Anyone who encountered the Green Party during the recent local elections will be aware of their incoherent and even janus-like politics, claiming to transcend “traditional” left-right divisions and appealing to everyone from Labour voters disillusioned with Blairism to Tories with a “social conscience”. Where they have gained local influence, the Greens’ record has been far from radical, sustaining right-wing townhall coalitions (Lib Dem in Oxford, Lib Dem-Tory in Leeds) which have carried out cuts and privatisations with at least as much zeal as New Labour.
On the other hand, the Green Party has attracted some respect-worthy left-wingers such as gay rights activist Peter Tatchell. It is therefore interesting to note that a group of left-wing Green activists are attempting to launch an explicitly “socialist” platform in the party under the name Green Revolution [it was later renamed Green Left].
This enterprise is still, evidently, at an embryonic stage, since GR does not even have a website yet. However, its founding statement, signed by a handful of Green Party notables, can be found on the Socialist Unity Network website. It is worth a look, if only to consider the problems.
According to the statement, GR is a “network for socialists and other radicals” in the Green Party, which will also “act as an outreach body that will communicate the Party’s radical policies to socialists and other anti-capitalists outside the Party”. It also sets itself the aim of “building links with radical greens and ecosocialists across the planet”.
It “encourages transparency, accountability and engagement in all organs of the party”, arguing for a “political organisation where the principles of the membership are paramount and not a ‘top down’ one where a self-designated political elite decide on policies and principles”. Similarly it argues that the structures of the European Green Party “must be democratised”.
According to GR, “Green politics needs to be based on dynamic campaigning and hard intellectual ground work to create workable alternatives.” At the same time, the group will work for “coherent alignments and open discussion with progressive anti-capitalists” and seek to “enhance Green Party contributions to demonstrations, marches and other solidarity events.”
The political basis of GR is “the assumption that capitalism is a system that wrecks the planet and promotes war. A green society must be based on social justice. GR in short works to promote ecosocialism as a solution to our planetary ills.” To its immense credit, GR “will not compromise on of human rights including issues of gay and lesbian rights and women’s liberation”.
The main problem is obviously that the statement is so vague. None of the political terms used are clearly defined; no clear goals are set either in relation to the Green Party itself or wider social struggles. No doubt it could and will be rewritten to add more detail and sharpen things up phraseologically. But the real problem is political. Those involved are clearly sincere in their opposition to capitalism and their desire for a better world, but they seem to have no real conception of what “socialism” might mean.
The working class, exploitation, the labour movement, trade unions etc do not figure at all. Neither does collective ownership or even social provision. All this suggests that for Green Revolution “socialism” is more a catchphrase for good causes in general than a vision of the democratic transformation of society, by workers, from below.
The closing paragraph of the GR statement claims their “ecosocialist” tradition stretches back to the pioneering work of William Morris in Britain’s first socialist organisations. But in fact Morris was not a “green”, but a Marxist fighting to build a working-class socialist party. I hope that the AWL and other Marxists will be able to establish a real, friendly dialogue with GR — but to do so we must be open about our criticisms.
• For the full statement, see: