Members from around the world respond to far-right politics
By Mike Feinstein, Green Party of California member to the GPUS International Committee
The fourth Global Greens Congress was held in Liverpool, England March 30-April 2 —jointly with the Congresses of the European Green Party, the Green Party of England and Wales and the Global Young Greens —bringing together approximately 2,000 Greens from over 100 countries, including more than a dozen U.S. Greens.
Although the decision to hold the Congress in the United Kingdom was made years ago, the timing was prescient following last year’s ‘Brexit’ vote by UK citizens to leave the European Union, and the challenges presented by right-wing populism and nationalism around the globe, including the election of Donald Trump as President of the United States.
“What should be the Green response to such challenges” was a theme that ran throughout many of the Congress workshops and plenary sessions.
Two highly attended workshops focused on recent Green victories in Austria and the Netherlands against such forces. In 2016 Alexander Van der Bellen, a former leader of the Austrian Green party, was elected as the President of Austria in a two-way race against a far right, anti-immigrant candidate. In his two-way race, Van der Bellen was faced with needing to win a majority to win the presidency and thus needed more than just Green votes. First, he built upon his reputation of fairness and integrity in government that he had gained while serving as a Green member of the Austrian parliament from 1994 to 2012 and leader of the Austrian Greens from 1997 to 2008. Second, his identification with preserving nature in Austria cut across party lines. Third, being pro-EU and advocating for tolerance and acceptance of immigrants, gained him centrist and center-right voters who were not anti-immigrant and did not want to leave the European Union.
In The Netherlands, the Green Party Groen Links won a historic total of 14 seats in the Dutch Parliament.
In 2017 in The Netherlands, the Green Party Groen Links won a historic total of 14 seats in the Dutch Parliament, being a major player in the election campaign to prevent the outright victory of the far right anti-immigrant party there. Led by the charismatic 30 year-old party leader Jesse Klaver, the Dutch Greens ran an overwhelmingly positive message, and particularly targeted young voters.
Dutch Greens promoted a vision of empathy, economic equality and protection of the climate, and utilized innovative campaigning techniques, especially via social media and large rallies. And on the question of migrants and refugees, they stood clearly against xenophobia.
The Green Parties of the U.S., Mexico, France and Switzerland collaborated on a resolution incited by Trump’s call to expand the U.S./Mexico border wall—calling attention to Green opposition to xenophobia and racism in its many forms around the globe, represented not only by the wall between the U.S. and Mexico, but also the wall between Israel and Palestine, between Hungary and Serbia, and the de facto wall Australia is operating on the high seas by preventing refugees from reaching their shores.
The Final Resolution of the Congress— the Liverpool Declaration—carried forward this theme:
Environmental crises, inequality and conflicts are growing, prompting calls for political and societal change. Unscrupulous authoritarian leaders and right-wing politicians are exploiting this dissatisfaction. Using populist means, they blame virtually all problems on minorities, on dissenters, on the ‘other’, especially migrants and asylum seekers.
For real problems, such as climate change or austerity and social division, leaders like Mr Putin, President Trump, President Erdogan, President Duterte and others offer imaginary solutions. We Greens are the opposite – we seek to replace fear with hope, hatred with compassion, racism with respect for all.
The Green Party of the U.S. was represented in the Global Greens Congress by three voting delegates chosen by the GPUS National Committee — Vivek Ananthan (PA), Ahmed El-Touny (NJ) and Bahram Zandi (MD).
Also in attendance was 2016 GPUS Presidential candidate Jill Stein (MA), who appeared on a Proportional Representation and the Global Alliance for Real Democracy panel along with Canadian Green Member of Parliament Elizabeth May, met with British Green member of Parliament Caroline Lucas, and was a subject of great interest from Greens around the world who wanted to understand her 2016 candidacy and the U.S. electoral system.
Just as Congress attendees quizzed Stein on her 2016 strategy, the plenary session also heard from upcoming Green Presidential candidates Frank Habineza (Rwanda, 2017) and Pekka Haavisto (Finland, 2018). Haavisto ran previously in 2012 and finished second with 37% of the vote.
In 2016 Alexander Van der Bellen, a former leader of the Austrian Green party, was elected as the President of Austria in a two-way race against a far right, anti-immigrant candidate.
Other U.S. Greens in attendance included former GPUS Steering Committee members/GPUS co-chairs Mike Feinstein (CA) and David Strand (MN); 2012 GPUS Global Greens alternate delegates Jack Ailey (IL) and Bob Marsh (CA); the GPUS Youth Caucus delegates to the 2017 Global Young Greens Congress Angelica Dueñas and (CA) Travis Christal (TX) ; and Skip Mendler (PA), Karen Morian (FL), Hildegard Nichols (WA), David Schwab (WI) and Jackie Wong-Martensen (CA).
Zandi was a panelist on a Green Alternatives to Militarism and War workshop panel with Greens from South Korea, Sweden and the U.K. There were a range of workshops over the four day Congress, from “Green Action in the age of Trump, Erdogan, Putin and right-wing ‘populism” to “Indigenous peoples’ rights and green struggles, a necessary convergence” to “Make money go Green: Tackling climate change by divestment from fossil fuels and investing in sustainable assets.”
Three of the four Green Federations — Africa, Asia-Pacific, and the Americas each had working sessions among those of its members in attendance at the Congress, while the European Green Party held its Congress. There were also networking meetings /workshops of Green City Councilmembers, Green Parliamentarians, Greens in Coalitions, Greens in Government, Party Leaders, and Green International Secretaries and Coordinators.
One of the off-program highlights was Stein meeting U.K. Green Larry Sanders — brother of 2016 Democratic candidate Bernie Sanders — who is a former Green Party of England and Wales candidate and the party’s current spokesperson on health care issues. Stein was never able to connect with Bernie Sanders during the 2016 campaign, despite sending him several offers to work collaboratively. But she made a Global Greens connection with Larry.
Reflecting the opportunities of the digital and social media age, the Congress gave attendees a place to take photos throughout the Congress against a Green Party backdrop with the European Greens sunflower logo, and then a hand-held sign with the Global Congress hashtag #Greens2017 —with each photo passed along on social media promoting the hashtag at the same time.
Dueñas took that a bit further, bringing pre-made campaign signs with her from California, supporting the groundbreaking Green Congressional campaign in Los Angeles of 26-year-old, Filipino-American Kenneth Mejia, which was scheduled to go to election two days after the Global Greens Congress ended.
Greens from around the global were invited to write greetings and statements of support on the signs, which were then shared via social media with the Mejia campaign back in California, adding inspiration in the campaign’s closing days, and demonstrating the global nature of the Global Greens family.
As has been a tradition at Global Greens congresses, the delegates also gathered for a ‘family’ picture’, this time carrying a message about divesting from fossil fuels. Since Liverpool is the home of the Beatles, Friday night featured the Fab Beatles, a local Beatles cover band that had hundreds of Green delegates from all over the world, singing and dancing together to words they all knew, across thousands of miles and dozens of borders.
The first Global Greens Congress was held in Canberra, Australia in 2001. The second congress was in Sao Paolo, Brazil in 2008, followed by the third congress in Dakar, Senegal in 2012.
The next Congress will be held in the Asia-Pacific region in 2022, with Indonesia, Taiwan and South Korea of the Asia-Pacific Green Federation (APGF) among the early front-runners to host.
Before the Global Greens existed, a non-delegated first planetary meeting of Greens was held in Brazil in 1992, in conjunction with the UN Conference on Environment and Development, of which the Rio+20 Summit is the next step.