It's Time For Labor to Leave the Democrats
By Hank Chapot - 1995
Try to imagine my sadness at learning that at the recent founding convention of the Labor Party, organizers decided not to run candidates. Like the New party, the Labor party has not addressed the central question all progressives must decide in 1996.
Is it time to leave the Democrat Party?
The Greens consider ourselves the first major constituency of the Democrat party to strike out on it's own, and we have been waiting impatiently for other constituencies of American progressives to do likewise. Rather than claiming to be the vanguard of the long visualized but never to be realized "unified" movement the old New-Left, we are espousing a model more like the one growing in New Zealand. It is an alliance of five distinct political parties, each maintaining it's own discreet membership, but allied into a force that is able to fulfill the most important goal of political activists; to contest for power. Not only political power, but also the power of ideas and the power of the grassroots.
I have met at least a dozen politicians from alternative parties in foreign countries, from the Workers Party in Brazil, Les Verts in France, Causa Radical in Venezuela, the New Labor Party in New Zealand, and numerous others. Every one has adamantly stated that "you must leave the dominant parties," as your first act and it must be done completely. Expecting to create new political institutions in league with the Democrat Party is a little like telling Zapatistas to work with progressives in the PRI. It just will not work, and the sooner we force the question, the sooner we can get down to some real work.
This is where my arguments with the New Party (and Labor Pary Advocates) begin and end. The labor Party KNOWS it will not be able to break from the Democrat Party. Not only has the New Party leadership tried to downplay their relationship with the Democrat Party, this same leadership has consistently refused to enter into coalition efforts with the Greens, and they seem to be trying to ignore that we even exist. Further, They have asked another progressive effort, the Independant Politics Summit, to join the New Party because the New party has more members than NIPS. On those criteria, everybody should join the greens because our candidates recieved over 1.1 million votes in 1994. But we are not asking that. We want to join with others, not necessarily lead. We have found ourselves, however, leading by default. For the greens, it is as if the meek shall lead.
And now we have Nader. I'd ask the old New-Left to get out of the way if they are not gonna lead. Consider this, if the Labor Party or New Party had convinced Jesse Jackson to run as an independant or third party candidate, the greens would have joined in a heartbeat. Alas, our potential allies hang back, snipe from the sidelines, and wallow in the failure that the American Left has come to believe is it's fate. My other complaints with the New Party are well known, they take credit for winning Democrat candidates they have only endorsed and they talk about fusion, but rarely fusion with any other party besides the Democrats.
If the Clinton/Dole match up is a continuation of the fight between the WWII generation and the baby boomers generation, is the rise of the Green Party and the discomfiture of the old New-Left the beginnings of the next generational struggle? Will we be fighting this same battle twenty years hence? The irony is that progressive american activists trumpet poll results that show over sixty percent of citizens want a new political party, but then retreat when the time is so ripe, where the Green Party with it's global connections seems to have broken through with Nader, a party for whom the future is as important as this year's election. I guess because they didn't start it, many seem to want to have nothing to do with it.
Not all, though, progressives are working feverishly to expand the Nader campaign, and politics is made by people who speak AND act, and action outmaneuvers inaction every time.