No Dash for Gas! Protestors converge on Balcombe

Ed Bauer reports from the Reclaim the Power camp in Balcombe, Sussex

This last weekend the Sussex town of Balcombe played host to Reclaim the Power, a protest camp targeting the site of a fracking bid by the controversial firm Cuadrilla. Many of the headlines on the day of direct action focused on the arrest of Green MP Caroline Lucas, who should be congratulated on taking a strong stance and putting herself on the front line. However, the more interesting element I drew from my participation at the event was the participatory form of organisation which imbued the camp with energy. More important than the arrest of one MP has to be the dynamism of the movement which has encouraged hundreds of people to take direct action against the big energy companies.

balcombe-protest-camp-2013The Blockade at the site, where Caroline Lucas was arrested, was part of of many actions happening on day on which hundreds headed out from the camp to take action across the country. This included Cuadrilla PR firm offices in London, its offices in Lichfield and a pro-fracking MP’s offices too. The camp is a welcome break from  stage-managed left wing events of come and listen to to big-wigs and the “party-line” which contain little space for debate, and worse little room for a empowering culture in which individuals are encouraged to organise spontaneously rather than wait for orders. This form of organising is far from perfect, and can even not realise the democratic aspirations its aspires to on occasion, but there is no doubt that the camp generated a massive amount of  spontaneity and dynamism, and this was organically connected to how it was run.

Along with other activists from the camp on the day of non-violent direct action I headed off to occupy and blockade the Cuadrilla HQ in Lichfield. At the Lichfield protest two activists locked on with D-locks inside the office while others who weren’t locked on were removed while these two remained. The police & G4S security were unable to remove them as the blockaders outside stopped the cutting equipment entering the building.balcombe reclaim the power

The police eventually broke in through the blockade climbing over a side gate only find they had forgotten a tool and had to repeat the process. Once unlocked they then seemed to notice they still had the problem of getting the arrested and unchained activists out having hitherto neglected this while attempting to break in they had to wait to call in more support.

Hopefully the camps heralds a rekindled climate justice movement, with a stronger emphasis on class struggle that perhaps the climate camps (which in many ways Reclaim the Power has evolved from) did not contain. We will see! Whatever happens in the future the camp has already succeeded in putting the fight against fracking firmly on the political agenda – whereas previously there had hardly been a public debate on it.

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2 Comments

  1. Rob Marsden
    August 21, 2013 at 1:06 pm · Reply

    This is brilliant Ed. As you say, fracking is now firmly on the agenda- we need to keep it there and up our game in making the struggle for the environment a central issue for the left. Not just another campaign or set of campaigns but a thread in everything we do.
    It is great that Communities Aganist The Cuts in Birmingham does seem to have that emphasis. I am hoping we can bring the same into Left Unity.

  2. Southpawpunch
    August 22, 2013 at 3:09 pm · Reply

    I was interested in reading your comments and I feel an empathy for those who protest like so and against those, such as the cops, who react against such actions.

    But I wonder if it the case that socialists should oppose fracking? What would socialists do in the early 19th century, at the time of the expansion of coal mining, knowing that such will bring many deaths, environmental devastation etc. but at the same time provide employment for many and also allow workers to maybe have affordable regular heating in their dwelling for the first time?

    I am naturally suspicious of all the subtle (and not so subtle) pro-fracking messages (‘its dangers are exaggerated’, ‘it will lower energy prices by a lot’) but I likewise am also suspicious of the contrary anti-fracking messages (which I think sometimes can, often unwittingly, reflect the view of other capitalists e.g. the wind-farm companies.)

    It will always be the case that capitalists want to have their industries paying the lowest wages and least regulation and we fight against that but fuel prices have gone down a lot in the USA and many workers survive on the industry. I think the economic development that fracking might provide should be supported, not opposed.

    We want better air quality but don’t call for the end of motor cars now despite the many thousands of deaths their pollution causes nor do I think we should ‘cut off our nose to spite our face’ by opposing fracking rather than supporting it whilst calling for better regulation, more taxes, etc. never mind socialist control.

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