What a Serious Third Party MUST do

by Mark A. Lause, North Star editorial board member on July 19, 2016

mark lause

Mark A. Lause

A political party that’s actually going to offer what the Green Party has repeatedly stated that it wants has to provide several things.  I think this is particularly worth doing since we are experiencing an explosion of interest in alternative politics.

  • Public and publicized meetings accessible to Green voters. A party is not an NGO, a lobbying group, an association for veterans of petitioning past, or a club that exists primarily to distinguish between members and nonmembers.  A serious third party is not going to be like the twin corporate parties in that it belongs ultimately to its adherents.  If you have leaders who say they don’t want people they don’t know attending meetings, remove them to where they can have a positive influence.
  • You need a clear agenda, circulated ahead of time so people considering attendance know what’s up. If you want people to contribute time, attention and money to any project, you owe it to them not to waste what they’re contributing.
  • Meetings need to have political content. Again, we are not a social club . . . or an NGO lobbying group.  Particularly if you want to involve people volunteering over the internet—to help in campaigns or run for public office—you’d better have a mechanism for talking politics with them.  If you have leaders who say that people drawn to third party concerns aren’t interested in hearing about or discussing politics, reassign such leaders to where they can be of use.
  • There must be a chair of some sort to maintain order. The last local meeting I attended spent three hours of my life deciding whether to participate in an annual Fourth of July parade in which it has always participated and every year.  I would never send anyone I seriously want to involve in insurgent politics to such a meeting, which couldn’t be more designed to drive people off.  (And that was far from the least political meeting.)
  • There should be a record of decisions—or, more clearly, there should be decisions—that participants in a meeting can rightly feel that they actually own.

These are just starting points, of course, but they seem bloody obvious.   Frankly, these are what should be the swallow reflect or breathing for any political organism that aspires to live.  Yet, for the last 15-20 years, I have always found them treated as controversial when I raise them.  Given our current circumstances, I think it is useful to raise them in a more public venue.

I’m quite willing to elaborate on the need to make each of these points explicit.

In closing, we’re living in a civil society that’s all about appearances and going through the motions rather than matters of substance.  The other day, I was informed of a political “meeting” that would be taking place an hour and a half after I got the notice.   I have also gotten “all out” demonstration calls on a few hours notice.  None of this was in response to any emergency situation.  In a community of a thousand Green voters, meetings that draws no more than will git into an elevator should trouble participants.  More troubling to me, though, is the fact that it really doesn’t seem to trouble them.

On the surface, this is all part of a habit of just going through the motions, but there’s deeper problems behind it.  Little circles of self-important power-brokers might well support a rare campaign here or there to mobilize a protest vote to kick candidates or one or the other corporate parties into being more ‘liberal.”  However, they will never get serious about building a real third party alternative, because they ultimately don’t think it will be necessary.

When I assumed a position in the state committee, I openly declared my goal was a party where neither I nor most of the other members of the state committee would be in those positions in five years.  Events persuaded me that there really wasn’t much general interest in having to go out of their way to build a party that would outgrow their leadership.

All this reflects the civic miseducation of a narcissistic society—the notion that politics is all about people getting to see themselves as especially radical or particularly virtuous in their activism or as keepers of the institutional faith.  People really need to understand that politics is not about their immediate individual self-comfort but the construction of a wider 24/7 movement to remake a better society.

Certainly, too, this preoccupation with self-comfort is projected a pretended concern about the self-comfort of others.  The other day, I was told the other day by one of the many would-be national candidates (not Jill Stein) that my arguments for an effective unity of the Left was alienating younger radicals by implying that they’re being ineffective.  This is how large corporate entities strive to reposition themselves as advocates for the very people they’ve been oppressing and exploiting for generations.

Let me be clear.  The problem isn’t the ineffectiveness of younger radicals, but the preoccupation of their elders with their own self-importance and their ungrounded faith that, somehow, without any serious thought a blueprint will emerge . . . or that a blueprint will magically appear out of a consciously unorganized muddle.

2016 provides us the opportunity to do what we were not in a position to do in 2012 . . . and to reverse the backpedaling some in the party leadership have been doing since 2000.  We MUST get serious.

We MUST organize this election with an eye to what we need to do in 2018 and 2020 and beyond.

We MUST build a party.

 

{ 22 comments… read them below or add one }

Maura Yasin July 19, 2016 at 2:02 pm

I agree that a 3rd party is desperately needed in light of how far the 2 corporate parties monopolize the airwaves.

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Thomas F Barton July 19, 2016 at 2:06 pm

The first week in July I attended a Green Party public meeting in Manhattan, with a panel of speakers.

The chair announced that only questions to the speakers were allowed following the presentations, but not comments, from the audience.

So much for fake posturing about openness and democracy.

It is certainly in order to say that comments from the audience will be limited to two or three minutes, so avoiding those who drone on and on forever, or to say that no one may speak twice before everyone who wishes to has spoken once.

Testing reality, I spoke with a panelist and an audience member to confirm this limit on commenting had been announced. Confirmed.

The assumption that people who come to hear a talk have nothing whatever useful to say, no useful contribution to make, but only may submissively ask questions, speaks louder than anything coming from the panel.

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Charles Meserve July 19, 2016 at 3:31 pm

I can understand your frustration, however a comment creates a dialogue. Is it possible that in the interest of time, they’d might have needed a question that can actually be answered on the spot, without a long complex dialogue of expression of ideas and thoughts at that time? Because, honestly, the place you are talking about had a panel of speakers, that to me shows me it was more of an informational meeting, which what they requested makes sense. Did you try to find out when you had other types of meetings or maybe arrange a one on one meeting, either face to face, via email, or over the phone with someone to possibly take part in that conversation. It sounds like a time and place issue.

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Sheena July 19, 2016 at 2:31 pm

I believe what you are saying here is that the younger generation of voters who are backing the Green Party, Libertarian , or any other independent party or cause need to get more disciplined, unified, and organized. I totally agree, but HOW do we begin to do that? You have to understand that we mean well, most of us are new to politics all thanks to Bernie! I am 31 yrs old, and voting for Bernie in the primaries was the FIRST time that I have ever voted! I did not care about politics before because I did not trust politicians! You can tell when someone’s crooked, or not honest ect. So, we need to find a way to unify all the movements going on right now because all in all, we all seem to have the same views, morals, and a common goal. We are just getting started! So I say to you sir, HAVE A LITTLE FAITH IN US ;)

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Ed Griffith, New Progressive Alliance July 19, 2016 at 2:53 pm

Excellent advice! See also So You Want to Run for Office – http://www.newprogs.org/so_you_want_to_run_for_office

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Brandy Baker July 19, 2016 at 6:14 pm

Thanks Mark.

I think I am going to write a piece not to rebut you, as I agree with you, but to add to the discussion.

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kate gallion July 19, 2016 at 7:09 pm

I concur 100% with your assessment of the local Green Party conduct and behavior. This is not a serious political entity. I see no political leadership within it’s minuscule closed ranks, and I do not have faith that the handful of stalwarts have the courage to face the truth of the obstructive and self serving personalities within. It is a social club. It is a pity that the keeper of the history and lists is also a classic “gatekeeper. Interested in having and holding info and access, refusing to share even the most basic info or open the gates for new members and input. 100% lip service. No moral imperative.
My collaborator and I were given a unique opportunity to sit down with Dr. Stein to conduct an interview for Streetvibes. This self important local cadre interjected themselves into the process, correcting, making their own points and genuinely destroying what could have been a “podcast-able” interview. Dr Stein repeatedly asked them to control themselves, saying, “Please stop. THIS is how WE do media.” They could NOT, would not comply. Appalling childish behavior. I wish I could say- it’s ONLY Hamilton County Greens who disfunction in this way, but I’ve been on enough National GPUS Facebook groups to see it manifested endemically. It’s a chaotic situation bottom to top. If Dr. Stein were able to seize this moment, with some professional political campaign staff at her avail, she could potentially capture both the Bernie Sanders playbook and funding model (which she told us she wants to do) She is already seeing the numbers and money surge– but the system has been so dysfunctional and ill built, it crashed on first flush. The burning questions are, how does she overcome the culture of the Green Party, and capture the Sanders millennials? I say it’s worth the hard try, but I predict Green culture will defeat itself. Very sad today. Why can’t a new green entity emerge, how does one gain official status in the state party? Some things are so broken they cannot be DIY’ed into functionality. Ask yourself this simple question: if 500 people requested and voted a Green ballot in 2012- where are they and why don’t the participate. See above per dragons and gatekeepers and a non functioning local organization.

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paineite July 19, 2016 at 10:18 pm

That last bullet-point is called “keeping minutes” of the meeting. You know, people, we’ve done things this way for a long time for a reason — it works.

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Deran July 20, 2016 at 1:13 am

I’m still interested in the talk earlier this month (?) when there was talk that the US Green Party was considering being anti-capitalist? I’ve heard from Stein that indicates she is onboard with the US Greens being ecosocialist?

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Deran July 20, 2016 at 1:15 am

That should read “I’ve heard nothing from Stein…”

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Mark Lause July 20, 2016 at 11:44 am

The national committee passed the resolution in the form of an amended plank in the platform, but it has to be approved by the convention. The state party in Ohio discussed and endorsed it, though our reps in the national committee voted the way they wanted, so we can’t be entirely sure of the results . . . but i am fairly confident that the national convention in Houston will endorse it.

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Deran July 20, 2016 at 5:08 pm

Thank you.

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Brandy Baker July 20, 2016 at 7:13 pm

Two delegates in Maine also defied the will of their rank and file and voted against it (Maine was also a sponsoring state).

One of these delegates launched a pretty ugly attack on rank and file Greens who exercised their rights to contact GNC delegates. She called their messages “spam”

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Herbert A. Davis, Jr. July 21, 2016 at 11:06 am

Thanks for the interesting article. Several great points. The last meeting I attended did not have a chairperson identified and did not have minutes or sign ups for minutes. The “consensus” model without minutes does seem to be a ruse. After a “lady” shouted me down and threatened to disrupt the convention with BLM, all while I had the floor, the “moderator’ seemed to be in “oh well” territory. I support Jill Stein and the Green party and hope it grows through and beyond it’s current juvenile stage. I will still want an effective organization after all is said and nothing is done.

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Rick Kissell July 23, 2016 at 11:31 am

Ah yes, the “big frog in a small pond” leadership phenomenon. Another point to keep in mind: Historically, one of the tactics of Leninists functioning in broader movements was to deliberately delay decisionmaking in a meeting until most of their opponents had left, thereby leaving them in the majority of those remaining.

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Mark Lause July 24, 2016 at 2:39 pm

None of the people I’ve seen drag their feet at organizing a membership base call themselves Leninists and none of them are new to politics–quite the contrary on both scores.

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Brad Mayer July 29, 2016 at 12:55 pm

Can deeply sympathize with these comments. We must add that we are not building a “third” party. This expression is an American peculiarity that reflects the undemocratic – and positively antidemocratic – nature of the official political system. Right wing libertarians that constantly remind us that “this is a republic, not a democracy” are right! Just ask the Founders of the North American state.

We must act accordingly by building a mass movement for democracy – a *democratic* republic – in the USA. From a revolutionary and Marxist perspective this is a notch “below” a united front of workers’ political organizations, but there are no such organizations to make such a front with, and we must cast a wider net to speak to and draw in the much wider layers of marginalized “Lazarus layers” of the mass of wage laborers regardless of whether they are “productive” or not, organized or not.

The immediate aim is to intervene in the clearly fragmenting official political system at the municipal, state and federal levels. The ultimate strategic aim is to crack the system wide open to make way for the entrance of the social revolution, the transformation of democratic into social revolution. Note that the degree of “anti-democracy” varies with the level, with the municipal being the least (and least powerful, as the city lacks sovereign status in the still “agrarian republican” USA, another “democratic deficit”), and the federal being the most anti-democratic. That’s why an actual worker will never be POTUS, indeed the entire federal level needs to be swept away by the democratic revolution as each of the three institutions are inimical to the interested of the democratic majority the Founders hated and feared so much. Until then our party will be able to do no more than build a “thin wedge” at that level in the House. Their purpose will be to publicly expose how these bodies plot against the working class majority day and night. That requires taking on the worthless “progressive” Democrats presently seat-warming in districts political favorable to us who get re-elected unopposed election after election like its the Supreme Soviet or something.

Frankly the state level is not much better then the federal as the states were largely minted in the federal image, another anti-democratic feature of the US system. The Wisconsin “uprising” in the state capitol was a tragic possibility of what can be, when there is a political *party* movement to counter the backstabbing and misdirection of the Democratic capitalists, when not studiously ignored by Obama wagging his nose in the air.

Finally on narcissism, young people, etc. Commercial capitalist “culture” makes this inevitable, and we must be patient and especially let young people vent while persistently reminding all that a political party is not a society of self-flatterers. And narcissism is hardly the province of young people only.

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Brad Mayer July 29, 2016 at 1:45 pm

BTW, neglected to add that such a party must take up the *urban land question* first raised on a mass scale by Henry George in the 1880’s in NYC.

– Socialization of land and natural resource rents
– Municipalization of utilities and free public transit
– Intellectual property reform
– Anti-mercantilist cartel trade agreements (“free trade”, see below)
– Ballot reform (“Secret ballot”)
– Abolish the Fed, break up the banks, convert to public utilities (“Money creation, banking, and national deficit reform”)
– Universal income for all (“Citizen’s dividend and universal pension”)
– Cancellation of worker’s debt (“Bankruptcy protection and an abolition of debtors’ prisons)
Henry George also proposed the following reforms:
to dramatically reduce the size of the military,
to replace contract patronage with the direct employment of government workers, with civil-service protections,
to build and maintain free mass transportation and libraries,[60]
to extend suffrage to women,[61] and even to have one house of Congress entirely male and the other entirely female,
to implement campaign finance reform and political spending restrictions.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Henry_George

This is a veritable program of the democratic revolution in the USA, still unachieved today! After the 2008 crisis rooted in residential mortgages held by workers, and now with the endless rent-racking and the gentrifying bourgeois reflux into the urban cores, this traditional thread of the historical working class movement must be picked up again. George thought he could “purify” capitalist production, I think the subsequent historical record shows that capitalist production can’t exist without private property in the land, and is strangled without it.

Note also George was a “free trader”, but note that NAFTA, TPP, etc. pushed by the Democrats are not “free trade agreements”, but US-centric neo-mercantilist cartel deals. In fact the entire Cold War was a US organized neo-mercantilist cartel called the “free world”. Disregard the propaganda!

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Brad Mayer July 29, 2016 at 2:01 pm

One last thing quickly: Striking at the urban land question also means striking directly at the foundations of the political and social power of the Liberal Democrats. Who runs the governments of virtually all the big cities in the “blue states”, and a lot of the “red states” as well, one suspects? Who pushes the homeless around, who evicts workers, who advances gentrification? Who attacked Occupy all over the country? The same ones that chanted “USA! USA! USA!” at Clinton’s coronation like it was a Nuremberg rally for the Nazis! The effing Liberal Democrats!

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Homer August 4, 2016 at 2:29 pm

An agenda, a chair? Yes, and a some sort of version — usually simplified — of Robert’s Rules! I’ve been ranting about this to anyone who will listen for years. It would be great if the experience of Occupy Wall St’s consensus style meetings has turned a generation off to that form rule-less wrangling.

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Gayle Keks August 16, 2016 at 10:22 pm

The Commission on Presidential Debates announced Monday which national polls will be used to determine whether a presidential candidate meets the 15 percent polling threshold to participate in the general election debates. The commission did not provide a specific date for when a candidate must reach the 15 percent threshold, saying only that the criteria will be applied in mid-September.

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Aaron Aarons August 26, 2016 at 7:03 pm

What is going on here? We have a long article, plus 21 comments, about building a third, presumably leftist and environmentalist, party in the United Snakes without any mention of imperialism/colonialism nor, more surprisingly, of the biggest environmental issue — climate change/global warming! In particular, talking about building any kind of “left” organization in the main imperialist metropol without mentioning the problem of imperialism and its domestic reflection in nationalism, including working-class nationalism, is a “red flag”, so to speak, signalling the pre-programmed descent of such a party or organization into adaption to social imperialism.

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