We’ve lived so long under the spell of hierarchy—from god-kings to feudal lords to party bosses—that only recently have we awakened to see not only that “regular” citizens have the capacity for self-governance, but that without their engagement our huge global crises cannot be addressed. The changes needed for human society simply to survive, let alone thrive, are so profound that the only way we will move toward them is if we ourselves, regular citizens, feel meaningful ownership of solutions through direct engagement. Our problems are too big, interrelated, and pervasive to yield to directives from on high.
—Frances Moore LappĂ©, excerpt from Time for Progressives to Grow Up

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

The Cooperative Movement vs. Global Capitalism

Click here to access article by Margaret Rapp from Grassroots Economic Organizing.

This article is a transcript of a talk given by Rapp in Cuba this past June. She provides a useful survey of economic cooperatives, both past and present, their various forms, and their difficulties, for anyone interested in co-ops.

I don't believe that even the most intensive type form of cooperative--worker owned and managed enterprises--can offer any kind of effective challenge to capitalist directed corporations. However, they can be useful to materially support workers who are unemployed, who can't tolerate working condition in capitalist enterprises, who need to maintain their skills, and those who want to have experience in cooperative management. 

However, I see one exception to my assertion that cooperatives cannot challenge capitalist rule: an ideologically driven media organization to control information and ideas. (I will address the ideology later.) The capitalist ruling class control over information and ideas has been crucial for them to maintain their war prone, boom and bust system, and their ongoing assault on the environment. The continuing concentration of media in ever fewer hands--consider the current proposed merger between AT&T and Time-Warner--gives this class more power to shape information, ideas, values, etc to serve their many anti-social agendas. We now see the results of this power in the overwhelmingly false reporting of news about both domestic and foreign affairs which liberals and leftists like to rail about in alternative media. Then, of course, this control furthers the capitalist ruling class control over basic ideas and values that serves to add legitimacy to their barbaric system. 

Thus far I have seen only two articles which express even mild concern over this merger in the alternative media: here and here. One might argue that the concentration of media is already so extreme that more of it will not substantially change things, but the writers of these articles don't make that argument. These writers and the general population seem blissfully unaware of the significance of the control of information and ideas. This is definitely not true for the capitalist ruling classes.

I am making the argument that forming an international network of journalists and other interested people who are dedicated to honest reporting not only offers a media source that can 1) insure the communication of truthful information, but can also 2) offer a revolutionary catalyst for the overthrow of capitalist class rule. 

Consider the fact that poll after poll shows a deep distrust of mainstream media: see here and here. If people had access to another significant media source that could demonstrate honest reporting, the general public likely over time would turn to this source in increasing numbers. Thus far existing alternative media agents exhibit the same basic individualistic motives as their counterparts in mainstream media: they see themselves competing with other rivals in alternative media for donations and advertising. These influences must be acknowledged and dealt with by those who are still uncorrupted by capitalist ideology, and by those who have come to understand the most crucial issues of all: war and environmental destruction which threaten human survival.

By significant media source I mean a global network of reporting activists who are truly independent (not funded by capitalist sources) and dedicated to providing the most accurate information possible to all people in the world. This dedication to truth would be the fundamental consideration for participation in the network. Beyond this would be a dedication to social justice, equality, and genuine democracy in a world free of any social class domination. By combining numerous worldwide resources and skills in an organized network could such a organization become a significant media source which provides not only information but a platform for ideas consistent with the latter basic values. I believe that increasing numbers from the general populations would financially support such an alternative media organization.

Now with regard to a revolutionary catalyst, I argue that such an alternative global media network would obviously draw attention from capitalist ruling classes who regard the control of the dissemination of information and ideas as crucial to their continued rule over the world. They would use smears, infiltration, police intimidation, outright assassinations of alternative journalists, and all other means to destroy such a global media network. However, such attacks are likely to provoke a backlash from people in the general population, particularly if such attacks were well publicized in this alternative media. There would ensue an ongoing battle which could radicalize many formerly inactive people from the general population, and over time could evolve into an effective revolutionary movement.