Extinction Rebellion co-founder tackles the allegation she isn’t challenging capitalism

Gail Bradbrook
Support us and go ad-free

In an interview with The Canary, Extinction Rebellion (XR) co-founder Gail Bradbrook tackled the allegation that XR, which is spearheading the climate movement, isn’t fundamentally challenging free market capitalism.

“Where political power lies”

The Canary sat down with Bradbrook after her speech at Shambala festival 2019 to explore this and other areas relevant to the movement. Her speech appeared to emphasise individual responsibility over governmental change. When she was challenged on this, Bradbrook said:

We’re obviously about systemic change… I hope that’s obvious. We’re talking about citizens assemblies, we’re talking about debt refusal and changing the finance system and so on.

When it comes to climate catastrophe, there are clearly major issues with the nexus of corporate government power. 100 corporations are responsible for 71% of global fossil fuel emissions. And the Conservative government has been overriding the democratic will of local communities by rolling out fracking.

But Bradbook argued that political power actually lies outside of government:

The point I’m making is one where political power lies. So if you think that political power lies not in your own agency then you’ve sort of semi given it away. So there’s political theorists like Hannah Ardent and others who say the power lies in the collective… Where I think we have to focus ourselves is on each other and getting the rebellion organised. When you sort of focus on them and you go like… ‘it’s their problem’… I’m talking about a piece of psychology more than a piece of analysis. Where you’re giving your power to something else.

A fundamental critique

While emphasising Extinction Rebellion’s approach, she did not mention a Green New Deal, which is state-led transformation of the economy to a renewable energy system.

Read on...

Support us and go ad-free

But Bradbrook emphasised that Extinction Rebellion does critique the neoliberal, free market approach:

Extinction Rebellion…if you look at the ‘rising up’ documentation behind it… we talk about… the economy, and the political system and the media, they’re like the three pillars holding things in place… how do you make the change?…Mass participation, civil disobedience. What’s in the way of that?… Do you and I feel like we can work together or are we just going to have meetings that fall to pieces…?

In its aims, Extinction Rebellion writes that our political system:

has been captured by corporate and private interests and the media is owned by wealthy billionaires who use their power to systematically undermine informed public debate.

It calls for:

Transformation of the political system, society and economy to ones which maximise well-being and minimizes harm. The existing political and economic system is set to destroy civilisation and much if not all life on earth if allowed to continue.

“You’ve got to message in a way that’s going to work for other people”

It seems Extinction Rebellion is critical of the corporate system but is trying to refine its messaging in a way where it believes it will reach the most people. Bradbrook also said:

We’re doing things differently and there’s lots of critiques about it… but it’s certainly had an impact so far…

It’s really important that people hold us to account… We were so determined not to look like a certain version of progressive left that is… super right on… but everybody else is just like ‘I’m not part of that, it doesn’t speak to me’. We’re trying to build a mass social movement so you’ve got to message in a way that’s going to work for other people… But I think we went too far the other way to be honest.

Instead of trying to elect a Labour government and deliver a Green New Deal, Extinction Rebellion focuses on direct action. What’s unarguable is that the organisation has forced the oncoming climate catastrophe onto the agenda. And it deserves major props for that.

Featured image via Breaking Convention/ YouTube

Support us and go ad-free

We need your help to keep speaking the truth

Every story that you have come to us with; each injustice you have asked us to investigate; every campaign we have fought; each of your unheard voices we amplified; we do this for you. We are making a difference on your behalf.

Our fight is your fight. You’ve supported our collective struggle every time you gave us a like; and every time you shared our work across social media. Now we need you to support us with a monthly donation.

We have published nearly 2,000 articles and over 50 films in 2021. And we want to do this and more in 2022 but we don’t have enough money to go on at this pace. So, if you value our work and want us to continue then please join us and be part of The Canary family.

In return, you get:

* Advert free reading experience
* Quarterly group video call with the Editor-in-Chief
* Behind the scenes monthly e-newsletter
* 20% discount in our shop

Almost all of our spending goes to the people who make The Canary’s content. So your contribution directly supports our writers and enables us to continue to do what we do: speaking truth, powered by you. We have weathered many attempts to shut us down and silence our vital opposition to an increasingly fascist government and right-wing mainstream media.

With your help we can continue:

* Holding political and state power to account
* Advocating for the people the system marginalises
* Being a media outlet that upholds the highest standards
* Campaigning on the issues others won’t
* Putting your lives central to everything we do

We are a drop of truth in an ocean of deceit. But we can’t do this without your support. So please, can you help us continue the fight?

The Canary Support us
  • Show Comments
    1. I think what most lefties miss about XR is that it is working “beyond government”. The simplistic lef/right arguments are broken, all we get is a bunch of arseholes on high salaries shouting at eachother in a listed building and nothing changes. As a life long Marxist, I find it very refreshing that many I meet in XR are also. And we’ve all had enough of a broken, outdated system that can’t even see its way out of “first past the post”.

      And when Roger Hallam told Owen Jones in that wonderful interview after the April Rebellion that “things are bad, they are fucking bad” it drove home how broken the system is and that XR is in fact way to the left of established parties. Our “ways of working” is about equality for all. And the Canary seems to have been sucked into exactly the same plughole that finds it necessary to knock something it doesn’t understand. We’re all fucked and need to address the massive existential crisis and stop this gainsaying about who is left/right/capitalist/neoliberal. It’s BROKEN!!!

    Leave a Reply

    Join the conversation

    Please read our comment moderation policy here.