Monday, June 28, 2010


Fired up and ready to go: Friday at the US Social Forum

by John Hill

Venezuelan democracy

I start out at a workshop on building the democracy movement in the US. This is another good one. The panel includes an indigenous woman from Venezuela. She talks about the Venezuelan experience with democracy and how peoples’ assemblies in Venezuela have been influential in bringing about a different kind of society, one in which there is a minister of indigenous affairs and the president is accessible to the people. She talks about how the United States has a false democracy and how a country whose own house is in a state of chaos cannot really help other countries.

An Alaskan Native American at the workshop talks passionately about the ongoing assault against Alaskan Indians’ way of life, and the woman (whose name is buried in a giant stack of papers in my suitcase) makes a connection with this Alaskan and says she might be able to help by telling him about her own experience.

Granny D

Another panelist is John Bonifaz, of Free Speech for His group is working for “a constitutional amendment that puts people ahead of corporations.”

Bonifaz closes his remarks by attempting to refute a participant’s suggestion that the passage of such an amendment would have “a snowball’s chance in hell” by relating the following anecdote.

Granny D, the late democracy activist, decided that campaign finance reform was so important that she walked across the country as a way to dramatize its necessity. She took this walk at age 89. Bonifaz says that during Granny D’s life, nine constitutional amendments passed.

Corporations are not people

After lunch, I attend the Move to Amend Coalition ( people’s movement assembly. Move to Amend is a coalition working for constitutional amendments that would end the status of corporations as “artificial persons.” This status was given to them as the result of an 1886 Supreme Court decision. The effect of the decision was to allow corporations, masquerading as people, to claim rights properly reserved for actual people under the first, fourth, fifth, and fourteenth amendments. Hundreds if not thousands of local, state, and federal laws that attempt to protect our elections, safety, health, environment, and right to organize have been overturned as a result of this doctrine.

The assembly is attended by about 50 activists from all over the country. It is well-organized, well-facilitated, effective, and crackling with energy. Youth is pretty well represented (people of color are not, and this shows that our still-young movement has not demonstrated to groups working on issues of concern to people of color that democracy organizing is relevant to their organizing).

There is a guy there that I saw at an earlier workshop. I had him pegged as a worn out naysayer. By the end of our workshop he is transformed. He walks up to me. He’s beaming. He says he hasn’t seen this kind of energy in years. He’s fired up. He’s ready to go.

John Hill has been an organizer, fundraiser, and activist working on many issues of social justice. Also a singer, songwriter, and musician, he now works to end corporate rule in the United States and to establish government of the people, by the people, for the people.

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