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Striking at Root Causes

Richard Grossman 1943-2011

by RUSSELL MOKHIBER

Last month, Richard Grossman sent me an e-mail.

He wanted to let me know of legislation he helped draft that would criminalize the corporate form.

It was classic Richard Grossman.

“If people want to go into business, fine,” Grossman said. “But this law would strip away 500 years of constitutional protections and privileges. No more limited liability for shareholders. No more perpetual life. No more constitutional protections.”

In a footnote to the draft law, Grossman writes that “in a corporate state, law, culture, contrived celebration and tradition illegitimately clothe directors and executive officers of chartered incorporated businesses in governing authority.”

“This is usurpation,” he writes. “A corporate state nurtures, enables and expedites such illegitimate governing authority by violence enforced by courts, jails, police and military force and by historians. Less-overtly ferocious institutions – for profit and non profit – routinely reinforce that reality.”

This was typical Grossman.

When others inspired by him had launched campaigns to ban corporate personhood, he moved on.

Last month, he objected to being called the father of the movement to challenge corporate personhood – what he dismissively calls the “corporate personhood fetish.”

“ I never focused on personhood,” Grossman said last month. “I helped to explain Supreme Court cases starting with Dartmouth College in 1819 that turned business corporation directors into usurpers.”

“My focus was on the Constitution as a minority-rule plan of governance, and on usurpations galore.”

“And so this move to amend the Constitution that sprung up after the Citizens United decision – I don’t understand it as strategy, as an educational process, as an organizing process, as a goal.”

“Why validate the idea that amending the Constitution offers a remedy for two hundred years of minority rule? For today’s corporate state? Corporate ‘speech’ is such a minuscule aspect of the nation’s private governance and mass denials that have been in place since the nation was founded.”

He kept moving to root causes.

He challenged the Occupy Wall Street movement to move beyond talk of corruption and greed.

“There’s no shortage of corruption and greed going all around,” Grossman said. “But corruption and greed are not the problem. They are diversions.”

“The essence of the power arrayed against the 99 percent are structures of minority-rule governance deeply rooted, honored and celebrated, even by, I suspect, many of the people who are occupying Wall Street today.”

“I’m referring to the great myths of this nation’s founding and founders, of the U.S. Constitution and constitutional jurisprudence, the nonsense about limited governance, the sanctification of ‘the rule of law’ when lawmaking and interpreting and enforcing have been the special preserve in every generation of a small minority.”

“I’m talking about the private ordering of economic decision making, the sweeping constitutional privileges wielded by directors of the ‘creatures of law’ we call chartered, incorporated businesses camouflaged as ‘free enterprise’ and ‘the invisible hand.’”

“I hope that teach-ins about such realities in Wall Street and Washington and other places are going on. So far, I’ve not seen evidence.”

When I interviewed him last month, Grossman was in Sweden visiting his daughter. I asked him how he was doing. He said that he had been diagnosed earlier in the year with melanoma. He asked me not to mention it to anyone. He said he was being treated and he would be fine.

It was not to be.

I was saddened to hear today that the cancer caught up with him.

He passed away in New York City on Tuesday November 22, 2011.

Thank you Richard, friend.

Thank you for pushing, and challenging, and opening our eyes.

Russell Mokhiber edits the Corporate Crime Reporter.