Speech written by Chuck Turner to be read at a May Day Rally
Brothers and Sisters,
Unfortunately, I can not be with you today. I am in the 14 th month of a 36 month sentence at Hazelton Federal Penitentiary based on a scheme by former U.S. Attorney Michael Sullivan to advance his career. Sullivan is now managing partner of the Boston office of the Ashcroft Group, a consulting firm owned by John Ashcroft former US Attorney General under George Bush but that is a conversation for another day. I appreciate and welcome the opportunity on May Day 2012 to share with you my thoughts. However, rather than focusing on the issue of the terrorism being being perpetrated on the undocumented workers of this country or the millions who are unemployed or have never been employed, I want to share with you some thoughts I have been having on the question: ”Now that the ‘Occupy Movement’ has created an awakening, what’s to be done?” The workers of this country, the 99%, are indebted to the young people and older people who decided that action rather than talk was necessary and went into the streets of this nation with their message that the political economy of this country is being operated for the benefit of the few-the 1%-to the detriment of the many–the 99%.
However, as I said before “Now that there is a recognition of the imbalance of wealth and power and its devastating effect on the people of this country, what do we do?” The first step I believe is to be clear about the roots of this imbalance of wealth and power. The answer I believe is clear. If we had some magical power to bring to life the “Founders Fathers” who wrote the Constitution and ask them their view of the power of the 1%, I believe that with one voice without hesitation they would say in the immortal words of George Bush “Mission Accomplished”.
We are taught in school that the “Founding Fathers” through the Constitution created a democracy but that is a lie. The dictionary defines a democracy as a form of government where the power is derived from the people of the country. However, the only people who could vote to ratify the constitution and the only people who could vote in elections after the Constitution was ratified were those who were rich, male, and white. Not only were the African slaves and the Native Americans excluded from citizenship in this so called democracy but so were white males without property and white females. The reality is that the Constitution created an oligarchy, government where the few–the 1%-controlled the many–the 99%.
A close reading of the history shows that the Constitutional Convention in 1786 was called almost immediately after former Revolutionary War soldiers and other whites in the western part of this state attacked the armory in Springfield to get arms to free their neighbors who had been put in jail because of their debts. Shea’s Rebellion was in fact the first American protest of the power of the 1%. One of the main reasons that the Constitutional Convention was called was the belief by the majority of the 1% that they had to create a standing national army that could put down rebellions by those who dared to challenge their power.
A close examination of American history will show that while voting rights have been extended, the 1% has never given up their economic power and have used that power to control the local, state, and national government. The Civil War gives us a clear example of how the extension of voting rights was not followed by an extension of economic power and justice. Despite the public focus on the issue of slavery, the underlying cause of the Civil War was the struggle between the 1% of the North, the industrialists, and the 1% of the South, the plantation owners, to control the American political economy.
While the victory of the industrialists led to voting rights for male African-Americans in 1865, 13 years later, a Republican President Rutherford Hayes withdrew the federal troops from the South allowing the slave owners to regain control of the South leading to the maintenance of a system of neo slavery in the South until the Voting Rights Act of 1965. There are countless other examples of the reality that while voting rights have been broadened and different factions of the 1% have fought each other from time to time, the one percent has kept the economic power in their hands throughout the history of the country. How else can you explain the reality that the workers of this country have fewer economic rights than in any other western nation.
The study of history creates the base of knowledge necessary to guide the creation of the future. Thus, this brief historical survey leads us back to the question–”Now that there is the beginning of an acknowledgement of the power and control of the American oligarchy–the 1% percent, what are we going to do to bring the 99% to power”. Our first step, I believe is to recognize that the struggle to bring political and economic justice to this country will be a protracted one that will extend into the foreseeable future. The power and control of the 1% has been built over a period of 223 years. We are not going to transform America into a political and economic democracy in a year or two or even five or ten. Our objective has to be to lay the foundation for our children and their children’s children to build upon in order to transform our vision into their reality.
Our second step is to be clear about what it is we are struggling to achieve. As the old saying goes, “How are you going to know when you get there, if you don’t know where you are going”. While our day to day struggles focus on particular issues to lessen the pain and improve the quality of life of the 99%, the struggle to transform and transmute the nature of American life and political economy must be guided by the principle that America will only be transformed and transmuted as we transform and transmute ourselves. If the power of the democracy is derived from the people, then the strength of the democracy must be derived from the people of the democracy embodying its values and strengths.
Thus our struggle can not just be about better housing, better health care, better education. Our struggle has to focus on building the principles necessary for a healthy functioning political and economic country into the daily life practices of the people of the country. The time is over when we should look our leaders, whoever they may be, to create the good life for us. It is time for us, the 99%, the workers of this country to demonstrate our understanding that the country that we want has to be built by us. The 1% is not going to build the society or political economy that we want and need. How could they? They only understand their own needs and desires. We have to do it for ourselves.
We must build communities of people committed to embodying in our daily lives a set of principles essential not only for ourselves but also our community, country, and planet. What are these principles? That is for us to decide based on our own beliefs. However, let me start the dialogue by sharing mine. While there are a myriad of principles within my belief system to choose from, let me share the three that I believe are essential to human life, individual and collective:
1) We must value every human being based on the fact that within each of us is the potential for divine creativity;
2) We must take responsibility for the creation and maintenance of our own life and the environment in which we live; and
3) We must cooperate on every level of life, particularly the political and economic, with our fellow human beings in the creation of a society that fosters the highest quality of life for all.
These are my principles, my set of core values that I believe should be the basis of the America that it is our responsibility to recreate. However, my value perspective makes it clear that it is not enough to focus on my values, I have to take into consideration the values of those who share my commitment to build the new world. Thus my question is “What are your core values?” How can we judge our progress in building a new world if we haven’t agreed upon principles/values of the world we need to build?
When we have developed a set of agreed upon values as well as a strategy and plan to implement them, we will have built the framework of a movement to build our future rather than protest what presently exists. Obviously, there is a need for substance to be built into the framework of history and vision that I have shared. At least I have given you a glimpse of the my vision of the future. By focusing on a vision of the future, I am not ignoring the need to fight back against the havoc that the system is creating around us and upon us every day. However, as someone once said, “Without a vision, the people perish”. I eagerly await my return to Boston and my joining the dialogue on the question of where do we go from here.
Until then, I leave you with the thought, “Let Justice, Peace, and Economic Cooperation Occupy the Earth.”