Democratic Accountability and the Problem of Anthroposophical Friends

I have heard a lot about democracy in the last few days, with an election tomorrow it is a word on many people’s lips.

The Green party claim to be more democratic than the Labour party, since they are not whipped into line. They say there is therefore more freedom for councillors and representatives to speak and act according to their own personal inclinations, whatever those may be.

This is the reason given by local Greens for no opinion having been forthcoming on the planned free school for Stroud.

The party policy clearly states that no more free schools or academies should open, and that existing schools will be integrated into the state system.

“ED134 … the Green Party is opposed to creating more Academies and Free Schools and will support community, school and parent campaigns that share this aim. The Green Party will integrate Academies and Free Schools into the Local Authority school system.”

Whilst this is official party policy, it is difficult to find any local party member who will speak against the proposed school in any way. When their attention is drawn to the Labour group’s willingness to declare itself, Green party members point to the democracy in their own party compared to Labour. They claim to have no opinion on the matter; the issue has, I am told, been discussed, but due to differing opinions no statement can be made.

The result, we must conclude, is that the local Green party agree with their national policy; namely, that the opening of free schools is wrong and should be stopped.

I also conclude that if the free school were not to be a Steiner school, the Green party would by now have seized the opportunity to demonstrate how they could work with local people on this important local issue for the benefit of the town.

I was told this morning in no uncertain terms that the issue of education is a “small” one and that what I should be concerned about is CLIMATE CHANGE. Yes, in case you wonder about the capital letters, the words were shouted at me by the leader of the local Greens, John Marjoram.

He also told me “…the problem is I have a lot of friends who are into anthroposophy…” and he apologised for swearing on the phone yesterday.

I accept that I am a thorn in the side of local politicians. In my attempts to gain access to their opinions on what I and others regard as an important local matter, I have become a nuisance.

If they would simply state their opinions clearly and honestly they would not find me such a nuisance, and they would probably also gain the respect of the electorate. We know when there is obfuscation and concealment, and we don’t like it.

Steiner tentacles have reached deep into local politics, here and according to Nick Nakorn, in South Devon too. This is not democracy in action, it is underhand behaviour. The Greens claim superiority in their “accountable democracy” but display their inferiority by their actions.





    • Helen

      Well it’s probably too late for the elections tomorrow, and I don’t know how people make up their minds which way to vote. I think a lot of Green voters will vote Green whatever happens on any issue, because of environmentalism. However the party presents itself as a national party with national policies, so it’s as well to know about them.
      If education is such a minor issue to the Greens, why don’t they feel free to speak about it?

  1. Nick Nakorn

    The Green party is still to the left of Labour so for left-leaning people it’s a good vote except when it might split an otherwise winning Labour vote.

    • Helen

      Interestingly I know people who have voted Green but would not vote labour! You are right, though.
      The Greens protested about library cuts recently – that’s an easy one. I suppose they have a vote on whether the party can have a view on each issue as it rises.

  2. anna bonallack

    Helen I thank you for your phone call today. As you know I am hoping to be elected tomorrow to the District Council in order to have a strong voice for youth and education issues on the council, as far as is relevant to that level of governance – as you know the budgets for schools and colleges are set by central government and spent by county councils – but there are areas around education and skills gain for which the local council is responsible.

    You asked me about the local Green stance on the proposed Steiner Free School. In line with national Green Party policy the Stroud Green Party is clear that the Steiner aspect of the proposed school is an irrelevance, as we do not support the proposal for a Free School in the District. Tight budgets should be used to support and develop our existing schools, to ensure that all children and young people in the District get the best possible education. Furthermore we do not support the diversion of limited funds to any new school because there are places available for children and young people in a range of schools all over the District.

    Individuals within the party may well support Steiner education but there are also many who do not. The local green stance would be unaffected by any type of Free School proposed.

    • Helen

      Thank you very much for the comment Anna; from what you have told me of your views, the council will gain a valuable member if you are elected tomorrow – I do hope yours is not a lone voice of reason within the Green Party.
      I do not think you have fully endorsed the Green party policy, however, since “not supporting” is not the same as “opposing” as your party policy states – I suppose you do not wish to go that far?
      I will take your comment here as support for stopping the free school, and people will now know there is one Green party member who is not in favour.
      In order to prove the validity of your last statement, an effort along the lines of the views expressed by the local Labour group would be required, and I do not think there is anything on education at all on your local party website.

    • Helen

      Hi Anna
      I see you were not elected but came a fairly close second. I hope you will continue to try to inform and influence the district Green party on education issues, and if possible to try to form some kind of opposition to the free school plan.

      • anna bonallack

        Hello Helen. Yes, a great shame and, with the greatest respect and objectivity as far as I am able, a poor cumulative local decision. I am on holiday at the moment and the last week was very busy so forgive me for not responding to the thread here in that time. I will be in touch in the coming weeks.

  3. Nick Nakorn

    Anna, it concerns me slightly that the fact that a Free School might be a Steiner School is ‘an irrelevance’ because Green Party policy is that existing Free Schools become amalgamated into the Local Authority/State system. So if a Steiner Free School were to be granted funding by a Con-Lib coalition, the Green Party’s position would be to amalgamate the Steiner School into the state system – in other words, state-funded Steiner Schools. Could you clarify if the Green Party would require religious and Steiner schools to become regular secular schools or would their super-natural beliefs still be the basis of their educational emphasis and pedagogy?

  4. Jim

    Whilst I share your concern Nick I think this may be one of those occasions where we have to be grateful for one step in the right direction. I don’t know how familiar you are with the Stroud area and the extent of the Steiner influence here – a few years ago I would have found it difficult to believe but it is undeniable and I can reluctantly understand any party treading carefully. After publicly opposing the proposed Free school the labour candidate received numerous letters of the “I voted for you in the past but never again” variety. The Greens seem to be divided on the issue, though locally soft on Steiner to say the least.

  5. Nick Nakorn

    Jim, I agree that small steps are to be welcomed, but so too is constant pressure – I’ve been campaigning on all sorts of issues for decades and I just keep on keeping on :-)

  6. Jim

    True, so often then choice is for the least bad option today and try for a better option tomorrow. And as I voted today I was struck by just how bad most of the options were.

  7. Chris Harmer

    If I may contribute my pennyworth on this … I am an active Green Party member, boh locally and nationally. I entirely concur with Helen regarding the stealthy tentacles of Anthroposophy creeping into so many things in the Stroud District, the term “occult” applies in its dictionary definitions of “hidden, secret”. All may seem green, good and positive on the surface and indeed it can be – I have seen good work done at Ruskin Mill and Camphills in the Forest of Dean which benefits those with problems. But, but, the Anthroposophy (and I agree about the impossibility of getting a definition!!) is hidden, occult, under the surface and influencing in subtle and undeclared ways. I have friends and neighbours who work at Ruskin Mill, which is within sight of my house, whom I really believe have little understanding or knowledge of Anthroposophy, and I think many people in the Stroud area see the Steiner community as a force for good, and welcome it, without appreciating its dark side: but at least the SN&J is prepared to print letters from both sides of the argument. I will liaise with Anna Bonallack on this because Stroud Green Party cannot ignore our own national policies. Watch this space!
    best wishes, Chris Harmer

  8. Nick Nakorn

    Chris, your thoughts are very welcome and it’s great to hear Green Party people expressing concern. I hope you manage to make some headway. I live in S. Devon and I have been to very few meetings (Green Party or other environmental meetings) since leaving a senior environmental consultancy job due to my senior colleagues being wedded to mysticism. At every meeting I have attended over the years there has been someone extolling the virtues of either the local Steiner School, The local Christian Community, the local Camphill or the local Biodynamic farm. I have consistently made it clear to those present that it is possible to run a school, follow a spiritual path (not my thing), look after disadvantaged or otherly abled kids, and farm organically without signing up to a racist mystic. Not once has anyone present ever supported my complaint or been remotely sympathetic to my discomfort. I hope you have better luck than me; but I can’t help thinking that the rural green movement is only anti-racist just so long as no non-white people don’t make a compliant. I first joined the Green Party when it was the Ecology Party and and even in the 1980s I was the only non-white at meetings and in those days I lived in Brixton, S. London. They were the only meetings I attended that were, apart from me, wholly white. I hope this information is useful in your conversations with Anna. Written Anthroposophical texts make the BNP, EDL and NF look like amateurs and yet, if the Anthro followers are all middle-class environmentalists, people of colour are expected to accept the situation. In my view, the Green Party should actively make its position clear – either it approves of Anthroposophy or it suggests that it’s members consider their positions. You’ll note that if a UKIP, Labour, Conservative or Liberal Democrat member is ex-BNP it’s national news.
    Best wishes

  9. G Hartley

    I am a Green Party member and frequently a candidate in local elections. I am quite clear that our policy is not to support further free schools. Indeed, we do not support academies either or private education for that matter. None of these forms of education were created by the Green Party. Some of them are the child of the last Labour Govt and this Coalition; some go back many years. It’s fine saying what you would like in an ideal world, but you have to deal with what’s in front of you. That includes everything from the UN charter to local peoples wishes. Most importantly, children at a school now, need it to provide good education and not the kind of disruption that comes from the latest initiative from a politician trying to make his mark. An obsession with opposing Steiner schools obscures the fact that many schools are still C of E, or Catholic or increasingly Muslim. Without the church in yesteryear there would have been much less education for many, but in this day and age religious beliefs should play no part in the delivery of education. Teaching about different religions is another matter. So trying to turn this into a black and white (anti-Green) argument about Steiner, is in my view a diversion from the main issues. State education for all, free of interference from religion and business. So I come back to the point that locally the Greens are opposed to free schools in accord with their national policy and that has to include a Steiner or any other kind of school.

    • Helen

      “Greens are opposed to free schools in accord with their national policy and that has to include a Steiner or any other kind of school”
      I am very glad to hear this, G Hartley, but why has the opposition been silent?
      You say “I am quite clear that our policy is not to support further free schools.” No. The policy is to oppose free schools. But where is the opposition? Where is the support for local campaigns, as promised above, against the free school?
      I totally agree that this is not an ideal world and we have “faith schools” in the UK, but Steiner schools are secretive and dishonest about their nature. They are anthroposophy schools, pure and simple, but parents do not know this. At least with other religious schools parents know what they are getting.
      I personally oppose any Steiner education because it does not do what it says on the tin; it has an agenda that is kept secret, and to fund this kind of rubbish with tax-payers money is beyond stupid.
      My argument is not anti-Green, I just would like to see local Greens act according to their party policy.

  10. Nick Nakorn

    G Hartley, I think you’ve got the wrong end of the stick; a great many people I’ve met on-line and in person who are attempting to spur The Green Party to positive action against Free Schools and Steiner Schools are supporters of green politics if not The Green Party. Some, like me, are Green Party members. What we seek is representation of our views by the party to which we belong and would like to support for our campaigns. As you know, in many parts of Europe (especially in Germany) the Green Party was started by people sympathetic to Anthroposophy and in the UK a great many organisations that Green Party members support, or to which they are affiliated, are Anthroposophical or highly sympathetic to hiring Anthroposophists in senior positions (such as The Soil Association). Our argument is that modern organisations that claim to have rational, scientific and inclusive policies should shake off their old irrational, unscientific and racist cultural affiliations to ensure that actions and behaviours locally reflect national, written policies. I do not think it helpful to point out that, because C of E, Catholic and Muslim schools are also religious that campaigning against Steiner organisations is somehow obsessive or not worthwhile – no one has the time to campaign on every issue so we choose what is most pressing in out own circumstances and what is not covered by other organisations. But, for what it’s worth, I have also spent time looking at issues connected to Christianity and Islam. I spend more time on Anthroposophy because a mixture of racism and mysticism, via Anthroposophy, has prevented me from working in my chosen field.

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