Last week, we heard a lot about a “new dimension of violence” on Berlin’s streets. This was an extremely dumb right-wing campaign following New Year’s Eve. Predictably, the racist narrative about immigrant mobs attacking paramedics has been falling apart. Not 145 people were arrested for throwing fireworks at police, as was originally reported — it was actually just 38, and most of them were German citizens, while many were just children. In addition, while the police claimed that 41 officers had been injured, they are still refusing to say anything about the nature of the injuries, leading me to suspect we are talking about sore throats after breathing in their own tear gas.
One of the largest machines ever built has been slowly approaching the town, chewing up the earth beneath it.
Today, on the other side of Germany, we are seeing what a “new dimension of violence” really looks like. As this article goes online, thousands of heavily armed police are invading the village of Lützerath in North Rhine-Westphalia (NRW). “Lützi” was once home to almost 100 people, but in the last few years, they have all been forced out. One of the largest machines ever built has been slowly approaching the town, chewing up the earth beneath it. In the next few years, 280 million tons of lignite coal (known in German as Braunkohle) will be dug up and burned, leaving behind a toxic black abyss.
The images are straight out of a dystopian sci-fi movie. If anything, the energy company RWE is more evil than the alien scavengers Tom Cruise was battling in the 2013 film Oblivion.
This violence is a million times worse than anything that happened in Neukölln on New Year’s. It’s not just about the police shoving, beating, and detaining hundreds of people (yes, actually injuring them). This police violence is so that an entire landscape can be devoured by capital. That, in turn, will lead to millions of tons of CO2 getting pumped into the atmosphere, contributing to future floods, fires, and droughts.
This is capitalist violence against billions of people. In the last year, peaceful environmental protestors have been called “climate terrorists.” That is silly. But what the police and RWE are doing right now is actual climate terrorism. Brown coal is most carbon-intensive form of energy in the world today. With this single mine, the German government is loudly proclaiming that it has no intention of trying to keep climate change below 1.5 degrees celsius.
This is capitalist violence against billions of people.
A study by the German Institute for Economic Research (DIW) — not exactly a hotbed of radical leftists — showed that the coal from beneath Lützerath is not needed to keep the electricity grid running. This is all about shoring up RWE’s profits. In the midst of an energy crisis, RWE made over €5 billion last year!
As is always the case in German politics, no one wants to take responsibility. Politicians say their hands have been tied by the courts; police say they are just following orders from politicians. All of them are responsible — they all decided that RWE’s quarterly earnings are more important than the survival of human civilization.
the police are “escalating” by attempting to evict the town… the government and RWE are “escalating” by attacking the foundations of human life on this planet
One group is more responsible than anyone, though: the misnamed Green Party. The two energy ministers who made the deal with RWE to destroy Lützerath, Robert Habeck at the federal level and Mona Neubarr from NRW, are both Greens. Even the Aachen police chief commanding those violent thugs is a self-declared Green. (In an interview, the thug-in-chief admits that his three kids hate him for his role in destroying the planet. I hope those kids are at the protests!)
The Greens say this was all part of a “compromise” to get RWE to stop burning lignite coal by 2030, instead of 2038. Experts point out that RWE never would have been able to make money off dirty coal after 2030. This is just a huge gift to fossil capital. RWE, by the way, was founded by Hugo Stinnes, one of the most ruthless businessmen in the history of German capitalism. Stinnes financed fascists like Erich Ludendorff and Wolfgang Kapp — if he cannot technically be called a Nazi billionaire, that’s only because he died in 1924, too early to jump on the Hitler bandwagon.
There is a simple solution here: expropriate RWE and all energy companies, to put them under democratic control. Then you could stop lignite coal mining right this second. Capitalist politicians, including and especially the Greens, say that expropriation is impossible. But that’s the thing: The government expropriated the people of Lützerath to get at the coal they were living on top of. The Berlin government expropriated people in Neukölln and Treptow to build an Autobahn. They constantly expropriate poor people in the interest of fossil capital — but they claim it’s impossible to expropriate billionaires to lower rents or protect the environment.
Green Party leader Ricarda Lang has called for “deescalation by all participants.” But as a speaker from the initiative Lützerath lebt pointed out, it is the police who are “escalating” by attempting to evict the town. It is the government and RWE who are “escalating” by attacking the foundations of human life on this planet. The few hundred activists, in contrast, have not been bothering anyone by staying in a mostly abandoned village. The Green Party wants them to surrender. Let’s hope the hundreds of brave activists are successful in opposing this climate terrorism.