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Do you have to be red to be green?
The science on global warming is unanswerable now - the danger is that it could develop much more rapidly. There could be serious effects within ten years. Have we already gone beyond the point of no return? What can be done to mitigate the terrible consequences that could follow for millions of the world's population?
These were the opening questions posed by Pete Dickinson, speaking for the Socialist Party in a packed debate with the Green Party. He rejected as solutions the Kyoto agreement - "a fiasco which leaves big business free to pollute"; ecotaxes - "they hit the poorest hardest"; and nuclear power - "some on the left and green movements seem to see this as a lesser evil, a dangerous position we need to challenge."
The newly-elected principal male speaker of the Green Party, Derek Wall, described himself as an eco-socialist. "The roots of the ecological crisis are markets and capitalism", he said. Quoting Marx and Engels extensively, he called for a society without "enclosure" of goods and services, meaning available to all regardless of ability to pay. He called for the abolition of VAT and its replacement by environmental taxes, the nationalisation of rail, free education and rolling back the market, but "there were limits to central planning", he said.
In the discussion, more of the differences between the two parties emerged. An Irish Socialist Party member reported that the Green Party there had six MPs who were following the route of the German Green Party, sizing up partners among the big business parties to join in coalition government.
The Greens had supported the Bin Tax, which hit poor people hardest, leading to many opting out of the waste management system and turning into an environmental disaster. From Lewisham, a member of the Alliance of Green Socialists reported on the support of Green councillors for an ALMO (a form of housing privatisation).
Green Party member, Terry McGrenera, said "The big question is - do we have to have a revolution? We just don't have time." He added, "There are too many of us humans. We need a tax not on carbon but on people."
The Greens' programme of 'contract and converge' - meaning cuts in production and living standards in advanced industrialised countries to allow increases in the poorest countries - was attacked. There are massive inequalities even in the richest countries and no mechanism under capitalism to transfer any wealth from 'contraction' to the poorest on the planet. This would only benefit the capitalists of the North and the South. No-one's needs would be met.
Only democratic planning could produce green sustainable growth, concluded Pete Dickinson - something that was impossible under capitalism. We need a political party with a programme to change things that goes beyond the environment. You can't really be green without being red.
In The Socialist 7 December 2006:
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