A wonderful friend of Class Action has passed away. Ward Morehouse, 83, an internationally known human rights and anti-corporate activist, author, publisher, international educator, union activist, housebuilder, lover of dogs and children, died June 30 while swimming laps in a pond near his home in Northampton, Massachusetts.
He had a multifaceted 60-year career that spanned many fields — activism, writing and publishing, alternative economics, establishing “people’s law,” and civil disobedience against war — but were all connected by the thread of his passion for social justice and equality. In a 2003 article in UU World magazine, Kimberly French wrote that for activists around the world, he was “a high-energy eminence grise for the social justice cause and a deep thinker about the roots of the world’s ills.
Morehouse was internationally known mostly for his work against corporate assaults on human rights.
He was one of the organizers of the International Campaign for Justice in Bhopal (ICJB) in 1985, shortly after the 1984 Union Carbide chemical spill that leftmore than 22,000 people dead, often called India’s Hiroshima. When Dow Chemical bought Union Carbide and did not clean up the lethal chemicals continuing to pollute Bhopal’s ground and water,it only confirmed Morehouse’s understanding that the core problem was to find a way to exert citizen control over corporations.
He was a co-founder in 1994, with the late Richard Grossman, of POCLAD (Program on Corporations, Law and Democracy). Many of Morehouse’s essays are included in the standard introductory book for anti-corporate activism, Defying Corporations, Defining Democracy: A Book of History and Strategy. Grossman once described Morehouse as “the most unpretentious person I know. He either keeps his ego in check or he doesn’t have one. He truly cares about people and that is his great strength.” (Comments about Morehouse by other POCLAD colleagues are on the home page of POCLAD’s website.
Morehouse and Grossman and their POCLAD colleagues began conducting Rethinking Democracy Workshops in which they first coined the phrase “corporate personhood” that’s now at the core of the national movement to overturn the 2010 Supreme Court’s Citizen United decision that gave corporations furtherrights of persons in the law. (In 1995 they co-authored a publication in a National Lawyer’s Guild magazine calling for stripping corporations of rights the Supreme Court and Congress had already conferred on them.
In its Fall 2007 issue on “Standing up to Corporations”, Yes! Magazine wrote: “Ward Morehouse knows about corporate impunity. He has worked to bring Union Carbide to justice since 1984. . . . He failed. But along the way he learned that worrying about ‘good corporate citizenship’ is a diversion from the real task: exerting citizen control over corporations.
As Publisher of the Apex Press, he wrote: “We wrote the books on corporate personhood before it became a household word! Apex Press dissects the corporate impact on human rights, democracy, the environment, technology and economic & social justice. Some of our books are classics of alternative thinking, untainted by today’s corporate free speech (greenwashing).” The books got blurbs from thinkers like Howard Zinn, Jim Hightower, Pete Seeger, Vandana Shiva, Amitai Etzioni, Maude Barlow, Paolo Freire, Noam Chomsky, and Paul R. Ehrlich, among others.
With the Press, Morehouse created the Bhopal Library, a collection of books revealing the evolving understanding of the meaning of the Bhopal. He co-authored The Bhopal Reader in 2004, a tool for activists and history of the 22-year struggle. The New York Times reviewed his 1986 book The Bhopal Tragedy, a citizens commission report. Morehouse and co-author Arun Subramian called for Union Carbide to pay victims and their families over 20 or 30 years.
Apex published books under a variety of imprints: the Wayward Press, the Bootstrap Press, and others. He also co-published books with his Indian colleague, Claude Alvares, a renowned environmentalist based in Goa, and the editor of the Other India Press, an alternative publication based in India.
Morehouse wrote or edited some 20 books, including Building Sustainable Communities, The Bhopal Tragedy, Abuse of Power: The Social Performance of Multinational Corporations, Worker Empowerment in a Changing Economy, and The Underbelly of the U.S. Economy (all available at Apex Press, which the social science publishing house Rowman & Littlefield purchased in 2011).
One of Morehouse’s long-time colleagues, whom he met in India, was the noted activist Vandana Shiva, who wrote about him after his death:
“Ward Morehouse was someone with whom I have walked many journeys. In the late ’70s and early ’80s we we’re deeply involved in interdisciplinary work on Science and Technology Policy. After the Union Carbide disaster in Bhopal we worked in our own ways on justice for Bhopal victims. The struggle continues because the New York courts have let Carbide, now owned by Dow, off the hook. We were together to join the women of Plachimada [India] who were fighting to shut down the Coca Cola Plant which had mined and polluted their water, forcing them to walk miles for drinking water. Ward had identified corporate rule as a threat to democracy years before others woke up to the dangers. Our beloved Ward was a gentle giant who laid the foundations of the most important movements of our times.
Morehouse was the first chair of TOES North America, founded the U.S. in 1988. The first Other Economic Summit (TOES)was held in 1984 in London, a counter-summit to the annual G7 summits. It included diverse groups of economists, greens and community activists. TOES eventually became an umbrella term and similar meetings were organized in the U.S. and around the world. Morehouse was a regular activist and organizer of TOES counter-conferences. TOES’s major ongoing activity is a yearly forum/exposition held in conjunction with the annual meeting of the world’s leading industrial countries — the U.S., Canada, Britain, France, Germany, Italy and Japan.
He befriended British economist E. F. Schumacher, author of the seminal book Small Is Beautiful: Economics As If People Mattered, and became involved with a the group of British economists critical of Western economics who proposed human-scale, decentralized technologies and formed the Intermediate Technology Development Group. Morehouse edited and wrote “Causes of Economic Breakdown: A Handbook – Tools for Economic Change.” He later expanded and republished itin Building Sustainable Communities: Tools and Concepts for Self-Reliant Economic Change. Morehouse became disgusted with Western colonial efforts to use science to help Third World development. In a September 6, 1979, NewYork Times op-ed column called The Vienna Syndrome, Morehouse bemoaned the $50 million spent on a conference that resulted in nothing but talk and agendas for more conferences to talk.
Morehouse was member of the regular panel of jurists for the Permanent People’s Tribunal headquartered in Rome and begun by Bertrand Russell during the Vietnam War. In 1996, after the session of Permanent People’s Tribunal on Industrial Hazards and Human Rights in Bhopal, the “Charter on Industrial Hazards and Human Rights” was adopted. He was also the lead organizer of the Global People’s Tribunal on Corporate Crimes against Humanity at the 1999 Seattle World Trade Organization meetings, and was arrested for attempting to serve citizen arrest warrants on the major industrialized countries’ trade ministers. In 2000, he helped organize the Tribunal on Transnational Corporations and Human Rights at the University of Warwick in the U.K. In 2004 he organized a Symposium on People’s Law at the World Social Forum in Mumbai, India. He was also Chief Organizer, People’s Tribunal on Corporate Crimes against Humanity, US Social Forum, Atlanta, 2007.
On the domestic front, Morehouse was co-author with David Dembo of a quarterly series of reports called The Underbelly of the US Economy in the 1980s to 2000, documenting officially uncounted joblessness and what he termed “pauperization of work.” Before the current discussion of the 1 per cent and the 99 per cent, he wrote about the 400 richest individuals and 82 wealthiest familiesin the country controlling 40 per cent of all industrial capital.
He was also a consultant to various United Nations agencies, including UNESCO on East-West issues, UNIDO (United Nations Industrial Development Organization), UNCTAD (United Nations Conference on Trade and Development), and the Centre on Transnational Corporations. He also developed expertise in small technologies for Third World development and consulted to United Nations agencies. He published many papers on this subject in a wide variety of venues.
In his earlier career, Morehouse was an academic. He taught Political Science at New York University and was a Visiting Professor at the University Lund in Sweden and at the Administrative Staff College of India in Hyderabad, then was director of international education for the State University of New York from 1963 to 1976. During this time he set up education programs in India for teachers, Indian and American, and published textbooks on a variety of areas of the world to help U.S. students understand international people “through their own eyes,” as he said. The evolved into “The Eyes Series,” later published by the Apex Press and still available on its website. His disillusionment with academia drove him into activism.
In a controversy over his work that erupted into the mainstream media the year after President Nixon opened relations with China, Sen. James Buckley of New York called for Morehouse’s removal for bringing a Communist scholar to the University who had lived through the Chinese Cultural Revolution. In a Newsweek article (Jan. 22, 1973) entitled “Red Star Over Albany,” Morehouse said, “Usually we seek an individual who helps us see the society as it sees itself.” The following year, in 1974, his former Yale University classmate William F. Buckley Jr. (and brother of the senator), also called for Morehouse’s resignation in the National Review.
In l976 Morehouse left on his own and went back to base his work at the Council on International and Public Affairs in New York City, a nonprofit human rights organization he had founded in l954. The ApexPress eventually became the publishing organ for projects CIPA helped incubate: the Bhopal campaign, the POCLAD work, environmental issues of sustainability, small technologies for third world countries, and humanistic economics.
Morehouse came by his union identification honestly. Active in the occupational safety and health movement, he unionized the workers at CIPA and wasa member of United Steel Workers Local 4-149 (Chief Steward of Bargaining Unit). His union local was formerly part of the Oil, Chemical and Atomic Workers International Union (OCAW) whose leader, Tony Mazzocchi, was known as the Rachel Carson of the American workplace. Morehouse allied himself with Mazzochi’s campaign to link the scientific and public health communities with workers and unions to create the modern occupational safety and health movement.
Morehouse’s family has a legacy of involvement with social issues and intellectual accomplishments. He admired his grandfather Richard T. Ely, a famous political economist, author, and a leader of the Progressive Movement who called for more government intervention in order to reform what progressives perceived as the injustices of capitalism, especially regarding factory conditions, compulsory education, child labor, and labor unions. Ely became embroiled in a battle involving academic freedom when the regents at the University of Wisconsin tried to remove his tenure. In 1894 an unsuccessful attempt was made to depose him from his chair for purportedly teaching socialistic doctrines. This effort failed, with the Wisconsin state Board of Regents issuing a ringing proclamation in favor of academic freedom, acknowledging the necessity for freely “sifting and winnowing” among competing claims of truth.
His father, Edward Ward Morehouse, an academic protege of Ely’s, was also a progressive political economist focusing on public utilities, such as the Tennessee Valley Authority. His mother, Anna Ely Morehouse, daughter of the famous professor Richard T. Ely, was a sociologist and a passionate advocate for racial justice in Princeton, NJ.She co-authored Social Problems, a Study of Present Day Social Conditions in 1933.
His aunt, Elinore Morehouse Herrick, was appointed by Frances Perkins, Secretary of Labor for President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, as theRegional Director of the National Labor Relations Board in the New York-New Jersey-Connecticut area for the years 1934-1942. Later she worked for The New York Herald-Tribune and her speeches, articles, book reviews, and editorials are all archived at the Schlesinger Library at Harvard University.
Morehouse’s first wife was Cynthia Thomas, granddaughter of the noted restaurateur John R. Thompson, developer of one of the earliest fast food restaurant chains. The couple lived for 44 years in Croton-on-Hudson, N.Y. She worked as a freelance copy editor and as Editor and Production Supervisor for The Apex Press. In the 1960s and 1970s she served as librarian at the Educational Resources Center in New Delhi, India, founded by Morehouse,and as a bibliographer at the Administrative Staff College in Hyderabad, also in India, and at the University of Lund in Sweden. She was the editor of the International Directory of Youth Internships. She died in 2000.
In 2003 Morehouse married Carolyn Toll Oppenheim, a former reporter for The Chicago Tribune and The Chicago Sun-Times. After moving to Western Massachusetts, they together founded Shays 2 (the Western Mass. Committee on Corporations and Democracy) doing POCLAD work of educating about democracy and corporate personhood at the local level. True to his affinity with labor, Morehouse brought Shays 2 into the Western Mass. Jobs with Justice Coalition. He was the senior member of its Workers’ Rights Board.
A third generation Unitarian — his paternal grandfather Daniel Webster Morehouse was a Unitarian minister — Morehouse became active in the Living Wage campaign of the Unitarian-Universalist Society of Florence and Northampton, Mass. (With his first wife Cynthia and a few other couples, he had been a founding member of the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Briarcliff, Croton and Ossining.)
Morehouse leaves his wife Carolyn, two sons, John and Andrew, seven granddaughters, three great-grandchildren, two step-daughters and three step-grandchildren, and a sister, Nancy M. Gordon of Amherst, Mass., two nephews and one niece, and one lab-mix dog called Zen. Zen follows a long line of Morehouse dogs who sat by him in his book-filled studies in Croton, India, Western Massachusetts and Maine. He is known by many names: Dad, Grandpa, Bapu, and Poppa.
Morehouse didn’t just write about labor, he did it. He leaves a beautiful waterfront cabin that he built with his sons and grandchildren in Vinalhaven, Maine. His home of more than 45 years in Croton was mostly built by him and his family. In the 1970s he built a family “camp” in Northern Maine — and a writing cabin for himself. During the l980s he earned money by retrofitting houses to be more energy efficient, working with his son John and daughter-in-law Frances. His applied his principles of small-scale technologies, sustainability and self-sufficiency to his own life.
Memorial Service and Celebration of a Life for Ward Morehouse 1929–2012 (Obituary below) (photo)
Memorial Service Saturday, Sept. 29, 11:00 a.m. Unitarian Universalist Society, 220 Main Street, Northampton
Reveille From a Radical: Songs, Stories and Food in Celebration of Ward Morehouse’s Life and Mission
Saturday, Sept. 29, 1:30 p.m. Northampton Friends Meeting , 43 Center Street, Second Floor, Northampton
Bring stories of Ward. Please RSVP to Carolyn at 413 584 0722 or firstname.lastname@example.org so we have an idea in advance of how much food we need and how many people will want to speak. However, in true Quaker style, people may share as the spirit moves them.
DONATIONS in his name can be made to:
The International Campaign for Justice in Bhopal
c/o Pesticide Action Network
49 Powell St., Suite 500
San Francisco, CA 94102
The Bhopal Medical Appeal (donate online)
The Food Bank of Western Mass.
49 Powell St., Suite 500
San Francisco, CA 94102