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