Green Party: vehicle for the British left?


12:19 pm - November 11th 2007

by Dave Osler    


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The website of Red Pepper magazine is currently hosting a debate on whether or not the democratic left should fill out Green Party membership application forms. The opening shot is written by gay rights activist Peter Tatchell, a former Labour parliamentary candidate who will contest Oxford East for the Greens at the next general election. Other contributions come from Clare Short. Jon Cruddas, Chris Smith and Neal Lawson. Here’s the case I make for being a member of New Labour, despite and not because of its track record in office:

Greetings from member L0093001 of Hackney North and Stoke Newington CLP. Yes, after devoting most of my political energies for over a decade to arguing and actively working for a new political party of the left – even writing a book making an extended case as to why such a party is essential – I last year decided to rejoin the Labour Party.

That’s right, the same party that sent British troops to Iraq; the same party that scrapped student grants, in what must rank as the single most socially regressive piece of legislation introduced by any UK government since 1945; and the same party that has produced a succession of racist semi-Stalinist and fully-Stalinist home secretaries that continue to rein in civil liberties.

And let me make it clear – and I really must, because I am a former Trotskyist – that I haven’t taken out a card in the expectation that New Labour can eventually be converted into a revolutionary party, or that a revolutionary tendency can be built within it. Both those ideas so evidently infantile as not to be worth a moment’s consideration.

Nor will I be trying to ‘reclaim New Labour from the Blairites’, because that cannot be done, either. The changes within Labour’s internal structures have sealed off, once and for, any possibility of re-running the late seventies and early eighties. More’s the pity; the rock music of the period was infinitely superior to anything being recorded today.

Every single one of the criticisms Peter Tatchell levels at New Labour in ‘Green is the new red’ is unarguably correct. Blair and Brown have indeed thrashed the last vestiges of labour movement democracy, and on many issues, out-Thatchered Thatcher. None of this is in dispute.

It’s not even that I am particularly in tune with majority thinking on the much reduced Labour left, which still conceives of socialist utopia as a nationalised gas industry. For most of these people, it is as if globalisation, the collapse of communism, political Islam and global warming had never happened.

As a result, they automatically fail politically, because their backward-looking bureaucratic outlook condemns them in advance to fail. Small wonder they were unable to mount a serious fight against Blairism; it is because they couldn’t advance a viable alternative set of ideas.

That brings me to the reason I ate humble pie and filled out the standing order form to New Labour. Developing that alternative set of ideas strikes me as the most constructive thing democratic socialists can now be doing.

And the party that still commands majority support among the progressive electorate and the affiliation of the majority of the trade union movement is the best place it can undertake this task.

Obviously I regard leftwing Greens such as Peter and principle male speaker Derek Wall as comrades, on the assumption that one is allowed to use such a term in this context. It’s just that I do not think the Green Party can ever become a popular front for the achievement of socialism by stealth.

It remains small, and displays no sign of an ability to attain the critical mass it needs to become a serious factor in British politics, or even to build a base of support in the working class.

What’s more, historical experience shows that where Green parties do take off, they leave their radicalism well behind. The Realos take over from the Fundis, and the one-time soixante-huitard peaceniks end up cheerleading Nato bombing campaigns from the comfort of their ministerial limos.

Let me draw an analogy between the current situation of the serious left and that faced by the intelligent free market right in the 1950s, the hey-day of Keynesianism. At that time, it looked as if all argument over political economy was over for good.

The reaction by the most far-thinking devotees of the Austrian economists was to form think tanks and slowly propagate their world view from within the Conservative Party. It took about 20 years to come to fruition, but ultimately, the strategy worked.

Our ideas – including expanded trade union rights, public ownership and workers’ control, left libertarian social policies that would cause instant myocardial infarction among Daily Mail leader writers, a foreign policy that consistently promotes democracy and sustainable development, and the realisation that the environment is the most important issue facing humanity today – are relevant.

Indeed, they offer the only way out of the impasse. But before they can be put into action, they have to be rearticulated into policies geared to today’s world. That is, of course, a limited horizon, especially compared to preparing for world revolution. But then, these are times when limited horizons surely trump strategic dead ends.

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About the author
Dave Osler is a regular contributor. He is a British journalist and author, ex-punk and ex-Trot. Also at: Dave's Part
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Story Filed Under: Debates ,Green party ,Lib-left future ,Westminster

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Reader comments


Let’s have more of the ideas and less of the fantasy politics then! The world has no shortage of armchair generals (or, for that matter, armchair subcommandantes), whereas there does seem to be a demonstrable lack of new ideas. Let’s hear a bit more about the details of expanded trade union rights, public ownership and workers’ control that you’d like to see, and less about the grand strategy for achieving these things.

Well, support for the trade union freedom bill and better workplace protection for people who have very few other bargaining chips in the current environment would probably be a starter.

It’d also be nice to try and create an environment where people stopped acting like you were out to lunch just because you thought low-paid people were getting the rough end of it, etc. Not talking about you here, Rob: referring to the world in general. I work in the private sector myself, and people there look at you in horror when you suggest that people at the bottom of the capitalist pile might have cause for complaint. ‘Unemployment is really low,’ they say. And they’re right. It is. It’s just that some salaries are really low as well.

I do like the general idea of the trade union freedom bill, though, and of balancing the workplace a little more in favour of low-paid people who have no means of defending themselves against the worst aspects of capitalism, except by withdrawing their labour. I also like the idea of writing to all of Labour’s union-sponsored MPs and asking them for their views on the bill and repealing anti-trade union laws. Maybe that’s a reasonable start?

A brilliant start to your blogging here Dave. This is exactly what needs to be done – generating new ideas and propagating them for a new Britain.

It’s not even that I am particularly in tune with majority thinking on the much reduced Labour left, which still conceives of socialist utopia as a nationalised gas industry. For most of these people, it is as if globalisation, the collapse of communism, political Islam and global warming had never happened.

As a result, they automatically fail politically, because their backward-looking bureaucratic outlook condemns them in advance to fail. Small wonder they were unable to mount a serious fight against Blairism; it is because they couldn’t advance a viable alternative set of ideas.

Completely agree with this too.

I think is also my problem with the Greens broadly. They have great ideals and suggestions on sustainable living, but most Green events I’ve been too are too obsessed with anti-capitalism for me to take them too seriously in a broader governmental context.

Rob: Let’s hear a bit more about the details of expanded trade union rights, public ownership and workers’ control that you’d like to see, and less about the grand strategy for achieving these things.

If that is referring to LibCon, don’t worry it’s all part of the plan 😉

I’m not a member of a political party, so that maybe says something about my personality and thus informs what I’m about to say:

Surely, one should join (or not) a party on the basis of some level of agreement with their core principles? There will always be a need for some compromise over particular policies (unless you intend to form a party of one!) but in the end you have to assess what the party seems to stand for and then decide if you want to support it.

Of course, that rather sums it up for voting, but putting in blood, sweat and tears as a party volunteer has the payback that you can influence the direction of the party. However, I would contend that you can discern particular things about various parties that you are unlikely to change.

Now after the New Labour experiment one can wonder “what is sacred to a political party?” but I think it’s fair to say that if one chooses “a major party” in any country, then one of the elements for calculation is “political reality.” I’ll come back to this later, but if you commit to a major party you are committing to moving at the speed of the majority, a lot of the time.

If one commits to the Green Party, I think it’s fair to say you can campaign for policies much further from the “mediated mainstream” but equally, the core principles are not going to change much because of “mainstream pressure.” So, I think one can discern a core of Green policies about the environment vs. economy tradeoff that you either support or you don’t. And if you do, then the Greens can be for you, but you don’t they probably aren’t.

Yes, it’s plausible in some countries that a minor party hits the big time. But, here in the UK under First Past The Post? Not so much, so that kind of transition probably isn’t worth worrying about at the same level, at least right now.

And that brings me back to the “mediated mainstream.” In various ways, the discourse in the UK has diverged from that in continental Europe in terms of the influence of “the left.” Now, I think David Osler is correct that this is the result of a lot of think-tank work to spread the gospels of various dead economists. And if we want a brighter, more progressive future, winning the battle of ideas is just as important as party affiliation. After all, one important complaint is that the New Labour project is just another of “Thatcher’s Children.” The aim has to be in part to make a future where all the political parties are in part “Progressive’s Children.”

Joining the Greens with the express intention of making them the new “Old Labour” doesn’t seem all that productive in that sense. If you believe that the Greens have the best policies for the future, then join them, but if not, better to either start a new party or work to reclaim one that has a heritage of standing for the same things as you…

I agree, we need practical ideas, not just left or green rhetoric.

I also agree that a green socialist project should be about the structural transformation of capitalism – on democratic, justice and environmental grounds.

Sadly, defensive struggles (like save the NHS, stop job losses etc) seem to characterise everyone from the trade union movement to the Labour Left and the SWP/Respect.

As a red-green, I want to go on the offensive for social transformation, not merely defend what we’ve got or make the existing economic system a bit more palatable.

Our aim should be to secure economic democracy, reconfigure the balance between labour and capital, and redistribute wealth and power. These transformations are necessary to solve endemic problems / injustices, like climate change, the lack of affordable housing, mass hunger in the developing world etc.

Alas, a practical and radical agenda for social transformation is almost entirely absent from the left.

I don’t have blue-print or all the answers, but my article on economic democracy, which was published in Tribune in the summer , is an attempt to look at ways to begin the process of social transition – to put the common good before private privilege.

I have drawn on some old ideas that have, sadly, mostly fallen out of fashion among progressives.

Click here to read my article:
http://www.petertatchell.net/socialjustice/economicdemocracy.htm

These ideas are not perfect, but perhaps they are a start?

Solidarity! Peter

7. Innocent Abroad

The left has always been clear about the nature of oppression and discrimination – the facts of the matter: where it has fallen down is in the nature of its narrative. And it is narrative that leads to political success or failure, whether the facts fit it or not.

The right has triumphed on this matter of narrative: it offers the prospect of material success as the be-all and end-all of life. We may find this kind of “success” tedious, but it is based in the very human characteristics of fear and greed, to which none of us are immune.

Utopian socialism knew all about this, which is why it proposed a narrative of love. But the political realities, together with a certain carelesness on the part of the left’s leaders, ground down its hope of fraternity into the granite of solidarity – a depersonalisation inevitable with fetishization of “the masses”. And utopian liberalism was too weak to prevent the pursuit of happiness degrading into the more or less addictive pursuit of pleasure.

The narrative of the left is, rather, a narrative of struggle – acutely summed up by Joan Baez as “little victories, big defeats”. After a while, each of us becomes either addicted to struggle as an end in itself (George Galloway) or we retire to cultivate our gardens, contemplate our navels or whatever. As a narrative, it simply isn’t sustaining enough.

We do not need to repeat past mistakes. Addressing ourselves to “the wretched of the earth” is no longer appropriate, or, in British electoral terms, meaningful. (Consider Zimbabwe – a despot who appears determined that no Zimbabwean shall outlive him, yet no one is calling for imperialistic adventure to oust him. Consider the younger generation of Indian bourgeois, who judge ideas and social practices not on their merits, but on their provenance – European bad, authentically Indian good: we may feel uneasy about this development, but we have nothing to say about it.)

What we can do is seek a political practice that addresses the anomie of the majority in the west, and in Britain specifically – the anomie caused by the hollowing out of relationships into transactions. Such a practice needs to begin by noticing that the left is as responsible as anyone else for the lack of civic culture (in the way that the Italian Communist Party promoted it, for example) – because political organisation, necessarily instrumental and transactional, always took precedence over the civic relationship.

Let me throw out a “left field” idea – give people a second vote when they produce evidence of civic engagement – or even a third, for a higher level of engagement. Demonstrate some awareness of what’s going on around you if you want to vote for the elected element of the Lords, or create some additional Parliamentary seats – like the old university ones – for people who can be bothered to engage to cast a second vote in. Inegalitarian? You bet!

Don’t like that? Well, start “pursuit of happiness” groups to produce the next generation of MPs, councillors, trade unionists, even single-issue campaginers – so that selection committees and the like get a chance to select people who can produce some evidence of emotional balance along with their academic & professional qualifications and evidence of being a good little foot-slogger. And yes, if you don’t know what the heck I’m on about I’ll contribute an article explaining more.

8. readingliberal

I thought this was a site for left liberals, not socialists!

I share Sunny’s analysis of the Greens – their beliefs are the very opposite of their campaign stance.

I think the policy issues need to be boiled down one by one. Some of them (a new internationalist foreign policy agenda, giving the Daily Mail the vapours) see much, much more common ground than trade unions or destroying capitalism.

The first of these surely should be tackling Labour’s appalling attacks on civil liberties?

I’m not the party-joining type to start with, but I think Peter wins this argument hands down.

You say it is a coherent, even ideological set of economic, social, environmental and other policies that you’re looking for, Dave. That is precisely what the Green Party attempts to offer in the pursuit of sustainable, post-carbon economics and society. We could argue all day about whether their proposed policies would work or not, but it is unarguable that they have the big vision thing going on.

Personally I can understand why you have reservations about whether their ideals and good intentions would survive the corruption inherent in a rise to political power. But if you do think that, what on Earth are you doing joining New Labour?

By that logic, you’d be choosing to not enter a room because you think a snake might get in, and deciding instead to enter a room that you already know full well is full of snakes.

As an ecosocialist rather than a ‘left liberal’ I am glad left liberals are debating the Green Party and wider green politics, although I guess confusingly Dave is an ecosocialist rather than a ‘left liberal’.

Any way good for you as liberal conspiracists….see what you think of this from Hugo Blanco (pasted below) about latin american green politics which is where it looks big…I guess left liberals don’t have a political party and ecology, social justice and grassroots democracy are part of a vision which should appeal…

If you don’t like the word anti-capitalism…try ‘social sharing’ or ‘open source’ or ‘mutuals’….I am sticking with the green bit of red though! I am unconvinced that capitalism is ecologically sustainable or socially acceptable…think of the $120bn income of the 5 members of the Wallmart family….if you keep on laying into Ayn Rand even from a reformist direction I cannot complain.

right on to Hugo…google him, he is interesting and very active at present in my kind of politics

At first sight, environmentalists or conservationists are nice, slightly crazy guys whose main purpose in life is to prevent the disappearance of blue whales or pandas. The common people have more important things to think about, for instance how to get their daily bread. […] However, there are in Peru a very large number of people who are environmentalists […] they might reply, ‘ecologist your mother’, or words to that effect. […] Are not the town of Ilo and the surrounding villages which are being polluted by the Southern Peru Copper Corporation truly environmentalist? Is not the village of Tambo Grande in Pirura environmentalist when it rises like a closed fist and is ready to die in order to prevent strip-mining in its valley? Also, the people of the Mantaro Valley who saw their little sheep die, because of the smoke and waste from La Oroya smelter. (Hugo Blanco quoted in Guha and Martinez-Alier 1997: 24)

I am unconvinced that capitalism is ecologically sustainable or socially acceptable…

Hi Derek, well lifestyle generally can be sustainable or unsustainable, regardless of the system that one has to produce goods. There’s nothing to indicate that a socialist society will automatically be more ecologically friendly than a capitalist one. In the latter though, you can change the incentives to ensure that more money is invested in ecologically sustainable lifestyles. The two are entirely compatible as far as I can see.

There’s a few other points I want to make.

First I agree with Chris Keating that the over-sight of the LibDems is a bit bizarre. There are certainly many on the ‘left’ in that party.

Secondly, Peter T says: Our aim should be to secure economic democracy, reconfigure the balance between labour and capital, and redistribute wealth and power. These transformations are necessary to solve endemic problems / injustices, like climate change, the lack of affordable housing, mass hunger in the developing world etc.

Again, solving those issues does not necessarily require mass coercion to transfer resources. Climate change, affordable housing and mass hunger can all be sorted through good political leadership – the economic system in my view is actually irrelevant.

We have major problems around the world, I don’t disagree with that. But I don’t see a need for revolution, I see the need for demanding a political system that is more accountable, transparent and fairer so genuine politicians willing to take up those issues can advance.

India for example had a quasi-socialist system throughout the 60s, 70s and 80s. It only bred corruption and low growth. Since the economic liberalisation of the 90s, economic growtth has raced ahead. That means millions of people have been lifted out of poverty, though I accept there have been neglected social issues. For that you need better leadership, not necessarily an overhaul of the way we organise society.

Chris Dillow’s article earlier this week showed that when inequality increases, through CEO renumeration for example, it is usually a result of the market being inefficient.

capitalism has to keep selling us more stuff at ever increasing rates, I see problem with this….a lot of good practical stuff we can do but the economy matters

Their are more sophisticated ways of running an economy that central planning (although rail and post need to be done this way)

Have a look at Benkler’s great stuff on social sharing and have a look at Polanyi’s the great transformation…..a debate on non authoritarian alternatives to capitalism might be good for another thread?

Here is a taster for the moment from a letter I had in the Economist

Thanks for sharing

SIR – Yochai Benkler’s contention that social sharing provides an economic alternative to both markets and the state sounds both novel and obscure (Economics focus, February 5th). Yet the principle of “usufruct”, which allows resources to be used by any individual provided he or she leaves them in at least as good a state as they were given, can be found in ancient Roman law. Commons regimes (where local communities share the use of common land through rationing, so replenishing their resources without eroding them) are found throughout history and across four continents. Such sharing provides a way of restoring economics back to its original promise as a science that finds ways of matching scarce resources with unlimited human wants. In other words, while there may be no such thing as a free lunch, you can use my crockery as long as you wash and dry.

Derek Wall

Windsor, Berkshire (Economist, 17th February, 2005)

If the Green Party is or becomes a party of the left then it can no longer claim to base its political philosophy on environmentalism, since by it’s very nature the environment is something that cuts across the political spectrum as it influences every aspect of all our lives.

Because the environment is an egalitarian issue in this way it is a broad-based liberal cause which (like many others) has become hijacked by the impetuous impatience of anti-democrats.

It should be no surprise that militant revolutionaries and trots are tempted to use illiberal subversion tactics and have been attracted to the weak Green party as a vehicle to promote their beliefs, and while some may see electoral advantage in building a core of left-wing membership this is a short-term benefit that will wreak long-term strategic damage to their ability to speak with authority on the over-riding issues which provided the original impetus for the environmental movement.

Finally, the simplistic statement that climate change is an endemic problem is the alarmist clarion of the revolutionary charge. The climate is and was always in constant flux, that the direction of change is now one-way, the speed and the extremity to which it will change is the problem. Perhaps capitalism is the cause of the problem, but that in and of itself is no argument that capitalism cannot provide the solution.

Sunny, it might be nice if you refined your narrative on India a little, most of the conditions for the growth in the 90s weren’t created by market forces, but laid down by that bad old set of socialist regimes.

The Economist goes around promoting “markets are the only thing creating developing world growth” with plenty of energy, I think it would be nice for a “left-liberal conspiracy” to be able to take a more nuanced view than just parroting the IMF-Washington Consensus on how societies develop.

Of course, the India issue I highlight gets us back to the core problem on the British Left. What are we arguing about?

I made that comment in the context of the world I interact with, which is full of people who are seeking further deregulation, further “free trade” and further shrinkage of the government.

Sunny’s comment on the other hand is probably aimed at those on the Left who wish to reinstitute a communal paradise by dismantling capitalism.

Dang, keeping discussions straight on this board is going to be hard.

Sunny sez:

“well lifestyle generally can be sustainable or unsustainable, regardless of the system that one has to produce goods. There’s nothing to indicate that a socialist society will automatically be more ecologically friendly than a capitalist one. In the latter though, you can change the incentives to ensure that more money is invested in ecologically sustainable lifestyles. The two are entirely compatible as far as I can see.

It’s a big mistake to flip from discussing personal lifestyles to discussing economics as if they were interchangeable. They’re not.

Let’s be clear about how capitalism works. It can only work by generating the largest possible financial returns from the lowest possible financial outlay. If one company is producing planks of wood from renewable softwood plantations at a cost of $50 tonne, and the company next door is producing planks by bulldozing ancient rainforests at a cost of $10 a tonne, then the latter will quickly put the former out of business by undercutting them.

If we are talking about managing lifestyles, then we can ask everyone to choose the ethically-sourced renewable, sustainable alternative at a higher price. But in practice that doesn’t work, as we all know. Most people simply want the cheaper alternative. So rather than managing lifestyles, we have to manage the economy, by attaching a true financial value to non-renewable resources. In practice, that means the non-renewable timber has to be taxed until it is more expensive than the renewable timber.

Traditional socialism is based on the desire to manage the economy to produce a more equal and fair society. Green socialism will have to be based on the desire to manage the economy to ensure that the planet continues to provide enough resources to feed, water, clothe and shelter all of humanity in such a way that there is still a habitable planet left for our children.

Sunny, I find it strange that you hold the example of India up as one of capitalism’s success stories. You’re smart enough to understand the need for sustainable resources, renewable energy, carbon-emission reduction etc etc etc. India’s example does not point to the success of every other developing country. In the long term it points to utter catastrophe for every other developing country.

I’m all in favour of world development, of giving every person on Earth a decent, secure, humane lifestyle, but it is madness to pretend that this can happen by repeating the exact same mistakes that have been made by western capitalist systems. It can’t.

Aaah, could rant all day about this but got to bail out now…

Oooh, and I forgot to make the one point I really wanted to make –

Sunny, you are absolutely right to say that pursuing socialist objectives does not necessarily mean meeting environmental objectives. Just look at East Germany (of old) or North Korea.

But that does not mean that pursuing environmental objectives won’t have the welcome side effect of meeting many socialist objectives. I’d argue that the two are pretty much indivisible.

Ally, your critique of the capitalist system indicates an assumption on your behalf, which I can only guess is an extension of your personal lifestyle and individual choices.
Basically I can see that the course of economic evolution as you describe is possible, but the outcomes depend on the regulatory system in place, which in turn is a response to the level and quality of democratic participation and civic engagement on behalf of the wider population.

Might I trouble to ask for someone to outline the principle differences between liberalism and socialism, so we can make our minds up which is a better fit for environmental concerns, please? By the the way Ally describes it socialism sounds positively regressive and dishonest! And I’m sure that’s not the impression that was meant to be left about the way the left should be interpreted.

OK, If Socialism is ‘Liberty, Equality and Fraternity’, and liberalism is ‘Liberty, Equality and Humanity’, is there that much to quibble over?

I would not agree with either definition, but that is an aside…

The Left will feel at home in the Green movement, as both seem to have in their ranks large numbers of people who wish to impose their way of life on others to the exclusion of alternatives. A strong collectivist, authoritarian streak runs through the Green/Eco movement. You may find that if you jump onto that bandwagon, that many of the “old” Left have been there for some time.

One question then Dave. You list all the reasons for why changing the Labour party is impossible, all of the horrendous things it’s done over the last 10 years, yet you don’t explain why you’ve decided to rejoin it.

Perhaps a start would be to go back to basics, for many millions or ordinary working class people, the N/L project has been a disaster: those in council housing, much of the private rented sector, etc. This is particularly so in the area of benefits where claimants have seen their income decline year on year and face a much more punitive welfare system. Indeed, sadly it is would seem like we are hurtling back to an age before the welfare state, Frank Field is even calling for a return of the workhouse. Its certainly looking likely that there will be a welfare system in the u.k within five years, for example, the Tories are backing the Us ‘Winconsin’ model of welfare, which basically means there is no welfare, plenty of ‘help’ job clubs, etc, but no money. In the UK, the political parties are also being aided by giant US multinationals who see rich pickings and UK training companies such as A4E who also want a piece pf the pie. . Further, while benefits are still available in the UK, ‘reforms’ over the last few years have made it one of the most draconian in Europe and if imported here .

If ‘imported’ here as looks likely, (all main parties are rushing to attack the poor and now we have the welfare reform act) it would cause misery for millions of claimants: particularly disabled claimants whose entry to the workplace is often difficult. It is clearly based on victorian values and blaming the victim, it is also the next phase of the neo-liberal offensive, the marketisation of welfare, with all that entails. .

What has been remarkable is the silence of the left, civil society, etc while all this happening, which may speak volumes about the class make up of the left now that the angry young men and women of the 60’s to 80’s are living comfortable lives. Yes, in some cities it has been the Greens who have spoken out against it, but not in any great numbers. Of course we need as P/T says grander narratives and to win the battle of ideas, but in the here and now , the ‘little victories’ are needed, unless you don’t care about people in the here and now..

thomas – apologies for the very delayed response.

In a nutshell (and these things shouldn’t really be squeezed into nutshells but what the hell…) I think socialism has an intrinsic element of class analysis, you can’t be a socialist without accepting that there is a working class and its interests are not entirely corrolated with the interests of the owners of the means of production and their managers/bureaucrats. By declaring yourself a socialist, you are de facto siding with the workers against the bosses, in the crudest possible terms. By declaring yourself a conservative, you are de facto declaring yourself on the sides of the bosses against the workers.

What you do with that premise is another question, which is why socialism spans reformist centrist social democrats and textbook revolutionary Marxists – and can also ecompass the Green movement, I believe.

You can be a liberal and also a socialist, but you can also be a liberal and also a conservative.

But I don’t know where that takes us, really.

With regard to this debate, I think it comes down to whether a socialist is more likely to achieve gains towards socialism via the Green Party or New Labour. As I said earlier, I think Peter wins that argument (and I’m not a Green Party member).

Roger: “The Left will feel at home in the Green movement, as both seem to have in their ranks large numbers of people who wish to impose their way of life on others to the exclusion of alternatives.”

That’s an awful big generalisation, presented with awful little in the way of factual support. Care to expand a bit? I would describe the Green Party, for example, as being fairly liberal – far more so than New Labour or the Tories.

Another practical, though negative, reason for joining or supporting Labour or Lib-Dem in preference to minority parties is that that’s the best way of keeping the right out of power. Look at the list of all the things Labour has done that you don’t like and ask “Do I believe a Tory government would have delivered something closer to what I want?” Because the reality is (IMHO) – that’s the choice. There will not be a Green party government – but the energy diverted from supporting the 2 mainstream liberalish leftish parties and the attacks on them from the left/liberal flank as well as from the right will certainly make a Tory government more likely.

26. John Midgley

I guess the issue at stake here is how long you are prepared to wait for change and to what degree – if that is you are genuinely interested in progressive change, which I am not convinced that many/some in the green party are.

If you want to change the world tomorrow, join the Labour party and water down your politics, and you can attain that power necessary to affect change, even if it is only slight. But if you are prepared to wait a decade or two, join a minority party in the hope that your intellectual purity will move the debate forward such that future generations will recognise your wisdom.

Now interestingly for someone in a minority party like the greens, and so presumably believe that climate change is the most pressing issue of our day and requires immediate action, the second option simply isn’t available to you. You need to make a difference now. Unlike a revolutionary Marxists, dictatorship by the working class can wait a while.

It would seem then the only option for the Greens is to join the Labour party.

That seems like precisely the wrong option for the Greens though. The next general election is likely to be closely-fought, and the three largest parties all talk about ‘green’ issues to varying degrees. Arguably the Labour party is the least green of the three, although it is the party in government so perhaps is more constrained (or, put another way, the other parties can promise more because they don’t have to implement it immediately). Surely Greens should withhold support from any party at this stage, and judge them on their relative merits at the next election? Make it clear that, to win green votes, parties will have to promise green policies. Joining the Labour party now is more likely to make the Labour party take your vote for granted, surely?

JaimeSW – I said “Green movement”, not “Green Party”.

@Roger

And Jamie said ‘the Green Party, for example’, implying that there is at least one significant counterexample to your generalisation (and that therefore, unless we get more empirical evidence from you, we could assume there might be others).

Rochenko, I am amazed that you already cannot see strong collectivist, authoritarian streaks in various “green”/”environmental” movements and groups including the anti-globilization crowd.

I can see strong authoritarian streaks in New Labour, in the Tories, in UKIP. That’s the nature of political organisation, particularly when pragmatism is the only ideology anyone is prepared to admit to believing in.

The few sustainability activists I know are, by contrast, effective proponents of negotiated group action on the basis of strong common interests, about as bottom-up as it gets (I don’t see why collective action has to be necessarily a bad thing – nor does David Cameron, if his recent praise for the cooperative movement is any indication).

For the most part, they’re from professional, non-academic backgrounds (engineers, horticulturalists, lawyers) and spend their time offering people their skills, showing them how different ways of living are possible (building small-scale hydropower generation projects with schools and community groups in the Welsh valleys, and so on). They’re perfectly prepared to engage with politics, but from within civil society, and with ideas that they have already proven can work.

I agree that socialists will attatch themselves to the green cause as part of an extension of the the class conflict analysis – ie that the socialist argument has morphed from being a conflict between bosses and workers to a defence against the actions of the polluting bosses.

The problem with this, like the problem of the class warfare analysis, is that it is a distraction from the reality of the situation we find ourselves in: The concept of the stakeholder society places participation at the heart of governmental processes (although you could also argue it is still largely an illusino in practise), as bosses vs workers has become largly outdated since we became a home-owning democracy and your working occupation became a defining identity for many.

This all stems from the differing conclusions reached over whether the ‘natural’ state of existence is conflict or peace. To provide a liberal answer is to disagree with both and accept there is constant flux and a creative tension to hold the destructive tendency and threat of stasis and stagnation at bay.

Now I’m getting picky, but I disagree that you can be A liberal and something else, although (and more specifically because) you have the freedom to be that something else and still liberal within its’ all-encompassing framework.

To respond to the description of the divide between realos and fundis (coined by the German Greens), I would describe it as the difference between those that believe in the liberal and democratic process and those that hold a quasi-religious belief in the dictates of eco-fascism. The victory of the pragmatic realos of Bundnis90/die Grunen under Joschka Fischer is what enabled them to make strides as a serious parliamentary force and it is what is leading the tentative steps towards formal merger with the Free Democrats.

The question facing the Green movement is whether the Green Party will accept this conclusion or be prepared to consign themselves to becoming a modernised hub for unacceptable and unelectable militant interests as exemplified by the publicity stunts of Peter Tatchell (however worthy they may at first glance appear). This could be addressed during the debate over changing to a single leader, although I full expect the party to favour a fudge in order to retain its seperate (although increasingly indistinct) identity.

As hinted at above, it comes down to the desire to encourage civic engagement overriding the desire to disrupt civil apathy.

Apologies Ally, it seems I take slightly longer than you!

Roger: “…strong collectivist, authoritarian streaks..”
They’re everywhere! aaargh!

I’ll tell you what’s unfair; strong individualist, libertarian streaks which undermine the equality of our democracy, making it not just imperfect, but grossly so.
(mostly) Unfettered libertarian capitalism only grants full liberty to the powerful (economic or otherwise) individual, while the less powerful are discouraged (to put it mildly) to act in collectivist ways to counter the gross inequality of power they face.

Hardly fair.

There’s a hint of would be authoritarian power in the Lord Ashcrofts of this world.

Some observations/ theses for debate:

1) Neither red nor green objectives are achievable in one country, both require an internationalist approach. Laws in one country to constrain the behaviour of corporations simply mean that they move their operations to a different country.

2) Current free-market capitalism is incompatible with environmentalism. Capitalism relies on constant growth.

3) Stronger international institutions and laws are needed in order to:
(a) constrain governments in order to protect individuals and assure their human rights (pace Darfur, Burma, etc, etc).
(b) settle disputes between countries without war, and enforce arms reductions
(c) constrain corporations
(d) introduce and enforce measures to tackle climate change

4) John Gray argues in ‘False Dawn’ that free-market capitalism is incompatible with democracy, and in fact requires some form of fascism. We certainly see democracy in retreat worldwide at present. The UK and US have pseudo-democracies, each with 2 nearly-indistinguishable parties controlled by the same interest groups, whilst slowly introducing increasingly authoritarian state structures.

5) We need to stop being shy of basing politics on radically different values than those which drive the current system, i.e. greed and selfishness.

machel – superb points.

Samora would have been proud 😉

Johnathan @33,

I think you misunderstand what Libertarianism is.

If something denies equality – and by equality I do not mean levelling down or collectivisation by force – then it is not Libertarian by definition.

Libertarianism is very much in favour of voluntary collectivisation as long as that is not used to affect the freedoms of others or to deny others in also forming separate voluntary collectives (socialists, trots etc are the ultra hypocrites in this area as they want monopolistic, State controlled collectives, but no others!). Maybe you mean Anarcho-Capitalism? Capitalism that uses and lobbies the State first needs a State that is big and authoritarian and a gatekeeper. A small State that does not interfere in peoples’ lives is of little use to a Corporation. Corruption is linked to the size and reach of Government.

Lord Ashcroft may not be doing good for democracy, but any damage is minuscule compared to the damage that is planned due to the attempt to secure State funding for entrenched Political Parties!

37. douglas clark

Whilst there are many other ‘Green’ issues, the one that ought to cut across all shades of political opinion is climate change. Instead it has become a political football with economists, libertarians, ex editors of newspapers and folk that would rather not face up to any challenge whatsoever, actually arguing that it isn’t anthropogenic, it’s the sun what done it, or any other nonsense they can wheel out

What we have is a different sort of split in the crooked timber, into denialists and the rest of us. Denialists, perhaps unsurprisingly, seem to congregate around the right, rather than the left. Having seen their estates and vast satanic mills protected by the state against all comers, who is to deny them their historic right to lord it over the rest of us, and use spurious science, including political science, to do it.

I would, obviously, prefer to see this issue dealt with in the most effective, least disruptive way possible. But I would like to see it dealt with.

Tim Lambert’s very witty headline, ‘Dog bites Man’ leads to an article where minimisation of the issue is still policy for at least one country on this, shared, planet:

http://scienceblogs.com/deltoid/

38. douglas clark

So Roger,

I think arguing about Libertariansism -v- Socialism without factoring in what either can actually achieve in relation to the issue of climate change is damn near the equivalent of medieval theologians spending their wasted lives arguing about angels and pin-heads.

If neither they nor others, have a solution, many of us will be quite literally swept away by events.

Solutions would be good.

I agree with 38, to a certain extent. What we are arguing about here is heading slightly off-topic.
If you accept that climate change is an ecological threat caused as a result of unrestrained or inefficient resource usage, resultant of our economic system, then you are saying that the internet (and LC by inference) is part of the problem.

Like all debates this tension is a paradox that creates the requirement for and develops effective solutions. However, I find it simply inconcievable that anyone (whatever their political views) will choose to give up their internet connection (or central heating) to return to a medieval lifestyle – under any condition – especially while the detailed climatological consequences of a changing chemical balance in the environment remain undefined in their entirety or with absolute precision. Whatever conclusions have already been drawn and however accurate they ultimately are proven to be (or not), they are still only our current best guess.

The jump in logic from accepting this threat to our current state to taking it as evidence for some theoretical alternative is huge and unbridgable.

So whether the Green Party is actually any sort of effective vehicle for providing a rationale to help foster understanding of the detailed problems and providing acceptable solutions completely depends on upon their ability to withstand subversion from their founding principles to socialist incoherence – one only needs to read the answers provided on this board to recognise that this is an battle that is being lost as the environment is being intellectually subordinated to ‘leftist ideals’ by many Green Party members, who want to turn it into the new old Labour Party. This is what it has in practise become and they proudly admit their adherence to that failed dogmatism – we don’t want to smash the system, we want to save our society.

Public anxiety for ‘action’ is being fed by that agenda, and it must be admitted does provide part of the solution to change behavioural patterns, but when we look at the development of new energy generation techologies such as ‘carbon-capture’, the capital holders are the ones providing the investment and the research funding to put them in place. So any political party which cannot reconcile the two conflicting requirements will be destined to remain on the outside of any establishment institutions.

Douglas,

The only pin-heads around here are those who think I or other Libertarians will accept “the environment” or “climate change” being used as a Trojan Horse to impose authoritarianism or collectivist dogma. I do not care one jot about any so-called “benefits” of a socialist route if it means I become under the thumb.

41. douglas clark

Roger,

Dearie me. I specifically asked you what the Libertarian solution is to the genuine issue of climate change, and all I get back is some sort of dogma. Either Libertarianism is part of the solution or it is part of the problem. Which is it?

Dealing with real world events is what practical politics ought to be about, yes?

The ‘pin head’ comment was a plague on both your houses. It was also a comment on how irrelevant dogmatic politics can appear to outsiders. The debate may well be amusing, it may well have immense intellectual power, but if it is completely at odds with solving real world dilemmas, it is indeed a discussion about angels on pinheads.

I’m quite sure that the Priests and Ministers of the Middle Ages would have been a tad miffed if I’d pointed out to them that their obsessions had no obvious utility. Perhaps you can persuade me otherwise.

Douglas,

I was pointing out that you cannot dismiss discussion on means to justify the ends, which appeared to be your implication.

The problem with discussing the environment and especially climate change is the entire concept is framed to demand collectivist answers. You in your post above have tried to close down any discussion about the causes of climate change to force it into the AGW space, for example, so by your book you have brought a plague upon your own house.

Are we experiencing climate change? Yes.
Is climate change proven to be man made? No.
Can the actions of man reverse the trend? Unproven.

To me that says the priority should not be trying to just reverse the effects but to first make sure we can survive what it could bring. This means flood defences, energy security, water infrastructure (collection and distribution), strong borders and very robust Armed Neutrality.

I have been recycling for 20 years. I do not need taxes or some government numptie to moan at me about it. I drive older, very robust cars, so the carbon footprint is low, far lower than any Toyota Pious. I reject fluorescent bulbs because they are not instant and the so-called “energy loss” only applies to summertime, when the heat produced is not used (same goes for all “standby” losses, btw). I await LEDs of sufficient brightness, dimmability and colour temperature to replace existing lighting. I use public transport when possible.

This is the Libertarian core – personal responsibility and voluntary action. I do what I can, and I object to some econazi trying to drag everyone back into the swamp or taxing me just to cover the black hole in their Statist fallacy.

If you want polices, then the following items are certainly not hard-core Libertarian, as they are not about what I would do myself for myself, however, some points reverse the State and so could be seen as mildly Libertarian.

Remove subsidies and tax breaks that encourage out of town ‘business parks’ and creates other distortions away from the logical, natural move for workplaces to be centralised around transport links.
Reduce stamp duty to enable moving house to be cheaper (easier to live near work)
Free up the education market to allow more, better schools (easier to live near work – less risk of moving to bad school catchment).
Reduce the size of the State – it is inefficient and absorbs vast amounts of human capital and energy for very little benefit.
Non-Libertarian moves would be to fund IEC fusion research, invest in wave power, new rail projects or electric traction infrastructures in major towns (i.e. trolleybuses).
HGVs should pay for the damage they do (A 38 tonne HGV does 10,000x the damage of a 1 tonne car) and thus rebalance the equation with that of rail based freight. Ports should not be unduly prevented from extending communications and rail links across the country.

In this I do not speak for Libertarianism. Frankly, I do believe technology will come to the rescue – in the shape of Fusion power, and not the Tokamak leviathan, plus battery technology to make rapid-charge (sub 5 mins) electric vehicles a reality.

The green party and environmentalists generally are perceived as being of the left because the solution to environmental armageddon inevitably involves the abolition or restriction of what Marx would have termed bourgoise values: Don’t eat meat, don’t use electric light, don’t drive a car, don’t fly on holiday, don’t buy bottled water and so on, and the encouragment of proletarian values; don’t over consume, don’t waste, re-use and recycle, cycle don’t drive, holday at home and so on. We are making a virtue of abandoning cars in favour of bikes just as China is doing the opposite.
The other reason it is of the left is that green equals tax, so rather than taking any positive action (e.g the simple expedient of keeping BST would have saved a squillion tons of carbon) envoronmentally damaging individual behaviours are discouraged through taxation, so more regulation by, and more income for, the state.

At the risk of attracting some of the bloggertarians that seem to haunting your comments threads, I posted something on this here:

http://nevertrustahippy.blogspot.com/2007/11/ignore-fundis.html

Edited version: Direct democracy kills political parties (as it always has done with the Greens), and the most effective way to achieve social-democratic goals is through an uncompromising support for the highest standards of democratic practices.

If you click on that link, you may well conclude that I need an editor….

I think the point is that the Green Party is a cobbled coalition between environmental liberals and eco-authoritarians (left and right), which claims to own all and any intellectual analysis relating to the climatological conundrum facing us despite not having settled the issue within their own rank or file.

Partly for electoral reasons they actively encourage dissillusion with the other three parties and rebuff any potential contribution that can come from those quarters, partly because their own disillusion with democracy leads them to try to subvert democratic practices.

As I’ve outlined above, I think the debate over the future of the green political movement will follow the outcome of the upcoming principle speaker contests in Germany and here in the UK. None of the contenders in either country represent unifying figures for the coalition of forces, nor are any of sufficient profile to lead a breakthrough into wider approval, so I fail to see how the Green Party can move from lobbying the fringes with direct action and politicising rhetoric and develop into becoming a significant mainstream player.

And Libertarianism – that’s just an extreme doctrine of Authoritarianism designed according to every individual, hardly liberal. No wonder Tony Benn is an ardent subscriber.

Are we experiencing climate change? Yes.
Is climate change proven to be man made? No.
Can the actions of man reverse the trend? Unproven.

Many, including I, would disagree with these assertions dressed up as facts.

1) The climate has, was and always will change.
2) Certain aspects of the changing climate are certainly being driven by the impact of human activity.
3) We don’t know what the exact consequences of the current climatological trends are.

We must calculate all additional factors into our decision-making process in order to offset any potentially damaging effects. These additional factors will provide a scientific and economic boost to societal understanding.

48. douglas clark

Roger,

I’m not at all sure that the debate is framed in quite the way that you state here:

The problem with discussing the environment and especially climate change is the entire concept is framed to demand collectivist answers. You in your post above have tried to close down any discussion about the causes of climate change to force it into the AGW space, for example, so by your book you have brought a plague upon your own house.

I have been reading the latest summary drom the IPCC and it is their view, not mine that what is happening to the climate is driven by human activity. You can get something more than a flavour for their view, here:

http://scienceblogs.com/deltoid/2007/11/17/ar4_syr_spm.pdf

or, if that’s a bit much, and to be honest I’m still reading it, the key point for this debate is summarised by Tim Lambert, thus:

Average Northern Hemisphere temperatures during the second half of the 20th century were very likely higher than during any other 50-year period in the last 500 years and likely the highest in at least the past 1300 years.

Most of the observed increase in globally-averaged temperatures since the mid-20th century is very likely due to the observed increase in anthropogenic GHG concentrations. It is likely there has been significant anthropogenic warming over the past 50 years averaged over each continent (except Antarctica) (Figure SPM.4).

and this one:

Climate change is likely to lead to some irreversible impacts. There is medium confidence that approximately 20-30% of species assessed so far are likely to be at increased risk of extinction if increases in global average warming exceed 1.5-2.5oC (relative to 1980-1999). As global average temperature increase exceeds about 3.5oC, model projections suggest significant extinctions (40-70% of species assessed) around the globe. {3.4}

There is high agreement and much evidence that all stabilisation levels assessed can be achieved by deployment of a portfolio of technologies that are either currently available or expected to be commercialised in coming decades, assuming appropriate and effective incentives are in place for their development, acquisition, deployment and diffusion and addressing related barriers. {5.5}

So, this bout of climate change is not about natural fluctuations, it is about what we as human beings are doing. So don’t shoot the messenger!

It is perhaps worth pointing out that quite a number of these alternatives are likely to decrease the individuals dependency on central generation, if not eliminate it entirely. And be green. What I want to see is a politics that sets the objective of getting us there.

I live in working class ward where no one could remember anything but Labour councillors getting elected. Now we have three Green councillors. They are popular too, increasing turnouts and getting in excess of 50% of the vote. The Green approach is to get in on the ground floor, and work your way up. No rhetoric about socialism, but still following the principles of social justice. There’s no inconsistency with green principles. The focus where I live is you can get involved, and you can make a difference. Trust me, I’ve seen the future, and it works.

50. douglas clark

Thomas,

Years ago, when the evidence for APG was somewhat less persuasive than it is now, I argued that we should apply the precautionary principle. This requirement to know exact outcomes before we do anything is not a philosophy I share. Many of us have been immunised against MMR, and yet there was no certainty that, had we not been immunised we would have caught MM or R. That is the precautionary principle. Try scaling it up a bit.

Sunny@45 -The grand-daddy assertion dressed as fact is AGW. What I say is not incorrect, nor is it misleading?

Thomas@46 – “aspects of the changing climate” is not the same as “climate change”. If we do not know the impact or effect of action, we need to ensure the scare-mongering is under control. Hint: it is not.

douglas@47 – sincerely, I should have said “duck!” as any shots were aimed at the IPPC and hangers on, not you personally! The IPPC report is very suspect, I am afraid, as the summary was created by politicians and (until very recently) the ruling was no evidence was to be in the full report that contradicted with the politically-drafted summary. This may have changed (links anyone?).

and @49 – yes, jabs. Our jabs are precautionary defensive measures to protect from the effects of the disease that is out there still. The current efforts about global warming is like trying to kill mosquitos instead of finding ways to protect against malaria ( Nets are better than swamp drainage!), or trying to eliminate polio without inoculation – we need our country “inoculated” against the effects of global warming as at least if not more pressing than trying to reverse it. The Green Movement appears totally oblivious of this (and in saying that I am being VERY charitable) and the politicians are along for the totalitarian ride.

52. douglas clark

Och, Roger, this is just getting silly. In what way can we innoculate outselves against significant sea level changes or hurricane conditions. We, homo sapiens, are all in this together. The laggards in recognising this as a global issue are short sighted or so deeply entrenched in their comfort zone that they will argue that black is white, or vice versa.

In terms of the science, I’d refer you to what I highlighted at post 37, ‘Dog bites Man’, shock horror!

Please direct me to a site where reasonably qualified climate scientists argue that the views of the IPCC are a load of hooey.

The Royal Society publish this on their web site, perhaps you’d care to read it?

http://www.royalsoc.ac.uk/page.asp?id=6229

I’m sorry if my analogy to vaccination was not as clear cut as I’d have liked, what I was getting at was this. If a significant percentage of the overall population is vaccinated, then those that aren’t, are also protected, as transmission is less efficient. That was the point I was trying to make. The fact that you, for instance, are ‘doing your bit’ is one step along the way to having sufficient folk acting in a sustainable way that we could ‘Save the World’. (Now where have I heard that phrase before?)

#49 Douglas & #50 Roger

So we are in agreement then, but while all the evidence is indicative and only the general thrust of it is conclusive the rhetorical arguments will remain endless.

Warming, cooling, droughts, flooding, new phenomena of weird weather, greater extremes of variation, extra weather cells, different patterns of climate or a mixture of all these and more, nobody really knows, but we all see it happening and experience the consequences. Will any of this start new conflict over resources, new migration patterns or spur biological evolution? Probably, but nobody can pinpoint any direct influences with any real accuracy, so we shall continue to bicker over correct legislative changes to manage the societal shift.

And from what I can read all the major parties are convinced (to varying extents) that the threat is real, requires real political solutions and is an actual electoral issue.

So where do you stand on the prospect of the first new coal-fired power station in a lifetime at Kingsnorth in Kent and the renewal of nuclear power generation capabilities amidst the growing demand for electricity? Is the failure of this government to provide the regulatory framework to support renewable feed-in tariffs offset by it’s determination to provide security of energy supply levels, or is the framing of the debate falsely formulated?

The Green Party policy of expanding the biomass capabilities for the energy industry and highlighting the peaking of oil production levels doesn’t appear to fully address these issues, so I’m still not sure how it can be viewed as a realistic or relevant vehicle for any coherent political philosophy.

Perhaps you can both crawl out from under your shells and provide some help here…

The thing that seems to get lost in all this is that the planet has always changed, and humans have always adapted, whether by migrating or evolving adaptive characteristics to fit the environment. The first guy (or gal) to come out of a tree and use a lightining strike to cook wild boar left a carbon footprint and we have been changing the environment and adapting to its’ changes ever since. Deserts used to be seas, the north pole used to be bigger, the south pole used be smaller, the UK used to be part of France, so what ? Populations moved to where resources were avaiable or adapted, its called developmental plasticity and it’s been around for aeons. Environmental changes will probably cause the correction to the global overpopulation that caused the environmental changes in the first place, putting everything back into equilibrium.

Sorry to sound cynical but I grew up in the 70 when the ice age was coming, and if that didn’t kill you the nuclear war would, oh and computers and robots would do everything so we’d all have so much leisure time we’d only have to work part time in paperless ofiices……

Ally: “Peter wins hands down” – how so? His choice offers no real leverage. No MPs. No prospects of any. Though was that a letter in the Guardian claiming three seats in the next GE? But as ex-Trot comrade and new entryist colleague Dave realises the Greens, like the independent and Labour left, just aren’t close enough to the nuts and bolts to tune the machine. And tuning is the only game in town. Smashing it like a Ludd is not a serious option.

Chris Keating: “What about the Lib Dems?” Are you obsessed? This post is specifically about the Green Party and Labour. Be patient and Mr Osler or someone else will explain to you why the Lib Dems are not the answer for the left.

56. douglas clark

thomas,

If I actually understood what you meant by this:

So we are in agreement then, but while all the evidence is indicative and only the general thrust of it is conclusive the rhetorical arguments will remain endless.

Warming, cooling, droughts, flooding, new phenomena of weird weather, greater extremes of variation, extra weather cells, different patterns of climate or a mixture of all these and more, nobody really knows, but we all see it happening and experience the consequences. Will any of this start new conflict over resources, new migration patterns or spur biological evolution? Probably, but nobody can pinpoint any direct influences with any real accuracy, so we shall continue to bicker over correct legislative changes to manage the societal shift.

What do you mean “only the general thrust is conclusive”? As far as I know, I’ve been arguing that it is conclusive. Conclusive in the sense that we need to get our fingers out and deal with it.

Your second paragraph starts badly, and ends worse. It denies the anthropogenic catalyst and it denies a huge body of evidence that suggests that rather than spurring biological diversity, it is quite likely to do the opposite. Of course, if you measure time in millions of years, then you are correct, ecological niches will eventually be filled. Your childrens children will not, sadly, be around to see this happy outcome.

The direct influences on ecological catastrophe, at least for our ecology are pretty obvious.

What I’d asked Roger was how Libertarianism could answer a real world, real time problem. I might not agree with his answers, but frankly Roger at least tried, you strike me as a fatalist.

And now on to Matt Munro….

57. douglas clark

Matt Munro,

Bloody hell, where to start?

The earliest folk that you, or I, would probably see kinship for are circa 164,000 years old. Which is not much time against the living Earth that has existed for 3.8 billion years ago, or so. See here:

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/10/071017145252.htm

This is what the world looked like during the last ice age:

http://www.scotese.com/lastice.htm

See that wee bit called the UK. It was frozen to hell and back. That Ice Age ended about 14,000 years ago.

You, and thomas, are both playing a game of no consequences. You are playing geological time scales off a riff of human time scales. And thus, we are not responsible, or able to alter our own behaviour in order to assure our continuation as a viable species. Bullshit!

In an absolute frame of reference you are obviously correct. But your ‘plasticity’ is someone else’s dead family. Or dead species. Us for instance. Plasticity does extend to substitution of ecological niches, including our own.

It is all very well to get philosophic about consequences, it can be realistically argued that we are a failed species, after all. And if that is how you see it, well our collective brains are worth, what, shit?

True?

58. douglas clark

Chris Paul,

I speak for myself, but your contribution adds nothing of substance.

Please leave your ridiculously narrow minded politics at the door. This debate has become at least about substance and not about petty party squabbling.

Go away. Start your own thread.

You have added sweet FA to the, at least, fifty odd posts. Folk are talking, and idiotic political bullshit – such as your own – demeans those us who are trying to think this through.

Douglas: “But your ‘plasticity’ is someone else’s dead family.”

Yes it is but so what ? This is the problem with the climate change debate, it’s dressed up as science when it’s largely an appeal to primitive emotion. It’s detractors are depicted as luddites because they apply rationality and scale (i.e science) to the problem. The world has always been about to end, it’s been to our adaptive advantage to believe that as it’s kept us safe from genuine risk. The problem is we now have so little real risk (at least in the west) that the mechanism has gone haywire and no longer serves it’s intended purpose. The Ice age predicted in the 1970s didn’t cause as much panic as climate change does now because in the scale of risk it was eclipsed by the possibility of nuclear war. Now that we don’t have that to worry about, we are worrying about the weather again. Climate change is Noahs’ ark writ large.

People have always died, wars, famines plagues, floods. More people died from an uncontrollable event, the Spanish Flu epedemic, than died in the controllable event that preceded it – The first world war. You are falling into the humanist trap of assuming that because we can control some things, we must control all things, aka magical thinking. We just don’t make that much difference, or to put it another way, we aren’t that important.

60. douglas clark

Matt Munro,

What you say is true. It is the scale and the immediacy of the potential catastrophe that is a matter of concern. It is also , to me at least, the quite extraordinary fact that something that is preventable is treated with such insouciance. I don’t think I’m actually guilty as charged of ‘magical thinking’. It ain’t rocket science.

Douglas @51

You do sound as if you do not know what inoculate actually represents. Does it prevent our bodies being infected? No – what it does is allow our bodies to know the problem, understand the threat and have the blueprints ready to take rapid action to handle the onslaught and neutralise it. With a virus, we inject weak, non-reproducing or dead viruses and so the immune system has a chance to manufacture the antibodies. When you see it again, we can handle it . We can “inoculate” against floods by having flood defences, drainage, flood plains, houses on stilts, pumping stations, dykes and if the worst comes, means to evacuate populations and then care for them – the water still comes, but the disruption and suffering is reduced significantly. Right now the South of England is not “inoculated” against heavy snow, whereas Scotland or Russia is, for example.

and @59: you have no way of knowing if anthropogenic climate change is “preventable” or reversible.

62. douglas clark

Roger,

I did know all of that. Perhaps the worst you could accuse me of is a bad analogy. It is also the case though that a largely immune population makes the transmission of a virus, say, much less effective. It protects those that have not been immunised as well as those that have.

You say I have no way of knowing whether APG is preventable or reversible. Well, there have been a lot of papers published that suggest that it is preventable or reversible.

See page 24 of the IPCC Summary Document for Policy Makers. Which seems to be the up to date position.

#55 Douglas Clark – you’re on to a winner here, fighting with and alienating potential allies!

This is one of the reasons the ‘left /right’ distinction of political discourse is obsolete, if it ever existed in a real sense in the first place. It’s also a direct demonstration of why this so-called ‘left’, or ‘progressives’, will never form a coherent and unified front to prevent the pretty boys and populist orators winning power with losing arguments. If this is what the Green Party can offer, then they are best left to vanish into the obscurity they came from.

You describe me as a fatalist, but nothing could be further from the truth. I do admit that I’m no great hulk with the power to affect the smallest details in a million families lives, although I also recognise that while any small difference I make/can make is only a drop in the ocean it is still contributory to the overall result.

You then go on to highlight your assumption that the direction of evolutionary processes is necessarily one-way. Please spare us your prejudices, you are being manipulated by various agenda-setters to blindly agree with their prescriptions in a fit of emotional panic – not the best frame of mind to make an independent and fully rational decision. For the record, both increases and decreases in biological diversity fit within the scientific evolutionary model, it is simply a personal value judgement to claim the merits or demerits of either.

There is an endemic problem in serious debates over issues such as climate science: big ideas must be simplified into digestible bite-sized chunks in order for their consumption by their intended mass audiences as no part of the modern media is designed for the capacity to carry complex messages for the full understanding of the subject. Not even the greatest experts will claim full knowledge of all the prescient facts, but your average Joe (or in this case Douglas) on an unaccountable message board in the interweb ether will!

Seriously, Douglas, I’m sure you can quote predicted average changes until your doomsday arrives, but can you communicate the qualifications and limitations of these messages with any effectiveness of efficiency? I’m really not sure you’ve grasped the complexity of the subject with which you are clearly grappling, so attacking any slight to your position won’t help either the popularity or practical resolution of your stated cause.

64. douglas clark

thomas,

Fair enough. Just a few points.

You then go on to highlight your assumption that the direction of evolutionary processes is necessarily one-way.

Where do I say that? What we are talking about is a die off of species. Every time that has happened in the past, other -new – species have arisen to fill the ecological niche that became available. This has, AFAIK, taken millions of years. But despite it having always been the case. it is certainly not my contention that the new niche holder is in fact any better than the previous niche holder. It’s just a different one, that’s all.

There is an endemic problem in serious debates over issues such as climate science: big ideas must be simplified into digestible bite-sized chunks in order for their consumption by their intended mass audiences as no part of the modern media is designed for the capacity to carry complex messages for the full understanding of the subject. Not even the greatest experts will claim full knowledge of all the prescient facts, but your average Joe (or in this case Douglas) on an unaccountable message board in the interweb ether will!

I’d have thought that was obvious. Which is why I have done my best to reference everything I’ve said. On this particular subject there is, indeed, a consensus amongst scientists to quite an astonishing extent. I, as much as you, take exception to being lectured by folk that don’t back up what they say and mess up, say, geological timescales and human ones So, and this is where I take issue with you, there is wriggle room and there is the clear blue yonder. Or fatalism, which I am pleased to know you don’t suffer from.

Sorry if I have attempted to insert facts into a debate. If you have any facts to present, please do so. Though they always spoil the purity of the political game, don’t you think? By the way, I have never won a popularity contest in my life.

60 & 61.. Ultimately the question has to be that if we have identified that our actions could potentially be doing harm to the planet, even if they are insignificant to the bigger picture of global climate cycles, what have we to gain to be so arrogant as to believe we need not do anything.

Don’t believe in God and he doesn’t exist, you’ve lost nothing
Don’t believe in God and he does exist and you’re condemned to hell
Believe in God either way and the worst you can be is just wrong.

OK so I’m not that religious thus maybe there is a hypocrisy in the time honoured example of game theory above but the point still stands. Whether we are doing this damage ourselves or whether it is just natural cycles, by taking a bit of stock in our actions the worst that can happen is what was always going to happen and out of our control. Why should we actively choose a stance that logically provides us the only opportunity to cause our planets downfall (if we’re being melodramatic!)?

Yes, Douglas there is an amazing amount of consensus among the scientific community that the environment is an issue to be taken seriously, but there is also a wide degree of difference over the specific outcomes of increased levels of basic greenhouse gases in the environment. There is absolutely no consensus that green politics or the policies of the Green Party are the answer.

The concern is that because the balance is being tipped nobody can say with relative or absolute certainty what those outcomes will be, where they will occur, with what severity they will occur and what longer-term knock-on consequences are likely.

It is because there is uncertainty about the result of the possible changes that the environment has developed into a political issue about how we can prevent or minimise those adverse effects we can predict, and is reflected by the existence of the green movement. This presents a challenge to the established political forces, but in no way refutes the applicability of (at least some) current partisan analysis.

67. douglas clark

thomas,

Apologies, I thought I’d replied to you and I hadn’t.

Yes, Douglas there is an amazing amount of consensus among the scientific community that the environment is an issue to be taken seriously, but there is also a wide degree of difference over the specific outcomes of increased levels of basic greenhouse gases in the environment.

No there isn’t.

It is quite obvious what has to be done.

There is absolutely no consensus that green politics or the policies of the Green Party are the answer.

Agreed, do you think I’m a Green or something? I just detest this politics beats science beats paper game you are playing.

The concern is that because the balance is being tipped nobody can say with relative or absolute certainty what those outcomes will be, where they will occur, with what severity they will occur and what longer-term knock-on consequences are likely.

You are playing games here. The balance is most certainly being tipped, and it is us that are doing it. The outcomes are within a range of possibilities, none of which are less than severe.

It is because there is uncertainty about the result of the possible changes that the environment has developed into a political issue about how we can prevent or minimise those adverse effects we can predict, and is reflected by the existence of the green movement. This presents a challenge to the established political forces, but in no way refutes the applicability of (at least some) current partisan analysis.

Maybe.

Personally, your complete lack of any evidence beyond your own words suggests, to me at least, that it is you that does not know this subject. May I press you on that matter?

Before you engage, remember, I am quoting, you are not.

68. douglas clark

Lee Griffin,

So, I take it, that you agree that applying the precautionary principle is the only sane option?

Exactly Douglas, taking or making any quotes on a subject which is still a matter of debate is to selectively include points of reference which you feel support your conclusion, whilst also excluding those which you feel bring it into dispute. As you say you claim to prefer the evidentially-based scientific method, then may I suggest accordingly that you keep your mind open as to specific conclusions in the way you describe and stop taking it all so personally.

We both agree that human endeavours are both the origins and solutions of the problem we are faced with and we both agree as to the logic of many courses of action in order to do the best we can to take the correct preventative measures against the worst that can happen. I find it ridiculous that we are splitting hairs over how direct the consequences of the changhing climate on our society are. All I am trying to warn against is the potential for additional or as yet unseen consequences that may or may not be more damaging, which remains an area of investigation still incomplete. The environment is an ecosystem after all and includes all the feedback loops which should be expected of one.

I find it more helpful to identify points of agreement and work from there rather to find the points of disagreement and build a cleavage. But as they say…if you can’t attack the message, attack the messenger.

70. douglas clark

thomas,

Thanks for the reply.

Can I say that I am, frankly, delighted that you have come out on the side of evidentially based politics?

Lets let the evidence take us where it may.

A word to the wise? It was not at all clear that that was what you thought. Your writing style needs revision. Try emphasising the positive thoughts up front. You’ll get a lot more kudos.

Remember also that, when you write on this interwebby thingy that it is not just thee and me. Other folk read, but don’t write. You, and I, have a small audience. Try writing for them. It works for me.

hmm, that’s interesting.
Evidentially-based science is fine, but a lot of politics requires deductive reasoning because there is often no direct evidence, and what evidence there may be offers contradictory conclusions.
Secondly, simple language doesn’t always help enlighten complex issues.


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