You catch the train. You stand and clap your hands at speakers in a public park. You wave your hands in the air. You update your social media. You endure crude jokes on ‘hot climate action’. You chat to some friends. You go home. This is the sort of political action that made today’s rally.
Up to 10,000 mobilised in Treasury gardens for ‘climate action’, heeding the call out from organisational gatekeepers of the climate change ‘movement’.
There’s many of these organisations, but let’s focus on one. Who is GetUp! anyway?
GetUp! is a corporate hierarchical non-government progressive organisation created in 2005 after the Howard Government won control of the senate.
Its founders modelled GetUp! on MoveOn in the US. They both share the same astroturfing tactics that poison the possibilities of a grassroots movement that not only focuses on human-induced climate change but interlinks it with wider systemic critiques and struggles against domination, exploitation and oppression.
GetUp! is an opportunistic organisation. Along with a host of other NGOs like AYCC they supported the introduction of a market based carbon tax scheme relying on the same market that had just caused global recession not to mention having puny targets and giving away hundreds of millions in ‘compensation’ for big polluters.
With the Labor (with Greens support) government in power, GetUp notably toned back its limited calls for ’climate action’, and now with Abbott in, it’s back to being the fizzy drink that bubbles away people’s anger at Abbott’s agenda to invisible effect on CO2 levels.
Rallies and climate action
The rally itself was a standard affair, speeches and tired pleas for change from Tim Flannery, the usual vague soundbites from politicians, the youthful clichés of the Australian Youth Climate Change Coalition and a phalanx of trots selling publications on the busy corner. Perhaps the only good part of the rally was a performance by Blue King Brown who raised some questions of the system at the end – but by then many were leaving as this was left as a footnote after the rally.
Rallies themselves are generally centralised and hierarchical affairs. A small organising collective decides all the details and asks its followers to come and listen to the central part of the rally – speeches. Elements of decentralisation can also exist with the existence of a multiplicity of banners, but today that was drowned out with mass-produced pre-made placards and banners.
Of note was the funding for the rally came from ‘Australian ethical’ superannuation, who obviously scored some great product placement from the organisers.
The funding was needed to pay all the extravagance from cherry pickers, to big trucks and big tents and big signs and big banners to big bureaucracy.
Even if a rally was called by some radical left grouping it wouldn’t necessarily be that much more participatory even if its politics were more anti-systemic because of the stage-managed centralised nature of most rallies.
The leaders of the rally made much of the necessity to get a ‘picture for the media’ in a glorified ‘selfie’ that everyone was to share around on social media to show they supported ‘climate action’.
GetUp!’ is hierarchical activism par excellence: sign a petition and get e-mails or other notifications for life, occasionally come to something.
On the one hand it’s probably the biggest climate action rally since before the election of the ALP in 2007. But then to put things in perspective, a similar number rocked up to attend the Melbourne Cricket Ground’s 175th anniversary Open Day today.
I don’t have the answers in what exactly to do to combat catastrophic climate change but I reckon any ‘solution’ has to have an analysis of the system that’s driving it, capitalism. I have an anti-capitalist analysis, and any diminishing of climate change in this system built on neverending growth on a finite planet is merely a palliative to an inevitable death.
While Abbott steals the anarchist line of ‘direct action’ it’s funnily enough that sort of direct action where people assert their collective power without mediation from representatives like politicians that is most needed.
 Like most NGOs, the name is actually misleading as they’re very tied to maintaining government and have a revolving door with government
 A Trotskyist perspective on GetUp! on the World Socialist Website reveals some interesting connections: http://www.wsws.org/en/articles/2007/11/gu-n22.html