This is the second transcript I am putting up, but the third interview. Interviewee 2 was happy for their comments to be used in blogs/articles etc, but not for the whole transcript to go up in one wodge.
[Interviewee only had 30 minutes – kindly extended to 45]
marc hudson 0:00
So, people I spoke to had a lot to say. I’m going to skip the first question which was a little bit about yourself, how you came to be involved, etcetera, etcetera, and just launch in if that’s okay?
And I should say there’s a few precursors. You’ve read the project outline any questions?
Interviewee 03 0:25
I have one. There’s a misspelling of Earth First! There was no exclamation mark.
marc hudson 0:30
I have fixed that. Thank you, sir.
Interviewee 03 0:36
(laughs) Deliberate slight, I’m sure.
marc hudson 0:40
No, no I’m usually more blunt with my deliberate slights. Um, so the plan is that as of next week, I’m going to start putting transcripts of interviews up online, either with the person’s name, slathered all over it, or anonymous and anonymized, so only things will go up where like a normal person couldn’t say, “oh, that must be so and so.” So we’d strip out anything specific.
And the reason I’m doing that is I don’t want this to be another standard academic project where we extract from activists, they never hear back – like the last one I did, which was my fault. But what I want to do with this is show later interviewees what earlier interviewees have said,
and then it becomes a much more iterative conversation. Does that make sense?
Interviewee 03 1:42
It makes a lot of sense. So yeah, cool.
marc hudson 1:46
So the plan with today is to just speak freely. Nothing will appear online until you have signed off on it. I’m going to ask you about other people I should speak to and that won’t go online at all.
Because some of those people, I might contact, others I wouldn’t and yeah. Okay, so first question. You’ve read the project description. To what extent, if any, do you buy this sense of a cyclical nature of UK climate activism?
Interviewee 03 2:21
Yeah, I mean, I mean, I think like in a quantum sense, they can be both. It can be waves and photons. So it can be like, I think it’s definitely cyclical in nature, but there are institutions and things that aren’t even institutions – cultures – that kind of pervade behind them as well. So there definitely is a cyclicality to it. But there’s also yeah, there’s all sorts of stuff.
marc hudson 2:53
Yeah, I mean, specifically on the protest side of things because I think what you’re alluding to,
is the stuff that people do in between protest cycles, like social enterprises and so forth.
Interviewee 03 3:08
I think that’s, that’s what I would call institutions like, and I think, yeah, social enterprise. I could name a few like Climate Outreach Carbon Coop. Others that kind of fit there. I think there’s culture as well. And I think like culture is like slower moving, but especially in the 2000s you saw the same cultures emerging within different cycles of the protest movement. You sort of saw like, yeah, let’s start naming it now. But like a broad environmentalist party culture emerged first and then Climate Camp and you know, some of the G8 stuff and then, but then sort of subsided over a broader period. And then these kinds of boom and bust cycles of protests. I mean, I have to say, I don’t disagree at all with your characterization of the boom and bust. But just to say that happens in a context.
marc hudson 4:10
What is that broader context? Is it as simple as austerity, pushing everyone onto the back foot? Or is it deeper than that?
Interviewee 03 4:20
Yeah, I mean, it’s, you know, there are yeah, the material conditions in which like these protests, like the action happens, you know. There’s a countercultural network, you know, and if there is an interplay with the protest movement, I do think that that protest movement actually draws from the counterculture that is around at the time, and if the counterculture is strong then there’s a bigger pool to draw, Earth First!, and anti roads protests, drew from a bigger pool of free parties and kind of traveler communities and all these sorts of things. So so yeah, that’s the sort of I mean, I think you’re right, there are politics, materialist politics, as well, where austerity, you know, like post-crash economics, all these things interplay definitely.
marc hudson 5:19
Is the boom and bust specifically of protest cycles, a “problem”?
Interviewee 03 5:30
I mean, yeah, it’s, I mean, it speaks to an ephemeral nature of that, and I think kind of an approach to recruitment and retention, which is quite opportunistic, I find, you know, and it doesn’t play to the long-term. It speaks to like a lack of seriousness from an organizing elite, you know, around like the need to make structural changes. Because ultimately, that’s what we’re trying to, I mean , this is what you want to talk about, I guess, like often, like protest arises in response to specific threats to something. You know, that “this thing will be lost, we need to mobilize around that.” But the systemic issues that kind of those things are cited within you know, that there are a lot more broader and complicated to take apart. And they require longer term engagement and systemic change: which is why the institutions you know, are part of the issue. But yeah, so protest cycles. Yeah. The fact that they boom and bust is detrimental to long-term systemic change.
marc hudson 6:50
Because it means activists burnout or because it means institutions get weaker or what?
Interviewee 03 7:00
Yeah, I mean, there’s a few things, I think. And the thing that drove me into institution engagement was a lack of legitimacy from protest movements. That you could sort of, you could – it was hard to speak to power and to challenge power when you like, weren’t able to. You weren’t able to describe your numbers and your representation. Because they will be like, “this is just a protest thing that is here today, gone tomorrow, why should we act?” You know, “why should we be challenged?” So, the fact that it’s ephemeral means that you can’t make a challenge to power, you can’t challenge power systemically, you can’t reframe it. I think you’re right. And there’s an element of what you would crassly term collateral damage, which is like people coming in, they’re getting involved and they’re getting excited then they’re leaving. You know, has their engagement been productive, or disruptive to them personally, you know, mentally? To build long term systemic change, you need long term engagement and “boom and bust” and mincing people is not, not the thing you want to do.
marc hudson 8:27
What do you think are the causes of boom and bust?
Interviewee 03 8:33
Yeah. I think a lot of it lies around mobilization, like how do you mobilize numbers? That the mobilization comes against specific threats, specific things. Now, like, in my time involved, those things have been specific threats to a road, you know, a green space road, or perhaps there’s like, you know, a new technology that can be located, you know, like genetic crops or with climate change people have been mobilized more recently, around like certain doomer narratives around like a lack of time, time is running out. “If we don’t act within this specific time period we will all die,” you know. So, mobilization around specific threats is like a strength because you mobilize people quickly, you know, to a person to a thing, but it’s a weakness because you can’t maintain that mobilization because the threat is either realized or is repulsed. And, you know, and then what happens, ultimately, people tend to drift away.
I think, the other thing is, like, the political economy of protests, which is like, you know, how do we conceptualize protest kind of organizations and movements and such things? And they’re, they’re not they’re not well constituted you know. They tend to have like power dynamic issues, you know, even when they work towards non-hierarchy. There can be certain types of hierarchy that, you know – you’ve talked about many times – you know, certain types of, you know, yeah, people are taken advantage of in different ways.
So, yeah, we don’t, we don’t have a culture – that again – there’s no culture of sustained protests. It’s interesting. I wonder the degree and I’m not an expert, the degree to which in the States there are more sustained cultures of resistance, especially around like, the black protest movement and things like that? But that’s speculating. But here they’re more ephemeral. They more they either like they either burn out or they become institutionalized in a way that Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth are and now XR are following exactly.
marc hudson 11:07
That’s fascinating. Thank you. What I’ll do, because there are things I want to say and sort of to back you up or whatever, but they’re not central.
I’ll keep all of that for an email to you. So when I send you this transcript, there’ll be some annotations in there. So do you think other people in the protest movement think that boom and bust is a problem? You know, have you heard or been part of conversations?
Interviewee 03 11:41
[laughs], In terms of that, I mean, again, your work is, it’s hard to avoid, like referencing your work, but you are very good at typifying kind of archetypes that say, in the protest movement, like the need, and a lot of times, you know, you’’d be in a meeting very small number of people. And that’d be like,” how do we get more people to the meeting,” you know? Even within like the, even with the things that are not functioning, there’s a recognition “we need more people,” you know, so there’s that, but I think that’s actually counterproductive, anyways. But, but yeah, I mean, I think certainly the people I like, respect and, like thinkers, and other activists, you know, they’re always grappling with the question of like sustainability. And you know, how to sustain protest movements and that sort of thing.
It is, again, I think it is really hard to create the material conditions for a sustained protest movement. Basically, and especially in the current day, people need to live, you know, and that’s why often the professional we talked about being in like, going two directions. One is burnout and ephemeral things, and one is like institutionalization and de-radicalisation. And that’s, that describes the root of the institutionalization is in the sense of like, “oh, you know, I need to make a living out of this. I need to make money.” You know, “I’m gonna go towards that” in that room. So yeah, it’s definitely a recognized tension.
marc hudson 13:41
I remember you sending me something about how few people would ever consider going to an activist meeting. And that and that’s ahead of the logistics issues for them, of child care or bus fare. And, you know, that was before the austerity got completely insane. I think middle-class people don’t quite realize how much financial constraint there is on people. Or even if they have money, they’re just knackered because they’re doing shit shit jobs. Anyway.
Interviewee 03 14:21
This is a thing where cultural things can play against, like sustaining. So like, culturally, within the movement I was involved with, it was a big thing around “DIY”, getting out to nature. You know, and so activist gatherings would happen and feel, you know, in tents and it’s like, how many people can physically, let alone all the other things we want to think about? Yeah.
marc hudson 14:49
All the invisible filters. It’s funny, so. sorry , go on/
Interviewee 03 14:56
“Where are the disabled people?”We need more disabled people involved?” they say, sitting in a tent in a field, only accessible by a car. You know.
marc hudson 15:07
Without going into details about sort of my academic life, it’s, there are things happening at the moment that have made me realize just how invisiblized disabled people are. It’s extraordinary, even among people who really ought to know better.
And on their good days do know better and I’m no saint either. Anyway. I’m interested in metaphors that you’ve heard people use to describe the growth or the growth and demise of their organization, of their movement. So you know, I’ve had people talking about dams and rivers and so forth. What metaphors are you familiar with, that you think have been used a lot?
Interviewee 03 16:01
Yeah, I mean, I mean, there’s the idea of tipping points, definitely. And like as something to motivate people, you know, “we need to do this by this stage, otherwise, there will be this tipping point into disaster.” You know, or conversely, that’s a funny one, right, “if we just do enough stickers and stencils, within six months, we’ll have a revolution in this country.” But yeah, you know,”we’ve got a limited time to act, you know, one way or another. Let’s do that.” So there’s a big thing. And then what happens after that is like that, that’s extremely problematic really. You’ve created like this artificiality, not really thought about what might happen in two years or three years.
So I guess boom and bust. I don’t know if that is a metaphor. But yeah, like, the ebbing of the tide and that sort of thing, you know, “the tide coming in” with which I think speaks to that culturally, like “the tide’s with us” or “material conditions are with us” or “now they’re against us. That’s why no one’s coming to the meeting.”
marc hudson 17:17
That’s interesting – tide and surfing waves has come up in other interviews, which I’ll be able to send you soon. What do you think other people in the movement think are the causes of the boom and bust? I mean, you’ve mentioned material conditions, which I think you and I can both think of people, who shy away from the material conditions arguments, which is ironic, since some of them call themselves Marxists.
But anyway, what have you heard about, you know, other people’s sort of folk explanations of why that protest wave didn’t last or you know,
Interviewee 03 18:00
Oh, God, well, there’s a lot of blame on the people themselves. Basically, you’ve talked a lot about information deficit model, you know, and a lot of people hold that. A lot of activists have that model in their head; that we just simply – this thing about stickers. “People just simply need to be aware. They’re just not aware that everything’s fucked, If they are only aware there’ll be a revolution.” So there’s a lot of yeah, and a lot of like, you know, why aren’t they coming to our meeting in the mud in a tent in the middle of Wales, you know “They’re stupid. They’re, you know, sheeple and they’ve taken the wrong colored pill and a lot of that”.
I mean, there’s also, you know, People’s Front of Judea stuff, you know, it’s like, we hold and I think you’ve seen a lot of that in post-Corbyn stuff. We, you know, “we hold this view and those are the people when we’re not sufficiently working class or Stalinist or Leninist in their analysis, and that’s why there’s no one coming.” (Laughs) Because my minority ideological views are represented or broadly, which is quite a nice, cyclical kind of explanation.
So yeah, we’re the people, blame the others you know.
And there is a strong idea, you know, yeah, here it is getting older. It’s like, there’s an explanation that people are getting older, they’re having kids, they’re buying a house. You know, the activists who were committed enough, they’re not committed because life has gotten in the way and, you know, I do actually, I think there’s, I would be more warm to that thing in terms, like not just that, but also austerity.
You know, when I started activism, you could be unemployed, happily and working as a full time activist. There was no barrier to that. Or as I was, like, half employed. half on housing benefits and half time, like, you know. That was sustainable. That was fine. And it wasn’t after that, but that’s maybe that particular time and time more latterly, but I do think that, you know, people’s personal circumstances change, as well. But that’s the best part of the failing that you’re not able to sustain, you know, campaigns that would enable that participation. And it’s a failing that they’re not involved in the first place. You know, why does it have to be your able, energetic young people?
marc hudson 20:44
Sidebar. I think it’s one of the reasons why we’ll never get a universal basic income, because the rabble would start to take an interest in what their Lords and Masters were doing, and without the threat of starvation.
the Lords and Masters would have to use riot cops, and that’s usually not the way forward to a sustained domination. Right; last question in the first section, which was the big section which took everyone else an hour and a half. You’re pretty fluent.
Interviewee 03 21:17
I’ve got nothing to say
marc hudson 21:18
No no no – solid solid gold sir. To people coming from the peace, anti-nuclear, feminism or gay rights movements. Do you think they perceive this boom and bust pattern in their movement and the climate movement? And if you had any discussions with people going, oh, yeah, “we had the same problem with you know, women’s liberation or anti nuclear” or whatever.
Interviewee 03 21:48
I mean, that’s a really, really good question. When you’re asking for other people to speak to you, you really should speak to, I think, [xxx or xx], because they’ve been part of that peace movement. And they’ve seen institutions and it’s funny that that they, I mean, both of them were employed, you know, employed to work for fairly radical organizations. And as a benefit of the fact that those organizations have been able to sustain something that balanced radicalism with institution, you know. Because that’s because, obviously what I said before about boom, bust potentially ending institutionalization. It’s not always about good thing, or bad thing, you know, but it can be directed radicalizing and it can not be.
So I think you’re right, the peace movement, and the peace movement has succeeded in maintaining the involvement of people throughout their lives. It has been more challenged in recruiting younger people to that cause, you know. So, you know, there’s a thing there.
I think for me, and again, it’s my shame my ignorance I don’t know more about it, but some of the anti-racism organizations and in America but also in the UK the ways that they’ve utilized community, you know, embedded in within communities and been able to like, prolong that activism, and to institutioanlise it.
And yeah, I’ve had some interactions with, LGBT and such. Yeah. I mean, I think there’s a complication there. There have been successive waves of threats, and new battles to fight you know, which has sustained that and you know, so the interesting thing there, yeah.
marc hudson 23:57
Excellent, again, not that I could say, but I’m conscious of your time. Sorry when I say “lots of things I could say” it makes it sound like I’m disagreeing
It’s not at all . And even if it weren’t, so what? There’s, you know, there’s other things I’d like to ask you, but let’s keep to the main game. So we’re on to the second section now, which is sort of “what has been attempted, if anything, and there are only two questions.
And the first is, what if anything, have you done to overcome this boom and bust? And I mean, what you can talk about moving into the social enterprise stuff as well. But I’m particularly interested in attempts to prolong the life and efficacy of protest groups and protest cycles. And if so, what happened in response to your efforts?
Interviewee 03 24:48
Now this is interesting, isn’t it? So because it speaks to the kind of, “so what” of it? So, I’ve been involved in lots of things. And I think, you know, one of the things I’ve been aware of is that I got involved with the Earth First! Movement at a time when it basically ended as an effective…. Well it changed into other things. So, I definitely felt like a failure. You know, a failure to kind of sustain that movement.
I think there were reasons for that, about the way that organizers… where that method of organizing works and also the culture within it and all that sort of thing. But anyway. Interestingly, okay, I was heavily involved in the anti-roads protest movement in the town that I live in. There was a big campaign against essentially a motorway through the Peak District 10 – 12 years ago, that was fought and successfully won. And the campaign didn’t necessarily end, it kind of went to sleep, you know.
But a new road, a new proposal as they do, came back 1 – 2 years later. And that movement, that those grassroots have come back to life. Which is quite interesting, I think. So like sustaining a place, sustaining activism within a place, you know, it’s quite good. So that’s helped. I think the thing I wanted to do, in that place, which I failed to do, was after we’d won the campaign, I wanted to start a new campaign, which was around alternatives. Which is around, “right, we don’t want them to build a road, but let’s make them build cycle infrastructure, public transport links, all this other sort of thing.”
And interestingly, I found barriers to that. One of them was that it was hard to motivate people who had previously been super-motivated by opposing the road to get involved in what they saw was a bit boring. And sort you know, “really, you know, we did positive solutions now is it?”.
The second thing was like whereas it’d been easy to bring funders in to battle something that was happening, it was hard to engage with the same funders in a kind of positive thing. They just didn’t see it as their role. And specifically, it was Lush at the time. Lush were for a time, very time into anti-roads stuff but then just not really interested in alternative, maybe just didn’t see it as their thing. So that was a real barrier. And yeah the other thing was, it’s hard to maintain the health of groups when they get small, because it’s interesting, actually, some people, some people tend towards exclusion, because they will be like, “those type of people will sabotage my vision or our vision, so, we’ll exclude them or exclude these people.” You get smaller and smaller group of like fundamentalists, and actually, the healthy groups, in my experience, is like broad based, like active people come and go; the loonies that are there, they get sort of shouted down or crowded out or they don’t come because it can see that the core was exerting control. So it was very hard to maintain a broad base of involvement. It was very hard to move from protest to positive stuff. So that ultimately, failed in the sense of failed to create the alternatives, was mobilized again against the new threats. So that’s some of the stuff I did.
I also, I mean, within Earth First! I was keen on building institutions. So someone and you might know a few people you might know took on an editorship of the Federation’s newsletter, the action update for a year, you know. And I thought that was really important to do that, for the health of that movement. You know, it was actually quite a struggle to pass that on again at the end of that time, which is part of the kind of the arc of that ending, but yeah, those are some of the things anyway, I’ve tried to try to sustain the protest, you know.
marc hudson 29:39
I mean, I can’t resist it. It’s so insightful, humans are loss averse. We’re much more scared of losing something than gaining than interested in gaining something else. And you know, it’s easy when there’s a villain and there’s an immediate threat. There’s that Machiavelli quote about how hard it is to bring in a new order of things because it doesn’t exist yet, and there aren’t people who are benefiting from it. I’ll send you the quote. Last question in the second section is things you thought other people tried to do to sustain protest groups and what happened?
Interviewee 03 30:22
That weren’t successful?
Successful or not successful, either.
[laughs} I mean, I think what Earth First! tried to do. So I think my take on Earth First! that it arose organically in the UK in resistance to the roads program, like in multiple areas, you know. And then and then there was augmented with the development threats and what have you. And then naturally, its analysis became systemic about “hang on what’s, what’s behind this?” But then its focus became diffuse. So it became like, “capitalism, basically.” And I’m not, I’m not sure, I’m not sure how it articulated through the movement so speak. But for the majority of the activists, that became the natural progression to go from opposing a local road to opposing the World Bank.
And I think it was actually part of a global movement. Slightly idealized, but it was a material conditions are there for an opposition to capitalism at that time, you know. So it was part of that recognition. So that’s interesting.
But I think the response there from more senior – let’s call them – organizers was to kind of say, right, “we’re on a cycle now. That when we have a big event, people come out. And you know, when we don’t, they’re not. Whether they’re doing stuff that you can’t see or not, it’s boring. So we need to do more of this.” So and that happened, the G8 in Scotland, and then the Climate Camp, and then – you’ve written about really well – like a constant sort of boom and bust and then a very quick [demise].
Because what happens there is you’re sort of abandoning all the boring people that do the organizing in the background, sort of thing, “That work’s not really important” in your foregrounding of all the kind of heroic three day actions. And consequently burning through the people because to organize that, and actually do them, it’s just incredibly physically stressful.
So I’ve seen that approach, and. that hasn’t been … that wasn’t very good.
I’ve seen many, you know, many people that I know, just leave up to this and totally and they kind of abandon that and then many people move into institutions. You know, you know, you can see it from you know Earth First! [xxxx[ has a very, sort of, you know, institutionalized quite a sellout type, George Marshall less so.
But then you’ve seen the Plain Stupid people, you know, they move so quickly from being arrested to being like the, you know, the managers of MPs offices and things like that. Joss Garman, you know, went straight like an arrow. So we’ve seen that as well.
And I think, you know, have seen people try and balance between, like, you know, more institutionalized, but more but maintaining radicalism, I think, you know, Jay Jordan and Isabel Fremaux, but you know, they got involved in ZAD, the zone autonomous in Nantes in West France. And they did some really interesting experiments, you know, ultimately, well, I think it hasn’t been cleared out yet, but it’s kind of like land occupation, institutionalizing very radical politics. Some people see them as selling out, you know, some people see them as this, you know, a small irritation. But I think it got, I mean, I think it doesn’t necessarily get away from the physical impact, I think, living on the land, even within, you know, semi-permanent structures is, incredibly, physically demanding and mentally I think as well as living outside structures of society. So yeah, and there were other people, I suppose, have gone into that kind of back to the land movement, like housing coops, that sort of thing.
I’m probably more interested in urban housing coops and urban organizing and that sort of thing and there are something for that as well.
So yeah, I mean, there’s a variety of different responses. How many of them have been successful, like maybe none? Or successful at maintaining capacity? But I am, I am, I’m actively working on – I want to go to America in 2024 to spend time looking at organizing, because I am interested in Saul Alinksy and other forms of kind of radical grassroots activism that may be more sustained than they are here. Whether that will be the reality once you get there or not. I’m not sure. My eyes will be opened to that.
marc hudson 36:11
I will have to interview you again. How long have you got, [xxxxx]?
Interviewee 03 36:23
Ten minutes I can stay for 10 minutes
marc hudson 36:24
Okay. And then we’ll stop wherever we are. And then if I’ve got follow-up questions, I guess I could email you them? Is that cool?
Okay, um, so we’ve discussed sort of what the problem is and what people have tried to do. The final big section is what is to be done, if anything, so what do you think could be done by you or by others? And what resources or circumstances would be required to overcome the boom and bust of protest movements?
Interviewee 03 36:54
My thing is about building radical institutions, and radicalizing existing institutions. So, I think, you know, I totally take the thing that [xxxx] is an NGO as such, what have you. Personally I would like to see more radical cultural institutions. So social centers, for example. More you know, there are things like cinemas and buildings that you know, that are owned and managed with a radical intent and purpose, and can be used as a way to perpetuate ongoing struggles and activism. So that’s, that’s my really.. You know, I always thought when I was at [xxxx] , which was a more radical, ephemeral organization, that was one of our aims was to like start a radical bar, you know, generate income, build resources, be a physical space, you know, to jump things from, you know. So I think there’s that.
The other thing is and I think some of the analysis from the radical activists that institutions need to be just swept away, you know, and like new ones introduced. And like, kind of that Machiavelli quote in part, sums it up is just like it’s weird, isn’t it, like, “we failed to build our own institutions. So let’s get rid of all institutions, and somehow, our new institutions will arise like, self-autonomously.” It’s like that that’s not real, is it? So I would like to see engagement with existing institutions, to try to attempt to radicalize them in ways which are… I think there’s a lot to be said for legal activism, you know, people like ClientEarth, for example, and others, and democratic and economic activism. Again, it’s like it’s adjacent but, the Cooperative Movement, engaged in governance and legal and economic activism to build new models that would enable communities to finance institutions within their communities. It’s called “Community Shares,” you know, sounds like quite vanilla, but actually it required quite an activist approach and an engaged approach, and actually created a huge amount of change in the UK from land transfers in Scotland to renewable energy.
So and the other thing there around the institutions is how they, institutions and their influence, work [the environment] within which they operate. So, the Federations, the associations, that the things that sit between them and again with like, a more radical purpose to them, or more, it’s funny in a way it needs more risk to create a radical, sustaining institutions – more experimentation and more risk. Because quite often, the associations and the Federations tend to be quite moribund – whether it’s because they attract quite boring people I don’t know.
But yeah, so that thing is about, yeah. creating radical institutions and radicalizing existing institutions and the networks within which they exist.
marc hudson 40:24
I must introduce you to Alastair McIntosh. If you don’t already know him.
Interviewee 03 40:29
Oh I saw that he was tweeting you – I am a massive fan. The Soil and Soul is like, I read that book many years ago, probably not long after it came out and it had a real impact on me. I mean, there’s a lot of religious spiritual stuff, which I could take and leave but I can also empathize with it as well. But his stuff about Lewis and I went to Lewis after that, reading that book, you know, for a holiday, but also inspired by going to … Absolutely, and yeah, and it’s interesting – some of the work he’s been involved with Galgael is really – you know Galgael in Scotland, in Glasgow?
marc hudson 41:09
I do now that I’ve interviewed him.
Interviewee 03 41:13
Oh god, have you been there?
You should if you get a chance go there, because it’s quite a moving place because you see, like boats and boats in Govan. It’s like a very working class area. And that direct project is a legacy of the road protest movement in Pollock, you know, Pollock Free State, and you know, yeah,
So that’s a good thing, a positive thing. I was feeling quite negative because “these things are all boom and bust.”
marc hudson 41:49
I will send him the transcript of this talk and I happily introduce the two of you. I’ve got some sort of, could the government slash state do anything, could mainstream NGOs do anything? questions which you can answer via email? Final question, then I’d ask in the main block is what if anything, are the responsibilities of experienced activists, during times of “abeyance”? I’m doing air quotes as the streets empty and as some organizations wink out of existence. What are the old hands/the old farts supposed to be doing?
Interviewee 03 42:34
I mean, fundamentally and most importantly, I think they should engage in academic interviews [Laughs]. But seriously They should be involved in reflective activities like this. More collective reflective activities. I think it’s funny because like this boom and bust tends to force people out of identity. So they sort of “I’m not an activist anymore” I’m not involved in Extinction Rebellion, and I’m actively repulsed by it. But actually, you after this, and you have all that knowledge and expertise and what have you. But there’s a lack of identity and an affinity can come together. So I think coming together is really good.
I think there’s something about speaking out you know, and, again, you know, the blogging stuff that you’ve done is a really good example of that. It’s really important.
I mean, I think, I think, you know, it was super-important when XR was in its growth is that people were saying, “hang on, just think about this.” Because it’s important that, you know, the sustainability but obviously, often that gets drowned out by the hum of everything. XR had quite a “Ground Zero” thing to it, where you would – I experienced this a few times – where you would, you’d contribute in a way that you thought was constructive. And people would say, “well, you just represent a failed approach. So you have literally nothing to say”.
marc hudson 44:19
“Piss off, Granddad.”
That’s what I used to call it “the piss off granddad” approach.
Interviewee 03 44:27
Yeah yeah. It was quite totalising because it was not just, you know, you know, “age, you’re not relevant.” It was more like “everything you’ve ever done has been a waste of time.” And I saw that analysis quite a bit. Which is like,… [laughs].
I mean, one of the first XR actions was Greenpeace. They occupied the Greenpeace office. Which is so weird.
Anyway. Yeah. Engage in this sort of thing, in discussion, hold the institutions to account. Basically everything you do Marc.
I’ve talked about it before, but turning the protest into positive buildings is important and sustaining and being involved in institutions. It might be boring to be a board member of a community center or a radical social center. But it’s super necessary. Everyone has skills that they can contribute.
marc hudson 45:35
That’s a brilliant place to end and as you’ll see from Alastair Mcintosh’s interview, that’s what he said as well.
So great minds think alike. There’s other questions, but I’ve already taken you 20 minutes over your time. None of them is long, and I will put them in an email to you. Are you happy with me putting up a Gdrive document and then sending you a link and then telling you when I’ve done as much editing as I can? Is that cool?
Yeah, that’s totally cool. Yeah.
That saves us having, you know, Word documents, multiple versions flying back and forth?
[[xxxxx] . It has been supremely useful. And one of the things that I think I’m going to have to do as a thank you to people who’ve given their time is to connect them with each other. Obviously, there are anonymity issues there or whatever. But also, I might try to organize sort of a collective zoom for the interviewees. So you’ll get to meet each other at some point, and then those people who need to be anonymous cannot come sort of thing or whatever, I’ll figure something out. But that that won’t be
Interviewee 03 47:00
Leave their cameras off with voice…
marc hudson 47:03
Voice modulator like we can all be Jason from a Friday the 13th, whatever. Excellent. Thank you so much. Now I’m going to turn this around quite quickly. In the next sort of 48 hours, you’re not under any obligation to read it. Then what I’ll do is I’ll highlight in red, either things that I think would need to be cut out to preserve your anonymity, or things that I didn’t understand, and that the transcription didn’t pick up. So when you read it, it should be quite quick – your eyes can just go straight to the urgent bits.
That doesn’t mean that you can’t read other stuff as well.
Interviewee 03 47:44
Yes, yes, I understand. Yes. Thank you. Yes. Thanks.
marc hudson 47:49
Thank you, [xxx]. That’s absolutely brilliant. All the best mate
I’ll see you later
You will, and I’ll want to interview [xxx] as well. Yeah,
Interviewee 03 47:57
Yes. I’ll give him a fair warning. He can unblock you from the various things he’s blocked you from (laughs) I don’t know whether he has blocked you
marc hudson 48:11
I would, I would! (laughs) Bye!
Could the government/the state do anything? What resources/circumstances would be required?
I am not that much of a believer in the state being very productively involved here – maybe they could distribute and devolve power – but I have little faith they will!
Could mainstream NGOs do anything differently? What resources/circumstances would be required?
I feel there are some fundamental issues with the way mainstream NGOs operate in this area, I’ve found that they regularly seek to co-opt and control local action, to dictate priorities from above and to impose a certain way of organising that often exacerbates these dynamics. I also fear that NGO membership is aging – I have no evidence that it is, but it’s something I’ve anecdotally observed. NGOs can also offer useful infrastructural and organisational support to local groups eg legal advice or specialist technical advice. But I think they need to be better at devolving power and empowering local campaigns and more creative and experimental in how they operate and involve people.
What have you read – academic, activist, fiction – that speaks to the issues we have been talking about that you think I and other people should read?
* Do Or Die Issue 10 (Now 20+ years old!)
* I like Tech Won’t Save Us podcast and Paris Marx, there’s loads of good stuff around tech based activism.
* I am a fan of David Graeber and loved his sadly posthumous boom with David Wendell, Dawn of Everything
* I also liked the Half Earth Socialism book from last year.