Monday, 3 October 2016

Corbyn’s Revolution is not Green

Written by Charles Gate

Corbyn’s revolution is not yet complete, still the little matter of dealing with an entrenched Labour Party bureaucracy and up to 200 neoliberal Labour MPs.

It can be easily understood that a Corbyn Labour Party will be much more palatable to Green thinkers than its predecessors under Blair, Brown or Miliband. That in itself doesn’t make the Corbyn Labour Party intrinsically green.

The above schemes would seem to have more to do with Corbyn trying to keep certain unions sweet rather than looking at what the UK and the rest of the world need to do to combat climate change and bring about a nuclear free world. Corbyn here is stuck in the past with jobs at any cost, irrespective of the danger inherent in some of these schemes to workers and planet alike. Some may point out that Labour has finally jumped on board the anti-fracking bandwagon but this was hardly going to cost jobs given the infancy of the industry and perhaps the dead-end fracking finds itself in, in the UK.

At the recent Labour conference their energy spokesperson was still talking about carbon capture. We don’t need to capture carbon; we need to stop it being produced. If some in the Labour Party see the need to stop producing climate change gases their leadership hasn’t yet.

Corbyn has to face down union leaders trying to tie us into 20th century industries, if we want to reach the end of the 21st century in a world that will be worth living in.

It is 40 years since the Lucas Plan came into being to convert an arms industry into a socially useful one. Corbyn needs to come up with that sort of alternative big time and drag reactionary union leaders with him.

For the last twenty years it has been Green Party leaders joining the picket lines of workers in struggle over terms and conditions, at long last we have Labour Party leaders prepared to do the same. At least that unites both leaderships of Greens and Labour.

Corbyn finds himself in a bind over nuclear weapons and NATO membership. There being no movement on the issue at the last Labour conference. Even Kate Hudson, long-time colleague of Corbyn, and general secretary for the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, was scathing of the Labour position

Labour’s continued support for NATO clearly distances itself from the Greens, but unfortunately, both Greens and Labour dwell under the illusion that a united Europe has kept the peace in Europe since WWII. Here I take issue with my own party. The Greens used the united Europe and peace argument during the recent EU referendum. The leaders of both the Greens and Labour need to look at a map of Europe, they will find that the countries of the former Yugoslavia are indeed very much part of Europe, yet NATO bombed it, with Tony Blair cutting his teeth there for his future career as a mass murderer. Even with European soldiers’ boots on the ground extensive ethnic cleansing took place on European soil. Truly a bloody stain on the history of Europe. 

What Europe has done, in conjunction with the USA, is export war to the rest of the world, most notably Libya, Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan. An absence of war in Europe doesn’t mean Europe has been at peace. The war on terror has come back to haunt Europe because Europe thought it could bomb terror away, instead it has increased terror around the world, and Europe and the USA are responsible for most of it. The Greens will extract the UK from NATO but Labour seems wedded to it. The Greens are committed to stopping the UK arms trade supplying to those countries that commit war crimes against their own citizens or citizens of other countries, but will Corbyn cave to union leaders defending jobs that end up killing innocents. There’s never been a better time to implement a new Lucas Plan for the entire UK’s arms trade.

It was ironic to see at the Labour conference that their shadow health minister, Diane Abbott, was proud to say they would be promoting the NHS reinstatement bill through Parliament, but not a word of thanks to Caroline Lucas or any other MP from any other party that has promoted this bill until now. Caroline Lucas must have been gutted when the Parliamentary Labour Party refused to back the very same bill when she promoted it in Parliament. What chance of a progressive alliance if Labour cannot even back a bill they are now going on to champion; because it was put forward by a non-Labour MP? The NHS is too important to see people play political games with it. We will now see if Corbyn can get his MPs to actually support the NHS reinstatement bill. &

Do we treat the suggestion as serious or more likely as an attempt to undercut the potential of the Greens capturing many current new Labour supporters if the Corbyn project fails to deliver? It is obvious to some that a muted Green Party within the Labour Party is less dangerous than an independent Green Party. With Caroline Lucas back at the helm, the Greens have been given a higher profile again (no disrespect to Natalie Bennett, that’s just how it is) and the recent YouGov poll that showed, even if Corbyn isn’t yet up for it, Corbyn’s and even Smith’s supporters back a preferred coalition with the Green Party

Even with a large outflow of Greens to Labour, if Corbyn cannot assert authority over his own Labour bureaucracy and more significantly over his troublesome MPs, that flow can reverse and that might have more to do with the Momentum suggestion than seriously offering the Greens the hand of friendship.

The major difference (there are plenty more differences) between the Greens and Labour is the one where Labour still clings to ever increasing wealth production to solve problems of poverty and the means to fund large welfare and infrastructure schemes. Labour are still wedded to the concept that increased production/wealth is the solution to our problems, when the Greens take an opposite view. We know that in the last 20 years and more that the wealth that has been produced has been sucked up to the one per cent rather than trickled down to the 99%. If a few dozen billionaires own as much as the rest of humanity we need only to spread that wealth around more evenly, not produce more for the super rich to engorge themselves on. That phenomenal wealth is built on the backs mainly of mega-corporations and banks exploiting people, destroying the earth and its life support systems. Until Labour really realises that ever increasing exploitation of the earth’s natural resources cannot continue there will always be the need of a Green Party.

Differences between Corbyn’s Labour and the Greens don’t just occur at national and international level but they exist at local level as well. In my own locality we have Corbyn supporting Labour councillors still joining in with anti-Corbyn Labour councillors to build on floodplains, to also knock down perfectly serviceable public buildings for retail outlets to sell the same commodities other existing businesses will be already selling, and a Labour MP, one of fifty, who thinks it was a good idea to bomb the rubble and the innocent back into the stone-age in Syria. Let’s hope there is a local de-selection process in the offing for that MP and the other 49 soon.

The Corbyn revolution is far from complete; his and Momentum’s view of a socialist Labour Party is still very much at the embryonic stage.

The Green Party policies can be found here

Charles Gate is a member Calderdale Green Party and a Green Left supporter


  1. it will be interesting to see which unions support, as opposed to giving lipservice to, the conference in Birmingham on november 26th to commemorate the Lucas plan and discuss the possibilities for a 21st centuty Lucas plan.

  2. Good essay. Plenty of clear green water between us and the dinosaur Labour party.