Saturday, 17 April 2010

Is Green really red?

In this interview, Matt Sellwood, prospective MP for Hackney North and candidate for Clissold ward councillor says: "Increasingly, socialists who used to be in both the Labour Party and the far-left grouplets are joining the Greens, which is leading to a reassessment of how we achieve social change, what getting elected means, and how to best use our elected positions to change the world."

Has something changed in the Green Party since Red Pepper published this Greens on trial in 2008? Back then the magazine quoted the Green Party’s national election agent saying: "Many Green Party members wouldn’t like to describe themselves as left. If we positioned ourselves as explicitly left it would be dangerous, with no guarantee of success. We need to keep our reputation on the environment."

According to this 2008 Guardian article there has been a change and there is a reason: "The Greens are now only Green in name and the reason lies in the creation of Green Left in 2006, a leftwing entryist movement that now occupies many of the most powerful positions in the party. Founded by Peter Tatchell, among others, Green Left is an avowedly anti-capitalist movement. Like many people, I revere Peter Tatchell as a national treasure, but I would never vote for him."

So is this "entryism"? And do Hackney voters know what they're actually voting for? Labour Councillor Luke Akehurst, who gets a mention and has left a comment, appears to fear these same "far-left grouplets" entering the Labour Party.

Some interesting comments after this Socialist Resistance piece and in 2008 the Greens seemed to have a problem with a BNP.


  1. Hey - not to be rude, but this isn't particularly accurate.

    1) The only reason that our national election agent and I have said different things about whether we define as 'left' is because we are different people. :) I've always defined myself as a socialist, while others in the party might not like that particular label. We are all, however, signed up to policies which include redistribution of wealth, support for public services, repeal of anti trade union laws and so forth - all of which are, of course, voted on democratically at our all member, one person one vote conferences.

    2) Green Left isn't an "entryist" movement. It is a group of people in the Green Party who actively define as ecosocialists and think that other people on the left should be in the Green Party too, for the reasons given above. The large majority of people in GL have been in the Green Party for years (I've been a member for a decade) - while some have joined as our policies on social equality become better advertised. To describe GL as an entryist movement would be to say the same, for example, about Compass or Progress in the Labour Party.

    3) As you will no doubt be aware, all political parties had previous links with a few people on that list of BNP members. I'm not sure why you are singling out the Green Party - there were lots of former Labour, Conservative and Lib Dem members on that list too! None of the people mentioned are still Green Party members - indeed, that would be impossible because GPEW members have to sign up to our Philosophical Basis, which includes opposition to discrimination and fascism.

    Anyway - still eager to answer any questions you might have to email me. :)

    Best wishes,

    Matt Sellwood

    P.S. I'm doing my very best to ensure that Hackney electors know what they are voting for! Our leaflets put social justice issues front and centre, and in interviews like this I am entirely honest about my view (shared by the Green Party) that the current economic system is completely unsustainable.

  2. Hi Matt, the motive for writing this was to find a context for the interview you gave. Most of the info came from a Google search - apart from the stuff about entryism which I'd barely heard of until I read about it on Luke's blog.
    He does make it sound sinister! You mention Compass, that's exactly the organisation he accuses of being the target of entryists.

    Otherwise, apologies for any inaccuracies - I hope you're happy for your response to provide the necessary antidote - if not let me know.

    And apologies for failing to send you any questions - I'll do it asap.

  3. Well, I'll leave Luke's issues with Compass as the private grief of Labour activists, though it seems a strange accusation to me from what I know of them and their politics.

    As I understand the term, entryism is 'a political tactic by which an organisation or state encourages its members or agents to infiltrate another organisation in an attempt to gain recruits, or take over entirely.'

    That is definitely not the case with Green Left, which was cohered by existing Green activists who wanted to discuss ideas and put forward policies democratically with people in their party who shared a very similar viewpoint. Much like the Campaign Group of Labour MPs, for example, or the Green Lib Dems, etc etc. For it to be entryist, we'd have to be motivated by some external organisation - and thats not the case.

    I've been in the Greens since I was 18, and have never been a member of another political party. Though I did leaflet for my Mum when she was a Labour council candidate - does that count? :)

    Look forward to your questions, and very happy to clarify my political background and outlook further through them if needed. :)


  4. Thanks Matt. It wasn't meant to be aimed at anyone - just wondering what to make of the hard left stuff. I'll get onto those questions.