The Rainbow People's Party has wholeheartedly supported the Human Rights Party of Washtenaw County since January of this year, and we continue to support the platform, the programs, and the elected officials of the HRP. We hope to be able to work together with the Human Rights Party in the future toward our common goal of building independent political power for masses of poor, oppressed, powerless people in Washtenaw County, but we are sad to announce at this time that the Rainbow People's Party is unable to support the November electoral program of the Washtenaw County caucus of the HRP. We have reached this decision only after hours of intensive investigation and discussion of the problems and issues involved, and we would like briefly to lay out some of the reasons behind our decision so people can have a better idea of where we're coming from.
In the first place, we united with the Human Rights Party last January (1972) after being approached by members of the HRP with their proposal that we work together to elect candidates to city and county offices who would be absolutely responsive to the people they regard as their constituency. We had opposed the Human Rights Party earlier, when it was still the Radical Independent Party, on the grounds that it had no practical base, or basis of constructive practice, in the Ann Arbor community, that it was merely an idealistic group of campus radicals who had no daily commitment to concrete social change in Ann Arbor and Washtenaw County, and that it was irresponsibly meddling in the real political life of this community with no serious program for obtaining and oping political power in this area through electoral activity.
The HRP representatives who approached us last January assured us that they and the HRP had gone through a lot of changes since the party's inception as the RIP; they were committed, they said, to building a strong, mass-based, mass-oriented alternative electoral party which could and would win electoral offices and which would utilize those offices for the benefit of the poor, oppressed, and powerless people of Washtenaw County. They had a plan for the spring City Council elections which would not only result in victories for HRP candidates in the spring elections but which would effectively build for and point toward the county elections in the falI, when the HRP would run strong candidates for sheriff, prosecutor, certain county commissioner seats, and the State Representative seat from this legislative district.
We represented at that time that we felt we could help win the support of the masses of rainbow people in this community for the Human Rights Party and its candidates since large numbers of our people share a great interest in the question of political power and its effects in their lives, and a heavy committment to revolutionary social change in whatever form it presents itself. We proposed that the HRP develop and consolidate its actual human base in the rainbow community, including the student sector, and that it use this strong base in order to win political offices and thus attract other elements of the Ann Arbor/Washtenaw County community which could be won over only be being convinced
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RPP Statement on HRP and Nov. Elections continued from page 3
that the HRP would and could represent their interests in the political arena.
We were particularly interested in the HRP's plans for the fall elections, since we have long maintained that the office of sheriff must be under the control of the progressive people of this county, if only to insure our survival and the survival of all poor, oppressed, powerless people in this county who have long suffered at the hands of vicious pigs like Douglas J. Harvey and his racist thug deputies. We felt very strongly that the HRP could win this office through the electoral process if it ran a strong, winning campaign in the spring elections and then built on the base it would establish during those elections to push on through to victory in the November county races with the support of thousands of people throughout the county, people who would be attracted to the HRP by its winning strategies, its superior candidates, its clearcut radical programs, its elected officials' dynamic performance in office, and its greatly increased political base in the people of the rainbow community and the other progressive sectors of the overall community in Washtenaw County.
We also made it clear to the HRP representatives that we were interested in working with the HRP only if it consistently carried out its bold plan for obtaining and developing people's political power in this community; that is, only if the HRP consistently ran politically attractive candidates for office in every area where the interests of the people would be advanced by having strong radical brothers and sisters working openly in the electoral arena to confront the reactionary property parties (Republicans and Democrats), their candidates and their platforms, with candidates and platforms which reflected the true interests of the people and which could and would deliver the people from their most immediate problems of survival during the last dying years of the capitalist regime.
We were particularly inspired by the HRP's plan for the spring elections, which not only pointed toward victory for the HRP candidates in the first and second wards but which also insured the blanking of the Democrats in the city's third, fourth and fifth wards. We are committed to eliminating the Democratic Party, and eventually the Republican Party as well, as a political force in this community, since neither of them truly serve the interests of the poor, oppressed, powerless people of the area, and since the Democratic Party in particular represents itself as the savior of such people while in fact it is inextricably bound up with the forces which oppress and exploit them.
We knew we would have problems with certain elements within the HRP, as we have always had problems with ultra-leftist intellectuals who refuse to recognize the legitimacy or even the existence of what we call rainbow people; but, given the proposed basis of unity with the HRP as a whole, we felt we could struggle together with the different factions within the HRP against the Democrats and Republicans on the one hand, and toward a stronger basis of unity and a higher level of analysis and practice for the HRP on the other. We felt we could work together as long as the principles of the alliance were consistently upheld by the other members of the HRP, and just as important, as long as the HRP people would work with us toward our goal of unifying and consolidating the potential political power of the masses of rainbow people in Ann Arbor and Washtenaw County.
We worked with the Human Rights Party thoughoutt February on an intensive voter registration drive in the Ann Arbor rainbow community, pursuing our analysis that a great deal of the HRP's potential strength rested in the hands of people who had never participated in the electoral process before but who would respond to the HRP's call to action because they would be able to see that the HRP was what they had been begging for all along – an independent, truly alternative radical party in which could help deliver the people their needs and which could take, with the people, the first steps toward people's control of the political institutions of this area.
After a successful voter registration drive, which resulted among other things in the registration of more new voters in the second ward than had voted for all candidates in the previous City Council election, we worked intensely with the Human Rights Party to win the City Council races in the first and second wards. As part of our committment to the HRP, we offered sister Genie Plamondon, a member of our Central Committee and a tireless worker in the community building up people's programs, as our nominee for Councilwoman in the third ward (where our headquarters are located). We did this, knowing Genie had no real chance of winning, because we wanted to make it absolutely clear to everyone in the community where the Rainbow People's Party stood vis a vis electoral politics and the Human Rights Party, that is, we wanted people to know that we supported the HRP and its platform and programs one hundred per cent.
We put our fullest energy and resources behind the Human Rights Party and its candidates, including a major loan of money for the duration of the campaign, and we did everything we could to advance the HRP's candidates among our people. Genie Plamondon herself gave two entire months of her life to the City Council campaign, doing daily canvassing throughout the third ward, participating in debates and discussions before many audiences, speaking to hundreds and thousands of people in the community about the platform of the HRP and how it was designed to deal with people's most basic survival problems as well as their need for political control over the institutions which affect their lives. She eventually brought in 1558 votes in a ward where people were saying 500 votes for the HRP would be a miracle, and we feel she also played a major role in the election of Nancy Wechsler in the second ward and Jerry deGrieck in the first, by virtue of her presence on the HRP's City Council ticket.
After the vistorious spring elections we relaxed for quite a while and failed to maintain our intensive relationship with the Human Rights Party, for which failure we must criticize ourselves most severely. We were entering what has proved to be a protracted period of reconstruction of our physical space on Hill Street, we were involved in many other areas of political, economic and cultural work in the community which we felt were more pressing at the time, and we felt, incorrectly, that the gains for the HRP which had been made in the spring elections would serve to inspire the HRP regulars to consolidate their strength and begin to raise it to a higher level by enlisting more and more people – particularly rainbow people – in their struggle for revolutionary social change.
While our level of activity within the Human Rights Party dropped to an unsatisfactory level – although we continued to participate in the HRP Steering Committee and in mass meetings of the HRP – certain other elements began to intensify their efforts within the HRP to bring it back to its former condition as a campus-radical debating society much more interested in abstract psuedo-political questions than in building a mass-based, mass-oriented alternative electoral party which could begin to answer some of the questions of political power in this community in the most concrete fashion, by electing radical candidates to political offices and then using their position in the local government bodies to serve the interests of the people. This faction includes some of the original members of RIP who made it impossible for us to support that group in the first place, people who profess an interest in concrete change but who do little or nothing in their daily practice to bring such change about.
By the time the county convention which would determine the course of the HRP in the fall elections was held, we had been made aware that this faction intended to reassert its control over the Human Rights Party by any means necessary, including manipulation of the so-called "open" decision-making process of the HRP through parliamentary tricks and other sinister maneuvers, and we prepared ourselves to struggle with the ultra-left faction in order to preserve the gains that had been made by the HRP and to obtain a committment from the HRP for the strongest possible fall campaign which could result in victories in the sheriff's, state representative's, and the county commissioner's races (the latter in the 14th and 15th districts in particular).
We felt at the time that there was still an essential basis of unity within the HRP, that all the various factions of the HRP were at least committed to building a strong, lasting, expansive, mass-based and mass-oriented electoral party which could deal effectively with the question of political control in this county, and that the internal contradictions within the HRP could be subordinated to these basic goals of the party in order to achieve the desired results, particularly in the sheriff's race.
Through our participation in the HRP's county convention, however, and after many hours of discussion since, we have concluded that there is in fact, at this time, 10 essential basis of unity between ourselves – the Rainbow People's Party – and the rest of the Human Rights Party, particularly its ultra-left faction but including those less rabidly sectarian elements who acquiesce to the persuasive opportunistic arguments of the ultra-leftists. We believe that the divisive elements in the HRP are dedicated to destroying the developing unity which exists in this community solely in order to advance their own narrow theoretical interests. We believe these people have no real interest in dealing with the problems people in this community face in their daily struggle for survival; we believe that abstract theoretical questions are more important to them than the question of people's control of the political institutions of this county, and we feel very strongly that these people are more interested in controlling the Human Rights Party and making it reflect their own narrow preoccupations than they are concerned about building the HRP into a strong mass community organization with a mass base and an active program of practice, carried out through major electoral offices, for bringing about concrete social change in this community.
We are fully aware of the gravity of these charges, and our decision to withdraw our support from the Human Rights Party for the duration of the fall election campaign is predicated upon our understanding of the seriousness of the situation. We feel that in order for there to be unity within the HRP and between the HRP and its constituency in the Ann Arbor rainbow community, there must at least be unity on the question of the party's actual constituency, and that elements within the HRP which insist that the party's constituency is comprised of "liberal democrats" must be conclusively proved wrong, through practice, so that the party can move ahead in the future to build itself up into the powerful progressive force it could be.
Our commitment is to the establishment and growth of a strong, principled, truly alternative radical electoral party which will concentrate its electoral and organizational efforts on the Ann Arbor/Washtenaw County community until its base is solidly established before moving on to the state and national electoral arenas. We feel that the HRP, by refusing to run a candidate for sheriff, by running a candidate for State Representative who believes that the true constituency of the HRP is comprised of a relatively miniscule group of "liberal Democrats", and by running a candidate for County Commissioner in the 15th District who has been out of town vacationing all summer while people in this community have been struggling to survive and to organize themselves, has betrayed its own principles as well as the principles of the alliance made last winter between the RPP and the HRP, and we feel that it has wandered so far from its stated principles that it no longer represents the interests of the rainbow community in this area.
This is not to say that we feel there is no future for the Human Rights Party in Ann Arbor; to the contrary, we believe that the HRP can and hopefully will experience tremendous growth once it reunites with the rainbow community in Ann Arbor and moves together with the people to increase and consolidate its base. The HRP cannot, however, realize its fullest potential as a mass-based, mass-oriented people's party until it consciously recognizes that its base consists primarily – that is, first of all – of rainbow people, whether they're freeks on the street, students in the public schools and universities, the rainbow merchants around town, rock and roll bands, community service workers, or brothers and sisters who work for the honk one way or another in order to insure their survival; and until it consciously and consistently sets out with us to continue to organize this base until it's strong enough to support fully the platform and the programs of the HRP and to attract support and participation from other elements of the overall Washtenaw County community which are also righteously concerned with the question of people's power and how it is effected.
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on HRP cont. from p. 10
We hope to be able to work with the Human Rights Party of Washtenaw County after the November elections have proved the analysis, strategies and tactics of the ultra-left wing of the HRP to be incorrect. We hope with all our hearts that the more progressive elements within the HRP will return to their previous commitment to building a radical electoral party once the backwards, elitist assumptions of their ultra-leftist comrades are exposed, through practical experience, as incorrect and dangerous to the growth and utility of the Human Rights Party; and we hope even more intensely that they will then join with us in the struggle to organize thousands of rising new people – and not merely a handful of "liberal Democrats" into a powerful revolutionary force for change in this community.
Many people will first contend that our withdrawal of support for the Human Rights Party is in itself a divisive blow against unity of the HRP and the Ann Arbor community, but we believe that this move, although it may have an adverse effect on the HRP's November electoral hopes, will have the overall effect of strengthening the party's long-range unity and effectiveness by exposing and eliminating from positions of power the elements within the HRP which have led the party onto a suicide course in the present period.
As the HRP has often said, it is not enough merely to elect "progressive" candidates to political office in this country; what is important is the establishment and development of a principled, mass-based alternative radical electoral party which can fully represent the interests of all the people who make up its actual and potential constituency, which can move with the full support of the people to elect candidates to office and then to guide them through their terms of office, and which can progressively unite more and more elements of the oppressed, powerless classes of people in this county who have been kept apart until now by the machinations of the Euro-American ruling class and its allies in the ultra-left sector of the people's movement who are determined to alienate everyone except those individuals who already relate to their twisted elitist political perspective.
If we are wrong in making this move then events will prove us incorrect and our analysis will be repudiated by the people; if we are right in withdrawing our support from the HRP during the course of the fall electoral campaign, however, we believe that the ideas and practices of the ultra-leftists within the HRP will stand exposed as incorrect and dangerous to the development of our community, that the party will willingly purge itself of this element and commit itself once again to the task of building a truly progressive Human Rights Party in Washtenaw County, and that the HRP will then be able to resume its speedy progress toward its stated goal of bringing effective political power to the people of this community.
At that time the Rainbow People's Party will happily seek to reunite with the progressive elements within the Human Rights Party and to build with them towards the City Council elections next April; but we cannot in principle, condone or support the destructive analysis, strategy and tactics of the ultra-leftist faction within the HRP as it is presently constituted, and we would be betraying the people ourselves if we failed to speak out against such dangerously divisive measures as the ultra-leftists have taken in the name of the HRP in the past month or two.
If we are violating the principle of unity in the community to which we have long committed ourselves, then we violate it only in the short run in order to strengthen it in the long run, and we act only after that unity has already been shattered by the narrow-minded, ego-oriented ultra-leftist faction of the Human Rights Party which would ignore the interests of the order to satisfy their own dry intellectual lusts. We neither have nor feel any unity with such individuals, and we firmly believe that the political life of our community will suffer greatly as long as such persons are left to run amok within our developing political institutions.
We have the greatest faith in the ability of the people to see through the tricks and treacheries of ultra-leftist student radicals (who have never been able to acquire a mass base for their obsolete theories) and to continue to repudiate their incorrect ideas and practices. We know that many people will be confused and upset behind our chosen course of action, but we feel that the problem is of such a magnitude that no less drastic steps could possibly prevent the ultimate suicide of the Human Rights Party as an effective force for radical social change in this community, and we will stand behind our decision – and with the people – as long as such irresponsible individuals remain in a position of power within the HRP.
Long Live the Human Rights Party and its Platform
Power to the People of the Future
–John Sinclair, Chairman for the Central Committee and the Central Staff of the Rainbow People's Party