A faction on the Green Party's steering committee would rather silence and expel its members than build a fighting party.
I explained a year or two ago why I’m in the Green party.
“I never wanted to be one of those Goldilocks socialists, for whom everything is too hot, too cold, too lumpy or too smooth to be worthy of anything but withering criticism. I’m past 65 and fast running out of time waiting for Red Moses to come down the mountain with those stone tablets and present us with a ready-made socialist party of labor and its allied social and economic organizations for us to climb aboard and ride...”
The Green party has lots of problems, some but by no means all of them self-inflicted… and now a faction of the GP’s national leadership is conducting a coup against its own members to lock out internal opposition and ban unauthorized discussion on party listserves about how to address the party’s many problems. The national Green party is a federation of state parties, and it’s no secret that perhaps a quarter of those parties haven’t put forty people in the same room in years. Though other Greens accurately describe these as “paper parties,” the paper parties do send voting reps to the Green national and other key committees, and they occupy significant spots in its national leadership.
Colorado’s Green Party is in better shape than most, and does manage to put fifty or sixty people in a room several times a year. Despite a law passed by Democrats and Republicans allowing unaffiliated voters to caucus with the two capitalist parties, and despite the Sanders candidacy which caused thousands of previously registered Greens to leave so they could vote in the Democratic primary, Colorado increased the number of registered party members from 10 to almost 14 thousand between 2012, when they delivered 7,500 votes for Jill Stein and 2016, when the Green presidential candidate got 38,000 votes in that state.
A little group led by a couple of white male Colorado Greens were dissatisfied with the party leadership. They were unable to vote out the team led by a Latina who also held a seat on the Greens national steering committee, so they concocted a long and convoluted complaint accusing her and others of “reverse racism” among other spurious offenses. They carried their baseless complaint to the national Green Party seeking to oust or expel Colorado’s leaders and/or the Colorado state party from the national Green Party. They found sympathetic ears in the co-chairs of the Green Party accreditation committee, which is co-chaired by a rep from one of the paper parties. The committee co-chairs repeatedly violated their own procedures to keep the complaint alive more than a year during which they carried out a vicious social media assault on the character of Colorado’s Latina party leader. In the end however, a two thirds majority of committee members voted to dismiss the complaint. But it wasn’t over.
A majority faction of the GP steering committee backed up the co-chairs by recommending the dissolution of the accreditation committee, the closure of the forum where Greens had discussed the committee affairs, the appointment of a new committee to take its place, and strict controls placed on any new forums to prevent future discussion of matters which or by persons whom the steering committee faction disapproves. Since the party’s rules and bylaws don’t permit the faction to dissolve committees, this is pretty much a coup. If the coup is successful, working state parties may be expelled at the will of reps sent by paper parties, and some others may be strongly tempted to walk. It could be the end of the Green Party. While a steering committee vote on the measure was delayed last week, the coup faction on the steering committee still seems intent on their destructive course.
The steering committee faction is largely the same as those who backed a 2017 attempt by opportunists in the black caucus, which had not, and still has not conducted its own elections in years, to throw out the election of the entire party leadership on some imaginary grounds.
The Green Party is almost uniquely vulnerable to this kind of mischief, due to a number of structural and cultural factors.
First, it’’s a federation of state parties, but there are damn few requirements a state party has to meet before being allowed to send voting reps into the party’s national bodies. All a state party needs is a handful of people to swear allegiance to the GP’s values and principles and fulfill the requirements of state law to put people on the party’s national bodies. State Green parties don’t have to have offices, staff or real budgets. State Green parties don’t have to prove they have mailing lists addressing thousands or tens of thousands of their neighbors. State parties are not accountable for any measurable goals whatsoever.
Secondly the state parties receive next to nothing in the way of advice or assistance from the national party, which itself has no physical office and no press or social media operation. Like the state parties, the national Green Party isn’t accountable for any measurable goals either.
Thirdly the national leadership of the Green Party is diffused among the national steering committee, and more than 20 other committees and a half dozen or more caucuses, none of which are directly accountable to any other body than the entire GP national committee as a body. The GP’s national committee has next to no tradition of lively debate or discussion about party policy, and in practice exercises no oversight whatsoever of the committees and caucuses it creates, or of the national steering committee. Instead of political oversight and comparative discussions of party building methodologies, the GP national committee has occupied itself with an endless stream of busywork.
Fourth, in place of political accountability and democracy the GP has substituted a literal forest of rules, bylaws, policies and procedures which serve to protect its leaders from internal democracy, and from being held responsible for the sorry state of the GP.
Fifth, many Greens are confused about the differences between political campaigns and political parties. This is why some other activists justifiably deride Greens as those folks who only show up when it’s election time. It’s why state Green parties have rarely if ever tried to establish physical offices – in Georgia we expect to have our first on or about May 1, 2019. A campaign aims for short term mobilization, and only needs to do enough political education to register voters and chase them out to the polls, while political parties in most of the world are year-round affairs that organize neighborhoods, labor unions, group self-help efforts and mass empowerment activities of all kinds. If our Green parties cannot develop and adapt models like this to the US, we’ll never have nice things, and the nice thing I’m talking about is a fighting Green Party.
For Black Agenda Radio, I’m Bruce Dixon. For full disclosure I’m co-chair of the Green Party in Georgia too. Black Agenda Report is one of the news outlets suppressed in Google search results and other social media, so the only way you can be certain you’re getting fresh news, information and analysis from the black left is to visit our site at www.blackagendareport.com and hit the subscribe button. Do that and you’ll have our free weekly email newsletter delivered to your email inbox each and every week with links to all our newly published print and audio content.
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