Monday, June 28, 2004

Mini-Debate over Green Decision vs Nader

Comments on Green Party Decision
from Carl Davidson & Bob Swartz on Indymedia

Re: Green Party Refuses to Back Nader for President
Submitted by Bob

Put aside the issue of Nader ego-driven flawed strategy vis-a-vis the Greens. Also put aside David Cobb's party building efforts.

The Green decision to back a candidate who promises to give "anybodybutbush" Kerry a free ride in the so-called "swing states," is a victory for people who still don't understand the necessity of breaking with the Democrats.

Breaking with the Democrats needs to be a centerpiece of any program leading to a break with the damn corporate enterprise.

Re: Green Party Refuses to Back Nader for President
Submitted by Carl Davidson
Contrary to Bob, I think the Green Party made the best decision for itself and for progressives generally. First, they aimed the main blow at Bush and the NeoCons. Second, by fielding candidates and a platform, they distinguished themselves from the Democrats in the electoral arena and maintained their ballot status gains from the past. Third, by adopting the "swing state" tactic, they strengthened their internal unity and their alliances with nonpartisan progressives beyond their ranks. Fourth, by emphasizing party-building from the base upward, they will come out of the election stronger than when they entered it.

That's what counts for third party success in these times in my book.

Bob's "scorched earth" approach is one of aiming the main blow at the Democrats, especially the more progressive "conciliators" among them, in order to effect a radical rupture NOW as a matter of "principle." That's what I assess as the subtext of his argument. Even if it didn't help re-elect Bush, it would leave the Greens deeper split internally and more isolated from most of their progressive and left allies. If they did spell the difference in helping a Bush victory, it would take them decades to recover, if ever.

The problem with the right wing of our movement is that they're all tactics and no strategy; the problem with our ultralefts, however, is that they are all strategy and no tactics. Both are recipes for failure.
See also:

Re: Green Party Refuses to Back Nader for President
Submitted by Bob Schwartz
That the Democratic party is the "graveyard" of progressive movements is a fact ignored by Carl Davidson. We keep running up this hill time and again, only to slide down the other side.

Carl and I have both been around long enough to go thru this run-up several times.

Sure, I have a principle that it is wrong to work for and vote for Democrats. A fact as well known to Carl as to myself, is that both parties are parties of big business.

For the Green nominee to advocate for Kerry is to jettison the independence of the Green party, no matter how incisive its program might be. How can one party endorse a candidate of another party, and still be independent of that party? Or be taken seriously by voters looking for an alternative?

Of course party building is critical to the future of the Greens, but entering thru the back door to back the candidate of another party is poison.

Re: Green Party Refuses to Back Nader for President
Submitted by Carl Davidson
The Democratic Party isn't the only "graveyard" of progressive movements, if you want to put it that way; the same can be said for any number of third parties as well.

The Democratic Party's leading core, its "corporate caucus" so to speak, frequently co-opts progressive movements by subordinating and dividing their leadership, fragmenting their programs, and demobilizing their insurgencies through partial reforms--"giving up a little to protect a lot," at least for a time.

Third parties, on the other hand, often derail or confine progressive movements to the margins of society, isolate them from allies, and keep them from wielding power, except as indirect "pressure groups" that, consciously or unconsciously, rely on the corporate liberals of the "corporate caucus" to implement some portion of their demands. They become co-opted into a semi-permanent extraparlimentary opposition, fired up now and then when the corporate liberals in power need a little "street heat" in dealing with their rivals.

Almost every third party I can think of has, to some degree, bragged about their co-optation, ie, about how at least some part of their program was implemented by one or another of the two major parties, even if it never wielded power or got more than a relative handful of votes itself.

Yes, we have had this discussion before--"same old, same old" for the last 40 years of my life, at least. You can take articles written advocating both sides of this question from 30 years ago, change the names of the wars, a few issues, a few statistics, and a few people, and run them again and it would be hard to see the difference.

It's time for something new. Each side of this argument is mainly right about the other side, but has serious problems about itself. Those working as progressives in the Democratic party, for instance, have no strategy (that I know of) for ridding the party of the control of the corporate caucus. The third parties, on the other hand, have no tactics for winning over those who vote or work for Democrats--other than demanding "clean breaks" on "principle," which may count as ineffective propaganda but not effective tactics. They often end up avoiding many arenas where the fight is actually going on.

Here's an irony. The left has hundreds, even thousands of nonprofit, tax-exempt 501C3 organizations all across the country. It's one of the first things new insurgent groups often clamor for. But there are two main requirments for a 501C3: first, you are not allowed to campaign for a candidate; second you are not allowed to campaign for a specific piece of legislation.

In other words, if you are an anarchist or otherwise opposed to electoral politics, the foundations will fund you, just as long as you stay that way and only indirectly lobby for your cause--no political parties or electoral groups, please. I'm not saying we should totally abandon 501C3s, but isn't there a deeper lesson here? Hasn't our movement suffered from co-optation from the "left" as well as the right?

I think some of the answers are in this direction:

First, in order to do electoral politics, you have to have something to do electoral politics WITH. Otherwise, whatever postions you take, it's just so much "left" posturing. In my book, that starts with community-based groups that belong to themselves, that have their own voter lists, contacts, funding sources, allies and leaders. They start winning campaigns and positions locally and work their way up, federating with like-minded groups in other areas along the way. Second, they understand that you can vote against someone without "endorsing" that someone's rival (unless, of course, they want to.) Our group, Peace and Justice Voters 2004, isn't endorsing anyone. We will just bring tens of thousands of new progressive voters to the polls for "Regime Change" in November, voters who will decide for themselves whether to vote for Kerry, Nader, Cobb or even, in rare instances, Bush. Our main impact will be, predictably, against Bush and the neo-cons, but we are not endorsing Kerry or building his organization. We are building our organizations, organizations that will have to continue the struggle against the White House and the war regardless of the occupant.

Second, we have to campaign for electoral reform BETWEEN elections--Instant Runoff, Proportional Representation, Allowance of Fusion, etc. Without these, we are forever inflicted with the two-party system.

Third, we need a program of radical structural reform that contests not only the maldistribution of wealth, but also the creation of wealth on the micro as well as the macro level. It is mainly in these campaigns that the people themselves are schooled in becoming the masters of society.
See also:

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