While Green Party co-leader Russel Norman  talks of something called  'market environmentalism', the real green alternative is ecosocialism. 

Ecology and Socialism: Solutions to Capitalist Ecological Crisis
Chris Williams (Haymarket, 2009)

The most disappointing and infuriating   thing about the  Green Party is its fundamental and irrational  ideological assumption that a 'environmentally friendly capitalism' is possible. This view has been foisted on the party largely by ex-socialist and co-leader  Russel Norman although the die was probably cast when the late Rod Donald  invited various business leaders to the Beehive to assure  them that the Green's were not a threat  to the interests of capital.

But it has been Norman who has pushed the Green  Party further to the right.  This is the man who cries foul at the damage that 'the market'  is  doing to the environment but then can be heard praising the 'power of the market'. This is the problem  with the politics of the Green's - they think capitalism can be a force for good despite all the evidence that says that this is nonsense.

Absurdly, the Green Party is labelled  'progressive'  by the corporate  media when in fact its just as  satisfied  with the neoliberal status  quo as National and Labour.

 All that the Green's  are seeking is some tinkering with the policy settings.  It's an indication of just how skewed mainstream politics are in this country that the Green's (and Labour for that matter) are allowed to pass themselves off as 'centre left'.  That's how timid and insipid mainstream politics have become in this country.

Ecology and Socialism  is a  book that Russel Norman probably won't read but should. He would probably run a mile when from the subtitle -'Solutions to Capitalist Ecological Crisis'.

Green activist and academic   Chris Williams intelligently  exposes the fallacies and, frankly, the plain  gobblygook of 'market environmentalism'. He brings to his subject  the tools of Marxism to show that at the root of the ecological  crisis is a destructive  and  anarchic economic system.

Writes Williams: ‘Capitalist society threatens the breakdown of the basic biogeochemical cycles of the biosphere as we have come to know them’.

He acknowledges and elaborates on the ecological dimension of the socialist tradition. After all it was Marx  who wrote in The German Ideology:

The ‘essence’ of the fish is its ‘being,’ water — to go no further than this one proposition. The ‘essence’ of the freshwater fish is the water of a river.

But the latter ceases to be the ‘essence’ of the fish and is no longer a suitable medium of existence as soon as the river is made to serve industry, as soon as it is polluted by dyes and other waste products and navigated by steamboats, or as soon as its water is diverted into canals where simple drainage can deprive the fish of its medium of existence.

Its not enough to try to convince business leaders of the error of their ways  because this just  leaves the  system intact. What is required is a profound and fundamental transformation of the political economy.  Otherwise  'environmentalism' is likely to degenerate into  individual lifestyle choice.

Williams outlines a plan for a new world based around 'socialist sustainability' and there is much food for thought here.

But he also writes that such  a world will not come through the discredited vehicle of mainstream politics. The social democratic parties, of whatever flavour, have become  nothing but hollowed out servants of capital. Williams, who lives in the United States, is scathing of the Democrat Party.

In the end what is required are new political movements that recognise that you can't save the planet and save capitalism. It's just a pity that, locally at least, the Green Party is allowed to  behave as if there was no alternative to 'market environmentalism'.


  1. I’ve two issues with this (apart from the errors of “blaming” the Green’s position on a few individuals in the first few paragraphs). Firstly, it is very likely that shifting the world to a truly sustainable footing will require several transitional steps. Yes, we’ll suffer additionally for it, but if you’re planning to gain the power needed to make change via democratic means, that’s what you’re stuck with. If you’re planning a revolution, it is less messy of course, other than the blood on the floor.

    Secondly, it is pretty pointless to rag on the Green Party for not being good enough. The fact is the Greens are already too radical for most, and even if they achieved everything they espouse - and this would certainly make the world a much better place - they’d have pushed the envelope way past the comfort levels of most of the people who voted them into power. The issue would become not getting tossed out and avoiding most the good change being undone before it could even have effect.

    In other words, it’s up to the people. No political party can do more than people will let them. National can’t sell off all public assets as it would like, because people won’t let them. Likewise, the Green Party isn’t pushing for a zero growth economy now, not because it isn’t aware that’s needed, but because it would be out of Parliament if it did and further away from a sustainable planet. This would help no one.

    By all means, continue to advocate for your solutions. As support for them grows, political parties will seek to leverage the support to gain further policy wins. Greens will either be first to do so, or someone more worthy will advance the cause. Calling Greens "right-wing" and needing to be replaced may sound decisive, but it is politically naive.


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