Demilitarization is the Key to a Green New Deal
By Howie Hawkins and Madelyn Hoffman
A funny thing happened to us as Green Party candidates in 2018. Howie Hawkins ran for New York governor and Madelyn Hoffman for US Senator from New Jersey. We were scolded by many progressives to drop out and unite behind the Democrats against Trump. Then immediately after the election some Democrats in Congress took the central theme of our campaigns—the Green New Deal—and grabbed the national spotlight.
Of course, that is why the Greens run—to put issues and policies that the major parties ignore on to the public agenda. The Green New Deal has been the signature program of the Green Party for the last decade. Now these Democrats have taken the brand, but diluted its content.
That is why we are running again in 2020. Madelyn is running again for US Senator and Howie is seeking the Green Party’s presidential nomination. We want to set the standards for the real Green New Deal against which others’ proposals must measure up. We want to raise real solutions to the life-or-death issues we face—climate change, the new nuclear arms race, endless imperialist wars, and the growing economic and racial inequality that means so many working people cannot afford to pay their groceries, rent, utilities, medical bills, and/or tuition and student loans.
Three vital elements of the Green Party’s Green New Deal are missing from the non-binding resolution for a Green New Deal introduced into Congress by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) and Sen. Ed Markey (D-MA).
The first is demilitarization or taking on the out-of-control military-industrial complex. Instead of new wars for oil like the US is threatening toward Venezuela and Iran, and a continuation of on-going wars in at least 9 other countries, we must convert a major share of U.S. manufacturing and engineering expertise from building weapons of war to the moral equivalent of war in our time—building a 100% clean energy economy by 2030 before climate chaos, including global warming, destroys the ecological foundations of modern civilization.
The second missing element in the Democrats’ Green New Deal is a ban on fracking and all new fossil fuel infrastructure. If the US continues building fracking wells and pipelines for oil and gas, fracked-gas power plants, and vehicles powered by fracked oil, our country will be locked into fossil fuels and greenhouse gas emissions for another 40 years—long past the time when climate catastrophe will be baked into the planet.
The third missing element is the Green Party’s target of 100% greenhouse gas reductions and clean renewable energy by 2030. The Ocasio-Cortez/Markey target is 100% by 2050. That is way too late according to the climate science. And who believes politicians are going to act now on a deadline that is thirty years away? The 2050 deadline creates an excuse for inaction now.
We appreciate Ocasio-Cortez and Markey’s efforts to maintain the Green New Deal’s link between climate safety and economic justice with their resolution’s support for a job guarantee and Medicare for all. That link is a necessary step toward creating a sustainable economy and environment, and provides a foundation for building the coalition of workers and environmentalists necessary to pass an emergency program for achieving 100% clean energy.
But we can achieve even more economic justice. Let’s finally implement the full Economic Bill of Rights that President Franklin Roosevelt asked Congress to enact in his 1944 and 1945 State of the Union addresses. In addition to a job guarantee and true universal health care, our Economic Bill of Rights should include a minimum wage of at least $20 an hour (ensuring it’s also a living wage), a guaranteed income above poverty for those who can’t work, decent and affordable homes for all through new public housing and universal rent control, and tuition-free public education from pre-K through college.
We also believe that to realize an economically and environmentally sustainable Green New Deal, we need a more democratic economic system: eco-socialism. We know that Exxon and the Koch Brothers are not going to reinvest their fossil fuel profits into renewable energy, so we must nationalize Big Oil. With the economic democracy of social ownership and democratic planning of big industries and banks, the people will have the power to implement a program of ecological reconstruction and economic justice.
The Green New Deal we envision is similar to the emergency mobilization the US undertook to win World War II. The federal government took over or built a quarter of US manufacturing capacity during the war in order to turn industry on a dime to build the “Arsenal of Democracy” that, together with our allies, helped defeat the Nazis. We need no less a commitment to restructuring our industrial economy to defeat climate change.
But we will do one thing differently this time. After World War II, the federal government gave away the factories it built to the super-rich and their giant corporations. We will, instead, spread the wealth created by turning over these factories to the workers as worker-owned cooperatives.
The Green New Deal can revive the depressed economies of the Rust Belt, inner cities, and rural America by building clean zero-waste Green New Deal factories in every congressional district. We can build up a green/industrial complex to replace the overwhelming and entrenched influence and presence of the military/industrial complex, which has placed military facilities in every congressional district to fortify its political support.
Capitalism cannot solve the problems of human freedom, economic injustice, environmental collapse, or war and the threat of nuclear annihilation.
Capitalist firms are dictatorships, not democracies. On the job, workers surrender their freedom to the dictates of supervisors. They have no real say in the organization of work and the distribution of the profits their work creates.
Workers under capitalism receive a fixed wage while the capitalists take as profit all the additional value workers create with their labor. That is why, under capitalism, the rich get richer and workers struggle to pay their bills.
Competition for market shares means every capitalist firm must expand or die. That “logic” leads to the kind of unthinking, relentless growth that is destroying the world’s environment.
International competition between global corporations and the militaries of their home countries for resources, markets, cheap labor, and geopolitical military positioning creates endless wars. These widespread military confrontations make it more difficult for the world to disarm. Add to it that most nuclear powers keep their nuclear weapons on hair-trigger alert, fail to take seriously their responsibilities to disarm under international treaties, and refuse to adopt a No First Strike policy, these constant conventional wars become an ever present danger. One misstep at any time and any one of the wars could escalate into civilization-ending nuclear war.
We need system change, not climate change, not the new nuclear arms race, not ever growing economic and racial inequality. In January 2019, according to Oxfam, the world’s wealthiest 26 individuals owned more assets than the bottom half of the world’s population, or approximately 3.8 billion people. This is clearly unsustainable!
Confronting the military-industrial complex and ending its imperialist wars are key to the Green New Deal. Over $1 trillion dollars a year is devoted to military spending when we include the bloated Department of Homeland Security, the Pentagon, and the Department of Energy’s nuclear weapons programs. The military consumes 60% of the federal discretionary budget as well as a major share of the manufacturing capacity and engineers we need to develop a 100% clean energy system by 2030.
We believe that the US can cut on the order of 75% of its military budget. We can remain secure by downsizing our global military empire of over 800 foreign military bases and adopting a non-offensive defense posture. It requires a fraction of the personnel and weapons to defend home territory than is needed to take and occupy foreign territory. A $250 billion military budget would still make the US the world’s largest military power. Eight of the next biggest 10 military powers are US allies.
Instead of the proposed budget for 2020, which increases military spending and slashes education and other community-oriented programs, we need to get our priorities straight. The biggest security threats we face are climate change, the new nuclear arms race, and endless wars.
We need a Global Green New Deal now. It’s way past time. Let’s be the world’s most humanitarian country instead of its global military empire. Let’s build peace, instead of destroying nations. We can make friends instead of enemies by helping poorer countries provide their people with clean water, education, and preventive health care. Let the world learn from our mistakes and jump over the fossil fuel age into the solar and renewable age.
This is how a Global Green New Deal can help the U.S. make peace instead of war with the world’s peoples and heal our planet.
Howie Hawkins is the 2020 Green Party candidate for president. Madelyn Hoffman ran as the NJ Green Party candidate for the United States Senate in 2018.