1990s >> 1992 >> no-1054-june-1992

Green Party Embraces the Market

When the Green Party finally gave into media pressure and decided to have leaders one of the two they appointed was Dr Richard Lawson. He stood as their candidate in the general election in Weston-Super-Mare where he got 1262 votes.

Last year he wrote an article in the magazine Greening the Planet entitled “Notes towards a Green Theory of Money” in which he tried to argue that “given the right political guidance, money, although a tyrannical master can be a useful servant in the cause of greening the planet”. This is to ignore the role that money plays within the capitalist economic system where everything is valued in money terms and where the aim of producing things is to make more money.

Capitalism is based on the ownership of productive resources by a tiny minority of the population. Under it goods and services are produced, not directly to meet human needs but for sale on a market with a view to profit. This unleashes economic forces—”market forces”, “the power of money”, as they have been called—which come to confront those who take economic decisions as if they were coercive laws, forcing them to give priority to profit-making both over satisfying needs and over achieving a sustainable relationship with the rest of nature, as well as to accumulate most of these profits as more and more capital. The capital accumulation is of course the “blind economic growth” that Greens see as overloading nature’s ability to adjust to human productive activity.

Socialists draw the conclusion that if the environment is to be safeguarded then capitalism must go, to be replaced by a system where productive resources are owned in common under the democratic control of all the people. This must mean the complete disappearance of the market and money. Production for sale and profit gives way to production for use and need. Buying and selling are replaced by giving and taking; people give to society directly in the form of work and take from society directly in the form of useful goods and services to satisfy their needs.


This is not how Dr Lawson see things. In his article the joint leader of the Green Party outlined what he called “a green philosophy of the market” which teaches that the market and money can be controlled by the government and made to function in accordance with economic principles:

“We seek not a free market, nor a social market (whatever that may be), and certainly not a command economy but a guided market, the guidance coming from rational consideration of the interaction of economics and ecology, and realised through creative taxation and regulation. Creative taxation weighs heavily on elements that are econegative and gives tax breaks to elements that are ecopositive.”

Given the amply recorded failure of all other attempts to use taxes to change the way the market system works—notably the Labour Party’s long since abandoned attempt to redistribute income and wealth in favour of the workers—this illustrates an incredible poverty of thought. But it does confirm what we have always said about the Green Party: its policy is the reformist, and ultimately futile, one of trying to work within the present system to “green the planet”. It won’t work and it can’t work.

The only way to green the planet is to first make it the common heritage of all of us. Then we will be freed from the tyranny of market forces and money and in a position to consciously regulate our relationship with the rest of nature in an ecologically acceptable way.

Adam Buick