Concerning the Alleged Racism of the Second Vermont Republic Organization
Statement of the Green Mountain Collective, NEFAC
The Green Mountain Collective, NEFAC (composed of members of the VT AFL-CIO, the Vermont worker co-op movement, the Student Labor Action Project, and the Vermont Workers’ Center) finds the reports posted online by Thomas Rowley, and Odem on GreenMountainDaily.com alleging that the Second Vermont Republic (SVR) has official ties to racists and right-wing extremists to be very disturbing. The undemocratic, neo-fascist beliefs of such organizations as the League of The South, the Northern League (of Italy) and others cannot and will not be tolerated in the Green Mountains (as we would expect the SVR to agree). As Vermonters we are unflinchingly dedicated to democracy, community, equality, and freedom. Nowhere in this tradition is there a place for racism or bigotry of any kind; nor should there be a place for it in Vermont’s growing separatist movement.
We especially find the presence of Thomas DiLorenzo, and Marco Basani (both NOT Vermonters) on the SVR’s advisory board very troubling. Bassani is a member of a far right Italian Northern League. This party, which advocates secession of the relatively rich Northern part of Italy from the less industrialized central and south, is clearly composed of right-wing extremists who would find little sympathy in the Green Mountains.
“While the [Northern] League leadership dismiss charges of racism, there have been instances of speeches, interviews and banners pointing to that. [party leader] Umberto Bossi himself said that African immigrants, whom he called Bingo-bongos, should not receive popular housing paid for with Lombard money. [Party leader] Erminio Boso proposed to segregate immigrants in different train cars from native Italians. Umberto Bossi, in an interview, suggested opening fire on the boats of immigrants who would disembark in Italy, but after widespread criticism he declared he meant the empty boats. The former mayor of Treviso, Giancarlo Gentilini, talking about those he called immigrant slackers, said that "We should dress them up like hares and bang-bang-bang". In June 2005, at a festival organized by the League, a banner was displayed saying "Rape Pecoraro", (referring to Alfonso Pecoraro Scanio, the openly bisexual secretary of the Federation of the Greens); the banner caused outcry… In 2005, Mario Borghezio, MP for the [Northern] League at the European Parliament, was found guilty of arson, for having set on fire the belongings of some immigrants sleeping under a bridge in Turin in 2000.” [from Wicapedia]
As Vermonters, and as people who uphold a basic humanism, we find it deplorable that a member of such a political movement is allowed legitimacy in Vermont, as an official advisor of our separatist movement.
DiLorenzo, for his part, holds extreme anti-worker, anti-working class positions. He regularly calls pro-union workers, and socialists “malcontents” in his writings, and contends that organized labor is a great social evil in American society. For this he sits on the SVR’s advisory board? Here we would remind all that 30,000 Vermonters are union members, and another 70,000 are either retired union members or relatives thereof; that is one in six Vermonters. And again, if, according to DiLorenzo, socialists are malcontents, what does that say about the 65% of Vermonters who just elected socialist Bernie Sanders to the U.S. Senate?
To quote from DiLorenzo’s own writings:
“One of the oldest myths about capitalism is the notion that factories that offer the poor higher wages to lure them off the streets (and away from lives of begging, stealing, prostitution, or worse) or away from back-breaking farm labor somehow impoverishes and exploits them. They are said to work in "sweatshops" for "subsistence wages." That was the claim made by socialists and unionists in the early days of the industrial revolution, and it is still made today by the same category of malcontents - usually by people who have never themselves performed manual labor and experienced breaking a sweat while working. (I am not referring here to the red herring claim that most foreign "sweatshops" utilize some kind of slave labor. This is an outrageous propaganda ploy designed to portray defenders of free markets as being in favor of slavery)… Finally, perhaps one of the strongest virtues of foreign "sweatshops" is that they weaken the hand of American labor unions. With few exceptions, American unions have long been at the forefront of anti-capitalist ideology and have supported virtually all the destructive tax and regulatory policies that have been so poisonous to American capitalism. Unions believe that they cannot exist unless workers can be convinced that employers are the enemies of the working class, if not society, and that they (the workers) need unions to protect them from these exploiters.”
[from the Green Mountain Daily report]
Instead, Thomas J. DiLorenzo argues the virtues of capitalist economics such as Wal-mart. “Wal-Mart has undeniably been a glorious economic blessing for its mostly low- and middle-income customers; has created hundreds of thousands of new jobs; has enriched thousands of small business owners who supply its products; has invented many new and superior management techniques; and has been a driving force of a large segment of the entire US economy.” [from DiLorenzo’s article ‘Should Wal-Mart Be Broken Up’ 7-19-06]
Here we should not have to remind folks that Vermont was the last state that allowed Wall-mart to enter (under Dean’s watch), and that Wall-mart is an economic institution which hurts our traditional downtown economies and which pays it’s employees far less than livable wages.
These two advisory board member have to go.
Likewise, we do not understand why the SVR would reasonably choose to provide a link on their website to an organization called “The League of The South.” This self styled neo-confederate organization is also cut from the far right. In a recent article posted on their official website, the group questions the very meaning of the word “racist” which they contend was invented as some sort of Marxist conspiracy. They further come to the bizarre conclusion that “Therefore, loyalty to one's cultural traditions, from the way you talk to the faith you profess, is a manifestation of a fear of progress, and progress, as we all know, is the inevitable movement toward globalism and universalism that Marxism promised. Love of one's own people, then, is not love, but hatred of one's neighbors… The motivation of the anti-racist, then, is not justice, brotherhood, or concern for the downtrodden, but the lust for power and treasure.” [‘Lets Drop The ‘R’ Word’ by Michael C. Tuggle, 1-25-07]
With that being said, we understand that such connections and ties, as outlined by the article ‘Second Vermont Republic/Vermont Commons Tied To White Supremacists’ may have developed unintentionally and without the knowledge of SRV’s membership. In fact we have talked to MANY SVR members and supporters across the state, including Vermonters on the advisory board, who had no idea that SVR’s leadership had developed ties with persons holding such far-right beliefs. In addition, many long time members had no idea who DiLorenzo or Basani are or what positions they hold. In many ways, this latest controversy may be systemic of the separatist movement lacking a democratic oversight of the policy positions of the organization.
To support this ‘benefit of the doubt’, the Green Mountain Anarchist Collective points to the previous joint statement of Thomas Naylor of SRV and our collective decrying the right-wing Minuteman organization; an organization with neo-nazi ties which both our collective and Naylor of the SVR called on common Vermonters to resist (and which we successfully did resist). Furthermore, knowing such SVR leaders as Thomas Naylor, Rob Williams, and Jim Hogue in a personal capacity, we attest to the fact that they do not hold racist views, nor have they espoused anything but a vision of ethnic and race equality in their understanding of how an independent Vermont would operate. And again, the SVR has a solid list of outstanding progressive-leftist members/activists including Peter Schumann of Bread & Puppet, anti-Bush activist Dan Dewalt, and others. However, this ‘benefit of the doubt’ must be backed up by immediate corrective measures on the part of the SVR.
These measures must include:
1. The immediate dismissal from SVR’s advisory board of Thomas DiLorenzo (for extreme anti-worker, anti-union views) & Marco Basani (for his connections to the extremist, anti-immigrant, Northern League of Italy).
2. The official cutting of relations between SVR and the neo-Confederate League of the South, as well as any other organizations with ties to right-wing extremists, racists, and/or neo-fascists. The weblink on the SVR website must be deleted.
3. A statement from the SVR recognizing a workers’ right to form unions and the historical necessity for workers to do such insofar as democracy and economic equality are goals which are socially desirable.
4. A statement from the SVR that reaffirms their complete opposition to racism, fascism, bigotry and discrimination.
5. These statements should be posted on the SVR website, and should be printed in the Vermont Commons (which is a sister organization of SVR)
We expect SRV to do the right thing and to comply with the above five conditions insofar as they remain committed to “direct democracy on the farm and in the workplace,” anti-racism, anti-fascism, and the building of a progressive social movement in Vermont and beyond.
In conclusion, the Green Mountain Collective believes that the above outlined links between the SVR and extreme-right wing elements developed through the false idea that “the enemy of my enemy is my friend” and that “separatism is the most revolutionary force in the world today”; both ideas have been forwarded by the SVR. Let us remember that Ethan Allan and the Green Mountain Boys once rode into the town of Gilford, Vermont, in order to put down a counter revolution launched by a group of people who’s aim it was to break up the formation of Vermont and to turn back the tide of democracy by themselves separating from the Green Mountains and instead allying themselves to the reactionary New York government. In a word, secession is not revolutionary in itself. If the League of the South separates from the US in order to recreate a Jim Crow south, nothing will have been gained, and much will have been lost. Separatism can only be considered a useful and ethical tool if it is aimed at a truly revolutionary end; that being the reorganization of society according to participatory democracy, social equity, and freedom. Anything else is a sham and a half measure. We invite the Second Vermont Republic to agree.