Will Duckworth in Scottish Socialist on-line magazine ‘The Point’ on Ecosocialism

Eco Socialism – a personal perspective


Why I am a member of the Green Left

Cllr. Will Duckworth – Deputy Leader of the Green Party in England and Wales

Some Green Party members start from a belief that we need to save the planet from human activity but in truth the race will survive even with a 5 degree increase in global temperatures, melting of the ice caps and loss of huge areas of land mass under the rising seas. It would mean the end of civilisation as we know it, the death of most of the human race, and a return to a pre-industrial society.

This may not be considered a bad thing by some, but if we want to go down that road then lets make it a positive controlled choice rather than falling into it because we couldnt bear to have a wind turbine despoiling our beautiful countryside. Others join the Green Party because they see it as the only viable, electable political party of social justice that remains.

I have a foot in both camps but I also take the stance that first and foremost we have to ensure that we are nice to each other, that we are decent, honourable and respectful; there is no point in saving the world for the human race if we really dont deserve it. The ends do not justify the means; if we are not kind, loving and caring then we dont deserve to control the planet. Whatever we do and however important our aims, we must care about people as well as the other living creatures with whom we share our world. Yes have been accused of being an old hippy and the Green Party is often thought of as the natural home for hippies too, but that is only part of the picture.

If we can prove ourselves worthy of this amazing planet then we have to work out how to stop the continued abuse of the earths resources and the global warming and subsequent climate chaos that it is causing.

Given that we want to save the planet from this abuse and pre-empt the loss of available carbon fuels, we need to work out how we can maintain civilisation and stop the snowballing effects of climate change as well as forming arguments to explain this to the world. This is our raison d’etre and why many people joined the Green Party. We cannot continue to grow our economy and use more and more of the earth’s resources to make more things to buy and sell and throw away. It doesn’t take a genius to work out that we can’t keep growing our economy; Kenneth Boulding (husband of Elsie M Boulding and a renowned economist in his own right) said that Anyone who believes in indefinite growth of anything physical on a physically finite planet is either a madman or an economist. We in the Green Party have worked out that we need smaller scale, local production, more use of efficient, low carbon transport, more energy efficiency, reduction of waste and to get people to live closer to where they work and shop, or work and shop closer to where they live.

These are the things that may separate us from many other socialist political movements. But what unites us with them is the position that divides the Green Party. Most of us now believe that cycling and recycling alone will not save the planet.

When some people get their daily bread from the efforts of others purely by dint of the fact that they own a factory, shop, house or chunk of money we have a society that rewards avarice. It is capitalism that engenders the need for greed. The spongers in our society aren’t the poor unemployed people trying to eke out an existence on £70 a week and having the audacity to try to escape from their lot by wasting their money on cigarettes or booze. The real spongers in our society are earning their money because of their capital. Whether we have £200 in a bank account earning 2% interest, have £1,000 invested in an ethical unit trust, have paid into a pension fund for 40 years or own half of Yorkshire picking up millions of pounds in rent every week capitalism is about others doing your work for you. It is a seductive system that pulls in almost everyone who is likely to have much influence in society and shows us that money makes money and we need greed to be successful and happy.

In a so called democracy the real capitalists are those who earn hundreds of thousands of pounds from the efforts of working people, whether it is by owning property, buying and selling goods on the stock market and doing nothing with them (other than pushing down the price paid to the producer and increasing the price paid by the consumer), gambling on the price of shares and currencies or just by moving hypothetical money from one place to another. They need lots of us to think we have a finger in their honey pot because otherwise we wouldn’t let them get away with it. Workers of the world unite; you have nothing to loose but your pension fund doesn’t quite work.

This exaltation of greed; the cult of a ‘savings culture’ is the best way the rich have of keeping the chattering classes on their side and it works, with many people who believe in our environmental policies but don’t want to loose their nest egg or deny their children the right to inherit the property they own. I think this includes many Green Party members, especially, if I may stereotype, home owners in the South East who find they have enough assets to sell up, buy a house in the country and live on the interest. As someone who is lucky enough to own my own home and have a couple of grand in savings I can certainly see to allure. It is quite exciting to get a boost to the bank balance when I get given 20 or 30 quid for doing nothing, but someone has worked for that money, someone has had that money stopped from their wages or has paid it in rent or in interest on their borrowings. I don’t deserve it but I recognise that if I can save more money for the future then I will get a bigger unearned income when I retire. Don’t panic too much; we do not need capitalist structures to pay a decent state pension to all.

I have tried to illustrate how the capitalist system engenders greed, thrives on greed and encourages greed. The fact that the richest 100 billionaires could eliminate real poverty throughout the world four times over shows how greed has got totally out of hand. Money was invented to spend, not to save, and the squirreling away of a huge proportion of the world’s assets results in poverty and misery for millions. The ‘trickle down’ theory of economics which was used to justify massive pay differentials has failed as the high earners of today turn into the capitalist elite. The problem for those of us concerned with social justice is obvious but the problem for those of us concerned with the environment is that we will never reduce carbon usage and global warming while greed rules the planet. We have seen how big companies backed by millions of investors control governments’ ability to levy taxes on them or their rich benefactors and make it impossible to control the incessant use of fossil fuels, the destruction of the rain forests and pollution of our beautiful planet.

Capitalism is the enemy of the environment.

Having set out the problem we now need to work out two things: What needs to be done and how to do it.

We have to remove the tyranny of greed which pervades our capitalist society but we also have to put forward a clear vision of a modern post capitalist society. This is an area of great interest and speculation, be it an anarchistic utopia or a society which is superficially very similar to our own but with the ownership of land, home and production in the hands of the state instead of the moneyed elite – or anything in between. The Green Party sees a fairer, decentralised society with people being part of the society where they live, a society where political decisions are taken as close as possible to the people they affect, a society based on cooperation rather than competition and a drastic reduction in consumption of the Earth’s resources. We aim for sustainable society looking after all the citizens of the world.

The thing that we still have not tackled robustly or to the satisfaction of most of the Green Party is how to get there. Some think that we can do it solely through the ballot box, with a target to win strategy and a strong presence in organisations from Trade Unions to Transition Towns and this is certainly necessary but is it sufficient? Are the banks and global corporations now so strong that we have to take direct action or can we rely on them to destroy themselves in a frenzy of greed and consumerism or will it be too late by then? For if, by then, the seas have risen, civilization is in tatters and people around the world are starving to death (to an even greater extent than they are now), then we will not be able to say ‘I told you so’, even if it’s true.

All we’ll be able to say is ‘we failed’.

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