“Tories on bikes”: the Green Party in power - Anarchist Federation

Bin men in Brighton on strike against Green pay cuts, 2014

The AF take a look at the Green Party's record where they have had power to evaluate whether they really represent an "alternative" to business as usual in the election.

“F***ing Tories on bikes” – that’s how one Brighton bin worker describes the Green Party. As the largest party on the local council, with 23 seats at the 2011 election, Brighton is the only place in the UK where the Greens have had so much as a sniff of power. And look what they’ve done with it.

Despite trumpeting a commitment to the living wage (£7.85 an hour outside London, compared to a National Minimum Wage of £6.50), they tried to impose a “pay modernisation” scheme on low-paid council workers with the support of the Conservative group on the council. It meant that refuse and recycling staff at Hollingdean depot faced a paycut of up to £4,000 a year.

Acting like the worst kind of union-busting boss, the council threatened the workers that if they refused to accept the new terms, they would sack them and re-employ them ‘on a worse contract, without compensation’. Binworkers responded with a wildcat occupation of their depot, and there have been numerous strikes and wildcat stoppages since. And the attacks on the binworkers’ terms and conditions of employment continue.

Litter picking

Green MP, Caroline Lucas claims to have made her opposition to the proposals clear, and even said that she would “join the picket line if the Council forces a pay cut on low paid staff.” Well, we haven’t seen her on any picket lines. We did see her picking up litter during the strike of June 2013, despite a statement from the bin-workers asking people not to, because as they say, “any attempts to lessen the impact of a strike [by picking up litter] completely undermines our action.”

No doubt the Greens in Brighton have made “tough choices,” with their “hands tied” by central government. So is that all there is to politics – “tough choices” and a world of perpetual disappointment when your elected representatives betray you? As anarchists, we say that the problem is not with who is in power, and how they exercise that power. The problem is political power itself. As anarchist Noam Chomsky points out, “the smart way to keep people passive and obedient is to strictly limit the spectrum of acceptable opinion, but allow very lively debate within that spectrum.” The Greens might be on the fringes of that spectrum, but they’re still part of the party political system, established to keep us quiet.

Comments

Chilli Sauce
May 16 2015 16:59

This is great, btw, thanks for putting it out.

Fall Back
May 16 2015 22:00
Quote:
Green MP, Caroline Lucas claims to have made her opposition to the proposals clear, and even said that she would “join the picket line if the Council forces a pay cut on low paid staff.” Well, we haven’t seen her on any picket lines. We did see her picking up litter during the strike of June 2013, despite a statement from the bin-workers asking people not to, because as they say, “any attempts to lessen the impact of a strike [by picking up litter] completely undermines our action.”

This is really unhelpful tbh - for whatever her faults, St Caroline was on the Cityclean picket line regularly. Factually dodgy criticism like this just makes it harder for those of us who have to argue against the idea that the Green Party - and St Caroline in particular - represent a radical alternative.

Joseph Kay
May 16 2015 22:13

Yeah. She was a feature on picket lines. And also picked up rubbish during the strike, against the requests of strikers. Pretty much the attempted nice middle ground of the Green Party personified.

the button
May 17 2015 05:20

Fair play. In the (much longer) piece that this is an edit of, the "Well, we haven't seen her...." line is a quote from a binworker, who no doubt hadn't seen her on a picket line at the time they said it.

Joseph Kay
May 18 2015 22:02

button, fair enough. fwiw, there was some discussion on this (including a bin worker) when it was posted to facebook: https://www.facebook.com/libcom.org/posts/10153165148936023

no1
May 19 2015 10:39

I always cringe when I see the CAROLINE LUCAS GREEN SCAB article. She picked up a bit of litter on her way home but that doesn't make her a scab, because it was neither her intention to undermine a strike, nor was that the effect, nor did it have any symbolic value. At a time when most British workers don't even really know what a picket line is, and trade union bureaucrats are perceived to be pretty extreme radicals, such hyperbolic articles make libertarian communists look like disconnected oddballs, raging in our little bubbles on Twitter, facebook and on libcom, but generally quite unaware of context.

This reflex to demonise politicians by making them out to be personally corrupt or anti-worker is also bad politics IMO. What we ought to get across is that politicians with moral integrity (like Lucas) are perhaps the most dangerous, because they undermine working-class self-organisation by maintaining illusions in representative politics.

Fall Back
May 19 2015 12:40
no1 wrote:
I always cringe when I see the CAROLINE LUCAS GREEN SCAB article. She picked up a bit of litter on her way home but that doesn't make her a scab, because it was neither her intention to undermine a strike, nor was that the effect, nor did it have any symbolic value.

I think this bit is wrong - remember that she went on to say people should keep their area clean during the strike, and defended it after the CityClean workers called it out and released the statement. From my experience at the time it definitely made left leaning liberal types who broadly supported the strike think clean ups were ok. It didn't have the effect because the dispute was over quickly - but if it had dragged on then we'll meaning green liberals doing volunteer tidy ups would have been one of the councils strongest weapons.

While a lot of people did worse - especially a lot of the Labourites who were chucking the Lucas = scab stuff around the election - she definitely fucked up by not just saying a quick 'shit, sorry, wasn't thinking it undermined the strike' or whatever, rather than doubling down on her shit. Of course, she's a radical liberal, not any kind of socialist, so she wasn't going to do this, but I think it's generally good to try puncture the aura of St Caroline where it presents itself.

no1
May 19 2015 14:06

It's a matter of interpretation and therefore debatable but I don't think it was a symbolic gesture. She didn't actually originally tweet herself that she was doing it , it was some random person who saw her, and she didn't take rubbish off the streets, she just put it in a bag that was then left on the street (so not in any way doing the work of cityclean workers). Fair enough, she should at least have acknowledged what CityClean workers were asking people not to do this, but I don't think her putting rubbish in a bag was political, it's just an impulse most people have because they don't enjoy living in the midst of waste.

Anyway, I think it's good that she was criticised for it for the reasons you outline, but what I really object to is libertarian communists using the smear tactic of taking one single act (picking up rubbish), interpret it in a particularly doctrinaire way (she's breaking the strike!11!!!!), and then taking it as the defining characteristic (Caroline Lucas - the Green Scab). That kind of logic doesn't convince anyone.

Fall Back
May 19 2015 14:17

Without getting too bogged down in the minutiae - she reposted praise she got for doing it, while adding comment that both encouraged people to do the same, with added tips. And then didn't back down when both the union and rank and file workers criticised this. That it was wrapped around a RT doesn't make it any better.

I don't necessarily disagree with your wider point (as I said initially, her actions during the dispute were overwhelmingly pro the strikers), but let's not let her off the hook here.

Chilli Sauce
May 24 2015 14:35
no1 wrote:
I always cringe when I see the CAROLINE LUCAS GREEN SCAB article. She picked up a bit of litter on her way home but that doesn't make her a scab, because it was neither her intention to undermine a strike, nor was that the effect, nor did it have any symbolic value. At a time when most British workers don't even really know what a picket line is, and trade union bureaucrats are perceived to be pretty extreme radicals, such hyperbolic articles make libertarian communists look like disconnected oddballs, raging in our little bubbles on Twitter, facebook and on libcom, but generally quite unaware of context.

This reflex to demonise politicians by making them out to be personally corrupt or anti-worker is also bad politics IMO. What we ought to get across is that politicians with moral integrity (like Lucas) are perhaps the most dangerous, because they undermine working-class self-organisation by maintaining illusions in representative politics.

So while I really like the second paragraph here, my understanding of the situation was that the binworkers themselves viewed her as helping to undermine the strike and said as much. In that context, I think libcoms shouldn't be afraid to side with those most militant elements and call out some wanky liberal do-gooder politician on their shit.

And, perhaps a bit off-topic, but many more self-described anarchists do a lot more cringey, worthless, and downright counter-productive shit than writing snarky articles about Green politicians.

Noah Fence
May 24 2015 15:52
Quote:
wanky liberal do-gooder

The language of the Libcom people! Plus, thou speaketh sooth sire, verily!

strypey
Aug 30 2016 07:42

I think it's always worth considering whether we'd be as willing to scream fire and brimstone from the pulpit of our websites if it was someone like Noam Chomsky picking up rubbish, rather than a liberal MP, who is tempting to pick on. I'm a green anarchist who wants to support the strike, but doesn't want the streets of my neighbourhood flooded with rubbish. Besides the obvious environmental reasons, unbagged rubbish risks souring people against the bin workers over the course of a long struggle.

The alternative could be a voluntary clean-up effort, run by self-organising neighbourhood groups who regularly and loudly speak out in support of the bin workers struggle and critiques the public pronouncements of their bosses. This would help with the practical practical problem of unbagged rubbish, as well as serving as a focus for grassroots community organising in support of the strike, and creating networks of radicalised neighbourhood groups which could be a basis for all sorts of other solidarity efforts and community-run projects. Win-win-win.

The bin workers are entitled to their interpretation and to express it, and I agree that it's good solidarity to report their comments. We certainly need to take their side against the bosses trying to nobble them. But the interpretations of other people and groups supporting their campaign needs to be given fair criticism, not bridge-burning smears. Also, solidarity has its natural limits. If we offer solidarity to the workers of fossil fuel mining, for example, at the point that extends to serving as useful idiots in the climate "skeptic" PR effort (eg attacking climate campaigners to "support" the fossil fuel workers as Labour parties have done), "solidarity" has crept into denying environmental reality. Denying that unbagged rubbish blowing around the streets is a commons conservation issue, not to mention a public health issue, falls into the same category.

Chilli Sauce
Aug 30 2016 13:51

Well, if there was ever and indictment of green anarchism, that was it...

If "self-organising community groups" picked up the rubbish, the bosses would have no incentive to settle the strike. "Loudly spoken...public pronouncements" don't mean shit. It's nice to have the public on your side, but that's not how strikes are won.

On a similar note, we can support workers while being critical of the role of their industry. I mean, good luck finding any industry that doesn't contribute to environmental degradation in one way or another. It's called capitalism and that why we struggle against it now, to build something better for the future.

I also think it's pretty patronising to suggest that workers can't see wider societal effects of their industry and that somehow makes them unworthy of solidarity. I'd start here at the very least:

https://libcom.org/history/1976-the-fight-for-useful-work-at-lucas-aerospace

Steven.
Aug 30 2016 17:09

Completely agree with the post of chilli sauce, above. That post is a perfect indictment of so-called "anarchism", without a working class component. Which is basically liberalism.

strypey wrote:
I'm a green anarchist who wants to support the strike, but doesn't want the streets of my neighbourhood flooded with rubbish. Besides the obvious environmental reasons, unbagged rubbish risks souring people against the bin workers over the course of a long struggle.

Apart from the blatant selfishness of this (who is it that keeps your streets free of rubbish every single day of every year? Those bin workers, who now need your support. If you don't want there to be a strike, help them to win), it's just completely wrongheaded as public sympathy doesn't win strikes. Disruption wins strikes. Just look at the London Underground for an example. Large numbers of people were furious at the disruption from the strikes over night tube, but they won. Conversely, most people were supportive of NHS nurses and workers taking strike action a couple of years ago in defence of their pensions, but they didn't gain anything because they didn't cause massive disruption.

Quote:
The alternative could be a voluntary clean-up effort, run by self-organising neighbourhood groups who regularly and loudly speak out in support of the bin workers struggle and critiques the public pronouncements of their bosses. This would help with the practical practical problem of unbagged rubbish, as well as serving as a focus for grassroots community organising in support of the strike, and creating networks of radicalised neighbourhood groups which could be a basis for all sorts of other solidarity efforts and community-run projects. Win-win-win.

Sorry, but this has got to be one of the most idiotic posts ever made on this site. That is called scabbing. That would mean the strike would have no impact, and the bosses would win. The way for strikes to win quickly is for them to spread, like what used to happen in the 1970s and 80s, where workers would walk out on strike to support other workers (for example, Ford car workers went on strike to help nurses win pay increases). Rather than trying to organise fictional "radical grassroots" scabbing, we should be trying to build solidarity in our own workplaces and communities to help people win strikes.

Quote:
Also, solidarity has its natural limits. If we offer solidarity to the workers of fossil fuel mining, for example, at the point that extends to serving as useful idiots in the climate "skeptic" PR effort (eg attacking climate campaigners to "support" the fossil fuel workers as Labour parties have done), "solidarity" has crept into denying environmental reality.

can you point to these examples of the Labour Party aiding climate change deniers by supporting the strikes of fossil fuel workers? Because it sounds to me like you are making stuff up.

As for not supporting workers in fossil fuel mining, again if this is what you think then you are not an anarchist, you are a liberal at best, if not a downright conservative. The miners' strike in the UK in the 1980s was the single most important battle of working people against employers and the state in living memory. And more recently Kazakh oil workers have been massacred, sacked and jailed for standing up for themselves. Or do you not support them? Bearing in mind that by not supporting them, you are effectively supporting their employers, who are actually the ones benefiting from destroying the planet.

Quote:
Denying that unbagged rubbish blowing around the streets is a commons conservation issue, not to mention a public health issue, falls into the same category.

If you think that a few bags of rubbish in one town from a strike is a serious environmental catastrophe then you also don't understand that much about ecology either.

Steven.
Sep 4 2016 12:10
Steven. wrote:
can you point to these examples of the Labour Party aiding climate change deniers by supporting the strikes of fossil fuel workers? Because it sounds to me like you are making stuff up.

Deafening silence here…