The Greens are the new radical left party
Peter Tatchell says the Green Party now occupies the progressive
space once held by Labour
Labour has lost its heart and soul. The party leadership has sacrificed
long-cherished socialist values and ideals for short-term political
gain. It has pandered to every fleeting prejudice. On asylum, drugs,
terrorism, Europe and crime, Labour has bowed to mob hysteria.
Principles and leadership have been abandoned for the sake of a few more
sympathetic headlines in the Daily Mail. The idea of reclaiming the
party for a radical
progressive left politics is a hopeless dream. It is now beyond reform.
I left the Labour Party in 2000. After 22 years membership, it was a
gut-wrenching decision. 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 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 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. It is not the Liberal
Democrats. Like the other two establishment parties, Labour and the
Conservatives, the Lib Dems offer no serious challenge to the corporate,
free market interests that are destroying our green and pleasant land.
The real radical alternative is now the Greens. After two decades of
moving from right to left, the Green Party occupies the progressive
political space once held by left-wing Labour. It offers the most
credible alternative to Labour's pro-war, pro-big business and pro-Bush
The Green Party's Manifesto for a Sustainable Society (www.greenparty.org)
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. Their red-green synthesis integrates
policies for social justice and human rights 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 preventing environmental catastrophe
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? Obviously not. There are
now lots of radical left socialists who, like me, have joined the
Greens. We get a sympathetic hearing too. The party is moving left.
Although the Greens are not perfect (is any party perfect?), its
implicitly 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
Unlike tiny left parties, such as 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, well to the left of Labour (and the Lib Dems) on
all issues. They are also more radical than Respect on questions like
women's and gay rights, health care, animal welfare, the environment and
justice for the developing
Moreover, 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.
People tempted to support Respect in next year's general election should
consider two questions. Why vote for a party that won only 1.7% of the
vote in the European elections (nearly four times less than the Greens),
and which is likely to remain stuck in the political wilderness like its
predecessor, the Socialist Alliance? Why split the left vote and allow
establishment parties to triumph?
There is a credible anti-capitalist party - the Greens. It already has
seats and it can win lots more seats with the support of people on the
Voting Green is the surest way to shake up the establishment and give
Tony Blair the political nightmares he so thoroughly deserves.