Should socialists support the Green Party?

In issue 703 of the Socialist, Socialist Party member Alec Price criticised the Green Party’s claim to be an anti-cuts alternative to New Labour. Below we carry the correspondence that has followed.

I fully support your criticism of the dreadful defection from the Green Party [to the Tories] of the Norfolk councillor [Phillip Hardy] and share your concern about the separate Green Party in Ireland.

However, before you use these events to write off the entire party let’s remember that there has also been some terrible things done by those professing to be socialists in every party.

Elsewhere in your paper you refer to the stand taken by Liverpool council in the 1980s but few of us can be enthusiastic about Derek Hatton’s subsequent activities.

We need to put our faith in policies and ideas, not individuals. You didn’t mention that Green-led Brighton council was the first to announce that it would be increasing council tax to try and protect as many services as possible from the vicious coalition cuts. They have now been joined by many others.

We need to fight as hard to oppose excessive increases in council house rents, like the average 9% increase being recommended by Labour-controlled Bolsover’s cabinet where I am a Green councillor, but we can’t unite opposition if we simply perpetuate division.

Councillor Duncan Kerr

Councillor Kerr argues against writing off the Green Party. We should never ‘write off’ anyone willing to fight all cuts and the economic system that causes them. However, until the Green Party adopts a clear strategy to oppose the funding robbery by the Tory/Liberal Democrat government it will end up implementing cuts in local councils.

In Brighton and Hove council, the Green Party has done nothing to build a campaign against the 33% funding reduction from the government. Their actions in seeking support for their cuts budget will demoralise local service users and council staff looking for a way to resist the cuts. Raising taxes as part of that cuts budget is no substitute.

Unity is important, but unity has to be on the basis of a fightback, not capitulation, no matter how well-intentioned. We argue for a ‘needs’ budget that reflects the needs of people in Brighton and Hove, and mass working class action to fight for it.

Brighton and Hove Socialist Party

What we said…

In Brighton, the Green Party emerged as the main electoral outlet for opposition to the cuts. With 33% of the city-wide vote, the Greens surged from 13 to 23 councillors, displacing the Tories as the largest group…

The Greens’ record in local government, however, shows that they will disappoint those who see them as a shield against the cuts. In the south London borough of Lewisham, for example, for four years (2006-10), two Socialist Party and six Green councillors sat in a hung council.

The Socialist Party and Green councillors sometimes voted together, for example, in opposing cuts to local A&E services. But the Greens more often sided with New Labour on key votes, or abstained to help give it a majority, including votes on cutting council services, homes privatisation plans, and academy schools…

Public representatives are put under extreme pressure from establishment politicians, backed up by the media, senior civil servants or, locally, by council executive officers, to ‘be realistic’ and accept ‘officers’ guidance’…

The Green Party has not emerged as an expression of the political interests of the working class, with no acceptance among its members of a class analysis of society and not based on working class organisations, in particular the trade unions. Neither does it have a clear alternative to the capitalist ‘free-market’ system. When the stakes are high, therefore, the majority of Green councillors will be unable to resist.

From Socialism Today 149, June 2011

Green Party trade unionist resigns

Dear Green Party Office,

Sadly after six years I feel that I am left with little choice but to cancel my membership of the Green Party.

I have had a number of concerns about the political and organisational direction of the party and some of its electoral representatives and candidates.

However the final tipping point for me has been the budget proposal put forward by the Green Party in Brighton and Hove. This budget proposal, aside from being in contradiction with the national party policy of affiliation to the Coalition of Resistance, is on the face of it proposing millions of pounds of cuts to jobs and already squeezed services.

This for me is unacceptable, even more so when excuses of ‘maintaining electoral respectability’ are put forward by the party. Sadly it seems that when push comes to shove some elected Greens, with a sniff of personal power, are no different than New Labour or Lib Dems in supporting a Tory agenda.

Whilst I continue to devote my own activist time to working within the anti-cuts movement, I find my position within a party willing to propose such cuts and job losses untenable.

Andy Hewett, Former Green Party campaigns coordinator, trade union group co-chair and parliamentary candidate for Greenwich and Woolwich

Brighton Stop the Cuts debate with the Greens: