Grassroots Productive Democracy

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In the context of the Momentum movement around Jeremy Corbyn in the UK, by Hilary Wainwright:

"Were it to assist these kinds of initiatives — what could be termed grassroots productive democracy rather than just state-led social democracy — Momentum could bring about a far-reaching movement, laying the groundwork for a Corbyn win in the 2020 general election. The creation of such a movement could simultaneously set in motion the dynamics for supportive and transformative post-election alliances.

Scotland’s Radical Independence Campaign is an exemplar in this respect: it was a non-party social movement that brought together a diverse range of campaigning and productive civic organizations to organize for a “yes” vote in the country’s referendum.

Especially pertinent for the Corbyn campaign have been the initiatives of Common Weal, which was set up to generate and disseminate grassroots economic alternatives. They developed a new language of mutuality and collaboration — a “we” against the competitive market “I” — furnishing living models of a socialism that does not revolve exclusively around the state (even if it does require the support of a different kind of state). This they share with Corbyn, who has a plural understanding of social ownership, regulation, and intervention.

They have also provided sustenance to the belief that there can be something better than the current state of affairs — breaking the fatalism that leads people to vote for the status quo or abstain — and spurred in people a sense of confidence about their agency and abilities, another feature of Corbyn’s socialism.

This new kind of democracy should incorporate labor as well. But for that to happen, the division unions traditionally erected between the economic and political must fall. It might have made sense at the end of the nineteenth century, when trade unions seeking parliamentary representation set up the Labour Party.

Now, however, as workers engage in struggles that push their unions in a more directly political direction, there’s an opportunity to erode the outdated demarcation. Activists — including those from Momentum — can speed along the process, assisting in the creation of economically transformative initiatives, fusing the political and economic to bring about systemic change. Something Different

Corbyn’s original campaign for the leadership contained within it the inchoate method and tools of radical change. The veteran MP ran within his own party, looking to rise to its highest post on his own radical terms. But he also stepped outside the party, mobilizing social forces that previously found Labour repellant.

Similarly, Momentum needs to reach beyond the familiar campaign politics of the Left — not abandoning the conventional modes entirely but combining them with economic initiatives and self-organization endeavors that can develop the capacities and create the resources through which to build power to transform society (as well as win electoral office to manage the state).

As for Corbyn, he built the language of his campaign around the experiences of his constituents and their stories of (often extreme) deprivation. He’s given voice to their plight in the House of Commons, using People’s Question Time to underscore the unjust policies of the current government.

Similarly, in the run-up to the election, Corbyn could collect positive, inspiring examples of people building an alternative: the ways in which English, Scots, and Welsh are self-organizing, the collective initiatives people are launching to take care of themselves and their neighborhood — in short, the basis of new sources of working-class power in communities and in new forms of work.

Corbyn has already caused a seismic shift in Labour politics and taken the media and the establishment, Labour and Tory alike, by surprise. As one journalist from Sky TV told me when the insurgent candidate was gaining momentum, “Corbyn has completely upset our template.” The reporter delivered the remark with extreme perplexity.

We shouldn’t be astonished if Corbyn and his young supporters, unaccustomed as they are to political convention, ultimately deliver even broader change on a national level." (