Formally “committed to environmentalism, non-violence, social justice and grassroots organizing … without the support of corporate donors,” the Green Party (GP) of the United States works in partnership with the European Federation of Green Parties and the Federation of Green Parties of the Americas. GP is by far the largest independent or third party in the nation. Party membership is estimated to be between 250,000 and 300,000 people. As of December 2011, some 132 GP members held political office in the United States.
In the early 1980s, the Green Party of Germany, which ran primarily on an anti-nuclear missiles/anti-nuclear power platform, became the first Green Party to win seats in a national parliament. The Party gained its initial American foothold in St. Paul, Minnesota in 1984. Though a few candidates represented the Party in U.S. political elections during the remainder of the decade, its members devoted their efforts primarily to what they dubbed “philosophical discussions,” “non-electoral activism,” and “alternative institution-building.” By the late 1980s, there were hundreds of Green Party chapters in the U.S., and in 1990 the Party earned a recognized ballot line for the first time — in the state of Alaska.
In 1995 the Green Party nominated Ralph Nader and Winona LaDuke as its candidates for U.S. President and Vice President, respectively, and managed to get their names placed on the ballots in 22 states. The Nader-LaDuke team garnered 685,128 votes, or 0.7 percent of all ballots cast in the 1996 presidential election.
Following that election, 13 state chapters united to form the Association of State Green Parties (ASGP). The Nader-LaDuke ticket again represented ASGP in the U.S. presidential election of 2000; this time the pair was listed on 44 state ballots and received 2,882,897 votes, or 2.7 percent of all ballots cast.
In August 2001, ASGP changed its name to the “Green Party of the United States” (GP) and filed for national party status with the Federal Election Commission.
The first GP candidate elected as a state legislator in the U.S. was John Eder, who won a seat in the Maine House of Representatives in 2002.
Other notable GP candidates over the years have included: (a) Global Exchange and Code Pink for Peace founder Medea Benjamin, a pro-Castro socialist who ran, unsuccessfully, for a U.S. Senate seat in California in 2000; and (b) CUNY professor Stanley Aronowitz, who ran, also without success, for the New York State governorship in 2002.
TEN KEY VALUES
GP has identified “Ten Key Values” that guide its policy positions and its activism:
1. Grassroots Democracy: “Every human being deserves a say in the decisions that affect their lives and not be subject to the will of another. Therefore, we will work to increase public participation at every level of government …”
2. Social Justice and Equal Opportunity: “All persons should have the rights and opportunity to benefit equally from the resources afforded us by society and the environment. We must consciously confront in ourselves, our organizations, and society at large, barriers such as racism and class oppression, sexism and homophobia, ageism and disability, which act to deny fair treatment and equal justice under the law.”
3. Ecological Wisdom: “… [W]e must practice agriculture which replenishes the soil; move to an energy efficient economy; and live in ways that respect the integrity of natural systems.”
4. Non-Violence: “It is essential that we develop effective alternatives to society’s current patterns of violence. We will work to demilitarize, and eliminate weapons of mass destruction, without being naive about the intentions of other governments. We recognize the need for self-defense and the defense of others who are in helpless situations. We promote non-violent methods to oppose practices and policies with which we disagree, and will guide our actions toward lasting personal, community and global peace.”
5. Decentralization: “Centralization of wealth and power contributes to social and economic injustice, environmental destruction, and militarization. Therefore, we support a restructuring of social, political and economic institutions away from a system which is controlled by and mostly benefits the powerful few, to a democratic, less bureaucratic system.”
6. Community-Based Economics and Economic Justice: “We recognize it is essential to create a vibrant and sustainable economic system, one that can create jobs and provide a decent standard of living for all people while maintaining a healthy ecological balance. A successful economic system will offer meaningful work with dignity, while paying a ‘living wage’ which reflects the real value of a person’s work.”
7. Feminism and Gender Equity: “We have inherited a social system based on male domination of politics and economics. We call for the replacement of the cultural ethics of domination and control with more cooperative ways of interacting that respect differences of opinion and gender.”
8. Respect for Diversity: “We believe that the many diverse elements of society should be reflected in our organizations and decision-making bodies, and we support the leadership of people who have been traditionally closed out of leadership roles. We acknowledge and encourage respect for other life forms than our own and the preservation of biodiversity.”
9. Personal and Global Responsibility: “We encourage individuals to act to improve their personal well-being and, at the same time, to enhance ecological balance and social harmony.”
10. Future Focus and Sustainability: “We seek to protect valuable natural resources, safely disposing of or ‘unmaking’ all waste we create, while developing a sustainable economics that does not depend on continual expansion for survival. We must counterbalance the drive for short-term profits by assuring that economic development, new technologies, and fiscal policies are responsible to future generations who will inherit the results of our actions.”
ENVIRONMENTALISM & ANTI-CAPITALISM
Commonly identified in the public mind with environmental concerns, GP calls for a commitment to developing “clean renewable energy” technologies including wind, solar, ocean, geothermal, and small-scale hydroelectric power. By contrast, the Party opposes the construction of new nuclear power plants, and calls for all existing plants to be shut down as soon as possible. Similarly, GP opposes oil and gas drilling/exploration on America’s continental shelf, on its public lands, in the Rocky Mountains, and under the Great Lakes.
Exhorting the U.S. Congress “to act immediately to address the critical global warming and climate change issues [of] clean air, greenhouse effect, [and] ozone depletion,” GP advocates “a worldwide carbon dioxide emissions reduction of 50-70 percent.” “The Kyoto Climate Protocol [of] 1998 falls far short, calling for only a five percent reduction,” says the Party. “Nonetheless, the agreement is an important first step that all parties — especially the U.S. — should ratify as soon as possible.” “We are appalled,” adds GP, “by our country’s withdrawal from serious efforts to limit greenhouse gases that are contributing mightily to global climate disruption.”
As practical means of minimizing air pollution, GP recommends that streets, neighborhoods and commercial districts be made “more pedestrian-friendly”; that greenery be planted alongside streets wherever possible; that certain areas be designated as “auto-free zones”; that extensive networks of bike paths be constructed throughout American towns and cities; that mass transit systems be made more affordable; that a moratorium be placed on highway widening; that gasoline taxes be increased significantly; and that fuel-efficiency standards for motor vehicles be raised.
To “prevent urban sprawl into agricultural and wilderness areas,” GP supports the development of “higher-density” urban communities that would render unnecessary the cutting of trees for future home construction. It endorses “a zero-cut policy banning industrial timber harvest on federal and state lands, a ban on all clear-cutting, and a reduction of road building on public lands.” It also calls on the U.S. to “[f]orgive the debts of Third World countries that need help in halting the destruction of their rain forest lands.”
Supporting “a strengthened and enforceable Endangered Species Act,” GP urges Americans to “educate ourselves about animal behaviors to overcome our culture’s irrational fear of wildlife, and learn techniques of co-existence with other species.”
“Our current food system,” says GP, “is dominated by centralized agribusiness [whose hallmarks are] the exploitation of our farmers along with the oppression of third world peoples, inhumane treatment of animals, pollution of air and water, and degradation of our land.” To rectify this situation, GP advocates the widespread consumption of organic foods. Because such foods are considerably more expensive than their non-organic counterparts, the Party proposes taxpayer-funded “government subsidies to organic food products so that they will be competitive [vis a vis price] with chemically-produced food” — on the premise “that everyone, not just the wealthy, must be able to afford safe and healthy food.” Moreover, GP would ban the use of man-made pesticides and artificial fertilizers.
In GP’s calculus, capitalist economic structures are inherently destructive to the natural environment and result in “our food, water, air, and soil” bearing ever-greater quantities of “toxins and debilitating pollution.” Viewing America as the world’s chief agent of environmental destruction, GP observes that: “[w]ith only 4% of the earth’s people, the United States produces more than 20% of carbon emissions.” “Those living in the industrialized world,” adds the Party, “must end the habits of waste and over-consumption that place as much stress on the environment as does population growth in developing nations.”
“We can learn from indigenous people who believe that the Earth and its natural systems are to be respected and cared for in accordance with ecological principles,” says GP. “Concepts of ownership should be employed in the context of stewardship, and social and ecological responsibility.”
Calling for “a halt to the destruction of habitats which are being sacrificed to unqualified economic expansion,” GP warns that “American economic growth is having negative effects on the long-term ecological and economic welfare of the United States and the world. There is a fundamental conflict between economic growth and ecological health.”
“Economic growth,” GP elaborates, “… is a dangerous and anachronistic American goal. The most viable and sustainable alternative is a steady-state economy [which] has a stable or mildly fluctuating product of population and per capita consumption, and is generally indicated by stable or mildly fluctuating [Gross Domestic Product].”
GP views socialism as the economic model of choice, encouraging “the social ownership and use of land at the community, local, and regional level.” Calling for “some form of basic economic security, open to all,” the Party laments that “our country is among the most extreme examples of industrialized nations that have a widening gap between the wealthy and the rest of its citizenry.” “Measuring the gap between the most fortunate and the least fortunate in our society,” GP elaborates, “… tells us how well or poorly we are doing in creating an economy that does not benefit some at the expense of others.”
“The accumulation of individual wealth in the U.S. has reached grossly unbalanced proportions,” says GP. “… We must take aggressive steps to restore a fair distribution of income. We support tax incentives for businesses … that restrict the accumulation of excessive individual wealth.”
Expanding on this theme, GP calls for restoring “a progressive tax structure, rather than continuing to move money toward the top echelons of society while squeezing everyone else” and levying “the heaviest burdens on those least able to pay.” GP also advocates the “re-establishment of the inheritance tax,” whose revenues “should be dedicated to health and welfare benefits for the poor and to enlisted soldiers salaries.”
GP’s desire to redistribute wealth on a massive scale extends beyond the borders of the United States; the Party calls for “an equitable distribution of wealth among nations” in order “to maintain a global steady-state economy.”
THE WELFARE STATE
To bring about the economic changes it advocates, GP seeks to repeal “tax cuts and breaks for the very rich and for corporations.” It also calls for the creation of a system that gives entitlement benefits to “those outside the formal monetary economy: those who take responsibility for parenting, housekeeping, home gardens, community volunteer work, etc.”
The prototypical advocate of the welfare state, GP calls for massive infusions of taxpayer cash into “government agencies charged with safeguarding public health and safety” — agencies that currently, according to GP, are “operating with slashed budgets that paralyze their efforts.” “Social and educational programs are being gutted,” the Party complains.
To “ensure that children … receive basic nutritional, educational, and medical necessities,” GP “supports and seeks to expand” Head Start programs, pre- and neo-natal programs, and a “federally funded childcare program for pre-school and young schoolchildren.” It further endorses taxpayer-financed “after-school programs for ‘latchkey’ children” and “state funding for day care that includes school children under the age of ten when after-school programs are not available.”
GP stipulates that: (a) “all people have a right to food, housing, medical care, jobs that pay a living wage, education, and support in times of hardship”; (b) “a graduated supplemental income, or negative income tax” should be implemented to “maintain all individual adult incomes above the poverty level, regardless of employment or marital status”; and (c) “a federally funded entitlement program to support children, families, the unemployed, elderly and disabled, with no time limit on benefits,” should be a high national priority. (This latter program, says GP, “should be funded through the existing welfare budget, reductions in military spending and corporate subsidies, and a fair, progressive income tax.”)
GP calls for “a universal basic income,” or “living wage,” which “would go to every adult regardless of health, employment, or marital status.” “The amount,” says GP, “should be sufficient so that anyone who is unemployed can afford basic food and shelter. State or local governments should supplement that amount from local revenues where the cost of living is high.”
The Party also advocates “reinvesting a significant portion of the military budget into family support, living-wage job development, and work training programs.”
GP rejects, as “a form of indentured servitude,” workfare programs designed to move welfare recipients into jobs that do not pay high salaries. “Forcing welfare recipients to accept jobs that pay wages below a living wage,” says the Party, “drives wages down and exploits workers for private profit at public expense.”
ADDITIONAL GREEN PARTY POSITIONS
Other elements of GP’s political platform include the following:
Asserting that “[w]omen’s right to control their bodies” is “non-negotiable,” GP maintains that it is “essential that the option of a safe, legal abortion remains available.”
“Contraception and abortion must be included in all health insurance policies in the U.S., and any state government must be able to legally offer these services free of charge to women at the poverty level.”
GP calls for “access to free birth control devices, information counseling, and clinics to all who desire them,” and the “implementation of family planning education for both genders in all levels of the state school system.”
GP exhorts the U.S., “under the agency of the United Nations,” to “renew and initiate government funding and support for family planning, contraception, and abortion in all countries that request it.”
GP supports “the recognition of equal rights of persons gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender to housing, jobs, civil marriage, medical benefits, child custody, and in all areas of life provided to all other citizens.” It supports “the inclusion of language in state and federal anti-discrimination law that ensures the rights of intersex individuals [those with neither exclusively male nor female sex organs] and prohibits discrimination based on gender identity, characteristics, and expression.” And it supports “access to medical and surgical treatment for assignment or reassignment of gender or sex.”
GP calls for the “elimination of displays of religious symbols, monuments, or statements on government buildings, property, websites, money, or documents.” In a related matter, it favors the “restoration of the Pledge of Allegiance to its pre-1954 version, eliminating the politically motivated addition of ‘under God.’”
GP calls for the “revocation of the Congressional charter of the Boy Scouts of America” — on grounds that it does not admit gay scout leaders and thus “practices bigotry against certain … classes of people.”
GP seeks to end “school vouchers whereby public money pays for students in religious schools.”
GP calls for “creative and noncompetitive education at every age level, and the inclusion of cultural diversity in all curricula.”
GP supports “tuition-free [collegiate and vocational] public education.”
GP supports “a universal, comprehensive, national single-payer health insurance program as the only solution to the current disastrous for-profit system.” Such a program would guarantee “lifetime benefits for everyone,” with no loss of coverage for any reason.
GP calls for “day-care service offered at every workplace when feasible, or reasonably near-by when not feasible at the workplace.”
GP demands “the establishment of a reduced-hour work week and at least one month of vacation per year for all workers.”
GP “recognizes housing as a human right.”
THE GREEN PARTY VIEWS AMERICA AS A RACIST COUNTRY
The Green Party views America as a nation where “racism and class oppression, sexism and homophobia … act to deny fair treatment and equal justice [for nonwhite minorities] under the law”; where “a social system based on male domination of politics and economics” fosters “discrimination based on gender, ethnicity, or race” — as well as “oppression, inequality,… discrimination,… domestic violence, [and] rape”; where “feelings of isolation and helplessness are common”; where sexual harassment runs rampant; where “women earn only 77% of men’s wages for equal work”; and where “low-income citizens and minorities suffer disproportionately from environmental hazards in the workplace, at home, and in their communities.”
To remedy these societal ills, GP calls for far-reaching, government-administered programs such as those referenced in the bullet points above. In addition, the Party supports “affirmative action to remedy discrimination, to protect constitutional rights and to provide equal opportunity under the law.”
Much as it supports racial quotas in hiring practices and university admissions, GP also favors the use of quotas in determining the racial makeup of government at all levels — so as to promote “the leadership of people who have been traditionally closed out of leadership roles.” Believing that “the many diverse elements of society should be reflected in our organizations and decision-making bodies,” GP views “proportional representation as the foundation of an effective and pluralistic democracy.” Through “citizen control of redistricting processes,” says GP, voting districts should be drawn along racial and ethnic lines so as to guarantee “minority representation” and thereby “protect minority rights.” The Party also calls for “equal representation of women in Congress.”
THE CRIMINAL-JUSTICE SYSTEM
Viewing the American criminal-justice system as profoundly discriminatory, GP condemns “the practice of racial profiling by law enforcement agencies, which are guilty of stopping motorists, harassing individuals, or using unwarranted violence against suspects with no other justification than race or ethnic background.” The Party favors “strong measures to combat official racism in the forms of police brutality directed against people of color.”
GP sees incarceration as a practice whose effects are “largely negative” because: “prisoners are increasingly isolated from the communities they came from”; they “are often denied contact with the outside world or the media”; they have less “access to educational and legal materials” than they once had; they are plagued by “boredom and hopelessness”; and “the increasingly widespread privatization of prisons renders some prisoners virtual corporate slaves.” “Private prisons,” says GP, “should be illegal.”
Other GP positions and assertions related to criminal justice include the following:
“Law enforcement is placing too much emphasis on drug-related and petty street crimes, and not enough on prosecution of corporate, white collar, and environmental crimes.”
“Police brutality has reached epidemic levels in the United States and we call for effective monitoring of police agencies to eliminate police brutality.”
“Prisons should be the sentence of last resort, reserved for violent criminals. Those convicted of non-violent offenses should be handled by other programs including halfway houses, electronic monitoring, work-furlough, community service and restitution programs.”
“Paroled prisoners should have unrestricted access to education, addiction and psychological treatment, job training, work and housing.”
Prison inmates should be “granted the right to vote,” and “all persons convicted of felonies [should] regain full citizenship rights upon completion of their sentence, including the right to vote and to run for elected office.”
“Prison conditions … should include heat, light, exercise, clothing, nutrition, libraries, possessions, and personal safety. Prisoners are entitled to psychological, drug, and medical treatment, including access to condoms and uninterrupted access to all prescribed medication.”
All prisoners should be encouraged “to have the opportunity to obtain a G.E.D. (high school equivalency diploma) and higher education.”
The death penalty should be abolished.
“Three Strikes” laws should be repealed and replaced with “judicial discretion in sentencing,” as opposed to “mandatory sentencing.”
“Employers should be encouraged to continue paying … employees’ wages while they serve prison time.”
There should be a “decriminalization of victimless crimes” such as “the possession of small amounts of marijuana.”
Vis a vis immigration, GP favors an easing of all restrictions against illegal entry into the United States. “While it would be ideal to erase borders between countries,” says GP, “that would be impractical without reciprocity between nations.” The Party favors the issuance of easily obtainable “permanent border passes to all citizens of Mexico and Canada whose identity can be traced and verified”; an end to sanctions against business owners who employ “undocumented workers”; and “a fair and equitable legalization program” that “will provide equal access to working people of all nationalities.”
In GP’s calculus, opponents of illegal immigration can accurately be characterized as people “who seek to divide us for political gain by raising ethnic and racial hatreds, and by blaming immigrants for social and economic problems.”
In contrast to GP’s extremely negative assessment of American society, the Party proudly professes its “great respect for Native American cultures, especially their deference for community and the Earth.” GP depicts American Indian tribes as sovereign “nations” that simply happen to be “located within the United States.”
U.S. FOREIGN POLICY AND MILITARISM
Highly critical of American foreign policy, GP views the United States as a militaristic, aggressive nation in constant pursuit of world domination. The Party exhorts American policy makers to “recognize the sovereignty of [other] nation-states and their right of self-determination”; to “develop effective alternatives to society’s current patterns of violence”; to “promote non-violent methods to oppose practices and policies with which we disagree”; to not act unilaterally in matters of international dispute, but rather to “take disputes with other nations or foreign bodies to the U.N. Security Council and General Assembly forum for negotiation and resolution”; and “to demilitarize and eliminate [our] weapons of mass destruction.” “Many of our allies and former friends around the world,” says GP, “are disgusted with our imperial foreign policy, militarism, and arrogant corporate behavior.” GP also “calls for the end of Space militarization and opposes any form of space-based military aggression.”
GP has exhorted American government leaders “to sign the International Criminal Court [ICC] agreement and respect the authority of that institution.” In point of fact, the U.S. did sign the said agreement on December 31, 2000, during the final days of the Clinton administration. But on May 2, 2003, the Bush administration — fearing that American soldiers and government officials could be subjected to politicized prosecutions by ambitious [ICC] prosecutors and judges — informed the UN Secretary General that “the United States does not intend to become a party to the treaty.”
In July 2003, GP called on Congress to initiate impeachment proceedings against President George W. Bush for “high crimes and misdemeanors” that included: (a) “a pattern of making false statement[s] to Congress, the American people and the world [in order] to win support for action by the American government and military forces in violation of national and international law”; (b) “squandering the resources of the American people to serve the interests of transnational corporations”; and (c) “commission of various war crimes including the use of depleted uranium, cluster bombs and the assassination of journalists.”
According to GP, the U.S. government “does not have the right to justify pre-emptive invasion of another country on the grounds that the other country harbors, trains, equips and funds a terrorist cell.” In order to signal its benign intentions, says GP, the government should “establish a policy to abolish nuclear weapons”; “declare a no-first-strike policy”; “declare a no-pre-emptive strike policy”; “declare that the U.S. will never threaten or use a nuclear weapon, regardless of size, on a non-nuclear nation”; “reverse our withdrawal from the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty and honor its stipulations”; “end the research, testing and stockpiling of all nuclear weapons of any size”; “dismantle all nuclear warheads from their missiles”; and “allow foreign teams to visit the U.S. for verification purposes at least annually.”
GP further proposes that the U.S. reduce its defense budget “to half of its current size,” and that it close its foreign military bases “at a rate of closure of 1/4 to 1/5 of their numbers every year.”
With regard to American homeland security, GP calls for “the repeal of the USA PATRIOT Act” on grounds that “many of its provisions, along with many of the other so-called National Security Acts, undermine and erode our Bill of Rights …” “The so-called war on terrorism must not become an assault on the civil liberties that are enshrined in our Constitution,” says GP, “… Basic rights ensuring individual privacy are under attack. The U.S. government’s use of high tech tools, including intrusive monitoring, data mining and analysis to identify and disrupt citizen activists, should be seen as an attack on fundamental rights of an engaged, active citizenry.”
ISRAEL & THE MIDDLE EAST
Turning its attention to the Arab-Israeli conflict in the Middle East, GP supports the Palestinian refugees’ so-called “right of return.” The refugees on whose behalf GP advocates were never expelled from their homeland; they voluntarily (for the most part) left their homes during the period just before and shortly after the commencement of the 1948 Arab-Israeli war — seeking safe haven during what they anticipated would be a brief war that the Arab allies would undoubtedly win, fully expecting to return to their homes once the fighting had stopped and the Jews had been exterminated. Instead, the Arab armies were defeated. Today the Green Party and Arab Lobby organizations across the U.S. call for the re-admittance not only of the relatively few surviving individuals who were among the 725,000 original Palestinian refugees, but also for the admittance of more than 5 million of their descendants.
GP opposes “as both discriminatory and ultimately self-defeating the position that Jews would be fundamentally threatened by the implementation of full rights to Palestinian-Israelis and Palestinian refugees who wish to return to their homes.” The Party calls for “the creation of one secular, democratic state for Palestinians and Israelis on the land between the Mediterranean Sea and the River Jordan as the national home of both peoples, with Jerusalem as its capital.”
GP rejects America’s “unbalanced financial and military support of Israel while Israel occupies Palestinian lands,” and calls on the U.S. “to end all military aid to Israel, shifting much of that aid to ecologically appropriate local projects for economic and social development for Palestinians as well as Israelis.” “Until Israel withdraws from the Occupied Territories and dismantles the separation wall,” says GP, “we call on our government to suspend all other foreign aid to Israel as well.”
Specifically, GP proposes that Israel retract its borders back to “the 1967 boundaries” that had been in place before three Arab armies (Egypt, Syria, and Jordan) attacked the Jewish state in an attempted, but unsuccessful, war of annihilation that year.
In GP’s estimation, “a Green policy toward Israel and Palestine would offer such incentives for peace and mutual security that the wall would be unnecessary, and seen for what it is … an obstacle to peace and a unilateral escalation of conflict.”
On November 21, 2005, GP issued Resolution 190, which urged all governments, Green Parties around the world, and campus Greens to help implement an international “boycott of Israel.” While the Resolution described Israel as “comparable” to the former South African apartheid state, it made no mention of the longstanding, relentless barrage of Palestinian terrorist attacks against Israeli and other civilians.
GP is an organizational supporter of the U.S. Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel, along with such groups as Al-Awda, Code Pink, the Free Palestine Alliance, the National Council of Arab Americans, Students for Justice in Palestine, and the U.S. Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation.
GP is affiliated with International ANSWER, a front group for the Marxist-Leninist Workers World Party. Moreover, GP signed and distributed the “Statement of Conscience” crafted by Not In Our Name, a project of C. Clark Kissinger‘s Revolutionary Communist Party. (This document condemned not only the Bush administration’s “stark new measures of repression,” but also its “unjust, immoral, illegitimate, [and] openly imperial policy towards the world.”) GP is also an affiliate of the United for Peace and Justice anti-war coalition.
In the fall of 2011, GP supported the Occupy Wall Street movement.
On October 8, 2011, GP co-sponsored a Midwest Regional March for Peace and Justice, a protest demonstration commemorating the tenth anniversary of the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan.