Green party

Why I joined the Greens

Radical socialists in England and Wales face a dilemma. The Labour Party isnow beyond reform. The idea of recapturing Labour for the left is a hopelessdream.

Equally depressing, alternative left parties like the Socialist Alliance andRespect offer little cause for optimism. The Socialist Alliance tried, butfailed, to secure electoral success. Respect is neither grassroots nordemocratic. It is run on the same 'democratic centralist' lines as theBlairite Labour Party. All major decisions are taken at the top. It isdominated by the Socialist Workers Party, which is notorious for packingmeetings and organising secret slates to secure the election of its peopleto key positions.

I left the Labour Party in 2000, after 22 years membership. My reason? "New"Labour has abandoned both socialism and democracy. It is no longer committedto the redistribution of wealth and power. Tony Blair spends more time withmillionaire businessmen than trade union leaders. The gap between rich andpoor has widened since 1997. Civil liberties are under ceaseless attack byDavid Blunkett, the most right-wing home secretary since Sir David MaxwellFyfe in the 1950s.

There is, alas, no possibility of undoing Blair's right-wing "coup".Internal party democracy has been extinguished. Ordinary members have nosay. Everything important is decided by The Dear Leader and his acolytes.Fixing the selection process for the London mayoral candidate in 2000 todefeat Ken Livingstone was one of many examples of Labour's corruption. Nosocialist can remain in a party that rigs ballots and denies members ameaningful say in the decisions of their party.

I joined Labour because I want social justice and human rights for all. Myvalues and aspirations remain the same. Labour's have changed fundamentallyand irreversibly. Winning back Labour to socialism and democracy is nowimpossible.

No political party lasts forever. Even the most progressive party eventuallydecays or turns reactionary. Labour's great, historic achievement was thecreation of the welfare state. The current party leadership is in theprocess of privatising it.

Leaving Labour does not mean giving up the battle for a fair and justsociety. There is an alternative option. After two decades of moving fromright to left, the Green Party now occupies the progressive political spaceonce held by left-wing Labour. It offers the most credible left alternativeto Labour's pro-war, pro-big business and pro-Bush policies.

The Green Party's manifesto for a sustainable society incorporates key socialist values. It rejectsprivatisation, free market economics and globalisation, and includescommitments to public ownership, worker's rights, economic democracy,progressive taxation and the redistribution of wealth and power.

Greens put the common good before corporate greed, and the public interestbefore private profit. Forging a red-green synthesis, they integratepolicies for social justice with policies for tackling the life-threateningdangers posed by global warming, environmental pollution, resource depletionand species extinction.

Unlike the traditional left, with its superficial environmentalism, Greensunderstand there is no point campaigning for social justice if we don't havea habitable planet. Ecological sustainability is the precondition for a justsociety. The Greens also recognise that tackling the global ecologicalthreat requires constraints on the power of big corporations. Profiteeringand free trade has to be subordinated to policies for the survival ofhumanity. Can any socialist disagree with that?

Although the Green Party is not perfect (is any party perfect?), itsanti-capitalist agenda gives practical expression to socialist ideas. Veryimportantly, ordinary members are empowered to decide policy. The Greens area grassroots democratic party, where activism is encouraged and wheremembers with ideals and principles are valued.

Unlike tiny left parties, such as the Socialist Alliance and Respect, Greenshave a proven record of success at the ballot box, with candidates electedin the London, Scottish, local and European elections. These elected Greensare a force for social progress, far to the left of Labour on all issues.They are also well to the left of the Socialist Alliance and Respect onquestions like women's and gay rights, health care, animal welfare, theenvironment and third world development.

People tempted to support Respect in the forthcoming elections need toanswer two crucial questions. Why split the left-wing vote and therebydiminish the electoral prospects of both Respect and the Green Party? Whyvote for an unproven political force like Respect when there is a credibleand radical left party - the Greens - that already has seats and can winlots more with the support of people on the left?

This article was written by Peter Tatchell and printed in Red Pepper Magazine.

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