Recently I sat down with Larry Sanders, brother of Bernie Sanders, veteran social care worker and academic on the subject, and long-time progressive and Green Party member. In part three of our talk, we talked about the state of the leftist grassroots movements in the UK and the US.
A friend of mine whom I worked with on two of his campaigns, I was keen to hear his opinion on several key issues.
This time in our casual chat, we talk about Brexit: its effect on UK politics, and what the Green Party position is on it.
Once again, my comments are tabbed for clarity.
P: Could you tell us about Brexit?
L: It’s a very - it’s unusually difficult in terms of clarity. Brexit is outside of - in some ways, it’s emblematic in terms of our normal politics. That is to say the people who wanted it and fought for it all these years are a very specific and right wing group in the Conservative Party, who see coming out of Europe as one way to restore a country in which they can have total power. Weakened wages, weakened public services and so on.
So, in one sense it’s a normal part of British politics. But in another sense, because of the importance of such a massive untangling of the way in which the country has been doing business for so many years - who benefits at a particular moment is not so clear as it usually is. And I fear that the mess that’s coming out of Europe, partly out of Europe or whatever, the argument about which bit of Europe you need to retain membership of, is it possible to retain partial membership - none of which I have the answers too - make it hard to make a strict battle.
In a way, it would be never easy, but easier if we had Bernard’s situation, in which the choice is between a society that actually works for everybody, and the kind of crap we have now.
But Brexit has made such a mess of everything. It makes it so much more difficult to understand what’s happening. I think it’ll be even harder. But, and as you hinted, there will likely be various kinds of disasters, whether in the public sector, whether in the private sector, whether in average wages, unemployment, or whatever. Anyone of those things will have its own political impacts.
Who will people blame? We don’t know. It depends so much on luck and on cleverness. Will they blame this right wing cabal in the Conservative Party? Maybe not, because so far they didn’t get the blame in the Brexit thing.
Will it be Corbyn trying to straddle the two things in falling through? He might turn out to be the guy that pays the price. So, I think that there’s two things. Frist of all, it’s hard for me anyhow to see clearly what’s happening. Secondly though, in the overall long term thing, the issues remain pretty much the same - which is to say, we can, we have the technology, we have the intelligence, we have the capacity and the organisation to make a good thing of it.
The whole world.
Not just the current industrial countries. And we have certainly the capacity to destroy our environment, to put the whole world into dangers for decades, if not indefinitely.
So it is a very important turning point.
But where it will turn and how it will turn is to me not clear.
Green Party on Brexit
P: So, for people who don’t know, what is the Green Party’s position on Brexit?
L: Well, the Green Party has had very powerful objections to the EU for a long time. Long before -
P: What sort of objections?
L: Objections to the policies which - there were some of the policies with have been positive social programs, they’ve been good. Shorter working hours and so on. But a lot of the policies, in terms of non-investment, non-government investment, kind of pro-austerity system, they’ve been more damaging for the countries in the Eurozone. And so, since the collapse in 2008, I think it’s been clear to anybody that’s got his or her head on their shoulders. That the austerity thing was destructive, not helpful, and that what was needed was an investment in the things that people need. And that’s what we need, now.
So that’s been the Green Party attitude, and the Green Party’s never been all that crazy about trade. There are some things that needed to be traded, but a lot of things can be developed in each country. And why have the stuff being shipped around the world, at enormous expense to the environment is not clear. And enormous gain to the global owners. So, there’s been a lot of suspicion of free trade. A lot of suspicion of the EU. But within the Brexit debate, the Green Party I think’s membership, by about 80 or 90% voted to remain. The leadership has been very clear - we had a couple of major leaders that were for Brexit. But the vast majority were not. And I think over the last year or two, the Green Party has been part of the leadership in calling for another referendum.
All which I agree with, and I think that the Green Party is playing a good role in this.
But, within this situation which nobody knows what will happen, and whether it’s possible to have a good outcome.
Join us in our final chapter in my talk with Larry, part five, where we discuss the future of the Green Party.