Tony Greenstein | 22 September 2020 | Post Views:

It is an Iron Rule of Politics that when Green Parties Get A Taste of Power They Move to the Right

Whatever their fluffy radical words when in opposition about Green New Deals, workers’ rights and a fairer society, once they get into power Green Parties move inexorably to the Right. This is not a British phenomenon but a universal political law.

Of course this is often of great disappointment to naïve green activists who believe that their party is actually a different, more honest type of party from the mainstream.

Smug and Self-satisfied Brighton Council leader Phelim McCafferty provoked dispute with housing repair team by refusing them entry to the sick pay scheme

In July the Green Party took control of Brighton & Hove Council. The reason for that was that ‘Sir’ Keir Starmer’s purge of the Labour Party for ‘anti-Semitism’ included three Labour Councillors, two of whom promptly resigned causing Labour to lose control. Anti-Semitism’ you understand is somewhat like COVID-19, it never goes away and whenever mention is made of Israel then it flares up again out of nowhere.

No sooner had they got their hands on the levers of power and their newly inflated salaries had hit their bank accounts than the new Green Administration under Phelim McCafferty provoked a strike from the housing repair workers.

Under the previous Labour administration the housing repair service was brought back under public control, a very welcome step. Previously they had worked for the Mears Group. The Council sought to harmonise wages and conditions and the proposal from the new Administration was that the workers would have to take a pay cut of £4,000 a year or else they wouldn’t receive sick pay.

Picket outside Hove Town Hall

The GMB is quoted as saying that:

‘“Green council leader Phélim Mac Cafferty today has supported his officers in Brighton and Hove to cut the salary of housing repair services staff by £4,000 a year and not to give them sick pay and stop all negotiations with the GMB.”

What is happening today is almost a replica of what happened in 2013 when the Greens last controlled the Council. Then, under Jason Kitcat, the Green Administration also proposed savage pay cuts.  At that time it was for the refuse workers.  This time it is the housing repair workers. Also members of the GMB. Clearly the Greens don’t much like manual workers!

But in 2013 the situation was somewhat different.  There was a rebellion amongst the Green councilors. Not this time.  It would seem that they have all moved to the right, without exception.  Not one voice from the Green councillors has been raised against McCafferty’s impersonation of Mr Gradgrind.

This was Brighton last time there was a Green council

almost half the local Green councillors, including the deputy leader Phelim McCafferty.’ supported the strike according to Davy Jones,  the then parliamentary candidate for Brighton Kemptown, in 2013. Today the Council is led by Phelim McCafferty. Phelim came from the left not the right of the Green Party. He used to work for the TUC’s Institute of Employment Rights and I can remember having a drink with him when he would complain about his more conservative colleagues.Phelim was also a member of Palestine Solidarity Campaign and regularly joined our picket at the clocktower during Israel’s Operation Cast Lead in 2008/9. He’s not only stabbed the Council workforce in the back, he stabbed us too!

Despite the Green conference effectively rejecting the IHRA Caroline Lucas and the rest of the Green leadership have acted as if it was Green Party policy

Phelim has long been on the road to respectability.  In 2018, he junked a decade and more of support for the Palestinians. He refused to meet the local PSC group and at Council he and the whole of the Green Group voted with the Tories and Labour to support the IHRA definition, which had been drawn up in Israel with the express purpose of conflating anti-Zionism and support for the Palestinians with anti-Semitism.

But it’s not just the Greens on Brighton & Hove Council. This isn’t an odd exception. Caroline Lucas, the only Green MP in the House of Commons has been on her own road to purgatory. She started off as a left wing candidate supporting strikers but this time around she has kept silent. In 2013 she spoke to a large strike meeting giving them support.  Today there hasn’t been a whisper out of Caroline.

Caroline Lucas was part of the Green Party mafia that attempted to railroad the party conference in 2018 into supporting the IHRA and since then have acted as if the IHRA was policy anyway. The Green Party had previously suspended a friend of mine Debbie Fink for ‘anti-Semitism’, despite her being Jewish. In fact I’ve lost count of the number of times she’s been suspended! 

The fightback against the IHRA was led by Shahrar Ali, who is now standing for election as leader of the Green Party. Surprise surprise, shortly after the conference Shahrar, who was at one time a Deputy Leader of the GP, was investigated for ‘anti-Semitism’. You see ‘anti-Semitism’ is a very contagious disease and like COVID-19 there is no vaccine at present other than to move as rapidly as possible to the right.

The complaint against Shahrar came via the far-Right Israeli funded Campaign Against Antisemitism. The treachery of those who used the CAA to suspend a party colleague is beyond belief but such is the state of the Green Party at present 116 Green Party members signed a petition against this trampling over democracy in the Green Party.

But it’s not just the British Green Party. In Ireland the Green Party have done exactly the same as Brighton’s Greens.  In 2008 they supported Fine Fail’s austerity government and in the 2011 elections they were wiped out. Ireland suffered greatly during the financial crash and the Green Party coalition made sure that the Irish working class and the poor suffered. I had some experience of this when I was briefly hospitalized in Ireland and saw the extent of the cuts.

In the February 2020 elections in Ireland the most popular party was Sinn Fein, a radical left wing anti-imperialist party. The two conservative parties, Fine Gael and Fine Fail, who as recently as 2007 obtained 69 percent of the vote, managed just 43 percent between them. As Eoghan Gilmartin Tommy Greene wrote

Less than 10 years after the vicious austerity programme it helped Fianna Fáil implement between 2007 and 2011 had brought the party to the point of decimation, Eamon Ryan has signed up his grouping once again to an agenda of severe fiscal restraints and tax breaks for corporations, in exchange for a series of modest environmental proposals and three government ministries. This brand of ‘eco-austerity’ is sure to deepen neoliberalism’s grip on policy, while doing little in real terms to combat climate change.

Shahrer Ali speaking against the IHRA Israeli definition of ‘antisemitism’

In Germany it was a Green-SPD Coalition Government which in 2001 under Joshka Fischer voted to become the first post-war German government to send troops overseas to fight in a war in Afghanistan.

Everywhere they get a taste of power the Greens are eager to demonstrate that they are loyal supporters of capitalism and don’t want to change the very system that has caused climate catastrophe. Instead they want to ‘green’ capitalism unable to perceive that capitalism is inherently destructive of the planet’s eco system for the very simple reason that it is a system based on profit not need.  Capitalism forsakes such trivialities as planning in favour of a market free for all.  The Green Party lacks all class politics and probably thinks imperialism is a brand of soap. It is a party of the radical petit-bourgeoisie, which in an economic crisis rapidly shifts to the Right.

The behaviour of Phelim McCafferty and the Brighton Greens is therefore not exceptional in any way. They end up careerists just the same as any bourgeois politicians because they don’t have any firm principles.  Despite all of their talk about a basic income the Greens will happily jettison the more radical parts of their programme for a slice of power.

In the UK the Green leaders are happy to support the IHRA, devised to undermine support for the Palestinians with accusations of ‘anti-Semitism’ even against the wishes of their own rank and file. For Caroline Lucas support for the IHRA was the price of working with Jo Swinson, the reactionary leader of the Lib Dems whose defeat in the General Election in December was one of the bright spots of an otherwise gloomy night. Brexit seemed to be the only issue of importance to the Green Party.

As the Labour Party moves to the Right under Starmer it is a fool’s choice to believe that the Green Party offers a radical still less socialist alternative.  Anyone harbouring such illusions will find themselves jumping from the frying pan into the fire.

Tony Greenstein

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Tony Greenstein

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