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

×

Why I joined the Greens

Peter Tatchell says the Greens are now the radical left party.

May 1, 2004
4 min read

Radical socialists in England and Wales face a dilemma. The Labour Party is now beyond reform. The idea of recapturing Labour for the left is a hopeless dream.

Equally depressing, alternative left parties like the Socialist Alliance and Respect offer little cause for optimism. The Socialist Alliance tried, but failed, to secure electoral success. Respect is neither grassroots nor democratic. It is run on the same “democratic centralist’ lines as the Blairite Labour Party. All major decisions are taken at the top. It is dominated by the Socialist Workers Party, which is notorious for packing meetings and organising secret slates to secure the election of its people to key positions.

I left the Labour Party in 2000, after 22 years membership. My reason? “New” Labour has abandoned both socialism and democracy. It is no longer committed to the redistribution of wealth and power. Tony Blair spends more time with millionaire businessmen than trade union leaders. The gap between rich and poor has widened since 1997. Civil liberties are under ceaseless attack by David Blunkett, the most right-wing home secretary since Sir David Maxwell Fyfe in the 1950s.

There is, alas, no possibility of undoing Blair’s right-wing “coup’. Internal party democracy has been extinguished. Ordinary members have no say. Everything important is decided by The Dear Leader and his acolytes. Fixing the selection process for the London mayoral candidate in 2000 to defeat Ken Livingstone was one of many examples of Labour’s corruption. No socialist can remain in a party that rigs ballots and denies members a meaningful say in the decisions of their party.

I joined Labour because I want social justice and human rights for all. My values and aspirations remain the same. Labour’s have changed fundamentally and irreversibly. Winning back Labour to socialism and democracy is now impossible.

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.

Leaving Labour does not mean giving up the battle for a fair and just society. There is an alternative option. After two decades of moving from right to left, the Green Party now occupies the progressive political space once held by left-wing Labour. It offers the most credible left alternative to Labour’s pro-war, pro-big business and pro-Bush policies.

The Green Party’s manifesto for a sustainable society (www.greenparty.org.uk) incorporates key socialist values. It rejects privatisation, free market economics and globalisation, and includes commitments to public ownership, worker’s rights, economic democracy, progressive taxation and the redistribution of wealth and power.

Greens put the common good before corporate greed, and the public interest before private profit. Forging a red-green synthesis, they integrate policies for social justice with policies for tackling the life-threatening dangers posed by global warming, environmental pollution, resource depletion and species extinction.

Unlike the traditional left, with its superficial environmentalism, Greens understand there is no point campaigning for social justice if we don’t have a habitable planet. Ecological sustainability is the precondition for a just society. The Greens also recognise that tackling the global ecological threat requires constraints on the power of big corporations. Profiteering and free trade has to be subordinated to policies for the survival of humanity. Can any socialist disagree with that?

Although the Green Party is not perfect (is any party perfect?), its 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.

Unlike tiny left parties, such as the Socialist Alliance and Respect, Greens have a proven record of success at the ballot box, with candidates elected in the London, Scottish, local and European elections. These elected Greens are a force for social progress, far to the left of Labour on all issues. They are also well to the left of the Socialist Alliance and Respect on questions like women’s and gay rights, health care, animal welfare, the environment and third world development.

People tempted to support Respect in the forthcoming elections need to answer two crucial questions. Why split the left-wing vote and thereby diminish the electoral prospects of both Respect and the Green Party? Why vote for an unproven political force like Respect when there is a credible and radical left party – the Greens – that already has seats and can win lots more with the support of people on the left?

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.

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

Essay: After neoliberalism, what next?
There are economically-viable, socially-desirable alternatives to the failed neoliberal economic model, writes Jayati Ghosh

With the new nuclear ban treaty, it’s time to scrap Trident – and spend the money on our NHS
As a doctor, I want to see money spent on healthcare not warfare, writes David McCoy - Britain should join the growing international movement for disarmament

Inglorious Empire: What the British Did to India
Inglorious Empire: What the British Did to India, by Shashi Tharoor, reviewed by Ian Sinclair

A Death Retold in Truth and Rumour
A Death Retold in Truth and Rumour: Kenya, Britain and the Julie Ward Murder, by Grace A Musila, reviewed by Allen Oarbrook

‘We remembered that convictions can inspire and motivate people’: interview with Lisa Nandy MP
The general election changed the rules, but there are still tricky issues for Labour to face, Lisa Nandy tells Ashish Ghadiali

Everything you know about Ebola is wrong
Vicky Crowcroft reviews Ebola: How a People’s Science Helped End an Epidemic, by Paul Richards

Job vacancy: Red Pepper is looking for an online editor
Closing date for applications: 1 September.

Theresa May’s new porn law is ridiculous – but dangerous
The law is almost impossible to enforce, argues Lily Sheehan, but it could still set a bad precedent

Interview: Queer British Art
James O'Nions talks to author Alex Pilcher about the Tate’s Queer British Art exhibition and her book A Queer Little History of Art

Cable the enabler: new Lib Dem leader shows a party in crisis
Vince Cable's stale politics and collusion with the Conservatives belong in the dustbin of history, writes Adam Peggs

Anti-Corbyn groupthink and the media: how pundits called the election so wrong
Reporting based on the current consensus will always vastly underestimate the possibility of change, argues James Fox

Michael Cashman: Commander of the Blairite Empire
Lord Cashman, a candidate in Labour’s internal elections, claims to stand for Labour’s grassroots members. He is a phony, writes Cathy Cole

Contribute to Conter – the new cross-party platform linking Scottish socialists
Jonathan Rimmer, editor of Conter, says it’s time for a new non-sectarian space for Scottish anti-capitalists and invites you to take part

Editorial: Empire will eat itself
Ashish Ghadiali introduces the June/July issue of Red Pepper

Eddie Chambers: Black artists and the DIY aesthetic
Eddie Chambers, artist and art historian, speaks to Ashish Ghadiali about the cultural strategies that he, as founder of the Black Art Group, helped to define in the 1980s

Despite Erdogan, Turkey is still alive
With this year's referendum consolidating President Erdogan’s autocracy in Turkey, Nazim A argues that the way forward for democrats lies in a more radical approach

Red Pepper Race Section: open editorial meeting – 11 August in Leeds
The next open editorial meeting of the Red Pepper Race Section will take place between 3.30-5.30pm, Friday 11th August in Leeds.

Mogg-mentum? Thatcherite die-hard Jacob Rees-Mogg is no man of the people
Adam Peggs says Rees-Mogg is no joke – he is a living embodiment of Britain's repulsive ruling elite

Power to the renters: Turning the tide on our broken housing system
Heather Kennedy, from the Renters Power Project, argues it’s time to reject Thatcher’s dream of a 'property-owning democracy' and build renters' power instead

Your vote can help Corbyn supporters win these vital Labour Party positions
Left candidate Seema Chandwani speaks to Red Pepper ahead of ballot papers going out to all members for a crucial Labour committee

Join the Rolling Resistance to the frackers
Al Wilson invites you to take part in a month of anti-fracking action in Lancashire with Reclaim the Power

The Grenfell public inquiry must listen to the residents who have been ignored for so long
Councils handed housing over to obscure, unaccountable organisations, writes Anna Minton – now we must hear the voices they silenced