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Ten Key Values ... provided a semblance of unity [without which] the
fledgling party may not have survived”
Birth of the U.S. Green Party’s
article is reprinted, with permission, from Green
Horizon Magazine, volume 9, issue no. 26 (Fall / Winter 2012), pp.
journal’s title for this article was “Miraculous Birth of the 'Ten Key
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 available 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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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
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.
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
delighted me too, since they represented a
different wing of the Green movement from mine and I wanted them on
THE SMILING FAMILY
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
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.
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
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.
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
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) [click HERE
and scroll to pp. ix and 534-36] 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.
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.
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:
And here are the
questions following Global Responsibility:
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.
PROUD FATHER’S (INEVITABLE?) LAMENT
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
Gilman, and W. Hunter
Roberts – for commenting on an earlier draft of this paper.
I am, of course, solely responsible for the final product.
in SNCC and SDS,
then co-founded the Toronto Anti-Draft Programme, which helped bring
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
biography of Mark was recently named a “Featured
Article” there, one of only about 3,600 out of over four million.
THE ENTIRE ORIGINAL TEN KEY VALUES STATEMENT
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.
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?
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?
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
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
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?
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
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?
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
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?
ABOUT THE RADICAL MIDDLE CONCEPT
GREAT RADICAL MIDDLE GROUPS AND BLOGS:
SOME PRIOR RADICAL MIDDLE INITIATIVES:
SOME PRIOR WRITINGS BY MARK SATIN:
NOT JUST RADICAL MIDDLE: