Tuesday, 16 February 2021

On Green Socialism and Working Class Politics


First published at Pittsburgh Green Left

Green Socialism is inspired partly by traditional worker-oriented socialist views, but attempts to transcend class struggle by organizing popular struggle for true democracy, ecology, and freedom.

As we enter the second decade of the 21st century, ecological and social crisis exist simultaneously in multiple forms within the US and across the world. Global neoliberal capitalism has captured the world’s economic and political structures, and we feel the growing pressures of poverty and climate change under the threat of a pervasive police state.

These deteriorating conditions imply that historical socialist revolutionary movements have largely failed to produce the widespread change they described in their visions. There’s an increasing feeling, particularly by the youth, that the “old ways” are insufficient to confront 21st century capitalism and win — particularly with the climate change clock running out — and that a new form of social movement and politics is necessary to directly confront capitalism and broader ecological and social issues.

I believe the new model for the 21st century must be Green Politics, or what I will call “Green Socialism” here to distinguish from other tendencies that lay claim to the more broad term “eco-socialism”. Green Politics is today largely associated with the Green Party, however anyone can practice Green Politics in or outside of the Green Party.

A simplistic description of Green Politics might be to list the 4 pillars — grassroots democracy, peace, social justice, and ecological wisdom — and the 10 Key Values of the movement, but to create a deeper discussion of what Green Politics and Green Socialism really means, a good place to start might be to address some complaints and criticisms of the Green Party and Green Socialism that you have no doubt already heard, particularly from other socialists.

Left Voice for example ran an opinion piece by author Ezra Brain making “a socialist case against” the Green Party and Howie Hawkins, the party’s 2020 presidential candidate, which echoes a number of common leftist complaints against Green Politics. 

However these complaints often ring hollow, either as grave misunderstandings of the Green platform that betray a lack of deeper research and knowledge about the subject — ironically often appropriating bourgeois neoliberal talking points against Green Politics — or as legitimate complaints that have a feel of “stones thrown from glass houses” as those same complaints often apply to other socialist and leftist organizations in the US and simply illustrate the challenge of organizing against global neoliberal capitalism in the 21st century.

Not Merely “Environmentalism”

One of the first complaints Brain makes is that “the Green Party is organized around an ‘issue’ — the environment — rather than a class”. To understand how deeply flawed this statement is requires some background history on the Green Socialism movement. Rewind the clocks to the 1960s when numerous activist movements — the civil rights movement, the peace movement, the beginnings of an environmental movement spawned by outrage from books like Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring — are all growing in popular support and political power. These movements brought real change in the form of the end of segregation and the passage of the Civil Rights Act, the creation of the Environmental Protection Agency, and more.

However these changes were widely acknowledged to be a beginning, not an end point, and many activists wondered what the next step was. There was a growing sense that these issues were not independent issues but in fact connected in some mutual struggle. Martin Luther King, Jr., expressed a similar sentiment when he called out the “triple evils” of capitalism: poverty, militarism, and racism. The organization Greenpeace was formed by members of the environmental and anti-war movements joining together (Green + Peace). While cross-movement cooperation was growing, many activists still looked for a more cohesive ideology to better explain how these issues were interconnected, in a way that would guide future actions and demands.

This search led to a booming interest in leftist history and philosophy, with many activists finding themselves drawn to various leftist tendencies of socialism and anarchism. Enter socialist organizer and activist Murray Bookchin. Bookchin grappled with these tendencies and the issues himself, and after joining several socialist and anarchist groups in his youth, came to a few conclusions.

Firstly, Bookchin connected many of the dots between the different struggles and surmised that ecological crisis was rooted in social crisis. One cannot properly tackle ecological issues of climate change, “factory” farming, environmental damage due to industry, and more, without closely looking at the societies that produced it.

Upon deeper analysis, it becomes clear how capitalism’s exploitation of the working class for the benefit of the rich ruling class has led directly to capitalism’s exploitation and destruction of nature itself — the “Grow or Die” imperative of capitalism to always produce more and expand leads to not only stealing more wealth from the working class, but also to stealing and destroying more and more of nature. Instead of sustainable farming, for example, corporations deplete the soil and move on to new land “because it is cheap” — land often obtained “cheaply” historically via imperialist genocide of indigenous peoples living on such land. If we are to save the environment — nay, nature itself, including humanity — we must engage in struggle against capitalism and all forms of exploitation and dominance.

This struggle is what separates ecology from mere environmentalism. Taking the best ideas of socialism and anarchism and rooting them in an ecologically-based ethics, Bookchin created a political philosophy and praxis now known as Social Ecology.

Bookchin’s Social Ecology was well-received, and after some electoral success by the newly-formed German Green Party, members of the same civil rights, environmental, and anti-war movements gathered in the early 1980s to discuss forming a US Green Party. Bookchin and his Institute of Social Ecology hosted the first organizing meeting and strongly urged participants to adopt a social ecologist platform for the new party. Many participants were receptive to this message, and so the Left Green Network was formed shortly afterward to encourage continued discussion on creating a national Green Party built on social ecology and eco-socialist organizing principles.

The movements represented at the meeting essentially became the 4 pillars of the party — the civil rights (Social Justice), environmental (Ecology), and anti-war (Peace) movements, all linked by a common call for Grassroots Participatory Democracy and an acknowledgement that all of these issues were deeply intertwined and could only be resolved with mutual struggle to end capitalism and create real systemic change. This network eventually founded the Greens/Green Party USA (GPUSA) in 1991 — whose founding platform and strategy shows heavy influence from social ecology thought — which merged with other Green groups to form the Green Party of the United States (GPUS) in 2000.

The influence of social ecology and eco-socialism can still be found within the GPUS, and this was made more explicit in 2016 when the party platform was amended to specifically call itself an “anti-capitalist” party that advocated for a community-based economics often referred to as “eco-socialism”. Make no mistake — this isn’t a recent change of heart, but rather acknowledging what has always been.

Circling back to Brain’s comment that the Green Party is built “around an issue”, it should be clear now that this is nonsense. Ecology, not mere environmentalism, is a broader and more fundamental concept, recognizing that ecological crisis is rooted in social crisis, or stated another way, that our vision of an ecological society must also be, by necessity, a critique of capitalist society.

Greens acknowledge that existential threats like climate change can only be resolved when social crisis caused by capitalism’s “Grow or Die” profit imperative is ended — which will require ecologically-minded socialist modes of production and distribution, and a popular social movement for cultural, economic, and political change. Therefore at the heart of ecological crisis is a social crisis rooted in class struggle, and more broadly, popular struggle against all forms of hierarchy and oppression.

Misunderstanding State and Class

Brain next argues that “Socialism means workers’ control of the means of production through a workers’ state, as a step toward the disappearance of all social classes” before berating Greens and Howie Hawkins by stating “At the end of the day, the Green Party believes in an economy that is neither capitalist nor socialist but rather ‘eco-socialist’.” (Emphasis mine, for clarity.) I believe Brain is deriving his statement from the GPUS platform, however it is a very poor paraphrasing that misrepresents the actual party stance. Let’s first quote the GPUS platform Section (IV)(A)(4) here (emphasis mine):

The Green Party seeks to build an alternative economic system based on ecology and decentralization of power, an alternative that rejects both the capitalist system that maintains private ownership over almost all production as well as the state-socialist system that assumes control over industries without democratic, local decision making.

As Brain explains: “Many countries have nationalized industries, but that doesn’t make them socialist — the state is still controlled by the bourgeoisie”, to which Brain clarifies that the key difference is that socialist industry must be “under workers’ control”.

As the platform states above, Green Socialists reject capitalism as well as state-socialism without local decision making — in other words, Greens reject collective ownership without local democratic control. There’s no disagreement from Greens here that nationalization alone does not make socialism, but there is a more subtle distinction here that “workers’ control” referenced by Brain is not the same as “local decision making” referenced by the Greens. What’s the distinction and why is that important?

In the essay “Workers’ Control, Community Control, and the Cooperative Commonwealth”, Howie Hawkins writes about the failures of the workplace organizing model of many socialists over the last century. Many worker-centric organizing models and the once radical unions promoting those models have essentially devolved into “managers” of capitalism — perhaps with improved working conditions and wages, but also nowhere near the worker-controlled socialism that the movements originally envisioned.

Union leadership now typically cooperates with capital for contracts rather than continuing to demand more democracy and oppose private ownership in the first place. The “Growth or Die” imperative eventually captures even the staunchest worker co-ops and unions, because if you aren’t growing, you are being undercut by your capitalist competitors and losing sales, and therefore losing the ability to pay your own workers.

Owning the means of production alone also did not stop the advance of fascism in Spain and other countries during the early 1900s, and neither did it prevent the Russian soviets from being captured by the Bolsheviks into a centralized authoritarian state after the Russian revolution.

There’s also a certain parochial elitism that can grow from trade unions, in which members view themselves separately from other workers — in other words, rather than finding working class solidarity, trade unions in a capitalist system ironically sometimes create new classes and subclasses to further divide the working class.

It’s not hard to find today trade union members in the oil and gas industry that not only have failed to advocate socialism within their workplaces, not only work for an industry that is destroying the planet and its habitability for humans, but will vote Republican and actively look down on service industry workers for being “unskilled” labor that merely needs to “pull itself up by the bootstraps” if it wishes to do better — better like they have it in their unionized oil and gas jobs, presumably.

If our goal is a democratic and ecological society without class distinctions, there’s clearly a missing ingredient here beyond simply advocating worker control. At a minimum, the organizing must be industry-wide and cross-industry, but as we discussed above, even such whole industry movements have historically not been successful at toppling capitalism.

Aside from the elitism trades may develop among themselves, such a model completely leaves many groups out of economic decision-making entirely — young adults still in school, the disabled, the child-rearers, the elderly care workers, to name a few groups that live in the community and are affected by economic decisions but are not industry workers.

Hawkins therefore advocates a community-controlled economy, where the community as a whole democratically sets economic policy and goals, better ensuring that everyone who may be affected by such decision-making gets a say in the decision. Workplaces would still be unionized, but unions would become more administrative, making day-to-day workplace decisions in line with, and accountable to, the community-decided policy that takes precedence.

When Hawkins speaks of “nationalization”, what he’s really calling for is municipalization — placing the economy into the direct control of communities via municipal organizations. Nationalization of “key industries” only serves as a first step to halt capitalist control prior to “breaking industry up” for municipal control. If Brain can advocate a model of a socialist state as a first transitional step toward ultimately ending class distinctions and the state itself, it is unfair to then criticize Hawkins’ campaign platform for also speaking about transitional steps while ignoring Hawkins’ deeper vision and strategy.

I should also note at this point Brain’s attack on Hawkins’ focus on “key industries” as somehow being evidence of a lack of socialist policy, but this discussion makes clear the distinction. Some industries, like energy via the fossil fuel and nuclear industries, are huge national and international industries that are already very centralized — Hawkins is advocating nationalizing those centralized structures, and then either quickly decommissioning them (replacing fossil fuels and nuclear with renewable energy, for example), or breaking them up into local control. However, not every industry is so centralized today, nor needs to be — these other industries can directly change to municipal control today without any national action required.

One might think of agriculture, which can begin the path to municipalization today by community action toward community gardens, food co-ops, and the like. One needs only form a community movement, and through local self-governance, begin to create the structures needed; no nationalization or national directive required. There is no inconsistency here, although the tendency to grow movements “bottom-up” from municipal levels is much more common among anarchist circles and perhaps a bit foreign sounding to the “top-down” centralizing views of many socialists, so perhaps it isn’t a surprise that Brain did not pick up on this distinction.

Hence, there is a clear and important distinction between Brain’s “workers’ control” and the Hawkins and Green Socialist view of “local democratic control”. Brain may disagree with this conclusion, but that doesn’t make the Green Socialist view any less socialist for having a different take on how to best democratize the economy.

Popular Struggle and Multi-Classism

Let’s return to an interesting point made in the last section regarding trade unions. Hawkins noted a tendency for worker-oriented movements to ironically create more class structure and further divide the working class between various industry trades and so-called “unskilled” workers. Brain makes several digs at the Green Party and Hawkins for being a “multi-class party,” including that it “operates on the principle that it is possible to reconcile the conflicting interests of the working class and the capitalist class”.

It should be evident from the discussion above that this is yet again a misunderstanding and misrepresentation of Hawkins and a more general Green Socialist viewpoint. From Hawkins’ “Workers’ Control, Community Control, and the Cooperative Commonwealth” (emphasis mine):

After 150 years in which worker-oriented theories have dominated the Left, it is easy to forget that most of the high points of revolutionary upheaval in the last millennium have been communal peasant movements and urban municipal movements. From the free cities and the leagues or confederations they formed for periods from the tenth century on, through the many peasant uprisings seeking communal autonomy from oppressive landlords, the American and French Revolutions with their town meetings and neighborhood assemblies, and even such high points of ‘proletarian socialism’ as the Paris Commune of 1871 and the Spanish Revolution of 1936–37, it has been multi-class, popular movements aimed at local self-government in opposition to the centralized state that have shaken the foundations of hierarchical society, both feudal and capitalist. Indeed, in the larger historical perspective, it is the workers’ movement that is the ‘new social movement’ — and probably a transitory one corresponding to the rise and fall of the factory system.

To the contrary, for the last 40 years, it has been the transclass issues that have mobilized people — the so-called ‘new social movements’ around peace, the environment, feminism, gay liberation, racial equality, ethnic autonomy, community control, and a whole array of cultural movements that reject the alienated structure of needs and the compensatory consumption that have grown with the commodification of social relations. … The ‘immense majority’ today are the many alienated and oppressed sectors of society, not a single class defined by its relationship to the means of production. Economistic ‘class struggle’ is too one-sided and parochial to express the universalization of the struggle against multiple forms of hierarchy and irrationality. The democratic struggles of ‘The People’ better express this generalization of the struggle against myriad forms of domination than the two-class struggle of wage labor and capital.

The “one working class” originally envisioned by Marx and others has never actually materialized; as industrial capitalism has expanded into global neoliberal capitalism, if anything, the working class has stratified into various classes kept in tension with each other by the capitalist ruling class that exploits racism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia, xenophobia, even a fear of material scarcity and poverty, to maintain class distinctions. When Hawkins and Green Socialists speak of “multi-class” movements, we refer to uniting these various economic classes and social identities against their oppressors.

The struggle is not merely an economic class struggle at the point of production but a general popular struggle against all forms of hierarchy and oppression. Put another way: ending economic class distinctions alone will not immediately cure racism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia, or xenophobia. Ironically, even the article’s publisher Left Voice says in their “Who We Are” page that “We are against all forms of oppression. Class reductionism isn’t welcome here.

We participate in social movements and for the rights of oppressed people; we are active parts of the socialist feminist, environmental, Black Lives Matter, LGTBQ+, immigrants rights movements, and more.” (Compare the social movements listed here with those listed in Hawkins’ article, for example.) Brain’s critique of multi-class organizing misrepresents the Green position and comes dangerously close to a class reductionist point of view.

Popular struggle against hierarchy is the more fundamental struggle that Green Socialists try to focus on, for hierarchies affect not only social relations but also human society’s relationship with nature; yes, class struggle is a part of that struggle, but not the only or the ultimate struggle. It’s not less socialist, as Brain implies, to try to keep the overarching struggle against hierarchy and exploitation in perspective.

Municipalism as Electoral Revolution

Brain’s final major complaint is the perceived Green focus on electoralism. Brain states, “Real change cannot be won through elections — We win real concessions by protesting in the streets and challenging the capitalists’ control of the means of production.” The implication here of course is that Greens rely too heavily on, and advocate change primarily through, elections, but similarly to our previous arguments, this appears to again largely be a misunderstanding — this time about elections and the term “political party”.

Hawkins, in his letter announcing his candidacy for president, cites one of his major goals as “To build the Green Party as an activist and viable opposition to the two-capitalist-party system of corporate rule.” (emphasis my own). The Green Party has always had its roots in activism and direct struggle; Hawkins himself came from the direct struggle movements of the 1960s and 1970s, and has even been arrested several times during his protests. I do not believe any Green would object to the idea of “protesting in the streets” to demand change and challenge capitalism.

The real question is more: exactly how do we win real change, and what role does “protesting in the streets” — or electoralism, for that matter — play in that strategy? What we’re really asking about is how to build popular power, and there’s a few different angles on this.

Firstly, does “protesting in the streets” necessarily build power? It depends largely on what is being done in the streets — in other words, the context of the action. A large-scale non-violent civil disobedience action, for example occupying public offices and shutting down the ability to conduct normal business, gets the attention of decision makers in today’s system and can often work. However it does generally require a lot of planning and preparation, as well as large numbers of people, to be effective — the key being that the protest or action must inconvenience those in power to get noticed.

A smaller demonstration might not be noticed or “felt” by those in power. All too often, folks “protest in the streets” on a Saturday morning when there is no pedestrian or vehicle traffic, when the ruling class is out on the golf course or at the beach home, and so the action “in the streets” gets zero attention, puts zero pressure or attention on the decision makers, and most decidedly does not “get the goods”. History is unfortunately full of major labor strikes and actions that failed because they weren’t large enough, or not planned well-enough, to succeed at pressuring the ruling class for long enough to matter — several strikes sadly ended up with workers, unsupported by the unions that instigated the action, being unable to put food on the family table and the workers walking right back to their jobs.

Brain’s commentary does not address what’s required for effective action, nor does it describe what to do when the action is effective and the state decides to retaliate with violence, such as police arrests. In short, while it is the start of an answer, it is not an answer on it’s own — we must be well-organized and prepared before “protesting in the streets” can work.

Naturally, the question arises: what sort of organizing is necessary then? Previously, the labor union was discussed as being insufficient for organizing a truly democratic movement that was inclusive of the whole community, but what other organizing structures exist? There is one option that is well-known by the general population — the political party. As a community-based political civic organization, a political party can — if well-designed, of course — provide the framework for community organizing.

Political parties are already understood to exist at local neighborhood levels, and send delegates to county, state, and national conventions. This structure actually supports well a community-wide directly democratic organization, which may serve as an umbrella for all types of political organizing — perhaps elections, but also to organize direct actions and mutual aid for party members. In short, the community-based organizing model appears to be best accomplished via political party rather than a trade union.

The Socialist Party of the late 1800s and early 1900s actually exemplified this model very well, using the party both to elect thousands of socialists to local office across the country, as well as help organize labor unions and represent them in public political debate. The Green Party is a natural extension of this concept from a worker-centric model to a community-wide model that represents not only labor, but all members of the community who may not be engaged in traditional paid labor, and even nature itself.

That said, we must acknowledge that despite the many successes of the Socialist Party, it too was unable to topple capitalism and ultimately disappeared into the Democratic Party, as its membership was attacked via sedition laws during World War 1, and the party’s platform was co-opted by the New Deal in order to “save capitalism” (as FDR put it) during the Great Depression.

Sadly, the combination of attacks and co-option led many socialist organizers to decide that their hopes and futures rode on using the New Deal to turn the Democratic Party into a working class party, and therefore the Socialist Party was largely abandoned by the 1960s. However, in the decades since, the Democratic Party has shifted further right-wing and continued to suppress progressive and socialist voices within the party, showing it too has been a failed strategy.

We must therefore recognize that the Green Party organizing model must learn from history, and take a different approach to building community power — it lies neither in “protesting the streets” nor electoralism alone, but some synthesis of these ideas that can directly challenge capitalism and the state while building new directly democratic institutions, avoiding at once both electoral co-option as well as avoiding the parochialism and lack of authentic grassroots democracy found in some workers’ or activist movements. What would such a synthesis look like?

Going back to Bookchin’s Social Ecology, which had a large influence and role on the foundations of the Green Party and helped define Green Socialism, we find that Bookchin also proposed a revolutionary praxis for implementing Green Socialism that appears to meet our criteria: he called it “libertarian municipalism”. After extensive research into the history of popular revolutions, Bookchin concluded that most successful revolutions in history of the last millennium shared a number of common traits, particularly that they were popular movements for democratic self-determination at the local community levels.

Attempt to summarize Bookchin’s extensive work: the Green Socialist view on municipalism is to use the town meeting and direct democracy to grow a movement. Face-to-face, direct democracy is critical to building community ties, likely first starting with community efforts in mutual aid that can then lead to political organizing at the municipal level. The community builds both “legal” organizing, in the form of running for municipal office, as well as “extra-legal” organizing in the form of people’s assemblies.

The main agenda of municipal electoralism would be to pass ordinances that would directly clear a path toward recognizing the people’s assemblies as the legitimate power in the municipality, rather than a small elected council — the council would then become primarily an administrative one, rather than a rule-making one. The municipality then becomes the revolutionary organization of the people, the location where the community gathers to debate and determine economic and social policy. The organizing to make this transition occur makes the most sense as a type of political party devoted to both activist and electoral struggle against capital and the State — this is exactly the Green Party’s mandate.

Like-minded municipalities would then form confederations for mutual aid and self-defense according to shared principles in order to expand the network. At some point, these revolutionary municipalities in confederation, through mutual aid organizing and democratic self-determination, will encroach severely on the powers the State affords itself — for example, when a municipality wants to ban fossil fuel infrastructure in an effort to develop municipal renewable energy — and it is this tension between municipality and State that directly confronts capitalism and forces a revolutionary moment.

Recall the discussion earlier that actions which did not grab the attention of the ruling class would fail; the direct tension between grassroots municipalities and top-down oligarchic state rule is one of the biggest ways to get their attention as it can directly stop their activities and profits. Popular institutions are essentially forced into revolution, to either side with municipalities or face popular wrath by attempting to prop up the capitalist State. If “The People” in their confederations have prepared enough for the confrontation, they will prevail, and the “new world will be born in the shell of the old”, to paraphrase an old anarchist saying.

Until that confrontation, it is critical to be involved in community organizing and direct actions including mutual aid, but also to develop a political organization particularly at the municipal levels against the State.

This is of course a brief summary and by no means a full elaboration of the concept or strategy, but hopefully this discussion was sufficient to dispel a number of Brain’s contentions. Firstly, to the extent that Greens are involved in “electoralism”, it is primarily to build local organizing along with grassroots municipal power. Secondly, since the end goal of this municipalist strategy is a revolutionary confrontation between socialist municipalities and the State, Brain’s remarks about Green Socialists not being revolutionary are clearly inaccurate.

One final remark: this discussion actually highlights a problem with Brain’s own remarks about socialism requiring a “workers’ state”. Green Socialists reject this view, in the sense that it is the State itself which we are opposing. The State is a hierarchical entity and therefore its own source of class and identity divisions, no matter whether the stewards of the State are elected bourgeoisie or socialist workers.

Class divides will always occur in such hierarchies; ideas such as work rotation, which Hawkins advocated in his essay, help mitigate the formation of classes at least on the basis of trade skills, but will never prevent all types of classes that may form under a hierarchical State. In this sense, Green Socialists see the very concept of a “workers’ state” as an oxymoron; instead, we seek a Green Socialist society built from the grassroots at the municipal level, cutting the State out entirely and transitioning more directly to a classless and hierarchy-free system. To be fair, the reality of the struggle is not as clear-cut as it sounds, but the cognitive dissonance in the typical worker-oriented approaches must be noted.

Yes, GPUS Is Not A Perfect Messenger — But We Can Work To Improve It

All of the more philosophical arguments aside, I believe one would be hardpressed to find a Green Party member that wouldn’t agree there are serious deficiencies in the way the GPUS is organized today. For various complex historical reasons, the GPUS bylaws are a bit of a mess lacking real teeth in key areas, and the platform does have some contradictions, particularly around economics and monetary theory, that Brain rightly points out.

The quick success of the German Green Party was in many ways more of a curse than a blessing because it brought a contingent of more “social democrat” neoliberal-minded “Greens” into the party in its early days, which is part of the reason the bylaws and platform are a bit Jekyll-and-Hyde. Some state parties have also not done the necessary organizing to grow, leading to a very haphazard view where some states have a stronger Green presence dedicated to socialist organizing, while other states barely register on the map other than to issue sadly liberal “critiques” of Democrats.

The German Green Party is itself a classic example of what not to do, as it quickly traded in its radical anti-capitalist stances for more mild social programs in order to quickly win votes and gain representation in government; as such, it essentially became exactly the kind of party it was trying to not be when it first declared itself the “anti-party party”.

However, none of this takes away from the fact that Green Socialism is a coherent socialist philosophy, even if a bit different from some other worker-oriented socialist movements. Green Socialists still make up a majority of the party, which is indicated for example by its vote in 2016 to more explicitly identify itself as such to the public, and for the GPUS Youth Caucus to rename itself the “Young Eco-Socialists” around the same time.

There are active currents and caucuses within the party organizing to correct many of the deficiencies identified: to hold members more accountable to our values with bylaws with “more teeth”; to update the platform to finally remove the inconsistent language that has been stuck since early drafts; to recognize that the sustaining donor model GPUS implemented in the early 2000s was a failure because it too closely emulated capitalist parties, and to return to a dues-paying working-class membership as the early GPUSA had in the 1990s.

There is progress on all of these fights; sometimes the hold up is the bylaws itself, which require a 2/3rd majority on all votes to implement, which is a fairly high bar for most organizations that has its roots in a desire to form as wide a consensus as possible. Some votes have failed by one or two votes (that is, 64% in agreement, a clear majority, rather than 66% necessary to pass), and the No votes are not always “liberals” or “capitalists” in the party but sometimes the various Leftist tendencies in the party dueling over how far to lean toward worker-oriented Marxist socialism versus more community-oriented anarchism or some other tendency.

These are all real socialist debates — over best organizing practices, over best policy, how to accomplish our goals as quickly as possible with the climate change clock counting down, etc. — that are worthy debates to have, and so slow changes in platforms and machinery shouldn’t be interpreted as a lack of motion but rather the difficulty of challenging 21st century capitalism and the array of ideas on how to best approach it. Greens are not unique in facing this struggle; DSA, SAlt, PSL, and others face their own criticisms of organizing strategy and internal policy, and the ISO even disbanded over its own internal crisis.

Struggle against capitalism is hard, democracy is messy, and since we haven’t won yet against capitalism, there’s lots of ideas about how to best proceed, and lots of challenges in doing so, both internal and external. We probably all need to learn to be a bit more friendly and comradely with constructive criticism about our mutual struggle rather than looking for reasons to divide the movement and ostracize each other.

GPUS must adapt and change its structure in order to better represent Green Socialist thought, that much is certain. At the same time, I believe the future of Green Socialist thought is bright, if you’ll forgive the mild pun, precisely because it is a well-formed, coherent philosophy based in democracy and ecology as first principles thanks to its roots in Social Ecology. Green Socialism isn’t just a good idea, but is quickly becoming in my view the imperative as climate change accelerates.

US youth are looking for a philosophy and organizing principle that will save our communities and the whole planet and I encourage them to look more at Social Ecology and Green Socialism. I hope that more “traditional” socialists like Brain will give Green Socialism, and even GPUS, a second look — sure, with critiques as needed (many of which we acknowledge and invite help on solving), but also open-mindedness. Only together can we build a popular movement to confront capitalism and end climate change, social and natural exploitation, and hierarchy.

1 comment:

  1. 'municipalisation' and grass roots organising have much in common with the movement for 'Local Futures' . its a pity the connection was not noted in this otherwise excellentbarticle.