Magazine of Socialist Action in Australia

Why do the Greens continue to disappoint?

Reading Time: 3 minutes

There is growing disappointment with the policies of the Labor Party (ALP) from ordinary people. This has led to a growth in electoral support for the Green Party, especially in inner city suburbs in Australia.

The Greens are perceived by many to be to the Left of the ALP and indeed are on some policy issues such as industrial relations and the environment. However while the Greens have certain policies that socialists can support, they have no clear principles or vision of an alternative society, let alone a socialist society.

In words, the ALP still have vestiges of their old social democratic world view – seeking to make life a bit better for ordinary people under capitalism. In practise, they are one faction (with the Coalition being the other) of the ‘Executive Committee’ of the ruling class, as socialist Fredrick Engels once put it.

However, the Greens rest on even more flimsy theoretical foundations. Some members only want more action on the environment and openly flirt with ideas of population control, others are focused on becoming the junior partners with a major party in power and have quite neo-liberal economic views. A smaller layer has an openly social justice perspective.

What unites all of these trends inside the Greens is an absence of understanding of the role of the State (ie the permanent government bureaucracy, police, courts, armed forces etc). Rather than working to mobilse people, they wrongly believe the winning of power through the ballot box is sufficient to achieve change.

So when the Greens have won positions of power in Australia and internationally they have been ill-equipped to deal with the inevitable pressure from the state machine and the capitalists who own the economy.

The rapid speed in which the Greens in Ireland and Germany ditched their core policies (anti-nuclear, anti-privatisation, even anti-war) once in a coalition government was a shock to many. The rapid rise of the Greens turned into an electoral rout – especially in the local and Euro elections in Ireland last year where every Green candidate was defeated!

In Australia the Greens have won Council positions in many inner-city municipalities and are a major force in Tasmania where they are almost as strong as the Liberals and ALP.

As this column has pointed out on many occasions in relation to Yarra City Council, they have not been a force for change. They have voted annually with the ALP for every rate, fee and charge rise as well as service cuts in each budget. They have a power-sharing arrangement with the ALP and together voted to raise their own allowances by 25% within days of the last Council election.

So what is the attitude of the Socialist Party to the Greens in Australia?

Where the Greens, like us, take on Labor on issues such as freeway extension or opposition to clearways, we will support them and work with them. However, we fundamentally disagree with their support for coalitions with the major parties to get a taste of office. Such coalitions lead to disaster for the junior partner as it is they who have to give up their core policies.

We stand for a clear socialist alternative on every issue and mobilise grassroots support for the implementation of these ideas. We seek a majority position – not a share of the pie alongside capitalist parties.

We believe ordinary people need a new mass party to represent their political interests. The Greens are not such a party. So alongside building SP as the voice of socialism in Australia we campaign for a new workers’ party to mobilise the millions who are currently not represented on the political arena.

By Stephen Jolly


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