A need to go further

The Rise of the Green Left, by Derek Wall (Pluto Press), reviewed by Peter McColl

November 30, 2010
2 min read

The Rise of the Green Left is a timely and useful account of the interaction between still-coalescing schools of green thinking and the much older canon of socialist thought. Derek Wall gives us his unique take on what a green left could look like in a wide-ranging account of struggles around the world. In doing so, he embraces indigenous social movements in particular, a welcome approach that helps redefine greens’ relationship with the global south for the better.

 Closer to home there is some reference to the excellent campaigning work that Caroline Lucas has led since becoming the UK’s first Green MP, though it is unfortunate that the left-leaning campaigns run by Sian Berry for London mayor and Adrian Ramsay in Norwich get less attention. These have grounded green politics in support for local public services and other social justice issues, practically creating the kind of green left that could have real resonance.

 In fact, the challenge that Wall leaves relatively untouched is to define a green left strategy that can make a material difference to people’s lives in Europe. In the UK, the government’s austerity package is removing the velvet glove of consumerism from the iron fist of late capitalism. For the first time the links between social and environmental injustice are becoming clear to people in Britain.

While most of the elements of the coherent radical green ideology that is needed in this context are present in Wall’s book, they are not sufficiently drawn together. This makes for a somewhat disjointed theoretical underpinning, which is matched by a rather disjointed writing style. Surely the hyperlinks and email addresses scattered throughout the text could have been presented as footnotes, for instance?

Wall also dismisses far too lightly the vital work of Chantal Mouffe and Ernesto Laclau. Their conceptualisation of ‘prefigurative acts’ – those that create the conditions for social change and develop social movements to come – will be vital in creating a green ideology with the analytical strength to deliver real, material changes.

 So while it’s welcome that Derek Wall has made a sustained attempt to synthesise a green left approach, those of us on the green left must go further and create the inspiring texts and foundational arguments to sustain a real challenge to neoliberal hegemony.


✹ Try our new pay-as-you-feel subscription — you choose how much to pay.

Red Pepper’s race section: open editorial meeting 19 April
On April 19th, we’ll be holding the second of Red Pepper’s Race Section Open Editorial Meetings.

Changing our attitude to Climate Change
Paul Allen of the Centre for Alternative Technology spells out what we need to do to break through the inaction over climate change

Introducing Trump’s Inner Circle
Donald Trump’s key allies are as alarming as the man himself

Secrets and spies of Scotland Yard
A new Espionage Act threatens whistleblowers and journalists, writes Sarah Kavanagh

#AndABlackWomanAtThat – part II: a discussion of power and privilege
In the second article of a three-part series, Sheri Carr reflects on the silencing of black women and the flaws in safe spaces

How progressive is the ‘progressive alliance’?
We need an anti-austerity alliance, not a vaguely progressive alliance, argues Michael Calderbank

The YPJ: Fighting Isis on the frontline
Rahila Gupta talks to Kimmie Taylor about life on the frontline in Rojava

Joint statement on George Osborne’s appointment to the Evening Standard
'We have come together to denounce this brazen conflict of interest and to champion the growing need for independent, truthful and representative media'

Confronting Brexit
Paul O’Connell and Michael Calderbank consider the conditions that led to the Brexit vote, and how the left in Britain should respond

On the right side of history: an interview with Mijente
Marienna Pope-Weidemann speaks to Reyna Wences, co-founder of Mijente, a radical Latinx and Chincanx organising network

Disrupting the City of London Corporation elections
The City of London Corporation is one of the most secretive and least understood institutions in the world, writes Luke Walter

#AndABlackWomanAtThat: a discussion of power and privilege
In the first article of a three-part series, Sheri Carr reflects on the oppression of her early life and how we must fight it, even in our own movement

Corbyn understands the needs of our communities
Ian Hodson reflects on the Copeland by-election and explains why Corbyn has the full support of The Bakers Food and Allied Workers Union

Red Pepper’s race section: open editorial meeting 15 March
On 15 March, we’ll be holding the first of Red Pepper’s Race Section open editorial meetings.

Social Workers Without Borders
Jenny Nelson speaks to Lauren Wroe about a group combining activism and social work with refugees

Growing up married
Laura Nicholson interviews Dr Eylem Atakav about her new film, Growing Up Married, which tells the stories of Turkey’s child brides

The Migrant Connections Festival: solidarity needs meaningful relationships
On March 4 & 5 Bethnal Green will host a migrant-led festival fostering community and solidarity for people of all backgrounds, writes Sohail Jannesari

Reclaiming Holloway Homes
The government is closing old, inner-city jails. Rebecca Roberts looks at what happens next

Intensification of state violence in the Kurdish provinces of Turkey
Oppression increases in the run up to Turkey’s constitutional referendum, writes Mehmet Ugur from Academics for Peace

Pass the domestic violence bill
Emma Snaith reports on the significance of the new anti-domestic violence bill

Report from the second Citizen’s Assembly of Podemos
Sol Trumbo Vila says the mandate from the Podemos Assembly is to go forwards in unity and with humility

Protect our public lands
Last summer Indigenous people travelled thousands of miles around the USA to tell their stories and build a movement. Julie Maldonado reports

From the frontlines
Red Pepper’s new race editor, Ashish Ghadiali, introduces a new space for black and minority progressive voices

How can we make the left sexy?
Jenny Nelson reports on a session at The World Transformed

In pictures: designing for change
Sana Iqbal, the designer behind the identity of The World Transformed festival and the accompanying cover of Red Pepper, talks about the importance of good design

Angry about the #MuslimBan? Here are 5 things to do
As well as protesting against Trump we have a lot of work to get on with here in the UK. Here's a list started by Platform

Who owns our land?
Guy Shrubsole gives some tips for finding out

Don’t delay – ditch coal
Take action this month with the Coal Action Network. By Anne Harris

Utopia: Work less play more
A shorter working week would benefit everyone, writes Madeleine Ellis-Petersen

Mum’s Colombian mine protest comes to London
Anne Harris reports on one woman’s fight against a multinational coal giant