Jay Blackwood (Bristol Green Left)
Around fifty people packed out the meeting room at Bristol YHA for a Green Party fringe meeting organised by Green Left. The wide-ranging discussion was led by Howard Thorp (newly elected Green Party Campaigns Organiser), Derek Wall (newly elected International Co-ordinator) and Will Duckworth (newly elected Green Party Deputy Leader). The meeting was chaired by Romayne Phoenix, who stood in the recent leadership election. Although Romayne eventually lost out to Natalie Bennett, her joint campaign with Will nonetheless did much to raise the profile of Green Left within the party, and this was reflected in the generally upbeat tone of the discussion.
Howard led off with an introduction stressing the cataclysmic nature of the current capitalist crisis, a theme that was developed by the other speakers and by those who raised points and questions from the floor. How we address the crisis – how we answer people’s questions and tackle their concerns, how we strive to provide an alternative vision of society based on socialism and sustainability – was the key issue under examination.
The meeting stressed the devastating impact of current social and environmental developments, from crushing austerity measures to the recent revelations about the accelerating melt rate of polar ice. But the day’s striking success on the conference floor – the passing of a resolution on economic democracy which has been described as the Green Party’s ‘Clause 4 moment’ – ensured that recognition of the seriousness of the current situation was tempered with a degree of genuine optimism about our ability to carry the struggle forward effectively.
Attendance at the fringe meeting, which had to be organised independently of the party apparatus, provides another reason for cautious optimism. Green Left continues to grow and to draw people towards its vision of a grass-roots, eco-socialist alternative to the purely electoral focus that has characterised the Green Party up until now.