Building the Solidarity Economy in Vermont

This is the first in what we hope will be a series of blog posts contributed by members. To submit your own, please check out our guidelines here.

One of the key foundations for us as members of the DSA is the importance of democracy. In a capitalist system, kleptocratic domination is the prevailing law of the land at the expense of the working class, and our liberal representative democracy is shaped and tied to this kleptocracy. The profit motive that propels and is promoted by capitalism makes profits valued over fundamental human rights, including the right to democracy. Democracy, in the sense of the people’s (dêmos) power (kratía), is thwarted for the benefit of capital, as the workers must surrender their livelihoods and power to the whims of their capitalist superiors. Instead of this undemocratic model of the capitalist enterprise, power could be directly in the hands of the workers. It is important that we expand the role of democracy to achieve societal transformation.

Should we forge a cooperative society, the right to democracy must be expanded to economic democracy if we are to replace capitalist oligarchy, and should we transfer power from the capitalists to the workers, we need to build workers’ democracy. Workers’ democracy can be tangibly created through the formation and development of workers’ free associations. These associations include worker cooperatives, workers’ councils, collectives, and communes. Associations on their own can be important achievements in workplace democracy, but alone they often need to accommodate for the capitalist market, and this means that while they may still hold the principles of economic democracy, they must alter themselves to fit the capitalist hegemony that dominates our society.

This is where the solidarity economy comes in. In a solidarity economy, these workers’ associations can be networked to share resources according to need and provide each other with mutual aid and actions of solidarity. This sharing of resources can help build an economy independent of the capitalist market. This can also be independent of the state, making it an economy that can provide workers with resources and solidarity regardless of whether neoliberals or social democrats are in power. The solidarity economy can also be built by networking mutual aid organizations so that mutual aid efforts can span larger regions and exchange necessary resources. Such a system would give the power of economically democratic decision-making and self-governance to local communities and workers. The solidarity economy can also favor the working class through the development of food justice programs and affordable housing cooperatives to help communities meet the basic needs of all.

Building a regional solidarity economy through the formation of networks or confederations of workers’ associations here in Vermont would benefit Vermont workers and extend the right to democracy in the workplace while also promoting workers’ independence from the capitalist market economy. This can be achieved by reaching out to extant workers’ associations, such as the many cooperatives in Vermont, as well as organizations dedicated to forming the solidarity economy. We should also make sure new associations can be formed and promote organizations dedicated to democratic societal transformation.

Although the scope of this post mostly concerns a regional solidarity economy here in Vermont, the construction of an internationalist solidarity economy would benefit the goal of a cooperative society. This allows workers to extend resources and solidarity to one another regardless of their nationality, whether they live in a liberal country or a Marxist—Leninist one. A better society can be achieved, and the ideas laid out here would not be the only steps toward that society; strong union action will be an imperative part of societal change so long as the private and public sectors exist. The formation of a robust, cooperative, and democratic solidarity economy could be essential to a more just world.

Teagen Comeau

CVT DSA Member

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