Volume , Number 0
There are no articles.Commentary
There are no articles.Culture
There are no articles.Features
Hooray for Hollywood
Imagine a Country Life in â€¦
Resistance, Humanitarian Aid, & the â€¦
Corporations, Law, & Democracy
Bush's Multiplex Wars Iraq, “terrorism,” â€¦
Preventing Iraqi Self-Determination
World Challenges GMOs
Syria: The Next Domino? Will â€¦
Iraq is a Trial Run â€¦
Supporting the Troops A code â€¦
Press the Press
Direct Action at Boeing
Boycott Azteca Tortillas
There are no articles.
NOTE: Z Magazine subscribers and sustainers have access to all Z Magazine articles here and in the archive. The latest Z Magazine articles available to everyone are listed in the Free Articles box at the top of the table of contents, and are starred in the list below. Questions? e-mail Z Magazine Online.
Corporations, Law, & Democracy
An interview with POCLAD
V irginia Rasmussen and Mary Zepernick are members of the Program on Corporations, Law and Democracy (POCLAD), a group of 12 organizers, researchers, activists, teachers, and former elected officials working to expose the hidden history of corporate power in the United States and world at large. They also work with the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF) promoting its national campaign to abolish corporate personhood.
DANIEL MCLEOD: Initially the Founding Fathers were very suspicious of the political power corporations could wield and kept them on a short leash. How did they ensure the corporate form was subservient to popular will?
RASMUSSEN: The charter of the corporation was given by state legislatures and state legislators were the only figures in government actually elected by the people. That’s where they placed the chartering of corporations and those charters were very specific in their content. The purpose of the corporation was made clear: a corporation could not suddenly start doing something outside of that purpose. They were liable for harms done; their records had to be open to the public at any time; they were subject to trial by jury; they could not own stock in other corporations; they were limited to a certain size and they could be brought before a legislature or state courts and have their charter revoked when they violated this publicly granted agreement. Over the years this way of defining corporations was eroded and eventually the power of the charter disappeared.
ZEPERNICK: The phrase “common good” was a prevailing value in relation to the corporate form. In 1834 the Pennsylvania state legislature defined a corporation as “just what the incorporating act makes it. It is a creature of the law and is to be molded to any shape or any purpose the legislature may deem conducive for the common good.” Not only did the process of chartering unravel in terms of having any real teeth or meaning, but that concept of common good as guiding decisions and definitions also disappeared.
A major perversion of democratic ideals and practice took place in 1886 when the Supreme Court granted corporations legal personhood. What is this doctrine?
ZEPERNICK: It is the inclusion of the corporate form under the 14th Amendment to protect persons. It means including the corporate form in that definition of “person.” From there, in court case after court case, the corporate entity has accumulated the actual rights of human beings, including Bill of Rights protections.
RASMUSSEN: The Bill of Rights basically grants human beings protections from the government. So when a corporation is defined as legally equivalent to a person it has then become eligible for Bill of Rights protections.
ZEPERNICK: It has been said, “Slavery is the legal fiction that a person is property and corporate personhood is the legal fiction that property is a person.”
It’s amazing that corporations gained personhood over night while women, Native Americans, the propertyless, and African Americans had to struggle for generations to win that recognition.
RASMUSSEN: Corporations were not innocent bystanders with regard to humans being denied rights. They knew as the corporate entity gained legal rights, its dominance would be measured by the degree to which natural persons were refused those rights. Those behind the corporate shield were looking carefully at the powers being accumulated by real people and making sure that their own power was not shrinking too rapidly.
Virginia, you once thought, in the heyday of 1970’s regulation, that the common good was finally being defended. How do you feel now?
RASMUSSEN: The 1970s were seemingly a bright period in the life of social change. Many laws were passed to protect us from toxic substances, clean up our water and our air, help us address waste and conservation issues and set endangered species regulation. At the time most of us thought this was really going to make a significant difference. The activism of the people was really working its way through the system into legislation into law.
But in the decades that passed we became aware that this kind of regulatory law does not come from the grassroots. It’s law designed by the propertied few to protect them from the people. It concedes power to the corporate decision-makers and protects those decisions from us rather than the other way around.
It does occasionally allow you to move through the legal system into the courts and win a decision against a corporation. But we have come to see these as false victories because they co-opt us back into that exhausting and diversionary regulatory system which ultimately keeps us busy while the dominant power remains in place. That power shapes the production, investment, work, and technologies that define our lives and our labor. Those who are being regulated design regulatory agencies. Labor law, in the end, regulates workers and environmental law regulates environmental activists.
Also during the 1970s the themes of “corporate responsibility,” of good “corporate neighbors” and “corporate citizenship” hit their stride. How should we read this thinking?
RASMUSSEN: This is another way of diverting our attention to corporate behavior. This is what the regulatory system is all about. So we go after the behavior of corporations as opposed to looking at the nature of the corporation itself. The combination of corporate legal powers gained over the last 150 years and the mandate within the capitalist system is a powerfully destructive combination. It’s rapidly doing us all in and the earth as well, but as long as we stay focused on this or that specific harm they do, their capacity to define and destroy will remain in place. So this notion of “good corporate citizenship” is one more diversionary tactic.
Do you see new forms of activism grounded in asserting people’s sovereignty?
ZEPERNICK: Yes. For instance, POCLAD has worked very closely with an attorney, Tom Lindsay, who formed the Community Environmental and Legal Defense Fund in central Pennsylvania.
He focused on environmental issues, working with farmers and developing enough trust and confidence that township supervisors came to him for help in resisting the encroachment of corporate hog farms. Through very cooperative, democratic work in that area, ten townships have passed ordinances banning corporate farms and there was tremendous learning and democratic discussion among the citizens. They’re discovering that they can govern themselves—decide what goes on in the communities, how the food was grown, by whom, and so on.
The latest wrinkle is that corporate organizations like the Farm Bureau have sued one of these townships. They came right out in the open and listed all the things that have accrued to the corporate form because of personhood and other decisions: Due Process, Equal Protection, the Commerce Clause, the Contract Clause, the state constitution, and so forth.
So the struggle is joined and it is creating what we call a “crisis in jurisdiction” between the local government, the state government, and the feds. Last spring there was a conference of local Pennsylvania governments and some 350 municipalities asserted their right to self-governance. Point Arena, California organizers gained a city council resolution agreeing that corporations should not have the rights of personhood. Arcata, CA, has recently limited the number of national restaurant chains that can come in. In a variety of ways local communities are waking up and saying, “It doesn’t have to be this way.” Of course, we’re going to see a great deal of legal struggle and beyond, but that’s what needs to happen.
RASMUSSEN: In the labor movement there is a growing awareness that the struggles they engage in take place within a very narrow range of possibility. This range is defined largely by the managerial and owning class and not defined in any way by the working people. They’re beginning to say, “When we go into a workplace, why is it that we lose our rights as citizens: the right to speak about conditions of our work life, to organize, to associate?” That’s an unconstitutional arrangement and yet that’s the place we’ve been relegated all these years. They’re saying, “We’re going to argue our cases on larger issues of human rights, not just on matters that address wage and benefits.” They’re looking in the 13th Amendment of the Constitution that says involuntary servitude shall not be allowed in the United States. They are saying, “Look, if you go into the workplace and are not a citizen anymore isn’t that rather like being in service—involuntarily—to that corporation? Isn’t that unconstitutional?”
ZEPERNICK: We’re talking about the need to change the culture and that’s frustrating to some activists because it’s long-term stuff. It doesn’t mean that you don’t work on immediate issues, but you do it in that larger framework and take the struggle to the arenas where we have some standing—our local state governments and so on. That’s what the abolitionists and women did. They changed the culture enough to drive themselves into the Constitution. The court does not hand out gifts. It does on occasion respond to significant changes in the culture. So we need to de-colonize our minds in tandem with a legal strategy. A combination of those two hold out great hope. That’s generally how systemic change has occurred in U.S. history.
How can POCLAD’s work help fuel today’s efforts at movement building? What diverse interests can plug into your analysis?
ZEPERNICK: I don’t think there are any that cannot plug in. The challenge is to reframe our issues in order to act as sovereign citizens, gaining the power to define our own culture, politics, and economics.
RASMUSSEN: For a movement to be effective it must be rooted in the source of our problems and that’s what POCLAD is working to do with the help of others. We’re digging for these roots together and trying to find a way to work with them effectively in the real world. Building a movement is essential to making anything happen. The courts, the legislatures, and policies don’t change without being forced to change. We need to build large numbers of people committed to similar fundamental understanding and vision. That’s what we’re trying to do.
ZEPERNICK: POCLAD is saying, “Continue to work on your concerns and issues, but lets grapple together with how our goals and strategies can move toward that larger common goal of putting human beings in charge of our lives and decisions.” I don’t think there’s a huge divide between those who do and don’t identify themselves as activists. There are a lot of people who, at an intuitive level, understand things aren’t right. So I think they’re ready for these kinds of campaigns and public education as long as we don’t marginalize and divide ourselves.
If these ideas catch on and translate into effective action, what are some likely counter strategies we can expect from pro-system pundits, PR, and politicians?
RASMUSSEN: They will either trivialize this work or we will be co-opted or, we’ll be bludgeoned.
ZEPERNICK: With the growing awareness of corporate power and abuses, we need to be especially aware of being co-opted by “reforms,” of damage control efforts. When we look back we can see periods of history that were massive co-optations of some real people’s progress. There are those of us that see the New Deal in the 1930s as co-opting the growing resistance against the tremendous inequities exposed by the Depression. It just patched it up and carried on. That doesn’t mean that some of the specifics weren’t good things, like Social Security and some other important measures, but we’re ripe for co-opting today—a measure of our growing success and threat to the ruling powers. It’s tempting because it looks like a victory. That’s what the regulatory regime did in the 1970s—it co-opted the energy of the 1960s.
RASMUSSEN: We are presently in a better place, more resistant to being co-opted because the notion of “progress” is now more suspect than it was 30 years ago when the new environmental and occupational regimes were put in place.
Daniel McLeod is an activist and freelance writer. He lives in western Massachusetts.
Z Magazine Archive
AnnouncementsLABOR - May 1 is May Day. Workers of the world will celebrate the 124th anniversary of International Worker’s Day. Born out of a call for an 8-hour workday in the United States, this day is an opportunity for all workers to show their solidarity with one another, as well as to renew the call for labor rights.
FARM CONFERENCE - The Farm Conference on Community and Sustainability will be held May 24-26 in Summertown, TN, in partnership with the Fellowship of Intentional Communities. Tour green homes, see sustainable food production, learn about solar installations, alternative education, midwifery, and more.
Contact: Douglas@thefarmcommunity.com; http://www.thefarmcommunity.com/.
PALESTINE - The Conference of the Palestinian Shatat in North American will be held June 3-5 in Vancouver. The conference will examine the future of the Palestinian liberation movement.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.palestinianconference.org/.
LABOR - The Pacific Northwest Labor History Association’s 45th annual conference will be held May 3-5, in Portland, OR. This year’s theme is Labor Under Attack: Learning from the Past and Preparing for the Future. A call for presentations, workshops and papers is currently underway.
Contact: PNLHA, 27920 68th Ave. East, Graham, WA 98338; 206-406-2604; PNLHA1@aol.com; http://www3.telus.net.
MARIJUANA - On the first Saturday of May marijuana legalization activists will hold informational and educational events, rallies and marches in over 300 cities around the world.
ECONOMICS - The Union For Radical Political Economics will hold its 39th annual conference May 9-11 in New York City.
RECLAIM THE DREAM - The 2013 Poor People’s Campaign & March from Baltimore to Washington D.C. will be May 11. Communities, schools and unions interested in participating are encouraged to contact the Baltimore People’s Assembly.
Contact: 410-500-2168; 410-218-4835; BaltimorePeoplesAssembly@gmail.com; Southern Christian Leadership Conference of Baltimore and the Baltimore Peoples Power Assembly, 2011 N. Charles St., Baltimore, MD 21218.
MOTHER’S DAY - The 17th Annual Mother’s Day Walk For Peace will be May 12th, in Dorchester, MA. The walk began in 1996 for families who had lost children to violence. The day has become a way for thousands of people to financially support the work of the Louis Brown Peace Institute.
Contact: http://www.ldbpeaceinstitute.org/; http://mothersdaywalk4peace.org/.
NATO 5 - An International Week of Solidarity with the NATO 5 has been called for May 16-21. Supports call on supporters to raise awareness of the NATO 5 and support funds for the defendants on the one-year anniversary of their preemptive arrests.
Contact: email@example.com; https://nato5support.wordpress.com.
MOUNTAINTOP - The 2013 Mountain Justice Summer Activist Training Camp will be held May 19-27 in Damascus, VA. It will be a week of workshops, field trips to view Mountain Top Removal coal mines, direct actions, and service project.
FEMINIST SCI-FI - The feminist science fiction convention WisCon 37 is scheduled for May 24-27 in Madison, WI.
Contact: WisCon, ? SF3, PO Box 1624, Madison, WI 53701; firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.wiscon.info/.
ANARCHY FEST - A month-long Festival of Anarchy is scheduled for May in Montreal. The festival includes The Montreal Anarchist Bookfair (May 19-20).
Contact: http://www.anarchistbookfair.ca/; http://www.radicalmontreal.com/.
LABOR - The International Labor Rights Forum will present: Down the Supply Chain, Driving Corporate Accountability, on May 22 in Washington, DC. The Labor Rights Awards Ceremony and Reception will honor pioneers in supply chain worker organizing, working solidarity and international labor rights policy.
MULTICULTURE - The 26th annual National Conference on Race & Ethnicity in American Higher Education (NCORE) will take place May 28-June 1, in New Orleans.
Contact: SWCHRS, 3200 Marshall Avenue, Suite 290, Norman, OK 73072; 405-325-3694; email@example.com; www.ncore.ou.edu.
MEDIA - The 2013 Alliance for Community Media Annual Conference will be held May 29-31, in San Francisco, CA. Participants will include educators, community leaders, media professionals, journalists, nonprofit leaders, policymakers and students.
RADIO - The 38th Annual Community Radio Conference is schedule for May 29-June 1, in San Francisco, CA, with discussions and workshops.
Contact: 1101 Pennsylvania Ave. NW, Suite 600, Washington, DC 20004; 202-756-2268; firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.nfcb.org/.
BRADLEY MANNING - On June 1, a rally will be held at Fort Meade in support of Bradley Manning.
BIKES - Bikes Not Bombs is holding its 24th annual Bike-A-Thon and Green Roots Festival in Boston, MA on June 3, with several bike rides scheduled, music, exhibitors and more.
Contact: Bikes Not Bombs, 284 Amory St., Jamaica Plain, MA 02130; 617-522-0222; email@example.com; www.bikesnotbombs.org.
LEFT FORUM - The 2013 Left Forum will be held June 7-9, at Pace University in New York City.
Contact: 365 Fifth Avenue, CUNY Graduated Center, ? Sociology Dept., New York, NY 10016; http://www.leftforum.org/.
VEGAN FEST - Mad City Vegan Fest will be held in Madison, WI, June 8. The annual event features food, speakers, and exhibitors.
Contact: 122 State Street, Suite 405 B, Madison, WI 53701; firstname.lastname@example.org; http://veganfest.org/.
ADC CONFERENCE - The American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC) holds its annual conference June 13-16, in Washington, DC, with panel discussions and workshops on civil rights, media and other topics.
Contact: 1990 M Street, Suite 610, Washington, DC, 20036; 202-244-2990; email@example.com http://convention.adc.org/.
CUBA/SOCIALISM - A Cuban-North American Dialog on Socialist Renewal and Global Capitalist Crisis will be held in Havana, Cuba, June 16-30. There will be a 5 day Seminar at University of Havana, plus visits to a cooperative, urban garden, community development project, social research centers, and educational & medical institutions.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.globaljusticecenter.org/.
NETROOTS - The 8th Annual Netroots Nation conference will take place June 20-23 in San Jose, CA. The event features panels, trainings, networking, screenings, and keynotes.
Contact: 164 Robles Way, #276, Vallejo, CA 94591; email@example.com; http://www.netrootsnation.org/.
MEDIA - The 15th annual Allied Media Conference will be held June 20-23, in Detroit.
Contact: 4126 Third Street, Detroit, MI 48201; http://alliedmedia.org/.
GRASSROOTS - The United We Stand Festival will be hosted by Free & Equal, June 22 in Little Rock, Arkansas. The festival aims to reform the electoral process throughout the U.S.
SOCIALISM - The Socialism 2013 Conference is scheduled for June 27-30 in Chicago, featuring talks and panel discussions.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.socialismconference.org.
LITERACY - The National Association for Media Literacy Education (NAMLE) will hold its conference July 12-13 in Los Angeles under the heading, Intersections: Teaching and Learning Across Media.
Contact: 10 Laurel Hill Drive, Cherry Hill, NJ 08003; http://namle.net/conference/.
IWW - The North American Work People’s College will take place July 12-16 at Mesaba Co-op Park in northern Minnesota. The event will bring together Wobblies from branches across the continent to learn new skills and build One Big Union.
PEACESTOCK - On July 13th, the 11th Annual Peacestock: A Gathering for Peace, will take place at Windbeam Farm in Hager City, WI. The event is a mixture of music, speakers and community for peace. Sponsored by Veterans for Peace.
Contact: Bill Habedank, 1913 Grandview Ave., Red Wing, MN 55066; 651-388-7733; email@example.com; http://www.peacestockvfp.org.
CHILDREN’S DEFENSE - July 15-19, join clergy, seminarians, Christian educators, young adult leaders and other faith-based advocates for children at CDF Haley Farm in Clinton, Tennessee, for five days of spiritual renewal, networking, movement building workshops, and continuing education about the urgent needs of children at the 19th annual Proctor Institute for Child Advocacy Ministry.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.childrensdefense.org.
ACTIVIST CAMP - Youth Empowered Action (YEA) Camp will have sessions in July and August in Ben Lomond, CA; Portland, OR; Charlton, MA. YEA Camp is designed for activists 12-17 years old who want to make a difference in the world.
Contact: email@example.com; http://yeacamp.org/.
LA RAZA - The annual National Council of La Raza (NCLR) Conference is scheduled for July 18-19 in New Orleans, with workshops, presentations and panel discussions.
Contact: NCLR Headquarters Office, Raul Yzaguirre Building, 1126 16th Street, NW, Washington, DC 20036; 202-785-1670; www.nclr.org.
LABOR - The Eastern Conference For Workplace Democracy: Growing Our Cooperatives, Growing Our Communities, will be held at Drexel University in Philadelphia, PA, July 26-28.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; http://east.usworker.coop/.
WOMEN/LYNNE STEWART- Radical Women is asking for support letters and cards to be sent to Lynne Stewart. Stewart is a civil rights attorney and political prisoner who is currently in jail. She has breast cancer and authorities have denied her request for transfer from her Texas prison to the New York City hospital where she received medical attention during a prior bout of breast cancer. Send messages and cards to: Lynne Stewart 53504-054, Federal Medical Center Carswell, P.O. Box 27137, Fort Worth, TX 76127.
Contact: 747 Polk Street, San Francisco, CA 94109; 415-864-1278; RadicalWomenUS@gmail.com; http://lynnestewart.org/; http://www.radicalwomen.org/.
HAITI/WOMEN - Haiti’s government is considering a legal reform measure that would prohibit and punish all sexual assault, including marital rape. MADRE and the International Campaign to Stop Rape & Gender Violence in Conflict are launching a petition to raise international support for this push to address violence against women in Haiti.
Contact: 121 West 27th Street, #301, New York, NY 10001; 212-627-0444; email@example.com; http://www.madre.org.
SYRIA/MIDDLE EAST - The Middle East Children’s Alliance (MECA) is currently seeking funds to assist more than 200,000 refugees fleeing violence in Syria.
FOLK FESTIVAL - The Falcon Ridge Folk Festival will be held August 2-4, in the Berkshires, NY.
Contact: http://www.falconridgefolk.com/; firstname.lastname@example.org.
WAR RESISTERS - The War Resisters League will hold its 90th anniversary conference, Revolutionary Nonviolence: Building Bridges Across Generations and Communities, August 1-4, at Georgetown University. The event will focus on the U.S.’ long history of antimilitarism.
Contact: 339 Lafayette Street, New York, NY 10012; 212-228-0450; email@example.com; http://www.warresisters.org.
POPULAR ECONOMICS - The Center for Popular Economics is holding its 2013 Summer Institute August 4-9 at Hampshire College in Amherst, MA. No background in economics is needed for this intensive training. This year’s theme is, The Care Economy: Building a Just Economy with a Heart.
Contact: Center for Popular Economics, PO Box 785 Amherst, MA 01004; 413-545-0743; firstname.lastname@example.org; www.populareconomics.org.
VETERANS - Veterans for Peace is holding the 28th annual convention August 6-11 in Madison, WI. This year’s theme is, Power To The Peaceful.
DEMOCRACY - The Democracy Convention will take place August 7-11 in Madison, WI. The convention brings together nine conferences including topics such as media, education, defense, race, environment and others.
MEN - The 38th National Conference on Men & Masculinity: Forging Justice: Creating Safe, Equal and Accountable Communities, presented in partnership with HAVEN, will be held in Detroit, MI, August 8-10.
Contact: email@example.com; http://www.nomas.org/.
OCCUPY - An Occupy National Gathering will be held in Kalamazoo, MI, August 21-25.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; http://occupynationalgathering.net/.
COMMUNITIES - The Communities Conference is a networking and learning opportunity for co-operative or communal lifestyles, with workshops, events and entertainment; scheduled for August 30-September 2 at the Twin Oaks Community in Louisa, Virginia.
LABOR DAY - The 29th annual Bread and Roses Festival, a celebration of the ethnic diversity and labor history of Lawrence, MA, will be held September 2, in honor of the 1912 Bread and Roses Strike. There will be music, dance, poetry, drama, ethnic food, historical demonstrations, walking & trolley tours.
Contact: PO Box 1137, Lawrence, MA 01842; 978-794-1655; http://www.breadandrosesheritage.org/.
OCCUPY WALL STREET - September 17 is the two-year anniversary of the Occupy Wall Street movement. Events are planned in New York City and worldwide.
TEACHERS - The 13th Annual Conference, “Teaching for Social Justice: The Politics of Pedagogy,” will be held October 12 in San Francisco, CA. The free event features workshops, resources, and free childcare.
Contact: 415-676-7844; email@example.com; http://www.t4sj.org/.
HAITI - International Action, which brings clean water and chlorinators to Haiti, seeks office space capable of housing up to six people and their office equipment.
Contact: Zach Bremer, Zbrehmer@haitiwater.org; 202-488-0735; http://www.haitiwater.org/.
MEDIA - The Union for Democratic Communications and Project Censored are sponsoring a joint conference on media democracy, media activism and social justice to be held November 1-3 at the University of San Francisco. Proposals for presentations, workshops and panels from activists and critical scholars are invited.