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Can the Community Rights Movement Fix Capitalism?

Photo Credit: Butz.2013 / Flickr Creative Commons

Editor’s Note: The Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund (CELDF) is a nonprofit open seductiveness law organisation that works to advance democratic, economic, social and environmental rights over those of corporations. In its own words, the classification “assists communities opposite the United States to plea the unfair and damaging mercantile complement we live under.” Thomas Linzey, a visit Rural America In These Times contributor, is CELDF’s co-founder and executive director. In the following letter he discusses strategy—what works and what doesn’t when it comes to accelerating systemic change.

While we shouldn’t be astounded anymore when someone at a discussion asks because CELDF’s village organizing doesn’t take on capitalism directly, the doubt still startles me. The sign is that the work nibbles around the edges, rather than being focused on directly changing the underlying mercantile complement that rewards community-destroying behavior. Therefore, the doubt suggests, CELDF’s work is unfailing to fail.

Not only does the doubt simulate a disagreement of the work, it also buys into the parable of how systems change.


For decades now, magnanimous academics and activists have decried the way the mercantile complement works. They’ve picked the complement detached piece by piece, while doing several post-mortems on the ways that capitalism has responded to all from the Great Depression to environmentalism. They’ve created adequate books to fill a library, given adequate speeches for everybody to have grown sleepy of conference them, and taken up adequate of the open space so that the contours of the elephant in the room have now been entirely dissected ad nauseum.

From one vantage point, they’ve finished yeoman’s work: Fashioning a extensive critique of capitalism has not been an easy task. This is quite loyal in the face of the wild “free market” functionaries who impetus in lockstep opposite every radio and newspaper. But from another vantage point, that critique has birthed a litmus test for activism that is unfit to achieve. It says that unless you’re proposing a unconditionally finished complement of replacement, and the means for that indiscriminate replacement, then the work you’re doing doesn’t have a request of changing anything.

Is indiscriminate deputy necessary? Perhaps, but the mercantile models drawn up in harangue halls likely aren’t the substitutes. Those are generally mired in the “old left” way of thinking—placing trust in supervision rather than in private marketplace actors. One could argue, however, that both systems have equally tortured Earth on the rack, the only disproportion being possibly private companies or governments are at the wheel.

Back to Basics

So, we need to start with the fundamentals. As historian Richard Grossman once declared, the bedrock functioning of all stream mercantile systems requires control over Earth’s resources, and the labor required to mislay them. For that purpose, those mercantile systems create centralized authorities that possibly control healthy resources and labor themselves, or create the conditions for private entities to do so.

In the United States, the sovereign and state authorised systems tumble into the latter category—serving to protect, isolate and raise the management of private entities to run the show.

This is because ecosystems and inlet are deliberate “property” in the eyes of the law. It’s because the owners of those ecosystems has the authorised management to destroy them. It’s because workers miss inherent rights in the workplace against their employers, because oil and gas can be legally taken from landowners but their permission under “forced pooling” laws, and because people within their own cities, towns, villages and countries are taboo from banning corporate bureau farms, genetically mutated organisms, oil and gas extraction, and a litany of other damaging corporate projects.

Those wishing to change that complement must come to grips with the fact that people do not welcome indiscriminate change immediately. First, a corporate sow plantation sites next doorway to them, or insecticide spraying threatens their organic garden. Logically, their concentration is on interlude those activities that are melancholy to mistreat them.

When they learn that the stream complement of law forces them to continue those harms, they start to know that what is happening in their village is not an removed example. Instead, their problem is structural, and not simply fixed. Without the community’s firsthand experience, and the superintendence of those who have seen it before, a critique of the complement at the opening simply finds no purchase.

Changing the System by Seizing It

CELDF’s work offers a support by which to know that world. It works with those people on the receiving finish of the system, to turn the ones who change it.

They start changing it by seizing their metropolitan governments to free themselves from a series of determining authorised doctrines of the past. These include: corporate inherent “rights” that pledge that corporate decisions overrule village decision-making; the management of state supervision and the sovereign supervision to strengthen business entities by preempting the village from adopting laws that meddle with corporate proposals; and the authorised doctrines that need the state government’s pre-approval for lawmaking by the community.

By forcing a recognition of their own right to oversee themselves, and using that right to stop that which is harming them, people and communities find to put capitalism in a box. It is a box in which projects that violate the rights of communities and inlet are prohibited. Those projects that do not violate rights, are not prohibited.

The work seeks zero reduction than to mislay centralized control over inlet and people by building a aegis of rights for human and healthy communities. With those forced changes to the system, is it still capitalism?

Would anyone caring if it was?

Through those exigencies of the moment, it is time to create a new mercantile and domestic complement piece by piece—one that has, perhaps, never been seen before. The newness of the moment, distant from giving us pause, should instead countenance the faith that it’s the only work worth doing.

(“Capitalism: The Elephant in the Room” was first published on CELDF’s website and is reposted on Rural America In These Times with permission from the author. For some-more information about the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund, click here.)


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