Why are there two Green Parties?
GPUSA is often asked to explain the differences between the two existing national Green Parties. Our hope is that the following document satisfies this request. For those of you who do not wish to read the entire document the following points speak to the most outstanding differences between the two parties. For those of you interested in details and a history of the Parties a more-lengthy document is provided.
GPUSA (Green Party of the USA) and GPUS (Green Party US) differences:
GPUSA is a membership-based organization. GPUSA members request membership and pay annual dues. This is done to pay party expenses and to avoid the need to accept money from special interest groups in order to pay operating expenses. GPUSA also feels that this is a more democratic structure as it provides clarity regarding who has voting privileges. On this point GPUS operates more like existing political parties in the US where anyone can state allegiance to a Green party as Republicans
and Democrats currently do.
While both existing Green Parties participate in grassroots organizing and work as well as electoral work,
GPUSA's focus is on grassroots work with primary interest in environmental and social justice issues and GPUS focuses on electoral campaigns and running Green Party candidates.
GPUSA does not shy away from criticizing Green Party members elected to office or Green Parties that have gained political strength. In the past GPUS has remained mute.
Why are there two Green Parties?
The Greens/Green Party USA (GPUSA) is the original and the oldest national Green Party in the United States.
The Green Committees of Correspondence (CoC) established itself as a national organization in 1984. At the same time, a number of independent and direct-action oriented Green local and bio-regional groups began organizing activities throughout the country, including a critical gathering in Philadelphia: the Mid- Atlantic BioRegional Green Congress.
During the next few years, a rich diversity of ideas arose concerning how Greens should organize themselves—all, however, pledging support for the Greens' Ten Key Values. When independent Green Locals and groups formed around the bioregional gatherings, the Green Committees of Correspondence changed its name to the Greens/Green Party USA (GPUSA) in 1991 in Elkins, West Virginia. At that time two strong orientations among US Greens had taken form:
One tendency was much like the fundis (fundamentalists) in the German Greens. They believed that elections were one of many forms of political activity, which included educational programs, demonstrations, street theater, civil disobedience and direct action campaigns around environmental, social, and economic justice issues. This tendency advocated a dues-based membership to fund grassroots organizing around issues. Having an independent dues-paying membership base was deemed essential to preventing Greens from compromising themselves to corporate funding.
The other tendency was much like the realos (pragmatists) in the German Greens. Its supporters believed that elections should be the single defining characteristic of a political party. This tendency opposed individual memberships and dues. It wanted a United States Green Party structured much the same as the two dominant US corporate parties.
At the Elkins Gathering, the fundamentalists were elected to most national positions. When this happened some pragmatists left the GPUSA and urged Greens to join them in forming separate electorally-focused state Green Parties (GPs).
Over the next few years, a number of candidates who were affiliated with GPUSA ran for local office. GPUSA filed with the Federal Elections Commission, and was granted status.
After the Ralph Nader/Winona LaDuke presidential campaign of 2000 several representatives of state GPs (which at that time had few actual members) grouped themselves into the Association of State Green Parties (ASGP). It held its formative meeting behind closed doors and barred participation by activist Greens who did not think that elections would be the ONLY thing that the national body should focus on or structure itself around. ASGP specifically barred representatives of GPUSA from participating in the discussions, causing a rift in the Green movement.
By 1999 the German Green Party, having won more than five percent of the vote via proportional representation (something we are still fighting for here in the US), had become part of the German government when US President Bill Clinton initiated a war on Yugoslavia. The German Greens violated one of the Ten Key Values — that of non-violence — and supported German entry into the war against Yugoslavia. The GPUSA sharply criticized both the German Greens and the German government, and helped lead the antiwar movement in the US, with representatives speaking at national rallies in Washington D.C., New York, and in Europe. The ASGP, on the other hand, refused to criticize the German Greens.
In 2001, the ASGP changed its name to the Green Party of the US. Unfortunately, the acronym GPUS made it easily confused with GPUSA. Many suspected that GPUS wanted to take credit for the many years of work done by GPUSA.
The attacks of 9/11 came a few months after a dispute between the two groups in summer 2001. Then, in November 2001, a national leader of GPUSA was prevented from boarding a plane to attend a national Green Party meeting. GPUSA issued a call for solidarity and support, believing that this was a critical time for progressives to work together to stop the rising tide of repression. Though this would have been a perfect time for the two Green groups to show the world that they could work together despite their differences, GPUS used the government's suppression of the GPUSA officer as an opportunity to attack GPUSA. It issued a press release literally siding with airport police against the GPUSA officer.
Later in 2001 the US was again at war, this time invading Afghanistan. Again, the German Green Party participated in its government's endorsement and legitimization of US militarism. Again, GPUSA criticized the German Greens as well as Germany's (and of course the United States') prosecution of the war in Afghanistan, which has led to thousands of civilian deaths and the destruction of the environment through the experimental use of an array of new weapons, depleted uranium armament, and massive violations of the most basic civil rights of Afghan civilians who clearly had nothing to do with the horror of 9-11.
GPUSA has always believed that the fundamental place where political activity should be manifested is in our local communities, at the grassroots. GPUSA focuses on community actions related to environmental, economic and social issues (i.e,, combating the indiscriminate spraying of toxic pesticides, supporting local organic farmers, keeping incinerators out of low income neighborhoods, organizing against police brutality, genetic engineering and war).
GPUSA members are greatly involved in electoral work as well, but they believe that this work should grow out of local organizing efforts. GPUSA members see their work as continuing throughout the year rather than only around election time. GPUS's efforts seem to be limited to State Party organizing around candidates and elections.
GPUSA is an organization made up of dues paying individuals. Organizations require money to cover basic operating expenses. By requiring a membership fee, GPUSA is able to meet its fiscal responsibilities as well as determine its membership. Without membership fees, GPUSA would put itself at risk of having to accept donations from sources that could compromise GPUSA‘s values and purpose.
GPUS, on the other hand, does not require membership dues but chooses to meet its fiscal needs in a manner more consistent with traditional U.S. political parties.
One of GPUSA's most salient values is democratic process and transparency. All GPUSA meetings are open and GPUSA continues to strive for membership representation at all meeting levels.
The division between Greens exists in many countries. But in most countries, both tendencies have been able to co-exist in a Green Party which encourages a range of views. In the US, where elections are designed to exclude minority parties from participation in government (and where even if you "win" an election that election may be stolen, as was the case in the Presidential election of 2000), Greens win very, very few partisan elections (those where candidates are identified by party). The frustration of wanting to change the world through participation in government and yet being locked out of formulation of government policy has created a growing push to "mainstream" the Greens, and to keep out Greens who are more radical.
Having a dues-paying base helps counter those pressures, as all individual members — most of them very active in their communities — have equal say in GPUSA and better reflect local activist sentiment. GPUSA believes that individual membership is a huge strength to build upon, not a weakness. There are many paths to transforming the world (and ourselves along with it); let them ALL blossom and flourish in the Greens!