Class war

In the hospitality room last night before the Chico Mendes Legacy event. Matthew Taylor buttonholed guest speaker Charlie Kronick about the new Greenpeace Heathrow strategy. Kronick is Director of Climate Strategy for the organisation.

“Yes, today I’ve just become a beneficial landowner,” Kronick announced, offering to sell on a chunk of his newly acquired Heathrow plot.  It’s a strategy to try and at least delay the bulldozers, giving a little more breathing space to build on the growing public disquiet about the way the whole planning process has itself been bulldozered through.

Matthew Taylor told Kronick  his was a much more effective protest than the Heathrow disruption by Climate Rush the night before, or the even more disruptive Plane Stupid protest earlier this month at Stansted which some believe is bound to alienate everyone who is delayed, particularly the hard pressed holidaymakers who’d saved all year for their break. Kronick disagreed, as you’d expect.

After Kingsnorth and Stanstead the debate about what the most effective way to galvanise public action is taking shape – although it’s not a very pretty shape. Very typically, Brendan O’Neill of Spiked picked furiously at this scab last week by accusing the airport protestors of  “class hatred”.

These posh activisits, descended from baronets, lords, inventors and
aristocrats, are keeping up a long tradition in which ‘mass
tourism’ has attracted the ‘class-contempt of killjoys who conceived
themselves superior by reason of intellect, education, curiosity and
spirit’. What we saw at Stansted yesterday was not remotely
radical or edgy – it was unabashed, undiluted, unattractive class

Class war! Suddenly it’s not just the economy which is making us feel like we’re back in the 1930s. Rising to the bait a little too eagerly, George Monbiot ripped into O’Neill yesterday in a column This is indeed a class war in The Guardian, possibly giving O’Neill precisely the kind of response he was after:

At the core of the campaign against a third Heathrow runway are the
blue-collar workers and working-class mums of the village of Sipson,
whose homes are due to be flattened so that the rich can fly more. If
wealthy people don’t like living under a flight path, they can move;
the poor just have to lump it. Through climate breakdown, the richest
people on earth trash the lives of the poorest.

Yes, this is a
class war; and Brendan O’Neill and his fellow travellers have sided
with the toffs. These Marxist proletarian firebrands are defending the
class they profess to hate. Bosses of the world unite, you have nothing
to lose but your planes.

So there you have, both eco-campaigner and eco-cynic eagerly rolling up sleeves and claiming to be on the side of the proletariat.

It would be a little too pat to say that both could probably take a tip from Chico Mendes, who really did have the workers on his side.

Photo: Elenira Mendes talking at the Chico Mendes Legacy last night.

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