The Founding of U.S. Greens – St. Paul, MN, August 1984

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During the summer Charlene Spretnak, Harry Boyte (author of The Backyard Revolution and long-time member of Democratic Socialists of America), and David Haenke jointly decided to form a planning committee for the Founding Conference. They invited Catherine Burton (founder of Earth Bank in Seattle) and Gloria Goldberg (office manager of the Institute for Social Ecology in Vermont) to join them. All five met once in New York City and several times by phone.

The planning committee sent a letter of invitation to 200 activist organizations working for peace, ecology, social justice, civil rights, feminism, veterans’ rights, and other issues. Each organization was invited to send either one or two representatives to the founding meeting of the Green Party in the United States. Most recipients of the letter did not reply, and only a few dozen organizations sent anyone to attend the Founding Conference. It is possible that, like many attendees at the First North American Bioregional Congress a few months earlier, the idea of an unknown political entity (one that might draw away financial donations) was not universally embraced. Understandably, most of the groups wanted to wait and see what this new Green Party would be like.
Sadly, the one state-level Green Party already in existence – the Maine Green Party – did not get invited because the one member of the planning committee who, being from New England, knew about the existence of the Maine Green Party did not tell the other members. Presumably she was siding with those bioregionalists in New England who opposed all national parties. Because of that exclusion by one person, the Maine Green Party found out about the Founding Conference only after the event.
During the three-day Founding Conference, attended by 62 activists, many sessions were held on ways to move forward, as well as one on brainstorming Green values. To the surprise of nearly everyone, a group of 11 people from the Institute for Social Ecology in Vermont – who packed the Founding Conference by violating the limit of two representatives stated in the invitation, and who were ideologically opposed to the very existence of national parties – derailed the momentum for founding a party that weekend. As a compromise position, the plenary group agreed in the final session to temporarily delay the formation of a party while spending the first few years seeding Green ideas locally across the country since few people at that point understood what Green eco-social politics entails. Also in the closing session, the attendees approved the formation of a scribe committee (Charlene Spretnak and Eleanor LeCain in Berkeley, and Mark Satin in Washington, DC) to compose a draft of a values statement, which they subsequently titled the Ten Key Values. A national clearinghouse was established in Minneapolis, and regional representatives were selected to serve on a steering committee and to encourage the formation of local Green politics groups and multi-leveled outreach to other organizations and issue networks.
What’s in a Name?
A further surprise at the Founding Conference was that some of the community organizers argued against using “Green” in the organization’s name on the grounds that people of color (then) associated ecology with a middle-class approach that ignores issues of social justice. Moreover, the group of attendees from the Institute for Social Ecology, who were against any national party or organization on anarchist grounds, blocked the word “national” from being in the organization’s name. They also insisted that the national steering committee be called the InterRegional Committee instead. Thus the surprisingly rocky weekend ended with a pre-party national Green Politics organization called the Committees of Correspondence, named for the grassroots groups during the Revolutionary War.
The Founding Conference went on to agree that the local Committees of Correspondence (CoCs) would have a good deal of autonomy and would be free to use “Green” in their names if they wished, which most of them did. In July 1989, the national Green Gathering changed the CoC name to the Green Committees of Correspondence (GCoC). That name remained until August 1991.
The InterRegional Committee met two to three times a year until 1991 at locations including these: Berkeley, CA (February 1985); Boston, MA (summer 1985); Kansas City, MO (December 1985); Seattle, WA (March 7–9, 1986); Kansas City, MO (August 1987); Austin, TX (January 1988); Los Angeles, CA (June 10–12, 1988); New Orleans, LA (February 17–19, 1989); Washington, DC


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