Monday, 17 December 2007

Blairite realos whack anarcho bhuddists

In the 1980's Green politics arrived on the British electoral scene with the emergence of the Green Party of England and Wales [GPEW]. Since then there has been an increasing recognition of 'green' issues, and, an acknowledgement that there is an urgent need to deal with climate change by almost all UK political parties. However GPEW itself has not advanced with the causes that it advocates. The Green Party of England and Wales is still a small political party, it has no Westminster MP’s, 2 MEP’s, 2 Greater London Assembly members and 92 local councillors.

Many in GPEW feel that it is in a political rut, where everyone seems interested in 'its' issues, but no one votes for it. Some attribute this to the GPEW's organisation; unlike most other parties, it has no leaders, but 'Principal Speakers' instead. Due to dissatisfaction with this arrangement a referendum of GPEW members has been held and in a landslide result, announced on 30/12/2007, 73% voted for leadership and 23% against on a 48.5% turnout.. This event and the campaign preceding it has attracted little attention in the UK media, perhaps because the referendum motion put before GPEW members had the central proposition of a mere change in the title from ‘Principal Speaker’ to ‘Leader.

Green Party activists have given this more attention, indeed some seem to have been totally occupied with it, and this may not entirely be political navel-gazing because the leadership issue is identified as being crucial to its future in British politics.

The victorious reformers argued that the introduction of the title leader will enable the Party to get its ideas across. “…without an effective leadership team we’re just not communicating our message as urgently and effectively as we should.” states Darren Johnson. Leadership is seen as enabling GPEW to enter a political ‘mainstream’; this means winning more votes, which pro-leaderists believe the party has been impeded from doing by the ‘media unfriendliness’ of its organisation. A point of view endorsed by John Vidal, Environment Editor of the Guardian. “Not having a leader has stopped mainstream political reporting of the Green Party for years. Having a leader would make for a better platform.”

However it is not only the media who are identified as making leadership necessary, many, like Cllr Maria Iacovou, argue that majority public opinion relates to and needs a leader; “Our current leaderless state does not attract and inspire people – (…)They just think it's weird.”

In the run up to the referendum it seems that the No-leaderists had been communicating with a different public, since they posit that increasing political apathy, as evidenced by decreasing electoral turnouts is related to exactly the conventional political structures they have been arguing unsuccessfully for GPEW members to reject. As Green Party Principal Speaker Derek Wall says: "We need a Green Party which is effective and empowering, doing things differently from the top down traditional politics that turns voters off.” Such ideas are coupled with notions that the form of political organisation practised by GPEW could represent some form of prototype or “a new approach to decision-making - one that diffuses power rather than concentrates it." (Nick Hildyard, former Co-editor of The Ecologist). The No campaign website ( contains several warnings of the potential perils of leadership and appeals to an activism which perhaps goes beyond the ballot box.

In the arguments of the no campaign that it seems that this difference has been about more than political form and nomenclature, Aled Fisher is unequivocal that “Green politics is about radical social change” whilst Derek Wall fears that "Conventional leadership with a single leader almost always comes with commitments to water down the message, to remove real debate and participation...".

However the leadership debate cannot simply be characterised as a left/right issue. Some advocates of both camps identify themselves the Party as ‘leftwing’ or ‘socialist’, for instance Cllr Rupert Read states a pro-leadership argument thus: “…we eco-socialists need to be quite clear that it is a merely individualistic fantasy to think that everyone is equally suited to leading.”

Splits in some European Green parties, are often characterised as being between the ‘realos’ [realists] and ‘funds’ (fundamentalists). In terms of the GPEW referendum, the result looks like an overwhelming 'realo' victory, however a split is probably not likely. At an inebriated wake for their lost cause in a north London pub, many leading no-leaderists, expressed a resolve to stay in the Party and w fight on. "Now, they've won it, we have to give the five years to see what they can do with it." One activist opined. This paraphrases Derek Wall's soberer reaction to the result: ""The result of this referendum challenges the Party to create a leadership structure that is true to green ideals. It has put our future leaders on notice that the membership expects a more focused, more effective party, with a leadership team that is truly accountable to the membership in a real and effective manner."

In the pub and elsewhere, many attribute the 'yes' victory to the tactic of appealing by postal ballot to the 'armchair' membership, those who pay their subs and seldom attend party meetings. Probably the defeated side are right judging that most of their support came from the minority of activists within GPEW and this could mean if a yes vote does indeed deliver a high media profile it may be at the cost of losing grassroots party activists.

In any event, the fortunes of Green politics may be determined by more alarming events than a 'landslide in a teacup'. Some may recall that the first British Green electoral successes followed soon after the Chernobyl disaster and a hurricane in south-east England. But until the Kraken wakes to devour the Thames barrier, it seems safe to state that both sides in the GPEW leadership debates will say that the Party has now taken a step down the right path, however they could both mean different things by this.

Saturday, 29 September 2007


“Green-ness”, politically speaking, could be called “the new black”, if that weren’t an insult to anarchists. All across the political spectrum ideas originating from fringe Green organisations are recycled into the policies of mainstream political parties, and wind turbines sprout from all sorts of unlikely places. Other explicitly apolitical organisations ranging from Brent Cross Shopping Centre to the TUC hold events espousing some form of “green-ness”,

In education, totemic green concerns such as deforestation, species depletion and recycling are now included on curricula. Student environmental pressure group People and Planet, ranks HE institutions according to their “environmental credentials” (Tandy, London Student 17/9/2007). However some ‘hard-core’ Greens insist, such activities are essentially a ‘greenwash’ because they take place in a global context of economics geared to continually increasing growth based on increasing personal material consumption, in turn ,most damagingly based on CO2 emitting technologies. Such criticisms do not just emanate from the stereotypical ‘tree-hugging fundis’ and can even be heard from advocates of a new-style leader-led Green Party of England and Wales (Lucas 29/8/2007).

This is because such critics believe that a truly ‘Green’ society, i.e. one that would decisively address the socio-economic causes of climate change, would have to institute some form of radical change to most aspects of contemporary societies . How is such radicalism, reflected, if it is at all, in the policies of the Green Party of England and Wales (GPEW) and specifically those policies relating to Post-16 education?

GPEW policies mainly reside in two locations. Firstly in a series of voluminous documents known as the Manifesto for a Sustainable Society (Mfss), secondly, broad general statements made in Mfss may be rendered relevant to contemporary circumstances by policy statements (aka ‘Policy Pointers’) on specific issues; for example whilst Mfss makes generalised statements about educational selection, a policy statements firms this up into opposition to Academy Schools (GPEW Education Policy Pointers). This is a relatively clear example, and as the process of constructing GPEW, (via long and complex conferences, motions, debates and amendments), is cumbersome and almost, at times, arcane, the actual totality of GPEW policy is difficult to grasp and sometimes, in places, outdated. There is awareness of this and the Mfss education section was revised in Spring 2007.

Quantitatively at least, the Mfss is still overwhelmingly concerned with school education. Some of the initial statements of principle apply to all education, indeed the subtitle of the education Policy Pointers’ is ‘Lifelong Learning’ but on point after point from diet to democracy to individual learning plans children are the main subject of GPEW policy. However towards the end of the document, two types of post-16 education institution are proposed; District Community Colleges and regionally-based Universities.

It is initially specified that:”All institutions will be democratically directed by the people in that learning community” (Mfss). A role in this system is envisaged for “existing national vocational & professional bodies” in certifying some area of post-16 education, but, it is stated that a Green government will be able to prevent elitism in these bodies.

It seems implicit that the College/University distinction in Mfss is similar to the current, (and currently sometimes eroding), Further/Higher Education split in the UK, in that the role of the Colleges is seen as “encouraging participation by all in the building of a sustainable local community”, whereas the Universities should spread “the availability of university-level education and research” and “will award first or higher degrees (or other qualifications)…”.( Mfss). It is fair to add that throughout, a flexibility for post-16 learners is emphasised so that they can, if they wish, dip in and out of parts of the Green F/HE system rather that working in a prescribed way through a linear hierarchy of qualifications.

A scheme for post-16 educational governance is sketched out, Regional Councils and Local education Authorities will provide funding to institutions “supported by a central government department. Inside Universities a Student-Staff Council (SSC) of elected course reps will be the “main decision-making body”. It seems to be assumed that, perhaps because there will be widespread consensual support for the Green utopia in which this system will operate, there will minimal conflict between communities, various levels of government, students and teachers/lecturers. Also the possibility that any of these groups might express their interests and political agendas through autonomous organisations is nowhere mentioned.

However Mfss does seem to bear the stamp of some educational trade union influences. Most notably sections on “University and College Students” and separately, “Students” both give detailed consideration to student finances and living conditions and the restoration of HE grants is called for with the stipulation that they will be integrated into a citizens’ income scheme. There is also a five point section on “Staff” that re-iterates some fairly basic F/HE teachers’ Union demands , (e.g. non-discriminatory recruitment and promotion procedures, a dramatic reduction in fixed-term contracts).

Doubtless the editors, authors and vettors of Mfss and the Policy Pointers can defend their work by stating that that it cannot itemise every minute detail of what a Green education policy and that to be properly understood such a policy has to be seen with all the other forty policies in Mfss (see below).Should this be done some of the apparent contradictions in regard to education might disappear, but probably won’t since they reflect deeper tensions within GPEW policy and Green ideologies generally.

In particular the party has a commitment to support small businesses. Perhaps this stems in part from the work of Schumacher who saw small enterprise and localism as a potential counterbalance to the gigantism and uniformity enforced by capitalist and state corporations. The education section of Mfss palces itself in this context; “Green Party policies will encourage the development of small, individually or co-operatively owned enterprises.” (MFSS) Later it is stated that;” large scale corporate funding” will not be needed. Nonetheless one of the tasks of University Ethics committees will be to prevent “adverse pressure” from “corporate finance for research”.

As elsewhere, the harmonious co-existence of business aims and other Green policies seems assumed, yet the autumn 2007 GPEW conference could not decide if it wanted a national minimum wage of £7.20 per hr, partly because it was argued that small businesses might find this too costly. If this is actually the case, are such enterprises likely to be a willing tax base for paying for a government funded education systems (and all the other Green goodies) outlined in the Mfss? Could it be that Greens intend to curb ‘nasty’ big, (as opposed to ’nice’ small business) by nationalising it? Or do they expect corporate capitalism to shut up shop of its own accord and fragment into a myriad of sole traders thus initiating a new Green economic universe with a big bang?

These are questions beyond the scope of any education policy, although highly relevant, and barring the dawn of a brave new Green world tomorrow, perhaps one of GPEW’s next tasks should be to formulate some interim demands which could be supported by the unionists, practitioners and students of post-16 education to help cope with the imperfect world that we all still live in.

FOOTNOTE: Policies in Mfss
Agriculture (Updated Autumn 2005)Animals Rights (Updated Spring 2007)Arts Climate Change (Updated Spring 2007)Countryside (Updated Spring 2007)Crime PreventionDisabilityDrugs (Updated Autumn 2006)Economy (Updated Spring 2007)Education (Updated Spring 2007)Energy (Updated Spring 2007)EuropeFisheries Food Forestry Green CouncilsHealth (Updated Autumn 2006)Housing (Updated Spring 2007)IndustryInternational (Updated Spring 2007)Land Local Planning & Built Environment (Updated Autumn 2006)Marine IndustryMigrationNationalityNatural Resources and Waste Management (Updated Autumn 2006)Northern IrelandPeace and Defence Philosophical BasisPollutionPopulationPrinciples of GovernmentPublic AdministrationRefugeesResponsibilities and RightsScience and Technology (Updated Spring 2007)Social WelfareTourism Transport (Updated Autumn 2006)Workers Rights and Employment


Green Party of England and Wales, Manifesto for a Sustainable Society (Education Section)

GPEW Education Policy Pointers,

Lucas, C.'Lucas questions grey parties' commitment to tackling climate change :We can't cut emissions by tinkering around the edges' 29th Aug 2007

People and Planet

Schumacher.E.F., “Small Is Beautiful”, Hartley & Marks Publishers, December 1999

Tandy,J. “Green Hall of Shame: Colleges fail to make the grade on the environment”, London Student 17/9/2007

Wednesday, 22 August 2007


The East London Line is a mighty fine line,
The East London Line is the line to ride,
The East London Line will all be mine,
‘Cause I’m gonna buy it when it’s privatised. (CHORUS)

The East London Line got bright shining rails,
The East London Line got fast moving trains,
And when the passengers pay their fares,
Money’s gonna fall into my pockets like rain.


I’m gonna spend a little cash to keep the track safe,
Spend a little to keep the trains as clean as I can,
Don’t wanna see no pictures of accidents,
But I want my profits , I’m a mercenary man.


I’ll spend a little money to employ some staff,
But computers are better and people are worse,
So when you get mugged on a station late at night,
Don’t grieve too much, I mugged you first.


Saturday, 28 July 2007

What a Green Tory should consume (from Green Pages the Ecologist July/August 2007)

Environmentally friendly printing
Organic and Biodynamic Wine Club case £86.25
Floras dress £195
Leopard print scarf £8
Vegan leather bag £45
Tiffany Dress £150
Bapti Dress £222
Recycled wooden-box and leather on gold necklace £35
Fairly made cotton dress £125
Polka dot tights £8
Tutti Fruity roundabout bag £84
Empire waist dress £140
Alpaca cache Coeur £190
Organic cotton Celia dress £195
Shattered star leather mustard mixed chains £30
Juniper three inch heels £95
Organic cotton fitted dress £27.50
Circular blue single red stitched necklace £14
Organic cotton satin shift Lola dress £175
Wool spider web shrug £140
Sandur slouchy bag £48
Striped cuff bracelet £32
Piebald western shirt in organic denim £65
Seashell jumper in organic cotton £60
Organic cotton trousers £80
Refashioned Storm jacket £185
Tie cravat £35
Hemp/cotton T shirts @ £22
Hand –stitched Aston moccasins in vegetable-tanned, chrome-free leather £95
Refashioned pinstripe suit jacket £225
Skomer jeans in organic denim £80
Who Cares food products 15% off for readers
E-cloth pack Free when you spend £60 at Ecotopia
Cloth nappy trial pack £26
Hemp ‘bag for life’ £9.99
Neal’s yard products 15% off
In-Liven pro-biotic super food
Organic Food products delivered door-to-door
Farmaround organic fruit vegetables
Sheepdrove Organic farm
Natural grocery Store
Fish 4 ever
Organic beer by post From £1.87 per bottle
Onya bags
1500 Organic products delivered to your door
Vegan & vegetarian dog & cat food
Eco-friendly natural organic dog 7 cat accessories
Burns pet nutrition £5 voucher
The finest furniture built to order
Green fibres eco goods and garments
Simply water: water filter systems
Nigels ecostore 10% off to readers
Envocare website
Williams –fowler gardens
Swallowtailhill ethical store
Worm works composting
Copper Garden Tools
Our green wedding list
Eco outlet eco products online
The green shopping guide
Albatross organic deep-pile cotton towels
Aravore baby clothes
Tree hugger Mums nappies etc
Seesaw; toys nappies clothes potions
Hejhoj: toys?
Natural nursery: nappies etc
Ecologist cloth nappy trial pack £26
Think! Fair trade fashion for the thinking woman
Cebra fair trade crafts from Africa
Just Bazaar. Fair Trade Shop
Natural clothing
The Hemp trading Co
Calico-moon: fair trade organic shopping
Terramar Organics; organic clothing
Ethletic trainers
Green shoes
Ethically produced Argan skin care oils
Mybeingwell: 100% natural sunscreens
Cornwallsoapbox: natural organic ethical skincare
Earthbound: organic skin care
Onevillageco: neem soap £10 (4 bars inc delivery)
Organic & natural skin, hair, body cosmetic &oral products
Director of studies (job advert)
Countryside jobs co website
New Authors publish your book
Earth wise singles
Tuscany Farmhouse (holiday accommodation) £ 490 pw
Solar powered trailside Eco-lodge
Leeds Schumacher lectures
MA Sustainable development advocacy
Msc Human ecology
Scargill hall courses
Kapawi (S. America holidays)
Business for sale £475,000.00
08000 Ecogio environmentally conscious executive car service
Remarkable co; manufacturer of recycled products
Green your office
Rathbone Green bank investments

Saturday, 23 June 2007


The paved area behind my house is getting really cold,
The cold is eating through and seeping through right into my bones,
This is also true and very true in my favourite pubs and restaurants
I’m getting cold and the paving’s getting cold in all my favourite outdoor haunts.

I need patio heaters
I want patio heaters
Give me patio heaters
Gwan to keep my patio warm

Now I can sit out here in my patio heater’s warm glow
It shines out like a beacon on my warm, warm patio
The moths fly in, the bugs fly in attracted by the light
I’m comfortable on my patio and there are insects frying tonight.


Up comes some beardy weirdy says my heater’s doing harm,
I say, ‘go way you tree hugger, it’s my right to be warm’.
I don’t need no greenwhinging from no eco-fascists no more,
Gonna put a patio and two heaters in my four by four.

Wednesday, 6 June 2007


In March this year, Jim Jepps summarised his impressions of the Swansea Conference on his excellent blog:”...I'm more than ever convinced that the Green Party is unequivocally progressive, democratically organised and punching well below its weight. That lack of traction between the leadership and the members, and the different views on what the Party is actually for really need addressing.”
In this paper I try to address the three interconnected issues that he identified; the apparent lack of effectiveness of the party as an agitational organisation, the relationship between the leadership of the party and the membership and clarifying the key strategic role(s) of the party - and also a fourth vital issue that he
did not mention – the role of the Green Left in promoting and leading debate on first three.

The effectiveness of the Party

Two things have struck me in my first few months in the party. The first is the very low level of political discourse. There seems to be little political discussion outside the GL and general discussion e-mail lists and the level of debate on the general discussion list is sometimes embarrassingly low. There don't seem to be
any party schools and most of the special interest groups don't seem to be active. The concept of political education appears to be unknown within the Party.

The second is that except for what appears to be a rather small number of activists – and a small but growing number of councillors – outside election times there is a very low level of activity among most GP members. Even though I have been in the Party for only a few months it is obvious to me that the active membership of the party constitutes only a small minority of its paper membership. Of the party's seven
thousand or so members, I suspect that less than perhaps fifteen percent of our nominal membership is active in any meaningful way outside the immediate period of elections. At the Swansea conference, Jim Killock told delegates that we have a startling membership turnover – we are able to recruit new members but most of them are lost within a fairly short period. As a result, our membership growth is much slower than it should be.

In my view, the turnover of members and the low levels of both debate and activity are related phenomena and that they are all related to the very limited view that many established members have of the Party's key purpose. There seems to be a largely unspoken view that the Party is primarily (or exclusively in some cases) an election vehicle. As a result formal political debate tends to be seen as an optional extra at best and at worst a distraction from 'real' political activity, i.e. canvassing and electioneering. This tends to have two main results; firstly, because 'real' political activity only happens intermittently for much of the time
there doesn't seem a lot for most of the membership to do, particularly new members. Secondly, because there is such a weak tradition of political discussion within the Party – whenever I have mentioned training or party schools it has always been assumed I was concerned with electoral organisation or canvassing techniques – little or nothing is done to introduce new members to the Party's politics or undertake political education. So if new members don't have much to do and don't have any induction into Green politics beyond the rather bland stuff in Green World, is it any wonder that so many of them appear to drift away within a year or so of joining.

Leadership and organisation – yet again

When Marx wrote that “the history of all hitherto existing society is the history of class struggles” he could have added that the history of all hitherto existing parties of the left is the history of arguments about internal organisation – usually with dire consequences.

The debate currently underway on the ridiculous issue of whether or not to have a 'Leader' is merely the latest manifestation of a conflict that has been current in the Green Party for twenty years at least. It is the inevitable conflict in any egalitarian party between the need to develop and strengthen grass roots participatory democracy and ensure genuine (as opposed to notional) accountability at every level of the party and the continuing tendency towards the development of an increasingly unaccountable bureaucracy and a self sustaining leadership elite.
I won't go on at length again about Michels and the Iron Law of Oligarchy, suffice it to say that this conflict has been a constant theme in all parties of the left throughout the twentieth century. There have, unfortunately, been only two significant responses to the Iron Law. Within the communist tradition the concept of democratic centralism, a post hoc rationalisation by Lenin of the realpolitic of how to run a semi clandestine organisation stuffed with police spies from a distance of a
thousand miles, has become fetishised and constantly reinterpreted by each grouplet in the manner of protestant sects arguing about the semantics of every obscure phrase in Deuteronomy. The effect has universally been the creation deeply unattractive organisations with autocratic central committees prepared
to suppress any dissent or independent thought. As Trotsky said of Lenin's concept of the party (in 1904 while he was a menshevik, unfortunately) ”In the internal politics of the Party these methods the Party organisation “substituting” itself for the Party, the Central Committee substituting itself for the Party organisation, and finally the dictator substituting himself for the Central Committee.”

But within the social democratic parties, while the rhetoric has been different and the internal regimes less savage, the effect has always been much the same. As they grew into large organisations they gradually developed a professional bureaucracy and a leadership consisting of full time professional politicians. These party machines have not sought to force their members into a disciplined and regimented force of 'professional revolutionaries' who give most of their time and much of their income to the party, but instead have treated them as passive supporters, only expected to do anything much during elections, and the rest of the time largely ignored. In all cases the leadership elites have inevitably succumbed to the pressures of 'political reality' and have gradually moved to the right and towards accommodation with the ruling political establishment – and eventually with the ideas of that establishment.

During the seventies and early eighties, Die Grunge made a conscious effort to try and break the Iron Law. Anyone could be or could remove a party official. There were no permanent offices or officers. Even the smallest, most routine decisions could be put up for discussion and to a vote. When the party was small, these anti-oligarchic measures enjoyed some success. But as the organization grew larger and the party
became more successful, the need to effectively compete in elections, raise funds, run large rallies and demonstrations and work with other political parties once elected, led the Greens to adapt more conventional structures and practices. As their structure became more 'orthodox' they moved steadily to the right. Now they have positioned themselves as a centre right party on economic questions, and argue
for market mechanisms to be used to achieve environmental change. And of course, under a green foreign minister, the German military were deployed abroad for the first time since 1945.

We can see the same process underway in our own party. The Young Turks at the centre of the party are rushing around looking for silver bullets that are going to magic away the Party's tendency to underperform. This isn't seen as a political problem with political solutions, but as a number of administrative and organisational problems with organisational solutions – essentially we have to become 'more professional'.

The debate becomes one about process and structure rather than politics.
We have a high turnover of members, not because we have nothing for them to do, we do not try to integrate them in to the organisation or help them to develop a growing critical understanding of green politics, but because our databases aren't sophisticated enough. The reason our very modest vote despite the very favorable political circumstances we are in is not because we are failing to relate to the real life experiences of our potential supporters, it is because we don't get enough press publicity and if we call our main spokesperson our Leader (and make the Leader a full time paid official) we will get lots of publicity and therefore gazillions of extra votes. And instead of a political analysis of the role of the Party we need an
organisational analysis by a consultant whose main qualification is that he once worked as a functionary for Blair, which concludes that we need a Chief Executive (who will be accountable to the central leadership rather than the membership) so we can pretend that we are a proper grown up party just like the real ones.

Observing all this is like watching a group of children play dressing up games with grown ups clothes. In this case the oversize suits appear to be those of Tony Blair and Alistair Campbell. So from the tragedy of German Social Democracy ending up supporting the murderers of Rosa Luxemburg and the tragedy of Bolshevism leading to Stalin and the purges, we end with the comic spectacle of the would be autocrats of
the Green Party trying to remodel it as a tiny cut price version of Blair's project – New Green anyone?

Truly, history does repeat itself, the first time as tragedy, the second time as farce. However, the leadership faction is quite right that the current structure and organisational forms of the arty are not appropriate for the task in hand – but of course, I think we are thinking of rather different tasks from them. The current structure is both ineffective and undemocratic and we should thank the leadership faction for putting radical re-organisation on the agenda.

As soon as possible we should draft a radical alternative to the leadership faction's organisational proposals. I think it would be disastrous for us to be conservative. To just say 'we don't want a full time Leader, we like having part time Speakers. We don't want a full time Chief Executive, we like muddling along as we are' is just not good enough and we won't win that argument. We need to argue for a structure that is more efficient and more democratic than what we currently have.
Without being too prescriptive, as I am a very new member of the Party and am not totally au fait with every nook and cranny of its creaky structure, I believe that the current relationship between our branches, Conference, the Regional Committee and GPEX is nothing like clear or accountable enough. I think that for the supreme policy making body of an organisation of seven or so thousand people to be made up of
anyone who happens to turn up is unsupportable from a democratic point of view, particularly when some of those turning up have one vote and some have six. As the American feminist Jo Freeman wrote in The Tyranny of Structurelessness, structurelessness becomes a way of masking power [and ] is usually most strongly
advocated by those who are the most powerful (whether they are conscious of their power or not.) For everyone to have the opportunity to be involved in a given group and to participate in its activities the structure must be explicit, not implicit.”
I believe that Conference should be organised on the basis of branch delegations; x number of delegates per x number of members. I think that the Regional Committee, or National Council, or whatever else we choose to call it, should be made up of one delegate per branch, or if that was thought to be too big, x number of delegates per region – six or ten per region at least, plus the members of the national executive,
who should be elected either by national ballot. or at Conference. The Regional Committee should explicitly be the highest body of the party between Conferences and the Executive should be responsible to it for the day to day management of the Party. I think that the current structure of GPEX, that is a committee made
up entirely of functional posts, tends to promote the myth that it is non political and towards a self sustaining group of 'experts' – I gather that some GPEX members have been elected unopposed and have been around for yonks.

I would suggest an executive made up of quite a small group of national officers – chair, vice chair, treasurer, national secretary/registration officer perhaps- and ten or a dozen other members elected on a political rather than functional basis. There could be any number of functional posts (press and pr, elections organiser,
trade union liaison officer etc.) appointed by the Regional Committee or the national executive with the approval of the Regional Committee. They could then attend the Regional Committee and/or national executive on an ex officio as and when needed basis. This is clearly just an outline sketch of some initial thoughts, but the principle is to have a very strong line of accountability that goes back to members in the branches. The role of the SOC should be strictly limited to overseeing the rules of Conference and the administration of internal elections.
One model that would be worth looking at might be that of the Scottish Socialist Party, which is about the most democratic that I have come across. However, they fate of the SSP should warn us of what can too easily happen to a party despite all sorts of democratic checks and balances, when a single charismatic leader, no matter how talented and virtuous he or she is (of course virtuous is not perhaps the appropriate word in relation to the SSP's charismatic leader) effectively dominates the organisation. One only has to look at history to see the fate of the Irish Parliamentary Party under Parnell as a result of a hypocritical smear campaign against him and the way that Ramsay MacDonald led the Labour Party into government for the first time ever, but within a few years was to cause a split that almost wiped it out and ended up as a front man for the Tories. Currently we can see how our Beloved Leader has virtually destroyed the Labour Party with his NuLab project and of course Galloway and his role in the still birth of Respect is just too
grotesque to contemplate. And don't even mention Kilroy Silk.

We must remember that the struggle for democracy and against bureaucracy has a political rather than administrative imperative. Party dictators, from Stalin to Blair, have always looked for administrative solutions to political problems. The leadership faction is doing the same thing, although in a laughably naive way. While of course we should not ignore organisational issues, indeed we should be looking for radical and innovative ways of doing things, we should not make the same mistake as them. Democracy is not just a generally Good Thing, which can be reduced to issues of process and procedure; itis a political necessity for socialists because without it at every level of the Party, particularly without the active and direct democratic control of the party by the membership at branch level, our Party will
inevitably become bureaucratised, will inevitably be pushed to the right and will end up an irrelevance. The principle of rank and file democracy, of grass roots involvement rather than the rule of experts or professionals must be central to our politics not just because we think that it is a nice idea but because it is the only way we can counter the tendency of the experts and professional leaders to absorbed by the power structure they notionally oppose and to end up accommodating to it (just look at the politics of the leading elements with the Association of Green Councillors). As Rosa Luxemburg said (of Lenin's centralised professional leadership model) “Let us speak plainly. Historically, the errors committed by a truly revolutionary movement are infinitely more fruitful than the infallibility of the cleverest Central Committee.”

A strategic role for the Green Party

One of the most striking things about the Party is that it appears to have no real strategic view of what its major tasks should be, certainly none backed up by much meaningful analysis of the current political/economic situation in which we find ourselves. A significant number of members, including most of the central leadership faction as far as I can see, have not just an electoralist but an effectively exclusive electoralist approach. Politics is seen by them as the process of fighting elections and little or nothing else. Political success is winning more seats in the next election than we did in the last. Eventually we will win control of a council, eventually we will get an MP elected, eventually perhaps we will be in the position of power broker like the Scottish Greens. Of course this perspective is easy on the thought processes of the leadership – it just involves us in doing more of the
same – the only thing is, it doesn't work, for two reasons.

First, the fact that we have around six or seven thousand members and a hundred and ten councillors shouldn't be a cause of celebration. Given the fact that tens of thousands of people are involved in environmental, global justice, human rights and peace groups like FoE, Greenpeace, Stop the War, CND, WDM, Liberty, Amnesty etc. etc., that over 200,000 peopl e have left NuLab since it came to power, that
something between one and two million people marched against the war four years ago and that around seven million people are members of trades unions in Britain, seven thousand members sounds pretty pathetic. Given that the crisis of global warming and other environmental issues have never been as widely discussed as they are today, that all three mainstream parties are vying with each other to claim the mantle
of greenness, and that there are around fourteen thousand council seats across England and Wales, having got to a hundred and ten seats in twenty odd years of trying does not look like such a great achievement. At this rate, we should be in a position to take power towards the end of the next century.

Second, our problems will only start when we start to win control of some councils. We have already started to see what will happen to some of our members wearing electoralist blinkers when having experienced the hot flush of modest local electoral success, they immediately experience the cold douche of political reality. The councillors in Leeds brought the Party nationally into disrepute by going becoming very junior partners in a Tory led coalition. The councillors in Kirklees first sold out to Labour in return for some roof lagging and then to the Tories in return for bugger all! These distasteful episodes are likely to pale into insignificance when (eventually) a green administration is elected, which will find that the image of power that shone from the Council Leader's office was a mirage all along and that winning the election simply made the Green councillors (legally) responsible for implementing central government policies – policies with which we have have fundamental and irreconcilable differences. When push comes to shove,
Green councillors, if isolated individuals rather than an integral and fully accountable members of a broadly based mass movement, will be pushed and shoved. Because electoral success was seen as the sine qua non of political activity, Green administrations will seek 'to make the best of a bad job' on the basis that if cuts
have to be made, or privatisations introduced they will do it less brutally etc. This has happened to good progressive Labour councillors time after time under Thatcher – and under Blair less frequently because so many of the decent old socialists have left or been chucked out to be replaced by suits on the make – and it
will happen to us unless we develop a strategy that sees electoral work as merely one essential element of building a mass movement. The idea of building a base of any significance on the basis of open ended incremental electoral growth is a
chimera. We are a niche party. We are, and will remain, on the margins of political life until we realise that the electoralists have what passes for their strategy the wrong way round; a mass base can't be built on the back of transitory electoral successes, as the history of the SDP and the Green Party itself show. The only
way to long term electoral success, which will not lead to our leaders being isolated, cowed or suborned, is by that success being one of the consequences of the creation of a mass popular movement. The labour movement had been millions strong years before the Labour Party was formed, and a Labour Council, grown from and accountable to its mass base, like Poplar under George Lansbury, was able to take on the government, march with banners flying and bands playing to Brixton Prison – and win a real political victory.

We have to realise that we are not the inventors or sole custodians of libertarian, democratic and egalitarian politics in this country. The left in Britain is hundreds of thousands strong, but it is inchoate and demoralised. For almost the whole of the twentieth century our movement was dominated by two crippling tendencies; Fabianism and Stalinism, and political organisation on the left was dominated by the duopoly of
the Labour Party and the CPGB. Well Stalin killed off the CP (though it took another thirty odd years to stop twitching after his own demise). However, Blair managed to kill off the Labour Party as a viable home for leftists in less than a third of that time by gutting it, stuffing it with suits and coating it with all sorts of

We should argue that the Party should have as its central strategic ambition to replace the Labour Party as the 'natural' home for dissidents in Britain. This sounds like a grandiose ambition, and indeed it is when we consider our incredibly narrow existing base, our very limited resources and the political limitations of
much of our membership. However, it is a necessary ambition if we are to mount a challenge against the heights of the state and it leads to two main strategic imperatives.

First we must orientate ourselves in an open and frankly humble way to the existing movements of opposition, primarily the trade unions and their activists, but also the peace movement, tenants organisations and anyone else currently finding themselves up against the state. We must continuously remind ourselves and our fellow Greens that we are but a part of a wider movement and that we should
always put the interests of that wider movement before our own short term sectarian interests. We should always seek to learn from the experience of others in struggle before we try to teach them (or worse, lecture them).

Our first question when approaching others, whether they are tenant activists, shop stewards or members of ethnic minority communities should always be 'how can we help'. And we must always mean it.

Second, we must be concerned with the issues and struggles of those in that wider movement rather than our own particular obsessions – a weakness Greens are prone to, and one which we share with the sects of the old far left. So we should recognise that although fluoridation, vegetarianism and novel monetary schemes are fascinating for us (some of us anyway) those enthusiasms are not shared by, for example, Britain's 800,000 trade union activists. We have to learn to be flexible and ndogmatic and not insist that our priorities are always more important than those of our allies. As Rosa Luxemburg wrote “Once again we have learned that no rigid formula can furnish the solution of any problem in the social movement. “ If we want
to be taken seriously we must be seen as serious and reliable allies in common causes. Otherwise we will continue to be widely perceived as a slightly out of focus one-trick pony and we will remain in our comfortable and unchallenging niche.

When I first became politically active there was a whole new generation of young socialists, originally inspired by those principled marxists who walked out of the CP in 1956, such as EP Thompson, Raymond Williams, Peter Fryer, Jim Higgins, Chris Palace et al, but motivated by and trained in the peace movement and the Labour Party. The Green Party has to build a new New Left, not attempting to become it in yet another vainglorious substitutionist exercise, but aiming play a key role in creating it. Both the Leninist and social democratic models of the party have failed (and the leadership faction's model is just a reworking of the social democratic one again). We have to develop, God help us, a new model – a new model for for a new New (green) Left.

The Role of Green Left

In its launch statement Green Left described itself as “a network for socialists and other radicals in the Green Party of England and Wales” and said that “GL supports the democratic structures in the party and encourages transparency, accountability and engagement in all organs of the party. We also see the Green Party as a 'bottom up' political organisation where the principles of the membership are paramount and not a 'top down' one where a self designated political elite decide on policies and principles.” In practice, GL a very broad grouping indeed, its defining political political position being “that capitalism is a system that wrecks the planet and promotes war. A green society must be based on economic, political and social justice. GL in short works to promote ecosocialism as a solution to our planetary ills. but must assume a much more active role within the party.” This statement can (and does) encompass the views of a very diverse range of comrades in the Green Party, from left social democrats through fairly orthodox Marxists to semi-anarchists.

Such a broad tendency is quite unlike most factions in most left parties, but then the Green Party is different from other most left groups – it is not a narrow confessional sect but a very heterogeneousgrouping bringing together all sorts of unlik ely allies united by a common sense of concern; explicitly on environmental issues and implicitly by a shared libertarianism and a rather fuzzy and confused anti
capitalism. It is the implied nature of those shared views that is a significant part of the problem for the ongoing development of the Party. There is an assumption amongst many members at all levels that there is a general consensus on all or most aspects of our politics, or at least that such a consensus is both possible and desirable. The fact is that consensus is rarely possible within a living political organisation that concerns itself with urgent life and death issues. While consensus is desirable its absence is not toxic to an organisation; what is vital to the health of the Party is continuous and thorough-going debate, and not enough of such debate takes place.

The F word

Ongoing political debate is the lifeblood of any party. I understand that many people in the Party – and in Green Left itself – feel nervous or even hostile about the notion of factions or tendencies. However, one of the strengths of our party (as well as one of its weaknesses) is its political heterogeneity. There are within
the Party, as there should be in any living political organisation, different strands of thought reflecting different political traditions and different experiences of activity. It is the dialectical interaction between these different views that can lead to the enrichment of the Party's political life and thus to the ongoing development of the Party's perspectives and activity. Groups of members within the Party who organise themselves in order to promote a particular policy position or broader political perspective, if they do so in an open, transparent and fraternal way, contribute to rather than inhibit healthy political debate and the
political development of the membership and thus the organisation. Besides, in all political organisations there is always at least one powerful and well organised faction – the national leadership of the organisation. That such a faction is undeclared - and largely unrecognised, even by many of its members – does not makes its existence any less real. The fact is that the day-to-day leading members of an organisation inevitably tend to have more inside knowledge than most of the rest of the membership, particularly if they are full time politicians or party functionaries. Because of their shared knowledge and experience and their positions at the centre of the party they tend to develop common perspectives and tend to identify the well being of the organisation with their stewardship. There is an inherent tendency in all political organisations, and the Green Party is certainly no exception, for the perspectives of this leadership group to appear to the 'ordinary' membership(often with good reason) to have more substance, and certainly to carry more weight, than other views within the party; partly
because of the prestige of many of the central leadership, partly because of the aura of 'expertise' surrounding key post holders and partly because the centre can almost always make more effective use of the machinery of internal communications than 'ordinary' members. This tendency is inevitable but as long as it is recognised and account taken of it it is not necessarily toxic to the democratic life of the

Because ongoing discussion at all levels of the party is vital to its health and continuing development, and because the leading figures within the party inevitably tend to dominate its discourse, the existence of organised groups, tendencies, factions or whatever else you choose to call them is not only inevitable, it is
also desirable as an aid to organised debate. Therefore we should not be ashamed of our role as the consciously anti-capitalist wing of the party, but should consider how we can best develop that role and how best we can ensure both the widest possible debate on the sort of issues raised in this paper and how we can engage in the ongoing development of our socialist analysis of both the nature of the political struggles. Despite the paranioa of some of our more senior Party co-workers, w e are not a bunch of gimlet eyed trotskyists with a totally unified line on every issue under the sun, we are, thank God a very mixed bunch of socialists from different traditions and experiences with, I suspect, a fairly wide range of opinions on all sorts of things. However, we should not shrink from debating our differences in the necessary course of developing common positions on a number of key issues. It is valuable and necessary for us just as it is for
the wider Party. It is valuable because it can help us develop our socialist analysis and it is necessary because we have to take the responsi bility for developing a coherent political analysis of where we are and a
strategy for getting to where we need to be.

At the moment, debate within Green Left, such as it is, consists of discussions on our e-mail list and quarterly? meetings. Welcome though these for a are, we need to find ways of undertaking longer and more rigorous discussions than are practicable on an e-mail list – particularly one which does not support attachments - or during a fairly short meeting every two or three months. Having an e-mail system that
would allow for the moderated circulation of longer documents would be a good idea as would occasional day schools perhaps.


To summarise the points made above, I believe that the key tasks for the Green Left in the coming year or two are as follows:

1. To argue the case that the Party should have as its central strategic goal the ambition to replace New Labour as the natural home for dissidents. We must explicitly aim to become a mass movement within a larger mass movement.

2. To continue to argue that the Party should orientate itself towards the existing mass organisations of the left, centrally the trade unions, in order to earn for itself an unquestioned place within that milieu.

3. To take up the challenge thrown down by the leadership in its search for managerialist silver bullets by devising and organising support for proposals for a more effective and democratic structure for the Party. Both the Leninist and social democratic models of the party have failed (and the leadership faction's model is just a reworking of the social democratic one again). We have to develop, God help us, a new model – a new model for for a new New (green) Left.

4. To ague the case for structured political debate within branches as an essential ingredient in the political development of the membership and the organisation as a whole.

5. To ensure that credible left candidates stand against candidates of the right for all leading posts within the Party.

Sean Thompson
May 2007

Tuesday, 5 June 2007

FIRST GREEN GUST to get the blades turning REVISED

Every below thing in crinkly brackets {} is the original first post on the blog which I am keeping on the blog because it is of historical interest and perhaps related to notion of the 'tyranny of structurelessness'.

Green left decided that it did not want a team blog if it was run on the basis of open access to its codes and has probably set up a committee to set up its blog and edit posts to it . Initially I thought this was control freakery and objected, but I suspect that they are right.

So as I like the name and I got there first this, now becomes P.Murry's personal "political" blog ie: I won't be putting up much artwork here that's on and until the GL Blog gets running, GPTU members can contribute to

Anything put up here is done personally not as a rep of GPTU, Green Left, the Green Party or any other organisation.

{This Blog is going to be a team blog open to any member of Green Left. At the moment to post to it you need to send your email address to me, Pete Murry, at It will be open to the public and probably in the public domain for legal purposes, ( I don't know I'm not a lawyer but if I put you on the blog I do not personally accept responsibility for any defamation, sedition, indecency or libel that you may post, however enjoyable it may be).

I hereby appoint myself Blog administrator which means I can remove posts if I think neccessary (but I hope it won't be).

If this works it should be an online means of pursuing the discussion we have had at GL meetings and perhaps reaching out to the wider audience we keep talking about.

If not another teabag on the compost heap of history.}