What’s wrong with the Greens? A response from the left

Tom Armstrong of Manchester Left Unity offers his view on the Green Party

Introduction

At their September 2014 conference, the Green Party momentarily brushed with the media limelight, particularly in the Guardian. Membership has surged, with their Facebook page boasting that their membership is at an all-time high as of the time of writing.(1)

It is clear that the Greens are seeking to fill the vacuum created by the mass disillusionment with the mainstream parties, notably the Liberal Democrats who are set to implode at next year’s election and a Labour Party that still offers nothing to those that for large parts of the past century readily voted for it, and if their latest conference is anything to go by still seem hellbent on trying to out-Tory the Tories whilst paying lip service to undoing the worst of the Con-Dem policies. However, for those who want to see progressive politics take centre stage in this country, this is not entirely good news, as I will seek to explain in this article.

How progressive are the Greens anyway?

The Green Party certainly propose a lot of “nice things”, and have become the go-to protest vote for many people on the left of the status quo. But what is beneath that nice, fluffy image?

Firstly, let’s look at the very issue that is responsible for the the Green Party existing (and for ages left them open – somewhat unfairly – to claims of just being a single-issue party), the environment. Whilst they acknowledge how population growth, increased economic activity and subsequent increases in demand for resources is putting pressure on the environment, it takes a fairly reformist and top-down approach to tackling this issue – trying to legislate their way to an environmentally sustainable world with all decisions being taken by a future Green government which assumes that it “knows best”, and there is frighteningly little about trying to consult with people who may be potentially be most affected by future Green policy.

A further issue is that the Greens tend to attack the symptoms rather than the cause – the cause being a capitalist system that ultimately puts profit above all else, and where the working class (or “99%” if you prefer that term) is disenfranchised at the expense of the ruling class/bosses/“1%”. This stems from a lifestyle-activist mentality which is prevalent amongst the Green movement (including the political party that was set up to act in their interest) that states that all would be well if we all bought organic food, made sure all our tea, coffee etc is Fairtrade, never took a holiday anywhere which would involve flying, and put on half a dozen jumpers in winter rather than put on the heating (which ironically many of the poorest in society are actually forced to do). Whilst I am not saying this is true of all Green Party members and supporters, there are many examples found in within the party where the beliefs indeed match the stereotype.

Look through Green Party policy documents and it becomes obvious that a lot of faith is put into international and European organisations (e.g. the UN and the EU) in order to build a fairer world, something that is particularly naive considering how both organisations were created by capitalist countries to serve the interests of capitalist countries, and this still remains the case, with most summits and protocols aimed at controlling climate change hamstrung by the pressures of the governments involved to appease the needs of their capitalist economics – the inadequate demands of Kyoto being one example, and the shambles which was the 2009 Copenhagen summit being another. Yet these are the vehicles which the Green Party will think will save the world.(2)

A standard charge is that the Green Party is by middle class people and effectively for middle class people, and no matter how many people in the party attempt to refute this over the years, this charge has not gone away. In fact in the 2010 General Election they have been most successful in the following constituencies: Brighton Pavilion (where former leader Caroline Lucas was elected as the party’s first MP), Norwich South, Lewisham Deptford, Cambridge, Edinburgh East, and Hove. Other than Lewisham these are all solidly middle-class constituencies.(3) When the magazine Red Pepper wrote a piece on the Green Party in 2008, it commented on their conference in February of that year “that delegates were indeed overwhelmingly white and well-spoken; many of them boasted a Dr before their name; and an improbably high proportion of members seemed to have a perfect grasp of the most intricate details of green energy technologies.”(4)

The Greens also have some pretty naive stances when it comes to international issues. The Greens are ready to condemn the aggression of the Israeli state against the Palestinians, but on the flip side, they consider retaliatory actions by Hamas and fellow travellers to be just as bad, and that it should be up to the United Nations to create a peaceful two-state solution.(5) Now there is a lot of unpleasant things that can be rightfully said about Hamas, but as was recently made all too clear to see during the latest military attacks on Gaza this year, it is Israel who is the main aggressor and the side that is by far responsible for the most bloodshed, and the UN has been proven time and time to be toothless when it comes to seeking justice for the Palestinians. Additionally, the implicit support of a two-state solution is in itself problematic.

More damning is their willingness to work with people who promote the status quo to the detriment of ordinary people. This stems from an ethos of being “beyond left and right” (although recently they have found it makes electoral sense to advertise themselves as left of Labour), but this in effect means they will work with the Tories – such as they did in Leeds during the middle part of last decade. Already the Greens are looking like a certain other party that capitalised on the disillusionment with Labour during the course of the last decade, which leads me on to…

Exhibit A: Brighton

Up until 2012, I was broadly supportive of the Green Party, although I was taken aback by how the Liberal Democrats were willing to do anything to get power – having voted for a supposedly progressive incumbent Lib Dem in the constituency I lived at the time two years previously. Now being one of the people bearing the brunt of Con-Dem austerity I was determined to not be fooled again, and I decided to think a bit more critically of the Greens – considering their previous form in Leeds, and alarming portents from Ireland(6) and Germany.

Then the Greens took control of Brighton council – only to then put through a cuts budget.

This was a sign that the naysayers in different organisations which make up the left in the UK were right all along regarding the Greens. Anyway, it’s important to know that this budget was unanimously voted for by all but one Green councillor in Brighton(7). A total capitulation by the Green Party to central government. Of course they said that they “had no choice” – like councillors in Clay Cross in the 70s and Liverpool in the 80s supposedly had no choice but fought on anyway. Of course they instructed people to read the manifesto which would debunk the “haters” – unaware that by selling out that renders that manifesto not worth the paper (or hard disk space, this is the Greens we are talking about here) it’s printed on.

Of course they tried to spin it as if it was actually a good thing since the Greens were in power anyway, regardless of the fact they were behaving just like Labour or the Lib Dems would in their situation. Some Greens, to their credit, resigned amid this betrayal of everything they stood for.(8) Most tried to make the best of a bad job (much like the “Labour left” do within their party for the good it does them). Others, including the leading figures in Brighton & Hove City Council, willingly embraced their new roles as enablers of Con-Dem austerity. So Brighton has suffered as much as anywhere else in the country when it comes to its people having to struggle against the cruel austerity measures pushed upon them in order to pay for mistakes made in the City of London.

The following year, the council wanted to cut wages to its refuse collectors – again spinning it as something progressive, in this case equalising the gender gap in pay. The GMB union were not having any of it, and went on strike for nearly a month between June and July 2013. Whilst the council did their best to turn the public against the strikers, a poll in the local newspaper website stated the public were generally sympathetic towards the striking workers.(9) As the strike progressed, rubbish piled in the streets, making the council even less popular with its people. At the beginning, the party’s sole MP, Caroline Lucas came out in support of them and condemned the actions of the council that had lead to this situation. Unfortunately, she then participated in a so-called “community clean up” to clear up the rubbish that was not being collected by the striking binmen. Now even though Lucas didn’t fit the stereotype of a scab as one of a bunch of greedy class traitors in a minibus being driven through a picket line, doing the work of a striking worker, no matter how well-intentioned, is still scabbing.(10)

Now, in spite of the lip service paid to opposing privatisation, the Green Party in Brighton have now voted for the privatisation of the Integrated Community Equipment Services (ICES) – which provides daily living and nursing equipment for people being cared for in the community in the city.(11) Also, as I write this, the binmen are going back on strike,(12) – so much for the Green Party being pro-unions.

Overall the sorry saga of Brighton Council, which is still being played out at the time of writing, is clear evidence of where we will end up should we place our faith in the Green Party.

What do the Greens really offer the working class? (Less then you think, actually)

Whilst the Brighton situation is most definitely a stain on the pro-union image the Greens love to project, it is pertinent to point to a statement in their 2010 election manifesto, where the Greens propose to “end the corrupting effects of big private and Trade Union donations to political parties, and bring in a fair system of state funding.”(13) As they say, the devil is in the detail.

Also, with some exceptions, they do poorly in working class areas – in local elections in Manchester in 2012 they polled lower than the Tories and UKIP (and in some cases, the BNP) in the following wards: Baguley (a mostly working-class ward where the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition also finished ahead of the Greens, proving that traditional leftism for all its faults is potentially still more appealing than middle-class pseudo-leftism), Bradford, Brooklands, Charlestown, Crumpsall, Harpurhey (home of some the the worst deprivation in England and Wales), Higher Blackley, Longsight, Moston, Northenden, Sharston (which covers some more areas of the city which are considered among the most deprived in the country) and Woodhouse Park – whilst in Gorton South they finished ahead of the Tories but were beaten by UKIP.(14)

Whilst it is tempting to think the Greens’ failure to succeed in working class areas is due to an image problem, the issue goes much deeper than that. Organising the working class as the working class (a term one can happily interchange with “ordinary people” or the “99%”) to fight for their interests just simply isn’t the Green Party way of doing politics, instead they will see issues of social injustice and then state how they will magically sort them out if you give them a chance, and then turn up to the relevant meetings, rallies and protests with their banners, placards and leaflets to show everyone how much “on their side” the Greens are, without investing energy into what actually needs to be done in order to bring about positive change – partially since most of the party have made up their own minds and have no need to engage with the grassroots other than to persuade them to vote Green. Their stance on trade unions exemplifies this – whilst they agree with them on principle, they would rather they were not able to do anything to rock the boat and instead be reassured that a Green government would listen to their concerns and still have their best interest at heart. The ongoing dispute with the Brighton bin workers proves that this is far from the case.

Quacks and cranks – conspiracy theories and anti-science within the party

The Green movement has its fair share of people who distrust anything to do with modern technology and put their faith in pesudo-scientific beliefs, mistakenly believing that every scientific development since the Industrial Revolution is intrinsically part of the problem whilst happily adopting double standards when scientists warn of the imminent danger of rising greenhouse gas emissions and the resultant climate change. This is reflected in the Green Party too. For starters, this is in their health policy: “The safety and regulation of medicines will be controled(sic) by a single agency… The agency will cover existing synthetic medicines as well as those considered as natural or alternative medicines.”(15)

So, in other words, they are “keeping an open mind” regarding treatments where scientific evidence supporting their efficacy is sketchy to non-existent. However this is a marked improvement to what their health policy stated in 2009:
“The Green Party will set up within legislation the practice of patient empowerment, with the right of individuals… to have full and detailed knowledge as to their condition and the range of treatments available, both conventional and complementary/alternative… [The Green Party] oppose attempts to regulate complementary medicine, except by licensing and review boards made up of representatives of their respective alternative health care fields… [The Green Party will] encourage the development of a wider and more relevant range of research techniques, including methods appropriate to the assessment of complementary therapies.”(16)

However whoever wrote up the older draft of health policy is probably still around in the party, along with like minded people and influencing policy today. Indeed there are Green councillors who have promoted dangerous scaremongering regarding vaccinations.(17) Green Party leader Natalie Bennett had stated that homeopathy has a very small and limited place in the NHS, by virtue of its placebo effect.(18) Caroline Lucas signed an Early Day Motion backing homeopathy in 2010, although to give her credit she later withdrew her signature. However she has stated that she welcomed the recommendations by NICE to allow more “complementary” treatments on the NHS.(19)

As can be expected from a party which has its roots in the environmental movement, the Greens are anti-nuclear power (as are many on the left in general). However the Greens often go beyond making reasonable arguments against nuclear, and shoot themselves in the foot by resorting to unverified research and scaremongering. Their former science adviser, Chris Busby, made claims – oft repeated by environmental campaigners, of “leukaemia clusters” in north Wales – which are not peer-reviewed and have been refuted by credible scientists. Even worse still, Busby implies that the Japanese have deliberately spread radioactive waste throughout Japan after the Fukushima accident. The reason? Busby assumes that “when” clusters of childhood cancer start appearing in Fukushima, the parents of the victims will want to sue the Japanese government. To prevent this, Busby stated that the government plan to raise background levels of cancer throughout the country in order to mask any elevated incidence of cancer in Fukushima.(20) Busby provided no evidence for this – a typical problem with conspiracy theorists, and regardless of where you stand on the nuclear debate it can only be solved by calm and rational discussion, not emotive scaremongering, resorting to gross distortion of facts and unsubstantiated claims. Such dishonest behaviour will quickly be discredited. Unfortunately Busby is far from the only conspiracy theorist in the Green Party.

The Green Party has in recent years been under pressure from the so-called “9/11 Truth” movement – and it’s no surprise that some “truthers” are among the party’s rank and file. Even it has been 23 years since the party’s most infamous member, David Icke, left the party, there are still plenty of people who hold frighteningly similar views. These include:

• a former Green local candidate who kept an “open mind” on the Protocols of the Elders of Zion (an anti-Semitic screed produced in Tsarist Russia to justify the pogroms against Jews in the 19th Century, which also acts as inspiration for the aforementioned David Icke), and believes that 9/11 and 7/7 were the work of the respective governments and were “false flag” operations, who was eventually expelled for making homophobic remarks,(21,22)
• a currently active party member and former local candidate who stated that: “at the very least there is culpable US government complicity in the events of 9/11.”,(23)
• someone who gave a presentation about the 9/11 “Truth” campaign at the 2005 party conference(24) and a staunch defender of the now discredited Icke who quit the party after 15 years after the party didn’t take Icke’s wild claims about lizards seriously.(25)

With such people and fellow travellers involved in the party, it seems unsurprising that in 2006 that a resolution calling for an investigation into 9/11 nearly got passed(26) – it failed by a margin of two votes.(27) Thankfully even within the Green Party there are people there who are not seduced by conspiracy theories, including former Principal Speaker Derek Wall, and a contributor to the excellent 9/11 CultWatch website, Larry O’Hara.

Anti-Semitism: the elephant in the room

Whilst one can be a “9/11 Truther” and worry about the danger of the “New World Order” without resorting to anti-Semitism, it is a fact that anti-Semitic tropes are often embedded within the fabric of conspiracy theories. As mentioned, a lot of conspiracies are derived from the Protocols of the Elders of Zion as a basis. In addition, anti-Semitism can also fester among people who support the legitimate cause of freedom of the Palestinians from Israeli occupation. In 2012, leadership candidate Pippa Bartolotti made this comment:

“I questioned the wisdom of having a Jewish Zionist ambassador in Israel and stated that their loyalty was a matter for the FCO to investigate. The vice-consul was called Levi. From the university of life I have learned that Jews often have a conflict of interest in matters relating to Palestine.”(28)

So the UK’s ambassador to Israel is subject to criticism and his loyalty questioned… due to him having a Jewish-sounding name, and worst still it is implied that the loyalties of any Jew to his or her country can be brought into question (just imagine the outrage if “Jew” was replaced with “Muslim”). Regardless of what he actually believes regarding the Israel/Palestine issue or regarding his personal religious beliefs, such behaviour goes beyond the pale. Worst still, back in 2010 Bartolotti posed with the flag of the fascist Syrian Socialist National Party – and claimed to only fully researched them after she was questioned regarding why she did so, initially assuming they were a “a secular and socialist party – as are the Greens”.(29)

The Green Party’s failure to tackle the issue of anti-Semtism lead to one member to resign after witnessing a senior figure recommending an article by a known Holocaust denier on his blog and a new member posted emails to a list confirming that the epithet of “squealing Zionist” was justified – as well as the statement about the UK’s ambassador to Israel made by Bartolotti. In spite of attempts by the Green Party Regional Council (a powerful body within the party) to implement a concrete policy on anti-Semitism – this was eventually shelved in spite of repeated reports of anti-Semitic incidents coming in from concerned members.(30) This is not a encouraging sign for a party that on the surface claims to be anti-racist, and it can be argued that the stance that until recently taken by the party of being “beyond left and right” leaves them exposed to people that espouse reactionary beliefs which would not gain any traction within any other “left” group.

Where does this leave us?

The fact that the Green Party is becoming a more and more desirable option for people disillusioned with mainstream politics cannot be dismissed – and in spite of their actions not meeting their promises, many on the left still call for a vote for the Greens – if only tactically, such as was the case with Left Unity branches in the North West at the 2014 European elections when it was considered possible that a swing in the Green vote would allow a principled trade unionist to be elected in place of then-leader of the fascist BNP, Nick Griffin.

A sizeable Green contingent in the council chamber can mean that the local Labour Party cannot take people’s votes for granted. However when push comes to shove, the Greens become just as much of a disappointment as the mainstream parties. In Brighton, they did a U-turn and implemented a cuts budget, whilst stoking up a dispute with the refuse workers over pay which has boiled over into further industrial action in September 2014.

In Bristol, Green councillors are part of a “rainbow coalition” which includes pro-cuts parties.(31) In Leeds, the Greens went into coalition with the Lib Dems and Tories, even though even complementing such a thing should be anathema to anyone who is genuinely dedicated to standing up for the people. Overseas the Irish Greens paid the price for being in coalition which imposed vicious austerity measures when the financial crisis first started, and last decade German Greens were part of a coalition with the Social Democrats (Germany’s version of the UK’s Labour Party) which voted in favour of supporting the war in Afghanistan. Overall, it is safe to say that anyone who fully invests their faith in the Green Party of England and Wales (or indeed Scotland) is in for a major disappointment.

So the message from this is quite simply this: don’t believe the hype. By all means support a vote for the Greens if the individual candidate in your area can be trusted to stick by their principles and to genuinely have the best interests of ordinary people at heart (unlike Jason Kitcat and his cronies in Brighton) – although this form of tactical voting will probably have diminishing value as the Greens subsequently prove that their proposals do not match up with their actions. The Green Party offer no long term solution to the crises which affect the ordinary people in this country – so we cannot abandon efforts to build a real alternative left-of-Labour party just because the Greens are presently doing a good job of spinning themselves as that.

When the Greens let people down, Left Unity should stand against them if the local branch have the resources to do so. We should be aware that should the Greens continue to gain support from those disillusioned by mainstream politicians, eventually genuine socialists will end up on a collision course with them as they subsequently repeat the betrayals seen in Brighton, Bristol and Leeds.

Additionally whenever Green Party members act in unacceptable ways by espousing reactionary attitudes or sharing a platform with reactionary organisations they need to be called on it – and should their local Green Party branch not take appropriate action they too should be criticised.

This is why we need to continue to work to make Left Unity a genuine party of the left, and not rely on the Greens or any of the mainstream parties to oppose austerity and the erosion of workers’ rights. In the long term we need to make sure that should Left Unity come anywhere near controlling a council that we avoid the pitfalls the Brighton Greens were all too eager to sleepwalk into, and when the Greens prove they are no better than any of the other mainstream parties, all bets are off. Left Unity’s rallying cry should be that when we say we stand for the people, we mean it.

References

1. http://www.theguardian.com/politics/2014/sep/05/green-party-conference-media-ignores-them
2. http://policy.greenparty.org.uk/
3. http://blogs.telegraph.co.uk/news/edwest/100077688/why-dont-working-class-people-support-the-green-party/
4. http://leftunity.org/just-how-left-wing-is-the-green-party/
5. http://greenparty.org.uk/news/2014/07/11/green-party-statement-on-gaza-conflict/
6. http://www.greenleft.org.au/node/42182
7. http://brightgreenscotland.org/index.php/2012/03/why-i-voted-against-the-brighton-budget/
8. http://www.redpepper.org.uk/why-i-resigned-from-the-green-party/
9. http://on.fb.me/1pfDnkm
10. https://libcom.org/news/caroline-lucas-green-scab-17062013
11. http://www.gmb.org.uk/newsroom/no-to-brighton-privatisation
12. http://www.gmb.org.uk/newsroom/further-dispute-at-brighton-cityclean
13. http://www.greenparty.org.uk/assets/files/resources/Manifesto_web_file.pdf
14. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Manchester_City_Council_election,_2012
15. http://policy.greenparty.org.uk/he.html
16. http://liberalconspiracy.org/2009/06/09/is-the-green-party-anti-science/
17. http://ruscombegreen.blogspot.co.uk/2008/12/stop-compulsory-vaccinations.html
18. http://skeptical-voter.org/wiki/index.php?title=Natalie_Bennett#Homeopathy
19. http://skeptical-voter.org/wiki/index.php?title=Caroline_Lucas#Alternative_Medicine
20. http://www.theguardian.com/environment/georgemonbiot/2011/nov/22/christopher-busby-nuclear-green-party
21. http://another-green-world.blogspot.co.uk/2008/12/tony-gosling-suspended-from-bristol.html
22. http://paulstott.typepad.com/911cultwatch/2008/12/911-truther-tony-gosling-suspended-from-bristol-green-party.html
23. http://www.thisisull.com/politics/martin/911show.html
24. http://www.greenparty.org.uk/files/conference/2005/1provisional timetable for Lancaster 05.htm
25. http://web.archive.org/web/20081203155601/http://www.davidicke.com/content/view/15514/34/
26. http://web.archive.org/web/20090317065257/http://911truthcampaign.net/articles/MeacherReport/MeacherReportAJ.html#_Toc149039997
27. http://greensengage.wordpress.com/2008/11/27/private-eye-spies-greens/
28. http://brightgreenscotland.org/index.php/2012/08/pippa-barolottis-anti-semitic-comments/
29. http://www.thejc.com/comment-and-debate/analysis/70782/beware-woman-who-bids-lead-greens
30. http://brockley.blogspot.co.uk/2011/02/so-time-has-come-not-to-renew.html
31. http://www.bristol247.com/2012/11/28/gus-hoyt-why-i-am-happy-to-join-bristols-rainbow-cabinet-73899/


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43 comments

43 responses to “What’s wrong with the Greens? A response from the left”

  1. hupmcr says:

    I think it should be obvious that all of the above criticisms can be made of an parliamentary party. They talk a good fight until they are in power. Conspiracy theorists are every where, and are worth criticising regardless of which party they reside.
    You have taken earlier stats to build straw men arguments about class composition and capability, especially in light of the fact that Natalie Bennett only came to power in 2012, a reflection of a leftward shift.
    Parliamentary politics is a cholera at the best of times, and should only be engaged in with blow effort to present an alternative. The greens are doing that, and will be the only parliamentary party to be able to do that.
    Left unity should consider mass entry to the party – it is decentralised and quite democratic – to create a further leftward shift. This is if they want to be something more than another crank hole for disaffected sectarian leftists.
    Left unity – especially having shown this though no ability to work with tusc – will not be able to big enough on their own or in coalition.

  2. Nick Foster says:

    One major inaccuracy here (speaking as an ex Green of 7 years now in Left Unity)the Antisemitism thing was an attempt by Greens Engage (roughly equivalent to Labour or Conservatives for Israel)to enforce a definition of antisemitism that conflated it with opposition to the occupation of Palestine. Greens were quite right to reject this.

  3. David Melvin says:

    The analysis of the Greens in Manchester is misleading. According to the TUSC website in the 9 wards they stood against the Greens they were well beaten In arguably the most working class ward in the City, Hulme, the Greens came second to Labour’s 1731 with 706. TUSC came last with 40. In only 2 wards did TUSC get more than 100 votes. TUSC were completely irreverent in Manchester, as they were in the rest of the UK. It is unlikely that Left Unity would fare any better than TUSC if they stood against the Greens in Manchester, where they are now established as the main opposition to Labour.

    • Tom Armstrong says:

      I would not consider Hulme the “most working class” ward in Manchester – it does have a fair share of working class people living there but compared to many areas of North and East Manchester as well as Wythenshawe, Hulme is relatively well off – it has changed considerably over the past 20 years and the days of the Crescents.

  4. Ray G says:

    This is a very interesting article about the strengths and weaknesses of the Greens. In my safe Labour seat i am inclined to vote Green unless a real local activist stands (not a Trotskyist paper seller with no record in the movement), but I take on board all your comments as i used to be a member of the Greens (admittedly 25 years ago).

    That said, I believe that many good people are in the Green Party and either they need to be prised away to LU or a section of the Greens need to split and fuse with us if we are ever going to build a left alternative.

    • Tom Armstrong says:

      As much as I am critical of the Greens, in my ward this year the Green candidate got my vote over a TUSC candidate that also stood – because he does good community work in my area and is a sound person, and additionally in this case the Green were the best shot of unseating Labour – having had Green councillors elected in my area in the past. However if I was living in Brighton there is no way I would vote Green now.

      “I believe that many good people are in the Green Party and either they need to be prised away to LU or a section of the Greens need to split and fuse with us if we are ever going to build a left alternative.”

      The only way we can do that is to lead by example – just informing them of the “superiority” of our policies and values isn’t going to cut the mustard, we need to prove they are capable of doing things better than the Greens would.

  5. Mike Hutch says:

    Interesting article. Please more of “ordinary people” as opposed to “the working class”. Refreshing to see this in a “left-wing” article and crucial to spreading the message. Ordinary people, including those cited here as “middle class”, have much in common in terms of values and the overthrow of the capitalist system controlled by the 1% will require us all to work together.

    • Tom Armstrong says:

      “Please more of “ordinary people” as opposed to “the working class”.”

      Thank you, that is exactly what I try to do.

  6. Peter Murry says:

    as secretary of the green party trade union group I regard the statement below as almost entirely fictional

    “whilst they agree with them (TU’s) on principle, they would rather they were not able to do anything to rock the boat and instead be reassured that a Green government would listen to their concerns and still have their best interest at heart.”

    i’ll admit not every member of GP is supportive of TU’s, but more and more of us are, the green party trade union group’s been going for about ten years now, we have a trade union liaison officer on the GP national executive and in creasing tu engagement with us at our conferences and other times (see the gptu blog at gptu.blogspot.com)

    GP needs to keep up its leftward shift so don’t keep pissing from outside the tent

    • Tom Armstrong says:

      That statement was made in light of the recent dispute that Brighton and Hove Council (that is, the council the Greens claim to be in charge of) has had with the CityClean workers and the GMB union. If you are so supportive of trade unions and their struggles, why are situations arising on your watch where they feel the need to go on strike?

  7. Will Duckworth says:

    What happened to the ‘Unity’ part of Left Unity? Let’s attack the real enemy not each other. Yes there are some reactionary idiots in the Green Party, but we need to tackle them, not the true socialists amongst us.
    The ‘local party up’ organisation of the Green Party means that there is no control from he centre but some individuals and local parties are not always as ‘on message’ as they should be.

    • tomwalker says:

      I do get bored of this ‘what about unity’ comment, which has already been left on this article a few times. Yes we will unite with those who share our aims, which includes *some* Green Party members. But the Greens as a whole have, as you say, a lot of reactionaries – not least of which are the councillors who do thoroughly sold the pass by voting for the cuts in Brighton, provoking strikes and now supporting privatisation. And this is part of a long history of bad positions in the Greens. Why shouldn’t we criticise that?

      If ‘Left Unity’ simply meant that we should unite with the Greens then it wouldn’t exist at all – we would simply be Green Party members wouldn’t we? But ours is a unity around key left wing principles. There are many good left wingers in the Greens but there are also plenty of right wingers – it’s not good enough to just say ‘ah well, we have no control over the right wingers but please stop criticising the party’.

  8. watwermelon bloke says:

    How refreshing to see the left indulge in overlong holier-than-thou sniping, littered with cliche, inaccuracies and snarky rhetoric. A true mark of the departure from the old ways of doing things that LU claim to represent. Doubtless the potshots being taken outward are no reflection an immense and harmonic dynamism within. All parties till now have had ballsups, nutbars and setbacks. All hail LU and the new dawn. Lets denounce everyone, theres votes aplenty in it.

  9. Robert Howells says:

    What’s wrong with Left Unity? Clearly they don’t want to unite the left. The Greens are the only credible opposition to the increasingly polarized political landscape. I like what LU were trying to do but clearly, they suffer from the old party political lines of thought and infighting amoungst like-minded people. As a progressive red/green I would be willing to work with anyone from any party to get positive change, within and without the political structures. The top-down approach of tackling climate change is the only way to have rapid, large scale prevention of further damage, although this is also backed by greater local and regional representation in their policies. I could go on but I don’t have the time, finally, for a piece coming from a supposedly socialist mindset where is the inclusion of the guaranteed citizens income. Biased and unproductive, I expect more from LU.

  10. Rachel Godfrey Wood says:

    As a Left Unity member, I have to say I can’t see what the point is in slagging people off for being too well informed about green energy technologies, especially when later on in the article it criticises people for being ‘pseudo-science’.I certainly agree, you can’t move build a broad-based movement just around these people, but neither should we just alienate them or write them off for having the wrong ‘profile’. Surely anyone interested in human advancement should be willing to engage with people who do have some of the ‘technical’ expertise which many of us (myself in particular) don’t have. Otherwise the establishment will be able to claim a monopoly of ‘tecnical’ knowledge, which is one strategy for justifying their own power. I also think that instead of attacking the Greens for not being left enough, we might ask if Left Unity is green enough – We’ve got the green in our logo, but can we come up with a serious strategy that definitively works towards guaranteeing human wellbeing not just for now but for generations to come?

    • Tom Armstrong says:

      “I can’t see what the point is in slagging people off for being too well informed about green energy technologies, especially when later on in the article it criticises people for being ‘pseudo-science’.”

      Because these technologies whilst they may prove useful are not a panacea when we still live in a society run for the benefit of a small few that wish to exploit the rest in order to slake their greed. Also it is not at all uncommon for people in the green movement to be pro-renewable energy, anti-climate change, and agreeing with scientists on one hand, but on the other rebuking everything scientists say regarding, for example, the effectiveness of homoeopathy (my stance: it’s just WATER!) or being taken in by the toxic scaremongering regarding vaccinations against deadly diseases.

  11. David Melvin says:

    You are dead right Robert. Left Unity claimed a year ago that they a party to the left of Labour – “The Spirit of 1945” and saw themselves as the UKIP of the left. It’s time they recognised that the Greens got their first! For the 2015 General Election the Greens are the only credible party to the left of Labour. Yet some talk of electoral alliances with the TUSC. Left Unity is in danger of being being anything other left unity but another ultra lefist sect. Get real comrades and put the dictatorship of the proletariat on the back burner.

    • tomwalker says:

      There’s nothing “credible” or “left” about voting for the cuts as the Greens have!

    • Simon Hardy says:

      When the left launched Syriza in the late 90s they were told there was “no space” to the left of PASOK, people said that the KKE and anarchist groups already filled the space. Syriza fought their way onto the political scene and set the agenda. That is what we have to do in Britain.

      The Greens are carving our a space for themselves as a left party, but they are just following the same route as several other European Left Parties – the most successful ones sold out when they got into power (Ireland, Germany). Those on the left of the Greens should welcome Left Unity since we will be harying the Greens from the left that should encourage them to stay on their left course. If they don’t then we will be there to welcome the left of the Greens into Left Unity, as we did when a few Green Left members joined us after the Brighton fiasco.

  12. Matt Hale says:

    One of the better articles to have appeared on the Left Unity website. For all the illusions in the Green Party and talk of them being a ‘party of the left’, Tom has done a fantastic at outlining both how their practice is very different (i.e., in Brighton but also elsewhere) and that their policy is at odds with trade union freedom.
    Now, I’ve got no issues with working in campaigns with Green Party *members* as Tom himself rightly notes but can people please stop throwing down the “what are about unity” gauntlet unless its backed up with evidence that the Greens are actually on the left and that its an organisation that socialists and worker-militants can work within (the latter as many have started suggesting it as late including some comments on this article)? Unity should never come at any price.

  13. Maria Ryan says:

    As someone with a ‘Dr’ before my name, this article makes me feel that I would not be welcome in LU. It makes the group sound exclusive and judgemental rather than inclusive.

    • tomwalker says:

      I don’t think anyone in Left Unity is against doctoral education – that would clearly be ridiculous. My reading of that point was that the Greens were conducting discussion of climate change at a highly technical and inaccessible level. Of course we need expertise, but we also need an accessible environmentalism where you don’t need to be an expert to participate in the discussion.

      • Philip says:

        This is a silly charge Tom. The whole of academia are struggling with communicating advanced science to a lay audience. No one has the perfect answer to this yet. To level this charge at the Green Party is somewhat disingenuous.

    • Tom Armstrong says:

      One of our comrades, who is now sadly no longer with us had a “Dr.” before his name and was one of the most committed members of our branch and was very passionate about Left Unity.

      It is not about judging people for being overly qualified, it’s about allowing a discourse that is not overwhelmed by a specific group of people with a specific set of ideas – and I feel it’s very important that we allow people who have limited formal education to have as much input into Left Unity as anyone else.

  14. Philip says:

    An organiser of Loughborough Left Unity has Dr as a title. Oh dear.

  15. Phil Pope says:

    once Left Unity has councillors who are voting against cuts then we will be in a position to criticise. this article just comes over as petty sniping. I happen to think the Green’s policy on regulating homeopathy is absolutely correct – I think homeopathy is nonsense and should be regulated. Green policy is very well developed and better than LU policy in many areas in my opinion. Ridiculous to criticise them in the same article for being anti=science and having too many doctors and technology experts. I live in Bristol and hope to be challenging the Green deputy mayor for what he has done – but this is different to trying to discredit the Greens as a whole. Try criticising the tories and leave fellow progressives alone.

  16. jqmark says:

    point of information. 1, the green party does not have a majority on brighton council they run it with out a majority so its a bit much to say they have “control”. other points 2, i think is other people in left unity better qualified to write this article who understand the greens better, 3, the greens and the greens movement have the same problems as other parties of the left who have all either compromised or become authoritarian, simply grouping people in with the right wont help left unity avoid the same traps as every one else.

  17. Clive Martin says:

    In my Tory/Lib Dem dominated part of the West Country I try to build the Green Party with modest success. It allows me to promote my socialist views along with my more recent, but no less strongly held, belief that unless we do something about environmental issues, primarily climate change, we really are looking disaster in the face. And from where I sit I had the vague idea that Left Unity was “a good thing”, even though there are none in my area.
    Then I came across this piece of sectarian knockabout.
    This is really thin stuff. Some of them have doctorates and know what they are talking about? Shocking. There’s been the odd nutter associated with the Green Party over the years. Amazing.
    Your bizarre take on the Green Party’s electoral performance in Manchester is undone by the reference you give, which actually shows the results in question.
    As far as I can see Left Unity hasn’t got around to having any actual policies on environmental issues yet – probably best to change the colour of the logo, eh?
    Sure, Brighton has been a bit of a train wreck at times – but I’m glad you will work out how to play things “should Left Unity come anywhere near controlling a council”. However, I’m not holding my breath.
    This is “one of the better articles to have appeared on the Left Unity website”? Good grief – I hate to think what the poor ones are like.

    • joe gill says:

      Thank you – a very long article with unconvincing criticism. This sounds like something from Monty Python. Which bit of the word ‘unity’ is being misunderstood here? You wish to displace the greens clearly. You have a very long way to go. Left Unity was founded prematurely. In the meantime I support what Natalie Bennet is doing for the Greens. It ain’t perfect but its better than holier than thou sectarianism.
      As for just dismissing all those you question the official 9/11 story (or calling them anti-semitic) it suggests, along with your official science worship (have you seen how many scientists have refuted 9/11 official story?) that you have a closed minded conservative and orthodox mindset. You should really do your homework better.

      • Steve Stannard says:

        It’s interesting that you pick on the article criticism of the prevalence of ‘9/11 truthers’ in the Green Party.
        Without a shadow of doubt the US establishment had a big part to play in not preventing that tragedy. But that isn’t any ‘9/11 truth’.
        People like Noam Chomsky – one of the most fearsome opponents of western imperialism and sharpest critics of US policy – a commentator whose work is mostly kept hidden from US audiences because he mostly never gets coverage and is never interviewed on mainstream media broadcasts, and even when he appears here in the UK has to deal with very hostile questioning from interviewers, and is regularly smeared by ‘liberal’ papers like The Guardian – has spoken many times about the ludicrous nonsense being spouted by ‘9/11 truthers’ and has answered questions about it many times in person. Yet all these people do when he gives detailed considered replies is to resort to quite shocking personal abuse.

  18. Mark Reeves says:

    This is the latest in a lengthening line of depressing things I have read from L.U.

    When I joined L.U. I thought I was joining something different, something new in U.K. Left politics. What I’m getting is just the same tired old wine in new bottles with a snazzier label…

  19. David Melvin says:

    I think you may be right Mark. In March LU were talking about being the UKIP of the Left – a party to the left of Labour with membership up to 2000. By spending time attacking the most successful party to the left of Labour – the Green party – is not what I would expect from a party called Left Unity.

    • tomwalker says:

      I don’t understand this argument. Surely one of the reasons people join Left Unity as a new left-of-Labour party is that they do not agree with the Green Party – in fact many have previously been members of the Greens then been betrayed by its support for cuts. If we wanted to support the Greens then surely we would have joined the Greens. That doesn’t mean we won’t work with their members in campaigns, just as we will work with Labour members, but I don’t see how we have any obligation to refrain from publishing critical articles about the party as a whole.

  20. Theo simon says:

    I have recently joined the Green Party in my area, but it was a toss-up for me between the Greens and LU. I like to think that I am a comrade with LU, because I recognise the need for Left Unity and an agenda that champions working class interests. However, I have joined the greens in my own area because I think that there are more people there who have a comprehension of the urgent situation we all face as our global ecology collapses and climate change kicks in. I don’t see a real sense of that in LU at the moment. On the other hand I know that we shall only get a grip on the situation if we have democratic control of the economy, and many more LU cdes understand this than Greens at present. Until we can develop a movement which embraces both equally – the need for equality and public ownership and the need for immediate action to reverse planetary destruction and climate change – I plan at present to work for the advance of socialist ideas in the rapidly growing GP and support and act in solidarity with the efforts of LU to develop real working class representation. I see no contradiction in my area, where there are no LU or TUSC candidates for elections yet.

    I am very aware that the GP has not based itself on an understanding of class society, but that can change. The behaviour of green cllrs in Brighton can of course be criticised completely, but I spent several years in the Labour Party and I am a Unite member, so I hardly unused to being in organisations where other members/officials have different agendas and act against the interests of the working class. Those are the internal battles to be fought, but the GP is an open book with an influx of young people and a platform ready to be used in elections, and the situation facing us ecologically is far more urgent than most people realise. I don’t think that either of us, LU cdes or GP cdes, yet have a big enough movement to achieve our common aims, and there will be clashes between our different strategies, but as long as our first loyalty is towards the interests of the oppressed and of our living planet, rather than our organisations, I trust that we will achieve the effect we HAVE to achieve as rapidly as possible. Honest discussion and mutual criticism are an essential part of this.

  21. Mark Reeves says:

    Of all the problems facing the poor and the dispossessed in the U.K. today, the Green Party is not one of them. We should be addressing our 4000 word articles to the direction of finding ways to make the U.K. a fairer more decent place.

    This ‘People’s Front of Judea’ shit is just depressing. Let’s leave that stuff to the time-wasters in TUSC and the SWP.

  22. Peter Barnett says:

    David Icke was in the Green Party for under 4 years, not 15, and he resigned in Feb 1991, long long before he started talking about lizards or other weird stuff.
    Poorly researched article, poorly reasoned – just plain poor.

  23. Doug says:

    Oh dear, many of the responses to Tom’s excellent article just reinforce my misgivings about LU. The Green Party is a capitalist party. It is not based on the fundamental interests of the working class or working class organisations. It does not seek to replace captialism with socialism. That’s all I need to know.

  24. Stuart King says:

    Surely we join Left Unity because it is a socialist party, one that wants to change society from top to bottom in a socialist direction. The Greens have never claimed to be a socialist party but a progressive, environmentalist one – this is a clear choice.

    Unlike the Greens, Left unity is not an “electoralist party”, we don’t believe that winning seats in parliament or on councils is our main aim. This is because that is not where the real power lies. If we really want to change society we need to remove the generals and high command, unelected judges, police commanders , the bankers and multi national corporations that really run the country. We need a fighting party that builds from below popular organisations that can replace these power centres.

    If you start by running councils or parliament while these bastions of power remain in place then you end up like the Irish, German and Brighton Greens, implementing austerity, supporting imperialist wars and fighting trade unions defending their members.

    None of this means we can’t work with the Greens on particular issues (as we work with the Labour Party locally occasionally) . But members should be allowed to raise criticisms of the Green Party without people tearing their hair out, it can’t be off limits.

    Whether or not you agree with all or none of what Tom says he has the right to say it and it reflects his individual opinion not the whole of Left Unity, which is why it’s under ‘discussion and debate’. Debate makes us stronger, people should stop trying to close it down.

  25. Steve says:

    You say: “The safety and regulation of medicines will be controled(sic) by a single agency… The agency will cover existing synthetic medicines as well as those considered as natural or alternative medicines.” So, in other words, they are “keeping an open mind” regarding treatments where scientific evidence supporting their efficacy is sketchy to non-existent.

    This is misrepresenting the intention of the policy. The point is that so-called alternative remedies should be subjected to the same level of quality control and regulation as mainstream medicines, something which no one should have a problem with. This does not imply, as you suggest, implicit support for alternative therapies over and above prescribed drugs. The fact is, these alternative medicines exist. Those who choose to take them should be reassured that they are equally protected in the same that those taking other medicines are.

    In your desperation to debunk every last letter and comma of Green policy you have fallen into the trap of trying to read too much into what is a thoroughly sensible idea.

  26. micheline mason says:

    Members of Left Unity will need to give up this dreadful habit of trying to demolish other people who might seem to be a threat to our supremacy. We need to be looking at what we have in common and building alliances. That is what the ‘unity’ bit of our name is about. The Green Party has been working their socks of for 40 years and are just beginning to get some small respect and recognition. They are led by a woman and have one female MP. I think we should be learning from them, supporting them and trying to forge a future together, whilst contributing our own perspective where it differs.

  27. Kevin Potter says:

    I joined LU early on, impressed by the stated intention to provide the much needed genuine alternative to the neoliberal consensus and its puppet parties. It was the first time I had thrown my lot in with a political party and, I confess, I was nervous about doing so. I have still not worked up the courage to become an active participant (I do regularly campaign locally on issues, such as TTIP, but not under the LU banner). One of the reasons (I also have a young family and little time) for my reticence in becoming more involved, was a fear that LU would (like some parties of the left) be comprised of combative hard core Trots, Anarchists and Communists busy arguing and debating among themselves over lofty intellectual concepts, mired in the kind of sectarian divisions the Left has too long suffered.
    This Saturday’s TUC demonstration in London was the first time I had met with other LU members and, I am pleased to say, that I found this was not the case and that the people I met were largely welcoming and supportive. However, and I do think this article about the Green Party is somewhat symptomatic, I was left with a slight feeling that LU might not be inclusive enough to become a banner under which large numbers could unite. For example, I had a couple of LU members groan when I mentioned my support for The People’s Assembly, and I overheard some others moaning about the lack of theoretical understanding of the young etc…
    I completely agree that debate is essential and there’s nothing wrong with a dissection of the Green Party. However, Left Unity are not going to supplant the Greens as the alternative of choice anytime soon. We should be looking to find the places where we have common ground with others engaged in the fight, which certainly includes a large number of Greens. We should aim to be the facilitator for debate and communication between the left, not to exploit cracks and divisions in the hope that we will collect disenfranchised strays from other parties and movements. I also think people respond better, and are much more likely to be supportive and won over, if we make them feel they’re already one of us, build on common ground and extend it, rather than try to brow beat with criticism.
    If LU took on a role in bringing different factions of the genuine left together and actively invited and encouraged them to attend broad based formal and, crucially, informal social events for debate on a regular basis, it would not only improve our standing within the left community but place us at the centre of things, extending the reach of our arguments and influence (I am sure many in LU are actively doing just this, so please forgive me if I sound presumptuous, particularly as I’m an inactive lightweight). And besides it would, as The People’s Assembly are doing so well, help in building the broad base of solidarity on the Left that is, surely, more important right now than the prosperity of any single group or party (although I do think Labour are a lost cause have to be dismantled).

  28. Tony Free says:

    Lets be simplistic. The Greens are not a party of the left they are basically liberals who lean more towards Green issues than humanitarian ones. But there is room for a party like that in the same way that we need the RSCPA as well as the NSPCC. But we all know the priority order.


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