The Green Party has really increased its profile in recent years, particularly among Britain's youth. This has led to a progression in the number of Greens and environmentalists at all sorts of demos, and they've managed to make their anti-war sentiment well known. Beyond this, their stances on issues such as gay and lesbian rights, top-up fees and multinationals have meant that they've been able to attract a number of young people, disaffected by the mainstream parties, looking for a group which can voice their anger at the problems in our society.
The fact that the traditional Left, most visibly in the form of Galloway's RESPECT party, has failed to take a consistent stance on these issues means that the Socialist movement has lost a lot of potential supporters. While under Thatcherism they might have turned to the Labour party as a progressive movement, under New Labour (rebadged Thatcherism), the Greens are the party of choice, and the idea that injustice stems from capitalism has largely been forgotten.
Peter Tatchell, a campaigner for human and gay rights and a member of the Green Party, claimed in the Guardian that "Green is the new Red", arguing that Socialists had to recognise that the only realistic choice was to throw their weight behind that party. A former key figure on the Labour Left, Tatchell left the party in 2000. Given that the Labour party has abandoned even the pretence of Socialism, and the RESPECT coalition refuses to take a stance on important social rights issues which could put off their target group, "the Muslim community", it seems that he has a point. The British Left has been in decline for years, and it might seem like time to give up on revolution and settle for reform.
School students are clearly starting to think the same way – a mock election in UK schools gave the Greens 6 times more votes than they got in the real thing. It's hardly surprising, though – they were the only party which stood up for key social justice demands such as sexual freedom, rejecting top-up fees and restricting the power of multinationals. RESPECT does claim to support sexual freedom, although it's hard to believe given that the party does not stand for full abortion rights, while it doesn't exactly advertise a pro-gay rights position to its (mainly Muslim) voters. So it seems like environmentalists, not Socialists, are the ones who care about social justice and a progressive society.
This is, however, where the appeal of the Greens stops. While it's easy to appreciate their ambition of a more liberal, caring way of life, how exactly they plan to make this happen is a mystery. While they can win 2 of the UK's 78 seats in the European parliament, there is little scope for enlargement – even Europe's largest Green party, in Germany, had only 8.6% of the vote in their last General Election. Given that a party which wishes to cut down on industry is not going to win Trade Union support, and won't get funding from big business, it has no chance of winning over the mass of the population to its cause.
Even worse for them, until Britain takes up Proportional Representation to share out Parliament seats, they have the impossible task of winning the majority of people in individual constituencies in order to have a voice in the House of Commons. Despite receiving 1% of votes in the General Election (4 times more than RESPECT), the Greens didn't come close to winning a single seat. In truth, they are little more than a pressure group – while they are a 'respectable' party, they hardly keep Tony Blair awake at night. Amusingly, the Young Greens' slogan is "doing more than dreaming", even though it's hard to see what else they're doing, as they don't even produce a paper. Perhaps they feel that their tactic of selling organic flapjacks at anti-war demos is the best way to "give Blair a bloody nose".
But, I hear you cry, are Socialists any better than this? Do they pose an obstacle to corporate might? The answer is of course that, at the moment, the British Left is at a real low. However, unlike with the Greens, Socialism has an 'inherent' support base, since members of the Trade Unions, the organised section of the working class, are bound to want the working class control of the economy which only Socialist politics can offer. It is only a matter of time before an organised party of Socialists can build ties with the Unions as they become dissatisfied with New Labour, like the Scottish Socialist Party has done.
As Tatchell has written, the Left's failure to form a party which stood up for issues such as gay and women's rights or the environment has been a big error. This failure has been particularly acute among young voters, who consider progressive social values like these to be extremely important. But Socialism really is the answer to all these issues, since Socialism will be the freest, most democratic society, fully rejecting reactionary attitudes and thinking beyond the desire to take profits. Therefore, it's clear that it is the Greens who should be adopting the ideas of Socialism, and not the other way round.
To explain further, let's ask why business doesn't care for the environment, and pollutes like mad. Is it because the wealthy hate nature and are deliberately wreaking havoc against wildlife? No. Is global warming only going to happen because the Kyoto Treaty hasn't been ratified? No – this treaty will merely postpone the worst effects by about 6 years. The real answer to saving the environment is not by seeking reforms to curb the worst excesses of the biggest corporations. Like all centre-left politics, 'reforming' capitalism is simply an attempt to attack the symptoms rather than remove the underlying problem.
Capitalism will never give up profit-making just to be nice to birds, trees and animals. If environmentalists really want to save the planet, they must first realise that the reason businesses and states won't reduce emissions is because it damages profits too much. Since capitalism only ever seeks immediate profit, never long-term social benefit, the answer is clearly to change exactly this system. Socialism will be a society where sustainability is high on the agenda, where the people, unlike business, will value the Earth and not sell it down the river for the sake of cutting corners and saving money. Without the profit motive and the bourgeois state that protects it, the public attitude to how we treat the environment will be entirely different.
Those who are becoming politically aware should realise that the only consistent opponents of inequality, injustice and oppression are Socialists, and that they are also the only ones who provide a viable alternative to a reactionary state. The Greens may have opposed the war, but they do not seek to get rid of capitalism, which causes imperialism. They stand for sexual freedom, but not for secularism and the disestablishment of the outmoded views which prevent it. They wish to stop corporations destroying the planet, but have failed to see the underlying need to remove the power of big business altogether.
Rather than participating in a pressure group with a vast number of opinions on how we can lessen the damage capitalism causes, we should take a deeper understanding and look at the root cause of the problems which affect us. There is no doubt that environmentalists, or even Greens such as Peter Tatchell, are well-intentioned, but by failing to see the bigger picture, they detract support from groups which could actually effect the necessary overhaul of society. Green ideas lack depth because they don't analyse the underlying problem – to make change, they must be Socialist.