21 June 2005

Green Party Organizing

When I first joined Xanga and signed up for the Greens ring, I was disappointed that there was no discussion of organizing theory. Most are typical blogs, a few provide good political commentary, but nothing about the actual process of party building. I have been asked by the new chairs of our local Greens for advice on reviving the Tallahassee Greens (I think they are down to two members). I am still aggravated from my experience as chair, and just the thought of starting over and rebuilding again is very draining. Presented here, however, is the advice I intend to give, with hopes that it may benefit other organizations. Should any other Green party members stumble upon this, your thoughts and criticism would be appreciated. Let us know what worked for you group.

My first rule is stick to a weekly meeting schedule and keep it in the same place. On campus we had the benefit of having the House of KAOS, which was large enough to hold meetings in, and there was easy access to Mike's Beer Barn. When the Greens in 2000 got too large to meet at KAOS, I insisted that we meet at the Warehouse, a local bar. Beer has always been a necessary part of our organizing style, plus a bar is a good atmosphere for revolutionary discussion. In Colonial America, the local tavern was always the central gathering place for political action. Some traditional values demand respect. The new group is encouraged to use the Progressive Center, because 1.- that is why we have a Center, and 2.- it provides the same atmosphere as KAOS (but without the frat boys hanging off the roof.)

A weekly schedule cannot be overemphasized, as groups need a sense of continuity and routine. It seems to me that most groups tend to break up when meeting times are continually changed and moved. When there were complaints that we did not have enough business to justify meeting weekly, I asked "Why not?" and tried to develop a plan that would keep us busy.

The plan is more tricky, and there were always two competing mind sets. One group wanted to have more educational, informational meetings, which was fine if we needed filler for a week. Another group wanted to take more direct actions. My take is that informational meetings are fine as a means of recruiting. Once people are in, however, you need to give them something to do or you'll lose them again. It is easy to get sidetracked by too many ideas, however. I know there are a lot of issues that crop up, but your time and resources are going to be severely limited. Therefore you are going to have decide which issues you can reasonably address so the group is not spread too thin trying to do too much.

The ideal plan would be to start in the January after an election, and decide what issues to work on the next two years (the election cycle). The Spring and Summer could be spent recruiting and researching viable issues. Put flyers up around campus and other progressive areas advertising your meeting times. Once a core group is assembled the Fall can start with a General Interest Meeting, to which the community is invited in order to showcase your upcoming campaigns, whether they be running a candidate or a ballot initiative. The actual election year can be spent gathering petitions, raising awareness, or shoring up support for a candidate with various media and fundraising events. After election day, repeat.

If no candidates are willing to run, I recommend ballot initiatives as a campaign focus. They have definite goals and a definite end. It is easier to get people fired up about a plan if they know it's not going to drag on year after year. People tend to get involved based on the quality of the campaign, so the issues you choose will be a factor in party building.

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