"IT'S TIME TO PUT AWAY CHILDISH THINGS ..."
Statement of the RAINBOW PEOPLE'S PARTY on the HUMAN RIGHTS PARTY
In the past three issues of the SUN we have attempted to analyze the current political situation vis a vis electoral politics in the light of the fall elections on the federal and local levels. In our last issue (No. 45) we discussed the present state of the Washtenaw County Human Rights Party in the light of the analysis we presented early last fall (SUN No. 39, September 1-15) and of the HRP's miserable results in the November elections.
Toward the end of the statement in the last issue we announced an "open" meeting of the HRP for January 11th and put out a call for brothers and sisters from the rainbow community to come to the meeting and help us "rebuild the Human Rights Party we helped build last spring, before the super-intellectual element took over the party." In closing we asked especially that "people who have been interested in the HRP but have been turned off by the campus-radical elements ... join with us at this time in making the HRP what our community needs it to be."
On January 11th a great many people in the community responded to the call for the massification of the Human Rights Party. Over 350 people packed first the Faculty Lounge and then the Anderson Room in the Michigan Union to see what the HRP was all about -- hopefully to hear political issues brought forth and debated openly to a positive conclusion, at the worst to witness for themselves the condition we've been attempting to describe in these pages, a condition which we feel very strongly has crippled the HRP and has drawn it farther and farther away from the immediate problems and needs of the people of this community.
We ourselves had hoped to be able to bring forth in the public forum of the "open" mass meeting the serious political arguments we have been advancing in this space concerning the direction the Human Rights Party has taken in the past few months, so that all the people in attendance could listen to and participate in the debate and draw conclusions based on the facts and proofs presented and not on rumors, innuendoes, muttered charges and imprecations, threats, hisses, and no political discussion at all, as is usually the case at the typical campus-radical meetings.
We are committed as an organization to educating politically the people of our community, to bringing people off the street into active involvement in political activity, to raising the political consciousness not of tens but of thousands of people in this community to higher and higher levels, and to bringing political issues and political contradictions among groups working in the community out in the open where people can study, understand, and help resolve the problems for themselves. We understand that there are many more people like ourselves in the rainbow community, people who are deeply interested in political issues and want desperately to do something positive and constructive about the condition of the planet, and we believe that the way these people can get involved is through the most open and wide-ranging discussions of political issues throughout the community, both formally and informally, orally and in print, everywhere there are people and in every form people can relate to.
These statements in the SUN are presented as regularly as we can manage to get time to write them in the interest of stirring up political debate not just in small intellectual circles, but openly and publicly, in every sector of the community we try to serve. We not only write our views and mouth them privately, but we publish them as widely as we can and stand ready to discuss them further in other public contexts, of which mass community meetings of one kind or another present the best opportunities for open political discussion and debate. We also have a practice, a continuing history of activity, which we offer daily in support of our theories, and to which we will continually refer any of the ideas and views we might put forth in the community. Our first principle in political discussions, in fact, is best phrased in the simple statement, "Social practice is the sole criterion of truth."
At the HRP mass meeting January 11th many people talked of the necessity of open political discussion; others paid homage to the idea of involving masses of people in the political activity of the Human Rights Party; and others mouthed the principle of unity within the HRP. These lofty views remained only empty platitudes, however, as the practice of the people who espoused these views indicated just the opposite intentions: to keep issues from being debated openly, to keep the HRP closed to everyone but campus radicals, social workers, intellectuals, petty bureaucrats and other people intimately conversant with Robert's Rules of Order, and to keep any kind of principled unity from developing within the HRP by stifling all discussion of political differences and instead ramming candidates and resolutions through in the traditional gang manner.
None of the HRP party regulars nor their tightly organized supporters, many of whom stayed only to vote for Coordinator, after ensuring the shortest possible discussion of the issues before the vote, had nay interest in submitting their charges and accusations, or even their past and present practice, to public discussion. Instead, each faction -- the "Chocolate Almond" faction and the "Militant Middle" faction -- concentrated solely on knocking down any efforts by people from the community to extend the time allowed a person to speak on an issue (3 minutes!), and then jumped in rudely whenever someone would try to speak longer than that on a question of particular gravity.
They would use their so-called "parliamentary procedure" as a weapon against people off the street, preventing issues from coming up for discussion, cutting people off in the middle of their statements, making rapid-fire 3-minute slanderous accusations and charges and then retreating behind the phony shield of parliamentary procedure, making a mockery of the "open meeting" (with which many of us have a great deal of positive, constructive experience via the Tribal Council and the Community Meetings before that) and then having the nerve to call upon people -- to demand of them -- that they obey the dictates of the mass meeting even though they were manipulated out of participating in any discussion of the issues involved.
As a result of the contradictions which presently exist among various groups in the community, particularly those contradictions between the Rainbow People's Party and the ultra-leftist/right-opportunist elements in the Human Rights Party on the one hand, and between the Tribal Council organizations and the C4 faction on the other, and as a result of our attempts at generating wide public discussion of those contradictions through our statements in the paper and our practice at other community meetings, the Rainbow People's Party was accused by both the Chocolate Almond radicals and the Militant Middle radicals (along with their C4 supporters who entered into the HRP picture only at the last moment, and only in the most opportunistic possible way) of plotting to "take over" the Human Rights Party, for itself, through some kind of "power play" at the meeting.
The RPP was defined by these elements as a secretive, "closed," self-interested clique which is engaged in many efforts at many times to "take over" the organizations with which it attempts to work in the community. Our politics and our practice -- which includes prison terms for four of our members on crimes such as possession of marijuana, possession of a falsified draft card, and harboring a federal fugitive, that is, clearly given us because of our political views and activity -- were ridiculed and attacked as "opportunistic" and self-interested," as "too narrow" or "chauvinistic" or whatever else they could come up with.
The serious political charges we have made in this paper against the "Chocolate Almonds" ultra-leftists and their right-opportunistic friends in the "Militant Middle" clique were totally avoided and instead characterized as "personal attacks" on a few insignificant individuals who thought to inflate their sense of self-worth by applying our general criticisms to themselves ("You're So Vain"ism). Our stated desire and commitment to expanding the base of the HRP and re-establishing the principles which were advanced last spring, while at the same time bringing the HRP's internal practice up to its present level of rhetoric ("open meetings," "democratic discussion," etc.) were characterized as transparent power-plays meant to give control to ourselves over everyone else in the HRP and the community.
Between the publication of the last issue of the SUN (No. 45), containing our statement on the HRP, and the mass meeting last Thursday, these charges and accusations mounted higher and higher against us by the day. The Chocolate Almonds returned to town after their holiday vacations and began organizing their own power play, which they've perfected after so many years of participating in student government and other campus organizations; the Militant Middles called meetings to "save the party" and begged all those people in the community with grudges against the RPP -- particularly the C4 clique -- to join with them in staving off the RPP "take-over" of the HRP.
Both factions, neither of which had been particularly interested in taking on the responsibility of providing leadership for the party in the spring electoral campaigns, upon hearing of our intention to nominate Linda Ross for party Coordinator, immediately began scurrying around after a Coordinator candidate of their own, with Susan Steigerwalt even violating the basic "unwritten rule" of the HRP ("unwritten"
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by herself and her friends in the Chocolate Almonds faction, in fact) that someone seeking public office in an election does not run for positions on the HRP Steering Committee. Honest Bob Alexander immediately allowed his own name to be brought up as the savior of the HRP within the Militant Middle group, who candidly admitted in caucus that Bob was running only because Linda Ross was running and then said just the opposite in the mass meeting Thursday night.
At the same time, following our last statement in the SUN, we began to carry on discussions with people from various sectors of the overall Ann Arbor community as to how we might all be able to work together to massify the HRP, correct the mistakes of the ultra-leftists and the right-opportunists, field a credible slate in the City Council elections, and restore the people's faith in the Human Rights Party by making it once again responsive to the people and not merely to the whims of a few campus intellectuals. As part of our plan we organized a Community Slate for the HRP primary election and a Community Slate for HRP Steering Committee to back them up and steer their campaigns.
These moves, which were intended only to strengthen the HRP and to restore its credibility with the people of the community, were seen only as threats to the control held by the HRP regulars, and their efforts to keep us from even offering these slates to the people in an open, public fashion were redoubled. Secret meetings were held, a set of campaign rules for the primary candidates (clearly biased against the RPP and other community elements) was rammed through a so-called "mass meeting," the Almonds and the Middles hurriedly slapped together slates of candidates for the Steering Committee, offering positions to anyone who would uphold their principle of freezing out the RPP, and the Middles even began offering "deals" to the representatives of the Community Slate, promising (for example) to support Linda Ross's candidacy for coordinator if we would withdraw Genie Plamondon from the Mayor's race.
At the same time members of the two Community slates were attempting to meet with various members of the HRP -- people from the right-opportunist faction mainly, who had said that they agreed with our criticisms of the ultra-leftists and wanted to restore the primacy of the masses of the people within the HRP -- in order to unite with those elements which could see the need for massifying the HRP and which would commit themselves to campaigning vigorously in the electoral arena to establish the widest possible definition of the HRP on the firmest possible base of support. We attempted to explain that we were not a "caucus" representing a specific narrow viewpoint but that we were attempting to represent the interests and the concerns of the community at large, and particularly of the Ann Arbor rainbow community -- students, street freeks, rainbow workers and small merchants -- which constitutes the primary base of support for the HRP at present.
We wanted the Steering Committee to reflect the various points of view within the HRP exclusive of the Chocolate Almonds, who we insisted were committed to destroying the HRP as a mass-based, mass-oriented organization and our criticisms of the Almonds and their right-opportunist supporters were made openly and in a principled way. We insisted that we were not trying to "take over" the HRP but were instead trying to open it up to more and more people, and that our program for a Community Slate in the primary and the Steering Committee elections was intended to bring that about.
We went to the Militant Middle caucus meetings to investigate the qualifications and the commitment of the people there who we wanted to support in the Steering Committee election, but the only way they would relate to our efforts was in the form of a "take over" of their caucus as well as of the HRP itself, and we were continually vilified as "people who can't be trusted" and "opportunists" who were trying to "divide" the party and destroy its "unity". When we tried to bring up issues and contradictions in order to discuss them fully and to reach a positive resolution of our differences so there could be unity within the HRP, the Middles ignored our intent and our efforts and instead continued trying to patch together a slate for the Steering Committee elections which could prevent the RPP "caucus" from "taking over" the HRP.
We want to stress once more in this statement, since we aren't allowed to do it openly at meetings, that the RPP in no way constitutes a "caucus" of the Human Rights Party, and that to present such a definition is to insult and denigrate the wide-ranging efforts of the Rainbow People's Party in many different arenas of struggle,from the economic to the cultural and the political. Part of our activity as an organized political party includes participating in the Human Rights Party individually and as an organized operation of more than 25 people who are committed to working full-time, 24 hours a day, day after day, year in and year out, no matter what the consequences, to help the people in this community organize themselves to deal with their needs. Some of our other activity includes organizing and implementing the programs of the Michigan Committee for Prisoners' Rights; working within various mass community organizations, particularly the Ann Arbor Tribal Council and its People's Committees, to deal with the everyday needs of people in the rainbow community here in Ann Arbor; performing various tasks within the People's Produce Coop, the People's Ballroom, the Community Parks Program, Tribal Network, Drug Help, the Radio Workshop of the People's Communications Committee, the Skilled Trades Committee, the People's Defense Committee, the Psychedelic Rangers, the Community Center Project, the campus anti-war movement (such as it is), publishing and editing the Ann Arbor SUN, and participating in many other ways in the organized political life of this community; serving on the Cable Casting Commission; organizing and implementing, with the help of many hundreds of people throughout the state, the Michigan Marijuana Initiative; agitating in the courts for prison reform, an end to the marijuana laws and other repressive legislation, an end to wiretapping by the Justice Department of politically active persons, and other matters of interest to a great many people; constantly seeking ways (such as the Ann Arbor Blues and Jazz Festival and the People's Ballroom) to provide concretely for the survival needs of people in the community by creating jobs and other sources of income for people who have none; participating in the most concrete and active way possible in the community's cultural scene to help build a positive, high-energy culture which will also help support the people economically by returning the energy and the economic resources of the people's bands to the people themselves; and generally doing whatever we can, limited only by our own mistakes and our economic level (survival needs), to help the people deal with their many problems.
The Rainbow People's Party is an ongoing political organization with a longstanding commitment to the Ann Arbor community. We are organized to take care of business in the economic, political and cultural arenas, we are constantly trying to make our resources, our skills and our energy available to more and more elements of the community, and we are committed to struggling alongside the people in every area we can possibly handle to deal with the needs of the people and to help the people build up their political power so that eventually they can take control of every aspect of their lives away from the capitalists, the bankers and the university officials who are presently responsible for the people's sorry situation.
To call such an organization merely a "caucus" of the Human Rights Party, no different from the intellectuals in the Chocolate Almond and the Militant Middle caucuses who act only as individuals and have no such history and continuity of practice to back up their words, is the worst sort of insult to the members of our party, each of whom works tirelessly day after day with no social worker's salaries, government grants, or allowances from mommy and daddy to "make it worth it" -- who work tirelessly day after day because they love the people and want desperately to help the people out of their miserable plight, whose "self-interest" is so limited by the nature of this work that they have only the most minimal of "private lives" and no vacations, and whose commitment extends through terms in penitentiaries and back out into the streets as long as there are problems faced by the people.
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To define the Community Slate group as merely an "RPP caucus" is further to add insult to injury by proposing that all the people who are not members of the RPP but who work with us in many different areas of community work and who share our analysis of the HRP's problems are some kind of mindless supporters with no political viewpoint or initiative of their own. There are a great many people beyond those who responded to our call for the massification of the HRP and attended the meeting who relate to our analysis and our practice, and it is a further insult to them to call them or characterize them as political idiots who aren't able to put two and two together for themselves.
The point is that the Rainbow People's Party strives to serve the needs of the people in this community and works along with many different elements within the community to help them deal with their own survival needs, and that the RPP participation within the HRP as a mass-based, mass-oriented alternative electoral party is carried on not in some mythical "narrow self-interest" of our own but in the interest of the people in the community who need such a vehicle in their efforts to obtain power over their own lives for themselves. Neither we nor the masses of people in this community relate to HRP simply as a means of "bringing political ideas before the public," we are concerned with questions of political power, and particularly with the question of obtaining political power for the masses of poor, oppressed, and powerless people in this community and throughout the world. We relate to the HRP in this term first of all; most people do, and to speak only of bringing certain "ideas" before the people without facing the question of political power for the people is to betray the interest of the masses of the people.
Likewise, to dabble in the political arena, to use mass meetings as rubber-stamp bodies for the ideas of a few intellectuals, to manipulate sincere, politically minded people through intellectual tricks like parliamentary procedure, the 3-minuite speaking rule, and slimy back room deals, to strive constantly to limit participation in the decision-making process to people who share the same narrow viewpoint and the same intimate familiarity with procedural tricks, to ram through candidates and policies without full discussion while people demand a chance to talk about the issues in an open, public fashion, to hold the abstract intellectual interests of a few graduate students and social workers above the survival needs of the people and their need for open political discussion, to organize power plays in order to elect candidates whose participation is predicated solely upon the narrow self-interests of their particular tiny clique of intellectuals -- all this is further to betray the interests and the needs of the people, and must be criticized as such.
Politics is in no way a game for the masses of people in this community who have to try to survive and develop their humanity within the framework of a vicious capitalistic system such as the one which encloses all of us here. It is likewise not a game for us, members of that community who are involved in the day-to-day struggle to secure our lives and the needs of our people. The community is not a "caucus" of any kind -- it is simply the masses of people who live, work, and struggle in this locality, and its views and interests cannot be explained away by relegating them to the same position as that held by various cliques of intellectuals. We object vigorously, and will continue to object just as vigorously, to the attempts of the Chocolate Almond and Militant Middle cliques to impose such a definition upon the people of this community and upon ourselves as committed, politically active members of that community. We will not lay down and pretend that the decisions of the "mass meetings" of the HRP represent our views, since we are systematically barred from participating fully in the discussions which should lead to those decisions, and we will no longer permit the HRP to characterize its "open" mass meetings as such until they become truly open, truly mass meetings with room for all segments of the community to express their views, participate in political dialogue, and reach fully-reasoned conclusions to which they can responsibly be held.
Our experience last Thursday at the HRP mass meeting was a terrifying one; we witnessed the worst kind of gang tactics, the worst kind of suppression of political debate, the worst kind of opportunism after the meeting which held that some kind of "unity" had been reached through these scurrilous methods. There can be no unity in the community which is not a principled, fully-reasoned, collectively-reached unity based on full respect for the political differences of the various elements involved and a fully-agreed program for action which speaks to the concerns of all the people involved.
We will continue to work for such principled unity, as we have worked within the HRP since we were first approached a year ago; we will continue to attempt to bring out the political contradictions and differences between various elements of the community in the interest of resolving those contradictions and differences in the most positive possible way; we will continue to insist upon a full, open, public airing of these contradictions in the interests of the political education of the community at large; and we will continue to resist the efforts of opportunistic intellectuals and their allies to shut the people out of the HRP and to suppress political discussions at their "open" meetings.
We have to criticize ourselves most severely for our own liberalism at many points in the past, and in the immediate past as well, when we failed to bring contradictions and differences out into the open so they could be resolved with the help of the people, and we pledge now to intensify our efforts to correct these mistakes of ours from the past. These issues are too important to remain locked within caucus meetings and intellectuals' living rooms -- they must be brought out into the open and openly discussed, and we will not rest until the people have succeeded n doing just that.
Again, we are aware of the severity of our charges, and we stand ready now as before to defend these charges and to bring forth proofs in the public arena. We will insist only upon referring anyone's words back to their practice in the life of this community, and we will stand upon our own practice in advancing our own positions in this public context. If our charges are wrong we will stand corrected after we are proved wrong, and we will strive to correct our practice accordingly; if our theories are incorrect we will submit to proofs from the people who oppose them, and we will try to correct them whenever they're mistaken; if our practice is incorrect we will try to understand where we're wrong and move to make it right. But we will stipulate to nothing without the fullest open discussion of the issues before mass meetings of people from the community who have an interest in these matters, and we will continue to try to bring about such open discussions any way we can.
These statements are a step in that direction, but they're necessarily one-sided; therefore, we urge people to continue to attend, and to attend in ever greater numbers, the so-called "open mass meetings" of the HRP, and to struggle along with us to make those meetings truly "open" and truly "mass" so we can all begin to create together the unity in the community all of us sorely need. The next "mass meeting" of the HRP is scheduled for Thursday, January 18th, where the primary guidelines will be discussed and adopted or rejected. We anticipate another gang maneuver by the Chocolate Almonds and the Militant Middles and their game-playing allies, and we emphasize once again in closing that the only way to combat the closedness and the manipulative nature of the campus radicals is through transforming their meetings into truly open forums for political discussion. We will be at the mass meeting this coming Thursday, and in congratulating the people for turning out in such great numbers last Thursday we urge you again to return this Thursday and thereafter, to continue the struggle to massify the Human Rights Party.
All Power to the People!
Open Up the HRP!
-- The Rainbow People's Party