By JOE AUCIELLO
As Bernie Sanders’ presidential campaign gains increasing public support and respectful media attention, physician and Green Party activist Dr. Jill Stein has announced her own candidacy for president. Speaking on “Democracy Now” on June 26, Stein, the Green Party candidate in 2012, vowed to run on a “Power to the People” platform that would sharply oppose the policies of the leading Democratic and Republican contenders.
As in the past presidential election, Stein is proposing a “Green New Deal,” a comprehensive program of social and political reform. Her platform emphasizes a national shift in resources from fossil fuels to renewable energy by 2030 and a jobs-creation program to make such change possible. Stein favors cancelling student college debts today and providing free college education tomorrow. The Green Party candidate also supports the $15 minimum wage and single-payer health care.
Stein’s reference to a “Green New Deal,” is an obvious allusion to Franklin D. Roosevelt’s Democratic Party “New Deal,” which was aimed at saving capitalism in the face of the emerging labor-based mass struggles of the 1930s. In truth, past Green Party presidential campaigns centered on offering reforms of capitalism on the one hand while not acting as “spoilers” for the Democrats’ chances in contests where the outcome was expected to be close. That is, “Vote Green!” only in states where it won’t usher in a Republican.
Stein concedes that her program shares “many similarities” with the campaign of Sanders, the “leftist” candidate in the Democratic Party primaries, though there are differences in regard to foreign relations. Stein forthrightly denounces the prime minister of Israel as “a war criminal” and, unlike Sanders, would not sell weapons to the Israeli regime. Such distinctions aside, however, the overall likeness to the Sanders program is very much to the point.
The Green Party strategy anticipates that after the power of Wall Street ensures a Hillary Clinton victory in the primaries, Bernie Sanders will shepherd his flock into the Clinton campaign. Disappointed followers of Sanders, so this logic goes, will then become the enthusiastic supporters of Jill Stein. Further, her campaign would hope to turn these sympathizers into a new generation of Green Party recruits—that is, a grouping still in search of an electoral, as opposed to class-struggle, formula to attract voters to the project of reforming capitalism.
In the parched political desert that is America’s electoral landscape, the Stein campaign would appear to present a small but refreshing oasis. Instead, it is a mirage!
This can be seen in Stein’s statement on “Democracy Now” that her platform is “focused on reforming the financial system—not only breaking up the big banks but actually establishing public banks” as well as “nationalizing the Fed” (the Federal Reserve System). To speak of reform of a financial system based on the rule of the corporate capitalist elite (the “one percent”), rather than abolishing it, tells us that her program, no matter how “radical” it might sound, amounts to acceptance of the system in its fundamentals.
The Greens proudly state that their campaign does not accept corporate funding, yet their campaign does accept the rule of corporate power. Stein’s campaign platform differs little from that of the “successful” reformist Green Parties around the world that regularly participate in coalition capitalist governments and support their anti-labor policies.
Indeed, the Green Party in the U.S. is little more than an electoral association of mainly middle-class reformers with no roots in working-class organizations or mass social struggles. The Greens have no perspectives, long or short term, of rebuilding today’s trade unions into fighting working class-based institutions that operate in the economic and political arena independently of and against the twin parties of U.S. capitalism.
“Their government is not our government!” Stein exclaims. But if this idea is more than an applause line, a mere rhetorical flourish, then it means not only a change in party—a Green Party victory in place of a Democrat or Republican Party victory—it means building the kind of organizations capable of leading a challenge for power.
Yes, their government is not our government because it is a tool for the capitalist class to ensure its wealth and privilege, to guarantee, as far as possible, the continued existence of their rule and our exploitation.
The way forward goes far beyond the Green Party’s platform of “New Deal” reformism. It begins with a class break from all capitalist and pro-capitalist parties, the Green Party included. The road ahead will likely include the formation of a Labor Party, based on fighting unions in alliance with all the oppressed and exploited. Obtaining a real and lasting victory for workers and oppressed people in the United States will also require the construction of a mass revolutionary socialist party aimed at the abolition of capitalism.