The Autonomous Earth Federation
We are standing at a crucial crossroads. Not only does the age-old “social question” concerning the exploitation of human labor remain unresolved, but the plundering of natural resources has reached a point where humanity is also forced to politically deal with an “ecological question.” Today, we have to make conscious choices about what direction society should take, to properly meet these challenges. - Eirik Eiglad
In the wake of recent events, many anarchists and social ecologists have found their early concerns about Extinction Rebellion and Earth Strike confirmed: the movements appear destined for failure.
Activists under the green, black, and red are agreed that now, perhaps more than ever, an organised autonomous movement is needed to build towards insurrection and general strikes, as well as provide a clearly outlined ecological alternative to the capitalist industrial order based on one of communal ownership and democracy. What follows is the proposal for a rough set of guidelines towards the formation of a decentralised network of activists, united by a shared belief in this set of core principles:
- Climate collapse is class war
- Capitalism and centralisation have devastated our planet
- Direct Action and Autonomy - not looking to elected representatives for reform
- Climate issues are social issues
- Consensus is key - All Power to the People!
- Rejection of the state and police
- The climate struggle is an internationalist struggle
- The climate struggle is an anti-racist, anti-ableist, anti-imperialist struggle
The Autonomous Earth Federation aims to establish an organised autonomous undercurrent within the wider climate and labour movements. There are no membership fees, no registration - anyone who agrees with our core principles can consider themselves a part of the AEF. We offer no support or affiliation to any political party, and have no officials or internal hierarchy - we are all leaders.
Autonomous Earth Federation - A Guiding Outline
Autonomy is key to the movement, and so the following outline is to be taken as a proposed guide, not the manifesto of the movement.
- Preparing for the Failures of Extinction Rebellion
- The Movement as a Propaganda Group
- Building Community Self Management and Sustainability
- Building Climate Consciousness in the Labour Movement
- The Movement as a Union
- The Movement as a Commune
- Organising for Insurrection and General Strikes
Preparing for the Failures of Extinction Rebellion
Whilst there can be no denying that XR has started a surge in action and climate consciousness, there are serious issues in its approach and aims that will prove detrimental to the organisation.
- Firstly, there is the issue of borders - XR lists “a surge in migration” among other climate disasters. We do not doubt that such a scenario is increasingly likely in the event of ecological collapse, and preparing to work in solidarity with climate refugees is vital, but our movement will not tolerate the demonisation of migrants or refugees. On this we are clear: climate collapse effects the world without regard to borders, so too our movement must fight without regard to nations or their boundaries.
- Then there is the issue of the state and police. XR’s approach to the police has been the friendliest from any green movement in memory: from forcing activists to register their full names, to virtually inviting the police to arrest their members, this approach was destined to fail from the outset and shows no regard for minority individuals within the movement. What’s more, leaders of the movement do not seem to have planned for legal representation or community self defence, despite encouraging members to engage in civil disobedience. Armed with a comprehensive list of activists’ identities weeks in advance of every action, it seems inevitable that the state will either crush the Extinction Rebellion, or infiltrate and render it ineffective.
- Earth Strike, the organisation trying to plan a global general strike, has proven itself effected by similar issues. Planning and executing a general strike on a specified date has historically proven almost impossible, and to expect to do so with virtually no influence within trade and industrial unions over a manner of months is naïve at best.
What can be seen clearly in both groups is a growing divide between the leadership and those they’re attempting to organise. With Extinction Rebellion it appears to stem from the leadership’s approach to the police and state, with Earth Strike it’s more a total lack of influence over workers in any industry. If the climate struggle is to be organised under the leadership of such groups, it is destined to be either absorbed or crushed by the state. What, then, is to be our approach?
The Movement as a Propaganda Group
We cannot command workers to go on general strike, nor the masses into the streets at whim. The workers themselves must lead the strike, the masses the insurrection. We have neither the organisation nor the influence to expect to be able to form the Autonomous Earth Federation as anything more than a loose network of activists working as a propaganda group at first - but that doesn’t mean we cannot be active. In response to the state’s mass arrest of protesters, it is vital to the survival of the climate movement that we begin to mobilise in small groups alongside Extinction Rebellion, not only to defend the demonstrations from the police, but also to listen to concerns any activists have with XR - this way we can build an understanding of how the movement can be aided to gain Autonomy. As the AEF grows in size and influence within the wider climate and labour movements, we can aim to move from campaigning as a propaganda group to organising as a union across unions and a commune within communities.
The role of the AEF as a propaganda group can be divided into three symbiotic approaches:
- Working within grassroots social movements to establish and promote community self management and sustainability
- Working within trade and industrial unions to build climate consciousness in the workforce
- Working autonomously to build community self defense
Building Community Self Management and Sustainability
We don’t expect to be able to call rival demonstrations to XR’s or form our own community activism projects, nor would either approach be helpful to building the movement. Instead, the AEF can aim to organise within existing grassroots groups to promote community self sufficiency and self management. Helping build communal gardens so that people can learn to grow their own food sustainably, volunteering and building links within groups like Food Not Bombs, as well as organising alongside Extinction Rebellion and Earth Strike to form links between activists and legal and medical groups - such as the Green and Black Cross - will lay the foundations for an autonomous climate movement and a visible alternative to capitalism within communities. What’s more, such groups can help teach the notion of organising by direct democracy and consensus. We can look to support and build Autonomous Community Centres where we can provide practical education on sustainable technology, permaculture etc, communal food halls where people bring what they can, cook together and eat together, tool libraries where people can donate and borrow the tools they need to maintain their communities, climate libraries to ensure free access to information, an underground press to print zines, stickers etc - all of which nurture the ideas for the birth of the commune.
The core aims of this approach are:
- To build autonomy within the existing climate movement - so that the direction it takes isn’t shaped by a removed leadership and to ensure a diversity of tactics
- To build visible alternative structures to capitalism within our communities - so that people are able to feed and provide for themselves and each other sustainably without reliance on consumerism
Whilst allowing us to spread our message, achieving these aims will more importantly build physical examples of communities managing and providing for themselves, as well as a climate movement ready to mobilise without leaders.
Building Climate Consciousness in the Labour Movement
To call workers out to strike or form our own unions would be a waste of time and a clear way of isolating the climate movement from the labour movement, to the detriment of both. Instead we can organise within existing trade and industrial unions - such as the Industrial Workers of the World - to promote the climate struggle as a class struggle. There are already promising undercurrents within the labour movement - such as the IWW Environmental Unionism Caucus - aiming to take industrial action against climate collapse. Our approach then, can be to support the formation of similar committees and build an autonomous network of climate activists across trade and industrial unions - even a relatively small presence within a diverse range of unions can prove influential and grow quickly if its activists are organised and committed.
The core aims of this approach are:
- To spread the idea that climate struggle is the class struggle among the international labour movement
- To build a network of activists within the international labour movement able to organise as a union across unions
Achieving these aims is a vital step for the success of the climate movement - if we are to seriously discuss sustainable management of the Earth’s industries, we need a labour movement ready to mobilise for climate struggle.
The Movement as a Union
Once the AEF has a large enough presence to be influential within the wider labour movement - and we have no illusions that this will be a quick or easy process - it can begin to organise groups of workers autonomously, without the leadership of their union officials. At this stage we can act as a catalyst for wildcat strikes and other autonomous industrial actions against climate collapse, putting pressure on unions and providing an alternative means of organisation for workers - all of which help lay the foundations for a general strike.
The core aims of this approach are:
- To organise autonomous industrial action and wildcat strikes against climate collapse and capitalism
- To promote the idea of autonomy so that workers are willing and able to organise themselves without union officials or politicians
Achieving these aims will help bring about the climate and class consciousness that might spark a general strike, where enough workers in every industry refuse to work in an attempt to shut down capitalism and the state.
The Movement as a Commune
Alongside efforts within the labour movement, once we have a large enough influence within various radical community groups - and again we have no illusions that this will be a quick or easy process - the AEF can look towards building links between groups so that we might support any climate or industrial actions with working examples of an alternative society. At this stage, we can organise regular communal meals, rely upon being able to grow our own food, organise our own tenant co-operatives, underground press, MESH communication networks, etc, in a loose confederation - all of which provide working examples of a commune society structured around the basic principles of individual freedom and communal government, as well as setting the scene in which we might organise for insurrection.
If we are to seriously consider sparking any sort of mass insurrection, it is vital that we try to organise those elements of the dispossessed classes not recognised as waged workers - undocumented migrants, those in the gig economy, the unemployed, the mentally ill, the disabled etc. It is clear that these people will bear the brunt of any climate collapse and are among the most oppressed individuals in our society, we cannot allow their voices to go unheard. Working with and listening to such groups will help the AEF understand the issues they face, so that our movement might not be dominated by the concerns of our own activists. Towards this end, the underground press is a hugely important weapon in the commune’s arsenal - in an age where we are bombarded with consumerist propaganda in every aspect of our lives, it is vital to remember that any social revolution must fight a culture war. If we are to seriously discuss insurrection, then we need to build our support and understanding from our communities.
The core aims of this approach are:
- To create functioning autonomous communes globally within the shell of capitalist society that can provide for communities and demonstrations
- To provide the structure in which we might begin to organise communities and demonstrations into insurrection
Achieving these aims will help bring about the level of community organisation needed to support workers in a general strike, as well as provide the movement with the tools to organise our communities towards insurrection against climate collapse. But most importantly, if we are to successfully achieve these aims, the commune can become the means by which communities manage themselves after the insurrection.
Organising for Insurrection and General Strikes
Once we are able to function as a network of autonomous communes and unions, as well as rely upon the sympathies of the wider climate movement, the AEF can look towards organising riots against capitalism and the state, with the general aim of sparking insurrection. The purpose of any insurrection is to directly attack the forces of state and capital - if we are to successfully build towards climate insurrection, then we must aim not only to attack, but also to destroy state and capital.
What follows is the proposal for an attack on two fronts, the core aims of which are:
- To organise climate riots building in momentum towards insurrection of the state
- To organise wildcat strikes in solidarity with the riots, building in momentum towards a general strike in which workers both shut down and occupy the capitalist industries
Achieving these aims will mean that general strikes throughout the day are supported by intense revolt against the state through the night. Supported by functioning communes able to provide for and organise the people during the shutdown, such an approach has the potential to render the ruling classes powerless.
Building the insurrection will rely heavily on our ability to organise the elements of society sometimes discarded as “lumpenproletariat.” Looking to examples of insurrectionary anarchist organisations such as the Class War Federation of the 80s reveals the important fact that such individuals are among the most radical and active when organised. If we are able to spread the ideas of autonomy whilst listening to the climate anger of this disenfranchised class, then we stand a much better chance of being able to act as a catalyst for riots and insurrection.
Building towards general strikes will rely not only on our ability to mobilise industrially diverse masses of workers, but also on the effect that the gathering insurrection is having on the class and climate consciousness of the labour force as a whole. If the intensity and organisation of the rioting is fierce enough, then it is almost inevitable that the workers will have no desire whatever to go back to their jobs in the morning. In such a scenario we can encourage the rioting to meld with the strikes towards the aim of completely occupying the industries and spaces by which capitalism and the state operate. We cannot allow society to continue in a direction that leads to our planet’s ecological destruction, and as such we must aim to create a society in which management of the industries is shared not between a bureaucratic elite (the state) and an economic elite (the owners of property and businesses), but between those who run them (the workers) and those who use and are affected by them (the people). If we are to build such a society, then the insurrection must include the formation of community assemblies to manage the communes by free association, and worker co-operatives to manage the industries on which the communes rely. The occupation and defence of the industries by the workers, as well as the occupation and defence of public spaces by the people, will be essential to the success of the climate insurrection.