The Alliance for Democracy Founding Convention
November 21-24, 1996
Mo Ranch, Texas
Proceedings by Joanne Omang
Thursday Nov. 21
Alliance Founder, journalist, author
""Welcome to the future; welcome to each other."
In the six months after his Call to Citizens
appeared in The Nation (Aug. 14/21, 1995), he received more than 1,700 letters
that agreed there had to be some deeper cause for why none of us is getting
anywhere. The time, the people and the idea for a new populist movement
have all come together; the time is now.
It is a work of decades. We seek to turn passion into hope, for happiness and joy not only for ourselves and our children but for the happiness and joy of people we will never know. The international corporate oligarchy is taking over the world, if it has not already done so, and we must resist with all our might. Just by coming together here we are more than we were. We set forth.
[See complete transcript here.]
The Populist Moment This is the classic struggle for power--if it is
not, it's a struggle of egos--but power for our children, so that after
30 or 40 years of working they will be able to retire with dignity. If we
don't do something now, they won't.
Populists were offered support from lots of potential allies if they would help with this or that; but they said they were not a coalition and refused. They were a movement to change America. So too this movement must Just Say No. We have to recruit the American people to realize that their problem is not themselves-- it is out there, in the corporate system.
[See complete transcript here.]
Invited reports from local alliance representatives of their activities, successes and problems. Some 25 locals responded:
Birmingham AL: Twelve members have held seven workshops on corporate power. They support the UAW locally and are compiling notebooks on corporate behavior; the problem is to increase membership.
Chicago IL: Although 120 are on the mailing list, meetings draw five to 30 people. Few are core workers and they worry whether they will be effective.
Santa Rosa CA: Half the 65 members turn up for meetings. They sponsored a talk by Richard Grossman and other speakers for six hours of talk about corporations. They protested the corporate takeover of a hospital, spending $3,000 to the corporation's $300,000 in a voter referendum; the corporation won but the Alliance got 40 percent of the vote. The Alliance has set up a health care task force.
Schenectady NY: Targeting all of upstate New York, the local is eight weeks old and still constructing its program.
Boston/Cambridge MA: About 26 regulars turn up. They focus on systemic analysis and alternative economics research. They need more ethnic diversity and more growth, and want a unifying project, perhaps literacy on the corporate system.
Norman OK: Three months old and program-poor so far.
Washington DC: With 205 on the mailing list, the plan is to subdivide into four units. A one-page flyer (Attachment 1 not included here, ed.) gets attention. A teach-in on corporate presence was held. The local set up an "accompaniment" program in which members travel with Central American refugees returning in fear to their countries. Need more people of color: "our color is mainly gray."
Denver CO: Ronnie Dugger came out and "it just about killed us" with the expense of flyers, facilities and so on. With other progressives they plan to take part in The Other Economic Summit (TOES), to parallel the Group of 7 economic summit meeting there in June 1997. Although "everything we're doing is new," such as this demonstration and a possible clothing cooperative, "we're just not scared anymore."
Indianapolis IN: About 30 people organized the local last January; now they are networking with other progressives. They staged a "privatize Steve Goldsmith" action/demonstration at the local mayor's office, the state courthouse and the federal office building, passing out $6 bills, the amount needed from each American to publicly finance all election campaigns.
Brooklyn NY: Eight or ten are core members of 25 founders, a multiracial group. They are studying the local impact of corporations and protesting the privatization of a community hospital and of moves to do the same to local schools.
East Bay (Oakland and Berkeley) CA: The agenda must be a focused attempt to reach people. We're going in too many directions and have not given enough time to structural imperatives.
Burlington IA: Five active members are concerned about the Federal Reserve system and are trying to educate people about the corporate monopoly over the production of currency.
Santa Barbara CA: Good speakers attracted 60 people, but the mailing to 135 people cost 30 percent of the local's bank account. It has 20 semi-regular members, divided into study groups for better contact with potential members. They need practice in working together.
North Bridge MA: One of the most active Alliances, they raised $2,000 at a barn sale and workshops. They do the national mailings. Richard Grossman spoke. They are trying to learn "not to cling and clutch at our own issues" but to listen to others' needs, such as for more hugs.
Dallas TX: The local's 35 to 45 consistent members focus on small, winnable issues. They need practice in reaching true consensus.
Kansas City MO: Members of the chapter attended the Third Parties '96 convention in Washington DC and were involved with Ralph Nader's presidential campaign. With Dugger doing teach-ins on a local tour, new groups sprang up around Missouri, focusing on agribusiness. The state may host a regional conference next spring.
Austin TX: About 20 regulars come, but the "Duggernauts" of the initial gathering came only once. A problem is that calling for a decision after much debate is sometimes labeled a power grab. They have task groups on election reform, networking, and mapping the local corporate power structure.
North Carolina: Expecting a new, young movement, he finds a convention dominated by old white folks. That means there's a lot of wisdom here, but need energy too. How will we do this? Networking is crucial.
Cape Cod: A core group of 20 is splitting to help form a second Alliance. They got a campaign finance reform initiative on the Massachusetts ballot in 21 districts, and it passed with 87 percent of the vote in all of them. Through word of mouth they obtained information on dozens of alternative businesses and organizations, and are planning an Alternative Economics Fair/Exposition for the spring with three other groups.
Los Angeles CA: An independent filmmaker became an officer of his group because someone happened to say to him, "You can do this." He advised that each one take the lead in the other group that interests him (besides the Alliance) to get people involved. Build from the bottom.
San Francisco CA: The 25 core members are too old and too white, although some are poor. They did demonstrations challenging Disney Corp. practices; worked with the Gray Panthers on electoral reform; and took positions on several California ballot initiatives, helping pass calls for the minimum wage hike and campaign finance reform. A nucleus of coalitions is ready for action.
Michigan: It is part of an environmental alliance involving 48 groups in Minnesota, Michigan, Wisconsin and Ontario, Canada. They are fighting the "common property" land seizure practice that corporations overuse, proposing an amendment that renewable resources must not be impaired unto the 7th generation.
Southern West Virginia: Only one meeting so far, no actions yet, but concerned about corporate involvement in education: what do they want kids to learn? They will promote a more progressive personal income tax.
San Antonio TX: With five members or so, they expect to double soon. They helped with convention logistics and hope the agenda will remain open and fluid; the Alliance headquarters is weak on communications.
San Fernando Valley CA: They are pushing Kaiser Permanente to give patients a role in determining their own medical care, and will go to other HMOs afterward.
After formal adjournment for the evening, individuals announced the formation of Open Issues working groups to discuss matters not covered by the pre-convention's six Task Forces and three Working Groups. A bulletin board was designated for postings, new groups and sign-up sheets.