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The Importance of a Green Left
by Forrest Hill and Todd Chretien
The formation of the Greens for Democracy and Independence (GDI) was a reaction to what many members perceived as the hijacking of the 2004 National Convention by conservative forces within the Green Party. This concern was held by many Greens who felt the National Coordinating Committee (NC) had betrayed the trust of the party by developing a voting system that led to the nomination of a presidential candidate supported by a minority of Green Party members.
The growth of GDI has been fueled by the desire to ensure that what happened in 2004 is not repeated. To correct the problems of the past, GDI has put forth a series of proposals aimed at improving internal democracy and ensuring the Green Parties’ independence from the two corporate parties.
The need for a green left in America
Green politics will not work without a left critique of capitalism, both in terms of its dependence on the perpetual destruction of the natural resource base and its exploitation of workers. Moving to a sustainable economy necessarily requires a radical shift away from a growth economy, and all that entails, to a steady state economy where the aggregate throughput of natural recourses is within the limits of the ecosystem.
Our economy has grown so large that its demands are overwhelming our planet’s ability to generate resources and absorb waste. If you consider that our economy grows at about 3% per year, then it is predicted to double in size every 23 years, to grow 16 times in size in 100 years, 250 times in size in 200 years, and 4,000 times in size in 300 years. If history is any guide, competition for resources to fuel such exponential growth will accelerate hostilities between capitalist nations, leading to bloody wars that could threaten the very existence of humanity in this nuclear age.
Moving to a sustainable economy necessarily requires a radical shift away from a growth economy…
Obviously, the path of economic progress must shift away from quantitative expansion (growth) to qualitative improvements (sustainable development). Such a path is only possible in an economic system that strives for a fair distribution of economic and natural resources for this and future generations.
In order to facilitate this critique and put it into action, GDI should:
- Develop a written analysis of the economic conditions that are destroying our ecosystem and the causes for the increasingly radical division between the haves and have-nots, both domestically and internationally.
- Get serious about developing systems of internal membership education, so that we can train a new generation of party activists. This is especially important if we want to reach out to sections of the population that do not have access to university educations.
- Build relationships with activist organizations outside the party. Greens must become more involved in the movement to stop global capitalism with its exploitation of labor and its insatiable need for raw materials. We cannot simply expose sustainability by arguing for increased environmental regulations. We can do this by endorsing and participating in labor solidarity campaigns, anti-war organizations, abortion rights groups, etc.
The programs of GDI should stand as a reminder to other Greens that the sole reason we exist is to act as the political expression of those fighting for democratic change in the streets. Since this is a long-term struggle, GDI should work to oppose party tendencies to capitulate to the Democratic Party and/or succumb to the short-term logic of lesser evil politics.
Given these circumstances, GDI’s mission is clear. We must provide leadership in crafting economic policies and keeping the focus of the party on the long-term objective of systemic change.
GDI has operated as a loose affiliate of Greens whose primary mode of organizing has been facilitated by a list serve and more recently a website promoting its proposals for internal democracy and independence. While these mechanisms have played an important role in allowing like-minded Greens to discuss a wide range of topics related to the inner workings of the party, their usefulness in crafting a cohesive organization is limited.
For GDI to play a more active role in developing a Left alternative in the Party, it needs to become a dues-paying organization. This structure will show the type of strength and commitment it has within the Greens and provide GDI funds to promote progressive candidates for federal, state, and local offices. It will also allow the organization to hold joint conferences with other political organizations to help form a bridge between the Green Party and other social movements.
To increase involvement and allow members to focus on direct actions, GDI should encourage the formation of regional chapters across the country. These groups should hold meetings on a regular basis to develop strategies at the local level for moving the party in a more progressive direction. Having a dues-paying structure combined with frequent face-to-face meetings will provide a solid foundation for building a left alternative voice within the Green Party.
GDI: An activist-based organization
Like many organizations in the Green Party, GDI has devolved into a discussion group full of ideas and rhetoric, with occasional clashes between personalities. Because of the dependence on e-mail as the primary form of communication, however, it is often the case that more effort goes into pontification then into actually getting work done. We don’t know if this is a result of our dependence on list serves, which tends to give power to those with a lot of time on their hands, or is a problem endemic to the party as a whole.
Whatever the case, GDI needs to break the mode of electronic one-upmanship that often passes for radical politics these days and begin functioning as an activist organization within the party. To accomplish this, GDI members need to become project-oriented, limiting their focus to those actions which can have an effect in order to grow and diversify the party.
…GDI [ . . . ] needs to become a dues-paying organization.
For example, GDI should push the Green Party to become leaders in the anti-war movement. We need to initiate actions within the party to entice our members to take a more active role in anti-war protest planning and assist the counter-recruitment movement on high school campuses. We must strive to become partners with other anti-war organizations, help organize and speak at rallies, and in general become players in building the movement—instead of simply passing resolutions supporting these efforts.
Prepare for the 2008 presidential campaign
Given the outcome of the 2004 national convention, it is obvious that we cannot simply sit back and play a passive role in the 2008 presidential campaign. The forces to vote for the lesser of two evils will be just as great then as they were in the last presidential cycle (and all presidential elections preceding that one). “Anyone but X” (fill in your favorite Republican) and the fear of spoilership are sure to weaken the resolve of many Greens. GDI should spend the next two years building up the reputation of the Green Party as a fighting organization that intends to run a campaign to unambiguously challenge the two party system in 2008.
Forrest Hill has served on the Coordinating Committee for the Green Party of California, is a member of the Green Party National Delegation and California State Finance Committee, and has helped coordinate campaigns for Ralph Nader, Peter Camejo, and Aimee Allison.
Todd Chretien was the California student coordinator for the Nader/LaDuke 2000 and the Medea Benjamin for Senate 2000 campaigns and the Nader/Camejo 2004 Northern California Field Coordinator. He is a member of the Green Party in Oakland, Calif., and a frequent contributor to the International Socialist Review.
[2 mar 06]