Conference Newsletter of Green Left Autumn 2016
Dunstable Downs, home of the Duke of Burgundy Butterfly (photo: M.Bailey)
Green Left is an association of Green Party members, open to all members of the Party. As socialists and radicals we campaign for the radical policies of the Green Party and support the Green Party Trade Union Group, explaining and discussing these policies both within the Party and with socialists, other radicals and trade unionists beyond. Ecosocialism brings together social justice and environmental issues seamlessly, within a rational, coherent framework. I will explain briefly how Green Left understands this ecosocialist framework, which includes and integrates many aspects of ecology.
From Ecology to Green
The Green Party was named the Ecology Party for a short period in its early life, from 1975 to 1985. The Ecology Party’s general election manifesto in 1979 was entitled ‘The Real Alternative’. In answer to the question ‘Why Ecology?’ the manifesto explained: ‘It’s not an easy word. But it is the only word that expresses exactly what this new political initiative will mean. Ecology is the study of all living things, where they live, and how they live together.’
The Ecology Party became the Green Party in 1985. Growing scientific evidence of global warming due to human activities, releasing greenhouse gases into the atmosphere at an increasing rate, became a key issue of Green Party policies into the 1990’s and beyond 2000. The impact of global warming on the biosphere was endangering many species of plants and animals, together with the effects of pollution and contamination and the degradation of natural habits including the oceans and rain forests.
Green Party policies became more focussed on social justice issues, rampant privatisation and the neo-liberal onslaught on public services including the NHS, with increasing levels of inequality not only in UK, but globally, the rich getting richer, and the poor getting poorer. Climate change was set to hit the poorer nations hardest. The Green Party 2010 general election manifesto was a powerful green policy document, delivering our first MP.
Green Left and Ecosocialism
Green Left was founded in June 2006 by activists in the Green Party, because many Greens believe the only path to an environmentally, economically and socially just and peaceful society has to be based on an ecosocialist and anti-capitalist political agenda.
For the past ten years Green Left members have successfully contributed to the work of the Green Party in various ways and helped shape many of the current social justice and other aspects of policy.
A key element of ecosocialism is an analysis which shows that the prevalent economic system, capitalism, is at the heart of the problem. Capitalism is predicated on continual growth, which conflicts with available resources of a finite planet Earth. A way has to be found not just to restrain or greenwash capitalism, but to oppose and replace it with a new economic system capable of solving the global crisis.
Ecology and Biodiversity: Global & Local
Recognition of the fundamental importance of sustaining biodiversity for life on Earth is a basis of ecosocialism, which draws among many sources on the scientific evidence of ecology. Global support is vital for many endangered species and their habitats; rhinos, whales, African elephants, tigers, Ethiopian wolves, orang-utans, snow leopards and many others. However, the ecology-fixated viewpoint sometimes advanced by ‘true Greens’ often fails to recognise a basic cause of the problem - global corporatism and the capitalist economic system. It is a limited and inadequate response to the crisis.
Support is important at global, local and personal levels. There is much that can be done to understand and help biodiversity, through education and in practical ways. Like many Greens, I am involved in organisations such as the RSPB and the Wildlife Trusts. I am a keen wildlife gardener. Conservation volunteering can be hard work but is fun. Whether it is spotting migratory birds on Blows Downs in Dunstable; identifying bats, moths and glow-worms at Totternhoe Knolls in Bedfordshire; pond-dipping at Frampton Marsh in Lincolnshire, or bird-watching at Grafham Water in Northants, there are many activities that can provide an insight into threatened species and the local impact of climate change.
'Moth Trapping at Midnight on Totternhoe Knolls'. (photo: M.Bailey)
In terms of the local and the particular, there are few finer voices than the radical ecological poet John Clare (1793-1864). Clare was deeply opposed to the forced enclosures of common land. His trespassing has later echoes in the Right-to-Roam and Occupy movements. He was perceptively observant of his local wild life:
‘& weeds that bloomed in summer hours
I thought they should be reckoned flowers
They made a garden free for all
& so I loved them great & small
& sung of some that pleased my eye
Nor could I pass the thistle by… ’ 
John Clare's cottage garden (photo: M.Bailey)
The Enemy of Nature
Other sciences apart from ecology, including physics, inform our understanding of the natural world. Brian Cox’s recent TV series ‘Forces of Nature’ illustrated the significance of the basic laws of physics in nature. The series title led me to recall and reflect on ‘The Enemy of Nature’, a seminal book by Joel Kovel , originally published in 2002, which indicts the capitalist economic system, predicated on endless growth and exploitation of natural resources, global power of corporations and relentless pressure towards overconsumption, as the ultimate enemy of life on Earth. Kovel’s view is that capital is incorrigibly eco-destructive, expansive and unreformable. This recognition of the role of capitalism has led to the ecosocialist viewpoint, defining ecosocialism as that society in which production is carried out by freely associated labour and with consciously ecocentric ends and means. Progress towards an ecosocialist future will include enhancement of the Commons; that is reclaiming the Commons from enclosure. Derek Wall has written extensively on the theme of the Commons, in his ‘The Commons in History’ (2014) and ‘Economics after Capitalism (2015).
The answer to the question ‘is the Green Party an ecosocialist party? is ‘no, but it ought to be’. It’s work in progress.
Being an EU citizen in the UK after Brexit
By Joseph Healy: Left Unity Principal Speaker.
The day after the Brexit referendum I had called together a group of friends from Italy, Spain, Germany and Ireland to chew over the referendum result. I had organised the social before we knew the outcome. One friend was so shocked she felt hurt and rejected and unable to meet other people. Another, a longstanding academic from Germany spent the whole day crying at home and also felt unable to meet others. The feeling of having received a collective slap in the face and having been rejected by the people of a country in which we had spent decades and felt was home was overwhelming.
I had played an active part in the Remain campaign and had appeared in a video showing the views of a collection of EU citizens organised by Another Europe is Possible, the left wing pro Remain group, which was backed by the Green Party, Left Unity, Momentum and others. As an Irish citizen I was the only one appearing in the video who had a vote. My Spanish partner, who has lived in London for nearly 20 years, was denied any say whatsoever in his future and that of the country in which he had based his life.
Since the referendum, I have met many friends from various EU countries all of whom feel angry and rejected over the outcome. Some are planning to leave the UK, others are confused and don't know what their future holds. I recently attended a packed event organised by the Migrants Rights Network where many young EU citizens worriedly asked a professor of EU Law and a migration lawyer questions about their future in this country. The lawyer advised them all to apply ASAP for a long term residency permit, saying that this was the only legal security they would have. The EU law professor said that nobody knew what the rights of EU citizens in the UK would be until the info withdrawal agreement was signed with the EU. Would these people who have lived for years in the UK be able to access the NHS, be able to apply for jobs or keep them - nobody knew. This is the uncertainty with which 3 million people 5% of the population are living.
For me one of the basic demands of any progressive political movement must be the guarantee to the EU citizens living here that they will retain the rights they have always had. Furthermore, any agreement with the EU must continue to protect the right of free movement between the EU and the UK. This is one of the most basic rights which is in danger of being lost after Brexit. Finally, we must fight together to oppose all signs of xenophobia and racism against EU citizens living here. Despite Brexit the UK must remain a tolerant and inclusive country and make its EU citizens feel welcome and included.
TOWARDS A PROGRESSIVE ALLIANCE AND A 20/20 VISION.
BY PETER ALLEN
Credit should be given to the Green Party Leaders for taking the initiative by proposing talks about a Progressive Alliance to other party leaders.
A positive response from Jeremy Corbyn is crucial. Recently Owen Jones asked him about PR and a PA. Responding to the first question only he valued retaining the direct link between MPs and their constituents, suggesting a willingness to consider PR based on an Additional Member system ( AV+) which Greens recommend. He also said that Labour was committed to holding a constitutional convention, also Green Party policy. If Corbyn seems luke warm, others in Labour, including John McDonnell and Chuka Umuna, are strong supporters of PR.
Labour is hopelessly divided at present and the prospect of being able to unite around PR or a Progressive Alliance may seem remote. However Paul Mason, formerly of Channel 4 News, now part of Corbyn and McDonnell’s ‘ inner circle', believes that PR and a broader Progressive Alliance could hold Labour together, offering the prospect of a general election victory. "The mainstream of the PLP, (…) are winnable. (Corbyn) needs a clear and effective political strategy. (...) building a progressive political coalition. This will include Labour, the left-wing nationalists, the Greens, and the Liberal Democrats (….)If Corbyn can find a way to put this coalition together he can certainly win an election, and that prospect is likely to be enough for many of the social democrats in the centre of the Labour Party to accept his leadership " ( Jacobin online 12/07/16 )
What of the other parties? The Liberal Democrats who favour PR, portray themselves as progressive and although diminished in electoral strength, they retain support in parts of the country. It is an opportune moment for them to reaffirm their commitment to a fairer Britain and it was right that they be invited to participate. .Plaid Cymru (PC) and the Scottish National Party (SNP) are already working in Parliament with Caroline Lucas in a Progressive Alliance opposing austerity. Both are committed to PR and although the SNP were not included in the invitation to talk (the Scottish Green Party may make their own invitation) they supported Caroline Lucas's recent attempt to secure a parliamentary vote for PR
What is in it for the Green Party?
• a realistic prospect of defeating this government at the next election
• the chance to introduce proportional representation, so that Greens would be better represented in Parliament.
• the possibility of having real power and influence in a future government, supporting Labour's renewed commitment to social justice and insisting on a commitment to climate and ecological justice too.
• a bigger platform to promote our wider vision of a different economic and social model, challenging notions of endless growth on a fragile planet.
What might a Progressive Alliance involve?
-an agreement to stand a single candidate against the Tories and UKIP at the next general election, either in ' marginal seats or across England and Wales, the principal aim being the elect ion of a government committed to introducing electoral reform.
- a new politics, which Corbyn has pledged and Greens have been advocating for many years, based on cooperation across parties to achieve common goals.
An immediate goal might be to reverse the ongoing attack on the welfare state and local government services Councils are about to impose a reduced Benefit Cap, which will have disastrous consequences for some of their most vulnerable families, and face further reductions in already chronically inadequate social care budgets. Local Green Parties could try and initiate discussions with other parties in the coming weeks, to consider how best to create local campaigns to resist further austerity and cuts.
By Roy Sandison – Rugby Green Party
It’s clear to many that building viable progressive alliances at the local level is a priority and not in a month before an election.
In a positive change Green Party members are starting to come across local Labour Party members old and new who feel emancipated in free thought by the social movement that is the Corbyn surge - not unlike it should be noted with our own Green surge.
As the motion below suggests it’s important that engagement starts to take place between the Green Party and ‘new’ Labour Party not in a ‘doff your cap way’ but by equal parties that have a substantial membership and voters support.
It’s always difficult given tribalism to identify co thinkers in other parties so perhaps we need to start to identify those parties who nominated Corbyn and Councilors and well as Councilors who have come out in support – these can be found here http://labourlist.org/2016/06/hundreds-of-councillors-sign-pro-corbyn-letter/ I understand there are about 400 so far and 133 local parties have nominated Corbyn at time of writing.
Now they are careerists or love burning coal or anti PR – but are they all? And can we build up cross party and non-party local progressive alliances committed to PR for future election? I see no reason why not and we gained even more Green Councilors and MP’s?
Green Left has a very well respected Facebook site that is able to reach across the left as well as providing a much needed left ear for the Green Party – Visit it today to be part of the debate
The following Motion was passed by Green Left Meeting on 02/07/2016 on Electoral Left Alliances
Green Left welcomes the move to discuss campaigning and electoral left alliances leading up to the next General Election.
Green Left has always promoted the idea that where we share values that the left should work together as much as possible including with the Green Party lending our support and endorsing Eco socialists who happen to be members of other parties as we did with the excellent Salma Yaqoob at the 2010 parliamentary election.
This needs further discussion with members and we welcome the consultation that will be taking place.
Green Left members with our positive standing amongst others on the left are able to positively engage people outside the GPEW who share our values and therefore should take the initiative locally in promoting discussion with individuals, anti-austerity groups and other left parties such as a Jeremy Corbyn led Labour Party. The idea of the ‘Best Placed Left Candidate’ should be a consideration in marginal seats. Also any proposed left alliance must be committed to PR in further elections.
THE BEST WAY TO IMPROVE WORKERS’ RIGHTS IS TO HELP THEM GET ORGANISED
Kieron Merrett, Secretary of The Green Party Trade Union Group
One of the reasons I joined the Green Party was its policies for workers. Greens can be proud of our record on proposing new legislation to make working people’s lives better – such as a £10 minimum wage, or a 35-hour working week. But adding more laws doesn’t help unless they are enforced them. Whilst union members can enforce their legal rights, workers in non-unionised workplaces can suffer from breaches of the law every day without knowing it – from working illegally long hours to being gender or race discrimination.
Even if the law is enforced, we can’t rely on legislation as the main way of improving working people’s lives. Rather than becoming dependent on the Government to grant minimal improvements in pay or conditions, we need workers to join together in unions to make their own demands. Not only does this put power in their hands, but it’s also more likely to be sustained. Legislation can be rolled back by future governments, but organised workplaces can’t.
But as things stand, organising the worst exploited workers is easier said than done. Many workers now work in new kinds of workplace which have no history of unionisation - the Sports Directs, the Amazons and the Nexts of the UK. This affects young workers in particular. Unions such as Unite and GMB have tried to unionise them, not always completely successfully
One problem is the precarious situation many workers, with employers making use of zero-hours contracts or dubious in-house “agencies” to allow them to victimise their employees. With this level of fear, the barriers to joining a union and standing up to the boss are high. But a more immediate problem is access: unions can’t even get in. Many workers are unaware that they have rights which can be enforced, and of course companies like Amazon prefer to keep it that way. Other countries such as New Zealand or Sweden have laws which allow Trade Union representatives to access the workplace. In the UK, however, if the employer doesn’t want the union to enter, there’s no redress.
The Green Party Trade Union Group (GPTU) has proposed two motions to this year’s Autumn Conference, voted first and fifth priority by members in the policy motions section – putting these issues at the top of this Conference’s policy agenda. One of these motions calls for legislation to give unions a statutory right of access to workplaces. We’re calling on Greens at Conference to support this to call attention to the situation of the UK’s most exploited workers, and ultimately put the power into their hands.
GPTU will be proposing more changes like this at future Conferences – and perhaps even pave the way for a full review of the Green Party’s policy on workers’ rights. As Greens, when we think about improving working people’s lives or making society more equal, we need to stop thinking just about how new legislation would help – and start thinking more about how we can help workers join unions and achieve it for themselves.
Support Motions C 1.Opposition to the Conservatives’ Trade Union Act & C 5. Statutory right of access to workplaces for Trade Unions
Great News! U.S greens have adopted a motion forwarding a Bookchinesque style program of communalism/Libertarian Municipalism and anti-capitalism. 78% voted in favour and the amendment will be put to conference for ratification in August. See the full text of the motions at http://www.martinobeirne.co.uk/blog/us-greens-adopt-ecosocialismcommunalism Please add any thoughts in the comments section. see also http://londongreenleft.blogspot.co.uk/2016/08/us-green-party-convention-adopts.html
Why we need to “Reform Conference Voting” by supporting Motion D1 By Nicole Haydock, Bury Green Party Co-ordinator
Conference is the supreme body of the Green Party of England and Wales (GPEW) and as such, it literally “can do anything it likes”, as a SOC Convenor once explained. This is where members debate, adopt reports, make policies and amend our constitution, plus there is the networking and socialising we all need and enjoy.What conference cannot do is represent the views and the democratic will of the majority of our 60,000 members, most of whom will not and often cannot attend. Greens rejected the concept of a delegates’ conference - deleted from our Constitution at the 2015 Autumn Conference –nonetheless members who attend conference are self-selected. The cost of attending leads to a disproportionate number of better off people making all the key decisions on behalf of the wider membership maybe without being accountable to anyone else. Addressing this democratic deficit should be a major concern for our party which treasures its democratic principles. Embracing the digital revolution by adopting motion D1 “Reform of Conference Voting “ may however offer a solution - The current implementation of “ A step towards digital democracy “ approved at the 2016 Spring Conference will soon enable members to take part in the indicative voting of Conference workshops via the members’ website.
Motion D 1 “Reform of Conference Voting “proposes that GPEW moves cautiously one step further to consider new ways to enable members to vote on Conference motions and thus take part fully in our decision making process.As one of the proposers of this motion, -I strongly believe is that D1 - if approved - will lay the foundation for the necessary engagement of a much larger number of individual members and Local Party activists in shaping the political direction of the GPEW and directly holding our leaders into account.
Green Left defines Eco socialism based on its founding statement “the Headcorn Declaration” and 2nd draft of the Ecosocialist Manifesto .GL knows that other definitions exist. Moreover many who identify as Ecosocialist, and some who don’t, choose this label, might belong to organisations which do not identify as such, or to no political organization at all. The proposal is an attempt to work constructively and co-operatively with other Ecosocialists, because human caused climate change is accelerating and threatening disastrous consequences and there is no adequate political response to it. Proposing that individuals from different organisations and none form a loose network has no preset agenda. An ES Network will develop its own one. The next step is to collect contacts who might be interested to start setting up the Network.
LONG LIVE THE SUICIDAL WEASEL
The weasel that bit through the cable
At the great hadron collider
And died, fried,
Was a heroic guerrilla fighter,
Trying to make the world righter
And stop humans playing
At being gods
Since we, being silly sods,
Full to the brim with
Vanity and insanity
Will wreck this planet
And make it unfit for all to live on
The weasel, the human or the gannet
Or orcas either,
Or even the beaver
If capitalism gets its way
We’re going to inhabit a huge ashtray.
So let’s raise our hand, our beaks, fins and paws
To the weasel who died, fried
For a noble cause.-