Green Party History by David Ellison


This is only my understanding of the history. Others may be able to add detail or variations on the story.

The European Greens had made great strides into national parliaments propelled by their anti-nuclear weapons organizing by the early 1980's. They rose to international prominence at this time. Petra Kelly and others articulated an anti-nuclear, pro-environmental and socially just political point of view.

In the mid 80s', Americans organized a group called the Green Committees of Correspondence (GCoC) and expanded the Europeans' four pillars, Ecology, Social Justice, Nonviolence and Democracy to include six other "values" naming them the "Ten Key Values" - Decentralization, Respect for Diversity, Post-patriarchal values, Future Focus/Sustainability, Community Based Economics, and Personal and Global Responsiblity. The GCoC was a loose organization of local groups.

In the mid 80's, some people spoke with each other about a local Green Political movement in Northeast Ohio. I'm not sure who these people were, but I believe people named Horvath were involved.

In 1989, James Levin attended a national Green Gathering of the GCoC and brought back the intention of forming a local organization here. By October of that year, he had initiated several meetings and publicity around the idea.

A fundamental schism within the Greens has always been between the electoral and the activist elements - called realos and fundis in Europe. Ultimately, the Green Party is an electoral group, so the activist dominance of the early years here in the US and in Ohio was debilitating to electoral efforts even though it seemed completely legitimate at the time.

An organization emerged out of James Levin's instigation, the Northeast Ohio Greens. It created an Earth Day street theater event on public square in 1990 - which included L.S.Summer's portrayal of the earth being disrespected by various polluters, LTV Steel, BP and CEI... the street theater followed a "stations of the cross" sort of path around Public Square. Daryl Davis created a large earth worm puppet that was managed by 20 puppeteers - the whole event was covered on the front page of the Metro Section of the Plain Dealer. David Beach, Paet Van Dyke, James Levin and Lynn Hunt (?) made up an initial steering committee. In addition to the Public Square event, an all night earth day vigil was held underneath the I-490 bridge in Tremont. It involved a procession from Lincoln Park and culminated in a large ring of fires and planting ceremony with breakfast held at Kathy Webber's the next morning.

As the group gained a sense of itself, it gathered with other Green groups organizing around Ohio and had its first gathering of the Ohio Greens in West Virginia in 1990. The local steering committee was expanded to 6 people to include Daryl Davis and myself, David Ellison. Chris Green, later a treasurer of the Cuyahoga County Democratic Party, assumed the editorship of the Northeast Ohio Greens' newsletter, called Greenspeak, of which three issues were printed and whose first issue reported the sudden and unfortunate death of Lynn Hunt in an horrific car accident on Chester Avenue near her home on E. 89th Street.

Nicholas Dykema, Leslie Moynihan, Alanna Meyers, Terry Spaeth, and others were core group members at this time also. I'm not sure of the exact dates, but the first Gulf War for Oil became a central focus for the group almost immediately, derailing whatever other plans we might have developed. Our members were useful to the regional anti-war organizing efforts. We worked on literature and scheduling busses to Washington.

Ione Biggs of the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom/Women Speak Out, and Judy Gallo of SANE/Freeze chaired the Anti-War coalition meetings. This was the first time we encountered the problems presented by the sectarian Marxist-Leninists, the Trots, and the Maoists. Given their long history of distrust and hatred of each other, members of the CPUSA, SWP and RCP prevented any real unified action or meaningful cooperation to happen in or with any effort the larger Peace and Justice community might make. The CPUSA was completely (and understandably, given the persecution they had endured and their intent to hold political power) devoted to the US Democratic Party (and secretly funded by and allied with the Soviet Communist Party). The SWP (Socialist Workers Party) was an older organization and would run its own candidates and had a more purist Socialist outlook that was not Stalinist. The RCP (Revolutionary Communist Party) focused on burning the American Flag and alienated almost everyone. The RCP thought even voting was ideologically unacceptable.

We planted several gardens that first spring. We had a study group review Brian Tokar's book, The Green Alternative, we went to a national GCoC meeting in Ann Arbor - called the IC, or Interregional Committee. The Californians, historically among the most advanced of the Green Party activists in the US, were there along with many founder-types from around the country.

As another year rolled by, we scheduled a meeting of the other Green groups in Ohio and met at Camp Wyandot. There are photos of this meeting in the photo section of this facebook page. It was at this meeting that we agreed as a state organization to take on the proposed Low-level radioactive waste dump they were planning for Ohio.

Don Bryant, a supporter and activist prepared a grant application to the US EPA to provide some funding for our gardening project. It was successful and we were given $2,000. This eventually created some difficulties over internal structure and financial accountability that led us into formal mediation with the Cleveland Mediation Center.

"Growing Together Organically" branched off as a separate organization, with separate tax status and complete independence while maintaining that it was a project of the Northeast Ohio Greens. Don Bryant, Don Kunka, Alanna Meyers and others formed the core group of Greens engaged in this effort.

David Beach had been talking about creating a journal about local environmental issues, and eventually set up EcoCity Cleveland Journal in 1992 as an independent organization.

Daryl Davis was intent about the potential for bicycling to build membership and create an alternative culture. The Wheels of Change engaged the public in commuter races to Public Square on Ride-to-Work days that were broadcast live on local radio stations. It challenged the RTA to take a role in facilitating bicycling - they first wanted bike racks at bus stops - Daryl and Jim Sheehan insisted on bike racks on buses. The Wheels of Change actually provided a small revenue stream for the Northeast Ohio Greens.

The GPUSA, which had been formed at national gatherings of the GCoC's, took on several national campaigns, which the Northeast Ohio Greens picked up and ran with. Most significantly, in 1991, James Levin, Lynne Hannah, John Perera and I organized a committee to mark the "500 years of dignity and resistance" that had been advocated at the national level. We aligned with the United Nations efforts to mark the year of Indigenous People and helped coalesce the local native American community in a series of events at the Cleveland Public Theatre and a day-long event at Public Square. We practiced formal consensus in the group until a month or two before the event, when the numbers of people participating in the meetings and the lack of experience and trust necessary was impossible to maintain. We passed a resolution through Cleveland City Council marking the week of Indigenous People and offended the Italian American Community by criticizing Christopher Columbus for having perpetrated horrible crimes on the people of Hispaniola before being dragged back to Spain in chains.

There was ideological resistance to electoral politics in the Ohio Greens in the early 90's. Our first foray was the 1996 Nader campaign, and it coincided with a bitter divide among us that involved a demand that I resign as Ohio's rep to the national Green Council (I was its 1st Convener) and charges being made publicly against me for violations of the Charter and Working Guidelines of the GPUSA - the public charges themselves were technically a violation of the Charter and Working Guidelines - they require a mediation committee and private proceedings - I hadn't actually committed a violation, and I did not resign. The whole thing was a tempest in a teapot, but it still cost us dearly. We missed getting Nader on the state ballot by 316 signatures - and our failure in Ohio created a demoralizing cascade in the national campaign that year.

to be continued...