Originally published in Yes! Magazine on September 7, 2016.
From the “buy local” movement to public banking, communities are quietly laying the groundwork for a more democratic, cooperative, and people-centered economy.
“Many years ago, while researching the history of the U.S. decision to use atomic weapons on the people of Japan, I came to understand something: There was something deep at work in the American political and economic system driving it toward relentless expansion and a dangerous, informal imperialism. I began thinking about how to fundamentally change America out of concern with what America was doing—and is still doing—to the rest of the world.
Many experiences since—especially working in the U.S. House, Senate, and at upper levels of the State Department trying to resist the war in Vietnam; and thereafter with activists in the antiwar and civil rights movements—taught me something important: It wasn’t enough to stand in opposition to the injustices America inflicted on the world and its own people. It was equally important for these movements to operate with an idea of what they want instead…”
Click here to read the full article in Yes! Magazine.
By David E. Sanger. Originally published in The New York Times on May 10, 2016.
Gar Alperovitz has been a leader of the conversation about the atrocities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki for decades. Here, he is cited by New York Times journalist David Sanger for his evidence that dropping the bomb was an unnecessary part of the Japanese surrender and the end of World War II:
“The top American military leaders who fought World War II, much to the surprise of many who are not aware of the record, were quite clear that the atomic bomb was unnecessary, that Japan was on the verge of surrender, and — for many — that the destruction of large numbers of civilians was immoral,” Gar Alperovitz, a leader of the movement to revise the United States’ own historical accounting, wrote last year in The Nation…
Click here to read the full article in The New York Times
In this Op-Ed for truthout, published on April 21, 2016, Next System Project co-chair Gar Alperovitz and Director of Special Initiatives Ben Manski discuss the national historic Teach-Ins movement and how it’s playing out this Spring as a part of The Next System Project:
An extraordinary process of change is about to explode this month on campuses and in communities across the United States. Thousands of Americans are coming together in dozens of locations to take on the question of what kind of system should replace capitalism. The process is called the Next System Teach-Ins.
Teach-ins to address the fundamental question of how to move beyond capitalism will be taking place on campuses as well as in community centers and correctional facilities — most between Earth Day (April 22) and May Day (May 1), following kickoff events this month at the New School and the City University of New York (CUNY) system in New York City; and the University of Wisconsin at Madison. The largest teach-in is planned for the University of California, Santa Barbara, between April 26 and 28. Major sessions from that campus will be live-streamed into classrooms, house parties and workplaces across the world.
The idea that capitalism as a system may be coming to an end, that something new must ultimately be created, is no longer restricted to groups on the political left. Survey after survey has found millions of Americans embracing ideas far different from business as usual. A January 2016 poll of likely Democratic caucusgoers, even in a state like Iowa, found that 43 percent described themselves as “socialist” — a higher percentage than those who self-identified as “capitalist.” Eighty-four percent of Democratic voters under the age of 30 voted for the self-described “democratic socialist” candidate Bernie Sanders, and one-third of all Sanders supporters have told pollsters they will vote for the Green Party’s Jill Stein in the general election if Sanders is not the Democratic Party nominee.
I was surprised to read Sam Gindin’s characterization of my views on worker-ownership and cooperatives in his recent article “Chasing Utopia.” I agree with Wolff and Wright that worker-owned and self-directed firms make sense in a number of areas—and with Gindin’s judgment that “in general, factory takeovers and co-ops should be enthusiastically supported.” However, they are hardly at the center of my argument for a new socialism.
Gindin states that “what’s missing in so much recent analysis is a sober, comradely investigation of their strengths and weaknesses so that, over and above solidarity, we can learn from them rather than add to existing illusions—thereby gaining a better appreciation of what transforming society would really require.” I fully agree. Indeed, I debated Richard Wolff on the need to go beyond a narrow worker-ownership position during a major session of the Left Forum in 2014. I also discussed the same issues at length with another advocate of a largely worker self-managed market system, David Schweickart in a 2011 gathering. Again, though I think the Mondragón cooperatives are extremely important, they also leave many important questions unanswered (as outlined in a 2013 article when Fagor, one of the most prominent cooperatives in the network failed.)
A major problem is that operating in a market system worker cooperatives are subject to many of the problems of any enterprise operating in competition with others: They must externalize and reduce costs when under pressure, which can lead to environmental despoliation and, as we see with many coops today, the use of wage labor. Worker-ownership can also lead to unequal outcomes: the garbage worker-owners, for instance, are likely to have different incomes than the high tech worker-owners, and both groups are likely to have different levels of power in protecting those incomes.
In this op-ed for Truthout, originally published on February 25, 2016, Democracy Collaborative co-founder Gar Alperovitz and Next System Project director Joe Guinan discuss the propensity for true socialism in the United States, given the discussions swirling around the 2016 presidential candidates:
Bernie Sanders has made an unprecedented and extraordinary contribution to the US political landscape this election cycle. Whatever the outcome of the primaries, a whole generation has learned that talking about socialism, explicitly and proudly, is no longer as politically radioactive as once supposed. But can we not expect more from our economic populism than just knitting back together a frayed social safety net, kick-starting the engines of Keynesian demand with ecologically appropriate infrastructure and imposing some long overdue reforms on our largest financial institutions? Might the United States not be ready for a socialism that actually takes the question of “who owns the economy” seriously?
Though perhaps tactically understandable, given his own previous efforts, it’s a little surprising that Sanders has not made ownership (and new forms of ownership) more of a theme in his campaign. “I don’t believe the government should own the means of production,” he emphasized in his major speech on democratic socialism in November 2015, even though elsewhere he has given vociferous support for expanding the scope of the US Postal Service into retail banking. Community development advocates are scratching their heads, wondering why Sanders’ longtime support at the municipal and state level for transformative ownership strategies – employee ownership, community land trusts, cooperative low-income housing – haven’t shown up on the stump. Hillary Clinton’s tepid profit-sharing plan, where businesses could claim a tax credit for 15 percent of the amount of profit they share with their workers, and which grows out of Larry Summers’ “inclusive capitalism”framework, at least opens the door to a (very) weak form of ownership.
A look at what’s brewing on the other side of the Atlantic gives us some reason to dream a little bigger about what might be possible and also politically viable here, especially given the new direction socialist thought is taking all around the world.