To form true green politics in the United States, ecological groups need to become more political or politically sophisticated organizations need to develop a concern with ecology.
According to West German Green parliamentarian Petra Kelly, a significant Green movement has not yet developed in the U.S. because the natural constituents of such a movement are not as organized, interconnected or politicized as those in the Federal Republic of Germany (FRG). Ecological groups have not been political enough, while politically sophisticated organizations have not been concerned enough with ecology.
There are signs that this situation is changing:
— Ecological groups, such as the large coalition which formed the first "North American Bioregional Congress" in May near Kansas City, are developing the necessary political concern to help form a politically conscious organization. Charlene Spretnak (author of Green Politics) calls this development "no small victory."
— Jesse Jackson's "Rainbow Coalition" has declared its intention to be a permanently organized political factor in U.S. politics. (This has many important parallels to the West German situation, where "multi-colored" and "alternative lists" considered themselves as a "rainbow of opposition" when they formed and were crucial in the emergent coalitions which formed the West German Greens.)
— The Citizen's Party (CiP) already resembles the Greens in some respects. But it has been too purely electoral. Not only does this fail to make the deep "movement party" connections that Greens have made, but since they concentrate too much on the national level, they appear as spoilers in an electoral arena where at present everyone's major concern is to defeat Ronald Reagan (Barry Commoner, one of the key founders of the CiP, tried for an entire year to convince the party to support Jesse Jackson's campaign, finally breaking with the party to support Jackson independently.)
Wendy Adler, director of the Citizen's Party national office, has stated that the CiP is now moving toward a more grass-roots direction so that it will appear less as a spoiler. To date, its only electoral successes have been at the local level, as in Burlington, VT.
— The Democratic Socialists of America (DSA), which has a far greater political sophistication than the CiP with its "inside/outside" approach to the Democratic Party, has recently developed two major currents: the older "reds" whose politics are much closer to the traditional, hierarchical and pro-growth West German Social Democrats (SPD) and a new "green" wing which is perhaps the larger of the two.
— Even ultra dogmatic far left sectarian Marxist groups like the Communist Worker's Party (CWP) appear to be greening. They are helping to organize a multi-issue, populist oriented "People's Convention" one week before the Democratic Convention. They have invited Petra Kelly or one of the parliamentary Greens to address the opening assembly as representatives of a political model applicable to the United States. Important decentralist, nonviolent and civil disobedience organizations such as the Livermore Action Group are working on the People's Convention, seeking to broaden their own political horizons and "make connections."
If Green politics is to take root in the U.S., these green "runners" must be gathered into a garden-network which we can cultivate. This means further reaching out to organizations and groups in the alternative, "new age" and ecological areas, seeking to politicize them—groups doing holistic health, anti-nuclear activism, food co-ops, alternative schools, orthodox and alternative religious groups, neighborhood self sufficiency, organic farming, feminism and native rights, to name a few. At the same time, political groups with strong "green" tendencies like DSA need to develop a real ecological consciousness. If we can "green" the political groups while politicizing the ecological groups, then we will have the necessary conditions in which an exciting green movement can flourish.
This article originally appeared in Utne Reader'sSummer 1984 issue as a sidebar to Greening the Whole Earth: Germany and the Greens. For more similar, seeThe Surfacing of Postmodernity, Shifting Power from Federal Government to Bioregions and A Green America.