Corporations and Democracy

There is looming up a new and dark power... the enterprises of the country are aggregating vast corporate combinations of unexampled capital, boldly marching, not for economical conquests only, but for political power.... The question will arise and arise in your day, though perhaps not fully in mine, which shall rule, wealth or man; which shall lead, money or intellect; who shall fill public stations, educated and patriotic freemen, or the feudal serfs of corporate capital?
~ Edward G. Ryan, Chief Justice, Wisconsin Supreme Court, 1873 The corporation is the dominant economic institution of our time. Please read our resources regarding corporate chartering, corporate constitutional rights, and democratizing the corporation.

Teleconference on the Global Wave of Resistance

October 12, 2011
Liberty Tree

On Wednesday, October 12, 2011, the Liberty Tree Foundation convened a special briefing, the Teleconference on the Global Wave of Resistance. This global conference featured over 100 participants, and updates from leading organizers of the global wave of student and labor strikes, occupations, and revolutions. Panelists include core organizers from the UK, Germany, Israel, and Chile, as well as Wisconsin, Boston, Oakland, Washington D.C., and Wall Street, among others. This was the second such teleconference on corporatization and austerity org

Additional Information: 

Panelists included Nicolas Valenzuela, Uri Gordon, Mo Gas, James Sevitt, Adam Porton, Sarah Manski, Nadeem Mazen, Elaine Brower, Matt Nelson, plus moderator Ben Manski.

You can help: The struggle of 2011 continues

October 5, 2016
Liberty Tree
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We hope you will act on, and share, this appeal. Thank you.
Five years ago, hundreds of thousands of Wisconsinites rose up against the austerity policies of Gov. Scott Walker and the Chamber of Commerce. The Wisconsin Uprising launched the participation of millions of Americans in the protest wave of 2011 best made known by Occupy Wall Street and the #Occupy movement.

Dozens of organizations rally for New York Governor Cuomo to use state authority to deny pipeline after lands have been seized through eminent domain

April 11, 2016
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Nearly 400 people from across the state of New York and beyond rallied in Albany today asking Gov. Cuomo to stand up to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) and use the state’s authority under the Clean Water Act to deny the 401 water quality certificate for the Constitution Pipeline.

Group of kids sue Obama, federal agencies for supporting the destructive fossil fuel industry

April 11, 2016
Zoë Carpenter for The Nation
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 On Wednesday, a group of kids and teenagers will face off in an Oregon courtroom against the US government and the fossil fuel industry. The young people, from states as far away as Florida, Arizona, New York, Hawaii, and Alaska, are suing President Obama and several federal agencies for inaction on climate change.

Hundreds of Californians protest and testify against dangerous crude oil trains

April 11, 2016
Cal Coast News
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Opponents of Phillips 66’s proposed rail spur came from across California Thursday to protest the project as it appeared before the San Luis Obispo County Planing Commission. An estimated total of more than 500 people showed up to the first day of a two-day hearing on the planned rail spur.

Scientists warn earthquake risks are increasingly linked to corporate injection of wastewater from gas and oil extraction into the ground

April 11, 2016
Anna Kuchment for Scientific American
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To Cathy Wallace, the earthquakes that have been rattling her tidy suburban home in Dallas feel like underground thunderstorms. First comes a distant roar, then a boom and a jolt. Her house shakes and the windows shudder. Framed prints on the walls clatter and tilt. A heavy glass vase tips over with a crash.

South African anti-mining group continues speaking out against plans for titanium mine, calling for solidarity after assassination of founder

April 11, 2016
CIVICUS - World Alliance for Citizen Participation
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On 22 March 2016, Sikhosiphi “Bazooka” Rhadebe (pictured), chairperson of the, Amadiba Crisis Committee (ACC) was assassinated at his home by two assailants who shot him eight times in the head. ACC, a South African community organisation has been subjected to sustained harassment from local authorities and a mining company, for its campaign to oppose titanium mining on the ancestral land of local communities in the pristine Eastern Cape Province. Prior to the assassination, Rhadebe had contacted other members of the organisation warning them of a hit list that his name was on.

Climate activists call for no new oil extraction in New Orleans Superdome protest

March 27, 2016
Rising Tide North America
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Currently, hundreds of climate and social justice activists are occupying the Superdome in New Orleans in a mass protest calling to keep 43 million acres of oil and gas leases in the Gulf of Mexico.

Climate activists challenge using eminent domain for fracking with “Pancakes Not Pipelines” protest

March 27, 2016
Lee Ziesche for AlterNet
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Academy Award-nominated filmmaker Josh Fox (Gasland) and others from the activist group Beyond Extreme Energy were arrested today protesting the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission for its role in continuing to permit fossil fuel projects that will greatly accelerate climate change.

GMO labeling victory in Senate may be short-lived, but sheds light on successful pushback against corporate interests

March 27, 2016
Zoe Lister-Jones for The Huffington Post
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Last week, a bill to pre-empt states’ rights to label GMOs was overturned in the Senate. With over 90% of Americans in favor of labeling foods containing Genetically Modified ingredients, this outcome lends hope at a time in which many of us might feel the weight of corporate interest too often impacting legislation.

Grassroots activists successfully pressured corporate giant Kraft into dropping artificial dyes

March 27, 2016
Pulin Modi for The Huffington Post
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Kraft Mac & Cheese hit the news earlier this month with a series of marketing videos announcing many of their most popular products were free from artificial dyes. Such a substantial recipe change may seem like a sudden pivot, but it’s old news to the 365,806 consumers who spent three years promoting a petition on targeting Kraft for the removal of all synthetic dyes in Mac & Cheese.

Montana community members stopped largest new coal mine in North America

March 26, 2016
Nick Engelfried for Waging Nonviolence
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Montana communities won a victory against one of the world’s biggest coal companies earlier this month, when Arch Coal abandoned the Otter Creek mine – the largest proposed new coal strip mine in North America. The story of how the project imploded is one of people power triumphing over a company once thought to be nearly invincible.

What's trade policy got to do with climate policy?

March 17, 2016
Liberty Tree Foundation
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The global climate crisis. The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). What's trade policy got to do with climate policy? It's got the whole world to do with it.

Climate change creating dramatic loss of glaciers

March 16, 2016
Dahr Jamail
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Scientific reports about the increasing pace of melting ice -- in all its forms around the planet -- are being published on a nearly daily basis.
A study published in January revealed a dramatic increase in melt rates on Antarctica's most stable ice shelf, when it showed that melting rates were 25 times higher than expected.

How trade deals like the TPP undermine climate protections

March 16, 2016
Brian Bienkowski
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A powerful legal tool designed to protect foreign investors could undermine commitments made in Paris last month to reign in climate warming emissions. 

Model legislation for local “TPP Free Zones”

March 16, 2016
The Alliance for Democracy
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Global corporations are engaged in a series of elaborately planned moves to take away our democratic rights, and currently, nowhere is that more evident than in the promotion of multinational trade agreements like the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP).


Tips for getting a “TPP Free Zone” law adopted in your community

March 16, 2016
The Alliance for Democracy
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The TPP threatens laws and regulation designed to protect public health, financial transparency, food safety, workers rights, the climate and the environment. It allows governments to be sued by corporations for lost profit as a result of these ordinances. Yet labor, environmental, health care, internet/free press, climate justice, green energy and democracy organizations were excluded from negotiations, and, under fast track, can't work with legislators to amend the text of the agreement.


Why the Paris Climate Agreement is all talk and no action

March 16, 2016
Oscar Reyes
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 The headlines from the Paris climate talks tell an inspiring story. Unfortunately, however, the main text of the agreement is long on rhetoric and short on action.

How the corporation captured the academy

November 25, 2015
Ben Manski

Note: This article was originally published in the Liberty Tree Journal in 2007

ILSR: The growing energy democracy movement has huge potential

September 25, 2015
John Farrell
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The transformation taking place in the electricity system is enormous, but twofold. But most commentators – including the former FERC chair – miss half the opportunity when they fixate on the inevitable technological rather than the more fundamental economic transformation.

5 Steps to Turn Your Business Into a Worker-owned Co-op

September 9, 2015
Cat Johnson
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Worker cooperatives are a great way to bring democracy into the workplace. For retiring business owners and entrepreneurs, converting to a worker-owned co-op can also strengthen business and generate a return on investment.

The Democratic Turn of the Century: Learning from the U.S. Democracy Movement

March 18, 2015
Ben Manski

Originally published by the journal Socialism & Democracy. Contact the author for permission to reprint.

Democracy movements arose in most regions of the globe during the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries. Students of social change have studied many of these movements, but, remarkably, have so far failed to look at that of the United States.

Locking Up Black Dissidents and Punishing the Poor: The Roots of Mass Incarceration in the US

December 6, 2014
Mumia Abu-Jamal and Johanna Fernandez

This volume is a leap into the abyss that is the American Gulag. Our purpose is to explore the origins of the current system of carceral punishment, which began to mass-incarcerate poor and working-class African Americans and Latinos living in urban centers beginning in the late 1970s. We link the new characteristics of imprisonment as it then emerged to the campaign of state repression unleashed against the civil rights and black power movements in the 1960s. Some of those imprisoned are veterans of these movements, and are political prisoners.

More Info: 

This essay appears in the November 2014 issue of the Journal of Socialism and Democracy.  To read more click here.

Ben ManskI: Seattle WTO Uprising Still a Force in World Events, 15 Years Later

December 1, 2014
Ben Manski
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We live in an era in which it is increasingly normal for individuals not only to reject the power of corporations over their lives, but for some to even occupy public space and defy police and established authorities. Ben Manski discusses how this era was inaugurated on November 30th, 1999 in the streets of Seattle.

How emergency management in Michigan subverts democracy

November 2, 2014
Jake Blumgart - Next City
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Originally published on July 3rd, 2013

If you haven’t been following the goings-on in Detroit, this should bring you up to speed: Its elected leadership has lost control of the city. In April a state-appointed emergency manager, Kevyn Orr, signed an order effectively relegating city officials to the sidelines and placing himself in full control of Detroit’s policy apparatus. Nothing can be enacted without his approval.

Chevron engaged in massive election spending to subvert local democracy in Santa Barbara

October 28, 2014
Colin Loustalot - Santa Barbara Independent
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The majority of oil wells in the county today do not use the high-intensity techniques (fracking, acidizing, and steam injection) banned by Measure P.

So why are oil companies spending millions of dollars to defeat it?

Chevron engaged in massive election spending to subvert local democracy in Richmond, CA

October 21, 2014
Michael Winship - Moyers & Company
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When the Citizens United decision came down in 2010, many feared the Supreme Court had unleashed vast and unfettered campaign contributions from corporations bent on tightening their hammerlock on government and politics.

Detroit's water crisis is a democracy crisis

October 21, 2014
Sarah Lazare - Common Dreams
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Detroit's "unprecedented" shutoff of water utilities to city homes condemns residents to "lives without dignity," violates human rights on a large scale, and disproportionately impacts African-Americans, United Nations investigators declared Monday following a two-day inquiry.

Tribal activists plan community owned solar power plant

October 17, 2014
Mary Hansen - Yes! Magazine
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A proposed community-owned solar project on an abandoned coal mine in Arizona illustrates how cooperative economics make it possible to stop extracting fossil fuels—without leaving workers behind.

Week of action to oppose the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) Nov. 8-14

October 3, 2014
Action Alert from
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This fall, communities across the U.S. will once again join international allies in a global week of action against unjust trade. With Obama pushing to announce a TPP “framework” in November and the threat of Fast Track tripling in the lame-duck session, we need to demonstrate that hundreds of thousands still oppose corporate agreements meant to put profit before people and the planet.

The Global Climate Strike: Why We Can't Wait

September 24, 2014
Ben Manski and Jill Stein

The following article written by Liberty Tree board members Ben Manski and Jill Stein describes an idea currently under consideration within the Global Climate Convergence process . . . (the GCC is a project of Liberty Tree).

Community Democracy, and the Future of Broadband

September 3, 2014
David Morris
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Map shows municipal and locally-controlled broadband networks nationwide. Communities invest in telecommunications networks for a variety of reasons - economic development, improving access to education and health care, price stabilization, etc. They range from massive networks offering a gig to hundreds of thousands in Tennessee to small towns connecting a few local businesses. (Image: Institute for Local Self-Reliance)

Public Banking & Economic Democracy

May 21, 2014
Gwendolyn Hallsmith
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Private banks have not always been accepted institutions, fixtures of commerce, and purveyors of most of our economic transactions. Throughout US history, there have been robust public conversations about banks, largely due to their propensity to derail the economy when their business models fail. One example of this was in rural Vermont in 1806, when the state established their first public bank. Testimony on that bill, from Governor Tichenor lays out the problem:

TRUTHOUT: Building a more democratic banking system

March 17, 2014
Margaret Flowers and Kevin Zeese
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In Part I of this series, we examined breaking up the too-big-to-fail-or- jail banks, regulating them - especially

Al Jazeera: Oxfam says world's rich threaten democracy

January 21, 2014
Al Jazeera
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The 85 richest people on planet "own the wealth of half the world's population", the charity said.

The world's elite have rigged laws in their own favour undermining democracy and creating a chasm of inequality across the globe, charity Oxfam said in advance of the annual get-together of the world's most powerful at Davos.

WATCH: Ben Manski, Leland Pan, Jolie Lizotte and more on the future of student organizing

November 7, 2013
Liberty Tree Foundation

Last August hundreds of people from across the country convened in Madison, WI for the  2nd Democracy Convention.  Made up of nine individual conferences, the Convention was an extraordinary space for individuals and organizations to network with and learn from one another in the service of building a larger, more dynamic democracy movement.

NAOMI KLEIN: How Science Is Telling Us All To Revolt

October 29, 2013
Naomi Klein
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In December 2012, a pink-haired complex systems researcher named Brad Werner made his way through the throng of 24,000 earth and space scientists at the Fall Meeting of the American Geophysical Union, held annually in San Francisco. This year’s conference had some big-name participants, from Ed Stone of Nasa’s Voyager project, explaining a new milestone on the path to interstellar space, to the film-maker James Cameron, discussing his adventures in deep-sea submersibles.

WATCH: New documentary about Move to Amend

October 22, 2013
Move to Amend
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Move to Amend is thrilled that our brand new mini documentary about Move to Amend is FINISHED!

ELLEN BROWN: We need public banks more than ever

October 2, 2013
Ellen Brown
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To ask whether public banks would interfere with free markets assumes that we have free markets, which we don’t. Banking is heavily subsidized and is monopolized by Wall Street, which has effectively “bought” Congress. Banks have been bailed out by the government, when in a free market they would have gone bankrupt.

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