Who was REALLY first?

Minor greenish political groups prior to 1972

During the late 60's and early 70s a plethora of small organisations with vaguely green credentials and some degree of political ambition flourished briefly and often fairly rapidly disappeared with little trace.

A lot of these found their genesis in the merging of the civil rights and anti-war movements in the USA which created a vibrant "counter-culture". Essentially anti-industrial capitalist and with strong affinity to anarchist principles many of the later themes in green politics found their first expression here.

Some groups make a bit of an impact in the bigger picture and their traces can be found by searching the internet today, others were little more than a single person's hobby horse being flogged to death. Often their "green" credentials were buried in a lot of other froth. Some were religion based parties, that tended to have a more disciplined following and thus a slightly longer life including the example of the Dutch PPR which actually won seats and eventually morphed into one of the founding groups of the Dutch GronenLinks green party in 1989.

This is an arbitrary selection largely found by stumbling through our memories and stumbling across references on the interweb whilst looking for something else. This was far from a US only phenomenon - the 60's "counter-culture" spread throughout the western world and found nascent political expression in many countries. Many of these were revolutionary and anti-establishment rather than green, but most included some ecological concerns in their programmes.

These are ones that were founded before the rise of PEOPLE and other long-lasting green parties following Blueprint for Survival's publication in 1972.

  • Situationist Internationale 
    largely French, initially an art movement, political period from 62-69, not explicitly green except as critics of industrial society. Had a flair for self publicity allowing them to punch well above their weight. Deeply involved on the fringe of the May'68 events in Paris. 

  • Provos (short for "Provokers")
    Holland, 1965-67, anarchist but with significant green content in their 'White Plans'. Succeeded in winning a seat on Amsterdam City Council in 1965 and managed to introduce the first "white bicycle" scheme to provide free-to-use bikes for all in the city.
  • Peace & Freedom Party (PFF)
    California, 1966/7. Described as "eco-socialist" in platform, PFF grew out of the civil rights and anti-war movements. It managed to achieve registered party status in California and stood in many elections through to 1997 and beyond. Essentially anti-capitalist it's green-ness came from involvement of the "counter-culture" movement which flourished in the USA in the 60s
  • Hyde Park Diggers (also London Street Commune, Digger Action Movement)
    UK, Founded in about 1966 by Sid Rawle. Deeply concerned with land rights and issues arising, including squatting in unused property - most famously 144 Piccadilly.
  • Yippies (Youth International Party)
    USA, 1967. Revolutionary anarchist anti-establishment party with a distinct green tinge. Largely engaged in politics to mock the system - standing a pig for president in 1968 and 'Nobody' for president in 1976, inventors of pie-throwing as a political act, invaded the David Frost chat show on UK TV in 1970 (much as the Sex Pistols created chaos and outrage in 1976 on TV). Like the PFF the greener activities came from countercultural involvement, calling for food coops, organic farming, free schools etc. 
  • Other US Counterculture organisations
    Diggers, the San Francisco Mime Troupe, the Merry Pranksters, the Deadheads, the Hog Farm, the Rainbow Family, the Esalen Institute, and The Farm. Many of these had significant and lasting influence in the alternative (to capitalism) lifestyle scene.
  • PPR (Political Party of Radicals)
    Holland, 1968-1989. Founded as a radical breakaway from the Catholic People's Party (KVP), the PPR had strong Christian foundations and a distinctly green agenda. They continued in the fringes of Dutch politics with some electoral success until they merged with others to form GronenLinks, the Dutch green party.
  • Kaboteurs (Gnomes)
    Holland, 1969. Grew out of the disbanded Provo movement as a more explicitly 'green' political party. Retaining some of the anarchic elements of the Provos and Yippies the Kaboteurs succeeded in wining 5 seats on Amsterdam council in 1970 as well as seats in a few other cities. With a strong (if somewhat whacky) environmental programme based on "Green Plans" (derived from the Provo's White Plans) they collapsed within 2 years due to internal disputes over tactics - the extent to which they should engage with 'the system'. One faction wanted to take an openly disruptive line - smoking dope in the council chamber and so on - whilst others were prepared to compromise to keep finger-tips on the levers of power. Possibly the first green political party in the world - and certainly the first to achieve electoral success.
  • Street Farm
    UK, 1970. Not explicitly political but notable for creating the first 'eco-house' and publishing the situationist inspired magazine Street Farmer calling for a radical re-imagining of urban architecture and culture.
  • Freaks United Party (FUP)
    UK, 1972. Finally the first UK green party? Or possibly no more than a figment of some friends' drug-addled imaginations on an Oz editorial weekend outing to Great Yarmouth in autumn 1972.

Reproduced here is the full report from OZ 45 (Nov 1972) of the FUP first annual conference held in October 1972 on Great Yarmouth Beach: 

Amid the sea-side concrete and artificial amusements of Great Yarmouth on the second weekend in October the Freaks United Party held their first annual conference. In contrast to the neurotic power struggles and desperate atmosphere of the Tory and Labour conferences in the same month FUP meeting produced positive ideas as well as the usual feelings of euphoria. For those people present the conference was the first stage of a long haul to political power in Britain.

In the absence of a people's revolution the Party’s aim is to utilise the growing and expanding political power of the new generations and by the ballot taking office in all forms of government.

A poll specially commissioned by FUP showed that in October 1972 something like 70% of those between 14 and 20 no longer believe in the existing myths and establishment power games and have faith in an alternative life style. Approximately 60% of those between 20 and 26, 45% of those between 26 and 32, 20% of those between 32 and 40, and 5% of those over 40 feel the same. Given that these attitudes can be coalesced in a party (the FUP) that meets with their approval and given that this tendency continues FUP research department has produced a timetable like this:
In 3 years . . . . first member elected to councils Westminster etc.
In 5 years. . . party begins to have real political influence.
In 10 years . . . . Party becomes the major opposition to the right wing coalition.
In 15 years . . .Forms first alternative government of Britain.

One of the first jobs of the conference delegates (who held their meetings on a quiet section of the beach seated on a multitude of hired deck chairs
and sheltered from the North Sea by a series of canvas wind breaks. Dope was plentiful and no one got busted) was to start producing principles for a political platform that could be modified and added to as the party grows and develops politically. There will be a number of smaller conferences during the coming year to work with new party members and the second annual conference in October 73 will be concerned with preparing the first statement of policy and appointing the first shadow ministers.

In the meantime here are some of the pipe dreams that were put forward for the alternative platform. Readers who want to add to or modify these ideas and are interested in attending future conferences should write to the FUP, 19 Great Newport Street, London W.C.2. with their ideas and address.

The Party is against class differences, will eliminate the monarchy and remove all titles, peerages etc. The House of Lords will be replaced by a body some what similar to the TUC council only much larger. Instead of only certain industries and occupations being represented by suitable bodies whether they be schoolchildren, home workers, drop outs, police, women etc. The House of Commons will be elected much as now except that there will be far greater opportunity for citizens to speak to it. There will be no President only a computer programmed with historical precedents which is consulted by the Speaker of the House of Commons. All citizens will have access to the President's print out and data exchange points. The party is anti-authoritarian and collectivist.
There will be a bill of rights against which all laws, Government decisions, and legal actions will be tested. Other principles agreed on are:—

Abolition of all forms of sexism, racism, and ageism.

The police forces will be under the control of and answerable to the communities they serve.

Land will be nationalised and profit from property will be outlawed. Property will not be inheritable. It will pass to the community upon death.

All persons will have a guaranteed income and margins win be introduced according to the nature of the work — ie. the financial demands special to that work. All will earn roughly the same income.

Elitism in jobs and professional classes will be done away with.

No censorship in any form.

The criminal law will be reformed, and modified. Many matters now dealt with by police and courts will he either abolished or handed over to community representatives. For example there will no longer be victimless crimes. The main offences will be those involving violence to others. Property matters will not be dealt with by the criminal law.

Prisons will be abolished. Approximately 90% of those in gaol will be released —after review a few individuals may remain under community supervision. The 10% remainder will have assistance and treatment that is not imprisonment as such.

The absolute right of the individual to put whatever he wishes into his body will be guaranteed, as will be his right to free medical/psychiatric advice and treatment of whatever kind he wishes.

Lawyers will be replaced by non pro fessional ‘social adjusters’.

All transport will be free. The petrol engined car will be outlawed and replaced with a comprehensive railway and tram system supplemented by low cost electric vehicles ( buses, mini busses and individual cars) available to all.

Elimination of pollution and all anti environment practices.

Extended families, individuals, communes will be recognised as being of equal importance to a conventional family and this will be reflected in social services, housing, architecture, etc.

Education. Free choice of schools with full range of political and social attitudes. All supported by the state. In universities and schools the board of governors will be appointed by students.

Foreign Policy. In general the party advocates the breaking down of large groups of states or federations into areas of regional identification with autonomous governments. While favouring the breakup of monolithic groups such as the Common Market the USA or the USSR the party is in favour of some of the principles at present manifested by, say, the Common Market, eg, the abolition of passports, tariffs, customs and work restrictions and the mixing of racial groups and identities. New regional groups would emerge and as they were set up there would be a decrease in armaments leading to the eventual abolition of weapons of war and mass destruction.

 

Quite a good green manifesto. Worth noting perhaps that the address given for FUP is also the publication address of Oz. Within two months the creation of PEOPLE was announced and we can find no further trace of a Freaks United Party in the UK - were you involved? Do let us know...

An final honorary mention here must go to Bill Boaks, the UK serial by-election campaigner from 1951 to 1982 whose enduring concern was road safety and rights of pedestrians and non-motor vehicles - a green issue for certain. His eccentric views were certainly neither right nor left - he adopted a "White resident" tag as a means both of winding up left-wing extremists whilst at the same time hoping to use it to steal votes from the National Front (the then dominant right-wing extremist party). He certainly had some good green principles and succeeded, with Screaming Lord Sutch, in a campaign to pedestrianise Carnaby Street in London - the first in the UK and much emulated by subsequent greens.

 

Sources: mostly from Wikipedia articles on the organisations mentioned.

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