Popular Resistance Newsletter – Defining What We Stand For

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This week, we re-launched It’s Our Economy, a project dedicated to reporting on and assisting the growing movement for economic democracy. 

February marks the third anniversary of the 2011 revolt in Wisconsin. At that time, across the United States there were a series of protests against foreclosures, austerity and the unjust economy. It was the Wisconsin uprising, along with the Arab Spring and Indignado movement in Europe, that inspired Occupy, a revolt against an economic system – big finance capitalism – that is causing the corrupt, unfair economy; as well as against a government that serves the interests of the wealthiest before meeting the necessities of the people.

People often want to know what the movement for social and economic justice wants. Occupy Wall Street issued its Declaration of the Occupation of New York City which laid out a series of grievances. But, in addition to knowing what we oppose, we need to define what we stand for. If we do not like big finance capitalism, what would replace it?

1freedomDuring the organizing of the occupation in Washington, DC on Freedom Plaza, we developed a list of 15 core crisis issues that the country is facing and we outlined solutions to them. These solutions are supported by super-majorities of Americans who, polls show,  could rule better than the elites.

At the core of these solutions is creating an economic democracy agenda, building institutions that are controlled by and benefit communities while also protecting the planet. A democratized economy shifts political power away from concentrated capital to the public and further empowers people by meeting their basic needs for shelter , food, education, healthcare and work.

How do we get there? In her book, Getting Past Capitalism: History, Vision, Hope, Cynthia Kaufman suggests we are in a variety of struggles and rather than seeking to total replacement, we need to build healthy institutions while challenging those unhealthy ones we can defeat. Gar Alperovitz defines the transition as ‘evolutionary reconstruction,’ a way that we gradually build a better world.

Economic Democracy

1balt4We define economic democracy as:

“…premised on the idea that people should not cede power to mega-corporations, big finance, or a “professional” political class. The people have the shared knowledge to help build an economy that works to strengthen communities and build wealth for all, not just a few. We recognize the internal contradictions of big finance capitalism and we have seen the failures of state-based socialism and are seeking to create a new type of economy that is democratized, empowers people to gain control over their economic lives and encourages cooperative solutions that create wealth for ourselves and our communities….

Economic democracy also emphasizes the commonwealth.  The commons includes not only roads, land, water and resources but also the knowledge and technology developed, often with public dollars, which has been built up over  generations….

Economic democracy stands in contrast with neoliberal economics. Neoliberalism privatizes public goods and seeks to commodify everything possible to create profit-centers while cutting public services in the name of austerity.”

1hchrOne way to understand what makes healthy institutions that serve the people is to use a human rights framework. There are five human rights principles. These include:

  • Universality: Human rights must be afforded to everyone, without exception.
  • Equity: Every person is entitled to the same access to services and public goods.
  • Accountability: Mechanisms must exist to enforce the protection of human rights.
  • Transparency: Government institutions must be open and provide the public with information on the decision-making processes.
  • Participation: People need to be empowered to participate in the decision-making process.

The need for a new economy based on the goal of benefiting all people, not just the wealthiest, has become more urgent as the impact of the economic collapse and its false recovery are felt. These include high rates of Americans dropping out of the labor force, the wealth divide expanding, record poverty and lowered incomes for most people.

People Creating the New Economy in Many Ways

Political and economic leadership continues to go in the opposite direction of what people want: cutting the social safety net and doing little to invest in re-building the economy while the costs of energy, food, healthcare and other necessities rise.  People across the country are acting on their own to build an economy that will serve them.

1localThe building of the new economy, sometimes called a ‘solidarity economy,’ has been developing for many years, particularly in other areas of the world such as Latin America. As a result we can now see reports of its success. A fundamental view of economic democracy is to build from the bottom up, starting with local communities. A report this week from the Institute for Self Reliance found that communities with buy local programs have seen local businesses grow three times as fast as communities without such programs.

One key aspect of buying local is our food supply. The International Forum on Globalisation reports that “the average plate of food eaten in western industrial food-importing nations is likely to have traveled 2,000 miles from source to plate.” Around the country people are working to change that. Two programs that were in movement news this week were “Our Harvest” and “CropMobster.”

1cropmobOur Harvest comes out of a 2009 agreement between the United Steelworkers and the Mondragon Co-op to create union co-ops. Our Harvest is a produce farm and food hub for aggregation and food processing. CropMobster is a project from Petaluma, CA that seeks to redistribute food to reduce waste and to provide healthy food while growing a shared economy.

Another issue that has been in the news lately because of multiple environmental disasters is the quality of drinking water. The chemical spill in West Virginia, coal slurry spills, fracking well explosions and pipelines bursting in multiple states have been a few examples of how fresh water is now at risk. In addition, the extraction of fossil fuels and uranium are consuming tremendous amounts of water even in areas that are facing droughts. Water will be an item on the political agenda at the state and national level.  This week in Europe, 1.66 million people were able to put the issues of the right to clean water and stopping water privatization before the Parliament.

At the center of so many issues – the environment, climate, water, air, jobs – is energy. The corporate duopoly seems unable to challenge big oil, gas, coal and nuclear to put in place the carbon-free, nuclear-free energy economy that is needed.

In the absence of national leadership, people are moving forward. Over 80 landowners have dedicated nearly 20,000 acres to what will become the largest wind farm in South Dakota that will increase the wind energy output in the state by 50%. As solar rapidly grows in the United States, research is now showing that more people will be employed by solar than by oil and coal combined.

1peetBig changes are also on the horizon in the labor front. There are widespread battles for raising the minimum wage to a living wage. And while many companies treat their employees as if they were disposable, in other workplaces employees are becoming owners. There is a growing movement for worker-owned cooperatives with national meetings in the United States and in Europe. An example that was in the news this week was WinCo, a growing competitor to Walmart.

Other businesses are creating a more just world by redefining corporate charters so that one of their purposes is to provide public benefits rather than profits to investors. Delaware, the home of half of US corporations and two-thirds of Fortune 500 companies, enacted a B Corp. law. This status protects corporations from lawsuits by shareholders for not maximizing profit, and even gives some shareholders the right to sue the corporation for failing to optimize its social mission.

We are in a Renaissance

The examples above just give a taste of all of the changes that are taking place to create new systems that replace the old failing ones. For more ideas, visit the “Create” section of PopularResistance.org or ItsOurEconomy.us.

1solidarityWhat is amazing is that around the world, the same ideas and values are being put forward. People are joining together to create societies that respect life and the planet and that are more horizontal and just. We are truly in a time of transformation which is made more urgent by the many crises we face.

There has been talk of global revolution, and in some areas, revolution – the changing of governments – is occurring. But we are not yet in a global revolution. In his article, “Revolution, or Digital-Age Renaissance,” Bernardo Gutierrez writes, “Ruskoff argues that the revolution has not arrived and what we are experiencing is a new renaissance. ‘Renaissances are historical instances of widespread recontextualisation. It is the rebirth of old ideas in a new context. Renaissance is a dimensional leap, when our perspective shifts so dramatically that our understanding of the oldest, most fundamental elements of existence changes. The stories we have been using no longer work.’”

Currently people are not only creating new systems, but they are questioning the stories that have been told to maintain the status quo and are recognizing that many of our restraints are artificial. People do have the ability to rethink the premises upon which we base our assumptions and to change their views and behaviors.

1capitalFor decades we have been taught to believe in capitalism and neo-liberalism. We have been told that there will always be poor people and we must accept that. We’ve been told that wealth trickles down and that we should all compete to achieve the “American Dream.” We’ve thought that in order to achieve that dream we must go into debt. And we’ve believed that the people in power should be trusted to make decisions for us, that we didn’t have the capacity to make them.

All of that is changing and being turned in its head. Awareness is growing that we can do things differently. People are actively confronting the old ways through both resistance and the creation of new ways or the re-emergence of older ways. One area is the recognition that there are alternatives to debt-based economies. This is not a new idea. There were debt jubilees in ancient history.

In the article, “Debt Refusal Essential To Rebuilding Popular Democracy,” the editor writes that “resisting debt is not only moral, it may be essential to re-envisioning a democracy built on legitimate bonds to our community.StrikeDebt, which was organized after Occupy Wall Street, teaches us thatworking together to build greater economic democracy would mean weaving a dense, creative network where our debts are to each other, not to them (read: the big banks).”StrikeDebt created a Debt Resister’s Manual and is organizing a nationwide debt resistance movement. Their new manual is due out soon.

Another area of renaissance is globalization. To date, globalization has been based on the neoliberal economic model that leaves poverty and environmental destruction in its wake. But now that we understand these consequences , it is becoming more difficult for governments to continue on this path. A case in point is the current Trans-Pacific Partnership which was negotiated for years in secret and the plan was to pass it quietly through Congress using Fast Track. That effort has stalled for now and instead civil society groups are working together to redefine what global trade should look like and how it should be governed.

1gcc2There is a call for ‘deglobalization’ which refers to orienting our communities to build local economies, to produce goods that are needed and to become more self-reliant. A detailed plan for this is outlined in the blog on systemic alternatives.

We have an opportunity right now while trade deals are stalled to redefine global governance. Collectively, the people can confront the dominant paradigms and global power structure and rebirth a world grounded in the principles of human rights and protection of the planet. Resistance is not only protest, but includes acts of creation. When you get involved in your community to build democratized economies, you are part of the global transformation.


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  • Aleksandar Sarovic

    You stand for losing time and your practice proves it. Please read the article “Let’s Remove Unemployment” here http://www.sarovic.com/2013_01_18e.htm and see what needs to be done for the start.

  • il corvo

    Whose going to do it if each one of us doesn’t? Our tendency is to look to authority figures, may they be religious leaders, politicians, political parties, science, gurus or slogans to solve our human problems. No one understands your life better than you do. Take a piece of the problem and inquire into that problem with friends and neighbors and then act both individually and as a group. Do what you can and realize that no one person or doctrine can save us. We are society and society is us. When you think and speak coherently others will also. We stand alone, together.

  • kevinzeese

    Yours is an idea that I have heard many times and support. The question is not whether it is a good idea or not — it is — the question is how to get there. You way we “stand for losing time” — show us how to accomplish what you suggest.

  • Aleksandar Sarovic

    Kevin, you did not have time finish the article so you did not have the chance to get the point. You offer the philosophy of equality which is OK, but it gives a spectrum of solutions where it is hard to make a consensus between two, not to mention among the whole society. One measure, shortening work hours proportionally to the unemployment rate, will do everything that is needed for the creation of a good capitalism. Good capitalism also opens the door to a new system which will end capitalism. But nobody will suffer in this process. Please read the article to the end.

  • Aleksandar Sarovic

    Actually the goal and how to realize it are the same. But my path is much simpler and harder to corrupt.

  • kevinzeese

    I did read it to the end and still do not see how to get there. I understand your proposal, I’ve seen it before and have said I support it. But, shorter work weeks will not be something given without a lot of organizing and mobilization.

  • kevinzeese

    We are all just scratching the surface of the solutions that are needed. Technological advancements are going to reduce a broad range of jobs even more dramatically in the future than they have in the past. There will not be enough jobs even with shorter work weeks. We are going to have to figure another method of making sure people have income, independent of work. How do we equitably share the wealth of the nation?

  • kevinzeese

    Beautiful — thanks for posting Sharee!

  • My pleasure, Kevin…thanks for the article:)

  • Aleksandar Sarovic

    I agree. My point is: it would be much easier to fight for such a simple measure that will in fact bring everything that people need, than to follow complicated philosophies and ideologies.

  • Aleksandar Sarovic

    Well I am actually very deep in it. I presented how to equitably share the wealth of the nation in my book Humanism. The book actually presents the future of humankind. It look strange because everything is new, but it is not my fault we are on the wrong path. Yes, social security is necessary with or without work. No, shortening work hours could always manage enough jobs.

  • Jon

    Segment of the article: (comment below)
    Universality: Human rights must be afforded to everyone, without exception.
    Equity: Every person is entitled to the same access to services and public goods.
    Accountability: Mechanisms must exist to enforce the protection of human rights.
    Transparency: Government institutions must be open and provide the public with information on the decision-making processes.
    Participation: People need to be empowered to participate in the decision-making process.
    Study the 1871 Paris Commune. They practiced every one. It freaked out the established order and they were annihilated. But we are in an new era of transformation and their sacrifices can be redeemed by following their example. Jon

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  • gnarlylove

    Is empathy a complicated philosophy? The Tao teaches all will fall into place if we stop pursuing our own interests. The problem with maintaining the system we have is the same ruling idea will prevail that an elite class must exist to rule over people. That is absolute corruption. The idea of replacing economic policy may be daunting but is by no means all that complicated once we remove power structures.

    I hear what your saying about reducing work hours and that has been a popular movement in the 1800s even in the 1980s when Kellog had 6 hour work days. But we need to raze our complex thinking and realize the goal is simply to have food, love, and shelter and the rest will fall into place. No one needs the latest Iphone in order to have a most excellent life. “The unexamined life is not worth living.” -Socrates.

  • RPM

    You have a large portion in this nation unemployed or underemployed. You also have a large portion of this Nation overworked. Compensation is a problem in both cases. Automation will probably remove most customer service jobs in a decade or two’s time. With fewer jobs there will be fewer people in America with purchasing power. That is the capitalists plan though. Corporations have given up on America last century. India and China and maybe parts of Latin America are the new markets they want to exploit and sell to. China is currently where the U.S. was in the late 1800’s early 1900’s in terms of labor rights and upward mobility. That may seem like a long way off but their 1950’s middle class boom will come up sooner than anyone can imagine and than the planet is screwed. A capitalist society is based on endless waste and consumption. We live on a finite planet with finite resources. Capitalism is the terminal cancer of earth. But it doesn’t have to be.

    Global revolution can happen. And America as the last living empire can lead the way. If all civil and social rights groups(black, latino, women’s, worker’s rights, environmentalists, and so on) came together they could have the largest nonviolent protest in human history. As long as everyone understands that as fellow human beings we are all in this together. Powers that be get groups to sell each out for a little perks for their own interests. The strategy is always used because it always works. Just as the rioting protesters being shot at always works. All it would take is one day to one week of a 5th to a 4th of the consumer population of the U.S. : not working not consuming, not shopping, watching tv, dicking around online, ordering food, or going outside being a target to bring this corrupt system down. If your outside your a target. If your watching the news or surfing the net your susceptable to propaganda. But if you stay inside and don’t consume and don’t work you can get all reforms you could possibly want. There isn’t an army or police force big enough to break into everyone’s home forcing them to work and buy stuff. You could guarantee a living wage for everyone. Universal healthcare, education, housing, recreation and travel. Everyone guaranteed mobility, leisure and safety. And once the “leader” of the world does it. It can and will inspire nonviolent revolutions all over the world. The slave state that exists throughout the world will fall. No longer will wealth and health be the happenstance of your birth region. Universal socialism will transaction to a universal gift society where ideas and potions are shared freely. People always doubt the sharing of goods and services without currency and force as the instigator. To them I say have you ever used a library. You borrow something for as long as you need it than return it. You eat the food you need for that day. You don’t hoard things until they spoil. We have enough resources to feed everyone on the planet. All famines have been because of government policies or debt bondage. You don’t need any of it. There is enough for all humans and all creatures on this planet to live in harmony. For 99% of human history we have lived in what we would classify as a anarchistic or true communistic society. People didn’t work long hours to “pay” for space to live or food to eat. The last 5000 years of human history has seen us trapped in a large zoo. We don’t need to be.

    There are 3 primary reasons people hate others. The three R’s. Race. Religion. Region. You look different from me. I hate you, ya gotta die. Or you look the same as me but you believe in something different than me. I hate you, ya gotta die. If you look like me and believe what I do you still are somewhere else. That side of the river. That country. That State or city or part of the city, or block or house on that block. I hate you, ya gotta die. The 3 b.s. reasons to hate and inflict suffering on others passively or aggressively. Those 3 reasons are not in anyones control. No one choose the melanin in their skin or where that were born. Religious choice is a mistake as well. If you are raised in a culture where every friend, coworker, and family member believes the same as you were taught, the chances of you believing different are not very high. A lot of Hindus in India. Lot of Christians in Mexico. Lot of Buddhists in Japan. Not a lot of Muslims in Ireland. Not many Mormons in Iran. Not many Sikhs in Peru or Jews In China. So why judge people for things they have no control over?

    We don’t need any of the bigotry of the past. We can be one people, unafraid of our differences. If everyone is paid roughly the same at first the transition to straight up volunteerism will be quicker. It doesn’t just appeal to the altruistic side of people. Wanting a healthy, less stressful, less fearful society is a selfish instinct. It can be done if people are willing to have resolve and work for it. Or they can dismiss it as utopian(history proving the assertion wrong regardless) and continue on a destructive path that leads to mass extinction. The solution is right there laid out by histories greatest struggles. Are we ready?

  • RPM–excellent comment! Getting there won’t be easy. Just getting people to stop voting for the two corporate backed parties is damn near impossible. I think the shortest path to a more equitable society is with a guaranteed income. But even that is a hard sell to Americans. For some reason, we Americans think we should all have to work our asses off. As the elites make us compete harder and harder for jobs, they keep lowering the wages.

  • What do you think of guaranteed income?

  • I think empathy is a great idea. Google “Six Habits of Highly Empathic People.”

  • RPM

    Hey kokanee! I love the idea of guarenteed income. The Swiss are trying that right now. They don’t have enough jobs for their population so they will be paying people to live so they can be healthy and pursue their creative goals. How kickass an idea is that?! On Reality Asserts Itself on the RNN Vijay Prashad talked about everyone getting paid the same. Which makes me think society would than really learn how to prioritize. If everyone had guaranteed income or similar salary than anyone who is a janitor, trash collector or in some other high stress, dangerous or smelly job would have to be paid a lot more. If everyone on wall street disappeared tomorrow it would take a while for main street to know. If all janitors, sanitation workers, and customer service reps walked off, I give it less than a week before people lose their shit. And yet all those that keep everyday life functional and bearable get treated like crap by the public. Why? Because they don’t have as high a salary and class distinctions dominate people’s perceptions regardless of contribution to society.

  • I’m thrilled that you instantly saw the benefits of guaranteed income. It gives people the freedom to pursue their dreams whatever that may be: an education, a research project, an art or hobby, self-improvement, child rearing, anything or nothing.

    It eliminates the need for minimum wages, social security, unemployment insurance and food stamps. As you pointed out, it puts tremendous pressure on low-level jobs.

    It creates a more egalitarian society. It eliminates poverty and the basis for classism and racism.

    Finally, the capitalists still have their capitalist system and we have our socialist one. Oh what a wonderful world it would be!

  • RPM

    I think it would certainly make a much more polite society. Think of all the abuse people heap on workers both as customers or fellow workers. How much fun it would be if everyone could say “I don’t need this job!” and walk. I would certainly make art with my time. Much more interesting than the crap we are exposed to daily would be the creativity of people unburdened by finical constants. Much more diverse too. Most people I’ve met wouldn’t mind doing a certain task for a portion of the day if it meant more time for recreation and creative/educational pursuits. I wonder how long anyone could acquire or maintain absolute wealth with an even playing field and zero chance of exploitation. Not long I imagine.