I back saboteurs who have acted with courage and coherence, but I won’t blow up a pipeline. Here’s why
(The Guardian, 2 May 2023) I understand the argument that our escalating climate crisis justifies direct action, but I can’t urge anyone to do things I wouldn't do myself.
There’s a fundamental principle that should apply to every conflict. Don’t urge others to do what you are not prepared to do yourself. How many wars would be fought if the presidents or prime ministers who declared them were obliged to lead their troops into battle?
I can see why How to Blow Up a Pipeline, the book by Andreas Malm which has inspired a new film with the same title, has captured imaginations. It offers a lively and persuasive retelling of the history of popular protest, showing how violence and sabotage have been essential components of most large and successful transformations, many of which have been mischaracterised by modern campaigners as entirely peaceful.
Malm shows how violence was a crucial component of the campaigns against slavery, imperial rule in India, apartheid and Britain’s poll tax, of the demand for women’s suffrage and even of the famously “peaceful” revolutions in Iran and Egypt. He argues that by ruling out violence and sabotage, those of us who seek to defend the habitable planet are fighting with our hands tied behind our backs. He urges us to develop a “radical flank”, prepared to demolish, burn, blow up or use “any other means necessary” against “CO2-emitting property”.
The Guardian, 2 May 2023: I back saboteurs who have acted with courage and coherence, but I won’t blow up a pipeline. Here’s why