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(en) US, Neither Washington Nor Stowe: Common Sense For The Working Vermonter

From Worker <a-infos-en@ainfos.ca>
Date Sun, 23 Jan 2005 12:43:05 +0100 (CET)

A - I N F O S N E W S S E R V I C E
News about and of interest to anarchists
http://ainfos.ca/ http://ainfos.ca/index24.html

A manifesto dealing with the specifics of the Vermont political and
economical situation and outline what an anarchist-communist society,
based on radical union and revitalized town meeting, could look like locally.
--*/The Green Mountains, 2004/* --- As Vermonters we are perhaps the most
weather conscious people in North America. We feel the winter winds
through the drafts of old farm houses, smell the melting snow when
collecting our sap buckets, hear the birds of summer while tending our
farms and gardens, and see the beauty of fall written across the hills
in oranges and yellows. Many of us still work with our hands, be it as
loggers, farmers, carpenters, midwives, or crafts-persons. When the
leaves fall we still hunt deer, and many of us still cut our own fire
wood a year in advance. Even the many of us who live in town still
grapple with the dirt roads during mud season, and swim in country lakes
during the warm months. We know our neighbors, drink cider and beer
around campfires, and during the second Tuesday in March, we still
debate and vote at Town Meeting. We, for the most part, have maintained
this way of life despite the over development, consumerism, and
government centralization that has plagued much of the continent. We
maintain this, in part, for reasons beyond ourselves. The rugged terrain
of the Green Mountains and near arctic winters limits our potential for
certain forms of development, while also shielding us from less hardy

Because of this remoteness our Green Mountains often feel a century away
from Boston, and a million miles from New York. Yet we are still tangled
in the treacherous web of Washington politicians, and the wealthy elite
from Wall Street, to Texas, to Stowe. We are our own people, yet we are
compelled to mimic the same bureaucratic structures in our government
and economic dead ends in our communities that strangle the common
working person from California to Maine.

*A Peoples’ History*

The history of Vermont is one of independence, democracy, and justice.
In the 1700s, we, as common farmers, successfully fought our own war of
independence against New York, and then, later, the British Empire. In
our early years we achieved sovereignty based on a directly democratic,
more empowered, Town Meeting system and continued as an independent
republic for 14 formative years. We were the first state to guarantee
its citizens the right to vote, even when they were not land owners, and
we never allowed slavery. From the Green Mountain Boys, to the
underground railroad, to those who volunteered to fight against slavery
in the Civil War, to those who battled against Fascism during and before
World War II, we have never shirked our responsibility in fighting the
good fight, when we have deemed it such, and when the call has come. In
a word, we are a people who dare to lead both by example, and struggle.

More recently, we have lead the nation on such basic issues as providing
healthcare for children, raising the minimum wage, civil unions,
legalization of medical marijuana, and mandatory labeling of genetically
modified seeds. Being in front of other regions, demanding more for the
common good than the poverty of global capitalism normally allows for,
is both our birth right, and historical calling. But, being a pace in
front of a slow runner is not good enough to guarantee the maintenance
of our way of life, nor the emergence of a freer, equitable society
beyond the shackles of international corporations and their two national
political parties.

In a word, while the goddess of agriculture still looms above the State
House, our farms are quickly disappearing. From 10,000 family operated
dairy farms a generation ago, to only 1200 today, “free trade” and the
corporate take over of agriculture have driven us to fight for the very
survival of this dignified way of life. And again, our once powerful
manufacturing base, which formally included highly productive machine
shops from Brattleboro, to Springfield, to Newport has faded, moving to
the super exploited markets of China and Mexico. To fill the void, the
tourist industry (ski resorts, hotels, retail, restaurants, etc.) has
emerged as a major employer. Unfortunately, this shift has emerged as
the mass substitution of dignified, good paying jobs with benefits (the
type that you can raise a family on), for those that pay close to the
minimum wage, carry few, if any benefits, and demand that us working
Vermonters smile, dance, and entertain those upper middle class and
wealthy, out of state, tourists who view Vermont as little more then
their quaint New England, theme park.

So, the question becomes, where are we now? If we retain our current
trajectory will the Vermont we leave to our grandchildren resemble that
which we were raised in? Will our hills still be dotted by farms, or
will our red barns be replaced with more ski resorts, chain stores, and
inns for the rich? If the latter becomes true, we must recognize the
fact that future Vermonters will be compelled to get by on no more than
minimum wage, little or no healthcare, and the confines placed on our
tradition of democracy by corporate control and federal dictates. The
bottom line is that we, as the majority, are standing at a crossroads at
which we can choose the path of capitalist homogenization, or, rather,
lead the way back towards direct democracy, local control, and the
social advancement of the common good.

*The Yoke of Washington and Wall Street*

The United States of America, and much of the remaining world, operates,
above all else, according to the rules of capitalism. Under capitalism,
the basic goal of society becomes the private accumulation of wealth for
the elite few. In other words, the major institutions of society value
the production of goods and services that are capable of generating a
maximum amount of profit. What is best for the common good is often
obscured by what is considered best for economic consumption. With such,
working people (who are by far the vast majority of the population) are
seen simply as a necessary resource for corporations and private owners.
Instead of viewing workers and small farmers as equal members of the
broader society, they, in the eyes of the owners and bosses, are
relegated to objects of exploitation. Their labor is used not as a means
to up lift society as a whole, but as a tool to make a select few very
rich. On the job, we are often compelled to work under the near
dictatorship of the boss. Even when we work for ourselves, we are still
dictated to by the wealthy who hire us, as well as the ebbs and flows of
the capitalist economy. In short, we are compelled to engage in work in
order to create a massive overall profit that we will never see, and if
we don’t like it, and we speak up, we face the likelihood of being
fired. The schools teach us that this is democracy. For forty to sixty
hours a week we live under a dictatorship, in our workplaces, and this
is acceptable?

Insofar as social and economic policy is concerned, the federal
politicians, who are usually bought and paid for by the rich, don’t ask
what we think or what we want. Instead they take into account the
“needs” of the owners. They pass legislation that makes the rich richer,
and the poor poorer, and adopt trade agreements that translate into the
foreclosure of family farms and the relocation of factories to countries
and states where workers have even less rights, and where wages are even
lower then they are here. And again, these politicians write laws which
help allow the rich to skip out on paying their share of taxes, and
instead rely on the working class to foot the federal bill. And what do
we receive in exchange for such taxes? Healthcare? Affordable housing?
Free higher education? No. Our money is used, by and large, to subsidize
the corporations, and to build bombs and tanks that are deployed at the
whim of the President and in the interests of the elite.

The federal government demands that we provide them with money, send our
children to die in their wars, sacrifice our rights for the profit of
the few, and to do so without complaining. This is the directive of
Washington DC and Wall Street, and this is the yoke which is placed over
the neck of the working people of both Vermont, the rest of the nation,
and much of the world. So do we learn to live with this yoke, or should
we seek to break it –once and for all?

*The Yoke Within*

If it wasn’t enough to have the federal government and big business on
our back, we also have foes closer to home. The greedy capitalists that
run the resorts, the yuppies that we have to wait on, managers that run
the factories –these are the daily reminders that we’re forced to work
within the confines of U.S. economic machine.

For example, let us take a look at the case of Stowe. Nestled on the
busy thoroughfare of Rt. 100 and in the shadow of Mount Mansfield, this
quaint village represents, to many of us working Vermonters, what is
wrong with the current set up. Million dollar second homes for the
wealthy of Toronto, Connecticut and beyond dot the hills. Workers from
Morrisville, Hardwick and Elmore make the daily trudge to labor in the
quaint shops that line Main Street, to staff the ski resorts, to
manicure the lawns of the rich and wait on them hand and foot at their
catered parties. This Vermont theme park for mostly rich out-of-staters
has grown so large in its scale of operation that hard working people of
the surrounding towns cannot perform all of the necessary labor to keep
the lazy rich bastards content. Hard working people from Jamaica and
other countries are recruited to staff the tourist industry, young
working people, who travel around the country working at resorts just so
they can afford to ski or snowboard, sell themselves into a glorified
form of indentured servitude for a season. Working people from around
the country who immigrate to our green mountains for their beauty and
quiet end up facing the ugly crowds of the tourist busses and their
shrill chatter while ringing them up at the register.

In this poker game we see the workers whose cards leave them with only
their wits to play the game, the wealthy flatlanders always with a royal
flush in hand, but there is another character whose hand is at play and
who shuffles the cards to keep the deck stacked against the common
Vermonter. That is to say, there is the local elite who own the hotels,
the restaurants, the big landscaping companies, the real estate firms,
the car dealerships, the chains of quaint antique and craft shops which
are all made to appear unique but, in fact, are all part of the same
business. There is a local status quo in power in Stowe and Montpelier,
in Brattleboro and Killington, and throughout Vermont who profit off the
maintenance of this system of exploitation and inequity. While they play
real hard at trying to maintain the image of regular good ol’ Vermonters
just like everyone else, their interests (and profit margins) lie more
in tune with the wealthy, both here and out-of-state, than with us
workers, be we Vermont born and raised, or recent arrivals to the Green

Here is the picture. A small dairy farmer signs off on the foreclosure
of a family farm as old as the independent republic of Vermont while
Mark, an entrepreneur in Stowe, celebrates the acquisition of a new shop
at which common Vermonters will labor for poor wages to make him richer.
A Vermont national guardsman in Iraq gets blown up by a bomb while a
member of The Cody family (owner of several area car dealerships among
other businesses) sits comfortably and safely behind a desk as a four
star general in the US army. A carpenter hitchhikes to the jobsite,
because he can’t afford to get his car fixed until next week while
“Caring Capitalists” Ben and Jerry make a shitload selling their company
to the multi-national corporation Unilever. Our good ol’ boy governor
Jim Douglas gives 350,000 of our tax dollars to the ski industry to
subsidize their advertising costs while he scolds dairy farmers asking
for a 500,000 investment to buy their own dairy processing plant. The
liberal-led government of Burlington does some remodeling to bring in
department stores and fancy boutiques while a family in the old North
End has to sell off their home because yuppies have driven up the
property taxes.

There are, in fact, two Vermonts. One of wealth and privilege, and one
of hard work and sweat. If Vermonters have any chance of success against
the forces of Washington and Wall Street, the battle must start in our
own backyard against the business and political elite of Montpelier and
Stowe. We must guard against the sly maneuvers of both the conservative
and the liberal status quo in Vermont, and fight to win more power for
ourselves in our towns and workplaces. Could our efforts ever cultivate
a harvest hardy enough to withstand the strong, cold winds of Washington
and Wall Street if we do not till our fields first? Can you start a good
sugaring season without first cleaning out of your sap buckets? The
answer is no. There will be no victory over the enemy without before
there is victory over the enemy within. For it is the privileged and
powerful locally and their dupes who will stand as the first serious
line of defense for the privileged and powerful classes in general. So
do we bow our heads, mutter curses under our breath, and continue to
subsist on the scraps they throw to us- or do we dare to struggle and
dare to win against the local elite?

A Second Vermont Revolution

So, what is to be done? We can choose a different way; a way that
will allow our grandchildren to experience the independence,
democracy, self sufficiency, and natural beauty that was the gift
handed down from our common ancestors. If we choose this path to
freedom, we can set our course in such a manner that our future will
not be, simply, a still life of the past, but one that reflects new
possibilities for equality, further democracy, and social stability.
There is no reason in the world that we cannot both honor the past,
while paying homage to a future wherein all Vermonters are allowed
free access to healthcare, higher education, housing, childcare, and
decent jobs. This is the trick. Remaining true to our roots, while
capturing the spoils of technology and the potential of social
cooperation. So what would such a Vermont look like, and how do
we get there? Well, the seed of such a place is already in our hearts,
and through such, has already begun to show signs of germination.

Back in the 1700\u2019s, before Vermont was a state, we practiced a
form of direct democracy through an empowered Town Meeting
system. Imagine for a moment that the legislature didn\u2019t meet
in Montpelier. Imagine, in fact, that there is no legislature at all.
Instead envision a system working throughout all the Green
Mountains where by all major decisions are made through local
Town Meetings. Now of course one, or two, or even 30 Town
Meetings don\u2019t have, nor should they have, the power to
impose their views on all of us. However, would it not be more
representational of our collective general will if a majority of towns
voted to pass a certain regulation, law, or resolution? Well, that is
how the early years of Vermont were defined and that is how the
great American revolutionary Thomas Paine believed it should be. In
other words, we used to all get together in our different communities
in order to discuss, debate, and publicly vote on all the big issues that
affected Vermont as a whole. And if a majority of towns passed
something, it was considered a done deal. And again, the way in
which they tallied votes was to have representatives of every town
meet in order to report what the majority of their community felt was
best. These people, unlike our current State Representatives and
Senators, were not voted in, and then allowed to vote however they,
their political Party, or the interests behind them, chose. Instead they
were bound to simply relay the mandate of their community.

Of course, Vermont is a different place than it was back in 1776. No
longer are the majority of us small farmers, and therefore our own
bosses. Today, Vermont is a place where most of us work for
someone else, and where the remaining farms have to struggle to
remain viable in the larger capitalist world. In short, Vermont, like
nearly everywhere else in the modern world, is a society divided by
economic classes, and again by the interests of the large population
centers, like Burlington, as opposed to the small rural communities.
Therefore, the rebirth of our tradition of direct democracy would have
to take these factors into account.

Town Meeting

Since the 1980s, we have witnessed the slow reinvigoration of our
Town Meeting system. What began as towns passing resolutions
against the perceived dangers of nuclear power, has grown into a
widespread movement of communities taking stands on any number
of issues. Now a days it is common for us to pass resolutions for or
against any number of issues; be it against GMO foods, for or against
Vermont Yankee, against nuclear weapons, in support of the Bill of
Rights (and against the USA PATRIOT Act), in favor of wind power
and other renewable energy sources, etc. These resolutions have
been declared \u201cnon-binding\u201d by the state government and
are viewed by some simply as a way for common people to make
their views known to the General Assembly. On the other hand, the
statewide debate over Act 60 (the law which is intended to provide
poorer children as good an education as rich children) witnessed a
remarkable chain of events. During the height of the debate, a small
number of wealthy towns (West Dover, Stowe, etc.) voted to withhold
their property tax money from Montpelier while they were fighting to
restore the old system. These rich towns were generally motivated by
self interest and greed (not wanting \u201ctheir\u201d money to be
spent on text books for poor children in Hardwick, etc.), but, at the
same time, their actions demonstrated a new emerging resolve
among towns to reassert their own sovereignty over that of the

The future re-establishment of direct democracy in the Green
Mountains, will, in a large part, rely on the extension of the power of
Town Meeting. But how will this be achieved? One thing is clear, the
politicians in Montpelier will not simply hand it to us. Our only
chance at winning will be through the coordination of a statewide
movement, based in the towns, which seeks to extend our local
authority, with or without the approval of Montpelier.

Imagine if you will a statewide effort to place a resolution on the
majority of Town Meeting agendas which declared that \u201cWhen
and if fifty percent, plus one, towns representing a majority of
Vermonters pass any given resolution, all local revenue and
cooperation will be withheld from the state government until such
time as that resolution becomes the common practice of the

It will be through such an effort that we will begin to reclaim our
democratic traditions which have been obscured through 200 years of
capitalist centralization, and upper class domination of the political
system. In order for us to do this, we must begin to bring such self
empowering resolutions to our various Town Meetings. We can do
this individually, town by town, or through the formation of a large
non-sectarian coalition of those networks of Vermonters (GE Free
VT, the anti and even pro Vermont Yankee groups, and the
anti-Patriot Act organizations) which are already mobilized and
capable of getting resolutions placed on a good many Town Meeting

Would such an empowered Town Meeting system translate into a
direct democracy in and of itself? Given the modern basis of our
economy, as well as the diverging interests of the remaining farmers,
and other working class people, it would seem reasonable that such
an empowered town system would only be one part of the equation. If
we are to truly and honestly help build a freer and democratic
Vermont, we would do well to find ways to extend this direct
democracy to the farm and the workplace.

The Farmers

Agriculture has always been a part of our culture. Let us remember
that the legendary Green Mountain Boys, who were the scourge of
New York authority, and the British at Ticonderoga, were no more
then small farmers themselves. In our past it was the farmers who,
when needed, banded together to fight the good fight for the common
cause. Today their struggles tend to be against the large capitalist
agribusiness. Where they once fought red coats and sheriffs, they
now fight against the unfair trade policies of NAFTA, the FTAA, and
federal and state politicians who time and again sell them out to their
capitalist underwriters. Only one thing remains the same\u2026they
are still fighting for their free existence.

While we have lost many farms throughout this long fight, those that
remain have begun to organize. To date, over 300 farms have band
together to create the Dairy Farmers of Vermont (DFV). This group
represents a staggering eight hundred and fifty million pounds of raw
Vermont milk (or one third of all that is produced in the state). DFV,
which was formed in an old barn in the Northeast Kingdom, is
presently fighting for the rights of Vermont farmers generally, the
establishment of a farmer controlled Vermont processing plant, and,
with the aid of organized labor, for higher wholesale prices. In line
with our traditions, they operate according to directly democratic
principles. In other words, no decisions are final until they are
brought before a vote of all the members. And here the rule is one
farmer, one vote.

While it is way to early to know what victories DFV will win, and
while we cannot say for certain how this organization will grow in the
coming years, we can say this; the more farmers are organized, the
more power they will have when confronting corporate America. In
the past, when most Vermonters grew crops and kept live stock, we
could count on Town Meeting to voice their unique concerns and
interests. However, because of the changing economic landscape, we
cannot do so now. Today, many farms are isolated in communities
that increasingly rely on tourism and other industries for jobs and
revenue. Therefore, farmers\u2019 voices are often drowned out in
the multitude of other perspectives. For this reason we need to
support such democratic farmers\u2019 groups as DFV. As long as
we value this important link to our past, and as long as self reliance
remains a Vermont ideal and goal, we must support those emerging
institutions that fight for the preservation of local, small, agriculture.
And besides, if one of our goals to provide healthy food for ourselves
and our children, should that food not, when possible, be cultivated
right here where we can both watch it grow and take pride in
knowing those who produce it?

While we may agree that all this is desirable, how does it relate to the
broader picture of a more free and democratic Vermont? Well, the
present course of the DFV, and other like minded farmer groups, is
similar to what we see happening in the Town Meeting movement.
These groups are the nucleus of democratic change, and, by virtue of
their existence, demonstrate the potential for expansion. It is
conceivable that the DFV or a future organization will extend their
membership to other farmers (not just those in dairy). And imagine,
if you will, that after winning some concrete gains they were to
reorganize themselves into local, countywide, sections. Each one
meeting several times a year and operating, like Town Meeting,
according to directly democratic principles. Let us imagine that such
an organization began to develop strong means of communication
with the Town Meeting movement. Could we not expect such an
organization to eventually run and regulate agriculture on a local and
statewide basis the same way that an empowered Town Meeting
system would give voice to the concerns of the residents of local
communities? From this stand point, the answer must be a hardy

The Workplace

When most Vermonters were farmers, many of us belonged to the
local Grange. Today, most Vermonters work in other industries, and
many of us belong to unions. Right now tens of thousands of us are
union members. More then 10,000 state workers belong to the
VSEA. 10,000 more belong to AFL-CIO unions including many iron
workers, plumbers, writers, factory workers, communication
workers, carpenters, nurses, and public utility personnel. The
independent United Electrical, Radio and Machine Workers (UE)
claims hundreds of members across these mountains, and the
National Educators Association (NEA) claims thousands more. All
this in a state that has a total population of just over 650,000. In a
word, large sections of working Vermonters are organized across the
region in numerous sectors. And again, for the last six years, many of
these unions have come together in the spirit of mutual aid by
becoming members of the Vermont Workers\u2019 Center coalition.

The Workers\u2019 Center, like the Dairy Farmers of Vermont, and
in the tradition of Town Meeting, operates as a democratic
organization. Affiliated members (unions, some social justice groups,
and individual working class people) have a vote on a steering
committee which sets the priorities, and political positions of the
center. [*Note: In 2003, the major Vermont unions, through the
Workers\u2019 Center, passed a resolution condemning the invasion
of Iraq] Here, under one big tent, working people are able to come
together in common cause in order to fight for that which the
capitalist economy is loath to grant them. Better pay, more
democracy at work, and social justice has become not just the
struggle of isolated people, or separate unions, but the common fight
of an increasingly united working class. And as this spirit of solidarity
has been kindled among worker organizations, it has had a
reverberating effect upon the elected union leadership. In 2003 the
Vermont AFL-CIO elected a reform, pro-democracy, candidate to
serve as state President.

However, as Vermont\u2019s manufacturing base has eroded due to
corporate greed and the federal policies of free trade, this sector has
been increasingly replaced by low paying service and retail jobs. And
here, union concentration (and decent wages and benefits) has been
seriously challenged. This shift in the economy of course presents a
unique set of challenges to the Vermont working class movement.

In response to this the Vermont Workers\u2019 Center in
cooperation with the UE helped to launch a historic citywide union
drive aimed at the 800 service and retail workers of the capital city. In
2003 the Montpelier Downtown Workers Union (UE Amalgamated
Local 221) was formed, and today the union has won contracts in two
shops, is promising two more by the fall, has members in more than
a dozen other shops, prints a monthly newspaper for area workers,
and has established a citywide steward system and grievance

Like Town Meetings, and the Dairy Farmers of Vermont, this young
and innovative union has organized itself as a truly democratic voice
in the community. Instead of taking the dictums of the bosses at face
value, they have begun to create a directly democratic space through
which workers are free to hold meetings of their own, and therefore
begin to decide how they think things should be run. The days of
politicians, the rich, and the Chamber of Commerce calling all the
shots may be numbered after all.

This past April, the union held a Workers\u2019 Town Meeting at
which union members from more than a dozen different city shops
participated. At the meeting, the working conditions of the area
service and retail sector were discussed, as was various strategies for
how they could advance their social visions and economic demands.
It was there that members debated and then democratically voted to
establish the citywide grievance procedure, and to form a
Workers\u2019 Defense Squad. These facets of the union are now
beginning to be utilized by workers across Montpelier as a means of
building further democracy, fighting the bosses, and gaining social
respect. Tellingly, the Defense Squad, which in principle is the direct
action wing of the union dedicated to supporting the grievance
procedure, is made up of not only members of the Downtown
Workers\u2019 Union, but allied members of other area unions such
as the Carpenters, the Teamsters, the Nurses, the NEA, and the
Printers (all of which are members of the Workers\u2019 Center

While this new union still has far to go on the road to the
empowerment of the Montpelier working class, it cannot be stressed
enough that their initial successes carry positive ramifications for
workers across Vermont. As word of their victories spread throughout
the hills, it is possible that workers in other cities and towns will
follow suit. And as they begin to build such democratic unions across
the state, there can be no doubt that the voice of the common woman
and man will begin to eclipse that of the politicians, landlords, and

OK, so the question again becomes, exactly how does the building of
new democratic worker organizations, and development of
inter-union solidarity relate to the over all task of transforming
Vermont for the better? Aside from the fact that unionized workers
have job security, better pay (on average), and more democracy on
the job than their nonunion counterparts, the above discussed
developments in the labor movement seem to point to a broader
trend. First of all, the more established unions are becoming open to
more internal democracy. Second, the example of the Montpelier
Downtown Workers\u2019 Union shows the potential for building
new, directly democratic unions among the ranks of low paid
workers. And third, the emerging sense of organized class solidarity
would seem to allow for a more dynamic labor movement then could
previously be expected. These three developments point to new

Even so, could it not be argued that when and if the Town Meeting
system is further empowered, that workers will no longer need the
protection of labor unions? This, in that they, as the majority class,
will be fairly represented through their communities. While it is true
that workers are the majority, it is also true that many towns, like
Stowe, entail hundreds of workers who do not, and currently cannot,
live where they work. Therefore, in order to give a voice to those,
who by their labor, make the functioning of that community possible,
we must recognize the absolute need for the integration of worker
organizations with the Town Meeting system. Union plus Town
Meeting equals democracy!

In addition, it is hard to imagine a situation where the power of Town
Meeting and farmer organizations are effectively expanded without
the further maturity of the Vermont labor movement. In a sense, for
any one of these interests to have a chance at superseding the power
of the rich and that of the General Assembly, they must all develop
together, as supporting beams of a united and popular movement.
While the towns have the power to withhold cooperation with the
centralized government, and the farmers the strategic ability to
control local food production, the workers, through their
organizations, have the all important ability to withhold their labor.
Without the workers\u2019 participation, NOTHING in Vermont, or
the world for that matter, other then the rising and setting of the sun,
could continue to function. Without our participation capitalism and
the system of government which has come to underwrite it, would

With this being said, after the Downtown Workers\u2019 Union
reaches a further level of maturity, it should seek to develop further
ties with the rank and file of other unions also located in the city.
Maybe this will be partially achieved through the ongoing inter-union
work of the Defense Squad. Maybe this squad will eventually develop
into an action committee which does not confine it to the struggles of
local 221. It is possible that it will emerge as committee which is
prepared to take direct action in defense of all Montpelier workers,
those from different unions, and those that are yet to belong to a
union. And again, as such relations of mutual aid develop, however
they come about, is it not possible that some crucial worker related
issue will come to the surface which compels all the unions of
Montpelier to come together in one great workers\u2019 council? For
the moment, the eyes of Vermont are on these workers, and it is up
to them to set the example for struggles that are yet to have not yet
risen to the surface.

As the fight goes on, we shall see what will happen. But one way or
another, workers, all across the Green Mountains would do well to
come together in such organizations. In a word, if you work in a
nonunion shop, talk with your coworkers and form a union. If you are
already in a union, get involved with it, fight to make it more
democratic, and if it hasn\u2019t already become a member of the
Workers\u2019 Center, propose to your membership that you join
today. And of course, while we struggle to win mid-term bread and
butter victories for our class, we must seek to integrate unions into
local and statewide networks of mutual aid; capable of making
political decisions, engaging in effective strategies, and nurturing
internal practices consistent with direct democracy. If we achieve all
this, could we not assume that it will be the workers themselves who
one day will be in a position to self manage the sectors of the
economy they already know so well? Just as we must struggle to
create farmer organizations that are capable of coordinating
Vermont\u2019s basic food production, we must do what we can to
bring more workers into the organized fold, while transforming our
existing unions from within, into bodies which are capable of holding
production together without the exploitive presence of corporate
owners, and thick headed bosses.

In summation, a good union is no different than Town Meeting; only
it is a form of Town Meeting which is daily reinforced through
activities on the shop floor, and finds its larger expression through
the integrated efforts of workers across industrial lines. When we
were all farmers we met in Town Hall to decide our own fate. Today,
all that has changed is that we now work in hundreds of different
jobs, often in towns where we do not live, and the communal place
where we go to make decisions has come to include our Union Halls.
As the fight to regain our democratic freedom comes full circle, we
must recognize that it is impossible to recreate the past; one cannot
step in the same river twice. Our world has changed, and with it the
directly democratic process of Town Meeting must come to include
countywide farmer organizations, and integrated worker councils. It
will be through these three pillars of democracy that we will again
come to know the dignity and privilege that comes with a truly free
and empowered people.

Freedom and Unity

Town Meeting, democratic farmer organizations, and worker
councils; these are the three building blocs of a free and prosperous
Vermont. Each of these organizations, both at a local and regional
level, would stand for the organized interests of the people. But in and
of themselves these organizations do not necessarily translate into a
functional direct democracy. If we cannot find a way to tie them all
together, we will be left in the quagmire of having three separate,
though popular, institutions. If this were the case it can be assumed
that they would inevitably compete with each other for overall
sovereignty, and in the process they could fail to surmount the
powers of Washington, Wall Street, and the State. Let us recall that
in a divided house, the tyrant remains king.

Therefore, we must find ways through which all three are integrated
into one functioning system. Ideally, each body would represent one
vote. For any decision to be made, we could require that two out of
three of the bodies vote in its favor. In other words, if a single town,
or a small number of adjacent towns sought to pass a resolution
which would only affect those communities, we could require that
both the farmer organization(s), and the worker councils that exist in
those communities also debate and vote on the issue. If two out of
three vote in favor, then it should be done. Conversely, the farmer
organizations or worker councils could also bring issues to the fore
which the related Town Meetings would have to vote on. And again,
when decisions have to be made on a broader level, we can require
that all three bodies vote on the question at hand during something
akin to a greatly empowered Vermont wide Town Meeting Day. Of
course all members of society will have two votes; one through the
town where they live, and the other either in their local worker
council or county farmer organization. Therefore, in order for such
big decisions to be democratically made, the general meetings of
these bodies would have to be staggered. For example, on the second
Tuesday of every March, all the towns would hold their meetings. A
week later the farmers would hold their county meetings. A week
after that, the worker councils would hold their meetings. If a
majority of towns, which represent a majority of Vermonters passed a
given resolution, then it would register that the towns, collectively,
voted yes. If a majority of the county based farmer organizations,
representing a majority of farmers, passed a resolution, then it too
would be considered a yes vote. And again, if a majority of worker
councils, representing a majority of workers, passed a resolution,
then it would be counted as a yes vote. There are several options for
how resolutions would become law. A Vermont-wide resolution
could be considered law if a majority in two out of the three bodies
voted in its favor or ,perhaps, a free Vermont would require a majority
in all three bodies for a resolution to pass.

So how would resolutions be placed on all these agendas? After all, if
we are to coordinate all the functioning of Vermont ourselves
(without the centralization of the General Assembly), we will have to
see to it that certain basic issues are addressed, in every local body all
at once, and in a timely manner. With well over 200 Town Meetings,
an equal amount of worker councils, and 12 farmer organizations, it
is not practical to think that a few committed individuals will be
capable of getting enough signatures in each locality to get any single
issue on all the local agendas. Furthermore, such a task would have
to be performed once, twice, or even four times a year! Assuming
that such dedicated individuals did mobilize, is it not likely that
dozens of similar, yet competing resolutions would also be placed on
the agendas, piecemeal, across the Green Mountains? How could
Vermont smoothly function given these inherent difficulties?

First of all, we have to remain vigilant that we do not begin to
dismantle the democratic rights of individuals and groups, in the
name of efficiency. Therefore, as is the case now with towns, people
should always be allowed the option of privately getting signatures in
their communities in order to get things placed on their local agenda.
And if other organizations wish to have specific issues addressed in
multiple towns (or for that matter in the farmer groups or worker
councils), they should have the right to attempt to do so. However,
these means of expression are not enough to guarantee the practical
operation of running all of Vermont. For this reason, we should seek
to build a system through which any one Town, worker council, or
farmer group has the right to ask that a proposal that they, on the
local level, endorse, be placed on all the agendas across Vermont.
And in order to synthesize redundant proposals, the Vermont wide
bodies of the three organizations should annually elect a coordinating
committee, who would all work together and whose job it would be to
make it so. Such a committee would not have any legislative powers.
All they would be empowered to do is rationalize the various
proposals which are presented for debate across these hills. In order
to discourage the concentration of duties, and partisanship of
interests, such persons should not be allowed to be elected onto
multiple seats. In other words, a person should not be allowed to run
as both a Town Meeting and farmer or labor coordinator at the same

While such a system seems to solve many problems inherent in
directly democratic systems, one operational question remains. As
has been alluded to above, free market capitalism, under this system,
would be replaced with a more socially responsible and equitable
self-management system. Food production will be rationalized and
coordinated through the united efforts of the Farmer organizations,
and production and services will be carried out through the directly
democratic labor unions. One may ask, exactly who within these
groups would be responsible for coming up with such a complex and
integrated plan? With the farmers, considering that their overall
numbers, and local bodies will be relatively few, the solution is
comparatively easy. During their regular Vermont wide meeting days,
the general membership would be free to set the general goals and
direction of such production. After this, an elected, statewide farmer
select board will be responsible for the formation of specific plans on
how such membership directives will be carried out.

In relation to industrial production, transportation, services, all else in
between, the answer is a bit more complex. While the workers as a
whole, through the local worker councils, should be democratically
allowed to express their general vision, specific issues within specific
industries will have to be addressed by those who labor in those
capacities alone. For example, while the general membership of the
combined worker councils (in collaboration with Town Meeting and
the Farmer organizations) may vote to increase Vermont\u2019s
reliance on renewable energy sources, it will be up to all relevant
workers who will be carrying out the project (utility, construction,
etc.) to come up with the exact plan on how this will be done. While
workers will be brought together in geographically organized
councils, it will also be necessary to retain a parallel trade union
structure in order for specifics to be worked out. In essence, this
reality is akin to a group of people deciding that they want to have a
house built. While the decision to build, and the general features of
such a house would be left to them, the actual blue prints would have
to be drawn up by an architect. In a word, the people as a whole will
give direction, and the expertise of the related workers will find a way
to make it happen.

And again, as with the other popular bodies, these parallel trade
based bodies must operate according to directly democratic
principles. Finally, as is the case with the farmers, the workers will
have to elect Vermont wide worker select boards both at the council
level and the individual trade level in order for the general directives
of the combined membership to be carried out according to a detailed
and coordinated plan.

The last problem that such a directly democratic system would have
to solve is how disagreements are resolved between these bodies, and
how voting deadlocks could be overcome. Imagine a situation where
an important decision has to be made. Let us assume that the nature
of the decision does not allow us to simply vote no, but rather that
one way or another we have to take some kind of action. Say that the
proposal that is intended to address the issue is voted down by both
the majority of Town Meetings, and the Farmer organizations. If this
were to occur, we should require that elected delegates from all the
towns, farmer organizations, and worker councils meet in order to
discuss the positions of their communities. Such a body would
encompass roughly 500 total delegates. While these delegates would
not be empowered to make any binding decisions, they should be
expected to discuss, debate, and propose compromises to the issue.
In turn, they should seek to come to a commonly accepted position,
which they could bring back to their local bodies where it could be
again voted on. [*Note: This power dynamic would be the exact
opposite as it is today, where the decisions of Town Meeting are
considered non-binding, and the decisions of the assembly are
considered law.] Of course such a system does not guarantee
perfection. There should be little doubt that heated arguments, and
impasses will arise. However, we are not trying to describe a utopian
kingdom. Rather, the system that we are sketching is simply a real
democracy. And with democracy, despite all its potential flaws, the
maxim that more than half the people will make the right decision
more than half the time is a great improvement from the money
driven bureaucracy that we currently struggle with.

A Peoples\u2019 Bill Of Rights

The achievement of the above directly democratic system would, in
and of itself, shine like a light for all the farmers and workers of the
world. But does it guarantee that which capitalism presently denies
us? With democracy would we all have healthcare, housing, jobs,
higher education, etc.? Not necessarily. Such a democracy only
guarantees an equal vote and equal voice. It does not mandate equal
treatment outside the Town Hall, Union Hall, or Farmers\u2019
Hall. For this reason, such a society would have to include a basic bill
of rights that sees to it that the wealth and opportunities created by
the combined efforts of the workers and farmers could not become
monopolized by any one group of citizens. Just as we must all put
into society, we must all have equal access to the fruits of that
society. Therefore, such a peoples\u2019 bill of rights must guarantee
the following: 1.) ample food, 2.)decent housing, 3.) jobs, 4.) free
healthcare, 5.) free higher education, 6.) and equal and integrated
rights and treatment for all persons regardless of profession, sex,
race, (dis)ability, religion, or sexual orientation. These six points
must serve as the basic unalienable rights of the entire society. If we
are to truly deliver a free Vermont to our grandchildren, these rights
must remain non-negotiable, and the basic guiding principles of all
our collective endeavors.

Unlike under our current economic system, there can be no artificial
debate about whether or not a free society can afford these
guarantees. For once we liberate ourselves from the exploitive
relations of capitalism, and once our productive forces are self
managed through collectively controlled means, we will be able to
reap the benefits of a rationalized economy; one that is geared
towards the betterment of the people as opposed to the accumulation
of private wealth. And again, when our economy is self managed, our
collective resources will no longer be siphoned off by the bosses.
There will be no more over paid CEOs, and no more union busting
lawyers. Together we will create a more socially productive economy.
One that serves the needs of the people, and not the irrational desires
of the wealthy.

Lastly, let it be known that the ultimate victory of working
Vermonters over the abstract forces of capitalism will be reached
through a new, equitable, form of exchange. No longer will such a
system make a daycare provider work 150 hours in order to get one
hour worth of dental care. No longer will a farmer have to bust their
ass the entire year just to be able to keep the electricity on. The new
basis for a free and equitable system of exchange will be \u201cfrom
each according to their ability, to each according to their need\u201d.
No longer will corporations and owners force us into creating
products for the wealthy that we, ourselves, could never afford. When
the yoke of Washington, Wall Street, and the rich is broken, the rule
will be that an hour of labor will be worth an hour of labor. When we
achieve real democracy, we will have the power to extend our social
equity not only into politics and the workplace, but also to the
economy itself.

Vermont As A Northern Star

While we struggle for freedom right here among our Green
Mountains, we must understand that we are not alone. Millions of
others, throughout the continent and beyond, are fighting for similar
aims. Commonly such aims, direct democracy, farmer and worker
self management, and the guarantee that all people have access to
the basic necessities and social services, is referred to as a libertarian
form of socialism; namely that of anarchism. In an anarchist system,
there is no longer a ruling class. Instead all people have an equal say
in the direction of society. And again, this system differs from
capitalism in that the products of labor are not geared to the interests
of an elite few, but rather the common good of the whole.

As Vermonters, we must also recognize that the fight to win such
freedom does not start and stop at our boarders. As we write this
document, millions of workers and farmers, in every corner of the
continent and the world beyond, are struggling to achieve similar
victories in their distinct regions. We would do well to support their
efforts, as our fight is linked to theirs as long as we are engaged
against the common enemy of greed, bureaucracy, centralization,
capitalism, and the rich. The final defeat of capitalism will only come
when its chain of oppression is broken at many links.

And again, when we achieve our victory, we must be prepared to
extend our hand in friendship and cooperation with those farmers and
workers beyond our mountains. We must do so in order that we,
together, forge a new means of cooperation that seeks to achieve a
broader society in which all people are free to experience the world
without the deadening weights of poverty, and alienation.

The Vermont Spring

As working class and farming Vermonters, we owe it to our cultural
past, the future of our grand children, and ourselves to seek the
fulfillment of our common dreams and aspirations. We can no more
accept a future where our mountains are further masked by the two
dimensional trappings of capitalism, then we could a world without
seasons. Before consumerism, bureaucracy, and centralization
obscured our culture of independence and equality, we must come
together in order to reassert that which is just. For this we must
continue to build the popular organizations that will inherit our hills,
and we must build them so as they face the proverbial south. And for
us, that is toward direct democracy, socialism, and creativity. In a
word, we are a people who continually look to the end of winter, and
friends, with a little hard work the spring will find us.

- Green Mountain Anarchist Collective, (NEFAC-Vermont)

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