Get Red Pepper's email newsletter. Enter your email address to receive our latest articles, updates and news.

×

Socialism by stealth?

Dave Osler argues the Green Party can never become a popular front for the achievement of socialism

November 11, 2007
4 min read

Greetings from member L0093001 of Hackney North and Stoke Newington CLP. Yes, after devoting most of my political energies for over a decade to arguing and actively working for a new political party of the left – even writing a book making an extended case as to why such a party is essential – I last year decided to rejoin the Labour Party.

That’s right, the same party that sent British troops to Iraq; the same party that scrapped student grants, in what must rank as the single most socially regressive piece of legislation introduced by any UK government since 1945; and the same party that has produced a succession of racist semi-Stalinist and fully-Stalinist home secretaries that continue to rein in civil liberties.

And let me make it clear – and I really must, because I am a former Trotskyist – that I haven’t taken out a card in the expectation that New Labour can eventually be converted into a revolutionary party, or that a revolutionary tendency can be built within it. Both those ideas so evidently infantile as not to be worth a moment’s consideration.

Nor will I be trying to ‘reclaim New Labour from the Blairites’, because that cannot be done, either. The changes within Labour’s internal structures have sealed off, once and for, any possibility of re-running the late seventies and early eighties. More’s the pity; the rock music of the period was infinitely superior to anything being recorded today.

Every single one of the criticisms Peter Tatchell levels at New Labour in ‘Green is the new red’ is unarguably correct. Blair and Brown have indeed thrashed the last vestiges of labour movement democracy, and on many issues, out-Thatchered Thatcher. None of this is in dispute.

It’s not even that I am particularly in tune with majority thinking on the much reduced Labour left, which still conceives of socialist utopia as a nationalised gas industry. For most of these people, it is as if globalisation, the collapse of communism, political Islam and global warming had never happened.

As a result, they automatically fail politically, because their backward-looking bureaucratic outlook condemns them in advance to fail. Small wonder they were unable to mount a serious fight against Blairism; it is because they couldn’t advance a viable alternative set of ideas.

That brings me to the reason I ate humble pie and filled out the standing order form to New Labour. Developing that alternative set of ideas strikes me as the most constructive thing democratic socialists can now be doing.

And the party that still commands majority support among the progressive electorate and the affiliation of the majority of the trade union movement is the best place it can undertake this task.

Obviously I regard leftwing Greens such as Peter and principle male speaker Derek Wall as comrades, on the assumption that one is allowed to use such a term in this context. It’s just that I do not think the Green Party can ever become a popular front for the achievement of socialism by stealth.

It remains small, and displays no sign of an ability to attain the critical mass it needs to become a serious factor in British politics, or even to build a base of support in the working class.

What’s more, historical experience shows that where Green parties do take off, they leave their radicalism well behind. The Realos take over from the Fundis, and the one-time soixante-huitard peaceniks end up cheerleading Nato bombing campaigns from the comfort of their ministerial limos.

Let me draw an analogy between the current situation of the serious left and that faced by the intelligent free market right in the 1950s, the hey-day of Keynesianism. At that time, it looked as if all argument over political economy was over for good.

The reaction by the most far-thinking devotees of the Austrian economists was to form think tanks and slowly propagate their world view from within the Conservative Party. It took about 20 years to come to fruition, but ultimately, the strategy worked.

Our ideas – including expanded trade union rights, public ownership and workers’ control, left libertarian social policies that would cause instant myocardial infarction among Daily Mail leader writers, a foreign policy that consistently promotes democracy and sustainable development, and the realisation that the environment is the most important issue facing humanity today – are relevant.

Indeed, they offer the only way out of the impasse. But before they can be put into action, they have to be rearticulated into policies geared to today’s world. That is, of course, a limited horizon, especially compared to preparing for world revolution. But then, these are times when limited horizons surely trump strategic dead ends.

Red Pepper is an independent, non-profit magazine that puts left politics and culture at the heart of its stories. We think publications should embrace the values of a movement that is unafraid to take a stand, radical yet not dogmatic, and focus on amplifying the voices of the people and activists that make up our movement. If you think so too, please support Red Pepper in continuing our work by becoming a subscriber today.
Why not try our new pay as you feel subscription? You decide how much to pay.

Labour Party laws are being used to quash dissent
Richard Kuper writes that Labour's authorities are more concerned with suppressing pro-Palestine activism than with actually tackling antisemitism

Catalan independence is not just ‘nationalism’ – it’s a rebellion against nationalism
Ignasi Bernat and David Whyte argue that Catalonia's independence movement is driven by solidarity – and resistance to far-right Spanish nationalists

Tabloids do not represent the working class
The tabloid press claims to be an authentic voice of the working class - but it's run by and for the elites, writes Matt Thompson

As London City Airport turns 30, let’s imagine a world without it
London City Airport has faced resistance for its entire lifetime, writes Ali Tamlit – and some day soon we will win

The first world war sowed the seeds of the Russian revolution
An excerpt from 'October', China Mieville's book revisiting the story of the Russian Revolution

Academies run ‘on the basis of fear’
Wakefield City Academies Trust (WCAT) was described in a damning report as an organisation run 'on the basis of fear'. Jon Trickett MP examines an education system in crisis.

‘There is no turning back to a time when there wasn’t migration to Britain’
David Renton reviews the Migration Museum's latest exhibition

#MeToo is necessary – but I’m sick of having to prove my humanity
Women are expected to reveal personal trauma to be taken seriously, writes Eleanor Penny

Meet the digital feminists
We're building new online tools to create a new feminist community and tackle sexism wherever we find it, writes Franziska Grobke

The Marikana women’s fight for justice, five years on
Marienna Pope-Weidemann meets Sikhala Sonke, a grassroots social justice group led by the women of Marikana

Forget ‘Columbus Day’ – this is the Day of Indigenous Resistance
By Leyli Horna, Marcela Terán and Sebastián Ordonez for Wretched of the Earth

Uber and the corporate capture of e-petitions
Steve Andrews looks at a profit-making petition platform's questionable relationship with the cab company

You might be a centrist if…
What does 'centrist' mean? Tom Walker identifies the key markers to help you spot centrism in the wild

Black Journalism Fund Open Editorial Meeting in Leeds
Friday 13th October, 5pm to 7pm, meeting inside the Laidlaw Library, Leeds University

This leadership contest can transform Scottish Labour
Martyn Cook argues that with a new left-wing leader the Scottish Labour Party can make a comeback

Review: No Is Not Enough
Samir Dathi reviews No Is Not Enough: Defeating the New Shock Politics, by Naomi Klein

Building Corbyn’s Labour from the ground up: How ‘the left’ won in Hackney South
Heather Mendick has gone from phone-banker at Corbyn for Leader to Hackney Momentum organiser to secretary of her local party. Here, she shares her top tips on transforming Labour from the bottom up

Five things to know about the independence movement in Catalonia
James O'Nions looks at the underlying dynamics of the Catalan independence movement

‘This building will be a library!’ From referendum to general strike in Catalonia
Ignasi Bernat and David Whyte report from the Catalan general strike, as the movements prepare to build a new republic

Chlorine chickens are just the start: Liam Fox’s Brexit trade free-for-all
A hard-right free marketer is now in charge of our trade policy. We urgently need to develop an alternative vision, writes Nick Dearden

There is no ‘cult of Corbyn’ – this is a movement preparing for power
The pundits still don’t understand that Labour’s new energy is about ‘we’ not ‘me’, writes Hilary Wainwright