Greenman's Occasional Organ

Ecosocialist. Syndicalist. Critical Techno-Progressive.

Monday, June 18, 2007

A Tale Of Two Green Parties

Now that their relationships to the governing party in each of their respective national assemblies is finalised it is worth contrasting the stances of the Green Parties in Scotland and Ireland. The Irish Greens have voted to go into coalition as a (very) minor partner to Fianna Fail, whereas the Scottish Greens have agreed a deal based on their favoured model of "Confidence and Supply" with the SNP.

The Irish Greens voting to go into government on the modest terms as read, and with the widely despised right-wing PDs also in the coalition is outrageous. They are now seen by a large number in the Irish environmental and peace activist coalitions as selling out at the first whiff of (very compromised and limited) power. They will have to be part of a government bulldozing the Hill of Tara related archaeological sites they previously campaigned to save, snd allowing the USA use of Shannon Airport to support US Imperialism which they sought to curtail. Pipelines and motorways will go unchallenged or will only face muted criticism. Also outrageous was the public intervention of the general secretary of the European Greens calling for the Irish Green Party to vote yes to coalition! Let us not forget from a European perspective the he was calling for the Irish Greens to go into government with two parties that ally in one case on a European level with the "Europe of Nations" group - that contains so-called "post-fascists" - and in the case of the PDs with the right wing of the liberals - closest to the German FDP/Orange Book types.

The first TD and founder member of the Irish Greens Roger Garland and also one of their ex-MEPs, Patricia McKenna spoke out against the deal, but to no avail - less than 70 members backed them. Roger Garland predicted it could lead to a "wipe out" in future elections. The Progressive Democrats have just experienced this effect having been the whipping boys for Fianna Fail as well as generating vicious neo-liberal policies.

An Irish Socialist wrote the following about the Irish Green Party on the Urban 75 discussion forum:
They have adopted the position known over here as becoming Fianna Fail's mudguard. They have next to no say over policy, but they will take a disproportionate share of the blame for anything unpopular the government does. They will be the public face of faux-environmental right wing policies like part privatisation of the bus service or the re-introduction of the water tax. Simultaneously, they will get the blame for not opposing things they previously made a big deal of opposing like corporate donations. A related process got the Progressive Democrats nearly wiped out at this election, but it appears that the Greens have no capacity to learn from experience.

Well, there obviously is a principled section of the Irish Greens as the vote was not unanimous and some well known figures such as McKenna voted against. Their voice will become stronger if the TDs actually start to implement policies that go against their main campaign objectives. It emerges that on the Tara issue alone the new Green Minister responsible has been bound to the unpopular policy by a mischievous act of the outgoing Minister. The likelihood is, (provided the activists stay and fight and do not go off to mess around with some typical IST/SWP style front-farce) that there will be a major 'bloodletting' in the Irish party at some stage in the future. The German experience shows that leaving the Party simply consolidates the right in control. If we want to fight for principled Green and Left ideas and policies we must be prepared to stick our heads above the parapet as GL are doing in England and Wales and as the "Green Empowerment" grouping is now doing to oppose the centralist "leader campaign" in the coming referendum in the Green Party of England and Wales. This will be a key battle allowing the collectivist viewpoint to be set up against both the authoritarian tendencies and the "Maingreen" style media-pleasers. (You can just feel the media's and right's anticipation of and desire for the "New Green leader stamps his/her authority on unruly conference" type headlines.)

I personally have never ruled out splitting from the GP if the situation became hopelessly untenable, I have considered the alternatives in the past, prior to foundation of Green Left. However, it is again clear that it is far better to leave as a principled and organised grouping and either set up independently or join another grouping than it is to drift off as individuals, leaving the right/centralists in control. And we are far from having to make this kind of choice in England and Wales at the moment.

We need to look at organising as left activists in the European Green Party across the continent - at the moment, as shown by the intervention of the EGP general secretary in the Irish situation the right are not being slow to use the structures and offices of the EGP to their advantage.

For me, the Green Party and parties were and never will be the be-all and end -all of politics or struggle, I leave that view to the rightists and "green government" fantasists. The question is whether the Green movement and parties can be aligned with a broad popular and international movement of the left and the working class, rather than as we now see ending up as the "mudguard" for right and centre-right coalitions. It is a broad and popular movement that will facilitate change and empowerment, not one particular party. It will require extra-parliamentary and direct action (ideally in tandem with an attack inside the systemic structures) to bring about the changes that are needed.

Do not despair, there is work to be done.

Meanwhile, the position in Scotland shows how preferable their strategy is, at least in the short term, to the shambles in Ireland. The Greens were instrumental in getting the recent anti-Trident replacement vote passed in the Scottish Parliament-

BBC - MSPs vote against Trident Renewal.

What is more they are pushing forward more radical demands-

"The Scottish Greens have proposed using Scottish powers to prevent the movement of nuclear weapons on Scotland's roads and seas.

Green MSP Patrick Harvie called on MSPs to express their opposition to renewal, adding: "If we do, the message from Scotland will be very clear - the majority of Scots rejecting this plan."

All this without being bound to the more questionable elements of the SNP programme and retaining the possibility of defeating the SNP where necessary, but supporting them against the UK-wide neo-liberal parties as required. The Scottish Greens retain freedom of action and political independence as well as respect from activists.

Meanwhile in France, the Greens are up one to four seats in the National Assembly and the predicted landslide for right did not occur, nevertheless, still much needs to be done to look at what went wrong with the left's presidential challenge and what is unattractive about their current image. The avoidance of a right wing landslide may indicate various things - that the left can mobilise its' vote when really required, that voters are now not so sure they want to give Sarkozy carte blanche (to use an approriate phrase!) or possibly that the voters of the right were complacent in the face of the Presidential victory and the predictions of a landslide.
Whatever the case, Sarkozy is saying he is still determined to carry on with his radical right programme, so the level of left co-operation and organisation seen in the campaign against the EU Constitution in France needs to be regained and improved upon.

The work that needs to be done by left greens and the broader left across Europe becomes more urgent, as recent events show.

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At 10:52 am, Blogger Dave Riley said...

Bad sound , but phone interview with Derek Wall here which touches on some of the topics you so thoughtfully raise.

At 7:47 pm, Blogger Derek Wall said...

sound analysis....we do need to be pushing ecosocialism, which generally means first of all defending green politics against realo grey ness, in European parties.

While I guess the Scottish Greens would not see themselves as Green socialist, there approach to government seem touch wood so far a big advance on the usual coalition deals.


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