As a member of the Green Party until quite recently, with many friends and respected comrades still in the party, it was driven home to me today that, outside of the Green Left faction within the Green Party, the overall image of the Party is a pretty shocking one amongst left wing activists and anarchists operating outside of the Green Party. This came about when I attended the Cardiff Anarchist Bookfair today. Although there was some acknowledgement of some genuine ecosocialists within the Party, there was a lot of scorn poured on the records of elected Greens and especially the record of the Brighton administration.
It wasn’t until I got home, and started going through literature that I had picked up during the day, that I found an article in ‘Resistance‘, the paper of the Anarchist Federation, that encapsulated and, perhaps, informed this attitude towards the Green Party. It was entitled “Tories on bikes”: the Green Party in power, with quote being ascribed to a striking Brighton bin worker.
The article examines what it saw as the evidence of Greens selling out, with the inference being that we had been led to expect a lot better. I know that I and many members of Green Left can relate to this.
For those not familiar with what happened in Brighton, the article summarised it succinctly. It pointed out that Greens had long trumpeted a commitment the living wage (and still do), but that they (led by Jason Kitkat) tried to impose a “pay modernisation” scheme on low-paid council workers with the support of the council’s Tory group. The article alleges that this meant pay cuts of up to £4000 a year for some. More damning than this figure (which I suspect is an exaggeration) is the accusation of “acting like the worst kind of union-busting boss“, by threatening workers that if they refused the new terms, they would be sacked and re-employed on the new contract. In other words, acting like a bunch of Jeremy Hunts! Sadly, this is pretty accurate and the bin workers responded with a wildcat occupation of their depot.
Caroline Lucas comes in for some criticism that does not quite fit my recollections of events. It acknowledges that she voiced her opposition and said she would join the picket lines. I thought that she actually did do this at one point, but the article suggest that she never showed up. It does, however, say that she was seen picking up litter during the strike in June 2013, contrary to a statement from the bin-workers asking people not to do so, as it would undermine their strike action.
The bottom line here, and the point that discredits the socialist credentials of the Party in other’s eyes, is that when faced with tough choices, they fell into line and did the neoliberals bidding for them. The article describes it as underlining the sense of “a world of perpetual disappointment when your elected representatives betray you“.
Anarchists, of course, have come to expect nothing else. They rightly point out that the problem is not with who is in power or even with how they exercise that power. The problem is with political power itself. Notable anarchist, Noam Chomsky, points out that “the smart way to keep people passive and obedient is to strictly limit the spectrum of acceptable opinion, but allow very lively debate within that spectrum“. In this context, the article concludes that the Green’s might well be on the fringes of that spectrum, but they remain part of the party political system that has been established to keep us quiet and compliant. This, ultimately, is why I gave up on the Green Party and party politics altogether.
The ironic thing is that it was good friends within Green Left that introduced me to people like Proudhon, Kropotkin and Bakunin – the veritable godfathers of Anarchist thought. They remain, to the best of my knowledge, committed to fighting the cause from within the Green Party. I am left wondering whether I should consider them to heroically battling to shape the Party into something truly worthy, or whether to consider them as naive fools, wasting their time and propping up an inherently flawed system. Discuss!