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... [to] Mark Satin for keeping Green discussions in New Options
compassionate and interesting.”
Difficult and Passionate First National Meetings of
First-Hand Reports on the First Three National Green Gatherings, 1987 – 1990
These articles, from my
newsletter New Options, were controversial at
the time they were published, not because they are inaccurate or merely
impressionistic (though certain Greens never tire of saying so), but because they
all too accurately report on the early Greens as we really were
– what we thought and felt, what we argued about (and why), how we
treated one another (too often, very badly), and what was holding us back from
tens of millions of potential supporters (hint: it was not The System).
Why does any of this
matter today? Because for all
their problems, the early Greens at least attempted – in a sustained,
principled, and even courageous way – to create something this county still
desperately needs (and according to recent polls, still actively wants): a
third MAJOR political party or force. One
that would be “neither left nor right, [but] in front,” as a German Green
slogan put it.
So I offer these
articles to members of the younger generations as blueprints for creating a
major third party.
Taken together, they
are, frankly, a virtually complete compendium of all the attitudes,
behaviors, and organizing mistakes you’ll want to avoid (often implicit
in my text – e.g., why were so few mainstream business and professional
people included in these gatherings?).
But my articles also
respectfully memorialize the grit, spirit, and outside-the-box thinking
you’ll need if you really want to challenge the Democrat-Republican
duopoly that is destroying this nation and savaging this Earth.
SO HERE YOU ARE, IN PDF FORMAT
[Psst: The letters
responding to these articles are at least as interesting, and revealing, as the
and Longing at the Green Gathering:
First National Green Gathering, Amherst MA, 1987.
Read pp. 1-4, then skip to the last two pages, where I’ve added
letters from a subsequent issue responding to the article.
Chance Saloon: Second National
Green Gathering, Eugene OR, 1989. Read
pp. 1-4 and 7-8, then look at the last two pages where I’ve added letters
responding to the article
Don’t Have to Be a Baby to Cry:
Third National Green Gathering, Estes Park CO, 1990.
Read pp. 1-4, then skip to the last eight pages – an entire
subsequent issue – which I devoted to letters responding to that article.
The next Green
Gathering – at Elkins WV in 1991 – precipitated the breakup of the early
Greens into separate and competing entities, the Greens
/ Green Party USA and the Association of State Green Parties (now the Green
Party of the United States). You
can learn about that breakup and its aftermath from many of the texts cited in
section IV below.
FYI, in 2012 I wrote an
article for Green Horizon magazine about the founding conference of the
Greens in St. Paul MN in 1984, and especially about the visionary document
that was spontaneously conceived there, the “Ten Key Values” statement.
You can find that article HERE.
from the 1980s at one of their then-favorite destinations, the post office.
Michael Wade, second from right, attended the first Green Gathering for
the Chapel Hill NC Greens. Suzanne
Sheber, third from left, attended the second and third Gatherings for the
South Florida Greens.
A BIT OF BACKGROUND
was a political newsletter I founded in Washington DC in November 1983.
I raised $91,000 to start it (over $200,000 in today’s dollars) from
517 people who’d met me through my talks on my book New
Age Politics (1976) or through my work in the New
World Alliance (1979 – 1983), a national “transformational”
political organization. Within a
few years I’d built New Options into the second largest independent
political newsletter in the U.S., thanks in part to my mastery of direct-mail,
and in 1989 it won one of Utne Reader’s “General Excellence”
awards. You can learn more about New
Options and view high-quality PDFs of 25 still-relevant back issues HERE.
Reporters in the 1980s
typically either ignored the Greens or, if they were “movement” reporters,
helped them put their best foot forward.
By the time I founded New Options I had already spent 20 years
in the social change movement, SNCC, SDS, Toronto
Anti-Draft Programme, Vancouver underground-press collective, New World
Alliance, etc. – and I not only understood the importance of what the Greens
were trying to do. I also
understood the danger of incipient social-change groups not having a mirror,
held up by an experienced friend, in which they might see themselves clearly
and truly, warts and all.
Although my articles on
the Green Gatherings are “informal” and may read as if they were casually
written, they were anything but. Inspired
by Doris Lessing’s The Golden Notebook, whenever I embarked on a
piece of first-hand, first-person, literary journalism I kept three separate
notebooks – one to record the important issues and discussions, one to
record people’s public and private behaviors, and one to record people’s
underlying attitudes and sentiments (including mine).
If I interviewed participants, I’d record those interviews in a
fourth notebook. After the conference or event was over, I’d spend days just
mulling over my notebooks, then try to pull the material together in a way
that did justice to both the minds and hearts of my subjects.
A confession: I was far
more involved in the Greens than I revealed in my articles.
I suppose you could say that I took the concept of
“participant-observation” to new heights!
Along with Hazel Henderson, I was one of the two U.S. “consultants”
on Spretnak and Capra’s book Green Politics (1984), the book that
sparked the Green project in the U.S., and according to them I provided
significant help (p. 5). In the
original “Vorwort” to the German edition of my New Age Politics,
Capra says this:
Age Politics] was published in its first edition in 1976, three years
before the foundation of the [German] Greens, and represents an impressive
document of Green thought in the American social movements of the seventies.
More than that, it was the first attempt to not only describe a new
kind of political activity but also to provide a synthesis of the new
political theory beyond left and right. [See
PDF of the first edition HERE, and excerpts
from the dynamic "40th Anniversary Edition" HERE.
the founding conference of the Greens in 1984 and continuing at each of the
first three national Gatherings, I stumped for our becoming a traditional
political party. The title of the
plenary speech I was invited to give at the first Gathering, “Think
Fundamentally, Act Realistically,” summed up my position succinctly.
(Perennial Green Party candidate Howie Hawkins recently reminded me how
unrepresentative that position was at our founding conference.)
John Ely, in Ely and
Mayer, The German Greens (1998), credits me with being one of the four
principal initiators of the founding conference in 1984, and Greta Gaard, in Ecological
Politics (1998), after discussing my role in co-drafting the Greens’
foundational “Ten Key Values” statement, says:
Spretnak and [Mark] Satin played a significant role in facilitating the
articulation of Green political thought, and the philosophies they represented
have left their influence on the Greens’ ideological foundation
Reading my three
articles over again last month, nearly two decades after I’d last read them,
I was delighted to confirm that my articles caught the political-intellectual
issues and early tensions in the Greens as precisely as I’d remembered.
(Otherwise I wouldn’t be offering them to you here.)
But what struck me most about my articles, shocked me in a way, was the
element that Buddhist activist Allan Badiner puts his finger on at the top of
this page – their compassion. I
loved these people, and I was one with them (not least of all in our
weaknesses), and I so wanted us to do well.
That is why I insisted on holding us up to a high standard, as high as
the times (and I would add God) demanded of us.
Although it cost me
several friendships, I am still proud that I told the exact truth about the
Greens as I saw it. And I am sad
that that truth turned out to be as prophetic as I’d feared.
TEN MEDIA CLIPS ABOUT NEW OPTIONS AND GREEN POLITICS
THE NATIONAL GATHERINGS
“In his highly
perceptive review of the [first] National Gathering, Mark Satin explained it
this way:. ...” , forerunner of the UK Green party
, forerunner of the UK Green party
“[At] the second
national [Green] gathering in Eugene [OR] in June 1989 ... [some] Greens were
becoming impatient with the Greens’ slow pace of growth.
Mark Satin, one of the ‘New Age’ and more conservative
participants, suggested [in New Options]
that Greens needed to leave behind some classic characteristics of the sixties
counterculture: namely, their fear of money, hierarchy, authority, and
leadership. Satin felt the Greens
would need both fundraising skills and a more coherent structure in order to
get their message out to a broad base of the population.”
unique New Options newsletter ... seeks a decentralist, ecological, and
globally responsible society beyond economic growth, the welfare state, and
being the world’s policeman. [Articles]
include ... [one on] the 1990 Green Gathering in Colorado, which bluntly
states that ‘what I saw shook my confidence in the U.S. Greens as a
credible, competent vehicle for change.’”
the years, Satin has unabashedly challenged tired thinking on any part
of the political spectrum – particularly the liberal-left shibboleths that
many New Options readers may have held dear.
For example, while Satin enthusiastically covered and participated in
Green politics, he also took the Greens to task when necessary.
Following their 1990 national gathering, he enumerated ... several
reasons why he feared the Greens weren’t capable of launching a successful
party, including an aversion to hierarchy that makes decision making proceed
at a snail’s pace and an us-them mentality that is ‘dangerously arrogrant.’”
OTHER NEW OPTIONS-GREEN REFERENCES
... is one of the leading American exponents of ‘beyond Left/Right’
politics. Each issue highlights
people, books, and groups that Satin sees as helping to break up old dogmas
and worldviews with new insights and tactics.
A great deal of this activity seems to reside in ‘Green’ and ‘New
Age’ circles, especially if [it] impact[s] on Washington policymakers.”
Development: National Review, Commentary, The Nation,
Mother Jones ... Stasis
/ Green: New Options, Whole Earth Review, Utne Reader.
“Appreciation ... [to]
Mark Satin for keeping Green discussions in New Options compassionate
[first chair of the U.S. Greens’ platform committee] ... , was concerned
that Greens carried ‘mistrust into most of their political interactions with
each othr ... name calling and insults are routinely exchanged.’
As political commentator Mark Satin noted [in New Options], the
irony was that the Greens made a point of saying how important it was to treat
people well, yet he found that they sometimes treated each other worse than
people in traditional political parties.”
“Though [Satin is]
active in the U.S. Green movement, ... he’s reluctant to identify his
newsletter as a Green publication. ‘The
U.S. Green movement so far is characterized by an ineptness of organizing
strategies and a substantial degree of cultural alienation from the American
mainstream,’ he says.”
has made some preliminary stabs at naming the emergent politics of our
postconservative, postsocialist’ ... ‘decentralist / globally
responsible’ ... ‘future focused’ ... ‘transformative populist’ ...
and ‘light Green’ or ‘Greenish.’
The German Greens, who ironically have roots in our Sixties ... , have
reinspired American activists. ... But
they are widely perceived as being too soft on the Soviet Union and too hard
on mainstream sensibilities. ... New
Options suggests that the New Age / New Left has to continue to evolve
into the ‘New Center’ – or fail, for real this time, to change the
FOR FURTHER READING
OTHER DESCRIPTIONS OF THE FIRST YEARS OF THE U.S. GREENS
I have serious,
sometimes severe reservations about all these descriptions!
But the Green way (aka the New Age way, the radical
centrist way, the communitarian way, etc.) is to pay respectful attention
to everyone’s truths and experience. So
here you are, with no prejudicial commentary from me.
Zelko invited me to submit a paper to his symposium and anthology, frequently
referenced below, but at the time – 2003-04 – I was immersed in my Radical
Middle book and had to decline. How
I wish I had been in a position to participate and contribute.)
I am happy to
consider listing other descriptions that discuss the years 1984 – 1991, so
long as they are at least partially accessible online.
You can contact me HERE.
“From Grun to Green: Problems of Translation in the United
States.” Sub-section in Mayer,
Margit, and Ely, eds., The
German Greens: Paradox Between Movement and Party, Temple University
Press, 1998, pp. 200-06. [Google
Books makes this search difficult, but if you try hard enough you can reach
four of these pages!]
Politics: Ecofeminists and the Greens.
Temple University Press, 1998, chapters 2-5 complete, pp. 53-228, but
you may wish to start with pp. 53-77 and 140-57.
Hawkins, Howard. "North American Greens Come of Age." Our Generation magazine, vol. 23, no. 1, Winter 1992, pp. 54-90.
“A Historical Look
at Green Structure: 1984 to 1992.”
Synthesis / Regeneration magazine, no. 14, Fall 1997.
Viewable online, page numbers n/a.
“The United States Green Party: Up from the Wilderness.”
In Zelko, Frank, and Brinkmann, Caolin, eds., Green
Parties: Reflections on the First Three Decades.
Heinrich Boll Foundation North America, 2006, pp. 60-66.
[Rensenbrink’s book Against
All Odds: The Green Transformation of American Politics, Leopold
Press, Inc., 1999, is much richer and fuller – see esp. Part IV there
(“Green Party”) – but it is not readily readable online.
You can buy copies for a pittance HERE.]
“The Intellectual Influences and Conflicts in the U.S. Green
Party.” In Zelko and Brinkmann,
Parties, cited under Rensenbrink above, pp. 101-09.
Schmidt, Steven J.
“The Founding U.S. Green Platform and First Presidential Campaign.”
In Zelko and Brinkmann, eds., Green
Parties, cited under Rensenbrink above, pp. 67-76.
Sifry, Micah L.
for a Fight: Third-Party Politics in America.
Routledge, 2003, chapter 6 complete (“Compost Rotten Politics”),
pp. 145-74, but esp. pp. 145-52.
“The Early Years of the Green Politics Movement in the United
States.” In Zelko and Brinkmann,
Parties, cited under Rensenbrink above, pp. 42-58.
“The Greens as a Social Movement: Values and Conflicts.”
In Zelko and Brinkmann, eds., Green
Parties, cited under Rensenbrink above, pp. 90-100.
[Tokar’s book The
Green Alternative: Creating an Ecological Future, New Society
Publishers – see the revised1992 or 1994 edition only – is even harder to
peruse online than Rensenbrink’s book; but it is cheaply available HERE.]
THREE FOR THE ROAD
“Is Leadership a Dirty Word in the U.S. Green Party?”
Green Horizon magazine, spring / summer 2011, pp. 26-28.
By a recent executive director of the U.S. Green Party.
Shows that the Greens are still suffering from some of the same
fundamental problems I revealed in my articles.
At this time, the spring / summer 2011 issue is not accessible on the Green
Horizon issues online page,
but a complimentary copy may be requested from Green Horizon, P.O. Box
476, Topsham ME 04086.
“The Origin and Future of Green Parties: The U.K., Europe and
Beyond.” In Zelko and Brinkmann,
Parties, cited under Rensenbrink above, pp. 31-41.
By a former spokesperson for the British Green Party.
Shows that the UIK Greens were suffering from some of the same
fundamental problems as the U.S. Greens.
Slaton, Christa Daryl.
“An Overview of the Emerging Political Paradigm: A Web of
Transformational Theories.” In
Slaton et al., Transformational
Politics: Theory, Study, and Practice.
State University of New York Press, 1998, pp. 3-24.
By the first chair of our platform committee – the person we bullied
out of the Greens at the third Green Gathering (see my article).
Read it and weep for the magnificent thinker and human we lost ... one
ABOUT THE RADICAL MIDDLE CONCEPT
GREAT RADICAL MIDDLE GROUPS AND BLOGS:
SOME PRIOR RADICAL MIDDLE INITIATIVES:
SOME RADICAL MIDDLE LESSONS:
SOME PRIOR WRITINGS BY MARK SATIN:
NOT JUST RADICAL MIDDLE: