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Creating the New Boston, Designed to Include Us All

Reflections from Behind the Wall

Reflection 2: Building the Concept and Practice of Economic Justice and Economic Democracy (Democratic Worker Ownership) into the American System of Governance and Economics

My objective in this reflection is to present my vision for developing a movement at the local and national level capable of laying the foundation for building a movement focused on economic justice and economic democracy. However, before discussing my vision, it's essential to examine the historical roots of the governance and economic system of our country as well as the democratic liberal theory of 17th and 18th century England that undergirded their development and the effect of that system on today's economic life.

If we don't understand the roots of our system, we can't understand the structural mechanics of today's economic injustices and inequalities. If we don't understand the key factors beyond greed that cause the injustice and inequality in our system, how can we retool the engine so that that the system takes us, the people of this country, in the direction that we want and need to go. In other words, we have to understand the roots of the illness that plagues our governance and economic system, before that system can be restored to health.

Once we understand the cause of the illness, we can begin to take the action necessary to restore health. Since I believe economic democracy is the elixir of life for our economic system and the economic system of the world, it is important to understand what it is and how it's practiced in order to use it as a remedy for the illness plaguing our economic system. We will also briefly examine worker ownership, the bridge between capitalism and economic democracy.

A) Historical Roots of System:

I understand the American reverence for and celebration of the Constitution. However, our educational system and culture does a disservice to the American people by ignoring the fact that in addition to legitimizing slavery and the oppression of Native Americans, the Constitution was the legal foundation for establishing an oligarchy, not a democracy.

Democracy is defined as a government in which the people hold the ruling power directly or through representatives. An oligarchy is defined as a form of government in which the decision making power is in the hands of a few. Since only white men of property could vote in America when founded, this country was clearly established as an oligarchy, controlled by the 1% and their allies.

Our children need to be taught that our country was founded on the principle that those with economic power had the right to control those who did not possess that power---property. Americans need to grow up knowing the true objectives of the "founding fathers". If we recognize that their objectives were to maximize their power and control of the resources of the country, perhaps we would be better prepared to build a political and economic democracy within this country.

Our children are taught that the Bill of Rights is a symbol of the "founding fathers'" ' concern that the liberties, the civil rights of the people of the country be protected from governmental abuse. They aren't taught that the Bill of Rights was an afterthought and that if Madison and others hadn't protested there wouldn't be a Bill of Rights. They also aren't taught that economic rights for the people of the country were not even considered.

I will admit that universal suffrage was extended to white men by the 1820s. Nevertheless, without an extension of economic rights, their economic inequality remained the same. However, the availability of land meant that those who were dissatisfied with the economic inequality could move west and secure land for themselves. This would not make them part of the one percent but they would be property owners.

However, by the early 1900s, the availability of land for those dissatisfied with their economic inequality had ended. The primary means to earn a living if you weren't a professional, had a craft, or possessed the capital to start a business was to take a job in the expanding industrial economy being built by the 1%. The violent clashes that took place between workers and their bosses, the agents of the 1%, clearly showed the workers' sense of economic injustice.

It was also clear that despite the fact that workers could vote, the government was aiding the 1% in the maintenance and strengthening of their ability to pay the workers whatever they chose. Thus by the early 1900 the nature of our system was clear. We had a democratic political system with an oligarchic economy where the 1% controlled the 99%. It was a system of wage slavery.

While union organizing strengthened labor's power in the 30s, by the 70s the 1% began to break their power by moving their production operations overseas to avoid union wages. Since Reagan's election in 1980 and his breaking of the strike by the air traffic controllers, organized labor has been continually losing power. Today only 8% of private industry is unionized and only 11% of the total labor force is unionized.

Since organized labor's power is minimal, wages are stagnant, and corporate profits are soaring, what are the conservative spin masters talking about when they hail the great American freedom. How free are we in this country, if the average worker can't get a fair return on his or her labor. What are our political leaders talking about when they proclaim our responsibility to spread the freedom and rights of the democratic system throughout the world. What's are they talking about.

B) Theoretical Roots of the System:

In my preview of this reflection I said that University of Toronto Professor C.B. Mac Pherson's book of essays, "Democratic Theory" (1972) was extraordinarily helpful in my understanding how the conservatives can talk of freedom when it is obvious that the workers of America are virtually slaves in terms of the 1%'s ability to control their economic lives. Mac Pherson traces the roots of the confusion back to the development of capitalism in Britain and Europe in the 1600s when the myth of the "free market" was developed by Locke, Hobbes, Mills, Bentham, and other political theorists.

The democratic liberal theory was that in the capitalist market an uncoerced, free negotiation took place between the owners of labor, the worker, and the owner of capital and land, the 1%. This obviously was a myth since the worker then as now had no alternative means of working and therefore was effectively forced to accept whatever the agent of the 1% was willing to pay.

This myth of worker freedom continues today despite evidence to the contrary. As MacPherson, says in "Maximization of Democracy":

"....what is being claimed here is simply that the liberal-democratic society does provide the maximum freedom to each to use and develop what natural capacities he has.

"The difficulty in this claim lies...... in the facts that the liberal-democratic society is a capitalist market society, and that the latter by its very nature compels a continual net transfer of part of the power of some men to others, thus diminishing rather than maximizing the equal individual freedom to use and develop one's natural capacities which is claimed.

"It is easy to see how this comes about. The capitalist market society operates necessarily by a continual and ubiquitous exchange of individual power. Most men sell the use of their energy and skill on the market, in exchange for the product or the use of others' energy and skills. They must do so, for they do not own or control enough capital or other resources to work on, it being the nature of a capitalist society that the capital and other resources are owned by relatively few, who are not responsible (to the whole society or any section of it) for anything except the endeavor to increase their capital. The more they increase their capital, the more control they have over the terms on which those without capital may have access to it. Capital and other material resources are the indispensable means of labour: without access to them one cannot use one's skill and energy in the first business of life, which is to get a living, nor, therefore in the real business of life, which (on second view of the essence of man) is to enjoy and develop one's powers."

I have quoted this passage at length because of the accurate and compelling picture of the human dilemma of the worker in the capitalist system. In the absence of the means of labor (capital and land) In order to provide "...the first business of life, which is to get a living...", he transfers his labor to the owner of capital for a price determined by the owner since he doesn't have an alternative.

The worker's freedom vanishes once he enters the factory (market) to "negotiate". The owner of capital (money and or land) knows that the worker has no real alternative because the other owners of capital are equally exploitive. Therefore, he knows that he can pay the worker whatever he chooses regardless of the value that the worker will create. Yet, regardless of what he pays the worker, he owns the product of the worker's labor.

Since the worker's capacity to create through labor is h/er human essence, conceptually in a capitalist system, the worker sells his soul to make a living. Capitalism is morally incompatible with the modern concept of democracy based on that reality. The theory promoted by those who want to carry this system around the world is that democratic capitalism not only provides wealth for all but also provides the environment for the full development of the human being. Obviously it can't do that since it is a system where the workers have to sell their creativity to make a living.

Given the obvious flaws in the myth of worker freedom in the capitalist market system, why is the myth still flaunted and accepted as a reality rather than labeled as the fraud and deception that it is. MacPherson in "The Deceptive Task of Political Theory" again comes to the rescue by explaining how the mythology has been maintained:

"What then, to come to the title of the paper, is the deceptive task of political theory? A thorough inquiry along the lines sketched here might, I think, show that the task of political theory for something like the last hundred years has been necessarily self-deception. I am suggesting that, setting aside the mere propagandists, as outside the range of our central concern here, the solid political theorists in the liberal tradition have been compelled to deceive themselves...."

As an example of the self-deception by noted academics, in "Elegant Tombstones, A Note on Friedman's Freedom", MacPherson critiques of "Freedom and Capitalism" (1962) written by Nobel prize winning, University of Chicago economics professor Milton Friedman. In challenging Friedman's comparison of the freedom of a worker in the capitalist economy to the freedom of a worker/producer in an exchange (barter) economy, he says,

"What distinguishes the capitalist economy from the simple exchange economy is the separation of labour and capital, that is, the existence of a labour force without its own sufficient capital and therefore without a choice as to whether to put in labour in the market or not. Professor Friedman would agree that where there is no choice, there is coercion. His attempted demonstration that capitalism co-ordinates without coercion therefore fails."

Let me conclude my examination of the flaws in the liberal democratic justification of the capitalist market system with Nac Pherson's critique of the theory's fundamental defense of the equality of workers' control of their labor with the 1%'s ownership of capital and labor ("A Political Theory of Property"):

"It was very well for Locke and subsequent liberal theorists to suggest that a man's labour was his most important property: the fact was that the value of a man's labour was zero if he had no access to land or capital. The value of the property in one's labour depended on one's access to the means of labour owned by others. It has been so ever since the predominance of the market system. It still is so. One's main property is still, for most men, one's right of access to the means of labour."

C) Effects of the System:

Thus, the problem of American workers and workers throughout the capitalist world is not just the greed of the 1% and their allies. The problem the workers face in a capitalist economy is the absence of an alternative means of labor. Therefore, the 1% have virtual total control of not only the wages of the worker but also whether there is work. If the 1% doesn't invest in the economy to create jobs to employ the American work force, there will be no means of earning a living.

Through their political power, the 1% has been able to prevent the American working class from developing a strong legal framework to protect their right to organize, to unionize. Consequently, we have the weakest labor laws in the western world. Therefore, workers wages have been stagnant for decades while profits continue to rise. In addition, while workers struggle to find jobs in a stagnant economy, corporations have $1.7 trillion dollars sitting in their U.S. accounts and $21 trillion in overseas accounts.

The dominant position of the 1%'s capital in a free market economy and the resulting economic injustice experienced by the American worker is clearly illustrated by what the 1% call the "free movement of capital". Since the 1970s, the American workers have watched companies which their labor built move their production facilities overseas to secure cheaper labor costs. At the same time, their allies in Congress not only have done nothing to retard the flight of jobs but also have Swiss cheesed the US tax code to enable the corporations to avoid paying taxes on their overseas operations (as well as American operations).

Apple Inc., this country' most profitable technological corporation is an example of the corporate use of overseas operations to avoid American workers and American taxes. Apple is the world's most valuable corporation. Sixty one percent of its total revenue last year came from its overseas' operation. In addition, it is holding $102 billion dollars in offshore banks.

On Tuesday, May 21st, Timothy Cook, Apple Inc. CEO appeared before the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations to respond to the Subcommittee's concern that between 2009 and 2012 Apple kept $76 billion overseas in "tax shelters" established in Ireland to avoid paying U.S. taxes. Investigators estimate that in 2011 and 2012 their total tax avoidance overseas was $12 billion dollars.

Mr. Cook's response to the Subcommittee concerns was "We pay all the taxes we owe--every single dollar." However, he also admitted that the corporation did not intend to bring home the $102 billion held overseas until the the U.S. tax code is changed so that it will not have to pay the 35% corporate tax rate. He stated that he had no choice since Apple has a responsibility to its stockholders to pay as little tax as possible. He added that other U.S. corporations engage in the same practices. Among those corporations are Google, Starbucks, and Amazon, to name a few.

Senator Rand Paul, a Republican from Kentucky, showed his allegiances to the 1% when he said, "I'm offended by the spectacle of dragging in Apple executives. What we need to do is apologize and compliment them for the job creation they're doing." Mr. Cook had stated that Apple had 600,000 employees but did not give the percentage of those working in this country. The Senate Subcommittee Chair, Carl Levin, Democrat from Michigan responded, "Apple is a great company. But they don't have a right to decide in my book how much in taxes they are going to pay and to whom they are going to pay them."

While I am not clear on the 1%'s ultimate objective beyond wealth accumulation, what is clear is their comfort in squeezing the life force out of the American working class. It is also clear that our federal elected officials do not have the political will or the economic capacity, given the furor over the national debt and the deficit, to provide the means of labor for the unemployed of this country (nor elected officials at the state level) through a program such as the Depression era Workers Progress Administration, popularly know as the WPA.

However, I believe there is a path out of Plantation America for the American working class which will lead to the building the concept and practice of economic justice and economic democracy into the American system of governance and economics. It's time for those American workers who are frustrated with their virtual slavery to join their fellow workers who are challenging the 1% through the practice of of economic democracy, cooperative business ownership, where all the workers enjoy the equality of ownership.

It is time for the workers of this country to provide themselves an alternative means of labor through cooperatively owned companies and cooperatively controlled land based communities. It's time for the unemployed, the underemployed, and the underpaid to provide alternatives for the American consumer so they can buy American and support the workers of their communities.

It time for the government at all levels to have a tax and distribution policy that capitalizes economic justice and economic democracy in this country. It's time for the people of this country to elect representatives at all levels of government who will develop tax polices requiring the 1% as well as their corporations and allies pay their fair share rather than escape responsibility through loopholes created by their well paid lobbyists or through inappropriately low rates.

It's totally fair that the 1%, their corporations, and their allies pay more to provide the capitalization for an alternative means of labor, economic democracy, as well as economic justice for the American people. Their wealth creation through the exploitation of the American worker has been taking place since the first African slave picked cotton. In addition, the government has laid and continues to lay the foundation for enhancing the 1%'s wealth through the building of canals, roads, highways, railroad roads, dams, and other needed infrastructure investments. Government research has and continues to provide technological and pharmaceutical innovations from which corporations profit.

Each year, the government spends trillions of dollars for goods and services. Think about it. Who gets the billions each year spent by the defense department.? Corporations owned by the 1% and allies. Who receives the billions of dollars the government spends on health care and other social services? Corporations owned by the 1%. Who supplies the government their equipment, their furniture, their supplies, etc.? The corporations owned by the 1%. Who will receive the estimated $347.1 billion of interest, the U.S. will pay between 2009 and 2019 on the national debt? The one percent and their financial institutions.

So let's add it up. The 1% and their corporations receive the benefit of the research and infrastructure investments of the U.S. government. The corporations owned by the 1% provide the goods and services that absorb the vast majority of the trillions of dollars spent by the government each year--$3.8 trillion last year (2012). The ability of corporations to sell their products and have their production done overseas is protected by our defense spending of over $500 billion a year not including the cost of wars.

What do the corporations of the 1% return to the government in taxes? Did you know that 3/5 of U.S. corporations paid no taxes from 1996 to 2000? Did you know that in 1945 35.4% of government tax receipts came from corporations while the corporate share of government tax receipts in 2003 was 7.4%. In return for their lucrative salaries, the corporate lobbyists make sure that as little as possible is returned to the government for the benefit of the people.

As Apple's CEO's Timothy Cook informed Congress in May of this year, Apple's primary responsibility to their share holders is to pay as little tax as possible. While the corporation was given human status by the Supreme Court in 1888, we must remember that they have no soul, just a bottom line.

The conservative spin masters are continually complaining about government handouts and excessive regulation of business. However, they don't talk about who is really getting those handouts and who receives the benefit of the regulation performed by former corporate employees. In his book, America Beyond Capitalism, Gar Alperovitz, shares the view of a Republican insider on the issue of handouts:

"Richard Nixon's secretary of the Treasury, the late William Simon, recalled how during his

'tenure at Treasury, I watched with incredulity as businessmen ran to the government in every crisis whining for handouts or protection from the very competition that has made this system productive. I saw Texas ranchers, hit by drought, demanding government-guaranteed loans; giant milk cooperatives lobbying for higher price supports; major airlines fighting deregulation to preserve their monopoly status; giant companies like Lockheed seeking federal assistance to rescue them from sheer inefficiency; bankers like David Rockefeller, demanding government bailouts to protect them from their ill-conceived investments; network executives, like William Paley of CBS, fighting to preserve regulatory restrictions and to block emergence of competitive cable and pay TV.'

"And he added, 'always, such gentlemen proclaimed their devotion to free enterprise and their opposition to the arbitrary intervention into our economic life by the state. Except, of course, for their own case, which was always unique and which was justified by their immense concern for the public' '.

Given the above reality, who with a straight face could call it class warfare for the American people to demand of their elected officials tax policies that require the 1%, their corporations, and their allies to provide a level of taxation that can provide the capitalization necessary for economic justice to be achieved in this country. I view just taxation of the rich as a return on the investment made by the people of this country and our government in the building of the wealth of the 1% over the last 234 years.

Wouldn't you agree that it is time for those who believe in economic justice to launch a movement to bring economic justice and economic democracy into the system of governance and economics. Without economic justice the concept of political democracy is not only hypocrisy but also a deception that misleads and psychologically entraps our children as well as ourselves.

D) Economic Democracy As An Alternative

Having examined the historical and theoretical roots of our governance and economic system; the resulting economic oppression; and the need for change; let's examine Economic Democracy the concept and practice of which I believe is the antidote to the 1%'s poison that is destroying the economic and psychological lives of our people. We also need to briefly examine the Employee Stock Ownership Model of worker ownership which I believe is the bridge between capitalism and economic democracy.

As the term suggests, economic democracy is the economic equivalent of political democracy. People are engaged in the practice of economic democracy whenever they form an organization for mutual economic benefit guided by the principles:

1) Each person has one vote in the election of the leadership or in the case of very small organizations, each person has an equal voice as well as responsibility in the organization's operation;

2) Each person has an equal share in the economic benefits/profits or each person has a share of the economic benefits/profits based on principles established by a one person, one vote basis by the members.

The commonly used term to describe such organizations is cooperatives. The principle underlying cooperatives is as old as humankind--cooperation for mutual benefit. Anthropologists theorize that the life of the oldest human societies, hunting and gathering communities, was based on the principle of cooperation with their fellow human beings and nature for mutual benefit. Needless, to say as the human ego developed, we departed from this principle.

In more recent times, the concept became part of the British legal system when the British Parliament established a law in 1793 to legalize the voluntary associations established beginning in the early 1700s to aid one another during times of sickness, need, and bereavement. By 1800, there were 7,200 such societies with 600,000 members. Also, application of this principle to business life began to spread in the 1700s. Dockworkers in Woolworth and Chatham established their own corn mills to curb exploitation by monopolies. Weavers in Scotland set up a producer cooperatives to cooperatively market and sell their products. The most famous cooperative of this early period was the store established at Rochdale in England in 1844.

Today cooperatives are spread throughout the world in a variety of sectors: service, purchasing, producer, and worker. The two forms of service cooperatives with which we are most familiar in Boston are housing cooperatives and credit unions. I do not know the number of cooperatives throughout the city. However, I do know that there are over a thousand cooperatively owned housing units in Greater Roxbury giving the cooperative members a level of control and security in their housing as well as an economic power that they would not otherwise have.

The strengthening and spreading of housing cooperatives, credit unions, and other forms of cooperatives is an essential element of a movement for economic justice. However, in my vision statement, I am putting an emphasis on the worker cooperative aspect of economic democracy. This emphasis grows out of my belief that the key to challenging the 1% and their practices relies on the ability of American workers to give the American consumers an alternative through the practice of economic democracy, the development of worker cooperatives, which I also call democratic worker ownership.

I understand that the idea of workers being able to challenge the multi national corporations of the 1% through forming democratically controlled companies appears romantic at best, absurd at worst. However, the movement of history shows that it is impossible to predict the future based on a rational calculation of the odds at a particular moment in history. Sometimes when small numbers of people stand up to challenge injustice, they summons forces that even they couldn't have predicted.

Did Rosa Parks and her allies have any idea when she refused to move to the back of the bus on December 1, 1956 that 9 years later a Congress controlled by Southern Democrats would have passed not only a Public Accommodations Act outlawing segregation in public areas in 1964 but also a Voting Rights Act in 1965 making universal suffrage in this country possible and that a Southern President would have signed them both into law?

When Fidel Castro, Che Guevarra, and ten other men fled into the hills of the Sierra Maestra in Cuba in 1956 to fight Baptista after losing 69 comrades in a battle with the Cuban military, did they know that 3 years later they would march into Havana to take over the government when the army refused to fight and the President Juan Baptista fled. Did Ayatollah Koumeni of Iran believe when he urged the people of Iran into the streets in 1978 to challenge nonviolently the 450,000 troops of the Shah of Iran that one year later Iran would become an Islamic Republic under his leadership.

History tells us that the question of whether to confront oppression should be determined by the desire to be free, not the odds of winning or losing. The question for the American worker is not whether economic democracy can replace the corporations of the 1%. The question is whether they are determined to do something for themselves rather than sit back passively on their couches as unemployed, underemployed, and underpaid residents of Plantation America and complain.

From this perspective, a worker based challenge to the oppression of the 1% and their corporations is not absurd at all. I am not predicting the demise of the American multi nationals or that the 1% will wither away. However, I do think that the level of arrogance, the lap dog allegiance of elected officials to the needs and concerns of the 1%, and the deceptive, misleading nonsense spouted by some of the conservation spin masters has a direct connection to the fact that the 1%'s corporate monopoly has no competition. Did you know that in the period from 1990 to 2012 the percentage of clothes bought in the U.S. that are manufactured here dropped from 50% to 2%.

On the political front there is no serious challenge to the 1%'s political domination of the legislative process at any level of government. Yes, we have a black President but the reality is that the 1%'s domination has not been stopped. Yes, it was a major and important accomplishment to pass a comprehensive health care act but ultimately who will be the biggest financial winners, the insurance companies owned by the 1%.

Any serious challenge, even though small, to the political and economic domination exercised by the 1% will disrupt the political equilibrium and enlarge the opportunities for increasing economic justice. I admit the relevant question is whether a serious challenge based on the principle of economic democracy can be mounted. The answer to that question can best be given by answering three related questions: Can workers be persuaded to work together productively in their own interests? Can a relatively few, relatively small democratic worker owned firms disrupt the monopolistic domination of the market by the 1%'s multinational corporations? is there anything that elected officials and the government realistically do to help a movement for economic democracy?

First, can workers be persuaded to work together productively in their own interest? The answer is yes. The best example in the world of the ability of worker cooperatives to compete against the 1%'s multinationals is the Mondragon Cooperative Cooperation (MCC) based in the Mondragon region in the mountains of northern Spain. This multinational worker cooperative grew out of the work of a Catholic priest, Father Arizmendi, assigned to the region in 1941 when it was suffering from high unemployment and from the destruction caused by the Franco forces during the Spanish civil war.

The Mondragon area was the home of the Basque people who fought on the side of the Republicans against the forces headed by the right wing dictator Franco. Franco's forces decimated the area during the war and continued to oppress the Basque people after the war, trying to suppress their language, culture, and political activities. Given the lack of resources and the on going oppression, Father Arizmendi focused on building community based self help activities: a technical school and credit union as well as sports and other family related organizations.

In 1956, he urged five of his former students who were working at a local factory to form a small cooperative company. They agreed and along with 20 young workers established a company producing a kerosene stove for cooking and heating. The company, ULGOR, whose five letter name represented the first initials of each of the five original members. Based on the success of this initial venture, additional worker cooperatives were soon established.

In an article published in Portside, March 17, 2011, "Mondragon as a Bridge to a New Socialism" by Carl Davidson, co-chair of Committees of Correspondence for Democracy and Socialism (carld717@gmail.com), Davidson gives an overview of the growth of the Mondragon Cooperative Corporation (MCC):

"Mondragon has come a long way from ULGOR, the small workshop making the little single-burner kerosene stove. Today MCC unites 122 industrial companies, 6 financial organizations, 14 retailers (including the Eroski chain (in Spain and France) with over 200 hypermarkets, supermarkets and convenience stores plus seven research centers, one university and 14 insurance companies and international trade services. Its total sales in 2009 were 13.9 billion Euros and a workforce of nearly 100,000 people.

"Less than six of the 120 coops have failed in over 50 years. In the most recent economic crisis, MCC weathered the storm fairly well. No coop failed, salary reductions were modest and the only workers laid off were the trial-period new hires. Now things are picking up again. MCC remains a dominate force in the Basque economy, the leading force in Spain overall and it is now making waves in high-tech manufacturing world wide."

All right! All right! I hear you! What about us, you ask? What's happening with worker cooperatives here in the U.S.? To address that question, Davidson refers the reader of his article to "Cooperatives Work: How People are Using Cooperatives to Rebuild Communities and Revitalize the Economy by E.G. Nader and David J. Thompson. In this book they discuss a number of successful ventures ranging from a home health care cooperative in Bronx, New York with 1600 worker owners to a network of bakeries in the Bay Area of California, the Arizmendi Bakeries, with two hundred worker owners "that also have retail eateries that keep winning prizes as the best place to eat in the Bay area".

In North Carolina, Martin Eakes and Bonnie Wright founded in the eighties The Center for Community self Help and the Self Help Credit Union that have initiated and financed worker cooperatives for over 4000 worker owners. An alliance of foundations, colleges, and community organizations in Cleveland founded (after representatives visited Mondragon) the Evergreen Cooperative Laundry, an industrial laundry providing services to Cleveland medical centers; Cooperative Solar supplying electrical power to the region through a system of roof top solar panels, and City Growers, an industrial scale urban agricultural venture supplying foods to local markets and restaurants. The alliance has a dozen more ventures on the drawing boards.

United Steel Workers, one of the largest industrial unions in the country, has declared a formal partnership with MCC to establish worker cooperatives in the depressed Rust Belt regions of the Midwest. The City of Richmond, California in the Bay area has formed a partnership with MCC to start worker cooperatives in Richmond. In the Boston area we are fortunate to have the Industrial Cooperative Association, a small nonprofit worker cooperative, which is one of the nation's premier worker cooperative technical assistance firms.

ICA, founded in the 1970s, has provided technical assistance to groups of workers, unions, community organizations, and churches in establishing worker cooperatives as well as ESOPs established through the Employee Stock Ownership Program (ESOP). ICA also provides on going assistance to worker cooperatives and ESOPs. In 2009/10. ICA provided business planning services to the Boston Workers' Alliance that enabled it to establish its staffing agency through which they are able to provide jobs to their members. I am personally indebted to ICA for the five years of experience I gained with them in the '80s as education director.

In Gar Alperovitz's book, American After Capitalism, referenced in my Introductory reflection, there is a chapter on worker ownership in the American economy, funded through the Employee Stock Ownership Program (ESOP). In 1974, federal legislation provided significant tax benefit to banks that would finance worker ownership, collateralized through the establishment of a trust containing company stock and/or the worker pension funds.

In 2003, the year of the publication of Alperovitz's book, there were 11,000 ESOP financed firms with worker ownership, employing more than workers (8.8 million) than those employed (8.4 million) in unionized firms in private industry. However, the ESOP model is not based on the principle of economic democracy where the worker members own 100% of the stock and elect the board of directors on a one person, one vote basis.

Although there are some ESOPs organized on the principle of democratic worker ownership, the vast majority are not. Alperovitz estimates that workers exercise majority ownership in only 30% of the ESOP firms. He also estimates that workers have voting rights in only a quarter (25%) to a third (33%) of those ESOPs. However, he predicts that the percentage of ESOPs where workers own the majority of the stock and have full voting rights will increase over time because of the economic benefits. In support of that view, he states,

"Studies undertaken by the National Center for Employee Ownership, by several teams of economists and the U.S. General Accounting Office all confirm that combining worker ownership with employee participation commonly produces greater productivity gains, in some cases over 50 percent." Citing the economic benefits of ESOPs in general, he says, "...ESOPs have been found to be as productive or more productive than comparable non ESOP firms. Annual sales growth, on average, is also greater in ESOPs than in non-ESOP firms."

While the vast majority of ESOPs are not models of economic democracy, there are a number of ESOPs that Alperovitz cites that are very impressive demonstrations of the benefits of democratic worker ownership. Let's end this overview with his descriptions of some of these companies:

"W.L. Gore, the maker of Gore-Tex apparel, is one of the most impressive modern ESOPs. The company, owned since 1974 by (currently) 6,000 worker-owners in forty-five locations around the world, has no bosses or formal titles. To ensure communications and innovation, those working at any one site number no more than 200. Depending on their particular skills, workers may lead one task one week and then follow other leaders the next week; teams disband after projects are completed with team members moving on to other teams. W.L. Gore revenues totaled 1.13 billion in 2003; the firm regularly ranks on the Fortune "Best Companies to Work For" list.

"Another impressive ESOP, Weston Solutions, Inc., is the second largest environmental firm in the country. Its highly specialized services range from forestry and urban planning to high-hazard nuclear and chemical waste cleanup.....It was the lead information technology company contractor in recovery operations after the space shuttle Discovery disaster. The company is 100% owned by its 1800 employees...".

"ESOP firms are also common in non specialized areas: Fetter Printing Company in Louisville, Kentucky, is 100% owned by its 200 plus workers. The firm has annual revenues of $17.5 million and was recently ranked as one of the top twenty-five printers in the United States. Fastener Industries in Berea, Ohio, is owned by more than one hundred worker-owners. Machinists who have participated in the ESOP since 1980 commonly receive the equivalent of an additional three months' pay in dividends each year and retire with personnel shareholding accounts of up to $350,000.

I think this overview of worker cooperatives and ESOP companies should resolve any questions about the ability of economic democracy and worker ownership to compete with the corporations owned by the 1%. In fact, I would speculate that worker owned companies are leaner and meaner competitively speaking than a vast number of the 1%'s top multinationals given that monopolistic control tends to dumb down the competitive edge.

Having disposed of that question, lets move on to the second question: Can a relatively few, relatively small democratic worker owned companies disrupt the monopolistic domination of the market by the 1%'s multinational corporations. The answer is yes, the potential is there. How could that be you ask. My answer is by competing with them for the minds and hearts of the American consumer. I mentioned earlier that only two percent of the clothes bought in this country are manufactured here. What would happen if a network of democratic worker owned companies in different regions of the country began to manufacture and sell clothing competitively.

The reality is that the multinationals have created a soft under belly through their smug assurance that they could move operations overseas without any concern for continued domination of the American market. Now the costs are going up as workers overseas are beginning to wake up. The riscosts labor, of transportation. and other costs are beginning to rising as are the price of the goods that are being imported. What if the American consumer had the opportunity to not only buy a better made, less expansive but also American made product? In fact, a product made by their neighbors.

Yes, the opportunity to disrupt is there. This is not to say that it will be easy. Careful identification would be needed to identify products most easily targeted. Start ups also have a variety of problems. At the same time, there would be a political excitement created by focusing local consumers' attention that democratically owned firms are competing with multinationals that have more interest in making money than in being patriotic. Yes, I said patriotic. Personally, I believe it is unpatriotic for companies started here to take their production overseas and then scheme to not pay taxes.

Moving on to question three: Is there anything the American government could realistically do to help a movement for economic democracy move forward? Again the answer is yes. There is definitely the potential to be of significant aid. The reality is the government helps capitalize the multinationals in so many ways that it is impossible to count as we discussed in Part 2. Today, one of the main reasons the stock market is at an all time high despite the fact that the economy is not growing is that the Federal Reserve is keeping interest rates at an usually low rate. In effect, they are providing inexpensive capital that is being invested in the 1%'s financial firms.

While the workers in Mondragon, and in North Carolina, and probably in other areas have financed democratic worker ownership through cooperative financial institutions, credit unions, in a "free market" capitalist democracy, an appropriate role for the government should be to capitalize the workers by providing the financing necessary for their citizens to have an alternative means of labor to the capitalist corporations.

The government should also provide an alternative means of labor if unemployment reaches a certain percentage through financing public works programs and positions in the human services field. Such financing would provide a means of labor until the private economy improved, pump dollars into the economy to improve the economy, and provide needed infrastructure and human services. A third means of assistance would be to provide long term leases of government land and start up capital for workers who chose to establish new land based communities where they could not only raise their own food as well as food for sale but also manufacture products that could be sold in the cities.

What would be the source of capitalization? Increasing the taxation of the 1% and their corporations!. As I argued at the end of Part 2, the 1%, their corporations, and their allies own the wealth of the nation; control the economy; and receive the vast majority of the money spent every year not only by the government but also by the American public. Therefore logic demands that they share the inordinate wealth they are amassing by paying just taxation that can enable the government to play its appropriate role in a democracy of providing capitalization for economic justice and economic democracy.

Alperovitz in his concluding chapter, The Challenge of the Era of Technological Abundance, presents a compelling argument for stronger taxation of the estates of the rich in this country:

"Nobel laureate Robert Solow has similarly pointed out that current economic growth must overwhelmingly be attributed to "residual" facts that, broadly speaking involve the huge contributions of inherited technological knowledge. Again, research by economist Edward Denison has shown that advances in knowledge are 'the biggest and most basic reason for the persistent long-term growth of out-put per unit of output'.

"The moral--and hence, ultimately political--implications of this growing understanding are beginning to be recognized. Above all, an historian Joel Mokye observes, the vital knowledge we receive from the past comes to us through no effort of our own as a 'free lunch'. The implicit question is inherently explosive: if so, who should rightly benefit, and in what proportions from this extraordinary inheritance--thus free gift that produces so much of our common abundance.

"Seth Shulman, the author of Owning the Future, has made the obvious connection. The elites who hold most of the rights to modern technologies "are legally sanctioned but the legitimacy of their claim often remains dubious because of the debt they owe to innovations that have been made possible only by years or decades of collective advances'.

"The current technological contributions that produce such huge rewards for the fortunate few, in short are a mere pebble placed atop a Gibralter of received science and technology that makes the modern additions possible--and that was often paid for by the public, and that can be traced back through many generations, indeed centuries. Current elites, William Gates Sr. urges, disproportionately reap the harvest of what is inherently a collective investment. Gates proposes their estates be taxed accordingly."

E) Vision Statement of the Boston Movement for Economic Justice (Movement)

As I said in my last reflection, vision is an essential element in the process of creating change. To clarify, let me begin this section with a discussion of the dynamics of the historical change process, my definition of vision in this process, and why I believe vision is a crucial part of the process.

Many of my friends and associates believe along with Karl Marx that historical change is created by the operation of material, economic forces. Marx acknowledged the brilliant insight of the German philosopher Hegel, whom he viewed as his teacher, that there is a force moving through and guiding history. However, he denied Hegel's belief that it was Geist, Spirit, a World Soul. He turned Hegel's theory upside down by asserting that economic, material forces are that driving force.

My belief is that there are three forces working together during the process of change. The driving force is Geist (Hegel's term), the Spirit, the World Soul which has been in continuous interplay with matter (the earth) since the universe began. However, there is a third force working in partnership with the World Soul--the human mind. As human beings, we have a creative capacity to shape and mold the earth individually and collectively, guided by our mental consciousness/awareness. This mental capacity is an evolving force obviously related to but independent of our biological evolution.

Our lives are a manifestation of the continuous interplay between the radiation of the sun and the forces of the earth. Without the sun and its radiation, there would be no earth and human life on it. Each breath of air, containing the sun's energy that we take into our bodies made of the chemicals of the earth renews our inextricable participation in this history making partnership between the sun, earth, and humankind. This three in one process is the basis of human consciousness. The human historical process is moved forward through this three fold dynamic. The Spirit, the World Soul, radiates energy to us through the sun providing guidance as we mold and shape our human relationships and the material forces of the earth. The purpose of this process is to guide us from our initial unconscious state of peace and harmony with nature and our fellow human beings to the state where we consciously create peace and harmony with each other and the earth as well as its beings through the choices that we make.

The catalyst for change, for moving from one state to the next in this evolutionary process is our mind--our ability to observe, analyze, reason, reinforced by intuition to determine the best choice possible regarding the next evolutionary step in our relationship with each other and nature. Emotional dissatisfaction with the situation we are facing leads us to use our reason, our mental capacity, reinforced by intuition to determine how to change the situation facing us.

This process for determining the path of change is what I call an envisioning process. It is a process where we combine our lower mental capacity--reason--with our ability to use our higher mental capacity--intuition/Spirit in order to determine the best path forward. I call the result of this process--The Vision. My belief is that the process of human development moving from a child like mental state to an eventual (if we make it in this lifetime) state of spiritual mental maturity is a model of the stages that we are moving through as human kind as we move toward the spiritual oneness that Marx predicted.

We are at one of those "tipping point" moments in history where people throughout the world are in a state of conscious frustration and dissatisfaction with the existing political and economic situation. This mental and emotional turmoil is leading to an increase in envisioning to discern the next best steps. I share my vision, not as the answer, but to stimulate others to develop their vision through use of their reason and and intuition. As we merge and blend our visions into a unified goal and plan for action, we will move ourselves as a global population to our next stage of human development.

Having shared my definition of vision in the context of historical change as well as described the dynamics of the historical change process and vision's role in it, let me focus on my vision for change. To persuade others to support a process of change, a vision must answer three basic questions: What is the change that is desired? How is it to be achieved? Why is this change worth the effort? If those questions can be answered in the minds of an expanding number of people, the movement has the possibility of gaining power and tipping the balance. If people's interest is not stimulated, the movement dies.

The question of what is the change desired is answered by the long range goal which has to be specific and measurable to be mentally clear. It also has to be achievable in order to give the emotional incentive to invest energy, assuming there is mental interest in the idea. However, as said in Reflection 1, some goals are so important that even if achievement is doubtful, the necessity of change motivates the investment of energy.

The long range goal in my vision is very difficult to make specific and measurable at this stage of the struggle; so I have added a medium range goal that is measurable, specific, and will provide a path to the long range goal:

1) Medium and Long Range Goal:

To build a national movement to bring economic justice and economic democracy (democratic worker ownership) into the American system of governance and economics by establishing local movements in ten cities in seven different states in different sections of the country within the next five to seven years, beginning with Boston as the site to test the model.

This goal statement includes the long range goal of building economic justice and economic democracy into our system with a specific measurable, time phrase medium goal of building a movement that can lay the foundation for achieving the goal. I believe that given the economic disparities and suffering being experienced throughout the country, the goal statement answers the question why and is motivational since it focuses is on what the 99% are seeking--economic justice.

2) Action Plan:

The key to building a movement locally and nationally focused on economic justice is action. As I have often said, "Talk is cheap. One action is worth a thousand words." I acknowledge that verbal communication is an essential part of any human process but actions have a visual and visceral impact that words don't generate. In the first stages of building the movement, our actions have to focus on gathering the human resources necessary to put a plan into action since our movement will have to be built on human energy, desire, and commitment, not money.

Key to the mobilizing of these necessary forces will be the interest and energy of the groups and people who have been waging the struggle for justice in the past. The purpose of the initial phase is not to identify a new source of energy but to build an alliance between the old and the new. Making the assumption that there is interest in building such a movement, my vision proposes an action plan built on the work of eleven working committees.

a) Boston Movement Committees:

The committees essential to the development of the movement's action plan would focus on the following action steps:

*The building of a network of neighborhood worker assemblies;

*The building of economic democracy through developing worker cooperatives;

*The development and implementation of the Boston First Plan;

*The development and implementation of the Plan for New Vision Communities;

*The development and implementation of the Plan for Maintaining the Economic Diversity of Boston Households;

*The identification of areas of economic injustice to be addressed;

*The development and implementation of legislative initiatives at the local, state, and federal level.

*The development and implementation of a plan for contacting activists throughout the country consider building a movement chapter in their area;

*The development and implementation of a plan for a comprehensive public information and education campaign;

*The development and implementation of a fund raising and financing plan;

*The coordination of the development and implementation of the action plan.

The remainder of this section will focus on the overview of each committee's work, the subcommittees they will establish, and the focus of work for the movement's first year of operation. Significant progress can only be made if action is based on a well designed plan. The plan for the launching of a serious movement for economic justice will require at least a year of planning and development by its committees.

1) Neighborhood Worker Assembly Network Committee:

If the movement for economic justice is going to have internal integrity then workers must play a significant role in its development and implementation. In other words, to effect change involving workers, there must be vehicles through which the workers are organized. Given the personal and institutional relationships workers have with each other in neighborhoods, I envision the neighborhood as the building block of the worker organizing. Once the neighborhood assemblies are in formation, the necessary process of developing relationships across neighborhoods would begin.

The role of this committee would be to identify workers in each neighborhood who would be interested in working with the WAN Committee to organize a neighborhood worker assembly (nwa) in their neighborhood. The responsibility of the worker organizers, assisted by a member of the WAN Committee, would be to establish an infrastructure of three committees to breath life into and maintain the nwa.

a) Recruitment and Data Base Sub Committee:

In order to inform workers of the existence of the organization and gather data, neighborhood organizations would be contacted to inform them of the attempt to build a Network of Neighborhood Worker Assemblies across the city and ask if they would assist through the spreading of information regarding the meeting times and place of the organization as well as having them fill out forms relating to their employment needs and interests. The neighborhood data base would not only serve as a tool to politically identify the level of youth and adult unemployment but also play an essential role in identifying potential participants in future projects as well as employment opportunities as they develop.

b) Bi-weekly or Monthly Educational/Socializing Meetings Sub Committee:

This committee would have the responsibility of organizing bi-weekly or monthly pot luck dinner where workers and their families would be encouraged to come out to meet each other, learn about the purposes of the organization, and participate in educational sessions that would focus on how the economic injustices play out locally and nationally and how the organization is attempting to build a movement to change the situation. The educational sessions would strengthen their ability to participate effectively in the strategizing and envisioning sessions that would be an essential part of building the assemblies and the movement in general.

A critically important part of this process would be the development of a sense of solidarity among the workers and their families. One of the more difficult aspect of the economic situation faced by workers today is the isolation that they feel as they struggle with the problems of the economic oppression they are experiencing. This sense of isolation makes it more likely that they will blame themselves for their situation rather than appreciate how the structure of the economy leads to the difficulties they are facing. By coming together with other workers, they begin to see the larger picture and discover that they have allies as they struggle to confront the common problems of economic oppression.

c) Barter System Sub Committee

The ultimate objective of this committee is to provide worker ownership opportunities for as many workers as possible as well as opportunities for employment in the local corporate economy. However, given the reality of the economic problems faced by the workers, a major objective of the committee would be to assist the nwa members in bartering their skills to meet each others needs. This would not only benefit the members economically but also increase their self esteem as well as their feelings of value, and purpose.

2) Economic Democracy Committee:

This committee would need five subcommittees to develop and implement the plan for economic democracy:

a) Research Sub Committee:

Our cooperative development strategy would be based on the model of the U.S. as a country colonized by the 1%. In this model, the 1% would be seen as viewing America as a source of raw materials, money, and as a market for the products of the mother country, the multinational corporate infrastructure with its overseas production operation.

Given that model, research would be focused on products imported and sold in the New England region. The objective would be to identify twenty to thirty products that are imported, sell well in the region, and could be manufactured by a local worker cooperative. Once identified the information would be given to the development committee. Colleges and universities would be key targets for recruitment of volunteers for the research.

b) Development Sub Committee:

The responsibility of the development committee would be to identify the eight most likely prospects and develop drafts of business plans for the products. Those plans would identify sources of material, production strategy, management, the number and skills of worker owners needed, marketing/sales strategy, and cost of operation. Once the business plans are developed, the four would selected to be given to the organizing and financing committees.

c) Organizing Sub Committee:

This sub committee would be responsible for making contact with the neighborhood worker assemblies (nwa) to identify those interested in being part of the new company. In the next stage, those interested in a particular company would meet to begin discussions regarding becoming part of the new company. Obviously, this is the most difficult stage of the process where the team of worker owners need to be selected from those expressing interest. Given the complexity of the task and the variety of issues involved, prior research would be needed to have identified processes used by cooperatives in other areas to use in shaping local process.

d) Financing Sub Committee:

The members of the sub committee would have worked with the members of the Movement Finance Committee to identify local and national sources as well as investigate the possibility of selling long term, low interest bonds as a source of investment funds. Once the development committee has developed a business plan for four of the selected projects, they would present those plans to the organizing committee and the finance committees so the two committees could be in communication because of their interrelated but independent tasks.

The communications between the two committees would be a critically important part of the process since the financing potential is related to the confidence the financial sources would have in the team that will be managing the company. This committee would have the responsibility for working with the worker members of the new cooperative on the securing the financing with the assistance of the Movement's Finance Committee.

e) Youth Entrepreneurship Sub Committee:

This sub committee would have the same subcommittee structure as committee just discussed. The members would serve as members of the other subcommittees. Their responsibilities would be focused on the development of products to be marketed to the youth market--10 to 30. The majority of the members of the Youth Entrepreneurship committee would be in their teens, twenties, and early thirties.

f) Innovation Development Sub Committee:

Given the creativity of our youth and young adults and the presence of a huge young adult market in Boston, this committee's responsibility would be to establish a workshop process where those with ideas to penetrate this market (as well as other markets) would be encouraged to bring their ideas in order to secure assistance for development of their ideas as the basis of the development of future coops. There would also be a workshop for those 35 and older.

There would need to be prior legal work to identify what the appropriate financial arrangement would be between an innovator who was assisted in developing h/er idea that became the base of a cooperative and the cooperative in terms of profit sharing. The experience of the MCC could prove helpful given the likelihood that they have had to deal with similar issues.

3) Boston First Plan Committee:

The objective of this committee would be to develop and implement the plan for negotiating an agreement with the corporate leadership in Boston for the integration and advancement of Boston workers in the Boston corporations operating in Boston. The quantitative goal of the negotiations would be a fifty percent Boston worker participation with appropriate sharing of that fifty percent between the various racial groups in Boston. This committee would need four subcommittees.

Needless to say there will be those who cry doom and say that such a plan would destroy Boston's growth. They would say that not only would it discourage other companies from coming but also will drive present companies away. My view is that while those arguments can't be dismissed, the dangers have to be faced in order to make progress in terms of advancing the interests of economic justice.

One of the mitigating factors for Boston based companies would be their significant investment in the city. Another mitigating factor would be activists in the metropolitan area engaging in similar organizing so that one city could not be played off against the other.

a) Research Sub Committee:

The responsibly of the research committee would be to gather information on a variety of different aspects of Boston's 100 largest corporations:

*Number, race, and gender of employees *Percentage of those in the fifty to sixty five year old age range; *Number of Boston employees by race, gender, and grade level; *Value of business, volume of business, and profitability over last ten years; *Salaries of top executives; *Board members.

b) Negotiating Sub Committee:

A racially and gender balanced negotiating team would have the responsibility of negotiating an agreement with business alliances such as the Boston Chamber of Commerce as well as individual corporations. The Movement Coordinating Committee would have the ultimate decision making power in terms of any agreement.

c) Communications Sub Committee:

The driving force of this strategy would be the winning of public support through a publicity campaign coordinated by this committee. The campaign would emphasize the financial success of Boston's corporate community and that the corporations don't pay any taxes directly to Boston if they don't own any property.

A close examination of their state tax records would show that they don't pay significant taxes at the state level relative to corporate taxation in other states. By emphasizing the hiring of Boston workers, they would be assisting the people of a city where the cost of living is inflated by their presence. This campaign would be coordinated in conjunction with the Movement's Communications' Committee.

d) Summer Jobs Sub Committee: There has been at least a decade long strategy of Boston youth groups organizing around the issue of summer and year round after school jobs. This committee's responsibility would be to convene a meeting of the coalition of youth groups to determine whether they had interest in working with the Movement on a campaign to secure from state, local government, and Boston's corporate community a job for every student fourteen and over interested in a summer job as well as a campaign for an increase in year round after school jobs.

If there was an interest in such a campaign on the part of the coalition of youth groups, this committee would have the responsibility of coordinating the Movement's involvement with such a campaign. Given the need for summer jobs throughout the state where the students are almost totally dependent on state resources for such jobs, the campaign should emphasize the responsibility of the corporations to fund the major share of the costs of a Boston Summer Jobs program. If the corporations can afford to pay their top executive tens of millions of dollars a year per company, as a corporate community they can certainly afford to fund a summer jobs program as well as after school jobs. The question is will they, not can they. Of course they can.

4) New Vision Communities Committee:

Obviously, while the activities described above could begin to make a dent in our employment rates and improving the economic life of the working people of Boston, there would be large numbers who would not be able to take advantage of opportunities created. This will be particularly true in the black community where we will not only have men and women returning to our communities from state prisons and county jails but also have our share of the 1.3 million blacks returning to their homes over the next decade from federal prisons.

A serious plan for economic justice must therefore include a component capable of providing opportunities for large numbers of people to work together to to build a new social, political, and economic life for themselves through the establishment of new communities. These rural land based communities are envisioned as being composed of 750 people integrated into the communities in stages.

The members of the community would raise their own food as well as food that could be sold. In addition, they would manufacture products that could be sold to generate monies for their community and for themselves as a share of the communities' profits. The economic activity would provide an opportunity for the members to develop their skills and abilities as well as their income.

The communities would be governed as a cooperative with each member having a share entitling them to a vote in electing the leadership of the community and a share in the profits of the community after a probation period. There would necessarily be a period of training that would take place in Boston in order to prepare the potential new community members for the challenges that would be confronting them. The training would also enable the Movement to identity those who were not ready to take on the challenges of the new lifestyle.

The initial financing would come through the work of the New Visions Financial Sub Committee working with the Movement's Financial Committee. I assume that there would be significant interest nationally, regionally, and locally since there is no strategy presently being implemented or even considered as far as I am aware for putting a significant percentage of those who are outside the economic system into productive life situations. As the model proves successful, there would be a focus on state and federal government for land acquisition and funding.

Since the very beginnings of this country, there has been a movement for the government to provide land free of charge for development as farms that could serve as a means of labor and enable people to have an alternative to working in the 1% industrial plantations as wage slaves. The one percent resisted the idea of providing the land at no cost for the country's first 60 years. Their initial argument against free land for homesteading was that the government needed money to build its military and other ventures that ultimately benefitted the 1%.

As the movement grew stronger in the 1840s and 1850s, the resistance came primarily from the southern 1% who did not want to have farmers getting land for free and competing with the expansion of slavery into the West. The historical struggle to keep slavery out of Kansas and Nebraska was to a large extent a struggle between the plantation owners and an alliance of the abolitionists and the homesteaders. With the succession of the southern states, the Republicans were able to pass in May, 1862, the Homestead Act which legalized the acquisition of land by those seeking an alternative means of labor.

On January 1, 1863 any 21 year old head of the family could file a claim for 160 acres of free land. After five years of farming the land and paying fees to the government, the person would be given a mortgage and own the land free and clear. If a person wanted to secure a mortgage more quickly in order to obtain bank financing for start up costs, they could buy the 160 acres at a reduced cost of $1.25 an acre after they had been farming the homestead for six months. The Homestead Act was a driving force for the expansion into the Midwest and the plains of Kansas, Nebraska, and the Dakotas.

Between 1863 and 1890, almost a million claims were filed for homesteads, 956, 922. It is estimated that the filed claims resulted in 400,000 to 600,000 families acquiring land and houses. The expansion into the West during the 1900s was not as successful as the homesteading in the Midwest and Plains due to the arid land and lack of rain. In 1976 the Homestead Act expired. However, by the early 1900s, it had accomplished its mission of capitalizing a major sector of the American population and lessening the economic gap between the people of the country and the 1%.

It is obvious that we need another homesteading movement. However, as times change, the form of the initiatives need to change. Today's homesteading movement needs to focus on communities of people who have organized themselves to develop communities where they can revitalize and capitalize their lives through working together and demonstrating that economic democracy is not only the soul force of human development but also political democracy.

I believe the conservative movement would be politically boxed into supporting the initiative. What could be more within the "up from your bootstraps" alleged value system of the conservative movement than people who are unemployed and underemployed organizing to feed, clothe, and house themselves as well as establishing competitive businesses. Isn't that the "American Way"? Of course, given the threat to the 1%'s economic domination, the conservative spin masters would fill the airwaves with their rants. However, I think they would expose themselves as misleading purveyors of deception .

The latest statistics I've seen suggests that the government owns one third of the land of this country. At this point, the multinationals are reaping the benefits of this land through "sweetheart" contracts to extract minerals and other raw materials as well as periodically persuading the government to sell them the land at "sweet heart" prices. It's time for our government to share the benefit of our land with us. It is time to stop the exploitation of our land by the same corporations who believe they have a right and responsibility is to pay as little taxes as possible while reaping maximum benefit from the exploitation of the resources of this country.

The sub committees spearheading the New Vision Community initiative would be the plan development committee, the business plan committee, the agricultural plan committee, the industrial hemp legalization committee, the business plan committee, the housing plan committee, the infrastructure plan committee, the educational system plan development committee, the nutrition/dietary plan committee, the health plan committee, the public safety plan committee, the human development plan committee, the community life plan committee, the recreation plan committee, and finance plan committees. Given the large number of committees necessary to cover every aspect of the life of the new community, I will give an overview of all the committees rather than describing the role and responsibility of each.

The plan development committee would coordinate the work of the committee. The time frame for the development of the plan would be a year. The plan at its completion will be submitted to the Movement Coordinating Committee for approval. Once approved, the human development committee will begin to recruit "pioneers" to be the initial member of the new community.

At the end of the first nine months, 150 "pioneers would be selected to initiate the first phase of the development of the community. Seventy five would have the responsibility of establishing an initial operation on the land while living in tents or other temporary housing they would erect. The other seventy five would have the responsibility of working with the committee implementing the various components necessary for the development and operation of the community.

By the end of the next nine months (a year and a half from the beginning of training), the initial 150 pioneers would be living in the new community. The training for new pioneers and committee work would continue with the majority of the members of each committee being non community members and the remainder members living in the community. After the first two years of community life, the majority on the committee would be members of the community.

The community would expand at the rate of 150 new pioneers every nine months until the target number of 750 residents is reached three years after the initial 150 began living in the community. Since the actual development process will be defined by the reality of the actual experience, the above represents the framework developed through my envisioning process. The responsibility of the New Vision Community Sub Committee, composed of a representative of each of the sub committees would be to envision a time line from the beginning of their work to the point where maximum residency of 750 is reached. Every six months the time line would be reevaluated.

Before ending this overview of the New Vision Community Committee, let me discuss the hemp legalization committee and its responsibility. Let me begin by emphasizing that industrial hemp, while related to the hemp plant commonly known as marijuana, is not hallucinogenic. Industrial hemp is the male of the hemp family and marijuana is the female.

The industrial hemp legalization committee would have two objectives. The first objective would be to work with the state and federal hemp legislation sub sub committees on the legalization of the growing of the plant in Massachusetts and the U.S. The second objective would be develop a plan to make the growing, the use of industrial hemp as a raw material for production, and the sale as a cash crop a viable part of the community's life. The committee's work on a development plan for the use of industrial hemp would be part of the argumentation for the legalization in Massachusetts and U.S.

Ironically, while the plant can be imported from China and other countries, as is now being done, it can not be legally grown here. I'm sure your question is, "Why is it legal to import hemp but not grow it here. That doesn't make sense." I agree with you the governmental policies regarding the growing of industrial hemp don't make any sense. For example, recently I discovered that the father and grandfather of a resident of the camp had grown hundreds of acres of hemp during World War 11 for the US government which it then used to make ropes for its battleships.

I don't know the original arguments for restricting the growing of hemp. Some historians argue that there was such an hysteria around drugs and marijuana in the 1920s that the distinction between hallucinogenic and non hallucinogenic hemp was ignored. Some advance the theory that the growing of industrial hemp was restricted because of the desire of DuPont and other 1% industrialists to eliminate industrial hemp as a competitor for their new synthetic products.

Today, the excuse given by the Drug Enforcement Agency for keeping industrial hemp on its restricted drug list is that the growing of industrial hemp could be used to provide cover for the growing of marijuana. However, from a botanical perspective that doesn't make any sense either. Since the cross pollenization of industrial hemp with marijuana would significantly degrade the hallucinogenic quality of the marijuana, a marijuana grower would never grow the two plants in the same field.

With that as background, let me explain why the New Vision Community Committee would want to be involved in an effort to legalize the growing of hemp. An essential element of the development of a business strategy for the new community would be the availability of raw materials that could be grown, sold, and used for the development of products.

Industrial hemp meets all three criteria. It is a plant that does not need pesticides or herbicides to grow. In fact, it is reported that it has the capacity to detoxify fields that have high toxicity rates because of the use of chemically based fertilizers. In addition, it can be used in the development of a number of products, including, rope, cords, twine, cloth, paper, insulation, lotions, and a variety of others. In the 1700s and 1800s, it was grown in New England as the raw material for ropes, paper, and cloth for ship sails.

It is also a complete protein. It possesses all twenty four amino acids, including the ten essential for human health. It is reported that hemp protein powder is the best protein available for those doing high explosive training as well as endurance athletes and body builders. Personally, I think industrial hemp has the potential to be a vital economic stimulant not only for the New Vision Communities but also for the US economy in general. Strategy for legalization will be discussed in the section on federal and state legislative activity. The three committees would collaborate on legalization.

5) Economic Diversity of Boston Households Committee:

The activity to be undertaken in this area has already been discussed in Reflection 2.

6) Economic Justice Committee:

This committee would have the responsibility to identify areas of concern regarding economic justice that needs to be targeted for the development of a vision and plan. It's recommendations would be taken to the Coordinating Committee for a final decision.

7) Legislative Sub Committee:

The legislative sub committee would have committees focusing on federal legislative activities as well as state and local legislative action. The federal and state legislative sub committees would have five identical sub committees focused on developing a taxation system which provides the resources necessary to capitalize economic justice and economic democracy; the reenactment of the Homestead Act; the legalization of growing hemp; the reform of the drug laws; and opposing legislation and regulatory action designed to enhance the wealth and economic domination of the 1%. The Boston legislative sub committee's committees would focus on just taxation and any legislative or regulatory issues relating to economic justice.

a) Federal Legislative Sub Committee:

1) Just Taxation for the Capitalization of Economic Justice Sub Committee:

The committee's responsibility would be to research different taxation strategies to capitalize economic justice and economic democracy through strengthening taxation of the 1%, its corporations, and allies. While at the beginning of the movement it would be unrealistic to focus on the passage of progressive tax legislation, it important important to generate thinking regarding just taxation from the initial stages of launching the movement. It is the movement's responsibility to build a consciousness regarding the principles and practices of just taxation.

The first responsibility of the committee would be to conceptualize the creation of an Economic Democracy Development Fund, specifically focused on the capitalization of economic democracy through the development of democratic worker owned firms as well as democratically controlled new communities. In addition, it would explore the various ideas now being discussed in progressive circles to narrow the wealth gap through capitalization of the 99%.

Alperovitz in "Equality", the first chapter of America Beyond Capitalism discusses a number of strategies proposed by academics and activists ranging from allocating at the birth of every child funds that would be invested and become available at age 21 to proposals to buy out the 1%'s ownership of corporations and invest that money as trust funds for the 99%. He also points out that the Bush administration at the time of his book's publishing had put money in each year's budget for the Clinton demonstration initiative, Individual Development Accounts (IDAs), where the government matches the savings accounts established by those with low incomes.

In his chapter on "Beyond Super Elites" Alperovitz points out that "David Bollier, the author of Silent Theft, has identified another source of funding that might be drawn upon for such purposes--increasing the royalties from public mineral, timber, and other resource extraction from the use of public airwaves and the electromagnetic spectrum; from government-funded research (particularly in connection with pharmaceuticals); and from the use of government's extensive information holding and other segments of the public 'commons'. Bollier suggests establishing stakeholder trusts that give all citizens a personal stake in public assets."

Once an initial set of draft proposals had been agreed upon by the Movement Committee, the Just Taxation committee in conjunction with the communications committee would initiate public dialogue to serve both as an educational process as well as a beginning of the development of a public consensus in terms of which proposals to put forward for enactment at the state and federal level. The favored federal proposals would be circulated to other cities focused on building movements to generate discussion and consensus building in their areas. This process would be designed to develop a national consensus within the movement that would serve as the basis of proposed federal legislation and a national debate.

2) Reenactment of the Homestead Act Sub Committee:

This committee's responsibility would be to research the holdings of land by the federal government throughout the country: how the land is being used, the price the users are paying, the nature of the contracts, and when the contracts are coming up for renewal. The data would be used in conjunction with the communications committee and the state homestead legislation committee to educate the public in terms of the existence of the issue of the use of federal land.

This education would serve as a foundation for raising the issue in Massachusetts as well as throughout the country on the need for reenacting the homestead act with a focus on land that would be appropriate for agricultural production. While I am not aware of other organizations that are focusing on such an initiative, one of the responsibilities of the committee would be to reach out to those groups to attempt to form a coalition focused on national reenactment of the Homestead Act.

3) Industrial Hemp Legalization Committee:

The industrial hemp legalization committee would initially make contact with groups throughout the country working on the legalization of industrial hemp. The purpose would be to form a coalition if one does not exist. If one exists, the focus would be on making Massachusetts an active partner. Given the close relationship of President Obama and Governor Patrick, this committee working with the state hemp legalization committee would develop a strategy to seek Governor Patrick's support. Given his presidential aspirations, the focus of the discussions would be on the use of industrial hemp to revitalize the country's economy as well as provide a cash crop for those seeking to create a means of labor for themselves through the development of new communities.

4) Drug Law Reformation Committee:

America has he highest rate of incarceration of its overall population as well as people of color in the world. Eighty percent of the 2.3 million incarcerated in this country have been convicted of nonviolent drug crimes. Over half (1.3 million) of the 2.3 million incarcerated are black. Obviously, the targeting of black communities for drug arrests and convictions; the development of mandatory minimums for drug convictions; the employment discrimination experienced by those with criminal records wreak economic havoc in black, Latin, and low income communities.

This committee would examine drug policies throughout the world and drug law reform proposals being made in this country to develop a consensus on a rational drug policy focused on recovery rather than incarceration. It is obviously impossible to achieve economic justice particularly in black and Latin communities without a change in drug laws and the creation of job opportunities within those communities for those with and without criminal records.

It is clear that those arrested are not those who are financing and operating the international growing, transporting, and selling of drugs. It is impossible to determine the extent of the participation of the 1% in this activity. However, the 13 years during which alcohol was illegal in this country gave an opportunity for the development of fortunes that were used to finance the development of business and political dynasties.

5) Economic Justice Committee:

This committee's responsibility would be to keep the public informed about and lobby against the passage of legislation and the enactment of regulations that enhance the wealth, power, and economic domination by the 1% and their allies.

b) State Legislative Sub Committee:

1) Just Taxation for the Capitalization of Economic Justice Sub Committee:

This committee has the same responsibilities as the federal Just Taxation Committee. On the state level the primary focus would be on the development of a progressive state income tax where those with more resources pay more. The state income tax now requires everyone to pay 5.25% of their income, while the regressive sales tax requires everyone to pay 6.5% on purchases.

I have participated in two state referenda campaigns attempting to allow for the development of a progressive income tax. Twice I witnessed what I believe were flagrant misrepresentations of the truth by advertising firms working in conjunction with the 1%. Twice the referenda failed when the people of the state voted against their own interests because of the deceptive advertising.

Folk wisdom says that "the third time is the charm". However, regardless of folk wisdom, there is a critical need for a progressive state income tax. Despite the glowing reports by the Patick administration on our "low" unemployment rate and the health and prosperity of the economy, the state has an inability to deal with its infrastructure needs and recently the House budget recommended cutting the money for summer jobs for students from the 9 million spent last year to 5 million and the State budget is rumored to reduce the funds from 9 million to 8 million.

Earlier this year the House and the Senate refused to support Governor Patrick's plan to finance increases in education and the MBTA infrastructure by raising the percentage of the state income tax and lowering the percentage of the regressive state sales tax. It's clearly time for a new referendum. The committee also needs to examine the corporate tax, estate tax, and capital gains tax. Massachusetts has been called Taxachusetts. It's time to see whether that label is and was part of the deception that Mac Pherson references.

2) State Homestead Act Committee:

This committee would work with the federal Homestead Act Reenactment Committee and the New Vision Community Committee to identify state owned land, its present use, and its suitability for homesteading. The committee would spearhead any negotiations with the state regarding the sale or leasing of state land for homesteading by New Vision Communities as well as work with the Communications Committee on the public discussion of the issue. If there is a need for legislation, this committee would lead that activity.

3) Industrial Hemp Legalization Committee:

This committee would consult with the leaders of the successful campaign in Vermont as well as begin discussions with the leaders of the House and Senate Joint Agriculture Committee regarding legislation relating to the legalization of industrial hemp.

In conjunction with the New Vision hemp committee, this committee would begin discussion with the University of Massachusetts School of Agriculture regarding their undertaking studies on a cost benefit analysis of growing hemp in Massachusetts.

A third initiative would be the recruiting of a team of Harvard Business School students to do a similar cost benefit analysis on the growing and use of industrial hemp as a cash crop in Massachusetts. Prior to my arrest in 2008, an intern from Northeastern and I had recruited a team of Harvard Business School students to undertake a similar study. Unfortunately, my arrest scared them off.

This committee would have the responsibility of leading the effort to legalize the growing of industrial hemp in Massachusetts when the momentum was strong enough to make passage possible.

c) Boston Legislative Sub Committee:

1) Just Taxation for the Capitalization of Economic Justice Committee:

This committee would research the benefit of changing Boston's property tax system by instituting land value taxation, which taxes land even if undeveloped based on the tax value of adjoining developed land. The concept, developed by Henry George, is that keeping land undeveloped deprives the community of the benefits derived from development. Therefore compensation of the community through full value taxation is the remedy. To institute the new system there would have to be a successful state wide referendum to amend the constitution and a petition from Boston asking the state government for permission to make the change.

2) Economic Justice Committee:

This committee's responsibility would be to keep the public informed about and lobby against the passage of legislation and the enactment of regulations that enhance the wealth, economic power, and political domination by the 1% and their allies as well as focus on other issues economic injustice.

8) Movement Building Sub Committee:

This committee would have the responsibility of reaching out to activists in various cities and states to interest them in the building of a movement chapter in their city and state. In conjunction with the Communication Sub Committee, it would keep activists in cities with and without movements informed of the movement initiatives in Boston and other cities.

9) Communications Sub Committee:

This committee's responsibility would be to coordinate a two part pubic information and education campaign focused on:

*The growth of the 1%'s wealth, power, and domination of the governance and economics system of this country.

*The goals and work of the Movement to develop and implement a movement for economic justice and economic democracy in Boston as well as nationally.

To develop and implement the public information and education campaign, the Communications Committee would need a research, education, media, and coordination committee.

a) Research Committee:

This committee would recruit volunteers to do research and develop articles on the wealth, power, and domination of the 1% as well as articles on the movement to attain economic justice and economic democracy. These articles would be circulated through local and national blogs, websites, and other appropriate media.

b) Education Committee:

This committee would organize lectures, panel discussions, and other venues through which to educate the public regarding the issues of economic injustice and the necessity to build economic justice and economic democracy into the American systems of governance and economics.

c) Media Committee:

This committee's responsibility would be to develop connections and relationships with various sectors of the media, including the social media, through which the education of the public could take place.

d) Outreach Committee:

This committee would keep activists in cities with and without movement chapters informed about the Movement in Boston and other cities.

e) Coordinating Committee:

This committee's goal would be to support through the development of a coordinated public education campaign the various initiatives of the Movement Sub Committee and the operation of economic injustice.

10) Finance Sub Committee:

This committee's responsibility would be to develop a fund raising and financing mechanism to support the Movement's various Initiatives. In its initial phase, it would focus on philanthropic sources as well as funding mechanisms such as bonds and the development of political action committees. As the Movement gathers momentum, this committee would work with the federal, state, and city legislative committees to open up funding potential through governmental sources and legislation.

11) Coordinating Sub Committee:

This committee composed of representatives of the members of all the subcommittees would be responsible for coordinating the development of the Movement through the work of the various sub committees. It is also the decision making body regarding the implementation of initiatives recommended by the other Movement sub committees.

That's my vision of the building of a movement for economic justice and economic democracy. What's your vision? If you're tired of the 1%'s domination; if you're ready to leave the Plantation; if your heart burns with a passion for justice; and you don't have a vision; it's time to begin the envisioning.

Preview of My Next Reflection:

Resurrecting Ourselves from the Tomb of Our Psychological Enslavement; Stepping Out of the Slave Master's Mold!:

The situation we face as an African-American people is complex. We, as the other races of this country, are caught in the political, economic, and social vice of the 1% as well as the mesmerizing web of material desires spawned by images their advertising firms create. However, as African-Americans, we carry an additional burden. We have a legacy--a legacy of more than two hundred and fifty years of chattel slavery and almost one hundred and fifty years of the political, economic, and social oppression, experienced since the 13th amendment that allegedly "freed" us.

We carry the scars of an unending stream of racial antagonism, harassment, and oppression. Yet, even more devastating are the scars we inflict on ourselves through our internalized rage and oppression. The most glaring example of our self inflicted wounds is the killing of our children by our children, driven insane by their rage, frustration, and confusion at the insane world into which they were born. As my friend, Bob Walthal, the poet laureate of Roxbury, says, "Our children are the innocent victims of circumstance."

It is time for us to leave Egypt. It is time for us to make our spiritual, mental, and emotional exodus. It is time for us to resurrect ourselves from the psychological tomb of our enslavement using the tools our ancestors used to transcend the horror and terror they faced--the love of God, the love of self and kind, and their knowledge that beneath the slave mask they wore was the image of the God that created them. As Marcus Garvery said 100 years ago, "Up You Mighty Race, You Can Accomplish What You Will".

It's time for us to fulfill Garvey's prophesy. It's time for us to fulfill our responsibility. Our ancestors, who endured pain and physical captivity to build a foundation for us, are waiting . They're waiting for us to free ourselves from our psychological captivity. It's time for us to take off the mask. It's time to step out of the slave master's mold! It's time to acknowledge the Spirit that lives within our bodies. It's time for us to build the spiritual, mental, and emotional foundation that generations yet unborn will need to build a civilization to fulfill their ancestors' dreams as well as avenge their suffering. A Luta Continua. The Struggle Continues.

In the next reflection, I will share my vision of the work we need to do to build the foundation for our resurrection.

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