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“[T]he Ten Key Values ... provided a semblance of unity [without which] the fledgling party may not have survived”
– John Rensenbrink, in Green Parties: Reflections on the First Three Decades  

Miraculous Birth of the U.S. Green Party’s
“Ten Key Values” Statement

 by Mark Satin

This article is reprinted, with permission, from Green Horizon Magazine, volume 9, issue no. 26 (Fall / Winter 2012), pp. 19-22.

Green Horizon is an international journal covering Green theory and practice.  Issue 26 was edited by U.S. Green Party organizers John Rensenbrink and Steve Welzer.

The journal’s title for this article was “Miraculous Birth of the 'Ten Key ValuesStatement.”  The epigraph, the Appendix, and (of course) the links to Web pages are new here.  Everything else is the same. – M.S.  

P.S.  My first-person, participant-observer accounts of the first three national Green gatherings (1987, 1989 and 1990), which originally appeared in my award-winning New Options newsletter, are now online; see HERE.



On the weekend of August 10-12, 1984, at the apex of the Reagan Era, 62 thinkers and activists from across the U.S. came together on the leafy campus of Macalester College in St. Paul, Minnesota, to found what eventually became the U.S. Green Party.  Because I had written the book New Age Politics and was editor of the Washington D.C.-based political newsletter New Options, both often seen as proto-Green, I was one of those invited to attend.

Politically, our founding meeting was diverse.  Bioregionalists sat down with capitalists, libertarians with world-order advocates.  Eight of us had ties to Murray Bookchin’s Institute for Social Ecology.  Even more of us had been associated with the New World Alliance, a national “transformational” political organization I'd helped found in 1979 and disband in 1983.

The document conceived at St. Paul – the “Ten Key Values” statement (ten foundational values and their descriptions [see Appendix below]) – was soon taken up as a recruitment and discussion device by Green groups across the U.S.  To this day, a modified version of it stands near the beginning of the U.S. Greens’ national platform, and many Green locals profess versions of it.  As I am now 65 and losing my eyesight (though not my Vision), I thought it might be useful for me to set down my recollections of the birth of the original values statement, to which I still give my allegiance.  


The document was conceived spontaneously one night at a marathon plenary workshop led by activist Jeff Land.  About 50 of us were trying to think of a project that could help define us and put us on the political map.  We were exhausted and sprawled all over the floor of a Macalester lounge – the conference had been intense! – but everyone sensed that something important could come out of Jeff’s workshop.

What happened next was something I’ve experienced only a couple of times in my long life.  A “collective brain” seemed to take hold, and we began working together as one.

No single individual came up with the idea of a values statement; it just welled up from out of our intense discussion.  Early on, I remember suggesting something along the lines of the “Values and Ethics” chapter in my New Age Politics book.  Another person suggested we look to the Black Panthers’ “Ten Point Plan” from the 1960s.  Several people spoke enthusiastically about the German Greens’ “Four Pillars” statement.  Someone mentioned an old Populist document.

Seamlessly, we began discussing what our own values or pillars might be.  Someone began recording our suggestions on a large flip chart behind Jeff.  Ten, 15, 20 suggestions went up on the chart with seemingly no end in sight.  I remember saying we should ultimately whittle our list down to 10.  I am afraid I said something Washington D.C.-like about the importance of political marketing.  Jeff became exhausted and I took over facilitating the discussion until we adjourned, at which point folks were invited to come visit me at one of the dining room tables behind the lounge, to help think our next steps through.

Many people visited me at that dimly lit table.  I believe the first was feminist theorist Charlene Spretnak, which delighted me since Charlene was the principal organizer of our founding meeting.  Also coming back there to talk was a variety of socialists, anarchists, and “social ecologists.”  That delighted me too, since they represented a different wing of the Green movement from mine and I wanted them on board.  


The paragraph above is a cleaned-up account of my feelings, but contemporary activists deserve more.  Without some inkling of the fraught personal dynamics at the founding meeting, it is impossible to understand the real, human context out of which the Ten Key Values arose.

Many structural obstacles confronted our group in 1984, all sadly familiar to you – the two-party system, media disinterest, etc.  But we still had a shot at breaking through.  In the mid-1980s, plenty of wealthy or well-placed people (many of them subscribers to my newsletter) stood ready to help a Greenish political organization that exhibited the focus and leadership skills to actually take on the Democrats and Republicans.

What kept us back, in my opinion, was an obstacle more difficult to talk about, because it came from within.  And that was our less-than-collegial way of relating to one another.  Spiritual or Marxist, male or female, too many of us came across at our founding meeting and for many years afterwards as feuding, immature, alienated bullies; and we did not structure ourselves in ways that might have mitigated that.  Our potential sources of expertise and money – not the sort of people to be impressed by words alone – quickly sniffed that out.

It would be easy for me to sit back and write only about other people at the meeting to illustrate my point.  But it’s not consistent with the Green key value of personal responsibility.  So I’ll tell a couple of stories that suggest my wary or antagonistic feelings, as well as those of others.

I definitely felt wary when Charlene sat down at my table.  That spring, I had written what I felt was a positive and constructively critical review of her Green Politics book.  She had responded to it with a letter that I felt was wildly over the top.  It began with the phrase “How dare you ...,” employed such epithets as “slimy,” and informed me that in my case “the personal is not only political, it’s disastrous.”  She followed that up with a card that was even crueler.  My less-than-benign feelings did not abate when, after sitting down, she told me she’d come by to make sure I didn’t mess things up – and the phrase she used was a lot stronger than “mess things up.”

I had similarly mixed feelings when admirers of Murray Bookchin and social ecology showed up at my table.  I first saw Murray at a conference in Winnipeg in 1979, where we were featured speakers.  I introduced myself and began telling him how much his book Post-Scarcity Anarchism had influenced my thinking.  He quickly cut me off, told me that my New Age Politics was the “work of a dilettante,” and turned away with a look of disgust on his face.  I couldn’t believe it.  By the time of the Green meeting, though, I had experienced that non-collegial reaction (and even that look!) from too many social ecologists and allied anarchists, and I was sick of it.

If you’ve guessed by now that I was as prickly as anyone else at the founding meeting, you’d be right.  For example, one of Murray’s co-workers – a very savvy social ecologist named Gloria Goldberg – had left me and my Vermont Republican friend John McClaughry off the invitation list to the meeting.  I wrote a wildly over-the-top letter to Charlene and the other organizers, and spoke with Charlene by phone, arguing that Gloria’s exclusion of John and me could not possibly be an accident.  Suffice it to say that the recipients of these ministrations were not impressed by my “logic,” nor did they appreciate my exasperated tone.

Looking back now after nearly three decades, I feel more empathy for our misbehavior – others’ and mine – than I used to.  The Cold War was in full bloom; fear and a sense of urgency were our daily bread.  Despite our sincere spiritual practices or enjoyable socio-political roles (or both), most of us were working ourselves to exhaustion for social change, most of us still felt rotten for not having stopped the Vietnam War before over one million people had been slaughtered, and most of us felt distinctly underappreciated by the society at large.  Sometimes even our families looked away.  And it wasn’t just the Greens.  I had experienced thin-skinnedness, barely-disguised competitiveness, and related frailties before – in the ecologically and spiritually minded New World Alliance.  Others had experienced similar phenomena in other post-Vietnam groups struggling to be heard.

What’s surprising, then – even somewhat miraculous – is not that the Ten Key Values statement failed to take the political arena by storm, but that it got written and distributed at all.  Despite our manifold personal and political conflicts, there was enough strength in our souls – fire in our bellies – and love in our hearts – that we were able to create a process that brought the statement into being.  I want this article to memorialize that.  I want this article to celebrate the fact that, in a dark time, a group of stressed and often deeply imperfect Americans was able to overcome its resentments and differences and articulate the basis for a Green society that could help heal all of us in this nation.  Not least of all, the attendees themselves.  


On the morning of our last day, a plenary session assigned Charlene and me the task of drafting the Ten Key Values statement (a list of the values themselves plus brief descriptions of each).  We were to base our draft on the discussions held during the meeting and on any suggestions we might receive from meeting participants over the weeks ahead.

Charlene then suggested adding a third person to the mix, futurist and activist Eleanor LeCain.  I immediately objected.  Although I liked and respected Eleanor, I said I would not work on a political committee ever again after my disastrous experiences in the New World Alliance.  I said I wanted to work swiftly and efficiently with one person.  I added that if Charlene or I needed additional help, I was sure we could enlist volunteers without making them part of our decision-making duo.

Two people spoke in support of my position and none spoke against it.  Charlene and I were declared the only draft decision-makers – the official co-drafters – with the proviso that we were each permitted (and even encouraged) to seek informal, individual assistance from anyone who'd attended the founding meeting.  Thus Charlene obtained individual assistance from Eleanor (both of them lived in Berkeley at the time), and back in D.C. I obtained individual help from meeting participants Gerald Goldfarb and Robert Theobald.  


So, for the record: the statement was not produced by a “scribe committee” consisting of Charlene, Eleanor, and me, as Charlene asserts in an article about our early history [click HERE and scroll to document p. 48 / pdf p. 55].  There was no committee.  Nor is Charlene the only author, although she’s credited as such in Roger Gottlieb’s important anthology This Sacred Earth (1995) [in the first edition, 1995, the statement is reprinted under her byline; see pp. ix and 534-36.  The statement was removed from the second edition] and by some Green groups online.  For better or worse, Charlene and I were the designated, and equal, co-drafters.  And I can assure you we each did at least half of the work!  


How did Charlene and I manage to carry it off?  Despite our differences (which were never resolved), we had one transcendent thing in common – a commitment to working every founding Green’s views into our draft text.  Also, invaluable suggestions and policy proposals kept coming in to us.  Thanks to Charlene’s willingness to cover the massive long-distance phone bills (an impediment to collaborative writing that Internet-age activists would never know), Charlene and I spent ridiculous numbers of hours on the phone attempting to integrate every Green's relevant thoughts and perfect every dash and comma.

The biggest problem we faced was that many of the founding Greens’ most wonderful ideas were incompatible with one another.  The solution we hit upon was to look behind the positions people were taking.  Although Greens’ policy positions were incredibly diverse in 1984, the questions we were asking to reach those positions were actually quite similar and characterized by such qualities as depth, courage, and long-term vision.  So Charlene and I ended up describing each of the ten values in the form of open-ended questions, as you’ll see below.

I have to confess that I advocated this approach because of another consideration as well: I wanted Greens to develop a political perspective that was genuinely new, and not just some updated version of anarcho-socialism.  (Which is not to say that anarcho-socialists cannot help us get to that new place.  On the contrary, they must help.)  So by phrasing the descriptions as open-ended questions, rather than as hortatory statements full of “musts” and “shoulds,” I was hoping to inspire us to think creatively and originally about the problems we face.

Although some Green groups, including the Green Party of California, have retained the open-ended questions, it broke my heart that the national Green Party soon did away with them in favor of a torrent of “wills,” “musts,” and “shoulds.”  For example, under the “Ecological Wisdom” value, Charlene and I wrote, “How can we operate human societies with the understanding that we are PART of nature, not on top of it?”  By contrast, the Ecological Wisdom value in the national Green platform for 2012 states, “Human societies must operate with the understanding that we are part of nature, not separate from nature.”  Which formulation do you think better lends itself to dialogue and mutual learning?  One is hands-on (“How can we operate ...”) , provocative (“... on top of ...”), and exploratory; the other smacks of bureaucratic fiat.  


The Ten Key Values statement was approved by our Interregional Committee and released in late 1984.  The original key values were Ecological Wisdom, Grassroots Democracy, Personal and Social Responsibility, Nonviolence, Decentralization, Community-Based Economics, Postpatriarchal Values, Respect for Diversity, Global Responsibility, and Future Focus.  As explained above, each was followed by a series of questions.  Here are three questions under the Future Focus value:

How can we induce people and institutions to think in terms of the long-range future, and not just in terms of their short-range selfish interest?  [Note the “just” in that sentence.  For me, it was a nod to human nature; for Charlene, a concession to Western civ as we know it. – M.S.] ...  How can we induce our government and other institutions to practice fiscal responsibility?  [Twenty-five years before the Tea Party! – M.S.]  How can we make the quality of life, rather than open-ended economic growth, the focus of future thinking?

And here are the questions following Global Responsibility:

How can we be of genuine assistance to grassroots groups in the Third World – and what can WE learn from such groups?  How can we help other countries make a transition to self-sufficiency in food and other basic necessities?  How can we cut our defense budget while maintaining an adequate defense?  How can we promote these ten Green values in reshaping our global order?  How can we reshape the global order without creating [the equivalent of] just another enormous nation-state?

Charlene and I wanted our text to model our movement as we hoped to see it someday – incisive and responsible and humane; with every part connected to and nourishing every other part.  I like to think we succeeded.  


After the Ten Key Values statement was birthed, I hoped Greens would dedicate themselves to ONE activity only – assiduously recruiting candidates and helping them run for office – and that comfort with the Ten Key Values statement (non-ideological and open to a wide range of interpretations) would be the sole criterion for Green or Green-supported candidacies.

In a scheduled plenary speech at the first national Green Gathering (1987) and in corridors and over dining tables at the next two Gatherings (1989 and 1990), I passionately argued for that position.  No 50-page political platforms, no non-electoral activities, no grandiose consensus processes, no divisive internal bickering – just focus mightily on the knitting: help 50,000 good people run for something every two years.  Devote all our national energies to that.  Suppress our egos and "be of use," as the great Marge Piercy says.  But in the 1980s, our Interregional Committee took a different course.

To this day I am convinced that, had we chosen to be a national political party from the start, with the Ten Key Values and their burning, pointed questions as our rallying cry, we would be significantly more influential than we became.  



I'd like to thank three admirably solid founding meeting attendees – Steve Chase, Robert Gilman, and W. Hunter Roberts – for commenting on an earlier draft of this paper.  I am, of course, solely responsible for the final product.



Mark Satin participated in SNCC and SDS, then co-founded the Toronto Anti-Draft Programme, which helped bring Vietnam-era draft resisters to Canada.  His book New Age Politics (Dell, 1978) attempted to articulate a coherent post-socialist ideology for his generation.  After publishing the idealistic New Options Newsletter in the 1980s and practicing business law in the 1990s, Mark addressed the mainstream with his book Radical Middle (Basic, 2004).  Although panned by the policy director of the Democratic Leadership Council, it was chosen best book of 2003-­­­04 by the Ecological and Transformational Politics Section of the American Political Science Association.  Wikipedia’s biography of Mark was recently named a “Featured Article” there, one of only about 3,600 out of over four million.

[end of journal article]


One of the great advantages of Web-based articles is there’s an infinite amount of space.  So I am reprinting the entire original version of the Ten Key Values statement here.  It may be the only completely unaltered version on the Web.  Enjoy! – M.S.


This list of values and questions for discussion was composed by a diverse group of people who are working to build a new politics, which has kinship with Green movements around the world. We feel the issues we have raised below are not being addressed adequately by the political left or right. We invite you to join with us in refining our values, sharpening our questions – and translating our perspective into practical and effective political actions.

Ecological Wisdom

How can we operate human societies with the understanding that we are PART of nature, not on top of it?  How can we live within the ecological and resource limits of the planet, applying our technological knowledge to the challenge of an energy-efficient economy?  How can we build a better relationship between cities and countryside?  How can we guarantee the rights of non-human species?  How can we promote sustainable agriculture and respect for self-regulating natural systems?  How can we further biocentric wisdom in all spheres of life?

Grassroots Democracy

How can we develop systems that allow and encourage us to control the decisions that affect our lives?  How can we ensure that representatives will be fully accountable to the people who elected them?  How can we develop planning mechanisms that would allow citizens to develop and implement their own preferences for policies and spending priorities?  How can we encourage and assist the “mediating institutions” – family, neighborhood organization, church group, voluntary association, ethnic club – to recover some of the functions now performed by government?  How can we relearn the best insights from American traditions of civic vitality, voluntary action and community responsibility?

Personal and Social Responsibility

How can we respond to human suffering in ways that promote dignity?  How can we encourage people to commit themselves to lifestyles that promote their own health?  How can we have a community-controlled education system that effectively teaches our children academic skills, ecological wisdom, social responsibility and personal growth?  How can we resolve personal and intergroup conflicts without just turning them over to lawyers and judges?  How can we take responsibility for reducing the crime rate in our neighborhoods?  How can we encourage such values as simplicity and moderation?


How can we, as a society, develop effective alternatives to our current patterns of violence at all levels, from the family and the street to nations and the world?  How can we eliminate nuclear weapons from the face of the Earth without being naive about the intentions of other governments?  How can we most constructively use nonviolent methods to oppose practices and policies with which we disagree, and in the process reduce the atmosphere of polarization and selfishness that is itself a source of violence?


How can we restore power and responsibility to individuals, institutions, communities and regions?  How can we encourage the flourishing of regionally-based cultures, as distinct from a dominant monoculture?  How can we locate the power of our political, economic and social institutions closer to home in ways that are efficient and practical?  How can we reconcile the need for community and regional self-determination with the need for appropriate centralized regulation in certain matters?

Community-Based Economics

How can we redesign our work structures to encourage employee ownership and workplace democracy?  How can we develop new economic activities and institutions that will allow us to use our new technologies in ways that are humane, freeing, ecological, and responsive to communities?  How can we establish some form of basic economic security, open to all?  How can we move beyond the narrow “job ethic” to new definitions of work, jobs and income that reflect the changing economy?  How can we change our income distribution pattern to reflect the wealth created by those outside the formal, monetary economy – those who take responsibility for parenting, housekeeping, home gardening, doing community volunteer work, etc.?  How can we restrict the size and concentrated power of corporations without discouraging superior efficiency or technological innovation?

Postpatriarchal Values

How can we replace the cultural ethos of dominance and control with more cooperative ways of interacting?  How can we encourage people to care about persons outside their own group?  How can we promote the building of respectful, positive and responsive relationships across the lines of gender and other divisions?  How can we encourage a rich, diverse political culture that respects feelings as well as rationalist approaches?  How can we proceed with as much respect for the means as the end, the process as well as the product?  How can we learn to respect the contemplative, inner part of life as much as the outer activities?

Respect for Diversity

How can we honor cultural, ethnic, racial, sexual, religious and spiritual diversity within the context of individual responsibility toward all beings?  While honoring diversity, how can we reclaim our country’s finest shared ideals – the dignity of the individual, democratic participation, and liberty and justice for all?

Global Responsibility

How can we be of genuine assistance to the grassroots groups in the Third World – and what can WE learn from such groups?  How can we help other countries make a transition to self-sufficiency in food and other basic necessities?  How can we cut our defense budget while maintaining an adequate defense?  How can we promote these ten Green values in reshaping our global order?  How can we reshape the global order without creating [the equivalent of] just another enormous nation-state?

Future Focus

How can we induce people and institutions to think in terms of the long-range future, and not just in terms of their short-range selfish interest?  How can we encourage people to develop their own visions of the future and move more effectively toward them?  How can we judge whether new technologies are socially useful – and use those judgments to shape our society?  How can we induce our government and other institutions to practice fiscal responsibility?  How can we make the quality of life, rather than open-ended economic growth, the focus of future thinking?




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