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The Greens are the new radical left party

Peter Tatchell says the Green Party now occupies the progressive political
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. Sad,
but true.


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 policies.


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 valued.


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
world.


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 the
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 left.


Voting Green is the surest way to shake up the establishment and give Tony Blair the political nightmares he so thoroughly deserves.

 

October 2004

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Peter Tatchell is a human rights campaigner - www.petertatchell.net

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