Sunday, December 10, 2006

Capitalism bad = trees and flowers good

Having found myself unexpectedly skint last week I not only missed a Bolivia Solidarity steering meeting and the war on terror launch party (pictured) I also missed the Socialist Resistance Ecosocialism or Barbarism event that I'd been rather looking forward to.


WoT party madnessLiam has begun posting up video footage of the event at his
blog, which I'll probably watch when I'm at a computer where the sound works (it seems slightly pointless watching a silent film of a talk somehow) and SR has set up an ecosocialism blog which may come to something, possibly, even though it uses the bloody "Son of Moto" template.

When will they learn? If I'm ever commisar for blogging that's the first thing I'll purge.

Leaving aside my intense dislike for the term ecosocialism I do think this is an important topic as it goes to the heart of how we face fundamental global problems. There's no question that it's possible to be a green without being on the left and to be on the left without being a green - but the question is are either of these options adequate political responses?

Paul McGarr once wrote an excellent piece in the ISJ where he argued that "environmental destruction can only be fully understood as one part of a wider social crisis. That has been true in previous class societies, and it flows from the way that ruling classes lock society into specific ways of organising production which eventually eat into the very material and environmental basis they depend on." I think this is a really important point.

The Ostmeister wrote a while ago that "There is... a need for better dialogue between the red left and green left. True, there is nothing inherently socialist about Green Party ideology as such. But the Greens - in the UK, at any rate - are unmistakably an anti-establishment formation. They are against the war in Iraq, they are anti-racist and anti-homophobic, and they reject the current restrictions on immigration, trade unions and cannabis consumption, to name but a few of their positions."

Someone selling the Oz paper 'Green Left Weekly'Whilst it's clear there is a great deal of consensus between the green and red movements (small g, small r) there are also a raft of cultural differences that can create friction, or could be an opportunity for both groups to learn from each other. The traditional left, for example, takes centralisation as a given whilst the greens (and to a lesser extent the anarchists) have mastered decentralisation as a road to real pluralism.

Personally one of the great joys of being in the Green Party for me (as someone with some, cough, experience, cough, of the left elsewhere) has been this very freedom from centralised control that inevitably leads towards moralism, a command culture and ossified political thought.

But also the Greens have things they can learn from the hard left. Robust democratic decision making for one thing. Anarchists are not the only ones who should take a read of "The tyranny of structurelessness".

Whilst I think the left has a bad reputation in terms of its hard debating techniques what it does have is real political discussion without actually having to fall out with one another. When I was in Colchester SWP, whatever other problems there may have been, a branch meeting could have five or six heated discussions from theory to tactics to style and it was rare for a disagreement over one issue to bleed into the next. For good or ill, you just can't do that in the Green Party.

Also in terms of an analysis of capitalism the left has always been very sharp, but the greens have often been far better at actually doing things on the issues they talk about. The left may have been sucked into the wider political consensus that environmental problems have to be addressed, but their record is patchy at best when it comes to actively doing something about it.

Just as many in the green movement have shifted towards anti-capitalism in recent years and socialists have become more aware of green issues there seems to be a growing need for a space where political tendencies can get together and learn from each other. I suppose what I'm arguing is if we're going to talk, there's no better time to start than now.


Louisefeminista said...

Hey Jim,

Liam's dinky films are great to watch as it looks like he has put so much time and effort into them. Hollywood beckons....

Derek Wall said...

It was a good event although I had to go at 1ish, comrade Liam said I was off to meet Rupert Murdoch or something similar but in fact it was to spend some time with my kids.

The level of discussion was good and for a left group I think greens would have enjoyed it, it was non sectarian and thoughtful.

Ecosocialism is something that some of us have been banging on about for decades.

both the Green Party and the left seem to be interested in those of us from the William Morris side of politics, incidentally I would highly recommend EP thompson's bio of William Morris: Romantic to revolutionery

Anonymous said...

Hi Jim

Can't see your email anywhere unfortunately so having to post request here (please delete!);

Would appreciate the url for 'The Coffee House' being changed to

Gone over to Wordpress from Blogger. The Coffee House is no.33 on your Top 100 list.

Many thanks