s/r home  | issues  | authors  | 24 contents
The Boston Proposal in Context
by Steve Herrick, G/GPUSA member and ASGP Co-Chair
In the four years since the Association of State Green Parties split from the Greens/Green Party USA, there have been a series of attempts to reunify them. In broad and general terms, these organizations represent the two tendencies within the Green movement, the "realos" and the "fundis," respectively.
"Realos" are characterized (stereotyped, some might say) by a desire to make the Greens appealing to a broader public base, thereby extending our values to society at large. This implies running to win in elections at every possible level, with campaigns that the general populace finds accessible and non-threatening.
"Fundis" feel strongly that this approach to making change dilutes our values, and that it changes us more than we change society. Instead, they maintain, we must adhere uncompromisingly to ecological principles, and take action to live them and promote them to others. Anything that threatens the ecology (or social justice, non-violence, or grassroots democracy) must be confronted directly-not indirectly, through electoral politics.
Of course, these positions as I have laid them out are caricatures. Nearly all Greens identify at least a bit with each. Likewise, it would be an unfair generalization to say that each of the two national Green organizations didnąt see something of itself in each description. However, the tendencies are there, as most Greens familiar with the national situation will acknowledge.
Most Greens will also acknowledge that it makes no sense to have two groups competing for the public's attention as the Green Party. With that in mind, various people have tried to reunite the ASGP and G/GPUSA. Holle Brian was one of the first, followed by Mike Feinstein, with input from Howie Hawkins. Obviously, these attempts were unsuccessful, despite the hard work of many more people than the three named.
Then, at the ASGP's meeting of the Coordinating Committee in Denver, immediately preceding the Presidential Nominating Convention, the dually-affiliated Green Party of Massachusetts made a proposal that the ASGP and G/GPUSA send delegates to negotiate unity, with no preconditions.
There was spirited debate on this, but it passed convincingly.
The negotiations took place in Boston, on the campus of MIT, with the immensely helpful guidance of trained mediators. After a day and a half of very intense discussions and significant concessions by both sides, we produced a document to take back to our respective organizations.
Implementing this proposal would put an end to four years of duplicating efforts, competing for attention, and bickering.
The essence of the document, referred to simply as the Boston Proposal, is that the ASGP will adopt a series of changes to its structure as it re-forms as the Green Party of the United States, making it more closely resemble the present GPUSA. In return for this, the GPUSA will drop the word "party" from its name, and cease to act as a formal political party.
What it means to cease acting as a political party is not laid out in the document. The most important factor is that it not compete with the GP-US .
Aside from this, the negotiators did not feel it appropriate to dictate what the GPUSA should focus on. Suggestions people have made include lobbying, organizing, educating, acting as a watchdog (over the government, corporations, and even over the GP-US), and supporting and promoting direct action. Inevitably, this re-purposing will require some modifications to the GPUSA.
It will not, however, have to make any particular changes as a result of the Boston Proposal. For example, it will retain its caucuses of traditionally oppressed peoples. It will also hold on to its Clearinghouse and publications, such as S/R.
The ASGP will dissolve, and the GP-US will take its place. The GP-US will:
- Have a "sustaining member" category of membership, and encourage individuals to become sustaining members.
- Have seats on the Coordinating Committees for representatives from caucuses.
- Insist that state parties have democratic written bylaws and at least one convention a year.
- Neither encourage nor discourage dues.
- Have proportional representation of states on the Coordinating Committee.
- Look for gender balance and empowerment of traditionally oppressed communities in its state parties.
With these changes, the negotiators tried to strike a delicate balance between the demands of the ASGP and the GPUSA for a national Green Party.
The recent campaign shows there is a tremendous base of support waiting for us to come claim it, but we must get our house in order first.
Assuming both organizations approve the proposal—and the ASGP already has—the GP-US will be recognized as the sole electoral manifestation of the Green movement. On the ground, of course, this will make little difference in the day-to-day working of Greens, because the only candidates the national party runs are for President and Vice-President. All others are run by state and local parties.
Future with Boston
Implementing this proposal would put an end to four years of duplicating efforts, competing for attention, and bickering. It would give us a place for those who lean towards being "fundis," and those who lean towards being "realos." Those who aren't comfortable with either label would be welcome to participate actively in both places.
Future without Boston
Failing to implement this proposal leaves us where we are, and would probably make things worse. Not only would we be left with two groups claiming the title of the Green Party, but most Greens—including those who do not affiliate with either—would begin to despair that these two organizations could ever get their collective acts together and act in concert for the good of the movement, the nation, and the planet. Even uglier scenarios are possible—lawsuits, for example. This is far from impossible if the ASGP applied for FEC recognition. We cannot afford the time, money, or animosity (not to mention bad publicity) this would mean.
In short, the way forward for the Green movement includes passing and implementing the Boston proposal. We have been fighting each other too long, when there are bigger and more important struggles our society and our environment are waiting for us to join as the Greens. The recent campaign shows there is a tremendous base of support waiting for us to come claim it, but we must get our house in order first. The way to do that is to reconcile our two national organizations by giving them distinct but complementary roles to play.