Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Green Party Conference Autumn 2008: Insomnia

Monday 6 a.m. and I cannot sleep.

Head is full of Green Party Conference stuff, whirling and wriggling like a barrel of worms.

It was great to see Caroline Lucas interviewed by Andrew Marr yesterday, looking fresh and confident. Marr: “ Have you forsaken your Green principles to succumb to having a Leader?” Caroline: “Things are so desperate now that we have to remove any possible blocks to getting our message across”. On song.

Friday we had a plenary of the Green New Deal; Caroline, Colin Hines, Jeremy Leggatt and Tony Juniper presenting their report. Message: the impending recession is going to be a mother, but Green Keynesianism – a massive, wartime-style, injection of cash into low-carbon technologies (and, I would add, the green sector of the economy generally) – will enable us to recover from the recession, a Green Phoenix economy arising from the ashes of the present dysfunctional, divergent economic system.

Then yesterday I won a famous victory over the Handbrake Tendency, by getting Conference to pass a motion on buying the Afghan opium and using it as medicine in less developed countries (6 million a year die from cancer without the aid of morphine. I wouldn’t wish it on my worst enemy). The Tendency rolled out the 2 arguments used by Government to defend the indefensible: they say there would be some leakage, some would get to the black market. Well, at the moment all of it is reaching the black market, so cojones to that as an argument for maintaining the forces in Afghanistan on their present remit (whatever that is). And they say the infrastructure is not there to collect the stuff. As I said to Conference, OK bloody well put the infrastructure in place. That’s what Government is there for isn’t it?

The Government’s argument against buying the opium is such a fragile and soiled piece of intellectual tissue, it depresses me that we need to engage with it, because it suggests that corruption extends deep and far. Hamid Karzai’s brother is reputed to be a drug dealer. After the debate, I was fed a rumour that the CIA is flying Afghan opium to Kosovo. God alone knows the truth, of how dangerous it is to be entertaining thoughts of ending the Afghan war by licensing the poppy crop, but what is certain is that we live in a monumentally screwed-up political and economic system.

The debate was passionate, and I have a nasty feeling that I shouted into the microphone, something I have condemned elsewhere in this blog, but the motion was passed overwhelmingly.

I emerged with steam coming out of my ears and went to the bar, only to find a young man ranting outside at a Green Party member: “YOU’LL NEVER GET ANYWHERE! YOU’RE WASTING YOUR TIME TRYING TO CHANGE THE POLITICAL SYSTEM!! THEY ARE BASTARDS, THE WHOLE LOT OF THEM!!!”

Turned out he was an architect whose scheme to install CHP in a development had just been junked. I bought him another drink (possibly not the best thing to do in the circumstances) and told him that we entirely understood his anger and rage. The Green Party has spent 30 years speaking the truth to a deaf, blind and stupid politico-financial-media establishment, and is still shut out, even though it is blindingly obvious to everyone except politicians, civil servants, journalists and their dupes that the Greens have been substantially right all along. I suggested that the titanic energy of his anger might be channeled into creativity. We both calmed down, and parted on good terms.

Today I have to get through motions on the armed forces (obliging our army not to fire on unarmed civilians, something that the Handbrake Tendency will oppose), the use of dogs to detect illegal ammunition transfers (again, opposed by HT) a motion welcoming the Green New Deal (this time, amazingly, with the cooperation of an associate member of the HT), and last but not least, a motion that proposes to de-privatise the power to create money. This last is opposed not just by the Handbrake Tendency, but also by the Orthodox Economics is Right Tendency and also, (hold on to your eyebrows) by Derek the Red. Now why in the name of all that is weird, should a socialist not want to remove the monopoly of money creation from the hands of the banksters?

Should be an interesting day…

Postscript: all proposals were passed except the monetary reform motion, which was referred back to proposers and amenders.

All in all, a good conference, except that I failed to get voted onto the International Committee, which is a bit of a blow…still, that’s democracy. A weird quirk in the system means that 2 committees had 5 places, more than 5 applicants, but only 4 were voted on, the 5th being a motion to Re-open Nominations. So presumably those committees will have to consider doing just that.


Green Gordon said...

Only one (human-created) website on Google has the phrase "handbrake tendency" on it, so I'm not sure what you mean.

What was controversial about not shooting unarmed civilians?

DocRichard said...

Remember militant Tendency that gave Neil Kinnock so much trouble in the 70s? Ever seen someone trying to move a car with the handbrake on?

It's a neologism, a metaphor for something that impedes progress.

Here's an example of the Tendency at work:

The argument about having policy enabling soldiers to disobey orders to shoot unarmed civilians seems to be that soldiers often find themselves in ambiguous situations (e.g. terrorists hiding in the crowd). The argument was that we should give the military the benefit of the doubt. Luckily Conference did not share that point of view and overwhelmingly endorsed the view that in exchange for us looking after them if injured &c, they agree not to shoot us.

Aaron said...

If you looked to the back of the plenary room on the right-hand side, you would have of seen two young people who voted with you on all both of the motions!
I was also extremely worried that there seemed to be people who were against the motions, but my faith was restored when conference agreed massively with you and the motion and passed it easily!

DocRichard said...

Thanks, Aaron.
The next step on buying the opium crop in Afghanistan is to re-open the correspondence on the subject with the Government. Watch this space for further details. If we can get significant numbers of people writing in, we can win this argument and have a real effect on Government policy.
Here's to victory for the Afghan farmers, the safe return of our boys, peace in Afghanistan, less heroin on our streets, and last but not least, an end to the pain of millions of terminal cancer sufferers in the Global South.

langwiz said...

Where do we write to and when. My daughter could probably get extra support.

Anonymous said...

Well done on the Opium and military motions!

Sadly I missed what was obviously an interesting conference!

Nick Foster

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