The Greens under pressure

Louis Proyect lnp3 at
Sat Nov 8 10:08:20 MST 2003

The latest issue of the Nation Magazine has an article by Micah Sifry 
( that is meant to 
reinforce tendencies within the Green Party to act as an appendage of the 
Democratic Party, as a kind of tail on a kite. As author of "Spoiling for a 
Fight: Third-Party Politics in America", Sifry would appear to be an 
advocate of independent political action. However, in his view there is a 
time and a place for everything:

"I love Ralph and respect his legendary accomplishments and example, but 
another Nader run as a Green or independent without an explicit and binding 
agreement to concentrate on safe states would be a terrible mistake."

Sifry is in strong agreement with Green Party leaders such as John 
Resenbrenck, whose website ( urges a kind of 
backhanded support for the Democratic Party candidate for president, 
whoever he is:

the Green Party runs home grown Greens for President and Vice President 
in a vigorous campaign that includes, at the beginning, the stated 
intention to be ready to a) give their support to the Democratic ticket 
late in the campaign if the race between the R and D candidates is very 
close; or b) if the race between the D and the R candidates is very close, 
to concentrate only in states where the outcome between the D and the R 
candidates is not in doubt."

Not that I would accuse people like Resenbrenck of channeling the ghost of 
Earl Browder, but this formula is eerily evocative of the kind of maneuvers 
pulled by the CPUSA when FDR was president. They ran their own campaigns, 
but always with the message of "stopping fascism", in other words whoever 
was running against FDR.

I was more than a little bit dismayed to see MR editor Robert McChesney 
suckered into this line of thinking. In an email to Sifry, he writes: 
"Running a presidential candidate in 2004 for the Greens is probably a 
quantum leap off a cliff. It is the Greens' Jonestown."

 From my point of view, it seems that backing the Democrats for the past 70 
years or so has been much more of a poisoned kool-aid exercise but--what 
the hell--I still think people like Eugene V. Debs and Malcolm X had the 
last word on the two party system.

Not surprisingly, Sifry concurs with Green leader Medea Benjamin who "wants 
the Greens to be players in the presidential election, but only if the 
overarching goal is beating Bush." As most people know, she is a key figure 
in the UfPJ coalition that is wilting under pressure to elect a Democrat in 
2004, even if it is somebody like Howard Dean who says, "We have no choice. 
It's a matter of national security. If we leave and we don't get a 
democracy in Iraq, the result is very significant danger to the United States."

He also smiles on the looming candidacy of Texas Green Party leader David 
Cobb, who has stated that he will withdraw from the race if either Dennis 
Kucinich or Al Sharpton is the Democratic nominee. Since the likelihood of 
either of these two men being selected by the corporate bosses of the 
Democratic Party is below zero, Cobb's vow seems moot at best. More to the 
point, he--like Benjamin, McChesney and Resenbrenck--does not seem to grasp 
the fundamental question of class independence in electoral politics.

For radicals in the USA, the key challenge has been resisting the power of 
big capital in building the mass movements. In turn, the trade union 
movement, the woman's liberation movement, the black struggle and the 
ecology movement have all been derailed to one degree or another by support 
to the Democratic Party (and in rare instances, like Hoffa's Teamsters, for 
the Republicans). NOW, for example, did everything it could to get women 
off the streets and into the voting booth. They were rewarded for their 
efforts recently as key Democratic Party politicians, including Tom 
Daschle, voted for a "partial birth abortion" ban (a procedure that should 
really be called by the politically neutral and scientific term 
'dilation-and-extraction'). And with the exception of Robert Byrd, the 
Ernest Gruening of 2003, the Democrats seem prepared to give the President 
every penny that he is looking for to keep the occupation of Iraq going. 
And even more to get the job done.

Somebody should write a history of the Democratic Party one of these 
days--I might do it myself. "Lesser evil" illusions in this party cut to 
the very heart of class politics in the USA. As Peter Camejo said on the 
aftermath of his bid for governor in the recent recall election, the 
Democrats in the USA started the war in Vietnam and a Republican brought it 
to an end.

The Democratic Party has a completely undeserved reputation as a friend of 
the "little man" going back to Andrew Jackson's time. Arthur Schlesinger 
Jr. and other liberal historians portray the Jackson presidency as a kind 
of revolution in the name of workers and small farmers, while Marxists such 
as Harry Braverman (writing as Harry Frankel) identify it as the triumph of 
the southern plantocracy. (Jackson was a slave-owning plantation owner.)

With the exception of FDR, who was responding in Bonapartist fashion to the 
threat of socialist revolution when he enacted New Deal legislation, every 
Democratic Party politician has ruled openly in favor of big business. They 
also have been the quintessential party of overseas imperialist 
intervention. Most importantly in light of Dean's confederate flag gaffe, 
they were a party that relied on a southern segregationist wing until 
Nixon's "southern strategy" took shape.

Louis Proyect, Marxism mailing list:

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