Friday 4 January 2008

Ecology, class and the Green Party

by PAT O'DEA Why are the Greens failing in the polls? By making its compromise with the market, the greens have made green politics mainstream. If Green party members and supporters are unaware of the significance of this rightward move, other political parties have not. The basic tenet of politics, is that it is all about class. Abandon a class position at your peril. The often mentioned "Political Spectrum" is used as shorthand to explain where political parties stand in regards to free market forces, as opposed to collective social good (or welfare). By this scale, ACT is to the far right of the spectrum, believing that no controls at all should be placed on those making profits. ACT seeks the removal of all such limits, whether they are labour laws, environmental laws, tax laws, planning laws, the lot. National is seen as further left on this spectrum because it says it believes in some controls on business. Labour believes in more controls of the market, for the good of society as a whole, but this position has been growing less and less as they have come under the influence of powerful business lobbies. And so they have moved closer to the National party position of a light regulation of market forces. Traditionally advocates of the free market believe that pollution controls are an unwelcome compliance and a hindrance on profit taking. The supporters of the market were often opposed by those at the other end of the political spectrum, those prepared to confront the market, or put controls on it, or fight its effects - or even socialists, who want to abolish the market economy all together. Broad environmental movements often drew their support from those in society, without a stake in the system, and lacking power and influence . This section of society, because of their lack of money, influence and power, were the ones most at risk of environmental exploitation or even poisoning caused by pollution They had to engage in protest to get anything done about it, posing their weight of numbers against the normally overwhelming power of capital. Witness the huge crowds that rallied to oppose GE; before the movement changed political direction to lobbying and compromise. Now of course, care for the environment has become mainstream - above class. So where does this leave parties like the Greens? Some in the Greens may think that since green issues are mainstream, this is a victory, and of course at some level it is. But, now of course there is little to differentiate the Green party from the Labour Party or even unfortunately the National party. By agreeing to champion market mechanisms like carbon trading, the Greens have let right wing political parties and lobbyists climb aboard the environmental bandwagon, and still feel comfortable. By endorsing the capitalist model of exploitation the Greens are making themselves obsolete. When the ACT party starts praising Jeanette Fitzsimmons as "responsible", "steady", or "worthy", the danger is that Fitzsimmons may wind up like Jim Anderton, a "respected" leader without a movement.

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