I found the Green Party, although it had pockets of reaction -open, transparent and democratic, and one of the only parties prepared to take on board the importance of ecology , which social movements across Europe were also calling for. I had also found people like Petra Kelly in the German Greens inspirational.
I served on the national Executive as International Coordinator and 4 years representing London on the party’s Regional Council. I have also been Treasurer of the party’s Trade Union Group and the party’s representative to the Stop the War Coalition.
Five and a half years ago, together with a small group of party members, I founded Green Left. Our principles were to ensure that the party remained a radical party of the Left, and above all a party led by its members and not by the leaders and hierarchy found in other parties. To ensure this I had included in the ‘Headcorn Declaration’ an assurance that one of our aims was a “bottom up rather than a top down party”. We also saw that there was a large political space in England to the Left of Labour and wanted to open up to others on the Left to ensure dialogue and joint campaigning on anti-capitalist and social justice issues, as well as on the environment.
As a historian, I could see that when the austerity measures and cuts began in the UK and across Europe, it was going to be a repeat of the crushing economic policies of the 30s – this time with an ideological imperative to crush the welfare state and all the gains of the post-war settlement, returning us to pre-war conditions, which would suit global capital. I immediately became involved in the newly formed anti-cuts organisation, Coalition of Resistance, being on the initial Steering Committee – Green Left was one of the first organisations to be involved.
One year ago in Cardiff at the Green Party conference there was a motion to fight the cuts (which was strongly supported) and became Green Party policy. But there was also an amendment put by Green Left calling for an anti-cuts, illegal budget to be set by Greens when in power, in order to mobilise resistance and to refuse the ‘dented shield’ policy of New Labour. At this point the Greens did not yet control Brighton Council. Virtually every councillor on the Right of the party was mobilised to defeat the amendment and it fell by only 3 votes. From this stage on, the writing was on the wall and many of us on the Left realised that the party was prepared to talk the talk but not to walk the walk.
Ironically the disastrous election results of the Irish Greens in the general election there were coming through at the same time and many speakers at the conference denounced their sell out of Green policies and cuts and bailout policies which they had implemented in government over 3 years. I had been very involved in opposing the policies of the Irish Greens and had written an article in 2009 entitled ‘The Rise and Fall of the IrishGreens’ which predicted their demise and attacked their abandonment of their principles. Many of my friends had left the Irish Green Party in protest and there were many in the party who criticised them.
Now one year later the new Green administration have not only put forward a cuts budget but have voted for an even worse one from Labour, implementing another £3.5 million cuts for the people of Brighton. This from a party which stood in Brighton opposing the cuts. It is a momentous betrayal of their radical base and of many activists in the party who are involved in local anti-cuts movements. It is not sufficient to have policies opposing cuts if Green administrations then introduce them. This is what brings politics and politicians (rightly) into disrepute.
After the disastrous election last year which left the Irish Greens without one seat in the parliament and bankrupted the party, the new Chair, Roderic O’Gorman, said of the party and of its 3 year role in government: “We became part of the consensus and our voters punished us for it.” The party is now detested in Ireland. How ironic that one year after this election and two days after the Brighton budget, which has put paid to the radical credentials of the Greens, one of the guests at the party conference in Liverpool is Eamon Ryan, the leader of the Irish Greens, who as Energy Minister in the previous government sold out the Shell to Sea campaign in the West of Ireland to Shell Oil
The radical speeches of Caroline Lucas are not enough, she it was who called for “a different sort of politics” at the Occupy Camp on the steps of St Paul’s. As Athens blazes and Europe is in turmoil, many of us, angry and disillusioned with capitalism and business as usual, looked to the Greens for hope. It is now clear that those hopes were misplaced.
It is for all of these reasons that I can no longer remain a member of the Green Party. I salute all of those radical and progressive people who remain in the party, and they will always remain friends and allies. But the party is taking a wrong fork in the road and following the advice of spin doctors and careerists. It is in grave danger of becoming just another ‘grey party’ and part of the setup which has led us to the state we are now in.