It isn't easy being Green
Green Party co-leader Jeanette Fitzsimmons has given her new bedmate Russel Norman a very cold welcome in a speech reported with dismay on indymedia. The Greens' elder stateswoman argues that the categories 'left and right' are outdated, and that capitalism and the environment can get along just fine.
Fitzsimmons knows that the leadership fight between Norman and Nandor Tanczos was characterised by arguments over whether the party should position itself in the centre or on the moderate left of the political spectrum.
Last month Nandor argued in front of an Auckland audience that left and right were outdated concepts, that the Greens should not rule out working with any party, and that Sue Bradford's legislation on youth rates risked ghettoising the party on the left. Nandor's supporters have pointed to new party research which apparently shows that a significant chunk of Green voters could be won away to the National Party if National identifies itself as environmentally friendly, in the way that David Cameron is identifying the Tories as 'green' in the UK. The argument was that Norman would hasten the flight of these 'blue greens' if he took over as leader, because he is an ex-Marxist who is clearly identified with Bradford and Keith Locke's 'left' faction. Like Bradford and Locke, Norman strongly opposes that idea that left and right are outdated terms, opposes the idea of cooperation with the Nats, and wants to attract union support for the Greens.
Fitzsimmons' speech can only be seen, then, as a slap in the face for her new co-leader. It seems that arguments over the trajectory of the Greens have not been settled by Norman's election, and may well grow more intense. On the one side we have Norman, Locke, and Bradford, with their version of a social democratic left of Labour Party, and on the other side we have Fitzsimmons, Nandor, and Metiria Turei, who are using their 'beyond left and right' cant to disguise the fact that they want to move the party sharply to the right and prepare it for a role in government - quite possibly a National-led government - in 2008.
The two different factions are reflections of the Green Party's contradictory support base. On the one hand, the party is supported by disillusioned Labour and Alliance supporters who see it as the most left-wing option on offer. A number of these supporters are influential trade unionists, and they are doing their best to create a trade union and working class base for the party, though voting figures from last year suggest they are having little success.
People like Fitzsimmons represent the Green Party's base in a section of the petty bourgeoisie. Small business people who rely upon New Zealand's 'clean green' image, like organic farmers and other niche exporters of 'green' goods, have an interest in backing the Greens. Fitzsimmons is herself a member of the petty bourgeoisie. People like her have never had a comfortable relationship with the left-wing working class politics that ex-Marxists like Norman, Bradford and Locke represent, albeit in a very attenuated way.
A third base of support for the Greens is comprised by the large numbers of young people who vote for the party because they identify it as being vaguely 'cool' or 'anti-establishment', but don't have any very clear political ideology. Nandor has these people eating out of his hand, of course (maybe Norman should grow some dreads to attract them away from the middle-aged Rasta capitalist?).
The interests represented by the two major factions in the Greens are irreconcilable, so we can expect the party's internal conflicts to continue, and intensify as it gets closer to power.
Update: it seems to be bash the Greens time on indymedia, so I've dipped my oar in with this comment, which follows Don Franks' rather unflattering review of the party's newspaper (puzzle: how can a party with 6 MPs and state funding produce a paper that looks even crummier than the stuff the far left puts out?):
The Greens website seems to me to be even worse than its paper - increasingly, it looks like a fan site for the party's MP-celebrities.
The page devoted to Metiria Turia was particularly nauseating the last time I looked - filled with pictures of the MP posing with cute smiling native kids in the Solomons, it reminded me of Michael Jackson in his Heal the World phase. Those pictures were taken while Metiria was supposed to be 'monitoring' the elections in this recolonised state as part of an Aussie-led team of rubber stampers. A couple of days after Metiria pronounced the electoral process above suspicion rioting broke out in Honiara over what a circus voting had been.
With her good work in the Solomons over, the Greens website informed us that Metiria was rushing off to the Happy Valley mine site to join the protest camp there. There's nothing wrong with that in itself, but didn't Metiria notice that the Solomons is, thanks in part to the RAMSI occupation she supports, an environmental basketcase?
What about Golden Ridge Mine on Guadalcanal, which is about a thousand times bigger than Happy Valley will ever be and has poisoned a vast area, prompting protests from locals? But of course Golden Ridge and other key assets in the Solomons are owned by Aussie and Kiwi capitalists, and according to the Greens we have to support local capitalists against the baddies in other parts of the world through campaigns like 'Buy NZ Made'. It's alright to criticise US companies ripping off Iraq under the cover of military occupation, but when Kiwi and Aussie companies do the same thing in the Solomons then Metiria's lips are sealed.
I suspect that Metiria Turei is monumentally stupid and doesn't realise what she's doing but, as Don points out, Keith Locke and Sue Bradford used to be Marxists and know exactly what game they're playing now. The sooner they get into government and expose themselves like their German comrades have done the better.
HEAL THE WORLD!