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Ian Angus
Ian Angus

UK Greens shift left

The Green Party of England and Wales is bucking a trend. While its counterparts in many other countries have moved right, abandoning even the most limited commitment to equality and justice, the UK party has amended its statement of principles (called the “Philosophical Basis”) to put social and environmental justice at the top of its agenda.

The amendments, drafted by Josiah Mortimer, Nick Devlin and Alfie van den Bos of the University of York University Green Party, with input from Young Greens around the country, were approved by over 70% of the delegates at the party’s convention in Nottingham, February 22-25. Most of the Young Green delegates, a quarter of those participating, supported the change.

The change has been hailed as “Clause IV in reverse,” a reference to the Labour Party’s notorious 1995 decision to remove references to nationalization from its constitution, an action that is seen as that party’s ultimate capitulation to neoliberalism.

Prior to the convention, the Preamble to the Green Party’s Philosophical Basis read:

“Life on Earth is under immense pressure. It is human activity, more than anything else, which is threatening the well-being of the environment on which we depend. Conventional politics has failed us because its values are fundamentally flawed.

“The Green Party isn’t just another political party. Green politics is a new and radical kind of politics guided by these core principles:”

The amended Preamble reads:

“A system based on inequality and exploitation is threatening the future of the planet on which we depend, and encouraging reckless and environmentally damaging consumerism.

“A world based on cooperation and democracy would prioritise the many, not the few, and would not risk the planet’s future with environmental destruction and unsustainable consumption.

“The Green Party isn’t just another political party. Green politics is a new and radical kind of politics guided by these core principles:”

This marks an important shift, away from blaming “humans” in general, and towards addressing the systemic and class basis of environmental destruction.

That emphasis continues in a new first clause following the preamble:

“The Green Party is a party of social and environmental justice, which supports a radical transformation of society for the benefit of all, and for the planet as a whole. We understand that the threats to economic, social and environmental wellbeing are part of the same problem, and recognise that solving one of these crises cannot be achieved without solving the others.”

The changes obviously don’t commit the party to all-out anti-capitalist action, but they are a move in the right direction. They will undoubtedly make the Greens more attractive to young environmentally-conscious radicals who view the Labour Party as just another voice of corporate capitalism.

I’ll be watching closely to see how those radicals turn the convention’s resolutions into effective action for social and environmental justice.

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