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On Green Unity
by Joel Kovel, Green Party of New York
Unity is one of those values that everyone is vaguely for until the time comes to define just what it means in practice. Actually, unity means different things in different concrete situations, and at different degrees of depth. At the risk of being too schematic, I see three levels at which this can be addressed with respect to the split between the two national Green factions.
First, there are personal feuds—distinctions of ego, and bad memories of betrayal responsible for the split. I have heard competing tales of what really happened and who did what to whom that could be turned into a remake of Rashomon.
Second, there are organizational structures at stake. Personalities are no longer the issue here, rather the growth of institutions, with bank accounts, assets, specific relations with other parts of society. These cannot be wished away, and do not factor into the question of who did what to whom.
Third, there are genuine doctrinal issues. The logic of being Green imposes the same kind of "realo/fundi" distinction that vexed the German Greens. It comes with the territory: do we opt for incremental gains within the system, necessarily moving closer to the center as we do so? Or do we insist on a more fundamental social transformation, in the conviction that the system cannot be reformed away from its ecocidal and unjust nature? These questions also do not factor neatly into the organizational and personal level: there are differences within each side as well as between them. As I try to make clear in my campaign, I am a fundi Green, whose basic attachment is to GPUSA, as being more oriented in that direction than ASGP. But I recognize people of differing views within "my side," and people of similar views within the "other."
Level one is the least respectable yet the most intransigent. We should all work to overcome our own egotism and blindness—and say a prayer or two while we're at it. Level two, that of institutional structure, has to be respected, yet also overcome in time. Level three, in my view, should be creatively developed, for active dialogue is the road to truth. Realos without fundis will in time become Al Gore Democrats. Fundis without realos will become sectarians baying at the moon. Herewith are my capsule recommendations for putting the Greens' house in order in this very concrete situation of a presidential year.
First, there should be an interim common front for purposes of the election. It should be possible to put together a kind of temporary committee whose existence comes to an end in mid November, and which in the period up to the election flatly represents all the Greens, including, of course, at a unified convention. In the meanwhile a more permanent arrangement should be in process. The outcome should incorporate a permanent "fundi" presence within a "realo" national party that obeys election laws, etc. Parallel to this but not identical with it, the assets of GPUSA should be in a kind of escrow status in which their ultimate disposition—say, by the end of 2001—depends upon the institutionalization of the realo/fundi dialectic to the satisfaction of a preponderance of the membership. I see this journal—which is purchased by GPUSA for its members—playing a key role. After all, it cannot be distributed free to a national party of hundreds of thousands of registrants. It might be possible, then, to have the "subscription" costs of S/R play the role of "dues" in the new structure, as the financial base of the fundi element of the Greens.
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