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Green Party - A serious Left alternative?
THE PROSPECT of voting for one of the three main pro-capitalist parties in this election makes many working-class people cringe.
New Labour has alienated vast layers of the population, in particular working-class and young people who may have supported them in the last election. Liberal Democrats offer no alternative to Blair's cuts and privatisation while the wretched Tories could, deservedly, face their worst result since 1832 according to opinion polls.
The turnout on 7 June is likely to be far lower than 1997 but many people will want to vote for an alternative party.
Issues of food safety and farming practices have come to the fore recently. The outbreak of foot and mouth disease has raised deep concerns about corporate disregard for the environment. Some voters may be drawn to the ideas of the Green Party, seeing it as a Left alternative to Labour, particularly where there is no socialist alternative to vote for.
The Green Party's policies and manifestos focus mainly on "environmental sustainability" and the establishment of a 'green' society, but they also make some important points on the nature of the present global economy and the suffering and inequality that inevitably result from capitalism.
But we'd challenge their conclusions on such international 'free trade' agreements and institutions as the World Trade Organisation (WTO), International Monetary Fund (IMF), European Union etc. These institutions are used to undermine workers' rights and further the interests of international capital.
The Greens call for "an urgent programme of reform and innovation based on existing bodies" and for replacement of the WTO with "a more accountable, decentralised body". They imagine that we can somehow tame these organisations and use them to advance our interests.
But how can we reform an institution that's controlled by - and exists only for the benefit of - multinationals and major capitalist economies?
The IMF and World Bank for example, say that countries seeking loans should accept Structural Adjustment Programmes (SAPs). These programmes insist that all rules about how firms operate are torn up in "deregulation" and they insist on their opening up their economies to the multinationals.
THOUSANDS OF young people who joined recent anti-capitalist demonstrations in Prague, Nice, Quebec etc, support our call to overthrow capitalist institutions.
These bodies merely carry out the demands of the ruling class. Merely calling for their reform ignores the role they play in the capitalist system.
The main weakness in the Greens' programme is its lack of proposals as to how society can be changed. Alternatives posed by the Greens to the present globalised market include local economic management and planning and decentralisation of power to local communities.
But what do these phrases actually mean? Socialists see the need for a planned economy to replace the madness of the market system, but this can only be achieved by taking the means of production and industry under democratic working-class control.
This is why we call for the public ownership, or renationalisation, of the top 150 companies in Britain including the transport system, that is constantly under threat of privatisation.
Globalisation is the inevitable product of the development of productive forces. We can't reverse this process merely by promoting small, local businesses and economies. We need real change in the way society is run.
Putting pressure on companies that endanger the environment and local people's health is important. But measures such as pollution restrictions and eco-taxes have a seriously limited impact when implemented in a system that puts profit before all else.
Polluting companies will use any loopholes in the law or, if their profits are seriously threatened, flaunt the restrictions altogether as we've seen the US government do with the Kyoto agreement.
Environmental issues will become increasingly important in years to come. The Socialist Party has led and won working-class struggles against environmentally damaging corporations, for example, in 1999 the campaign to shut down SARP, the toxic waste plant in Killamarsh near Sheffield.
The Greens play some role in exposing the hypocrisy of the pro-capitalist parties and raising the profile of the environmental movement.
No doubt they will make gains in the coming elections as people turn in disgust from New Labour.
But many working-class people are searching for a party that will fight for their interests even if it has to take on the capitalist system, one that will fight outside of the electoral field.
The Socialist Party is proud of its history of campaigning alongside working-class people as well as gaining six seats on local councils.
We call for a vote for Socialist Alternative and Socialist Alliance candidates to be elected to parliament as socialist MPs on a worker's wage.
In The Socialist 25 May 2001: