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Opposition to the Joint Proposal
by Richard Evanoff, U.S. Greens Abroad
November 29, 2000.
I am writing to express opposition to the Joint Proposal of Negotiating Committees of the Association of State Green Parties and The Greens/Green Party USA to establish a "unity party" called the "Green Party of the United States." While I whole-heartedly support the idea of creating a "unity party" between the G/GPUSA and the ASGP, the present proposal does not adequately represent all American Greens in the structure of the new party.
Specifically it disenfranchises the U.S. Greens Abroad, a local currently affiliated with the Greens/Green Party USA. Following the establishment of the U.S. Greens Abroad in January of this year, our group sought affiliation with both the Greens/Green Party USA and the Association of State Green Parties. Our affiliation with the G/GPUSA was immediately approved (indeed, we were assigned a field worker from the national office to shepherd us through the process). Our approval was based on the fact that the G/GPUSA has an inclusive organizational structure which allows both locals and state parties to affiliate (as well as at-large members), and for all to be fully represented in the national organization, with full delegate status at the Green Congress.
Our application to affiliate with the ASGP was never approved, however, apparently on the grounds that we are not a state party. It was my impression that ASGP was simply not interested in representing the interests of all U.S. Greens, but only the interests of state Green parties. Indeed, the ASGP is simply what its name proclaims it to be: an association of state Green parties. It makes no allowance for the direct representation of either Green locals or Greens living abroad. Unlike the G/GPUSA which aims to be and is in fact a genuine national party that attempts to include and represent all Greens, the ASGP has no such legitimacy as a national party, either historically or in its present organizational form.
...the present structure of the G/GPUSA should form the basis of any future unity party since it is much more inclusive than the structure of either the present ASGP or the "Joint Proposal"...
When the U.S. Greens Abroad first learned of the negotiations between the G/GPUSA and the ASGP to establish a "unity party," a letter dated August 17, 2000 (well before the negotiations began) was sent by the USGA to the G/GPUSA Negotiating Committee requesting "...that in any negotiations with the ASGP regarding a 'unity party' a formal structure be worked out that would include full membership rights and delegate status for U.S. Greens living abroad." We received no response. A letter was sent to the national office expressing our concern over this issue, which was mentioned in the October 13, 2000 issue of the Green Bulletin, but was never responded to by the Negotiating Committee. To our knowledge, the issue of affiliation for the U.S. Greens Abroad in the new "unity party" was never brought up by the G/GPUSA Negotiating Committee during the negotiations; if it had been brought up we were never informed about what action had been taken. If the issue of USGA affiliation was not brought up, then we feel as if the Negotiating Committee failed to fully represent its constituency.
The USGA had voted on and publicly endorsed the G/GPUSA Proposal for Genuine Unity, which includes Point 4 ("The G/GPUSA and ASGP will merge using the current structure of the G/GPUSA, which is open to every Green State Party, Green local, and anti-oppression caucus.") and Point 6 ("Organized local parties will be the grassroots base of the Green Party with membership assemblies in which every member has voting rights.") It is my feeling that these points cannot be compromised by the Negotiating Committee if such compromise results in what amounts to the complete disenfranchisement of one of the locals currently affiliated with the G/GPUSA, namely the U.S. Greens Abroad.
The U.S. Greens Abroad has been active in both electoral work (registering people to vote, helping U.S. citizens vote absentee, and providing electoral information about Green candidates) and movement work (we are actively involved in various solidarity campaigns both in Japan and internationally). In our letter of November 15 we pledged to support the new party by continuing with these efforts and by helping to build a strong Green movement both in the U.S. and abroad. To date this letter has not been responded to by any members of the Negotiating Committee of the G/GPUSA. We did, however, receive a reply from Greg Gerritt, who is both the Secretary of the ASGP and a member of the ASGP Negotiating Committee.
It is doubtful that Mr. Gerritt read our letter carefully, since our request was clearly for the Negotiating Committees to consider our proposal for affiliation with the new "unity party" and not a second request for affiliation with the ASGP. Here, however, is an excerpt from Mr. Gerritt's response: "…The ASGP continues to believe that its previous answer was appropriate. The ASGP is made up of state green parties, and that every person/green is adequately represented by their state party. I know you are unhappy with this answer, and feel that it does not adequately address your situation. C'est la vie."
Despite Mr. Gerritt's possible misunderstanding of our request, I indeed am unhappy with this answer. "C'est la vie" may be what the Democrats and Republicans in effect said to Nader when he tried to participate in the national debates; it may be what the WTO, the IMF, and the World Bank in effect said to the protesters in Seattle and DC; it is not, however, an appropriate response from a member of the ASGP Negotiating Committee to committed U.S. Greens who are simply seeking democratic representation within their party. Mr. Gerritt's response was disillusioning, given what we perceived to be its contemptuous disregard for grassroots democracy.
Letter to the Green Bulletin from the U. S. Greens Abroad
The U.S. Greens Abroad does not endorse the Joint Proposal of Negotiating Committees of the Association of State Green Parties and the Greens/Green Party USA in its present form, on the grounds that the proposal does not provide adequate democratic representation for American Greens living outside the U.S. The U.S. Greens Abroad had formally requested the G/GPUSA Negotiating Committee to raise this issue during the negotiations, but to our knowledge this issue was not in fact raised. The U.S. Greens Abroad recommends that the Negotiating Committee of the Greens/Green Party USA reenter into negotiations with the Association of State Green Parties with the intent of securing formal representation for the U.S. Greens Abroad on the National Committee of the new party and delegate status at any national conventions/congresses. (The Democrats Abroad enjoy delegate status within their party; the Republicans Abroad do not. We feel that the Greens should be at least as democratic as the Democrats.) Failure to secure such representation would result in the disenfranchisement of the U.S. Greens Abroad in the new party, which at present enjoys full delegate status as a local affiliated with the Greens/Green Party USA. We ask all members and affiliates of the G/GPUSA to support the U.S. Greens Abroad in their efforts to gain full representation within the structure of any new "unity party" that is proposed.
This statement has been voted on by the membership of the U.S. Greens Abroad and represents our official position on this issue. We would, however, be willing to support a unity proposal which includes full representation for the U.S. Greens Abroad in the structure of the new party.
The proposed structure for a new "unity party" does not include any representation for U.S. Greens living abroad except through state parties or local groups artificially organized into congressional districts. The proposed structure is unacceptable because the U.S. Greens Abroad is by its very nature not based in any state or congressional district, which are the only areas given representation under the current plan. Moreover, the proposed structure violates the G/GPUSA principles of Grassroots Democracy and Decentralization by weakening the ability of Green locals to organize as they themselves see fit, not as they are instructed to organize by national officials.
Given our experiences to date, I fear that the proposed new unity party is already well on its way to becoming a hierarchical organization which privileges state parties and the views of national officers over the concerns of local groups. The concerns of the U.S. Greens Abroad have been snubbed by a member of the Negotiating Committee of the ASGP and seemingly ignored by the Negotiating Committee of their own party, the G/GPUSA. If the concerns of the U.S. Greens Abroad are treated in this cavalier fashion now, how will the concerns of other locals currently affiliated with the G/GPUSA be treated in the future once the new party has been established?
The G/GPUSA's present structure has room for both movement and electoral work, for both state parties and local groups, for American Greens living in the U.S. and those living abroad—no one is excluded. I believe that the present structure of the G/GPUSA should form the basis of any future unity party since it is much more inclusive than the structure of either the present ASGP or the "Joint Proposal" advanced by the Negotiating Committees.
Nonetheless, I personally still support the call for a unity party if the problems I have raised can be effectively addressed. What we need, however, is a unity party that is as inclusive as possible, one that encourages enthusiastic American Greens in their efforts to organize rather than one which discourages them by ignoring their concerns and shutting them out of their own party. The G/GPUSA Negotiating Committee should be asked to reenter into negotiations with the ASGP with the intent of establishing a unity party that is squarely based on participatory, decentralized principles, in which power flows from the bottom-up rather than from the top-down, and in which every American Green, both at home and abroad, can feel that they are fully represented by their party.
A democratic organization is not to be judged solely by how well it follows the will of the majority but also by how strongly it includes, and protects the rights of, its minorities. Working through the official channels has gotten us no response. I therefore appeal directly to all members and affiliates of the G/GPUSA to support the U.S. Greens Abroad in their efforts to gain full representation within the structure of any new "unity party" that is proposed.
The above opinions are my personal views and do not necessarily represent the views of the U.S. Greens Abroad as a whole. However, a formal letter of opposition to the unity proposal has been issued by the U.S. Greens Abroad.
The text is modified from the November, 2000 Green Bulletin E-mail version. Published by: The Greens/Green Party USA, P. O. Box 1134, Lawrence, MA 01842 (978) 682/4353, Email: firstname.lastname@example.org, web: http://www.greenparty.org/