25 Sep 2006

Join the Greens: Life after Hove

Well, usual Green party conference fun and games, what is new is that it has been blogged I think for the first time in some depth. Good to meet lots of fellow Green Party bloggers such as Peter Sanderson and my friend Jim Jepps at Hove, the event has promoted Green political blogging. I was wondering how Jim would cope with his first conference, they are odd beasts...went to my first in Malvern when it was the Ecology Party in 1980?, EP Thompson was awesome.

More from Sian here Didn't get to talk to Natalie Bennett who looks likely to be on green party exectutive and a proud user of the word 'feminist'...nice posts including the information we are all Basques (or is that the Basques were all European's in the age of Avebury)

The constitution debates were as usual the sticky ones and I will not repeat the arguments over the SOC.

Some good bits of policy and emergency motions were passed. The nightlife was good...although I didn't party much, having lost my voice due to flu I conserved it and powered up for my three conference speeches on Saturday.

Green Left was well received and our rally with yours truly, Peter Tatchell, Miriam Kennett and Penny Kemp was a big success, 100-150 people in the council chamber and no negative comment. 'Soft left'green according to some, but class struggle, anti-capitalism, justice and free lightbulbs all got a plug.

At present fingers crossed the GL culture seems pretty different from the far left...Cllr Richard Mallender who is chair of the Green Party Executive chaired the GL rally, where else would that happen. Jim's account is above and here is Peter's article.

Green Left launch: Reds, go Green

The launch of the Green Left shows that the Green Party is now well
and truly the best hope for left politics in the UK

By Peter Tatchell

The Guardian - Comment Is Free - 22 September 2006



This
weekend's Green Party annual conference in Hove will host the launch
of the Green Left, a group of party activists committed to building
stronger links with the wider left and the trade union movement. Our
aim is a synthesis of red and green, combining anti-capitalism with
ecological sustainability.

The Green Party is already well to the left of Labour and the Lib
Dems, with its radical agenda for grassroots democracy, social
justice, human rights, global equity, environmental protection, peace
and internationalism.

The objective of the Green Left is to build on this progressive agenda
and nudge the Greens further leftwards.

In our view, green is the new red: an empowering political paradigm
for human liberation which offers the most credible alternative to
Labour and the best hope for radical left advance.

Recognising the productivist, growth-driven limitations of traditional
socialism, we are not a left-wing trojan horse within the Greens.
Quality of life and fair shares for all are more important than the
left’s often simplistic agenda of spending more on health and
education.

The Green Left believes government needs to radically rethink basic
premises, like shifting the focus in the NHS from curative medicine to
preventative care. Our aim should be policies to help ensure that many
fewer people get sick in the first place, rather than merely throwing
more money at people once they get ill.

In other words, we are of the left and open to the left, but we also
realise the left has to change, in order to meet people’s needs and to
ensure the survival of life on this planet. Old style socialist
politics need to give way to new style eco-socialism: green
anti-capitalism.

This is crunch time for progressive politics. Labour has lost its
heart and soul. The party leadership has sacrificed socialist values
and policies for short-term political gain. It has pandered to
prejudice and irrationality on issues like asylum, drugs, terrorism,
Europe and crime. Principles have been abandoned for the sake of a few
more sympathetic headlines in the Daily Mail and for another session
of tea and sympathy from Rupert Murdoch.

There is no possibility of undoing Blair’s right-wing coup. Internal
party democracy has been extinguished. Ordinary Labour members have no
say. Everything important is decided by The Dear Leader and his
acolytes in 10 Downing Street. This is autocracy, not democracy. Party
members have been reduced to cheer-leaders and envelope stuffers at
election time. They are neutered by powerless policy forums and by an
annual conference that is stage managed to function as a rubber stamp
for decisions taken by Blair and his inner circle. Gordon Brown, or
any other likely Labour successor, will be no different.

I left Labour in 2000. After 22 years membership, it was a
gut-wrenching decision. My reason? Labour has abandoned both socialism
and democracy. It is no longer committed to the redistribution of
wealth and power. Tony Blair spends more time with millionaire
businessmen than trade union leaders. The gap between rich and poor
has widened since 1997. Civil liberties have been under ceaseless
attack from successive Labour Home Secretaries. In the name of the
‘war on terror,’ our government is curtailing freedom, in order to
supposedly defend it.

No political party lasts forever. Even the most progressive party
eventually decays or turns reactionary. Labour’s great, historic
achievement was the creation of the Welfare State. The current party
leadership is in the process of privatising it.

I joined Labour because I wanted social justice and human rights for
all. My values and aspirations remain the same. Labour’s have changed
fundamentally and irreversibly – rightwards and for the worse.
Reclaiming Labour for socialism is a fine aspiration, but about as
likely as winning the German SPD back to the Marxism it ditched in the
1950s.

Leaving Labour does not mean giving up the battle for a fair and just
society. There is an alternative option. It is not the Liberal
Democrats. Like the other two establishment parties, Labour and the
Conservatives, the Lib Dems offer no serious challenge to the
corporate, free market interests that are destroying our green and
pleasant land.

The real radical alternative is now the Greens. After two decades of
moving from right to left, the Green Party now occupies the
progressive political space once held by left-wing Labour; with the
added bonus of a far-sighted agenda to save the planet from ecological
catastrophes like climate change. The Greens offer the most credible
alternative to Labour’s pro-war, pro-big business and pro-Bush
policies.

The Green Party’s Manifesto for a Sustainable Society
http://policy.greenparty.org.uk/mfss/
incorporates key socialist values. It rejects privatisation, free
market economics and globalisation; and includes commitments to public
ownership, worker’s rights, economic democracy, progressive taxation,
and the redistribution of wealth and power.

Greens put the common good before corporate greed, and the public
interest before private profit. This red-green synthesis integrates
policies for social justice and human rights with policies for
tackling the life-threatening dangers posed by global warming,
environmental pollution, resource depletion and species extinction. It
sounds like socialism to me.

Unlike the traditional left, with its superficial environmentalism,
Greens understand there is no point campaigning for social justice if
we don’t have a planet capable of sustaining life. Ecological
sustainability is the precondition for a just society.

The Greens also recognise that preventing environmental disaster
requires constraints on the power of big corporations. Profiteering
and free trade has to be subordinated to policies for the survival of
humanity. Can any socialist disagree with that?

Some left-wing critics complain that the Greens are not a pure
socialist party and are not working class-based. But look at the
implications of what the Greens say. Their goals and policies are
often similar to the left’s - without the left-wing jargon. Despite a
different way of expressing things, what the Greens advocate is, in
essence, socialistic.

The Greens may have few links to organised labour. But that is
changing too. Green conferences and public meetings increasingly
feature trade union activists. With more pressure from left-wingers
inside the party, the Greens are likely to strengthen their ties to
the labour movement.

Working with the Greens, the Australian trade unions have enforced
‘green bans’ on environmentally-destructive developments. This shows
the potential for workers and greens to cooperate for the betterment
of all.

There are now lots of radical socialists who, like me, have joined the
Greens and enhanced our left-wing politics with an ecological agenda.
We get a sympathetic hearing too. The party is moving left.

Although the Greens are not perfect (is any party perfect?), its
implicitly anti-capitalist agenda gives practical expression to
socialist ideas. Very importantly, ordinary members are empowered to
decide policy. The Greens are a grassroots democratic party, where
activism is encouraged and where members with ideals and principles
are valued.

Moreover, unlike tiny left parties, such as Respect, Greens have a
proven record of success at the ballot box, with candidates elected in
the London, Scottish, local and European elections. These elected
Greens are a force for social progress, well to the left of Labour and
the Lib Dems on all issues. They are also more radical than George
Galloway’s left-wing party, Respect, on questions like women’s and gay
rights, health care, animal welfare, the environment and justice for
the developing world.

Respect is neither grassroots nor democratic. It is run on the same
democratic centralist lines as the Blairite Labour party, with an
authoritarian, command-style leadership. All major decisions are taken
at the top. It is dominated by the Socialist Workers Party, which is
notorious for packing meetings and organising secret slates to secure
the election of its people to key positions.

Respect is seriously politically compromised. Its leaders have
declared it is not a socialist party and they want to retain the
monarchy. Compounding this rightward drift, Respect has made
opportunistic alliances with reactionary movements like the Muslim
Association of Britain. It endorses ‘the resistance’ in Iraq, which is
now, in a escalating bloodfest of sectarian terrorism, mostly killing
fellow Iraqis – not coalition occupiers.

There is a credible anti-capitalist party – the Greens. They already
have seats and could win many more if left-wingers and progressive
social movements united together in the Green Party. The Greens have
plenty of potential to become an influential electoral force. A
substantial Green vote would pressure Labour and the Lib Dems to adopt
more left-leaning policies. Perhaps, one day, the Greens might even
hold the balance of power. They already punch above their weight in
the London Assembly and the Scottish Parliament.

The great virtue of the Green Party is that it is a grassroots
democratic party, controlled by the ordinary membership and with no
power elite or embedded hierarchy. It is not a top-down, centralist
party like Labour. Members are sovereign. The party conference is
supreme. This means the Greens are open to further radicalisation in a
socialist direction, and this will happen if more left-wingers join.

Thousands of socialists like me have left Labour in disgust. Many have
already joined the Greens; helping accelerate the leftward trajectory.
If more socialists joined, the Green Party would move even further
left.

Unlike Labour, the Greens value idealism and principles. They have a
vision of a radically different kind of society, which makes them
receptive to left alternatives.

For all these reasons, the most effective way to advance socialism is
to join the Greens. Fusing together the best of the red and the green
would strengthen progressive politics; offering a powerful, united
challenge to neo-liberal orthodoxy.

Unity is strength. I saw the potential for eco-socialist advance when
I stood as a independent Green Left candidate for the London Assembly
in 2000. Although I did not win, I was encouraged by the poll result
in the PR list section: 11% for the Greens and 5% for the various left
slates. This total of 16% was 2% more than the Lib Dems, making
red-green the third strongest political force in London. The potential
is there. Seize it. Now is the time for reds to go green.

2 comments:

Peter said...

Hi,

Good to chat to you again in Hove, Derek.

You say the green left event passed without negative comment. I didn't get to ask my question though :)
Actually - it wasn't a negative question I had in mind. I was going to say to Penny Kemp that she has clearly done some excellent work in Headcorn. However, by identifying too readily as a leftist, might she not find it more difficult to win over the extra 10% of conservative support she needs to win the council seat.

Although I would not join it myself, I see greenleft as a positive development. Think tanks / factions (I know some people hate that word!) etc. of whatever persuasion help to sharpen us up and contribute to the cultural life of the party.

But please don't attract a load of hard-leftists with an obsession with ideological purity, who are only comfortable in the political wilderness.

I'm more of a GreenWiddershins man myself. I believe contrarianism is necessary to keep people on their toes and prevent intellectual laziness.

Derek Wall said...

Hi Peter,

thanks for this and sorry about delay,

the astonishing world of local elections in Headcorn has to be experience to be understood.

Its a two party village with just greens and tories!

I think Penny's politics are well known but she gets plenty of non left votes because of her record in community stuff.

Sarah Farrow standing as independent for the parish council, beat the conservative candidate in a five person race (they all stood as inds) by 10 votes in the dec by-election.

yes like some debate and yes don't want the dogmatic hard left or other manipulative sorts!

thanks

Derek