re-william morris

Adam Rose adam at
Fri Jun 14 05:55:25 MDT 1996


Talking about William Morris on the one hand and a red green synthesis on the other
is not being fair to William Morris. William Morris didn't look to an alliance
of all classes to save the environment. He didn't think there was a problem with
overpopulation. He wasn't, as far as I am aware, in any sense against industry.
I don't believe that at any stage he put the enironment as such at the centre
of his politics - it was ordinary people's lives and their environment, including
their working environment, that concerned him.

The green movement was a retreat from a retreat from the working class. First we
had the various movements ( womens, black, lesbian + gay ). Then by the mid 80's
if not before, these fell apart. So next came the green movement. Really, this
has also fallen apart, or evolved into green reformism, or even, if Sir Jonathon
Porrits case ( another book on my bookshelf ) into green capitalism.

There is a certain environmental militancy - we have people tying themselves to
trees in the path of new motorways. Quite whether this comes under the heading
"Green Politics" I don't know. The people involved have a set of politics, which
they themselves don't, I believe, describe as green politics, precisely as a
reaction to the failure of green politics, as they see it. They do, or did,
refer to themselves as "crusties" , a reference to the covering of dirt on
their clothes + bodies !

Interestingly, due to the rise of this militancy, and the support the hippy like
crusties got from very respectable middle class residents, the government backed
down on its entire road building program. Does this indicate that the classic
Marxist insistence on the role of the working class is wrong ?

Well, no. ( It wouldn't , would it ? ).

The overall context that this struggle occured within needs to be understood.

The government was extremely unpopular. It had only just managed to head off
the huge miners revolt. Every year, it had attempted to impose a wage policy
on public sector workers only to back off. Because of this working class
resistance, it had come to the conclusion that in order to survive, it couldn't
afford any large scale confrontations. Electorally, these confrontations were
occuring in Tory or potentially Tory areas. But also, these confrontations were
moving to the cities - M11 in East London, M?? ( can't remember ) near Glasgow,
where a junior minister was forced to resign after attacking demonstrators
with a sledge hammer. THEY remebered the POLL TAX RIOT and what it did to
Thatcher. Also. partly because of the resilience of working class organisation
right throught the recession, they had budget deficit problems, and simply
couldn't afford the level of spending their road program entailed.

In the context a weak government confronted with a resilient and at times explosive
working class, the non traditional forms of protest were enough to secure a major
( and Major ) climb down. [ The defeat has similarities to the way students can
inflict defeats on weak governments. ]

Anyway, the point of this long story is basically to argue against any political
red green synthesis. Just as I don't think there can be a Marxist - Feminism,
but would argue that marxism offers the best way forward for women's liberation,
I'd argue the same about the environment.


Adam Rose


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