“If the Labor Left is concerned with building strong social movements independent of parliament, and winning more debates within the Labor Party to help achieve policy objectives, surely it is time to reassess if joining with the Labor Right as well as the Coalition to attack the Greens is a wise move.”
So writes Lee Rhiannon, Greens Party Senator from New South Wales, in an attempt to woo Labor left members and activists into… what? An alliance? Joining the Greens party? A united voice in parliament apparently.
Building a more active and united progressive Left voice in Parliament, as well as strong social movements, is the key to getting runs on the board. But right now, unity is in short supply as Labor and the Greens are competing for a number of inner-city seats that were once Labor’s heartland.
Lee Rhiannon has a lot of gumption. She cites the state seat of Melbourne as an example of a previously safe seat that now relies on preferences to determine the outcome.
Rhiannon goes on to deplore the criticisms made of the Greens party:
Criticism of one’s opponents is the very nature of politics, and contrary to the bleating of our political opponents, it is nothing new for the Greens policies to be put under the microscope.
But the past few weeks have seen an amplification of attacks on the party. The latest Newspoll has the Greens vote steady on 11 per cent while Labor has dropped 3 per cent, taking their vote down to 28 per cent.
The concerted anti-Greens offensive kicked off by NSW state secretary Sam Dastyari and AWU secretary Paul Howes is not achieving the desired aim and could even be a factor in this further drop in Labor’s vote.
She rounds of her article asking whether the Labor Left should be criticising the Greens party at all!
While it is not surprising that conservatives try and discredit the Greens and use various tactics to limit the chances of more breakthroughs in lower house seats, the question Labor Left needs to answer is, should they also be putting their effort into demonising a party with progressive policies?
I recently came into possession of a partial copy of the Greens Party campaign report for the 2004 election campaign for the federal seat of Melbourne.
The campaign report underscores Lee Rhiannon’s gross hypocrisy and the hypocrisy of many of the Greens Party’s members of parliament and activists.
The strategy of the Greens Party in 2004 (and in 2007 and 2010) was to:
out-poll the Liberals. Since we had to rely on the expected high flow of Liberal preferences to win, our broad goal was to attack the ALP vote and allow the Liberal vote to be preserved.
So much for movement building and solidarity of a “united progressive voice” that suddenly Lee Rhiannon wants to promote.
The core of the Greens Party election strategy in 2004 (and since) has been to preserve the Liberal vote at the expense of the ALP vote. Nothing in this strategy about building the Green party’s vote or fostering social movements. Attack the ALP, preserve the Liberal party.
The campaign report continues, showing the extend of this strategy to attack the ALP and preserve the Liberals. It went so far that in 2004, it backfired.
The Greens report says:
In retrospect, the campaign should have incorporated a stronger anti-Howard message, rather than concentrate on Labor so much. However in doing so, we would have been constrained by a VECC directive that getting rid of the Howard government was not explicitly part of the campaign strategy.
The Greens Party strategy was not about getting rid of the Howard government! The Greens Victorian Election Campaign Committee (VECC) was more concerned about unseating Lindsay Tanner than getting rid of Howard, Australia’s most conservative, reactionary, climate-denying Prime Minister.
Not Labor’s friends, not Labor Left’s friends
This document is from 2004, but the playbook has been run in 2007 and 2010 — and variations have been seen in the inner city during state elections around Australia.
The Greens party are no friend to Labor or the Labor Left.
If Lee Rhiannon’s views were anything other than a cynical attempt to drive a wedge into Labor, then the Greens Party strategy would have been to challenge the Liberals, not preserve their vote. The Greens Party strategy would not have directly targeted a progressive Labor Left MP (Tanner).
Since then, Adam Bandt, the Greens Party MP who successfully attacked the ALP vote and preserved the Liberal vote to such an extent that he won the federal seat of Melbourne on the back of Liberal preferences (just as the 2004 strategy had hoped) is now complaining that the very preferences that he relied on are illegitimate in ensuring the recent victory of Jennifer Kanis in the state seat of Melbourne.
Of course, the Greens Party are entitled to do whatever they think is in their best political interest — attacking Labor and preserving the Liberal vote is a valid political tactic to build your party at the expense of others.
But it is grossly hypocritical then for the likes of Lee Rhiannon to decry the criticisms levelled at the Greens Party by Labor, or to call for a “united progressive voice” in parliament at the same time that the Greens strategic directive specifically demands the preservation of a conservative government!
To any Labor and Labor Left comrades who may think that a long-term alliance or coalition with the Greens is something we should pursue, reconsider. The Greens party are committed, not to the defeat of the Tories, but to the defeat of Labor.
(Thanks to @TroyBramston for the copy of the Greens party campaign report.)