Can the Green Party Become the Main Party of the Left

by Josiah Mortimer (@josiahmortimer), University of York Green Party

The Green Party of England and Wales’ Spring Conference looks set to be a radical one. In just a couple of weeks’ time – and on the Greens’ 40th ‘birthday’ – hundreds will gather to determine the direction of the party. The votes of these members could help establish the Greens as the party of the left at a time when the left – or at least large sections of it – is in complete disarray in Britain.
Why will it be a radical conference? The results of the ‘Prioritisation Ballot’ – the vote on how motions get ranked on the conference agenda (determining how likely they are to be debated) – are now in. Sadly few voted – just over 100 people, in fact. But the results are important nonetheless.

In policy, the top three motions are telling for how the party has grown to be a real force for progress in the face of a weak and ideologically vacuous Labour Party. The first, ‘Making Social Justice Central’ states ‘Green politics and social justice are fundamentally dependent – without environmentalism, the planet will become uninhabitable; without social justice, the planet isn’t worth living on.’
It proposes to alter the current ‘Philosophical Basis’ – the party’s core values statement, in effect – towards recognising the necessity of social justice as well as environmentalism in our politics, replacing the rather depressing and misanthropic current preamble, which begins: ‘Life on Earth is under immense pressure. It is human activity, more than anything else, which is threatening the well-being of the environment on which we depend.’ -with this:

‘A system based on inequality and exploitation is threatening the future of the planet on which we depend, and encouraging reckless and environmentally damaging consumerism. A world based on cooperation and democracy would prioritise the many, not the few, and would not risk the planet’s future with environmental destruction and unsustainable consumption’

A big shift, on the surface. But it retains the vital ecological focus, while at the same time demanding an alternative to the current economic system. At a time of global financial crisis, such a statement is more necessary than ever. Myself and a large number of other Young Greens proposed and supported this motion, after a similar item was passed at the last Young Greens Convention. Whether it will succeed is unclear – but it will open up an important debate nonetheless, at a time when we need to declare where we stand.

The second top-ranked motion is on pay-day loans – again a particularly prominent subject in this economic climate. Workers’ wages are stagnating while the loan-sharks use this as a chance to make a quick buck. The motion condemns the ‘morally unacceptable and economically imprudent’ pay-day loans system, and puts interest-rate capping and government support to ethical lenders into party policy. I have a feeling this one will be largely uncontroversial.

Next is monetary policy reform – not a hugely stirring topic, perhaps. But the motion is an interesting one, effectively calling for the nationalisation of the money supply, out of private banks’ hands – i.e. ‘control of money supply solely by the state’. The ramifications are significant, and plenty of debate will be vital. Nonetheless, it proposes a turn away from the dominance of multinational finance towards democratic control.

Further motions demand ‘community self-government over corporate rights’ and the anonymisation of job application forms to protect against racial discrimination.
The really radical shifts, though, are organisational.

The first, a motion supported by many in Green Left – the Greens’ eco-socialist wing – calls for the establishment of an anti-cuts councillor conference, and couldn’t come at a more urgent time. Council chambers across the country are currently setting their annual budgets. Following the founding of the new ‘Councillors Against Cuts’ initiative – so far Labour-dominated, but with steadily growing Green support – an anti-cuts councillor conference would enable cross-party discussion of legal challenges to the cuts, opening up the possibility of setting ‘needs budgets’, and encouraging direct action from below.
Building links with the unions has been at the core of Natalie Bennett’s vision since being elected. Her election speech encouraged the party to ask the unions – ‘what can we do for you?’ The motion on Green Party support for trade unionism is therefore a welcome one. In passing it, the party would declare ‘the Trade Union movement plays a vital role in defending the interests of working people’ and encourage ‘all its members to be active Trade Unionists’. Solid stuff.

Finally, G4S – yes, that lot who cocked up during the Olympics – have just been voted the world’s worst company for their role in the privatisation of warfare. This year’s Spring Conference could affirm that, in committing the Greens to oppose and expose G4S for the ‘illegal detention of Palestinians, profiteering from public sector privatisation & the neglect and mistreatment of refugees in the asylum system’ – among other crimes. It’s third on the ‘organisational’ agenda, and the Greens endorsement of the Stop G4S campaign would be cheered by campaigners word-wide, sending a very strong message to anti-war and human rights activists – we’re on your side.

So, this conference is set to be one of the most important Green Party gatherings in years – one which could solidify the party’s status as a party of the left, of social justice, and a party which stands on the side of those opposing austerity and war nationally and internationally. Watch this space.

Green Party Spring Conference will run from the 22nd-25th February.

102 comments on “Can the Green Party Become the Main Party of the Left

  1. Every time the Greens have got into power anywhere in Europe they have turned out to be the same old right-wing anti working class bigots as the rest of the capitalist parties. Brighton is proving the rule. Last time I went to a Green Party hosted public meeting the were condemning people in multi storey flats for not growing their own fruit and veg. All their remedies for the environment are aimed at hammering ordinary people – not big business.

  2. Don’t see why not as when in power they act just like Labour: submit and cut (Bristol, Brighton). They then wring their hands, apologise, claiming that they are living in the ‘real world’ & their cuts are better than the Con-Dems ones.

  3. Knarky Badger on said:

    No of course not. Majority of greens I’ve met through years of campaigning have been nothing short of NIMBY Tories.

  4. This is all well and good regards to all these left initiatives but to be perfectly honest when you see the Greens in action such as Brighton and where I live, Bristol, they capitulate rather rapidly. I have immense respect for Natalie Bennett and her politics but the Greens don’t have any real relationship to the labour movement overall nor do they have any orientation to the class struggle. So no…. I really don’t honestly believe the Greens are the next Left thing… Not in the least!

  5. Knarky Badger: Majority of greens I’ve met through years of campaigning have been nothing short of NIMBY Tories

    It seems with the Greens that you get what you go looking for. My experience is that by and large they are progressive minded people who make a connection between the way we should live – here and now – with the way society should be organised. In this matter they are in advance of some socialists who think only the second bit is important. (please refer to other threads on this site)
    While the Greens may be able to present themselves as the most successful electoral party ‘on the left’ it is unlikely that they could transform themselves into a party of the working class. Nevertheless they have an important role in the gathering of progressive forces that is the Peoples Assembly. (see today’s Morning Star).
    One idea that has floated here in Faversham in Kent, where the Tories have an overwhelming majority on the Council – on a minority vote and with a massive working class abstention rate – is for the Greens and Labour to reach agreement to avoid clashes. The arithmetic based on the last election is simple. If the Labour and Green vote is aggregated then the Tories would lose a number of seats.
    Of course, this is not a mechanical exercise. At the basic level, in multi member wards it should be possible for each party to field less candidates than there are seats and advise voters to spread their votes. This will encounter the electoral egoism of elements in both parties who would rather lose separately than win together.
    There are, however, a number of dynamic factors that could enrich the process. Firstly, there are a lot of Labour voters who voted Lib Dem in disgust at (——fill in your own reasons here) and are looking for an alternative.
    Secondly, there are working class voters who would see some value in a more effective anti-Tory vote and could be persuaded to turn out where previously they didn’t.
    Thirdly, there are all kinds of people at local level who might see a role for themselves in such a process was opened up to candidate selection beyond existing party members.

  6. Salim Khan on said:

    Cant believe some see the Greens in such a negative light. From what I have seen they are far from “right wing” or Tory “NIMBY’s”. That is quite ludicrous, the Greens are a genuine party with some very down to earth people. Its a wonderfull mix of people and while like all parties there may be some nepotists at the top ends, the main core of the party and its members are very down to earth individuals. I love the community spirit I see in the Green Party and to be fair they are a definate left wing movement. Give them a chance anyway, the rotten lot at the top who have always tried to run a three horse race just cant face the fact theres some new guys on the block. I believe the Green Party have a fantastic chance to make a difference in communities and even at a national level.

  7. I think this new preamble is a step in the right direction – however I would not support an attack upon “consumerism”. The desire of billions of people for stuff and more stuff is rooted in the fact that they do not have enough stuff to enjoy life properly.

    Attacks upon consumerism take us into the moralistic realm of suggesting that the things most people aspire to and want are trivial and unnecessary without making it clear what these things are – its a far too general and moralistic proposition to have much political purchase.

  8. The Greens in Brighton are worth looking at. They seemlessly adopted the worse traits of Brighton Labour (Vanity projects and incompetence) and combined those with their own indifference to the old and the poor.

    They are a caution and definatley very different from Caroline Lucas the Green MP. The votes they took from Labour will be going back there from what I’m hearing.

  9. Salim Khan,

    Salim – I share you more optomistic assessmetnt of the Green Party – and I hope that the Green Party trade unionists, eco-socialists and youth and working class members make a big impact at the Green Party conference –

    As ever there is a big problem of combined and uneven development of the Green Party in various parts of England and Wales [in fact some Green in Wales are considering joining Plaid Cymru since Leanne Wood won the leadership]

    Basically, as I see it there are 3 organisational choices that socialists need to confront in the present time…
    1. whether to bite the bullet and rejoin the Labour Party and attempt [again!] to make a democratic vehicle for experssing the needs and demands of the Working Class
    2. Join the Green Party and turn it outwards towards campaiging activity growth and give an electoral choice to disenfranchised working class voters fed up with the established parties.
    3. Attempt some form of ‘left’ regroupment and reunification around a new organisational form…

    Of course 1,2 and 3 are not mutually exclusive socialists can respect the organisation choices of other socialists and seek concrete practical ways to work together against Austerity and the Con/Dems…

    In reality the Green Party has tremendous potential and as UKIP rises to the right of the Tories then the Green Party needs to step up its game and provide a challenge to the Labour Party from the Left and do what it can to smash the Lib Dem vote…
    This is especially important in the Euro Elections in 2014… as the elections are conducted via Proportional Representation… UKIP could gain a significant number of seats… All Socialists should rally round the Green Party to ensure that the Greens make gains too…. In the West Midlands it would mean Victory to Working Class Dudley Eco-Socialist Will Duckworth and a defeat for the far right….

    UKIP could gain several seats

  10. Josiah Mortimer: CAN THE GREEN PARTY BECOME THE MAIN PARTY OF THE LEFT

    No, but (sections of) it can probably become part of one.

    I have nothing particularly against the Green Party. I voted for their South-East list in 2009 – Lucas was a much more socialist candidate than the seat-filler topping Labour’s. But in terms of their local activists and electoral base, I see very little difference between them and the sort of people pushing the Lib Dems as ‘to the left’ of Labour for the half-decade before their naked capitulation to Toryism. They get votes in ‘nice’ areas, their local top bods are all terribly ‘nice’ people. If we lived in a truly democratic society, I’m sure it would just be lovely to be a Green. But we don’t.

    Labour’s electoralism at least makes sense, because it’s hard to maintain an ‘activist profile’ when you regularly form governments that do things activists would otherwise tend to dislike; because it has millions of supporters and an entrenched historical tradition; and because of that apparently irrevocable link to the trade union bureaucracy and a substantial segment of the unions’ membership. All of which force even its most reactionary wing to orientate towards the working class.

    But for the Greens, who at their best are a consciously anti-establishment party, to voluntarily begin at the philosophical position – of naive and disarming belief in the fundamental honesty of our constitutional set-up – which decades of defeat and compromise allowed the Labour right wing to force the entire party to adopt? I don’t hold out much hope for their courage under fire. Especially not when they collude in worrying idealisations of ‘local’ capitalism and ‘small business’ as though it is anything but inextricably bound up with the world market and impossible to analyse in isolation.

    If I believed in a pluralist conception of society, I would have no problems with the Green Party. But as someone who believes in the centrality of the working-class and its agency to any form of progressive social change, the Greens aren’t even the enemy: they’re just an irrelevance.

  11. mark anthony france:

    Manzil… the Greens can’t be just an ‘irrelevance’ as you would not vote for them in Euro Elections.

    Of course they can. The EU elections are unique. The regions are so massive, and the control of the parties over the candidates’ selection and performance so total, that they are possibly even less democratic than an EU run solely by our elected national governments.

    My vote for Lucas (in the South East, there’s only ever going to be one or two progressive MEPs elected) was in that context exceptional – the Greens’ actually benefited from the passive role which is assigned to the electorate by the nature of the European Parliament: they didn’t have to match the much larger campaigning machinery of the ‘big’ parties, and the lower turnout gave the more motivated Green vote a disproportionate influence. Thankfully, most politics is profoundly different from the EU elections.

    My vote had more to do with the degenerate state of the Labour Party in the South East (and dislike of No2EU) than support for the Greens. And as I think the comparison between Lucas as a Green MP and Brighton as a Green council attests, there is a considerable difference between her as a prominent national voice for progressive ideas, and her party as a tool for progressive policy.

    Edit to add: As regards my comment about the GPEW being an irrelevance to working-class politics, do you not think it highlights something about the Greens (and the nature of the EU elections!) that some of their best results were in the South East region, in fact actually more than the Labour Party?

  12. Manzil: But in terms of their local activists and electoral base, I see very little difference between them and the sort of people pushing the Lib Dems as ‘to the left’ of Labour for the half-decade before their naked capitulation to Toryism.

    There definitely seems to be a North/South divide in the Green Party… For Example – the Left has been largely silent on the Francis Report into Stafford Hospital… Labour in Stafford used to smear Julie Bailey and the Cure The NHS campaigners and accuse them of being anti NHS…
    It’s only UnitetheUnion and Green Party Campaigners that have taken up Julie Baileys Demand that Sir David Donaldson Resign… and local Stafford Green Party Councillor Tom Harris explains the Green Party position on the NHS here… http://westmidlands.greenparty.org.uk/news.html/2013/02/06/mid-staffs-hospital-crisis-shows-nhs-market-has-failed/

    Much of the ‘Left’ and the whole of the Labour Party in Stafford were basically silent on the way working class people were sacrificed on the alter of NHS market reforms and post Francis are still silent… In this context the Green Party is the voice of the left.

  13. mark anthony france: There definitely seems to be a North/South divide in the Green Party [...] In this context the Green Party is the voice of the left.

    I’ll take your word for it. :) I’m about as familiar with the Mongolian People’s Party as the Greens in the north of England! But that is very good to hear of their cooperation with Unite.

    My impression is entirely based on the south coast, and currently Oxfordshire, which I’ll accept aren’t the most representative of places! But in towns like Portsmouth, Southampton, Basingstoke, Reading, Oxford etc. (and I’m sure, Brighton!) the Greens are… not so clear-cut, I think.

  14. I was a member of the Green Party last year. I’ve written a few pieces on my blog about the Green Party and the left, and – more recently – about what the GP is doing in Bristol.

    The problem, it seems to me, is that the GP at national level talks a good game. On paper their policies are at times naive, but definitely “of the left”, sometimes radically so. My experience on the ground however (and I know I’m not the only one to whom this applies) is very different. Given a sniff of office (let alone power) the Greens will drop every paper policy they’d previously signed up to in order to get a seat at the table. Brighton is the most telling example, and Bristol is rapidly reinforcing the lesson.

    Unlike Labour – which despite all the sell-outs, all the wars, all the appalling policies at least retains some roots in the working class and the unions – the GP is primarily (and of course there are individual exceptions) a party of the well-meaning, well-heeled white middle class. For the most part its members have no experience of working class organisation, and no feel whatsoever for class politics. While there is a notional opposition to cuts there is no sense of class anger and no understanding of the sheer scale of the ConDem attack on our way of life. What many of its leading members at local level do have however is an eye for political careerism that would make your average Labour councillor blush.

    In Bristol the GP have joined mayor Ferguson’s cuts cabinet, and have sought to undermine the anti-cuts campaign (BADACA)locally by arguing that it is ultra-left and unrealistic to oppose all cuts. There is, according to the local GP, “no option” but to try and implement the cuts in as “kindly” a way as possible. Essentially, this is the old “dented shield” argument of 80s Labour – but with the difference that they’re carrying out the policy in a cabinet alongside the Tories and LibDems (and the councillor concerned, my old mate Gus Hoyt, is picking up a salary of £33k p.a. for doing it).

    The best of the local Greens have already resigned from the party. Elsewhere, several Green Left supporters who I keep in touch with are on the brink of resignation or (in some cases) expulsion. Those who think the Greens represent the way forward are, I’m afraid, in for a rather nasty shock. OTOH perhaps the best way to judge that is by going through the experience!

    My latest piece on Bristol Greens and the cuts is here (hope it’s okay to post this link – by all means remove it if not):
    http://grumpyoldtrot.wordpress.com/2013/01/29/agony-of-the-axemen/

  15. Manzil,

    LOL! I heard the the Wigan Greens are all members of the North Korean Friendship Association and hate the revisionist Mongolian Peoples Party. http://www.korea-dpr.com/kfa.html

    Joking aside whatever regroupment of the ‘left’ takes place in the aftermath of the crisis in the SWP then developements in unitetheunion appear to be very important in particular the growth of its Community Membership… even here in Worcestershire Hundreds of Unemeployed, self employed[under employed] have joined – all socialists should promote this form of basic working class self organisation.

  16. No offence to those Greens who are progressive or left, but I have never taken the Green Party seriously either as a sustainable electoral alternative or a party of the left.

    Based on my own experience they comprise on the one hand middle class do-gooder types, big on moralism and short on solidarity, and on the other wishy-washy liberals.

    They lack a cohesive ideological focus and seem more a coalition than a political party. Caroline Lucas is great, but she would be better served being in Labour and working as part of a Labour left to influence the direction of a party that stands a chance of being in government.

  17. The Councillors Against Cuts campaign is a significant step forward and many Councillors in the Green Party have expressed an interest in working with this body which is ked by Labour Councillors, we know that the Labour Leadership at a national and regional level will do all they can to stiffle the campaign but outside the closed neo liberal wing of this once great party, communities and Trade Unions see the need to fight – so this issue won’t go away.
    So perhaps it would be better in the light of this excellent development that those groups in and around TUSC – able but mistaken, start working together through this campaign and stop telling Labour Party members or Green Party members that we are little better than Tories.
    Tusc’s results have been absolutely awful in the main and its a time for a rethink comrades.
    What ever happens because of climate change and the sectaranism of the british left and current nature of the Labour Party the Greens in what ever form are not going to disappear and by the way will continue to win in working class areas.

  18. Roy – in Bristol and Brighton the Greens are the ones who are implementing the cuts. What on earth makes you think that working class people will feel they have any stake in voting Green? [I'm not a TUSC supporter btw]

  19. Manzil on said:

    Roy: Greens in what ever form are not going to disappear and by the way will continue to the win in working class areas.

    At least in my neck of the woods, I have seen absolutely no examples of that. Which is a shame, as there’s nothing stopping them; but you’re far more likely to see the Tories in Woolston than the Greens.

    #16. Very interesting article on your blog, Jay.

    Particularly relevant (re: BADACA) is that it shows the difficulty of a party putting forward a ‘dented shield’ position while simultaneously organising to build public opposition to austerity.

    In Southampton, Labour have been the recipient of anti-cuts, anti-Tory feeling, but they have not been able to build on it since, owing to their own role in pushing through cuts since winning the council.

    So while the Councillors Against Cuts is a good initiative (although a bit worrying that the AWL, through the LRC, seem so involved in it) I don’t know how much a campaign that depends for its direction on left councillors, who by the nature of their position are more often going to cautious than bold, can really generate widespread popular support. Perhaps as an adjunct of the People’s Assembly in June it might have a more constructive role, but not as a leading body or even main focus.

    The plans voiced last year for an ‘anti-cuts conference’ of Labour councils from the big cities foundered on the opposition of the London borough councils. Labour’s local government conference is coming up this weekend and will no doubt reiterate the stern opposition of the party leadership to even symbolic ‘stunts’ (e.g. refusing to collect council tax for a month).

    And let’s not forget that even Councillors Against Cuts depends considerably on the two expelled Southampton councillors and the Hull councillors in a state of semi-rebellion. Can it win widespread support from within Labour councils that are implementing cuts, without losing its credibility?

  20. Jay – You could say the same about people voting Labour and they have not turned to Tusc either.
    Actually i was talking about the old line trotted out by some on the tusc left about who votes Green – as you may know Jay the Greens have Councillors in some of the most working class areas of Birmingham and the Black Country and no doubt this is the same picture across the country.
    I suggest the next time someone wants to try to score ‘workerist’ points they do a bit of research.
    Don’t want to be too unkind but i do love it when some of the economically middle class in some of these parties talk about class politics and who can gain support – 19 votes in working class Stoke on Trent does not make a revolution!

  21. jay blackwood: Roy – in Bristol and Brighton the Greens are the ones who are implementing the cuts. What on earth makes you think that working class people will feel they have any stake in voting Green? [I'm not a TUSC supporter btw]

    Jay as you are painfully aware Parties, all Parties are themselves an arena of struggle and contain differences
    Socialist Workers Party [summary]
    Rapists/Bullies/Abusers vs Naive Drones/Loyal Oppositionists/Rebels -soon to be ex members]

    Labour Party
    Blairite Neo Con Social Facists vs Social Democrats and bureacratic municipal ‘socialist’ carrying out cuts] and a handful of principled anti cuts MPs and Councillors

    Green Party
    Lazy Libertarian Malthusian Vegans/ Liberal Would Be Liberal Councillors/ Actuall Liberal Councillors carry out cuts
    Vs Marxist Informed Eco Socialists, Anarchists, Utopian Communists, Student Radicals, Trade Union activists, The Chair of the Coalition of ResistanceOne MP and a few councillors against the cuts

    In Bristol your experience of how the Green Party operates in practice are important and inform your perspective… but what you going to do Vote Labour – Join Labour? Even the Grumpiest of Old Trots often lack the stomach for that.

    However, Working Class people continue to vote Green in Large Numbers in the tower blocks and run down estates of Chemsley Wood near Brum…. in Dudley Working Class Eco Socialist Will Duckworth has a solid base in the impoverish Netherton area
    Green Councillors across the country have approached the new LRC ‘Councillors Against the Cuts’ Group dominated by the ‘left’ Labourites only to have their membership requests processed extremely slowly if at all…. perhaps the AWL is behind that? The usual bureaucratic backstabbing sectarianism that we all love so well.

    Jay It will be interesting to see what happens at Green Party Conference it is a shame that people like yourself decided to leave the Green Party before its political trajectory has been decisively decided.

  22. Mark Victorystooge on said:

    I don’t know much about British Greens, but my experience of the better-established German Greens is of a thoroughly mainstream party with little in the way of “left” credentials.

  23. 24# I think many in the Green Party in England and Wales would share a similar view and i suspect many Greens work in different groups as well as fighting the corner within it. Please remember unlike the democratic centralists of the SP and SWP we don’t have a world Green Party only national parties that stand alone.
    Its actually a bigger issue as a party when a comrade for example like Clare Daly who is a TD in Ireland leaves them – as its a member of their party.

  24. Manzil on said:

    mark anthony france: Lazy Libertarian Malthusian Vegans

    :D

    Roy: Don’t want to be too unkind but i do love it when some of the economically middle class in some of these parties talk about class politics and who can gain support – 19 votes in working class Stoke on Trent does not make a revolution!

    Neither does disseminating anti-fluoridation literature, but that’s about the only time the Greens seem to have been exercised by a development on the south coast.

    They certainly didn’t show up when we had a year-long industrial dispute between the Tories and the council workforce, or a months-long strike by refuse workers. Say what you want about “some of the economically middle class in some of these parties”, they didn’t just talk about class politics, they turned up. Even the Labour Party. Now that’s not enough, but it is quite an important first step.

    Mark mentions a ‘north-south’ divide in the Greens. But given the importance the Greens attach to ‘localism’, maybe it’s more than that: a case of the party inherently never constituting more than the sum of its parts. As in, ‘Greenism’ constitutes whoever turns up to the local party in a given area?

    Mark Victorystooge:
    I don’t know much about British Greens, but my experience of the better-established German Greens is of a thoroughly mainstream party with little in the way of “left” credentials.

    To be fair to them, the English & Welsh Greens are considered very much on the left of the European Green movement; couldn’t be more different than Germany or Ireland. Although Brighton shows the potential for the party to collapse into the institutionalised, ‘responsible’, outright managerial politics that afflicts most of English local government and represents the German/Irish example, I guess.

  25. Roy: my view of the class composition and background of the GP was mainly formed at the Bristol party conference last year. I admit this wasn’t necessarily a representative sample, as currently the party is unable to fund delegates so it’s only the more comfortably off who can attend. But I was struck by how much the stereotypes were fulfilled. This echoed my experience locally to a tee. It was all quite depressing, apart from a very good Green Left fringe meeting.

    Mark AF: I admit that my conclusion – that the GP can’t be won to a genuine class politics – was arrived at pretty damn quickly. But for others – like Nick and Katie in Bristol – leaving the GP in response to its collaboration with the cuts was a hugely difficult and painful decision. I have a lot of time and respect for people like yourself who have decided to stay in and fight, and for councillors like Will Duckworth who are undoubtedly principled and sincere socialists. I’ve got no doubt that Green Left supporters will be a part of the left re-alignment that we all hope to see. But IMHO the GP itself is not the way forward. And on a personal level, I would rather put what energies I have into the local anti-cuts fight on the ground than in building electoral support for a party which – in Bristol – has already stabbed its electorate in the back.

  26. Unfortunately i don’t think or they might think the Green Party might be part of the ‘left re-alignment’ perhaps explains why instead of supporting the left in the Green Party some of these groups indulge in sectaranism – be it against us or the left in the Labour Party or against each other.

    Have to say working class people, as i think was shown most graphically in Scotland where they threw aways the massive gains do not get the left we deserve in the UK.

  27. Roy,

    Roy your important point about Clare Daly TD… the marxist left has a long history of figureheads ending up after getting elected dropping the heritage they came from… thats the way the cookie crumbles. But we are not talking here of Irish or German Green Parties but of the Green Party of England and Wales
    The GPEW is growing… but in the leadership elections last summer only about 3,000 of its 13,000 members participated in the vote indicating a lack of engagement… The Green Left is a significant influence in the Party and the lack of centralist bureaucracy can mean that some local parties are a hotbed of interesting debate focused on radical action… but others moribund and filled with NIMBY ex libertarians who don’t want to do anything but moan…[A bit like the SWP]

    Today there are thousand upons thousands of unalligned socialists some of whom read this Socialist Unity site and despair at the state of the Left…
    Well as part of the process of a regroupment and reunification why not join the Green Party? At least the structure is more democratic [in theory]than the Labour Party and we can all have a chat about the way forward.

  28. Well for me that question had a simple litmus test: could I campaign for them on the doorstep? The answer was ‘no’. At the mayoral hustings last year not a single candidate was prepared to commit to a ‘no cuts’ pledge. What’s the point of being a member of a party you can’t even canvas for? I agree that elsewhere, in situations where the local GP is left-leaning, the situation may be different.

  29. Manzil on said:

    Roy: instead of supporting the left in the Green Party some of these groups indulge in sectaranism

    In another conversion I’ve heard that exact same argument, but in the form, ‘why don’t you all just join the Labour Party and push it to the left’. The difference being, of course, that in that case it sort of makes sense, because Labour can at least form a government.

    I’ve got absolutely no problem with the idea that many Greens are firmly on the left, just as many in Labour are. And in actual campaigns or trade union work I’m more than happy to work with people of all or no party affiliations. The question is under what circumstances are you asking people to support you?

    What use all this lovely local autonomy and democratic participation if it means the people personally benefiting from capitulating to austerity can vote themselves the party’s approval?

    And it doesn’t require a scare story about “a world Green Party” to say there should be some basic principles which it is not considered acceptable to breach. I would imagine the Green Party would come down fairly heavily on MPs that, for instance, signed up to fracking or nuclear power? The Irish Greens were essentially destroyed for just such a compromise with their environmental credentials.

    Well, non-cooperation with austerity is as important a ‘red line’ to me.

    If we’re going to concede to the compromises of electoral politics, may as well do it in the party with a hundred thousand members and millions of affiliated trade unionists. But if we’re talking independent socialist politics, let’s not start out from a compromised position.

  30. uncle albert on said:

    Manzil: all just join the Labour Party and push it to the left

    If a million socialists joined Labour tomorrow the party wouldn’t be shifted to the left policy-wise. They’d just take your subs and continue as before – members of the LP have very little input when it comes to policy development.

    A far more effective approach is by an electoral challenge. Labour was shaken to the core by the 18,000 who voted for Galloway in Bradford West. The quickest way to improve Labour is to shake it more often. In a similar way, the threat of UKIP successes (without even any MPs) shake the Tories far more severely than do their own back-benchers.

    Of course, an electoral challenge can only come from a viable party – the childish ‘let’s drive the police of the streets’ brigade will, and do, get nowhere. However, the National Health Action Party – a serious party opposed to the neo-liberal marketised model of healthcare – have today announced their participation in the Eastleigh by-election. It should be interesting.

  31. Kate the Red on said:

    I am from East London and now live in Ireland I would never ever vote campaign or do anything after the complete and utter farce in co alition government in Ireland

  32. john Penney on said:

    Nick Wright,

    Just let’s suppose the Greens and New Labour DO cobble together an alliance, and DO win control of Faversham (or any other) local council. So what then ? They refuse to implement the cuts imposed by the central government reduction in centrally sourced grants on which all local government services depend ? Well they could do , theoretically at least – if NEVER in historical practice — and the council would go bankrupt, and the individual councillors would be personally surcharged and banned from holding office again. As with Clay Cross in the 70′s and Liverpool in the 80′s.

    There is no reformist route out of the present bosses offensive. The Greens , and of course New Labour are , despite the odd bit of rhetoric, simply parties of the capitalist status quo. When the status quo is the post 2008 capitalist crisis, tied ideologically to the “in the national interest” bullshit, they’ll impose whatever cuts central government wants, whilst weeping copious tears and wringing their hands. Where have they done otherwise… anywhere ?

    We need to build an aggressive broad socialist movement which helps build every possible local and national aspect of resistance to the capitalist offensive. Winning local council seats on an avowed “No Cuts – No Matter What” programme would be great as a short term propaganda campaign for such a movement – but don’t kid yourselves any Green Party Councillors would be up for radical action when the crunch came. The Greens are irrelevant — a prosperous middle class 80′s/90/s hangover. They have no useful role to play in the current world economic crisis . Into the green recycling bin of history with em.

  33. Nick – Read this
    “Ah, but Poplar, Clay Cross, and Liverpool councillors got surcharged, bankrupted (Clay Cross), and jailed (Poplar). Councillors won’t do that today.”

    Few struggles can be started with a guarantee of no problems or difficulties if you lose.

    In fact, however, the legal position now is much more favourable for defiance than in the days of Poplar, Clay Cross, and Liverpool. Councillors run almost no personal risk.

    The laws which used to open the way to councillors being suspended, or disqualified no longer hold since the relevant parts of the Localism Act 2011 came into force on 1 July 2012. The laws which allowed for them to be surcharged had been repealed even before that.

    From Councillors Against Cuts

  34. Roy: In fact, however, the legal position now is much more favourable for defiance than in the days of Poplar, Clay Cross, and Liverpool. Councillors run almost no personal risk.
    The laws which used to open the way to councillors being suspended, or disqualified no longer hold since the relevant parts of the Localism Act 2011 came into force on 1 July 2012.

    But surely the money runs out quickly as central government have reduced the settlement so you then spend the reserves and then the reserves run out. Then you no longer have any money to provide any services or pay wages.

    That’s if the CE or TC has not already called in Central Government.

    So is the plan to create a disaster and then try and parle that into a political victory that rallies the class?

    If it is I cannot see it working very well.

    Serious question btw I’m not sniping.

  35. “Green Councillors across the country have approached the new LRC ‘Councillors Against the Cuts’ Group dominated by the ‘left’ Labourites only to have their membership requests processed extremely slowly if at all…. perhaps the AWL is behind that? The usual bureaucratic backstabbing sectarianism that we all love so well.”

    Huh? Mark, I am a member of the LRC. What do you mean “membership requests processed extremely slowly”? Sorry but LOL…. “AWL behind that”… Again, let me reiterate, huh? Oh, and “bureaucratic backstabbing sectarianism”… Really? As someone who has been a member of oh-so-many-groupings-on-the-Left I would say that when it comes to the opposite of bureaucratic backstabbing sectarianism … that’s the LRC!

    To answer your question about what to do in Bristol… It’s not joining the Greens that’s for certain as they are up to their necks in a cuts though pleading that they can’t ‘elp it… Labour really should be getting stuck in as part of the opposition and pushing the alternative narrative to cuts. But unfortunately they are being very invisible. The Greens became part of the problem not the solution when they went into the cabinet of cuts. The way forward is to be part of the anti-cuts movement, it’s about building unity and making alliances. That’s the way forward, not joining the Greens who have no orientation to the labour movement nor to the class struggle. I would never ever join the Greens precisely because of the lack of relationship to the labour movement and the trade union movement. To be perfectly honest, I know more Labour activists who are committed trade unionists (including myself there) than Greens…

  36. Graham Day on said:

    SA, what I’ve been told previously is that if a council doesn’t set a legal budget then central govt. will appoint a commissioner to do it for them.

    We should never lose sight of the fact that it’s the Tory led coalition at Westminster (and to a lesser extent the SNP govt in Edinburgh) that is imposing these cuts on local councils. Local Labour and Green councillors are trying to make the best of a bad job – though some of them certainly do better than others.

  37. Karl Stewart on said:

    This is an interesting discussion and I’m intruiged by John Penney’s definition of “broad” given that he’s excluded the Greens, the Labour Party,, the CP, anyone who thinks the former Soviet Union was anything other than utterly evil, any organisation that practices any form at all of “democratic centralism” and anyone who doesn’t oppose every single cut, and “reformists”.

    Hmmm…..so that’s basically John Penney, three men and a dog!

    Anyway, in response to the main question posed by the article, I’d say I think the Greens have the potential to be the main left-of-centre protest-vote party in the way that perhaps the LibDems had started to be under Charles Kennedy.

    There is a significant constituency of voters who would certainly place themselves on the left of the mainstream political centre and who voted LibDem in 2010 and feel betrayed by Nick Clegg.

    I’d say the Green Party, which is clearly on the left of the mainstream political centre in the UK, is well placed to win votes from such people.

    But what I don’t see is any potential for the Green Party to make any meaningful inroads among traditional Labour voters or within the Labour movement. I just don’t think the Greens are politically or socially orientated in that direction.

  38. Graham Day: what I’ve been told previously is that if a council doesn’t set a legal budget then central govt. will appoint a commissioner to do it for them.

    Yeah I know that thats why I said ‘That’s if the CE or TC has not already called in Central Government.’

    Yes I agree the responsibility has to be placed at Westminister with the Tories. What I’m asking is what is the strategy of CAC.

  39. 38# Happymarx its not about joining the Green Party or the Labour Party or anyone else or even electoral alliances for that matter it about how you put it “The way forward is to be part of the anti-cuts movement, it’s about building unity and making alliances.”
    In this case its about Councillors who want to be part of and build a campaign that says no to the cuts – in the Trade Unions, communities and also in the council chamber and we have Councilors in the Green Party who want to part of the struggle.

  40. Manzil on said:

    @ HarpyMarx. Your criticisms of the Green Party apply equally to the Labour Party – and even bits of the LRC – do they not? At the last LRC national conference there was the remarkable sight of left-wing councillors singing from the same hymn sheet of ‘not our fault guv’ / ‘better our cuts than theirs’ as Labour councils up and down the country. If you agree with the ‘dented shield’ stuff, fair enough, but it seems a bit hypocritical to lambast the Greens for the same accommodation to austerity.

  41. Manzil on said:

    SA: So is the plan to create a disaster and then try and parle that into a political victory that rallies the class?

    If it is I cannot see it working very well.

    Serious question btw I’m not sniping.

    I think it’s an attempt to break out of the following Catch-22: Arguing for serious direct resistance to the cuts is impossible because there isn’t enough highly-mobilised support for such a strategy; but highly-mobilised support for such a strategy is unlikely because there has been no resistance.

    Presumably, Councillors Against Cuts want to shift the debate. It’s been oft-observed that the Tories managed to turn a financial crisis into a crisis of indebtedness and over-spending. What we have to do, and what CAC does at least seem to be prioritising, is re-politicising the cuts: defining austerity as a political project rather than an ‘objective’, technical response to a situation that cannot be changed.

    UK local government is incredibly constrained. The possibilities for manoeuvring within the law against central government are incredibly slim: to be effective, they would need to essentially confront the whole legitimacy of the cuts agenda. That takes time. So while I agree with you that, if you take it at face value, CAC don’t seem to be offering much of a strategy, on a rhetorical level I think it’s very positive.

  42. Manzil: So while I agree with you that, if you take it at face value, CAC don’t seem to be offering much of a strategy, on a rhetorical level I think it’s very positive.

    Yes that’s fine, austerity is clearly a political project and in my experience most working class people now understand that. But surely if you set up a campaign you have to know where that understanding takes you and that means having a strategy with achievable objectives.

    Again I’m not sniping just asking the obvious questions.

  43. Stephen on said:

    Graham Day: what I’ve been told previously is that if a council doesn’t set a legal budget then central govt. will appoint a commissioner to do it for them.

    The situation in Scotland, for some years now, is that the Councillors get removed and the Council would be run by appointees of the Scottish Government (in practical terms this would be the Chief Executive). The situation ( bar a few minor procedural differences) was the same in England – if the Localism Bill has changed that I’d be surprised (interested, but surprised)

    Demanding non compliance budgets is all very well but it puts the cart before the horse. Appealing to the better angels of cllrs natures will get you precisely nowhere. Particularly when they can argue that something else will be worse (plausible enough if you are a council employee btw).

    Unless there is an existing big movement in defence of services – calling for no cuts budgets is just posturing. fifteen people in the town hall balcony in budget day can do some shouting(and it might be good for paper sales).. but cllrs are more likely to pause for thought if they’ve had to walk through a crowd of 15 000 to get into the meeting.

  44. Manzil… I don’t agree with the dented shield. Neither do I support it. I kinda lambast anyone and includes councillors supportive to the LRC who support cuts.

  45. john Penney: There is no reformist route out of the present bosses offensive.

    What precisely does this mean? That capitalism will collapse if the cuts were restored. Even the IMF think there is a reflationary alternative to the present policy of cuts.
    This is but one episode in the constant battle within capitalism between wages(includign the social wage/welfare state/public services) and profit.

    The ruling class will take a hit on their profits (or a redistribution of the social product in favour of the people) if it means hanging on to power. Or to put it another way, there is a reformist way out of this crisis – but only at the expense of profits, rent and interest; and thus the social and political weight of the class that depends on this.

    What we are talking about here is the continuing struggle for the ‘momentary’ interests of the working class, so every cut that is reversed, every hospital or school or library retained is a victory. But the significant victory is in political and class consciousness – one aspect of which is the battle to win clarity in mass consciousness.

    The practice of political parties is not static,, they are not unchanging entities, but reflect the balance of class forces. It is changing that balance which is our task.

    The example of Derby is very interesting. There the Labour Group were invited to participate in the anti cuts movement against the cuts that government policies were forcing them to carry out if they were to remain in office. They joined the march.

    Undoubtedly this strategy causes stresses and strain within Labour. Good. As our great leader has remarked earlier, politics is a contact sport. But it also directs anger against the source of local authority cuts – the government’s policy.

    If Labour groups throughout the country were to be drawn into this strategy it could raise the level of resistance and begin to create the kinds of changes in political thinking that raise the struggle to a higher level.

    http://21centurymanifesto.wordpress.com/2013/02/07/peoples-assembly-rallies-resistance/

  46. The Digger on said:

    Roy,

    The Greens have NO councillors in Birmingham in working class areas or green leafy suburbs. Why are discussions on SU always full of brazen inaccuracies

  47. I love the left sometimes – blinkers and all – Chelmsley Wood is as near as damn it in Birmingham and solidly working class.

  48. #49 & 50 The local authority is Solihull.

    If you asked most people where that was, I suspect if they had any idea at all they would say Birmingham.

    I suggest that’s about as brazen as saying Trafford or Tameside is in Manchester.

    Certain pendants (and Man City fans) may have a problem with that of course, but nobody else I suspect.

  49. Manzil on said:

    SA: Yes that’s fine, austerity is clearly a political project and in my experience most working class people now understand that. But surely if you set up a campaign you have to know where that understanding takes you and that means having a strategy with achievable objectives.

    Again I’m not sniping just asking the obvious questions.

    No, no, I know. I understand your point of view.

    All I’d say is that the anti-cuts position is starting from an incredibly low point, especially as far as public opinion is concerned. The brief period in 2007-09 were anti-systemic views were widespread has given way to a ‘realism’ that precludes action because this is considered, if unfair, also the ‘new normal’.

    Given this, the achievable objectives of any campaign are, initially, going to be mainly directed towards ‘winning hearts and minds’. Our weakness means we have to ‘think big’ and address the (inter)national situation, rather than simply trying to fight off every individual local closure or cut.

    I think this is where the CAC founding statement points towards the right direction, “We do not accept that cuts are “necessary”: there is plenty of money in society, but it is in the wrong hands. Taxing the rich and business, taking the wealth of the banks and cutting Trident are all rich sources of funds”.

    The oppositionist position, of not engaging with what an anti-cuts local authority would do in the circumstances, generally reflects a) the weakness of the left generally within local government (quite simply, it’s not an issue, because it’s not in control), and b) a refusal, from the opening salvo, to immediately concede to conservatives in the labour movement the acceptability of cuts.

    That doesn’t mean there isn’t a need for more concrete campaigns, both within the anti-cuts movement, and from within local government. But initiatives like CAC aren’t necessarily the place for that. Its use lies in being able to point to it and ask others, ‘Well? Why aren’t you with this lot?’

  50. Manzil: But initiatives like CAC aren’t necessarily the place for that. Its use lies in being able to point to it and ask others, ‘Well? Why aren’t you with this lot?’

    But that’s of little use without an achievable strategy because it invites the response ‘cos they don’t know what they’re doing’.

    Its fine to point out the cost and uselessness of Trident or the cost human and financial of unpopular wars but there has to be more than that.

    If the CAC wants to see off cuts it might look at a reconfiguring of how central government allocates (localy raised) tax revenue to local authorities. Structural financial change in the interests of effective local democracy.

    I appreciate the Left for reasons you outline, and others, are not used to thinking like that but its what’s needed.

  51. Manzil on said:

    SA: But that’s of little use without an achievable strategy because it invites the response ‘cos they don’t know what they’re doing’.

    Its fine to point out the cost and uselessness of Trident or the cost human and financial of unpopular wars but there has to be more than that.

    If the CAC wants to see off cuts it might look at a reconfiguring of how central government allocates (localy raised) tax revenue to local authorities. Structural financial change in the interests of effective local democracy.

    I appreciate the Left for reasons you outline, and others, are not used to thinking like that but its what’s needed.

    The people who are implementing the cuts don’t know what they’re doing. It’s horrifying how easily senior officers dominate even cabinet members: how pliable otherwise-progressive councillors are when faced with The Reality Of The Situation as mediated by local government.

    Let’s face it, there is not going to be a fully worked-out programme analysing what every authority should do in every area. The only people in a position to carry out that sort of work are the Labour Party (who are coming from a completely different perspective, and delaying any prescriptive proposals) or the trade unions (who won’t, for fear of stepping on Miliband’s toes).

    And quite honestly, I don’t think that it is what’s called for, on the simple basis that you can’t win an argument based on detail that you haven’t won on broad ideological terms.

    Labour councils are not implementing cuts simply because they haven’t been presented with better ideas for revenue allocation – ironically, just such a thing has happened, letting councils keep a substantially larger amount of local revenues, rather than having to win it back after the fact. But this didn’t come about because of local pressure, nor is there any sign of Labour groups having the willingness or ability to force further such calls though the local authority machinery.

    It’s a political struggle rather than a technical dispute. The specific examples of austerity are the after-effect and not the cause of the Left’s political defeat over the crisis ‘narrative’. We can’t reopen the debate on the technical details without first addressing it politically.

    The margins for manoeuvre available to councils are crucial in human terms, of doing the best we can until there is a more fundamental change, but they cannot be the focus of the movement nationally.

  52. eartheart on said:

    The planet is the ultimate democracy. It shares it’s water and air beyond boundaries. I guess the Green Party philosophy starts from that point and deeply places a unity at the centre and from which diversity flows. Having a fixed pure political line, left or right is against all diversities. While some might argue that left or right can support and create justice and flourishing ultimately the need of the times is going beyond dualism and post modern ideas that brings a bigger vision. The Greens can’t lead the left but I do think they can add to each other and provide a suitable breadth to the left container

  53. eartheart:
    The planet is the ultimate democracy. It shares it’s water and air beyond boundaries. I guess the Green Party philosophy starts from that point and deeply places a unity at the centre and from which diversity flows. Having a fixed pure political line, left or right is against all diversities. While some might argue that left or right can support and create justice and flourishing ultimately the need of the times is going beyond dualism and post modern ideas that brings a bigger vision. The Greens can’t lead the left but I do think they can add to each other and provide a suitable breadth to the left container

    This. This right here is why it can’t be the ‘main party of the left’.

    ‘The planet’ doesn’t do anything. It’s a big ball of iron, oxygen, silicon and magnesium. “It shares its water and air beyond boundaries.” Honestly… You know what you can do? You can think. It’s what makes you objectively better than ‘the planet’. You can share. You’re one of the few bits of matter that is definitively self-aware. So let’s drop the pseudo-mystical stuff and think about ourselves rather than Gaia.

  54. Caroline on said:

    Roy: 38# Happymarx its not about joining the Green Party or the Labour Party or anyone else or even electoral alliances for that matter it about how you put it “The way forward is to be part of the anti-cuts movement, it’s about building unity and making alliances.”In this case its about Councillors who want to be part of and build a campaign that says no to the cuts – in the Trade Unions, communities and also in the council chamber and we have Councilors in the Green Party who want to part of the struggle.

    Guessing but not many in Brighton Roy!

    Interesting debate but come on the Greens are never going to be the main party of the left – they will be around forever in my view but as class struggles develop in the future they will become irrelevant just as they were as the Ecology Party and the People’s Party in the past.

    Nice well meaning people but not based in the working class – as previous posters have said many are nasty anti-working class GREEN Tories!

  55. Geen Piper on said:

    The Green Party and Green Left especially are a real left alternative. ‘Even in Brighton’ they tried to increase Council Tax would be maintaining services if it wasn’t for Pickles and the other parties in Brighton who form a majority.

  56. I actually don’t think the Green Party will be the main party of the left but it will be part of the left and have increasing influence.

    As for TUSC chances it won’t exist by next year as it has clearly failed in its objectives to gain even a limited amount of support and challenge Labour or for that matter the Green Party.

    Its just a shame to see another promising left group fall into the hole over working with other lefts in a supportive and positive sense.

    Tusc is still saying to Labour Councillors who have formed Councillors Against Cuts to join them – Why?

  57. eartheart on said:

    I think the Greens will become a lot more relevant as we break through to see this is one shared problem and that productionist, materialist models have gone past there sell by. As I think Marx said “all that is solid melts into air’. revolutions just go round and round, emergence and evolution takes a steady path forward – the wall is breaking. Put equality and justice into a planetary basis and we will maybe argue together more supportively. As Caroline says at 57, on here, many Greens are nasty working class haters. the same could be said the other way, many working class hate the middle class. The middle and working class all hate the super rich. No winners in hate with this narrative, I feel it strongly as I got beat up every day by the working class kids in my area and see similar bullying going on daily.

  58. eartheart on said:

    Manzil, It is a fair point but I fundamentally think we can’t make the Planet, we didn’t create it and it grounds us to it’s ultimate provisions – all be it we can work our big brains to transform it. I see that no one truly owns it’s air and water and it provides a sort framework of society that shows us all we need to know through a scientific observation of co-operation and interdependence. Mixed with the warmth of our hearts and souls need for meaning and love it all ties together- not sure what else all are frantic activity is for. I know you think this is just hippy shit – I guess that is why I’m not in the socialists so you can impose your rules on me

  59. eartheart,

    I hear what you are saying, and will try to stop being so flippant.

    To an extent our aims coincide – the triumph of cooperation, the realisation of human fulfilment. But I think you ignore that “productionist, materialist models” are not a sickness; they exist because scarcity and deprivation make it impossible for people to find love, warmth, meaning etc.

    At Marx’s funeral, Engels spoke of, “the simple fact, hitherto concealed [...] that mankind must first of all eat, drink, have shelter and clothing, before it can pursue politics, science, art, religion”.

    Ultimately, if I don’t dismiss your views as those of a ‘hippy’, can you accept that my overriding motivation as a socialist is not to ‘control’ you (or anyone else) but to liberate?

    Or as the whales say, AAAAYWOOOoooooOOOOOOOO.

  60. eartheart on said:

    Fair comment, we need the basics as described by Marx or Maslow or Neef and we need to ensure them fairly and for all generations – future one’s to come. I didn’t say the models were a sickness but as a guiding light they have overridden the other even more fundamental bases. If we run down bio-diversity, bees and forests, immunity to drugs, fish stocks charasmatic mega fauna and so forth we will be very lonely even if we have brains and can think.

  61. Well, an interesting piece. I was under the impression that the Green Left had left the party? Obviously I must be wrong, but some individuals in Green Left definitely have. Combine this with the fact that only 100 people have responded to this ‘prioritisation’ survey, and I wonder if the Green Left/Young Greens wil be capable of achieving their goals.

    I see no potential for the GP in its current form to become the main left party, but we should welcome it shifting towards the TU’s and towards the anti-austerity movement. This needs to be a genuine shift however. I was at the Save Sheffield Early Years demo a couple of weeks ago, called in response to a Labour council threatening to close up to 20 nurseries/childrens centres. My local green councillor (who I will never vote for) Rob Murphy made a passionate speech against the plans. I spoke to him afterwards to ask what he would do in the council chamber. He muttered something about “don’t know yet” and said he “might move an amendment’ but gave no further comment. This in a city where the Greens have 2 councillors and are under no pressure to back up opposition to cuts with an actual budget alternative. People like this aren’t going to build a left alternative to Labour.

    What I do believe is becoming clear however is that a socialist/left alternative to Labour will be built. That will likely involve TUSC, Councillors Against the Cuts and the Green Left, among others, and I welcome the recognition that this is needed. I’m curious as to how Andy and Tony see the Councillors Against Cuts initiative panning out btw, and whether they support it.

    PS Someone earlier suggested it was ridiculous that TUSC had asked the Hull and S’hampton councillors to join us. Please bear in mind that it is likely that these councillors will be expelled from Labour, so I see this as entirely correct. Better for them to join an existing coalition and help to build it than to set up another grouping, surely?

  62. brainwash on said:

    #58 – Green Piper ; The first person to point out the important fact that everyone else is pretending not to know in order to score cheap points ; The Greens don’t run Brighton and Hove Council in a meaningful way – we are in a small minority and can do nothing without other Parties. When the cuts budget was set Labour were in an arrangement with the Greens which they reneged on at the last minute – Labour were happy to see jobs and services cut if someone else got the blame.

    I do not support the actions of Green Councillors in Brighton or Bristol and there have been heated debates at Conferences about the position to take where we have the balance of power – the left motions usually get around 30-40% at these times and hopefully we getting the tipping point now where we can win vital policy resolutions (no-one in the Labour Party , the SP or the SWP will understand this concept of debate at Conference or Conference deciding policy and direction).

    The Greens have a federal structure which means it can vary between Cities and suburbs for example (or between North and South). It can be frustrating being on the left of the Green Party but it is far more rewarding than the alternatives.

    Here in Sheffield the Greens scored 10% of the City wide vote and if we had PR would hold the balance of power. I stood in May and got 6 times the vote of TUSC whilst standing on a clear anti-cuts programme. As for Sam at #67 proudly announcing that he would never vote for Rob Murphy , a left wing , working class Councillor for one of the poorest areas of the City . well that must give you a nice revolutionary glow but meanwhile the working class people of Rob’s ward increased his majority in May i am glad to say.

    There are some fair comments made on this thread , and some fair criticisms of the Greens,but there are also the usual lazy stereotypes. To be clear the Greens don’t believe there is a case for any cuts – we believe that radical policies on tax and redistribution can remove the need for austerity entirely.

  63. james? on said:

    Jay,im interested to know what friends you have and why they are on brink of expulsion from the green party? are you sure this is the case greens are normally pretty wimpy on expulsion very hard to get expelled from the green party. i can give you public examples, Johnathan Porrit on national radio attacking the party for opposing the olympic bid saying it was the no fun party (he was a member and did not say this 2, peter tatchell calling for a vote for lib dems outside of brighton and norwich as he thought this would get pr again no action. im unwilling to give examples i know using non-celebrity people.
    jay blackwood,

  64. @ Brainwash

    Wow. And here we were all saying how nice the greens are. You’re a bit bloody rude aren’t you?

    First of all: The SP have debates and votes at our conferences too, you aren’t special. I resent the cheap insinuation that only the Greens practice democracy at conference.

    Secondly: You’ve made a big thing of the fact I won’t vote for Rob Murphy. Tell me why I should. In particular, tell me why it’s ok for Rob to speak at an anti-cuts demo, slag off the labour council publically, and then privately admit he would do exactly the same thing. I don’t care how left wing or working class you say he is, I want to know what you think makes Rob more progressive than a Labour councillor. I’d love to vote for him as up to now TUSC has not stood in Central ward. But I need reasons.

    I thought my post was entirely fraternal. This time, spare me the sarcasm, bring me some politics, ok?

  65. james?,

    According to GreenLeaks on Twitter Two People from the GreenLeft have already been expelled under peculiar circumstances -

    GreenLeaksUK‏@GreenLeaksUK

    Guillotined.Mark Anthony France defending #gpew as party of Left expelled from party.http://socialistunity.com/can-the-green-party-become-the-main-party-of-the-left/ … Purge of Green Left supporters?

    1hGreenLeaksUK‏@GreenLeaksUK

    @greengranma Guillotined.Anne Greagsby expelled from #gpew GPRC for criticising #Wales GP leader Pippa Jagalotti elected leader on 27 votes

    So it would appear that it is also the stereotype of a ‘Libertarian’ Internal Democracy inside the Green Party is out of date… ?

  66. james?: Jay,im interested to know what friends you have and why they are on brink of expulsion from the green party? are you sure this is the case greens are normally pretty wimpy on expulsion very hard to get expelled from the green party. i can give you public examples, Johnathan Porrit on national radio attacking the party for opposing the olympic bid saying it was the no fun party (he was a member and did not say this 2, peter tatchell calling for a vote for lib dems outside of brighton and norwich as he thought this would get pr again no action. im unwilling to give examples i know using non-celebrity people.

    I’m in the same situation as regards not wanting to name names because we’re talking grass-roots members not celebs. I don’t want to exaggerate this issue, this relates to three people in different districts who’ve told me that their lives are being made difficult because of their hard anti-cuts stance and who feel this will come to a head at some point. Equally problematic is that left activists can feel isolated and/or ostracized in the GP – this certainly happened in Bristol with one member (now I think ex) who was given a hard time because of her attempts to highlight what she saw as the party’s difficulties in relating to working class people. She was sidelined and treated as a bit of a pariah. My own experience locally was also a bit negative; with a few honourable exceptions the fact that I joined as a Green Left supporter resulted in me getting blanked by some of the more prominent branch members. Ironically I’ve had more a dialogue with them since I’ve left and become a vocal critic of the local party!!! [My post appears to have crossed with Mark's...not sure what the import of his comment is at this stage?]

  67. jay blackwood,

    hi Jay,

    I was just quoting @GreenLeaks on twitter apparently I have been expelled from the Green Party ! I am not sure of the import of this or wether it is true. I do know that Anne Greasby GreenLeft activistist in Wales have had her expulsion confirmed… It seems that Green Party dispute proceedures are begining to mimic the worst excesses of the SWP!

  68. Hi Sam, I was also at that demo, and because as a Green Party member I know Robs views also know you have tried to misrepresent him. Why do that ! You have done that because you don’t support the Green Party, thats all, no moral reason, just party politics. This sort of silly attempt at misrepresentation is why “the left” will continue to squabble amongst themselves and Cameron and crew continue to wreak havoc. Its taken a long time but I have finally and very sadly come to realise that many of those who think they are on “the left” are as much of a problem as those Lib-Dems who still think Clegg is doing the right thing. That is very depressing but this thread more than any other Ive had the misfortune to read recently illustrates it clearly. You want Cameron to dismantle the welfare state, sell off the NHS ? Well carry on like this then.

  69. Rachel,

    Hi Rachel
    The left certainly is in bit of a state and misrepresenting others on the left seems to be a common problem. But if the Green Party is to grow and build it’s support in working class communities don’t you feel it needs to get it’s own house in order? It seems that in some areas of the country committed Green Party Activists are being driven out or disciplined via Kaftkaesque processess that are hidden from the wider membership… is the Green Party in danger of following the worst excesses of New Labour and sectarian groups on the socialist left in terms of it’s internal regime?

  70. #68 brainwash and especially #74 Rachel.

    Don’t you see your attitude could quite easily be coming from some right-wing Labourite? “You want Cameron to dismantle the welfare state, sell off the NHS ? Well carry on like this then.” Seriously? There have been plenty of polite, substantive and reasonable criticisms of the Green Party, and the only response has been defensiveness and sectarianism. The Green Party is not owed anyone’s support – and certainly not on the basis of ‘well if you don’t, the Tories will win’. Let me tell you a secret: if anyone was going to play that tune successfully, it would be the Labour Party.

    #71/73. Blimey, you’ve been expelled? What did you (supposedly) do?

    And wait, Pippa Bartolotti is the bloody leader of the Welsh GP?! Wasn’t she the one who said “from the university of life I have learned that Jews often have a conflict of interest” towards Israel, argued the Foreign Office should investigate the “loyalty” of its “Jewish Zionist” ambassador, who did that odd article about “the joy of old friends and the cold steel of the backstabber” on Liberal Conspiracy, and sugested that “if parents chose to fulfil the prophesy of multi generational laziness their benefits would be replaced by vouchers which could only be spent in one place”? Some party of the left.

  71. Manzil,

    I don’t know why I been expelled in fact it might be a rumour but Anne Greasby from Cardiff Has been expelled is seems precisely for opposing Pippa Bartolotti – surely GreenLeft Activists need to wake up and smell the coffee! If they don’t then the desire of young green student activists like Josiah Mortimer for the Green Party to become the main party of the left will be thwarted a lot quicker than they could have imagined.

  72. Anne Greasby is using Twitter to call for a Right of Appeal against her expulsion from the Green Party…
    I don’t know the details of her ‘case’ as usual all this stuff is hidden in the murkey world of ‘confidentiality’ and ‘closed sessions’ of what sounds like ‘kangaroo courts’ – Anne deserves the support of all socialists and trade unionists who believe in the concept of Naturarl Justice…
    Here is what Anne posted on Twitter 15mins ago
    Anne‏@greengranma

    “@CarolineLucas want right to appeal against being expelled from gpew GPRC 4criticising WalesGP PippaJagalotti elected leader on 27votes”

  73. Sorry to hear about these latest developments Mark. Keep me posted and if there’s anything I can do to help contact me off list. You were one of the people I was thinking of funnily enough when I posted my earlier comment… :O(

  74. Geen Piper: The Green Party and Green Left especially are a real left alternative.

    Well, I’m a member of both the Green Party and Green Left and even I think that is nonsense. The Green Party is not that movement that has to be built, but that it can and should aspire to play a crucial role in its creation. Whether it will or not is quite another thing.

    The fact is that the Green Party is, depending on which way round you prefer to look at it, either a petty bougeoise environmentalist party that has increasingly moved towards a left(ish) social democratic position over the past few years, or a left(ish) social democratic party with strong environmentalist and lifestylist traditions. As a result of the ongoing fragmentation of the the far left and especially the steady erosion of socialists from the Labour Party since 1997 (and especially since 2003), the Green Party has become a sort of Sargasso Sea into which some hundreds of isolated socialists have drifted.

    Some of those have become influenced by the concept of ecosocialism promoted by people like Joel Kovel and John Bellamy Foster and have coalesced into Green Left, which describes itself as the ecosocialist current within the Green Party. They have concerned themselves largely with the task of ‘making greens redder and reds greener’.

    While they are by no means the only comrades to adopt either the label ‘ecosocialist’ or to see their role as bringing together class politics and an awareness of the ecological crisis being visited on us by capitalism, I think that they (I’m too modest to say we) have played a modest but useful part in both raising the awareness of environmental concerns on the far left and challenging the old productivist philistinism of the much of it. At the same time, it has played a significant part in moving the locus of debate in the Green Party noticeably to the left – even if the Green Party’s programmatic radicalism is, like all social democratic groups, largely rhetorical.

    So is there a potential leading role for the Green Party in a renewed and revivified Left? Of course not – but despite the best efforts of our comrades in the Labour Party, that is a dead end too. And of course, the same is true for all the little sects of the far left, from the SWP down (that’s only downwards in size of course, nobody would want to be high on the only list the the SWP comes top of).

  75. jay blackwood:
    Sorry to hear about these latest developments Mark. Keep me posted and if there’s anything I can do to help contact me off list. You were one of the people I was thinking of funnily enough when I posted my earlier comment… :O(

    Thanks Jay – I await with bated breath for a letter from the Green Party CEO David Murray to see what my fate is! Will keep you informed comrade. Now I shall have to leave virtual reality for a while I have to do my ‘paper round’ [I deliever the local freebee The Bromsgrove Standard one of my part time poverty pay jobs]

    Sean Thompson: So is there a potential leading role for the Green Party in a renewed and revivified Left? Of course not – but despite the best efforts of our comrades in the Labour Party, that is a dead end too. And of course, the same is true for all the little sects of the far left, from the SWP down (that’s only downwards in size of course, nobody would want to be high on the only list the the SWP comes top of).

    bit pessimistic sean! maybe the one sentance off the cuff remark by the green piper about the Green Party and the Green Left ‘are a real alternative’ can also incorporate a more optomistic puralistic understanding that there is more than just one alternativ pole of attraction for those who are joining together to fight austerity and for a sustainable fairer future for all on the planet… anyway must dash!

  76. Peter Garbutt on said:

    Left, Right, who’s counting? The vast majority of voters and non-voters in the country aren’t. The “left” haven’t been able to produce a sufficiently compelling narrative to mobilise them; most of them have been lulled by Capitalism into thinking that “stuff” is what they want and indeed need for self-definition.
    But we know that life can’t go on like this. Yes, the Green Party recognises that the environmental damage that’s leading to catastrophic Climate Change has the same cause as the obscene and growing inequalities within our country and between countries, but it’s not Capitalism, unlike the rest of the Left (which is why the label “Left” is so woolly). No, it’s not Capitalism, it’s Growth. Since most of the “left” seeks growth as avidly as Capitalists; and since the “left” has been dominated by Marxist-Leninists, who are Centralists and would therefore merely replace Free Market Capitalism with State Capitalism; and since that faction is allowed almost no room for criticism of their leadership, let alone imagination where policy and implementation are concerned; it seems that their criticisms of the way we do things in the Green Party are fairly pointless. Greens AREN’T Centralists, we DO allow for imagination, we DON’T rely on decades-old texts for guidance. Perhaps, because they themselves do not engage in electoral politics, they have looked on us as the Electoral wing of the “left”, and been disappointed when we haven’t instituted a Marxist-Leninist regime when successful. But we’re not that at all. WE must be clear about that, as well as THEM. What we’re seeking is a greater equality, that will benefit ALL in our society; and to avert immediate disaster from Climate Change. There are plenty of other points which feed into those twin aims, and they also inform most areas of policy. For that reason, Josiah is right when he suggests the proposed amendment to our Philosophical Basis is a necessary one. But it doesn’t place us any more or less firmly on the “left”.

  77. Peter Garbutt,

    Hey Peter I just hear via a Tory Party member in Bromsgrove that I bumped into in the street that I have been ‘Expelled’ from the Green Party – Apparently I can expect a letter from the Green Party CEO but will have no right of Appeal…
    It seems that the Green Party is ‘Purging’ people like me?
    I still do not know what the allegations against me are > I have never been given a chance to respond to any allegations.. the case was heard at a ‘closed session’ of the GreenPartyRegionalCouncil and it seems the news got to the local Tory party before I am informed of the result of this kangaroo court….
    Yes lets forget left and right for a moment… and concentrate on the concept of JUSTICE…. The Green PARTY claims to champion Social Justice yet seems to support witchunts and social exclusion of members who are socialists.

  78. mark anthony france: The Green PARTY claims to champion Social Justice yet seems to support witchunts and social exclusion of members who are socialists.

    You may well have been too good for them. Good luck for the future.

  79. Manzil on said:

    Peter Garbutt: But it doesn’t place us any more or less firmly on the “left”.

    No, I think the one thing we can agree on is, there’s nothing remotely left-wing about you.

    Love,

    The Unimaginative Centralists for Marxist-Leninist Growth

  80. mark anthony france,

    mark anthony france: bit pessimistic sean!

    I’m not being pessimistic – well, no more than I have been for the past fifty years, but I am trying to counteract the tendency towards hubris that all socialist groupings are prone to. Even if the sectarianism being demonstrated is the naive and unaware form so common among Green Party members, sectarianism is the toxin that has infected and almost fatally weakened our movement for the whole of my political lifetime.

    I don’t believe that any existing political formation is the actual or potential nucleus of the mass socialist party ‘of a new kind’ that we so desperately need – certainly not the Green Party. However, like all the other groupings on the left, the Green Party (or at least, significant sections of it) have the potential to play a valuable role in its eventual creation and could bring something enriching to it. So I still think that it is worthwhile for socialists to work in the Green Party at the moment. For how much longer that might be true is a moot point.

  81. @ Rachel

    You’ve accused me of misrepresenting Rob’s position. Fair enough, but if you’re going to say that then you should explain why. You were at the demo. You heard Rob speak against the cuts to childcare services (Not against all cuts-in the few conversations I have had with Rob he has repeatedly told me that he believes that cuts need to be made). When I had a private conversation with him (which I assume you weren’t party to, unless he repeated it to you) he could not explain to me what he would do differently to the Labour council. That is the only criticism of him I have made, although I would add to that by saying that his belief that some cuts are neccessary is a
    problem for me.

    Please explain to me how I have misrepresented him, or failing that, please apologise. I am being civil to you, please return the favour.

    @Manzil Exactly. For the greens to claim the space to the left of labour, they would need to differentiate themselves.

  82. Sam: (Not against all cuts-in the few conversations I have had with Rob he has repeatedly told me that he believes that cuts need to be made).

    Surely that would depend on which cuts – would you weep about CE’s taking a pay cut?

  83. Nick Foster on said:

    I was one of the Bristol Greens who quit, it was not entirely due to participation in a cuts cabinet, but an increasing realisation that with the honorable exception of Green Left members and a few others, the Green Party lack’s the correct analysis of how capitalism works and what I consider to be an over optimistic view that nice clever people can make a difference in our hollow ‘democracy’

  84. @ SA Sorry, for clarification, what he told me was he believed that some cuts in local services were neccessary. Yes I’d probs be up for cutting CE pay, though to be honest I have no idea how much they’re on in Sheffield.

    @Rachel and Brainwash

    No apology or clarification then? Internet nastiness is one thing, but it’s even worse when it comes from people who’ve probably met you on local demo’s, and been perfectly polite in person. Oh well.

  85. brainwash on said:

    #91 – You really haven’t been insulted or the victim of any nastiness. You asked for some “politics” earlier when i took issue of your decision not to vote Green in a marginal seat that we hold. Surely to vote for the only Party standing that is opposed to the cuts programme was enough? If you think the Greens in Sheffield are not to the left of Labour locally then i don’t know what you are looking at. A Labour Council here is carrying out the cuts programme without a wimper and we are part of the anti-cuts movement. When the SP lost their only remaining Councillor nationally in May the Greens did not stand in Coventry to give Dave Nellist the best possible chance of holding his seat. In contrast you talk of TUSC “not yet” standing in your ward.

  86. @Brainwash

    Well I’ve been accused of deliberately mis-representing Rob Murphy with no explanation of why, and I don’t find that particularly fraternal. Furthermore I think you’re now misrepresenting his position by describing him as an anti-cuts councillor. My point was that he was unable to say what he would do diffferently to Labour. I agree what Labour are doing in Sheffield is disgraceful but I still don’t know what the Greens would do differently. You can’t simply declare yourself part of the anti-cuts movement-you need to justify that in strategy and in practice.

    I certainly welcome the Greens deciding not to stand against Dave Nellist in Coventry-it was a recognition of his good work and a positive fraternal gesture. I’m not suggesting we will stand against Greens in Sheffield in the future neccessarily. But if the Greens aren’t able to differentiate themselves from Labour (whom we do stand against) why shouldn’t we?

  87. Saltley Gates on said:

    In Leeds 2 yrs ago Green Councillors voted with Labour Councillors
    to close a vital Mental Health Crisis Centre and other Mental Health Day Centers
    That is how radical the Greens and Labour are.

  88. Pingback: Why I am in the Green Party | Captain Jack

  89. I agree that no currently-existing party represents the future of the British Left – if it has a future that is.

    The Greens making cuts in brighton was why I left the party. But then at least the Greens aren’t setting up biased alternative systems of justice for people who claimed they’ve been raped….

  90. http://www.greenparty.org.uk/conference

    Please come along to conference at the University of Nottingham if you can (It’s cheaper if you book online). It’s this Friday 22nd till the 25th of February 2013.

    Thanks for the Great article.

    Yes it’s true Greens are voting for cuts in Nottingham but they have 2 councillors and Neo Labour have like a gazillion and 3 trade-unionist MPs.

    Also can I just add that the motion refered to in the article passed by Young Greens own constitutional assembly put the environment first. Clause 4 reads “To assert the right of people of any nation to define the economic system they live under and to assert with pride the principle of democratic control of resources.” (much to the annoyance of a certain member whose twitter moaned that the word “democracy” is an insult)

    Ben from the Nottingham Young Greens

  91. Pingback: “The Real Enemy?” Why We Should Reject Left Unity as a Concept

  92. Red Scouser on said:

    As an older SP member myself who helped on this campaign during the last General Election, I would like to remind you all of the comrades from the Greens and various local Socialist and Trade Unionist factions who agreed to unite behind one anti-cuts candidate. It seems the campaign site is still online http://davidhenryppc.wordpress.com/election-campaign/

    The image that the Green Party is rather out of touch in urban/northern areas is understandable, but in place where they have worked on the left, with the left of every sect it has worked remarkably well.

    What an utter shame people’s petty hang-ups overshadow any tiny success the left ever has working together in an example of genuine ‘left unity’ cannot be repeated. I have come to the conclusion this is a generational curse, and my own generation (those over 40 I mean you) are typical antagonists when it comes to responding childishly to calls to “unite at all costs”.

  93. As the Green Party Gathers in Nottingham to celebrate its 40th Anniversay I have written a post for this website which i hope the esteemed editorial team will publish later today.
    The question posed by Josiah Mortimer is ‘Can the Green Party become the main party of the left’
    My answer is Not a Cat in Hells chance if the Green Party treats it hard working activists the way 1st world war Generals treated the troops they sent into battle. A mutiny of ordinary Green Party members is needed to save the party from inevitable decline collapse and irrelevance.

  94. Pingback: “Ο πραγματικός εχθρός;” Γιατί θα πρέπει να απορρίψουμε την αριστερή ενότητα ως σχέδιο | ΑIXMH