This is chiefly an appeal to Violeta Vadja through Brightgreenscotland, because I wish to explore reconcilitation. The story so far:
Natalie Bennett speaks publicly condemning the scapegoating of immigrants, and suggesting an ‘open door’ policy on immigration (apologies in that I have not read the text, I have read accounts of it from diametrically opposed viewpoints)
Sandy Irvine, Nicola Watson and Chris Padley, long standing members of the Green Party, get a letter published in the Guardian criticising Natalie’s stance. They are accused of undermining her authority.
Brightgreenscotland publish a letter from Violeta Vadja, a Rumanian immigrant member of the Green Party, taking serious offence at the Guardian letter. She leaves the door open for dialogue, but demands an apology first. This is re-tweeted widely, including demands for an apology to Violeta.
I admit I am not independent. I share the frustrations which led the letter writers to go public at a time they admit is not ideal, with the Euro Elections in the offing (when would be?). The first thing which needs stating is that the Green Party does not have a policy of unrestricted immigration. Natalie was not adhering to party policy. We were not consulted about that, either. Nevertheless I must start with a criticism of the Guardian letter. (I have not read that either, but I do have Violeta’s letter quoting the passages which have offended her) What most definitely IS Party policy is the clear distinction between the issue of numbers, and any personal characteristics of immigrants. This is what distinguishes the Green Party from right wing parties. The letter should have started with a statement of support for Natalie’s condemnation of scapegoating. I have been criticised as ‘patronising’ when I acknowledged the depth and intensity of the experiences Violeta and her community have had to endure in this country, believing that those experiences may have led her to lump the letter writers with the real culprits. A statement simply reiterating the Party’s concern over numbers does NOT justify an accusation of distinguishing between deserving and undeserving immigrants, but a reference in the letter to the Green Party’s attitude to immigrants, as distinct from immigration would have helped Violeta not to make this mistake. Who does distinguish between e.g deserving anthropologists and illiterate gypsies? The Financial Times endlessly quotes advocates of immigration who welcome healthy young individuals who have been educated and highly qualified at some less affluent country’s expense.
So Violeta’s understandable and justified anger has spilled over on to three people who did not make their actual views as clear as they should. But, I am asking that similar allowances are made for them. They too had built up a head of resentment because the current presentation of the Green Party is at variance with the founding ethos – the preservation of a sustainable world fit for future generations. Membership has increased considerably recently. The new intake is passionately concerned with social justice, but due to the under-playing of the ‘sustainability’ pillar of Green policy by our recent leadership and media presenters (not just Natalie), they could be forgiven for hardly noticing it. At all events many recent members give the impression of not understanding the concept of a finite planet, which was the original raison d’etre of the Green Party
This is a plea to Violeta and other new members, to try to understand our viewpoint. From the outset the Green Party made it clear that social justice and sustainability depend on each other. Over the years this has been refined. Although global population numbers, particularly in the affluent west, and the fact that Britain is crowded have always been taken into account, social justice has always been recognized by the Green Party as needing to be world-wide. If every individual world-wide is expected never to do anything which harms the environment, then everyone, everywhere must be given a sense of physical security. The pressures for immigration which are so intense that some risk death in freezer containers or work in Morecambe Bay, should be dealt with by a greater sharing of resources between nations. Accepting that the planet, and Britain, are finite raises problems which do not have to be dealt with by anyone who has up to now been concerned exclusively with oppression and fair shares.
Obviously I cannot explain at the tail end of a blog the difficult balance which the Party has attempted to reach over many years. I was accused of behaving as an ‘aristocrat’ for mentioning that I was a founder member. But the Green Party can achieve what the new, socialist members want without ditching what we longer serving members have built up. Rather than a fight which may well wreck the party, and is unlikely to lead to the result the new members want, please take the trouble to understand how social justice AND a sustainable planet can go hand in hand.