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Forum Post: Cooperatives and Community Work Are Part of American DNA

Posted 1 year ago on Jan. 24, 2013, 4:55 p.m. EST by LeoYo (5854)
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Cooperatives and Community Work Are Part of American DNA

Tuesday, 22 January 2013 16:28 By Kevin Zeese and Margaret Flowers , Truthout | Op-Ed

http://truth-out.org/opinion/item/14076-cooperatives-and-community-work-are-part-of-american-dna

There is so much in US history that has been hidden or mythologized that ignorance is more common than knowledge even among the best informed. That is how we felt when we read For All the People and then interviewed the author, John Curl, on Clearing the FOG radio.

Curl's area of expertise is very important for those of us seeking transformational change to a new, more equitable economy and participatory democracy. His book methodically and authoritatively traces the hidden history of cooperatives, cooperation and communalism in US history. He shows how these models of economic democracy were intertwined with many of the transformational changes the country has made, including breaking from English empire, ending slavery, and gaining women's suffrage, worker rights and union rights, as well as civil rights. He also shows how economic democracy has been in constant battle with concentrated-wealth-based capitalism, which is threatened by a more equal distribution of wealth. This history is critical for advocates to understand; therefore, For All the People is essential reading.

Why Cooperatives, Cooperation and Communalism Matter

Creating transformational change is not only about protesting what we do not like and resisting and refusing to cooperate with the power structure; it also requires us to simultaneously build the world we want. If big-finance capitalism does not serve the people, what will? The mass of people who struggle through their daily lives need to know there is an alternative available that will meet their needs and improve their lives. People who urgently require employment, housing, food and other immediate needs can work together now to solve their problems in ways that also undermine big-finance capitalism and build democratic and sustainable systems.

Changing the economic system to one that is more democratic is fundamental to shifting political power away from concentrated wealth and to people. However, decentralized and democratic economic systems will not address all of the crises that exist sufficiently. Some, such as finance, health care, energy, climate and transportation require national approaches and coordination. When political power begins to shift, these bigger solutions can be put in place and greater transformation will be possible.

History reinforces the idea that to achieve transformational change, we must proceed on twin tracks: protesting and building. Mahatma Gandhi changed his emphasis in the mid-1930s, a dozen years before independence from the British Empire, to work focused on building economically self-reliant communities from below (sardovaya, or social uplift for all). This became an adjunct to the strategy he is most known for, satyagraha (noncooperation and civil disobedience to unjust laws). Gandhian economics meant thousands of self-sufficient small communities with self-rule and the need for economic self-sufficiency at the village level joined together in a cooperative federation of village republics. This is bookended by the Gandhian social ideal of dignity of labor, equitable distribution of wealth, communal self-sufficiency and individual freedom.

We discovered this two-path necessity when we were organizing the Occupation of Washington, DC at Freedom Plaza. We learned that change required a strategy of two parts: protesting what we oppose, and building what we want; to make the goals of the occupation clear, we called it Stop the Machine, Create a New World. The latter approach is important for many reasons and deserves more attention than the former because it builds community, solves urgent problems, builds wealth for individuals and communities, and creates the society we want.

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Spain's Rebellion Moves to Print

Thursday, 24 January 2013 00:00 By Michael Levitin, Truthout | Report

http://truth-out.org/news/item/14102-spains-rebellion-moves-to-print

Cooperatively owned by journalists and readers, Spain's radical new monthly magazine, La Marea, is committed to democratic regeneration and aims to reach people with sober language and militant ideas.

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