By Derek Wall*
The current international Coordinator of the Green Party of England and Wales tells about his beginning in green politics, his transition from ecologism to eco-socialism and the commons, and the authors that have influenced his thought.
The beginnings of (my) green politics
I joined what was then the Ecology Party in 1980 and in the last 35 years have been active in Green Party and wider green politics. Here, I try to outline some of the books and other texts that have influenced my understanding of green politics.
My initial inspiration for getting involved was a concern that economic growth was ecologically damaging. I read Blueprint for Survival (published in The Ecologist by Edward Goldsmith and Robert Allen ahead of the 1972 UN Conference on the Human Environment in Stockholm)which argued for a political response to ecological problems and helped inspire the creation of PEOPLE, which became the Ecology Party and eventually the Green Party. A series of other writers, including Ivan Illich, helped me broaden my early understanding of Green Politics, and Jonathon Porritt’s Seeing Green was essential to linking environmental concern to social justice, alternative technology, anti-nuclear campaigning, and peace, among other social issues.
Connecting green politics with Marxism
Andre Gorz’s Ecology as Politics first gave me an interest in Marxism. Gorz argued that economic growth was functional to capitalism, ‘grow or die’ being the principle of our economic system. Ever since reading this I have been concerned with opposing capitalism and trying to understand Marx’s thought. Marxist organisation in the 1980s didn’t seem that concerned with a critique of economic growth or ecological politics, so I wasn’t tempted to get involved with them. Later, Joel Kovel’s The Enemy of Nature and John Bellamy Foster’s Marx’s Ecology deepened my interest in and understanding of ecosocialism and Marx’s contribution to ecological politics. Kovel argues convincingly that economic growth is unsustainable and that anti-capitalism is at the core of true green politics. Bellamy Foster has revolutionized our conceptions of Marx’s thought, showing that from his PhD onwards questions of ecology linked to materialism were at the centre of his work.