Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Greens: are they Socialists, Liberals or what?

The Conservatives say we Greens are socialists. Socialists say we are bourgeois liberals.

In an ideal world, it might be possible for us to be allowed to say what we ourselves think about our political position.

If we greens have to be labeled with an "-ism" it would have to be "ecologism", though I would answer more happily to "ecology", the science of a relation of an organism to its environment, or more accurately, "political ecology". We are political ecologists. Our ideology and philosophy is founded on the realisation that humans are rooted in a non-human natural system, and that we have to behave within the constraints imposed by that system.

Clearly, homo "sapiens" is a social animal, so the Green Party recognises the social aspect of human reality, and recognises that in order to emerge from the present political and physical chaos that threatens our species and all other species of life on this planet, we have to act together, act socially.

We also recognise that it is necessary to correct the divergence between rich and poor social classes, between rich and poor countries, and between present and future generations, so that all peoples can co-operate to achieve sustainability. That just about covers the requirements of a moderate socialist, I should think. But we go further.

To achieve equity requires radical political and economic reform. We seek an economics that has an in-built tendency towards equity, towards a convergence between the fortunes of rich and poor.

To achieve convergence, we have to remove or at least restrain the monopoly that private corporations have over the creation of new money by making interest bearing loans, since the debtor-creditor relationship is the engine that drives both economic growth and economic divergence. The creation of money by credit (done unwisely and to excess) is also the fundamental reason for the Credit Crunch.

It is passing strange that socialists not only pretend that Greens do not care about the divergence between rich and poor, while at the same time socialists do not address one of the root causes of economic inequality. They rarely challenge the creation of money by private corporations. This difficulty presumably arises because monetary reform has sometimes been associated historically with antisemitism and authoritarian extremists.

To reject monetary reform on this ground is to fall into the Guilt by Association fallacy. It is a mistake to take a simple binary approach to political and economic thought, as in "Whatever my opponent says, I will say the opposite". We need to think in systems terms, more structurally. Our role as Greens is not simply to align ourselves with the Left and reject anything that the "Right" may endorse. We are able to think for ourselves, because we have a firm new ecological framework for our thought.

PoliticalCompass.org shows that the simple Right/Left classification is inadequate - there is a left-right axis (socialist-individualist), but also an authoritarian-libertarian axis.

Greens would posit a third axis: Reality-Denialism : a dimension that measures the acceptance or rejection by politicians of the physical and biological realities of life on earth.

This ecological dimension is the unique contribution of Green political philosophy to modern political thought. We ourselves are possibly unaware of how historically important it is. I would put it on a par with the Enlightenment.

Green ideology should be inclusive, rather than exclusive, in its approach to other thinkers, with the exception of the extremists, chiefly at present, the extremists of authoritarianism and denialism.

There is an intrinsic attachment with, and love of Nature in every human being, but it becomes overlaid with the intellectual and cultural debris that we acquire from "education" and our ambient culture. Our task as green politicians is to clear away this debris. Our ideology does have a social dimension, but it also requires individual action (which again is distinct from the ideology of "individualism", the philosophy that stands behind capitalism). We are authoritative because of the solidity of the scientific facts that underly our political stance, but we reject the ideology of Authoritarianism. The BNP are authoritarians. They are not really of the political right, in the individualist sense; they are National Socialists, like the Nazis, at the authoritarian extreme, but positioned near the the middle of the left/right spectrum.

We Greens are strongly for individual liberty, (because this is necessary for the empowerment of the people, which is necessary to make the changes needed for sustainability) but we are not libertarians.

In short, our ecological framework is wide enough to include the moderate phases of all the most important strands of political thought - but closer to the extreme of any dimension a thinker may be, the harder its will be for him or her to integrate with Green thought. We can and must accommodate the positive insights of individualism, socialism, and liberalism, but with the best will in the world, we cannot be fussing all the time over the the "-ism" suffix that sometimes are thought to be a necessary part of politics. The ecological realisation that everything on the surface of the planet is interconnected enables the competing political philosophies to abandon their absolutisms and enter into a new, more harmonious relationship with each other.


Chris said...

Hey Richard,great blog! I would like to touch base with you about your blog. Please contact me directly at chris@greenpress.com

Look forward to hearing from you.


Unknown said...

Out of many fine posts I've read on your blog, this post stands out as one of the best. I'd like to read an extended version, if you're ever inclined to write one.
Also, I'm not sure what denialists usually call themselves, but the use of that term conveys a latent bias that is mostly absent from the rest of the piece. Maybe 'fundamentalists' or 'exceptionalists' would be a more appropriate term for those who think humans can do whatever they please without consequences.

DocRichard said...

Climate change denialists like to call themselves sceptics. I think denialism is a fair term, even if it is pejorative, because they are in denial. It is not just climate change; many (most) politicos are also in denial about the risks of nuclear deterrence progressing to nuclear war. They deny things like acid rain.

I have seen adherents of the individualist ideal assert their inalienable right to drive his 4x4 whatever the outcome.

If denialism is unacceptable, I couold live with Idealist - so the new axis becomes Realist-Idealist (equivalent to Green-Denialist) -
because all political ideologies are based on some kind of Idealism, whether Individuaism, socialism, libertarianism, or authoritarianism.

This new formulation gives us a piquant change from the prevailing opinion where we greens are seen as Idealists.

Unknown said...

And from Social Worker this week:

"There's a case for voting Labour in constituencies where there's a strong lef-twing MP or a tight contest between Labour and Tory. But there's little case for voting Labour in constituencies where it is either sure to win or sure to lose or where there is a significant left wing alternative.

Victories for Respect's Salma Yaqoob in Birmingham and the Green Party's Caroline Lucas in Brighton would be invaluable breakthroughs. Besides providing two new radical voices in Parliament, such victories would make the left appear a more-credible alternative in future elections."

Others appear to think that the Greens are very 'Left' indeed.

Kind regards,

Charlotte Vere

Unknown said...

My apologies 'Social Worker' magazine - I meant 'Socialist Worker' of course!

DocRichard said...

Hi Charlotte
Thanks for stopping by. Emotionally charged weasel words like socialism, left, right and capitalism all require definition.

Political Compass provides a useful clarification. Left means a view of the importance of the social/ communitarian aspect of our humanity. Right emphasises the individual aspect. They also add an authoritarian/libertarian dimension, which is very helpful. I would add a third axis to their graph, an idealism/realism aspect.
Humankind is a social animal. That is a fact based on biological and ethological science. It is backed up strongly by the body of science built up by Wilkinson and Pickett in their Spirit Level work.
Therefore we greens are perfectly comfortable and confident in our position of working as a community, whether that be on a local level, a national level, or at an international level. Your own Osborne has expressed the same idea in saying "we are all in this together" - though we receive his assurances with a high level of doubt, given that the Tory Party is undoubtedly thick as thieves with the mega-corporations and mega-rich, and have little or nothing in common with ordinary people.

The big political divide in the 21st century lies between the individualist, idealist free market fundamentalist, neo-liberals on the one hand, and the new Green science based, realistic green political philosophy on the other. It is natural for the extremists of the aforesaid individualist &c, whom we can summarise as the Right, to view anyone that is not of their party as of the Left, because your binary, black white, unidimensional view of the world leaves you no other option. On the other hand, the Left, views Greens in the way I mentioned at the beginning of the post. If the Socialist Worker is now moving towards a slightly more politically realistic view, that is fine by us.

The question that you have to answer is this: are you of the ideological Right, or do you accept that humanity does have a social dimension, and more to the point, do you agree that the UK economy must move towards greater equality? And if so, how do you intend to try to get to that happy state? Some answers for you to choose are here.

DocRichard said...

Charlotte, the other question for you is, would the cause of greening Britain be better served by having one more Conservative MP, or by finally beating the disgusting travesty of the FPTP electoral system, and having a radical voice of the green world-view into the fusty, be-cobwebbed Palace of Westminster?