The New Zealand Green Party has recently shown quite precisely what not to do. Their new co-leader thinks capitalism is swell, supports the Iraq War, and wants to form coalitions with any party that will have them. How very respectable they’ve become, and how totally de-fanged and pliable too.
This is a far cry from the early days when the Green Party, which started in New Zealand, was a serious and respected force on the Left. The process of co-optation and selling out can take years you know, the paperwork is just enormous! Not to mention all those broken promises and smashed dreams. Ah well, the new leaders can console themselves with the distinct probability that their acquiescence will be well rewarded by the ruling class, just like happened in the US after the 2004 election.
One of the early splits in the Green Party was between between the ‘realos’ who wanted electoral change and compromise vs. the hard line ‘fundies’ who favored activism, getting in the streets and organizing. In the US, the realos won. With the exception of a little tree-hugging, the primary focus of the GP is getting candidates elected. Rarely, if ever, do Greens lead protests.
Once a split like that happens, the party often becomes more moderate. It starts to attract moderates from other parties, and the process accelerates. Too soon, the original impetus is all but gone, replaced by bland apparatchiks interested primarily in self-advancement.
The problem here isn’t the party so much as the organizational structure. There are other ways to organize a party, with structures that not only guarantee a stronger, more cohesive whole, but also protect against being taken over by others.
One such structure is the Leninist concept of democratic centralism. When deciding what to do, all party members have input, and things are decided democratically with a vote. The difference is what comes next. Once the vote is made, everyone is expected to implement it. Those who can’t or won’t eventually leave while the party itself becomes better and more strongly organized as the solid core, the cadre, continues to develop its skills. Thus, in the best sense, the party becomes self-limiting and self-maintaining.
This structure prevents co-optation and infiltrations because the core beliefs remain present and alive. That’s what we need today, groups who keep their core beliefs alive, not sellouts who no longer have anything they believe in except expediency and self-preservation.