08 June 2013

Green Effluent

Russell Norman's tirades against the Key government ('unstable, unethical, Muldoonist' and so on) have to be taken with a grain of salt, as it may not be long till the Greens wind up doing deals with conservative governments of the future. Don't believe me? Well, let's recall for starters that, during the 2011 election campaign, Dr Norman was the one showing off his credentials with small (petit-bourgeois) business and there was speculation about the Greens entering some form of support agreement with National after that election. Of course, that never came to pass. But, the signs of their emerging pragmatic conservatism are clear. Whereas, once upon a time, the Greens would have relished the leaking of an investigation into a spy agency, today they are insisting that such a leaker be brought to justice!
The real test for the Greens will come when they finally gain office, probably in coalition with Labour. The narrative is fairly predictable. A foreign-policy crisis emerges when one of our allies (probably the US) starts another of their dirty little wars and calls on NZ for moral support. Being smarter than the Alliance Party of the past, the Greens will find some 'humanitarian' or 'global responsibility' blather with which to justify the bombardment of innocents. Alternative 'flash-point' issues could be a 'free-trade agreement' or a mining proposal, but there'll be the same sleight-of-hand.
In the meantime, older radical greens calling for systemic political-economic change will have been sidelined in favour of a softer look more appealing to urban yuppies: 'environmentally responsible consumption', 'eco-friendly business', 'fair trade' etc will be the kinds of slogans one can anticipate. Oh, and don't let them forget, along the way, to knee-cap their grass-roots supporters at annual conferences!
Once the Greens lose office in their red–green coalition, the obvious political strategem is to try to move into centre-stage – rather than occupy the semi-redundant 'far left' (as John Key recently identified them) – so that they can begin to play one major party off against the other after elections farther off in the future. (Well, it worked for Peter Dunne!)
Wait, then, for the day when a Green Party blocks the formation of a centre-left government by agreeing to support National on the condition that a few blue–green initiatives (like insulating mouldy old houses) get thrown their way, and the Greens promise not to rock the free-market boat.
In a world where Green Parties have lost their radical ecological and emancipatory roots, such a pragmatic progression, in pursuit of power, is oh-so predictable. This is the only way that the Greens can achieve what has previously been impossible for small parties supporting larger ones in government in NZ so far: that is, to gain office and not to lose voters' support at subsequent elections (or, more precisely, to trade radical-left voters for the more numerous middle-income yuppy ones). The Greens can only survive a spell in government by taking this painful step towards the centre – a step that will undoubtedly cause them plenty more painful internal symptoms.
Is there a doctor in the House?


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