18 Jan
2018

So Where Are The Greens?

David Taylor’s comment on the Where’s the Ecology Party When You Need It post raises an interesting question – he asked “why is the Green Party short of actual greens in positions of responsibility. Where are the greens?

I take this two ways – on the one hand why are you, Roger, pissing around outside the tent rather than remaining inside sorting things out, especially since you now have retired and should have time to consider (re-)taking a position of responsibility?

On the other hand, more generally what are deep greens actually doing instead of driving the political party of the green movement in a more ecologically responsible direction?

I will take the second question first since I have already written on here and elsewhere some of the reasons I felt it not worth continuing a member of GPEW. So Where are the Greens?

Once you step back from active engagement in the day to day political process it is very easy to see that it is a deeply flawed system that actually can not deliver from within the sort of rapid and radical political and social change that the current situation requires.

One of the failures of the past 40 years of attempts (in the UK) to provide a coherent political voice for the wide ecological movement is that it has failed to get any widespread lasting commitment of support from green-minded people coming from outside the political arena either from a deep-green or a light-green direction. This is just talking about people who are already in the movement, never mind the wider public.

Why is this? Perhaps many of these can already see that the political process is broken, especially in the UK, and simply cannot deliver change from its track – it has to be derailed. Personally it took me ten years of engagement with the political party to come to this conclusion, I suspect many, or even most, other eco-greens find this too obvious to ever get involved in the first place.

This is probably especially true for those coming from a deeper ecology stance as they will be most keenly aware of the extremely radical changes that a balanced ecology demands. Those having an eco-technic, or eco-modernist mindset are perhaps more inclined to believe or hope that a solution can be delivered within the current system, and are perhaps are more inclined to engage politically.

What makes me think the political process is broken and unable to deliver? Here we touch upon the second major failure of the political wing of the (UK) Green movement – over 40 years of existence it has completely failed to mobilise mass support beyond the core green movement. The high-water mark was 1989 when 15% of the vote went to the Greens, putting them firmly on the map as the third party. Arguably that represented the actual proportion of the electorate who had green concerns of any shade – it didn’t really touch on the mass of those unaware of green concerns. So about 15% of the population might be said to be already broadly green.

As an aside 2015 I would not count as any kind of green high point – the vote share then was massively swollen by the absence of a true left-wing party on the field and the re-positioning of the greens as a vaguely leftish socialist party who happened to have some environmental concerns.

2016 and most previous elections show that about 2% of the population are politically engaged and green and will vote green come what may (pun intended).

To win seats at the power circus in the UK you have to get more about 30% of the vote in a four way contest (allowing for the fact that at least one of the contestant’s share will be significantly smaller than the top two). Not surprising that results like 1989 (and to a lesser extent 2015) simply result in a large segment of the green movement coming to the conclusion that politics is a pointless way of attempting to bring green change about, and walking away.

It is often said that to start a revolution you need initially about 10% of the population on your side. The greens have 15% so it is actually more likely that the green movement would achieve significant breakthrough if the green party re-positioned itself as a revolutionary party eschewing electoral success but instead pursuing a revolutionary strategy.

They could learn quite a lot from looking at how the SWP (socialist workers party) behaves – obviously not in its policies but in its strategy and organisation.

 

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