Friday, 13 August 2010

A redder shade of green

Features Morning Star
Wednesday 11 August 2010

You know you are getting somewhere when you get attacked. And with Caroline Lucas being successfully elected as the first Green Party MP, the attacks are coming.

One has to be self-critical, especially when it comes to green politics.

However, a lot of criticism of the Green Party and Lucas is unwarranted. Perhaps predictably the most recent attacks have been over homeopathy and socialism.

Lucas, along with MPs from six other parties, has signed an early day motion (EDM) defending homeopathy. But rather than criticising all those who signed, commentators have launched a number of specific attacks on Lucas for doing so. This suggests they might have more to do with bashing the leader of the Green Party than discussing the problems of alternative medicine.

The EDM argues that the availability of homeopathy should be the choice of “local NHS service providers and practitioners,” and Lucas has suggested that the NHS should support a range of therapies.
While it would be wrong to uncritically support “alternative therapies,” there seems to be a much wider problem when it comes to NHS treatments.

The research and marketing of pharmaceuticals is controlled by a small number of huge corporations which spend millions marketing their products and influencing clinical decisions.

In the same way that debates over climate change are distorted by the millions paid by oil and coal corporations to “sceptics,” the science of health care is shaped by self-interested multinationals.
With their monopoly profits, big pharma can spend money manipulating the media and public opinion including the rubbishing of alternatives.

So while she does not, as far as I know, specifically endorse homeopathy, Lucas is absolutely right to support both patients and medical practioneers if it is a choice they wish to make.

Separately, an astonishing article appeared in Tribune magazine recently from a member of the Labour Party attacking the Greens for not being on the left. Carl Rowland criticises Lucas’s contention that Greens represent part of the “true left in the British Parliament.”

He argues that the Green Party of England and Wales fails to challenge capitalism and that European Green parties have moved to the right. For example, he rightly criticises the Czech Green Party’s support for “George W Bush’s plan to station America’s missile defence on Czech soil.”

What he fails to mention is that the majority of Greens strongly challenged Bush’s drive to war while the Czech Greens, essentially hijacked by the right, are discredited and have now lost all of their parliamentary seats.

Of course, the Labour Party leadership in Britain supported Bush’s bloody invasion of Iraq while Greens globally helped build the anti-war movement.

Rowland also picks on the example of the Irish Green Party which has moved from radical green politics to a catastrophic alliance with the right-wing Fianna Fail. He further hints that members of green movements might see unemployment as a positive experience.

Now of course Rowland is quite right about the Irish Green Party, but guess what? Prominent members of the Green Party of England and Wales have been highly critical of the Irish experience too, including Lucas who told a Compass conference that it was a textbook example of how not to build a coalition.

Rowland’s article ignores the existence of the green left. There is an international movement for eco-socialism that, while most advanced in Latin America, spans the globe. Lucas herself has been at the forefront of a vigorous movement against spending cuts.

In fact, unlike the Labour Party, the Green Party of England and Wales pointed out that with the scrapping of Trident and higher taxes on the wealthy there was no need for cuts in services.

The 25 per cent cuts which threaten to devastate Britain, tipping us back into recession, accelerating unemployment and crushing the most vulnerable in society, are primarily a product of our neoliberal government - Labour Party support for slashed spending has been part of the process.

So the Green Party challenges cuts as a central part of our general election campaign, while Labour supports cuts. Yet the Greens are told off for not being socialist enough. Does that make any kind of sense?
Lucas has been showing real leadership urging members of the Green Party to get involved in anti-cuts campaigns and using Parliament as a platform for opposing government plans to bring further free-market misery to Britain.

Our Green Party is often described as one of the most left-wing Green parties in Europe - this is largely down to Lucas’s leadership, but it is also because green socialists have organised in the party by launching Green Left.

Members of Green Left get stuck into both internal debates in the Green Party and wider campaigning.
It is certainly not sectarian. Green Left often promotes joint events with another British eco-socialist organisation, Socialist Resistance, even though it is a member of the Respect Party.

Many Green Left members support Labour Party activists who genuinely fight to make the Labour Party more socialist, like Jeremy Corbyn and John McDonnell.

We also get involved with more anarchistic non-party Greens like the Climate Camp and, of course, we have been strong supporters of trade union activism, such as at Vestas where workers opposing the closure of their wind turbine factory mounted an occupation.

Green politics in Europe would be strengthened by similar eco-socialist groups operating within Green parties and there is clear evidence that greens in Europe are moving left.

Indeed, at the European Green Party conference in Estonia in October the star platform speakers will be professor Elinor Ostrom, a strong advocate of alternatives to the market, alongside our own Lucas.
If Rowland really wants to make an assessment of the possibility of Greens introducing the fundamental changes necessary to resist the economic and environmental chaos of unrestrained capitalism, he might want to consider taking a closer look at the work of Green Left.

Incidentally not all members of Green Left will agree with me about homepathy, but I think they would agree this is more about bashing the Green Party than a genuine concern with medical ethics, especially given the way that Lucas has been singled out. 

No comments: