Tuesday 22 April 2014

The Greens Stand Alone

Earth's Last Champion: The history of the twenty-first century will be shaped by an increasingly bitter struggle between the two great remaining “metanarratives” – Neoliberalism and Ecologism. If the Greens did not exist as a political option we would have been forced to invent them.
IT’S NOT EASY being Green. But, then, if it was easy, the Green’s wouldn’t need to exist. If all the other political parties grasped the sheer size of the paradigm shift needed to deal with global warming, resource depletion and the unrelenting despoliation of the natural environment, then a political movement dedicated to the practical application of ecological wisdom would be unnecessary.
The great tragedy of our times is that the politics of ecological denial boasts some extremely powerful backers. This should not surprise us. The history of the twenty-first century will be shaped by an increasingly bitter struggle between the two great remaining “metanarratives” – Neoliberalism and Ecologism. The fundamental logic of the former repudiates the inter-relatedness of all living things in the name of the sovereign individual. Ecologism’s fundamental insight rejects entirely the logic of individualism in the name of the interdependent whole. In short: “I” gives way to “We”.
New Zealand is still very much in the grip of Neoliberal ideology. Indeed, all of our political parties – with the exception of the Greens – are dedicated in one way or another to strengthening and/or repairing the core market mechanisms that make individualism a practical social proposition.
National and Act are committed to purifying and intensifying the competitiveness of our market system. NZ First and the Conservatives favour a measured restoration of social cohesion by means of a slight relaxation in market rigor. Labour’s self-contradictory remit combines an improvement in the efficiency of the market mechanism with an attenuation of its worst socially disintegrative effects.
Only the Greens have grasped the need to turn the mechanisms of the market to new, environmentally sustainable and socially integrative purposes. In the spirit of Isaiah, their mission is to beat the market’s swords into ploughshares and its spears into pruning hooks.
That being the case we should not be surprised at the constant and increasingly aggressive misrepresentation of the Greens’ political project. Wittingly or unwittingly, the existing order’s guardians are positioning the Greens at the centre of a narrative of exclusion.
To Act and National, Ecologism is merely the most recent mask of their oldest foe, Communism. To NZ First and the Conservatives, not only are the Greens leftists, they are loony-leftists – an unfathomable eruption from beyond the borders of order and reason. To Labour, the Greens are more readily understood and, therefore, more feared. Deep within Labour’s historical memory the Green message calls forth echoes of a time when Labour, too, was about the transition from “I” to “We”. It’s a recollection they’d rather forget.
There is a growing awareness, among politicians and journalists alike, that the only person standing between the Greens and truly effective political power is the NZ First Party’s leader, Winston Peters. This will likely see the old campaigner restored to his role as “Kingmaker”. Labour’s decision to reject the Greens’ offer to campaign jointly under the banner of a “Labour/Greens Government” makes this even more probable. The Neoliberal Establishment may not care for NZ First and its eccentric boss but, if he is ready to bar the Cabinet Room door to Russel Norman and Metira Turei, they will tolerate him.
The pundits are confident that Mr Peters’ presence at the centre of the current political equation has the Greens beaten. Regardless of which major party he decides to back, the Greens will play no part in the resulting coalition government. Yes, they may end up wielding an indispensable number of votes, but these will avail them nothing because, in the end, they will not dare use them to force a new election.
Will they not? At some point the Greens are going to have to step away from the adjunct status they have, for far too long now, been willing to accept. If they are, indeed, the sole standard-bearer for the only coherent alternative to the planet-consuming greed of financial capitalism, then a day must come when the voters are presented with a clear and unequivocal choice between Neoliberalism and Ecologism.
If Labour is unwilling to fight alongside the Greens, then they will have no choice but to position Labour alongside the defenders of Neoliberalism. They may not emerge victorious from this first stark encounter but, be assured, Labour will be destroyed by it. Just as Labour supplanted the discredited Liberal Party, the Greens will consign Labour to the dustbin of history. In the grim, dualistic struggle between Neoliberalism and Ecologism there is no “Third Way”.
In their hearts, Labour’s members and supporters know this. That’s why, when polled, close to two-thirds of them indicate a preference for a Labour/Green coalition. The Greens need not shrink from a new election.  Labour’s leadership really need to believe that.
It’s not easy being the Greens. But if they did not exist, then the twenty-first century’s voters would be forced to invent them.
This essay was originally published in The Press of Tuesday, 22 April 2014.


Sanctuary said...

"...Labour’s self-contradictory remit combines an improvement in the efficiency of the market mechanism..."

I would recommend everyone pops over to Wikipedia and read the section on the gradual decline of the Liberal party. Repace liberal with Labour and at the moment, you could make a good case that history is repeating itself.


Guerilla Surgeon said...

I have a vague memory of you giving the green a kick or two Chris :-). Have you had a change of heart? Personally, I wouldn't like to push the Greens too hard – they are mostly very middle-class. I don't see why everyone so scared of them, but as you say they are represented as extremists.

Guerilla Surgeon said...

This guy is in the news a lot lately. I'm beginning to like him :-).


Jigsaw said...

The Greens certainly are weird and hardly logical. Recall that their idea for the production of biofuels from maize was an idea that they trumpeted without apparently any consideration whatever of the downstream effects of a such a policy. Typically when the side effects became obvious they simply walked away from the whole idea-it was never mentioned again.
Their ideas can best be seen in the comment of one National MP who remarked that the Greens saw forestry 'as teams of cyclists towing logs out of the bush'. That's about the measure of the Greens and the economic damage that they would do to this country in a single term near the levers of power is almost immeasurable. Their policies in pursuit of eco-purity would hit the poorest in our country the hardest.

Victor said...

"There is a growing awareness, among politicians and journalists alike, that the only person standing between the Greens and truly effective political power is the NZ First Party’s leader, Winston Peters."

I'm not sure this is true. Absent NZ First from the equation and I suspect that National and its allies would still have been able to muster a majority after the election.

But, I would agree, it's a bit academic, as NZ First is firmly part of the equation.

Anonymous said...

I notice you have omitted mention of Mana, the only other parliamentary party (and wider movement) to have genuine Green credentials. Indeed, I would argue that Mana is more green than the Greens, given the latter appears to retain a firm confidence in 'market environmentalism', once the right incentives have been put in place by Government. This is hardly the fundamental step-change required to save our natural environment from catastrophe.
Faith in the Grey-Greens to implement meaningful, radical change in the ecological focus of Government policy will likely be rewarded in a similar manner as workers were under the Clark Government: half-hearted, watered-down reforms that softened the sharp edges of an unjust system, while leaving that system entirely intact.

Brendan McNeill said...

A sage politician once opined that he was surprised the Greens were so concerned about the planet since they spent so little time here.

A dose of the Greens in Government would quickly apprise the the electorate to the truth of that saying. If we survived the experience, it is unlikely we would be troubled by them again in living memory. For that reason alone it might be a good thing.

With Shane Jones retiring, I'm guessing it is now all academic as the prospects of a win by the Left at the coming election have diminished still further.

Brendan McNeill said...


Further to my previous post, I couldn't resist this wonderful extract from Dr Sue Blackmore in the Guardian circa 2006 entitled 'Survival of the selfish'. Enjoy:


"In all probability billions of people are going to die in the next few decades. Our poor, abused planet cannot take much more… If we take the unselfish route and try to save everyone the outcome is likely to be horrific conflict in the fight over resources, and continuing devastation of the planet until most, or all, of humanity is dead.

If we decide to put the planet first, then we ourselves are the pathogen. So we should let as many people die as possible, so that other species may live, and accept the destruction of civilization and of everything we have achieved.

Finally, we might decide that civilization itself is worth preserving. In that case we have to work out what to save and which people would be needed in a drastically reduced population - weighing the value of scientists and musicians against that of politicians, for example."

Green angst at its best.

Who in their world will be making the decision whom to save when it comes to choices between the scientist, the musician, and perhaps the journalist? Hopefully you are prepared to gracefully accept their decision if it's not in your favour.

After all, we are the pathogen remember.

Kat said...

There you go Chris, no sweet integration of hippies ideals unless money is involved, lots of money.

So, as John Key was saying today, bugger the left and the crucifixion extremists let the shops be open!

Guerilla Surgeon said...

Jigsaw, Labour walked away from the "nationalisation of the means of production distribution and exchange." I think all parties in the beginning, have policies that they would rather not be reminded of in maturity :-).

Anonymous said...

The Decline of the Liberal Party narrative doesn't work for Labour and the Greens, for the very simple reason that the voting bases of Labour and the Greens remain very distinct creatures. Labour's base is among trade unions, the poor, Maori, Pacific Islanders. The Greens' base is among well-educated urban liberals. Poor people don't vote Green (or Mana) - they either don't vote or they vote Labour.

TM said...

The Greens have an unfair advantage over Labour - they have a clear direction and their policies are coherent and are consistent with this.

Labour tries to be all things to all people which creates an air of confusion and distrust.

Davo Stevens said...

TM is right. The Greens have a clear policy whether we agree with it or not.Labour is trying to be a Natlite again (still?).

It's possible that Labour will able to form the next Govt but I have my doubts.

Trade union backing for Labour? What trade unions? They have been decimated and that is the reason why workers wages have stagnated over the last 30yrs. Labour now has to get it's finance from the same sources as the Nats hence the same policies with a different name.

Guerilla Surgeon said...


Bit optimistic but food for thought :-).

Victor said...


People are scared of the Greens because they've been told to be scared of the Greens.

Anonymous said...


The climate crisis will be solved after a fashion. Opponents have recently signalled that they are only willing to consider policies of living with climate change and modification of the environment.

This will likely involve a massive transfer of public wealth to the private sector, probably the nuclear industry, and the people who live nearer the equator will be left to fend for themselves. Other than that, business as usual.

Anonymous said...

I really don't understand why people are calling Labour 'Natlite'. Labour and NZ First are the only sane parties in parliament.

Labour intend to drastically increase state control of the energy sector, put the state in the insurance sector, build many more state houses and build 100,000 new homes for the struggling middle class. They want to finally make some serious reforms giving unions back their democratic due, encourage manufacturing and adequately raise the minimum wage.

These aforementioned policies would already be a significant departure from neoliberalism and there are more to come.

I'm sorry, but Labour aren't done yet. They still have the policy sophistication, they just have been subjected to the concerted campaign by the entrenched power of the national old boys network and the media that they are dead and failing.

My instinct is that they probably won't form a government this election but the next election they will.

Anonymous said...

Another point, which I have made before, is that Cunliffe is Key's equal.

The guy knows his economics, he knows his labour values; he has confidence, determination and ambition.

Does anyone actually read what he has to say?

We'd be truly lucky to have this man as prime minister.

I recommend this interview

Guerilla Surgeon said...

"My instinct is that they probably won't form a government this election but the next election they will."

Statistics tell us that. And Labour is Natlite. I'll go into it tomorrow.

jh said...

Anti-immigration feeling has no place in the Green party Immigration and Population policies released today, Green MP Keith Locke says.

"It is anathema to myself - as it is to the Green Party - that any person should interest themselves in the right of any one to choose how many children they have," said Mr Locke.

Ecological Wisdom:
The basis of ecological wisdom is that human beings are part of the natural world. This world is finite, therefore unlimited material growth is impossible. Ecological sustainability is paramount.
Social Responsibility:
Unlimited material growth is impossible. Therefore the key to social responsibility is the just distribution of social and natural resources, both locally and globally.

So what is a just distribution of resources where party x decides to have more children than they can afford?

What do the Greens say about population growth in NZ (an extra million over the last couple of decade?

And there is the messy matter of of their Mana and Maori Party end indigenous policy's.

Anonymous said...

Basic human needs are shelter, food, and fuel.. Labour should have a policy to control the greedy supermarkets, Petrol stations, and housing companies. There should be set prices for all commodities at the supermarket shelves, set petrol prices nationwide, and standard house plans for everybody. That way there would be enough for food housing and fuel for everybody.

jh said...

The Greens remind me of reversible jackets: now we are a green party, now we are a social justice party. A party that views problems as societal is not the same as one that has a more basic paradigm based in biology and evolutionary psychology.
The Greens only represent a narrow self selected base (note David hay hanging upside down on the Daly Blog).

Guerilla Surgeon said...

Okay, National light. After years of the welfare state, we had Roger Douglas and treasury instituting an enterprise state, because they claimed the welfare state had failed. The enterprise state essentially failed, or at least didn't fulfil its promises, which were a high skill, high pay economy.( I actually remember Roger Douglas saying this :-). Prick!) National carried this on to an extreme not found in any other country. A number of economists maintained this was unnecessary. But there you go. This has created an unequal society, in which some people got huge rewards from the changes, and others were punished ferociously.

Extreme monetarism grew unpopular, and Labour decided that they could get away with this so-called third way – the sort of middle course that was meant to adopt the strengths of the welfare state and the enterprise state and abandon the weaknesses of both. They crapped on about people having a material interest, in Giddens's words, a "stakeholder society". They basically an accepted the free market, they brought in very light handed regulation, and supposed accountability and transparency in the public service. The public service I might say was stripped down, and decisions were devolved downwards. And, and this is where the light comes in, they seem to be quite happy to put up with social and economic inequalities and a greater unemployment rate than a traditional Labour Party would suffer. It was also prepared to put up with something very similar to the National Employment Contracts Act with its concomitant weakened unions, and quite a bit of privatisation of public goods and services.

The taxation system has remained the same pretty much, which tends to either not redistribute wealth, or redistribute it upwards. Not so bad as in the U.S. may be :-). Labour constantly stresses the importance of education and training, but didn't substantially alter the system inherited from National. The social welfare system remained critically underfunded. Not that this is unusual in so-called third way economies, just look at what Blair did in Britain. Labour as did National, demanded efficiency rather than effectiveness from the public service. The stakeholder society never remotely eventuated.

So basically all labour WANTED to do was to try to mitigate some of the harsher conditions imposed by the enterprise state, so all it DID was tinker around the edges. Hence National light :-).

Davo Stevens said...

Yep Surgeon. I have been saying something similar all along. Voters have long memories and many who were good Labour supporters were disappointed by the way the party went. Some moved to the Greens who because the quasi-socialist party.

The Maori Labour supporters went to the Maori Party only to find that it was just a branch of the Gnats. Hone broke away from Labour and formed Mana. Peter Dunne broke from Labour and still doesn't know what he stands for.

Tweedledee (Gnats) and Tweedledum (Labour) is what we have got.

Scouser said...

"Earth's Last Champion: The history of the twenty-first century will be shaped by an increasingly bitter struggle between the two great remaining “metanarratives” – Neoliberalism and Ecologism. "

Except the Greens are not Ecologists. They are Luddites with extra portons of socialism. They seem to be against everything for the sake of being anti and, one cynically suspects, to support a command and control type mentality.

Their 'science' is invariably flawed. E.G. Frankenfoods (note the emotive label) never eventuated. Arguably, genetic engineering is one of the great advances that will be the saving of us all.

CO2 reduction would condemn a couple of billion Indians and Chinese to shorter, poverty laden lives based on unproven computer models. Any idiot can see that this is a political no starter and that the world was always going to take a fix it if it's actually a real probem approach.

Never a peep about the tragedy of the commons that constitute the oceans and probably one of the biggest environmental risks around etc.

They are seen as extreme by many because they are. They receive votes through excellent branding, the scientific illiteracy of (especially so called educated middle class) many of the population and a failed attempt by some voters to avoid the left wing/right wing polarisation of politics.

Even though I am economically right of centre I would vote for a true enviromental party. We are seriously gobbing on bits of the planet. Shame that the only option is the most deceptive of parties that are the Greens.

I feel Labour recognise these issues and realise that tightly linking themselves to the Greens will not aid their chances of winning the next election but will probably increase the Greens' vote. Good decision by Labour.

Guerilla Surgeon said...


Loz said...

For two hundred years a group have argued that a market that's free from tax and government interference will be self-correcting and will promote growth and wellbeing within the community of nations. As long ago as the Great Hunger, (known in England as the Potato Famine), the British government actually prevented aid from being sent to the starving under the auspices that providing food aid would be interfering with the supply and demand of the market.

The "leave the market alone to do as it pleases" dogma repeatedly failed. A market will only ever provide to those with cash. Instead of spreading wealth and opportunities to the impoverished, it increased the numbers of those in poverty & increased the wealth of a tiny group at the top.

At the end of the long depression the early Liberals firmly rejected the same Laissez Faire arguments we hear today. An eerily familiar condemnation of the free market dogma from Richard Seddon's successful election campaign as of 1893 can be read here. It was the same rejection of the deregulated gospel that Labour Party statesmen such as Walter Nash lectured against in the Great Depression with addresses such as the “Conscious Purpose versus Laissez Faire".

Guerilla Surgeon said...

I see Piketty has finally reached the pages of the Dominion Post. Just remember you read it here first folks :-).