I need to come clean. I’ve been mistaken for a long time.
For nearly two decades, I’ve educated and organized to expose and offer alternatives to the never-intended inalienable constitutional rights of corporations and the anti-democratic role of huge sums of money from wealthy individuals in political elections.
Speeches have been given, articles written, a documentary has been produced, forums held, workshops conducted, calls made, legislators lobbied and campaigns launched through the Northeast Ohio American Friends Service Committee (AFSC), Program on Corporations, Law & Democracy (POCLAD), and Move to Amend (MTA) to inform, inspire and instigate.
One of the major points made in all the above has been that past US social movements have resulted in profound constitutional changes, including the three post Civil War amendments, which in short are:
-the 13th amendment, which ended slavery,
-the 14th amendment, which provided due process and equal protection to freed slaves, and,
-the 15th amendment, which gave black males voting rights.
To connect these social change efforts of the past with the current movement to end corporate “personhood,” I’ve frequently uttered the refrain “slavery was the legal fiction that people are property while corporate personhood is the legal fiction that property are people. The first evil was abolished. It’s time to abolish the second evil.”
Nice refrain. Unfortunately, I realize now it’s not technically true.
The 13th amendment did not abolish slavery in its entirety.
The text of the amendment reads: “Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.”
It’s the exception clause of the 13th amendment that provides the constitutional cover to continue slavery in prisons.
I never made this connection until reading the the article below that the exploitation of prison labor was actually an exploitation of the second part of the 13th amendment.
America Never Abolished Slavery http://www.huffingtonpost.com/angela-f-chan/america-never-abolished-slavery_b_6777420.html
I’ve known about “slave labor” in prisons for years, but I always thought it was based on a legal loophole, never because it was “enshrined” in the U.S. Constitution — not in the original constitution mind you, but contained within a human rights “reform” amendment. Jeez, what a complete dunce I’ve been.
The implications of this are profound. For one, it means the U.S. Constitution is more anti-democratic than I thought it was — amendments and all. For another, it means that those of us promoting a MTA constitutional amendment asserting that only human beings, not corporate entities, possess inalienable constitutional rights and that political money is not free speech need to shift our thinking and messaging.
Efforts to end corporate personhood and “money as speech” can find profound common ground with the slave-like conditions in prisons. Our ultimate quest should be not to temper but to abolish slavery in prisons, abolish corporate personhood and abolish money as “free speech.” The profits generated by corporations from prison slavery and the political contributions/investments by prison corporations to politicians to lock up more and more people is inextricably connected to the imprisonment of what’s little left of our democracy due to corporate constitutional rights and money drowning out the voices of the 99%.
No longer can we make the sweeping statement that the 13th amendment is an example of an unqualified success of the mass social movement demanding an end to slavery. Moreover, that it is something to hold up in reverence in our goal for a Move to Amend 28th amendment.
Just as the call for ending slavery by a social movement was compromised once it reached constitutional amendment wording, the same pressures to water down and create “exception clauses” to completely end corporate personhood and money as speech will, no doubt, arise when our social movement forces its way inside the halls of Congress.
While I’ve been wrong about the 13th amendment, I’m not going to make the mistake to accept anything less that total abolition of corporate personhood and money as speech.