Thursday, December 18, 2008

Greens and the left milieu

Apologies for the gratuitous "milieu", it's one of the posh terms that I picked up when I was in the SWP years ago - but I like it so I'm sticking with it! One of the appeals of the Green Party when I was considering joining is that it builds diversity into its constitution.

So, despite the Party having an electoral focus, it states directly that;

9. Electoral politics is not the only way to achieve change in society, and we will use a variety of methods to help effect change, providing those methods do not conflict with our other core principles.
PB501 We do not believe that there is only one way to change society, or that we have all the answers. We seek to be part of a wider green movement that works for these principles through a variety of means. We generally support those who use reasonable and non-violent forms of direct action to further just aims.
It seems to me that the need to relate to other progressives outside of the Green Party flows from this in a very direct way. We need to be part of a larger "milieu" of activists in the anti-war movement, trade unions, and with other progressive campaigners alongside building roots and influence for the Party itself.

Progressive London

For example Ken Livingstone has launched Progressive London which will have its founding conference on January 24th - where a number of Greens will be on the platform alongside left leaning Labour members and others discussing how we work together over those areas on which we agree.

For me it seems like a good opportunity to build on the constructive relationship built up during the Mayoral elections but it will only come to any good if it produces something at ground level as well as a grouping of the "tops" who agree to smile at each other on approved occasions.

Convention of the Left

As it happens this is on the same day as a slightly different kind of left unity event in Manchester, the Convention of the Left, which many Greens will be supportive of. This convention is far more geared towards traditional grassroots activists, mainly of an explicitly socialist bent. Whilst not every Green will find this their cup of tea I do think it's important for us to support the convention that brings activists together and can produce useful initiatives and relationships for the future.

Trade Unions and Climate Change

In March the second trade union conference against climate change will be taking place following on from the unprecedentedly good launch last year. Possibly the most important of these events it is our chance to help one of the key social movements in this country take constructive approaches to tackling climate change forwards, building on the sterling work of those like MEP Jean Lambert. Not only because the unions have a key role in the workplace they could also be fundamental in shaping the direction of the left in the coming years, should they wish to take up that challenge.

G20 world leaders need counter summits

Left Labour MP John McDonnell, at the recent Hopi conference, was explicit in his call for progressives to be involved in the formation of a set of actions around the G20 meeting (in Watford) around April the 20th. This is a very important call as it can bring the Green Party into contact with a whole range of alternative activists that it often does not come across in its day to day work.

Whilst the G20 will be a summit of the world's top economic players we can counter pose the interests of the powerful with those who, like us, are looking for a better world. There will be a Stop the War demonstration but more importantly I think there will be the chance to put our vision of the world and learn from other "alternative" voices.
We need these opportunities to talk direct to many activists with whom we share many ideas - as well as disagreements - and I think if we are to build our role in this variety of movements and left field campaigns we need to take them as seriously as we would like them to take us.

It's not that every Party member needs to devote themselves to each and every one of these events, but that there needs to be some us playing a role in each of these important opportunities to rendezvous with co-thinkers, both before hand - making the events a success, and on the day learning from others and
putting our arguments.


weggis said...

Why does your “milieu” have to be focussed on the left?

If “We seek to be part of a wider green movement” should it not be, how can I put this, well, WIDER?

I would suggest that the real challenge is not with “co-thinkers” but in engaging with those who aren’t but could be.

Jim Jay said...

Well, there are a number of milieu's that should be of interest to Greens and the left one that I talk about here is one of them. But they need to be handled in different ways it seems to me.

I've spoken elsewhere of the fact that the green movement does not always immediately think of the Green Party when selecting a variety of tools for change. I'd like to see that movement feel closer to us and us feel closer to it - but I think the approach would be quite different and the reasons for distance distinct.

As I say some of these events, maybe all, will not be every Green's cup of tea - don't involve yourself in the ones that don't tickle you because I'm sure you'll find other just as useful things to do - but I do think that some of us should be there and we do need to be relating to those people who feel deserted by Labour and those grassroots activists that have so many talents and much enthusiasm.

I think we'd be much the better for it.

James said...

Hi Jim,
I'm also anxious about the Livingstone platform and the Convention. By all means we should be recruiting from the disaffected left, but sitting on platforms with their unelectable leaders risks what we've worked for, I reckon.

They keep trying to use us up here in Scotland, with a single purpose, to drag us down and to build themselves up. Here's a case in point - one or two of our activists thought something similar might be useful, and this is how the socialists spun it:

We're always going to be better off trying to persuade and deliver on our own agenda, and then finding common ground once elected with either other elected folk or campaigners who we can help.

Listen not to the siren voices!


Jim Jay said...


I think though, as a minority party, we do need to work with others on the areas we agree to help further our agenda.

How we do that is always going to be an issue of specifics and tactics of course - but by building a relationship with, say, campaigners to defend council housing, we strengthen our own understanding of the issues and root ourselves more deeply in the community.

That's not to say our focus should be on activists, or exclusively left activists, but that is something that has to be part of our work, I think, to keep us reinvigourated.

Matt Selwood used a brilliant phrase which I whell out regularly which is that the Green Party should be the electoral wing of community campaigns - I like that and it means we need to have an "organic" (put that with milieu) and active relationship to them.

Sometimes that will be through/via/alongside members of other parties with whom we might have strong disagreements as well as points of agreement.