John Torok at the Green Party Presidential Nominating Convention
Report on the
Green Party Presidential Nominating Convention
in Houston, Texas -- August 2016
by John Hayakawa Torok
These are three articles which John Torok originally published in "World Association of International Studies," which calls itself the world's oldest e-journal. included are the comments of WAIS editor John Eipper.
August 5, 2016
John Torok writes:
I am an elected County Council member of the Green Party of Alameda County, California. This weekend I am at the Green Party's Presidential Nominating Convention ("PNC") in Houston, Texas as an unpledged delegate for the state's Green Party. I previously attended the 2008 Chicago PNC, where we selected Cynthia McKinney and Rosa Clemente as our party's candidates for the presidency. This year our presumptive nominees are Jill Stein and Ajamu Baraka. I thought I would bless WAIS (World Association of International Studies) with periodic updates from the 2016 Houston PNC.
I came to environmentalism as a teenager in England, when both the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament and the Greenham Common Women's Peace Encampment against US deployment of nuclear cruise missiles to England were active. There was real fear then in Europe of nuclear Armageddon through a superpower conflict, a fear that ultimately mobilized hundreds of thousands of Europeans against nuclear weapons and also laid the groundwork for the German and other European Greens.
The Green Party of the United States has four core values or pillars and ten key principles which you may review at www.gp.org.
As you will see, we focus on environmental consciousness and sustainability, gender equality, grassroots democracy, and on peace and non-violence.
Some of you will recall my late father WAISer Steve Torok trained in nuclear physics, worked in the petrochemical industry for Shell Oil International, then finished out his career as a UN civil servant providing energy resources development consulting to governments in the Asia Pacific region. We had differing views, but I valued our capacity to inform each other about environmental and justice matters.
Many Green delegates are staying in the Cougar Village dorms at the University of Houston campus. They are spartan, but also inexpensive, facilities. On the ride from the airport I met the co-chair of the Harris County, Texas Greens. It is good to hear there is Green activism in Texas, and to meet Greens from Tennessee, Georgia and Mississippi!
--- --- ---
JE (John Eipper of waisworld.org) comments: Thank you and best of luck, John! I look forward to your next report. At first glance, the glass, concrete and oil-fueled city of Houston would be the last choice for a summit of Greens, but perhaps that is the whole point. A convention in Portland, San Francisco, Boston (or in Texas, Austin) would lead to choruses of "there they go again." And times are not good at present in Houston. Perhaps the locals will be receptive to the Green message? Just don't try to take away their Escalades...
--- --- ---
August 6, 2016
John Torok writes:
The second day of the Green Party Presidential Nominating Convention ("PNC") involved concurrent workshops, and business meetings of different segments of the national Green Party. There was an early evening reception with presidential and vice-presidential candidates Jill Stein and Ajamu Baraka, and the evening concluded with a Green talent show.
I attended four of the available workshops. The first focused on a national electoral strategy built upon the Green Party of the United States ("GPUS") strategic plan with an issues focus deriving from the four pillars of the GPUS: ecology, social justice, democracy, and peace/non-violence. The GPUS Coordinated/Campaign Committee presented the topics: water, racial justice, voting rights, and demilitarizing US foreign policy. American Greens will be encouraged to articulate these issues as themes when they run for office in the coming years.
Workshop number two focused on using Nationbuilder as a tool for organizing and electoral campaign work, with Green Party activists from Massachusetts and Texas describing the program's features and benefits. Nationbuilder is however the proprietary software of a corporate business, and one workshop participant highlighted the existence of a free software alternative that she uses. Then Dave Schwab, Communications Director for Jill Stein for President, gave a presentation on Facebook pages, groups, and Twitter entitled "Building the Revolution with Social Media." Both these presentations were informative about tools for electoral campaigns and movement building.
The highlight of the day for me was a talk, followed by questions and answers, with Howie Hawkins of Syracuse, New York, entitled "The Green New Deal: What Is It and How Is It Working." An activist since the 1960s first in the SF Bay Area, then in New Hampshire and New York, Hawkins was a co-founder of Green Party of the United States in 1984 and served as a co-chair of New York State Greens beginning in December 2010. He has been a perennial candidate for various offices in New York and also participates in the rank-and-file Teamsters for a Democratic Union.
Hawkins discussed the antecedents of the Green New Deal in both Franklin Delano Roosevelt's third New Deal, sometimes known as the economic bill of rights, and the further articulation of those ideas both in Black Freedom Struggle by some socialists who helped organize the 1963 March on Washington, and later among others in the Black Panther Party's Ten-Point Program. He noted that while Democratic candidates and officials as far back as Lyndon Johnson have paid lip service to such policy proposals, in practice they have not enacted them into law.
The Green New Deal proposes at its core, both as a climate justice and as a US full employment program, a World War Two-scale mobilization to convert the economy to 100% renewables by 2030. Studies have already shown that both the technology and the capital are available. All that is lacking are the political will and an implementation plan. Elements of the latter would be moving to leave fossil fuels in the ground, continued denuclearization of energy, and building up organic, sustainable food systems so that soils can once again function as carbon sinks. Registering Green wherever that option is available, and voting Green everywhere in the general election, will help create the needed political will. The implementation plan issue could be resolved easily with a government-funded planning grant. In sum, Register Green, and Vote Green to advance the Green New Deal! For a Livable Planet!
The third day of PNC will be live-streamed. Viewers can watch the livestream broadcasts on the Green Party's YouTube page. Portions of the convention, including the nomination, will also be aired on the Green Party's Facebook page.
--- --- ---
JE comments: The Green platform proposes a WWII-style mobilization for renewable energy. Presuming that such an initiative would eviscerate the oil industry, did the Houstonians show resistance?
And why--is it human nature?--does full "mobilization" seem to occur only in times of war?
John, thank you for these most informative updates. Did the Flint (Michigan) water crisis come up in the Green discussions?
--- --- ---
August 9, 2016
John Torok writes:
The third day of the US Green Party Presidential Nominating Convention ("PNC") was historic because we adopted an ecosocialist and anticapitalist plank by an overwhelming voice vote. The convention also fulfilled its main purposes by building party unity, energizing the base, and selecting Jill Stein and Ajamu Baraka as the party's presidential and vice-presidential candidates. The Green Party is thus strongly positioned to function as the electoral tactic of choice for US social justice movements.
We Greens still hope for a government by the people, of the people, and for the people. I was proud to participate in this historic PNC in Houston. The Green Party urges us to work locally in social movements and run in local elections while thinking globally about how to put people, planet and peace before profit. The Stein/Baraka national campaign serves these democratic ends.
Having watched other political conventions through media before, it was fun to be actually in the room as a delegate for California. I enjoyed the uplifting energy, the theater, and the affirmation and further articulation of our shared values. Outside the convention proper it was great to meet and learn from Greens elsewhere in the country about the issues in all our backyards.
Party unity around themes of environmental, economic, racial and gender justice, and peace were advanced at the PNC by the speeches given by most of those who sought the Green Party presidential nomination. Among them was California Earth First activist Darryl Cherney, who along with Judi Bari, was bombed in 1990 it seems by the FBI in Oakland. The FBI then investigated the two victims for bombing themselves but filed no charges. Later Cherney and Bari filed and won a civil rights lawsuit against the FBI.
Vice-presidential candidate and human rights activist Ajamu Baraka worked in the anti-apartheid, Black Liberation, and Central American solidarity movements. He served on the boards of Amnesty International and the Center for Constitutional Rights. He has lead in applying international human rights standards in America by establishing the US Human Rights Network and by bringing human rights abuse cases from within the US to the relevant international fora. Baraka's speech was solid.
There was further a funny, powerful talk by Rodolfo Rivera Munoz, who as the first "Indian" candidate for Justice on the Texas Supreme Court is simultaneously challenging the legality of the State of Texas as such under international law and the trail of broken "Indian" treaties. As he says, "To the 'ONE %' we are eventually ALL 'INDIANS!'"
Party unity was further advanced by two especially inspiring speeches by Cornel West and YahNe Ndgo. West preached love and liberation. Ndgo of Philadelphia, a leader in the "Bernie or Bust" effort, gave us a moving, deep critique of US immiseration, racism, and empire. Her speech is linked here:
The PNC thus, while focusing on domestic issues of, for example, jobs via the Green New Deal, put them in a global environmental, historical, and economic context, Green Party activists do not have their intelligence routinely insulted by their party's leaders and cadres. This former Democrat says: "Jill Not Hill!"
Lastly, the Green Party accepts no corporate money. Not from the banks who destroyed our economy, not from military contractors, not from the fossil fuel and pharmaceutical companies that destroy our health and our world. The Green Party is the anti-corruption party. That the rigged Presidential debates prevent needed information from reaching the people is itself a symptom of the political corruption. Let us hope that the corruption of our electoral system may be redeemed.
PNC speaker Martina Salinas stated that we aspire to a politics founded on integrity, honesty, decency, and courage. There is scant evidence of such personal qualities in the two capitalist party standard-bearers. Salinas further said: "A vote is wasted when you vote against your conscience." Jill Stein tells us to vote, not for the lesser evil, but for the greater good. I urge you to do so too.
As for JE's queries: About Houstonian resistance to the Green Party message, the Harris County (where Houston is located) Texas Greens are the strongest chapter in that state. So it appears the local energy resource-extraction economy and its effects may have generated its own local resistance. On water crises, specifically the mass lead poisoning of Flint's people through the water supply under the Michigan governor's emergency management scheme, this foreshadows what we will see elsewhere unless we stop austerity and put people, planet, and peace before profit.
Back to my day job and usual political projects for me, so signing off WAIS again for the time being.
--- --- ---
JE comments: Excellent reports, John, and greetings to WAISworld from frigid La Paz. (It was 2 degrees C, 35 degrees F when we landed.) The Internet connectivity here is very slow, so I'm trying my best to slog through the editing process. A spot of té de coca is working wonders to ward off the chill and the altitude.
John Torok shows us that political idealism is still alive and well. Given the foul aroma surrounding both major ("capitalist") parties, the Green message may resonate with more voters than ever before. Quixotic yes, but certainly honorable.
Keep up the good fight, John. --- --- ---
--- --- ---
--- --- ---
--- --- ---
Four hours of Pacifica Radio (KPFT & KPFA) live coverage of the Green Party National Convention in Houston, Texas