Current Affairs Politics

Has Electoral Success Broken The Green Party?

It seems that the Green Party is going through some of the same growing pains that effected Sinn Féin in the aftermath of the general election of 2011 and to a lesser extent at the start of this year. In the first decade-and-a-half of the new century SF experienced an influx of excited new blood in the South that frequently found itself at odds with the cautious older blood of the existing membership. Incoming activists and their post-war concerns and expectations struggled to find an accommodation with the interests and behaviours of veteran activists who were themselves struggling with the new political dispensation.

For the contemporary Greens the historical background mightn’t be so dramatic, despite some in the party fancying themselves as “green revolutionaries”, but there is definitely a generational split in the grouping. A split that is turning on a debate between an Establishment-friendly leadership that remains wedded to a form of neoliberal environmentalism and a tranche of new members enthused by policies and ideas that lean closer to a form of green-socialism.

As the Irish Times notes, in a report that slightly smacks of a GP leadership pushing out black propaganda against its internal rivals, things are coming to a head in the party with talk of a “coup”.

Party membership has swollen from just 700 two years ago to almost 3,000 now and for some older members, the recent recruits are much more assertive than anything they are used to. Comparisons are made to Momentum, the hard left group which supported Jeremy Corbyn in the UK Labour Party, and the Sunrise group of left climate activists in the US Democratic Party…

One party veteran said it is “not just the typical internal party strife”, adding: “For some of us, what we’re witnessing is a coup.

“The party that I knew in the late 1980s and 1990s is being overturned, decision by decision, vote by vote, by a bunch of keyboard warriors. They want to be in government with Sinn Féin and Labour and the Soc Dems. No one else.”

Older Greens argue for more party discipline, and claim there must be consequences when someone – such as Saoirse McHugh, the prominent young Mayo Green – speaks out against party policy.

I suspect that in the end the allure of being in government will be enough for the Greens to purchase the loyalty of dissenting members but you never know. With talk of a potential split in the party over the conservative ethos of the leadership, and its too close association with “Official Ireland”, maybe something good might come out of all this debate. A republican left and green movement? Now there is something I could vote for!

8 comments on “Has Electoral Success Broken The Green Party?

  1. One question this raises is whether or not, a concept like “Green Politics” can or should be the basis of a full-service-political party.

    Shouldn’t some issues be multi-party? Should climate change for example fall under that rubric?

    The difficulty I see with the idea of a “Green Party” of any kind is that it at least risks coupling certain key environmental issues with other social economic issues. Sure when Green Parties do this, they can almost always produce a good cogent argument on why that social position logically follows from their commitment to the environment.If

    However are such Green Party arguments just so utterly bullet proof and unimpeachable as to be a sine que non?

    I know that the German Green Party has a position of wanting The German Health system to more closely resemble the Canadian one. Having lived right near the border to Canada, I’m inclined to think the current German system has some notable advantages over the Canadian one, and find it at best unclear how that’s an ecological issue either way. Germany funds most of its health care via non-profit universalized insurance, Canada funds some things via a Federally sponsored but largely state run insurance. If you could think of some reason switching would necessarily help Germany decarbonize its economy faster or better, let me know. Shouldn’t people who have different opinions on German Health Care be equally welcome in terms of bringing their ideas about decarbonization to the table?

    That’s really the tricky issue with “single issue centered” parties. Often they start out as a small presence while leaving the platform largely open on other questions. However if they stay that way it risks marginalizing the issue-even in countries where people get to vote for five or more people/parties for the same office in ranked order. The message runs “That’s just the pet issue of that rinky-dink small party.” There are a lot of historical examples of this. In a bunch of countries there was a “Women’s Party” either soon after women’s suffrage was attained and/or at the dawn of Second Wave Feminism. US Suffragist Carrie Chapman Catt argued firmly that any such party would only marginalize women at the game of political power-and I think she was right. There’s even a Legalize Marijuana Now Party in the US Upper Midwest and California. While it has managed to find a small presence in some state legislatures, it mostly copied the Farm and Labor Party (an affiliate of the Democrats) on every issue except Marijuana-related positions.

    However once these parties get passed a certain point they have little choice but to operate as “full service political parties”. When that happens they end up the party likely will face increasing pressure to have more “party discipline” and to have official platforms that may or may not be all that related to the original cause whether it’s The Environment, Women’s Rights, or Legal Marijuana. The only other option would be to become a “broad tent” party on every other issue like Fianna Fail appears to be.

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  2. gendjinn

    It is the same fight every Green party has. Socialist vs Neoliberal. The Neoliberals have won every time. In the 80s the socialists lost the GP fight in the US, Germany and Ireland. You have seen the outcome of that in Ireland and Germany.

    Are you aware to what degree western intelligence services were involved in ensuring the Neoliberals won in each case? Read any books or seen any news articles on the topic? Ever?

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    • “Are you aware to what degree western intelligence services were involved in ensuring the Neoliberals won in each case? Read any books or seen any news articles on the topic? Ever?”

      You realise that you’re asking this of someone who, by their own admission, believes you can tell people of Irish or Jewish heritage by, respectively, their red hair or big nose. Soooo, I would hazard a guess that an honest answer to your question would be a resounding “Nope, never have”.

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  3. It is theoretically impossible to be both Green and neoliberal, it is a contradiction in terms. Simply put, Greens give a fuck about everybody and neoliberals give a fuck about nobody except themselves.

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  4. “The party that I knew in the late 1980s and 1990s is being overturned, decision by decision, vote by vote, by a bunch of keyboard warriors. They want to be in government with Sinn Féin and Labour and the Soc Dems. No one else.”

    Yes, that bunch of red revolutionaries! Tremble at the proletarian might of the SDs! Surely if it is vote by vote what is the problem for a democratic party. And if it is vote by vote decision by decision then clearly it’s not all keyboard warriors but people getting involved. Anyhow, what of those who recall the party from the early 1980s and before? Perhaps they’re feeling a bit more comfortable than they did in successive years.

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    • One problem I’ve seen with a lot of people in both Green Parties AND groups that bill themselves as “Green Socialism” are that I’ve found them to be very, very dogmatic. I’ve found that a lot of them end up heavily championing causes that have at best a peripheral relationship to climate and environment, and have questionable merit as social proposition. Some examples, I’ve seen. I knew a local head of a Green Socialist Party who spent about 25% of her campaigning time promoting “Phonics Based Reading Instruction” and opposing another method called “Whole Language”. She argued basically that whole language was a way of ensuring only kids with highly educated parents came out of school literate. I may be biased as my mother favored whole language when she was a teacher (now retired). However whatever your opinion on reading instruction it was never clear to me: 1) What good came out of being conspiratorial about the issue. 2) How it was related to ecology? Or even a panacea for school improvement!! 3) Why it deserved to be the single biggest issue of her party chapter.

      I never doubted that her belief was sincere (if misguided). It was more a question of how much you want to yolk certain issues to ecology either way.

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      • That’s an interesting point Grace. Seen that too, but I think a lot of that vanished from the Irish GP in the mid-2000s. A lot of those who had over focus on single-issues drifted away during that period. Actually possibly a little earlier. But it is very true that you’d find people fixated on one thing or another who would attach to the GP for a while.

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        • I’ll admit. To a certain degree I just don’t like political parties, and wish certain old ideals about a Democracy with no political parties at all- where people look at a candidates ideas without relying on some stupid and simplistic heuristics- had panned out!!!!

          I used to wish for Green Party success for a time, but later became skeptical of yoking certain other issues around healthcare, education, and more to ecology. For example, in the US most people who would join a Green Party would ABSOLUTELY treat a Canadian style health system as a huge “sine qua non” acid test as to whether you are “OK” or a “wolf in sheep’s clothing” by claiming to care about ecology. Somebody like me, who thinks a German influenced system would be better would not be welcome. Other issues some of them would want as a non-negotiable part of their platform would be that people in the lower 50% income level would get a tax cut for voting. To me that’s half a step from vote buying, and involves the IRS in records of who voted and voter rolls (thus risking further compromises to electoral systems!!!). Of course, tell advocates of “tax cuts for voters in the lower 50% bracket” that you don’t like their idea and you’re an “elitist” who “doesn’t want lower income people to vote”.

          The issue isn’t just with these ideas-every time period and place has their own version of these things. To a large degree, I suspect ecology and climate might be better off as issues with bipartisan or multipartisan support.

          Was just watching a very, very well done historical drama with great acting, casting, costumes, and more called “Mrs. America”. It deals with the defeat of “The ERA” -an amendment guaranteeing sexual equality under the law- and the fall of “Eisenhower’s GOP” to one ruled by a more extreme Southernized right that sort of set the stage for Trump. One thing is deals with is how in the early 1970’s there were LOTS of Republicans who supported the ERA and that changed in a very short time period. Women’s rights have clearly not benefited from the switch from bi-partisan to ultra partisan for sure. I’m not sure climate and ecology would do better.

          You could argue that European Parliaments are totally different, but I suspect that’s overstated at best. It seems that the whole process of using one or more parties to create a “coalition government” and the more rigid “party discipline” might make these dynamics as bad or worse in most European countries as in the Presidential nations of the world. (Also making a Presidential country multi-party isn’t as hard as some European have been taught. Many such as Mexico already are. The US might not even need a Constitutional Amendment at all to be as multiparty as Ireland.)

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