Green Party takes stand against cuts
The Green Party’s National Campaigns Co-ordinator, Romayne Phoenix reports on the party’s recent conference.
Delegates voted to "support national and local campaigns against cuts in public services and to use everything in our power when in opposition or in office to oppose them"
The Green Party headed to Cardiff for Spring Conference just days before the ‘Vote Yes for Wales’ referendum. We were warmly welcomed by the leader of Wales Green Party, Jake Griffiths, who finds himself on target to win the first Green seat on the Welsh Assembly. Polling around 9%, and with a proportional voting system, this really looks like their breakthrough year.
With Green Party membership up by 50% since Spring 2009 many new members were at their first conference.
Caroline Lucas MP delivered her longest and best speech since becoming leader of the party. Confident and relaxed, she attacked the coalition government’s ideologically driven plans. She denounced the Labour Party opposition as ‘utterly contaminated’ . How could we be asked to listen to them opposing the NHS market model, tuition fee costs and the Royal Mail sell off when such business had all started under a Labour government. David Cameron’s opportunistic use of his trip to the Middle East to promote the British arms trade she described this as ‘morally obscene’.
The Young Greens have been working at the heart of the student protests around the country, and this weekend supported UK Uncut action in Cardiff . They formally endorsed the student occupation at Aberystwyth University, and demanded more money from the main party to produce their magazine. Since the tuition fees vote passed through Parliament they have gained 750 new members.
With over thirty fringe meetings plus training sessions, policy debates and workshops, the conference agenda was full and, as always, some tough choices had to be made on issues like councillors and the cuts , the alternative vote , nuclear power and the myth of bio fuels. Green Left added a further option, finding a nearby venue to host a discussion on working class representation within the party. With the launch at this conference of an initiative to support ‘Diversity Champions’ to help build the membership from a more representative cross section of our local communities, it seems that further discussion regarding ‘outreach’ work may well be planned for the Autumn Conference in Sheffield.
Joseph Healy’s well attended fringe discussed the future of the anti-war movement. Jane Shallice of Stop the War Coalition, spoke about the continuing need to keep up the pressure on the government and to draw clear links between war expenditure and the cuts, particularly on the national anti-cuts demonstration on March 26th.
Joseph also proposed a motion to conference calling for any future military action to be fully and openly costed and approved by Parliament in advance and throughout the conflict.
The Greens will now campaign for the transfer of power to declare war from the Prime Minister to Members of Parliament, opening responsibility for military decisions to a more democratic process.
Considering a motion on current proposals for high speed rail (HSR) investment members discussed the economic and environmental arguments and decided that under these plans the benefits were not proven. HSR would need to be delivered within an overall plan where energy use, carbon emission reductions and ‘land take’ were significantly reduced whilst not increasing transport demand.
The cuts and local public services motion raised important issues for debate. Dealing with the need for genuine participation in local decision making, the motion reflected the serious concerns regarding the coalition government budget cuts to local councils. Conference voted in favour of the whole motion which included the commitment to
"support national and local campaigns against cuts in public services and to use everything in our power when in opposition or in office to oppose them"
Councillors alone will not be able to stop the cuts. That is the job of the anti cuts movement. Greens will support their local campaigns and build for the TUC day on 26th March. The battle will need to be won at a national level but local communities will make it clear what they need from their locally elected representatives too.
Yes fine and very welcomed but what does that mean when it comes to Greens in Brighton and the cuts. Also isn’t it rather strange to say the least to talk about “opening responsibility for military decisions to a more democratic process”? Militarism by Parliament or the PM is Imperialistic and colonialistic by definition. Socialists can not endorse a bourgeois Parliament voting on a military expedition as it will only be used against the oppressed and not in the interest of the working class and the oppressed anywhere in the world. Rather utopian idea of a democratic bourgeois military decision. It will only serve the bourgeoisie anyway and sows illusions in Parliament.
I dont agree on Parliament and declarations of war – of course we as socialists will (almost) always oppose them but its much better if this is down to Parliament as a whole. We always fight for the greatest extension of parliamentary democracy – while at the same time arguing that we are in favour of a different kind of democracy ie direct democracy
Erm… The Green councillors in Brighton voted against the cuts budget while the Labour group abstained.
Whether Parliament or Gov’t decide on an imperialist military venture, we would and should oppose it anyway. The issue of a democratically decided imperialist war is a contradiction. Even if a majority vote for war that does not make it right.
As for Brighton, the Greens made it clear they would only set a legal budget, what ever that means. Yes Labour abstained instead of voting it down, but the Greens were proposing to come back with a legal budget, meaning cuts.
Obviously both Green and Socialists in Britain do oppose imperialist wars abroad. But socialists are not neutral on democratic reforms, even if the people who participate in those votes do not vote the way we want. The more debate and accountability there is, the more space there is for us to put the case against war.
It sounds like the Greens in Brighton don’t have the best tactics against the cuts, but there’s more than one way to assess the Green party than seeing whether it does or does not have our line. Romayne’s article is about the Green party’s national conference. What’s important is to see whether the party is moving left or right, and what the opportunities are for reds and green to work together. It’s that common work which will be crucial in future developments.
It is all very fine to “support national and local campaigns against cuts in public services and to use everything in our power when in opposition or in office to oppose them”, however there are fundamental conflicts of interest, which this type of resolution “papers over”. For example, the UCU is campaigning for the maintenance of pension entitlements for its lecturer members, which are currently worth about £1.25 million each, source UCU: http://www.ucu.org.uk/media/pdf/a/1/UCU_CARE_comparison_ex2_80.pdf . The students of these lecturers, on graduating, are to be expected to shoulder this unfunded burden, in the absence of GDP growth. Should the NUS be supporting this?
Surely the “conflict of interest” is between working-class people and the ruling class, not least, at present the bankers’, branch of the ruling class. I don’t feel any “conflict of interest” with other workers who may happen to have a slightly better pay and pensions deal than me.
Duncan, you missed the point. The Greens in Brighton may have voted against but would have come back a second time and supported a legal budget, which is cuts. The Green Left are consistent and oppose cuts, I recognise that.The Greens nationally may oppose cuts, and we welcome that too, but in Brighton and other areas, they support a legal budget and there is the contradiction and the challenge for the Greens.Where they do what does that mean re their standing in elections? Such candidates will no longer deserve our support.
My point on war and Parliament is that whilst it appears more democratic, the formulation of voting against war in Parliament is more useful. What happens when/ if Parliament votes for a No FLY ZONE? Obviously we do not say fine as they voted for it. Is this really the main demand we raise. Anyway Parliament does technically now have the right to vote on war.
Alf, I disagree. I actually think that you disagree as well: I don’t think you’d be for abstaining in most constituencies, but that is what your comment would mean. I’ll vote for the best-placed left candidate. In most constituencies there will only be a pro-cuts social democrat (in Labour, or in the Green) to the left of the Lib-Dems. I’ll vote for the social democrat in that situation.
On democratic reforms: we oppose imperialist war. If parliament votes for war, or if a referendum votes for war, we still oppose it. That is obvious to us, and to the Green party. The Green party’s top manifesto pledge on foreign policy is “troops out of Afghanistan”. That is clear.
Parliament does have the right to vote on war, but Parliament is not the body which declares war: MPs can move resolutions and have them voted on but the decision to make war is not the prerogative of Parliament. That right is held by the Prime Minister and monarch.
The idea that it creates illusions in parliament is interesting, and it’s a old debate with the Left Communists. Should we be neutral on AV? We we abstain from elections? Should we stand in elections? I really find it hard to think that you think the fight for democratic reforms on balance strengthens the ruling class, when the ruling class fight every successive extension in democratic rights.
alf is right
here in brighton we have a big anti-cuts movement, which the greens (unlike labour) participate in.
but its a real shame that they won’t sign up to opposing the cuts by all means necessary.
our movement could really do with some councillors prepared to stand up against all cuts.
with local greens likely to win a balance of power & possibly become the biggest group on the council in may, their current stance means our council unions will probably end up in conflict with local greens.
hopefully this won’t disorientate the best greens who really want to support us fully.
Thanks Dave,you are so right.Duncan locally Green Cllrs were caught out. Yes nationally they have voted against cuts and we all welcome that. Now they have a problem in Brighton. What will they do? Or should we have simply clapped at the cuts going through down here? Do not attempt to over extrapulate Duncan, it can be rather stressful!
Alf. The new policy of the Green party makes it easier, not harder, for us and Green Left to campaign against the cuts, and against Green councillors voting through cuts. And we campaign against cuts; we don’t applaud them.
On democratic rights; am I extrapolating? You say we should not support the democratisation of war-making powers, by moving that power from the monarch to parliament, because we oppose war and don’t want to create illusions in parliament. I take the view that, in parliamentary democracies like Britain, classic democratic demands are much less powerful and certainly cannot take the place of transitional demands. However, we have to support every erosion of the monarchy, every democratic reform and develop every change to stimulate debate and accountability to help stop war.
Duncan, all this started out as a result of pointing out the behaviour of the Brighton Green Cllrs. Pointing out the decision resulting in cuts. No one criticised the Greens nor the Green Left but the local Green cllrs.
I also stated I preferred the preference of voting against war and also ofcourse more importantly on the streets opposing war, which we all agree on. Yes ofcourse oppose the power of the monarchy etc etc. I still feel the main issue is not the demand of voting for the right to go to war. Again read my original. I disagreed with the formulation and still do.
Hi Alf. Actually your original comment had one line on Brighton and five on parliament. I am sure you appreciate that you and the Green party share the opinion that the main demand is not the right of parliament to vote on war. It is not a major axis of the Greens’ campaign and, indeed, if you Google the formulation you objected to (“opening responsibility for military decisions to a more democratic process”) it can only be found online as a consequence of your post.