Politics

Sweden: Greens Are Not the Twins of the Old Left

Per Gahrton, former MEP and current President of the Swedish Green think tank argues, despite some similarities and a preference to join them in Government, the Greens will always be distinct from the left.

The Green Party is not the Left Party’s (the party consisting largely of former Communists) twin: thinking green is not just the ideology of the left. However there is still reason to emphasise right now that a green vote in 2014 is a vote for a green-red alternative to the minority government of the centre-right Civil Alliance. “Under new leadership, the Green Party has returned to being the Siamese twin of the Left in Swedish politics. I can only regret this development,” opined Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt during the party leaders’ debate in the Swedish Parliament on 13th June. Of course, this isn’t what he really believes. Even if he doesn’t scrutinise everything that is said and written between both parties, he cannot have avoided noticing the internal Green Party debate on the role of private profit in free schools, where our basic principles are clearly distinguished from the Left’s total resistance to free schools overall. For members of the Green Party it is a case of how far they must safeguard strict controls to avoid the flagrant abuse of the free school system that has now been exposed. The Green Party will stand up for educational alternatives, parental participation, local roots and other aspects that originally made the demand for free schools a linchpin of green thinking. The Left Party wants to abolish the entire free school model.

Reverting to the Language of the 1860s

This is just one example of the differences between the Green Party and the Left, which go deeper than the manoeuvring of day-to-day politics. This doesn’t mean that similarities don’t frequently exist between the Green Party and the Left in everyday politics. Likewise there are similarities between the Green Party and somewhat centre right parties. However if similarities in daily politics are evidence of a deeper, ideological partnership then there is no closer ideological partners than the conservative Moderates party and the Social Democrats. Nuclear power, weapons exports and a vision of unlimited material growth are just a few examples. Reinfeldt’s sally into the party leaders’ debate is therefore just an irrelevant relapse into the old-fashioned boxing match image of politics as a game with only two participants. Unfortunately this antiquated idea is on the point of being pulled out of history’s junk room by considerably more people than one tactically minded moderate leader.

The culture pages of the larger Stockholm newspapers have been dominated of late by a debate that reeks of the 1960s – if not the 1860s. It exhorts a class struggle with Lenin as a guiding principle from people who would not usually be considered as being to the left of Trotsky. This is replicated with malicious cries of the need for a “democratic” fight against Communism from people who would not usually be thought of holding the most extreme right-wing position.

Growth as the New Dividing Line

What is completely excluded from such debate is green thinking, which is the only new ideology that has successfully sprung up over the entire world in the last fifty years and has developed from a flow of ideals into a factor of power in many countries. Following tough resistance from old researchers with their roots in the 1800s, insight into green ideology’s independent existence has broken through into major areas of research in political science. Today it is extremely rare to publish a political textbook that, in addition to the classic left-right ideologies, doesn’t also include green thinking or ecology. Nothing can illustrate the true ideological struggle better than the Rio +20 Conference that took place earlier this year.

There is no dividing line between Neo Liberals and Leninists apart from between growth-fanatical materialists to the right and left on one side and other green, alternative thinkers who represent global solidarity and care for the living environment ahead of short-term material gains. Of course, differences between the Civil Alliance and the Social Democrats can always be found in the fine print. A further factor is that all governments lose their freshness and capacity for new concepts after a long time in power. As Green speaker Åsa Romson stated in the party leaders’ debate, one aging government has been exchanged for a minority “caretaker government“, which is completely powerless to tackle major problems even if it wants to. There is therefore good reason for the Green Party to speak plainly to the voters that the elections in 2014 are high time to throw out the Civil Alliance for a green-red alternative. This doesn’t mean that the Green Party is attaching itself like a Siamese twin to the traditional left but rather that the Green Party will be making steps in a green direction despite not yet winning votes from the majority of the electorate.

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