Energy company RWE is attempting to demolish a German village to expand their coal mine, and climate activists rise to fight. Gus Woody reports on the ongoing stand-off in Lützerath.
Activists continue to build barricades to prevent access to Lützerath on 6 January 2023. Photo: @LuetziTickerEn
For many, the New Year began with a few days clutching aching heads and preparing for the return to work. In Germany, a camp of environmental activists spent the period erecting barriers and preparing for a mass assault from the police. As this is being written, activists are in a pitched battle as the police attempt to break through the blockades and other delaying devices that activists have put in their way.
Lützerath is a Rhineland village which RWE, one of the most polluting energy companies in the world, is attempting to demolish. This is to expand the Garzweiler surface mine, one of the largest lignite (brown coal) mines in Europe. The mine uses a vast expanse of cleared land, from which RWE hopes to extract coal all the way to 2038, when Germany’s supposed coal phase-out is due. Despite the German state’s supposed climate commitments, they have facilitated RWE’s expansion of the mine and the climate destruction that will result from this new coal.
Over the last 3 years, villagers who objected to their own destruction at the altar of the German coal industry have attempted to prevent Garzweiler’s expansion. After legal campaigns and negotiations, eventually a farmer at Lützerath allowed climate activists to build a camp on his site. With every legal avenue exhausted, the farmer forced to give up his key, and RWE pushing ahead, it is this camp of activists that mark the last line of defence against coal expansion.
On 3 January, police began attempting to clear the climate camp at Lützerath. This process will likely take several weeks, given the barriers put in place by the activists. Lützerath Lebt is the umbrella term for the camp and campaign. Whilst the German state and coal industry attempt to destroy a village and destroy the environment, these activists say ‘Lützerath Lives.’ They plan to stay and fight – as far as possible preventing the expansion of coal.
Lützerath Lebt is currently calling for activists who can, to head to the site. More details on how to stand in solidarity with their ongoing struggle can be found here. They are providing live updates of the situation on their Twitter.
Rather than viewing the European continent as a green icon, it’s crucial to recognise the reality behind the situation. From the inclusion of fossil gas in the EU ‘Green investment’ taxonomy to this latest expansion of coal, the EU and its member states have consistently attempted to be the last institutions profiting from fossil fuels. The only real transition away from these fuels will be effected by the workers and oppressed across all these nations, not the various capitalist states who talk green whilst investing in fossil fuels.
At the centre of this stand the activists urgently attempting to stop the expansion of fossil fuel infrastructure. Whether here in Great Britain, with the fight against the Cumbria coal mine and the expansion of North Sea Oil, or in Lützerath. It’s the responsibility of socialists to take the argument for a worker-led transition into the workplaces of those who work in polluting industries and unite them with global justice activists and communities fighting expansion on the ground.