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Synthesis/Regeneration 25   (Summer 2001)

What Next?

by Michael Givel

Recently, some Greens have put forth the thesis that the Greens should be focusing on non-electoral approaches after the November 2000 election.

These approaches have been and continue to be a crucial part of what I consider to be part of the greater "Green Movement," which includes a variety of green issues sometimes connected to electoral politics and sometimes not.

For instance, being involved in non-partisan issues such as nuclear weapons reduction and abolition or antipoverty work or building alternative community institutions (in a variety of ways from traditional lobbying to non- violent civil disobedience) has been ongoing and will be ongoing into the future. These actions continue to be highly necessary, so I will reserve my remarks to the electoral side of Green politics.

First, let me say that I think that resorting to strictly a local focus will not significantly help the efforts of Greens. In order for society to move towards positive social change, governmental structural and class issues at the national and international levels will continue to need to be addressed. For instance you can not ignore the power of the WTO to overrule national environmental and labor laws and not feel the impact at the local level.

So, where have the Greens been and what might the future bring with respect to national issues in the USA? A little history is in order here.

The United States at the national level has been under conservative government rule for at least the last 30 years with a variety of conservatives in the White House from both parties and conservatives/ moderates dominating Congress (there are currently approximately 60 members of the Progressive Caucus in the House).

This political picture has been fostered by an historic capitulation of traditional liberal groups such as the Sierra Club, AFL-CIO, and NOW to the political right. The logic of their approach has been that we need to stem the slide to the right through insider lobbying approaches and providing support to "less" right-wing politicians such as Gore and maybe we will even win a few battles here and there.

This logic is BACKWARDS and has brought us to the point we are now at.

First, the consequence of this approach has been that society has not made any substantial progressive movement in the last 30 years. Instead, we are slipping further and further towards the agenda of major corporations and their allies. This historic failure to organize outside of the institutions of power at the grassroots and hold right-wing politicians of both parties accountable and even elect candidates of our own has meant that these groups in their own significant way have contributed to this rightward slide.

This political picture has been fostered by an historic capitulation of traditional liberal groups such as the Sierra Club, AFL-CIO, and NOW to the political right.

If this was not clear before, then just view the liberals' recent political support for the right-wing Democratic Presidential candidate and not Nader who espoused probably close to everything they believe in. Their choice to do this was not just ideological but based on raw power and position questions such as receiving the right grants or treatment from government or "getting your phone calls returned" by a potential Gore White House. The vitriolic attacks on Nader as a "spoiler" while failing to analyze why the political system creates "spoilers" (i.e. proportional representation) is a further illustration of the liberals now historic capitulation and support of the status quo in terms of greater democracy and in the US and their own self-interested positions of "power."

The Nader candidacy, which I believe is one of the best public services that this country has received in a long time, exposed and challenged all of this. It is time that Greens/progressives moved out on our own, and Nader has now provided us that opportunity. So what do we do next?

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