Category Archives: UK Greens

Grim Britain

If the whole ghastly debacle over Brexit has proven anything at all it’s how totally unfit for purpose the British parliament is. For those of us who have known that for a long time and campaigned vigorously for many years for its complete reformation this comes as no surprise. The whole shambolic system of Britain’s so-called democracy must be scrapped and replaced with a real democracy.

Somewhere at the heart of the Brexit farce lies the real nub of the problem – the fact that our parliament cannot cope with a truly democratic decision if it doesn’t like that decision. When the British people voted for Britain to quit the EU — a result that most of parliament opposed and never expected — the thing should have been quite straightforward: Britain quits the EU. But as everyone now knows that is not what happened. The last few weeks leading up to what was supposed to be the day Britain left the EU provided an endless series of incredible displays of parliamentary time-wasting and incompetence that turned Britain into a global laughing stock. Surely it is now abundantly clear that this whole creaking anachronism must go. Apart from being institutionally corrupt — its most important fault — the pseudo-democracy it practices is now clearly ludicrous.

Britain’s Green Party is the only significant political organisation I know of in the country which has not only known about this problem for many years, it also has a number of important radical policy proposals for putting it right. These include the drafting of a written constitution, scrapping the institution of monarchy and unelected parliamentarians, proportional representation, and creating direct democracy throughout a system of massively decentralised government. Far from being simply an environmentalist pressure group, their substantial policy document clearly states: “The Green Party isn’t just another political party. Green politics is a new and radical kind of politics”. And its proposals for total constitutional reform, creating real democracy for the first time in our history, clearly show their intentions.

Written Constitution

Possibly the most important item on this list of proposed Green changes is their intention to create a written constitution. Britain is almost alone in the world in terms of not having one of these. The thing itself is not necessarily significant. After all, most countries have written constitutions, but this doesn’t prevent many of them from being badly run. So at least as important as a written constitution itself is the need to ensure mechanisms are in place for enforcing its provisions.

This might seem obvious, but to cite just one and perhaps the most important example — the United States, supposedly the global role model of freedom and democracy — serious breaches of its own constitution by its own rulers are not unusual. Henry Kissinger, for example, once the US Secretary of State, said, “The illegal we do immediately, the unconstitutional takes a little longer”.1 So it’s clear to see that having a written constitution is one thing, making sure it’s effective is often something very different.

A constitution is supposed to be a written statement of the rules of a country’s government, a legally binding document applying to ALL its citizens, listing the rights and responsibilities of the government, and usually the country’s people too. It’s interesting to speculate as to why Britain has resisted having one throughout its history. The most obvious possibility is that if there are no written rules of how a government should conduct itself, the rulers may conduct themselves anyway they like. Given Britain’s long and blood-soaked history of barbaric oppression, in its own country and all over the world, this is clearly not a strong recommendation for allowing rulers to have such uncontrolled powers.

Scrapping Monarchy and Unelected MPs

It’s patently obvious that a government whose head of state is unelected and appointed by hereditary right, and whose parliament comprises a large decision-making body of people who are similarly unelected (the House of Lords), cannot seriously call itself a democracy. Yet Britain has managed to trick the world into believing this falsehood for a couple of hundred years.

The main reason this ludicrous farce has been so successful is because Britain’s monarchy and its unelected House of Lords have always supported the interests of a tiny handful of super-rich individuals above the interests of billions of other people around the world, as well as tens of millions of British people. The great genius Tom Paine accurately nailed this phenomenon, as he accurately nailed so many others. Writing in the introduction to “Common Sense”, the booklet that stirred the hearts of American settlers to fight for their independence from Britain, he said,

[A] long habit of not thinking a thing wrong gives it a superficial appearance of being right, and raises at first a formidable outcry in defence of custom.

Because this tiny group of super-rich individuals have always been very careful to control the information that people receive they have nearly always been successful tricking people into thinking and acting against their own best interests. For many centuries this information-control was achieved by forging a tight alliance with religion. Priests were allowed to communicate with the masses, and profit from them, providing they communicated the right messages. Village churches throughout Britain, for example, occupied land owned by wealthy aristocrats. A priest was allowed to base himself in a church and extort impoverished parishioners — the position was called a “living” — providing he never upset the landlord. But given that most priests were themselves sons of rich fathers and landed gentry, that was seldom likely to be a problem. Therefore many generations of people came and went firmly believing in the divine right of monarchs and aristocrats to keep them in miserable subjugation – a widely-held view that survives to this day.

The scrapping of unelected monarchs and unelected MPs is, in itself, no guarantee of good government. After all, the most powerful rogue nation on Earth is ruled by an elected president, and there are many other failed states around the world that are ostensibly led by elected leaders. But the principle of elected leaders rather than unelected ones is unquestionably a superior concept. The very obvious flaws that currently exist are directly attributable to the corrupt practices of those supposedly democratic systems, rather than the principle itself. Therefore it’s very obvious that the constitution must be drafted, and enforced, in such a way that these anomalies are prevented.

Direct Democracy

No doubt many people would react with horror, given the farcical debacle over Brexit, to any suggestion that Britain should permanently be governed by a system of continual referendums – which basically is what direct democracy is. I mean, many people might reasonably argue that if direct democracy means more Brexit-type chaos, on a daily basis, then obviously we don’t want it. Although that reaction is perfectly understandable, it overlooks a couple of very important points.

Firstly, there’s the fact that direct democracy works perfectly well, as Switzerland, which has used the system for a long time, continually shows. Secondly, and possibly more importantly, providing that people are well and properly informed – which was not the case with the Brexit referendum – the people can usually be relied upon to make good and humane decisions. After all, trial by jury which, despite its numerous faults, is still better than any other way of resolving court cases, is direct democracy in miniature. So the principle of normal people, properly informed, making important decisions is clearly a very sound one.

The concept of democracy — as most people understand it — is not only a bad method of government. It’s also demonstrably corrupt. It’s based on the practice of people electing politicians who, in theory, are supposed to represent their best interests. So far from conforming to the widely used definition of democracy as being government for the people by the people, it is in practice government for the super-rich by the super-rich – which is pretty much how people have always been ruled – only the existing system is far more cynical and dishonest than outright tyranny, because it pretends to provide people with real political power whilst actually ensuring they don’t have it. Elected representatives who, for the most part, are simply paid employees of the super-rich, provide the veneer of democracy when what they’re actually doing is preventing it.

No doubt many who sincerely believe they live in a real democracy would react with horror to such a suggestion, but all they need to do is ask themselves who pays for election campaigns. Are they paid for by the people, or are they paid for by the super-rich? Given that democracy should be a public service, it should be paid for by the public like any other public service. But the reality is that the election campaigns of most governments have been bought and paid for by the super-rich. These people are not well known for their generosity or love of public service – which is why so many of them avoid paying their taxes — so why do they spend millions on election campaigns if not for the fact that they expect to be very well compensated by the winners? Which is, of course, exactly what happens  as countless accounts of corruption in high places verify on an almost daily basis.

Proportional Representation

Many people with progressive tendencies have long championed the cause of proportional representation. Many so-called democracies use the “first-past-the-post” method of deciding election winners and losers, a system whereby the person with the most votes wins and gets elected to public office whilst whoever else competed in the election is forgotten about. Proportional Representation, on the other hand, takes account of every vote cast in an election and then allocates seats in proportion to the numbers voting for each political party. It is unquestionably a much fairer way of deciding elections, and should be implemented in any country that calls itself a democracy. However, direct democracy, which effectively bypasses elected representatives altogether and allows the citizen direct control of their government’s decisions, is even better yet — providing the citizen is properly informed — and should be the primary goal for all political activists.

Subsidiarity

One of the Greens’ most important policies is that of subsidiarity – democratic decision-making provided at the source of wherever a decision needs to be made. It’s the polar opposite of centralised government — the model practised by most countries — where some all-powerful regime effectively controls all decisions throughout the country. Whilst Britain, like many other countries, has some decentralised government functions in the form of local councils, the effective decision-making powers of local councils is significantly controlled by central government. This is achieved by central government having considerable control of money supply, and by having the powers to simply overturn any decisions made by local councils if they feel like it.

Decentralisation, effectively another word for subsidiarity, is a fine principle for the simple reason that it provides real decision-making power to people organised in small communities, communities which, when added together, comprise society as a whole. Switzerland provides a good working example of the model in practice.

Swiss cantons are similar in size to some English counties, but there the similarity ends, for cantons have considerably more power than their English equivalents — particularly regarding tax collections. As with their federal government Swiss citizens use direct democracy to control their cantons too, and may initiate referendums or veto new laws they’re not happy with.

Contrary to what opponents of direct democracy may claim, no doubt citing the British Brexit debacle to reinforce their argument, this considerable and direct power that Swiss citizens have over their government has done Switzerland no noticeable harm whatsoever. In fact, it’s made Switzerland one of the most stable, free, peaceful and well-respected nations in the world. It has achieved this whilst being relatively poor in natural resources, completely landlocked, without doing any imperial looting of distant lands, and surrounded by two of the worst wars in human history. Therefore their political model obviously has useful lessons for almost every other country to learn from.

The Party’s Over

There is absolutely no justification for maintaining the anachronistic and institutionally corrupt system of government that Britain uses. It must be totally scrapped and a new model created based on the principles outlined in this essay. The seat of government should be moved away from London to somewhere more central to the whole country — like Northampton, say. Building a brand new parliament where no monarch or chamber of unelected MPs have any official role, and where a network of decentralised local councils controlled by direct democracy may be efficiently coordinated will be a huge step in the right direction.

But there are two other essential changes that need to be made. Although they’re very different to each other they are quite possibly equally important.

The control and supply of money must be removed from the private banking system and placed where it belongs — in the hands of the new democratic state. Although money may not be absolutely essential to an economy, it unquestionably enables the economy to work more efficiently. Throughout history the availability of money has always been ruthlessly controlled by a tiny handful of super-rich individuals. There is absolutely no economic necessity for this. It happens only because that’s how the super-rich controllers of money want it to stay. But money should be seen as a human right, and the supply viewed as public service totally controlled by the state.

The second vitally important change that needs to happen is that the supply of public information must be vastly improved. A successful system of direct democracy would be largely determined by the quality of information that voters receive upon which to form their opinions and make their decisions. Most people will make good decisions if they are given good information, and they will make very bad ones if given bad information — as the catastrophic Brexit fiasco proves beyond any reasonable doubt.

One of the most obvious pieces of evidence that the British state does not provide its citizens with good information — or even allow them to find it for themselves — is the fact that the state’s obsession with secrecy borders on the psychotic. As I write these words the outrageous treatment being meted out to the heroic publisher Julian Assange by the British state, probably on behalf of its US controllers, is providing graphic evidence of how the state treats those who try to reveal its secrets for public inspection. Ian Cobain’s The History Thieves, for example, is a fine study of the extent to which this problem affects us. It is quite impossible to obtain good information about the actions of the state when so many of those actions are deemed too secret for the public to know about for very considerable periods of time. Therefore two of the easiest steps to take to ensure the public receive good information is to scrap the odious Official Secrets Act, and for the state to open for public access all of its vast archives of secret files.

The ability to access good information is also dependent on a fundamental change to our system of education. British schools serve as an important first step in the process of brainwashing British people. The most obvious piece of evidence of this is the teaching of history. History is a vitally important subject because it teaches us about how our country became what it is. Or that’s what it should teach. But the history that’s taught in most schools, a history of Britain’s supposed greatness, is totally different from the history taught by historians such as EP Thompson, say, or Al Morton, or the Hammonds, John Newsinger, Mark Curtis or Ian Cobain. These writers all explain British history in a very different way to the history taught in most British schools, a way which would teach most children to understand that far from being the great champions of justice, liberty and humanity that they’re taught to see most British kings and queens, lords and ladies, general and admirals, they would learn instead how many of these people were indistinguishable from psychotic murderers and thieves.

It would teach people to acquire a far more humble belief about Britain’s true role in history and teach them a far more humane and tolerant attitude to others. It would also create a desperately needed contempt for the super-rich ruling classes of today – instead of the fawning sycophantic subservient attitude that is instilled by the existing education system. The obvious evidence of this institutionalised brainwashing is apparent in the very name of the country – “Great” Britain. There’s very little about British history which deserves to be called great. If the name Britain needed an adjective at all, “Grim” Britain would be closer to the mark.

Also badly lacking in our current education system is teaching the ability to think clearly and logically, but also with humanity, compassion for all living things, and awareness of the desperate existential threat our planet is enduring — mostly because of human overpopulation together with the capitalist economic model that drives it and which ridiculously demands infinite growth from finite resources.

To complete the picture of essential changes to make to the quality of public information we also obviously have to look at the providers of so-called news, the information about daily events that affect our lives. There is now a vast quantity of evidence that proves how the so-called news is manipulated by the rich and powerful to manipulate people to think and behave in a particular way. This must change. It should not be necessary to censor this information, which is actually mis-information. All that’s needed is to provide a more accurate, honest and humane alternative. The great journalist John Pilger, quoting the American historian and journalist TD Allman wrote.

Genuinely objective journalism’ is that which ‘not only gets the facts right, it gets the meaning of events right. Objective journalism is compelling not only today. It stands the test of time. It is validated not only by “reliable sources” but by the unfolding of history. It is reporting that which not only seems right the day it is published. It is journalism that ten, twenty, fifty years after the fact still holds up a true and intelligent mirror to events. (my emphasis)2

A state-provided news service, guided by this principle — or something very near it — is all we need to combat the vast quantities of misinformation and fake news provided by the mainstream media. Combined with the incredible new information technologies that are now available, and a totally reformed education system, people would be properly prepared and able to cope with sweeping constitutional changes to the way we have been misruled for thousands of years.

The one useful thing that the Brexit fiasco has done is to reveal how utterly useless and unfit for purpose the British parliament is. As I said at the start of this essay, that is not news to those of us who have long campaigned for reform. Our parliament has always been primarily about protecting the interests of the super-rich, rather than doing what’s best for most British people.

The future will not forgive us

One of the most obvious pieces of evidence of this is clearly visible in the vast array of antiquated procedures that accompany almost every action carried out in the Houses of Parliament. From the annual state opening of parliament, an ancient and highly ritualised performance designed to show the supremacy of an unelected head of state appointed by hereditary succession, to the daily routine business of parliament where supposedly serious debates take place in what sounds more like a children’s playground than the most important decision-making forum in the land.

This ridiculous farce of a system, ludicrously masquerading as a global model of democracy, must go. It has caused infinitely more harm than good, and now, with Britain and the world in general facing a perfect storm of the most serious existential crises since dinosaurs disappeared, we have to have an entirely new system of government — a system that is both wholly and truly democratic, as well as being compassionate and humane. If we do not do this, now, the future will not forgive us — and rightly so.

  1. New York Times, October 28, 1973.
  2. Hidden Agendas, John Pilger, p. 525.

Day One

Although this essay is written with mainly British Green Party activists in mind, the Greens are a steadily growing international community, and the points made here will be as relevant to Greens in Argentina,  say, as they are in Japan, Zimbabwe, or anywhere else. The vitally important questions that I will address is this: when the Green Party wins a general election for the first time what exactly will it do in the first days and weeks of forming a government? Are the Greens just a toothless pressure group, or are they serious about changing the world for the better?

The importance of these questions cannot be underestimated. The policies of British Greens, contained in a vast document titled Policies for a Sustainable Society, are nothing less than revolutionary. So when a Green government is elected to power in Britain one of two things must happen: either it will largely maintain the status quo and hence betray most of its own members as well as all those who voted for it – which is usually what happens when a different political party takes over from a previous one, or it will do what its policies propose to do, and totally transform Britain.

In my opinion it’s simply not acceptable to maintain the status quo – not only for the obvious ideological reasons, but also because the global mismanagement of our planet that’s been going on for many decades has produced a global crisis of such proportions that we do not have the leisure to tackle the multiple emergencies that are happening one by one. We are long past the point where something must be done “before it’s too late”. It was too late some years ago. Time has run out. We’re now in the business of damage limitation and crisis control. Maintaining the status quo as our suffering planet grows ever more feeble is just not acceptable.

The Greens have an extraordinary body of policies which I’ve previously described in some detail1. Were these policies fully acted upon, they could not only transform our country, they could transform our entire world — for the better. So how exactly could the Greens do what they say they will do?

Some people would no doubt assume that if the Green Party won an election it could then proceed to implement its policies by plodding through them one at a time through the usual business of parliament. This view obviously ignores the desperate urgency of the crisis, and the need to take remedial action immediately, but it also overlooks the fact that very powerful players would oppose for their own selfish interests most of the changes the Greens would try to make.

The most important of these opponents are, of course, the usual suspects – the bankers and CEOs of parasitic corporations who have driven the man-made destruction of our planet, just so they may become obscenely wealthy and powerful. But there are also numerous powerful groups who serve the money-men for their own venal reasons, such as politicians; senior public servants including top brass in the military, police, judiciary, and “intelligence” services; the clergy; and last, but by no means least, the mainstream media.

Then there is another crushingly powerful force who will also oppose any major reforms a Green government would try to make: the US government. The evidence that this is so is abundant and compelling, for the US has a sizeable and shameful history of overthrowing numerous governments who have tried to implement beneficial social reforms for their own people; and, of course, the opposition of the US government to combatting climate change and other vital environmental protections is well known.

These obstacles to the essential reforms the Greens would like to achieve are very considerable, and need to be planned for, so that when a Green government eventually comes to power it can not only hit the ground running, it can hit the ground sprinting.

The Horns of the Buffalo

When the Zulus were the most terrifying tribe in South Africa, their army used a tactic known as “the horns of the buffalo” to overwhelm all opposition. The expression symbolised the fact that Zulu attacks would come from two directions, like the tips of buffalo horns. I think the Greens need to prepare for government by using a similar strategy. Of course, no one wants to think in terms of warfare, but failure to do so, given the immense opposition from the rich and powerful that Green reforms will inevitably receive, is not only naive and irresponsible, it would also result in failure for the first and possibly last chance the Greens would get to put things right.

Violent revolution is anathema to Greens, who are pacifists. More importantly, violent change is unnecessary in most countries, and could even be counterproductive. What the Greens have in abundance is far more powerful than guns and bombs – an absolutely fire-proof ideology. When the Chinese communists won control of China in the 1930s, against overwhelming odds, they did so not so much through guns and bombs, of which they had only meagre quantities, but through a fire-proof ideology. So the Greens need to adapt the “horns of the buffalo” battlefield tactic to their peaceful revolution in order to overwhelm the inevitable resistance they will face, in the shortest possible time.

The first and most important buffalo horn is the Greens’ remarkable body of policies contained in Britain in their document titled “Policies for a Sustainable Society” (PSS). The importance of this piece of work cannot be exaggerated, because it outlines exactly what the Greens could do to rescue our planet. The second buffalo horn should address the vital question of HOW the PSS could be implemented within days and weeks of the Greens forming a government.

The first and most important part of this strategy is transforming the purely ideological PSS into a practical tool of government. The PSS is a powerful piece of work. However, it needs to be transformed into a format where it could be of immediate practical use. The most effective way to do this is to write a new draft constitution for the country, wholly based on the PSS, which could be passed through parliament in the first days of a Green government coming to power. The almost inevitable opposition that will come from the House of Lords can be overcome by simply appointing however many new Greens to the House that are necessary to enact the new constitution. It would only be a temporary measure as the House of Lords, like the institution of monarchy, will cease to exist once the new constitution is made law.

The Green Cabinet-in-waiting

The second part of the strategy will need to address the changes that will have to be made to all of the civil and military services in order to put the new constitution into effect. This also needs to be planned for well before the new Green government comes to office. As the Greens do not have any type of blueprint for this particular task, they will need to create one. One possibility for doing this is for the party to establish a specific group for this purpose, the Green Cabinet-in-waiting (GC), say.

The GC should consist of party members with particular knowledge, skills, and motivation in each of the main government departments that will need to be transformed under a Green government as well as some key new government departments which will need to be created in order to properly implement Green policy. Ideally, but not necessarily, these people will also be parliamentary candidates hoping to win a parliamentary seat in a general election. The basic idea is to prepare and train the right people for the considerable responsibilities they will immediately assume once a Green government comes to power.

The first priority will be to ensure that all the most senior officials of civil and military services will perform all the new duties that the new constitution will require them to do with enthusiasm and commitment. Such enthusiasm and commitment cannot be assumed from existing post-holders because they all will have been appointed under a totally different political system using a totally different ideology. The days when civil servants were supposedly politically neutral are long gone, if indeed they ever existed. Today top civil servants are tightly connected to the world of capitalism, and frequently interchange jobs between corporate boardrooms and government offices. Therefore these people cannot be expected to preside over departments that will need to work in completely different ways to how they do now. Most of these officials will probably be required to vacate their posts one way or another because their commitment to the changes their departments will need to make will be doubtful at best. But many junior public servants who have not yet sold out to private enterprise will be strongly supportive of a new Green government, so these people need to be identified and moved into positions of maximum influence, because their experience of their own departments would be valuable knowledge.

The Keys to the Safe

There will be a need for at least two brand new and very important government departments, because nothing quite like them currently exists. For the purpose of this essay I’ll call them the Department of Public Works (DPW), and the Department of Public Finance (DPF). Of the two, the DPF is possibly the more important.

For many years Britain has depended on the private banking system for funding public services. In this regard, like many others, it emulates its role model, the US government. However, it is becoming more widely understood that this practice is designed primarily to benefit the super-rich, and only the super-rich. Concerns about the vast majority of humanity, as well as our suffering planet, are completely irrelevant — unless they can somehow be used to benefit the super-rich. It is obviously an unacceptable system.

The Green Party has a policy to create a public banking system. Britain has never had such a thing, so there will be a need to start from scratch. The fact that the government recently owned most of RBS, as a result of its technical bankruptcy following the 2008 stock market crash, is not the same thing as operating a system of public banking. The government’s ownership of RBS stock was just an accounting sleight of hand, designed to buy time for the bank to recover — something that seldom happens to other types of business when they go bankrupt.

Many countries use state-owned public banks, including all of the major economies that have shown the most economic stability in recent times — China, Russia, India, and Japan, for example. Even the US has one highly successful public bank in North Dakota – the one state which survived the 2008 meltdown relatively unscathed. But Britain does not have a public bank. This has been for political reasons rather than economic ones. It’s a well-known fact that whoever controls the purse-strings calls the shots, and in Britain, as in most of the US, the private banking system controls the purse-strings.

So the main function of the DPF would be to supply and manage money for the public sector. Without any doubt at all, such a move would be strongly opposed not only by the British private banking sector, but also by the American banking system (which effectively rules the world). Therefore it may well be necessary to create a new currency that is wholly controlled by the state and not subject in any way to the murky world of private banking and international money speculation, which has ruined many countries in the past (such as Germany, Zimbabwe, Argentina, for example) and wouldn’t hesitate to do so again if they could profit from doing so. This would not mean the end of our existing currency, just the addition of a second one. The new public banks would also provide banking services to the general public as well as the business community, especially in the administration of the new state currency.

This would enable the immediate financing of all Green policies, such as Citizens Income, and a nationwide system of green energy provision, as well as facilitating other urgent fiscal policies – such as paying for restoring full pensions to all sixty-year-olds, re-financing the NHS, and restoring free university education.

Work for All

A key feature of capitalism is pauperisation of workers, who are seen not as human beings but as a business overhead the cost of which must always be reduced. Hypocritically this is not a policy that’s applied to those who manage workers. This group sees itself as so important that its cost must be forever increasing. It is obviously a dysfunctional system that cannot be allowed to continue.

This does not need the elimination of the private business world that maintains the corrupt and odious capitalist model. It simply needs the provision of an alternative model of employment whereby workers are largely free to choose the type of work they wish to do, rather than being forced to sell their labour for ever-lessening wages for the ever-increasing riches of grinding capitalists. A state-run Department for Public Works could provide such an alternative system.

The purpose of the DPW would be to provide and administer employees for every state-run function. It would obviously be a huge enterprise. Financed by the DPF it would be able to guarantee that anyone who wanted to work would be able to have it.

Given that public services are (or at least should be) of benefit to society as a whole, jobs in the public sector are always useful, and allow workers to feel a well-justified sense of self-worth. Although people will always be able to work in the private sector, they would not, as now, be forced to do so. Instead of having to sell their labour for a pittance so capitalist grinders can become obscenely wealthy, they would be able to work instead at doing something truly beneficial for society. And this work would always be provided through the DPW. Unemployment would cease to exist, except for those who freely chose not to work. Although Citizens Income would be available to any who applied for it, citizens of working age should be encouraged to work instead in the public sector, in order to make positive contributions to the new society, and live really useful lives as well as obtaining money.

Public Information

Another new and vitally important government department that will be needed will be one that ensures citizens receive top quality information. For the purpose of this essay I’ll call it the Department of Information (DI). Like the DPF, it too will need to be established and working within a very short space of time after a Green government is established.

The state has always been very selective with the information that people receive, in order to persuade them to accept lives of suffering servitude to rich and powerful elites. Throughout most of recorded history this was mostly achieved with the mutually beneficial cooperation of the church, whose network of priests provided a direct conduit of controllable information to the ignorant masses. Once the printing press was invented, and more and more people learnt how to read for themselves, additional systems had to be found for ensuring they received the “right information” — information rulers wanted them to receive. These systems evolved into what are today widely referred to as the “mainstream media”.

The twentieth century saw the mismanagement of public information undergo seismic changes. From the unbelievably crass propaganda that deceived people into supporting the abomination known as the First World War at the start of the century, to the highly sophisticated telling of half-truths and outright lies at the close of the century that deceived people into supporting the illegal and cynical wars of the United States  as well as ignoring the catastrophic environmental destruction of the planet that started the sixth mass extinction of species — state manipulation of public information, controlled by the mainstream media, plumbed new depths of depravity.

Therefore it’s very clear that a brand new system of public information needs to be devised, a system that can be absolutely trusted for its honesty and morality. Deciding what this means in practical terms was well expressed by historian and journalist T.D. Allman, who wrote:

Genuinely objective journalism’ is that which ‘not only gets the facts right, it gets the meaning of events right. Objective journalism is compelling not only today. It stands the test of time. It is validated not only by “reliable sources” but by the unfolding of history. It is reporting that which not only seems right the day it is published. It is journalism that ten, twenty, fifty years after the fact still holds up a true and intelligent mirror to events. (My emphasis).2

Almost nothing that was reported in the mainstream media about the illegal wars in the Middle East over the last three decades will stand the test of time. The early catastrophes in Iraq, for example, have already exposed the lies and deceitful cynicism with which the mainstream media gave their enthusiastic support. The much-vaunted “freedom of the press”, which we are all supposed to champion, is conditional on the press doing what it claims to do — hold governments to account. But this is not what it actually does. More often than not, and with ever-growing regularity, it serves as government’s PR department, selling their illegal wars, environmental vandalism, and economic gangsterism to an over-trusting citizenry.

So the new DI will have a massive and vitally important duty to carry out.

Fortunately much of the infrastructure to carry this out is already in place, as we already have fine communication systems. What we don’t yet have are people that can be relied upon to carry out the required changes. Like most of the existing government departments that could be transformed simply by replacing the people that have been controlling them for many years with younger officials who have not yet been too severely indoctrinated, a similar device should be employed at the BBC. No doubt there will be many young journalists working at the BBC who aspire to do the great work that journalists could do, if they had the chance. Such people should be sought out and given that chance.

Using existing communications infrastructure, combined with youth and Green ideology, a new and totally trustworthy public information service could, and must, be created.

Ideology v. Votes

Many Greens subscribe to the view that winning votes is more important than staying true to their ideology. It’s quite understandable that they should do this because it’s what currently happens. A few years ago, just after I’d joined the Labour Party to support Jeremy Corbyn, I remember talking with a veteran party activist. He told me that when campaigning I should tell voters anything they want to hear in order to gain their support. What mattered above all else, he thought, was winning elections.

The logic of this position is undeniable: unless you’re in government you have very little power. If we lived in a relatively peaceful and humane world, that was not experiencing the sixth mass extinction of species, and it didn’t really matter which bunch of politicians were at the helm; if elections were a sort of game where there were winners and losers but no real harm was done, then that type of thinking is not unreasonable. But we do not live in such a world. We live in a world experiencing unnecessary global misery, and the most severe existential crisis since dinosaurs were wiped out.

That the Greens have also subscribed to the view that votes matter more than ideology is deeply worrying, because this focuses attention only on the winning of elections, and ignores altogether the vital question of what happens when the election is won. Of course, it’s important to plan election campaigns with the serious intention of winning, but it’s every bit as important to plan for what happens when the campaign is successful.

Green ideology is seriously radical and revolutionary. There’s no point in beating about the bush on that point. Those who join the Greens understand that this ideology has the potential to save our planet and totally transform, for the better, all life on it. Such a vision cannot and should not be hidden.

Deeply buried in the old Labour Party activist’s view that we should tell people anything they want to hear so long as they vote for us is the assumption that there’s some sort of secret master-plan which, once electoral victory is secured, would be revealed in all its glory and everything will be just fine. It’s not only a deeply deceitful tactic, the sort that rightly gives politics a bad name, it’s also guaranteed to fail.

It will fail because its only measurement of success is electoral victory, a victory which, if it fails to deliver on all the false promises it made prior to the election, will be short-lived. This is actually how modern democracy is designed to work. It creates the illusion that people can change their lives just by electing different sets of politicians. But because the real controllers of governments — bankers and media moguls — are largely unseen, traditional political success depends on newly elected politicians working with these people, not opposing them. Any effort to restrict or eliminate their cynical and parasitical power will be met with the firmest opposition. General elections currently work like pressure valves, devices which the controllers can use to relieve popular unrest by creating the illusion that a new set of political faces will remove the causes of the unrest. But, of course, that seldom happens, because the real controllers are always unchanged.

And Green ideology runs contrary to everything the bankers and media moguls have done for hundreds of years.

In other words Green activists should never subscribe to the view that votes matter more than ideology. There must be no secrets. To use a hackneyed expression, Greens should say what they mean, and mean what they say.

Day One

So let’s summarise all this in order to properly answer what should happen on the very first days after the Greens win a general election. It could all be quite simple and straightforward — if it is prepared for beforehand.

Almost immediately on assuming office, the Greens should pass their new draft national constitution in parliament. If necessary, temporary appointments to the House of Lords should be made in order to complete the process — temporary because the House of Lords would change significantly under the new constitution, or possibly disappear altogether. The constitution, which would be the supreme law of the land, would provide the legal authority for the Greens to carry out the multitude of changes that would transform our country — for the better.

Whilst this is happening a thorough review of every government department should take place, removing any senior manager who is likely to be obstructive to Green changes, and replacing them with all those junior officials who have both experience of their departments together with real support for Green ideology — and there will be plenty to choose from.

The new government departments (such as the DPF, DPW, and DI) need to be established at the same time, and made operational within weeks of the Greens establishing a government. These would provide the essential funding, labour force, and public information that will all be vital to the success of the Green reformation.

The planning for all this is work the Greens could and should be doing now. Far from keeping it all top secret, which is the normal way of doing things in politics, it would be essential for the Greens to do it all openly and in full view of anyone who cares to look. Quite apart from the fact that secrecy is contrary to Green ideology it is also counterproductive to Green ambitions. People need to know and understand the reasons why Greens believe what they believe. There is nothing in Green ideology to hide or be ashamed of, and come the Green reformation the Greens will need to bank on the full support of a well-informed citizenry. That well-informed citizenry will only exist if the Greens openly campaign for the changes they intend to make together with the reasons for why the changes are essential; and the fact that a Green government comes to power as a consequence of providing that information will provide the lawful and moral authority for doing it. Such a major reformation of British government would not happen easily because of the powerful forces who would inevitably oppose it, hence the support of a well-informed citizenry will be essential to finally achieving a government that is properly democratic, humane, and capable of helping to stop the environmental destruction of our planet — instead of promoting it.

  1. John Andrews, “Come the (Green) Revolution, Please!”, Dissident Voice, December 2, 2018.
  2. Hidden Agendas, John Pilger, p. 525.

Come the (Green) Revolution, Please!

The Green Party of England and Wales is extraordinary. Whilst I’ve no idea whether it’s very different to other Green Parties around the world, it is totally different to any other large political organisation in Britain. Full disclosure: I’m a member of the Greens, so obviously I have some partisan interest. Nevertheless, I think I can prove beyond reasonable doubt that it is extraordinary.

Arguably the single most important extraordinary feature about it, compared with other large political parties in Britain, is that it has a written set of guiding principles, together with a multitude of written policies that it claims it would implement in the event of a Green government coming to power. This body of work, titled “Policies for a Sustainable Society” (PSS), is wholly controlled by the membership, and cannot be altered on the whim of its leaders. This alone sets the party aside from the Labour Party, for example, which has the biggest membership in the country, but no equivalent of the Greens’ PSS.

I couldn’t believe this when I was briefly a member of Labour – the fact that it has no written core principles. All it has is whatever the last election manifesto was. The shallowness of this situation is obvious: Labour “principles” are determined by a handful of people just prior to an election, and are wholly dependent on those few people. That’s why its leaders often refer to it as a “broad church”, suggesting that no matter what your political beliefs are, Labour will welcome you with open arms. It’s also why two people as ideologically far apart as Tony Blair and Jeremy Corbyn, for example, can somehow lead the same party – and preside over the preparation of two totally different election manifestos, and hence two totally different, and opposing sets of principles.

So the mere existence of the Greens’ PSS, making the party fairly impervious to the weaknesses and fallibility of leaders, is truly exceptional. It creates a party where written verifiable ideology trumps vague and vulnerable personality cults. But that’s just the start. The actual contents of the PSS are nothing short of breathtaking.

I recently completed a short summary of the PSS. It’s about twenty thousand words long, and I reckon it has only about 10% of the detail. I did it because the PSS is such a large piece of work that I’m sure most GP members probably haven’t read it, and therefore possibly don’t understand the full extent of the beauty of their own party. And “beauty” is the right word for it, because what it describes is a world that’s so completely different to the one we know, and so infinitely better, that it is indeed a beautiful creation. Far from being something of an ordeal to pore over a detailed political ideology, I found myself savouring what I was doing, frequently smiling, feeling uplifted, and thinking this is exactly the sort of world I want to live in.

The PSS opens with two short sections that in my summary I’ve called the “key facts”. The very first words state that:

The Green Party isn’t just another political party. Green politics is a new and radical kind of politics.

Ten Core Principles follow, summarising the Greens’ commitment to rescuing our dying planet, pacifism, economic justice for all, and constitutional reform based on direct democracy.

Next comes a slightly longer section about the Greens’ Philosophical Basis, which obviously supports their Core Principles, but with a little more detail, such as:

A system based on inequality and exploitation is threatening the future of the planet on which we depend, and encouraging reckless and environmentally damaging consumerism. A world based on cooperation and democracy would prioritise the many, not the few, and would not risk the planet’s future with environmental destruction and unsustainable consumption.

It’s interesting to note that the slogan the Labour Party used so successfully in last year’s elections, “For the many, not the few”, is remarkably similar to what the Greens have been saying for many years.

Those ten Core Principles, and the couple of dozen points in the Philosophical Basis, run like a golden thread linking every one of the hundreds of sections that comprise the full PSS.

Constitutional Reform

Arguably the most significant section of the Greens’ policies are those around constitutional reform, because what the Greens propose is not just a change of actors performing the same play on the same stage – which is the only purpose of most general elections – but a major reformation of the way politics works in Britain. Take, for example, two of the opening principles in the section on Public Administration and Government:

Britain still has many of the elements of its feudal past, including some remnants of the royal prerogative. We believe that the basic principle of Government should be the reverse of this, that is that power flows upwards from the people, and from their most local levels of Government to the higher levels…

All decision-making and action throughout all levels of government, including international government, shall be governed by the principle of subsidiarity: namely that nothing should be done centrally if it can be done equally well, or better, locally…

The highest form of democracy is direct participation.

To help achieve this the Greens further propose:

The basis for a decentralised society and the establishment of a Bill of Rights must be laid out in a clear and accessible written constitution.

This is no trivial point for a country that has never had a written constitution, and a country which, although no longer the global power it once was, is still a significant player on the world stage. But the Greens are not proposing just any old constitution that just perpetuates the ancient and very corrupt status quo:

A written constitution will describe a new system of government based on direct democracy and Green values…

Elections will be decided by proportional representation…

The City of London Corporation to be abolished, together with its institutions and all the special rights and privileges it has, to be replaced by administration similar to the rest of London…

Monarchy shall cease to be an office of government, and hereditary peers will not have hereditary rights to sit in Parliament…

The Church of England shall be disestablished and will have no role in the government of the UK…

Those few words propose unbelievably seismic changes for Britain. If they were carried out Britain would cease to be controlled by the corrupt and tyrannical elites that have not only oppressed British people for centuries, but also hundreds of millions of people around the world. For the first time in its history Britain would become a real democracy. But that’s just the start.

The Greens do not yet have, in my view, very strong policies regarding public information services, and this issue would have to be addressed in any written constitution. Good and trustworthy information is absolutely essential to the proper functioning of direct democracy; and it should be the responsibility of, firstly, the education system, and secondly, a state public information service to ensure good information is provided.

Green Britain

The Greens are, first and foremost, about protecting and improving the environment, and rescuing and restoring to full health our planet’s fragile and rapidly dying ecosystems. This principle underpins, explains and justifies every one of the hundreds of policies that comprise the PSS. In other words, there isn’t a separate section about “The Environment”; the whole thing is about the environment and the planet’s non-humans, and the way human beings could and should interact with them. Take, for example, the section on Animal Rights:

The prevailing assumption that animals can be used for any purpose that benefits humankind is not acceptable in a Green society…

To eliminate the wholesale exploitation of other species, foster understanding of our inter-relationship in the web of life and protect and promote natural habitat…

Other sections are designed with the environment at heart. Take the section on Transport, for example, which includes:

The Green Party believes that some of the greatest damage to local communities and the environment has been done by the transfer of freight carriage from water and rail to road and air, and the increasing size of road vehicles used. The Green Party’s aim will be to reverse this trend by:

(a)  Reducing the need for freight movement by the implementation of policies to alter the current culture of over consumption.

(b)  Promoting the provision of products from local sources;

(c)  Using financial incentives to bring large-scale freight carriage back onto water and rail.

(d)  Local or regional authorities planning freight movement within their areas on the principle of small-scale delivery vehicles servicing from rail and waterside depots.

(e)  Establish facilities for inter-modal freight movement, such as rail depots and waterside wharves.

Or Housing…

Building regulations to be changed to reflect the needs of a green society and green economy. Local authorities to have the means to properly police the regulations…

Or Education…

All schools to provide environmental education through academic and practical work. Schools to practice high standards of environmental welfare…

Or Industry…

The development of a sustainable zero carbon industrial infrastructure as a basis for a sustainable zero carbon society. This will free the UK economy from a reliance on endless growth in the production of commodities and financial transactions…

The Green Economy

One of the most important (and longest) sections in the PSS is The Economy. Unsurprisingly, the health of the environment assumes primary importance:

To conserve natural planetary resources and to maintain the integrity of natural life-sustaining cycles; to regenerate areas made waste and take steps to avoid further ecological disaster; to reduce demand for energy and raw materials; to favour low energy non-polluting processes based on renewable resources…

British Greens are sometimes referred to as watermelons – green on the outside, and red in the middle. A quick glance through The Economy section soon explains why:

To devolve economic power to the lowest appropriate level, thereby rendering participants in the economy at all levels less vulnerable to the damaging effects of economic decisions made elsewhere and over which they have no control…

To liberate and empower all sections of society to meet their needs as far as possible from their own resources through activities which are socially enhancing; to encourage all to contribute to society according to their abilities, recognising as they do so, responsibility for themselves, for others, for future generations and for the planet…

Appropriate national public expenditure will be necessary for the regeneration of the supply side of the economy to achieve the green objectives. Extensive investment is required to repair the damaged natural environment; to restore infrastructure; and to develop re-skilling and retraining in socially and environmentally-friendly production and services…

As for the big and very obvious question: where would all the money come from? The Greens have some fine answers. Obviously, given the scandalous tax evasion by the super-rich that’s been going on for centuries, there is need for considerable tax reform, and Green taxation policies do propose doing that. However, of far greater importance is a total overhaul of monetary policy, and that section in the PSS is several times larger than the section on taxation. For example:

The existing banking system has failed and is no longer fit for purpose. The Green Party believes that the power to create money must be removed from private banks. The supply of our national currency must be fully restored to democratic and public control so that it can be issued free of debt and directed to environmentally and socially beneficial areas such as renewable energy, social housing, or support for community businesses…

Of course, you have to allow for slight inaccuracies – like in the above wording, “our national currency must be fully restored to democratic and public control” – which obviously wrongly suggests that at some time in the past our currency once had democratic and public control. But such small slips aside, this is a proposal that’s every bit as seismic to the British economy as scrapping the monarchy, hereditary peers in the House of Lords, and political power of the Church of England is to the so-called English constitution.

There are a few other economic policies which at first glance might seem quite trivial, but which are, in fact, highly significant, such as:

The Green Party would replace conventional [economic] indicators with those that measure progress towards sustainability, equity and devolution…

This is, once again, revolutionary stuff. The global economic system is based entirely on a system of measurements designed by, and for, the super-rich. It’s interested only in profits for the super-rich. The costs of those profits in terms of human misery, animal suffering, and environmental catastrophe, are entirely irrelevant. Changing the way economies are measured to not only take those factors into account but to prioritise them above the profits of the super-rich is Earth-shaking stuff.

The Bigger Picture

There’s only so much a country can do by itself. Sooner or later it has to co-operate with others in order to achieve mutually desirable results. Even if the Green Party managed to turn Britain into the greenest, happiest, and most self-sufficient country in the world it would be pretty ineffective if the rest of the planet continued along its man-made road to disaster. So the Greens are also committed internationalists, striving to help other countries make the essential changes they’re also going to need in the very near future.

To this end the PSS spells out its policies in its International section, and in the section on Peace and Defence. Unsurprisingly, some of these policies are nothing less than revolutionary:

The Green vision also involves a fundamental restructuring of the global economy to reverse the unsustainable trend of globalisation (i.e. ever increasing trade between ever distant nations with the primary goal of maximising profit) and a democratisation of the systems of global governance…

The United Nations should be reformed and democratised. The current national basis for membership should be extended to include regional (sub-national) representation and all representatives should be democratically selected. The WTO, International Monetary Fund, World Bank and similar bodies should also be reformed, democratised, or replaced…

To support the establishment and maintenance of ecologically sustainable and democratic communities throughout the world, and progress towards a world in which all people are equal in both their economic potential and their political rights…

The nature of conflict in the twenty-first century is highly complex, involving state and non-state participants at every level. Much international conflict today arises directly or indirectly from the abuse of power by rich Northern nations…

The United Kingdom has not been under significant threat of armed invasion since 1941 and such an event is unlikely to occur in the foreseeable future…

“Defence” is the protection of homeland against attack and does not justify pre-emptive strikes against nations and organisations. Military intervention for peacekeeping or conflict prevention cannot be justified unilaterally. It is irrational and immoral [and often illegal] to continue activities that exacerbate threats to international and local security…

The defence budget needs to be adequate to ensure security, but no more so…

The Green Party is committed to pursuing immediate and unconditional nuclear disarmament…

Green defence policy will be consistent with international law and the UN Charter.

The (vegan) buttering of parsnips

There’s an old saying that goes “fine words butter no parsnips”. This makes the vital point that there’s a world of difference between words and deeds. The history of politics is nothing if not a very long and depressing saga of false hopes and broken promises. It’s one thing for the Green Party to have all these wonderful world-changing ideas, making them reality is something else entirely.

To me, the answer is very simple. Write a draft constitution based almost entirely on the Greens’ PSS, and from then on, in every single election campaign, promise to pass that constitution into law within the first six months of a Green government coming to power. (Failure to do so would constitute a breach of promise to the electorate and require the Greens to quit office.) Ensure that the constitution is the supreme law which supersedes all other laws and renders invalid any conflicting law. Build into the constitution the sovereignty of the people, so that only the people can change the constitution – not some new and reactionary future government. Concern that such an action would be undemocratic is groundless: if the Greens openly campaigned for constitutional change and won a general election on the basis of that campaign, it would obviously be the democratic choice of the people to implement it.

I do not see any realistic alternative to this method. If the Greens were to try to introduce their policies piecemeal and individually they would either be quickly defeated by their rich and powerful opponents; or the partial changes would not be able to function alongside existing systems, and hence render them apparent failures; or they would simply run out of time. We are living through the sixth mass extinction of species – unique amongst previous extinctions in that this one was entirely man-made and was largely preventable. We are long past the point of “doing something before it’s too late”. Too late came and went some years ago; we’re now in the business of crisis control and damage limitation. The time is not very far away when no matter what we do it will be in vain. Like Easter Island, our fragile planet is rapidly becoming uninhabitable, solely because of human beings.

As an anarchist I’m not much of a fan of political parties. But what should an anarchist do if a political party comes along which promotes anarchist values? I’ve waded through almost every one of the Green Party’s hundreds of policies. There are some that I’m pretty indifferent to – like Citizen’s Income, for example – but not a single one that I strongly disagree with. Individual anarchists are not going to change the world for the better, but the Green Party just might.

Is Britain’s Green Party About to take a Significant Step Towards Revolution?

The Green Party of England and Wales (GPEW) is currently undertaking a huge holistic review as to how the Party works. As it already has a superb set of highly radical policies encompassing not only its well-known concerns for saving the environment but also proposals for revolutionary reforms of the economy, British foreign policy, and our so-called constitution, the holistic review has the potential to be either a step towards a major peaceful revolution, or a damp squib.

Since the Greens were first established in Britain decision-making has been undertaken at annual conferences, where any Party member attending the conference may be involved. This has worked reasonably well, but obviously excludes all those members who are unable to attend conferences. The holistic review may possibly modernise this system.

About a hundred years ago Emma Goldman was one of the first to observe that if voting could really change anything it would be made illegal. It’s not absolutely true, of course, but her point, that most of our so-called democracies are not fit for purpose, was right on the money.

Democracy is a relatively new feature of human society. Given the incredible technical advances that humans have achieved over the last couple of thousand years, it’s not exactly impressive that it’s only just a hundred years or so since women were deemed to be sufficiently human to be entrusted with the right to vote once in a while.

The main reason why we have not yet evolved a system of government where all human beings are able to exercise well-informed decisions is not only because the technology has not been up to providing such a marvel until very recent times, it’s also because the tiny minority of super-rich beings that have always ruled the world have always fought tooth and claw to resist any efforts at weakening the vice-like grip they have always held on political power.

The GPEW has fine policies intended to try to advance the cause of real democracy. Inevitably it’s very hard work to effect those changes. Not only is there the huge problem of the existing global power structure which, like its predecessors, still fights to resist change, there’s also the problem of mass ignorance – the fact that the vast majority of the population has been conditioned to meekly conform to the wishes of our rulers and their lackeys in the mainstream media, or are too apathetic to even care.

However, the Greens holistic review must eventually lead to a major leap forward for real democracy. The Party recently tried to host a couple of online workshops as part of the review. It was the first time it tried to do something like this on a Party-wide scale. Whilst I have some reservations about how this initial effort was made, the fact the effort was made at all has to be greatly applauded. Few things work perfectly at the first attempt, so it’s no surprise that this online exercise had some problems.

Although I signed up to take part in three of the workshops it turned out that I was unable to do so because I do not have the requisite camera and microphone attachments for my computer. If those technical requirements had been stipulated in the original message from the holistic review team I obviously would not have booked a place, thus preventing someone else from taking part – as there was limited availability for participation. So this is the first little glitch – the fact that it was assumed that all GP members are computer literate and have instant access to the required technology. I know of GP members who do not use computers at all, so their voices are obviously excluded from the start. Given that equality and diversity are supposedly important to Greens, the fact that this limitation was not even considered is not impressive. Whilst I accept that it’s reasonable to assume that most people are computer literate, and will continue to be even more so, it should at least have been stated that this problem was recognised, and suitable apologies voiced in the name of tolerance for floundering baby steps towards the brave new world of real democracy.

On the day of the first workshop I received an e-mail from the organisers: “Message to attendees at conference”. There was very little information about how the process would work, but one point was made clear: “If you’re a man, and there have been lots of men speaking, I’ll prioritise a woman even if she had her hand up after you.” Why was this about the only rule the organisers mentioned? It’s significant that the reverse situation was not stated – we were not told that if lots of women had been speaking a man would be prioritised even if he put his hand up after women. The rule suggests discrimination against men, not a good look, but also not the first time I’ve come across it in the Green Party.

The last part of the “Message to attendees” was something of an agenda – some bullet points of subjects to be discussed. Obviously you need agendas, but at no point was I invited to contribute towards it, and this is very important: whoever controls agenda content controls the debate. Everyone taking part in any group discussion should be able to contribute to deciding what subjects will be discussed, and in what order – no matter their gender, race, physical condition, and so on.

One of the workshops I wanted to attend was about “Equality and diversity in the Green Party”. The first part of the “Message to attendees” of this workshop was similar to the previous message, with its identical discriminatory condition about men – quite ironic given the subject matter. This message also had an agenda, towards which, like its predecessor, I had also not been invited to contribute.

However, the given agenda looked quite interesting. The most interesting issue, to me, was the fourth item: “How do we avoid the infighting which has affected the Labour party about discrimination, especially anti-Semitism and transphobia?”

This is a very important topic. I was in the Labour Party for just over a year, and an active supporter of Momentum. Whilst there is indeed considerable dissent in Labour, I saw little evidence that it is any more or less discriminatory than the Greens. Labour’s infighting has almost nothing to do with discrimination and everything to do with the fact that it has no core ideology, no equivalent of our Policies for a Sustainable Society.

All the same, the point is interesting. Labour’s alleged anti-Semitism is mostly created and routinely exploited by the mainstream media to smear Jeremy Corbyn for his decades of opposition to Zionism. It’s just another fake news scam. Labour is no more anti-Semitic than the Greens are, and the London-based Jewish Socialists’ Group, for example, is very supportive of Labour under Jeremy Corbyn. But the very expression “anti-Semitism” has been corrupted by the mainstream media, possibly influenced by the powerful Zionist lobby.

The literal definition of Semitism originally referred to anyone with an ethnic origin stretching from North Africa to Iraq. The etymology of the word derives from ‘descendants of Shem’, a son of Noah, from whom the Phoenicians are believed to have come – the people who colonised much of the Mediterranean. Hence Arabic is routinely identified as a Semitic language, and unsurprisingly has similarities to Hebrew. But the way Semitism is being interpreted today is almost as a synonym for Zionism, suggesting that anyone who criticises Israel’s Zionist government is being anti-Semitic. But Zionism is a repulsive political ideology not dissimilar in practice to apartheid, and has nothing to do with Semitism – and many of its supporters are not even Semites. It’s a clever tactic designed to confuse understanding of the horrendous situation in Occupied Palestine and eliminate criticism of the vicious junta that rules it – something Jeremy Corbyn has always rightly done, as have the Greens, to some extent, with their support for the BDS campaign against Israel. Given Corbyn’s longstanding support for the terrible plight of Palestinians – a Semitic people – how could anyone rightly accuse him of anti-Semitism? So this is indeed a good and legitimate subject to include in the subject of “avoiding infighting” – but perhaps not quite as the workshop organisers intended.

Avoiding infighting is a vitally important concept, but it’s also a deeply loaded expression which can lead to totalitarianism. Enemies of the Greens will always seek to exploit any potential divisions as a means of destroying the party – the old “divide and rule” tactic. The widely-used traditional method for dealing with dissenting voices in large organisations is simply to eliminate them, one way or another. This is not an option for an organisation that’s striving to reform democracy. The most effective way to do this, for Greens, is through proper open debate and Party-wide decision-making. When dissenting opinion occurs, as it always will, provide a proper debate where voices for and against that opinion can be widely heard and then allow the whole membership to decide the result. The dissatisfied losers of such debates are free to leave the Party if they choose, but should not be pushed. Real progress can only be made in an environment of truly free expression and open debate, never through repression. So “avoiding infighting” should be managed through a process of open debate and decision-making, never through some form of secret policing. The very important need for widespread debate over the horrors being perpetrated in Occupied Palestine, for example, is being silenced everywhere by the simple device of labelling it “anti-Semitic”.

As I was unable to attend the workshops I have no idea how successful they were. But the fact that they were done at all is a huge advance, a giant leap forward towards creating a system where essential Party-wide debates and decision-making can be created. The key to improving the model is through increasing membership involvement at all stages, not limiting it. Those individuals tasked with administering the process must have less ability to control it. Their role must be simply to properly administer, not decide. A way must be found where any Party member may be included in deciding what issues to discuss, and in what order. Another way must be found where Proper Information is provided for each and every issue being discussed, both for and against, in an environment of real free expression. The provision of Proper Information is an essential component of real democracy. The spirit of Voltaire (who is alleged to have said, “I may disagree with all you say, but will defend to the death your right to say it”) must be the guiding principle (whether he actually said it or not – because the principle is a fine one). And a way must be found where any Party member can vote to decide the outcome of any debate. An honest, transparent, inclusive, trustworthy, voting system is another essential component of real democracy. There is no plausible excuse for not doing any of this. We have the technology. It must be used.

Many of today’s political decision-makers will inevitably resist the creation of real democracy. That has been the story of democracy from its very earliest days: every new advance has been bitterly opposed by those who wield political power. From the days when British kings lost their “divine right” to rule, allowing rich land barons to share power, to the days when the voting franchise expanded to permit a whole 1% of the population to vote, the right to make political decisions has been ruthlessly restricted. Such was the situation for hundreds of years. It’s not even a hundred years since women were finally allowed to vote, as they were always deemed incapable of doing so – just as non-white people were forbidden to vote, and for the same reason, in most parts of the world, up to as recently as just twenty five years ago when apartheid ended in South Africa. Even today voting is still not a natural right for all citizens. Israel still practices apartheid, preventing many Arabs from voting in Israeli elections by the creation of Bantustans, where Arabs have no political rights outside their ghettoes, exactly as happened in South Africa.

Emma Goldman was mostly right when she made her observation about the uselessness of voting. Her words are still largely true even today, when so-called democracy is largely a cynical pantomime carefully stage-managed by the super-rich to create the illusion of democracy. But in recent years technology has provided the means to set us truly free. We now have the technical ability continually to provide good information to the entire population, and then to harvest the opinions and choices of the population. It’s only a question of time before that is routinely available to all citizens.

The GPEW is now leading the way in providing this inevitable innovation. A noble place in history awaits those who first deliver real democracy to the people. The Greens must surge ahead with this fine start they have made, and use its changes as a campaigning aid. We must create a model of real democracy within the Party to show citizens a working example of how a Green government could deliver real democracy to the whole country, and then the world. The Greens have long had a policy aim of Direct Democracy. We now have the opportunity to start providing it. The days of policy decision-making being restricted to the few people who are able to attend party conferences must end. Every Green Party member should be able to take part in all Party decision-making. If the holistic review does not include that, and propose steps to achieve it, it will be a largely pointless exercise.