21 Sep 2011

Green Party unattractive to ethnic minorities and working people?

Sean Thompson from Green Left takes up the theme of how the Green Party can get a little more diverse, in response to article from Caroline Lucas our leader discussing why we are too white.

Caroline makes good points; it's important that the party recognises that it's make-up is too white and too middle class.

However, the key point to recognise is that this has not been discussed to any degree by the party at any level and that there are no measures at all, in place or under discussion, to counter this. And it is absolutely not a matter of simply having 'policies which will attract BAMER members' and even less of selecting candidates for winnable seats.

Our formal policies are anti war, anti racist, redistributive and civil libertarian, all of which should make them/us attractive to ethnic minority communities. Indeed, our policies are, for the most part, indistinguishable from those of Respect, which had (and residually has) a small but significant base within Bengali communities in Birmingham and the East End.The difference between the two organisations is that Respect set out from the start to build alliances with the more progressive elements and institutions within those communities (in a rather opportunistic way in some cases, perhaps) and become, not attractive to those communities, but a part of them. We, on the other hand, have by and large followed the pattern of activity set by the three big bourgeoise parties, adding our own particular flavour of mildly sanctimonious abstract preaching. In other words, Respect's aim (obviously not achieved) was to become a party OF the oppressed rather than a party FOR the oppressed. The Green Party's aim has been simply to get the oppressed to vote for us rather than the big three because we are nicer than they are.

The fact is that both the internal culture and organisation of our Party is, in practice, unattractive to most working people regardless of their ethnic origins. In practice, we operate as a middle class sect - not as shouty, exploitative and exclusive as most of the sects of the far left perhaps, but a sect none the less. While Caroline's sentiments were wholly admirable we should not hold our collective breath for any strategy for the Party to break out of its current niche from our national leadership. We all have to find practical ways in our own branches of making them more welcoming for ordinary people, such as considering whether the one minute attunement ritual might be off-putting for all but visiting Quakers and whether we meet in the right places at the right times (Karen pointed out at her fringe that her local party meets in a middle class area that would cost people from the local housing estate £5 on the bus to get to and from). Most importantly we must start aiming the focus of our activity at the concrete issues that working people perceive as effecting their day to day lives, rather than those more general (and distant/abstract) issues that we and the rest of the left find easier to go on about.



Anonymous said...

I agree. Trying to demonstrate what and who we are, and who we fight for, I have written the following, now featured on the Sheffield Green Party website;

We are the Green Party.
We have supported the young and young parents, through the Surestart
campaign, trying to ensure they continue to offer help to young families.
We have supported the growing, campaigning against academies and free
schools, trying to ensure the development of real education instead of
elitist gimmicks.
We have supported sixth formers, campaigning against the abolition of EMA,
trying to make sure our emerging adults can make the most of their
We have supported students and potential students, campaigning against
tuition fees, trying to maintain the principle of free education for all.
We have supported the low and medium paid, campaigning for fairer wages and
taxes, because a healthy society needs people with the time to bring up
their children and support their communities
We have supported the vulnerable in society, campaigning against the
Welfare Reform Bill, trying to maintain and improve the support needed for
them to participate fully.
We have supported the sick, campaigning against the Health and Social Care
Bill, trying to make sure the principle of free treatment at the point of
need is protected.
We have supported the elderly, campaigning for real pensions, and against
reductions in benefits, because we will all be old one day, and we deserve
to be treated well.
We have supported all living people, and all those still to be born -
future people - by campaigning against climate change, because we care about
our children and grandchildren.
We have supported ordinary taxpayers by advancing real, costed and fair
alternatives to the agenda of cuts advanced by the other parties
We are the Green Party.

If anyone wants to adapt this for local use, please feel free.

I'm only too aware we're working "for", rather than "from within" the working people we support; here in Sheffield we have recognised this deficit, and are beginning to turn that tide, in terms of both ethnic variety and class representation. But it's slow work, and early days.

Peter Garbutt

Peter Kennedy said...

I found this article very interesting and decided to write a full response to some of the points on my blog. I wont clutter your comments box with my own thoughts, so if anyone is interested, please have a look;


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