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Do you remember 2015? For the first time in nearly 30 years Greens, we were ‘woke’. We caught the imagination of the public, particularly young people, with bold policies on austerity and climate and a radically progressive outlook on social issues. These were the product of years of work and pain from volunteers, staff, and the leadership. Our reward was a membership surge and our best election results in our history.

Before this we had been content, perhaps complacent, about incremental gains of councillors and solid performances in PR elections like the London Assembly or the European Parliament. It’s not enough that our councillors keep the white picket fence painted through diligent casework. Nor are we the guardians of social democratic politics, as we were under Blair, Brown and Miliband.

We need great communicators, as well as great thinkers. People who are able to inspire with words, and not just persuade with evidence and arguments. To be woke is to understand where people are at – particularly oppressed peoples, what their experiences are, and how to make them believe in us when they have been so hurt, manipulated and let down by the system.

Harnessing the rage and hate, as right-wing populists have done, is the polar opposite of being woke. Hate may burn, but it doesn’t warm, and never inspires. Hate becomes self-consuming. Trump and Brexit will not satisfy because they could never meet the promises they made, so somewhere is a more extreme faction waiting to capitalise on the anger and disappointment in these political projects.

Resistance to being woke within our movement often comes from those who stick to the complacent old thinking of ‘surely people will agree with us if we explain it to them.’ It’s ironic that these are the same people who simultaneously demean young people and activists for their ‘wokeness’, yet claim to be acting to build a world for young people.

It’s time to communicate, to listen, to hear, and to make the Green Party woke.   

About Samir Jeraj

Samir was a Green Party councillor in Norwich from 2008-2012. He now writes on housing, race and London politics.