Common Knowledge

How to Get Local Control - Taught By People Who've Done It
Humboldt County's promotional tea bags proclaim: "It's Time for a (T)ea Party of Our Own"

Whether the issue is water rights, big-box stores, meddling in local politics, or the taking of citizens' land, almost every community in the United States—if not the world—is being harmed by excessive corporate power. Corporations have appropriated authority that rightly belongs to the people. As a result, communities that seek change through the “proper channels” find those procedures have been defined by corporations themselves and lead nowhere. Strategies of resistance need to invoke the peoples' right to exercise democratic power over corporations and governments. Several organizations offer training and workshops to share their experience with establishing democracy at the community level.

People across the country aren't waiting for action from politicians and judges. Here are the hot spots where activists are getting corporations out of government and elections.

Democracy Unlimited of Humboldt County (DUHC), the driving force behind Measure T, offers a wide variety of workshops, including an introductory “First Steps in Dismantling Corporate Rule.” This workshop explores the history of corporate arrogation of democratic rule and basic strategies for resistance. It emphasizes building democratic principles into a campaign's leadership structure. DUHC also offers a weekend-long “Deep Democracy Retreat,” and workshops oriented to issues such as turning back the corporate destruction of the environment and takeover of our food supply and educational system. DUHC will create special workshops to address the needs of individual communities. Email [email protected] or phone 707/269-0984.

The Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund (CELDF) offers its Democracy School, a weekend-long retreat that teaches “a dramatic new way of looking at our role as citizens in a democracy” and how “‘to reframe' single issues to confront the rights used by corporations to deny the rights of communities, people, and the earth.” CELDF has helped Pennsylvania farmers and other groups confront agribusiness and other corporations, and keep giant hog farms, sewage sludge, and water exportation schemes out of their communities. The course includes the history of both the corporation and democratic resistance in the United States, as well as strategies and tactics useful for organizing resistance today. More information, including a schedule of Democracy Schools, is available at or contact Stacey Schmader at 717/709-0457. presents one- and two-day workshops to help participants “recognize and subvert corporate and anti-democratic paradigms and language to create campaigns that actually build democracy, i.e. rule by the people.” Communities can tailor workshops to their local needs, supplementing the core curriculum, “From Here to Democracy,” with modules on specific objectives, such as revoking corporate “political speech” and building alliances with independent businesses to neutralize corporate power locally. See “Presentations” link at or email [email protected] for details.

The Program on Corporations, Law & Democracy (POCLAD) offers custom-designed workshops combining an analysis of the historical/legal usurpations of citizen self-governance rights with such “Democratic Arts” as organizing skills, conflict resolution, and democratic conversation, facilitation, and decision-making. Contact them at [email protected] or 508/398-1145.

DUHC, POCLAD, and other groups are working to set up Democracy Net, a website where activists can find a schedule of these workshops, other events, and information about community organizing efforts. For more information contact [email protected].

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