03 May 2011

Why not the Greens?

Matty Townsend, one of the Green Party candidates for South Wales Central, has asked me if I'll be using my 2nd vote to support the Greens in their push to get an AM in Wales and "fight the cuts". Here's why not.

Firstly, as a Dirty Foreigner I don't get a vote. If I did get a vote, it would be for Ross Saunders, Sarah Mayo and the rest of the TUSC list: all dedicated, eloquent and practical anti-cuts campaigners. I'm not saying this simply out of party loyalty. I've worked alongside Ross and Sarah and the others for two years now and I know them to be talented and committed like no other activists I've ever met.

Secondly, let's look at the Greens' actual anti-cuts record. In Leeds, Green councillors hold the balance of power, propping up a Labour minority administration. Despite this position of power, Leeds' Greens didn't reject a budget that cut £90 million in essential services, and didn't even try to amend Labour's budget to provide an alternative. This flies in the face of any anti-cuts claims the Green Party might make in Wales.

The Greens hold the balance of power in Sheffield Council too, where there's a Lib Dem minority administration. Once again, the Greens failed to use their position of power in that city. Greens were willing to say the cuts were unnecessary, but when it came to fighting them, they were absentees again. They put far more effort, in fact, into preparing lengthy apologies for making the cuts than they did into actually fighting the cuts. (see most of the Sheffield Green Party's webpage for examples)

"That's in England", the Greens will say.

We don't have Green councillors in South Wales — plenty of independents to the left of Labour, but no Greens. But we can talk about the Green Party's record on the ground here.

Earlier this year, my trade union, the UCU, took strike action; at Cardiff University we were out for two days. Student Union elections, with their accompanying elevation of student awareness of political issues, were going on at the same time. Sam Coates, a Green Party employee and the #2 on the Greens' list in South Wales Central, gave student candidates in the election the following advice: stay away from the picket lines. (This prompted one astonished campaigner to respond "Jesus Christ, Sam" in exasperation.) Creditably a number of students, including some Green Party members, ignored Sam's position. But these people are not the ones the Greens have selected to be representatives of the South Wales valleys.

Now, I have worked with Sam for a few years as well, and he can be a good activist. But this virus — this trade union blind spot — is epidemic throughout the Green Party. I have never seen any kind of organised Green support for picket lines in Cardiff. The Greens even argue that trade unions should not have political roles outside their workplaces. Greens are conspicuous by their absence on trades councils in Wales as well, and as such surrendered any kind of leading role in the anti-cuts movement on the ground even before it began.

In contrast, TUSC candidates and Socialist Party members are always present on pickets, bringing solidarity from their own unions. Indeed, the Cardiff University pickets were visited by no Green candidates, no Labour candidates (even the one who's a lecturer at Cardiff!), no Plaid candidates — but several TUSC candidates, two of whom spoke at our demonstration. TUSC supporters played leading roles in organising the 5 March demonstration against the Tory and Lib Dem conferences in Wales, when no other party would (of course, the other parties were happy to try to steal the left's thunder on the day...) When it comes to industrial relations, TUSC simply understands, through doing, the importance of trade unions, in a way the Greens never have and never will.

But even if the Greens have conceded the ground of organised workers in their workplaces, they should, at least, align themselves with organised ordinary people in their communities. Here I have to make reference to the words & deeds of Matt Townsend himself, the #4 on the Greens' South Wales Central list.

As many of you know, I am secretary of Cardiff Against the Incinerator (although, to be absolutely clear, I am writing this piece in a personal capacity). CATI was launched by a core of campaigners from the Socialist Party and Communist Party, and prides itself on being able to draw support from across the community. Plaid Cymru candidates and Lib Dem councillors sit on its executive committee, and the local Labour branch is affiliated to the campaign and has provided CATI with material support, including legal assistance.

There has been no organised Green presence in CATI in months. Instead, Townsend used the launch of CATI to promote the Green Party, even substituting contact information for CATI with contact information for the Greens on literature they circulated. Then he abandoned CATI, instead throwing the local Greens Party's support behind the pseudo-scientific claims of a non-local group with ties to UKIP.

At a time when incinerators are proposed or planned in Cardiff, Barry and Merthyr Tydfil, this is not what South Wales Central needs. To fight abuses of power by councils and the assembly, we need mass movements — and this is what TUSC is prepared to lead.

To build those mass movements, we need a political leadership intimately involved with the organised working class, whether in the trade unions or in the communities, capable of engaging with all layers — and this is what TUSC already does.

To fight cuts to public services, to restore those services to public control, we need a party that will stand firm against every cut, and make no concessions to the Tories and Lib Dems — and this is what TUSC and only TUSC promises to do.

Why should Wales not vote for the Greens? The Greens are not good enough. They'll talk right, but they'll never deliver. They're only in it for themselves.

Vote for the working class. Vote TUSC on May the 5th.

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