Big Green Tent

Chris Napier

If the past few days have taught us anything, it’s that we get hung up on labels a bit too much. Some folks are uncomfortable with the Greens being closely linked to socialism, some people think they are inextricably so.   The same argument can be (and has been) had to greater or lesser degree with respect to liberalism, environmentalism, libertarianism, nationalism and many other isms.

For my part, I think it doesn’t matter. We’re Greens and we are all of these things AND MORE.

One problem is the tendency of political isms to both become hopelessly vague terms and at the same time develop specific connotations which certain groups of people might not like, even if they perhaps agree with the core principles.

The broad usage of terms like ‘socialism’ and ‘liberal’ make them almost meaningless – hell, even our preferred label of radical is subject to such broad misuse. For example, Progress – the Blairite faction within the Labour party – say that they aim to promote a ‘radical, progressive politics.’

No laughing at the back.

For what it’s worth, I believe that the Scottish Green Party’s policies are broadly socialist, especially in terms of progressive taxation, public ownership of infrastructure, land reform, rent controls etc. all seeking to change the relationship of worker to capital and address the structural inequality in our society.

I also feel that the Scottish Green Party has a strong Liberal ethos, in terms of protecting civil liberties and freedom of choice, of favouring less invasive government legislation and challenging authoritarianism.

Throw in the majority (but not unanimous) support for independence and the varying (often non-patriotic) reasons for it, the fact that certain members tend towards anarchist or libertarian ideals, the tendency among a small proportion of members towards quite conservative ideas and it’s clear that the party embraces a broad range of ideologies.

That ‘big tent’ aspect, that inclusive nature, which embraces debate and diversity is a massive asset to the Scottish Green Party and the Green movement as a whole.

For all that individual members might cleave to a specifically socialist or liberal identity, the party and movement is inclusive, merging the best aspects of a half dozen ideologies, united around the idea of fairer and more sustainable society and planet.

To the bulk of party members (including myself) and representatives, the idea that social justice and environmentalism are inextricably linked is an almost universally accepted idea – well articulated in this article from Adam Ramsay – but it’s not quite unanimous, and that’s a good thing as orthodoxy is the enemy of radical thought and needs to be challenged.

In any case…

I love that there are people in my party who can quote me Marx & Gramsci and teach me about the history of the left.
I love that there are people in my party who can teach me about equality issues and expand my knowledge of social justice.
I love that there are people in my party whose prime interest is in the environment and animal rights.
I love that there are people in my party who are vehemently against authoritarianism and see personal liberty as a red line issue.
I love that these are often the same people.
I love that every new Green I meet has something new to teach me and helps to evolve my own understanding and political beliefs.

Let’s not get hung up on labels and rigid, often outdated ideologies. We’re Greens. We’re about making a more equal and sustainable future and we’ll do that together by inviting people into our big tent, not by arguing amongst ourselves or preaching to the uninitiated about those labels and ideologies.

There is a society to fix and a world to save. Let’s get in about that not insignificant task, rather than bickering about what labels we bear…


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