Beyond Tomorrow: Unless the Greens recapture the visionary elan of their predecessor party, Values, the Greens - like the Alliance - are doomed to electoral oblivion.
I am delighted to introduce Bowalley Road’s first Guest Posting, penned by my good friend, Dr Chris Harris. In the light of the departure of Sue Bradford from Parliament, and hoping to expand and illuminate the debate about the Greens’ future it has sparked, Chris kindly agreed to contribute the following essay.
WHEN is playing it safe not safe? When you're a Green Party, it would seem.
In a poll conducted just before Sue Bradford's shock resignation, Colmar Brunton put the New Zealand Greens on 4.3 per cent. This is a dangerous number, less than the MMP threshold.
Sue Bradford was one of the most obviously radical of our nine Green MPs. She was certainly the stroppiest and will leave a big gap.
The Greens should be making hay at the expense of a climate-sceptic government and the clash of transport philosophies in Auckland. Yet clearly, they are not.
What is happening is that the Greens are suffering the same eclipse as other 'support parties' before them, such as the Progressives, New Zealand First and United Future.
It seems that Ms Bradford wanted the Greens to make more of a noise, to put more of a distance between themselves and the two main parties. But they have not seemed able to do this.
Thus, like our national brand 100% Pure New Zealand or the climate-threatened snows of Kilimanjaro, the Greens seem to be melting away.
The performance is even more tragic when we compare it with the outcome of the German elections, held within hours of Ms Bradford's resignation.
The German Greens, and even more so the Left Party—die Linke, an essentially Marxist organisation—set out to capture protest votes against the two main parties, which were actually in coalition with each other and not just similar on many issues, as they are in New Zealand.
The German Greens won 10.7 per cent of the vote and the Left Party a whopping 11.9 per cent.
Summing the two, a pair of parties that stood out from the crowd won 22.6 per cent. Whereas our Greens, in the shadow of the two main parties and invisible, score 4.3 or perhaps less this week.
WE COULD CALL the German outcome a protest vote. But such large protests herald change, in the same way that the 21 per cent vote for Bruce Beetham's Social Credit in 1981 probably helped to kick-start Rogernomics. (Beetham detested the Rogernomes, but as Karl Marx said, we make history in ways that are not always of our own choosing.)
That winds of change are blowing across all Europe, and not just Germany, has been sensed by the conservative French President Nicolas Sarkozy.
In a rather uncharacteristic speech delivered on the 14th of September, M. Sarkozy declared that the current financial crisis was nothing less than the first act of a revolution:
"A tremendous revolution awaits us... Ladies and gentlemen, how can we not see that we’ve got a problem? All over the world, people think that they are being lied to, that the figures are false, that they are being manipulated… For years we told people whose lives were becoming more and more difficult that their living standards were rising. How could they not feel deceived? ... In 18 months something remarkable has been achieved. A collective debate has now been engaged. It will never stop.... The crisis isn’t just making us free to devise other models, another future and another world. It compels us to do so."
Why have Greens and Marxists done so well in Germany by standing outside a mainstream consensus?
Why does a conservative French President make a speech in which he sounds like a 1968 radical about to throw a petrol bomb? Or, like Mikhail Gorbachev announcing drastic changes to the Soviet Union?
At bottom, of course, the reason is the global financial crisis.
Here in New Zealand, we imagine that the crisis has been fixed, and that pretty soon it will be back to speculation as usual. But in Europe they are not so confident.
The banks have been propped up for now by taxpayer bailouts. Many bankers think that they will be allowed to keep the bailout money.
We read in our newspapers and in British ones that a generation of fiscal austerity must now follow. That is to say, ten years of austerity for the little people, who were not the architects of the crisis.
But European politicians know that on their continent, it is out of the political question that the bankers will be allowed to keep the bailouts; that further upheaval is to come once the schools, universities and fire brigades start to close, as they have been doing in California.
The very iconography of modern European states bears the imprint of generations of revolution and the threat of revolution.
The logo of the French government features a female revolutionary (the famous Marianne) and the motto, Liberté, Egalité, Fraternité.
Italy's features a red-rimmed star, a garland of leaves and a cogwheel, embodying Italy's constitutional status as a "democratic republic founded on labour."
Austria's features a black eagle wielding the hammer, sickle and mural crown, symbolising the liberation of the worker, the farmer and the citizen from Imperial forms of oppression (a broken chain was added after 1945).
As Mark Twain said, rumours of his death were exaggerated. So it is, in fact, with radicalism, socialism and even Marxism.
It's common in NZ to talk about "failed socialist experiments" without the least understanding of what socialists, of various sorts, have said over the generations, or why they said it.
Or, whether it is still relevant today.
In view of the financial crisis, and of Europe’s past, present and possible future, a quick review might be in order, so that we may have less heat and more light.