Fighting for a Green New Deal in the United States will require uniting all popular forces against the main barriers to social and ecological progress.
The Sunrise Movement, which has brought the Green New Deal to the forefront of conversations about the environment, has identified fossil fuel interests as a main barrier to a green economy. Leaders like Aru Shiney-Ajay have rightly noted that solving climate issues will require “transforming our agriculture, transport, and energy systems,” and “massively investing in communities hit first and worst.”
In order to overcome the stranglehold of fossil fuel interests over the political system, we need to understand how the military weapons and fossil fuel industries are intertwined.
The fight for a green economy and the struggle for peace are inseparable. Since all human beings live on the same planet, the struggle for environmental justice is fundamentally international in scope. The number one target of the environmental movement needs to be the U.S. military machine, and the interests it represents.
- The U.S. military is the number one consumer of fossil fuels.
- The oil consumed by the Department of Defense in its endless wars – fought to control other nations’ oil deposits and pipelines – is the single largest contributing factor to worldwide carbon emissions.
- The Pentagon has also laced the groundwater and soil along the Potomac River with a host of explosive metals, solvent wastes and hazardous chemicals.
- U.S. wars and interventions, and the more than 800 foreign military bases maintained by the U.S. in at least 80 countries around the world, are also massively destructive to our planet’s soil and water, other nations’ infrastructure, and countless millions of human lives. The U.S.-backed war in Yemen has destroyed that country’s water and health infrastructure, generating famine and a serious cholera epidemic. This is a prime example of the close relationship between problems of war, environment, health, and infrastructure.
- Agriculture is also seriously affected. The U.S. Navy has still not cleaned up years of military waste produced by a bombing range and military base in Vieques, Puerto Rico, including Napalm, Agent Orange, depleted uranium, trioctyl phosphate, and other toxic waste. Farmers working, and children playing, in the fields of Laos, Vietnam, Cambodia, and the DPRK (North Korea) continue to be maimed and killed by unexploded bombs still buried in their soil from the Vietnam and Korean wars. The Napalm and Agent Orange that was spread across these nations continue to result in extremely serious birth defects.
- The U.S. military raids more than half of the public’s discretionary budget every year. Trump requested a whopping $686.1 Billion for 2019. Combined with other “national security” departments, over a trillion dollars is sucked up annually. This is money that will be needed to build a green energy national infrastructure, as well as schools, libraries, homes, grocery stores, community centers, hospitals, high speed trains, and to fund family-sustaining, living wage salaries for the people who will plant the trees and vegetables, reap the harvests, and generally build the new green economy that we all so desperately need.
Like the fossil fuel industry, the weapons industry extends its tentacles deeply into the U.S. economy. A NY Times article estimated in 2017 that “Roughly 10 percent of the $2.2 trillion in factory output in the United States goes into the production of weapons.” Workers employed in the weapons and fossil fuel industries will need to be re-trained and hired for jobs that will put the U.S. on the path toward peace and sustainable development. The same goes for vast numbers of people employed by the U.S. law enforcement systems if the Green New Deal is to replace racist police brutality and mass incarceration with proper investments into oppressed communities.
Weapons manufacturers, crude oil, fracking, and coal mining companies, oil refineries, coal and oil burning energy plants, as well as their investors and supply chain manufacturers, which even exploit slave labor in U.S. prisons, are not the only beneficiaries of the U.S. military machine. They are only the tip of its spear.
Transnational corporations in agriculture, mining, and other industries also benefit from the U.S. military through threats of invasion, U.S.-backed coups, and various methods of foreign interference. The objective is to control other countries’ natural resources. These transnational corporations are also tremendously damaging to the planet’s environment and have worked to set up right-wing regimes that will maximize their profits.
Right-wing coups in Honduras and other parts of Latin America and the Caribbean have been conducted on behalf of U.S. based monopolies like Chiquita, Dole and Del Monte. They rested on the formation of death squads with support from these agro-monopoly interests. Today, the Bolsonaro government in Brazil is bulldozing large portions of the Amazon forest, resulting in the displacement of indigenous communities.
Without tackling the problem of U.S. transnational corporations and their role internationally, the Green New Deal could easily descend into a race for control of the planet’s lithium deposits, which cannot be mined forever. An alternative that some countries have proposed is cooperation on an international energy grid. This could more evenly distribute solar, wind and other sustainable sources of electrical power, reducing individual countries’ reliance on battery production. Cooperation on infrastructure projects like this would be in line with the Green New Deal resolution, which demands “international exchange of technology, expertise, products, funding, and services.
“Help[ing] other countries achieve a Green New Deal,” as the resolution demands, with no strings attached, and in cooperation with the global community of nations, would constitute just reparations for centuries of exploitation and oppression.
A united front against all anti-planet forces in the U.S. will be much stronger if it links up with working and oppressed people of other nations who have already been engaged for centuries in struggles against these very same interests.
The Green New Deal resolution sponsored by New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Oregon Sen. Jeff Merkley demands prioritizing the needs of “frontline and vulnerable” communities in the U.S. This includes “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.” Shiney-Ajay said it is “a solution that meets the twin crises of climate change and growing racial and economic inequality, and is actually in line with what science and justice demand.”
Redressing centuries of structural racism in the United States is an important central component of the Green New Deal.
The same ideology of racism that has been used to dehumanize Africans, Native Americans, and Chicanx and to justify slavery, genocide, and massive land theft, continues to be used to justify voter suppression, segregation, mass incarceration, slave labor conditions, police brutality, un- and under-employment, homelessness, underinvestment in poor and working-class communities of color, and to conduct assaults on the social services that benefit all U.S. people.
The profit seekers that have promoted this racism are international players, and they promote this same racism on an international level.
It is the same racism that has been used to excuse centuries of colonialism and imperialism in African countries. It is the same racism that dehumanizes the people of Latin and Caribbean states, Polynesians, and people of the Asian continent, including people of Arab, and Middle Eastern descent.
Racism is used to suggest that the people of the global south are incapable of national sovereignty and economic development, or of developing their own systems of democracy based on their unique national conditions, cultural traditions, and histories of grassroots struggle. Racism is used to gaslight oppressed nations that struggle to develop under the weight of U.S.-imposed sanctions. This ideology of racism is supplemented with demonization campaigns against any foreign leader that stands in the way of the financial interests of U.S. transnational corporations. These campaigns are used to build up support for socially and ecologically devastating wars and interventions that further raid the U.S. people’s public budget.
Regime change operations also frequently ignore the perspectives of working-class people of color in their own countries. Efforts to demonize the Maduro administration in Venezuela, for example, usually hide the fact that the opposition is mainly based in whiter, wealthier neighborhoods. They ignore that the opposition includes owners of agricultural corporations descended from the colonial planter class. And they silence the Mestizo working people and campesinos, who are overwhelmingly Chavistas and Maduro supporters.
The racism of war is the same racism that dehumanizes immigrants fleeing regions of the world suffering from social and ecological destruction created by U.S. monopoly interests. When immigrants come to the U.S. from these parts of the world, racism is used to super-exploit their labor with sub-minimum wages while refusing to allow them access to citizenship. This contributes to a huge and growing pool of super-exploited workers barred from the ballot box, greatly strengthening the ultra-right Republican Party. It also suppresses the negotiating power of all workers, including white workers.
To fight for their interests, the people of the United States need to understand how the U.S. military machine and the profit interests it represents is the main barrier to social and environmental progress. This can form the basis for strong international solidarity with working and oppressed people around the world in their struggle against U.S. imperialism.
This solidarity is already developing. During the Ferguson protests, Palestinians in their struggle against apartheid, genocide, and for national self-determination made concrete links with activists in the #BlackLivesMatter movement to share strategies and tactics. The links were not coincidental. A major campaign of Jewish Voices for Peace is to end the deadly exchange program, whereby U.S. law enforcement officials, including police officers and ICE officials “train in Israel with Israeli police and security agencies that are documented human rights violators.” At the same time, Israeli weapons’ manufacturers “test” their products on Palestinians and are then able to sell them as “combat-proven.”
Progressive forces around the world can be encouraged by the fact that some leading backers of the Green New Deal resolution like Ocasio-Cortez, California Rep. Ro Khanna, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, and Minnesota Rep. Ilhan Omar have co-sponsored the Green New Deal resolution or supported a select committee to write Green New Deal legislation while also siding with the United Nations and the majority of nations in opposing Trump’s coup in Venezuela, which holds the world’s largest oil deposits, besides many other natural resources. These are positive steps toward a rational and humane approach to solving global problems, but cooperation and solidarity with working and oppressed people around the world need to be greatly strengthened.