Fellow lefties, Greenies, Progressives of every stripe, please read the entire article, two excerpts of which appear below. It's not very long. I'll wait.
I'm not big on mission statements and other such trappings of both the business and nonprofit worlds. They tend to be overly broad in scope and full of treacly clichés about the ideals we'll never live up to. But when progressives get together, they need always to remain mindful of the mission of the group, whether that mission appears on the Bylaws page of the website or doesn't.
Let's Break It Down
(Please be advised that I'm about to ramble a bit. I hope the result is at least coherent.)
Other people may have different views and interpretations of the mission of Green Party organizations. For me, however, the mission is clear: The Green Party is the political arm of the international Green Movement, a movement whose aims are themselves open to multiple interpretations. I happen to believe that the Green Way involves changing our beliefs and actions, and changing society at large, to benefit the planetary environment and all the creatures that depend on Mother Earth (including homo sapiens).
[Insert long-winded sermon about the Four Pillars and Ten Key Values here.]
We could easily substitute "electoral arm" for "political arm." Our primary purpose is to complete in elections. Winning elections is a corollary purpose; it is of at least equal importance that we provide voters who identify as Green or Eco-Socialist a personification of their philosophy for whom they can cast a vote.
We have a powerful message that can be summarized bluntly: Shit needs to change for the better, the sooner the better. By shit, we mean our whole shitty system of capitalist pseudo-democracy. Part of why the Democratic Party establishment fears us, despite our paltry numbers, is that they know that the people at large believe the same thing. As Johnstone has noted on many occasions, those who profit from the status quo are loath to change it—or to allow it to be changed.
Let the Workgroups Work, Let the Business Buzz
In a healthy Green Party organization, state and county meetings conduct their organizational business—e.g., electing and maintaining a steering committee, determining what press releases need to be press-released, and educating attendees about problems and solutions. They may also plan some actions, such as participation in protest demonstrations and outreach to issue groups. But meetings are not to be mistaken for action.
The real action in a thriving, robust Green Party, the part of the Movement that actually moves, happens in workgroups. These groups do a certain amount of planning, but then they execute those plans and report back to the mothership on the outcomes. If you don't have enough members with enough time to make workgroups happen, however, it's perfectly fine to focus on the one thing a Green group needs to do: cultivating and supporting candidates for public office. If you can't do that, you may as well stay home and play the latest Sim game.
The Party, like an activist congregation, serves as a platform for people and groups to take action that promotes the values of the Party—e.g., peace and justice. It also serves as a place for like-minded people to gather and take comfort from each other's existence. As with a church or an issue group, for every "this sucks and we should change it," there should be at least one "here's what we can do to change it, so let's do it."
If you ask to be put on the "stack" to speak at a Green meeting at any level, check yourself before you make a nuisance of yourself. Are you sure that what you are about to say will help push the Party confidently in the direction of its dreams, rather than leaving it stuck in the rhetorical mud by virtue signaling or showing off your knowledge of how bad something sucks?
Procedures Should Proceed
Over time, any organization will develop its own internal procedures, reflecting what works for them. If you're a first-time visitor, or haven't been to meeting in quite a while, members and leaders are under no obligation to take up valuable meeting time explaining all those procedures to you. Look, listen, and learn. If you have questions, save them for afterward. The answers to your questions may reveal themselves within minutes, so have some patience. If you have objections, make sure that you can cite the Bylaw or Key Value that supports your objections.
I have seen people derail and highjack meetings with questions and objections. From what I've heard from fellow activists, his is a widespread phenomenon in what Johnstone calls "dissident circles." These derailers and highjackers may be sincere in their curiosity, or they may appear at meetings just to cause trouble. They may be lone operators, or they may be acting on behalf of a rival group set on thwarting your progress. There are even workshops dedicated to responding to and neutralizing such disruptive behavior.
But if you're not new to the organization, please don't speak unless it improves the silence—i.e., unless it is of immediate value to the purposes or goals of the group, even if that goal is getting through a two-hour meeting in two hours. If you can't restrain yourself during a meeting, please just stay home and find some edgy documentary to watch on Netflix.
Is this a bit harsh? Damn, I hope so.