WHAT ARE THE GREENS telling us when they allow 29 people to overrule the wishes of 71 people? In essence, they are telling us that, in their political party, minorities count for more than majorities. Or, to put it more bluntly, the Greens are telling us they do not believe in democracy.
For those who look back fondly on the co-leadership of Rod Donald and Jeanette Fitzsimons, the Greens’ antipathy to democracy will be hard to accept. The Green Party they remember seemed very much a party of human rights and freedom, and its consensus-based decision-making process struck many as the epitome of political inclusiveness. Masking the fact that making decisions this way actually disempowers people, stands among Rod’s and Jeanette’s most important contributions to the Green Party’s electoral viability.
How much harder it would have been for their party to crest the 5 percent threshold if Rod and Jeanette had openly repudiated traditional democratic decision-making processes. “We believe in allowing minorities to overrule majorities” is hardly an election-winning slogan!
The Greens’ anti-democratic instincts constitute one of the more important reasons why they have never allowed themselves to become a mass party with tens-of-thousands of members. And it’s odd, isn’t it, that they haven’t? When you think of the huge numbers of young people eager to do all they can to rescue the planet from disaster; or the scientists desperate to make themselves heard; or the workers keen to stop contributing to the despoilation of the natural environment; it’s astonishing that the Greens are not, far-and-away, New Zealand’s largest political party.
What is it, then, that leads the Greens to believe – like Lenin’s Bolsheviks – that “fewer, but better” is the way to go? The answer is brutally simple: a mass party, in which everyone has an equal say, and policy reflects the will of the majority; is a party whose ideological purity will very soon be compromised, and its political priorities side-tracked, by people with “unacceptable” ideas. Bluntly, Ecologism and Populism do not mix.
Those who join the Greens do not enter an open party, with simple, practical structures, but a strangely opaque organisation whose rules and rulers are hard to find and difficult to understand. It is a party of initiates who assess, rather than welcome, newcomers. How likely are these newbies to measure-up to the ideological and procedural strictures of the Greens? Will they be disruptive? Will they challenge the party’s precepts? Are they racists, sexists, homophobes, transphobes, and/or Islamophobes? Do they know what it means to be te Tiriti centric? Are they familiar with the jargon and buzz-words of the contemporary Left? What are their pronouns?
How many meetings will an ordinary person, keen to fight climate change, attend before people of indeterminate gender, with purple hair, talking menacingly of heteronormative white privilege, convince them that it might be wiser, and more enjoyable, to be a Green Party member who “works from home”. One? Two? Assuming, of course, they don’t decide they’d be better off getting involved in some other – any other – political party?
Fewer, but better?
Even the saintly Jeanette Fitzsimons had her Leninist side. I well recall an old time ecologist, one of those who fought to “Save Manapouri”, approaching me with a bitter tale of intolerance and exclusion. Unconvinced by Catherine Delahunty’s interpretation of the te Tiriti o Waitangi and its meaning, this Green Party member had argued for a more nuanced Treaty policy. Fatal mistake. When he put his name forward for the Party List he was informed bluntly by Jeanette that his views on the Treaty made him unfit to carry the Green banner into an election. His name was not even allowed to go forward to be ranked by the members – lest a lifetime of contributions to environmental politics prompted too many of them to overlook his “racism”.
To be accepted into the body of the Green Church, one must be willing and able to recite its catechism word perfect – and without demur.
This is the critical political weakness of the Greens – their unwillingness to repose the ultimate determinative power of their movement in the collective judgement of their party’s members. In the inner sanctum of the Green temple burn four torches: Ecological Wisdom, Social Responsibility, Appropriate Decision-Making, and Non-Violence. Their sacred flames are tended by priests and priestesses whose manner of induction remains mysterious, but whose powers extend even to striking down a co-leader, should his dedication to the party’s guiding lights be deemed insufficient.
As James Shaw saved these pure Greens from themselves in 2017, they resented him. As he secured the Climate Change portfolio for his party, they suspected him. As he achieved cross-party support for crucial climate change legislation, they condemned him. And, as he was white, and male, and straight, and admired by a clear majority of Green Party members – as well, unforgivably, as the Prime Minister herself – they slew him with 29 daggers.
And the 71 daggers, whose owners supported this Green Caesar, were powerless to defend him.
Because, whatever else the Greens may be – they are not democrats.
* You ungrateful Greens!
This essay was originally posted on The Daily Blog of Thursday, 28 July 2022.