Over the last couple of years, quite a few decent activists have left the Green Party for various reasons. Some have gotten a bit fed up that the Greens aren't achieving a lot and therefore have decided to join Labour. Many have had enough of what's been happening on Brighton & Hove Council where the Greens have administered cuts and caused a strike of bin workers over reducing pay for male bin workers. While these things are true, I am not going to leave the Green Party. I still believe the Greens are just about the most radical party in at least England. The Greens are achieving things and making changes throughout the country. With over 130 councillors, 2 London Assembly Members, 2 MEPs, an MP and a life peer in the House of Lords the Greens are achieving things that no other left-wing party could possibly be achieving at the moment. The alternative at the moment is not worth considering.
First of all, let us consider one obvious alternative - revolutionary politics. Having a revolution to overthrow capitalism and to replace it with some form of socialism is a very very good idea. Until this happens we will still have some form of capitalism, and I hope I don't need to explain the evils of capitalism here. I do want a revolution to happen. However, before we have a revolution we need to have the vast majority of the population willing to participate in the revolution and before that happens, things in society need to get a lot worse. Near enough every revolution that has ever happened as a response to tyranny. No revolution has happened purely because of a campaign to build for a revolution. There will be a time for revolutionary action but it is not now. And while there are plenty of good positive changes that can be made outside of electoralism (that the Greens should support), in the mean time, I see electoral politics as one of the best ways to create wider change.
Another alternative, join another left-wing electoral group. I'm opposed to this for 2 basic reasons. Firstly, other than the Greens I have yet to discover another left-wing electoral group that takes issues outside of socialism seriously. Issues such as environmentalism and animal rights are just as important as worker's rights and human rights. The Green Party's policy document, Policies for a Sustainable Society is several hundred pages long and covers many different topics. You can read it here: http://policy.greenparty.org.uk/ . Secondly, the Greens have spent the last few decades building up their name and becoming more and more electable while no other left-wing electoral group has prioritised becoming electable and winning elections for anywhere near this long. I did have hope for Respect at one or two points, but they seem to have blown it and are dwindling. There are many unelectable left-wing parties and alliances that keep on changing, in-fighting and splitting the left-wing vote. The left does not need this.
For those unhappy with the progress of the Greens, wanting to be part of creating change quicker than the Greens are delivering is tempting at times. That's why some people are joining the Labour Party instead of the Greens. Part of the thinking behind this is that they offer a better and more effective opposition to the Tory-led coalition government. While it is true that Labour are the party most likely to defeat the Tories at the next general election, if you think this is any alternative whatsoever you are kidding yourself. Ed Milliband and Ed Balls have both said that they won't reverse any of the cuts or welfare reforms that the coalition government have put into place. Even before the 2010 general election Labour were saying they want to perform similar amount of public sector cuts, just over a longer period of time. The theory behind this is that cutting too quickly will do too much damage. But would delaying sacking public sector workers by one year really have made that much difference in the long run? They would have still been made unemployed and less jobs would have been made available. Sorry Labour but you are just Tories in disguise. The Greens are the largest party opposed to all public sector cuts.
This brings my onto my next point, Brighton & Hove Council. Many people have left the Green Party because of what our councillors have been doing on Brighton & Hove Council, the only council in the country where the Greens are the largest party (although we do not have a majority of councillors). The Greens have made some unpopular choices in Brighton such as passing on government cuts to the council, raising car parking fees to around the region of £15 a day and tackled a gender pay gap of bin workers by lowering the pay of male bin workers rather than raise the pay of female workers. I don't know if I could remain a local member of Brighton & Hove Green Party if I lived there, but I don't and therefore I don't see the impact they're having. The vast majority of voters across the country don't even know we are the party administering Brighton & Hove City Council, and in fact I have found when going out canvassing that a lot of people haven't even heard of Caroline Lucas MP. I'm not excusing what the Greens have done on Brighton & Hove Council, I would have much rather they refuse to implement a budget with cuts and therefore left the Tories and Labour to have passed a cuts budget while instead leading an anti-cuts campaign across the city. While that is what I would have preferred to have happened the truth of the matter is that no matter what happened there would have been cuts to the budget of Brighton & Hove City Council. If the Greens had not passed cuts, either Tories and/or Labour would have passed a cuts budget or Eric Pickles' department would have forced a cuts budget upon Brighton & Hove. And let's not forget, the Greens don't even have the majority of seats on the council so can be outvoted at any point. Outside of Brighton however I notice that Green councillors are making good positive changes throughout the country. My local party used to be North Lancashire Green Party, which includes Lancaster who have had at one point 14 seats (2 county council seats and 12 city council seats) and attending their meetings was a delight as it was full of reports about what councillors had achieved, from parking permits to stopping a Tesco from being built, from the canal side being tidied up to delaying the closure of the indoor market. What I think I am most proud of those Lancaster councillors is they have told me that when they first started winning seats back in 1999 the party with the majority of seats on the council would propose and pass motions without anyone questioning them or debating things (possibly even from within their own party before being proposed), and thanks to the Greens putting forward amendments to motions and always questioning things, council meetings are now full of debate. This is a good thing for democracy.
Yes, despite what's happening in Brighton the Greens are achieving lots of great things throughout the country. Even just small things achieved by a single lone Green councillor such as getting trees cut back so that road signs can be read or getting a grit bin installed or helping a resident order a new recycling bin. While these small things are not going to change the world, where we have greater power we have achieved greater things. In Kirkless for example our councillors have managed to get free insulation for hundreds and hundreds of social houses that has saved people money on their heating bills which has gone directly into the local economy. In London all buses will be running on hybrid engines soon because of our Green Assembly Members. Lancaster City Council is now a living wage employer because of Green Party councillors. The list goes on. The mainstream parties are not pushing for these changes throughout the country and the smaller left-wing parties are not anywhere near to achieving this amount of change as they hardly have anyone elected at all. Sticking with the Greens is helping to get people elected who will be making good left-leaning changes throughout society.
What about the future? Will the Greens drift further and further to the right as they gain more seats or as more members of the mainstream parties start to join us? After attending Young Greens convention last month I can assure you the future of our party is radical. The Young Greens (for all members under 30 years old and student members) are full of radical ecosocialists who continue to push for radical policies and campaigning. Ideas such as getting young adults involved in trade unionism, citizens income, cutting the pay ratio in any company down to 10:1, the living wage and smashing patriarchy were all discussed and gained wide support. I often see environmentalists join the party for environmental reasons, and a couple of years down the line they realise they need to oppose capitalism in order to protect the environment. There was a lot of talk about putting serious resources into getting some of these radical Young Greens elected as councillors. The majority of people on the London Federations of Green Parties' committee are now Young Greens and left-leaning influence is growing all the time. I can't wait for the future of the party to begin.
So I would urge those who agree with our principles and policies to join the party and stay in the party. Tactics, strategy and direction can be debated and changed by the members of the party, so if you don't agree with a few things that have been happening you can influence changes in the Green Party. We're a bottom up rather than top down party, and I'm proud of that.