Why Climate Resistance Needs To Get Violent

Fossil fuel infrastructure isn't going to destroy itself

Nelson Mandela said "I called for non-violent protest for as long as it was effective." When it stopped being effective, he got into property damage. Sabotage. He said “if sabotage did not produce the results we wanted, we were prepared to move on to the next stage: guerrilla warfare and terrorism.” This is precisely the footing the climate movement needs to be on now. It's time to blow up some pipelines.

This is in fact what Andreas Malm calls for in his book How To Blow Up A Pipeline, and I'll go through a few of his arguments here.

Sydney Morning Herald, June 4 1980

One thing Malm proposes is physically attacking fossil fuel infrastructure, like Mandela's MK unit did (though for different reasons). In 1980 MK hit the Sosol coal-to-oil plant and it was an important moment in the struggle against apartheid:

“Lasting for three days, the smoke plume could be seen by electrified audiences in Johannesburg: it ‘shattered the myth of white invulnerability. It was not about the quantity of oil that was lost … it was that column of smoke that was important. Sasol was a symbol of power,’ in the words of ANC militant Frene Ginwala”

Today we're fighting a bigger problem than apartheid and it's going to take at least as much commitment to action as Mandela had. What Malm asks us today is "When do we start physically attacking the things that consume our planet and destroy them with our own hands? Is there good reason we have waited this long?"

At this point anyone can see that all the protests, meetings, and pledges haven't done shit. Since COP1, emissions have increased 60%. Since COP10, fossil fuel infrastructure nearly doubled. COP26 was just a farce. All Cops Are Bastards, and it's time to burn some cop cars.

For decades now the climate resistance movement (among rich people) has been scrupulously non-violent. This has made it quite popular, and also quite ineffective. Climate change as become an advertising tagline, not something remotely threatening to the status quo. Activists complain about politicians not taking action, but the activists are not taking action either. Someone has to lead.

The risk is that violence will make the climate justice movement unpopular, but this isn't a popularity contest. Attacking fossil fuel infrastructure will be very unpopular because people will have power outages, economies will suffer, and yet this is precisely what needs to be done. Only obviously broken things get fixed. That's the point of sabotage. As Mandela said during his brief command of the MK (before being arrested for 27 years):