Socialist Worker

Greens are not all one colour

by Paul McGarr
Issue No. 1737

An important component of many recent mobilisations, conferences and protests has been members and supporters of the Green Party. They helped to build, and spoke at, the successful Globalise Resistance conferences.

They are involved in building for the protest planned for July in Genoa, Italy, against the leaders of the G8 countries. Green Party supporters played a role in the recent blockade of the Faslane nuclear base in Scotland, and Green MEP Caroline Lucas was among those arrested. Clearly socialists share many of the same concerns and are active in many of the same fights as Greens.

As well as the issues already mentioned, we have a common opposition to the way big business is threatening the world's climate through global warming and seeking to foist genetically modified foods on us. Our starting point as socialists is always to maximise unity in struggles against the system.

That means seeking to work with Greens and others in building the broadest and most effective mobilisations possible. But the Greens, it could be said, have two souls. One is that seen at Faslane and in the protests against corporate globalisation. It is a spirit best summed up by Ralph Nader, the candidate backed by the Green Party in last autumn's US presidential election. Nader's campaign was one based on mobilising people from below, and its targets were big business and the profit system.

Listening to Nader's speeches was like listening to a socialist. He talked of class as the key divide in society and denounced the pro-business stance of the main parties. Just as importantly, he fought against racism and agitated for workers' rights. There is, though, a quite different kind of Green. A glance to continental Europe throws up figures like Joschka Fisher, the Green foreign secretary in Germany's government.

Fischer has gone from fighting militarism to enthusiastically urging on the NATO bombing in the Balkans. From opposing nuclear power, he is now backing the continuation of nuclear power in Germany. The Greens are in governments in Germany and France which have attacked pensions and welfare, pushed privatisation and cuddled up to big business. Socialists, and many Greens, have nothing but contempt for people like Fischer. We will fight them and their policies as much as those of their government partners in Labour-type parties.

There is a reason for the two souls of the Greens-of Ralph Nader and Joschka Fischer. It is that everyone who begins by opposing the horrors produced by capitalism at some stage faces a choice. One route is to see the solution to those horrors as lying in the power ordinary people have to mobilise to confront the system, and ultimately wrest control of society from below to build a different world.

The other is to seek to work within that system, accommodate to it, even administer it, and look to making deals with those in power. The hope is to tame capitalism. Green Party MEP Caroline Lucas sums up well why this approach is doomed to failure: 'Trying to tame globalisation is like trying to lasso a tiger with a thread of cotton.'

And when that reality dawns, those who have gone down that route end up forgetting any attempt to curb the tiger of capitalism, and instead become its apologists and defenders. Wherever Greens embrace the soul of Ralph Nader, socialists will stand alongside them in the fight and fraternally discuss issues on which we may have differences.

At the next election we will vote for these left wing Greens where there is no clear socialist candidate standing. But not all Greens agree with left wing views. In Hackney, east London, for example, the Green Party has gone through a sharp internal debate before deciding on a close vote to affiliate to the Fightback campaign against cuts. When Greens embrace the soul of Joschka Fischer, we will be with those who mobilise and oppose them. And we will certainly not vote for them.

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What Socialists Say
Sat 3 Mar 2001, 00:00 GMT
Issue No. 1737
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