‘You can trust us – we will never be in government’-  that was the rather unusual boast of the KKE in Greece in the recent and ongoing general strike. It’s been a cardinal point of the party (it’s the Commies) that any attenpt to form a coalition under capitalism would lead to a role of managing capitalism – and thus advancing the very people they sought to defeat, quite aside from attendant splits etc.

It’s not a boast one would suggest for the Tasmanian Greens, but as they decide what the frik to do, it’s worth thinking about.  Faced with  the enormous pressure to support a party in government or even enter coalition, they should refuse.

Instead they should invite a general budget proposal from each major party, guarantee their support for that vote (and the initial confidence vote) only,  and only if they conform to that proposal in its essence – and then announce that they will take every other issue on its merits.

This is the place and the moment for the Greens….

….to stand up for their historic role and take the long view. A decade ago, to wipe them out, that old Maoist Jim Bacon reduced the size of parliament, thus raising the quota, and chainsawed out the cross-benches in the old parliament.  The Greens went down to a single seat and everyone wrote them off. Now they’re back with the same number of seats they had in the larger parliament.

That triumph should determine a clear strategy – to assume they have a real chance of electing a Green premier within two or three  elections, and being the lead party of government.

For that to even be possible,  they need to utterly resist being stampeded by the suggestion that the only role of a party is to be in government as soon as possible. They need to utterly avoid being drawn into the process of managing a state without being able to assert or enforce a programme.  If they become the junior partner of a government selling inadequate reforms on health, education, forests, agriculture etc , they will kill themselves stone dead, and eventually split down the middle.

They need to understand what many in the Greens – lacking a left political background – don’t understand. That oppositionality is absolutely necessary during some historical passages. The party is constituted on the premise that our whole way of life is killing the planet – it would be futile for it to become the goup of schmucks responsible for saving an unreformed system from its own chaos and the mendacity of its supporters.

Have the courage to say no. Work on the assumption Tasmanian people of all political stripe are intelligent enough to see that reserving the right to oppose while supporting the less worse programme for the purposes of governance is not contradictory – it’s the beginning of addressing  the fact that the majority of people,  from farmers to the urban poor, are unrepresented in this system.

There is no upside to being in government as minor partners – if you genuinely believe that the scale of change we need is massive. And all that it offers is the temptations of power – vanity, acceptance, doing the admin shit work, and foregoing the role of being a campaigning party . That’s been the sad fate of the Greens in the Victorian upper house, and it’s not an exercise to be repeated.  If the Greek KKE isn’t wholly to be emulated, they know a thing or two about bang for the drachma.

So think clearly,  because once again, the whole world is watching.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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