Green Party passes its own Clause 4 motion


10:01 am - September 10th 2012

by Adam Ramsay    


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It didn’t take long to discuss, but one policy motion at last week’s Green Party of England and Wales conference marked a line in the turf for the party.

It was a part of broader proposals around economic democracy, and reads as follows:

We will grant employees the legal right to buy out their companies and turn them into workers co-operatives. Buy outs would be funded by a Green National Investment Bank and contingent on the co-ops following green and ethical policies. These co-operatives would localise economic decision-making and give employees incentives for greater productivity.

There was a bit of a debate about whether this should apply to all companies, or if the motion should be opposed as it implicitly includes small as well as medium and large companies.

But one speech about labour rights abuses in small companies put paid to that.

The motion was opposed by one member who said that this was effectively Labour’s old clause four. Much of the conference floor cheered in agreement – yes, it is, yes, that’s what we want.

It passed overwhelmingly. And so the Green Party committed to collective ownership of the means of production.

Hurray.

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About the author
Adam is a regular contributor. He also writes more frequently at: Bright Green Scotland.
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Story Filed Under: Green party ,News ,Westminster

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Reader comments


1. Chaise Guevara

In what way is it currently illegal for workers to buy out their firm? Or does this create the ability to pull off a forced buyout, i.e. a coup?

@1,

I presume that’s the point of it.

Who decides what price the forced sale happens at? If it’s too low, no-one will fund capital intensive new businesses.

(Feedback on new design: This comment box uses a font that’s too big. It wants to be reduced.)

3. Chaise Guevara

It’s a very minor issue, but I agree with Phil RE comment font. It makes me feel like I’m writing in crayon.

This isn’t collective ownership of the means of production (not a criticism, just an observation).

More detail of the workings would be good.

This will certainly get private sector investment going.

Going away.

As a customer or just a member of the public what does it mater to me who owns a business?

This just shows that the greens don’t understand the fundamental objective of a ‘co op’ – they are just have a pavlovianresponse to the use of the word.

How to promote a subcontract/self-employment model in 3 sentences…

tbh I read the headline and thought this was about the Green Party having a ‘clause 4 moment’ – i.e removing something that was seen as an obsticle to people voting for you – something on homeopathy perhaps.

Well lets play the ball not the man – what specific problems are you hoping this policy will solve?

For publicly-traded companies, this is effectively a hostile take-over by a government-funded workers’ co-operative. Not sure why that’s something that a Green National Investment Bank should be prioritising over actually green investments, but whatever.

But for non-publicly-traded companies, this is a hostile take-over of a private entity – a private entity that, moreover, has no defined price. Even if you grant the right to buyout that private property, what body can fairly determine a price?

And what of businesses that are not companies? Would not every private company evade this in seconds by converting to a limited liability partnership?

But if you extend the net to any employer, then you have to ask, what of a sole trader who owns a business outright as her personal property? – there is no distinction in law between the business and the person.

And last, what of a charity? Could they get acquired by their staff?

No, there is too little thought gone into this.

A further thorny issue will be business failures.

The state will be covering these via the Green Bank, so we’ll all be paying. Profits, however, will remain with the owners.

Further, what happens to employees who don’t want to take the investment risk, and just want to remain as standard employees?

@1 Coup? Surely a mutiny.

12. Chaise Guevara

@ 11 Cylux

A fair point. Mutiny it is.

Workers’ cooperatives still have to operate in a market economy, and diversity of ownership models is surely a good thing. However, this motion sounds like expropriation by a taxpayer-funded ‘bank’.

More generally, if you place some abstract goal like ‘the environment’ or ‘race’, you will slip into authoritarianism because you are ultimately not concerned with the individual or institutions but with some supra-personal goal. I fear the Greens will mutate into eco-fascists.

You do not say whether the sale would be forced if the legal owner was an unwilling seller. Is it the case the GIB would just be providing the equity finance for an agreed sale?

Even an agreed sale would likely breach EU single market laws on state aid.

Article 107

” Save as otherwise provided in the Treaties, any aid granted by a Member State or through State resources in any form whatsoever which distorts or threatens to distort competition by favouring certain undertakings or the production of certain goods shall, in so far as it affects trade between Member States, be incompatible with the internal market. ”

It is compatible to provide aid if the aid has a social character, or the area has abnormally low economic development. However, to be compatible aid should be provided without discrimination. Since the aid would be contingent on following certain policies, by definition means it would be specifically discriminatory.

” Buy outs would be funded by a Green National Investment Bank and contingent on the co-ops following green and ethical policies. ”

The Greens could say that they are only providing equity finance to facilitate the development of certain economic activities and that is compatible with the single market. Regional development agencies already do that with public funds. The proposal implies that the employees would hold legal title to the equity. However, the equity finance gives the new owners of the equity an unfair advantage, they could leverage the equity as collateral and thereby obtain debt finance below the rates of others. That would not be compatible with EU law because such aid would be held to be adversely affecting trading conditions.

A forced purchase of equity on an unwilling seller would most probably fail an ” unconscionability” test under English contract law. There would clearly exist a situation of “Inequality of bargaining power” in an state v an unwilling equity seller scenario.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Unconscionability_in_English_law

@14 single market? Are you forgetting that the greens are anti eu?

UKIP are anti EU so the UK can trade more freely with the rest of the world.

Greens are anti EU so the UK don’t have to trade with anyone!

I wish Labour would. Obviously that’s out of the members’ hands, as the right always wanted,

Would what Chris? And why is it out of the member’s hands, whatever it is?

18. Chaise Guevara

@ Paul

“UKIP are anti EU so the UK can trade more freely with the rest of the world.”

Are they? They do a good job of hiding that. Based on their rhetoric, I thought they were anti-EU because Europe wants to force us to eat French cheese, ban Christmas, etc. etc.

Employee ownership through the co-operative model, is fundamentally an improvement on the current situation. As with most things, apart from full communism, it is not full communism. It would help if the article actually explained why this was a clause 4 moment. I cant see any explanation. can someone explain? anyone?

19

Beats me too, is it supposed to be a metaphor as someone else has intimated, clause 4 was about socialism, co-ops already exist within capitalism.

@chaise – love europe; hate EU.

Diverse cultures, languages, wines cheeses – great; 27 unelected political has beens (or never weres) overriding the directly elected parliament of the UK – not great.
….

22. Raymond Terrific

I look forward to seeing this one in action. He said sarcastically.

So should workers be able to buy out their companies? I can think of two ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answers right now off the top of my head. So come on eggheads, it shouldn’t take you long to get this one sorted!

A quote from the motion via the OP: “Buy outs would be funded by a Green National Investment Bank and contingent on the co-ops following green and ethical policies.”

So buy outs will be funded — subject to the ideological decisions of an undefined authority. Suddenly, I am falling in love with bankers…

[As the older fart who complained about small font size in the reply box, it seems fine to me. But the same size as the thread above it would work, assuming it is possible using the stylesheets.]

There is already a partial step towards employee ownership, enshrined in law. It is called sharesave. Why I am a shareholder. What I want to see is ‘one shareholder, one vote’ that way, the fact that someone else, with more voting rights, but only one brain, has the same rights as me, with less shares. The majority shareholder after all still only has one brain, and with recognition that majority shareholder = every other shareholder it will be more democratic…

Then, it is up to us all at the AGM to debate the future trajectory. The green case can then be debated fairly… at least hopefully!

You know I wish such radical sentiments were accompanied by a little more thought because it’s damned easy to scribble down a motion but damned hard to appear credible while unravelling the gordion knot of unintended consequences arising from adopting it.
No word on the guidelines for a Green Investment Bank – how it prices the company due to be taken over, how it appraises risk, how it determines whether the workforce have the necessary skills to run the enterprise.
It’s an open door to fraud; person A starts a company, grossly inflates its value through ghost trading and gets friends B-Z to demand a buyout backed by the taxpayer. Person A cashes in a disappears while B-Z cheerfullylet it go to the wall and split A’s proceeds with him on a beach in Brazil.
No word on whether there has to be any test for when a buyout might be appropriate – ie when a company is on the verge of collapse and faces being shut down; great, just when it’s turning profitable after some poor guy put his house on the line and slogged his guts out for five years to get it there; crap.
If I’m asked about this on the doorstep I’ll put it down to good intentions, youthful idealism and enthusiasm triumphing over properly working though a policy before adopting it. Sheesh.

#25 @Jonathan – ouch!

I’m not sure “youthful idealism, etc” is a sufficient excuse. A more charitable explanation is contained in the OP: it would appear that many thought they were voting for “collective ownership, etc”.

This would still imply a massive ignorance of the past, a grim totalitarian mind-set, etc, but at least there would be some coherence.

“You know I wish such radical sentiments were accompanied by a little more thought ”

But this is entirely why it is stupid to have policies decided by a show of hands in a party conference. A more sane approach would be to have conference vote on a principle, which then translates into the policy people turning the principle into something detailed and robust. So instead of this, what happens is party conference passes a motion worded along the lines of:

“Calls on the party to adopt policies aimed at improving employee ownerhip and involvement in the running of private workplaces”

The party wonks then turn this into actual policies.

@chaise – love europe; hate EU.

Diverse cultures, languages, wines cheeses – great; 27 unelected political has beens (or never weres) overriding the directly elected parliament of the UK – not great.
….f

30. Chaise Guevara

@ 23 Charlieman

“A quote from the motion via the OP: “Buy outs would be funded by a Green National Investment Bank and contingent on the co-ops following green and ethical policies.”

So buy outs will be funded — subject to the ideological decisions of an undefined authority. Suddenly, I am falling in love with bankers…”

Christ, I sauntered over that part of the OP. You’re right, that’s horrible. If you want to prevent corporate irresponsibility then you outlaw irresponsible behaviour in the first place. You don’t just hand businesses over to people you like more.

Greens’ll probably lose my vote on this one (full disclosure: for FPTP reasons, they only had it in Europe anyway).

“As the older fart who complained about small font size in the reply box, it seems fine to me. But the same size as the thread above it would work, assuming it is possible using the stylesheets.”

That’s what I was thinking. I was gonna scroll out, but that makes the rest of the site look tiny. Actually, isn’t it fixed? Just realised the font looks normal as I type this.

31. Chaise Guevara

@ 29 Paul

” love europe; hate EU.

Diverse cultures, languages, wines cheeses – great; 27 unelected political has beens (or never weres) overriding the directly elected parliament of the UK – not great.”

Absolutely fair enough. So I’ve no quarrel with you personally (still in favour of the EU, but I respect your reasons). But UKIP – from its grassroots to its management – does delight in mindless nationalistic appeals and, at times, great big fibs. You know, immigrants being allowed to stay in the UK because they have a cat, that sort of thing.

Excellent news, the Greens are positioning themselves to replace labour, now that labour have become a party of cynical neoliberal careerists.
It’s time the unions backed away from the Labour party and started exploring a relationship with the Greens, the Labour party in it’s current incarnation views the unions as a cash cow and nothing else, they are overtly contemptuous of worker’s rights and repeatedly condemn industrial action.
If the Labour poshos regard the unions as an embarrassment then it’s time the purse strings drew tight and the unions went elsewhere in the battle for representation of working men and women because it, sure as shit, isn’t on Labour’s agenda anymore.

33. Just Visiting

So would this allow teachers to buy out their school?
Nurses to buy out their hospital?

Or are they not to get the rights that others get?

It’s just loopy no matter which way you look at it.


Reactions: Twitter, blogs
  1. Jason Brickley

    Green Party passes its own Clause 4 motion http://t.co/OB7dwzOW

  2. Ricky Stafford

    Green Party passes a motion similar to the Labour Party's old clause 4. Talks about democratising industry. http://t.co/YUjk1MSs

  3. Christine Pampling

    RT @libcon: Green Party passes its own Clause 4 motion http://t.co/W2gOgSAV

  4. leftlinks

    Liberal Conspiracy – Green Party passes its own Clause 4 motion http://t.co/MpCfkVzL

  5. andy_s_64

    Green Party passes its own Clause 4 motion http://t.co/9604uM7l (via @libcon)

  6. Ed Simpson

    Green Party passes its own Clause 4 motion | Liberal Conspiracy http://t.co/bDK6UzQJ via @libcon

  7. Wesley Johnston

    Green Party continue to advocate total control over economic life of the country. These are scary people. http://t.co/5jqFTGRd via @libcon

  8. sunny hundal

    Green Party passes its own Clause 4 motion, says @AdamRamsay -http://t.co/v5KZAG8X

  9. Ben Phillips

    Huzzah: http://t.co/VGw2uKK7

  10. Jon Stone

    The Green Party conference passes a policy for full collective worker's ownership of the means of production: http://t.co/UroC2Y1W

  11. Bob Irving

    The Green Party conference passes a policy for full collective worker's ownership of the means of production: http://t.co/UroC2Y1W

  12. Lucy Lepchani

    Green Party passes its own Clause 4 motion, says @AdamRamsay -http://t.co/v5KZAG8X

  13. Laura Synthesis

    Awesome RT @sunny_hundal Green Party passes its own Clause 4 motion, says @AdamRamsay -http://t.co/PzpjmTzy

  14. sarah

    Green Party passes its own Clause 4 motion | Liberal Conspiracy http://t.co/bDK6UzQJ via @libcon

  15. Stephen

    Green Party continue to advocate total control over economic life of the country. These are scary people. http://t.co/5jqFTGRd via @libcon

  16. Gawain Towler

    the Green Party commits to collective ownership of the means of production.http://t.co/8gmOhR4d via @libcon

  17. Andrew Ducker

    The Green Party has just committed to the right of workers to buy out companies and turn them into co-ops. http://t.co/qbbaRckl

  18. Murray McKirdle

    The Green Party conference passes a policy for full collective worker's ownership of the means of production: http://t.co/UroC2Y1W

  19. Thomas Hoof

    "@GawainTowler: the Green Party commits to collective ownership of the means of production.http://t.co/oEPyjnaQ via @libcon" > commies

  20. Alastair Murray

    The Green Party conference passes a policy for full collective worker's ownership of the means of production: http://t.co/UroC2Y1W

  21. Glen Wilson

    "@GawainTowler: the Green Party commits to collective ownership of the means of production.http://t.co/oEPyjnaQ via @libcon" > commies

  22. Lynton North

    The Green Party conference passes a policy for full collective worker's ownership of the means of production: http://t.co/UroC2Y1W

  23. sparklepete

    Green Party passes its own Clause 4 motion | Liberal Conspiracy http://t.co/bDK6UzQJ via @libcon

  24. Paul Perrin

    the Green Party commits to collective ownership of the means of production.http://t.co/8gmOhR4d via @libcon

  25. TotnesB

    Green Party passes its own Clause 4 motion, says @AdamRamsay -http://t.co/v5KZAG8X

  26. Luke

    Green Party passes its own Clause 4 motion, says @AdamRamsay -http://t.co/v5KZAG8X

  27. Lucy Lepchani

    Green Party passes its own Clause 4 motion | Liberal Conspiracy http://t.co/UtdqS4Ke via @libcon

  28. Commuterist

    Green Party passes its own Clause 4 motion http://t.co/2bMlHxkf

  29. Aaron Peters

    So who's going to explain that setting up co-operatives is not the collective ownership of the means of production? http://t.co/aEW9tHwS

  30. WGLloyd

    So who's going to explain that setting up co-operatives is not the collective ownership of the means of production? http://t.co/aEW9tHwS

  31. mark wright

    So who's going to explain that setting up co-operatives is not the collective ownership of the means of production? http://t.co/aEW9tHwS

  32. David Kasper

    So who's going to explain that setting up co-operatives is not the collective ownership of the means of production? http://t.co/aEW9tHwS

  33. Robert Pennington

    Green Party propose putting the means of production in the hands of the workers. I have a nice warm feeling in my heart http://t.co/tZgR9Exb

  34. Tom Allen

    Cool – Clause 4 is back! http://t.co/YmVko6Qc

  35. ??p ????s

    Green Party passes its own Clause 4 motion http://t.co/9As4Q8M0

  36. AGH

    So who's going to explain that setting up co-operatives is not the collective ownership of the means of production? http://t.co/aEW9tHwS

  37. Bernard Little

    Green Party passes its own Clause 4 motion | Liberal Conspiracy http://t.co/yCKODFfL via @libcon

  38. Robert CP

    Green Party passes its own Clause 4 motion | Liberal Conspiracy http://t.co/3iN1qwTB via @libcon

  39. Red Ladder Theatre

    Yesterday a Labour MP talked of wealth creation – the Greens of collective ownership. I know which I support! http://t.co/v1ebKU7I

  40. jo abbess

    @Vicxster84 RT "Hurrah for collective-ownership!! Green Party passes own Clause 4 motion http://t.co/FZMxvyjT via @libcon"

  41. Insidefilm

    Yesterday a Labour MP talked of wealth creation – the Greens of collective ownership. I know which I support! http://t.co/v1ebKU7I

  42. John Cartwright

    http://t.co/IIeHXbhw

  43. Ed Hart

    Green Party passes its own Clause 4 motion | Liberal Conspiracy http://t.co/SpY7uPdU via @libcon

  44. Pozorvlak

    .@TheGreenParty commits to collective ownership of the means of production via workers' buyouts: http://t.co/53Cjf8LR

  45. Pozorvlak

    Re http://t.co/53Cjf8LR I remember Labour dropping Clause IV (http://t.co/B2nVHwJG) in 1995. I've hated Tony Blair ever since.

  46. Pozorvlak

    Worth reading the comments on http://t.co/53Cjf8LR, BTW: they raise some serious-looking objections to the policy.

  47. Peter Berry

    .@TheGreenParty commits to collective ownership of the means of production via workers' buyouts: http://t.co/53Cjf8LR

  48. Peter Berry

    Hmm, green democratic communism? I'll vote for that. @pozorvlak @TheGreenParty http://t.co/Br9xOEeV

  49. Bernard Little

    Green Party passes its own Clause 4 motion | Liberal Conspiracy http://t.co/yCKODFfL via @libcon





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