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Synthesis/Regeneration 24   (Winter 2001)

On the Negotiated Statement

by Mitchel Cohen, Brooklyn Greens/Green Party of NY

In going into the negotiations, one of the pressures on the GPUSA negotiating team was the concern that ASGP would file for party status once Ralph got 5% in the election and GPUSA would be knocked totally out of the picture. "The negotiators recognized that ASGP filing for National Committee status is a certainty and will likely happen soon…" wrote Starlene Rankin, secretary of GPUSA. In my view, this fear of GPUSA becoming a dead organization due to federal validation of ASGP contributed greatly to the pressures upon GPUSA negotiators, just as it played upon Howie's back-and-forth confusion vis a vis the "Unity" and "Harmony" proposals.

I believe that this fear (1) is unfounded—GPUSA will continue to exist and to organize regardless, because of its local base; and, (2) pushed the negotiators into concessions that would not have been made under more relaxed circumstances, concessions that in some instances abandoned the core of GPUSA principles.

Looking back, things do seem a bit different now, don't they? Suddenly, the curious omissions in the document that had been casually dismissed as "neglected, but no big deal" take on greater dimensions, now that those racing to claim ther pot of gold that was to come with achieving the 5% threshold have stumbled.

What am I talking about? First, in the entire negotiated proposal, there is not a single mention of the Ten Key Values!

ASGP rules will run the organization… Those rules… are not helpful in providing a framework for grassroots activist work.

Second, the very opening sentence states who officially authorized such negotiations: "As per the directive of the Massachusetts proposal passed at the Association of State Green Parties Coordinating Committee meeting… Excuse me? Didn't the Green National Committee and the Congress of GPUSA have some hand in authorizing negotiators? Or were GPUSA's negotiators acting per the directive of ASGP as well?

The fact that these two essential items were omitted cannot simply be attributed to "carelessness," or "sloppy thinking," or "time pressure," any more than we can accept as sole criteria for accreditation of member parties "the criteria currently used by the ASGP" with a couple of minor modifications such as commitment to gender balance and "good faith efforts" to "empower individuals and groups from oppressed communities." (These are minor concessions because if anyone in either organization came out against gender balance, or "empowering individuals from oppressed communities" they would probably be shot. So how could either "side" have a problem adding them to the criteria of a new party? In fact, I was stunned to learn that they are not already part of ASGP's framework!)

So, we are left with ASGP's criteria for accreditation, authority for negotiating coming solely from ASGP, and no mention of the Ten Key Values. Lovely.

Yes, those things can be changed should the negotiators meet again; that's not my point. This is a major document, with years of effort going into thinking and organizing on these issues (I write as one of GPUSA's elected negotiators from the previous year) and they neglected to include the key unifying principles of all Greens. The conditions that create such "oversights"—even if we are to grant the time pressures, the carelessness, the sloppy thinking—permeate this document and shape each and every phrase, each and every idea.

On top of that, one of the GPUSA negotiators talked about being brow-beaten and yelled at during the sessions by other GPUSAers on the negotiating team, for questioning some aspects of the process by which this was written. This traumatic experience did matter and have political consequences.

Now that some of the pressure is removed, let's go back and negotiate some more...

Steve Herrick—one of ASGP's negotiators—said that "The Boston proposal plainly states that both groups will continue to exist independently of each other. This situation is necessarily distinct and separate from anything that could be labeled a 'merger,' a 'takeover,' or even 'unity.'" And yet the main selling point for the document is that we would negotiate one nationwide Green Party. If that is gone, if that dream is sacrificed and we can't even run our own united Green Party, how would we even dream of running a government?

I find ASGP's interpretation of the agreement, as provided by Steve Herrick—that this is not a merger or even a unity—to be shocking! The document itself says that GPUSA is to cease functioning as a political party. (Point #1) It is to adopt a new name, without the word "party" in it. It will relinquish its website. The new party would no longer be permitted to require dues from its members. In fact, GPUSA will be able to exist within the new shell in name only! Oops, not even—it must "adopt" a new and different name. Poor orphan. Of course, as a "tendency" or "caucus" it could still collect dues. It could still function within the new shell, aptly titled G-PUS. That and a dollar-fifty'll get you on the subway in New York.

Aside from the fact that "party" is never defined (and why do the negotiators portray that term only as an electoral construct? There are many parties that have taken part in elections as part of a strategic approach to winning demands, not as their raison d'ętre) the fact is that, technically, both organizations are to be dissolved.

GPUSA is now told it can re-form under a new name within the new organization. But ASGP's rules and criteria are the ones that will govern it; ASGP rules will run the organization. Those rules are perhaps conducive to top-down electoral work such as getting a presidential candidate on the ballot in all 50 states, but are not helpful in providing a framework for grassroots activist work. So why are ASGP's rules being carried over into the new proposal, with some microscopic additions? In my view, this document should not be signed in its present form.

This round of negotiations has gained all Greens a significant starting point. But it is only that. Now that some of the pressure is removed, let's go back and negotiate some more, so we can truly unite the Greens, in a way that will have meaning to the kinds of work we are all doing.

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