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For two decades, the Labour left has been marginalised and on the defensive as New Labour has ditched socialism and the trade union movement. The Labour leadership has sacrificed socialist values and policies for short-term political gain; seeking office at the expense of social change. It has pandered to prejudice and irrationality on issues like asylum, drugs, terrorism, Europe and crime.
Internal Labour Party democracy is largely destroyed and members have no meaningful say about anything. Labour’s annual conference has been neutered, no longer deciding policy – every key decision is now determined by Gordon Brown and his inner circle.
This is autocracy, not democracy with party members reduced to cheerleaders and election fodder. Labour is now beyond reform, even if a majority of party members wanted a socialist agenda, the leadership would veto it. The era when Labour was the party of the left is over – forever.
New Labour has never been committed to the redistribution of wealth and power, the gap between rich and poor has widened since 1997 and Gordon Brown, like his predecessor Tony Blair, spends more time with millionaires than with trade union leaders. In the name of the ‘war on terror,’ the government is curtailing freedom and liberties on a scale unprecedented in peacetime. The snooping, surveillance state is fast becoming a reality, with ID cards, CCTV and widespread email and phone interception.
Labour’s great, historic achievement was the creation of the NHS and the Welfare State but Gordon Brown is gradually dismantling it. This creeping privatisation of health and education is something that not even Margaret Thatcher attempted. Blair and Brown have out-thatchered Thatcher.
The only alternative?
This poses a huge dilemma for the many good socialists who remain inside the Labour Party. Why stay with a party that isn’t even democratic, let alone socialist? What is the alternative?
The most significant left alternative to Labour is Respect, but it is politically compromised. Following in New Labour’s footsteps, it has an authoritarian, command-style leadership that has declared it is not a socialist party. They even support the monarchy!
The possibility of securing socialism through New Labour or left alternatives like Respect is zero. There is only one left option left – the Green Party, which is why I joined and why I am standing as the Green Party’s parliamentary candidate for Oxford East.
The Greens are now the most progressive force in British politics. With our radical agenda for grassroots democracy, social justice, human rights, global equity, environmental protection, peace and internationalism we are well to the left of New Labour and the Liberal Democrats.
Green is the new red
Green is the new red – an empowering political paradigm for human liberation which offers the most credible alternative to New Labour and the best hope for radical social progress.
Unlike the far left sects, the Greens are winners with a wide base of national support. We have dozens of local councillors and elected London Assembly and in the Scottish and European Parliament members. In the last European elections, the Greens won 6.2% of the vote in England, a promising and growing base of support from which to build an alternative radical politics.
If more leftwingers and progressive social movements united together in the Green Party, the Greens could do even better. We have the potential to become an influential electoral force, with the likely election of the first Green MPs soon.
A substantial and growing Green vote at local, regional, European and Westminster elections would pressure New Labour and the Liberal Democrats to adopt more left-leaning and pro-environmental policies. Perhaps, one day, the Greens might even hold the balance of power in parliament.
The Greens are not obsessed with elections and parliament, we are also committed to grassroots direct action protest and community empowerment. As Labour has moved from left to right, the Greens have shifted from centre-left to radical left, now occupying the progressive political space once held by left Labour.
The Green Party’s Manifesto for a Sustainable Society incorporates key socialist principles. Rejecting privatisation, free market economics and globalisation, and it includes commitments to public ownership, worker’s rights, economic democracy, progressive taxation and the redistribution of wealth and power.
The Green’s synthesis of ecology and socialism integrates policies for social justice and human rights with an agenda for tackling the catastrophic dangers posed by global warming, environmental pollution, resource depletion and species extinction.
The Greens recognise that preventing ecological cataclysm requires constraints on the power of big corporations. Profiteering and free trade has to be subordinated to policies for the survival of humanity. In other words, we need controls on business for the common good. Public interest must come before private profit. This sounds like socialism to me.
A red-green alliance
True, the Green Party includes people who are not on the radical left. The past political alliances and policies of some elected Green councillors have been a big mistake. Green Party members recognise these errors and are working to make sure they don’t happen again. There has never been a perfect left-wing party and there never will be but the Greens are our best hope.
Left-wing critics complain that the Greens are not a pure socialist party and are not working class-based. But look at the implications of what the Greens say; their goals and policies are often similar to the left’s – without the left-wing jargon. Despite a different way of expressing things, what the Greens advocate is, in essence, socialistic.
The Greens are building links with organised labour, we have a Green Party trade union group and Green conferences and public meetings increasingly feature trade union activists. Local Green councillors have been in the forefront of supporting union struggles, including the NHS and postal workers. With more leftwingers inside the party, the Greens would undoubtedly strengthen their ties to the labour movement.
Cooperation with the unions has great potential. Working with the Greens, the Australian construction and transport unions enforced ‘green bans’ on environmentally destructive big business developments that threatened inner-city working class communities. This shows how workers and greens can cooperate for the betterment of all.
The great virtue of the Green Party is that it is a grassroots democratic party, controlled by the ordinary membership with no power elite or embedded hierarchy. It is not a top-down, centralist party like New Labour.
Thousands of socialists have left New Labour in despair and disgust, many have already joined the Greens helping accelerate our leftward trajectory. If more socialists joined, the Green Party would move even further left.
Unlike New Labour, the Greens value idealism and principles. We have a vision of a radically different kind of society, which makes us receptive to left alternatives.
For all these reasons, the most effective way to advance the left nowadays is to join the Greens. Fusing the best of the red and the green would strengthen both strands of progressive politics, offering a powerful, united challenge to neo-liberal orthodoxy. The potential is there. Seize it. Now is the time for reds to go green.
Further information regarding Peter Tatchell’s campaigns
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