"The time has come to move beyond protest and to begin the work of taking
This challenge, first issued by environmental scientist Barry Commoner at a
spring rally in Los Angeles, has become
the battlecry for the ten-month old
The Party, now claiming more than
4,000 dues-paying members, openly ex-
pouses "half-socialist" yet respectably
populist politics. The immediate goal:
to win presidential nominee Commoner
and vice presidential candidate Ladonna
Harris a place on the November ballot in
10 to 35 states and to garner at least five
percent of the national vote. The five
percent would qualify the Citizens Party
for federal election funds, to meet
expenses for future national, state and
local campaigns. Unlike the one-shot
independent candidacy of Rep. John
Anderson, the Citizens Party aims for a
genuine political party for the eighties
In brief, the Citizens Party advocates:
Public control of the energy industries
A swift halt to nuclear power
A strong push for conservation and solar
An immediate, sharp reversal in the rate
of military spending
Vigorous support for human rights at
home and abroad
A guaranteed job for everyone who
wants to work
Stable prices for the basic necessities
(food, fuel, housing and medical care)
Limitations of the political and economic influence of corporations.
Here's a closer examination of these
issues, drawn from the Citizens Party
"The commanding heights of the
American economy are occupied by giant
corporations whose grip on the nation's
economic and political life has brought
our society to the verge of national
crisis," according to the platform preamble. The Party aims for an economic democracy in which workers and consumers
exercise democratic control over the economic decisions.
Inflation is the most serious problem
in America today, says the platform. It
outlines some possible solutions. Instead
of heavy national spending on "uneconomic military programs," the Citizens
Party would reduce the military budget.
"Many of the current and proposed defense expenditures." the Party says,
"do nothing to improve the real defense
capacity of the country, but instead insure profits for certain American corporations." The Party recommends imposing
an immediate freeze on prices, profits,
interest rates and rents and restructuring
industries such as food, energy, housing,
medical care and finance to fight inflation.
The system of industry based on nonrenewable energy resources would give
way to development and use of renewable
energy resources. Credit and money expansion would be seriously cut back.
With these measures, inflation could
be halted and full employment achieved.
The Party thinks that income maintenance could be preserved by a negative
Jacqueline Neider is a freelance writer
and student at Rice University.
BY JACQUELMtE L. ft EIDER
income tax and a progressive value added
tax, replacing Social Security taxes.
Key to Citizens Party anti-monoply,
decentralist ideology is the control of
"irresponsible [larger] corporations"
which would be controlled by elected/
appointed directors, developed from cooperative, small business and community
The Citizens Party plans to supplant
U.S. dependence on oil and nuclear
energy with "solar, photovoltaic, geother-
mal, wind turbine, low-head hydro and
other sources of renewable energy."
Commoner sees federal money developing
energy sources and neighborhood cogen-
erator plants and waste energy recapturing facilities. The photovoltaic cell industry, he says, is ready for the same sudden
increase in technology and decrease in
cost as the integrated-circuit industry
(mother of the pocket calculator) has just
Federal programs will promote recycling and increased use of alcohol and
methane fuels. The Party intends to
rebuild the national railroad system as
well as vastly increase the number of
The Citizens Party opposes U.S. intervention in the internal affairs of other
countries as well as economic exploitation of Third World countries. "Covert
activities and espionage should be abolished," the platform states, and "the CIA
and all other intelligence agencies must be
rigorously overseen by Congress." Relations with Cuba and the Democratic Republic of Vietnam should be peaceful,
and "the right of the State of Israel to
exist is not only a fundamental prerequisite to lasting peace, but a matter of
The Citizens Party condemns the
taking of the hostages in Iran but believes
"the assets of the Shah should be collected and returned to the people of Iran."
Further, "the United States should freely
acknowledge [their] involvement" in
The Party calls for "a genuine peace,
not merely the absence of war" in the
world, and opposes "compulsory national
service for both men and women."
Deploring the "high-priced synthetic
and chemically-adulterated foods" produced by profit-motivated corporate agribusinesses the Party favors "a coalition of
farmers, workers and consumers, motivated by legitimate self-interest, to demand a major role in determining how
our food is produced and who will control the land." Along these lines, the
Party would establish a "national food
and nutrition policy that includes comprehensive programs designed to meet
interests of consumer nutrition, education and research rather than agribusiness."
The Citizens Party supports the establishment of a national health service that
stresses preventive care.
"The United States desperately needs
a comprehensive urban policy," the platform reads, and the Party supports "a
national context for the presently random development of cities." Another
goal is to improve the quality of public
education and to challenge racism within
the educational system.
"The overwhelming majority of poor
people prefer a job to welfare," and the
Party would set policies "to increase cash
grant levels to a federally-defined minimum standard higher than the present,
inadequate poverty line."
The Citizens Party wants "to create
an open, non-sexist, non-racist society in
which all people will be free to develop
to their full potential." A third of the
Party's platform consists of statements
supporting civil rights.
The Party seeks better distribution of
quality child care facilities; it advocates
federal funding for abortion; and it supports the ratification of the Equal Rights
Amendment. It promises to pursue "the
just and equitable redistribution of
wealth and power in this country, insuring that the lives of Black Americans reflect this redistribution." In areas of high
Hispanic concentration, the Party "supports bilingual, bicultural education, and
the publication of government documents
in both Spanish and English."
The Party means to insure freedom of
choice in sexual expression, to repeal
laws "covering private sexual conduct
between consenting adults," and to
eliminate "biased attitudes against gay
men and lesbians wftich occur in public
programs, including public schools."
The Citizens Party wants guarantees
of full participation in the social, political
and economic life for the disabled and
elderly. The threat of overpopulation
should be dealt with through availability
and use of contraception, voluntary sterilization, and abortion; economic incentives for the small or childless family and
"a re-education program" would emphasize "our moral obligations to future
Third parties do not have an impressive track record in this country, especially with increasingly restrictive federal
election laws. Commoner points out that
in the 1850s the Republicans replaced the
Wu'gs in six years and he thinks the
situation today is "closely parallel."
He has remarked, "I know it's a long
way from Lincoln to Ronnie Reagan,"
but some might add that it's a long way
from Lincoln to Barry Commoner, the
latter's obvious sincerity and formidable
True, vast numbers of voters are disgusted with the presidential "choices"
offered in Election Year 1980, and both
Anderson and the Citizens Party are
zooming in on that wide-spread apathy.
But, as the Texas Observer (June 6,
1980) points out, "the presumably populist Citizens Party has painted itself into
an even more limited corner than a mid-
western Republican like John Anderson.
Anderson may be able to sop up some
Ripon Republicans or Texas Monthly
Democrats, but the Citizens Party can't
seem to expand beyond the ranks of
The Party's $18.00 membership fee
alone contributes to a certain elite
ambience. Internal splits that developed
during the founding convention in
Cleveland last year resulted in an unfortunate walk-out by key minority
group members. Such an action hardly
enhances the credibility of a strong civil
The Party is counting on heavy support from some 50 million Americans
who became eligible to vote since 1960
but who have never registered.
of this seemingly hopeless mess? Specifically, what does the Citizens Party propose as a realistic alternative to the present socio-economic situation?
LH: Let me say first, it's not hopeless.
A mess, yes, but not a hopeless one. Human beings created it and human beings
can certainly figure a way out.
For one thing, we're proposing that
the large corporations pay their fair share
of taxes, to equalize the tax burden.
There are different ways of "balancing
the budget." Do you take away social
programs or do you get new monies into
the economy? Also, are you trading off
necessary social programs for unnecessary
expenditures on armaments? Spending
large portions of the budget on more
arms is a deadend. This doesn't produce
on-going jobs for people. Once they're
built, those weapons just sit out there in
some national guard parking lot or some
Then, what about the plants that are
closing down. Well, take the steel plants.
Here are a few major corporations, they
have a monopoly on the industry, and they
have failed to modernize. So they can't
compete with Germany and Japan, whose
steel industries have modernized. Because
their profits aren't high enough to compete with the importers, our big steel
industry is closing down shops. Consequently, thousands of steel workers
are out of jobs. And the situation is the
same in the auto industry.
There are some workers in Pennsylvania who have suggested that they
would like to take over the steel plant
there, modernize it, and compete. But
they would have to do it with a large government loan. So we're suggesting that
those plants—especially the auto and steel
plants that are becoming obsolete—be
refurbished as a major investment to
produce solar, and other renewable,
recyclable energies. You could produce
alcohol tanks, you could make solar energy and make it cheaper and more available—there are many things we could do
to get us off this treadmill of being so dependent on petroleum.
We're not suggesting that the auto and
steel industries be shut down entirely.
But those companies have to be made
competitive. You see, through government subsidies, big companies like U.S.
Steel and Ford have a monopoly on the
industries. Rather than let them produce
something that's not sellable—like big cars,
and that's what these corporations are set
up to do—we transform them into producing things that are useful, and back
them up with large government-guaranteed
loans that allow a community effort.
For instance, say a steel plant in St.
Louis shuts down. This could be a disaster to that community, since employment
there is so dependent on the plant. But
we think the government can loan funds
to run it, and to build the streets, schools,
housing themselves when the industry
Some of these companies are going to
leave the United States. Once they've
gotten all the profit they can here,
they're going to some other country to
get the larger profit. And there's nothing
wrong with profit, but they ought to feel
some obligation to the community that
helped build that company.
The government should have said
at one point, if a company is in the production end, it cannot be in the market
end, or it can't be in the delivery end.
You could have at least three different
categories and also allow people ownership possibilities. Now, you have to be a
multi-national corporation in order to
own something that big, and these
corporations have no loyalty to the
community, no loyalty to a government
anymore. They don't care if a whole
community falls on its face, they
don't have to feel any responsibility—
those oil magnates really don't seem to