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The guns at Sumter [that began the American Civil War], the marching armies, the fugitive slaves, the fugitives as “contrabands,” spies, servants and laborers; the Negro as soldier, as citizen, as voter—these steps came from 1861 to 1868 with regular beat that was almost rhythmic. It was the price of the disaster of war, and it was a price that few Americans at first dreamed of paying or wanted to pay. The North was not Abolitionist. It was overwhelmingly in favor of Negro slavery, so long as this did not interfere with Northern moneymaking. But, on the other hand, there was a minority of the North who hated slavery with perfect hatred; who wanted no union with slaveholders; who fought for freedom and treated Negroes as men. As the Abolition-democracy gained in prestige and in power, they appeared as prophets, and led by statesmen, they began to guide the nation out of the morass into which it had fallen. They and their black friends and the new freedmen became gradually the leaders of a Reconstruction of Democracy in the United States, while marching millions sang the noblest war-song of the ages to the tune of “John Brown’s Body”:

Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord/He is trampling out the vintage where the grapes of wrath are stored/He hath loosed the fateful lightning of his terrible swift sword/His Truth is marching on! -W.E.B. Du Bois

We…see the Negroes as foremost among those who will struggle against the crimes and barbarities of the capitalist system. The reason for this lies in the very nature of the Negro’s position in capitalist society. The most exploited, the most oppressed, the most discriminated against, Negroes are the ones who experience most acutely and most unbearably the overwhelming burdens which capitalism places upon the masses in every country. Negroes haven’t to read in books about the fraud of capitalist democracy. Karl Marx and Lenin have little to teach them about the fact.This conception of the role of the Negro has hitherto been obscured by the racial prejudices instilled into the different sections of the working class by American capitalism. The revolutionary party therefore is faced with the tremendous difficulty of overcoming this division. Yet difficult as this task is, it is a difficulty of tactics and not of strategy. The important question is not so much that of winning the Negroes for the revolution, but of instilling the Negro masses with the conviction that they can place their trust and confidence in a revolutionary party composed largely of white workers, as is inevitable in American society. -C.L.R. James

Why We Need a Reader

In any moment of heightened political contradictions, it proves necessary to develop a firm set of ideological coordinates from which praxis can materialize. This is particularly true in the matter of trying to build a mass-membership organization that goes outside the confines of the petit bourgeoisie and into the grassroots where the working class is to be found simultaneous with the growing alarmism around reborn fascist politics.

Table of Contents
  • Are Prisons Obsolete? by Angela Y. Davis

  • The Communalist Project by Murray Bookchin

  • Social Ecology versus Deep Ecology: A Challenge for the Ecology Movement by Murray Bookchin

  • Ecofascism: Lessons from the German Experience by Peter Staudenmaier  and Janet Biehl

  • The Bernie Sanders Paradox by Murray Bookchin

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We currently are seeing in the mainstream and even psuedo-progressive left media a large-scale meta-narrative that promotes a definite and clear political agenda. With these contradictions creating such serious and confusing times, it is important for Greens to move outside the realm of petty electoralism and into the street. The Green Party can become a mass-membership movement that opposes imperialism, settler-colonist white supremacy, misogyny (including when it appears as corporate neoliberal feminism), and austerity while defending the commons.

These readings are not programmatic or agenda-based.

Such times require something much bolder.

We open this reader with an analysis of mass incarceration and the prison-industrial complex by Angela Davis. This is the human rights issue of our epoch and It must be understood as a central location of struggle. It is impossible to subsume the matter under the heading of simplistic ecology or relegate it to a lower position on a roster of priorities. Rather, it is the true liberation politics of genuine socialism that can inform the struggle for livable ecology.

Murray Bookchin’s The Communalist Project is a vision of a Green future that goes well beyond Keynesian welfare state politics and into the realm of actual political democracy. He writes:

Communalism seeks to recapture the meaning of politics in its broadest, most emancipatory sense, indeed, to fulfill the historic potential of the municipality as the developmental arena of mind and discourse. It conceptualizes the municipality, potentially at least, as a transformative development beyond organic evolution into the domain of social evolution.
The city is the domain where the archaic blood-tie that was once limited to the unification of families and tribes, to the exclusion of outsiders, was – juridically, at least – dissolved. It became the domain where hierarchies based on parochial and sociobiological attributes of kinship, gender, and age could be eliminated and replaced by a free society based on a shared common humanity.
Potentially, it remains the domain where the once-feared stranger can be fully absorbed into the community – initially as a protected resident of a common territory and eventually as a citizen, engaged in making policy decisions in the public arena. It is above all the domain where institutions and values have their roots not in zoology but in civil human activity.
This is how Greens can show that another world is possible, one where every cook can govern.

From here, we include two further writings on the topic of fascism. For too long, Greens have been rebuked, sometimes rightfully so, for refusing to acknowledge their privilege and role within white supremacy. Many suburban Greens have awful politics on race, gender, sexuality, and the role of the welfare state in the lives of the working class. Participation in the Green Party is seen as a petit bourgeois hobby that fails to acknowledge the needs and wants of the working class, a kind of meek protest politics for white people who wish to ‘Green Keynes’ and little more.

However, it is from within the earliest writings of American Greens like Janet Biehl, Peter Staudenmaier, and Bookchin that we find a tradition of ecological anti-fascism that can provide useful praxis moving forward. These writings go beyond the realm of spontaneity and demonstrations to provide an ideological rebuke to a fascist current Americans can expect to see more and more of in the coming years. While Donald Trump may be a passing political actor, the politics he has tapped into will be with us for a long time and will require action that goes well beyond the consensus of even a retro New Dealer like Bernie Sanders.

It is our hope that this strand of the Green tradition, a socialist praxis rooted in values of liberté, égalité, fraternité and harkening back to the emancipatory ideals of the Haitian Revolution, might take root in our wider American Green Party and help build our base into a viable force for taking power.