Sunday, May 27, 2007

Red + Blue = Green?

Red & Green

The Green Party is pleased to welcome the influx of new members who are refugees from New Labour. Together with others of the socialist persuasion they have set up the Green Left within the Green Party, a club which they are welcome to create.

However, I have noticed more than one socialist entertaining a error about the Green party which is (or was) also often trotted out by journalists: They think we are a single-issue environmentalist party. The Green Party is not, and never has been, a single issue environmentalist party. What we are and have always been is a party of political ecology.

Ecology is the science of the relationship of an organism (in this case us) with its environment. It therefore encompasses everything - our physical environment, biological environment, social environment - the whole lot, and it takes account of systems theory, where all the components of the biosphere (including us) have a complex mutual interactivity.

So there is no need for formulations like "We must get away from single issue environmentalism, and start talking about social issues". We never were single issue environmentalists, and we always have been talking about society. That’s why we work on the Manifesto for a Sustainable Society.

Another formulation that I have heard from a Green Left Member "Now that the Tories have become environmentalists we can leave that and concentrate on social policies". Apart from the frightening naiveté of his or her perception of the depth of the Tories’ environmental commitment (which like all other environmental commitments by grey parties is to be welcomed as far as it goes) this shows ignorance of the paradigm shift that has happened with the emergence of ecological philosophy, and its (imperfect) embodiment in Green politics.

The political dialectic over the past 150 years lay between the ideological clash between individualism (in the blue corner, championed by Capitalism) and socialism, in the red corner, championed by the multifarious sects of socialism – each of whom claim to be the only true adherents of the Prophet Marx.

The antithesis between these two political philosophies was absolute. No middle ground existed. Those who tried to straddle the divide end up by doing the splits.

In 1989, at the fall of the Berlin Wall, the champion of the fissiparous Left took a count of ten, and Right-wing individualism is taking a triumphal tour of the ring with arms raised. It is very likely that the celebrations will soon be ended when Corporate Capitalism passes out through as a result of a loss of oil and malignant hyperpyrexia (medical jargon for global warming).

Just as State Socialism of the Soviets was an unmitigated environmental disaster, so also the corporate domination of the world, embodied by the Neo-Conservatives in the Bush administration, are totally unable to see what their ideology is doing to the environment on which human society and economy depends.

Right and Left, Individualism and Socialism have an absolute and categorical incompatibility. This is unchangeable, since they are built on exclusively separate philosophical foundations. In Hegelian terms, they are in an antithesis with each other.

One of the many attractions of the ecological philosophy is that it allows us to resolve this antithesis. Since both individuals and societies have to live in the real world, they become simple aspects of the human organism, not fundamentally opposed ideas. We can view people as individuals or as societies, according to which is the more useful view in particular circumstances, just as we can view light as waves or particles, depending on the context[RHL1] . Socialism and individualism are aspects of the human species, and the issue is not which is the more important way of viewing us, but how the human species can learn to live in harmony with the biosphere.

Absolutisms of any kind should be treated with suspicion, and the suffix –ism usually means that some or other aspect of reality has been placed on a pedestal. We can easily see that individualism and socialism are incompatible with ecological sustainability. Environmentalism itself can be unhelpful if it takes too narrow a view, for instance when the CPRE rejects wind turbines on amenity grounds, or when the RSPB rejects a tidal barrage scheme out of hand, regardless of what is going to happen to its birds if global warming proceeds unchecked.

Political ecology is a massive and stimulating challenge to our intellects, and produces many deeply satisfying and unexpected resolutions to old philosophical challenges. Socialists – as well as liberals and capital entrepreneurs, and those with an interest in regionalism and the whole rainbow spectrum of political activists - are all most welcome to join us in the struggle for sustainability. All we ask is that newcomers place their political enthusiasms into the context of the ecological imperative that is the whole raison d’etre for the Green Party.

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