[Marxism] Bruce Dixon on the Green Party

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Tue Aug 15 18:42:12 MDT 2017

“Hide nothing from the masses of our people. Tell no lies. Expose lies 
whenever they are told. Mask no difficulties, mistakes, failures. Claim 
no easy victories...”
Amilcar Cabral

IN 2017

It was the most obvious thing to do after the 2016 election. But we 
didn’t do it. Why? Why didn’t the national Green Party send Jill Stein 
and Ajamu Baraka out on a couple of winter and spring victory laps 
around the country to raise money for GP local organizing?
Whatever the reasons, the victory lap tour never happened. It took until 
July 23 for the Green party to even approve a single fundraising letter 
over the signatures of both its 2016 candidates. How much money did the 
party lose by NOT using its former candidates for a couple victory laps 
around the country? We’ll never know exactly but the Stein campaign 
raised and spent about $3.5 million over about 16 months, and the 3 
state recount effort pulled in another $7 million in under a single 
month’s time. So it seems entirely reasonable that sending Jill and 
Ajamu out to beat the drums in the winter and early spring of 2017 
should have netted a couple million dollars for the party after 
expenses, maybe a bit more.

I’m on the GP’s national committee, one of about 150 people from around 
the country. The national committee elects a handful of people to the 
steering committee each year. The steering committee are the ones 
actually responsible for making things happen, or failing to make them 
happen. But the reality is that after the yearly election of steering 
committee members, the national committee pretty much goes to sleep, 
leaving the steering committee, secretary and fundraising chair to do 
pretty much what they like, or do nothing.


Unfortunately Greens do not possess a tradition of robust and respectful 
internal debate, in which proponents and opponents of particular 
policies argue before the membership. Socialists do that, and Greens do 
not behave like socialists. Maybe we ought to. The GP steering committee 
functions pretty much in the dark. The national committee in practice 
exercises NO oversight whatsoever of the steering committee. There 
simply isn’t any pointed and principled debate and discussion on party 
practices and policies on the national committee, and many leading SC 
members think this is perfectly normal and OK.

I didn’t begin to understand this until early this summer when AMC asked 
me to endorse her candidacy for steering committee. I agreed to do so, 
but told her we had to have a long talk first so I could better 
understand what she is doing on the SC, and what the biggest issues were 
before that body. Casting a vote is one thing. Being able to explain 
that vote to others in an endorsement letter was something different 
which required more information.

Between the time I agreed to endorse AMC for the SC and the time I wrote 
the endorsement, Jill Stein came to Georgia for our state annual 
meeting. She stayed in my home the night before so we had a 40 minute 
morning drive to the meeting site. Jill also wanted to talk about the 
steering committee election. She asked me to vote for both candidates 
with the initials GM along with JL, AR and somebody else, I forget who. 
What she didn’t do is tell me anything about what great people her 
candidates were, what they would do for the party that present SC 
members would not. Instead Jill spent the whole ride talking about what 
bad steering committee members AMC (and another SC member who was not up 
for re-election this year) were, how these people were constant and 
unprincipled blocks to progress and so on. Tellingly, Jill never 
mentioned the specific issues on which progress was being blocked. I 
told her I was supporting AMC, but I eventually cast down-ballot votes 
for two of Jill’s candidates.

A week or so later I had a two hour talk with AMC. I asked her what the 
biggest problem on the SC was right now. To my amazement and dismay she 
told me that no post-election victory lap tour had been done, and it was 
the last half of June! I asked why not. She said that a proposal had 
been sitting on Jill’s desk for six months. Repressing the urge to throw 
my phone into the woods behind my house, I told AMC that if Jill had 
been sitting on this for a week, for two weeks I might agree.
But a six month delay, I told her, is the fault of everybody involved, 
the steering committee, the fundraising chair AND the candidate. All of 
them are supposedly grown and green. All are allegedly committed to the 
success of our party, despite whatever differences. All the responsible 
parties are in theory accountable to the party’s national committee, to 
party members and supporters around the country, and to the struggle 
itself. It was the job of these grown and green people to sit down, to 
get with each other on the phone or in person and figure out how make 
this happen in a timely manner.

Failing that, it was their job, after a month or so to bring their 
inability to reach any agreement to the national committee. The 
fundraising chair should have done this. AMC was the SC’s liason to the 
fundraising committee. She should have done it. If this didn’t happen 
and it did not, it was the job of the other SC members to blow the 
whistle and break the impasse. If they couldn’t do it on the steering 
committee it was their job to take it to the national committee. Same 
with the fundraising chair and with Jill’s faction, who have seats on 
the NC and SC. They were all obligated to put the matter before the 
whole national committee in order to force a solution so we could get 
the party that couple million dollars in victory lap money for local 
organizing. None of them did their job.

This kind of colossal failure on the part of multiple leadership levels 
is not so much the fault of the individual persons as it is a result of 
our party’s defective internal culture, its lack of transparency and 
oversight, and the absence of democratic traditions of persuasion, 
debate and what socialists call principled ideological struggle. In this 
respect, the folks over at Democratic Socialists of America are light 
years ahead of us. At least they put their differences in writing and 
try to debate them before their membership. We don’t. That has to 
change. There are plenty of avowed socialists in this party. They need 
to stop hiding, stop being watermelons – green oun the outside red on 
the inside-- and lead.

I never asked Jill or the fundraising chair why they failed for several 
months to involve the national committee in the resolution of this 
problem. I did ask AMC, on the that same phone call. She said in effect, 
that the SC has a tradition of working in isolation, and she felt 
besieged and alone, so she collapsed under the pressure and did not 
reach out.

Instead of taking the problem to the national committee, making the 
inability to agree on a victory lap fundraising tour an issue of party 
policy to be transparently aired and discussed and debated, Jill’s 
faction took the low and easy road, aiming to remove AMC from the 
steering committee without changing the party’s defective culture. They 
conducted a conducted a sleazy negative campaign against AMC’s person, 
calling her six kinds of racist, alleging that she somehow defiled the 
Standing Rock camp, that she conspired to run all the environmentalists 
and white people out of the Colorado party, and other nonsense.
Jill’s own candidates didn’t campaign for themselves, perhaps relying on 
Jill doing it for them, and on the negativity directed against AMC to 
carry them. No candidates except MD and AMC contacted me to ask for my 
vote, even though the contact info for all 150 steering committee 
members is public, and we are all on multiple party listserves. One of 
Jill’s SC candidates, JL made the incredible assertion that he “didn’t 
know he was supposed to campaign,” although he has run for public office 
multiple times. When I pointed this out on the NC listserve, incumbent 
steering committee members DM and AR unashamedly replied that they 
didn’t campaign for their SC seats either, and that this was the norm! 
According to them it’s perfectly normal and OK for the Green Party to 
elect its highest officers without debate or discussion as though we 
were a small family, not a national party in a country of 300 million 
which imagines it can help change the world.

There are no forums, no running discussions in which party activists and 
leaders can constructively analyze our opportunities, successes and our 
mistakes. It’s not a matter of plaIn test listerves VS forums and chat 
applications with pretty fonts and emojis. What we lack is a tradition 
in which we put our differences up for inspection before party members, 
activists and leaders, and struggle through those differences to achieve 
some clarity on our present situation, our past victories and defeats 
and our future prospects.

If the founders of this party had been informed by and part of the 
socialist tradition, they would have tried to bake this kind of 
democratic mutual accountability into the party’s practices and rules. 
But they were not and they did not. The founders of this party were 20th 
century US liberals. Liberals have never built political parties 
governed by their members anyplace on earth. Liberals let the 
self-selected, the best educated, those with the most time and money to 
give assume the leadership, and manipulate the followers. That liberal 
approach cost our party a couple million bucks this year. It’s not the 
model of leadership the Green party needs if it is to become a mass 
party of the left.

The bad news is that what our party is doing ain’t working. But the good 
news is that there are time tested models of how internally democratic, 
transparent and accountable leadership works. These models are the 
traditions that socialist parties (when they were on their game) have 
practiced for a hundred years. Only some new traditions of these types 
will rescue and protect the Green party from shooting itself in both 
feet again. And again.

Bruce A. Dixon
bdixon at georgiagreenparty.org
Marietta GA
August 15, 2017

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