Valley News – Vermont Liberty Union Party renames itself to outstrip the right-wing flag

Since its inception in 1970, the Liberty Union Party of Vermont has sought to offer voters an alternative to the status quo.

“We need to explore topics that the Democratic and Republican parties, the Green Party, the Reform Party, capitalist parties, no matter how small, will never explore,” said co-founder Peter Diamondstone, who carried the group’s banner in as a candidate in every state election until his death in 2017.

The launching pad for now independent US Senator Bernie Sanders, the Liberty Union Party was once widely recognized as a source of nonviolent socialist thought. But in the current right-wing flag political climate, its new leadership worries many Vermonters who think the nickname means something else.

“Instead of linking ‘Liberty Union’ to human rights, to an end to bigotry, to democracy in all aspects of society and to owning the benefits of our own labor, people have come to associate these words to white supremacy and the idea that freedom is synonymous with the right of the rich to exploit the working class and the resources of the earth, ”said Jessica Diamondstone, Peter’s daughter and current party chair.

This is why the group is entering its second half-century with a new name: The Green Mountain Peace and Justice Party.

“A lot of people hear about us when they look at the ballot,” said Jessica Diamondstone. “’Liberty Union’ is not as clear on what we stand for as the ‘Green Mountain Peace and Justice Party’. “

The party began in 1970 when William Meyer, the first Democrat to win a congressional seat from Vermont, found that many of his peers were increasingly frowning at his leftist positions. He invited a group of like-minded activists to his West Rupert home.

“The more than 20 people who gathered”, tells the official story of the Freedom Union, “came to found a new political party that would boldly tackle their problems: the Vietnam War, militarization of society, the problems of the poor and the destruction of the environment. “

The party’s name came when Peter Diamondstone noted that the word “union” referred to both the labor movement and the student anti-war group at former Marlboro College, the Green Mountain Union.

His militant colleague Dennis Morrisseau, for his part, suggested adding an adjective that reflects a desire to return to the original beliefs of the nation’s founders.

The Freedom Union was born.

The group won 5% of the vote in 1974, which gave it major party status under a state law that granted the right to hold primary elections rather than select candidates in a convention.

The Freedom Union has dropped and reclaimed that designation several times since, racking up a historic 13 percent of the vote for its candidate for Secretary of State, Mary Alice Herbert, in 2012.

But the party – which now holds minor status – has never won a statewide race. Sanders, his candidate for US senator in 1974 and governor in 1972 and 1976, did not mark his four-decade winning streak until after he left in 1977.

“A serious political party cannot maintain people’s respect if it just shows up every two years for elections,” Sanders said of his departure at the time.

In response, Liberty Union leaders say their party is not about “running for” but rather “representing” – in his case for “protecting the environment, defending collectively owned and managed workplaces. democratic way, the end of racism and all other forms of bigotry, the end of unhindered corporate greed and the freedom for everyone to pursue their dreams, ”the group said on its website.

(Sanders, seeking to allay past divisions, responded to Peter Diamondstone’s death in 2017: “Peter was a very independent thinker, unafraid to express his (often controversial) point of view on any subject. As a result, he has forced people to consider and defend their own positions. This is no small feat. In his own way, Peter has played an important role in Vermont politics for many decades. “)

Peter Diamondstone may not be alive anymore, but his wife, children and grandchildren continue his work, whether through an oral history series from Brattleboro Community TV Democracy with Diamondstone and Friends or a recent fundraising concert for Indigenous Peoples in the Dummerston Family Yard.

“My siblings and I were helping put together flyers when Peter’s fingers were inked from the use of the handout in our living room,” said Jessica Diamondstone. “We were brought up to understand that as long as a sister or brother does not have a roof over their head, we have work to do. “

As such, the party promotes its platform and ways to participate on its website.

“Young people are fiercely engaged in social change on many levels, but focusing on unique issues without a systemic framework to tackle root causes keeps society on a treadmill,” said Jessica Diamondstone. “The Green Mountain Peace and Justice Party, standing on the solid foundation of Liberty Union’s 51-year legacy, views democratic socialism as a systemic framework for change. “

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