'How to be green? Many people have asked us this important question. It's really very simple and requires no expert knowledge or complex skills. Here's the answer. Consume less. Share more. Enjoy life.' Penny Kemp and Derek Wall
13 Nov 2010
Mark Bergfeld debates ecosocialism and revolution
The Rise of the Green Left
Book Review by Mark Bergfeld, November 2010
Derek Wall, Pluto, £12.99
As capitalism and climate change threaten the livelihoods of millions of people across the planet this book, Derek Wall's most recent publication, is timely and welcome.
Wall has been a candidate for the Green Party and is one of the founding members of the Green Left in Britain. The Green Left is an ecosocialist anti-capitalist current within the Green Party which aims at "making greens redder, and reds greener". His book is a guide to activism and a manifesto.
As Green Parties across Europe have seen major electoral successes in the last decades they have often sold out their ideals and focused solely on electoral politics. When the German Green Party was in government it even voted for the wars in the Balkans and Afghanistan. Wall shows here that this stems from not being anti-capitalist. With the first Green Party MP Caroline Lucas elected to parliament this book should also be seen as a treatise of the left within the Green Party in Britain.
His polemic against the use of market-based instruments to tackle the climate crisis is poignant. It is followed by an exploration of the struggle for ecosocialism and its core ideas, organisations and trajectory in both the Global North and South. Sadly, parts of the book read like a blog and some of his good arguments are cut short at times.
In Britain ecosocialists are both organised in the Green Party, as is the author himself, and in parts of the left. On the European continent the picture is not much clearer in terms of organisation. Indeed, it is very confusing! The strategy of building ecosocialist networks within Green Parties must be judged by the fact that in Green Parties across Europe "the Fundis" (radicals) have always lost out to the "Realos" (pragmatists).
This is due to the fact that these networks and their parties did not stress the centrality of the working class but rather that of the "new" social movements or electoral politics. Wall's emphasis on engaging trade unions in green campaigns such as One Million Climate Jobs shows his commitment to socialist politics and working class struggles. However, it is a shame that he does not include the lessons from the Vestas occupation on the Isle of Wight which brought together workers, socialists and environmentalists - the type of coalition that will be needed to stop climate chaos.
The number of books published by socialists on ecology and green politics has shot through the roof in recent months. Most of these, like Wall's, might differ from the theoretical tradition of this magazine but should be engaged with.