Green Surge, Cameron – and Green Left


This could be sub-titled ‘But my grandsons are politically apathetic”

My son’s explanation for the surge and the apathy is: “My vote has always been pointless here. Why bother?.” Certainly for anyone who does have any interest in politics, a new kid on the block does not have much to beat. The Green Party is actually 42 this year, but in terms of publicity granted, I claim ‘new kid’ status for it. At the last election my son voted for [I refuse to name who] simply to jolt the establishment. I hope he and millions who felt the same realize now that they are in danger of having an effect they didn’t intend. At least the Green Party is perceived as being, less simplistic, despite the campaign to label it ‘single issue’.

It has to be said that the Green Party does not currently campaign on the issues for which it was founded, but that does not concerns me as much as it did at one stage. It was founded as a response to the ’Limits to Growthwarning that unchecked, economic growth would wreck the ecosphere. That should be the major political issue, but to campaign on no growth once the economic downturn set in could never work. The public still fears a recession, so to get back to economic growth as quickly as possible seems the only apparent option. I have explained in other posts that a Citizens’ Basic Income will allow the absence of conventional growth – a recession – to be feasible for whole populations. But that cannot happen until people have had a chance to consider the Citizens’ Income, as they should in this election campaign.

But for now, the Green Party is presenting itself as the real Labour Party. With a couple of caveats that strategy is not necessarily too far wide of the mark. I guess my son’s perception is widespread: there are two Tory Parties, a Nasty one and a Not so Nasty one. A sustainable society will look quite ‘socialist’ from the perspective of our current ultra-thatcherised society. Her work was continued by her disciple, Blair, before her true heirs took over. Perhaps ‘Stop Marketization’ doesn’t quite ring as a slogan, but the idea is sound.

Caveat one is that ‘Limits’ must not be forgotten. The other is that when we were thought of as ‘single issue’, although the activist base was, as now largely socialist, the votes came from the prosperous shires. This is not the place to go into detail of how the Citizens’ Income can bring workers and bosses together, or that the rich who must pay for the CI might get a planet fit for their grandchildren for their money. I merely comment here that to scare them off with old style anti-capitalism is unnecessary and would be counterproductive.

For me Cameron’s intervention is piquant. In 1989 Mrs. Thatcher made a serious tactical error. She painted the Conservative Party Green. The result was our high water mark 15% Euro poll, almost entirely in Tory heartlands. But now, although Cameron is presumably expecting the media not to hold debates without him, he has good reason to believe that publicity for the Greens helps his chances.

Cameron’s support for us must be a factor in the latest phase of the Green surge from 25,000 to over 40,000 within days rather than weeks. But as an old hand watching the Party evolve I am trying to make sense of it. Starting in 1994, Green Party membership rose gently for several years, as Labour members uneasy with Blair looked at the Green Party and discovered that far from being ‘single issue’ as they had been told, its policies were closer to their own views than was ‘New Labour’. I used to poke fun at the Party for becoming an Old Labour refugee camp.

Not any more. In February 2013 a small group of refugees, which I call the Pirates, ambushed the Party with a motion to conference. It stated that social justice was to be paramount. Hitherto, social justice had been a twin pillar with the ‘Limits’, ecological raison d’être. The only point in such a change was to devalue the latter. Twice I have personally been told “Clive, the Party has moved on. You had better move with it”. A colleague has been told “These environmental policies are a millstone round our socialist neck”

It became apparent that this group had, like ‘Militant Tendency’ quietly gained positions of influence within the party. The ‘Limits’ genesis has disappeared from the website, so that the growing flood of new members are not even aware of it. However, although the new intake continues to come overwhelmingly from disaffected Labour, or more recently Lib Dems, most do take the trouble to take on board the Party’s original ideas once they know about them.

But in 2006 ‘Green Left’ was formed. As I say, the party always was ‘left’. If the environmental crisis is to be solved democratically, then it will have to be on the basis of a communal, mutually supportive ethos, with less competition and inequality. I cannot see any purpose for Green Left other than to divert the Green Party away from its original purpose. But for most newcomers, ‘Green Left’ would seem a natural, congenial move. This is an appeal to all those who joined GL, and to new members unaware of these undercurrents, to simply put their efforts behind the Green Party.

The public clearly wants something different from this election, and some of them at least are beginning to realize that another party which has hogged the limelight might not be all it seemed. That the Greens have been around longer may be reassuring. If all these new Green Party members a) contribute some cash, and b) do enough leg work, then we could produce a result the like of which has not been seen since 1945. For socialists, that is your best hope of furthering your aims. And as for my hints about making friends with Conservatives, they have at least as steep a learning curve as I am asking you to climb. Specifically, I have been trying to target Zac Goldsmith, but like those millions of 1989 Green voters in the leafy shires, he shows no grasp yet of the social justice aspects of a sustainable society.

But the sooner we can get saving the planet for future generations back on the agenda, the better.

4 responses to “Green Surge, Cameron – and Green Left

  1. Im with you Clive, though there are several Green Party policies I would like less black and white! but I live with them as the GP is streets ahead of other parties in so many ways.

    • Thanks Chris. I just watched Natalie on Andrew Marr. Competent, but did she bat away UKIP type worries about job etc. competition? I wish she would mention the European Basic Income Movement. And I cannot understand why she doesn’t understand how powerful ‘Dynamic Benefits’ would be, used against IDS. Aargh!

  2. I am a new, young Green, and I share your concerns… I didn’t join the Green Party because I wanted SWP-style socialism (another party who have recently lost their youth members), but because I wanted a sustainable future and a fairer society. I suppose one of the dangers of being such an open party is the risk of entryism – I’m only surprised this hasn’t happened before in the Party’s history.

    • Entryism it is, or dare I say was. At the Feb 2013 conference ‘ambush’, they seemed quite strong, but having talked to as many newcomers as possible, my impression is that the ‘Pirates’ are small in number, and most newcomers feel like you. I hear reports of GL meetings being counterproductive due to their attitude to any dissent.
      As you will see from my blog, I see the Citizens’, or Basic Income as important. Per se, it is drastically redistributive, but let me tell you (and anyone else ‘listening’) about when I joined the Green Party in 1973. The founder members were 2 ex-Tories and 2 ex-Libs. Definitely NOT ‘left’. I asked,
      “What’s your social policy? You will need one if you are going to cause a recession, even if it is to stop us trashing the planet”
      “We haven’t got one. No point until we have secured a sustainable future. If YOU have a social policy, what is it?”
      I joined on the spot, and spent the journey back home answering my own question.
      Next meeting, I told these two rich couples the good news: The social policy we needed was a Citizens’ Income. The bad news? They would have to pay for it in higher taxes.
      It took them aback, but the point was we talked about it, and they were motivated to think it through, and come up with something better if they could. They never did. If those four could matte-of-factly accept it, so can those millions of potential Green voters in the leafy shires.
      We are leaving it late, but in 1945 even Clement Attlee was stunned by his own victory.

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