Don Fitz has been promoting the Green agenda for nearly two decades. He joined the Greens in the early ’90s and coordinated efforts to get Ralph Nader on the Missouri ballot in 2000. He is a leader of Green Party USA and editor of Synthesis/Regeneration, the party’s magazine.
And he’s been criticized for years for refusing to go along with a Green party that mainly runs candidates. “While I was speaking, someone stood up and yelled, ‘You’re not Green!’ at me,” Fitz said in a phone interview. “To them, we don’t have a legitimate reason to exist.”
The Democratic and Republican parties have various factions within them, and the Green movement is no different. In fact, there are two Green parties in the United States.
GPUSA dates back to 1984 and is more of an advocacy group that runs a few local candidates. It reflects the opinions of the original US Green movement. The Green Party of the United States (GPUS) is a younger, larger party that runs candidates. It’s the party that put Ralph Nader on its ticket in 2000. Both have progressive, leftist platforms; GPUSA’s stances are typically farther left than those of GPUS.
Jim Hightower once said GPUSA has “damned-near-communistic ideas”; the party’s labor platform does call for a 30-hour workweek, double pay for overtime, and a minimum wage of $12 and change. As a former member of socialist groups, Fitz is not offended when people call his party a Marxist group.
“I just think it’s inaccurate,” he says. Socialism is too limited to encompass GPUSA’s platform; environmentalism was not a major issue in Marx’s writings, and some GPUSA members don’t subscribe to the party’s radical labor platform. Everyone supports the party’s stance on the environment. The issues they’ve focused their efforts on include lead poisoning in St. Louis — where GPUSA is most concentrated — and global warming.
“Deep Greens,” as Fitz calls them, split from “shallow Greens” on issues that can’t be addressed with candidates, platforms or legislation. GPUSA wants not only the reduction of fossil fuels, but the reduction of cars and the “fetishism” of them. GPUS won’t take this stance, and prefers to focus on alternative energy.
It’s not just GPUS’s platform that has “deep” Greens worried. Many Greens, even “shallow” ones, were disappointed by the party’s 2004 presidential campaign. David Cobb, a Texas lawyer and activist, ran under a “safe state” strategy: the party would only try to gain votes in undisputed states, to avoid “spoiling” the election for the Democrats.
It isn’t the first time a Green party has compromised to appease more established parties. In the late 1990s the German Greens, then in a majority coalition with Gerhard Schroeder’s Social Democrats, chose to support sending troops to Yugoslavia rather than jeopardize their role in German politics. Today, Fitz says the German Greens are “far gone,” and they aren’t the left-of-center party they were before they came to power in 1998.
But despite the strife between GPUSA and GPUS, Fitz doesn’t see GPUS as a permanently compromising, safe-state party. “I think they have a tremendous ability to change.”
The 2008 race will show America where GPUS wants to take itself. But to Fitz and GPUSA, 2008 will be just another year of hard work and activism.