, for that matter—really on our side?
Is it just a question of persuading a reluctant friend, hamstrung by a right-wing, dysfunctional Congress and stymied by powerful corporate interests, to act by demonstrating outside his house to let him know we’re there for him?
Or should we be surrounding his house, knowing full well that he won’t give in to our demands without a social movement that acts independently of his wishes and control?