Compass book puts to Labour-Green co-operation

Labour and the Greens have much to learn from each other- if they can find a way to co-operate

“To be at the heart of the progressive mainstream… one of our tasks is to learn the lessons of the green movement and put sustainability at the heart of what we do.”

So said Ed Miliband in a speech to the Fabians at the start of this year. Today sees the beginnings of a response to that call with the publication of a new e-book by Compass, Good Society / Green Society? The Red-Green Debate. The collection of essays hopes to stimulate deeper discussion between greens and the broader progressive movement, both within and outside the Labour party.

In one of the opening contributions to the book, Victor Anderson (former environment advisor in Ken Livingstone’s Cabinet) argues that these are auspicious times for red-green relations. Gone are the days, he writes, when socialists used to reject environmentalism as merely a bourgeois distraction; the state of the planet has got too bad to support that view any more. Instead,

“although social democracy still has more impact in the world than green politics does, the greens are no longer the poor relation in the dialogue that they once were, and they have a clarity which many on the left envy.”

Socialist thinking has been in decline for twenty years, but the green analysis has become sharper as the scientific evidence base for ecological problems has grown.

Yet does the left yet really embrace green ideas wholeheartedly? No, argues Compass chair Neal Lawson:

“the mainstream left in and around Labour has never been good when it comes to the environment.”

The reasons for this, he suggests, lie partly in the present imperative of tackling government cuts and partly in the Conservatives’ reversion from being green to true-blue. But there is also a much deeper reason:

“the fact that social democracy is in essence the politics of more: more wages and therefore more things to spend those wages on.”

While ‘a politics of more’ made sense for much of the 19th and 20th centuries, as the left sought to organise working-class communities to demand more from their rulers and employers, today

“class-consciousness has been replaced by consumer consciousness”.

The West is awash with material goods, the never-ending acquisition of which now distracts from securing wellbeing and finding other ways of being human. Consumerism also presents “a double bind for the left”: escalating environmental crises and the undermining of Labour’s traditional electoral base. In short, “the left needs a new game”.

If the left has failed to engage fully with environmentalism, perhaps greens have failed to fully engage with the left. The reason for this lies partly in the existence, for the past forty years, of a separate electoral vehicle for green hopes, the Green Party. Yet as Green Party member John Hare writes, there is certainly potential for future red-green Parliamentary alliances.

Though the era of European red-green governments waned in the late 1990s, the recent resurgence of the Greens in German regional elections has shown they remain a potent political force, and underlines the long-term decline of the SPD. While the UK’s first-past-the-post system protects Labour from losing much ground to the Greens:

“they face the same problem [as the SPD] of steady leakage of millions of voters (many of whom are not being lost to other parties, but are simply refusing to vote) and of having no distinctive and credible ideological identity. In the search for any of these, they might do worse than look to Germany and look for endorsement from the Greens. Offering a few parliamentary seats in exchange might be a deal well worth the cost.”

The book does not shy away from exploring areas of longstanding contention between reds and greens: two chapters exploring ideas around economic growth show many disagreements remain, but also that such arguments are far more subtle and complicated than they are often characterised, and deserve far more attention from all sides.

But areas of common ground are also emphasised. Deborah Doane of the World Development Movement and Ruth Potts of nef see the causes of gender equality and participatory democracy as being given a boost by:

“a green–red alliance, particularly in the context of UK political history, [which] would be uniquely placed to take this forward – because it draws on a history of mutualism, cooperation and inclusiveness.”

A contribution by the author of this blogpost suggests there are new ways both reds and greens could frame the way they talk about environmental and social problems that would better communicate their values – and mutually reinforce their own causes.

It’s to be hoped this book marks only the start of a richer, deeper conversation.

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42 Responses to “Compass book puts to Labour-Green co-operation”

  1. The Dragon Fairy

    Compass book puts to Labour-Green co-operation: : writes @guyshrubsole #compass #Greens #Labour Party

  2. AdamRamsay

    RT @leftfootfwd: Compass book puts to Labour-Green co-operation <<interesting stuff, I'll try to write a response…

  3. Luke Walter

    Compass book puts to Labour-Green co-operation: : writes @guyshrubsole #compass #Greens #Labour Party

  4. Bartłomiej Kozek

    Compass book puts to Labour-Green co-operation: : writes @guyshrubsole #compass #Greens #Labour Party

  5. Guy Shrubsole

    My blog on prospects for red-green cooperation in British politics:

  6. Compass

    RT @leftfootfwd: Compass book puts to Labour-Green co-operation

  7. Tom Miller

    RT @leftfootfwd: Compass book puts to Labour-Green co-operation

  8. Matt Blackall

    RT @leftfootfwd: Compass book puts to Labour-Green co-operation

  9. DougRouxel

    “@AdamRamsay: RT @leftfootfwd: Compass book puts to Labour-Green co-operation

  10. Alexander James

    “@CompassOffice: RT @leftfootfwd: Compass book puts to Labour-Green co-operation” yes.

  11. S. Matheson

    Compass book puts to Labour-Green co-operation | Left Foot Forward: “although social democracy still has more im…

  12. Stephen Hessey

    RT @leftfootfwd: Compass book puts to Labour-Green co-operation

  13. Hal Berstram

    RT @leftfootfwd: Compass book puts to Labour-Green co-operation

  14. S. Matheson

    Compass book puts to Labour-Green co-operation: Instead, “although social democracy still has more impact in the…

  15. Spin

    RT @CompassOffice: should make interesting reading: Compass book puts to Labour-Green co-operation

  16. Krzysztof Nawratek

    RT @leftfootfwd: Compass book puts to Labour-Green co-operation

  17. Peter Lyon

    RT @leftfootfwd: Compass book puts to Labour-Green co-operation

  18. Clive Burgess

    Compass book puts to Labour-Green co-operation: : writes @guyshrubsole #compass #Greens #Labour Party

  19. Leon Wolfson

    Oh is that what an anti-nuclear policy, and hence supporting spiralling energy prices, is called? No, I can’t get past that which is a shame considering many of the green’s other policies, oh well.

  20. Roger

    ‘Compass book puts to Labour-Green co-operation’

    Puts what? ‘paid’?

    Someone is sleeping on the job…

  21. Anon E Mouse

    “Socialist thinking has been in decline for twenty years, but the green analysis has become sharper as the scientific evidence base for ecological problems has grown.”

    The reason socialism is in decline is because no one wants it – it has been comprehensively rejected in every single country in the world given a choice. So instead of providing what people do want your answer is to try and hijack some other bandwagon?


  22. Leon Wolfson

    Bullshit. Many socalist governments drifted to the right, as we saw in the UK, and had no deacent answer for the right’s beloved banks screwing the heck up. If they actually turn back to the left and gain back a lot of voters who feld they could no longer vote at all since they had to party representing them (and in the UK, were duped into voting for the LibDems).

    Come up with deacent suggestions to reverse the trend of concentration of money in the rich, which is a result of money flocking to the rich, unearned, rather than being generated via the result of labor, and the left can take those gains back.

    Of course, you portray this as bad, since it would mean your rich buddies losing out.

  23. Dave Citizen

    For the next generation’s sake, I hope Labour does engage with the new environmental realities and take the political risks necessary to achieve cooperation with those greens who share a vision of a more equal and fairer prosperity on which to build a Britain fit for the future.

  24. Anon E Mouse

    Leon Wolfson – If they “drifted to the right” as you say then they are no longer socialists. DUH!

    Since I am on the equivalent of minimum wage, the reason I was a lifelong Labour voter pre-Brown and all those other thuggish types, I do not know who these rich people are.

    Do you mean the likes of the countess toff Harriet Harman, Lord Hattersley, Alan Sugar or any other of the bankers, city slickers and spivs so richly rewarded by the Labour government?

    Please name another country given a choice that has voted for a socialist government.

    There isn’t one because unlike a few weirdos with delusional imaginations, like you with your secret agent nonsense, no one wants it. Ask Ed Miliband…

    The fact is all you continually do is make things up and I would ask exactly what the point of your posts on this fine blog are? All you are doing is making Labour less and less attractive to floating voters. I don’t get it…

  25. Anon E Mouse

    Dave Citizen – Those “environmental realities” are going to mean more and more increases in “green” taxes hitting the working classes and the poor. How does that square with your “fairer prosperity” desires?

    The sooner the Labour Party gets real the sooner this country can have a credible opposition to this government…

  26. Gareth Jones new book from #compass on green/red cooperation. Perhaps some ideas for #libdems too?

  27. Leon Wolfson

    Well yes, Anon, exactly. And a return to their support base will make them selectable again.

    “Please name another country given a choice that has voted for a socialist government.”

    Just at the moment, not histoically? k… Angola, Australia, Austria, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Cape Verde, Costa Rica, Curaçao, Ecuador, Ghana, Greece, Guatemala, Haiti, Iceland, Iraq, Ireland, Lebanon, Luxembourg, Mali, Mauritius, Moldova, Mongolia, Montenegro, Morocco, Mozambique, Namibia, Nicaragua, Niger, Norway, Pakistan, Paraguay, Serbia, Slovenia, Spain, South Africa, Switzerland, Uruguay and Zimbabwe.

    And that’s not a complete list either.

    Delusions and wierdos, right. All you do is point out the nastiness, the lies and the spite which comes from the BNP. Keep up the good job!

  28. Dave Citizen

    Anon – Whether taxes hit “the working classes and the poor” is a matter of choice. I certainly believe in restructuring our tax system so that hard work is rewarded with a decent living, no one can sit back and enjoy vast unearned riches for very long.

    In practice this may mean taxing people who e.g. sit on land holdings of say more than 10,000 hectares so the additional land is returned for ownership by those who actually work it. Then redirect taxes that currently pay such land holders vast sums through grants and other schemes to incentivise green technology developmnent.

    Hey Anon, I reckon we’re onto something here – land returned to entrepreneurs to boost our economy, reduce extreme inequality to help our society prosper and funds redirected from supporting elite privilege to incentivising innovative green manufacturing with jobs well above minimum wage. You’re not one of the vested landowner interests are you?

  29. Anon E Mouse

    Dave Citizen – How tax is levied is a choice and indeed, in contrast to Gordon Brown and Labour taking away the 10p tax rate, proposing a 1% jobs tax and doubling Inheritance Tax for the rich, this government has taken more people out of paying tax at all at the lowest end of the wage bracket.

    I most certainly am not a vested landowner as you are well aware Dave Citizen and somehow I can’t see your land grab taking off anywhere except Zimbabwe.

    I’m personally surprised you didn’t comment on my socialism remarks earlier after your pride at my previous insults towards you fella….

  30. Anon E Mouse

    Leon Wolfson – Wikipedia is your friend.

    Let me ask the question again: Where given a choice please tell me which countries have chosen a socialist system?

    Current “Socialist” Regimes

    People’s Republic of China (since October 1, 1949)
    Republic of Cuba (since January 1, 1959)
    Lao People’s Democratic Republic (since December 2, 1975)
    Socialist Republic of Vietnam (officially in reunified Vietnam since July 2, 1976, but in the North since 1954)
    Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (since September 9, 1948)

    Former “Socialist” Regimes

    Democratic Republic of Afghanistan (April 27, 1978 – April 28, 1992)
    Socialist People’s Republic of Albania (January 1, 1946 – March 22, 1992)
    People’s Republic of Angola (November 11, 1975 – August 27, 1992)
    People’s Republic of Benin (November 30, 1975 – March 1, 1990)
    People’s Republic of Bulgaria (September 15, 1946 – December 7, 1990)
    Chinese Soviet Republic (November 7, 1931 – October 10, 1934)
    People’s Republic of the Congo (January 3, 1970 – March 15, 1992)
    Czechoslovak Socialist Republic (July 11, 1960 – March 29, 1990)
    People’s Democratic Republic of Ethiopia (September 10, 1987 – May 27, 1991)
    Finnish Democratic Republic (December 1, 1939 – March 12, 1940)
    German Democratic Republic (October 7, 1949 – October 3, 1990)
    Political Committee of National Liberation (Greece) (December 24, 1947 – August 28, 1949)
    People’s Revolutionary Government of Grenada (March 13, 1979 – October 25, 1983)
    People’s Republic of Hungary (August 20, 1949 – October 23, 1989)
    Democratic Kampuchea (April 4, 1976 – January 7, 1979)
    People’s Republic of Kampuchea (January 7, 1979 – October 23, 1991)
    Mongolian People’s Republic (November 24, 1924 – February 12, 1992)
    People’s Republic of Mozambique (June 25, 1975 – December 1, 1990)
    People’s Republic of Poland (June 28, 1945 – July 19, 1989)
    People’s Republic of Romania (December 30, 1947 – December 21, 1989)
    Somali Democratic Republic (October 21, 1976 – January 26, 1991)
    Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (December 30, 1922 – December 26, 1991)
    Tuvan People’s Republic (August 14, 1921 – October 11, 1944)
    Democratic Republic of Vietnam (September 2, 1945 – July 2, 1976)
    People’s Democratic Republic of Yemen(November 30, 1967 – May 22, 1990)
    Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (November 29, 1943 – October 8, 1991 / April 27, 1992)

    People’s Democratic Republic of Algeria (since 15 September 1963)
    People’s Republic of Bangladesh[9] (since 16 December 1971, see Constitution of Bangladesh)
    Arab Republic of Egypt (since 11 September 1971[citation needed], see Constitution of Egypt)
    Cooperative Republic of Guyana[10] (see Constitution of Guyana)
    Republic of India (since 15 August 1947, see Constitution of India)
    Great Socialist People’s Libyan Arab Jamahiriya (since 1 September 1969)
    Portuguese Republic (since 1974[11], see Constitution of Portugal)
    Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka (since 7 September 1978, see Constitution of Sri Lanka)
    Syrian Arab Republic (9 March 1963[12], see Constitution of Syria)
    United Republic of Tanzania (since 26 April 1964[13])
    Nicaragua (see Sandinista)
    Burkina Faso (4 August 1984 – 15 October 1987)
    Socialist Republic of the Union of Burma (2 March 1974 – 23 September 1988)
    Republic of Cape Verde (8 July 1975 – 22 March 1991)
    Socialist Republic of Chile (4 June – 13 September 1932)
    Republic of Ghana
    People’s Revolutionary Republic of Guinea (1958–1984)
    Bissau-Guinea (24 September 1973 – 17 February 2000)
    Republic of Iraq (14 July 1958 – 16 July 1979)
    Republic of Kenya (6 December 1969 – 12 January 1992)
    Democratic Republic of Madagascar (21 December 1975 – 19 August 1992)
    Republic of Mali (20 July 1960 – 19 November 1968)
    Mexico (1 December 1928 – 1 December 2000)
    Republic of Nicaragua
    Democratic Republic of São Tomé and Príncipe (12 July 1975 – 3 April 1991)
    Republic of Senegal
    Republic of Seychelles (5 June 1977 – 26 July 1992)
    Democratic Republic of Sudan (1969–1985)
    Republic of Suriname
    Tunisian Republic (1957-1988)
    Republic of Uganda (15 April 1966 – 25 January 1971)
    United Arab Republic (1958–1961)
    People’s Republic of Zanzibar (1964)

    Alsace Soviet Republic (November 9–22, 1918)
    Asturian miners’ strike of 1934 (de facto) (October 5–18, 1934)
    Azerbaijan People’s Government (November 1945 – December 1946)
    Bavarian Soviet Republic (April 6 – May 3, 1919)
    Bessarabian Soviet Socialist Republic (May – September 1919)
    Bukharan People’s Soviet Republic (October 8, 1920 – February 17, 1925)
    Chinese Soviet Republic (November 7, 1931 – October 1934)
    Donetsk-Krivoy Rog Soviet Republic (February 12 – May 1918)
    Estonian Workers’ Commune (November 29, 1918 – June 5, 1919)
    Far Eastern Republic (April 6, 1920 – November 15, 1922)
    Finnish Socialist Workers’ Republic (January 28 – April 29, 1918)
    Galician Soviet Socialist Republic (July 8 – September 21, 1920)
    German Socialist Republic (November 9, 1918 – ?)
    Hunan Soviet (1927)
    Hungarian Soviet Republic (March 21 – August 6, 1919)
    Khorazmian People’s Soviet Republic (April 26, 1920 – October 20, 1923)
    Limerick Soviet (April 15–27, 1919)
    Lithuanian-Byelorussian Soviet Socialist Republic (February 27 – August 25, 1919)
    Republic of Mahabad (January 22 – December 15, 1946)
    Mughan Soviet Republic (March – June 1919)
    Soviet Republic of Naissaar (December 1917 – February 26, 1918)
    Paris Commune (March 18 – May 28, 1871, first socialist republic in history)
    Persian Socialist Soviet Republic (June 9, 1920 – September 1921)
    Provisional Revolutionary Government of the Republic of South Vietnam (April 30, 1975 – June 2, 1976)
    Slovak Soviet Republic (June 16 – July 7, 1919)
    Turkestan Socialist Federative Republic (April 30, 1918 – October 27, 1924)
    Democratic Republic of Yemen (May 21 – July 7, 1994)

    An apology on this fine blog will be fine Wolfy….

  31. Leon Wolfson

    Funnily enough, socialism does NOT mean the name of the state, it means the parties ruling the country being socialist. And I listed ONLY those countries who have ruling parties from the Socialist International, not all the socialist-ruled countries.

    That you list China as socialist shows how far out of touch you are with reality. Why would I say anything apart from “you’re wrong, as usual” to a pathetic, lying BNPer?

    Moreover, your focus on small changes in the system, one of which didn’t even affect lower-income people, as compared to the massive slashes which the Tories have made, is typically small minded and pathetic, and a smokescreen which amounts to yelling “BUT THEY DID SOMETHING BAD TOO, DON’T LOOK AT ME, DON’T LOOK AT ME”. No, we’re looking, you may be that dumb, but neither Dave or I are.

  32. Anon E Mouse

    Leon Wolfson – I explained I simply copied it from Wilipedia and the point of China illustrates EXACTLY what I mean about freedom of people to choose means they reject socialism in their droves.

    You can mention any excuse such as Socialist International but if you really cannot see the fact people the world over HATE socialism then Labour and it’s supporters are doomed.

    I’ll take the apology now please….

  33. Anon E Mouse

    Leon Wolfson – Dave Citizen and I have been conversing on this fine blog for probably over a year now.

    Please do not equate yourself with him. To date he has never lied, smeared or misrepresented my position – things you manage to do in almost every post.


  34. Leon Wolfson

    Yeess, I can see you’ve missed a few subtle points in Dave’s post there.

    And you’re saying he’ a right-winger? Ah, funny man. Real funny. So, you’re claiming your keyboard’s broken rather right?

  35. Anon E Mouse

    Leon Wolfson – When did I say Dave Citizen was a right winger? Are you stark raving bonkers man?

    Isn’t it obvious from the posts that he and I have conversed here before and he was personally proud of my insult where I think I called him a zombie?

    Just man up and apologise Wolfy. You’re wrong and you know it.

    Grow some bolo*^ks and type the word “sorry”…

    …I’m waiting…

  36. Leon Wolfson

    Feel free to hold your breath while you’re waiting then, wouldn’t do to have hiccups. Sorry I didn’t suggest that earlier.

    And you have, once more, read your biases rather than my post. Hardly surprising. And yes, your kind insulting good left wingers IS a point of pride, it means we’re doing something right.

  37. Dave Citizen

    Not a “land grab” Anon – simply a country ensuring that its assets are used effectively in its democratic interests. Rather like when we democratically(?) decided to sell off the publicly owned assets like water and other utilities or when VAT is put up – so we can decide to increase land taxes for holdings over 10,000 hectares if we feel it’s in the national interest. Let’s face it, there have been quite a few tax and other law changes through history that enabled such vast land accumulations to amass in the first place – maybe it’s time to undo some of those laws, if the houses of (landed) commons and (land)Lords agree of course!

  38. Leon Wolfson

    Quite, Dave.

    It’s about the balance between earned and unearned income, which has swung heavily towards unearned income…pushing down the overall incomes of the poorer in society, who depend on earned income.

  39. Dave Citizen

    Leon – further to my post on excessive land holdings I’ve made some enquiries. It seems the average farm size in EU is a modest 15 or so hectares and even in the USA with its massive corn and wheat conglomerate farms it’s less than 200 hectares. It also seems that most farm subsidies are going to the largest and richest farms in the USA and in Britain!

    Based on this i suggest my figure of 10,000 hectares is radically reduced to say 500 hectares as i can’t see a farmer being able to run a farm much bigger than that in the UK. Any holdings above that are just sucking in subsidies or rents which push up food prices, reduce profits to the actual farmers etc. I sense a consensus with Anon developing?

  40. Leon Wolfson

    I’d be hesitant. I’d rather look at the structure of how we administered the common farms policy in this country, and awarded a lot more to smaller landholders and to non-traditional farming methods.

    The large farms tend to have multiple tenant farmers, who actually do the work…

  41. Anon E Mouse

    Dave Citizen – Hold the front page. The consensus may not be as close as you think.

    Those “assets” don’t belong to the state…

  42. Dave Citizen

    I don’t really care how we do it, I just want to see the people who directly work and manage the land being able to own it if they so choose. Similarly, I don’t want my taxes going to super rich land owners who already push the price of food up by demanding rents from farmers who may rather own the land they work.

    As for who owns assets – a tax policy her, a change of law there and hey presto – back to democracy and civilisation!

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