Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Green Party, Left or Right?

Much time has been spent in the past year or so debating the nature of the Green Party and whether it is “right-wing” or has “moved right” or not. (1) The Green Party of the 1980's was definitely on the left, being composed of ex-NDP people, anarchists and semi-anarchist environmentalists. The GP branch in my town is still like that. While some of the talk about the GP going right may well be motivated by NDP fears of losing votes, I think there is something to the criticism.


The leadership has attempted to sell the party to “small c conservatives” and distance itself from the left. Its economic policies, while not exactly right-wing by todays standards (more centrist, in fact) certainly aren't radical by any means. These policies are green-sounding enough to maintain the party's base, yet not too meaty to scare away conservatives. (But I will be the first to admit, that if the GP's policies were put into practice it would be a big step forward.)


The GP developed a radical critique of the way the environment was being treated. It also moved way to the left of the NDP on political policy, positing a grass-roots, decentralized vision in opposition to the present elective dictatorship that leaves the people voiceless outside of the quadrennial farce. I note that this radical vision does not get the promotion it used to, and seems to be reduced to plumping for a proportional ballot, a progressive demand, for sure, but a long way from direct democracy.


One thing the GP did not develop fully in its early days was a radical economic policy. But this was also the case for the rest of the left at the time, so the GP should not be singled out for blame. Into this vacuum has moved somewhat conservative elements mixing neoliberalism with Green communitarianism. The problem with the economic vision of the mainstream left in the '80s and '90's was being trapped into a false dichotomy, government ownership/control vs. “private” ownership. Since statism was no longer popular for obvious reasons, most mainstream leftists abandoned nationalization, and having nothing to replace it, adopted a modified and supposedly humanized version of neoliberalism.


The mainstream left (and the leadership of the GP) did not realize a third alternative to statism or corporate capitalism existed. This was cooperative socialism, a form of economy that empowers the people and the community rather than the state or corporations. Cooperative socialism emphasizes worker self-management, seeks to replace capitalism with worker or stakeholder cooperatives. It seeks to replace state services with client-run mutual aid societies. This is the new socialism that you see forming in Venezuela, Bolivia, Argentina and with the Zapatistas of Chiapas


I would like to see the Green Party move back to being a party of the left. One way they could do so would be to adopt this new cooperative socialism as economic policy and let the NDP be the smiley face of neoliberalism.


1. For the latest critique of the GP see

http://plawiuk.blogspot.com/2006/12/elizabeth-may-catholic-grrl.html

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