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Report from the GPUSA Congress
by Steps to Freedom/Sean Bagley, delegate from
the Monroe County Green Party Caucus
[This is edited from the author’s full report to the Monroe County Green Party Caucus.       —Editors]
Friday July 20, 2001, the first day of the gathering, was involved with credentialing of delegates. The process was a confused and contentious duty and ended up proceeding well into the evening. Due to the issue of the Boston Proposal, no action during the entire Congress was devoid of delay and politicking. In the process of credentialing, potential delegates were asked to verify their number of GPUSA members and to ensure that they were elected by the body they were sent to represent. i understand and agree with both of these decisions but greatly wish that all had been previously informed of this necessity.
One thing i disagreed with is that members on waivers were not counted (for the first Time in GPUSA history) as part of the delegation to be represented. Monroe County Green Party (MCGP) did not lose any voting rights due to this decision but i still felt that it was improper. The rule was enforced for all other delegations as well. The reasoning for the credentialing committee decision was fear that false locals and vote stacking could occur due to the contentiousness of the Boston Proposal issue. Apparently someone had seen an email in which groups were urged to set up false locals using new waiver members and also urging new waiver members to join to increase BP votes. Even i had been trying to sign up members to increase our locals vote and while doing so i informed folks of the waivers option. i personally decided to stop recruiting at the beginning of July. The only new member i signed on waivers ended up paying student dues as well. If the credentialing process had been clarified to the delegates prior to the Congress i feel that no waiver disenfranchisement need have occurred. A touch of the absurd had me, a waiver member, carrying the vote for my local excluding waiver members. My local, state party, and state (GPUSA) caucus have since formally protested this disaffiliation of members.
A touch of the absurd had me, a waiver member, carrying the vote for my local excluding waiver members.
When it came time to credential the IN Caucus delegates, Tom Brown presented a list of 71 current GPUSA members in the state which he collected from contacts and from information forwarded by GPUSA. The GPUSA computer file only had 41 members listed; so Tom spent hours going through copies of checks and found many discrepancies with the official files. We need more accurate records kept of the membership base in the future. In the end, the IN Caucus was given 6 votes based on 60 members (excluding waivers). The votes were marked 4.5 and 1.5 based on the percentage of respondents to the IN poll done re the Boston Proposal. On votes not relating to BP, each Indiana delegate carried three votes.
First item on the agenda for Saturday was the credentialing committee report. Before the report got a chance to be voted on, there were motions to accept it in all sorts of altered forms. Due to faulty facilitation, the actual report as a whole was not voted on until evening. Thus, the first day of the Congress was wasted in parliamentary maneuvering and stalling and points of process that weren’t and it was very frustrating. The credentialing report in its original form was finally voted on and approved Sunday morning. This being the first item on the agenda and its having consumed an entire day of nonsense, cheers were everywhere when finally the meeting could officially begin.
i must mention that during a break in the proceedings on Saturday, i just accidentally ended up witnessing a; “strategy session;” of the pro-BP faction. During this discussion it was mentioned that they would call for adjournment of the Congress at six o’clock that day. The Congress was scheduled for Saturday and Sunday. The purpose of calling for total adjournment, was that they felt that if the meeting was adjourned then some delegates would leave and they would have better luck controlling the Green National Committee. The GNC meeting was scheduled for Monday. The effect of the motion would have been to disenfranchise all local delegates as the GNC is comprised of delegates from each state party/caucus. i mentioned this exchange to the body at large after lunch and expressed outrage at it, calling it hostile to GPUSA and grassroots democracy and saying i was personally offended by it. Apparently this speech endeared me to the anti-BP faction and thus i was invited to their planning session that evening. There was just as much scheming and manipulative behavior as from proponents of the BP. It was pretty ugly in truth. i preferred to sleep rather than plot at night and so at least stayed rested.
i should also note that there were many on both sides of the BP issue who i felt were thoughtful and made their impressions based on analysis as opposed to factionalism. There were folks there looking impartially at the BP and other issues and they deserve a lot of respect for managing to stand above the factionalism.
New facilitators were chosen for the second day, Sunday. The day began with a rousing version of “i’m going to let it shine.” Sunday’s facilitators were much better at keeping the flow of the meeting. After the initial credentialing. report was finally passed, the body heard motions for NC Caucus and Inland Greens (San Bernardino County, CA) to be accredited, and both were accepted.
There were alternative agendas proposed for the congress so the folks bringing each agenda were sent into negotiation to present the body with a unified agenda proposal which was quickly passed by consensus. Then the 2000 Gathering minutes were approved.
Working Group reports were next on the agenda. Of special interest was the fact that GPUSA is nearly broke, having less than $3000 to work with. Many of the Working Groups had not met in the last year. Following the WG reports were reports from locals and state parties. All were super impressed that MCGP was able to pull 30% Nader votes in some precincts despite lack of ballot access. i believe that accomplishment was almost incredible to many and all local Greens should be proud of themselves for doing what probably any other local could not have done.
Needing a two-thirds supermajority to pass the Boston Proposal was voted down.
The Boston Proposal was discussed as a round robin discussion with all delegates getting to comment. A straw vote was taken on BP which showed it not to have the two-thirds majority necessary to pass it. Then we voted on the Syracuse Proposal which contained the BP and the mechanism to put it into effect. The final vote was 99.3 yes, 81.2 no and 1 abstention. Needing a two-thirds supermajority to pass the Boston Proposal was voted down. Several delegates i spoke to who were carrying imperative mandates were disappointed that they had to vote for the BP despite being convinced it was not a good vote.
On Monday the Congress of the whole continued despite the fact that it should have ended Sunday night. Because the IN Caucus delegates had to leave they passed on their votes to me, which as i understand the bylaws is proper as i am a member of the IN Caucus as well. The credentialing committee, despite being strongly of the same ideological views as me, ruled that because i was not an elected delegate for IN Caucus the six votes could not be carried by me. i protested this decision before the congress by stating that MCGP now had more power than the entire state of Indiana. To prevent such problems in the future i would suggest that all who are attending the Congress from Indiana should be elected as alternate delegates or as delegates. Besides voting for delegates to the congress, the IN Caucus should also vote for representatives to the GNC, at least one of which must be a female to receive full voting rights.
The next proposal was the “proposal for genuine unity” which rejected the Boston Proposal and called for new negotiations to begin with ASGP which would not thrust the two groups together but would encourage that joint projects be undertaken as a way of growing together. i was voted as an alternate negotiator as part of the proposal. A total of 3 main negotiators and 3 alternates were voted on.
Next on the agenda was the Manifesto for a new Green Movement. The manifesto written by pro-BP folks and was a proposal designed to go along with the BP with the intent of giving GPUSA a purpose after it gave up the Green Party name. A friendly amendment was made by the author leaving it to say the GPUSA would not oppose the ASGP filing for national committee status with the FEC as the Green Party. The vote total for this was 52.5 for, 89.5 opposed; so it failed.
Then the Congress elected its reps to the Green National Committee (GNC). The GNC is comprised of two (at least one female) voted on reps from each GPUSA affiliated state, plus reps from the anti oppression caucuses, plus a male, female and Green-Justice (member of an anti-oppression caucus) voted on by the Congress as a whole to represent the views of the Congress.
The GPUSA is broken, yes; but so is ASGP because it does not reflect my values…
On Monday the GNC meeting was held. i do not know that much was accomplished here either. All were looking forward to approving GAN (Green Action Network) proposals which would, among other things, begin a police brutality task force, censure the German Green leader for approving of nuclear waste transport (among other things), and work on an immigration working group.
Several of these proposals passed in the GNC by consensus (yes consensus can occur). Despite the factionalism and contentiousness of the gathering i learned a lot and am glad i attended. There are certainly some problems with the “Green Party” on the national level. In truth it could be said that there are 3, not 2, national Green organizations because the Nader organization works independently of both ASGP and GPUSA. Because the GPUSA is designed as a grassroots organization i feel that they are much more similar in values to MCGP than ASGP, which is designed almost exclusively as an electoral group .ASGP would prefer that the activist part of the Green Party should be separate from and subservient to the national Green Party. We will probably face similar issues within the Indiana Green Party as it grows, unfortunately, and should be prepared for that eventuality.
i greatly urge MCGP members to become involved in the GPUSA so that we can ensure that the national Green Party will be true to our values. Currently GPUSA is in a severe financial crunch and had to cut its paid staff to one person who was elected corporate treasurer after having served as interim treasurer for several months. Any who can afford to spend time and/or money to get GPUSA back on its feet are greatly encouraged to do so.
The GPUSA has been under assault from ASGP since ‘96 when ASGP splintered off from GPUSA to form a strictly electoral party. i consider a large part of the problems within GPUSA to be due to this undermining which is happening from within. Many of the delegates at the Congress hold positions in ASGP and i would consider them to be looking to water down the name and activism of GPUSA. Each of us as individuals must decide whether we wish for the national Green Party to be an electoral/top down authority structure or whether we would prefer a national Green Party which is accountable to the grassroots and is activist as well as electoral in nature.
The GPUSA is broken, yes; but so is ASGP because it does not reflect my values and i do not feel it would be willing to follow mandates from below. GPUSA is fixable if it can get some fresh energy into the organization. While we struggle to get GPUSA back on its feet, ASGP will be filing for FEC national committee status as the “Green Party.”. i was elected as an alternate negotiator to try to find ways in which the 2 (or 3) national Green Parties can begin to work together without forcing them into being one organization immediately.
In the end my single vote at the Congress came to seem rather insignificant in comparison to the strength of MO, NY, CA and some other state parties. GPUSA representation is based on the number of GPUSA members within the state or local. ASGP representation is based on (two delegates per?) Congressional district. It seems difficult to fit lots of diversity of opinion within the votes of two delegates. If we choose to follow what i call a senatorial model of participatory democracy for the national Green Party then we should work with ASGP. If we feel that a representative, grassroots and activist Green Party is necessary to effect the changes necessary to get society back on track then we should enthusiastically support GPUSA.