|Ronnie Dugger with Doris “Granny D” Haddock, who, when she was 89 years old, walked 3200 miles across the United States to promote campaign finance reform. “Don’t waste your time!” said Granny D to fairgoers. English photo.
Keynote Address by Ronnie Dugger, Founder of the Alliance for Democracy
On Friday, Sept. 21, Ronnie Dugger, founder of the Alliance for Democracy, addressed a crowd of Common Ground fairgoers. His address was moved inside the Exhibition Hall because rain threatened outside. For over an hour, the large group of listeners stood among the glorious display of fruits, vegetables and crafts and listened as Dugger told how to return the United States to a democracy. Doris “Granny D” Haddock of Dublin, N.H., the tough old soul who walked across the country to promote campaign finance reform when she was 89 years old (she’s now 91), stood with him. After his talk, she said in amazement, They all stayed! They stayed and listened, even though they had to stand! Dugger’s message was that important.
Dugger began by introducing Granny D, describing her 3200-mile walk across the country from Pasadena, Calif., to Washington, D.C., where, at the end of her walk, she said, “This isn’t a democracy, this is an emergency!”
“She is more important by herself than the whole campaign for finance reform in the United States has been,” said Dugger.
Granny D, who said that she is usually the shortest old lady around or the oldest old lady around, told fairgoers what she learned on her 3200-mile walk: “You’re never too old to get in shape. You’re never too old to meet new friends. You’re never too old to be able to do something special for yourself. You’re never too old to follow your dream. So don’t waste your time!” Granny D, who was born and brought up in Laconia, N.H., lived there until she moved to Dublin, N.H., where she now lives. She has a website (https://grannyd.com) where you can read the riveting speech, “The Four Freedoms,” that she gave at the New Chataqua in Unity on Sept. 22, 2001, and her book about her walk is Granny D: Walking Across America in My 90th Year. She urged the audience to buy it at local, independent bookstores.
|Ronnie Dugger of the Alliance for Democracy told fairgoers how that organization is filing lawsuits to challenge the usurpation of power by unethical, multinational corporations. English photo.
Dugger began his own talk by addressing the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. He said that President George W. Bush said the right thing to Congress when he declared that we will meet the violence with patient justice. However, Bush also called the attacks an act of war, but “acts by terrorists are not acts of war” according to Dugger’s Oxford English Dictionary. An act of war is between nations, states or rulers, not private terrorists, Dugger pointed out.
“The mass murders on September 11th were crimes against humanity,” said Dugger. “They should be harshly punished by law, not war. If, to bring mass murderers to justice under the U.N. right to self defense, we with our allies must bomb and with commandos must assault their camps, okay,” he said, “but we must not bomb cities or declare war on nations.” Over 60 nations have signed a treaty establishing an International Criminal Court that would have jurisdiction over such crimes, Dugger continued. “This new court should try these mass murderers.” However, “the Bush administration has opposed ratification of this treaty by the United States.”
One million Afghans already risk starvation, Dugger said, and the average person in Afghanistan lives only into his early forties. “If we bomb them now, they will starve.”
Dugger added that the president cannot declare war under the Constitution; Congress does that, and Congress had not done that yet.
Dugger favors federalizing security at airports and getting better information from spies and informers on terrorists. “I’m a long-time civil libertarian,” he said, “but public safety has to precede civil liberties when death is the question.”
He continued: “What began as irresponsible talk of war and ‘dead or alive’ by Mr. Bush and his people has escalated into a national press in full war cry. Walter Cronkite came out of retirement to sound the outcry against planned government control of wartime news …. Dan Rather talked about a world war.”
Such talk alarmed our allies, who hastened to calm us down. The French warned Bush not to use the word ‘war’ and not to play into bin Laden’s diabolical plot by getting involved in a guerrilla war in Afghanistan.
Going to war now, said Dugger, “may gravely intensify terrorist attacks on our people. Probably the greatest danger from terrorists is attack with biological weapons, since they are so cheap on the basis of cost per death…. If Mr. Bush’s grave misuse of the word ‘war’ as a metaphor for crimes against humanity and his unconstitutional declaration of war on September 15th now metamorphose, step by fatal step, into an actual war against Muslims and cities, then just as Osama bin Laden hopes, the world may be engulfed in hate and our beloved country may drown. Let us recompose ourselves, settle for patient justice, advance with the rest of the human race toward an internationally enforceable system of … international justice.”
Our Stolen Country
Next Dugger turned to December 2000, when “our 212-year-old American republic was stolen from us.
“After the secret, four-month Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia in 1787,” said Dugger, “Ben Franklin was asked what they had produced in all this secrecy. He said, ‘A republic, if you can keep it.’ But it was stolen. George W. Bush, his lawyers, led by the crafty James Baker III, Bush’s operatives in Florida led by his brother, Jeb, the governor, Secretary of State Harris, and five members of the Supreme Court , inventing a new constitutional right for the occasion, usurped from the people the right of the people to choose the president of the United States. Frankly, I don’t care whether it was Bush or Gore – I was for Nader. But the judges overturned the government by selecting the president 5-4 rather than let events take their course, and of course Bush was guilty of moving on many fronts to stop the recount in Florida after the court had stopped the recount and selected him and thereby stolen the office for him.” Dugger recommended the book Supreme Injustice, which calls the events “the most corrupt decision in the history of the Supreme Court.” “The government,” said Dugger, “was seized by a judicial and presidential coup d’etat.”
Congress and the president had already been delegitimized by uncontrolled campaign finance corruption and bribery in the last 20 years, said Dugger. “Now in Bush vs. Gore, the Supreme Court delegitimized itself. These are the only three branches of government that we have.
“This is no longer a respectable government,” he continued. “We have lost our entire government to a corporate oligarchy that now governs us without our permission …. The deal is off.”
Getting Back to Business
The present situation can be turned around. “I propose,” said Dugger, “we take the large corporation seriously, since it has taken our country. Let’s move from rhetoric to action to save our democracy from domination by these irresponsible, giant companies with neither roots nor nationality in democracy.
“Capitalism I don’t think will do as the name for the economic systems we are coping with. There’s a former American system – competitive, small unit, free enterprises with freedom of entry. Adam Smith celebrated it. It’s a wonderful system. It keeps prices down, works well, lets people compete with each other in their own neighborhoods, let’s the customers come and look the sellers in the eye, lets the sellers answer directly to the customers. It is a wonderful system – free enterprise, competitive system.” He compared this former American system of free enterprise with the “New World system of corporate gigantism based on ceaseless growth, the destruction and seizing of competitors, and the ideology that they identify as corporate libertarianism – Let the corporation do anything, anywhere, and the bigger, the better. Only by focusing on the size function – the differences between two systems – can we restore personal self-realization and autonomy to the central position in our futures that it deserves. Only by making democracy economic as well as political can we save ourselves and the entire human race from corporate domination. Ultimately, if not stopped, corporate domination by giant transnationals will mean the death of democracy, first here, then everywhere, the enslavement of people and nations to a corrupt, transnational corporate oligarchy running the world for its own purposes and benefit.
“I don’t think the subject is capitalism; it is huge, gigantic corporations that are circling the world and taking out economic justice.”
Dugger cited statistics that highlight the growing gap between the rich and the poor in the world as evidence of increasing economic injustice. During 1983 to 1995, he said, the Forbes 400 increased their wealth $1,300,000 a day on average. “At that rate, working 40 hours a week, you’d make $226,000 an hour – 44,000 times the minimum wage.” Twenty years ago, the pay gap between CEOs and production workers was 42:1, said Dugger; now, excluding stock options, it’s 419:1. “In the last three years, we’ve had almost 4 trillion dollars in corporate mergers, some of them as big as 2.5 billion dollars. In the last 50 years, the corporate share of total taxes has dropped from 33% to 15%, while the people’s share of taxes has gone from 44% to 73 percent. The savings and loan cost us taxpayers one-half trillion dollars – just 10 years ago. And now, abandoning safeguards in place for two-thirds of a century, our two parties and their presidents have said, sure, a bank is a stockbroker is an insurance company. Everything’s all right. Put them all together. The cigarette companies go on killing for profit. Who gives a damn?
“… One-third of world trade is transactions among units of the same corporation. The top 200 corporations’ combined sales were bigger than the combined economies of all the countries of the world except nine. The combined assets of the world’s largest 200 corporations well exceed one-quarter of all the world’s economic activity, yet they employ only 19 million of the 5.5 billion people in the world. Of the 100 largest economies in the world, 51 are corporations. Only 49 are countries. Wal-Mart, number 12, is larger than any of the 161 countries. Ford is larger than South Africa; Toyota is larger than Norway; General Motors is larger than Denmark; Mitsubishi is larger than Indonesia, the fourth most populous country on earth. If you think of social forums as an evolutionary consequence of our collective decisions under force and violence and good-heartedness and all the things that motivate human beings, this is an evolutionary maladaption of the greatest kind. The CEOs get rich buying people. On the days that the CEOs of nine US-based multinationals cut at least 3000 workers, each in 1995, the value of those nine CEO stock options rose 25 million dollars.”
Alliance for Democracy
The Alliance for Democracy, which Dugger founded, is an organization of populists, of “people who believe in democracy and don’t believe in large corporations running our lives.” It is “trying to reestablish the principle that democracy is supposed to be governing the economy, therefore we ought to be able to close corporations that go too far.”
The Alliance has produced a 175-page petition to close Union Oil Company of California, for example. The Attorney General of California told the Alliance that he didn’t have the authority to close corporations, “but every Attorney General in every state has the authority to close any corporation chartered in that state. We’re thinking next about General Electric and Monsanto,” said Dugger.
“We are not seeking just closure and reorganization of one oil company – We’re taking an important open and public first step together, as citizens and citizens’ organizations in the United States – there are about 130 organizations – to end the domination of our economics, our culture, our environment, our politics, our government and our national life by large and irresponsible national and transnational corporations. We’re saying that we, the people of the United States, acting in our several states, chartered the U.S.-based transnational corporations that now range across the world, and we assert our moral responsibility for and therefore our democratic control over offenses against people which our corporations commit or in which they become complicit anywhere and everywhere in the world. We know that to take this position is politically incorrect at least in customary major party politics. It’s a no-no to admit, much, much less to assert, that we as citizens are incriminated by what our corporations do abroad. Democracy is not supposed to be to blame. But Americans are to blame and democracy is to blame, and we here and now accept responsibility and start the long way back until the corporations we create are once again subordinate in every way to the will of the people.”
Dugger continued, “Our elections are bought and we all know it. The government is no longer our government. It’s these huge corporations’ government, and we all know it.
“So finally,” Dugger concluded, “I think it is time for all of us to look to form a people’s movement that’s independent of both the major parties as ever it needs to be and take our country back.”
He recommended reading Richard Grossman’s works, calling him “one of the most important people in the United States today.” Also, author David C. Korten (When Corporations Rule the World and The Post-Corporate World: Life After Capitalism) “has the best understanding you can get of what transnationals are doing to small businesses and to countries around the world.”
He urged people to join the Alliance for Democracy; any size donation makes you a member. Contact the Alliance at 681 Main St., Waltham MA 02451; 781-894-1179; email [email protected]; or visit www.thealliancefordemocracy.org/.
Q & A
During the question and answer period, Dugger elaborated on how corporations can be controlled. He said that he favors “federal rechartering [of] all international, interstate corporations, completely redefining them by standards that pertained to the first 100 years of the country; limiting their size, holding them legally liable, requiring complete disclosure, and abolishing corporate personhood which the courts invented. In addition, “We have to have the International Criminal Court ratified by the United States, and we have to have its jurisdiction expanded to transnational corporations.”
Regarding the question “Why” that surrounds the Sept. 11th bombings, he asked, “Can we see ourselves as so many see us and wind up hating us to death? We simply don’t have a good self-critical function in the United States. We are moving toward hegemony over the entire world. Star Wars is not about missile defense; if it were, we’d all be idiots spending $60 billion on a system that they can’t even prove works. It’s about developing weapons in space that circle the globe and can incapacitate the communication system of any nation on earth. You take out the communication system, we dominate the world. These people who have taken over the country intend to use Star Wars to consolidate rich people’s control of the human race. That is the long-run subject we have to deal with, and Granny D has dealt with it far beyond what I did.”
When asked about decentralization, he answered, “The whole tendency of the movement that many of us are a part of in the United States is to decentralize, and many people are committed that decentralists should be the central ideology, while I’m committed to the doctrine that evil begins with large size, that we’ve got to isolate the size function as the trouble in the system. On the other hand, we’ve got 1.2 billion people in the world with no toilets. We’ve got about 1.2 billion people in the world who live on a dollar a day or less. We’ve got 2 billion people in the world who have diarrhea – so talking about protecting our own communities and local agriculture, yes, we’ll do that, but that’s for ourselves. How do we rapidly reach the people that are going by, and their brains are not developing because they don’t have any food? I’ve begun to try to think my own way through that. What shortcuts can we find in the world system from our wealth to their misery? I think for that purpose, we cannot abandon large activity – centralized activity. We don’t know how to govern it democratically. It turns into fascism or communism or corporatism. I think we have to invent a new way to govern centralized, productive endeavors, not only how they’re governed democratically but governing the produce that flows from them to divert it to the world. Right now, the world food system is dominated by five supermarkets to the world, five grain companies. They decide who starves. So it’s a function we have to take over, and I don’t think we can take it over with local agricultural plots. It’s a huge subject and I do not go with the ideological decentralists. I think we’ve got to have some centralization of productive efficiency to reach those first people in a democratic way that we haven’t invented yet. Obviously we need to take the huge private grain company monopolies out of the equation. We need to stop giving IMF loans to Third World countries provided [i.e., on the condition that] they’ll start producing monoculture or mono products for export and destroy all their local self-sustenance. I’m for everything Vandana [Shiva] says, but I’m concerned about how long this is going to take. Because every day in the life of a person who’s starving is a reproach – to me, anyway. I just want to keep the subject open about centralism, that’s all.”
– Jean English