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Left politics need to be both practical and utopian. On a practical level, our interventions need to work on a day-to-day level and point to a society beyond capitalism. To cynics, the history of the British left may seem to be one of defeats, but on the issues of defending public services, opposing US hegemony and striking blows for justice the arguments have been won not by Blair but by us.
As for utopian politics, capitalism is frankly cancerous. It can only survive by constant blind accumulation. We have a highly sophisticated economic system that essentially puts living things second. Ultimately, it has to go. The Greens – with their critique of conventional economics – are closer perhaps to Marx than many others on the left. Their enthusiasm for a society that really is different is at worst naive, at best a source of real revolutionary energy. And this is an energy that is increasingly infectious.
Thus, the Green Party needs to be taken seriously. As a member, I would argue that the left should support the Green Party – but also criticise it. Criticism is necessary – not because the party is especially flawed, but because the questions of how we intervene in British politics in a practical way and how we move to a qualitatively different society are torturously difficult and open topics that require discussion.
Typically, the whole question of elections and alliances is fraught with dangers. In some contexts the choice is clear. For example, the Greens have two excellent MEPs who work tirelessly to protect asylum rights, to challenge neo-liberal attacks on the labour movement and to campaign against capitalist globalisation. In the South-East England European constituency the inspired Caroline Lucas won in 1999 by a margin of just 100 votes out of several million. It would be criminal not to vote for her in 2004. There are other sets of elections where the Left would also lose by failing to support the Green Party.
On the other hand, it would be crazy for the Green Party to run candidates against the best of the Labour left. Alan Simpson (the man is an Ecologist subscriber, who has even been known to go hunt sabbing) comes to mind in particular.
Alliances need to be forged through dynamic grassroots campaigns. This is where the Greens” long emphasis on direct action is important, because it stresses a politics that can punch its weight even when Westminister is asleep. Poll tax and the roads programme of the 1990s were both defeated by direct action. That action was strongly supported by the party. The Greens are also building links, both formal and informal, with the new wave of left trade unionists such as Bob Crow. The RMT general-secretary addressed a 2002 Green Party conference.
The Green Party will have to become more dynamic. It may have local branches pretty much everywhere, but many of them are sleepy talking shops rather than focused electoral and extra-parliamentary fighting machines. My local party in Berkshire was turned around by ex-Labour members who joined before the local elections and helped us win councillors in such unlikely enclaves as Bracknell and Sandhurst this May. Quite small numbers of activists with organisational ability could have a swift and positive effect on the party.
But incremental election victories don”t neatly translate into hegemony, and Greens often ignore the structural forces that prevent the creation of a socially just and ecological society. At its worst, all of this translates into a rather alarming “wouldn”t it be nice if it was a nice world” sentimentalism. All power to the nice, isn”t the slogan that is going to save the world. The fate of the earth seems far too serious a matter to leave to Greens.
Again a healthy infusion of new members from the left – or even some self-critical debate and joint campaigning with it – would help. The trick, of course, is to avoid introducing the sectarianism of much of the British left. One of the really positive things about the Green Party is its astonishing lack of internal faction fighting; this is a fact that will astonish many socialists who have been in other parties.
We mustn”t forget the ecology. either. There is a danger that the Green Party could become just a vehicle for general anti-Blairism. Environmental threats impact on the poorest – a fact long recognised by eco-socialists from Engels to William Morris and beyond.
A strong Green Party could renew the eco-socialist tradition on a range of issues that concern voters, including transport and GM. Such issues have the potential to point to a society in which the market is rolled back and humanity and the rest of nature are put before economics. As the slogan goes “earth first, profits last”. The critical eco-socialist aspiration to replace capitalism is what makes the Greens different and vital.
The Spanish state is seizing ballot papers and raiding meetings, write Ignasi Bernat and David Whyte – but it is being met with united resistance
The crunch executive meeting ahead of Labour conference agreed some welcome changes, writes Michael Calderbank, but there is still much further to go
Dipesh Pandya speaks to documentary film-maker Sanjay Kak, who for 30 years has been working outside the mainstream to tell a story rooted in the struggles of those excluded by India’s militarism and its narrative of neoliberal growth
Jeremy Gilbert on how radical Labour politics can be inspired by the utopianism of the counterculture
Disasters have unequal impacts – it's the poor and marginalised who suffer most. David Harvey writes on Hurricane Harvey
Survivors of the fire are still relying on thousands of community volunteers, writes Dan Renwick - but the failed council is plotting a comeback
What if it's not us who are sick, asks Rod Tweedy, but a system at odds with who we are as social beings?
The people could reach a democratic and non-violent solution if they were freed from US meddling, argues Boaventura de Sousa Santos
A decade after the start of the crash, economic power is in our hands – we must take it, writes Ann Pettifor
Flooding the cradle of civilisation: A 12,000 year old town in Kurdistan battles for survival
It’s one of the oldest continually inhabited places on earth, but a new dam has put Hasankeyf under threat, write Eliza Egret and Tom Anderson
New model activism: Putting Labour in office and the people in power
Hilary Wainwright examines how the ‘new politics’ needs to be about both winning electoral power and building transformative power
What is ‘free movement plus’?
A new report proposes an approach that can push back against the tide of anti-immigrant sentiment. Luke Cooper explains
The World Transformed: Red Pepper’s pick of the festival
Red Pepper is proud to be part of organising The World Transformed, in Brighton from 23-26 September. Here are our highlights from the programme
Working class theatre: Save Our Steel takes the stage
A new play inspired by Port Talbot’s ‘Save Our Steel’ campaign asks questions about the working class leaders of today. Adam Johannes talks to co-director Rhiannon White about the project, the people and the politics behind it
The dawn of commons politics
As supporters of the new 'commons politics' win office in a variety of European cities, Stacco Troncoso and Ann Marie Utratel chart where this movement came from – and where it may be going
A very social economist
Hilary Wainwright says the ideas of Robin Murray, who died in June, offer a practical alternative to neoliberalism
Art the Arms Fair: making art not war
Amy Corcoran on organising artistic resistance to the weapons dealers’ London showcase
Beware the automated landlord
Tenants of the automated landlord are effectively paying two rents: one in money, the other in information for data harvesting, writes Desiree Fields
Black Journalism Fund – Open Editorial Meeting
3-5pm Saturday 23rd September at The World Transformed in Brighton
Immigration detention: How the government is breaking its own rules
Detention is being used to punish ex-prisoners all over again, writes Annahita Moradi
A better way to regenerate a community
Gilbert Jassey describes a pioneering project that is bringing migrants and local people together to repopulate a village in rural Spain
Fast food workers stand up for themselves and #McStrike – we’re loving it!
McDonald's workers are striking for the first time ever in Britain, reports Michael Calderbank
Two years of broken promises: how the UK has failed refugees
Stefan Schmid investigates the ways Syrian refugees have been treated since the media spotlight faded
West Papua’s silent genocide
The brutal occupation of West Papua is under-reported - but UK and US corporations are profiting from the violence, write Eliza Egret and Tom Anderson
Activate, the new ‘Tory Momentum’, is 100% astroturf
The Conservatives’ effort at a grassroots youth movement is embarrassingly inept, writes Samantha Stevens
Peer-to-peer production and the partner state
Michel Bauwens and Vasilis Kostakis argue that we need to move to a commons-centric society – with a state fit for the digital age
Imagining a future free of oppression
Writer, artist and organiser Ama Josephine Budge says holding on to our imagination of tomorrow helps create a different understanding today
The ‘alt-right’ is an unstable coalition – with one thing holding it together
Mike Isaacson argues that efforts to define the alt-right are in danger of missing its central component: eugenics
Fighting for Peace: the battles that inspired generations of anti-war campaigners
Now the threat of nuclear war looms nearer again, we share the experience of eighty-year-old activist Ernest Rodker, whose work is displayed at The Imperial War Museum. With Jane Shallice and Jenny Nelson he discussed a recent history of the anti-war movement.
Put public purpose at the heart of government
Victoria Chick stresses the need to restore the public good to economic decision-making
Don’t let the world’s biggest arms fair turn 20
Eliza Egret talks to activists involved in almost two decades of protest against London’s DSEI arms show
The new municipalism is part of a proud radical history
Molly Conisbee reflects on the history of citizens taking collective control of local services
With the rise of Corbyn, is there still a place for the Green Party?
Former Green principal speaker Derek Wall says the party may struggle in the battle for votes, but can still be important in the battle of ideas
Fearless Cities: the new urban movements
A wave of new municipalist movements has been experimenting with how to take – and transform – power in cities large and small. Bertie Russell and Oscar Reyes report on the growing success of radical urban politics around the world
A musical fightback against school arts cuts
Elliot Clay on why his new musical turns the spotlight on the damage austerity has done to arts education, through the story of one school band's battle
Neoliberalism: the break-up tour
Sarah Woods and Andrew Simms ask why, given the trail of destruction it has left, we are still dancing to the neoliberal tune
Cat Smith MP: ‘Jeremy Corbyn has authenticity. You can’t fake that’
Cat Smith, shadow minister for voter engagement and youth affairs and one of the original parliamentary backers of Corbyn’s leadership, speaks to Ashish Ghadiali
To stop the BBC interviewing climate deniers, we need to make climate change less boring
To stop cranks like Lord Lawson getting airtime, we need to provoke more interesting debates around climate change than whether it's real or not, writes Leo Barasi
Tory Glastonbury? Money can’t buy you cultural relevance
Adam Peggs on why the left has more fun