The Greens and the Left

tippingpointahead-sign-readyThis is a guest post from my brother Leo Murray, creator of the climate change animation Wake Up, Freak Out – then Get a Grip and various others. We’re in broad agreement about most things.

Interesting times! Today, Green Party membership has overtaken both UKIP and the Lib Dems (editor’s note: this was first written on the 16th of January; four days later the total membership figure for UK Green parties is now over 53,000 and rising):

Greens:    44,713
UKIP:        41,943
Lib Dems: 44,526

You may well have noticed David Cameron’s recently announced cynical position on the TV debates, which is obviously about ensuring that if he has to contend with UKIP then Labour should have to contend with Greens.

There are some very interesting implications from all of this. The Tories have recognised the opportunity the rise of UKIP represents for their own agenda, and leveraged it to shift the middle ground of political discourse in the UK over to the right.

Meanwhile the Labour party, having now only really a barely recognisable semblance of left wing politics or representing labour (= workers) following their total acquiescence to neoliberal economic doctrine under Tony Blair, have had the opposite reaction to the rise in popularity of the Greens – they are shitting themselves, and acutely aware that the Green Party are basically embarrassing them on a daily basis by being proper socialists, and showing up Labour as the rootless flunkies of neoliberal capital interests that they have become.

Unlike the Tories, whose core agenda of dismantling the welfare state, advancing corporate power and protecting capital and elite interests remains unchanged, and have hence been able to use UKIP to help advance this agenda, Labour (at least, the Labour high command, notwithstanding questions about Miliband himself) no longer have any agenda at the core to advance.

Consequently, Labour have entirely missed the opportunity to use Green support (including in Parliament itself via Caroline Lucas) to move the middle ground of political debate to the left. I don’t think they ever saw it as an opportunity! Instead of welcoming a Green voice in the Commons as an ally in the same broad agenda, Labour have chosen to throw everything they have at un-seating Caroline Lucas from Brighton – it’s one of their top target seats! Not a Tory seat, not a Lib Dem seat, but the only serving MP to the left of Labour. They’ve also appointed Sadiq Khan to mount a fightback against the Green vote, and this week got Miliband to sign a letter to broadcasters – an identical letter to the one written by Nigel Farage – saying the TV debates should go ahead with or without Cameron, with no mention of the Green Party.

BUT because of the way politics works here, Labour do recognise the threat the Greens pose to their vote share, and it is already forcing them to make concessions to scramble to hold onto the left wing voter base in the UK.

It is also the case that the BBC and others’ position on the TV debates is starting to look increasingly perverse and untenable now that the Greens actually have more party members than either UKIP or LibDems, both of whom feature heavily in this stuff.
There are some vital tactical considerations for everyone involved in the struggle for social and environmental justice in the UK at this critical juncture. Whether or not you regard the Green Party as an effective vehicle for change here in more general terms (the jury is out – perfectly legitimate to think not!), if there was ever a moment to actually sign up to join the Green Party, it is right now. Even for those of us who are wholly committed to anarchist principles and ideals, there are extremely good tactical reasons for believing that simply adding your name to the Green Party membership at this particular moment in time will help undermine our enemies and take us closer to the kind of world we are working towards creating. And quite apart from all of the party and Westminster political implications of all this, there is a brilliant opportunity here to change popular perceptions of the political makeup of British society.

Leo’s conclusion is that as many people as possible on the British left should be joining the Greens (or Scottish Greens). I would also add to that if you disagree with their characterisation of the Green Party of England and Wales and the Scottish Greens as ‘minor parties’, it would be worth responding to the OfCom consultation on their official guidelines and the BBC’s draft guidelines on electoral coverage. You might also like to contact other media companies directly to protest the exclusion of Greens and other relatively radical voices from debates and coverage.

3 thoughts on “The Greens and the Left

  1. This is a great post. From my still relatively fresh California vantage point, it seems like the Democrats have a similar problem, albeit without a viable Green Party to show them up (for now). It feels like the compromises that left-leaning parties made to become mainstream a generation ago are causing foundational problems now that global politics are lurching to the right (due to resource constraints and other factors) and a true alternative is needed.

    As ever, I wonder if it’s time to overhaul the way representative democracy works. Our current processes are left over from a world where communication and direct representation were hard, and so there are multiple levels of abstraction away from voters. What would it look like to create a more compressed, connected political system? I’m not necessarily advocating this – for one thing, the power of propaganda would grow exponentially – but it’s interesting to think about.

    1. Hi Ben, thanks for that! I get the sense that the USA is even more entrenched in its toxic two-party dynamic than the UK has been in our lifetimes; I still remember the bitterness over their Greens taking away votes for the Democrats a few elections back to possibly tip it in favour of the Republicans.

      There’s a lot to be said against direct democracy; most people are not well-informed about most things, and never could be, as long as we also have to work and so on. Actually, that’s a fairly good argument against representative democracy too! For a while now I’ve been leaning towards a combination of much greater, probably more direct localised and economic democracy, with sortition (lottocracy) for national governments. Select a few hundred people at random, give them a year or so to get up to speed with the issues, let them run things for a few years, select a few hundred more. Something along the lines of jury service, though I think it probably shouldn’t be compulsory.

      Possibly have one elected house, and one randomly selected one. Something like that.

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