Why did I, as a socialist, go Green?
I’ve always considered myself a socialist, a non-dogmatic fairly unorthodox one, but a socialist none the less. Marx’s seminal analysis of our economic system may now be dated and the language in places ungainly and jarring, but it offers innumerable perpetually relevant insights and is a great conceptual entry point into analysing our society. As such though I had been supporting the Green Party in local and European elections for some time – as they are the only electable party in Bristol that supports many of my own core beliefs like health care being too important to be subjected to the profit motive, the need to renationalise the railways and the energy sector, and the living wage, etc – I had never felt comfortable joining them, until quite recently.
Since Labour have abandoned even the pretence of Social Democracy and standing up for ordinary people – instead wanting to be the party of Neoliberalism with a human face – there has been a greater and greater need for a party to the Left of Labour. I have great sympathy to the Left Unity project and had thought about joining it (I just don’t think it’s going to be able to exert any kind of influence soon enough – if at all), before eventually going Green. One of the many things that influenced this decision is the amazing surge in membership the Green Party has experienced in Bristol (and across the country), and the real chance it has of winning in Bristol West. In Bristol West we’re lucky to be one of the few places in England where we can elect an MP opposed to austerity – a Green MP – and that’s a really worthwhile task. If we ever want to move the political discourse of our country back to the left we need more people in positions of societal influence (no matter how small) advocating leftist politics. This should be an end in itself, and could create the political and social space needed for more explicitly socialist movements to develop – if that’s what you want. In the more immediate future, if we want to build a real opposition to austerity electing as many MPs opposed to it as possible is very important.
Why others haven’t
Now from conversations I’ve had with TUSC supporters and from friends of mine in Left Unity, I know many of the socialist left don’t like Darren Hall. They see him as too right wing – his job in the RAF, engineering and civil service being brought up – and don’t think he’ll consistently oppose austerity. On this latter point the deficiency of Greens on councils like Brighton in implementing cuts (and some Bristol Green councillors feeling they had to vote for cuts in past budgets) is referenced (though our only MPs fantastic record of voting against austerity budgets isn’t). As such they intend to support their respective parties, saying we need a principled party to push both the Greens and Labour further left. On a more long term basis, they think the Greens are too focused on elections and aren’t active enough in social movements and the community, and don’t like that we don’t have much in the way of theoretical analysis of the state, political power, or social class, and think that there’s too many middle class lifestyle change types within the party.
I can sympathise with much of this view, and it would be very undemocratic and sectarian of us to say they shouldn’t stand or campaign or vote for the explicitly socialist left. But if you want to elect an MP opposed to austerity in Bristol West, you really should vote for Darren Hall.
Austerity budgets are a ‘Red Line’ for Green MPs
At the Green Party’s last conference we passed a motion outlining what any elected Green MPs should do in the next parliament. It states the likelihood of a hung parliament, and how in such a situation our priority should be to remove the conservatives from power, but without entering a formal coalition, and instead negotiating on an issue by issue basis – probably in some form of confidence and supply arrangement. It goes on to state the very important part, that, ‘Rejection of an austerity budget would be a clear and objective ‘red line’ in any such negotiations’. Even if you have misgivings about Darren and his commitment to the anti-austerity movement personally, he is bound to follow Green Party policy, and here is the clear commitment for our MPs to vote against austerity.
So long as Darren follows the party policy adopted democratically by our conference, he is the only candidate that can win in Bristol West who is committed to voting against austerity budgets. Obviously there’s the possibility that he might not, and you might feel betrayed. But if we do manage to elect him, and that does happen, it would probably be very beneficial to the socialist Left of the UK.
What if Darren doesn’t follow the policy?
When Darren had a high pressure interview on the BBC Daily Politics show last month, he was quizzed on what Red Lines we might have in any post hung parliament arrangement. Darren failed to mention our above policy (easy to do in a high pressure interview), and despite instead focusing on how we reject neoliberal ‘trickle down economics’, this omission generated considerable angst amongst some people on our members forum, and with Green trade unionists I communicate with via email. If we do manage to elect Darren, and then he doesn’t follow the above policy and votes for austerity it seems extremely likely to me that vast swathes of the Greens new members would become very disillusioned with the Green Party and leave (I know I would).
Both TUSC and Left Unity who are standing in Bristol (Left Unity in Bristol West) have their stated aim as building a new mass party of the left. If Darren is elected and then discredits the Green party by voting for austerity, the exodus it would cause could contribute a lot to turning these tiny fairly insignificant left wing projects into larger parties. For there to be a significant Left realignment they’d need as many of these more left wing Greens to join them as possible.
To conclude socialists and those opposed to austerity should help elect Darren Hall as he’ll either join the burgeoning anti-austerity parliamentary bloc of SNP, Plaid Cymru, left-Labour and Green MPs and vote against austerity or by voting for it he’ll discredit the Green Party and help you create a left party that will. Either one seems to be a win win scenario for the radical left. We’re on the cusp of an electoral breakthrough here in Bristol, and as a progressive I felt obligated to help and call on my comrades to do the same. Wouldn’t it be nice if we could return an MP to parliament who’s backed by the RMT, supports policies much to the left of the Labour leadership like renationalisation of public transport and essential services, the implementation of a living wage and rent caps, and opposition to Thatcherite anti-trade union laws and both neoliberalism and austerity? At the end of the day its up to each individual to make her or his own organisational and voting decisions and live with them, but these are the reasons why I think you should vote Green.