This article is a continuation of a previous one titled “Rethinking Revolution for an Age of Resurgent Fascism.” Ella Baker’s work leading the Young Negroes’ Cooperative League (YNCL) from 1930-1933 is here used to further inform today’s anti-fascism. Overall, this article relates Baker’s work to the dissenting views of German Communist Party (KPD) co-founder Clara Zetkin, specifically her views on fascism and the systemic alternative she referred to as a “Soviet Congress for a Soviet Germany.” This was a federation of autonomous councils formed in neighborhoods and workplaces for mutual aid, self-defense, and as dual power to succeed in revolution through general strikes in the event of a Nazi coup.Continue reading
Energy Belongs In Public Hands
Already reeling from the turmoil of Covid-19 and the complex challenges posed by Brexit, the UK economy is facing yet another crisis: extraordinary spikes in wholesale electricity and gas prices. With surging wholesale prices, domestic energy bills are predicted to rise by at least 30 percent by early next year.
The fallout from rising gas prices is already being felt in the retail energy sector. Thirteen energy companies have gone bust due to rocketing natural gas prices since the start of August, meaning that two million customers have lost their supplier. There are nearly 50 energy suppliers in the UK, but pundits are predicting a ‘massacre’ in the sector, with upwards of 20 more companies expected to fold this winter. The energy market, already dominated by a handful of large companies, is likely to experience further concentration.Continue reading
Localization: Taking Climate Action Beyond The COP
As the world looks towards COP26 for climate action, a newly launched guide shows individuals, communities and policymakers how to make a real hands-on difference in their own localities.
Created by international nonprofit Local Futures, the Guide features no less than 146 actions that can help reduce emissions, pollution, consumption and waste, while strengthening local communities and economies. They include everything from growing organic food and moving your money, to setting up farmers’ markets, community investment funds and co-operative businesses. They also include suggestions for those with an eye to policy changes that, frustratingly, have so far been absent from discussion in the COPs – for example, shifting subsidies and regulations to favor local economies instead of global corporations .Continue reading
Democratise Central Banks
In the US, two senior central bank officials recently stepped down after concerns were raised about their trading activities during the pandemic. Robert Kaplan, Chairman of the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas, will step down next month, and Eric Rosengren, President of the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston, will step down at the end of September.
Both were actively involved in financial markets at the beginning of the year, and therefore stood personally to benefit when the Federal Reserve made the unprecedented decision to extend its asset purchasing programme (what most of you will know as quantitative easing) to a number of different markets. The Fed not only created new money to purchase long-dated government bonds, it also actively intervened in corporate, consumer, and municipal debt markets – effectively propping up thousands of private companies, many of which then provided bumper returns to their shareholders.Continue reading
Green Mountain Spinnery And Flat Iron Cooperative
Green Mountain Spinnery is a 40 year old cooperative based in rural Vermont. They mill high quality yarns made in the U.S., support regional sheep farming, and develop ways of producing natural fibers that are environmentally friendly. Flat Iron Cafe is a cooperatively owned coffee shop based in Vermont. They are still in the developmental stages but intend to create a model that integrates coffee, community driven events, and supports local food entrepreneurs within the space.
In this episode I speak with worker-owner Larisa Demos about the inspiration behind Green Mountain Spinnery and Flat Iron’s development. Initially this interview was just going to be about The Spinnery but I decided to ask Larisa to share a bit about a new co-op she is helping to develop.Continue reading
How Rural Electric Cooperatives Can Support A Green New Deal
Today, as President Joe Biden’s $2 trillion infrastructure bill is debated in Congress, it’s worth recalling that this isn’t the first time the US has faced an infrastructure deficit. “By the 1930s nearly 90 percent of US urban dwellers had electricity, but 90 percent of rural homes were without power. Investor-owned utilities often denied service to rural areas, citing high development costs and low profit margins,” recalls one account.
The policy response: rural electric cooperatives (RECs). In 1935, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt signed Executive Order No. 7037, establishing the Rural Electrification Administration—today’s Rural Utility Service (RUS)—which provided low-cost loans to co-ops to wire rural America; by 1953, 90 percent of rural Americans had power.Continue reading
Platform Co-op Plans Revolution For Online Tutoring And Teaching
With schools across the world shutting due to Covid-19, e-learning has become an increasingly popular option around the world – but while this has increased platform revenues, teachers’ pay has stayed the same.
“Last year, during lockdown, I decided to start something different,” says John Hayes, co-founder of MyCoolClass, an international teacher-owned platform co-op set for launch next month. He hails from California but has been living in Warsaw, Poland, for nearly six years while working as an ESL teacher, in language schools and online.
After speaking with other freelance teachers and professionals affected by pay cuts, he decided the best solution would be to launch a co-operatively owned online learning platform.Continue reading
How We Can Place The Wellbeing Economy At The Heart Of Our Cities
Once upon a time, the growth of a country’s Gross Domestic Product would actually lead to social progress. In the first few decades after the Second World War, growth was invested in collective institutions like health and education systems. Tax rates were progressive and growth was directed to those who needed it most.
Unfortunately, this so-called ‘Golden Age of Capitalism’ did not last very long. Within a few decades, we managed to shift to an economic system dictated by market fundamentalism. “We have been undermining our collective institutions, tax rates have been cut down for the very wealthiest and scientists are getting louder with their warnings about environmental breakdown”, author, researcher and advocate for a Wellbeing Economy Katherine Trebeck explains.Continue reading
For Small Farms Surviving The Pandemic, Co-ops Are A Lifeline
Ian Colburn, Zoey Fink, and Casey Holland all operate small, diversified farms in the Albuquerque, New Mexico area. The farmers already had plants in the ground in March when they realized restaurants and farmers’ markets—two of their biggest sales channels—would likely shut down due to the pandemic.
Colburn of Solarpunk Farm worried his acreage was too small to support a robust Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program and that he hadn’t planned for the kind of crop diversity that model demanded. Fink works part-time at Farm Shark Farm with her husband. They already had a CSA but didn’t think they could increase membership enough on their own to sell the rest of the vegetables.
“It was a scary time,” she said. “We thought: if we work together, we can be scaling up and serving 100 families per week.”Continue reading
Informal Workers Have The Tools To Build Better Cities Post-Crisis
On November 2020, New York City street vendors from the Street Vendor Project marched over the iconic Brooklyn Bridge in force – food carts, multilingual signs and musical instruments in hand – to call city hall to action. Eight months had passed since the COVID-19 pandemic devastated their livelihoods, and they had received no relief. While the city took multiple measures to provide a lifeline to storefront businesses, vendors received no dedicated small business support. Instead, many continued to receive summonses and fines from a punitive enforcement regime. Struggling vendors were left to make ends meet supporting each other through mutual aid. Their patience was gone, and their proposal was simple: the city should decriminalize vending, lift the arbitrary, 38-year-old cap on…Continue reading
Money Is Made Up
Have you ever noticed how online capitalism cultists who condescendingly tell socialists they “just don’t understand economics” are always unable to lucidly defend their own understanding of economics?
If you’ve never pressed such a character to clearly and concisely explain what it is you “don’t understand” using their own words, I highly recommend that you try it, because it’s one of the funniest things in the world. If you keep interrogating them about each aspect of their belief system, demanding that they explain exactly what it is they know and how they know it, they will invariably end up getting frustrated and telling you to listen to this or that economist if they don’t rage quit on you altogether first.Continue reading
How To Unlearn Capitalism Through Cooperative Ownership
In the context of user-generated content platforms, the coop model is just such a natural fit. One of the principle questions that made a cooperative model feel relevant is this idea of, “Who’s generating value, and who’s capturing it?” Under capitalism, it’s people with ownership who end up capturing most of the value. So at a base level, sharing ownership with a company’s users and creators can align incentives. And that can dramatically affect the decisions that a platform makes, and steer it in a way that is to the benefit of the people who actually use it and rely on it.
What’s Spotify valued at, a billion or more? And they’re completely dependent on musicians to make their platform’s content. Lately though, there has been more awareness that this model is not serving its creators. So where coops pop up naturally is when people are like, “I’m not being served.”Continue reading
The Case For The Financial Transaction Tax
For most Americans, what threatens health also threatens wealth. The COVID-19 pandemic triggered the worst economic crisis in nearly a century, with millions suddenly facing hunger, unemployment, or eviction. But Wall Street doesn’t represent most Americans. In the parallel universe of the financial industry, stock indices soared to historic peaks as Americans wished good riddance to the deadliest year in our history. Detached from the daily lives of most Americans, the stock market surge almost exclusively benefited the disproportionately wealthy, and the pandemic once again lived up to its distinction as “the great clarifier.”
For years, Wall Street has been increasingly out of touch with the underlying economy of workers, jobs, and wages, and the fortunes reaped by hedge funds and billionaires have not helped the millions of Americans in dire need.Continue reading
Baltimore Is Democratizing The Economy, One Pint At A Time
On your first day working at Taharka Brothers, a majority-Black-owned ice cream maker in Baltimore, you can join the flavor committee and help create flavors like the limited holiday edition Sweet Potato Crumble. Or you can join the social justice committee and vet local organizations to support through ice cream sales, like the Baltimore Action Legal Team. If none of those are to your liking, there are other committees you can join.
If you work there for at least 15 months and earn top marks on your most recent performance review, you can become a part-owner of Taharka Brothers, and have not just a say but also a final vote on major business decisions and policies like those performance reviews.Continue reading
A Common Platform: Reimagining Data And Platforms
On October 20, 2020, the US Department of Justice filed an antitrust action against Google, the first step in what might be one of the biggest anti-monopoly cases of this century. With Google controlling more than an 87% share of the U.S. search market and its parent company, Alphabet, now one of the largest and most valuable companies in history, the move is likely long overdue. Yet Google/Alphabet is not alone. Just weeks later, the European Commission formally accused Amazon of breaking EU antitrust rules by distorting competition in online retail markets.
At this point, it is relatively uncontroversial to point out that “Big Tech” giants like Google and Amazon increasingly dominate our economies and wield tremendous influence over our culture, social interactions, and political systems.Continue reading