‘Socialism or barbarism’: Scottish Greens conference opens with call for ‘system change’

Ben Wray

Patrick Harvie: “Cancel Brexit and stop this mess”

THE Scottish Greens conference has begun with a call for socialist transformation to create an economy “that puts people and planet ahead of profit”.

Maggie Chapman, co-convenor of the Scottish Greens, outlined a radical vision for “system change not climate change”, saying that the present democratic structures were “the institutions of a dying world” and called on Greens to throw “moderation” to the way side.

Quoting two marxist leaders of the early 20th century, Antonio Gramsci and Rosa Luxemburg, Chapman said that “a simple choice between socialism and barbarism has never been more true”.

She said individual solutions to the challenge of climate change had no answer, instead a challenge to the primacy of markets and their “cheerleaders” was needed.

“The 100 companies responsible for 71 per cent of global emissions, their cheerleaders and the governments they have captured must be our targets,” she said.

Chapman went on to argue for free public transport, not a policy officially backed by the party but one she hoped would be, and argued that green politics should have an approach to politics which went beyond elections and parliament.

“Social movements are the animating force in history. If green politics are about anything in terms of an organizing principle, social movements give us that organizing principle…move beyond the old institutions of representative politics…intertwine with participatory democracy,” Chapman argued.

The aim was to create “an economy based on planetary health and human wellbeing…an economy that puts people and planet ahead of profit.”

Fellow co-convenor and Glasgow MSP Patrick Harvie lauded recent Green successes in Germany and Belgium which, he said, had surpassed the electoral performance of the far-right but had not received nearly as much coverage in the media. The “green wave” was the antidote to both the racism of the far-right and the “failed middle ground of politics”, he argued.

Harvie went on to advocate a second UK-wide referendum on EU membership, calling on the UK Government to “cancel Brexit and stop this mess”.

“Even if some had persuaded themselves there was a left, progressive case for leaving the EU…surely now there is no denying that this whole process is one of sheer, incompetent chaos, that’s why we’re standing against Brexit at every opportunity,” he said.

Harvie backed a motion at the Scottish Greens conference for the party to support the second UK-wide EU referendum. Chapman also said she was in favour of it “in principle”.

The Glasgow MSP reiterated Green policy to “get rid of the broken, unfair council tax”, and called on the conference to give the MSPs a mandate to make “meaningful progress on local tax reform” a “pre-condition for budget talks this year”. The Scottish Government have relied on the votes of Harvie and co to get recent budgets through, and with the next Scottish budget six weeks away Finance Minister Derek Mackay may have to look elsewhere for Budget allies if he is not to change policy on local tax reform.

“Without that progress, services will be lost,” Harvie said.

READ MORE – Threats, debt collectors and nervous terror: the reality of Council Tax in Scotland

The opening plenary of the conference also heard from Christy Mearns, Greens councillor in Glasgow, who said they were pressing for a museum to recognise Glasgow’s history of being built on the back of the slave trade, and said the idea had the backing in principle from the SNP-led council.

Grace O’Sullivan, senator in the Irish Parliament for Seanad Eireann, the Irish Green Party, also addressed the conference, arguing for the open border on the island of Ireland to be protected by the UK Government, a major problem point in the Brexit negotiations.

“We must protect the peaceful border on the island or Ireland that we have worked so hard to create,” O’Sullivan said.

She said that “European identity” had become important to the international green movement, explaining that the Irish Green party had “moved from a position of Euroscepticism…to seeing the EU as a collective force for good.”

The conference will run over 20-21 October at the university of Strathclyde in Glasgow.

Picture courtesy of Carolyn Scott

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