The Price of Being a Radical, 1930

Courtesy of Tom Giessel

From the January, 1930 edition of The Farmers Union Herald

Often we hear expressions of fear concerning the work of someone whom the world deems a radical.

Very little use to worry. The greater percent of the human race do not want to think. The only thinking they do is when compelled to by the turbulence of some radical. The ripple soon passes from the surface and the majority settle back. We are especially fortunate in that we have a few who, when someone with independence enough to think for themselves steps out of the beaten track, will follow.

Very little progress would we make if we were not fortunate enough to have these radicals to take conventionalities in hand and shake the dust from them and expose their rotten vanities.

Whenever a person comes forth with stability, courage, and character enough to voice a new principle, the world looks aghast. A hue and cry is put forth that we are degenerating. We are becoming impious and sacrilegious. The change may appear at first to be retrogression, but it is only the step backward for the long running-jump ahead.

The triumph of the new truth which declared that the sun is our central orb, that the earth and the planets are a family of worlds, must be attributed to Galileo. He was a radical. What price did he pay? He was assailed from all sides with malice, ignorance, and ridicule.

He was imprisoned in a cell in the Inquisition. He was compelled to go down on his knees and renounce his teachings. Upon rising, he is said to have uttered in an undertone, “The sun moves, for all that.”

It is easy enough to trail along with the noted. It takes energy, and nobility of purpose to oppose. The battle of the radical, shaking up conventionalities has lasted through centuries in the past, so it will last through other centuries in the future. These radicals, breakers of idols, have done more for the world’s progress than all the hereditary or self-appointed rulers that have ever lived on the earth.

We, in our own time have never given full credit to our greatest benefactors.

Thomas Paine was belittled, even called “a filthy little atheist”. He was neither an atheist, agnos, nor infidel. He attacked theology, but was a firm believer in God. He said, “the world is my country; to do good is my religion.”

In January, 1776 when Paine published his first political argument, “Common Sense”, it fell on the divided, undecided colonist like a bomb. But it, and it alone was given full credit by Washington, Jefferson, and Adams for having decided the issue. If any on person is entitled to credit for the Declaration of Independence, it is Thomas Paine. He it was who had courage and nerve to mold public opinion to that end.

When Washington’s army had dwindled from eighteen thousand to a scant one thousand men, it was Thomas Paine who seized a drum and using the head for a desk, with his pen dripping fire, wrote “The Crisis”. All that winter Washington ordered Paine’s Crisis and other papers to be read at the head of each regiment.

As a nation we owe more to Thomas Paine than to any other human being. Every man who reads history knows we could not have won without Washington, and Washington could not have won without an organized public opinion back of him, and Paine is the one who organized it.

He, like other rebels and “breakers of idols,” have their place–they have made men think and have spurred them to action. He too, paid the price.

People who are fearful of new ideas are always advocating suppression of the radical. Whenever we suppress, it is simply because the views expressed are not in accord with the views of the majority.

Look back to war times. The majority, we say, were in favor of war. Were they? (We had just elected Woodrow Wilson President because, “he kept us out of war”.) Well, the dictating power was in favor of war. Numerous men and women were tried, convicted and imprisoned because they dared speak or write against war. Did they speak or write anything more bitter, more opposing, more radical than the pacifist writes today? No–but then they were opposing–were Radicals. Now the pacifist writes the same propaganda. Now, it is safe and sane, because the majority are talking peace and the Peace Pacts must be advocated.

In the presidential campaign of 1896 W. J. Bryan was one of those ranting radicals. Where will we find a more strenuous speech than his “Cross of Gold”? The conservatives said that if Bryan’s principles were put in force in the United States, the nation was doomed. But lo, before a decade had passed over our heads, we had accepted all of those direful principles except the ratio of sixteen to one.

In Los Angeles Max Rosenstein has been denied his diploma from high school because he is a communist. Think of it! In the twentieth century, asking a student concerning his politics or religion, when attending a public school, supported by public tax. As well as whether his grandparents ate light or dark bread, or whether his mother does the family wash or sends it to the laundry.

If communist ideas are wrong, if they are base and vile, worry not. Give all the communist students diplomas, for by so doing you have given them an opportunity to learn other theories by attending high school. If wrong, their theories will die. Trying to oppress will only antagonize and make the communist spirit rise higher and spread farther. If their theories and dogmas are bad, they need not be feared. They will burn by their own fuel, die their own death, and bury themselves in an ignominious grave.

For the time being it is a sin and a crime to have certain ideas. Tomorrow they may be in popular favor. The crime of our age has more than once become the glory of the ages which followed.

Thirty-five years ago what is organized labor today were the radicals. Now they are organized. Now farmers are radicals because they are organizing.

Coming home from the Convention at Bismarck, I heard an elevator man tell a farmer that wheat might just as well keep on going down in price because the farmers are never satisfied anyway. Well, being a mere woman, I didn’t offer any information, but I think he may soon learn, when we are going to be satisfied.

As a class we are showing our radical views, and we are blessed with enough so called radical leaders to put the program across. We are in disfavor today, asking too much, but when the equilibrium has been reached, and we are given a market that isn’t less than cost, our preposterous ideas accepted, someone else will have to be the goat. We will cease to be radical.

Often times the theories which may benefit the future, unsettle the present. There must be an upheaval to liberate and free the minds; get them out of their groove so they may expand.

Look not for praise and glory for any ideas and principles put forth unless you are walking closely, very closely with the crowd. Rather listen for a wail of horror and prepare to be cast out with the cry of Radical hurled at you.

Where in the history of the world do you find the gratitude of a people given to their great reformers while those radicals are living? Men and women who have taught the world to think have gone down to defeat, as far as they knew of the world accepting their views. The monuments and statues we raise after they are dead.

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119 years later, and still hasn’t happened

-courtesy of Tom Giessel

Mr. Reed on Corporations.

The Greenwood club met last night for the first time this season at the public library to listen to an address on “Corporations” by James A. Reed, public prosecutor. The attendance was representative of the club’s membership, the room being crowded with persons from nearly every walk of life. Mr. Reed was particularly severe on corporations. He said that every corporation was organized through dishonest motives; that it was with the hope of crushing out a rival or to monopolize some line of trade or industry. He gave two reasons for the abolition of corporations. First, that they were dishonest; and, second, that they tend to crush out individual effort. He advocated, as a remedy, the abolishment of private corporations and the ownership, by the government, of railroads and other public enterprises.

“These issues are being forced upon the people,” he said, “by aggressive and persistent abuses of the trusts and combines which, in every avocation of trade and business, are seeking to set up and establish monopoly. A trust is after all only a corporation which has arrived at maturity and the abuses chargeable to it legitimately and logically spring from the very powers granted to corporations.

“It may be a long time in the future, but the day is certainly coming when the last vestige of private corporations will have been, by an indignant and outraged people, obliterated from the face of this continent; when the people will look with wonder upon an age whereby public law institutions were created and granted powers which resuited in general and wholesale robbery and such robbery received the protection of courts of justice.”-Kansas City Star

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Bait and Switch

From the Organization for Competitive Markets newsletter
by Mike Callicrate | January 4, 2018

What can we as eaters do to encourage a better food system?

In today’s broken corporate-controlled food system, more and more people want to know where their food comes from and how it’s produced. The biggest industrial food companies are well aware of this fact and clearly see how consumer demand has shifted towards local sourcing of food over other attributes like antibiotic and hormone free.

The world’s biggest food companies, including meat packers, processors, food distributors and retailers are carefully strategizing on new ways to capture this growing “local” food market, intending to head off all possibilities of being replaced by local, regionally based food systems that better serve farmers, eaters, the environment, and rural communities.

Recently, I stopped by a restaurant in Birmingham, Alabama, with a couple of friends. Looking up “local food” on a smart phone, a little barbeque restaurant popped up. It was everything we wanted, so we pulled off the interstate and went in. Pictures of farmers, kids and pigs living the happy farm life decorated the walls. From the décor to the food on the customers’ plates all looked and felt great! As the server approached the table, I simply asked the question, “Where do you get your pork?” and he said, “We get it from a local farmer north of town.” I responded, “Great, who is it?” The guy said, “Well, I don’t know,” so I asked him to find out. Returning from the kitchen, he said, “I’m really sorry I told you that the pork was local. It’s Smithfield pork.” Smithfield is the largest pork company in the world, owned by the Chinese.

On another occasion while looking for local food in Colorado, a good food advocate friend and I stopped by a brewery on Main Street in Alamosa. Upon opening the menu, I was pleased to see local suppliers prominently featured. Beef was supplied by Salazar Meats and pork was from Monte Vista-based Gosar Sausage. The Salazar hamburger had a $2 upcharge, which I was happy to pay. A quick phone search for Salazar Meats connected me to owner Lucas Salazar. “Lucas, this is Mike Callicrate. I’m at the Brewery in Alamosa, do you sell them meat?” and he said, “No.” The young server, standing by, appeared embarrassed, but also had a look of disappointment, as if he hadn’t known the truth. I said, “You gotta tell me, what would I have been served if I had ordered the Salazar hamburger?” After another trip to the kitchen, he informed me that a pre-made burger patty from Sysco would have been on the plate. Sysco provides a product as far opposite of Salazar Meats as is possible.

Sysco, the biggest, most predatory and deceptive food service company in the world, sells the cheapest meat for the most profit. The burger I would have been served would have been industrially produced, partially or mostly imported. It would have likely contained DNA from over 1,000 animals, along with Lean Finely Textured Beef (aka LFTB or “Pink Slime”).

Too bad the destruction of our farm and ranch communities or the abuse of animals and meat plant workers isn’t reflected in the taste of the food. Too bad we can’t simultaneously experience the loss of rural communities or the degradation of the environment when we bite into ethically compromised food items.

Unfortunately, while our government looks the other way, Sysco and other national food companies find it very profitable to deceive the consumer. Just change the label – same crap, but in a different box!

Farm-to-table and the local food movement has been hijacked by Big Food. If the consuming public wants the chance to vote for a better food system by how they spend their food dollar, they will have to be more knowledgeable and willing to ask tough questions of restaurants and retailers, and all of us will have to be willing to call out the cheaters and insist they be held accountable.

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Grandmother’s quilt, Grandfather’s ghost

photo courtesy of

Farm and Food File

by Alan Guebert | Dec. 17, 2017

A slightly frayed, white and peach-trimmed quilt now lays unfolded on one of our spare beds. Twenty-nine of its 30 squares each feature the carefully stitched name of one member of the Ladies Aid of Immanuel Lutheran Church in rural Rising City, NE.

The stitching on the quilt’s 30th and final block, also in peach and positioned in the bottom right corner, is testament to its making. It reads: “Aug 1914 Nov 1936.”

Neither I nor anyone I know can explain the “Aug 1914” date. My mother, however, knows exactly what the “Nov 1936” date means. It was the month and year she, her three siblings, and parents left Nebraska to return to their native Illinois after Grandpa lost his 160-acre, Butler County farm to hard weather, hard luck, and hard times.

But that black stain can’t be seen in the quilt’s subtle colors and simple elegance. What comes through clearly, though, is its many names. They are sturdy, solid names like Etta Bauer, Maggie Buck, Anna Poppe, and Eda Hahn.

Sturdy and solid, I suspect, because during the awful, terrible year of 1936, sturdy and solid were all they had left after almost a decade of poor crops and poorer prices. Throughout it, however, the ladies brought their needles, thimbles, and love to their country church to make my grandmother a treasured keepsake I now treasure.

And these solid, sturdy workers—Alice Klingemann, Esther Glock, Mattie Hoeft, and Anna Ditmar—were modest because they reserved the very center of the quilt for the block that carries my grandmother’s solid, sturdy name, Lottie Hanebuttanebutt. It floats amid her neighbors’ names: Cente Glock, Metta Jaenike, Frieda Voss, Emma Hinze, Agnes Hinze.

Most of those last names can still be found at Immanuel today. They are chiseled into gray granite and white marble and they stand sturdy and solid still during winter’s fiercest wind or summer’s sweetest breeze.

Only my mother remains to remember the site of her family’s Depression farm and her memories are mostly of a hungry little girl tired of meal after meal of flour pancakes and cabbage. She never looked back or ever went back.

I did last week, however, and through happy coincidence and uncanny luck, was able to talk with the sons of two of the quilt’s makers. Both knew the exact location of the farm my grandparents operated until their lives, like most of American agriculture, unraveled in the 1930s. A stop at the county courthouse yielded an aerial photograph of the farmstead before most of its buildings were razed decades ago to grow corn no one needed then or now.

Three buildings remain; a cobweb-filled livestock barn, a drive-through corncrib, and a sagging, weathered brooder house. None have held anything other than mice, raccoons, and owls since Berlin, not Mexico, had a wall. Thirty yards south, a car-sized hole marks the farm’s collapsed cistern. Nearby, an equal-sized pile of bricks shows where the house once stood.

As I look around, sparse clouds begin to stack against the eastern horizon and a cold wind finds its way through the neglected shelterbelt. A passing shadow, slight and quick moving like my grandfather, sends a chill through me and the pain the land still holds hits my chest like a hammer.

I look to the east to see, just a mile away, the church where the quilting ladies of Immanuel had, more than three generations ago, gathered in warmth and love despite the swirling dust and growing fear. Sunlight strikes the white building to make it look like a dove resting in a brown, thousand-acre nest.

Was this the last image my grandfather saw as he walked off his lost farm 81 years ago? I hope so. Did he cry as he left or was he simply empty after watering the land with years of sweat and tears? I don’t know.

I do know, however, that I will never return to where he still walks.

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Why the Wrangle over Country of Origin Labeling Matters

We must restore our sovereignty to conduct our collective lives as we see fit.

Gilles Stockton

By Gilles Stockton

October 27, 2017

The wrangle over Country of Origin Labeling (COOL) has gone on for over twenty years. After it was finally passed and implemented, our COOL law was disallowed by a World Trade Organization (WTO) tribunal prompting Congress, at the bidding of the meat packing cartel, to rescind COOL. But most cattle producers think COOL is a good idea and any consumer when asked if they would like to know the origin of their beef answers, “yes of course!”

The reason that COOL could be disallowed goes back to the North American Free Trade Association (NAFTA) rules that gives global corporations and foreign governments the right to challenge US laws and regulations that they claim interferes with their commercial interests. These Foreign Investor Rights Provisions are nothing more than a restriction on the Constitutional sovereignty of the American people, and an end run around the Tenth Amendment of the Constitution that says:

“The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution nor prohibited by it to the states, are reserved to the states respectively or to the people.”

One of Donald Trump’s campaign promises was to reform NAFTA or if that proves impossible to drop out of NAFTA completely. The administration has indeed opened up negotiations about the future of NAFTA and so far, our trade negotiators have held firm on repeal of Foreign Investor Rights. Needless to say, the global corporations are pushing back.

If you read between the “news” lines, the global corporate propaganda teams have mounted a full campaign to sell the benefits of “free trade” to the American people. Their major concern is the continuation of the Foreign Investor Rights because this gives corporations the power to challenge constraints imposed by nation states and ultimately frees them from the obligation to help fund that nation’s infrastructure. In other words, they can disallow laws they do not like and do not have to pay taxes.

The recently announced agreement with China to lift a ban on US beef and buy cattle directly from Montana ranches looks suspiciously to be part of this propaganda effort. There is nothing wrong with China buying US beef. It can’t hurt, but since we do not raise enough cattle to meet the domestic demand we will be needing to import more beef to make up the difference.

What we don’t know about this announced deal with a Chinese company is whether the cattle will be priced in an open public market or if it will be a vertically integrated system with no publicly derived price discovery. This arrangement with China could foster market competition but, probably, will result in more captive supply and speed the chickenization of the cattle industry.

Meanwhile Congress has been busy with what they tell us is tax reform. The center piece of the tax proposal is to lower the top corporate income tax rate from 35% to 20%. The rational, we are told, is that by lowering corporate taxes we will encourage global corporations to re-patriate profits that they now keep in Caribbean tax havens.

The trade agreements, including NAFTA, openly encouraged the off shoring and outsourcing of manufacturing from the US to the country with the lowest labor costs and most lax environmental and consumer protection regulations. The next logical step was for the now global corporations to find ways to protect their profits from taxes. Most economists are skeptical that lowering the corporate tax rate will encourage the patriation of profits now safely residing in tax havens. The richest 1%, who own these global corporations, are no longer tied to any country, and have little reason to feel responsibility towards or contribute financially to any community of people.

However, not all manufacturing and business investments can be off-shored, particularly the selling of stuff. The implicit deal imbedded in the trade agreements is that the US encouraged the off-shoring of its manufacturing base, we also freely gave away our technological advances, and to top it all off, we allowed free access to the American consumers. What the American people got in return is the opportunity to buy a plethora of very cheap stuff. The assumption, we were told, was that the people who lost their jobs to off-shoring would find jobs in new high-tech industries and in retailing the stuff they used to make. This easily explains why the United States runs an annual trade deficit of half a trillion dollars and why so many people cannot find full time employment at a wage on which they can actually live.

Because corporations can off-shore much of what they do, this gives them tremendous leverage in negotiations with states and municipalities on their local tax responsibilities. In order to encourage global corporations to establish themselves in their locality, states and municipalities must bribe them with tax holidays. The most recent example in the news is the on-line retail giant Amazon’s quest for a second administrative and distribution center. Wherever Amazon builds their new distribution center, they will not be taxed for road maintenance, expansion of schools to educate their employees’ children, and the extra law enforcement needed to maintain security.

The point of all of this is to ask the question: who will pay for the infrastructure and services necessary to maintain modern and safe communities for our children? Those who have lost their livelihoods to off-shoring cannot pay taxes. The 1% who own half of the of the worlds assets will not pay taxes. It can only come from those who are lucky enough to have a job, a small business, or a farm or ranch. The trade agreements that the propagandists brilliantly labeled “Free Trade” has brought us to this stark reality. Congress may call what they are doing “tax reform” but it can only result in higher taxes for the middle class and fewer services and deteriorating infrastructure for everyone.

It all goes back to NAFTA and the other trade agreements that allowed corporations to go global and freed them from of the obligation to help pay for the national infrastructure. Eliminating the Investor Rights Provisions from NAFTA is a good first step. As citizens of the Unites States, and as members of the communities in which we live, we must restore our sovereignty to conduct our collective lives as we see fit. Foreign governments and global corporations should not have the right to overrule what we democratically choose to do.

COOL’s demise at the hands of foreign countries, global corporations, and bought and payed for politicians, makes it a symbol of what is wrong with NAFTA. Perhaps, we can’t fix everything that quickly or that easily, but as cattle producers, we can insist that beef that comes from cattle born and raised in the USA is labeled: Born and Raised in the USA.

Gilles Stockton
Stockton Ranch
Grass Range, Montana
406 428-2183

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