February 17, 2011

Land Scandal: Community Education

Filed under: Freedom, Land Reform, Reformism Can't Work, Relocalization — Tags: — Russ @ 5:31 am


I have far more confidence in the beleaguered people’s potential to rouse themselves to fight back on their own terms than I do in the standard reformist crawling and scraping and begging for crumbs. (Here’s a great example of how relocalization is already winning anti-corporate victories, and at least as important, infusing communities with the conviction that their destiny is in their own hands. The contrast with feckless liberal reformism and the conformist fetish of “national” politics is complete. I’ll have more to say about this in upcoming anti-corporatism posts. But I wanted to give the example now.)
We’re at a dead end with conventional reformist and representative politics. It’s a total blockage. Everyone feels it. It’s the source of the great tension which lays over the land.
As Egypt has proven, the path to freedom, to action and liberation, lies open before us the moment we renounce our political passivity and strike out on our own. We can be our own leaders, our own organizers, our own inspiration, our own wellsprings and steam surges of action. 
So it follows that if we want freedom and security in our homes, we can’t count on the accident of whether or not a judge is conscientious. It should go without saying that Congress will never pass reform, but on the contrary will only look for a way to legalize the criminal assaults. Every bankster expects the politicians to do this, and so must we.
So that leaves us where we started and where we should have ended: Reliant upon ourselves.
I’ve advocated that mortgage holders should stop paying the banks, should stay in the house, keep paying the property tax, remain (or become) deeply involved in their communities, and get involved in local politics. If a critical mass did this, it would break the banks, and deal a severe blow to centralized power. It would be a great assertion of true federalism.
(I don’t mean individuals should necessarily do this unilaterally. The correct evolution of such a movement would depend on lots of regional conditions, but I think the basic plan should be for significant numbers of people in a region to organize for this, plan it, and do it as a group.)
So how do we get such groups started in the first place? The media certainly won’t undertake any systematic citizen education on the issue. So the idea I had was derived from the Farmers’ Alliance lecturers movement of the 1880s.

Farmer’s Alliance invented the lecturer system. Each local chapter chose a lecturer — someone in the chapter who had an ability to move its membership. In the local meetings, these speakers gave speeches, learning what moved their neighbors and polishing their way to capture the situation that they and their neighbors found themselves in as a public problem. These local speakers gave speeches at the district conventions and developed their speaking to a broader range of farmers. In turn, the district’s best speakers learned their craft at the state conventions. The result was a rich tradition of speaking that spawned a rich public sphere constructing the farmer’s problems as public concerns. Travelling lecturers developed, but the system always tied these lecturers with a local chapter where they kept their immersion in their local community.

These lecturers toured the South, the Midwest, the Plains and beyond, educating farmers about the way the banks manipulated the money supply and the crop lien system to rob them of their rightful reward for their hard work. They described the aspirations of the Alliance and how joining its cooperative system could liberate the farmers from the yoke of the parasites. They also attempted liaisons with factory labor.
(As that short description I quoted demonstrates, the lecturer organization was itself a superb example of participatory democracy, where the citizen activist flourished in proportion to his passion and commitment.)
So this is an idea that we might deploy today to educate our communities about the Land Scandal and its place at the core of the Bailout and the finance tyranny. (And the idea’s applicable not just to the banks and foreclosures. Unfortunately, there’s more than ample opportunity and room for anyone who wants to educate on the food rackets, the weapons rackets, the health racket bailout and Stamp mandate, the police state and civil liberties, net neutrality, and so many other things. I especially recommend student debt as a potential movement-builder which dovetails well with Foreclosuregate.)
In my next post on this I’ll give a basic outline for a sample curriculum for such a lecture series.


  1. Interesting idea. I look forward to seeing the outline.

    The Land Scandal is only one example of the evils of financialism is perpetuating on the world, and probably the one that most people would understand the best.

    Comment by Tao Jonesing — February 17, 2011 @ 12:02 pm

    • Yes, and it’s the one that hits home the hardest.

      I’ll post the sample outline within the next few days.

      Comment by Russ — February 17, 2011 @ 2:12 pm

    • I tried to comment at your post on “austerity” but it wasn’t working, so I’ll post it here:

      Seriously, from a moral perspective, do we owe anything to bankrupt institutions that lent us money they didn’t have (with interest) in order to bail them out?

      I’m dead serious when I say that’s also why we owe them nothing on mortgage loans, the moment people decide to stop paying.

      Comment by Russ — February 17, 2011 @ 4:23 pm

  2. I found this post very exciting, Russ. The link regarding the CELDF efforts is especially interesting. I have been thinking about ways of using local legal systems to build structures which cannot be assaulted by corporations which operate within federal/provincial (or state) law. One thing I don’t understand is how this actually works. The article describes all the constitutional rights ascribed to corporations, and then goes on to say:

    “To even the playing field a bit, CELDF has helped around 120 communities pass binding ordinances that give them the ability to say no to corporate control. Ordinances they’ve helped to draft have given towns the right to eliminate corporate personhood — to say no to water bottling companies drilling for water in their towns, for instance — and to assert the rights of nature.”

    How is it possible that local ordinances, binding or no, are able to overturn corporate personhood, or to deny classes of entities like corporations their recognized (by the federal gov’t anyway) constitutional rights? This seems like a ridiculously simple solution to this problem.

    Thanks also for the bit about the lecturer system, that’s an excellent idea and has a wide range of applications.

    Comment by paper mac — February 17, 2011 @ 1:52 pm

    • Thanks, I find these subjects exciting as well. I’m going to have lots more to say about the CELDF effort, probably a few weeks from now. (I’m going to write a series of posts assembling my ideas on the corporate phenomenon and ideology once and for all, and then move on to how to fight them.)

      I haven’t learned everything about the CELDF strategy or its history yet, but I get the impression that it’s not so much meant to succeed according to the system’s own rules as provide a political and organizational framework for resisting the depredations of the system. It’s not so much to level the playing field but rather try to set up a new playing field.


      The Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund is collaborating with Global Exchange, an international environmental and workers’ rights organization, to help supporters of the Mt. Shasta ordinance organize. In an interview for this article, I asked Shannon Biggs, who directs Global Exchange’s Community Rights Program, if she expected ordinances of this type to be upheld in court. Biggs was dubious about judges “seeing the error of their ways” and reversing a centuries-old trend in which courts grant corporations increased power. Rather, she sees these ordinances as powerful educational and organizing tools that can lead to the major changes necessary to reduce corporate power, put decision-making back in the hands of real people rather than corporate “persons,” and open up whole new areas of rights, such as those of ecosystems and natural communities. Biggs connects the current municipal defiance of existing state and federal law to a long tradition of civil disobedience in the United States, harkening back to Susan B. Anthony illegally casting her ballot, the Underground Railroad flouting slave laws, and civil rights protesters purposely breaking segregation laws.

      But the nascent municipal rights movement offers something new in the way of political action. These communities are adopting laws that, taken together, are forming an alternative structure to the global corporate economy. The principles behind these laws can be applied broadly to any area where corporate rights override local self-government or the well-being of the local ecology. The best place to start, I would suggest, is with banning corporations from making campaign contributions to local elections.

      The municipal movement could provide one of the most effective routes to building nationwide support for an Environmental and Social Responsibility Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. In fact, the movement is already expanding. In Pennsylvania, people are now organizing on the state level and similar stirrings have been reported in New Hampshire.

      The activism of organizing and passing such laws which are obviously more legitimate than the alien “laws” of the federal government, and then having to fight against these alien forces for the simple right to rule ourselves, is supposed to expose the truly tyrannical nature of the central government/corporate system and bring far more people into the true federalist movement. That in turn will bring us to the point that we can amend the Constitution, or achieve victory through bottom-up political attrition as the tyrants are unable to function once stripped of local support.

      When I first went to their website a few months ago, the part that immediately made me feel at home was how they keep emphasizing that reformism, trying to play by the regulatory “rules”, or lobby for better rules, let alone petitions, non-binding resolutions and all that picayune stuff, is pointless in fighting big corporations.

      This is intrepid relocalization, a real fight for democracy.

      Comment by Russ — February 17, 2011 @ 2:35 pm

      • Hi Russ, I’m very interesting in this new line of inquiry and will be keeping an eye on your blog for more as you come up with it.

        I saw this quote today and was reminded of it by your comment, above:

        “You never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete.” -Buckminster Fuller

        Comment by Lidia — February 22, 2011 @ 6:47 pm

      • oops “interested”!

        Comment by Lidia — February 22, 2011 @ 6:48 pm

      • Thanks, Lidia. I just put up a new post on it yesterday.

        Comment by Russ — February 23, 2011 @ 6:58 am

  3. That passage about the lecturer system is exactly the same as the one described in The Nazi Seizure of Power by William Sheridan Allen. So it definitely has worked!

    I think the first local ordinance was a CAFO ban in a PA township. Soon after, the state legislature passed a law overriding it, IIRC. Furthermore, the PA AG mentioned in the article is now the governor. At his victory party he announced “Pennsylvania is now open for business.” My personal opinion is that the election was rigged for the fracking interests. The PA budget is in a terrible state and Gov. Corbett says that a severance tax on NG is ‘off the table.’

    Comment by AR — February 19, 2011 @ 8:43 am

    • I’ve read some recent pieces and didn’t see anything about anti-federalist legislation explicitly claiming to override regional sovereignty. But it wouldn’t surprise me. But then, if the point is to resist, then communities have to be ready for such tyrannical attempts.

      The election was certainly rigged. All are, these days.

      Communities better start organizing to repel filth like these governors. If the state also isn’t going to protect the people but only join the assault, then it too has no legitimacy and indeed no purpose.

      Comment by Russ — February 19, 2011 @ 10:52 am

      • Here’s a description of the local CAFO ordinance in PA, and the state AG’s stance that he can disregard it under “Act 38, the infamous “ACRE” law”.

        Comment by AR — February 19, 2011 @ 11:32 am

      • That’s a great story. (I hope it’s accurate; and it’s from 2007.)

        Now that’s the kind of spirit I love seeing from citizens and local governments.

        This sentence is priceless:

        According to Killion, the Attorney General’s office had determined that East Brunswick’s anti-corporate sludge Ordinance, which was drafted by the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund (CELDF) and passed into law on December 6th, 2006, asserted a degree of real local governing authority that the Pennsylvania legislature had recently outlawed.

        How dare they assert local authority. Who do they think they are, human beings?

        Comment by Russ — February 19, 2011 @ 12:04 pm

  4. […] A few days ago I broached the idea of community lectures on the Land Scandal, describing it in detail and placing it in the broad context of Wall Street’s crimes, the […]

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  5. […] like the Landless Workers’ Movement of South America.    This can then be tied in with parallel efforts at community education on the Land Scandal, which would include organized land redemption among its […]

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  6. […] can then be tied in with parallel efforts at community education on the Land Scandal, which would include organized land redemption among […]

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  7. […] and supported by the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund. (We briefly discussed them here.)   All the basic principles of this are excellent. (A few details are questionable.) In […]

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  8. […] the word out to the community at large.   One example is the kind of community lecturing program I described for the Land Scandal.   Another is the idea of placing all this political consciousness-raising […]

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  9. […] for true democratic organization, see Lawrence Goodwyn’s The Populist Moment. . *** . Once upon a time I thought of adapting this idea to what I called the land scandal involving systematic property […]

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