George Monbiot is a very confused man. A few days ago, he announced his campaign against the Aga cooker (because it uses lots of energy). This, he said ‘is indeed a class war’ – the Aga is an expensive piece of kit, and therefore, you have to be rather wealthy to own one. We thought he wasn’t entirely serious about this campaign, it was just a rather childish attempt to prove to his detractors at Spiked-Online that the Green movement wasn’t dominated by the upper classes. He might just as well have shot himself in the foot to prove that he wasn’t lame.
I’ve lost count of the number of aspirational middle-class greens I know who own one of these monsters and believe that they are somehow compatible (perhaps because they look good in a country kitchen) with a green lifestyle. The campaign against Agas – which starts here – will divide rich greens down the middle.
George is trying to resist criticism that the environmental movement is dominated by the upper classes by committing himself to a campaign that will, according to him, divide them. In other words, it’s a nonsense that at best defeats itself. But this wasn’t a joke. Yesterday, George appeared on BBC Radio 2’s Jeremy Vine Show [Listen again] to talk about why the Aga is a bad thing:
there are lots and lots of ways to spread love and happiness, but starving out the people of the Horn of Africa because of repeated droughts caused by our use of Agas is not one of them
George’s commitment to class war gets even more bizarre and questionable. Shortly afterwards, the Guardian published a comment piece, in which he announces that,
A Labour government approves the expansion of Heathrow – why, it’s almost enough to make you vote Tory
This isn’t a joke, either.
So my guilty, monstrous thought is this: why shouldn’t we vote Conservative if it’s the only remaining hope of preventing this crazy scheme from being built? What else is there left to lose? I won’t act on this impulse, but I know that plenty of others will. When these invertebrates are booted out of office, they will have no one to blame but themselves.
Monbiot began the week calling for class war. He ends it by canvassing for the Conservatives. Eco-socialism on Monday; eco-conservatism by Friday. This reveals something we’ve been long arguing here on Climate-Resistance: that environmentalism doesn’t fit neatly into the Left-Right spectrum. Without commenting on the merits or demerits of Left over Right or vice-versa, if environmentalism’s fiercest proponents can switch ends of the political spectrum, then their claims to have put humans at the centre of their politics is entirely bogus; the fundamental principals are environmental, not human. George is willing to sell out the latter for the sake of the former.
It gets weirder. George’s Aga ga-ga phoney class war, which followed criticism from Spiked, came in an article which attacked the Editor of Spiked, Brendan O’Neill. At the beginning of the article, Monbiot makes an issue of O’Neil’s Marxism, but by the end, he places O’Neill on the other side.
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.
(O’Neil – who doesn’t ‘profess to hate’ any class – answers Monbiot here).
So not only does George demonstrate that much of Spiked’s criticism is correct by his calling for a ‘class war’ against the Aga, he switches from eco-Socialism to eco-Conservatism over the course of a working week, and then accuses others of being Right, where they had, according to him, assumed to be Left!
George emerges dizzy from his own spinning and thinks it is the world that’s confused about what direction it is moving in. And this is his fundamental problem. Everything he writes is a projection of his own inability to understand a world that fails to conform to his expectations. The ideas he uses to orientate himself fail to give him purchase on his own existential crisis; they crumble underfoot. The result is his capricious, vacillating, and incoherent column in the Guardian, with its frequent attacks on Spiked. This disorientation demonstrates beautifully, albeit unintentionally, Spiked’s broader criticism that the Left-Right axis isn’t sufficient to explain the world. Monbiot is a painful symptom of this disorientation, not a bright and leading advocate of an urgent cause.
He is a walking contradiction – as you’d expect from a man who, as James Heartfield has pointed out, is the son of Tory politicians descended from French aristocrats, went from a famous public school, through Oxbridge, to the BBC, yet fancies himself as a critic of the establishment. The very same establishment has mirrored George’s disorientation by redefining itself according to the tenets of environmentalism. The Government has gone Green. The Labour Party is Green. The Tory Party is even Greener. The media is dominated by the environmental message. Huge Corporations rush to demonstrate their Green credentials. This makes it harder and harder for Monbiot to style himself as an anti-establishment radical – he fails to realise it, but they’ve bought the message, in spite of environmentalism’s failure to interest the wider public. Thus the few occasions where environmentalism is challenged or fails to assert itself become the battlegrounds for George’s war with the imaginary anti-environmental ‘establishment’. Hence, Spiked, one of the few critics of environmentalism become the object of his anger and frustration, and the go-ahead for the new Heathrow runway moves him to join the Conservatives, and further towards the real establishment.
You can’t blame George for this confusion, however. It is a complicated world, made more complex by the Heathrow affair.
A staggering argument emerged yesterday, for example. John McDonnell, MP for the area where the new runway will be built, was suspended from Parliament for staging a protest about the decision about the future of the runway not being the subject of a vote.
Later he told the BBC that he would not apologise for his actions because he was representing his constituents and their rights to have their voices heard.
By doing what he did, he said he was asserting the values of “democracy and the sovereignty of Parliament” stemming back “to the days of Cromwell”.
“This is about asserting the right of MPs to decide the policies of this country and not having them bulldozed through without a vote in the House of Commons.”
This is a bit rich. The concerns of residents likely to be displaced notwithstanding, environmental policies which will have adverse consequences for the entire UK population have, as we have long been arguing here, gone through the House of Commons almost entirely unopposed and without debate, yet environmental politics have never been tested by the UK democratic process. All of the parties have absorbed environmentalism, and made it the centre of their manifestos. Most recently, MPs voted for the Climate Change Bill, which became law, and allowed an unaccountable and unscrutinised Climate Change Committee to dictate what the UK’s climate targets ought to be.
In other words, the Greening of the UK establishment, has been entirely undemocratic.
Answering Monbiot’s war on the Aga today, William McGrath, chief executive of the Aga Rangemaster Group says,
Monbiot asks: “So where is the campaign against Agas? There isn’t one.” The reason for this is that there is nothing to attack.
There is nothing to attack, or rather, there is nothing that George can find to attack – so empty is his imagination – to sustain his image as a radical. In search of an enemy, he declares war on ovens, and gets burnt. He has only himself, and his infantile inability for self-reflection to blame.