Black people should see the Green New Deal as an arena of struggle for self-determination, communal repair, and justice-creation.
“In its broad outlines, the Green New Deal is a transformative program that calls for democratic reconstruction of U.S. society.”
The debate over some form of Green New Deal is destined to dominate political discourse in the coming decade, as the clock ticks toward a United Nations panel’s 2030 deadlineto avoid climate catastrophe by holding global warming to 1.5 degrees centigrade. A Green New Deal bill --actually, a non-binding resolution-- submitted last month by New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Massachusetts Sen. Ed Markey, so far has 89 co-sponsors in the House and 11 in the Senate including endorsements from Democratic presidential hopefulsKirsten Gillibrand, Cory Booker, Elizabeth Warren, Amy Klobuchar and Kamala Harris. Bernie Sanders backs the resolution and promises to develop his ownGreen New Deal plan.
With 80 percent of registered voters generally in favor(92 percent of Democrats, 64 percent of Republicans), the Ocasio-Cortez/Markey Green New Deal is at least as popular as Sanders’ signature proposals on Medicare for All and free public college tuition. But the oligarchic .01% beats super-majorities every time under the two-corporate-party electoral system, and the oligarchy demands that there be no retreat from austerity and eternal warfare. The Democratic presidential contest sets the stage for an empire-shaking confrontation between popular forces demanding protection from the terrifying insecurity and unfairness of madhouse capitalism versus the political servants of the rich. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi was caught red-handed plotting with insurance companies to sabotage Sanders’ Medicare for All bill (see BAR, Feb 13), and is sure to treat every austerity-threatening measure as a poison pill, no matter how popular in the polls. But Pelosi’s billionaire bosses will be driven apoplectic by the Green New Deal, the drumbeat for which will grow louder and louder as humanity approaches the next of many climatic points of no return.
“The oligarchic .01% beats super-majorities every time under the two-corporate-party electoral system.”
Of all the supermajority-backed proposals on offer, the Green New Deal has the potential to mobilize the broadest and deepest popular forces to challenge the political hegemony of the Lords of Capital. In its broad outlines, the Green New Deal is a transformative program that calls for democratic reconstruction of U.S. society in defense of the global homeland: the biosphere. Derived from the Green Party’s New Dealplan and its “Economic Bill of Rights,” first put forward in 2006, the Ocasio-Cortez/Markey resolutioncalls for achieving “global reductions in greenhouse gas emissions from human sources of 40 to 60 percent from 2010 levels by 2030…and net-zero global emissions by 2050” by overhauling the industrial and agricultural structures and habitats of the nation, at breakneck speed, while simultaneously redressing the injustices inflicted on “frontline and vulnerable communities” (mainly people of color) in the course of U.S. history.
Specifically, the GND aims to “promote justice and equity by stopping current, preventing future, and repairing historic oppression of indigenous peoples, communities of color, migrant communities, deindustrialized communities, depopulated rural communities, the poor, low-income workers, women, the elderly, the unhoused, people with disabilities, and youth.”
“The GND aims to ‘promote justice and equity by stopping current, preventing future, and repairing historic oppression.’”
The GND’s authors recognize that Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal actually strengthened the racial caste system by favoring whites, as did the post-war GI Bill and the federally subsidized suburbanization of the nation -- the greatest makeover in U.S., and possibly world, history. This time around, the repair and upgrading of the infrastructure and housing stock of the nation and the provision of “high-quality education, including higher education” for all, is to be accomplished “with a focus on frontline and vulnerable communities” as “full and equal participants in the Green New Deal mobilization.”
The Resolution promises to direct economic development investments in ways that “build wealth and community ownership, while prioritizing high-quality job creation and economic, social, and environmental benefits in frontline and vulnerable communities, and deindustrialized communities.” High-quality retraining and education will be accomplished with “community-defined projects and strategies.”
The goal is restorative justice that addresses past crimes against communities that were repeatedly destabilized and made into sacrifice zones for the benefit of capitalists and to satisfy the demands of white privilege. The GND is committed to “ensuring the use of democratic and participatory processes that are inclusive of and led by frontline and vulnerable communities and workers to plan, implement, and administer the Green New Deal mobilization at the local level.”
The plan envisions creation of 20 million new jobs at living wages while “strengthening and protecting the right of all workers to organize, unionize, and collectively bargain free of coercion, intimidation, and harassment.”
“The GND is committed to ‘ensuring the use of democratic and participatory processes that are inclusive of and led by frontline and vulnerable communities.’”
The Green New Deal is not designed to be a plaything of the oligarchs, but will ensure “a commercial environment where every businessperson is free from unfair competition and domination by domestic or international monopolies.” And care will be taken that “the public receives appropriate ownership stakes and returns on investment.”
This is fine language, but even if the words survive the congressional process they mean nothing unless the “frontline and vulnerable communities” – communities that have been abused by U.S. capitalism during booms and busts, through periods of industrialization and de-industrialization, suburbanization and urban disinvestment, and now gentrification and mass Black expulsion -- aggressively engage the Green New Deal process and assert their human rights, including the right to self-determination.
“The plan envisions creation of 20 million new jobs at living wages.”
The Green New Deal was clearly conceived as a “nation-building” as well as biosphere-saving project. Black people should see it as an arena of struggle for self-determination, communal repair, and justice-creation. The best available guideline for waging that struggle is the National Black Political Agenda for Self-Determinationput forward by the Black Is Back Coalition after two years of development and ratification by community participants in cities across the nation. Many of the Agenda’s 19 Points have immediate and critical relevance to the national makeover project, particularly Point Number 11:
“Halt Gentrification through the empowerment, stabilization and restoration of traditional Black neighborhoods. Black people have the right to develop, plan and preserve our own communities. No project shall be considered ‘development’ that does not serve the interests of the impacted population, nor should any people-displacing or otherwise disruptive project be allowed to proceed without the permission of that population. Peoples that have been displaced from our communities by public or private development schemes have the Right to Return to our communities, from New Orleans to Harlem.”
“The Green New Deal was clearly conceived as a ‘nation-building’ as well as biosphere-saving project.”
If the GND is to fulfill its mission while promoting “justice and equity by stopping current, preventing future, and repairing historic oppression” then it must respect the self-determinist rights of the “frontline and vulnerable communities” -- mainly people of color, who must be the principal planners in the new ecological order. And since the Green New Deal does not envision a transition to socialism as inherent in the project, the Black Political Agenda for Self-Determination’s Point Number 12 is highly relevant:
“Black Business must be nurtured by public development banks and protected from strangulation by corporate chains and monopolies. Black community planning agencies must protect and give preferential access to local entrepreneurs and cooperatives willing to operate in harmony with the community’s developmental plans, with a special emphasis on agriculture. Accordingly, we demand immediate Reparations for Black Farmers and an end to the land theft and discriminatory laws and practices used against Black farmers in the U.S.”
Ocasio-Cortez and Markey’s Green New Deal mandates that high-quality retraining and education will be accomplished with “community-defined projects and strategies.” Black communities will likely consider that a green light for community control of such institutions of learning, as is their self-determinationist, democratic right.
Indeed, the 19 Points of the National Black Political Agenda for Self-Determinationare critical to “ensuring the use of democratic and participatory processes” in all interactions between Black America and an historically hostile United States.
The oligarch-owned Democratic leadership and corporate media (the same folks that brought us Russiagate) will wage relentless, dirty war against the Green New Deal and the other super-majority-supported healthcare, education and living wage measures, likely resulting in the breakup of the Democratic Party – a welcome and necessary outcome. The rupture could be set in motion this election cycle if the Lords of Capital instruct their media and party operatives to treat the Sanders/Ocasio-Cortez agenda as an existential threat. Every passing day, however, more Americans awaken to the reality that the rule of the rich must end, so that the Earth can live. The current system is rigged for mass extinction. We need a whole new deck of cards. Black folks would like to get free before the lights of the world go out.
BAR executive editor Glen Ford can be contacted at [email protected].
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