Tag: progressive

Sturgeon’s threats demonstrate the anti-democratic, uncooperative inflexibility of nationalism

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Thanks to Dr Éoin Clarke for the infographic

Nicola Sturgeon threatened that she would be prepared to have her MPs vote down a Labour Budget if Ed Miliband was not prepared to cut a deal with the Nationalists at Westminster. Taking part in a live televised debate in Edinburgh with the leaders of the other three main Scottish parties, Ms Sturgeon said she intended to block Labour’s first Budget before negotiating a series of amendments. The Scottish National Party (SNP) leader’s position, revealed just days ahead of Thursday’s general election, was immediately seized upon by the Conservatives as the tedious stuck record styled electioneering “evidence” yet again that a Labour government supported by Ms Sturgeon’s party would result in “absolute chaos” for the country.

Bravo, Nicola Sturgeon. She seems determined to allow a Conservatve victory because of her constant and unqualified attacks on the Labour Party, the issuing of threats like this one, and the perpetuation of nationalist myths aimed at undermining the chance of a Labour victory. It’s bad enough with the Tories’ scaremongering in the press about the prospect of a Labour/Scottish National Party coalition, without Sturgeon fueling it.

I have to add that Cameron’s claim, repeated ad nauseum, that a minority Labour government would be held hostage by the SNP is purely propagandarised tosh. The truth is that the SNP will not in reality be able to hold a minority Labour government hostage unless the Tories allow them to do so, because of course, the Tories also get to vote on things like budgets, defence and so forth, in Parliament.

Scottish Labour leader Jim Murphy said that Sturgeon had already threatened to block his party’s Queen’s Speech.

It’s worth a reminder at this point that crucially, the Scottish National Party’s spending plans imply deeper cuts than Labour’s plans entail over the next five years, as the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) said in a report last month, highlighting a “considerable disconnect” between the nationalists’ rhetoric on austerity and their policies.

“The “anti-austerity rhetoric” of the Scottish National Party is not matched by its detailed spending plans and it would impose deeper cuts than Labour,” said the respected independent fiscal watchdog. The IFS also said that austerity would last longer under the SNP than under the other parties.

Furthermore, the IFS stated: “There is a considerable disconnect between this [SNP] rhetoric and their stated plans for total spending, which imply a lower level of spending by 2019–20 than Labour’s plans.”

This exposes Nicola Sturgeon’s attempt to portray Labour as “Tory-lite” on spending cuts for the outright lie that it is. Sturgeon is no longer credible on every claim she has made, parading the SNP as the only alternative to austerity. In plain language, Carl Emmerson, deputy Director of the IFS said: “There would be more spending cuts under the SNP than under Labour or the Liberal Democrats according to the numbers in the SNP manifesto.”

Shadow Scottish Secretary and Scottish Labour Glasgow East candidate Margaret Curran said: “For all the bombast and the bluster of the SNP it has now been conclusively shown that their anti-austerity posturing is nothing more than a front. Their plans would extend austerity and harm Scotland. And as is always the case the cuts would be felt by the poorest and most vulnerable in our communities. We cannot let that happen.”

She added: “The choice is now simple – continued austerity with the SNP, or an end to Tory austerity with Scottish Labour.”

Nicola Sturgeon claimed to have committed her party to kicking the Tories out of Downing Street. It might be a tad tricky for her to explain to her supporters a Commons vote which could, in theory, allow the Tories back in again. That’s why, it’s was a positive move on Miliband’s part to call her bluff.

And let’s look carefully at the details: Milband has not ruled out the possibility of discussions, consultations, or taking into consideration SNP views when framing future legislation. But he has made it clear he will not be manipulated or threatened.

The Conservative plans to eliminate the deficit implied at least £10bn a year of unspecified cuts to child benefit, tax credits, housing benefit, disability benefits and other working age benefits out of a total budget of about £100bn,” the IFS said in their report

Even if these cuts were achieved, the Tories would have to cut unprotected departments’ budgets by another 18 per cent in real terms, about the same amount again as over the past five years. These cuts are also unspecified by the Conservatives, who have chosen, undemocratically, to hide the details from the electorate. We simply cannot risk another term of devastating Tory cuts to our welfare, public services and the NHS. Especially considering that risk would be founded on misinformation and lies.

Sturgeon’s most recent revelation that the party could bring the Budget of a Labour government down came under fire from Kezia Dugdale, Labour’s deputy leader in Scotland.

Ms Dugdale said: “Many people who have trusted Nicola Sturgeon will be shocked to hear her say she will vote down a ­Labour Budget. A Budget which will bring in measures such as the mansion tax and the bankers’ bonus tax.

“This shows that the people of Scotland should not gamble with the SNP.”

Ed Miliband, a principled internationalist, said: “Nationalism never built a school. It never lifted people out of poverty. It never created a welfare state that healed the sick and protected our most vulnerable. Nationalism cannot create the jobs we need.”

“Labour believes in “the principles of sharing and solidarity”, he added, “that underpin the partnerships of four nations in the modern UK.”

He said: “If we set England against Scotland, if we set any part of our country against another, it does not help working people, it harms working people. It undermines the ability to share resources. It drives down wages and conditions in the race to the bottom.”

Mr Miliband hit back at Ms Sturgeon’s claims that if Labour “fails to work with the SNP,” this would see David Cameron win a second term as Prime Minister. He added that if the Scottish Nationalists win dozens of seats from Labour in Scotland, this would increase Tory chances of being the largest party.

Mr Miliband vowed: “I will never put the Tories into government. I have spent my entire political career fighting them.”

However Nicola Sturgeon has spent most of her career fighting the Labour Party and propagating lies about them. (See A crib sheet of responses to the crib sheet of lies about the Labour Party: Part one and Part Two.)

Sturgeon has suggested that though the SNP could be relied upon to help “lock out” the Tories from power, she would “be inclined,” if voting in England, to endorse the Greens.

Doing the latter, it should be observed, makes achieving the former rather less likely. The more Green MPs there are the fewer Labour MPs there are and the fewer Labour MPs there are the more probable it is that David Cameron somehow stumbles his way into a second term. Sturgeon has some strange logic.

Given that the IFS have said that the true scale of the gap between Labour and the Tories has been further revealed – director Paul Johnson said at the post-Budget briefing: “Our latest estimates suggest that Labour would be able to meet its fiscal targets with no cuts at all after 2015-16,” Sturgeon’s ridiculously unevidenced, pure electioneering claim that Labour are “Tory-lite” – so easily refuted – is just one of the many lies she has told, and gives us good reason not to trust her.

If the SNP remain so aggressively uncompromising, divisive, chancing manipulation instead of cooperation, they will usher in another Tory government at Westminster, and in that event, they will certainly face paying a heavy political price among their supporters – as happened in 1979. Unfortunately, the rest of the UK will also pay a heavy price.

Despite Sturgeon’s undoubted rhetoric skill, Scottish nationalism continues to be what all nationalism always has been: parochial, vicious, ugly, divisive and insular. It’s evident that this has fostered a narrow tribalism, an inability to negotiate, or to build cooperation, and an inability to understand and comprehend the rational, logic and legitimacy of differing opinions, which is very evident in the non-democratic threats that Sturgeon has issued. It’s a pity she doesn’t oppose the Conservatives, rather than attacking the only viable progressive party for the UK. Sturgeon presents a superficial progressive rhetoric with no integrity, and no grounding in reality. The SNP’s self-claimed progressive credentials don’t stand up to scrutiny. When Sturgeon was asked at her manifesto launch to name a redistributive policy enacted by the SNP in Holyrood, she was unable to cite a single example.

Sturgeon simply chats about progressive ideas to advance the regressive goal of separatism. It’s all style, with no real substance at all. Other than a clan SNP nationalist agenda.

For people living in England, NOTHING is more important than getting the Tories out. I suspect that is true for many in Scotland, too.  So please make sure that your vote is a considered, informed and responsible one. If the Tories get another term, we will lose all of the gains of our post-war settlement. We will see our Human Rights Act repealed, (Labour’s legislation, and Cameron has also pledged to leave the European Convention.) That is why we MUST ensure that the Tories don’t get the opportunity, preferably ever again.

The only sure way of defeating the Tories is with a Labour majority.

Related

The real progressive in the leader’s debate is Ed Miliband

SNP appeal to Tory voters: We are just like you

If you think the SNP are a left-wing force, think again – David Clark


 Many thanks to Robert Livingstone for his excellent memes

The real progressive in the leader’s debate is Ed Miliband

Ed Miliband has faced some vicious opposition over the past five years. Not just from the Tories, the press, big business and the establishment, but from the rival fringe parties claiming to be on the left. It’s because Miliband wants to create a new post-Thatcherite settlement for Britain. The Labour manifesto clearly signposts that intention.

Miliband understands that the growing chasm between the incomes of rich and poor and obscene levels of wealth inequality have shown that political collaboration with the wealthy has not delivered any “trickle down” to the poorest at all. As a society, we cannot afford to indulge the millionaires’ something for nothing culture.

We all know by now that despite the fact that our economy was in recovery from the consequences of the global crisis by the last quarter of 2009, due to the competence of the previous government, the Tories duped the public, using a narrative founded on panic-mongering and malicious lies  about an “economic firestorm” and “financial mess” to formulate further justification for redrafting the social contract on behalf of the elite, and extending an exclusive, undemocratic politics of privilege.

(See A list of official rebukes for Tory lies to appreciate something of the full extent of recognised lies the government have told the public.)

The cosseted elite are now engaged in an all out war to maintain the socio-economic status quo. Firstly they know that Ed Miliband has edited their script, abandoning the free-market fundamentalist consensus established by Thatcherism in favour of social democracy.

Secondly, the right-wing media barons who set the terms of what is deemed politically palatable, and who frame the parameters of debate in Britain have never forgiven Ed Miliband for his endorsement of Leveson, which they regard as an unacceptable threat to their power.

Thirdly, they know Labour under Ed Miliband is likely to win the 2015 election.

The fringe “alternative left” parties in competition for Labour votes have focused debate on the issue of cuts they claim Labour are proposing, which perhaps purposefully misses the more important point: Miliband’s whole approach to government isn’t about austerity at all: it’s about changing the status quo by shifting the balance of how the economy works and adjusting who the economy works for.

It struck me, listening to the televised debate earlier, that Miliband needs to reclaim the word “progressive” from those parties such as the Scottish Nationalists and the Greens, especially given that his economic plan and redistributive tax policies are the most progressive of all the opposition parties.

Indeed Miliband has bravely chosen to rehabilitate the word “taxation” and reintroduce the fundamental post-war settlement tenet that in order to have civilised and sustainable public services, everyone has to contribute their share, and the burden should not be placed on the poorest via consumption taxes (VAT for example) and policies such as the punitive, unfair bedroom tax. Wealthy people and big businesses, after all, use our infrastructure: roads, railways, schools, hospitals and other services. Yet far too many consider the very idea of paying income or corporation tax worthy of moral outrage. The real outrage is the Thatcherite consensus that social responsibility and duty should be regarded only as a moral framework for the vulnerable: the obligations of only the poorest.

During the televised debate, the fringe party leaders regurgitated electioneering lies, too. For example, Natalie Bennett deliberately misquoted Rachel Reeves, and not for the first time, claiming that Labour “ignored” the plight of those on benefits. (See Anyone worried about protecting the welfare state should concentrate on kicking out the Tories – Debbie Abrahams, which addresses this misquote, Labour would end this Government’s demonisation of benefits claimants – Chi Onwurah MP and Labour demand big improvements to Work Capability Assessments – by Kate Green.)

Miliband was accused by Farage of introducing Private Finance Initiatives (PFI), adding a “creeping” and “back door” privatisation element to the NHS, under New Labour, when in fact it was John Major that introduced PFI in 1992.

A priceless claim from Farage, since he does not want an NHS. Farage wants an Americanised private insurance system.

Sturgeon parroted the lie that the Labour Party had “voted with the Tories” for cuts totalling “£30 Billion,” accusing Miliband of being “Tory lite.” As was pointed out by Miliband, and again, later, on Question Time by Yvette Cooper, the Hansard record shows clearly that the vote was not about cuts, nor did the motion contain any reference to any sums of money.

However, the debate surprised me in that Miliband was not attacked quite as vigorously or as much as anticipated. Farage drew the most fire, causing deep discomfort amongst the audience and other leaders with his dogged and prejudiced pursuit of single issue politics, he was accused, rightly, of being divisive. Farage managed to further alienate UKIP by patronising Sturgeon and Bennett on the issue of immigration, and accusing both the studio audience and the BBC itself of “heavy left-wing bias.” Laugh out loud.

Leanne Wood responded scathingly to Farage’s anti-immigration rhetoric with: “Well I would disagree with my friend on the far right,” which met with applause and cheers from the audience, at her capturing of a neat double meaning.

Farage claimed: “My opponents are abusing me,” moments after he had himself been abusive towards the audience and other leaders, to which Wood responded with: “You abuse immigrants and those with HIV and then complain UKIP is being abused,” with deep disdain evident in her voice.

Miliband, described by many political commentators as the only prime ministerial party leader, responded in a measured, honest way to Farage’s drone about immigration with:  “The problem is, Nigel, you exploit people’s fears rather than addressing them,” raising more applause and cheers from the audience and creating a moment of tangible solidarity amongst the left leaders. Farage’s usual swagger departed.

On the subject of defence, the SNP, the Greens and Plaid Cymru are clear that they would not renew Trident. However, it’s worth bearing in mind that the general public are not inclined towards unilateralism, no matter how persuasive the proposition and reasoning is. Labour have long-standing and close ties with the CND, but their previous unilateral disarmament philosophy lost them two elections, they were therefore pushed to adopt a position of multilateralism. That’s a by-product of genuine democracy. This said, some 75% of Labour parliamentary candidates do not support the renewal of Trident.

By far the most memorable moment of the debate came when Nicola Sturgeon declared that she will do anything to “kick the Tories out” – including proposing a coalition with a party she’s spent years fighting and telling lies about – she’ll do anything, except of course to honourably put aside electioneering for her own party in an election it can never win, to kick the Tories out.

She had previously said: “If Labour won’t be bold enough I think people should vote for parties that would hold them to account.”  As Ed Miliband pointed out, she meant vote SNP in Scotland, Green in England, Plaid in Wales, as she has previously urged the electorate, thus increasing the likelihood of another Tory government.

Sturgeon attempted to turn conventional wisdom on its head, despite her previous appeal to voters to fritter away the opportunity to get shot of the Tories, she proposed a Labour/SNP coalition, pleading: “We have a chance to kick David Cameron out of Downing Street. Don’t turn your back on that. People will never forgive you.”

Miliband, turning conventional wisdom the right way up again, gave a powerfully forthright response: “You fought Labour all your life, Nicola,” he said, adding: “I’ve fought the Tories all my life.”

“You want to gamble on getting rid of a Tory government; I can guarantee getting rid of a Tory government.”

“I’ve got fundamental disagreements with you, Nicola, because in the last few weeks you’ve revealed that you haven’t ruled out having a second referendum,” he said.

“We have profound differences – that’s why I’m not going to have a second coalition with the SNP, because I’m never going to put at risk our United Kingdom.”

Sturgeon has said that the SNP would not form a coalition with Labour, or agree a confidence and supply deal, without a deal on Trident, and Miliband has said categorically that it’s not on offer. That means that, effectively, that the SNP is reduced to supporting Labour on a confidence motion and then restricted in dealing with everything else on a case by case basis.

And if the SNP are genuinely not prepared to let in the Tories, they will support Labour on a confidence motion. It was difficult to miss the hint of pleading in Sturgeon’s pitch at the end the debate.  Miliband is in the much stronger position.

Miliband reminded Sturgeon that the SNP worked with the Tories in Edinburgh, their vote in 1979 put Thatcher in office.

Sturgeon isn’t consistent: either it doesn’t matter whether Labour or the Conservatives win the election or it does. Half the time the SNP would like you to believe it makes no difference; the rest of the time they acknowledge it does. Which is why we see ludicrous contradictions like the SNP leader advocating a vote for the Greens – a vote that, if delivered, would render the SNP’s notionally-preferred outcome less, not more, likely.

So, my enemies’ enemy is not always my friend, except when he can be useful. Now that’s a career politician who claims far too loudly that she isn’t.  Ho hum.

LP card
Many thanks to Robert Livingstone for his excellent memes.

And one more thing. Mr Cameron:

A country where the next generation is doing worse than their parents is the definition of a country in decline – Ed Miliband

63268_113108112092059_4514415_n (1)Labour pledges to cut tuition fees

Ed Miliband has confirmed that if elected, Labour will cut tuition fees in England to £6,000 from autumn 2016. He has also promised that the policy would be non-negotiable in the event of a coalition. Mr Miliband explained that the fee cut would be funded by reducing tax relief on pensions for those earning more than £150,000 per year.

Speaking in Leeds, at the College of Music, Mr Miliband said that the tripling of higher education fees by he Coalition has been a “betrayal of an entire generation”, as students struggled with average debts of $44,000. He added that Nick Clegg’s broken promise to abolish university fees caused young people to doubt anyone in politics can be trusted.

“I made you a promise on tuition fees. I will keep my promise,” Miliband has vowed.

Non-repayable maintenance grants would also be extended by £400 per year for families with a total income below £42,000, to help cover students’ living costs.

The National Union of Students (NUS) has welcomed plans for a cut in fees.

“Forcing debt on to students as a way of funding universities is an experiment that has failed,” said NUS vice president, Megan Dunn.

“Higher education is a public good which should be publicly funded and shouldn’t involve any additional charges for students or graduates, but lowering tuition fees and a move away from the market in higher education is a positive step forward.

We would also welcome any improved financial support measures like an increase in maintenance loans, as we know that students are currently in the throes of a cost-of-living crisis.”

Ed Miliband set out the true cost of the Government’s disastrous tuition fees policy which has not only burdened graduates with debts unimaginable for previous generations – but the taxpayer, also, with billions of pounds more in national debt.

In his speech in Leeds, he warned that young people have been betrayed by this Government from their first days in school through declining training opportunities, the trebling of tuition fees, rising housing costs and even changes in voting registration which is denying them a voice in the coming election.

Unveiling Labour’s fourth election pledge, he set out details of Labour’s Zero-Based Review into Higher Education funding which show that under the system introduced by this government:

  • A total of £281 billion will have been added to the national debt by 2030.
  • Students will graduate with an average of £44,000 of debt.
  • National debt will grow by £16bn more by the end of the next parliament than the Government predicted only a year ago.
  • Write-offs from student loans are set to jump to £21bn a year over the next three decades – almost double the total spent now on police services in England and Wales.

Key extracts from the speech:

Ed Miliband said that this is the first time in almost a century when the next generation cannot expect to do better than the last – a huge issue not just for young people themselves but for their parents and grandparents too.

This used to be a country where it was almost taken for granted that the next generation would do better than the last. This was the Promise of Britain. Now we are a country where it is almost taken for granted they will do worse. 

This is a promise unfulfilled: all that talent, ambition, hope for the future going to waste. Plans put to one side, dreams dashed; the Promise of Britain is being broken. Today I appeal to every parent and grandparent in  Britain: we can turn this around for your children and your grandchildren. None of us want to see our kids treated like this. 

This is a disaster for them and a disaster for the future of Britain too –  a country where the next generation is doing worse than their parents is the definition of a country in decline.”

Ed Miliband said the Government is responsible for a betrayal of  young people.

“What has happened over the last five years is more than just a betrayal of election promises, it is a betrayal of an entire generation: a betrayal from their first steps to the time when they stride into the world of work; a betrayal from nursery to school, from college to university, a betrayal to the jobs or homes they hope to have afterwards – and even on their ability to vote.”

Ed Miliband criticises the Government for failing to act.

“All the young people of Britain have had from government during the last five years is blame, denial and broken promises. Young people out of work? Blame them for not making an effort. Apprenticeships for young people falling? Rebadge some training schemes for older workers and claim they’re going up. 

The cost of going to university? Promise one thing in an election and deliver exactly the opposite immediately after. Worried about being held to account by young people for all those broken promises?  Change the rules and it is harder for them to vote.”

Ed Miliband set out how the trebling of tuition fees has affected millions of young people.

“We all know that under David Cameron and Nick Clegg the fee cap for full-time undergraduates was trebled to £9,000 per year. With most universities charging close to the maximum, graduates now leave university with more than £44,000 debt on average. 

My generation would never have imagined beginning our adult life with that amount of debt. But this government expects it of this generation.”

Ed Miliband said this is not just burdening young people with debt but also the taxpayer.

“Today we are publishing our Zero Based Review into the current tuition fees system. Its findings are stark. It reveals beyond doubt that the scourge of debt is not just holding back young people, it is holding back our country. 

The Government has designed a system which is burdening students with debt today and set to weight down the taxpayer with more debt tomorrow.

This is a system that will have added an extra £16 billion more than predicted to public debt by the end of the next Parliament. If left unchecked the system will have added £281 billion to debt by 2030. And much of this money will never be paid back.  

By the late 2040s student loan write-offs will be hitting £21 billion a year – almost double the entire cost of police services in England and Wales. It must go down as one of the most expensive broken promises in history.”

We must extend equal opportunities to young people, widening access to higher education is one way of doing this. It also ensures we progress as an inclusive society, each generation building on the achievements of the last.

Full text: Ed Miliband’s speech pledging tuition fees cut.

rob miliFabulous memes by Robert Livingstone

Greens: the myth of the “new left” debunked

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Introduction.

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.  scroll2
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.

Related

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.