In this episode of teleSUR’s Days of Revolt, Chris Hedges and Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein lay out the solutions to issues like economic inequality and climate change, and explain the need for sustained civil disobedience and a unified grassroots movement.
CHRIS HEDGES: Hi, I’m Chris Hedges. Welcome to Days of Revolt. In this second segment, we’ll be speaking with Dr. Jill Stein, Green Party candidate, in the presidential election, about what the solution is. What the response should be, for those of us who care about reclaiming our democracy and creating an equitable, fair, and just society. Thank you, Dr. Stein. JILL STEIN: Thank you, Chris. HEDGES: So we laid out a little bit in the first segment about this corporate leviathan and its effects, and how it has distorted our political system, what it’s done to the political landscape. In the second segment I want to look at response. We touched on a little bit at the end about movements, the importance of movements. You were speaking about the Green Party being a political expression of movements. Of course, we’re all starting with tremendous handicaps. We’re locked out of, you know, the major systems of communication. We’re never going to be able to access the kinds of funds, you know, massive amounts of money. I think, what, the Democrats will spend $1 billion this year. The Republicans will spend $1 billion. Where do we start? What, where–where do we begin? STEIN: So let me say a word about the top and the bottom. You know, because we do both. And what we do in big visibility ways, like running a presidential race, empowers and helps inspire and activate more at the grassroots, and also lifts up the work of the grassroots. So we, you know, I think you have to work on all–you have to fire on all cylinders all the time. And that’s the advantage of a political party, is that it has, you know, it has a diverse set of goals, and tools to use. And a movement, you know, is that even further the political aspect challenges power, as Frederick Douglass says we must do. Power concedes nothing without a demand, and running elections is a way to bring that demand right there to the halls of power. You have to do that. And we need movements, justice movements, built around the critical issues. Whether it’s immigrant rights or students getting out of debt, or Black Lives Matter, living wages, unions, workers, et cetera. In my view, the name of the game–because we have thriving movements right now. Movements are rising up all over the country, all over the world. It’s–you know, we are living in the era of social movements right now that are responding to, you know, to the, the devastation being brought by the neoliberal assault. So we’ve got the movements, and the powers that be would love our movements to remain divided and conquered. And the challenge of our era is to bring our movements together so we’re working with a common agenda and to some extent a common strategy. That’s what political parties also can do. A political party can help provide that conversation so that the movements can [acticulate] and develop, you know, what’s our agenda, what are our priorities, and how do we do that? HEDGES: Well, it can give political expression to the movements. STEIN: Expression, exactly. HEDGES: The movements should be, I, I think you would agree, I mean, the–it has to be the primacy of movements as opposed to the primacy of party. STEIN: Exactly. I think the movement is the engine, and the party can help provide certain tools for that engine. But yes, it is the movement. And I think right now we’re seeing movements reach across their borders to collaborate in ways that I hadn’t seen in my decades of work as an activist. You know, we’re seeing workers work on the environment and articulate an agenda of energy democracy. And of public ownership of energy, and the right to energy. Healthcare, with climate. And in Paris, you know, Paris, where the summit was being held focused on the climate, you had people in the midst of this very sad, you know, terrorist event. The war, you know, the war was blowing back at us. And it really brought people together in the people’s climate summit to ask, you know, how can we bring our movements to work together more effectively, to stop the war, to fix the climate, you know, restore democracy, human rights, et cetera? So we’re seeing movements integrate in a way that we haven’t seen before. HEDGES: So that is the question. How do we do that? STEIN: How do we do that? HEDGES: Yeah, because you know, we, we do live in a closed system, a system that has effectively not just locked out dissident movements, but locked out the citizenry. I mean, the consent of the governed is, is kind of a cruel joke. What do we do? STEIN: You know, I think it’s different in different locations. In the Northwest, where I just came from, you know, they have been very focused on stopping the building of fossil fuel facilities, and what was it called, the Delta 5 that put up their tripod to stop, to stop an oil train, you know, these [inaud.] trains–. HEDGES: Right. Well, these are, we should, we should be clear that these trains are car after car after car after–. STEIN: Hundreds, yes. HEDGES: And the potential for a catastrophic–. STEIN: As we saw in Lac-Megantic, which, you know, which killed a lot of people had it been in the middle of, you know, Philadelphia or Seattle, you know, or Albany, for that matter, where these trains–I don’t know about Philadelphia, but they’re definitely rolling through Albany, and they’re rolling through Portland. HEDGES: They go down to Philly. They’re building all these refineries in Philly, now. STEIN: Right. And the pipelines are running through, you know, through our backyards and through school systems, you know, and the fracking is doing its damage. So you know, as people mobilize to stop these things we begin to have more success. And you know, the industry is really not in good shape economically. They’re sort of doing a last hurrah right now to try to push their way through before they collapse, you know, so it’s a matter of staying the course and emulating the incredible courage of the people who are laying their bodies down. HEDGES: But you’re, we’re talking about massive acts of civil–sustained civil disobedience. STIEN: That’s right. Right. We do need sustained civil disobedience. And we need to coordinate our civil disobedience as well. You know, we’re talking about civil disobedience to open up our debates. You know, we need a broad direct action movement. We need a massive boycott. Before I joined this campaign, I was working with the Global Climate Convergence, which is developing this concept of a global climate strike that expands the concept of a workers’ strike to include everybody and anybody aligning our calendars so that we have a day or perhaps a week or perhaps more of massive non-participation in the economic and ecological wheels of destruction, so that we have boycotts, we have sit-ins, we have lockdowns. You know, just a whole lot of things on our campuses, in our workplaces, at fossil fuel sites, so that we’re addressing both the destruction of the economy as well as the destruction of our energy policies. Because when you do put us together, we are an unstoppable force. We don’t have the resources to organize and communicate with, and that’s the challenge, is to develop those resources for communication and for collaborating. But the spirit is there, now. It’s very exciting. When we were talking about this in the Climate Convergence starting two or three years ago, people were not ready to hear it at all. But now I’m hearing it from people all over the place, you know, how do we really begin to take dramatic actions? We are done with parades. You know, we are done with million-person marches. We need to be million-person sit-ins and lockdowns. HEDGES: And yet you’ve seen the rise of Bernie Sanders, I think his rhetoric on economic inequality you would support and embrace. I mean, I find Bernie, you know, his appeal is that he’s acknowledging our reality, which most of the other candidates are not doing , including President Obama. But he’s doing it within the toxic space of the Democratic party. And I wonder if that’s in many ways ultimately counterproductive to actually building a resistance movement. STEIN: You know, I don’t know what the absolute standard is, here. You know, I know it’s not what I would do. I just find the Democratic party is toxic. And I have learned in my decades, coming up from basically community activism, fighting to shut down incinerators and coal plants, you know, I’ve worked within that system for too long, and found that we were only going backwards, and we weren’t going forwards. And you know, for me the last straw was when the Democrats, the Massachusetts, the liberal progressive Massachusetts Democrats killed campaign finance reform. You know, to me it’s just a toxic system that, whose time is done. And it’s clear to me that we really need to build for the long haul, that our lives are at stake. We do not have time to waste, we need to be very strategic and do what counts here. And I think over and over again you see a younger generation being swayed by the Democratic party’s machine and its capture of, you know, of the bright lights and the media and all that it can get, so they continue to get lured down that pathway. Is there good coming out of it? Definitely. There are lots of Bernie supporters who have their feet in both his campaign and our campaign, and they’re considering us plan B, and I think that’s great. And we’re prepared for the floodgates to open. On the other hand, if people were working to ensure that we’re on the ballot, then we’ll be more confident that we can offer 100 percent of voters, you know, the expanded choice so that they can really cast a vote for themselves, not a vote that is essentially shooting themselves in the face. HEDGES: How many, how many, how many states do you expect to be able to run in? STEIN: Well, in the last election we were on the ballot for about 82-83 percent of voters. This time we hope to be 90, maybe 95 percent. All that is playing out right now, we’re ahead of schedule compared to the last four-year cycle. And we’ve also qualified now for matching funds. So we have some resources to actually begin organizing now much earlier in the campaign than we did last year. HEDGES: I want to talk a little bit about the platform, this is from 2014, that I read this morning, which I think is a great platform, and expresses with great lucidity the primary problems we face, not only as a nation but finally as citizens of the planet. And reading it through, especially having spent seven years in the Middle East, I just can’t, having spent so much time in Gaza, I just can’t sell out the Palestinians, which the Green Party does not do. I think the understanding that we’re long overdue for reparations to African-Americans, anybody understands the history of what African-Americans have endured, and the way that, the kind of protean nature of white supremacy, you know–. Within our prison system we have a system of neoslavery, in essence. Let’s talk a little bit about–I mean, I don’t, these are not negotiable issues for me. I’m not willing to negotiate them, because we’re talking about tremendous suffering that has been inflicted on the most vulnerable among us, who are always sold out for political expediency, and that’s part of my problem with Sanders, which he sold out the Palestinians, because it’s politically expedient. You confront the issue not only of climate change, but of militarism. You call for massive reductions in military spending, the redistribution of that money. The understanding that, especially in marginal communities, families are disintegrating for lack of resources. You support a kind of mandatory minimum wage, recognizing that single mothers who raise children are working as hard as someone stacking shelves in a Walmart, and deserve to be compensated. And of course, the public option. You know, this is–in a functioning democracy I would think that this platform would have tremendous appeal. But we don’t live in a functioning democracy. Maybe you can talk a little bit about the most salient points on the platform, which I think in and of itself makes the Green Party worth supporting? STEIN: Right. You know, there are really thriving movements right now, and I think great awareness of just economic hardship and desperation, and people really feel that they don’t need to be taught, you know, that it’s a problem. They know it. And so likewise there’s enormous worry about what does it mean that we’re having, you know, 60 and 70-degree weather, you know, on Christmas in the Northeast, and then we’re having three and a half feet of snow in Maryland. You know, people get that they’re really weird–you know, and then we have tornadoes and massive flooding, and this is really bad stuff. And people get that time is out of joint right now in a really serious way. And whether you’re educated or not about climate change, you get that we’ve got a serious problem. So we have put together this so-called Green New Deal. And I’m not sure if it’s captured, actually, by the platform which was 2014. but it’s been really embraced by the whole party, it’s not just our campaign. This is really an institution, it’s a fundamental plank for most campaigns, most Green campaigns. And we unify a solution to both the climate crisis and the economic crisis by creating a New Deal-type program, an emergency program, and we start by declaring that this is both an economic emergency and a climate emergency. In the same way that we transform 25 percent of GDP after the bombing of Pearl Harbor, we can get to 100 percent clean, renewable energy by 2030. We can do that in 15 years. So we have a very specific and aggressive timeline, and that will require everybody working in order to get it. So we basically guarantee the right to a job and a living wage job as a part of this Green New Deal that will green our energy, our food system, and our transportation, provide other critical infrastructure, including housing, and also restore ecosystems. So it’s basically a comprehensive work program that revives the economy, turns the tide on climate change, and importantly it makes wars for oil obsolete. They can no longer be justified. These immoral wars can no longer be perpetrated in the name of serving our, our energy needs, because we are heading towards 100 percent clean, renewable energy. And you know, look what they’re doing right now. They just lifted the export ban on oil. So we can be pretty much energy independent right now. We don’t need the [inaud.] wars for oil. So you know, that’s sort of core to our, our platform that we can have not just an America that works for all of us. We can’t have an America that works for all of us unless we also have a world that works for all of us. Right now, you know, it’s outrageous, 62 billionaires have what half of the world’s population, 3.5 billion, have. There’s no way that that is a sustainable system. I mean, this is a world which is blowing up right now related to poverty, and U.S. economic and military domination. So that doesn’t work. But we can actually have that world, and it starts with, you know, an honest and just economic and climate policy here. HEDGES: Well, let’s talk about the security and surveillance state. The military. I mean, these people play hardball. I’ve spent a lot of time with them overseas. They have complete, unrestricted control. They run our security and surveillance system. We have seen the way that they have lashed out at dissidents, [inaud.] with, you know, labeling people ecoterrorists, and–. And they profit off death. Death by war, death of the planet. This is how they–I mean, essentially they work as the Praetorian guard for the fossil fuel industry, it’s why we’re in places like Iraq. And given the resources and their propensity towards violence, and we’ve seen them bring drones back into the United States, we’ve seen them militarize our police forces. 3.1 citizens are murdered every single day in the streets of our city by police violence. Most of them unarmed people of color. I mean, this is a serious threat, and there’s no oversight or control anymore. And yet if we don’t vanquish those forces every reform that you propose and support, as I do, is for naught. So how do we confront them? STEIN: Number one, we stand up. You know, and we’re very clear about what we’re standing up for. You know, I think you can’t go into this, into this fight, worried about the price you’re going to pay. Because if you don’t go into the fight you know the price that you’re going to pay. You know, we’re facing extinction right now, as a, as a biosphere. We are undergoing extinction that we will not survive. And some of the predictions–you know, this is, like, aside from the climate, or in addition to the climate. You know, there is no going forward here. We are at the edge of the cliff. And we need to push back. And that is utterly clear. You know, the predictions are that we could see the elimination of 50 percent of species by the end of the century. You know, we have a clear deadline here. The clock is ticking. It’s now or never, folks, you know? HEDGES: But what’s so terrifying about climate change reports is every new climate change report says, oh, it’s accelerating at a rate we didn’t predict. STEIN: Oh, yes. HEDGES: The oceans are heating up at twice the rate that we thought. STEIN: That’s right. HEDGES: The glaciers are–you know, that–. STEIN: Yes, exactly. So you can never take the science at face value. It’s always far worse than that. You know, and that’s been clear to me from the get-go, because I came out of the environmental health world where it was always, oh, mercury is way more toxic than we ever knew. It’s always, like, we’re always, like, being shocked that we are in harm’s way. And you know, that is now–this is it. You know, this is it. It’s speak now or forever hold your peace. It’s act now. You know, this is our existential moment. We’re going to stand up and assert our humanity now, or it’s not going to happen. But the great thing is that the moment we do that, the moment we stand up with the courage of our convictions, we have won. Because we have the numbers. HEDGES: What does it look like? What’s it going to look like? STEIN: You know, in–I think it is, it’s massive direct actions that include big, unstoppable marches in the street. And that may take the form that it just did in Guatemala, where people came out by hundreds of thousands facing, you know, generations of death squads, they just got out, you know, in enough numbers that they were able to basically force the hand of their parliament to strip their president of his immunities, and he went to jail. It’s an ongoing battle, but they’re mobilized. You know, it was like the people who came out in the Stasi state, when the East Berlin–. HEDGES: I was there. STEIN: You were there. I know, I’ve heard you tell the story, and it’s a very inspiring story. How, you know, enough people came out with the moms and the baby carriages, that when the troops are called out they will not fire. So it’s very important that we go forward, you know, in an inclusive way. So we’re also talking to the good cops out there, you know, and the good troops. HEDGES: Well, that’s why nonviolence is so key. I mean, it’s been my battle with the Black Bloc. STEIN: It is. Yes, absolutely. HEDGES: Because–and I’m not a pacifist. I was in Sarajevo during the war. If you were surrounded by the Serbs it’s not like you were presented an option of nonviolence. I mean, as Malcolm X said, he never had the luxury of nonviolence. But in this case, in order to bring these powers down, you have to appeal to enough forces within the power structure who have a conscience who will not carry out the dirty work of the state. And that’s what happened in Eastern Europe. That’s what happened when they sent down, Honecker sent down the elite paratroop division in September of 1989 to fire on the crowds in Leipzig. They refused. Honecker lasted another week in power. That was it. STEIN: Exactly. That was very instructive. HEDGES: So that, that is, and that, that makes, you know, your political campaign different in many ways, because the power of change, which I think you’re really saying is not defined by the ballot box, but defined by the ability to paralyze the system through sustained acts of civil disobedience. STEIN: Exactly. And that civil disobedience needs to be taken into the voting booth, as well. And we need to throw off, you know, the stranglehold. We need to break the stranglehold inside the voting booth, as we do, you know, out in the street and in our workplaces and in our colleges. And let me just say one other, you know, footnote here to this mobilization, and that is the incredible power that young people, and the student debt movement, has right now. They actually do have the numbers, they have the potential to self-organize. And by coming out to vote in November of 2016, they can actually vote Green to cancel my debt with the knowledge that if they actually come out to do that, that will be a self-fulfilling prophecy. And that can actually happen, because the president does have quite a bit of discretion. But even if we don’t win the White House, simply having millions of people turn out for that will make that a, an issue that cannot be ignored, or refused, by any candidate for any office. They’re going to be obliged to cancel debt if we make a strong showing. And that’s one of the things that our campaign is really working to do, to elevate this issue. Because it is fixable with the stroke of a pen, and it’s fixable in a way that has so many spinoff benefits for society and for our economy. It begs to happen for all kinds of reasons, not the least of which is liberating an entire generation who is the engine of social change. Young people are always the engine of social transformation. They need to be here. They’ve been disappeared by debt. So we need to bring them back by liberating them. HEDGES: That’s not going to happen, because the power elite, you know, suddenly cares about justice, or becomes decent. It’s going to happen because they feel fear. STEIN: And I would add that ours is the only campaign that will stand up and do that. The other candidates have now taken up what the Green Party has said for decades, which his that public higher education should be free. So they’ve now come on board. But they are not advocating for the cancellation of student debt. So that focuses those 43 million votes. Likewise, 25 million Latinos who vote, who’ve learned that the Republicans are the party of hate and fear, and Democrats are the party of deportation, and night raids, and detentions. This absolutely abominable stuff. You know, we’re being very clear. The solution to the immigration crisis is to stop causing it in the first place. We can, you know, stop NAFTA, stop the drug wars, and stop invading other countries and overthrowing their democracies. We don’t need no friggin’ wall, you know, we just need to stop creating an immigration crisis. HEDGES: [25:05] I mean, it’s counterintuitive, but I’ve always believed, and that’s why I worked so closely with Ralph Nader in his presidential campaigns, that if we can pull 5, 10, 15 million people who can stand up to the system, the system will actually begin to respond. But because the system has essentially, you know, quite effectively allowed people to feel that they actually have no voice, that they have to play by their rules, things are getting worse and worse and worse. And you’re coughing up these repugnant figures like Cruz or Trump, I think, largely because of a Democratic party which has spoken in that kind of traditional language of liberalism while selling out the people they purport to defend, and that has engendered this protofascism and rage, much of which is legitimate. Not at, to who the rage is directed towards. But unless we, we build a viable third party, and unless we begin to come out in these kinds of numbers, I think that the, it’s clear that the political swamp that we’ve created will, will only get worse. That Trump is not–Trump is responding. He’s not the creation of these movements. And I cover–I watched this happen in the former Yugoslavia. So I think our only hope is, is define the system, standing up, backing third-party movements, and I supported you in the last election, and no doubt will in this one as well. You know, because otherwise there’s going to be no breaks. And where we are headed, environmentally, economically, you know, is very frightening. STEIN: We are on a lethal trajectory. We should not keep doing what has brought us here. You know, like ISIS. We should not try to fix ISIS with more of what created ISIS. We’re advocating a peace offensive. Not a passive, not hands-off, not look the other way, but actually let’s withdraw the funding and the arms that we are providing, either, you know, directly as it gets captured from our, you know, the forces we’ve trained, or indirectly through the Saudis. We are funneling, you know, we have an open spigot of weapons to the Saudis who are then distributing them to the good terrorists. You know, the good terrorists, today. We can create a weapons embargo to the Middle East and just, you know, stop all the fires from further exploding. We can stop funding them, and we have been funding terrorism going back at least to the Mujaheddin together with the Saudis. This is the problem. HEDGES: Well, and at the top of that embargo list will come Israel, which–. STEIN: Absolutely. And unleashing the Saudis to get their hands dirty is the problem. It’s not the solution. So we can do this, and the critical thing here is for us to stand up with the courage of our convictions, and to not be intimidated by the politics of fear. HEDGES: Well, you know, we have nothing to lose, because if we don’t we’re finished. STEIN: Exactly. So time to reject the lesser evil, and fight for the greater good. Our lives depend on it. And we do have the power. HEDGES: Right. Thank you, Dr. Stein. STEIN: Thank you, Chris. HEDGES: And thank you for watching Days of Revolt.
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