Martin Luther King

A Politics of Urgency — Speech to the 2017 Green Party AGM

A Politics of Urgency — Speech to the 2017 Green Party AGM

The following is the speech given on behalf of the Young Greens at the 2017 Green Party AGM by the male Co-Convenor, Elliot Crossan, adapted for Te Awa.


Tena koutou katoa.  I am Elliot Crossan, the male Co-Convenor of the Young Greens for 2017.  The Young Greens network is stronger than ever; we are a vibrant community of activists brimming with dedication and determination who believe that a better world is possible.  We are proud to be part of the most progressive parliamentary movement in Aotearoa, a movement that emphasises member-led democracy and the inclusion of a diversity of voices.

I would like to raise the voice of the Young Greens today, and share some of our thoughts and feelings with you.  I would like to thank James for the graceful apology he recently gave for misstating our policy on immigration.  Many Young Greens felt very strongly that we could not stand by the statement about having a 1% cap on immigration. New Zealand First, Labour and National seem intent on turning this election into a competition on who can dog whistle the loudest. We felt that the Greens, as the voice for young and progressive people, should be standing up, not standing by, and fighting for the inclusion of migrants in Aotearoa.  It is 33 years of neoliberalism that has caused Aotearoa’s inequality crisis, not migrants.  Now that that statement has been apologised for, we feel that there is a chance for the Greens to fight back against xenophobia in this election.  We challenge the Party to do so, and to fight in solidarity with migrant communities, come what may.

There is an urgency that informs the politics of my generation.  If I could communicate one thing on behalf of the Young Greens, it is this.  Climate change is poised to make the planet uninhabitable for human beings within our lifetimes.  We cannot afford houses; we can barely afford rent; we are saddled with debt; we have to work long hours for low wages.  This is why young people do not have time for establishment politics or establishment economics.  This is why young people will not accept pandering, a conservative approach, or arbitrary constraints on the political imaginary that crush any hope of the systemic changes society needs simply for humanity to survive.  Young people have to be radical if we want a future worth living in.

Now is not the time to limit ourselves to right-wing economic vision and framing.  There is an idea that permeates the Greens and Labour that the left can only win power if we constrain ourselves and our arguments in order to “move to the centre ground”.  Martin Luther King would’ve called it “the tranquilising drug of gradualism.”  The theory is based on the premise that New Zealanders cannot think beyond this world of profit and greed at any cost.  This is a premise that young people reject, because we know that our generation has the imagination and the will for a new political and economic system that puts people and planet before corporate interests.  Left-wing politics wins when people are inspired, and when a vision of genuine change is given. It is the right that benefits from hopelessness.  If the Greens buy into the narrative of the right, then we allow the terms of debate to be defined by a crushing cynicism — and young and disenfranchised people will not turn out to vote.

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. railed against “the tranquilising drug of gradualism.”

There has been discussion in our circles lately about why exactly we are seeing the unexpected rise of left-wing politicians Jeremy Corbyn and Bernie Sanders, and why exactly young people rallied to their campaigns in unprecedented numbers.  The most resonant analysis that gets to the heart it, I think, is that young people saw, for the first time in their lives, the politics of hope.  They finally saw a chance for real, sweeping change.

The Green Party are uniquely placed to see this happen in Aotearoa; our kaupapa is based on being able to deal with the crises of the future, climate change and inequality.  John McDonnell, Jeremy Corbyn’s Shadow Chancellor, proclaimed at an anti-austerity demo after the recent UK election:

“We have campaigned for years on that slogan ‘another world is possible.’  But I tell you now: another world is in sight!  Let’s seize this moment!”

The opportunity is there for the Green Party to seize the same moment, to capitalise on the enthusiastic radicalism of young people, and to change Aotearoa for good.  Another world is possible — if, and only if, we have the courage to fight for it.

Elliot Crossan speaking on behalf of the Young Greens at the 2017 Green Party Annual General Meeting.



This speech, adapted into an article, was originally written on behalf of the Young Greens of Aotearoa New Zealand and published in issue 55 of Te Awa, the Green Party magazine. It has been republished with the kind permission of the editor.

Elliot Crossan is a socialist writer and activist. At time of writing, he was Co-Convenor of the Young Greens and a member of the GreenLeft Network.

15 July, 2017

Posted by Elliot Crossan in Green Party of Aotearoa New Zealand, New Zealand politics, 0 comments