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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?
Grace Blakeley investigates the curious case of Carillion: how the company’s slow decline and abrupt liquidation reveals the nature of modern capitalism.
The collapse of Carillion could be a watershed moment. Let's seize it to end economically disastrous outsourcing schemes. By Cat Hobbs.
Campaign groups highlight UK complicity in Saudi Arabia's human rights abuses.
Three founders of Momentum talk to Ashish Ghadiali about the two years that have transformed their lives and the fortunes of the British left.
Andrew Smith from Campaign Against the Arms Trade gives the run-down on one of the UK's most profitable - and most deadly - industries.
The real story behind the fire in Grande Synthe’s Linière refugee camp, Dunkirk. From 'Bordered Lives – How Europe fails refugees and migrants' by Hsiao-Hung Pai
Javier Pérez De La Cruz writes about the working class Berlin neighbourhood wrung dry by gentrifiers.
Across the world, thousands of protesters are taking on the planet’s biggest fossil fuel companies. We should support them – and if we can, we should join them. By Kara Moses
Students are suffering the effects of financial instability, stress, and slashed mental health services. Mark Crawford reports.
They're not defending free speech - they're just seeking to shore up their own power, writes Ilyas Nagdee
Jeremy Hunt is poised to flog the last of the NHS
Peter Roderick sounds the alarm on an 'attack on the fundamental principles of the NHS'.
Viva Siva, 1923-2018
A. Sivanandan, who died this week, was a hugely important figure in the politics of race and class. As part of our tributes, Red Pepper is republishing this 2009 profile of him by Arun Kundnani
Sivanandan: When memory forgets a giant
Daniel Renwick calls for the whole movement to discover and remember the vital work of A. Sivanandan, who died this week
A master-work of graphic satire
American Jewish cartoonist Eli Valley’s comic commentary on America, the US Jewish diaspora and Israel is nothing if not near the knuckle, Richard Kuper writes
Meet the frontline activists facing down the global mining industry
Activists are defending land, life and water from the global mining industry. Tatiana Garavito, Sebastian Ordoñez and Hannibal Rhoades investigate.
Transition or succession? Zimbabwe’s future looks uncertain
The fall of Mugabe doesn't necessarily spell freedom for the people of Zimbabwe, writes Farai Maguwu
Don’t let Corbyn’s opponents sneak onto the Labour NEC
Labour’s powerful governing body is being targeted by forces that still want to strangle Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership, writes Alex Nunns