You might naively imagine the main focus of the Green Party is to promote environmental sustainability, while the Labour Party seeks to defend the rights of ordinary working people in their country. Yet increasingly both serve the interests of global corporations, just as much as their nominally centre-right counterparts in misnamed conservative, liberal or separatist parties.
Today no mainstream political force, and that includes the Greens, can implement the wishes of their activists. They may make a few eloquent speeches on subjects that can inspire strategic audiences and give us a semblance of democratic debate, but the only campaigns that ever succeed are those that win the backing of key corporate players via their myriad NGOs and lobby groups. The conservatives pretended to champion family values and curb unsustainable net migration. In reality they were unable to stem migratory flows, while failing to help stay-at-home mums (yes incredibly many intelligent women choose to take time off work to look after their children). Likewise New Labour had 13 years to tackle falling standards in state schools and a burgeoning housing crisis.
Radical environmentalism seeks to build an alternative model of development focused on a long-term sustainability rather than short-term profits or whimsical consumer desires. Likewise the Labour Movement was founded to empower workers, favouring long-term social wellbeing over short-term commercial gains. I sympathise with both green and red politics. I certainly do not want either a grotesquely unequal society or an environmental collapse.
Yet if history can teach us anything it is to be very careful what you wish for. As the green movement gained momentum in the 1980s, eco-sceptics claimed ecologists wanted a return to a pre-industrial era of horse-drawn carts, peat fires and peasants toiling 12 hours a day just to grow enough to feed their community. Some would argue that the Greens have never opposed technology, only bad technology. The trouble is without evil polluting technologies such as coal-fired steam engines or monstrous chemical processing plants our modern world could never have evolved. The industrial revolution initially saw a huge rise in infant mortality as young boys were sent down coal mines. It later produced the material wealth needed to invest in more efficient and human-friendly technology. By the mid 19th century child labour and slavery had become anachronisms in the eyes of capitalists, superseded by technological developments that capitalist competition had spawned. Capitalism was both a financial oppressor and a technological liberator, that the later Soviet Union could only mimic by enforcing an authoritarian form of state capitalism. Herein lies the first glaring dilemma for self-proclaimed anti-capitalists.
Back in the real world capitalism has long given way to corporatism, a marriage of major enterprises and state institutions. Left to its own devices laissez-faire capitalism would have died in the early 20th century. Indeed it would never have expanded as fast as it did without the help of state-funded armies, navies and airforces. Free trade, as we know it, has largely been won by gunboat diplomacy and later as its tentacles spread far and wide by financial coercion.
The greatest advances in workers' rights occurred in the first half of the 20th century, admittedly interrupted by world wars and national dictatorships. Capitalists had little choice because they needed highly skilled workers both to design, operate and manage their machinery and to buy their goods. In many ways the outcome of the second world war made the western world safe for a new era of mass consumerism. As mean living standards and productivity rose governments could offer more generous welfare and provide an illusion of democracy as conservative and social democratic managerial teams vied to win the favour of a docile public.
However, corporate capitalism relies on continuous economic growth. The physical possibility of infinite growth on a finite planet depends on our definition of growth. It may simply mean greater circulation of capital, as happens during periods of high inflation, but most of us understand it to mean higher material living standards and thus higher aggregate consumption. We are currently on a trajectory to have a peak population of ten billion human beings. The problem is they will likely expect a Western European standard of living meaning the number of motor vehicles is set to grow from 1 to 5 billion over the next 50 years. They may well be electric cars, but they will still require billions of tons of steel, aluminium, potassium and plastics to manufacture as well as thousands of square of miles of asphalt and an exponential rise in energy demands. While many talk of a transition to public transport, walking and bicycling in urban areas, for the time being at least alternatives to cars only appeal in congested cities. When left to market forces, people will choose convenience and prestige over environmental friendliness or fitness. Our obsession with appearance and body image means many prefer to drive several miles to a gym than make a fool of themselves cycling or jogging along busy roads earning the ire of impatient motorists. Many wishful thinking Western eco-activist's are rather surprised when new immigrants to their country choose to drive short distances when they could easily walk, cycle or catch a bus. That's because they did not move to a richer country to promote environmental sustainability, but rather to enjoy a higher material living standard, or as we once said, live the American dream. Herein lies the second great dilemma of today's bien-pensant green left. Mass migration is driven, indeed actively encouraged, primarily by the same corporate system that ecologists claim to oppose or do they?
In the UK Jeremy Corbyn's Labour Party, Nicola Sturgeon's Scottish National Party and Natalie Bennett's Green Party are powerless to challenge the hegemony of the multinational corporations that shape every aspect of our professional and consumer lives, for they all agree to transfer any scrutiny of our true masters to a supranational entity, the European Union. The SNP may well run the Scottish Parliament, but dare not limit the power of the corporations that run Scotland's consumer economy. In 2016 the likes of Tesco, Walmart, SkyTV, Raytheon, BP, Shell or GSK hold greater sway over public policy than the Westminster talking shop. Indeed the SNP are so keen on ensuring that big business pay their taxes that they promised lower corporation tax to boost inward investment. As a nominally autonomous country within the European Union, they would be powerless to pursue independent economic policies. They could merely liaise as a minor player with the European Union, itself beholden to the other organisations such as WTO, IMF and the upcoming Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership. How could any party that enjoys the editorial support of Murdoch-owned newspaper, the Scottish Sun, be anti-establishment anyway. The SNP only oppose the old guard of British aristocracy.
Jeremy Corbyn's Labour Party seems to have greater anti-establishment credentials. Indeed the corporate media has been quick to denounce Labour's new leadership as dangerous extremists, naive pacifists or apologists for terrorists and Nazi-sympathising Israel bashers. The whole polemic about Ken Livingstone's Hitler comments is a case in point. You'd seriously think he had denied the Nazi holocaust or advocated the annihilation of Israel. In actual fact he had merely alluded to the 1933 Haavara Agreement between Zionists and the newly elected National Socialist regime, which incidentally still had important commercial ties the United State and Britain. We had the spectre of a Labour MP patronisingly shouting â€œHave you read Mein Kampfâ€ at a former colleague.. This manufactured controversy over alleged antisemitism had two effects: to discredit the main opposition party and to restrict intellectual freedom. The other details were lost on a general public accustomed to a simplified Hollywoodesque portrayal of recent European history.
In 1981 before Argentinian General Gualtieri intervened to boost Margaret Thatcher's popularity, a much more radical Labour Party under Michael Foot won 41% of the vote in local elections compared to just 38% for the ruling Tories. In similar elections Jeremy Corbyn's party could barely muster 31% within England. Short of a miracle, Labour are extremely unlikely to win the next general election. If they oust Corbyn, then many Labour members would leave probably to join the Greens. With Corbyn, they can only hope to appeal to the core Labour vote in areas of high welfare dependency and/or Muslim populations as well as trendy professional elites. The party has lost much of its traditional working class vote. First in power it did little to protect British workers against unfair global competition and encouraged the migration of a new generation of immigrants from Eastern Europe to fill short-term vacancies in the country's volatile, but booming, labour market dominated by agency staff. Left-leaning opinion leaders and even government ministers would dismiss low-skill British workers as lazy and unmotivated, while failing abysmally to reform the welfare system to make work pay. Indeed Gordon Brown's flagship working family tax credits merely subsidised the kind of low-paid jobs to which new immigrants were attracted. Of course, nothing has changed under David Cameron's tenure either. Net migration has continued to hover around the 300,000 a year mark and more and more young people are employed under zero-hour contracts. While inflation-adjusted spending on the NHS has actually risen, a growing population is clearly putting it under enormous strain. Yet Labour and Conservative spokespeople always like to remind the descendants of the great British working class that we could not run the NHS without immigrants, a sly way of telling native Brits that they either too stupid or too well paid.
Ironically many in the Labour movement would agree with my critique of trendy champagne socialists, infantile eco-warriors and no-borders activists, the kind of people who think can they simultaneously cut industrial pollution, fight climate change, save endangered species, protect natural woodland and greenbelt, build more houses and allow million more economic migrants to enjoy a 1980s British standard of living. Many middle-of-the-road Labour activists from the 1970s and 80s just wanted Britain to be a peace-loving country that protected the interests of its own people without expropriating the resources of other countries or interfering in their affairs, except to deal with environmental catastrophes or to avert genocide. A humble country that would lead only by example. However, our economy has become so unbalanced and dependent on imports of goods and export of services as to make any government captive to the diktat of major multinationals.
In purely ecological terms the UK is a global parasite. It extracts much more from the rest of the world than it gives back. It has effectively become a large shopping mall complete with airports, a motorway network, millions of offices and matchbox houses. If you are worried about the destruction of the Amazonian rain forest, endangered species in Borneo, peace in the Middle East or carbon emissions globally, then buying imported goods at Tesco or taking a cheap Ryanair flight to sunny Spain will not help. Indeed our consumer habits outsource environmental destruction to the rest of the world.
If Corbyn and Bennett really wanted to overthrow capitalism, they would not call for more economic growth or advocate corporate welfarism. They would oppose unaccountable and wasteful corporations and transfer their business operations to cooperatives respondent to the needs of local communities rather than short-term profits or longer-term commercial expansion. We would bring our consumption in line with our essential needs (e.g. we could eat a lot less and still live healthier lives), rather than short-term consumer fetishes. Most important a genuine workers' party would ensure all families have a stake in our real economy, i.e. at least one member who contributes through meaningful and rewarding work. If we outsource manual labour or let next generation automation displace workers in all but the most intellectually demanding roles altogether, we will have a nation of expendable consumer slaves.
The Greens may well oppose fracking and building on greenbelt, yet their leadership fully support the causes of fracking and habitat destruction. Capitalists do not lobby governments to allow hydraulic fracturing because they want to contaminate drinking water or destroy our countryside, but because they believe for the time being fracking is the most cost-effective way to produce the extra energy we need to power our growing economy and satisfy the consumer demands of the country's growing population.
Many Greens I've debated with live in a parallel universe, in which highly skilled and ecologically aware immigrants help us address an acute labour shortage and compensate for a shrinking and ageing population. This may be true in a few remote Devon villages, but the UK's population has grown from 58 million in 1997 to well over 65 million now. While youngsters born and bred in the UK struggle to find permanent jobs, agencies import ready-trained nurses and careworkers to look after the disabled and elderly.
What's Wrong With Old People?
If there is one demographic group the infantile left loathes more than any other it's the native British elderly, the kind of people who distrust the European Union, disapprove of gay marriage and may, heaven forbid, not be too happy about the displacement of indigenous communities with transient communities of international commuters. Yet an ageing population is hardly sign of failure, but a cause for celebration and an immense opportunity for a younger generation unable to compete with robots, but perfectly able to care for their elderly relatives and neighbours rather than twiddle their thumbs in marketing agencies or sell spurious legal services. If the UK had had zero-net migration since 1997, i.e. a sustainable balance of immigration and emigration, our population would only have declined only slightly today and we'd have smaller class sizes, much less congestion and a much smaller housing crisis. Indeed the fertility rate has risen from a low of 1.6 in the mid 1980s to 2.0 today (partly due to higher birth rates among some recent immigrants). By contrast countries like Italy, Spain, Portugal, Greece, Germany and Poland have fertility rates between 1.3 to 1.5. Singaporean women have on average just 1 child. People in these countries have merely adapted to the reality that our survival does not depend on having an excess of children. Raising a child to become a successful adult with good career prospects now requires massive investment in time and money. That why millions of European and Japanese couples simply opt out of parenthood.
Advances in robotics and artificial intelligence will soon displace most most manual and many clerical jobs. Banks are busy closing branches, driverless vehicles are already a reality and manufacturing workers will be replaced by a handful of programmers and technicians. However, the elderly and disabled will still prefer human care-workers ideally with a similar cultural background. Would it really matter if over several generations the population halved through entirely peaceful and non-coercive means? Not at all, it would merely bring our numbers back to the population we had in the 1960s and it would certainly make it much easier to address the challenges of rising material expectations, resource depletion on a finite planet and the inevitability of greater automation. A true environmentalist would aspire to attain an equilibrium with a steady state economy and stable population, but we are not going to run out people any time soon.
If the Greens and Left Labour pose such a great threat to global corporations, why do they get so much airtime on TV and so great prominence in social media. People are not being arrested for expressing opposition to austerity cuts or staging refugees welcome demos, but rather for expressing socially conservative opinions critical of globalisation. This is because our real masters are not the old national aristocracies, but global corporations who positively loathe nation states. Both the European and North American elites are planing a new borderless playground for a new technocratic upper class. The main wheelers and dealers are not populist politicians eager to placate the concerns of a conservative electorate, but large banks, transnational enterprises and increasingly NGOs and charities. While the infantile left may rant and rave about our wonderful NHS and the evils of TTIP, trendy business consultancies are busy new ways to expand the market reach of their corporate healthcare clients and rebrand TTIP to placate European politicians. When professional services networks such as Price Waterhouse and Cooper, Ernst and Young, Deloitte or KPMG talk of global governance or localisation, what they really mean is the transfer of decision-making away from national institutions to large corporations. Increasingly national parliaments debate merely how and when to phase in policies decided elsewhere. Cultural convergence is seen as a historical inevitability that merely has to be managed. In this context the mass migration of people from the Middle East and North Africa may lead to a temporary culture clash. but the long term aim to displace all autochthonous cultures with a global superculture. Civil unrest, decreased social solidarity and the spectre of terrorism all provide excellent pretexts for more surveillance and greater centralisation of powers in supranational bodies. Not surprisingly, the Eurocrats always respond to economic, environmental and human crises with calls for more Europe, by which they mean greater powers for unaccountable institutions intent to undermining the will of ordinary Europeans.
Yet across the European continent the growing divide is no longer between the lifestyle left and the economic right, but between those of us who care about the identity and thus sustainability of our cultural heritage and those who wish to supplant all traditional cultures with a brave new world order, to which all but the enlightened elite have to conform. They are quite happy to use green activists and even trade unionists to push through policies that will both destroy our environment and undermine workers' rights. The real xenophobes are not those who defend their own cultural traditions, but those who cheerlead ethnic cleansing on an unprecedented scale.
The imbecile left will never thwart global corporatism, but will merely claim credit for policies emanating from corporate think tanks such as global taxation of corporations or their new favourite, the basic income, which will inevitably be a form a global social welfare subsidised by global corporations to the workless underclasses in exchange for their acquiescence.
It often helps to observe critically what is really happening rather than formulate a convenient worldview based on personal prejudices, peer pressure or official reports. Some will tell you the green lobby is harming ordinary working class motorists through their obsession with global warming and carbon emissions. Back in the real world green politicians support policies that increase carbon emissions by actively supporting the migration of people from poorer to richer countries and recycling propaganda about how a larger population boosts our wonderful retail economy. We thus witness a manufactured debate between small businesses, often keen on easier road transport and lower taxes, and globalist greens, usually keen on tigher regulation of private transport. Larger companies always find it easier to comply with new environmental regulations introduced to please green lobbies. All the while massive out-of-town superstores with huge carparks are sprouting up everywhere. They may have a few token cycle racks and sell fair-trade bananas, bu their bottom line depends on more eager consumers buying their imported merchandise. In power and in opposition, the greens have been disaster for our environment.