Greenman's Occasional Organ

Ecosocialist. Syndicalist. Critical Techno-Progressive.

Saturday, May 08, 2010

The new political landscape

This is written shortly after the final non-postponed result from the British general election came through, so is a first response, things may change and develop over the next days and weeks.

The Green Party of England and Wales have made a truly historic breakthrough. On a night where all left and progressive forces suffered dramatic setbacks and most minor parties of any complexion failed to make much progress, GPEW saw the election of the first Green MP - Caroline Lucas, the new MP for Brighton Pavilion. I pay tribute to the hard work and determination of Caroline and my fellow Greens in achieving this. We were forced by the unfair electoral system to focus massively on just three seats. The relatively poor results of many of the other Green candidates are probably related to this (along with "Cleggmania", tactical voting and the higher turnout for the main parties). Nevertheless, it paid off and the Green Party now has an unprecedented platform for growth and political advance as well as Caroline having the opportunity to offer real help to the people of Brighton.

Another reason for celebration on the night was the wreck of the hopes of the fascists in Barking and Dagenham - not only failing to take a seat, but losing all their council seats in the concurrent local election as well!
The broader picture is still uncertain, (though we can be certain that whichever combination of the establishment parties takes power, we - the ordinary working people, students, disabled, pensioners etc are going to be asked to pay for the banker's and governments errors and greed). But the hung parliament situation opens up a vista of opportunities and threats.

There is the potential, perhaps, for the rise of a broad based movement to demand political change encompassing at the very least electoral reform and an elected second chamber. We will see over the coming days whether existing large internet based campaigns can begin to be translated into street protest.

The position of the Liberal Democrats means that they are asked to bring about electoral reform or suffer the consequences - whoever they ally with, the exposed and compromised position this will put them in may lead to them getting battered at the next election (that may be sooner rather than later). Any alliance with the Tories will be a great driver of Lib Dem voters and supporters into the arms of the Greens, the Welsh and Scottish Parties and/or Labour. An alliance with Labour will likely split off part of the Lib Dems' suppport to the right.

Meanwhile the international sovereign debt crisis rumbles on accompanied by calls from various representatives of the global elite for governments to make the workers pay. The most extreme example of this is currently in Greece. The resolution and even trajectory of that conflict remains in the balance.

Those on the green and progressive left in Britain must keep their wits about them and seek to rally all the defensive potential of workplace and community organisations - unions and associations - for the inevitable coming stuggles. In comparable situations in the 1970s there was significant risk of covert or even overt action by the secret state and more extreme elements of the ruling class (the Wilson plot, private armies etc etc) Though the risk of this may be less in the absence of them facing or fearing any comparable major organised threats from the left or workers organisation, we still need to be on our guard and remember that in mobilising and organising for the inevitably necessary defence of jobs, services and pensions we are also drawing together those forms and forces (trades councils, workplace organisation, local networks) that will be essential defensive and offensive bodies if elements of the ruling class begin to reach for more repressive and "permanent" solutions to the problems of their system. We do not know how severe the economic crisis may become and into what startegies and tactics this may drive some of those who seek to maintain or build their power over the rest of us.

In the short term we must give practical solidarity to those workers and others already moving into dispute and conflict with the employers and the state.

Good luck to that small band of radicals and progressives that have managed to get elected to Parliament - Caroline Lucas, John McDonnell and a few others - let us hope they can cooperate to give a Parliamentary voice to the opposition to the neo-liberal consensus on who is going to be made to pay for the crisis and the best ways to approach the Climate Emergency.

There is much work to be done!

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