Solidarity System

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Jessica Gordon Nembhard:

"The term cooperative can be loosely defined to include any kind of economic cooperation in a solidarity system, but my definition privileges cooperative ownership and cooperative enterprises. By solidarity system, I mean a non-hierarchical, non-exploitative, equitable set of economic relationships and activities geared toward the grassroots—that’s of the people (people before profit), indigenous, participatory, based on human needs, humane values, and ecological sustainability. In the solidarity system, surplus, or profit, is shared in equitable ways, through democratic decision making, and used for the common good. Risks are collectivized, skills are perfected, learning is continuous, and economic practices are sustainable (both ecologically and from a business point of view), bringing collective prosperity. Capital is democratized and widely owned or controlled. In this system, capital is subordinate to labor, as in David Ellerman’s sense (labor rents capital rather than capital renting labor);[3] and returns go to labor rather than to capital.[4] In a solidarity system, we follow the guidelines of seventh generation thinking and are stewards of the commons, mother earth, and our ecology.

It is also a system where marginalized and oppressed people use their sense of solidarity (gained from experiencing similar racial, social, political, cultural, and/ or economic domination and exploitation) to motivate them to join together economically to combat their oppressions and economic exclusion and exploitation. The sense of solidarity also helps to keep the group together, and is a basis for establishing trust within the group.

A solidarity system recognizes the evils of racism, sexism, and patriarchy and deliberately addresses oppression and exclusion by developing values, policies, and practices to mitigate them. It aims to give voice and power to those who are usually without them.

The notion is that there is not any one group, or one person, running off with all the “spoils.” The wealth and prosperity are truly recirculating in the community. And community members, especially those who do the work and need the resources to live, are the ones who decide what happens to the resources. In a system that includes shared prosperity, shared decision making, and collective economic activity, economic democracy spills over into other social and political spaces, and enriches civil society, as well as family and individual wellness."