Tomás Ó Flatharta

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The movie of the book: ‘How To Blow Up a Pipeline’

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The movie of the book: ‘How To Blow Up A Pipeline’

Guest post by Des Derwin

The movie ‘How To Blow Up A Pipeline’ (Dir. Daniel Goldhaber, 2023) is the perfect application of the theory of the book to practice. For once, in a triumph of the filmmakers art, exactly what the strategy would mean is demonstrated both with realism and as an experiment, but not in grim reality. Is this the first time a political strategy can be applied and tested imaginatively, virtually, without the painful, tragic human loss of actual idealistic trial and error?

Sociologically (just such a band of desperadoes, masterfully acted, would do it), militarily (an isolated guerrilla group), politically (a fringe alliance of almost apolitical diversely-motivated people), technically (brilliantly produced weaponry and spectacle and the resultant once-off effect), Andreas Malm’s book meets its end in front of our cinema-going eyes.

As there is no instruction in the book* (How To Blow Up a Pipeline, Verso, 2021) on how to blow up a pipeline, and as the film is a video class in how to blow up an oil pipeline, a fairly audacious defiance of the national security censors, there is nothing of Andreas Malm’s text in the movie, no analysis, history, political comparison or strategic discussion. Yet there is everything about the book in the film, that title which was not delivered on in the book, but is now, the deliverance of the message
of the book, the manifesto manifested.

The result is a thrilling, action-packed success, a ‘they-got-away-with-it’ caper. Which in real life we know would be subject to months of painstaking FBI evidence gathering and eventual arrests. Which we can see, even sticking to the film’s spectacular and catastrophic blasting of the pipeline, and triumph of the rebels, could not be repeated, and certainly could not be repeated like that again. It’s all so slickly presented and paced: including the TV in the bar beginning the overdrive on ‘terrorism’ and the manic might of the US state mobilising.

Bombing will not go softly. We still have to go into the city, not the desert,and build a mass movement against the ecological emergency.

*Reviewed by me here:

Written by siptuactivist

May 11, 2023 at 3:43 pm

Bombing will not go softly: on Andreas Malm’s ‘How to Blow Up a Pipeline’.

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[Guest post by Des Derwin]

I have written a long critical essay on Andreas Malm’s new ecosocialist book ‘How To Blow Up a Pipeline: Learning to Fight in a World on Fire ’ (Verso, 2021).

It was written quite independently of Alan Thornett’s review on the Global Ecosocialist Network website, and before I had read it. It concurs with his review in almost every aspect, though his response is expressed more forcefully and briefly than mine. The exception is Alan’s enthusiasm for James Hansen’s fee and dividend proposal, which strikes me, at first glance, as less realistic than the ‘Just Transition’ demand. The paper is here: