TO THE COURT OF LEFT OPINION

Part 1
Nigel Woodcock and I would like to discuss the article by Matthew Cookson in the Socialist Worker claiming that the Green Party is a “middle-class” party. The Greens are regularly hauled up before the court of left opinion with accusations of not being sufficiently ‘left‘or class-conscious. It is true that Greens tend to shy away from dogmatic adherence to labels, but this doesn’t make our policies any less left wing. Our principle of environment-first has helped to create a “broad church” within the Green Party, and has helped to remove some of the barriers to participation/membership from which other left groups seem to suffer, and we have seen larger numbers willing to vote Green then other left-wing parties can muster.

In the UK at the moment the distance between working classes and ‘middle classes’ is tiny when compared to that between the broad mass of people and the ruling elite, corporate executives and the super-rich. In Marxist terms, we are divided into two basic classes, and although culturally the notion of being middle class has some resonance, in political terms it is virtually meaningless. Therefore we reject it as an insult. Does the SWP have any members who are middle class? If so, what do you say to them about their class origins?

In reality, Green Party meetings are made up of people from all walks of life (probably not unlike SWP meetings) and we have an exceptional record on gender balance which puts to shame a lot of left parties. A quick glance around the Convention of the Left (in which we participate) could tell you that the Green Party membership is no more middle class than any other left party.

The Greens aim for a sustainable society where environmental and social justice are paramount; we have a critique of capitalism and elite power. Many of our members are “Marxist”, whilst others would reject the term. That is why there is a Green Left within the party, which is able to operate quite openly. Also, it is worth remembering that the Green Party has repeatedly elected Derek Wall as our Male Principle Speaker. Derek Wall ran on an unashamedly “eco-socialist ticket” and Caroline Lucas, GP Leader has stated under interview that she is an anti-capitalist. Clearly, the Green Party is one where socialists can operate.

There is such a thing as “Green Marxism” – socialism is advocated, based on the theory that ‘society’ and the biosphere are organically linked together. The health and prosperity of one is not possible without the health of the other. To be truly socialist means to be green as well.

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3 responses to “TO THE COURT OF LEFT OPINION

  1. I thought the Comment is Free article by Jenny Jones, although not directly addressing this issue, did go some way to challenging the view that the Greens are a single issue party – http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2009/jun/16/green-party-policies – I suggest the same principles apply to the perception that the Greens are middle class.I take the view that the Greens, and their manifesto, transcend the traditional class based arguments. Moreover I've never met a person, outside of political circles, that is in turmoil about defining their class.

  2. Good piece. The other point that old school lefties often miss out when accusing the environmental movement more generally is that when the environment is abused, it is people on low incomes that get more comprehensively screwed over – whether they live in urban areas with high concentrations of particulates from car exhausts, causing asthma, heart disease and cancer, or peasants thrown off their land for big dam projects. You don't see many factories spewing toxic emissions in upper/middle-class neighbourhoods…

  3. I agree with this piece generally, but would like to make one comment that I think you’re mixing together working class and left-wing here.

    Derek and Caroline are both lefties, as you say, but I don’t think it’s meaningful to describe either as working class. I used to be a member of a hard left group and all the members were left-wing but it was far from full of working class people. That doesn’t make the middle class lefties less left-wing or less interesting people but it didn’t make them working class either, unless you choose to redefine working class in such a way to include all the people you like.

    As someone with a class chip on my shoulder I want to see greater working class representation in the left generally and in the Green Party specifically. In my experience left organisations are less working class than the Green Party but tend to talk about the working class a hell of a lot more, although obviously this varies from place to place.

    If you look at the range of left-wing publications in this country how many are edited by someone from a genuinely working class background with that kind of life experience? Precious few. How many of the founder/leaders of the different groups were working class – none or almost none.

    It seems to me that when discussing whether something is working class or not we have to keep people’s individual politics separate otherwise we end up defining people like Caroline Lucas, who has a PhD in medieval poetry, as more working class than my Dad who worked in the building trade all his life and votes Tory.