Newsletter 27: History Corner - Extinction Rebellion UK

Newsletter 27: History Corner

With a right-wing think tank now beginning to use the ‘t’ word to describe XR, now might be a good time to look at a period in the early 00s known as the ‘Green Scare’, when environmental activists in the US were routinely referred to as ‘domestic extremists’ and ‘terrorists’ and treated as such by the police, intelligence agencies and the legal system.

This 2008 Crimethinc article goes into detail on the activist background of the Earth Liberation Front and Animal Liberation Front, the decade-long FBI investigation known as ‘Operation Backfire,’ and describes the various failures of movement security, underhand police tactics and turning of informants which led to multiple arrests, lengthy jail sentences and a chilling effect on direct action on environmental and animal rights issues. Written as the dust was settling, it brings together some important lessons ‘to equip the next generation that will take the front lines in the struggle to defend life on earth’, a key point being to not get complacent as the years roll on:

‘[W]e must understand that repression, and resistance to it, are both long-term projects, stretching across years and decades.’

Also important to consider is the difference between aboveground and underground organisation and the vital necessity of keeping a ‘firewall’ between the people involved in the two different strategies. This talk by Aric McBay discusses the issue very clearly and accessibly. Operation Backfire is analysed in part 4 and he points out that many of the arrests could have been avoided if better security culture had been observed and the distinctions between aboveground and underground roles not been blurred.

Other websites to check out: the archived Green Scare pages, Green Is The New Red, including the wryly humorous article, So how long have you been an “eco-terrorist”?, and this in-depth article on The Intercept. The excellent 2011 film ‘If A Tree Falls’ about the ELF is available online here.

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