Progressive Calendar 08.16.09
From: David Shove (
Date: Sun, 16 Aug 2009 03:49:31 -0700 (PDT)
              P R O G R E S S I V E   C A L E N D A R   08.16.09

1. Stillwater vigil 8.16 1pm
2. Amnesty Intl     8.16 3pm

3. Peace walk       8.17 6pm RiverFalls WI
4. Afghan women/f   8.17 6:30pm
5. Oxfam Action     8.17 7pm

6. NWN4P vigil      8.18 4:45pm
7. RNC court watch  8.18 6pm
8. Food justice     8.18 6pm
9. Karen Winegar    8.18 6:30pm
10. Clean energy    8.18 7:30pm

11. Ralph Nader     - "Now make me do it"
12. Peter Linebaugh - The Commons, the Castle, the Witch and the Lynx

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From: scot b <earthmannow [at]>
Subject: Stillwater vigil 8.16 1pm

A weekly Vigil for Peace Every Sunday, at the Stillwater bridge from 1- 2
p.m.  Come after Church or after brunch ! All are invited to join in song
and witness to the human desire for peace in our world. Signs need to be
positive.  Sponsored by the St. Croix Valley Peacemakers.

If you have a United Nations flag or a United States flag please bring it.
Be sure to dress for the weather . For more information go to

For more information you could call 651 275 0247 or 651 999 - 9560

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From: Gabe Ormsby <gabeo [at]>
Subject: Amnesty Intl 8.16 3pm

Join us for our regular meeting on Sunday, August 16th, from 3:00 to 5:00

We will share other actions on human rights cases around the world and get
updates on the work of our sub-groups.
All are welcome, and refreshments will be provided.

Location: Center for Victims of Torture, 717 E. River Rd. SE, Minneapolis
(corner of E. River Rd. and Oak St.). Park on street or in the small lot
behind the Center (the Center is a house set back on a large lawn).

A map and directions are available on-line:

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From: Nancy Holden <d.n.holden [at]>
Subject: Peace walk 8.17  6pm RiverFalls WI

River Falls Peace and Justice Walkers. We meet every Monday from 6-7 pm on
the UWRF campus at Cascade Ave. and 2nd Street, immediately across from
"Journey" House. We walk through the downtown of River Falls. Contact:
d.n.holden [at] Douglas H Holden 1004 Morgan Road River Falls,
Wisconsin 54022

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From: Erin Parrish <erin [at]>
Subject: Afghan women/f 8.17 6:30pm

August 17: Women Against Military Madness Free Third Monday Movies and
Discussion: "View from a Grain of Sand." Combining interviews and
archival material, film maker Meena Nanji, provides a harrowing,
thought-provoking, yet intimate portrait of the plight of Afghan women in
the last 30 years--from the rule of King Mohammed Zahir Shah to the
current Hamid Karzai government. 6:30 PM at St. Joan of Arc Church,
Parish Center, 4537 Third Avenue South, Minneapolis. More information:

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From: Oxfam Action Corps - MN <minnesota [at]>
Subject: Oxfam Action  08.17 7pm

On the 3rd Monday of each month, we gather to plan our nonpartisan
grassroots activities. We've successfully organized events, lobbied
policymakers, and have used sheer creativity to stand up for meaningful
change. We meet at 7pm the unique Common Roots Café (2558 Lyndale Ave. S.,

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From: Carole Rydberg <carydberg [at]>
Subject: NWN4P vigil 8.18 4:45pm

NWN4P vigil every Tuesday.
Corner of Winnetka and 42nd Avenues in New Hope. 4:45 to 5:45 PM.
All welcome; bring your own or use our signs.

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From: Do'ii <syncopatingrhythmsabyss [at]>
Subject: RNC court watch 8.18 6pm

RNC Court Watchers are in need of participants to help with organizing
court information, documentation and etc.  RNC Court Watchers Meetings are
every Tuesday, 6 P.M. at Caffeto's. Below is announcement for our

Preemptive raids, over 800 people arrested, police brutality on the
streets and torture in Ramsey County Jail. Police have indiscriminately
used rubber bullets, concussion grenades, tasers and chemical irritants to
disperse crowds and incapacitate peaceful, nonviolent protesters. The
RNC-8 and others are facing felonies and years in jail. We must fight this
intimidation, harassment and abuse!

Join the RNC Court Solidarity Meeting this coming Tuesday at Caffetto's to
find out how you can make a difference in the lives of many innocent

Caffetto's Coffeehouse and Gallery (612)872-0911 708 W 22nd Street,
Minneapolis, MN 55405
Every Tuesday @ 6:00 P.M to 7:00 P.M
participate and help organize RNC court solidarity.
For more information, please contact: rnccourtwatch [at]

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From: Erin Parrish <erin [at]>
Subject: Food justice 8.18 6pm

August 18: Women's Environmental Institute Organic Farm School. "Growing
Power and Dismantling Racism through Food Justice" with Will Allen,
Growing Power. 6 - 8 PM at Midtown Global Market, Minneapolis. Register.
Also, WEI presents a screening of "Fresh" in preparation for Will Allen's
visit to the WEI Amador Hill Farm from 6 - 8:00 PM at North Branch Library
in North Branch, Minnesota.

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From: patty <pattypax [at]>
Subject: Karen Winegar 8.18 6:30pm

Tuesday, August 18, the guest will be St Paul author, Karen Winegar.  She
will bring her new book and talk about her experiences writing it - "it"
being Saved, Rescued Animals and the Lives They Transform.

I am very much looking forward to meeting and hearing Karen whose
writing i have followed through the years.

Pax Salons ( )
are held (unless otherwise noted in advance):
Tuesdays, 6:30 to 8:30 pm.
Mad Hatter's Tea House,
943 W 7th, St Paul, MN

Salons are free but donations encouraged for program and treats.
Call 651-227-3228 or 651-227-2511 for information.

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From: Sean Gosiewski <sean [at]>
Subject: Clean energy 8.18 7:30pm

Our Clean Energy Future Free Public Forum with Bill McKibben and Will
Steger Tuesday August 18th, 7:30 pm Leo Fick Auditorium, Edina High School

Join Will Steger and our special guest Bill McKibben, founder of
and author of Deep Economy & The End of Nature to hear about the global
movement to develop a meaningful Global Climate Agreement at the
Copenhagen Climate Summit in December 2009. Please download the flyer and
help us spread the word! We encourage you to bike and carpool to this

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"Now Make Me Do It"
by Ralph Nader
Saturday, August 15, 2009

Never much of a fighter against abusive corporate power, Barack Obama is
making it increasingly clear that right from his start as President, he
wanted health insurance reform that received the approval of the giant
drug and health insurance industries.

Earlier this year he started inviting top bosses of these companies for
intimate confabs in the White House. Business Week magazine, which
proclaimed recently that "The Health Insurers Have Already Won" reported
that the CEO of UnitedHealth, Stephen J. Hemsley, met with the President
half a dozen times.

These are the vendors. They and their campaign slush funds cannot be
ignored in the power struggle over the legislation percolating in the
Congress. One public result of these meetings was that the drug industry
promised $80 billion in savings over ten years and the health insurance
moguls promised $150 billion over the same decade. Mr. Obama trumpeted
these declarations without indicating how these savings would be
guaranteed, how the drug companies could navigate the antitrust laws and
what was given to the health care industry by the White House in return.

We have now learned that one Obama promise was to continue the prohibition
on Uncle Sam from bargaining for volume discounts on drugs that you the
taxpayer have been paying for in the drug benefit program enacted in 2003.

Unknown is whether the health insurance companies were also promised
continuation of Medicare Advantage with its 14% added taxpayer subsidy to
induce the elderly to make the move out of public Medicare. Also unknown
is whether the Medicare public option that Mr. Obama formerly espoused but
since has wavered on has been put on the concession table.

The whole secret process is seedy and demonstrates cruel disregard for the
millions of American who, whether in dire need of medical services or not,
voted in "change we can believe in."

By stark contrast, President Obama has never invited to the White House
the leading consumer-patient champions in this country who favor full
Medicare and free choice of physician and hospital - often called "a
single payer" system. Open to the corporate barons who have failed decade
after decade to deliver what patients need, the White House door is closed
to the likes of Dr. Quentin Young - a founder of the Physicians for a
National Health Program and an old Chicago friend of Obama's, Dr. Sidney
Wolfe, who heads Public Citizen's Health Research Group, Drs. Marcia
Angell, Stephanie Woolhandler, and David Himmelstein, who are nationally
known and accomplished single payer advocates or Rose Ann DeMoro,
executive director of the fast-growing California Nurses Association.

Mr. Obama even tried to exclude any advocate of a single payer system -
previously favored by Obama and still favored by a majority of the
American people, doctors and nurses - from his roundtable meetings
convened to receive the views of different constituencies.

"Make me do it" was the advice of Franklin Delano Roosevelt to reformers
when faced with legislation he desired but did not have the votes for in
Congress. Mr. Obama is not exerting that plea for people power. Were he to
do that, he would be encouraging daily public hearings in the Senate and
the House on the bureaucratic waste, greed, overbilling, collusion, and
fraud that many in the corporate world have inflicted with their costly,
pay or die health care industry.

Such publicized hearings would keep him on the offensive. It would arouse
the public and focus energies on the main problem - the corporatization of
medicine. This commercialism has left tens of millions of people without
health insurance, caused 20,000 fatalities a year, and cost Americans
twice or more per capita than have full Medicare systems in western
countries, which have better health outcomes than the U.S.

Further indication of Obama's corporate dealings is that he never
identified himself with a specific bill with a House and Senate number
that he could rally the people around. No wonder people are confused,
frustrated and angry. President Obama did not stand for an unambiguous

He thereby emboldened both the cash and carry Blue dog Democrats to rebel
and the Republican yahoos to launch their lies and distortions via Rush
Limbaugh and similar trash media.

Obama is about to make his biggest mistake to date by favoring the
bipartisan deal his assistants are working out with Blue Dog Senator Max
Baucus and his Republican counterparts on the Senate Finance Committee.
This proposal has no public option, no consumer protections or restraints
on the mayhem and skyrocketing charges of the so-called health care

Already the less corporate-indentured bills being reported from the House
Committee by Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA) and his allies are getting
short-shrift from a White House that clearly views the forthcoming
Baucus-Grassley "compromise" as the "more practical" go-to legislation.

There is reliable word that the AFL-CIO will endorse whatever Obama
approves, with the exceptions of the California Nurses Association and the
Sheet Metal Workers' union. The latter, through their president, Michael
J. Sullivan, announced in late July that it was suspending all future
campaign contributions to any candidate for Congress or the Presidency.

Already over sixty progressive members of the House, headed by
Congresswoman Lynn Woolsey (D-CA) have declared opposition to these
unacceptable compromises moving forward in both the House and the Senate.

So is gridlock around the corner? Will there be a health insurance reform
of any stripe signed into law this year? It depends on the alliances that
settle for the lowest corporate denominators being blocked by the
unyielding principled stands of the progressives who want something that
puts patients above the failed profiteering vendors.

The guess here is that Obama will sign anything which squirms through a
cowardly Congress that cannot give to the American people in 2009 the
health care system Congress stopped President Harry Truman from
establishing in 1950.

It is up to the people of our country to "make him do it" whether this
year or next. A mere one million immediate calls to members of Congress by
one million assertive citizens will start sobering up these legislators
who think they can get away with another sale of our public trust.

The Congressional switchboard is 202-224-3121. The full Medicare, single
payer bill (backed by nearly ninety legislators) is H.R. 676. The go-to
citizen group for your sustained engagement is The
rest is up to you, the majority, who want to put the people first.

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"Everything in Common"
The Commons, the Castle, the Witch and the Lynx
August 14-16, 2009

One day at Crottorf we eat mouthwatering strawberries and yogurt for our
lunch-time sweet.

Crottorf is the name of a castle, or schloss, in Westphalia, Germany.
Twenty-one of us are assembled from around the world to discuss the
commons. We come from India and Australia, Thailand and South Africa,
Brazil, Italy, Germany, Austria, France, England, Greece, California and
the Great Lakes.  It is midsummer. Surrounded by green meadows and cool
forests, the castle seems sprung from a German fairy-tale, a piece of
paradise.  Indeed the Italian plasterer said as much in 1661 carving onto
the hallway ceiling the words,

Un pezzo del paradiso
Caduto de cielo in terra

For three days we sit in a circle, twenty-one of us, discussing, if not
heaven on earth, then the commons.  Somehow that term, "the commons,"
comes to embrace the entire social product of human beings, the countries
of the world, the substances of earth, air, water, and fire, the
biosphere, the electro-magnetic spectrum, and outer space. Speaking
passionately, choosing words carefully, stammering sometimes in
frustration of inadequate expression, we demand of ourselves maximum hope
in conditions of undeniable desperation. The atmosphere and the climate
change, the earth and gardening, the rise of slime, the internet and
software, the rich and the poor, the enclosures and foreclosures, the
shack dwellers of Johannesburg, the disappeared pedestrians of Bangalore,
the workers of Brazil, Frankenstein foods and genetic monsters, the
totalization of the commodity form, the transformation of expropriation to
exploitation, the convergence of ecological crisis and capitalist crisis,
the neoliberal assault on the commons and its criminalization from the
rain forest to the village:  these provide some of the topics, themes, and
theses of this Crottorf consultation.

I would not, could not, summarize, though Googeleers will find summaries
on various websites (David Bollier, onthecommons, Massimo De Angelis,
thecommoner).  What I remember are the refreshing interludes between the
bouts of intellectual intensity.  They were in a different register, even
a kind of dream time - strawberries, singing in the ball-room, and
woodland strolls.

We set off to walk in the woods.  Our host, the noted forester, Hermann
Hatzfeldt, stops among the tall beeches straining to the sky from the
dense underbrush, and we form a circle under their canopy to listen to his
stories of the war, of wilderness and cultivation, of cat-and-mouse with
elusive mushroom gatherers.  The life of the forest was changing in
surprising, wild ways which depart from the venerable and admired
traditions of German forestry. He says that there are even reports that
the lynx might return.  (And it would, but not in a way I could have
imagined in a million years).

We assemble on a pathway between the drawbridge over the moat and the
four-towered schloss for an after-lunch tour to a site less than two miles
away. It takes a few minutes for all of us to gather, so I take the
opportunity to read aloud a report of Handsome Lake's vision at the
Strawberry Festival in western New York in 1799, two hundred and ten years
earlier.   These berries of midsummer, I feel, can act as jewels of

Handsome Lake was the brother of Cornplanter, both were Seneca Indians,
one of the six nations of the Iroquois League, or Haudenosaunee.  He was a
drunk, or an addicted victim of the white man's systemic alcohol
poisoning.  He reached a near-death bottom in April 1799.  Then he had his
first vision. Three men appeared to him, messengers, dressed in clean
raiment, cheeks painted red, carrying bows and arrows in one hand, and a
huckleberry bush and other kinds of berries in the other hand.  They told
him that the juice would provide medicine against alcohol withdrawal, and
he must celebrate the strawberry feast.  The red checked messengers then

"They saw a jail, and within it a pair of handcuffs, a whip, and a
hangman's rope; this represented the false belief of some that the laws of
the white man were better than the teachings of Gaiwiio.  They saw a
church with a spire and a path leading in, but no door or window - the
house was hot - and heard a great noise of wailing and crying; this
illustrated the point that it was difficult for Indians to accept the
confining discipline of Christianity". (Wallace, 243)  The punitive regime
of capitalism with its prisons, granite churches, and factories - "the
great confinement" as Micheal Foucault, the French philosopher, called the
era - was rejected at a moment of its inception.  Certainly that rejection
is part of the significance of Handsome Lake's prophetic career.

There on the bridge between the moats I skipped ahead three years in the
story of Handsome Lake, little knowing what I was leaving out, because I
wanted to get to 1801 when Handsome Lake advised the Iroquois "that they
should not allow their children to learn to read and write; that they
might farm a little and make houses; but that they must not sell anything
they raised off the ground, but give it away to one another, and to the
old people in particular; in short that they must possess everything in
common". (Wallace,264).  John Pierce, a Quaker, translated the speech
which is why it has a familiar ring.

"Everything in common".  The phrase should strike home:  evictions in
America, destruction of shacks in south Africa, taking down the forests in
Peru, drying up the rivers, privatizing the resources of Iraq,
obliterating the African village. In our world of neoliberal
privatization, the phrase easily becomes a slogan if not a panacea.  But
in 1799?  Looking at the conjuncture of the late 1790s from a nominalist
perspective, the phrase looks to the past, coming as it does from the
earliest translation of the English Bible (Wycliff, 1380s). In the midst
of the Atlantic revolutions (France, Haiti) the phrase also looks to the
future and the true communism in the workers' movements with its eternal
statement of just conditions:  from each according to his or her
abilities, to each according to his or her needs.

The Iroquois had long held up the mirror of commoning to European
privatizing.  A hundred years before Handsome Lake, Baron Lahontan who
travelled among the Iroquois in the 1680s wrote, "the Nations which are
not debauch'd by the Neighbourhood of the Europeans are Strangers to the
Measures of Meum and Tuum [mine and thine], and to all Laws, Judges and
Priests".  That's the best of anarchism straight up, and as a chaser he
adds, "a man must be quite blind who does not see that the Property of
Goods is the only Source of all the Disorders that perplex the European

The Haudenosaunee have been on my mind for personal and political reasons.
The personal reason is this. The Appalachian mill-village of Cattaraugus
in western New York is my ancestral home, and my parents are buried there
in Seneca ground.  In respect to them I felt a kind of historical pride in
bringing to Crottorf the commons of the Seneca.  Then the political reason
is that in the post-Marxist world the late Marx has begun to come into its
own, with the Ethnological Notebooks so dependent on the labors of Lewis
Henry Morgan whose Ancient Society, based on his studies of the Iroquois
conducted in the 1840s, helped Marx to return to the communist themes of
his youth when, also in the 1840s, he stood philosophy on its head.  To
him philosophy meant action.

Toward the end of his life Marx studied the Arabs, the Algerians, the
Iroquois gens, and the Russian mir. Marx became convinced that "the
commune is the fulcrum for social regeneration in Russia".  Marx
speculated in the preface to the second Russian edition of the Communist
Manifesto that Russia's "peasant communal land-ownership may serve as the
point of departure for a communist development".  In one of his famous
letters to Zasulich he wrote "The rural commune [in Russia] finds
[capitalism in the West] in a state of crisis that will end only when the
social system is eliminated through the return of modern societies to the
'archaic' type of communal property".  He then quotes Morgan, "the new
system will be a revival, in a superior form, of an archaic social type".
Marx was impressed with the grandeur, complexity, and basic superiority of
primitive society. The sense of independence and personal dignity are the
qualities which moved Morgan, then Marx, as Franklin Rosemont has made

Whether we conceive dialectical reasoning as the historic movement from
thesis (the commons) to antithesis (privatization) to synthesis
(revolution), or as the mutual interaction between theory (communism) and
practice (commoning) Marx was a practitioner of both.  The boy who
collected berries from common lands in Trier, or the fiery young
journalist who defended the peasants' estovers, or customary access to
fuel in the woodlands of the Moselle Valley, was both a great theorist of
proletarian revolution and an ordinary commoner with practical knowledge.
His wife, Jenny, kept his body and soul together, living with the deaths
of their children, with poverty, with defamation, disaffection, unceasing
repression from all European authorities, and exile.  Crottorf is in the
same part of Germany, Westphalia, as she was from - Jenny von Westphalen.

So in her ancestral country that evening two of us bicycle into the
gloaming.  It is all atmosphere: the deserted roads through gentle hills,
the solitude of silent cottages, a small flock of sheep, a mare peacefully
grazing in the last light startled only by the squeak of a noisey bicycle
brake.  We climb a hill to a tower that once served as a dungeon; in fact,
where witches had once been tried.  We coast back to the schloss in the
midsummer twilight mulling over communism and the commons.

On another day we go for another walk.  Silvia Federici, the scholar of
European witchcraft, learned that three witches had been destroyed several
centuries ago in the hills near by.  Hermann Hatzfeldt kindly proposes to
lead us to the site of those crimes. The path is long and the sun is high.
On a knoll overlooking neat field and forest and a village nestled within
the Westphalian landscape a small red chapel stands.  (Scottish ancestors
on Jenny von Westphalen's mother's side had suffered violent deaths at the
stake.) The red chapel was erected more than three hundred years ago in
remorseful memory of a woman who had been executed as a witch at the
linden tree.  Though the red chapel is locked, we can see through the tiny
window that there is enough room for two straw-plaited chairs - one for
sitting, one for kneeling - as well as fresh flowers adorning the interior
of this simple place of piety and remembrance.

The truth must be told, even at this late date. Standing under that linden
tree Handsome Lake's vision did not seem so bright.  Was he implicated in

In February 1799 Cornplanter's daughter died.  Witchcraft was suspected so
he ordered three of his sons to kill the suspected witch, an old woman.
On 13 June 1799 they found her working in a field and in full view of the
community stabbed her to death and buried her.  We do not know for a fact
that Handsome Lake was part of this murder, though the circumstantial
evidence does not look good.  It certainly gives us pause before offering
unqualified praise to Handsome Lake's version of the Seneca "commons".
Tradition recounts several other witch killings between 1799 and 1801.
(Wallace, p. 236; Mann, p. 321) Handsome Lake accused a mother and
daughter of Cattaraugus of using witchcraft to cause a man to moon
Handsome Lake and fart loudly while he spoke.  The mother and daughter
were bound to a tree and given twenty lashes. Female spirit workers and
clan mothers opposing Handsome Lake were redefined as witches, "the slur
du jour," as Professor Mann says.

Leaving to one side the dispute about the meaning of witchcraft among the
Iroquois during the 18th century, those familiar with Silvia Federici's
work in Caliban and the Witch will approach the subject as an aspect of
the transition to capitalism.  This means the expropriation of
reproduction and the expropriation from land.  The consequences of these
forces is disempowerment of women and creation of a proletariat.

The Iroquois people had been matrilocal, matrilinear, matriarchal.  In
1791 Lafitau reported that the clan mothers admonished the men, "you ought
to hear and listen to what we women shall speak, for we are the owners of
the land and it is ours". "The economy of the village depended on the
women, who owned it collectively," writes Wallace (p. 190).  He sums up:
"the prophet gave emphatic encouragement to the transformation of the
Seneca economic system from a male-hunting-and-female-horticulture to a
male-farming-and-female-housekeeping pattern". (281)

The four key words in Handsome Lake's first vision reflect the demographic
desperation of the Iroquois  -  whiskey, witchcraft, love-potions,
abortion.  A crisis of reproduction, of the society, of the children, of
men-and-women, of the culture, of the land.  Al Cave writes that in
Handsome Lake's visions "women were frequently portrayed as particularly
offensive sinners". (213) To Handsome Lake women "bore much of the
responsibility for the moral decay he found rampant among the Iroquois".

The demographic condition had deteriorated rapidly after the wars of the
American Revolution.  Call it genocide or call it depopulation.  The
former term conveys the exterminating human agency of the conquerors, the
latter suggests natural, Malthusian mechanisms of social change.    The
raids in 1779 by Sullivan, Brodhead, Van Schaick, waging total war,
destroyed Indian settlements by burning houses, cutting down apple and
peach orchards, torching corn, squash, bean, and incinerating hay fields.
George Washington was called "the town-destroyer".  To this day the region
of New York between the Genesee and Allegheny rivers is known as the
burned-out district.  Measles and smallpox epidemics struck subsequently.
War, exposure, disease, and starvation reduced the population of the Six
Nations in half.  Loss of confidence was deliberately inflicted by
government policy.  Alcoholism, family violence, and witch-hunts were the
pathological results.  The dread of dispossession haunted the inhabitants
of these slums in the wilderness. "Now the Dogs yelp and cry in all the
houses for they are hungry".  Social disaster provided the conditions for
the introduction of the land market. The earth became a commodity.  Here's
how it happened.

Robert Morris "owned" four million acres of Iroquois country.  Morris was
a Liverpool immigrant who thanks to his slaving and privateering
enterprises became "the financier of the American Revolution," the first
to use the $ sign, a Founding Father of the U.S.A., and a capitalist who
was so fat that when he sold his property deeds at the Treaty of Big Tree
(1797) in Geneseo, N.Y., to English investors and the Holland Land
Company, his son negotiated with the Iroquois while Robert Morris
apologized for not attending in person on the grounds of his "corpulence".
Gluttony was basic to the art of diplomacy and the Iroquois were kept in a
state of unrelieved drunken stupor.

The clan mothers of the Iroquois appointed Red Jacket as their spokesman.
A year later he spoke against the treaty. "we have injured our women &
children in the sail [sic] of our country". "we now speak soberly" "we
women are the true owners we work on it & it is ours" (Sagoyewatha, 98,
99).  Evidence of the commons is found in his speeches.  Red Jacket
visited Washington D.C. in Feb. 1801 at the end of Adams administration
seeking justice for the victims of US soldiers who killed three horses
"although it was an open common on which they were killed". (108) In 1802
Red Jacket on the sale of a stretch of land along the Niagara river
reserved the beach to encamp on, wood to make fire, the river for fishing,
and the use of the bridge and turnpike toll free.  In June 1801 Red Jacket
was accused of witchcraft by Handsome Lake.

Quakers went to Iroquois lands with Bible, plow, and good intentions
prepared as it were to revolutionize both the base and the superstructure
from primitive communism into full-scale capitalism. In 1797 John Chapman
carried appleseeds into western Pennsylvania and Ohio so settlers could
produce the cash crop, strong cider, whose political and social function
was fully analogous to the poppy of Afghanistan, or cacoa of the Andes.  A
barrel of alcohol provided the lonely settler with a poisonous gesture of
welcome to Indian visitors. Thomas Jefferson in 1802 wrote Handsome Lake
explaining private property.  "The right to sell is one of the rights of
property.  To forbid you the exercise of that right would be wrong to your
nation".  Oh, the sly discommoner!  He will familiarize these strangers to
the measures of meum and tuum.  Get the Indians into debt, advised this
"economic hitman".

The man who made these dynamics crystal clear at the time was a parson,
Thomas Malthus, and like Marx after him he drew on the Iroquois.  The
first edition of his An Essay on the Principle of Population was published
anonymously in 1798.  It was a critique of William Godwin's doctrinal
espousal of theoretic communism and of the French revolutionary Condorcet
who, while virtually peering up at the glistening blade of the guillotine,
sang the possibilities of human benevolence.  Malthus attacked both
arguments with a bit of smarty-pants sophistry, saying that since humans
increase geometrically while food increases arithmetically organized death
was inevitable. In 1803 he fattened his second edition with substantial
research beginning with his dire "observations" of the American Indians
including the Iroquois.  His list of the checks on their population reads
like the bigoted symptomology of victimization:  "the insatiable fondness"
for liquor, the decrease of the food supply by procuring of peltry to
exchange for drink, dishonorable forms of warfare, cannibalism,
degradation of women, and "a want of ardor among the men towards their
[sic] women".

Produced after two years of revolutionary struggle against scarcity and
near famine in England and Ireland, Malthus categorically denies to all
human beings the right to subsistence. He criticizes Tom Paine's Rights of
Man in particular and argues that in America the number of people without
property is small compared to Europe.  He infamously wrote, referring to
the dispossessed and poor, "At nature's mighty feast there is no vacant
cover for him" and explained, "the great mistress of the feast - wishing
that all guests should have plenty, and knowing she could not provide for
unlimited numbers, humanely refused to admit fresh comers when her table
was already full". (Book iv, chapter vi). The principle of European
economics - scarcity - is personified as a woman, at the historic moment
when on both sides of the Atlantic actual women were disempowered by
either the Poor Laws of England or the Land Sales of Iroquoia. Malthus
says "humanely refused" and we know what Hazlitt meant in saying "his
tongue grows wanton in praise of famine".  Genocide.

In August 1799 at the time of the Strawberry Festival Handsome Lake had a
second vision.  A messenger came to him and revealed the cosmic plan.  The
rejection of the white man's law and the white man's church was repeated.
He saw a woman so fat she could not stand up, symbolizing the white man's
consumerism.  He saw a chief who had sold land to the whites now forced to
push huge loads of dirt in a wheelbarrow for eternity.  Thus began the
years of a new religion, based on nativism, evangelism, temperance, and

Handsome Lake was influenced by Henry O.Bail, son of Cornplanter, educated
in Philadelphia, 1791-1796, an accomodationist if not an assimilationist.
He imported European concepts of monotheism ("the Great Spirit") and
dualism (heaven and hell).  Handsome Lake's struggle was also a struggle
against traditionalists.  He opposed armed struggle, he opposed Red
Jacket, he opposed the medicine societies, and he opposed the traditional
religion of the clan mothers.  But what was the traditional?

The land conquest, the witch killing, the nativist commons must be put in
their historical context of the French Revolution.  The years 1798 to 1803
saw repressive forces and events conjoin.  The conjuncture of the Haitian
war of independence, of the Irish rebellion, of the naval mutinies, of
millennial outbursts, of trade union organizing, of massive mechanization
of the human crafts, of the Alien and Sedition Acts, of the advance of the
slave plantation based on cotton, of English Enclosure Acts (basically
deeds of government robbery), and of English Combination Acts (prevented
workers from organizing to increase wages or decrease work but not
capitalists from doing so for the opposite purposes).  Privatizing and
profiteering were dominant values:  the commodity and the market ruled
supreme:  the global planning of morbidity and industrialization went hand
in hand.  That was the historical conjuncture.  During it the spirit of
human liberty went underground.

We hike to the Red Chapel, but not everyone of the Crottorf commons
consultation comes along.   Nicola Bullard takes a gander into the woods.
She sees the lynx.

It most certainly sees her first.  They observe each other before the cat
casually, characteristically, sauntered silently on.  Later as she tells
this, people are speechless not knowing quite what to make of it.

                        and our hearts
                                    thudded and

writes Mary Oliver in her poem on seeing a lynx.  Called a "nature poet"
we could also call her a poet of the Ohio commons for her respect of the
Shawnee, the Iroquois, and creatures like the lynx.  For me, it was not
only the heart that thudded and stopped but my research bump was alerted
too. I continued my studies into the Iroquois commons with the works of my
Ohio colleagues, Professor Al Cave, historian of native Americans, and
Professor Barbara Alice Mann, scholar and exuberant polemicist on behalf
of the women of the Haudenosaunee.  I wanted to learn more about women and
witchcraft and this led me (back) to - the lynx.

Handsome Lake's religion evicted Sky woman from her central place in
tradition (Mann 336). The relationship between monotheism and commodity
production, or class society, is clear in the evolution of "the great
spirit" in the mid-18th century north American Indian societies adjusting
to the invasion of the Europeans (Cave, passim).  Religion grew precisely
as the gentile commonality shrank.   And this paralleled the attacks on
women. The "women formed the spiritual backbone of the culture, acting as
its prophets, healers, shamans, and seers, untangling the hair of
generations". (Mann, p. 354)  "If materialism underpins capitalism,
spirituality is the core of Iroquoian communalism".

Barbara Mann surveys the anthropological and historical literature, and
she issues a cautionary tale of her own to the collectors of oral
tradition, for ever since the Europeans in the seventeenth century sought
to make dictionaries and grammars they have been the subject of droll
disinformation, comic and profane.   Thomas McElwain warned his colleagues
that the Haudenosaunee enjoyed some fun with the facts. For instance while
collecting material for his Seneca dictionary (Handbook of the Seneca
Language New York State Museum and Science Service, Bulletin, no. 388,
1963),  the informants to the New York anthropologist, Wallace Chafe, grew
fatigued from going through his long list of botantical names.  Entry 1228
used a word for "low blueberry bush that sounds a good deal like 'f**k
off,'  but according to McElwain "the gloss for high bush blueberry - is
the correct one for both forms".  The Seneca word for the low blueberry
bush points to an essential principle of the commons, the principle of
limitation.  Bearing that in mind, here is the story of Sky Woman and how
the world began.

In the first epoch of time the people of the Sky World passed Earth, or
the water world.  The dog-tooth violet tree held together the top and
bottom of sky.  The Sky People toppled it by mistake.  Sky-Woman was
pushed through the hole by the machinations of her husband who was jealous
of her shamanic abilities.  Sky Woman gripped the roots of the tree
grasping the Three Sisters (corn, squash, beans) with her right hand and
tobacco with her left before tumbling further on down.  Loon and heron saw
her falling and joined their wings to parachute her down to a safe
landing.  But there was no place to land.

The water animals held council agreeing that Sky Woman could not live in
water.  A giant tortoise volunteered his back.  If only earth could be
found to put on it, he would be still for ever.  By turns otter and
muskrat plummeted to the depths of the ocean to bring back dirt.  Each
perished in the attempt.  When beaver tried he stirred up the ocean floor
with his spatula-like tail, and surfaced successfully.  The others smeared
the dirt across the back of Turtle, which thus became North America or
Turtle Island.

Loon and heron near to exhaustion were able to set down Sky Woman on her
new home.  Sky Woman was pregnant, and gave birth to Lynx who when she
grew older became the inseparable walking companion of her mother. They
roamed the length and breadth of Turtle Island planting seeds wherever
they went.  Lynx, for instance, created potatoes, melons, and sunflowers.
Sky Woman became too old but Lynx continued wandering on the four Shining
Roads returning every night. One day, longing for children of her own, she
was seduced by North Wind who wooed and impregnated her behind Sky Woman's
back.  The delivery was difficult; in fact, she died giving birth to boy
twins. The twins were named Sapling and Flint.  Theirs is another story.
Here we just say they continued the work of creation of plants, animals,
mountains, and the running waters.  Barbara Mann informs us that "Sapling
is honored for creating the strawberry". (p. 33).  Meanwhile Lynx was
buried and became Mother Earth.

Professor Mann quotes the primary sources of the 18th century.  In 1703
Lahontan found that the Iroquois would "choose rather to die than to kill"
a lynx (I, 345). Heckewelder was with a hunting party in 1773 which
refused to eat a lynx even though the hunters were starving. "Mother Earth
was (and still is!) a living entity.  Her Spirit was the Spirit of the
Lynx, Herself. (Mann, p. 204).  Mary Oliver again:

                        we've heard,
                                    the lynx
                                                wanders like silk
                                                            on the deep
                        hillsides of snow -
                                                it lunges in trees
                                                            as thick as
                        as cold as iron.
                                    What should we say
                                                is the truth of the world?
                                                            The miles
                        in the pinched dark?
                                    or the push of the promise?

The particular lynx of Crottorf and the Ohio lynx which caused the poet to
ask about the truth of the world are not quite the same.  The poet broke
the historical silence over the destruction of the Ohio commons and the
trauma of the defeated Iroquois with a tone of sadness and a concept of
Nature separate from human activity.  The Crottorf lynx appeared in the
form not of destruction but return and in the context of the restored
forest.  The return was in the midst of our powerful talking of a
non-capitalist future partly instigated by the indigenous revolt which is
no longer romantic, primitive, utopian, or surreal.  We have an idea of
the truth of the world and we push toward the promise of "the commons".

Putting the Iroquois and the lynx to one side, what does this mixture of
coincidence and the tangled hairs of the commons amount to? What tales are
we creating?  Is the commons tribal or cosmopolitan?  What values are
shared by commoning in a high tech environment and a low tech situation?
What holds together the microcosm of the urban garden and the macrocosm of
the polluted stratosphere?  Does it necessarily gum up the money-making
machine? Does the red commons require revolutionary war while the green
commons requires unpalatable compromises with NGOs? Why must the crche be
its base?

These are now the conversations of the world, "mother earth".

The actuality for the people of the Long House was the law of hospitality
where none is refused.  Karl Marx noted "at twilight each day a dinner in
common served to the entire body in attendance". and with the commons came
gratitude.  Marx noted the meal began with grace: "it was a prolonged
exclamation by a single person on a high shrill note, falling down in
cadences into stillness". (Marx, p. 172-3)

Such ends the story of the commons, the castle, the witch and the lynx.

Peter Linebaugh teaches history at the University of Toledo. The London
Hanged and (with Marcus Rediker) The Many-Headed Hydra: the Hidden History
of the Revolutionary Atlantic. His essay on the history of May Day is
included in Serpents in the Garden. His latest book is the Magna Carta
Manifesto. He can be reached at: plineba [at]

Further Reading

Alfred A. Cave, Prophets of the Great Spirit: Native American
Revitalization Movements in Eastern North America (University of Nebraska
Press, Lincoln, 2006)

Raya Dunayevskaya, Rosa Luxemburg, Women.s Liberation, and Marx.s
Philosophy of Revolution (New Jersey: Humanities Press, 1982)

Friedrich Engels, The Origin of the Family, Private Property, and the
State (New York: International Publishers, 1972)

Silvia Federici, Caliban and the Witch (New York: Autonomedia, 2004)

John Heckwelder, History, Manners, and Customs of the Indian Nations Who
Once Inhabited Pennsylvania and the Neighboring States (1820, and
re-printed New York: Arno Press, 1971)

Baron Lahontan, New Voyages to North-America, English translation (1735)

T.R. Malthus, An Essay on the Principle of Population, second edition

Barbara Alice Mann, Iroquoian Women: The Gantowisas (Peter Lang: New York,

Karl Marx, The Ethnological Notebooks, with an introduction by Lawrence
Krader (Assen: Van Gorcum, 1972)

Mary Oliver, American Primitive: Poems (Boston: Little, Brown & Co., 1983)

Michael Pollan, The Botany of Desire (Random House, 2001)

Franklin Rosemont, .Karl Marx and the Iroquois,. Red Balloon Collective
Pamphlet, Environmental Action Series #5

Theodore Shanin, The Late Marx and the Russian Road (New York: Monthly
Review, 1983)

Anthony F.C. Wallace, The Death and Rebirth of the Seneca (New York:
Knopf, 1970)

The Collected Speeches of Sagoyewatha, or Red Jacket, edited by Granville
Ganter (Syracuse, N.Y.: Syracuse University Press, 2006)


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