From Red to Green

green_partyIn a Guardian online column (22 Sep 06) Peter Thatchell argues that the real radical alternative to Labour in Britain is now the Green Party. The same applies in Australia. Thatchell supports the formation of a Green Left within the British party, combining anti-capitalism with ecological sustainability. In Britain [and in Australia], the Greens are well to the left of Labour, with their " radical agenda for grassroots democracy, social justice, human rights, global equity, environmental protection, peace and internationalism."

The objective of the Green Left is to build on this progressive agenda and nudge the Greens further leftwards. In our view, this will lead to an empowering political paradigm for human liberation that offers the most credible alternative to Labour and the best hope for radical left advance.

Recognising the productivist, growth-driven limitations of traditional socialism, we are not a leftwing Trojan horse within the Greens. Quality of life and fair shares for all are more important than the left’s often simplistic agenda of spending more on health and education.

The Green Left believes government needs to radically rethink basic premises, like shifting the focus in [public health] from curative medicine to preventative care. Our aim should be policies to help ensure that far fewer people get sick in the first place, rather than merely throwing more money at people once they get ill.

In other words, we are of the left and open to the left, but we also realise the left has to change, in order to meet people’s needs and to ensure the survival of life on this planet. Old style socialist politics need to give way to new style eco-socialism: green anti-capitalism.

This is crunch time for progressive politics. Labour has lost its heart and soul. The party leadership has sacrificed socialist values and policies for short-term political gain. It has pandered to prejudice and irrationality on issues like asylum, drugs, terrorism, Europe and crime.
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No political party lasts forever. Even the most progressive party eventually decays or turns reactionary. Labour’s great, historic achievement was the creation of the welfare state. The current party leadership is in the process of privatising it. I joined Labour because I wanted social justice and human rights for all. My values and aspirations remain the same. Labour’s have changed fundamentally and irreversibly—rightwards and for the worse. Reclaiming Labour for socialism is a fine aspiration, but about as likely as winning the German SPD back to the Marxism it ditched in the 1950s.
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The real radical alternative is now the Greens. After two decades of moving from right to left, the Green party now occupies the progressive political space once held by leftwing Labour; with the added bonus of a far-sighted agenda to save the planet from ecological catastrophes like climate change.
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Unlike the traditional left, with its superficial environmentalism, Greens understand there is no point campaigning for social justice if we don’t have a planet capable of sustaining life. Ecological sustainability is the precondition for a just society.
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Working with the Greens, the Australian trade unions have enforced ‘green bans’ on environmentally-destructive developments. This shows the potential for workers and greens to cooperate for the betterment of all. There are now lots of radical socialists who, like me, have joined the Greens and enhanced our leftwing politics with an ecological agenda. We get a sympathetic hearing too. The party is moving left.

Although the Greens are not perfect (is any party perfect?), its implicitly anti-capitalist agenda gives practical expression to socialist ideas. Very importantly, ordinary members are empowered to decide policy. The Greens are a grassroots democratic party, where activism is encouraged and where members with ideals and principles are valued.

There is a credible anti-capitalist party—the Greens. They already have seats and could win many more if leftwingers and progressive social movements united together in the Green party. The Greens have plenty of potential to become an influential electoral force.
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The great virtue of the Green party is that it is a grassroots democratic party, controlled by the ordinary membership and with no power elite or embedded hierarchy.
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The potential is there. Seize it. Now is the time for reds to go green.