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The Green bloc at the recent anti-austerity demo in London. Photo: William Pinkney-Baird.

What is the Green Party?

For some we are an admirable but hopelessly naïve flavour of utopianism, others believe we wish to ‘return to the Stone Age‘, and yet still others refuse to grant us even this, labelling us as simply a populist mess of uncoordinated policies. Some have dismissed us for not having our roots in a class based understanding of society, whilst others have accused us of spouting the ‘politics of envy’. Some see us as a doomed socialist movement with some hummus thrown in and still others have dismissed us for too narrow a focus.

Amongst the hysteria, there are grains of truth. Yes, we’re striving for something approaching a utopia- what are you striving for if not? Yes, we want to take a step back and learn from the mistakes we have made over the past few decades–change does not always equal progress and correcting some of our poor economic and political decisions is sometimes the best way of moving forward. No, we do not have our roots in class warfare or Marxism, we have our roots in, well, roots. We come from an understanding of nature and how it sows the seeds for all human interaction and activity, and how it profoundly intertwines with our economies and societies. A solution to the systemic crisis that capitalism has become will require nothing less than this, but considerably more than Marxism.

When viewed away from the lens of party politics, our policies are indeed very popular, but they are also a coherent and coordinated remedy for a bitterly ill system, not the disorganised mess that lazy commentators suppose them to be. We have a commitment to redistribution because not only is it morally right to stop the mega rich hoarding giant sums of unearned money, but it also shifts the focus away from endless, unsustainable growth.

It is correct too, that to have electoral success you must first be seen as economically competent and this poses a challenge to the Greens. Many commentators equate this with fiscal consolidation, deficit reductions and, ultimately, austerity–but if it is competency we are seeking then it is through challenging, not mimicking, such policies that competency is assured. Even the neoliberal juggernaut that is the IMF has seemingly agreed with Green policy– the damage austerity has caused outweighs the benefits conferred by a ‘balanced book’. Fears and moral panics have been conjured as smokescreens allowing the state to be dismantled covertly, with the real dangers of a warming planet and an increasingly divided society going unchecked and unchallenged except by a few.

The Right in this country currently hold sway because of their effectiveness at selling a simple narrative. This isn’t something to be proud of–selling crude lies through a complicit media to a country burdened under private debt and undergoing an increasingly marketised education system – all this hardly speaks of political finesse. The real achievement is to communicate to the public a complicated truth that will genuinely improve society, whilst working to free their minds at the same time.

Convincing people that we must fundamentally reassess how we view our relationship with the rest of the planet, that we must completely overhaul how we do economics and politics, and that how we live our lives must also change: this is the hard sell. Finding ways to combat inequality and climate change, challenges on a scale like nothing we have ever seen, and bring on board a public that has been fed the mantra of consumption and individualism for so long: this is proper politics. Our problems are not simple so the solutions are unlikely to be either: it is by pushing the boundaries of the possible, changing the debate and daring to tackle the things that are really at the heart of our woes that we move forward as a society, and politics actually manages to inspire once more.

The optimist in me believes that deep down most people in this country know that ‘working hard’ and making Jonny Foreigner walk the plank at the the cliffs of Dover is not going to solve our problems. But until another wordsmith comes along with an alternative that speaks to them and offers practical solutions, they’ll accept the lie out of simple lack of options: better a too-simplistic or even an untrue story than none at all. The Greens must be this wordsmith.

We are at times a bizarre but almost always beautiful party that has managed to grasp a narrative that brings together the feminist, the ethnic minority, the environmentalist and the poor all at once. We are a party that has, within a generation, had to go from embodying sandal clichés to mounting systemic challenges. This has not come about through piecemeal policies trying to specifically appeal to a broader base–it has happened because of commitment to cause. A handful of enormously wealthy (and mainly white, straight and male) individuals at the top of society, along with a rotten and biased system, are actively exacerbating climate change and inequality, crises that are set to wipe us out. You simply cannot deal with one without addressing the other.

The Greens understand that it is only by challenging that corrupt power that we will save ourselves and effect real societal change that genuinely helps people. Most political parties have forgotten what their point is- it is not, as one would believe listening to political commentary, to give the people what they want, nor to win elections–only a hopelessly consumerist society would come to see it as such. The purpose of a political party is to put forward an argument for what the country needs, rather than what will gain it support. By all means we must as a party seriously reassess how we deliver our message and inject ourselves with a passion and urgency that properly reflects our predicament, but the moment we stop trying to sell the hard truth and instead opt for an easy lie we’ve lost our purpose. In that moment we will no longer be the party engaging with the hard, difficult truth: we will no longer be the Green Party.

Bradley Allsop

About Bradley Allsop

Bradley is currently studying for his PhD in youth political engagement at the University of Lincoln and writes on democracy, political engagement and political psychology.