Time’s Up

Why we are in civil resistance

Our system is killing us. The root of the wreckage we see around us is a broken democracy, not a broken climate. Climate chaos is just a symptom of the endless greed of the powerful – who won’t stop until they’ve trashed even what they need to survive. 

This reality is so terrifying that we all want to believe it’s not true. Surely our lives are in good hands, minus a few bad apples. But for more and more people, these last shreds of comfort are going up in wildfire smoke. We’re told to watch the world burn while politicians license new oil – and still obey? 

If that makes your head and heart explode, there’s only one place to go: Civil Resistance. It’s the step we take when we definitively turn our backs on the criminals in power, refusing to give them one more second of our time and respect.

All over the world, this is happening. A Glasgow community spontaneously gathers to save neighbours from deportation. The Stop Cop City movement in Atlanta refuses to let the police raze the forest for a vast training complex. People block the subway in New York, in rage and defiance, after homeless black man Jordan Neely was murdered. Just Stop Oil’s partners in the A22 network send shockwaves across Europe – blocking roads, throwing paint over private jets, turning fountains black.  

Like these sister movements, Just Stop Oil is clear about what civil resistance means: we no longer consent to a system that doesn’t care if we live or die. A system so dysfunctional it’s willing to sacrifice us to a clique of criminals profiting from shortened lives, hunger and despair. Resistance means we no longer cooperate with a state that holds us in utter contempt, lies to us and treats us as worthless. If the State has no regard for us, we owe it nothing in return.

The good news amongst all this darkness is that civil resistance works. It’s not a miracle cure by any means, but the balance tips decisively in its favour. It’s got rid of dictators like Serbia’s Slobodan Milosevic, brought down segregation in the US, won votes for women, removed the British from India, and helped Polish trade unionists free themselves from Soviet oppression. Just Stop Oil could be just months away from joining this roll of honour.

The techniques of civil resistance can include strikes, boycotts, blockades, cultural disruption and occupations. Its results are just as varied. Civil resistance sometimes wins by sparking mass mobilisation, compelling people to leave the sidelines and join in. Sometimes by dividing the State against itself, winning over police and the judiciary. Victory can also come from raising the costs of keeping a system going – until it’s easier for the oppressor to give way. But behind all these tactics and objectives is the absolute withdrawal of consent from a system that’s failing in its duty to provide protection, care and justice for ordinary people like us.

Here, this failure is stark. Our government takes our hard-earned money, via taxpayer subsidies, and pours it into new oil and gas projects, which will lead to misery, deprivation, suffering and death. It breaks its own climate targets, marching us towards social, economic as well as environmental collapse. It lies to us and gaslights us – telling us new oil will cut our energy bills when we all know it’s going to be sold for profit on the global market, at a global price. As one of our spokespeople, Emma Brown, put it so clearly in an interview: ‘The British public isn’t silly.’ We know we’re being lied to. We know we’re being thrown to the wolves. 

If you can’t un-know these horrifying truths, join us in civil resistance before it’s too late. Policy and legislation can’t get us the change we need. They can codify the progress we make – but that will come afterwards. Now is the time to resist and that means all of us. The method will work its magic, but not without you.

Join Just Stop Oil on a slow march at midday every Saturday, at Parliament Square until we win.

Reading list

1. This is an Uprising, Paul Enger & Mark Engler

2.   Blueprint for a Revolution, Srdja Popovic

3.   The End of Protest: A new blueprint for Revolution, Micah White

4.   Don’t think of an Elephant, George Lakoff

5.   From Dictatorship to Democracy, Gene Sharp ( PDF Available free online)

6. “The success of nonviolent civil resistance”,  Erica Chenoweth (Ted Talk)

7. Rules for Revolutionaries, Zack Exley and Becky Bond

8. Hegemony How-To: A Roadmap for Radicals, Jonathan Smucker

9. How Organisations Develop Activists, Hahrie Han

10. Reinventing Organisations:A Guide to Creating Organizations Inspired by the Next Stage of Human Consciousness, Frederic Laloux

Video & Film:

* Bringing down a dictator (Serbian Uprising by Otpor!)

* The Children March (during the US Civil Rights movements)

* Webinars on Momentum-driven organising: Ayni Institute (Carlos Saavedra)