Some good-quality videos of Green Party stuff are becoming available, and this recent one is something to hear, if you have the time:
So you have a choice. You can take an hour to watch the video and then read my critique, or read my rant, with all the second-hand info about what’s in the video, and then watch it to see whether I’m full of it.
Let’s start with the fact that Chris Hedges obviously knows a lot, and has done some very good things, notably a good lawsuit against the feds, and much verbal defense of the Occupy movement in the media. He’s visited a lot of places, and interviewed lotsa remarkable people, of which he doesn’t fail to remind us in his talk. Such namedropping gets more frequent toward the end of the talk, as you’ll see.
Large parts of his talk are very worth hearing, for anyone who might not yet be quite aware of the authoritarian kleptocracy we live under and its shock-and-awe-inspiring power. It’s when he tries to tell Greens what to do….
Right away, I was reminded of an event we local “progressives” put on many years ago. We had a very distinguished speaker invited to address the crowd, and he asked me what we most wanted to hear from him. I told him we’re most interested in what we can do to help the particular situation that he came out of. (I don’t want to be too specific here with names & such.) When he got to speaking, all he could come up with was “Talk to your political leaders and tell them to…” Yeah, well, we were very much honored to have him there, but we had been doing that for quite a while.
So what did someone tell Chris that the Greens wanted to hear from him? Maybe it was whatever tactical advice he might give us. Fair enough, but Chris seems to have felt he had to editorialize about what’s wrong with the GP, though by his own admission he had very little exposure to it. Geez, Chris, I know you’re not stupid. Why did you have to be one more person who knows nothing about the Green Party telling us what’s wrong with the Green Party?
Let’s start with:
“…the failure of the Green Party is that it continues to play by their rules..uh… it continues to uh…put far too much energy into electoral politics. That doesn’t mean that the Green Party shouldn’t field candidates, but that should be a very tangential part of what this party is about”
Notice the word “Party” in the name. That means we’re a political party. The job of a political party is to provide a ballot line and other support for candidates for office. You’re tellling us to do less of what we exist for. Everyone in the Party, or nearly everyone, knows that the GP is meant to be the electoral expression of a movement, not the movement itself, and most of those involved in Party business participate in some kind of activism outside Party business.
For instance, in the anti-war movement in my locality that started after 9/11, at least half the organizers were Greens. Though the Party joined it, the organizing couldn’t be done under the Party banner much because every time I mentioned to a non-Green that I was a Green, the discussion quickly turned to “It’s all Nader’s fault!” and nothing could get done. Do you really think there were no Greens in Occupy? No, later he says he assumes there were.
“…and so my energy uh… was put into the Occupy movement rather than the Green Party uh… because it was a movement and uh… I think if the Green Party has any hope of becoming a credible plan uh… it better do a complete about-face and begin to focus uh… the kinds of logistics that made resistance possible. Long discussions about the evils of corporate capitalism or showing another film at a college campus I think is an utter and complete waste of time.”
I don’t know whom he’s talking about here with the long discussions and showing films. It’s been a few years since anyone I’m involved with held video showings, mainly because it’s all on the web, and we can just send out links. Very little time involved. As for long discussions….
“I think part of the problem… I have very limited exposure the Green Party but I’ll just… from my limited exposure, it’s just too many chiefs. Everybody wants to be a chief and I think again, what I liked about the occupy movement is that it tested that hierarchical form of power which sucks the life blood out of organizations. I’m sure there’s some people here were in the occupy movement, a seven-hour general assembly drove me nuts uh… and yet, when the occupy movement made a decision they abided by that and i think that uh… hierarchy which again is emblematic within the Green Party is uh… if it’s a failure is it is a grafting of traditional structures of power onto a party for which it is incredibly unfit”
So Chris LIKED those long discussions, seeking consensus, in the Occupy movement. Where does he think that custom came from? Haven’t Greens been doing this for 30 years or more?
“Hierarchy” is a complete shot out of the blue. “Emblematic within the Green Party”???? I really, really don’t know which Greens he’s talking about here. If anything, people complain that they can’t get authoritative pronouncements out of us.
“Hierarchy” is, however, occasionally used as a general-purpose perjorative by anyone who doesn’t like a decision that’s been made. More of that later.
“You have fast-food workers in New York City just walked out of jobs uh… and boy, you know when something like that happens, that’s where you should be.”
Not much in the way of strikes in my own locality, but I do recall Greens standing with striking grocery workers in 2004, and buying them pizza. That’s seven years before
As we move on to questions from the Greens in the audience, about things that Greens are doing, we begin to get things like this from Chris:
“uh… that’s exactly what I’m saying: that every organizational effort to be built around action that is focused on something concrete. Another meeting about uh… you know uh… “Here’s our position and why can’t you understand how enlightened we are?” is a killer so I think what you’re doing is exactly what im advocating.”
He says something similar when someone brings up Cheri Honkala’s long work among the poor and homeless. Being reminded that Greens are doing exactly what he just said Greens are NOT doing obviously bugs him a bit. He starts name-dropping more, starts talking more about “the left” than “the Green Party”, as a sort of retreat. Maybe he’s just talking to his cronies over at the Nation now. He also starts the “Keep it short, I have to go.”
And way toward the end of his talk, we finally get this:
“Part of my frustration with the Greens is that I remained true to Nader in 2008.”
So he thinks we’re wasting our time running candidates, but stayed with Nader in the most NOTHING campaign he ever had. Then he goes on to quote a policy suggestion Nader made at that time about reforming the financial system. This is after saying how useless policy pronouncements are.
So the fact that he was involved with the Nader campaign might explain some of the unexplainable:
I’ll tell this story as I gathered it from the scuttlebutt among Greens at the time. No citations, I’d have to dig up old emails, and I’m too lazy for that.
Back in 2003, as Greens started to think about the 2004 presidential election, Nader, or his people, met with Green “leaders”, such as they were, and some of them were very much opposed to having Nader run again on our ticket. The main reason seemed to be the stigma attached to him by the Dems’ interpretation of Florida’s results in 2000. That’s a whole long story that I’m not going to spend time on again.
Nader, or his people, asked for some assurance that if he ran for the Green nomination, he would get it. No one could give such a guarantee, obviously, because candidates for the nomination have to run in the primaries. The Green voters will decide, and no one can guarantee results a year ahead of time. In other words, Nader, or his people, were assuming that we had leaders who could deliver the delegates for the nomination. I have no idea where they got that idea, but there might have been a few people who opposed him and bragged that they could block his nomination. This is the only explanation I can think of for some “hierarchy” pejorative applied to Greens, and it probably would have existed only among Nader people.
So most of Chris Hedges’ knowledge of the Green Party is filtered through the Nader campaign. Really, Chris, that’s not a good source. If you spend too much time with Nation staff and wealthy, high-profile activists you’re going to get a pretty distorted view of the Green Party and any number of other grassroots organizations. That’s exactly what you seem to be warning the Greens against in much of your speech. Physician, heal thyself.