Socialist Worker interview with Jill Stein: "We want to be the voice of struggle in 2016"

p_Jill_with_GCC_banner.jpgDr. Jill Stein is an organizer, physician and pioneering environmental health advocate--and in 2012, the Green Party's candidate for president of the U.S. She has announced her plan to seek the Green Party nomination again and to put forward an alternative to a Democratic Party where Bernie Sanders may have significant support, but Hillary Clinton is the likely presidential candidate. The International Socialist Organization, publisher of SocialistWorker.org, has decided to endorse and support Stein's campaign for president as an independent left alternative in the 2016 election. In an interview conducted last month, Stein discussed her campaign with Ashley Smith.

WHAT ARE the key issues in your campaign this year?

WE HAVE a crisis in our economy, a crisis in the climate, and a crisis in everything in between. Jobs are going overseas, wages are going down, and the cost of living is skyrocketing. Black lives are on the firing line, immigrants are facing deportation, and over 40 million young people are trapped in debt.

Our campaign is focused on these multiple crises and a systemic fix in the form of a Green New Deal. It assures the right to a job, health care and education. It will create 20 million living wage jobs that replace our deadly carbon economy with a just, green economy--on an emergency basis. We're calling for 100 percent clean renewable energy by 2030.

This will also make wars for oil obsolete. When we have all the energy that we need here at home, there would no longer be any feasible argument to justify these catastrophic and immoral wars for imperial control of fossil fuels.

Our plan would pay for itself. How? The savings in health care alone for preventing fossil fuel illnesses would pay the cost of the energy transition. The Green New Deal is a win-win solution for the central crises in our lives. It revives the economy, turns the tide on climate change, and ends the catastrophic wars for oil.

IT SEEMS like a lot of your platform is similar to that of Bernie Sanders. What's your view of his campaign for the Democratic Party's presidential nomination?

SANDERS HAS tapped into the massive wellspring of dissent in our society. The surge of his campaign reflects the breakaway moment that we're in. People are supporting him as an insurgent, non-Democrat inside the Democratic Party. But just like we used to say that the revolution will not be televised, it will also not happen within the Democratic Party.

However, I'm grateful to Sanders for stirring up the hornet's nest of discontent, elevating the economic crisis and making it clear that there must be an alternative to the Democrats' heir apparent Hillary Clinton. Unfortunately, I think the writing is on the wall that Bernie's days are numbered as a contender for the Democratic nomination.

We've seen the fate of insurgent campaigns inside the Democratic Party before. Remember Jesse Jackson, Dennis Kucinich and Howard Dean? The party has a kill switch for rebel campaigns in its ranks. Establishment candidates like Clinton use their corporate funding, support from elected officials and the party apparatus to trounce the radicals. They'll use all of this corporate and organizational backing on Super Tuesday, March 1, when 12 states hold simultaneous primaries. On that day, the establishment usually buries dissident campaigns.

If that doesn't work, the Democrats always have their superdelegates of elected officials, insiders and apparatchiks as a fallback plan. They comprise a substantial percentage of the delegates at the convention and can tip the nomination to their favored candidate, violating democracy in the process. As we know, Clinton has been busy collecting superdelegates by the hundreds.

At the same time, the Democrats benefit from insurgents like Sanders. The party uses these principled campaigns to lure the left back into the party and stop it from building an independent base from which it can truly grow--in a party like the Greens. With the left co-opted, the Democrats can then move further to the right and continue forcing their corporate and imperialist agenda down our throats, uncontested.

So while Bernie has stirred things up, he is facing a strategic dead end inside the Democratic Party. Many will realize this on Super Tuesday. He's already stated on prime time TV that he will support whoever wins the corporate-controlled nominating process. When he throws his support to Hillary, his principled supporters will need another place to go. That's where we come in--when Bernie's supporters need a Plan B.

We're appealing to all to help ensure plan B is alive and well when people need it. Help us get on the ballot to ensure everyone has a choice outside the corporate parties. Because you're not going to want to vote for Clinton or the Republicans, but for a real challenge to politics as usual, which is what we are building.

WHY DO we have to challenge the two parties?

THE REPUBLICANS are clearly bought and paid for by the rich and the right wing. But the Democrats are also a corporate party. Just look at Obama's record. Even his most celebrated reform--the Affordable Care Act--is a huge payoff to big business. It has been a boondoggle for insurance and pharmaceutical companies. For workers, it has meant minimal care with skyrocketing premiums and co-pays.

On the other issues, Obama basically followed George W. Bush's agenda. He bailed out the banks far more than Bush ever did. He followed up Bill Clinton's NAFTA with the Trans-Pacific Partnership. He continued Bush's wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and expanded them with catastrophic regime change in Libya and proliferating drone wars in Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia. On the climate, he vastly expanded fossil fuel extraction, massively outstripping gains in renewable energy.

Obama basically outdid Bush on every count. So the result of voting for lesser evil? More evil.

If we want a world that works for all of us, we have to build an alternative to the Democrats. To do that, we have to reject the politics of fear, which tells you to vote against the candidate you fear the most, instead of for your deeply held beliefs. That politics of fear has delivered everything we were afraid of: the offshoring of our jobs, the expanding wars, the climate meltdown, mass deportations and incarceration, etc.

We must challenge corporate hegemony. The minute we get a sense of our power, the minute we stand up as a broad coalition for justice, we are absolutely unstoppable because we have the numbers, we have the solutions, and we have the values shared by the American people.

For example, if 40 million young people who are in debt get into their heads the wild idea that they are going to take over this election, they have the power to do exactly that. If all those young people turn up at the polls to vote Green for the only campaign that will cancel student debt, we could actually win and abolish student debt right here and now. And voila, their world is transformed.

So I'm not holding my breath, but I'm not ruling it out either. It's got to eventually happen because there is no other way forward. We have two corporate parties that are basically funded by predatory banks, fossil fuel polluters and war profiteers. People are searching for an alternative.

The largest block of the American public has already defected from the Democratic and Republican parties. Around 50 percent of voters are either independents or belong to small parties. Only 21 percent identify as Republicans and only 29% as Democrats, according a recentWall Street Journal poll. So the largest voting block by far is begging for something different, and we are working hard to build them an alternative.

Those who oppose building an alternative have either given up or have a stake in this predatory system. Some are wedded to lesser evilism despite the fact that the lesser evil has been brutal to them. They are like people stuck in an abusive relationship. And they need help breaking up and finding a healthy, empowering new one.

So we have to be like political therapists. It has been drummed into people's heads that they have to defend their abusers and say, "It'll get better next year" or "It was the Republicans who made him do it." We have to help people see that there is no reason to accept taking a beating.

The parties may differ around the margins, but on the core issues--job, wages, health care, trade, student debt, immigrant rights, climate and war--the two parties are in agreement.

So the solution is to end the abusive relationship with the Democrats. We have to have the courage of our convictions. The minute we do that, we discover that everyone else is standing up, and we have the numbers to take control of this ship and turn back from the waterfall that the two parties are driving us toward.

HOW DO you see your Green Party campaign relating to social movements like Black Lives Matter?

OUR PURPOSE is to lift up the struggles of frontline communities in the presidential election. Why should the presidential race be about the issues of the 1 Percent? It should be about everybody. One out of two Americans right now are either in poverty or low income heading for poverty. Forty million students are in debt. One out of three African American men are held hostage by the prison system. Vast numbers are in the crosshairs of police violence.

These issues and the movements struggling for change should be the centerpiece of the election. It shouldn't be about Hillary Clinton's e-mails or tax breaks for corporations. The Green Party is determined to uplift today's social movements and their many leaders.

This is a central theme of my campaign. We have worked with activists around Black Lives Matter, student debt, climate justice, and immigrant, indigenous, LGBT and women's rights. We held the Green Party national meeting this year in Ferguson, rallying directly across from the police station to get the message out loud and clear that the Green Party supports the struggle against racist police violence.

We were in New Orleans on the 10th anniversary of Katrina to say that this crisis is ongoing for 100,000 African American who have not been allowed to return because their housing has not been rebuilt. We decried the destruction of the city's public education system and the teachers' unions through privatization of New Orleans schools.

We need to connect with the movements in this way--give them a voice in the election and enable them to advance their demands at the ballot box.

OFTEN, CANDIDATES separate domestic reforms from anti-imperialism. How do you see the relationship between reform at home and stopping empire abroad?

THEY ARE absolutely inseparable. Our message is that we have multiple threats to humanity's survival. Inequality, racism, climate change, militarism--none of these can be solved separately. Our economy at home is not going to survive the cost of war. We've already spent $6 trillion on these wars, when you include the long-term medical costs that we have incurred.

This is then used as one of the many excuses to justify inflicting austerity at home, sacrificing programs that meet basic human needs. So we can't have a military that simultaneously heaps destruction on the rest of the world and have a viable economy here at home.

Another example: Look at how militarism fuels climate change. The world's biggest producer of greenhouse gases is the U.S. military. We can't solve the climate problem while we have massive military spending on unending, ever-expanding wars.

Not only is U.S. militarism a threat to our economy--it's also a disaster, of course, for the economies and societies that the U.S. invades. It overturns governments. It creates coups and military invasions.

We have done this throughout the Middle East, destroying Iraq, Libya and now Syria. By arming Saudi Arabia and Israel, we are enabling war crimes, and economic and human rights disasters in Yemen and Palestine. We have a long track record supporting coups and death squads in South America and Central America. We are heading for Africa next. Our militarism is producing massive disaster zones.

Which leads to the global refugee crisis. There are 60 million people this year, right now, fleeing poverty and wars, in which U.S. foreign policies have had a major hand. And the climate crisis, which we share a major responsibility for, is going to create hundreds of millions more.

What are we going to do with refugees? Shove them all back into the sea? No one with a shred of humanity can allow that to happen. But the establishment lacks such humanity. It is erecting walls all over the place in the wake of the Paris attacks to block the refugees' search for safe haven. Such global apartheid is a violation of our basic human values; it is morally unacceptable.

We need to welcome these refugees and stop the devastation they are fleeing from in the first place. Our politics cannot pay attention to just Americans. We are increasingly all in one boat. That boat is getting smaller all the time.

Either we are going to sail together or we are going to sink together. As a practical reality and a matter of human compassion, we need a better way forward, based on democracy, justice, human rights and peace. And that will not come from political parties that are funded by banks, polluters and war profiteers.

There is, by the way, a far more effective way to stop ISIS than by throwing bombs and bullets at it--a strategy that created ISIS and only makes terrorism stronger. We, the greatest supplier of weapons to the Middle East by far, must stop arming terrorist groups ourselves and stop our allies Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Turkey from doing so. We must also stop our allies from funding terrorists, even if it means freezing and seizing their bank accounts if they won't stop. And we must demand Turkey close its border to the jihadi militias and stop buying ISIS oil.

HOW DO you see the Green Party and your campaign helping to cultivate the American left?

MANY SMALL parties of the left came together in an exhilarating conference last summer, where we found astonishing agreement among us. There was a sense of camaraderie many of us had never seen before. Then the Bernie Sanders campaign emerged and took the wind out of the sails of independent left party-building.

But looking ahead to when the Democrats eliminate Bernie's campaign, I think people will pull back together--perhaps in far greater numbers--to challenge the two corporate parties in a way that allows us to truly build a party of resistance and transformation, outside the anti-democratic, corporatist, imperialist framework of the Democratic Party.

The Green Party is the only party with truly national scope that's not poisoned by corporate money. So it has become the national umbrella for the electoral left, and it has evolved over the last decade as a result.

Greens have come to understand that there is no such thing as an environmental party. You cannot fix the environment unless you are also fixing our economy, racism, democracy and foreign policy. These things are joined at the hip. We have to fix them together. To do this, we need a party that brings us together across the spectrum of justice.

We cannot do that in the Democratic Party. It's time to get serious about building the alternative--a party for people, planet, and peace over profit. So it's time to reject the lesser evil and fight for the greater good. Like our lives depend on it--because they do. And the clock is ticking. It's in our hands.

Transcription by Denise Herrera

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