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Metro Detroit Greens (Wayne, Oakland & Macomb Counties)

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From January 21 pot luck meeting

Elections Alone Won't Nurture a Third Party Movement

"The Greens don't want to elect new rulers. The Greens want to enable people to make the rules. Real democracy requires new institutions through which people can participate in the formulation of policy and then can monitor policy implementation by their elected representatives." (GPUSA National Green Program)

While Green Party candidates achieved significant support at a number of local, state, and national levels during this past election, that support was frustrated by a variety of structural impediments built into the electoral system. Certainly, structural changes, such as preferential and proportional representation, may facilitate third party advances. On the other hand, the underlying social base for political change must also be nurtured in order to develop both the attitude and activity for change. People succumb to "lesser evilism," fatalism and cynicism not only because of the corruption of the "winner-take-all system," but also because of their own lack of autonomy, freedom, and interdependence. Hence, creating a context for autonomy, freedom, and interdependence is essential to building a third party movement that will engage people outside of the electoral arena.

The following three areas of civic engagement are key to developing a grounded third party movement: 1) coalition building; 2) civic projects; 3) counter cultural connections. Each of these areas allows for critical outreach and growth, as well as creating a context for practicing autonomy, freedom, and interdependence. Neglecting these areas will undoubtedly undermine the possibility for rooting the Greens into the everyday life of activists and supporters.

Obviously, coalition building is the first point of outreach. One cannot assume that the Greens will grow solely on the basis of support for ideas alone. There needs to be a sense of shared purpose to engage others in the belief that a Green Party is not about electing political entrepreneurs with no relationship to their constituents. Hence, Greens need to demonstrate a commitment to the issues reflective of our values which are being put into operation by a variety of local and national groups, from campaigns against police brutality to anti-death penalty efforts, from saving local communities to fighting against global warming. Whenever and wherever particular chapters can interface with groups fighting for our issues, we should move to such coalition work.

Civic projects can either grow out of such coalition work or issue from the needs and energies of a local chapter. Chapters could work on specific projects that seem most pressing to their situation and develop a practice that can inform the work of the state Greens. Hence, chapters might want to avoid doing the same kinds of projects in order to avoid too much duplication. On the other hand, chapters should share resources when it comes to offering another form of the civic project - public forums and educationals.

Beyond coalition-building and civic projects what really has sustained oppositional movements throughout history is counter-cultural connections. Here in the US, counter-cultural connections in the form of cooperatives became the basis for the successful organizing efforts of the Populist Party in the 19th century. We need to consider the ways to generate such cooperative networks or to take advantage of those already in place. Anti-nuke and environmental movements developed a whole series of counter-cultural practices that energized activists for other political work, such as the movements against corporate globalization. Without alternative sites of creating and consuming daily life, our third party movement will be little more than an empty electoral shell.

If, as our program contends, "Greens stand for a new politics of grassroots democracy, where the elitist structures of representation today are transformed into new institutions of popular participation and power," we need to plant and nurture those grassroots. Coalition-building, civic projects, and counter-cultural connections are all about planting and nurturing the grassroots. We should start digging in as soon as possible because we have a lot of growing to do.

Fran Shor
Metro Detroit Greens


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