Origins of today’s green parties and the Movement for Survival
The Movement for Survival, which was launched in the January 1972 edition of the Ecologist magazine, can claim to be the first green party in the world. Although Movement (as it was known) didn’t call itself a ‘party’ it nonetheless had a clear intention to contest elections and for most people at that time, like with PEOPLE a year later, that meant they were de facto a political party.
Movement was not the first to contest national elections -that distinction belongs to the New Zealand Values Party- but it was the first green organisation that intended to contest them. Movement groups may have contested local elections but there is no record of any having done so.
Movement was created as a political and electoral vehicle, to promote and implement the programme outlined in Blueprint for Survival, the seminal document published in the January 1972 edition of the Ecologist.
The preface to Blueprint announcing Movement’s launch, boldly stated that:-
The situation...must now give rise to a national movement to act at a national level, and if need be to assume political status and contest the next general election. It is hoped that such an example will be emulated in other countries , thereby giving rise to an international movement, complementing the invaluable work of the Club of Rome.
Such a movement cannot hope to succeed unless it has previously formulated a new philosophy of life, whose goals can be achieved without destroying the environment, and a precise and comprehensive programme for bringing about the sort of society in which it can be implemented.
This we have tried to do, and our Blueprint for Survival heralds the formation of the MOVEMENT FOR SURVIVAL (see p.23) and, it is hoped, the dawn of a new age in which Man will learn to live with the rest of Nature rather than against it.
The proclamation was signed ‘The Ecologist’, with the following names listed as signatories underneath; Edward Goldsmith, Robert Allen1, Michael Allaby, John Davoll, Sam Lawrence. Although these five are listed it was Goldsmith who was the main originator of Movement.
Page 23 had the official announcement. It stated that:-
“We need a Movement for Survival whose aim would be to influence governments, and in particular that of Britain, into taking measures most likely to lead to stabilisation and hence the survival of our society.”
“envisaged as a coalition of organisations concerned with environmental issues, each of which would remain autonomous but support the framework of Blueprint for Survival “
Six major environmental NGOs declared their support at the launch; the Conservation Society, Friends of the Earth, the Henry Doubleday Research Association (later renamed Garden Organic), the Soil Association and Survival International.
It is not clear who worked on the Movement idea other that Edward Goldsmith himself. Robert Allen and Michael Allaby both have no memory of any involvement. Jean Leidloff may well have helped and may have been the Acting Secretary specified in the announcement .
What we do know is that the initiative failed to take off. This was not due to any lack of support. On the contrary the Ecologist office found itself flooded with enquiries. Instead of organisations signing up, however, the editors were faced with many thousands of individuals writing in to declare their support.
Allaby : “After the Blueprint appeared things were pretty chaotic for a time. It’s no wonder letters received no replies - there was no one to write them!”
Movement’s failure as a separate organisation was simply that it lacked the organisational capacity to respond to all these letters and turn the initial enthusiasm into an effective national organisation.
It would appear, however, that local groups were formed from the general enthusiasm of the time. Robert Allen recalls “helping a group in Teeside which may well have been part of Movement for Survival. It must have been early 1972. The group was organised by a very nice woman, salt of the earth, whose name I’ve completely forgotten.” Sara Parkin also recalled being part of a Movement group in Leeds.
Dennis Nightingale-Smith remembers attending a conference at Conway Hall in Red Lion Square in September 1972 and says it may have been organised by Movement for Survival. It was attended by some three hundred people including Shirley Williams and the Anti-Fluoridation Campaign. Edward (Teddy) Goldsmith gave a keynote speech about Movement.
It was around October 1972 that three of Movement’s founder signatories, including Teddy, moved down to Cornwall. It is possible that work on the project stalled during the move.
Officially, as recorded in a leaflet at the time, Movement was merged with PEOPLE in February 1974. PEOPLE, of course, subsequently became the Ecology Party and then the Green Party.
In practice the ‘merger’ consisted of Goldsmith (known as Teddy) driving to the Whittakers (PEOPLE’s founders) and dropping off a box full of unanswered enquirers and, as recorded in Andy Beckett’s ‘Get Out of the City’ book about the 70s, a copy of Movement’s mailing list.
The founders of the Ecologist met “at meetings called by Nicholas Guppy, Robin Hanbury-Tenison and Francis Huxley which led to the formation of the Primitive Peoples’ Fund, now Survival International.” Hanbury-Tenison is its’ current president.
As Robert Allen, one of the magazine’s founders, says:
“Teddy (Goldsmith), Peter (Bunyard) and I were among a minority of participants in the meetings (others were Jean Liedloff and Conrad Gorinsky) who felt that the survival of tribal minorities was closely tied to the environmental crisis and that both issues should be addressed together.”
Allen: “Teddy and I often discussed how we could raise awareness of the environment and of the complex of related issues...Eventually we settled on a monthly magazine, the Ecologist. Teddy and I were involved virtually full-time; the other originating dramatis personae (Peter Bunyard, Michael Allaby,Jean Liedloff), part-time.”
Michael Allaby worked in the editorial department of the Soil Association from 1964-1972. “
Whilst there (probably early 1970) I received a telephone call from someone introducing himself as Teddy Goldsmith and inviting me to lunch at the Ritz. So I went (who wouldn’t?). There I met Teddy in the company of Jean Leidloff. Teddy told me about the magazine he was preparing to launch and asked me to write for it, I agreed. For a while that was how it worked. I was simply a contributor.”
“Then the Ecologist ran into production difficulties, we at the Soil Association had spare capacity and so the Association contracted to produce the magazine. That’s how it worked, with regular meetings in Suffolk and with me and my assistant producing the magazine and me dealing with the printers (in Leicester). During this time I came to know Robert (Allen) who was deputy editor.”
“When it was decided to publish a daily newspaper during the Stockholm Conference I was much involved in setting it up and working on it for part of the conference. After Stockholm the editorial team decided they should devote more time to the magazine and that we should establish a permanent office (rather than Teddy’s home in Kew). Robert was most involved in this and his friend Hanbury-Tenison persuaded us to move to Wadebridge in Cornwall and base the Ecologist there.”
And so it was that this early formative group of eco-pioneers -Teddy Goldsmith (editor), Robert Allen (deputy editor), Michael Allaby (managing editor) Peter Bunyard and Robin Hanbury-Tenison - all found themselves in Cornwall in October 1972, soon after publishing the Blueprint for Survival and launching Movement..
Allen: “Teddy always accused me of leading the exodus, responding to the blandishments of Robin Hanbury-Tenison (I was also the first to leave Cornwall).”
Teddy’s friend, Jeremy Faull did the conveyancing and later moved to Cornwall as well. Although he never had any direct involvement in the magazine he did become the Ecology Party’s first-ever county councillor, representing the Withiel division.
It was within this circle that many of the core Green political ideas -of sustainability, the stable society and a steady state economy- were incubated.
Blueprint for Survival was described, by its authors, as a programme and can be thought of as the world’s first eco manifesto. Although it was only used once as a manifesto, in the UK by PEOPLE during the first 1974 general election, it served as primary source material for early green party manifestos elsewhere.
Some have suggested that Blueprint was based on Limits to Growth and created because the editors were short of material for the January issue. Allen refutes that:
“The idea of Blueprint for Survival may have been mine but it was not because we were short of material for the January issue (of the Ecologist). Blueprint was in the works for many months, as Teddy wrote and rewrote several drafts of what became the appendices—and then, once that was done, I wrote and revised the first two chapters. Then we needed time to gather the signatories and plan the launch. Obviously not something done on the spur of the moment to fill a gap.
Robert and Teddy had contact with the authors of ‘Limits to Growth’ during the time they were drafting Blueprint.
Allaby: “Teddy had obtained a copy of the draft of Limits to Growth long before it was published. The idea of Blueprint was Robert’s,
Allen: Blueprint “was not based on the ideas in Limits to Growth. As you can see from the citations, we drew on many sources for inspiration and information, of which Limits to Growth was one and by no means the most important. The list of citations is a fair reflection of our direct sources but underlying these was a foundation of a vast amount of thought that Teddy had been bringing together in the course of his work (which began before the founding of the Ecologist) on the many iterations of the book he eventually published as The Way.
Allen: “I wrote the first two chapters of Blueprint for Survival: ‘Introduction: the need for change’ and ‘Towards the stable society: Strategy for change’. Teddy wrote the third chapter ‘The Goal’ and the appendices. Peter and other co-authors helped throughout.”
Blueprint for Survival become a best-seller, selling 750,000 copies worldwide, being debated in the House of Commons and serving as inspiration for many Green manifestos, including Blueprint for New Zealand in May 1972 and in the UK PEOPLE’s Manifesto for Survival in June 1974.
Allen: “We knew it was groundbreaking. But we did not expect it to have such an impact, although we carefully planned its release to make sure it could. I was part of the Environmental Communicators Organisation (ECO), an informal group of environmental journalists and writers (others were Alan Massam of the Evening Standard and Graham Leach of the Observer). They were the ones who suggested we assemble an impressive group of eminent signatories and told us when to hold the press conference (the day and the time) and what to prepare for it. Then John Maddox, editor of Nature, unwittingly catapulted us into high media visibility by attacking us in a lead editorial. We had great fun debating him on TV. Thank you John.”
Movement’s merger with PEOPLE was no doubt made possible because of the similar approaches of the two organisations. Both were envisaged as coalitions of the wider environmental movement, both were called a ‘movement’, as opposed to a ‘party’, both had electoral intentions and both were started by a small group of middle class intellectuals.
Although Movement failed in its original intention of creating a broad green coalition it did fulfil its’ founders electoral intention, in its later Ecology and Green party incarnations, and in the creation of ‘green’ parties around the world, to present a new challenge to the political status quo. And in that way Teddy Goldsmith can be regarded as the founder of today’s global movement of green parties.
- Robert Allen later changed his name to Prescott-Allen, after marrying Christine Prescott
- Michael Allaby is the author of over 100 books (authored, co-authored or complied). Almost all are on one or other aspect of environmental science, including the Oxford Dictionaries of Geology and Earth Sciences, Plant Sciences, Zoology, and Ecology. He is an active member of Scottish Labour.
- There is more detail on the launch of Blueprint in Michael Allaby's 1989 book "Thinking Green: An Anthology of Essential Ecological Writing", Barrie & Jenkins, London, 1989. You can read a short extract here on the University of Wollongong website.