- George Orwell, Animal Farm, Ch. 5
Mimicking the parliamentary game of leaders and "shadow cabinets."
As a Green Party member for over 20 years, and a Leftist for 15 years before that (and still one), might I take fundamental issue with the argument for a ‘Green Shadow Cabinet’
1) The current trend towards centralisation of power within the Green Party is anathema to fundamental Green principles–and should not be taken further.
2) Power can not flow “upwards” if it is centralised in a mimicking of the parliamentary game of Leaders & “shadow cabinets”. A Green shadow cabinet would be another step on the road the Greens becoming a pale shadow of their former selves, a group of New Labour-lite clones representing no threat to the current political/economic system whatsoever. The point is not to “participate in government” but to use any power we get to encourage a fundamental transformation of society. In that, our strategic guide would far better than any parliamentary cretin, be Gramsci–fighting a ‘war of position’ prior to a ‘war of maneouvre’.
3) Green politics needs to be more than “the environment & peace”–it needs to be linked to social justice, opposition to racism, support for those workers & communities struggling against capitalism, including the current Condem attacks on basic living conditions. That is exercising voters far more than Cabinet games.!
4) Talk of seeking to “mirror the activity of government” is hardly helpful. The point is not to ‘mirror” the status quo, but transcend it. We should learn, and quickly, from the disaster of the Irish & German Greens in government …It would be unfair tp mischaracterise opponents of the Shadow Cabinet idea as suggesting we “sit on the sidelines and whinge”–if the GP followsthat model, that’s all we’d be doing, within parliament.
5) Certainly, the GP should contest elections–but should understand politics is about far more than elections, and that centres of social power are not all in parliament. Hence, as the disaster of the Irish & German Green Parties shows, those who naively imagine ‘getting in government’ (or a share of it) is the summit of our political ambition will be doomed to failure. The Shadow Cabinet supporters vision of democracy is people ceding power to (no doubt besuited) ‘professional’ Green ‘leaders’ who act on their behalf (‘mirroring’ the status quo while they do so). My vision, for within the Green Party as well as out, is delegate democracy/decentralisation of power. Rather different, but at the very least, not less democratic. Being elected is just one facet of overall transformation, to be elected alone will change nothing. It is the context of elections, and how it relates to popular struggles, that counts.
6) I do not think we will win by orienting ourselves primarily to what people watch on TV. Some say we “need to work in a world where most people get their politics through the media”. Not only can the GP not rely on the mainstream media to give us a fair hearing if/when we look like we are getting somewhere, the two forces who have nade electoral headway in the last 30 years or so–Liberal Democrats & the BNP (sadly)–both made ground by going direct to communities, not primarily through the estsablished media. I also doubt whether Sinn Fein’s initial electoral surge came through the media and so on. The implication of those who support this view is that if we don’t dance to the mainstream media’s tune, they will attack/misrepresent us. Well of course they will, as they will too if it looks like Green politics are challenging vested interests successfully (I remember 1989). The question is do we anticipate and prepare for this, or give up in advance in the hope we’ll be left alone. If even Nick Clegg was vilified in the Tory media when the Lib Dems surged in the pre-election standings, don’t you think the Greens would (and hopefully will) be attacked. I do
We need to be ready and prepared for it, not give in before a shot crosses our media bows.
The point is not just to reject the Shadow Cabinet idea: but to get out there and do some real politics…