Tribute to Tony Benn: why environmental direct action is vital

What terrible news that Tony Benn has died. I worked with him throughout much of the late 80s and early 90s in the Socialist Movement.

“I don’t generally believe in the concept of heroes – but Tony Benn was one of mine.”

I am sure he would have approved of the content of this blog as he always insisted that change came from below.

Some people think that “direct action” on environmental issues detracts from winning the argument and the “middle ground”.

The problem is that those people and organisations trashing the environment know full well what they are doing. They won’t be swayed by cogent arguments – their vested interests are at stake. Mobilising popular support for direct action is almost always the best way to get the rich and powerful to change their ways.

Combe Haven defendants acquitted

A powerful reminder of this basic truth about power and campaigning came this week at Brighton Magistrates Court. The wonderful Tom Druitt of Big Lemon fame and five other defendants were acquitted of all charges following their arrest in January 2013 after occupying trees along the route of the controversial Bexhill-Hastings Link Road (BHLR).

In the courtroom in the morning, I was pessimistic as the Judge in his long judgement seemed to accept the police version of the most contested events. But in the end he found that the defendants were “exercising their rights to protest within reasonable boundaries.”

I have no doubt that the scale of the direct action campaign and the popular support it embodied was a key factor in their acquittal.

And as Tom says on the Combe Haven Defenders website: Combe Haven verdict

 “£113m of public money is being wasted on the Bexhill-Hastings Link Road, a road which will increase traffic, increase carbon emissions, and destroy the beautiful Combe Haven valley.  Spending tens of thousands of pounds unsuccessfully prosecuting us for peacefully opposing this road has simply wasted more public money.”

Caroline Lucas on trial

On March 24th, the trial begins of Green MP Caroline Lucas and four other defendants arrested at last summer’s anti-fracking protests at Balcombe. The mass protests and direct actions brought fracking to the public’s attention and the arrests were headline news.

Since the campaign in Balcombe began, the anti-fracking campaign has spread across Sussex as more communities wake up to the nightmare scenario of fracking wells on their doorsteps, despoiling the Sussex Downs.

There is now a national campaign to have fracking banned altogether in the UK as it is de facto in Germany, France and Bulgaria. Such a ban will only be achieved through a mass campaign of peaceful direct action. Fighting for the acquittal of all those arrested for peaceful protests must be a key part of such campaigns.

“It is worth reminding ourselves that the Green Party is the only national political party to oppose fracking – Labour support it.”

Frack Free Zone pubic meeting in Brighton

There is a public meeting on Fracking in Brighton planned to coincide with the Balcombe trial. It will be on Tuesday 25th March at the Brighthelm Centre from 7.30pm. There will be speakers from all the Sussex anti-fracking groups, Friends of the Earth and Greenpeace.

Tweet about this on TwitterShare on Facebook0Share on Google+0Share on LinkedIn0