Veteran civil rights activist Rev. James Lawson said in an interview that the United States has a long tradition of dehumanizing and exploiting groups of people for labor and profit. He told Laura Flanders of Grit TV that that the U.S. economic system is modeled on what he calls "plantation capitalism."

"Our history has shaped us more than what we think it has," he said during a break in the action at the AFL-CIO's 2013 Diversity Conference. "We've had plantation capitalism for almost 300 years. We imposed it on the Indians because we took the land from them and reduced them to poverty."

"We refused to recognize the right of women to equality," he continued. "We hung people who were called witches. We established slavery of African people for 250 years. Then we continued the economic oppression of that system with the Jim Crow law."

Plantation capitalism works, he said, by "seeing all kinds of people as not human," which makes it easier for the ruling class to run rough-shod over their rights as human beings. This philosophy has its echoes today, he said, in attempts to reduce workers' pay and benefits.

"The Democratic Party pretends to be working for the welfare of the American people, but, again and again, comes down on the side of fracking, on the side of hedge funds and Bank of America. Comes down all the time on using our military bases abroad for the purpose of subduing other people and dominating them."

To change the country, he said, we must organize the poor into unions "by the millions so that they can collectively bargain and challenge plantation capitalism."

Watch the video, embedded below via Grit TV: