Saturday, November 25, 2006

Greenpartywatch: Derek Wall elected Principal Speaker

I remember Derek from my Green Party days. He always seemed to keep out of the way of the rest of the party, you would find him in the bar, or at his own fringe meetings, plugging books, grumbling that the party wasn't Marxist enough.

Derek is articulate and intelligent. He wrote a history of the Green Party, part 1 of which I referred to earlier. Part 2, part 3, part 4. All quite frank and interesting.

But the thing is that Derek's politics are way out there. They always were a bit extreme even for the Green Party! Probably the party has now moved a little to meet him, all the more reason to expose it for what it is.

In his own words (from here):
Marxism is a sophisticated, subtle, philosophical system with inexhaustible insights. As an eco-Marxist I believe that only a socialist society will meet human needs and sustain ecological diversity, politics is based on class struggle, it isn't a matter of changing a few laws we live in a social totality that is utterly destructive and must be replaced.

I used to think this sort of revolutionary talk was benign but misguided. I no longer think it remotely benign. Revolutions in democratic societies make things worse. There are problems intrinsic to Marxism that make something like Stalinism fairly inevitable. An awful lot of what we enjoy in modern western societies is extremely good: human rights, prosperity, freedom, public services and so on. This is not a totality that is utterly destructive, and anybody who suggests it is clearly hasn't the slightest idea of what they should be fighting for.

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Anonymous said...

This is excellent stuff, Joe. Anything that exposes the Greens for the menace that they are is worth highlighting.

Any more juicy quotes you have that might festoon a Focus?

Whenever I meet a potential Green voter, it's always handy to point out that what they are thinking of voting for isn't "Save the Whale" but state tyranny and economic slavery.

Anonymous said...

When you think of the loss of the staggering loss biodiversity in recent decades, the mass-extinctions that have occurred, and the impact that will persist for at least centuries, it is difficult to describe this as anything other than utterly destructive.

The mistake you are making is confusing principal speaker with policy director. Derek's job is not to decide party policy, but to speak on its behalf. He is a very witty and engaging speaker, and I think he will do this job well. We all have our own opinions to restrain when in a public role - I am sure he will manage this like anybody else would have to.

Joe Otten said...

Peter, I promise you I know the difference between principal speaker and policy coordinator, having been the latter myself for 2 years.

In fact the policy co-ordinator is also supposed to be a fairly neutral facilitator, not stamping their own views on the party.

Now you are right that all politicians face this problem of conflicts between their own beliefs and the party position. But it is not much of a resolution to demand that senior officers become mere functionaries, politically neutered. More realistically, we can judge parties a great deal by the stated beliefs of the "leadership" they elect.

The Green Party is in the unusual position of having (officially) no political leadership. Neither principal speaker and none of the exec are trusted by the party to exercise any political leadership. So, as you suggest, in theory at least, it doesn't matter what any of them believe in.

The problem with this is that it is absurd. The principal speakers are the most politically sensitive positions in the party behind the MEPs. Imagine the third or fourth most senior position in another party being filled by somebody with known extreme views. Imagine the Tory shadow chancellor ran a blog advocating the abolition of the health service. Would you expect that to be seen as unimportant?

Utterly destructive? I suppose that depends on whether you see Marxism as having the solutions to biodiversity. Or the Green Party.

Anonymous said...


there is no more ardent critic than the ex-convert.

I assume, though, that your main reason for defecting to the Lib Dems was ambition, not ideology.

Trouble with this though is that I understand you have to deliver tens of thousands of focus leaflets before you can get ahead in the Lib Dems. Leading to an unfortunate dominance of those who are blessed with sufficient lack of imagination that they don't mind doing this.

Whereas the more dynamic thinkers get sidelined.

Joe Otten said...


I hope that you only resort to ad hominem attacks when you have no arguments left.

As it happens I spent 4 or 5 years out of party politics altogether reflecting on how much I had been sucked into a way of thinking that reinforced itself but didn't fit reality.

I concluded in that process that the Green Party's attitudes to trade, science, business and prosperity were basically wrong, totemic, impractical and misjudged. Autarky would deliver poverty but not sustainability. Personal sacrifice is noble but politically impotent.

For my taste the Lib Dems have too many people who are too sympathetic to the Green Party's mistakes, but, hey, we're a broad church.


Anonymous said...

If you look at the record of Lib-Dems in office, their record rarely matches the rhetoric.
They always seem to support airport expansion and road building schemes.
There are many tendencies in the Green Party, we are also debating the issue of if we should have a leader or continue with principal speakers.
What many people can't understand is that local Green parties are autonomous, not hanging on the words of an authoritarian leader!
Most Lib Dems would have voted for
no Trident replacement until Ming, the ultimate establishment man told them not to!
Whats all that Orange Book nonsense, sounds like Thatcherism to me!

Joe Otten said...

Hello anon,

Yes, Lib Dems sometimes support roads and airports and sometimes oppose them. There was a time when even the Green Party didn't oppose all road building - before the debate became so polarised - and before transport took centre stage as the pre-eminent environmental culprit.

Anyway, I'm not suggesting here that the Green Party is following an authoritarian leader, rather that it has elected a principal speaker who reflects its values. If his values are warped, which they are, this reflects badly on the rest of the party.

And how dare you call Ming the ultimate establishment figure? Do you know nothing of his record? Are you judging entirely on appearance?

Anonymous said...

Hi again Joe,

To be a "Marxist" can mean a lot of different things, it as broad as what Liberal or Socialist can mean.
Derek is also a Zen Buddist and certainly not a Leninist.
I notice the last Lib Democrat conference was sponsored by Tesco!
I think the main difference is you think you can intruduce a kinder gentler form of capitalism, whilst most greens recognise that capitalism, in order to survive needs to grow.
The planet does not have the capacity to absorb unfettered growth.
I'm glad there is clear red/green water between our parties.
I don't see myself as a marxist, but Marx actually has a lot to say about how capitalism functions. The Green Left of which Derek and I are members actually quotes William Morris in our preamble to our website.
To caracature Green economic policy as Autarky is to misunderstand it, we really need to deal with food miles as an issue (the supermarkets have a lot to answer for).
We certainly aren't a statist party, opposing ID cards, the UK's cooperation with CIA kidnappings etc...
As Bob Dylan said "Don't follow leaders!"

Joe Otten said...


On Marx, I largely agree with the analysis in The Open Society and its Enemies by Karl Popper. Yes, Marx had a lot to say about capitalism, and it was largely wrong. His historicism, his theory of value, his theory of starvation wages, all wrong. His policies for how a socialist society might work, all absent.

I discuss capitalism and growth here.

You say you're not statist, but a state-driven contraction of economic activity and trade is very statist. Have I missed something here? What?

It does seem that the Green Party is trying to repackage and rescue a kind of socialism, but because it is not being explicit, it doesn't know, and its members won't agree on what kind of socialism it should be. Within the GP, the internicine arguments of the left are therefore suppressed but unresolved.

weggis said...

Thanks for the link via Jim's blog.
You may be interested to note that Derek has banned me from commenting on his blog.

weggis said...
This comment has been removed by the author.