Green or Red? A Reckoning for the Left

2016 is shaping up to be one of the most tumultuous election years in a long time. Not satisfied with a hawkish neocon-like Democrat and a crypto-fascist celebrity who’s famous for being famous, more and more Americans are looking for another option. Some of these people, such as the 43% of Democrats who voted for the overtly “Democratic Socialist” candidate Bernie Sanders, are looking for something more to the Left than what the neoliberal Democrats have to offer. In a society in which 58% of Democrats and 55% of Millennials view socialism favorably, this opens up a rare opportunity for the Left to organize an actual socialist movement. We could get people to support not only the social democracy advocated by Sanders but actual socialism, that is, workers’ control of the means of production. The obvious problem is that the Democratic Party itself is a party of capitalism, and therefore we need to form an actual party of the working class.

The Green Party, noticing that 57% of Americans view Hillary Clinton unfavorably, is taking advantage of this widespread disillusion with the neoliberal policies of the Clintonite Democrats. In response, the Green Party, with their presidential candidate Jill Stein, is trying to recruit disaffected Democrats. They have launched an extensive social media campaign to reach out to those who want a Left alternative to neoliberalism. Due to American voters’ strong dislike of both major party candidates, unprecedented in American history, the mainstream media has decided to give Stein significant press coverage for a third party candidate (comparatively speaking) including an NPR interview, a CNN Town Hall, and more.

This might seem like a golden opportunity for the Left. We could put our attention into an already established party of the working class, and maybe we could use the Green Party as our vanguard party. The problem with this is the Green part. The Green Party is based in an ideology called Green politics. Green politics is not the same thing as socialism, especially Marxism. Green politics is based not in proletarian rule and workers’ control of the means of production but “the politics of ecology,” hence the “Green” moniker. According to Green politics, ecology, not class, is the primary contradiction of capitalism. While the Green Party recently approved an amendment declaring itself “anti-capitalist” and “ in favor of a decentralized vision socialism,” the party itself is still based in Green politics rather than any scientific form of socialism.

Being a Green party rather than an overt socialist party, based in ecology rather than class struggle, this means that the party has other serious issues. For example, the presidential candidate Jill Stein is prone to unscientific crankery. Stein has conflated nuclear power and nuclear weapons, claimed WiFi signals harm people, and opposes GMOs. Her feminism isn’t so good either, as she takes an purely abolitionist stance on sex work and bases her anti-war and nonviolence policies in a retrograde gender essentialism.

These differences matter. The ideology you use to come to your opinions matters. There’s a major difference between opposing war because it’s a tool capitalists use to maintain their power and influence, and opposing war because it’s “unfeminine,” or out of a touchy-feely opposition to violence in general. The ideology of socialism, long-established and tested, has a lot more going for it than the more recent and rarely tested Green politics. There are no Green revolutions, only socialist ones. Even if Jill Stein somehow wins the election (which she won’t) the Middle East will still be terrorized, black and brown people will still be killed by police, and capitalism will still go on as it’s been going on since 1776. Vote for Stein to make a statement if you must, but never forget that revolution is made in the streets, never at the ballot box.

Voting is easy and marginally useful, but it is a poor substitute for democracy, which requires direct action by concerned citizens.” -Howard Zinn