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Re the 3W manifesto, green issues and election advice

Letters represent the views of their senders and may not necessarily accord with the views of 3W.


I am impressed by the range and quality of the Third Way manifesto, but the section on green politics left me slightly disappointed. This is not so much because of the idea themselves, which are excellent (I particularly liked the reference to factory farms as ‘animal Belsens’), but because there is a failure of tone. First, the title ‘green realism’ is lacklustre. Everyone claims to be a ‘realist’ – it has become a euphemism for inaction on crucial issues. Also, the German Green movement is divided into ‘realos’ (realists) and ‘fundis’ (purists). The hallmarks of ‘realos’ are an emphasis on electoral politics (in many ways sensible) and a willingness to compromise with consumer society (disastrous).

All three establishment parties in Britain now claim to be ‘green realists’. They lack the courage to tell us that we must learn to consume less if we are ultimately to survive as a species. We cannot afford to be mealy-mouthed about the ecological crisis. The environment is the reason why we must change the structure of our society, not merely an afterthought. Many anti-roads protesters have realised this without the benefit of political education. I felt that large parts of this section were written by a committee, which in my experience always results in levelling-down.The connection between the environment and ‘national’ identity is also unconvincing, since ecological boundaries do not neatly follow political borders. But there is a clear link between ecology and culture. Climate and geography shape human societies, as increasingly acknowledged by political scientists, anthropologists and historians. They influence not only social organisation but mythology and folk custom, the arts, technological development, ethics and values. Talk of ‘national identity’ is outmoded. Cultural identity is more important and of more lasting value. Third Way should therefore look seriously at the idea of replacing the European Union with a Commonwealth of European Peoples, with ecology and culture rather than commerce as the starting-point, direct democracy as the system of government – a decentralised confederation based on self-determination for Europe’s peoples (East and West) and respect for regional cultures, local peculiarities and minority religions. That would be a positive alternative to the bloated EU bureaucracy and unlike the nation-state would have some chance of bringing ‘market forces’ under control. Such an arrangement does not preclude a confederation of the British Isles, whether on the basis of devolved government or England, Scotland, Wales, etc. co-operating as independent states.This issue of culture leads me to ask why we have to have the Spice Girls on the Third Way web site? I can understand that they night be the subject of a few jokes in the news groups, but surely they are symbols of the moronic consumer culture? Shouldn’t Third Way be about destupefying the population and encouraging people to think for themselves. The Spice Girls don’t represent true ‘popular culture’, but the manipulation of ‘the masses’ by commercial interests. It is not surprising that they profess admiration for Thatcher – they are the logical conclusion of her nihilistic philosophy.Lastly, recent events (or should I say non-events) have finally convinced me that Third Way is mistaken in its support for the Referendum Party. I was at first prepared to believe that the RP might be a useful forum for communicating ideas about direct democracy. Now I believe that the RP has tried to colonise the British electorate by throwing money at them, without attempting to establish local bases on which a convincing campaign might be fought. The British people’s virtually unanimous rejection of them is a hopeful indication of political maturity. Unlike the green movement, the RP and its poor relation the UKIP do not represent the future. They are a hangover from the Thatcherite past.If there is any priority in this banal election, it is surely to oust this government of thieves and seedy clowns. This does not imply any confidence in the other two establishment parties, but I recognise that only the removal of the Tories can give us any hope of constitutional change – including a new voting system which will allow genuine choice rather than clone politics. I suggest that Third Way abandon the Referendum Party now, and advise supporters to vote tactically for the candidate most likely to beat the Tory. In safe seats, they should vote Green, Liberal Democrat or Liberal. In my constituency (ultra-safe Labour), I shall be voting Liberal Democrat, because there is no Green candidate and because I see electoral reform, not ‘Europe’, as the most important constitutional issue we shall face in the next five years.

Yours sincerely,
Aidan Rankin


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