This article is in part an exploration of the tension between environmentalism, human rights, equality and social justice. This is an important issue, because how political ideologies are translated into policy often has profound and far-reaching social consequences. I also challenge assumptions and criticise the Green Party for a lack of clarity regarding policy and intent – there’s a lack of connection – integrity – beneath some of their key policies. There are no explicit connections made in the Green Party manifesto between ideas, policy, context and consequences.
I explore the environmentalism and “blood and soil” philosophy underpinning the Volk and Nazi movements, the Nazis being an exemplar of the problematic issues I raised. I also examine Malthus’s ideas on population growth and the finite nature of resources. I link some of the Green philosophy and policies with Malthus’s ideas.
The important point here is that it is not the ideas in themselves that are problematic: it is the context, the application, the way those ideas are translated via policy and the subsequent social consequences that warrants some discussion.
Malthus’s ideas both informed and were informed by a context of Social Darwinism, eugenics, laissez faire capitalism, competitive individualism, all of which were the basis of a dominant paradigm at that point in our history. One consequence of that was the terrible Poor Law Amendment Act in 1834, which saw the introduction of the dreadful, punitive workhouses.
Just to clarify further, I do not at any point claim “the Greens are Nazis,” or “are like Nazis” as some have tried to claim. The discussion of Nazism and environmentalism is used to highlight the problematic tension between green ideas, human rights and to challenge assumptions made about social equality.
There is a strand of Green Party narrative with philosophical roots that may be traced back to the thinking of the Reverend Thomas Malthus. He was a political economist who believed that the decline of living conditions in nineteenth century England was because of three elements: the overproduction of children; the inability of resources to keep up with the rising human population; and the irresponsibility of the lower classes. Malthus’s narrative in the nineteenth century fueled the rise of Social Darwinism; the eugenics movement and resulted in the extremely punitive Poor Law Reform Act of 1834, which included the introduction of workhouses for the poor.
The Green Party have the following listed amongst their aims regarding population:
In the short-term, to promote debate on sustainable population levels for the UK. In the long-term, to achieve consumption and population levels that are globally sustainable and respect carrying capacity – the term used to describe the population that can, according to the Green Party, be sustainably supported in any given region. In theory it varies, depending on consumption patterns.
However, during times of greater social equality and prosperity, rather than the population growth predicted by Malthus, families actually reduced the numbers of children they had, with the emergence of the small nuclear family unit. Families and households got smaller throughout the 20th century. Women in the late nineteenth century gave birth, on average, to 4.6 children during their lifetime. Having ten or more children was not uncommon. By the 1950s the average had fallen to 2.19 children.
Data released by the government in the General Lifestyle Survey shows that the number of children in the average household has become smaller. In 1971, there were 2.91 persons in the average family whereas in 2011, this number has shrunk to 2.35 persons.This means that almost half of families in the UK have just one child. Malthus was wrong. Prosperity, equality, social development and growth contribute to population reduction and greater resources.
Environmentalism is widely seen as a caring, strictly left-wing concern, and it’s been linked with what are now fairly tacit assumptions about the Green Party’s credentials regarding equality, rights and political partisanship. The Green Party have tried to position themselves as “the new party of the left”, and have invested heavily in an aggressively negative campaign strategy that has involved outright lies about the Labour Party’s proposed policy intentions.
But the claims made by the Party and assumptions drawn from grassroots supporters have no historical verification whatsoever. In fact history refutes the claims.
Just because people have environmentalist concerns, we cannot infer from that – it does not automatically follow – that the same people will have concerns about inequality, social justice and human rights.
The German Volk and Nazi movements marched beneath the banners of “Nature” and the “organic.” Environmentalist ideology was a fundamental part of National Socialism (which wasn’t socialism at all, on the same basis, we wouldn’t say that the German Democratic Republic was a flourishing democracy, either), Green ideas were at the core of Nazi thinking. The Germans idealised Nature.
Whilst the Holocaust took place, German army comrades were also busy establishing bird sanctuaries, nature walks and planting trees. The Nazis conducted horrific experiments on men, women and children but at the same time, they banned medical experiments on animals. The Nazi perpetrators of crimes of unimaginable brutality and horror against fellow human beings also advocated conservation, vegetarianism, homeopathic healthcare, organic agriculture and forest preservation. It’s a myth that environmentalism and ecological concern go hand in hand with a concomitant respect and concern for the well-being of all people, too.
In The Destruction of Reason, written in 1952, the marxist Georg Lukács proposed that the idealisation of “nature” and the “organic” was, from the very beginning a political narrative. It was an attempt to defend “natural” feudal privileges. He said:
“Biologism in philosophy and sociology has always been a basis for reactionary philosophical tendencies … it cannot permit of any essential change, let alone progress …. Oppression, inequality, exploitation and so forth were presented as “facts of nature” or “laws of nature” which, as such, could not be avoided or revoked.”
This is an essentially right-wing perspective: that society is naturally hierarchical – a pseudo-biological defence of class privileges.
The Green Party, with their uncritical embrace of environmentalism, have focused on the idea of a scarcity of natural resources. They promote the idea that there are natural limits on how many people may live on the planet and constraints on how much we can produce and consume. That is essentially a Malthusian position.
And we tend to think of fascism strictly in terms of its oppression, so that we lost sight of the fact that Nazism began as a movement by appealing to the working classes and campaigning against capitalism.
One famous National Socialist election poster shows a social-democratic winged “angel” walking hand in hand with a stereotyped banker, with the curious slogan: “Marxism is the Guardian Angel of Capitalism.”
The Left and the Labour Movement grew from of an overwhelming social need to challenge the idea of a “natural order”, limits and the idea that human potential and aspirations must be constrained to preserve some kind of natural order. Karl Marx condemned the ideas of the miserabilist Thomas Malthus and the Social Darwinists, he would condemn the Green Party for the same reasons. Marx described Malthus’s ideas as a “libel on the human race” because they promoted the idea that human beings “cannot abolish poverty, because poverty has its base in nature.”
Nature is truly a many-splendoured thing, but three essential socialist principles will not be found anywhere in nature: democracy, rights and equality. This is an example of the is/ought distinction: regardless of what we may think “human nature” is, our moral decisions regarding how we ought to organise as a society are distinct- there’s a difference between what we are and who we are.
Sylvia Pankhurst summed up socialism as follows: “It means plenty for all. We do not preach a gospel of want and scarcity, but of abundance … We do not call for limitation of births, for penurious thrift, and self-denial. We call for a great production that will supply all, and more than all the people can consume.”
The Greens are proposing exactly the opposite of what Pankhurst and most socialists have called for, historically. The Greens call for scarcity, not abundance. They propose a limitation on births, always insisting that the world is overpopulated and resources are being diminished.
The Green party’s manifesto argues for zero, or even negative growth and falling levels of personal consumption. This would lead to recession; families would become materially poorer each year. After centuries of growing global connectivity, the Greens want to see greater national self-reliance. And whilst Labour prioritise job creation, the Greens argue that government policy should make paid work “less necessary”, with people making their living from the home-based “informal economy”. That is anti-progressive.
The Left is progressive and has an expansive, generous view of humanity, faith in our potential and holds a vision of a plentiful future. The Greens, by contrast, are in favour of adapting to austerity – incorporating a social philosophy of thrift, parsimony and self-denial.
The Left aim to liberate humankind from poverty , the Greens aim to encourage us to accommodate it.
In Brighton where the Greens have power in the council, they have been cutting services, disastrously, for the least well-off and caused a refuse collection strike when they clashed with the GMB union over pay – as chronicled by Labour Peer Lord Bassam.
Earlier this year the Green Party leadership in Brighton and Hove was defeated in its efforts to impose council tax increase of five per cent by a coalition of opposition parties, including Labour. The increase will affect the poorest the most.
After losing a vote of no confidence in the leadership, the Council was threatened with Whitehall humiliatingly stepping in if a budget could not be agreed. This is not the sort of responsible leadership that households in the midst of a cost-of-living crisis deserve.
As my friend Neil Schofield informs us, for a second year running, the Greens are proposing a substantial increase in Council Tax – next year of 5.9% – that would require the approval of a referendum. And the arguments are largely the same; that an increase of this magnitude is needed to offset the effects of austerity. He says:
“And the same arguments against such a rise apply this year too: that it is an entrenchment of austerity, using legislation designed to reduce the power of local authorities and to reduce them to hollowed-out commissioning bodies of a skeleton level of local services, provided by the lowest bidder; that it avoids the responsibilities that Councillors are elected to take; that it will make no real difference to the cuts faced by the city; it will hit hardest those who on low incomes who have seen their real incomes fall dramatically, in a city with some of the highest living costs in Europe; and that it is more about gesture politics than about effecting real change. “
The Green Party do not have an underpinning ideology that can be described as left-wing at all. Some of the historical and ideological links with far-right and fascist ideology are very worrying, because the links highlight a tension that needs to be addressed between environmentalism, social equality and justice.
This doesn’t imply the Green Party are fascists, but rather, it indicates a need to examine underpinning philosophies and explore how they may translate into social policies, and what the implications of those policies may be. It cannot be assumed that caring for the environment is automatically equated with caring for all human beings, as history has taught us.
The fact that the Greens have themselves chosen to regard the Labour Party as their “enemy” means that they don’t see a potential ally, yet they manage very well in coalition councils, working amicably side-by-side and cooperatively with Tory and Liberal Democrats.
If they did see the Left as a natural ally, they would join us and lobby for green policies through SERA, Labour’s green affiliate. Instead, the Green Party have chosen to aggressively campaign using a negative strategy, shamefully lying about Labour’s policies and proposals, all of which are costed and evidenced, in an attempt to bolster their own credibility. That in itself is a right-wing tactic, which ought to be raising alarm amongst supporters. The deeper implications of policies are also cause for concern.
Another worry is that one of the Green party’s key policy proposals – the universal basic income (or “citizen’s income”) – will adversely affect the poorest, and would in fact create more, not less, inequality and poverty.
The Citizen’s Income Trust (CIT), which has given advice to the Green party and been repeatedly cited by the Greens, has modelled its scheme and discovered it would mean 35.15% of households would be losers, with many of the biggest losers among the poorest households.
The trust’s research shows that for the two lowest disposable income deciles, more than one-fifth would suffer income losses of more than 10%, something one of the most left-wing parties in the election is unlikely to want to advocate.
The Green Party have already failed the people of Brighton and Hove. Don’t let them fail the people of Britain by voting Green next year and allowing the Tories to remain in government another five years. People are suffering and dying as a consequence of Tory austerity, we need to ensure that ends.
Waste your vote on the Green Party – or choose a green Labour government – Sadiq Khan
Brighton’s Greens, Council Tax and a disgraceful act of moral blackmail – Neil Schofield
The Green Party’s women problem – Neil Schofield
A few words about respect – Mike Sivier
The moment Ed Miliband said he’ll bring socialism back to Downing Street
Ecofascism: Deep Ecology and Right-Wing Co-optation
Green Fascism and the Greening of Hate – Derek Wall
“Paradoxically, while Greens argue for social justice and other left themes, environmentalism is often linked to the right. Hitler believed in a politics of hatred ordained by iron ‘laws of nature'”– Darker shades of green. Derek Wall traces the thread of ecofascism through the Green movement’s history. Derek is a member of the Green Party’s Anti-Fascist and Anti-Racist Network, author of Green History (Routledge 1994).
He notes the same tension as I do, between environmentalism and social justice/human rights. He discusses the environmentalism of the Nazis and the influence of Malthus’s ideas.
193 thoughts on “Greens: the myth of the “new left” debunked”
So at a time when the Tories and their LibDem stooges are doing their best to destroy everything worthwhile the Labour movement achieved in this country, you’re devoting your energies to fighting … the Greens … ?
Those are some pretty *&**ed up priorities you have there.
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There are going on for 300 articles on this site, and this is the only one I have written about the greens.
Perhaps if the green party fought the Tories as hard as I have, instead of attacking Labour and lying about Labour’s policies at every opportunity they can find, we may have made some progress.
You question my priorities, but have no grounds for doing so, I suggest you turn your critical eye to your own party and their behaviour, instead of being so outraged at what is, after all, simply one critical piece. Some of the responses on this thread indicate clearly that many in your party are incapable of democratic engagement, and resort instead to hurling abuse at individuals or you dress it up as ‘criticism’ that doesn’t actually have any grounding in reality. If only you’d have a glance there now and then. Engage with the article instead of bitching about the author.
I’m not a green supporter and I thought this was a terrible article. If your intention wasn’t to imply – or to allow people to infer – there’s a link between the Green Party and Nazis you shouldn’t have brought it up. Same with Malthusianisn and sustainable development.
By all means attack the political records of green councils but the woolly associatons you make read as the sort of electoral propaganda I’ve sadly seen more and more of in my own ward in the last 12 months.
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My point was that environmentalism in itself does not necessarily guarantee human rights, equality and social justice, nor can we assume that caring for the environment is ‘left-wing’. Furthermore, any discussion about population, consumption and the finite nature of resources has its roots in the ideas of Malthus. That in itself isn’t a problem. Firstly I pointed out that there is a tension between environmentalism and human rights, and that means at the level of social policy, it needs to be addressed, the Nazis were used as an example because they exemplified this very well. And my point about Malthus again was how those ideas translated into public policy – I pointed out the context, application and consequences of Malthus’s thinking. Again, these historical examples are nothing to do with ‘propaganda.’ The events I wrote about did happen, and the issues I raised are worth considering. Much of my work here examines ideologies and narratives – this is the first article I have written about Green ideology, however, so your accusation of ‘electoral propaganda’ is an unfounded one.
My intention in writing any article is that it will stimulate critical thinking. People tend to infer what they like, and that’s pretty much their own business. I’m not a journalist, I am a disability/human rights campaigner.
I do support the Labour party, for reasons outlined throughout my site, and I find it remarkable that the Greens have spent the last couple of years, at least, attacking Labour, perpetuating lies about Labour’s policies, some of which are downright outrageous, which have taken up time and effort in challenging with evidence. We need to be focused on the damage that the Tories are inflicting. Yet I write one reasoned and critical article and I get death threats.
Kudos to the Green Parliamentary candidate Tanya Jones, however, who actually engaged with the content of the piece and said “Thank you for the opportunity to debate these issues”. I respect her very much for that. And that response was the one I had hoped for.
Thank you for this, which I very much appreciate. Will you be putting my response up on your comment thread, please? If not, readers may like to read it at http://www.greenlassie.com . Meanwhile I am very sorry to read of the unpleasant messages you have received. In my experience, it is unlikely that these come from actual Green Party members – the people who get their kicks from sniping behind the safety of a screen rarely have the real life initiative to pay a subscription, much less get along to a meeting. That doesn’t make it any easier for you, though, and my thoughts are with you.
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Thank you very much for your response, Tanya, which is much appreciated.
Tanya is the sort of person I would vote for, and by her post I can read she is true Green, the posts from others show they are not.
I have seen a few Labour candidates that I would not stand against, indeed I publicly stood with Alan Simpson, ex MP of Nottingham South, during my election campaign. We need all the help we can get – co operation not competition. That is how nature works, ‘survival of the most troll-like’ does no one any good.
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And co-operation is at the heart of genuine socialism. Yes, Tanya represents the approach that I respect and admire.
On reflection, I think perhaps some of the aggressive comments may be fueled by fear, too. And under the circumstances, this past 4 years have given many of us very good reason to be fearful.
Here’s a post from some green nutjob – says it all:
Rachel Ellis “When I took the [http://voteforpolicies.org.uk] test I was shocked to see I agreed with a BNP policy.
I mostly agrees with the green party though and that’s who I will be voting for”
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It’s interesting that many Green supporters have strongly nationalist leanings, and we know the Greens are allied with the SNP. They share the same negative campaigning strategy, and nasty bullying of critics too.
I’ve not seen this at all, in fact most Green Party members I know seem to actively distrust the state.
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Is it me that owes you that explanation?
You are absolutely right about how the eugenicists adopted Malthusian ideology
This is from Galton
“. The practical application of the doctrine of deferred marriage would therefore lead indirectly to most mischievous results, that were overlooked owing to the neglect of considerations bearing on race. While criticising the main conclusion to which Malthus came, I must take the opportunity of paying my humble tribute of admiration to his great and original work, which seems to me like the rise of a morning star before a day of free social investigation. There is nothing whatever in his book that would be in the least offensive to this generation, but he wrote in advance of his time and consequently roused virulent attacks, notably from his fellow-clergymen, whose doctrinaire notions upon the paternal dispensation of the world were rudely shocked.
The misery check, as Malthus called all those influences that are not prudential, is an ugly phrase not fully justified. It no doubt includes death through inadequate food and shelter, through pestilence from overcrowding, through war, and the like; but it also includes many causes that do not deserve so hard a name. Population decays under conditions that cannot be charged to the presence or absence of misery, in the common sense of the word.”
Inquiries into Human Faculty and Its Development, by Francis Galton
I don’t think it could be clearer than that.
There is a lot of truth in this article about the Greens. The real green party hides behind Caroline Lucas. It has so far faced little scrutiny. I found it deeply misogynist. A few men making decisions in the pub. I complained about it but my complaint was ignored so the attacks on me worsened until i was ‘expelled’ and even after the SOC ruled my expulsion unconstitutional was refused a hearing. Now my partner is being expelled. All after attacks by the wales region of the green party person jag driving Bartolotti who calls her self ‘leader’ and promoted by the right wing misogynists because of her sheer ignorance and right wing views. For more See http://www.pippabartolotti.info/
Oddly the campaign against the ghastly Barlotti echoes some of the rumours spread around about me…the alleged link with the Nuclear Industry for example. Difference is I’ve never worked in ANY industry. My work was youth and community work with Local Authorities, and later, mental health social work with vulnerable young people.
Really sorry to read about your experiences, sounds absolutely horrific, Anne. And confirms my own worst suspicions. Absolutely vile bullying and anti-democratic principles.
This is a party claiming it has left credentials but behaves like the far-right. And even worse, they lie to capture votes from the genuine left to ensure another tory victory. It’s disgusting and people do need to know this.
Interesting that the misogynists are backing a woman.
Some of the worst misogynists I know are women….
I *love* how you start by complaining how Greens ‘aggressively campaign using a negative strategy’, and then spend most of the rest of the post comparing the party with the Nazis.
Can you quote the part of the article where I have compared the Green Party to the Nazis please?
I’d also recommend you read Derek Walls’ work linked at the foot of my article, he traces the green movement back to the ‘blood and soil’ philosophy of the Nazis,and links Green philosophy with Malthus, as I did. Derek is a Green Party member. Oddly he didn’t get a couple of hundred comments of knee-jerk responses and peppered with abuse on his own article. You may, therefore, want to question your motives here.
I explored the tension between environmentalism, human rights, equality and social justice. This is an important issue because how ideologies are translated into policy often has profound and far-reaching social consequences. Hence the exploration of Malthus and Nazi ideas and how these were tranlsated into policies.
I discussed the environmentalism and “blood and soil” philosophy underpinning the Volk and Nazi movements, the Nazis being an exemplar of the problematic issues I raised. That is not the same as comparing the Green Party with Nazis.
I also discussed Malthus, and his ideas on population growth and the finite nature of resources. I linked some of the Green philosophy and policies with Malthus’s ideas. My point was that it is not the ideas in themselves that are problematic: it is the context, the application, the way those ideas are translated via policy and the consequences that warrants some discussion.
If you have any evidence to refute what I ACTUALLY wrote, please feel free to post it
Its not a critique if you dont understand what you are talking about.
Human rights and social justice are inherent to The Green Party.
Really? I don’t see much emphasis on them (rights and justice) in the Green Manifesto at all. Hence my article. You can disagree by all means, but it doesn’t work as a valid criticism to simply say “you don’t know what you’re talking about”. That’s simply a rubbish attempt at debate and engagement. Post your evidence and a reasoned argument, by all means. Try a democratic and respectful approach. Sniping at the author isn’t debate. And it’s become a trait of the Green Party – personalised smearing and claims that no-one knows what they are talking about. Except for the Greens, presumably. If as a party, you cannot explain your own policies clearly, the fault ain’t mine.
As an observation on this comment thread and elsewhere, I see no evidence, either, that those attracted to the Green Party VALUE human rights, equality and democracy. The majority of green supporters I’ve encountered are authoritarian thinkers, with no capacity to take on board other people’s opinions, or to respect anyone elses’ right to express differing opinions. That doesn’t bode well.