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Notes on the Recent Proposal to Kill the GPUSA
by Don Fitz, Green Party of St. Louis/Gateway Green Alliance
The "Joint Proposal of Negotiating Committees of the Association of State Green Parties and the Greens/Green Party USA" was sent out on Oct 3, 2000. In discussing the ramifications of this proposal, I urge Greens to discuss what it really is. The proposal is an attempt to kill the GPUSA and wipe it out of existence. It is not a proposal for "unity" or "merger."
If passed, this proposal would create an existence for the GPUSA almost identical to that of the Left Green Network (LGN). When was the last time you went to a forum of the LGN? Or a congress of the LGN? When was the last time you asked someone, "Would you vote for this person, who, as a LGN member, raises Green issues in the election?"
The future of the GPUSA minus "Party" would be the history of the LGN. The LGN is a "club," more or less of GPUSA members. It has the structure and relationship to the GPUSA that the proposed "Greens USA" would have to the ASGP. As a result of attempting to be a group of "Greens" which is not a Party, the LGN has shrunk to a tiny fraction of the size it was in the early 1990s and now holds no meetings or activities. Very few Greens know of its existence.
As a result of attempting to be a group of "Greens" which is not a Party, the LGN has shrunk to a tiny fraction of the size it was in the early 1990s and now holds no meetings or activities.
This is because the unique characteristic of the Greens is being a Party that grows from and is held accountable to the Green movement. A genuine Green Party would neither ignore nor wallow in electoral activity. It would realized that a movement without a Green Party would be powerless to frame the legal changes necessary to codify victories and would be irrelevant to environmental activism. It would realize that a Green Party not based on environmental and social justice movements would degenerate into a cesspool of opportunists who view the movements they claim to represent as objects of manipulation for their political careers.
The reason that the GPUSA has a reason to exist is that it is a movement-Party. If the word "Party" were removed from GPUSA, it would shadow the LGN. Immediately the Partyless GUSA would lose all rights at international meetings of Green Parties. It would have no delegate at the 2001 international meeting in Australia and would lose representation in the Federation of Green Parties of the Americas. Whatever criticism it had of actions such as the bombing of Yugoslavia would not be that of a sister Green Party and would be the ignored voice of a non-governmental organization.
The GPUSA minus the word "Party" would continue to function, much as the LGN experienced vibrant purposelessness for a few years. But people who wanted a radical Green Party would no longer see any reason to send it dues. The 1500 members might actually increase for a year or so, until members realized that it was not a Green Party. As dues declined, so would its ability to maintain Clearinghouse staff and even a Clearinghouse. A newspaper and magazine can only be cost effective if they go to a large enough number of members that the cost of printing each piece is small. As the Clearinghouse became a volunteer donating two hours a week to work out of the corner of a home and the printed communication became one xeroxed sheet, the slow death of the organization would be complete.
For an organization of 1500 people in 50 chapters to voluntarily self-exterminate would make a pack of lemmings blush green with envy. How many other progressive political parties in the US can point to this degree of success? Having been in many radical groups in my life, I can vouch that what the GPUSA has accomplished is extremely difficult to do. If it is thrown away, there will be no chance to rebuild it.
For an organization of 1500 people in 50 chapters to voluntarily self-exterminate would make a pack of lemmings blush green with envy.
Then, why do it? Apparently, there are some who are so awed by the ASGP in the 2000 elections that they are convinced that that organization is the wave of the future and there and there can be no life outside of it. While this is conceivable, I don't see it in my crystal ball. Remember the history of the ASGP. It started as a right wing split from the GPUSA which had thugs at the doors of its founding meeting to keep out those whose votes it could not control. Throughout its history, its leadership has carried out hate campaigns against "leftist" Greens, in a determined effort to destroy the GPUSA. The ASGP leadership has a tunnel-vision fascination with elections as the only route for social change. This outlook, interestingly, promises careers to many who succumb to it.
Ralph Nader is about as far to the left as right wing leaders of the ASGP can tolerate. An anti-corporate strategy was hardly at the top of their agenda before Nader came along. Even now, they reject Nader's vision of a mass party whose major source of funding is its own membership. When Ralph moves onto greener pastures, the anti-corporate agenda will be a fond memory of those finding themselves crowded out of the ASGP. Without membership funding, it is inevitable that ASGP leaders will keep a stray eye on corporate financing. If Nader is out of the picture, there will be no reason for the elite to allow the membership to reverse their decision for corporate dollars (as happened in 2000).
When Ralph moves onto greener pastures, the anti-corporate agenda will be a fond memory of those finding themselves crowded out of the ASGP.
The ASGP leaders get as close to environmental movements as they deem is necessary to garner votes. For those obsessed with vote-hustling as the essence-of-being, being stuck at 4.8% is a monumental frustration. Sooner or later, many of them will wake up with the brilliant realization that they will be more likely to be elected (or re-elected) if they break with the Green Party and change to the Democratic Party (or something else). If this happens, will there be a GPUSA to which radicals can turn? Or will there only be an opportunist monolith which has long since silenced the radical voice for social and environmental justice within its ranks?
There is a fact of history that those caught up in political work often forget: when there are social upheavals and mass shifts to the left, parties grow at very different rates than they did before the upheaval. The small can become big and the big can become irrelevant. If the planet survives long enough for radical environmentalism to grab the consciousness of young workers, they will not be impressed by a party which has compromised every principle the rank and file holds dear so that the power elite can be elected to office. There will be little faith in those who campaign for waste minimization and help construct "safe" incinerators. Nor with those who promise social justice and help design privatization. Nor with those who call for limits of growth from one side of their mouth while planning development projects out of the other. And there will be no faith in those who spout slogans for peace and then feign concern for the body count as they blather, "Well, uh, duh, I didn't know they were gonna use depleted uranium. I mean, I mean, I was calling for the ruling class to have a nice war."
...they will not be impressed by a party which has compromised every principle the rank and file holds dear so that the power elite can be elected to office.
Ever since its birth, the Greens have had two poles. Those dedicated to becoming professional politicians have advocated elections at all costs. If they see Greens who do not subordinate their work to vote counts, they accuse them of being "anti-electoral."
Those who are true to genuine Green values advocate elections as one of many important ways to get out the Green message. The recent attempt to kill the GPUSA is part of an ongoing effort to destroy the latter and put electoral work on an altar for worship as the one true essence of Greenness.