Tuesday, March 04, 2014

Green Party Conference votes for continued unemployment, and against greening of the economy

Rather be here

Once again, I leave Green Party conference demoralised, defeated and depressed. 

The Green Wage Subsidy (GWS) motion that would convert the Government's dead, grudging dole into an empowering subsidy to the green sector of the economy has been defeated by about two votes to one.

I expected this. I have been imagining the scenario for months. My plan was to cancel my Party membership immediately and publicly as soon as that vote was lost. However, a conversation with John Marjoram, the veteran Stroud Green Councillor, has opened up one possibility of carrying on within the Green Party.

Emotionally though I feel exhausted and angry. The counter arguments to GWS brought by Greens, both the Handbrake Tendency and the Browns (Green+Red=Brown), are utterly  contrived, creating problems where none exist. The Brown Bloc's arguments are dealt with here.  
The main argument in Conference on Monday came from the Handbrake Tendency, and it was that it would be impossibly difficult for a local government officer to determine whether a particular economic actor applying for GWS accreditation is providing work that helpful to society or environment. In other words, they would have difficulty distinguishing between a firm that insulates domestic properties and an arms manufacturer. 

This is irrational. Greens are always singing the praises of our Green ideas, of how wonderful it will be when a Green Government has created a Green society and a Green economy, but when it comes down to specifics, it is made out to be impossibly difficult. 

It is not. The list of activities within the green sector (see at foot of this post) of the economy is very clear, and it is perfectly obvious that if a company is providing energy conservation services, they should be included, providing they are not using child labour, for example. The tribunals would prioritise the clear cases. If perchance some marginal cases applied for accreditation - say, someone who reckons that their hairdressing business should be included because it is not using palm oil for instance - they can be put on a waiting list for consideration when the clear-cut cases have been put through, and can be given forms to fill in to confirm that all aspects of their business are in the clear.

The objectors assert (wrongly) that GWS is bureaucratic, but it is the objectors who are manufacturing bureaucratic complexity where none exists.

Interestingly, this technique is exactly the same as that used by climate change deniers such as Judith Curry, who specialises in talking up the uncertainty. The smoking lobby and the creationist lobby express this technique as "teach the uncertainty".

If anything, it is the Green Party policy making process that has bureaucratic, with a Policy Committee and process that is aged and sclerotic.

The Party proclaims proudly how democratic it is, and indeed, it is far more open to rank and file membership input than the grey parties, but it has developed its own equivalent of Black Rod style traditions. To create new policy requires an enabling Motion, then six months later a draft voting papers then six months later a voting paper, that may get referred back for another six months, so there may be an eighteen month gestation period or more. Sections of policy (transport, health etc) must be reworked as a whole, in huge slabs of text, rather than specific amendments and updates when the need arises. 

The debating procedures are better than they were now that some Chairs, having been elected to Councils, are familiar with how committees work, but the whole thing is shambolic and slow, and there is huge scope for improvement both in terms of efficiency and in terms of equity and fairness.

Anyway, Green Party Conference has made an important decision.

Conference has decided that it is in favour of keeping some 2.5 million people in unemployment, trapped in a toxic, dis-empowering welfare system, where benefits are given grudgingly on condition that the claimant does no work, but applies time and time again, on a daily basis, for jobs that do not exist, while at the same vast amounts of good, constructive work is not done.

Conference has also decided that it is against a measure that would create new, constructive, useful jobs in the green sector of the economy, a measure that would lead not just to the greening of the economy, but would prepare the ground for Citizen's Income.

Conference (or at least a small section of it - I estimate that there were about 60 members present, which means that the grand total of about 40 Green Party members have voted this measure down) has made a big mistake. 

[Update: concluding line deleted.]

Appendix - The Green Sector of the economy

·                                 energy conservation
·                                 renewable energy technologies
·                                 energy efficient goods development and manufacture
·                                 public transport

Pollution Control
·                                 pollution control technology
·                                 waste minimisation
·                                 repair
·                                 recycling

·                                 water management (including flood defence work)
·                                 sustainable agriculture
·                                 forestry
·                                 timber use
·                                 countryside management

 Human needs
·                                 housing - new building and refurbishment
·                                 improvements to visual environment
·                                 education and training
·                                 counselling, caring and healing
·                                 community work
·                                 community enterprises such as cultural centres
·                                 leisure and tourism

·                                 innovation, research and development in these fields

IiI have started a Campaign for the Green Wage Subsidy


Jamie McMillan said...

Richard, is this in addition to Basic Income or instead of ?
I've lost track of where GP is on Basic Income Scheme as it's not mentioned much. Get the feeling that the idea of Universal Benefit is moving more mainstream now.

Richard Lawson said...

hi Jamie
Basic Income is called Citizens Income nowadays. Think of GWS as the horse, and Basic Income as the cart. Once people see that it is a good idea not to pull benefit away when ppl get a job, they are primed to understand Basic Citizens Income. More here http://www.greenhealth.org.uk/GreenWageSubsidy.htm

Adam Ramsay said...

Hi Richard,

I just wanted to say that I am glad to hear that John has persuaded you not to leave the party - though you didn't say what the one route was..?

Either way, best wishes for the future.


Jamie again said...

Can't see what folk have got against this, if they support the whole Universal Benefit idea (I think this is what many economists call it now).

If they still think "Why would anybody work?", or " We are subsidising grasping employers" they won't like it.

Crikey, I remember "Why would anybody work" being said to me in a student bar in 1973 talking about the idea. Not much progress.

Not hard to admin, but quite labour-intensive - would be just like the old Job Creation Scheme but with different criteria. We'd need a new govt department, called something like 'Department of Employment'. Oh, hang on a minute...

Richard Lawson said...

Hi Jamie, If you want to know what the objections are, just ask the man above you in the comments slot.

Richard Lawson said...

Jamie, some of the new intake are critical of the Citizen's Income idea too. I don't know how universal this is. again, Adam will be better informed than me.

Richard Lawson said...

Adam, no hard feelings, you have won a victory for the status quo fair and square, but don't expect me to share my plans with you.

Richard Lawson said...

I've just set up a GWS Campaign Facebook page here: https://www.facebook.com/GreenWageSubsidy?fref=ts Please Like it, so that it gets more notice.

PAM said...

But you enthusiastically voted for a motion (on the Positive Money scheme) at the last conference to collapse the economy leading to mass unemployment. And probably mass starvation. While your desire to cut carbon emissions is commendable, your callous disregard for human life is not.

I was indifferent to your proposal, but your hypocrisy persuaded me against it.

The Green Party needs to reach out to people not condemn them to starve.

Richard Lawson said...

Pam, please explain how taking the power of money creation away from private corporations and putting it in the hands of the people's appointees is going to collapse the economy. Thanks.

PAM said...

No one objected to nationalisation of money creation. What people objected to was the reduction of the money supply by 97%. Which obviously has 2 outcomes:

1. A vast increase in the value of assets (which presumably is why the Tory right - correctly - support it.
2. An economic collapse in which the poor starve, reducing carbon emissions and population - presumably why the green right support it.

Richard Lawson said...

Fantastic. Literally - fantastic. Tell you what Pam*, I'll transfer this dialogue to its own post. It deserves it, and I don't want to let the GWS thread get diverted.
*or should that be "Pete"?

Weggis said...

Do we have a Watermelon here?

Richard Lawson said...

I guess so, but it's not a matter of applying labels. I'm fine with discussing things with ecosocialists, so long as the discussion is civil and well-thought out.