Monday 17 June 2024

The Green Party's Leftism

It's the day when fake political party Reform UK finally launched its "manifesto". But they get enough unwarranted coverage, so let's look at the Green Party's manifesto. Having enjoyed a bit of publicity following former Labour general secretary Jennie Formby's endorsement, it's not difficult to see why. For left wing people, there is a lot to like in the document.

Contrary to Labour's manifesto, which demands a dollop of self-delusion to be described as a radical document, no such mental gyrations have to be performed while leafing through the Greens'. On page 15, we find a promise to explore mutualisation as an alternative form of ownership, including taking existing firms into cooperative ownership in some circumstances. Unlike Labour and its crash diet offer to workers, at least compared with a a couple of years ago, the Greens stand for repealing all the anti-trade union laws since 1979, a £15/hr minimum wage, strict pay ratios across the economy, the adoption of single status for workers (dumped by Labour after business lobbying), and working toward the four-day week (p.17). On social security, the two child limit for child benefit would be scrapped, as would the cruelty of waiting times. Elected Greens would press for the abolition of the bedroom tax, and an uprating of benefits by £40/week. State pensions would be linked to inflation, and experiments with the basic income would take place (p.19). And where the rich are concerned, those with over £10m would see their tax bill rise by one per cent, and billionaire wealth would be taxed by an annual 2%. Tax dodge free ports/enterprise zones would be scrapped, Labour's self-imposed fiscal rules binned, and VAT applied to private school fees and finance (p.20).

This wouldn't go far enough as far as some are concerned, but it does match the ambition and scope of Labour's Corbynist manifestos. But is this, as some centrist critics suggest, merely a shopping list likely to put off more than it attracts (because, in British politics, the grown ups have decided we're not allowed nice things), an effort at offering left policies to soak up support from the not insubstantial numbers who've grown disgusted with Labour and its leadership?

Actually, yes. On the left the Greens have long been regarded as a petit bourgeois party, albeit a radical one versus the populist right and those fishing in similar waters. As such, the Greens have traditionally appealed to a constituency not dissimilar to the Liberal Democrats - small business people, sections of the state/public sector, the professions. The party continues to appeal to this layer, and has made significant advances into Tory support in the countryside. They do so because they intersect with conservationist values, which has always been a concern for rural conservatives, and in this vein are the only party that takes environmentalism and climate change seriously. That and the Greens present themselves as an unsullied political force, one that would not raise the heckles that Labour might in certain corners of the country. Despite the Greens' radical left positions.

To be fair to the Greens, its positioning has been well to the left of the other parties for over 20 years. But this time, it's intersecting with the decomposition of the Labour base Jeremy Corbyn bequeathed Keir Starmer. Without going into the specifics, Starmer's purge of the left - which is now freely admitted - was always going to drive away some of the membership and a wider layer of diffuse support by turning against the interests and socially liberal values of the rising layer of, to use Starmer's favourite term, working people. Compounding this was the alienation of traditionally Labour-loyal communities, namely British Muslims and black Britons, and the abandonment of the most vulnerable. As the Greens have grown off the back of a new wave of activists flowing into the party from these quarters, it's beginning to acquire a new core support. As Starmer wants politics to tread lightly on people's lives, in reality it will continue stamping heavily on their interests and aspirations. The Greens are well positioned to make good the opportunities the Labour leader throws their way.

It's best then to think of the Green manifesto as an anchor. It reflects the values and ambitions of the rising class of immaterial workers more closely than Labour's programme for government does, and is cohering a new networks of stable support than the party has previously enjoyed. Manifestos are always more than what a party would do in government. It shows what interests they want to serve, and how they're going about articulating them. The Greens are showing that they're attuned to the class politics of the moment, and can expect to do well from them in the years to come.

Image Credit


David said...

Great piece, and my shilly-shally dial swings back towards Green. What to do in Mid Derbyshire though? What if the Tories squeak back in by one vote?

Anonymous said...

Won't happen. Most of their voters will abandon them and either vote elsewhere or stay at home.

Jim Denham said...

I notice Jenny Fawmby justifies her support for the Greens on the basis that "They [the Tories] are on their way out anyway" (or words to that effect): the same argument that Owen Jones used when launching We Deserve Better. In other words us discerning left wing individuals can afford the luxury of a non-Labour vote becuae the ignorant proles will still be voting Labour.

Old Trot said...

The Greens , in the UK , and everywhere else too, do represent the narrow , self-serving, concerns of a finite, but quite large , relatively privileged, middle class, or petit bourgeois sub class across the financialised, de-industrialised West. But peer across the Channel to Germany to the much longer mainstream established German Greens to see where all that initial pacifist, anti nuclear weapons, anti NATO , citizens income , cooperatives, pseudo Leftism ends up when the ministerial limousines are available to transport ex radicals to their ministeries. The German Greens today are the most vociferous , quite crazy, Russophobic escalatory warmongers in the entire Western US vassal states bloc. And throughout their periodic participation , at both Lander and national German governmental levels, the Greens have been as keen to promote eternal austerity for the working class as anyone.

Maybe to those in the UK willing to ignore what Greens always become as office looms ,( though their gross behaviour running Brighton council should be a dire warning), this desire to believe the UK Greens will somehow be different is no doubt very reassuring as New Labour heads ever further Right. But maybe it is time to wake up on the Left about the current European and global crisis we are in. The ever-escalating war between the US and its NATO vassals versus the Russian Federation, and the now imminently looming wider war with China too- as part of the same attempt by the US to maintain its collapsing monopolar global hegemony, means we are in the most dangerous period for potential global all out thermonuclear war since the Cuban missile crisis. Not something this blog has ever concerned itself about - but a reality, including the war-mongering madness of the German Greens, which surely is worth a mention in any analysis of the Greens as a viable alternative for socialists ?

Kamo said...

The issue isn't really being "not allowed nice things", the issue is real world trade offs involved in paying for those nice things. It's not controversial to say everyone wants more spending on the stuff they like, and they'd prefer someone else to pay for it. Where I find the Greens dishonest is they know perfectly well choices have consequences, they just use magical thinking to wish them away, especially the entirely predictable 2nd and 3rd order effects. They either have no answer to those 2nd and 3rd order effects or if they do they're not sharing because they know there is lack of public support.

dermot said...

100% what Old Trot said. Much smaller stakes with the Greens here in Ireland, but on two occasions now they've wasted no time at all in going into power with both of our right wing parties (FF, first in 2007, disastrously for them and us), and more recently, and very comfortably it must be said, with FF AND FG, in a 3 party coalition that has overseen a housing crisis, rent crisis, health crisis, etc......

Anyone who wants the throw them a vote as a "stuff you" to Starmer is welcome to do so, but don't be shocked when their true colours are revealed. In Ireland they've been mocked as "Blueshirts on Bikes", I guess the German equivalent would be "Brownshirts on Bikes", and given their Greens lust for yet another Genocide of Semitic peoples in Gaza, and their laissez faire attitude to Depleted Uranium, that's not far off the mark.

Just more pigs on Animal Farm.

Anonymous said...

I will be voting for the Greens in the UK not because Jenny F. has suggested this but because I have considered what they have said regarding policy direction. Indeed I understand that under the 'left' JC and Jenny et al. there was a lot of seats that were given to 'the right type of person'- friends etc. Not due to experience or competence. They maybe not have been as good at it but there is no moral high ground on that account. Just politics? God help us all if that is the best we can ever do... No perfect but hey... can do a hell of a lot better surely. After all (mostly) folks take a long time to earn that (if ever) in the real world .

Anonymous said...

I will vote Green also because I like their 'policy direction' or at least their drive. I don't trust the Labour Party as they are in terms of plans for economic recovery which in real terms means a better life for most ordinary people: a future for the NHS; a well funded and quality education for the young; housing for young people without rich parents. I speak as someone who is the first generation of my family to benefit from a free quality higher education and the second generation from a good NHS. I don't want less for others, but more, and for our country.

Anonymous said...

Look at the stitch up in Staffordshire Moorlands and all the other areas throughout the country by Labour. It is not just about just 'left' and 'right'. And it is not about the best and most experienced candidate either. What leadership does this? One that cares about the skill to develop a better future for all....?

TowerBridge said...

So this is what I think, since no one is asking. First I don't think Trot's comparison is fair at all. In order to make that work he would also need to equivalate the CDU with the Tories and the SDP with labour perhaps. The problem is that left and right are different in Germany, as in the rest of Europe. Our frame of reference and overton window is skewed towards the right. The French, for example, have a viable communist party. We do not.

He is also wrong about Brighton. Most of the damage in Brighton was done by or with labour. For instance, recycling is terrible thanks to the PFI contract awarded by...labour. The schools are suffering enormously because PFI...i.e. labour and so on. Indeed, the greens have never held an outright majority in Brighton and have only been able to be a minority lead because of labour. Labour obviously put the boot in whenever it suits, as do the Tories, so as in Stoke, the greens have been naive enough to be honest with labour and assumed they would return the favour. Foolish that. It's quite the conspiracy and one that minority parties need to be aware of. When it matters, labour will support the status quo, namely, the establishment- and that's bloody depressing, because it's not working for many people. Like Blissex, I also think this election has been thrown and perhaps the establishment has decided it needs labour to prop it up for a bit.

As for the manifestos, I have read them all. I actually found the lib dems one most attractive, but that's simply because it was clearer than the greens' and contains partial answers to actual problems (e.g. proportional representation, but in the form of STV, i.e. better, but not enough). Someone needs to get hold of the Greens' document and make it more presentable and more easily understood I suggest.

The labour manifesto was clearly written by people who think they are being clever. For example, the phrase that labour would ban expoitative zero hours contracts can be read two ways. One, all zero hours contracts are explotative and will be banned or two, only *expoitative* zero hours contracts will be banned, the rest are fine. The manifesto is full of this. It's full of "we might think about/consult on...". It doesn't tell us what they will do when Thames Water goes under, although there's plenty of waffle. Similarly, do these people seriously think they are going to rock up to Brussels and re-write the trade and cooperation agreement because they are nicer than the Tories?

It's got that sense which I think very much exists in the labour hierarchy of "we, the smart ones, know everything. You, the plebs, are here to vote for us and shush. End".