November 10, 2014

European Parliament Has Its Chance to Redeem European GMO Regulation


[Update 11/12: The Parliament voted to reinstate environmental rationales for national bans and removed the absurd requirement that countries supplicate before the GMO-peddling corporations before instituting bans. It also mandated anti-contamination measures. The EP version of the law must now be negotiated with the Council’s pro-cartel version voted in June. The EP’s  law doesn’t affect the pro-GMO regulatory “streamlining” momentum at the EFSA. This is merely a defensive action.]

In June the European Council (an executive committee of national ministers) fulfilled the wishes of the GMO cartel and the US government by voting for a new “subsidiarity” policy to replace the EU’s existing approval process for the cultivation of GMOs in Europe. As things are the European Commission’s EFSA (an unaccountable supranational bureaucracy) approves applications on a Europe-wide basis, but individual national governments are free to enact their own bans. Right now MON810 Bt maize is the only GMO approved for cultivation, but Austria, Bulgaria, France, Germany, Hungary, Luxembourg, Greece, Italy, and Poland have banned it. Only in Spain is it grown on any significant acreage. (In 2014 DuPont/Dow’s 1507 stacked maize is becoming the second cultivation-approved GMO.)

This kind of federalism, really an upside-down federalism since it “allows” delegation of power from the top down, has only been grudgingly tolerated by the Commission. It has long been a target for the US government and the cartel, which want to gut Europe’s superior non-GMO agriculture and flood Europe with proprietary GMO seeds. This is a good example of how EU federalism, like any other such concept and practice, has no stable existence but is only agreed to by the corporations or assaulted by them depending upon whatever serves corporate power at the moment. Thus, as I’ve been pointing out for years, European GMO “subsidiarity” was originally talked up by the system as a safeguard: “Any national government is free to ban any GMO it chooses. Therefore there’s no reason for the EFSA’s approval procedure to be so strict, and it should be liberalized.” This argument was being made in favor of the approval of 1507 as recently as a year ago. Then there’s the obscene spectacle of the US promoting its subsidy-based planned economy Big Ag sector under the banner of “free trade” and railing against Europe’s alleged “trade barriers”. Again, no one actually believes in “free trade” or “protectionism” as values. Either of these are merely slogans and weapons to be used according to the power tactics of the moment. I call such examples might-makes-right mutabilities.

In spite of the “federalism” rhetoric, the Biotechnology Industry Association has long lobbied for Europe to change to its own Orwellian version of federalism, AKA “subsidiarity”. The US government has taken up the fight. The Commission has been ardent, and the bureaucratic campaign came together in 2014, leading up to the Council vote in June.

According to the proposal, countries will no longer be free to enact national bans when they choose and how they choose. Instead, each country would have to take action early in the bureaucratic approval process. A national government would have to request that the corporation exclude that country’s territory from its application. Only if the corporation refuses would the country then be allowed to enact its own ban. The technical criteria for a ban to be legally valid in the EU’s bureaucratic courts would also be tightened. It’s meant to set up a legalistic Catch-22. The member states would surrender their right to institute bans based on health or environmental rationales. These rationales would be surrendered completely to the EFSA’s discretion. Yet these are the only rationales which in theory are allowed under the WTO regime.

Meanwhile the member states would retain a right, under this policy, to enact bans based on socioeconomic, cultural, or planning grounds. But these are precisely the kind of policy rationales banned under WTO rules. Therefore the policy proposal is meant to take a roundabout route to gut the Precautionary Principle and national regulatory power over GMOs, and exalt the preemptive power of EFSA assessments. The revolving door EFSA is little more than a Monsanto division.

In addition to its structural aims, the policy is meant to be cumbersome to the point of impossibility. Instead of taking cultivation approvals on a case-by-case basis, a national government is supposed to track down every pending application, assess it  in a hypothetical way, make a future-oriented decision, and formulate a request. And just who is supposed to do this: A bureaucracy which is naturally more likely to support the corporate project than a legislature which may be more responsive to the public good. And then there’s the fact that the government of a day is supposed to be able to tie the hands of its successors in perpetuity, if it fails to make the right “requests” and enact its bans within a narrow window of opportunity. (Needless to say this only works one way; any ban can always be rescinded by a later government.) Once again we see the fundamental hostility of the EC (and the US government) to democracy and to politics as such.

The policy is being bruited in terms familiar from big business rhetoric – this will “break the logjam”, will “streamline” regulation. Of course in reality the only logjam on economic innovation and productivity is that imposed by corporate oligopoly, most of all corporate agriculture’s attempt to enclose and calcify the agriculture and food sectors once and for all. The GMO onslaught is the culmination and final war to attain this enclosure and domination. The “subsidiarity” policy is intended to do exactly what I’ve been predicting about EU federalism since 2010: First open the floodgates to general EU cultivation approvals, then gut the state-level bans piecemeal.

(Meanwhile the TTIP if enacted is intended to make a clean sweep of all of this, replacing the whole WTO rigmarole with the leaner meaner NAFTA model of direct corporate legal weapons (in the form of ISDS) and systematic, permanent “regulatory coordination” across all government bureaucracies, forcing all of these to conform to standards set by corporate bureaucracy and to obey corporate directives. I won’t recap the TTIP here, but here’s my posts on it from earlier in 2014.






https://attempter.wordpress.com/2014/03/12/the-ttip-and-the-right-to-profit-investor-to-state-dispute-settlement/  )

This week the European Parliament is scheduled to vote on subsidiarity. If it votes No it can gut the policy, or it can vote for a reformed version which could ameliorate the worst parts. Greenpeace issued a list of minimal reform demands, including:

*Restore the ability of member countries to enact bans on environmental grounds. [Greenpeace doesn’t mention public health/food safety grounds, although these too are critical.]

*Change the legal basis for the policy from the “internal market” section of the EU code to the environmental section.

*Confirm the right of countries to ban GMOs as such or groups of GMOs by crop or trait.

*Scuttle the formal position of corporations in the approval and banning process.

It seems to me it would be better to just scuttle the whole thing, but anything which delays the juggernaut is helpful, since time is running out for the cartel, just as it’s running out for humanity.



May 19, 2012

The CELDF Strategy, and Similar Actions


We’re trying to build a new society, and rebuild a natural one, based on Food Sovereignty and true democracy. The negative aspect of this is to abolish corporations and dissolve centralized hierarchies in general.
Finding focus on these simple goals is hard enough. But even among those of us who agree on the basic goals, there’s great strategic and tactical uncertainty. We can agree that in the end on bottom-up action, especially direct action, movement-building, and mutual assistance, will work. We can agree that the officially allowed modes of “action”, electoral voting and other passive, process “politics” and consumerism, cannot work.
But there’s an array of possible actions while lies somewhere between direct action and kettled process reformism which may, depending on the circumstance, the operational goal, and the execution, lie on the vector toward the great democratic goal.
The Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund (CELDF) strategy for local-level constitutionalism and anti-corporate ordinances is a good example of this. The CELDF was formed to fight back against several kinds of corporate assaults which are especially tyrannical at the immediate local level – CAFOs, fracking, dumping sewage sludge on fields, water privatization and plunder; and also against the overarching legalistic/constitutional framework for these assaults, such as federal pre-emption (anti-federal, by any non-Orwellian definition of the term), the captivity of the electoral system to money (but they want to focus on local ordinances banning corporate money in local elections) as enshrined by Citizens United, and the general regime of corporate personhood and “rights”.
The basic plan is for communities to enact ordinances asserting local sovereignty and proclaim local constitutions, really bills of rights, enshrining this. The people should take back their local governments and force these to serve the community against assaults from alien governments and corporations. Better yet, we can form our own democratic councils to parallel the “official”-track action shifting the initiative from the derivative government to the direct democracy of the people. These dual-track actions would bring power and authority much closer to the true sovereign level of the people. It would reverse the pre-emption doctrine enshrined in 1788, turning it right side up. These councils/municipalities would then confederate for mutual support, and to organize broader-scale constitutional assemblies.
The CELDF recognizes that central and state level process action, including electoralism, is largely “dead”, as co-founder Thomas Linzey puts it. It recognizes the real nature of regulatory bureaucracy is to assist top-down assaults on communities rather than restrain them. It rejects the notions of corporate property and rights in principle. It would exalt the rights of citizens, communities, and nature above these. It has assisted over 120 communities and larger towns in Pennsylvania, New England, and California in passing ordinances and/or drawing up constitutional charters asserting local democracy against corporate invasions. The largest action has been Pittsburgh’s law banning fracking within city limits. As I write Vermont is on the verge of banning fracking in the state. The Local Food Sovereignty ordinances passed in several Maine towns comprise a similar campaign. Meanwhile the movement of counties and towns banning GMOs goes back decades to Marin county in California, which was followed by Mendocino and Santa Cruz counties.
GMO labeling initiatives, such as those pending in California and Oregon, are another crucial form of this movement. Meanwhile state-level legislative attempts don’t work for this, as we’ve recently seen in Vermont and Connecticut. I’ll add that Label It Yourself is the direct action which should accompany all labeling initiatives. The California initiative, assuming the election isn’t rigged, will pass but won’t necessarily be enforced in the absence of unrelenting pressure from below, such as where this direct action alternative is not only mentioned but enacted.
(If it sounds inconsistent to be optimistic about Vermont’s anti-fracking law even as it just gutted its GMO labeling law, remember that most tactical precepts aren’t carved in stone. They need to be applied to specific circumstances. The Monsanto contingent is much stronger in Vermont than the pro-fracking forces, since it’s far from clear that there’s any fracking to even be done there.)
In Europe the Network of GMO-Free Regions has deployed a full range of tactics, from passing laws to directly destroying test plots. It’s developed into a Europe-wide confederation which now coordinates and mutually assists, achieving a great multiplier at every local point. This is just like the CELDF confederation goal, which I’ll describe shortly.
Other possible ordinances could deny bank or corporate ownership of land. In North Dakota corporations are legally prevented from owning farms. That’s a great model right there.
The General Public License for Plant Germplasm (GPLPG) is an attempt to bring the Creative Commons/general public license movement to the seed front, to contest corporate seed enclosure on its own battlefield. This kind of thing is at best a supplement to decentralized, confederated heirloom seed banking and direct action against proprietary seeds. Meanwhile Creative Commons, Copyleft, etc. comprise a good alternative to the intellectual property regime and self-defense against it, but are not a substitute for complete abolition of it.
Then there’s public interest lawsuits (which also have self-interest goals; as always, the right action is an inextricable mix of altruism and self-interest) like the anti-patent enforcement Monsanto lawsuit, the Farm-to-Consumer Legal Defense Fund’s (FTCLDF) suit against the FDA’s persecution of raw milk, and the recent Save Our Crops Coalition (SOCC) action against the USDA on Agent Orange corn. Predictably, even though they’re obviously right by common sense and according to the evidence, these suits are losing so far. Unlike in the case of the CELDF, the groups bringing these suits and coordinating the efforts seem to really hope to win in court, and that’s their main goal. They’re failing to use the lawsuits as participation/organization/education toward an alternative to the legal system as such. But as the CELDF shows, any such lawsuit could serve as a democratic vehicle.
The CELDF strategy isn’t meant to succeed according to the system’s own rules, but rather to provide a political and organizational framework for resisting the system’s depredations and for building a democratic relocalization movement. It’s not so much to level the playing field as to set up a new one.
Food sovereignty and positive democracy are, first of all, a set of principles. We must internalize it like the air we breathe, feel it assimilated to our very bodies, and experience any contradiction of it as an outrage. Every part of it is common-sensical and self-evidently moral and just. So we need to build the mindset, this is right. Then, wherever we see the system reject, resist, and repress it, we have a stark lesson in the illegitimacy of the system.
The CELDF isn’t naive about how well these ordinances and bills of rights are likely to fare in the system courts. The strategy doesn’t depend on “winning in court”. The plan is for communities to organize around their ordinances and constitutions, then confederate toward larger-scale constitutional conventions which would turn pre-emptive “federalism” right side up. So each community draws up its own bill of rights, and then this constitutional network is used toward building an amend-the-constitution movement. (Let me stress again, I don’t consider this sufficient, but it’s a piece of the overall movement strategy.) None of this is to say that the ordinances are “only” symbolic, or that we concede being ignored in court. This is just, this is the real law, this is the constitution, this is the right thing to do. Any legitimate court will uphold it.
Here’s the plan in their own words.

This idea that people have rights and that the state has no authority to license violation of those rights,
is the core principle, the underlying premise, for mounting a new civil rights movement for the legal recognition and protection of community rights…

The larger strategy behind organizing locally to assert rights has zero to do with relying on the courts. Adopting community rights ordinances and banning corporate activities that violate rights is an organizing strategy, not merely a legal strategy. The courts likely will not vindicate our rights; they may, on behalf of the corporations, strip them, as they have done for many years. But community rights ordinances force them to do so publicly, clearly, and not in a quiet blizzard of legal mumbo-jumbo hidden away from public attention or interest.

Exposing the oppressive conniving of state and corporate power publicly, in sharp contrast to the people’s
aspirations and sense of public justice – this is the legal goal.

Why take this route? If we are to have our rights stripped, let it not be because we failed to exercise them; let it not be because we surrendered them and settled for regulating the rate of destruction; let it not be because we zoned where our community rights could be denied, or because we adopted conditional use
regulations that amount to little more than terms of surrender. If we are to have our rights stripped by the state on behalf of wealthy and powerful corporations, let us expose it to the world as the tyranny that it is…

As it turns out, we don’t have to reinvent the wheel. There have been successful movements in the United States that have achieved constitutional change – including abolishing slavery and winning the right to vote
for women. Those movements didn’t focus on building a regulatory agency dedicated to regulating the number of lashes for slaves or new rules for how husbands should treat their wives – they focused instead on driving constitutional change by illustrating how the existing system was unjust and immoral. To do that, they broke existing law, forcing the system to punish them, as a clear, explicit, and public illustration of how the system functioned.

Northern juries violated the law by refusing to send slaves back to their owners, blacks sat at lunch counters
in violation of the law, women illegally cast ballots at voting places, and American revolutionaries illegally
declared their independence from England. Each of those actions served to illustrate how the existing system operated and what a new structure might look like. In the process, those actions galvanized people to join together to build movements that eventually undid the existing system permanently – not through the courts, but through changing the very structure of the existing system.

Eventually, there will be a thousand lawsuits just like the one in Blaine Township. And then a thousand more. As Frederick Douglass once noted, “power concedes nothing without demand.” We’ve become so obedient that we’ve forgotten how to refuse to submit to a structure of law that is harming us.

Some of those lawsuits may be appealed and, in others, elected officials will sacrifice their communities to
maintain the municipal treasury. Some cases may win, many will lose – but together, they will give birth to a
peoples’ movement that this country hasn’t seen since the late 1800s – a movement aimed at throwing off the authority that enables a small number of people to override community decisions dealing with energy, food, waste, and resource sustainability…

What’s the long-term goal of adopting ordinances?

Constitutional change. Since many of the doctrines – like corporate “rights,” for example, or corporate
commerce rights – are wrapped up in the constitution, State legislatures are powerless to change them (even if they wanted to). Thus, long-term, the ordinances aren’t really ordinances at all – they’re mini-constitutions which embody what constitutional change must eventually look like. To achieve that constitutional change, enough communities in enough places must begin to push-back against the structure of law, and then knit themselves together to drive changes to the state constitution, and eventually, to the federal constitution….

The inevitable result of these local refusals to follow illegitimate State law is the binding together of hundreds of municipalities to force constitutional change that overrides the authority of the State to gut community self-government. That means driving a right to local self-government into the Pennsylvania Constitution which enables our communities to begin to actually protect our health, safety, and welfare, rather than continuing to be at the mercy of gas and other corporations who solely seek to use our communities for resource extraction…

If your community hasn’t already adopted a local “bill of rights” that bans gas drilling, do it tomorrow. Without a critical mass of communities in Pennsylvania joining together, constitutional change that liberates our communities to determine their own futures will remain beyond our reach. And we will saddle our children with cleaning up the mess – and whatever is left of our communities and environment – that happened on our watch…

Here is no hypothetical calling of the corporate state to account. The question posed is this: What will lead to the exercise and protection of our unalienable rights, including the right to local, community self government? And the answer is: Nothing but the exercise and protection of unalienable rights through the exercise of our right to local, community self-government!

The activism of organizing and passing such laws, which are obviously more legitimate than the alien “laws” of the central government, and then having to fight against these alien forces for the simple right to rule ourselves, is intended to expose the truly tyrannical nature of the central corporate-government system and bring more people into the true federalist movement. That in turn will bring us to the point where we can change the Constitution, or achieve victory through bottom-up political attrition as the tyrants are unable to function once stripped of local support.
A goal here is to codify Food Sovereignty, positive democracy, and relocalization as explicit legal/constitutional principles. The more we go on record as wanting to redeem our democratic sovereignty, and the more the kleptocracy has to resort to brute lawlessness to assert its prerogatives, the more its true barbaric thug essence will be clear.
On a general level, all pro-democracy grassroots action is a tonic. Citizens are taking action, however small to begin with, directly against corporate and central government power. We’re answering “federal” arrogation and usurpation with our own version of pre-emption. We’re declaring that our people’s law supersedes, overrides, overthrows their illegitimate might-makes-right. We’re declaring the principles of true federalism, which is a vector opposed to all centralization and concentration. This is a value in itself.
If hierarchy and centralization ever made sense, it was only because the vast energy unleashed by the fossil fuel binge required them. By the same logic we must then recognize that post-oil, where the energy vector is toward far less consumption, and the economic vector is to relocalize, we must harmoniously refederalize political and economic power to the local/regional level. This is to obey the laws of history, as formulated here by the physical imperatives of energy and therefore of economics.
Constitutionalism means to govern according to the natural economic vector. Today that means Food Sovereignty, positive democracy, and relocalization. We don’t even have to dispute the motives of 1788. All we need to say is that its vector was the opposite of today’s. For that reason alone we have to turn it right side up.
As predicted, the system has so far been hostile to this effort. The earliest ordinance, an anti-mining ordinance in Blaine, PA, was forced to be repealed by corporate pressure. In response to the growing Pennsylvania insurgency the state legislature passed a pre-emption law which would turn the state into a veritable petrostate and fracking free-fire zone, with all democratic sovereignty legally abolished. In Maine prosecutors are carefully selecting a test case toward a more thorough assault on the local food sovereignty laws.
Where we fight this way, we force a more “de jure” demonstration of tyranny. Trampling a law is more easily understood by the masses than suppressing activism in general. In this sense, the movement’s use of laws and constitutionalism is a device to achieve better middle-class understandability. In this sense it’s educational, “symbolic”, movement-building. It states a “demand” which describes why citizens engage in direct action. In this way it supplements direct action. In the end it can only supplement direct action, not substitute for it.
The CELDF strategy and related actions are, in the end, trying to use these actions as exercises in direct democratic participation, as organizational campaigns, and to educate the public about corporate/government assaults on the people’s sovereignty and rights. (I call this POE: Participate-Organize-Educate.) The more we learn, the better organized we become, the more experience of democratic participation we get, the more of a taste for this participation we develop, the more we’ll build a movement which will actually fight for our food sovereignty, true democracy, and self-rule. Using the ordinance/bill of rights strategy as the vehicle toward attaining local power, within the official government as well as parallel sovereign councils, will be a self-perpetuating organizing process, and will also help build these quasi-governmental forms into real fighting structures which will render the assaults from outside and above less and less effective against us.
This stuff is important for anyone looking toward full transformation. The time isn’t yet ripe for a full-scale transformational movement. Occupy, for example, seems to be in a sophomore slump. We’re gradually, inexorably, but so far slowly building toward it. In the meantime, we need outlets for action, and we need our characteristic actions in the eyes of the public. Plus, most people will still need to try many sorts of “reform” before they finally realize that reformism does not and cannot work. While we do as much personal prepping, food-growing, reskilling and relocalization action as possible, and while we do all we can to propagate transformational ideas and evidence, we also need a suite of political action, right here right now.
We need actions which meet these criteria:
1. As bottom-up and relocalizing as possible.
2. On a vector toward abolishing the system.
3. Providing philosophical refutation of system sacred cows, and always explicitly refuting the system as such.
4. Affording real POE opportunities and execution.
This has to mean everyone’s on a vector and never stagnant. It means that every time a bottom-up reform action is smacked down, we must raise our aspirations and escalate our proclaimed goals. Above all, we must not keep doing the same thing that’s already proven to fail (the proverbial measure of insanity), and we must never regress. These comprise appeasement, which we know cannot work.

May 1, 2012

The American Revolution


In honor of today’s General Strike, I’d like to salute the original American Revolution. This was the first stage which was so quickly put on ice, but which we now have high hopes to resume, in the true spirit of this great democratic revolution.
In school we’re taught that the Articles of Confederation were a hopelessly parochial and unworkable mishmash, and that the 1788 Constitution was a triumph of reason, wisdom, practicality, and morality. The truth is that the Articles were indeed flawed and inefficient, but not in the way the system schools teach. They’re flawed in a very particular way. Namely, they weren’t well suited for the kleptocratic imperial designs of Alexander Hamilton, Robert Morris, Edmund Randolph, James Wilson, John Adams, and others. 
The Revolutionary War was won, not by generals like George Washington, let alone by banksters like Robert Morris or the already corrupt Congress. It was won by the common soldier. These, the type of citizens represented by the 1776 Pennsylvania Constitution* (to the extent this kind of written Constitution can truly represent), fought not just for the merchant revolution the way the Sons of Liberty did in Boston, but for a more democratic and egalitarian economic order.
[*This Constitution still excluded women and implicitly recognized slavery, and still recognized land and resource “property”. But by opening with a Bill of Rights (a despised afterthought in 1788) superior to the 1788 version in several key ways, enshrining universal male suffrage, rejecting central pre-emption, explicitly declaring the people’s sovereignty, explicitly declaring the people’s right to abolish any rogue government, outlawing debtors’ prisons, imposing sunshine requirements for legislation, and in many other ways, it represents a significant step toward full representative democracy, which in turn could be a step toward true positive democracy. Its framers, and the grassroots movement they represented, wanted government to act as a restraint on finance tyranny and merchant greed (the Pennsylvania assembly, in one of the few clear-cut victories the people ever scored against the banksters, revoked the charter of Robert Morris’ bank), they wanted a rational, constructive money supply, they wanted debt relief, and in general they wanted a political system which enfranchised and benefited those who work and which based the economy on productive work and the polity on a democracy of productive citizens. While we may debate whether “government” as the 18th century saw it was ever necessary (it certainly no longer is), there’s no dispute over the fact that if such a government had to exist at all, then the 1776ers were doing their best to make it as representative as it could be.
The 1776 Constitution was on a vector. By contrast, the 1788 Constitution was designed to foreclose any further democratic movement. On the contrary, its main vector was to concentrate power and wealth up the hierarchy, and to help build an empire for this new ruling class.]
The main action of Congress during the war was to issue scrip to pay the soldiers and IOUs to the citizens from whom supplies were often “requisitioned”. These pieces of paper were intended to devalue to near-worthlessness. Then, once speculators had gobbled up much of this paper at often less than ten cents on the dollar, the Congress voted to pay it off at face value. The very citizen-soldiers who had actually fought and won the war and then been defrauded of their wages, and the very workers and farmers who had had their goods taken from them and then been defrauded of payment, were now saddled as taxpayers with a public odious debt to the very con-men who had defrauded them.
Soldiers had been forced under economic coercion to sell all they’d earned at pennies on the dollar, and were often plunged by their war service into personal debt to the very merchants now speculating on their scrip. Congress now turned around and doubly empowered these criminals, as public creditors who could demand that government tax the people (“open the purses of the people”, in Morris’ descriptive phrase) to make good on their speculative bets against the people, and as personal creditors who could demand that government enforce their demand to now be paid in government-issued, specie-based cash, whereas previously debts could usually be paid in real goods. This double assault threatened to dispossess and indenture the very people who had fought and won the war, and on whose behalf the war had been fought in the first place, according to the Declaration of Independence.
The basic plan of Hamilton and Morris: A strong central government would identify its interests with the creditor class and turn the private accounts of these speculators into the public’s debt, turning itself into the thug arm of this finance scam. (Like I said above, many citizens would thus be doubly on the hook.) This would reassure Old World finance, enabling the new US government to borrow overseas. The US system could use this free-flowing credit to build up its own military, police, and bureaucratic power and to use these aggressively, to imperially expand across the continent and to enforce its prerogatives (i.e., the prerogatives of the ruling class) against the citizenry at home. The American public would have to pay off the debt incurred to pay for this monstrous parasite upon it. Taxation power would be necessary to carry out this function, and would in turn serve as a pretext to further concentrate government power. This hierarchical concentration of centralized government power, along with the double assault of taxation and indenture, would help break the democratic movement. This elite hijacking of a quasi-democratic revolution was a typical imperialist crime. From the point of view of the people, it was another enclosure onslaught, and a war of total destruction vs. local economies and democracies. So the new system began with a massive crime against the people, and against war veterans in particular.   
This was nothing new to the true citizens of the colonies. They already had long experience of such oppression. Prior to the war the people had long engaged in direct action against the oppression both of the British (for example the Sons of Neptune in Boston, after whom the Sons of Liberty were named in part) and of home-grown corruption and tyranny, most famously the Regulator movement in North Carolina and elsewhere.
Now the people of Massachusetts took up the Regulator mantle. In 1786 a spontaneous movement of veterans and workers rose up to forcibly resist debt tyranny and thuggery. This was Shay’s Rebellion. In spite of tremendous good will and courage, this attempt to carry on the principles of the American Revolution fizzled out (as spontaneous peasant revolts usually do) and was followed by the usual repression. It was in this context that the alleged democrat Samuel Adams issued this cry of freedom: “The man who dares to rebel against the laws of a republic ought to suffer death.” No neoliberal corporatist of today could sum it up better. 
By 1787 sufficient evidence had piled up that the Articles of Confederation lacked “sufficient checks against the democracy”, as Randolph put it at the Convention. From the 1776 Pennsylvania Constitution to the revocation of Morris’ bank charter, from the general difficulties Hamilton was having putting through his centralized finance plan to Shay’s Rebellion and the bad memories of the Regulators it stirred up, the elites knew they needed to radically revamp the government blueprint. They needed a constitution which would centralize government, strongly concentrate it, turn it into a versatile and brutal weapon on behalf of finance assaults, military aggression, and police repression.
From any other point of view, the Articles were fine. That’s why the 1787 convention was undertaken with ulterior motives from its inception. It was sold to the people as just a tweaking of the existing system, not a radical transformation. Only once the Convention was seated did it then set to work devising a fully centralized, hierarchical, top-down, finance-based big government.
Why the 1788 Constitution? Not the vague words of the civics textbooks about the inadequacy of the Articles. No – finance elites and propertied aristocrats were in a panic over how close to success Shay’s Rebellion had come, and over the many other ways in which the democratic movement was striving to continue the American Revolution, to bring its proclaimed principles into practice. With horror they discovered that the existing government wasn’t strong enough. By that I don’t mean strong enough for regular law and order and to organize rational, equitable trade; it was certainly sufficient for those. It wasn’t strong enough to enforce economic tyranny. That’s why they wrote and imposed a new “constitution”. The new order – Hamilton’s kleptocratic plan, and the thug arm to carry it out – was put to the test with the excise tax on whiskey and the subsequent “whiskey rebellion”. While the new central government was still too weak to enforce this tax throughout most of the back country, it was strong enough to do so in one critical territory, western Pennsylvania. That was enough of a show of force to intimidate much of the populace. The central government’s “authority” was now established.
What does it all mean today? We must continue the neglected, derelict revolution. The real fighters for freedom were the foot soldiers of the Revolutionary War, who fought in the spirit and for the ideal of the grassroots democratic activists, from the Regulators to the 1776 Pennsylvania constitutionalists to the Massachusetts rebels for democracy to the backcountry fighters against Hamilton’s taxation onslaught. These, and all true democracy activists since, on up to the Occupy movement of today, and on the grand scale the global Food Sovereignty movement, have been the real heroes of the revolution.
It’s the Spirit of ’76 against the anti-spirit of 1788. Which year rings more true to us today, as we see the full development of the economic and political centralization process enshrined in 1788? There’s only one path forward: We must resume the American Revolution.

March 28, 2012

The Health Racket Mandate, Toward Other Corporate Mandates


A few thoughts on the health racket mandate, for anyone who supports or knows someone who supports it, constitutionally and/or on policy grounds.
(This is also for anyone who’s wondering about my rage vs. liberals, as I expressed in this post earlier today, for example. Look at this mandate as a prime example of the incoherency and malevolence I describe.)
Let’s recap the history.
1. In the mid-20th century Congress granted antitrust exemptions to the health insurance racketeers, giving them monopolies or oligopolies in every state. This is a command economy, a forced market. The only alternative for most people is non-participation.
2. On account of this growing non-participation, as well as the desperate financial straits of many insurance rackets, especially post-2008, the government instituted a bailout of the sector, in the form of Obamacare. (It’s also an austerity policy and a union-busting measure.) This is Obama’s core policy. The funds for this bailout are to be extorted in the form of a poll tax imposed on human beings, as the price of their physical existence. (The mandated “policies” themselves will be worthless, and subsidies to purchase them will never materialize.)
3. Supporters of this policy now argue that it’s constitutional, thanks to totalitarian commerce clause jurisprudence. I’ve extensively covered this here, here, and here. (For the health racket bailout and Stamp mandate in general, see my posts catalogued here.)
For anyone who supports this, please explain:
1. Does this mean that if Congress decides that proprietary GMOs are to be normative in the same way it has dictated for private health insurance, it can mandate purchase of these seeds by all growers? Impose penalties on heirloom seeds, or ban them? What about other agricultural inputs?
(See here for the shaky financial position of Monsanto. Pro-GMO Obama policy, tangibly accelerated right around the time Monsanto’s travails hit the papers, can already be seen as a Monsanto bailout. I’ll write more on this soon.)
2. Does this mean that if Congress decides that big box retailing is to be normative in the same way it has dictated for private health insurance, it can mandate shopping at Walmart and similar boxes (say, by having the IRS require receipts)? Can it penalize or ban independent retailers?
(See here for Walmart’s increasing market difficulties.)
Not for a moment do I mean for either of these examples to be taken as hyperbole or in any Swiftian sense. If the health racket mandate can be enacted, then both of these, and any number of comparable policies, would be enactable by the same logic. I have no doubt about the system’s will to enact any such policy, limited only by whatever political fears it may have.

March 23, 2012

Notes on Time Banking and Democratic Councils


Our time bank committee had a meeting last night. One of the topics we discussed was the possibility of the township becoming an organizational member, and an interchange of services between the time bank and the town. This people and town, like most others, is under some financial stress (not critically so, yet), and for that and other reasons there’s a shortage of, for example, people to staff town committees.
Right away we got into the issue of how this could be done to the enhanced benefit of both time bank and town, as opposed to the time bank simply helping the town carry out functions which taxes have already paid for. In other words, how to prevent the town government from just using the time bank, as opposed to the time bank strengthening itself and the community.
This resonated deeply with me, since I’ve long thought about how bottom-up democracy can gradually assume real responsibility, take on its rightful acclaim of legitimacy, and take power from the illegitimate state structures, and do all this without being hijacked along the way. In any revolutionary situation the key symptom to look for is the formation of citizen and worker councils, and their taking on real social functions like food distribution, sanitation, keeping the peace. There were some promising signs of this during the first stage of the Egyptian Revolution. (The fact that this first stage seems to have come to a temporary end with the cosmetic “regime change” doesn’t render those signs moot. It still proves the spontaneous skill of the people in ruling themselves.)
While we’re not yet in a revolutionary situation in America, we can still begin forming democratic councils now. These political units can serve as educational and organizational vehicles. In various ways we can seek to take on responsibilities which are allegedly the proper function of the state. But we must not do this by entering existing state structures as individuals, for example as individuals, who just happen to be time bank members, volunteering for a government committee.
Rather, we should optimally form our own committees which maintain their independence of existing structures. If we do take on existing government roles, we must do so as conscious agents of the community and the relocalization organization. We must then see ourselves as asserting the power of the people within this structure, and wherever necessary against it, rather than as being in some kind of “same boat” with it, let alone as good servants of it.
(I’ve discussed this before in my Basic Movement Strategy, #s 2, 3, 5.)
So, for example, a time bank which contemplates a cooperation with local government should have its own community action group dedicated to developing the right mindset toward government as such, toward the fact that local government has largely become the captive of upper-level governments, that local rule has largely been eviscerated as a matter of practice and of law, that while local Dems and Reps may not yet be complete criminals, their hierarchy is structurally dedicated to making them so, that the squeeze on local governments everywhere is on account of the corporate austerity onslaught, and that local governments will, in the end, perform the thug role slated for them if we let them. We must learn and become fully conscious of the fact that our future lies only with ourselves, only with our own self-generated, self-managed, self-ruled citizen democracy. Our current participation in government can only be toward that goal. The goal is always to publicly take on the function, be recognized as citizens organized outside and against the state structure, highlight the fraudulence and inefficacy of the existing structure, supplant it in action and in the minds of the people, be acclaimed as the truly legitimate democracy, and in the end to supplant it in the reality of power.
That’s a long way off, of course, but that’s what ran through my mind at the meeting. I was pleased to hear someone say, “the goal is to get some say in decision-making” (others were talking in terms of discounts at recreational facilities and such). I mentioned “dual power”. On the whole it was just a rudimentary discussion, but it’s good that right from the start everyone was at least interested in discussing issues of power, even if most of us weren’t consciously looking at it in those terms. Everyone was aware of a tension between time banking, whatever any one of us thinks that’s really supposed to be, and the existing government structure.
I look forward to more discussions along these lines.

February 9, 2012

Food Sovereignty, Raw Milk, and the Commerce Clause


I’ve written previously about the totalitarian implications of the central government’s commerce clause power.
To review, the government claims a prerogative to impose any and every kind of regulation and mandate upon so-called interstate commerce. “Interstate commerce” can mean any activity which crosses state lines, but it also means, according to SCOTUS rulings, any activity which by any stretch of the imagination could be said to affect this cross-border commerce.
Thus in the case of Wickard v. Filburn, among others, the court found for the government that not only selling something into the commerce stream, but withholding something from it, falls under the government’s power prerogative. This logic has recently been extended further. Since the passage of the health racket bailout, there have been several court challenges to the poll tax it imposes in the form of a mandate to buy worthless insurance policies. There have been conflicting decisions in the lower courts, but those who found for the rackets did so on the basis that the commerce clause power extends not just to activity withheld from the economy, but to inactivity, to mere existence itself.
We see how the term “totalitarian” is not hyperbole. According to the system’s laws, courts, and constitutional interpretations, there is literally nothing the government cannot order us to do or not to do under the commerce clause, as long as the activity or inactivity can by any stretch of the imagination be linked to the economy. Obviously, anything can be so linked.
(Of course commodification and globalization, chosen and imposed by government policy, render all activity “interstate”. We also see how the existence of the states themselves, which are for the most part arbitrary according to any geographic or political measure, is used to aggrandize central government power. Federalism was never anything but a scam. The goal from the 1788 start was centralized empire. So we see how the commerce clause was a ticking time bomb from day one. It’s now being exercised according to its full tyrannical logic.)
I’ve written before about how this weapon can be used against Food Sovereignty:

Revolving door corporate bureaucrats could issue fiats banning medicinal herbs or vitamin supplements, while requiring all growers right down to the backyard gardener to use any kind of synthetic fertilizer, pesticide or herbicide, hormone in an animal, or GMO seed. As always in this connection, let me remind the reader that if Obama’s health racket mandate is allowed to stand, that will provide another precedent for any and every corporate mandate. The exact same logic will allow the FDA or even the WTO to “constitutionally” force us to buy, for example, GMO seeds.

A more “conventional” use of the power, meanwhile, is the FDA’s claim that it can criminalize individual consumption of raw milk (that is, milk) if the citizen crosses one of these phony borders in the course of getting the milk.
Under pressure of direct action by the Raw Milk Freedom Riders, who have publicly and defiantly crossed state lines with their milk, the cowards at the FDA have announced, in all their elitist magnanimity, that they won’t seek to prosecute individual citizens for such acts, for now.
But the government continues the assault on dairy farmers, as in the persecution of Amish farmer Dan Allgyer for running a milk buying club, many of whose customers cross a bogus state line to get the milk. And this persecution in turn maintains the principle of total prerogative, as a federal judge just stipulated in a ruling permanently forbidding Allgyer to sell milk to any citizen whose “state” status is from outside Pennsylvania.
The judge stipulated that the FDA can and should prosecute individual citizens as well.

14 A provision of the FDCA, 21 U.S.C. § 321(b), defines “interstate commerce” to mean “(1) commerce between any State or Territory and any place outside thereof, and (2) commerce within the District of Columbia or within any other Territory not organized with a legislative body.” Courts have interpreted the purpose behind the FDCA’s interstate commerce regulation to be to “safeguard the consumer from the time the food is introduced into the channels of interstate commerce to the point that it is delivered to the ultimate consumer.” United States v. Wiesenfeld Warehouse Co., 376 U.S. 86, 92 (1964).

Thus, the purchase of raw milk by one who traveled between states to obtain it, or traveled between states before consuming it or sharing it with friends or family members, implicates “commerce between any State . . . and any place outside thereof,” see 21 U.S.C. § 321(b), “introduction of [raw milk] into the channels of interstate commerce” before delivery to an ultimate consumer, see Wiesenfeld Warehouse Co., 376 U.S. at 92, and “the interstate flow of goods” prior to delivery to an ultimate consumer, see United States v. Sullivan, 332 U.S. 689, 696 (1948). Such conduct plausibly involves “causing [raw milk] to be delivered into interstate commerce.” 21 C.F.R. § 1240.61.

So here we come back to the totalitarian commerce clause ideology.
We must be clear that this jurisprudence is not “radical” by the measure of the system courts. Few judges disagree with it at all, and those who do tend to do so only in partisan contexts. (Thus the judges who reject the health racket Stamp mandate tend to be Republican judges who have it in for Obamacare. But they don’t reject Wickard in principle.) The courts are loaded against the 99% and against any attempt by the people to take back our economies and polities. Needless to say, the same goes for the executive and legislative branches.
Trying to reform the system, or to beg for better outcomes within it, won’t work. We see the system’s terminally tyrannical and criminal intent. The commerce clause is just one example. If we want our freedom, our prosperity, our democracy, our citizenship, our human birthright, we’ll have to seize them ourselves. We’ll have to do so in spite of the system, in evasion of it and resistance to it, and where necessary in direct conflict with it.


November 11, 2011

Globalization, Home Schooling, and Democracy


Even where it comes to something which sounds benevolent like the Convention on the Rights of the Child, under kleptocracy we can guess the way it’ll really be used. Of course there’s some good things about it, such as bans on child trafficking, which are good where enforced. (Although even those are conceived in a way which avoids dealing with the real cause of things like the sex trade. It’s always the same corporate exploitation which drives people into that kind of desperate poverty.) But that’s not the real purpose of a treaty like this. That’s why I chose to write a post focusing on the malign uses to which even the most seemingly benevolent aspects of corporatism and globalization will inevitably be put. 
The basic rule for everything is to relocalize. So even if one granted, just for the sake of argument, good intentions on the part of the drafters and signors, an international treaty is in principle the wrong direction.
But we know never to grant these good intentions. In practice all international law is intended to serve the ends of corporate globalization and statism. It will be applied for this purpose, and ignored where it would counteract this purpose.
In this case it seems this Convention, since it insists on family rights, ought to support home schooling against corporate-school coercion. But in fact provisions of it are already being invoked by the state against home schoolers in England, Belgium, and elsewhere. Just like with every other aspect of globalization, this “treaty”, really a corporatist contract of adhesion, is a weapon of corporate war on the people. 
The basic rule: Never trust such things and never agree that they have authority over the people. My basic rule for all constitutions and treaties and so on is that they’re strictly binding on power structures, loosely or not at all binding on the people. If a national government chooses to dissolve its nominal authority in favor of an international code, then that government has simply abdicated, and we should deal with it as an illegitimate structure. But this does not mean the code has any authority over us. How can an abdicating structure bestow legitimacy upon another? When such a vestigial “government” then wants to use force on behalf of this alien code, that’s nothing but thug tyranny. 
As of 2009 this treaty had been ratified by every country except the US and Somalia. It’s not a surprise that Europe is more enthusiastic than the US. As I’ve discussed before, although for the moment I forget in which post, by now corporatism in the US has relegated globalization to a secondary role, in favor of directly using the US government as the preferred thug. This is because “pure” globalization has generated what from the corporate point of view is gratuitous opposition in the US. But the US as an administrative entity is centralized and homogenized enough that it wasn’t really necessary to dissolve US government pseudo-sovereignty in order to impose corporate rule. The government was already powerful and entrenched enough, while the system interpretation of the Constitution already seeks to dissolve all other levels of federalism.
But globalization has been more important for the Europeans, who needed to undermine the existing menagerie of polities, cultures, sovereignties, in order to achieve economic centralization. (Of course, they were only ever to partially achieve this. They achieved a monetary union but were had to stick with the dreaded “patchwork quilt” of fiscal policies still in the hands of rump countries. They’re been trying to dissolve fiscal policy independence by force, via “austerity”. But the euro and the EU itself are doomed, and good riddance.) 
So we know the context in which to place all internationalism, including even the best-sounding. Something like the Convention sounds good on paper, but no one ever intends to enforce it against economic coercion. Just like with everything else, no one assaults children more systematically and viciously than corporations, yet the few attempts to invoke treaties like this against globalization assaults have been laughed at and ignored. Nor was such a treaty ever intended to be used in such a way. Like with everything else, it’s meant to be used by the global power structure as a weapon against “rogue” countries, but to not exist in any meaningful way where it comes to members of the fraternity or their hired thugs.
That’s the common nature of all these things – freedom, government, law, rights, property, constitutions, democracy, public morality – they’re all intended to be used only as weapons on behalf of power. No one among the powerful considers any of these to have any meaning or value in itself. You invoke and apply them where convenient, distort or ignore them where convenient. It’s heads-I-win-tails-you-lose. The FDA’s peculiar notions of “science” and “precautions” are good examples of this double standard.
Just as we see with US “food safety” policy, which has nothing to do with safety and everything to do with empowering corporations and assaulting independent farmers, so the Convention on the Rights of the Child does nothing to protect children against their great corporate enemy, but will on the contrary assault them on behalf of those same corporations.
By contrast, home schooling and true community schooling are what are what true democracy advocates want. Anarchism means simply to oppose large, alien structures and to restore all power to the people at the natural, relocalized level on a true democratic basis. Although many have an aversion to the term, even many who ought to be friendly toward it, it’s really synonymous with democracy, meaning true participatory democracy, self-rule by natural communities.

November 6, 2011

How Do You Get An Occupation Event Going?

Filed under: Corporatism, Food and Farms, Freedom — Tags: , , — Russ @ 9:56 am


Wherever you are, of whatever sort?
The possibilities vary greatly, from urban to suburban to rural areas; the economic state of the region; the predominant politics and political conflicts; whether there’s an immediate proximate struggle which is part of broader structural issues; what forces could possibly be mustered for the action; whether those forces exist ready for action at the moment or if educational and organizational work is needed, and if so, what.
Someone I know wants to get an event going here in suburbia, but so far there’s been a disappointing response to feelers sent out to e-mail lists, and we’re mostly at the stage of casting about for a specific rationale. (Then there’ll be the nuts-and-bolts logistics of it, “permits” and such, but first we need to know we wouldn’t be “giving a demonstration and nobody came”.) There are several specific corporate assaults in this town, like a federally imposed pipeline (taxpayer money, federal thug enforcement including overriding of state law, “private” profiteering). It seems like people are mostly glum about things but not particularly ready to do anything about it. (I personally experience it as a foreign invasion.) There’s some other general swinishness going on. Verizon recently informed the town it would no longer pay taxes on its properties because it just dipped below a 50% market share, and some law allegedly exempts it from taxes if it doesn’t hold this majority share. The law actually means the opposite (though it does sound like a very stupid law to have written in the first place), but this is an example of something we’ve discussed previously, how corporations are increasingly simply refusing to pay bills and taxes and forcing creditors and governments to sue them. There’s also a flap over the municipal water authority, with privatization looming in the background. We know the record is 100% across the board – no matter what the public water utility was like, privatization always brings far more expensive water with worse services. That’s what’s happened everywhere privatization has won out.
So there’s a few examples of possible hooks upon which to hang a participation event. There’s also the broader question of the future of the town. For the moment it’s “legally” safe from further development, but that of course can change. The subdivision onslaught is just about economically spent anyway, but the barbarians of suburbia can still do lots of damage yet, even in a fairly short period of time. If we’re going to resist and overcome the vandals, we need a coherent plan of our own for the post-oil agricultural future of the area. Maybe an Occupation event could become a participatory assembly to discuss this future. Well, that’s a pretty far-out idea, but it could at least impress upon people the need for such a plan. So far as I know the only plans that exist still assume infinite growth. These are impossible, of course, but can still accomplish great destruction.
In the meantime, it sounds like lots of preparatory work needs to be done even before we can get a good turnout for an acute event. People need to be reminded of everything that’s happening, and have it all be presented as one big picture, with each specific feature placed in the big context. We also need an ongoing media project to keep people aware of all these things. We already have the building materials for that – websites, cadres, a base to build upon (although even this base seems lethargic at the moment). We just need to put it all together to function the right way, to generate its own energy.
So if the issue here is chronic, and people “aren’t ready” to come out for an acute Occupy event, that’ll have to be changed systematically. Of course, OWS itself seemed to be falling short on its first day, and even I thought it was fizzling out. So if we could get something started, who knows what kind of enthusiasm it might spontaneously call into being? 
So there I was talking about how to use existing forces to get an Occupy event going. And perhaps for the longer run we could use an Occupy event as a consciousness raiser and recruitment tool for the vaster arc of the general democratic movement. At our farmers’ market we have a dedicated space where a non-profit organization can set up a booth and engage in those two activities. So an Occupy event itself could serve the same purpose for any number of food, energy, transportation, health, education, political, and anti-corporate struggles. Just as these proximate struggles can be the rallying point for a broader occupation, so the Occupation can teach and recruit for the struggle.

September 28, 2011

The Food Movement Must Be the Food Sovereignty Movement


The other day I offered some basic criteria and priorities for the food freedom movement. To recap, these criteria were:
A. Food system resiliency; B. Public health; C. Economic democracy.
The movement imperatives:
1. Food for post-Peak Oil; 2. Socioeconomic reason and practicality; 3. Democracy and justice.
There’s some detail on these in the prior post, in more in countless previous posts. And I’ll be writing lots more on how these specifically infuse the food movement.
Today I’ll add Food Sovereignty as a core moral/political principle and objective, as the main form of true democracy itself. Where it comes to Food Sovereignty we don’t need to define it and lay out its principles as this has already been done in a seminal way by La Via Campesina.
Food Sovereignty is, as described here:

Food sovereignty is the right of peoples to healthy and culturally appropriate food produced through ecologically sound and sustainable methods, and their right to define their own food and agriculture systems. It puts those who produce, distribute and consume food at the heart of food systems and policies rather than the demands of markets and corporations. It defends the interests and inclusion of the next generation. It offers a strategy to resist and dismantle the current corporate trade and food regime, and directions for food, farming, pastoral and fisheries systems determined by local producers. Food sovereignty prioritizes local and national economies and markets and empowers peasant and family farmer-driven agriculture, artisanal fishing, pastoralist-led grazing, and food production, distribution and consumption based on environmental, social and economic sustainability. Food sovereignty promotes transparent trade that guarantees just income to all peoples and the rights of consumers to control their food and nutrition. It ensures that the rights to use and manage our lands, territories, waters, seeds, livestock and biodiversity are in the hands of those of us who produce food. Food sovereignty implies new social relations free of oppression and inequality between men and women, peoples, racial groups, social classes and generations.

The first sentence expresses both the physical and the democratic/moral priorities. These are bound together. We can assume that freedom and democracy would define their systems according to what’s most healthy and culturally appropriate. Democracy and socioeconomic equality are necessary for health, as we see with the way environmental and public health devastations are rationed according to (lack of) wealth.
Right now within Western countries what’s culturally appropriate isn’t easily definable in an affirmative way, but we know that the corporate assault is the assault on all culture and all possibility of culture. The only road to rediscovering human cultures is to rebuild human communities and economies. True democracy is a prerequisite for this, and perhaps shall help constitute the culture itself once freed of all the baggage of fraud and consumerist decadence it must now carry.
Putting producers and eaters at the heart of systems “rather than markets and corporations” implies the eradication of (non-local/regional) markets and corporations, since these and people are in a zero-sum war.
The invocation of the next generation emphasizes how we’re born in debt to ancestors and as trustees for descendents.
The specific practices emphasized are democratically normative, and the evidence proves they’re more productive than corporate agriculture as well.
Transparent trade is part of the principle that all trade must be bottom-up, based on actual demand, rather than imposed from the top down and based on non-existent or astroturfed “consumer” demand. “Trade” has become the tail that wags the dog. But food markets are, to an overwhelming extent, local and regional. That food production and distribution in general has been hijacked by the naturally miniscule commodification part of trade is one of the great practical depravities and moral abominations of history.
Socioeconomic inequality aggravates the other forms of conflict listed here, while breaking free of it to establish economic democracy shall provide the basis for the only lasting solution of these problems as well. (But as history has proven all other social problems are unsolvable under capitalism, which does all it can to perpetuate and worsen them.) 
As the manifesto says, all resource rights belong only to those who produce food, while those who eat have a right to healthy food. Given the totalitarian premises of the globalized corporate system, these self-evident truths are radical and implicitly revolutionary. But they’re really moderate and common sense from any human point of view.
I’ve written before about Via Campesina’s Seven Principles of Food Sovereignty. I discussed how a basic movement strategy relates to them, and how they could be part of the philosophical basis of a constitution. Today I’ll revisit them to relate them to the three criteria and food imperatives.

1. Food: A Basic Human Right. Everyone must have access to safe, nutritious and culturally appropriate food in sufficient quantity and quality to sustain a healthy life with full human dignity. Each nation should declare that access to food is a constitutional right and guarantee the development of the primary sector to ensure the concrete realization of this fundamental right.

2. Agrarian Reform. A genuine agrarian reform is necessary which gives landless and farming people – especially women – ownership and control of the land they work and returns territories to indigenous peoples. The right to land must be free of discrimination on the basis of gender, religion, race, social class or ideology; the land belongs to those who work it.

3. Protecting Natural Resources. Food Sovereignty entails the sustainable care and use of natural resources, especially land, water, and seeds and livestock breeds. The people who work the land must have the right to practice sustainable management of natural resources and to conserve biodiversity free of restrictive intellectual property rights. This can only be done from a sound economic basis with security of tenure, healthy soils and reduced use of agro-chemicals.

4. Reorganizing Food Trade. Food is first and foremost a source of nutrition and only secondarily an item of trade. National agricultural policies must prioritize production for domestic consumption and food self-sufficiency. Food imports must not displace local production nor depress prices.

5. Ending the Globalization of Hunger. Food Sovereignty is undermined by multilateral institutions and by speculative capital. The growing control of multinational corporations over agricultural policies has been facilitated by the economic policies of multilateral organizations such as the WTO, World Bank and the IMF. Regulation and taxation of speculative capital and a strictly enforced Code of Conduct for TNCs is therefore needed.

6. Social Peace. Everyone has the right to be free from violence. Food must not be used as a weapon. Increasing levels of poverty and marginalization in the countryside, along with the growing oppression of ethnic minorities and indigenous populations, aggravate situations of injustice and hopelessness. The ongoing displacement, forced urbanization, repression and increasing incidence of racism of smallholder farmers cannot be tolerated.

7. Democratic control. Smallholder farmers must have direct input into formulating agricultural policies at all levels. The United Nations and related organizations will have to undergo a process of democratization to enable this to become a reality. Everyone has the right to honest, accurate information and open and democratic decision-making. These rights form the basis of good governance, accountability and equal participation in economic, political and social life, free from all forms of discrimination. Rural women, in particular, must be granted direct and active decision-making on food and rural issues.

1. Food as a Basic Human Right emphasizes sustaining a healthy life with full human dignity. This is impossible without a food system truly dedicated to public health, as well as to economic and democratic justice. The language of rights, if it’s not to be mere ornamentation for the oppressive state, has to refer only to the soil-driven citizen seizure and self-enforcement of the right, as the practice of true democracy itself. The same applies to all the demands of these Principles.
2. The call for Agrarian Reform, for ownership and control of the land to be free of social and ideological discrimination (including the propertarian ideology) is implicitly the demand for full economic democracy. “The land belongs to those who work it”. Can economic democracy be better crystallized than this?
3. The sustainable care and use of Natural Resources goes to the core of how Food Sovereignty is the only concept capable of facing the physical challenges of the end of the Oil Age and building a new resiliency for food production and distribution. Both of these are doomed in their fossil fueled incarnations, perhaps soon and catastrophically. The same applies to the synthetically zombified soil the synthetic arms race of pesticide vs. superbug, herbicide vs. superweed, and the whole monocrop regime which renders all of agriculture one big hothouse flower soon to be exposed to chill winds. GMOs have radically intensified this lack of robustness and resiliency. Food Sovereignty rules out all of these.
4. “Food is first and foremost a source of nutrition and only secondarily an item of trade.” This demand to Reorganize the Food Trade goes to the core of the entire relocalization movement, confirming its physical and democratic imperatives while attacking the core of globalization, its alleged efficiency and its immorality. The priorities of food as nutrition and self-sufficiency as a basic political/economic criterion seek to solve the physical energy and social justice crises simultaneously.
5. Ending the Globalization of Hunger is the most reformist Principle. Given the existence of speculative capital, we demand its regulation and taxation. But the existence of globalization and speculative capital is already implicitly ruled out by the other Principles.
6. As the call for Social Peace recognizes, food commodification is violence in every way, from the most brutally literal to the most sublimated in the “five sovereign fingers” wielding the “treaty” pen. The ongoing displacement and forced urbanization represent both environmental and socioeconomic violence. A shantytown is embodied violence. “Food must not be used as a weapon”. This means the food movement must fight for its socioeconomic, democratic, and moral imperatives. Public health shall also remain impossible until the rancid separation of city and country is transcended.
7. The demand for Democratic Control, for smallholder farmers having direct democratic input, speaks for itself. I’ll add one critical implication. We know that true democracy is impossible in the form of “input” given to processes run by top-down elites. Rather, the process must run itself from the soil up and requires no special input, as it’s expressed and enacted naturally by the people on the ground. We also know that smallholder farmers need no levels above themselves to force them to farm a certain way, and do far better (all people do far better) in the absence of such hierarchy. So this Principle is really a call for Full, True Democratic Control.
For each of those I emphasized one or more of the movement criteria and imperatives, but I could have linked any of these with almost any other, they’re so interwound.
I avow the basic Food Sovereignty manifesto and these Seven Principles. I think we must avow and apply them not just in the Global South but in America and the West as well. To the extent that our future shall exist as an identity at all, we’re becoming these same beleaguered peasants. So I propose that food movement participants and supporters adopt this term, its concepts, and avow Via Campesina’s principles, although the strategy and tactics will have to be adapted to regional circumstances. We can formulate our own specifics out of what it directs and implies. This will be part of honing the sharpness of the so far often vague and conflict “global food movement”.

August 27, 2011

Time Dollars vs. Command Money (2 of 2)


This continues my description (part one here) of the ills of command money, how relocalization and time dollars (T$) can solve these problems and replace them with a humanly beneficial order, and how T$ can help foster relocalization itself.
4. Money is “egalitarian”, and not in a good way (though corporate liberals and conservatives often try to confound money’s freedom and human freedom, when the two are practically antitheses). This false egalitarianism of elites is summed up with the phrase, “one dollar, one vote”, and this is the election which acts so ruthlessly to diminish the quality of our lives every day. Cahn uses the example of how children have to compete with money-making for their parents’ attention, and lose. This negative egalitarianism manifests everywhere in every kind of race to the bottom. The chasing after money undermines family, community, democracy, as we simply lack time for them (at best), and at worst have our characters corroded by it as well, like with any other harmful addiction.
Money is also inherently anti-labor, since it necessarily privileges capital over labor. Everywhere it seeks its own aggrandizement. Financialization was not some exotic invention, but is inherent in the logic of money itself.
Perhaps nothing is more insulting to human dignity than the forms of freedom without the reality, rendering the forms a mockery. Unless we have equality and freedom in active reality, they don’t exist. C-P and T$ are truly egalitarian in reality. Even in their reformist manifestation they declare capital and labor to be equal. In principle they declare all hours of work to be equal, and reject the measure of the unequal dollars those hours can or cannot extract from the market. 
In their full practice, they’ll not only reject the marketplace but supersede it, and “co”-production shall become just plain production on a fully democratic basis.
We don’t need command money. T$ would make for a far more productive labor force, as there would no longer be ratholes, rents, parasite extractions. T$ would empower the democratic elitism of decency over the crackpot egalitarianism of money.
By stripping money of its power T$ also subvert globalism and assist relocalization.
5. The real goal of the “invisible hand” (really the easily visible hand of the corporatist command economy) of price is to generate scarcity out of plenty in order to extract extortionate rents from this scarcity. Price seeks to extend this artificial scarcity to everything it can. Food, water, clean air, shelter, farmland, education, even human values like community involvement and helping others – all have been corporatized or are targets for this corporatization.
Cahn repeats the lie, “Price brings supply into line with demand”. What really happens is that coercive power controls supply to manipulate price. (And “demand” is defined as merely being able and willing to pay the extortionate price.)
We don’t need or want pricing which emphasizes artificial scarcity. Our emphasis must be on abundance. With T$, value is measured by real benefit. T$ attack and subvert rationing by price (i.e. by money wealth). All hours are equal. Our compensation includes building a community which shall bring the greatest prosperity to all and the enrichment of our humanity.
6. Money is often called “efficient”, but it’s really efficient only from the point of view of criminal extraction. The price mechanism systematically omits negative externalities, the cost of a massively bloated support system which does nothing but uphold the system, all the costs of civil destruction and inequality. At the same time money price elides the accounting for these, it also systemically aggravates them.
This “efficiency” is inefficient in any true sense. It, like all other normative claims made for money, is “good” only from the criminal class war perspective. But we the people would be better off without money’s version of efficiency.
We want and need efficiency according to the true goods of freedom, equality, justice, friendship, family, community, democracy. What’s efficient toward maximizing these is truly efficient in every sense, since the society which values these will be the most productive society in every practical sense as well.
T$ are truly efficient in upholding these human values, as well as toward the more strict types of efficiency such as resiliency, robustness, system redundancy, self-sufficiency of nodes and decentralization amid those nodes. Relocalization = real efficiency, and T$ shall help render all things more humanly efficient.
7. The fact that money’s main action is to make more money is the driver of the finance tyranny. Thanks to command money, 80-90% of transactions have no actual value, but are purely financial. Every one of these financialized transactions is, however, a theft from human beings who produce real value. Money, and the parasites who manipulate it, is cancer.
We don’t need this worthless and destructive thing. Would anyone claim we need cancer? Or want it? We’d be better off without it.
We must value only real work. T$ will purge all the “secondary modes of exploitation” (Marx), which are the main ones we face today. They’ll allow no interest, no usury, no commodification rents, and can be used only for constructive purposes. They’re inflation and deflation proof. An hour remains always an hour, and anyone able and willing to work always has time to give. Recessions and depressions would be impossible with T$, since no artificial money barriers would stand between the workers and the work. All anyone would need to do is fill the time with work, and the work would be done.
Relocalization will of necessity value real work over parasitism and theft, since the true economy will be based upon this work and depend on it. Since T$ naturally drive toward this effect, T$ and relocalization shall act in mutually enhancing tandem.
8. The government, legal system, bureaucratic and professional structures, etc. have a pro-profiteering bias. Therefore the contractual enforceability touted for command money is also biased against the people.
Even prior to the full development of kleptocracy, the system generally had a heads-I-win-tails-you-lose functioning wherever corporations and concentrated money went up against individuals, small groups, or the public interest.
We don’t need this kind of “law” and “contract” which is applicable only to an anti-human (and Oil Age) system. It’s anachronistic and predatory. We’ll be better off without it.
C-P and T$ shall work toward rebuilding a community network of mutual obligation where your word is your bond, and what goes around truly does come around, for good or ill. T$ themselves are no legal contract. They constitute a moral obligation in an environment where morality and one’s word matter. This is an environment radically different from that of the system, where nothing but money matters, and one can violate every precept of morality and break one’s word at risk of nothing more than a nominal money penalty (and often not even that).
If you want a human community, which would you rather rely on, top-down law or bottom-up community morality? In a human community, community-enforced obligations are part of the social bonding. “Debt” itself exists as a social bond, not as the class war meat-grinder it’s become.
Relocalization must emphasize social obligation and morality over formalized law, as the former are the glue of community, while the latter necessarily tends toward bigger, artificial, synthetic groupings, and seeks to dissolve community mores themselves.
We need to dissolve system structures and replace them with new mores.
9. Where money is the measure of value, the real economy is enslaved by a fake one of dollars, stocks, financial “products”, useless wealth hoards, parasitic and predatory power.
This measure of “value” doesn’t measure value. We don’t need it. We’re better off without it.
Only real assets have value. To distill it further, only people have value. The Kantian morality, that people must always be only ends in themselves, never means toward an end, is mutually exclusive with money, under which people can never be anything but means.
(And yet, as Cahn says, “money would have no meaning in a world denuded of people”. So what does it mean that people, i.e. their labor, their community, their very humanity, are being liquidated? We see how this subhuman force cannibalizes itself.)
Where we organize our economies according to cooperation and social credit, it becomes impossible for nonexistent or worthless and destructive things to be valued. T$ will organize the true economy on a true value basis.
Under money, “work” is defined as having a paying job. This work is subject to the most viciously imposed scarcity of all. The result is tremendous suffering, pain, stress, unhappiness, waste, inefficiency, lost productivity, neglect, destruction, nihilism.
With T$, all are workers at will, all are employed, all have jobs, all contribute equally and benefit equally. The result shall be the greatest good for all working people and all democratic citizens.
We’ll revitalize our families, friendships, communities, societies, democracies. Productive, fulfilling work and citizenship shall be the true centers of our human being, and all human values and institutions shall fruitfully ramify from them.
Co-production and time banking shall be tools of our progress toward this great democratic goal. They’ll negatively help us break free of the pathologies of command money, and affirmatively help us build new networks of mutual obligation and benefit. This is part of the practice, how we’ll actually do all this.
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