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. Those are things we have to envision and experiment and try and fail and try again to bring into existence. They may never happen unless some of us begin working today and last week to make them happen.
I’m a state committee member the GA Green Party, in fact the state co-chair for now. The Green Party is far from perfect. It’s a great distance in fact from the revolutionary socialist party we so desperately need in the US just now, but at least it’s not in the unshakable grip of lying capitalist warmongers like the Republicans and Democrats.
There’s a time when you gotta do what the late Kwame Ture suggested, and look for some like-minded people to join with and engage in the struggle, even if you don’t agree with them on every last little thing, and collectively explore what it takes to bring this new world we want and our grandchildren deserve into being. It’s a long road with many trials, many serious errors, lots of analysis followed by corrections and still more trials. That’s the spirit that guided me to work for Democrats independent of the Daley Machine in Chicago in the 70s, 80s and 90s, and which has brought me to the Green Party a few years ago.
Founded by well intentioned liberals back in the 1990s, the Green Party has many serious structural defects. Internal party democracy fueled by a lively exchange of ideas, debates and discussion among its activists on what works and doesn’t work is something they never provided for. Each year the 150 member national committee elects reps to an 11 member steering committee which is pretty much unaccountable to those who elected them, and invisible to other Greens below the national committee. The party publishes no internal bulletin and there is nowhere to publish and discuss critical evaluations of party affairs. There are some official listserves, but all the space on these – frequently hundreds of comments per week – are taken up by the class of verbose retired white professionals and the spouses of white professionals who seem to have nothing else to do but join all the GP national committees and comment on the listserve about other people’s comments.
In my May 30 column, Why Our Green Parties Haven’t Taken Off, I noted that the GP does get a few important things absolutely correct, and briefly discussed some of its defects and difficulties as well – foggy politics, no organizing methodology, addiction to the models of Democrats and Republicans, and more. It’s a work in progress, often way more work than progress. Some of us are committed to transforming the Green Party into a 21st century left and socialist party, eventually capable of partnering in labor and other organizing ventures and competing for actual power. If we don’t succeed there will be some useful lessons learned.
Local Green Parties are doing some interesting work in Baltimore and North Carolina I understand. But a national party requires national leadership, among other things to propagate and duplicate local successes. A series of national crises is unfolding in the Green Party, one of which revolves around how it organizes its black, latinx, womens, lavender and other so-called identity caucuses. The Green Party gives automatic votes to these bodies but demands no specific reporting or other duties or accountability to the party, allowing them to constitute themselves in whatever way they please after submitting a list of their purported members’ names and email addresses.
As I explained last year in White Liberal Guilt, Black Opportunism and the Green Party, the GP’s identity caucus setup is
“...an artifact of white liberal guilt and the tokenism used to assuage it. White liberals look around and see there are too few blacks, Latinas and queers in their ranks. So they pass a rule that says they should get more. They look around for available black, brown and queer heads to fill the spots. They move over and they make room. That’s called diversity, and the black brown and queer faces recruited in this scheme are tokens. A revolutionary party, a mass based party of the left, which is what some of us are trying to build the Greens into requires something entirely different.
“...The Green party can only successfully grow black constituencies by recruiting outside the institutional bases of Democrats – outside the churches, the nonprofits and most unions. Rather than “making room” for black leadership the Greens will have to grow and/or recruit leaders with their own following outside the institutional strongholds of Democrats, black, brown and queer leaders who will bring their own room, their own space with them. It’s a lot easier said than done. Tokenism, elevating the blacks you already have in the room, is a lot quicker and easier. The problem is that token leaders like these bring no black followers with them. Which brings us to the Green party’s black caucus.
“The Green party’s black, Latinx, queer and womens caucuses are wonderful examples of elevating tokens instead of grooming and growing leaders. Green parties state by state are gradually adopting the model of mass based left parties everywhere else on planet Earth, making themselves into sustainable, internally democratic bodies based on dues paying memberships. Membership dues are the only reliable way for a mass organization to remain independent of one percenter funders. Having your officers responsible to a bloc of dues paying members is anchors those officers somewhere in your mass membership.
“But Green party caucuses don’t have dues paying members. They just have members, who are defined by showing up at online meetings...”
Actually it’s worse than that. At the time of its formation 14 years ago the GP black caucus submitted a list of 100 names and email addresses of black Greens across the country who wanted to enroll in this caucus. I’ve attended a few meetings over the last several years, and it’s a big meeting if a dozen people dial in. Lazily drawn caucus bylaws somehow approved by the GP require black caucus members to register as Greens or independents in their home state, despite the fact that 18 states, AL, AR, GA, HI, IL, IN, MI, MBN, MO, MT, NC, ND, SC, TN, TX, VT, WA and WI with just over half the nation’s African American population provide no means of partisan or “independent” voter registration. As near as anyone can tell, the black caucus, which last year demanded the entire GP steering committee resign because of alleged election hijinks, has failed to conduct the yearly elections its own bylaws require in two, three or more years. The caucus doesn’t report its meeting notices, its meeting quorums or share any membership data with the party, but it reserves the right to address – more precisely to Mau-Mau the party in the name of Black America. The party assigns no duties or responsibilities to the caucus and it acts accordingly at the whim of its purported officers.
Thanks to tokenism born of white liberal guilt, the black caucus has become a stronghold of opportunism, a virulently anti-democratic cancer at the heart of the Green Party. Some of its unaccountable and opportunistic characteristics may be shared by the party’s other identity caucuses too. I’ll be party to a complaint filed before the GP accreditation committee this weekend requesting the immediate suspension of the black caucus, the stripping it of its national committee votes, censure of its apparently unelected officers, and a minimum six month party-wide discussion of whether and how it can be reorganized.
For the umpteenth time, if there was a GP internal journal or discussion forum worth the name I’d have written this there months ago. But there ain’t no such thing yet. Maybe this will help spur others to create such a thing. And this is national left politics too, the left being much bigger than the Green Party. We mustn’t be afraid to let this bigger left see what we’re doing to fix our broken places and make ourselves a more fit instrument to carry on this fight. So it’s on.
We’re going to save the Green Party from its anti-democratic caucuses, born of white liberal guilt and tokenism, and from the opportunism they’ve enabled. Or not. Stay tuned.
Bruce A. Dixon is managing editor at Black Agenda Report and the co-chair of the GA Green Party. He lives and works near Marietta GA and can be reached via email at bruce.dixon(at)blackagendareport.com, or via Twitter @brucedixon.