Synthesis/Regeneration 12   (Winter 1997)


A Catalyst for Change

by Muriel Tillinghast, 1996 Vice Presidential Candidate, New York State Green Party

As a member if the Independent Progressive Politics Network (IPPN), an affiliate organization of the Greens/Green Party, USA (GPUSA), I only had a cursory knowledge of the organization. After I was selected as the state's vice presidential candidate, I was to learn more. Upon my acceptance of the electoral mantle, I said that I would be a serious candidate and work hard on behalf of organizational growth and garnering the public vote. I took the GPUSA at face value, and outside of a few minor problems, I loved every minute of the campaign-the long and short of it.

Despite strained relationships between New York State and the DC Clearinghouse-largely on the Nader imposed limitation on financial spending-I worked every day from August 17 through November 5, 1996. With Nader's people, I insisted that the development of a New York state organization and the encouragement of locals was a priority for me. I would not guarantee a zero-expenditure for the campaign. At the time of this discussion, I had already spent four figures on my telephone bill alone. If there were an imposed agreement by state vice-presidents, it was too late for me.

The question was moot, but that notwithstanding, I strongly disagreed with the position. Here we Greens (I joined the organization and jumped in with both feet) were in the midst of the most dynamic people-based national organizing effort in recent memory, and, as the lead spokesperson in my state, I was going to have to be out-of-sight-out-of-mind?! What happened to grassroots democracy? And what about feminism-I was never one who defined herself outside of being a Black/activist woman-but, what about feminism? One of the lead Green veep feminists told me that she was staying home and walking to her contacts.

Well, Greens, when I accept a concept it becomes a part of me. I try to incorporate it into my political life. I can't accept it or shed it without major psychologically cathartic action. So, I was surprised at the ease with which not only this was said to me, but I was further surprised that I alone was the only veep who articulated a difference of opinion-at least that is what was transmitted to me-from the DC Clearinghouse, generally, and the Nader people, specifically.

In any case, my position ultimately caused the disassociation between the DC Clearinghouse and the New York State Green Party. Understand that my position was made with gravity and after intense discussions within the state. On that occasion I learned certain political realities about the Greens.

Trade Winds

I am a change-agent. That is a life commitment. It has nothing to do with the Greens. I has more to do with two families, one Black and the other Caucasian, and all of the people I've met along the way. The former family was seared into my memory at age 10 or so-four members living on a packed dirt floor, in the dark, on their haunches in a hovel devoid of furnishings or food, with only rags on their backs, not five miles from the US Capitol. The other I saw in my early twenties, high in the Appalachian Mountains living not better off on top of a smelt mine whose sulfuric vapors and work below surface made life-if that's what you want to call it- more and more unbearable during the day. They had to seek refuge outside regardless of the weather. Those families are the base of my personal promise for change.

I am willing to be catalyst for change. I am in the Greens because it is compatible with the ideals of IPPN, and it has connections with similar minded people from local up to the international level. Now if we could all get on the same train, even if we're in different cars, and head in the same direction without the baggage of personal enmity, disingenuousness, flirtations with personal power, and other limitations we now have, the Greens will be able to move from organizational infantilism to adolescence. If you need elaboration on infantilism within the existing organization, I can provide case and point. But, as a glaring example, what happened to the national campaign committee for GPUSA during the campaign? Who was there to work out an "on-loan" arrangement with the Greens relative to my base of operation?

Growth is not always pleasant or smooth.

Growth is not always pleasant or smooth. GPUSA need not be in competition with any other group. Work is the dispeller of myth. GPUSA needs an organizational prescription to do the work of a national body. It needs its offices filled by people who are personally mature, energetic, clear and willing to work. And, their ranks need to be undergirded and supported by the bodies, work and resources of the membership-all on the same train with the group-determined leadership as engineers. On leadership, once one is given responsibilities by the group, people need to move forward into the work, not fade or use organizational limitations as their excuse for inactivity.

There are many threads of thought within the organization. This is my thread. . .I am without apology a person who is against corporate-driven global economics, recognizes and understands class analysis, who is for neighborhood-based economics, collective decision making and understands that must include people of color. Further, I understand that until and unless the Greens start speaking to the economic disparity in this country, we will not gather strength within communities of color nor synthesize themselves into a vital force for social, economic, and political change which includes at its core every issue of eco-environmental justice and sustainability.

All That Needs To Be

What will the Greens do? That's a big question, and one largely outside of any individual's hands. The question is better asked, "what will you do?" I intend to give unstintingly of my time in the development of local, state and national growth for GPUSA. I intend to help GPUSA become operationally strong. I intend to help it move it from dysfunctionality to at least moderate functionality. I intend to help generate new blood, new thought, new energy. I am actively seeking others who want to move towards the big picture. Then, I want to return to IPPN and work on fashioning that broad alliance some of us, at least, are talking about. What will you do?

I have not postulated a narrow argument of whether the Greens should move electorally or not, left or not. The Greens movement needs to focus, but not limit. It needs to create the mechanisms and operations which make it make sense and can tap into the millions of Americans looking for change. Is it a movement that speaks for the voiceless forest and its inhabitants? Can it be a movement for the human voiceless of America?

GPUSA. . .has neither the time nor resources to beg people bent on developing a separate agenda to work together.

GPUSA should leave the back door open for discussions with any group or organization who wants to do so. On the other hand, it has neither the time nor resources to beg people bent on developing a separate agenda to work together. As shown on the nature channel, when there is rivalry, go for it. Win, lose or draw, both rivals continue, their respective courses somewhat altered.

Rather than have a house divided, GPUSA may ultimately benefit from those who are unwilling, uninterested, etc. and who have initiated, in this permutation, the Association of State Parties. These very people who claim abhorrence of top down decision-making are obviously prepared to receive top down decision-making from others. Let them. With duplicity out of the house, perhaps those of us remaining can set out sights and turn our attention into the new day that is upon us.

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