Back to School

The American revolutionaries did not go to court to ask the court if the revolution was legal. Suffragists did not ask a court if their right to vote was legal. Striking workers did not ask a court if their sitting down or walking out on the job was legal.

Movements drive rights into law.

What happens when a corporation can invalidate a democratic election? Fascism. That’s what fascism is, after all – rule by corporate interests. Fascism is not about totalitarian, militaristic government. That’s an outgrowth and readjustment of the term. The original meaning of fascism is rule by corporation. And when a corporation can invalidate a local community’s will expressed in free elections, then there is no more clear example of fascism.

This is what happened in St. Thomas Township, PA.

I first learned about the case of Friends and Residents of St. Thomas Township vs. St. Thomas Development Corporation when I attended Democracy School at Boston College in February 25-28, 2005, taught by the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund, sponsored by Center for Democracy and the Constitution.

Among the required reading for that weekend was Sins of the Fathers: How Corporations Use the Constitution and Environmental Law to Plunder Communities and Nature by Thomas Linzey, who was one of the instructors for the weekend. (see also the model brief to eliminate corporate rights by Linzey and others)

One of my favorite terms from that weekend was “the begulatory system.” Regulatory systems related to government agencies do not work for us, the citizenry, to protect us and our rights. They work mostly for corporate interests, so that those interests know how much damage is allowable, how much poison is okay, how much pollution is acceptable. That’s far different from working to make things safe. We the citizenry have to petition, say the EPA and ask that Water Polluting Corporation reduce the amount of sludge they dump into the river so that said amount meets the acceptable standard. How much sludge is acceptable? Shouldn’t it be zero? Yet we have to beg the EPA to make Water Polluting Corporation to reduce the sludge. Hence, begulatory system.

How to end the fascism and the begulation? End corporate personhood. Corporations begand legal persons under the law in a 1886 case Santa Clara County vs. Southern Pacific Railroad Company. Interestingly enough corporate personhood was created under the 14th Amendment, forbidding a state to deny personhood to any person under its jurisdiction. The intent was to recognize former slaves as persons. Which sets up this interesting contradiction:

The doctrine of corporate personhood creates an interesting legal contradiction. The corporation is owned by its shareholders and is therefore their property. If it is also a legal person, then it is a person owned by others and thus exists in a condition of slavery — a status explicitly forbidden by the Thirteenth Amendment to the Constitution. So is a corporation a person illegally held in servitude by its shareholders? Or is it a person who enjoys the rights of personhood that take precedence over the presumed ownership rights of its shareholders? So far as I have been able to determine, this contradiction has not been directly addressed by the courts. (http://www.ratical.org/corporations/SCvSPR1886.html)

Here is an introductory video to Democracy School:

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