About Us

Contact Us


EDITOR'S NOTE: A reader suggests that the SF Call should not have run this piece because it's "a red-baiting, anti-communist diatribe." Do you think it is? Should it have run? Email bculp@sfcall.com. I'll post some of your responses (no names - you can speak freely & anonymously).

Removing Barriers to Participation in the Green Party

A Response to Kim Knox

By Marc Salomon

Political Party: "a team of men [sic] seeking to control the governing apparatus by gaining office in a duly constituted election"

— Anthony Downs, An Economic Theory of Democracy, 1957

[A] political party is an autonomous group of citizens having the purpose of making nominations and contesting elections in hope of gaining control over governmental power through the capture of public offices and the organization of the government.

— Robert Huckshorn

An effective party system requires, first, that the parties are able to bring forth programs to which they commit themselves and, second, that the parties possess sufficient internal cohesion to carry out these programs. Achieving party unity matters because (1) it gives voters a clear choice in election campaigns; (2) it gives the winning political party a mandate for governing; and (3) it ensures the party as the likely instrument whereby voters can make a legal revolution.

— American Political Science Association's Committee on Political Parties, 1950

In response to Kimberley Knox, the SF Green Party's own “party of one,” I would assert that by removing the Frontlines cadre from the Green Party, we have removed barriers to participation, especially for women and people of color, rather than restricted participation. Had Knox attended the meeting where these actions were taken, perhaps her writing might have been informed by first-hand knowledge rather than reflected at a distance and after the fact. But nothing has ever stopped Knox from attacking her fellow GCC members both in these pages and from behind her alias on several local internet chatboards.

Since the Gonzalez for Mayor campaign of 2003, the San Francisco Green Party has wrestled with the presence of a set of political groups affiliated with Argentine Trotskyite Carlos Petroni. These groups are organized around Leninist principles and include: “Frontlines,” “The Left Party,” “The Immigrant Rights Movement,” and “The New Progressive Left Movement.” Individuals affiliated with this formation bob and weave, identifying themselves with any, all, or none of these groups as the situation dictates. Together, I refer to these as the “Frontlines family of front groups.” At most there are 12 individuals who associate with this family, but as the Green Party is a consensus-based group, they can reduce outcomes to the lowest common denominator.

Now, on the surface it would appear that the Green Party and the Frontlines family agree on many if not all policies, but the differences come on how we play our hand, our honesty with our allies, and what means we use to achieve our goals. And it is these differences which represent an incongruity between two distinct political traditions — that of the leftist democratic centralist vanguard and that of the more anarchistic Green decentralized grassroots democracy. The tools of consensus are not usable to bridge gaps when a voting bloc has arrived at positions on issues “outside the room.”

The Green Party in North America is organized around the ten key values which inform our activism and political campaigns, and exists as a collaborative, a support structure for individuals and groups to further those goals electorally and through lobbying. Greens empower people's activism rather than placing limits on them while Frontlines sought to restrict options of all based on their narrow particular internal points of unity.

Unlike every other progressive effort to supplant the rightward-drifting Democrat party, the Greens have meet with success where our counterparts on the left, the Peace and Freedom Party and the Left Party, have failed to gain electoral traction, and there are reasons for this.

The Left Party that we know — they are secretive about their internal organizational structure — appears based on the Leninist model. This presumes that there is a small group of self-proclaimed leaders of the working class who are availed of knowledge on what policies, strategies, and tactics are in the best interests of their alleged base. The Leninist party then proceeds to act toward those ends by any means necessary, frequently adopting a militarist party structure that would be easily adaptable to the final stages of a violent revolution. The main problem with this is that the vanguard couldn't care less what its base wanted.

But given their electoral track record, the only way that the Frontlines family will ever prevail is by means other than the ballot box. Carlos Petroni, Lucrecia Bermudez, Chris Finn, and Maria Rinaldi have all run for office, most serially, and always have been roundly defeated. Emboldened by support from former supervisor Matt Gonzalez as Petroni ran for Treasurer and then by Matt's support for noncitizen voting, the Frontlines family believed that the Green Party would as welcoming as Gonzalez, who endorsed Chris Finn, Carlos Petroni, and Catherine Powell for GCC in 2004.

Then Frontlines eviscerated Green candidates Renee Saucedo and Ross Mirkarimi in print last fall. Lucrecia Bermudez, a Frontlines red who is ostensibly and opportunistically registered Green, was silent on her party affiliation during her campaign, after she unsuccessfully tried to disrupt the Green state plenary last March before competing for the Green endorsement and then dropping out when the nod for Saucedo became apparent. A case study in duplicity was confirmed last week when Frontlines “editor” Chris Finn insisted that Green African American Oakland City Council Candidate Aimee Allison declare her affiliation front and center at our last meeting.

Last spring, Frontlines then tried to form a Mission Greens working group. Having been around the block in radical activism over the past 20 years, it was apparent to me what was going down, so we were able to block move that by a few votes. They then managed to get a toehold in the Mixed Greens, which was a safe-space caucus for Greens of color. Their view of people of color and immigrants seems limited to whiny communist exiles from Latin America, which from my perch in the Mission does not seem to reflect the diversity of this or any other San Francisco neighborhood.

With control of that working group, they proceeded to alienate other people of color, namely African American and Latina women whom they dismissed as racist, and sought to repurpose the Mixed Greens as an Environmental Racism working group. In the Green Party, working groups are chartered with mission statements, and the Mixed Greens charter is for a safe space for people of color, not for activism fighting Environmental Racism. That work is needed, but should not supplant a safe space.

As I became wise to Frontlines' takeover efforts and began to organize, Carlos Petroni threatened me with violence in the Green Party office, that he “would smash my face through that window over there unless [I] quit fucking with them.”

Last year, the sister who was an active member of the Mixed Greens, with whom many Greens hoofed through Hunter's View in 2003 in the successful campaign for police reform, described her dread of attending these meetings, having been derided as a racist by Petroni, a white Argentine man of Italian descent. As a GCC member, pursuant to the bylaws that charge us with overseeing the operation of working groups, I brought up the notion of suspending the Mixed Greens based on this misconduct. An investigation followed and after the report back, the membership voted 23-4 last week to dissolve the Mixed Greens.

The disconnect between a party with key values of feminism, nonviolence, and respect for diversity and one that is ruthless and uncompromising in pursuit of their chosen agenda is the main reason why members of the patriarchal Frontlines cadre were denied active membership for the 2005 calendar year.

Although the Democrats and Republicans are very similar on 80% of issues, as the Green Party and Left Party are, would either party stand for an infiltration by operatives of their opponents into their governing structure? Indeed, Green County Council Member Caty Powell, who was the stealth Frontlines candidate for GCC (Petroni and Finn came in second to last and last respectively in 2004) has declared that if the Left Party had ballot access they would not need to be messing with the Green Party.

No, as elected GCC members, our first commitment is to preserving the integrity and independence of the San Francisco Green Party. Toward that, undoing an unconsensual merger between the Left and Green Parties was the right thing to do. Given the track record of the Frontlines family of losing elections, failing to bring forth policy changes, and alienating potential allies by viciously blaming others for their failures, the only question our progressive allies will be asking is “what took you all so long?”

Now that the Green Party has disgorged the Left Party, on behalf of the GCC, I would urge all Greens of color who have been alienated by the splinter group to please reconsider their role in the Green Party. As an urban environmentalist party, we must bend over backward so that our membership mirrors our community rather than a sea of pink skin. We are here to empower and support you.

I, for one, am sorry that it took us so long to remove these impediments to broader participation. When I first alerted Greens to the incipient problem, stories of a vast communist conspiracy seemed anachronistic in the post cold-war era to folks who have never seen independent radical activism taken over by Leninists. But the good news is that as the echoes of the collapse of the Berlin Wall fade, old school leftists are falling by the wayside and fewer and fewer radicals are opting for leftism, meaning this will be less and less of a problem as we move into the future.

Most radicals, as has been evidenced by spirited opposition to the WTO and “free trade,” prefer the anarchistic approach to challenge industrial, financial, and corporate dominance over old school leftism. Greens are neither a capitalist nor a socialist party, not rightist nor leftists. Let’s hope that this trend bodes well for independent radical organizing, that the hysterical imperative of organizing and activism that is fun and fulfilling casts the dour and abusive historical imperative of the doctrinaire leftists into the dustbin of history.