Two factions fight to represent West German Green Party in U.S.


WASHINGTON -- The international Green movement, growing rapidly from the seeds of an anti-military West German party, has been transplanted to the United States -- but its roots are tangled.

As interest in the Green politics grows, a power struggle has developed between two parties challenging each other's right to carry the Green banner in America.


The conflict between the fledgling American Green Party and the well-established Citizens Party has raged for months with accusations traded and lawsuits threatened.

'It's really quite a pitched battle,' says Randy Toler, leader of the emerging American Green Party, 'They are trying to claim themselves as the Green Party.'

Speaking for the Citizens Party, the only group to win the support of European Green leaders, Wendy Adler said, 'Although we don't call ourselves the 'Green Party,' we are the true representatives of the international Green movement.'


The movement began in 1979 when concerned environmentalists in West Germany came together, taking the name of the 'green' life for which they fought, and began a grass-roots ecological crusade.

Under the leadership of Petra Kelly, the stepdaughter of an American Army colonel, the loose group synthesized into a successful political party and moved away from ecological issues toward anti-military issues.

Ms. Kelly led the self-professed 'anti-party' party to a 1983 victory that won 27 Parliamentary seats and 5.6 percent of the vote in the most recent West German elections.

Both American parties feel they sOould be recognized as the U.S. representative of the international alliance now spreading throughout Europe, Britain, Scandinavia, and Canada. And both claim to champion the anti-military, pro-worker platform that is most genuinely 'Green.'

The trouble erupted when the California-based American Green Party, led by Toler, moved east to WasOington and expanded its political roots.

Previously, the American Greens had kept a low profile. Few people had heard of the 10-year-old party, Toler says, because it had restricted its activities to the West Coast.

But this summer Toler decided to make the jump to the national sphere. He got widespread media attention Sept. 6 when he announced the party would endorse Walter Mondale in 1984 instead of running a third party candidate.


According to Toler, this decision was made because the party, which he calls the most conservative of alternative parties, 'wants to change the Democratic Party from within.'

Simultaneously launching a campaign to expand the party, Toler opened offices in Los Angeles, North Carolina and Florida, mostly by establishing Green representatives at existing anti-nuclear centers.

Toler also flew to Toronto and Ottawa in mid-September to meet with representatives from the 4-month-old Canadian Green Party. 'We only just learned of each other's existence,' said Ontario spokesman Trevor Hancock.

Finally, Toler transplanted the American Green Party to WasOington to take its place as U.S. representive of the international Green movement.

Meanwhile, a WasOington-based party with strong anti-corporate and anti-military convictions had already been planting the Green garden.

The Citizens Party, with an estimated 25,000 members nationwide, hopes to turn the United States into more of an 'economic democracy,' a term coined by founder BarCommoner.

'Corporations do not consider the welfare of the country and the people,' Commoner said in a telephone interview. He would like to see a state that would involve workers in the decisions such as where and what to produce.

The Citizens Party, in contrast to the American Greens, will support an independent candidate in the 1984 election and will choose either former Attorney General Ramsey Clark, Atlanta City Council member John Lewis or civil rights activist Sonia Johnson, said Ms. Adler.


'A Green Party would never support Walter Mondale,' she added.

Several years ago, when the Citizens Party discoverd that its anti-military views closely aligned those of the European Greens, they began to reach out to their political counterpart across the Atlantic.

At the 1980 Citizens Party National Convention, the group formed a 'European- American Peace Alliance' with West German co-chairman Kelly and British, Italian, and Dutch leaders. Commoner also attended the 1982 West German Greens Tribunal on War in Nuremberg.

At this time, Toler says he approached Commoner about an alliance between their parties because, 'When they began importing Greens, we decided that it was time to expand our diplomatic relations'

Commoner does not remember ever meeting Toler and says, 'I don't know of any evidence of any such party's existence. I have never encountered any (American Green) party activity in the country.'

The conflict simmered until the American Greens were suddenly thrust into national attention and Toler began asserting that the West German Greens 'don't recognize the Citizens Party.'

Reactions from Citizens Party members have ranged from the cautious displeasure of Barry Commoner to the open hostility of New England Regional Director Ion Laskaris, who called Toler 'an imposter.'


Toler threatened to sue Laskaris and the Citizens Party over that remark but later decided to drop the idea, saying that 'now we just want to correct the false information.'

However, Ms. Kelly, the Green Party's No. 1 candidate in West German Parliamentary elections, continues to support the Citizens Party.

Upon her return to West Germany next week, after a visit in which she did not meet with either Green group, she will consider writing a statement of disavowal of the American Greens Party, according to her assistant Martha Kramer.

Ms. Kramer said that Ms. Kelly 'cannot decide of course' who should represent the international alliance,' but she believes 'the Citizens Party is the one nearest her program in Germany.'

'She doesn't back him (Toler) at all. She doesn't even know him,' Kramer said in a telephone interview while traveling with Ms. Kelly in the United States. 'He's using her name. She is considering writing a letter telling him this.'

The conflict saddens Ms. Kelly, Kramer said, because the once-unifid West German Greens are suffering from recent schisms as well.

The scheduled American deployment of Pershing II and Cruise missiles in Europe in December has split members over the question of whther to use violence and civil disobedience in protests.


'It's very disappointing in a moment like this one where you have to stand up for disarmament urgently,' Kramer said.

At this point, the Citizens Party would like to end the matter and simply continue with its political work.

But Toler pledges to continue with his fight to represent the Green movement, saying, 'We are tilling a lot of green soil that was fallow before.'

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