* The new tree green. It is sometimes said the membership pools of social democratic parties are evaporating because the political marketplace grows ever more competitive. The blarney hides a living fact: we have entered an age of rising public awareness of the destructive effects of the modern will to dominate our biosphere, to treat nature, just as Africans or indigenous people were treated previously, as objects to be shackled and muzzled for selfishly human ends. Green thinkers, politicians and movement activists have been pointing out for some time that the whole social democratic tradition, no matter what its present representatives say, is deeply implicated in the acts of wanton vandalism rebounding on our planet. Middle-of-the-road social democratic parties are accused of being trapped in a dead end. Whether social democracy can recover by morphing into something it was never designed to be is unclear. What is certain is green politics poses a fundamental challenge to the style and substance of social democracy, or what remains of it.
Armed with fresh political imagination, greens have managed to craft new ways of shaming and chastening arrogant power elites. Some activists, a dwindling minority, mistakenly think the priority is to live simply, in harmony with nature, or to return to the face-to-face ways of Greek assembly democracy.
Most greens have a much richer sense of the complexity of things. They are champions of extra-parliamentary action and monitory democracy against the old model of electoral democracy in territorial state form. The invention of bio-regional assemblies, green political parties (the first in the world was the United Tasmania Group), earth watch summits and the skilful staging of non-violent media events are just some of the vigorous repertoire of new tactics used in various cross-border settings.
The earthy cosmopolitanism of green politics, its deep sensitivity to the long-distance interdependence of people and their ecosystems, is new. Its rejection of fossil-fuelled growth and habitat destruction is unconditional. It is acutely aware of the marked upswing in the application of markets to the most intimate areas of everyday life, such as fertility outsourcing, nanotechnologies and stem cell research. It worries that more market regulation of daily life will have deleterious effects unless checked by open debate, political resistance and public regulation.
Especially striking is the green call for the “de-commodification” of the biosphere; in effect, the replacement of social democracy’s innocent attachment to history with a more prudent sense of deep time that highlights the fragile complexity of the biosphere and its multiple rhythms.
Some greens demand a halt to consumer-driven growth; others call for green investments to trigger a new phase of post-carbon expansion. Almost all greens reject the old social democratic imagery of warrior male bodies gathered at the gates of pits, docks and factories, singing hymns to industrial progress, under smoke-stained skies. Greens find such images worse than antiquated. They interpret them as bad moons, as warnings that unless we human beings change our ways with the world things may turn out badly, very badly indeed.
And, Phillip Coorey, SMH:
The Labor Party’s Left faction has demanded a social and economic policy shift to shore up the government’s waning support as a new poll shows the Gillard government has gone backwards since the election and is continuing to lose votes to the Greens.
The Herald/Nielsen poll also shows that the renewed debate about the war in Afghanistan has done nothing to change attitudes, with more people still opposing Australia’s involvement.
The poll of 1400 voters, taken from Thursday night to Saturday evening, shows the Coalition leading Labor on a two-party-preferred basis by 51 per cent to 49 per cent, meaning there has been negligible change since the election on August 21 when they tied 50-50. But Labor’s primary vote has slipped 4 percentage points since the election to 34 per cent, while support for the Greens has risen 2 points to 14 per cent. Coalition support was virtually unchanged at 43 per cent.
And, Labor’s Left lashes ‘lobotomy’:
It is understood that Senator Cameron criticised the stultifying effect of Labor’s ”pledge”, which prevents MPs contesting government policies in public.
He told the Left delegates that this operated as the equivalent of a ”political lobotomy”. The Prime Minister and ministers presented policy as a fait accompli, and the pledge meant there was little opportunity to critique or contest the policy.
Although he did not advocate Labor MPs being allowed to cross the floor – which brings automatic expulsion – he urged that they should be able to have a progressive voice in the public arena. He told the meeting a review of the pledge was overdue.
The meeting urged that Labor structures be democratised ”to give members a greater say in the running of the party”.
Alison Rehn and Simon Benson: The Daily Telegraph:
PRIME Minister Julia Gillard’s own party faction has warned that the Labor Party needed to reconnect with voters or face oblivion.
More than 150 members of the party’s Left met in Canberra yesterday, declaring that the party needed to rebuild from the grassroots up. It was an admission that the election result had proven that Labor no longer stood for anything.
Senator Doug Cameron, the co-convenor of the national left, told the gathering that the ALP needed to ensure it had policies “that unite Labor’s traditional support base of working families and the many progressive Australians across the country who look to Labor for real reform”. “We now have an opportunity in government to develop policies which balance the interests of all our supporters,” he said.
He also warned that the Government needed to show leadership. “We need to make sure that our party shows leadership on key issues like climate change and that we are delivering the low-pollution economy of the future.”
First published: 2010-10-25 02:45 AM