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Toward a Revolutionary Green Party
by Mark Kamleiter
I have been thinking a lot about the Green Party lately. My reflections have led me to consider some of the deep philosophical and political foundations of the party. I love the Green Party and its key values. I particularly love the Party’s potential to be a change agent and force for positive political, social and environmental evolution. I have had moments of great pride with the Green Party. I have also been disappointed. It is probably because my deep sense of the Party’s potential is so great that my disappointment is so profound.
I was, and am, absolutely convinced that the Democratic Party is the most dangerous threat to democracy in this country. It has intentionally and strategically sold out all the principles so vital to the people of this country. Over the years I have seen the Democratic Party first oppose and fight every important social movement in this country, including but not limited to the workers’, women’s, and civil rights movements, as well as the various antiwar movements, including Iraq. Worse, the Democratic Party then seduced and absorbed each of these movements, eventually robbing them of their spirit and power. They are doing that now to the Iraqi War Opposition.
I have watched in pain as this deceitful dance of the Democratic Party repeated so many times over the years. As a powerful social movement arises, the Democratic Party will first try to ignore or silence it. Then, if the independent movement still gains strength, the Democrats attempt to absorb the movement into the Party mainstream. Once this is accomplished, they swing immediately further to the right in order to placate their financial base.
One has to have a great dose of humanity, a great dose of the feeling of justice and of truth not to fall into extreme dogmatism, into a cold scholasticism, into isolation from the masses. Every day one has to struggle that this love to a living humanity transform itself into concrete acts, in acts that serve as examples, as motivation. Che Guevara
Each time this occurs “progressive” Democrats say that they will work harder and “take back” the Democratic Party.” The controlling centralist-right Democratic leadership will then stroke these progressives and tranquilize them with some lip service, but they will give them absolutely nothing of substance or meaning.
The Democratic leadership is corrupt and beyond any reform. The fact that they pretend to speak for, and then blatantly betray, progressive values makes them more despicable and dangerous than the Republicans. With Clinton, Gore and now with its present leadership, the Democratic Party has moved so far to the center-right that for the first time in a long time there is a clear, defined void on the Left to be filled by an energetic, value-based revolutionary people’s political party—the Green Party.
All we needed was courage, fixed focus on our values and willingness to put our shoulders to the task. We needed to translate our ideas and values into action in the realm of social reality. We needed to strike out boldly, as a new, visionary, revolutionary, populist and absolutely independent political party. Therein lies my biggest disappointment. I have come to the conclusion that the Green Party suffers from a potentially fatal identity crisis.
Rather than establishing an audacious new revolutionary party, driven forward on the dynamic and inspiration of its own values and populist grassroots political force, the Green Party too often defines itself in terms of the Democratic Party. We let the Democrats define our politics.
Consequently, Greens went out in droves to work for Kucinich, Dean and Kerry. Greens worked more effectively to register Democrats than we have ever done for the Green Party. I heard Green leaders saying that it was okay for Greens to work and vote for John Kerry. A Green was quoted in the newspaper saying that all the Greens he knew were voting for Kerry. I saw Greens switching their party affiliation in order to vote in the Democratic Party primary.
David Cobb’s “safe states” or “smart states” campaign is another example of defining ourselves in relationship to the Democratic Party. In effect, Cobb proposed running hard in the “safe” Republican or Democratic states, while leaving the battleground states to Kerry. Instead of boldly facing down the Democrats, the Green Party chose to define its presidential campaign in terms of its meaning and effect upon the Democratic Party. As I live in a battleground state, this campaign strategy left me with no effective or meaningful Green Party candidate to work and vote for.
We must acknowledge and live the fact that we are a revolutionary party; that American democracy is broken.
Rather than leading from a uniquely Green perspective, we tend to be an “us too” tag-on when speaking on local, state and national issues. When will we learn that no matter how high sounding and progressive the Democratic Party or its hundreds of thinly veiled organizations may sound, they will betray their own principles and us in the end? What happened to Move-On (otherwise known as “rollover”), UFPJ and Code Pink?
They backed a militarist presidential candidate who promised to send 40,000 more troops to Iraq. I heard a recording of one of Medea Benjamin’s speeches to the Progressive Democrats of America, equating the Green Party to the progressive Democrats. There were roars of applause from the Democrats. It made me physically sick.
One might argue that since all of this was in the heat of the elections this does not reflect the true Green Party. I would like to believe that, but I do not. I believe that we have attempted to establish a political party without being fully divorced from our Democratic Party roots. We think that we can just kind of move out of the Democratic house, but that we can stay close to the comfort and power of the Democrats and occasionally go back into the house to meddle in the Democrats’ affairs (primaries, elections), all of this without being screwed. Do we think that the Democrats respect us because we wavered in the face of the “spoiler” label?
These are the same Democrats who viciously fight against ballot access for independent and third-party candidates and who helped create political district gerrymandering. They do not believe that we have a legitimate right to exist. To the extent they believe they can use and manipulate us and bring us back into the fold each time they can evoke a bogey man over on the right, they will woo and flatter us. Beyond that they will attack us and, if they can, they will destroy us.
Whither the Greens?
So where are we as a political party? I still believe the Green Party has the potential and ability to become a powerful grassroots political voice for Green values. I feel strongly, however, that the Green Party must take some urgent actions if we are to create a viable, effective independent party.
We must define ourselves clearly in terms of our ten key values. These cannot be some vague, relative concepts, or some values that we are free to pick and chose among. While I am fully aware that all of us are on a personal voyage to make these values the dominant reality in our own lives and that none of us has “arrived,” these values must be the guideposts and the objectives of all that we do.
We must make ourselves an independent Green Party. We are not an inclusive club. We are not a warm and fuzzy place where Democrats can come and be at home. Remember, we divorced them. They should have no voice or power in our party. Our membership should be limited to those who are registered Greens or are legally prevented from registering.
Joining the Green Party needs to be a clear, decisive action which, as a minimum, requires cutting off relationship to and involvement in other political parties. Party switching for primaries and other meddling in other political parties should disqualify an individual, at least temporarily, from Party voting privileges.
Our Green vision will never be realized without sacrificial, revolutionary struggle.
We must be aware that the “progressive” Democrats, including the Progressive Democrats of America (PDA), the Democrats of America (formerly Dean of America), have the express, clear intention of bringing Greens and other “breakaway” progressives back into the Democratic Party.
Their pitch is now, “come help us win back the Democratic Party.” They intend to destroy the Green Party as an independent Green Party. They will drain away the few workers and resources we now have and will make it impossible for us to ever run independent Green candidates against them.
We need to stop reacting to the Democratic Party and its issues. It is bankrupt and it is incapable of truly acting according to firmly held values. Each action of the Democrats is inevitably a reaction to the Republican Party. They are losers and as the Republican Party continues to effectively define the debate and dialogue they will continue to lose.
Greens need to develop and work on their own Green value-based issues. Our approach needs to be grounded in Green values and philosophy. We need to approach all issues from a fresh, Green perspective. A truly Green voice will inspire Americans, will call them to the empowering, grassroots vision of socially and environmentally Green American culture. Any coalition work needs to be done from a strongly independent stance and the collaboration must advance independent Green objectives. While there may be some value in collaboration when our purposes and objectives momentarily coincide with the objective of some Democratic Party group, we must not move back into the house with them. In the end, they will betray us and our values.
We must acknowledge and live the fact that we are a revolutionary party; that American democracy is broken. Any real vestiges of democracy are being eroded away and this is the direct, absolute responsibility of the two major parties. Between them they have devised a system that silences the voices of the people. They have gerrymandered electoral districts so that voters have no choice. They stubbornly defend the Electoral College system that allows them to share in a “winner takes all” power grab. Together they have created archaic and draconian ballot access rules to keep other parties off the ballot. We will only overcome this state of affairs by revolutionary action.
The fact that peace and nonviolence are essential values to us means that we must overthrow this system with iron determination and steadfast persistence instead of violence. We must be focused and unmovable. We must inspire and lead a dynamic and unyielding revolt grounded in people power. The major parties are the enemies of democracy and the rule of the people in the United States. They will never give up any real power without being forced to do it. Frederick Douglass said:If there is no struggle there is no progress. Those who profess to favor freedom and yet depreciate agitation […] want crops without plowing up the ground; they want rain without thunder and lightening. They want the ocean without the awful roar of its many waters.... Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will.
If we are unnerved by name-calling, by the epithet of “spoiler,” we will never convince the American people that we can win back their democracy for them. If direct action for revolutionary change is too radical for us, then nothing will change. If we are afraid of offending our Democratic Party friends, we will not be the revolutionaries our country needs. If we are not willing to sacrifice our time, reputations, and possessions for a truly radical Green revolution, then it will not happen. If our Green commitment is a “feel good” hobby, then we would be better served in “issue” clubs in the Democratic Party, which only require a few evenings and weekends of commitment. A revolutionary does not try to reform the status quo. A revolutionary recognizes that the status quo is irretrievably corrupt and has the determined intention to overthrow that system.
Whether we recognize it or not, the key values of the Green Party represent a societal perspective and philosophy that is absolutely antithetical to the present political structure of this country. Our Green vision will never be realized without sacrificial, revolutionary struggle. It will not happen without unwavering focus upon our values. I know that many Greens do not view the Green Party as radically different or revolutionary. For many the Green Party may be a comfortable place to express their mostly white, alternative or yuppie political and environmental sensitivities. The idea of a desperately hard, sacrificial, political and societal struggle is simply not what they signed on for. I can understand this.
I am not trying to be mean-spirited, but I do want to be clear. I am ready to work as hard as I can to build a truly revolutionary, independent Green Party. If such a party is what we are working to build in Florida, I am ready to make the sacrifices necessary to make it a reality. The Green Party needs full-time, dedicated, no-nonsense revolutionaries. And there, my friends, is my question to you, to the Green Party of Florida:
Will the Green Party be a revolutionary, independent party? Are you ready to be a revolutionary?
Mark Kamleiter is a member of the Green Party of Pinellas County, Florida.
[28 nov 05]