Friday, 5 September 2008



Thursday, 4 September 2008

Man in a Window of Opportunity

Brian Orr convenes Brent Green party summer picnic in the interval between two downpours on 31/8/2008.

Monday, 18 August 2008

The RON song

I got the ballot paper,
But my hand stood still

Should I RON RON?

I looked at the paper
And saw what I got

Should I RON RON?

A choice between a Blairite
And an aging trot

Should I RON RON?

Oh my hand stood still
No I couldn’t use my quill
Oh where should I put my cross ?
When I really think that they all are dross

Should I RON RON?

They say they’ll save the planet,
But I don’t believe

Should I RON RON?

They say they’ll save the Party
And I wanna leave

Should I RON RON?

Yeah they make me feel ill
Like a suicide standing on a window sill
But now I am voting
I recovered my will

I will RON RON.

Saturday, 9 August 2008

Photo op at ASDA

Brent Green Party, has as one of its local campaigns, raising concern about the parking of large articulated delivery lorries outside the ASDA supermarket in Wembley.
As my picture below shows the supermarket does have a large loading bay and it also has a huge car park on the other side of the building which could be used to accommodate waiting delivery lorries, nonetheless at busy times lorries have been known to park outside ASDA, sometimes in such a way that they can force pedestrians off the pavements and to walk along a major road that is often busy with fast traffic .

Some of the signage shown below shows that this seems to be illegal.
A magnificently minimal view of a no loading sign outside Wembley ASDA.

<BGP ppc Shahrar Ali with assorted signage outside Wembley ASDA. The one above his head suggests that Lorries parked here are parked illegally.

The signs on the loading bay gates, which Shahrar thinks are a recent development since BGP started its campaign, seem to show some increasing awreness of the problem on ASDA's part, but do they apply only inside the loading bay (?), and even then they only require the reporting of hazards not actually not acting so as to cause them in the first place.

Frankly I have my doubts about this campaign, isn't the Green party supposed to be opposed to supermarkets, per se (?) and isn't just making it easier for ASDA to go about its business without casuing potentailly fatal traffic accidents? But I suppose it is worth objecting to the corporate arrogance which seems to be putting profit before customer safety.

Anyway its good meedja.

Tuesday, 22 July 2008

I wrote this short piece for my local party newsletter

"I joined GP for ecological reasons growing from a childhood fascination with wildlife and urban tourism into rurality. I had political reasons too, school and university studies led me to agree with Armenian radio that “Capitalism is the exploitation of man by man and under Communism the reverse is the case”. I was also politicised by work. I have temporarily been a builders’ labourer and a factory worker where dirty, dangerous conditions and the arbitrary and exploitative behaviour of employers showed me the importance of Unions. This was reinforced in the gentler conditions of teaching and lecturing where Unions are important not just as defenders of workers but as defenders of education. After brief acquaintance I saw that the Labour party and a genuinely radical political labour movement were not the same, further more the LP and the Left in general had, until a few years ago a gaping chasm where an understanding of political environmentalism should be and I have yet to be convinced that the “greening” of other political parties is more than cosmetic. The way these strands of reasons to be Green interact makes me a Green Socialist rather than a ‘Deep Ecologist’ because humans are part of the natural environment and urgently need to learn how too play a non-destructive, non-exploiting role in it. "

I wrote it late and the Brent news letter editor Martin Francis had in the meantime penned the following as a placehoder for Brent Green news, its much better I think.

Monday, 30 June 2008



Question One
Which of the following persons, whom might be in some way associated with other persons in the Green Party of England and Wales makes the most pies?

The winner is ...

..Jim Killock!

When the "modernisers" of the Green Party of England and Wales realise that fudging, personality and spin cannot of themsleves produce an electoral breakthrough which political party do you think that they have intended all along to form a coalition with?

This question NEVER EXISTED because 7 million people from Norwich spontaneously phoned to say that it was "too political".

Tuesday, 17 June 2008

A Related Blog

This is the front page of a blog that I done recently for a Birkbeck course containing some Green politics some art stuff and various bollock, its at

Sunday, 11 May 2008

Squid displays self


in an

Incredible tentacular spectacular

P.R.Murry’s artwork:

“The Big Squid”

has re-emerged from

the Dollis Hill Abyss

to display itself in the
Brent Artists Register Spring Show 2008
at Willesden Library Gallery
(Willesden Green Library Centre,
95 High Rd, Willesden,
London NW10 2SF
tel:8298 1421,
The show will be open to the public
from 13th May until 5th June 2008.
Private View 22nd May 6.00-8.30 pm.

The Willesden Hang

Members of Brent Artists Register hanging the Spring Show at Willesden Library Gallery (Willesden Green Library Centre, 95 High Rd, Willesden, London NW10 2SF tel:8298 1421, email The show will be open to the public from 13th May until 5th june 2008. Private View 22nd May 6.00-8.30 pm.

Saturday, 10 May 2008

Catching up with my camera, part 2: Urban Fox in Dollis Hill April 2008

Wordsworth, (the Urban Fox) lays down after his Laudanum to seek inspiration from Daffs and stone statue of Octopus.

Wordsworth digesting second hand Kentucky Fried Chicken

Catching up with my camera, Part 1: Holiday snaps from Languedoc Xmas 2007

Winter Sunlight in an old town

winter sunlight on vines

Alarming side effect of French nuclear program

Norman Foster bridge and winter tree

Bridge pillar

Friday, 9 May 2008

Now that I’ve stopped being an alcohol dispensing machine

Now that I’ve stopped being an alcohol dispensing machine, I can stop to reflect on recent events for this blog. I work as a barman in Birkbeck College, and I do day shifts which are usually quite light on custom, except in the first week of May 2008. When exams finish people want to piss it up big time, and on a couple of days this week I was the only Bar Associate, (my distinguished official job title), in the place and I had to facilitate my fellow students in the task of drinking the bar dry over about 3hrs. Mind you, all the customers were very nice, and I guess most pub bar staff work about this hard usually, it just came as a cruel and unusual shock to me.

My usual practice of mucking about with websites, blogs and keeping up with email correspondence in between serving the odd latty now and then, has been disrupted, which is unfortunate because the Green email lists that I regularly keep an eye on have both been busy with controversies. One over the recent NUT/UCU/PCS (teachers, college lecturers and civil servants), strike, where one correspondent dragged his coat by suggesting that school teachers were overpaid and not deserving of Green Party support. As if that weren’t enough petrol on the fire, a population policy working paper is being prepared for the next Green Party conference and one draft suggests, among other things a government set target population for the UK and the use of child benefit , (or rather the withholding of it), to restrict family size. A can of burning worms, which has somehow got to be dealt without enabling the mainstream media to portray GP as misanthropic nutters.

Monday, 3 March 2008

LEAFLETING at Queen's Park farmers' market: March 2008

It's frightfully nice here

The discreetly dirty parsnips of the bourgeoisie

Sian Berry and Shahrar Ali position themselves at a window of opportunity

Sian and Shahrar spring into action oblivious of Tory spy behind them

Shahrar telling supporters where to stick their Green election posters

El Sincero leaps into action as potential voter clutches Tory leaflet

Yes! It's green for go for the Greens in Queen's Park!

Wednesday, 16 January 2008


Suggestions for a speech

§ The main purpose of Trades Unions is to improve and defend their members’ pay and conditions in the workplace

§ The Green Party has consistently supported Trades Unions in this role; it has a detailed Workers’ Rights policy and an active Trades Union group.

§ Sadly or the past 20-30 years Trades Unions’ have been forced more and more onto the defensive against the resurgence of free market capitalism. British Trades Unions have kept up their strength in many public sector, (and recently privatised) industries, but in the private sector they are very much weakened.

§ Although Trades Unions campaigned actively for the rights of migrant workers and against racism and fascism, (again things that the Green Party wholeheartedly supports), there have been are tragic cases of the gross exploitation of migrant workers in Britain, the EU and in the USA. For some workers such as these, the clock has been forced back by some employers to conditions almost unknown since the early days of the industrial revolution.

§ Throughout their history, Trades Unions have seen their role as extending far beyond the workplaces. Through the labour movement, Trades Unions have campaigned for the improvement of workers’ social, political and economic rights. In Britain one of their most notable achievements was their contribution to the creation of the Welfare State.

§ The Green Party has policies on health, housing, education, and a minimum wage (to name only a few such areas), that are in accord with the wider social and political aims of the Trades Union movement.

§ Climate Change is now posing a huge and urgent threat to human societies all over the world. Most scientific uncertainty about this is not about IF it is happening but about when, where, how and how fast it WILL happen, and the worst case scenarios include the possibility of the destruction of most currently existing human societies.

§ Perhaps the Green movement realised the nature and scope of this threat before the labour movement, but over the past ten years things have changed rapidly. Many British Trades Unions and the TUC are moving environmental concerns towards the top of their agendas and recognition of an environmental crisis has been forced into the manifestos of mainstream political parties.

§ This is a welcome development, the Green movement needs Trades Unions and Trades Unions need the Green movement, working together we could have the scientific understanding and organisational experience and muscle necessary for societies to survive and deal with Climate Change.

§ Governments from mainstream political parties left to themselves cannot be relied on to do what is necessary, they may been forced to recognise Climate Change, but they have tended to talk more than act and when they have acted they have not done enough. They also have a dangerous tendency to look for false solutions such as nuclear power or to ignore some dangerous problems such as the expansion of cheap air travel, preferring to pretend that Climate Change can be tackled without people changing some aspects of their current high-consumption lifestyles.

§ There are some issues like nuclear power, cheap air travel and airport expansion that are going to be contentious in any discussion between Trades Unions and the Green movement, and this cannot be dodged, but what is needed is to debate these differences with mutual respect.

§ There also needs to be a realisation that the phasing out of old technologies and lifestyles is not simply a threat to existing jobs and conditions since the construction of a Low carbon economy must entail the creation of new sectors of employment. Greens and Trades Unions must work together to ensure that this process of change is never carried out with the brutality characteristic of free market capitalism which has wrecked entire industries, regions and millions of peoples lives in its search for profit.

§ Greens have recently been accused of being Luddites, in one sense this is untrue because we advocate new environmentally benign technologies and the new employment they will bring, but we also remember that the original Luddites were defending employment in a low technology craft industry against the introduction of the environmentally damaging industrialisation whose consequences we still live with today, so perhaps being called a Luddite is not such an insult after all.

Monday, 14 January 2008


I was a little surprised that Gramsci’s statement about combining pessimism of the intellect with optimism of the heart was not quoted in Jonathon Porritt’s “Capitalism As If The World Mattered”(Earthscan 2007), which offers a wide ranging review of political, economic and ecological writings mustered to construct a blueprint for a society that could survive the potentially cataclysmic impact of accelerating human-caused climate change. The works of writers ranging from Adam Smith to eco-anarchist Murray Bookchin, are criticised analysed and drawn on. The book is well referenced and argued but it is, in some respects, a political tract based on emotional conviction not a scientific text.

An instance of this is when Porritt rejects James Lovelock’s pessimistic assessment of humanity’s prospects, he writes of: “…needing to believe that there is still an equitable, sustainable, compassionate future available for all of humankind…”, because he states that he is looking at the future “through” the eyes of his young daughters. (Porritt 2007 p23).

Many others who have thought about the possible consequences of climate change and the current lack of any real, (as opposed to rhetorical), political will to slow it down, must have felt the same thing; for few, who are informed, now believe in any prospect of stopping or reversing climate change, at least for a century. The best that can be done is constructing some means of minimising the harm it will cause and it is difficult to tell future generations that we have bequeathed them a capitalist’s ashtray.

In his book Porritt, (p24-5).constructs a “Lomborg-Lovelock” continuum that displays predictions ranging from optimism, to pessimism, On the optimistic side Bjorn Lomborg argues that, the case for human caused climate change is not definitely proven and that technical innovations will lead to a situation where: there will be, by the middle of the 21st century: “9 billion people living within planet Earth’s natural limits”.

James Lovelock who has propounded the ‘Gaia hypothesis’ that all life on earth can be understood as a vast living mega entity which could scratch off the dangerous nuisance of humanity as a dog scratches off fleas , represents the opposite pole in predicting that “There is no long-term future for humankind.”.

Porritt cites the work of Thomas Homer-Dixon as a middle course between these two extremes, and Homer-Dixon himself offers optimistic and pessimistic scenarios (‘Breakthrough’ and ‘Collapse’ respectively).

Porritt rejects the facilely optimistic predictions, of Lomborg and refuses the doomsaying of Lovelock. Porritt’s case is that, given the detailed program of rethinking economics and translating this into radical social reform, as set out the latter parts of the volume , Homer-Dixon is right and a “slow painful recovery” may be possible so that “Climate stabilizes by around 2005” (Porritt 2007 p25).

Porritt advances a detailed framework for achieving this and argues for a Five capitals framework of Natural, Human, Social, Manufactured, and Financial capital, should each with its own attendant program of reforms and change in world view, lead to a sustainable variant of capitalism via a birth process which will be “messy, incremental, controversial and very, very difficult…”(Porritt 2007 p132). but somehow not revolutionary.

As Porritt deploys a mass of evidence to support this proposition, he frequently writes that it can only be achieved within a capitalist framework (pps. xviii,9, 86,87, 88, 90,107, 110, 132, 137,249, 294), but deploys little evidence to support these assertions, in fact he states (p89).that he has no intention of examining whether any non-capitalist economic systems could deliver ecological sustainability. However the version of capitalism that Porritt advocates is severely restrained in its activities, aspirations and goals by government intervention and regulation. Indeed in his discussions of globalization, it is difficult to see what, short of a very powerful international government, could bring about the result that he desires.

Quite how much intervention Porritt requires is suggested when he addresses the problems of consumer demand: “…there is little between where we are now and the ecological abyss that necessarily awaits us if 9 billion people are ‘permitted’ to acquire trinkets, get obese, travel the world and own several cars, …”(p.88).

Not only does Porritt wish to restrict consumption, he wants government to use taxation to: “.. enact an uncompromising commitment to greater equity and the elimination of the kind of poverty that still blights the lives of millions of people.”(pps 30/1).He’d like; “.. strict, transparent and fair limitations on immigration….” as well. (p.130).

All of this , and more, in Porritt’s view, can be accommodated within capitalism because capitalism is a complex adaptive system capable of profound and rapid shifts.

There is some evidence from twentieth century European history to support Porritt’s prescriptions. National capitalisms have been restrained both in terms of production and consumption to meet war aims defined by states and this has, at times involved at least, temporary curtailment of some political liberties. In Britain this situation was partially attributable to the efforts of an organised labour movement, some of whom had socialist ideologies and agendas. Many who experienced this contest which led to the creation of the British Welfare State and many more who have experienced the long series of defeats and holding actions which have attended the resurgence of a free-market capitalism in the later twentieth century may ruefully agree both with Porritt about the adaptability of capitalism and also with Murray Bookchin (as quoted in Porritt op.cit (p93)):

“One might more easily persuade a green plant to desist from photosynthesis than to ask the bourgeois economy to desist from capital accumulation.”

Porritt’s book seems to be in many ways, an attempt to do just that, early on, (p.xviiii), he states; “..we've been enjoying the fruits of the triumph of capitalism over communism, “ but “we” in that sentence are not those whose struggles and organisations who have sometimes forced capitalism to change (or a least occasionally restrained it), and “we” are certainly not the dead resulting from the demolition of health care in the ex-USSR. Perhaps Jonathon has been writing to the wrong people.

Saturday, 12 January 2008


I woke up on New Years Day with mixed feelings. On the one hand, I had just survived an medical emergency, so I was mightily pleased to be waking up at all. On the other, the situation facing the Left in Britain has seldom seemed bleaker. The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan continue, the erosion of civil liberties grinds on relentlessly, the privatisation of our education and health services gathers pace, as does the rate of global warming - and as I write, the government has announced a new nuclear power programme. I have been politically engaged since the early sixties, and during that time the left has never been weaker or more fragmented than it is today.

Given that Rosa Luxemburg’s description of the choice before us being socialism or barbarism has never been more stark it would be easy to surmise from the above that my view is that that there is no future for the left nor possibility of humanity’s self emancipation – in short that we are all fucked. I admit that any sober assessment of our situation must lead to the conclusion that at the moment the odds seem to be heavily on barbarism (but then, when weren’t they?), but there are a few glimmers of hope to be seen and there remains no alternative for us to but continue to work against the odds. So in the short dark days of January 2008, we ecosocialists (or green socialists or socialist greens or whatever) need to plan a course of action for the coming year.

Vacuum on the left

Ever since the mid seventies I have believed that a regroupment and refoundation of the left in Britain was a necessary precondition for the building of a mass party of humanist and environmentally aware socialism based within the working class and its institutions. I remain convinced that such a project must remain the central task for us today, in parallel with and informed by our activities as trade unionists, anti war activists or in whatever areas of day to day resistance to capitalism we are jointly and severally able to engage.

The leverage for such a refoundation could conceivably be based on one (at least) of three main agencies; the Left in the Labour Party and the Trade Unions, a regroupment of the far left sects or the developing social movements, in particular the green movement. 2007 wasn’t a good year for any of those three potential routes to progress.

Despite the trajectory of the Labour Party since the mid eighties, from a notionally social democratic party to Blair’s corrupt, neo liberal election machine, there was always a residual organised left within it, with a real, if declining, base within the trade union movement and among elements of the trade unions bureaucracies. Socialists within the Labour Party had a good(ish) case when they argued that all attempts to build an alternative to Labour to its left by small groups recruiting in ones and twos had failed in the past and that the natural home for socialists was within the Party in order to fight for its rebirth. However, last summer, the remnants of the Left in the Labour Party failed even to get to the starting line in NuLab’s leadership race and at its conference in September the Trade Union bureaucracy gave away the last tenuous ribbons of democratic control by party members. NuLab is now explicitly and irreversibly a party of the right.

However, while the vast majority of the Trade Union bureaucracy appears to be welded immovably to the apparatus of NuLab, there is growing dissent and disillusionment with the whole Blairite/Brownite project on the part of growing numbers of trade union activists, including a minority of the bureaucracy. Thus, despite the steady erosion of membership, the traditional ‘official’ sections of the Labour Movement remain a key battle ground for socialist ideas.

In a touching, if slightly embarrassing, example of the triumph of hope over experience, I have been involved in many of the attempts at regroupment of the left, from the Socialist Movement and the Chesterfield Conferences, through the SLP and the Socialist Alliance to Respect. All of these initiatives have failed, most recently last autumn, when the SWP leadership’s hysterical reaction to their erstwhile greatest ally, George Galloway’s, rather modest criticisms of their incompetence and autocracy led to the implosion of Respect. So now we have the absurd spectacle of two ‘Respects’. The SWP’s version of Respect now effectively consists just of the SWP – a ‘united front of a special type’ indeed. Respect Renewal contains the best elements of the original initiative, including Ken Loach, the impressive Salma Yaqoob and the ISG/Socialist Resistance group (and, for better and/or worse, the Gorgeous One). Sadly however, it seems unlikely that RR will be able to become a viable national organisation with a real popular base.

Finally, and most ludicrously, in November the Green Party’s electoral obsessives’ wing overwhelmingly won the day in a referendum aimed at making the Green Party look like a miniscule copy of the three ‘grown-up parties’ for PR purposes. On first sight, the modest growth of the Green Party seems like good news for the left. With over seven thousand members, over a hundred local councillors and two MEPs, and with policy positions that place it well to the left of the three neo-liberal parties, the Green Party would seem to be naturally a major player in the development of a mass movement of the left. However, in reality it has an active membership of probably less than 1500, its political composition is an extraordinarily eclectic (and incompatible) mish-mash ranging from reactionary Neo Malthusians, through hippy lifestylists to socialists trying to develop a modern environmentally aware praxis. The dominant politics of the organisation is a narrow obsession with ‘environmental’ issues largely divorced from their social and political context, married to an exclusively electoralist practice with not one whit of analysis of the nature of the state or structure of society.

As it currently operates, the Green Party is likely to remain within the comfortable minority niche it has established for itself, unable – and to a large extent unwilling – to develop a base among working class communities and organisations.

So there is a vacuum on the left and, with the exception of activism within the trade unions, no consensus among socialists on which way to move forwards organisationally.

This situation cannot just be willed away, it is only through activity and over a period of time, that the issues willed be clarified. It is possible that our comrades in Socialist Resistance might be right and there is a realistic chance for Respect Renewal to consolidate and begin to grow as a core of a genuinely broad based socialist party. It is possible that a significant group of left trade unions and trade union bureaucrats will definitively break from NuLab and form the basis for a new party of labour. It is even possible that we in Green Left will succeed in moving the Green Party away from the electoralist anoraks and towards a more explicit understanding of the socialist implications of its egalitarian, environmentalist and fuzzily anti-capitalist program and recognition of the role it could play in rebuilding the left. All of the above are possible, but unfortunately I don’t think any of them are likely.

What next for Green Left

We have to move Green Left on from being little more than an internal email discussion group to being an activist group that has clear (if minimal) strategic objectives. As socialists who recognise the scale and urgency of the crises that capitalism brought upon mankind, our aims and objectives have to be more ambitious than maintaining a left discussion group in the Green party. Ian Angus has written that ‘It is far easier to write socialist essays about climate change than to actively build movements against it. But, as Marx wrote, interpreting the world is not enough — the point is to change it. The time is ripe for ecosocialists to move beyond criticizing capitalism, into supporting, building, and learning from real movements for change. If we don’t do so, all of our words and theories will be irrelevant.’ He has also described the role of ecosocialists as ‘making the greens redder and the reds greener’. I think that what this all means for us in Green Left is that we need to have a twin track strategy over the next year.
Our internal strategy
We have to work within the Green Party to spread a wider understanding that, as Ian says ‘ecological destruction is not an accidental feature of capitalism, it is built into the system’s DNA.’ We need to be developing an understanding among fellow party members that the system’s insatiable need to increase profits – ‘the ecological tyranny of the bottom line’ - cannot be reformed away.
We are not going to do that by endless abstract discussions – although formal debate does have its place. And we are certainly not going to do it by getting bogged down in endless navel gazing and inward looking arguments about abstruse points of internal organisation.
Firstly, we need to do it by involving Green Party members in real world campaigns and day-to-day agitational, rather than simply propaganda activity in the wider movement; for example getting our local parties working with local CND or StWC branches, with tenants involved in DCH, with local community groups and civil rights activists in the defence of refugees and with trade unionists in local campaigns to organize low paid workers – and continually explaining the commonality of these and the environmental concerns of the membership.
Secondly, we need to be making proposals within the Party for action that promote debate and raise awareness among rank and file party members that chime with their level of consciousness but which move them to begin to question some of the fundamental assumptions of bourgeois ideology and which raise demands that cannot be met within the limitations of a capitalist state. In other words, we should be developing transitional demands.
For example, the Justice for Palestinians motion at our Spring Conference in a few weeks (modesty forbids me from mentioning its author) is not dramatically different from the rather anodyne motion on Israel and Palestine from Richard Lawson – except that while the latter merely states opinions that I broadly share (except for the issue of the Two State Solution) the former commits the party to campaigning for the release of Hamas MPs and to supporting the boycott campaign against Israel. In other words it challenges Greens to move from sentiment to action on the side of the oppressed. Similarly, the proposed amendment to the MfSS section on Income and Economic Security (oh dear, I’m blushing) doesn’t make a stirring – and to most GP members incomprehensible – call to ‘expropriate the expropriators’. Instead it calls for a minimum wage to be based on a widely recognized benchmark of decency – and calls for a maximum wage tied to it. Such a call widely resonates with Greens’ (and very many non Greens’) sense of justice, but at the same time it challenges the structure of capitalism and the state. If the Old Man was with us today he would probably agree that this was an example of transitional politics (although obviously he would condemn it as he hadn’t thought of it himself).
As a continuation of this strategy I suggest that at the Autumn Conference we should press for the GP to affiliate to the Cuba Solidarity Campaign and the Cuba Organic Support Group (COSG is an organisation which supports the organic movement in Cuba through speakers, publicity and the promotion of Gardening Brigades to Cuba). In addition, if the vote goes with us at Reading, we should perhaps move for affiliation to the Palestine Solidarity Campaign.
Thirdly, as a continuation of the approach described above, we should be making a consistent attempt to develop the consciousness of our activists by organising debates and discussions, whether within the context of ‘official’ political education programmes as we are starting to do in London, or independently as Green Left.
Fourthly, we should be seeking to challenge the electoralist anoraks and amateur bonapartists within the structure of the party at every opportunity. We should try to ensure that we have as many left candidates as possible for GPEX in the Autumn – to let posts on our leading committee go uncontested is unforgivable.
Our external strategy
But working within the Green Party is not enough. The second track of our strategy must be to work, as an organised group of independent ecosocialists, within the broader movement. In other words, if our work within the Green Party is fundamentally about ‘making greens redder’, then our external work must be about ‘making reds greener’. Central to this, I think, is the establishment of a network of green socialists (or whatever) in Britain.
One of the high points of 2007 for me was the meeting in Paris which established the fledgling Ecosocialist International Network. At that meeting were twenty comrades from Britain, including members of Green Left, the Red-Green Study Group, Socialist Resistance and the Alliance for Green Socialism, along with two SWP members who play a leading part in the Campaign Against Climate Change. While it was heartening to see that among the thirteen countries represented at the meeting, the largest contingent was from Britain, but it was salutary to note that among the British groups there had previously been an absolute minimum of contact and even less collaboration.
Consequently, on leaving hospital just before Christmas, I wrote on behalf of Green Left to all the British participant in the Paris ecosocialist meeting, to suggest that all the groups and/or individuals who were at the Paris event have an initial meeting to exchange experiences and to explore potential areas of practical joint activity. I immediately received a positive response from Edward Maltby, a Paris based AWL member who was at the initial meeting and in the last day or two have received expressions of support from Alan Thornett of Socialist Resistance and Richard Kuper of the Red-Green Study Group. I propose that we should now get moving on organising the meeting as soon as possible, but leaving ourselves with a bit of space in order to give us time to cast the net wider than the original participants. If we can establish a formal (though necessarily loose) network by late Spring I believe that it should be the focus of Green Left’s external orientation in the coming year.

While we obviously shouldn’t approach the initial meeting in a prescriptive way, I think that we should have a couple of modest proposals for practical joint activity by members of the network. At the same time I think that we should be very open to any suggestions from any of the other participants.

In addition a modest programme of activity aimed, I would have thought, at providing a socialist alternative to SERA, we should consider two slightly longer term projects. The first is to either assist the Greeks in setting up a European network meeting in the summer or early autumn or to do it ourselves. I think it very important that at this stage we, either as Green Left alone or a wider British ecosocialist network, make contact with the constituent members of the Nordic Green Left, Groen Links and perhaps the Dutch Socialist Party with a view to involving them in a European meeting.

The second project is that we (as part of a wider network) should organise an ecosocialist delegation to Cuba next winter. Such an initiative could support and promote our work within the Green Party and be a useful promotional gambit in spreading the key concepts of ecosocialism with the wider labour movement.

While there may or may not be a long term possibility for socialists to transform the Green Party, or for Respect Renewal to develop a real popular base, or for socialist to build any meaningful opposition in NuLab, or for the AGS to achieve whatever it is trying to achieve, I believe that the establishment of an ecosocialist network will make a positive – and, I believe essential, contribution to the rebuilding of our movement. An emphasis on the fact that our joint commitment to developing a dynamic ecosocialist praxis is far more significant than the varying tactical choices we have individually made about membership of this or that organisation is vital for building the network. And our explicit recognition that non of us hold sole copyright on the Way, the Truth and the Correct Line can help us to start to develop new ways and areas of joint work that can prefigure not just a renewed socialist politics but a renewed socialist movement.

Sean Thompson
January 2008

Wednesday, 9 January 2008


Darren Johnson has replied to a recent posting on this blog that, he alleges, accuses him of being a ‘Blairite’. He is probably partially right that right that it does, but this and all other postings on this blog (unless stated) are the personal views of Peter Murry, not a collective view of Green Left. (an updated official Green Left blog should appear soon but Greenleftwindfarm is not it).

Initially my article about leadership was entitled ‘A Landslide in a Teacup’, but being rashly rhetorical perhaps I retitled it “Blairite Realos whack anarcho bhuddists”. More accurately perhaps it could have been called “Green Party Won By Reformist Tendency Which Has Some Similarities With ‘Early’ Blairites' In Terms Of Attitudes To Political Organisation Rather Than Policies As Such.”, but perhaps this wouldn’t have had quite the same ring.

That is I think the charge of Blairism is related to the way in which the reformers (i.e. those who advocated a "yes" vote in the recent leadership ballot campaign), appealed to an electorate of less active party members, ‘over the heads’ of party activists, many but not all, of whom tended to support the ‘no’. campaign. It also relates to the way that many of the leadership side appealed to a wider public opinion which they claim they were more in touch with than the ‘no’ campaigners. In both cases there is a clear similarity to the tactics and arguments used in reforms of the Labour party, perhaps started by Neil Kinnock and John Smith and continued by Blair.

There is also the concentration on winning over the middle ground of ‘middle class’ floating voters as means to electoral success, and pandering to the perceived wants of this section of the electorate. In Blair’s case in his initial election campaign and his early years this took the form of trying to avoid raising direct taxation, jettisoning Clause 4 and general friendliness to capitalism to the extent of continuing originally Thatcherite marketisation and privatisation projects. So far all I have noticed is Darren’s aversion to ‘scary’ anti-consumerist messages in election literature and other GP publicity which often now also actively encourages consumerism through adverts, advertorial. and special offers etc. So the Green party recommends types of Towel and brands of shoes, when even a pro-capitalist Green such as Jonathon Porritt (2007 p.xx), notes that the capitalism’s ‘manufacture of desire’ for ever-increasing consumption, is one of the key problems which need to tackled in any attempt to build a ecologically sustainable economic system.

As I suspect, others will have noticed Blair did seem to undergo an ‘epistemological break’ or conversion from his earlier ostensible populism, possibly occasioned by hearing a voice from a Bush, and for reasons which it would be really interesting to know, trampled over a substantial section of British public opinion to embark on the Iraq war.

Darren is of course quite right to claim to be no Blairite in as much as he has consistently opposed these and other aspects of Blair’s policies, but how does he compare to Tony on:

Commitment to economic growth?
Encouraging consumerism?
Believing that capitalism is compatible with solving the current worsening ecological crisis?
(I won't ask about new jeans which were so earnestly debated at a recent London Federation of Green Parties meeting, although this is evidently now an important political signifier, Darren and Tony seem to concur on that but I wonder if they have the same semiotic significance for both of them? Modernity? Normality? Acceptability to voters in target wards?)

Finally whilst in respect Darren’s opposition to rail privatisation and work for the minimum wage in London, a charge of Blairism is clearly unfounded, I would like to suggest that an appearance by a Green Greater London Assembly member or members when next the RMT lobbies City hall against rail privatisation would very clearly distance GP from any charges of Blairism with regard to its policies with the added possible bonus of appealing to a wider circle of potential voters in the forthcoming London mayoral elections.

Ref: Porritt,J. “Capitalism As If The World Matters”, Earthscan 2007