15 Jun 2011

Green politics and socialism



Chris Burton joined the Green Party because of its environmental policies but has increasingly been impressed by its socialist principles.

Here he kicks off a debate.

To my mind Caroline Lucas has got this right already, no ecology without social justice.

Socialism must be 'eco', democratic and effecient (think commons/open source/Ostrom).

Indeed Caroline has written about Elinor Ostrom here.
Capitalism cannot deliver prosperity or environmental quality, hey but you know my views...on to Chris.



I am hesitant to use the word "socialist" when describing the Green Party, largely because the term is not understood and has very negative connotations. But maybe I am wrong. Maybe the "socialist" label is a bullet we should bite?

It would certainly get us a good deal of publicity, and force the media to understand our belief that the environment cannot be saved under our current financial-capitalist system. There is a lot of truth in the saying that "there's no such thing as bad publicity". If the media starts saying "the Greens - they're a bunch of socialists", it will at least give us a chance to explain why we are socialists and how our policies will benefit everyone, especially the poorest and disadvantaged. If that helps our message to get through to the poor and disadvantaged then we will surely take over Labour's complete constituency, just as they took over the Liberal vote in the last century. And as the full and true nature of Green policies comes under the scrutiny that the "socialist" label will attract, the middle classes will come to see that Green policies hold no fears for them.

When I joined the Green Party, I did so on environmental grounds (i.e. the human world will end if we do nothing, or do more of the same). I had no idea that our social policies were, basically, socialist. But, much to my initial surprise, I have found them all to be pretty much exactly right and proper. I am now more than happy to defend socialism. In fact, the human world cannot be saved without it.

I think we need to emphasise the Green Party's stand on social issues. We have no need to talk about environmental issues, not because it is not important (it is) but because everybody already knows that the Green Party supports sensible environmental policies. But few members of the general public have any idea about what our "fairness" policies would mean to their lives. And yet our social policies are exactly what everyone needs, if only they knew it. Even the bankers would benefit - not financially, of course, but through finding (no doubt to their own surprise) a better quality of life, spending their time on the things that really matter. If we could put our social policies absolutely to the fore (and get the media to understand that we have much to say on the topic) then maybe we can achieve in the next 20 years what the Labour party did in same period of the last century.

What do others think? Should we declare ourselves absolutely as "socialist"? Not necessarily by adding "socialist" to our party name ("Green Socialist" or "Socialist Green" makes us sound like a different party altogether), but simply by putting it to the forefront of our branding.

5 comments:

Stephen Wood said...

It's an interesting addition to debates currently taking place the Green Party at the moment, debates potentially fuelled by a recent influx of ex-Labour activists more used to socialism front of centre in their values (if not their party in recent years!). We are definitely living through interesting times.

I'd agree with the approach suggested by Chris of showcasing social justice more prominently in our media work and choice of interventions, even better if we couple this with how they can lead to environmental good practice (green jobs, fuel poverty etc). However, to most voters, socialism as a term is still discredited and rather than help lift it up in public esteem, I suspect we would be dragged down right now with the association. Depressingly, it is an easy stick with which other parties can beat us electrorally.

So, I'd recommend proving the worth of this philosophy through practical example and policies, rather than getting bogged down in terminology. Over time, this will shift the terms of debate back towards socialist principles.

Neil Williams said...

An intersting debate and very timely considering the review that is going on inside the Respect Party right now.
One of the issues that has put of many Socialists from the Green Party has been a lack of discussion on socialism and an appearance of wanting to avoid contact with the wider Left/trade union movement. This may or may not be true but its how the Green Party is seen by many on the outside.
There is certainly room for a signigicant Socialist/Left element inside the Green Party on a more formal basis and perhaps if Respect was to be part of this it would open up the doors to many others who support TUSC or nothing at all to consider joining a left/socialist "bottom up" democratic Socialist Green Party (with or without "Socialist" as part of the name - the name is less important than what the Party stands for) that could create the momentum to begin to challange the Labour Party in many more places than is currently possible.
Its unlikley that the small revolutionary parties would be interested in this idea as they would not be able to control or use it but this would be its strength and attraction to many other demrocatic socialists who feel betrayed by Labour but wish to belong to a democratic green progressive Party.
Its a debate that needs to be had.

Chris Burton said...

In reply to Neil's comment, I would like to emphasize that I am NOT proposing any changes to Green Party policies. I am not suggesting that the Green Party should be more socialist or more left wing. (As an aside I don't find left-wing right-wing labels at all helpful - politics is a multi-dimensional space.)

I am suggesting that by promoting our essentially socialist political ideals by actually using the word "socialist", rather than hiding it, would assist the Green Party in attracting support and publicity for its social policies.

Chris Burton said...

In reply to Neil's comment, I would like to emphasize that I am NOT proposing any changes to Green Party policies. I am not suggesting that the Green Party should be more socialist or more left wing. (As an aside I don't find left-wing right-wing labels at all helpful - politics is a multi-dimensional space.)

I am suggesting that by promoting our essentially socialist political ideals by actually using the word "socialist", rather than hiding it, would assist the Green Party in attracting support and publicity for its social policies.

Chris Burton said...

In reply to Neil's comment, I would like to emphasize that I am NOT proposing any changes to Green Party policies. I am not suggesting that the Green Party should be more socialist or more left wing. (As an aside I don't find left-wing right-wing labels at all helpful - politics is a multi-dimensional space.)

I am suggesting that by promoting our essentially socialist political ideals by actually using the word "socialist", rather than hiding it, would assist the Green Party in attracting support and publicity for its social policies.