Monday, April 18, 2005

Dishevelled Hippies vs. Capitalism

The Green Party of England and Wales, that genuine citadel of ageing hippies, middle-class radicals and moderate socialists, have once again legitimised their image as the "nice party" of British politics.

Their recently published manifesto, while carefully avoiding the words "socialism" or "working-class" like the plague, is a triumph of reformist socialism. Old Labourites will be proud. In an age when the Big Three parties unashamedly endorse the politics of populism and opportunism, where business finances elections and the mass media sets the debate, it's nice to know that some people haven't abandoned their principles for a few extra votes.

Committed to such forgotten concepts as compassion and justice, their traditional "soft Left" policies are a warm reminder that socialism doesn't have to consist of Trots in turbans to attract popular appeal. The Greens, in all their reformist glory, probably accomplish more in their grassroots, cooperative platform than all the various hard Left sects, cults and fronts put together.

Of course, an electoral platform by itself isn't the answer. The Greens are, at best, Old Labour reborn for the 21st Century. But they do serve one, incredibly valuable use: they have recaptured the moral high ground from liberalism. Avoiding confrontational politics, their general attitude is eerily reminiscent of the average primary school: look after those who struggle, share your toys, respect the views of others, always be responsible, and don't be greedy.

Whatever the downside of their policies, the Greens’ support for inclusive, community-based politics and grassroots democracy may be just the tool to get people active in politics again.

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