Freedom Isn’t Given, It’s Something We Must Take: The Green Party As An Instrument For Building An Authentic Electoral Opposition

November 8, 2016
Sunyata Altenor

We are at a critical moment in history. The multiple contradictions of the collapsing neoliberal order are coming to a head – in climate disasters, in the racial violence we see in the streets, at Standing Rock and in the lives of countless people in the U.S. who have seen their economic circumstances deteriorate while the transnational elites continue to accumulate wealth and power. These contradictions suggest that this system is no longer able to continue in its present form. We are seeing the writing on the wall that the legitimation process,the symbols of legitimacy,no longer hold. Young white suburbanites taking a knee during the national anthem in solidarity with professional athletes is a powerful indication that the usual symbols of patriotism no longer provide the social cement that they used to.

We recognize the threat that Trump represents. He stands for the dark forces in this country – the racism, xenophobia, and misogyny that existed before him and will persist regardless of whether he wins. But the political realignment taking place among the right, with significant elements breaking from the Republicans and moving to the Democrats, also represents a serious threat the liberal left fails to recognize. This realignment represents, for the first time in a long time, a consolidation and unity of the ruling elite, who are apparently willing to suspend their differences and support Hillary Clinton and her cynical strategy of throwing bones to the poor and working class in this country.  If we are serious about opposing the right, we must be serious about the various movements of the right, and we cannot afford to miss the implications of this realignment.

The Stein/Baraka campaign is committed to building alternative popular power. We must move beyond protest to a direct struggle for power, to take and exercise state power to improve our material conditions. This is why a central component of our campaign is the effort to use our national platform to lift up the struggles of African, Latinx, and indigenous people for sovereignty, self-determination, and authentic decolonization.

The Stein/Baraka Green Party campaign does not attempt to represent itself as “the” movement. It is developing an instrument, a tool, whose value is reflected by its ability to be linked with rising social movements everywhere. If people want to engage with the state, if they see it as a site of struggle, and if they want to involve themselves in the electoral arena, we need to have an instrument to do that. And the Green Party is an instrument that can be used in the service of a larger movement to build power. 

That’s why we find ourselves in places like Standing Rock. Indigenous and African people are the original victims of the genocidal violence through which this nation was born. Indigenous and African peoples worked together throughout centuries of colonialism and slavery to fight back against our common oppressors, as evidenced by the Great Seminole Uprising and countless other rebellions throughout our shared history. And now, the Standing Rock and Black Lives Matter engagements are at the forefront of contemporary resistance movements. 

As the Green Party vice-presidential candidate, I have been afforded the unique opportunity to travel extensively around the country and engage the people, listen to their stories and observe  the unwavering commitment in our communities to racial, economic and environmental justice. I have been surprised at the number of people of color, especially black people, who are involved in the Green Party at all levels. And through these experiences I have been convinced that there  is more of an appetite for radical solutions in the U.S. than the elite and corporate media let us know exist. 

The people are on the move and we are winning. Our campaign is very close to the critical 5 percent of the national popular vote we need in order to gain federal funding, ballot access, and the ability to build the national infrastructure needed to mount a real challenge to power in upcoming elections. Any time we have an opportunity to engage people in critical discussion to build an alternative, we are in fact winning. It is imperative for us to have an oppositional presence in this moment. It makes no sense to completely surrender that space to the ruling elite. Building independent political power is always a winning proposition. 

What we’ve been trying to do across this country is talk not just about the importance of voting for us on November 8, which is important, but about the absolute need to build an alternative to the existing paradigm. We are trying to facilitate the linking of these various movements together amongst themselves and the fledgling apparatus of the Green Party. We see this as part of a broader strategy for developing alternative power, understanding that we in a protracted struggle to shift the balance of forces back in favor of the people. Every action we take toward advancing this strategy, in the streets and at the ballot box, is an investment in laying a path to authentic human liberation - not the false liberation offered by liberalism from above, but true liberation that we take for ourselves, to save us all.


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