We exist in a world of "globalization", more appropriately called "gobblization". Internationalized financial forces are making war on the world to gobble up resources for profit and self-interest. As a consequence, the lives of the people are sucked up along with it. The last decades of the neo-liberal juggernaut have shifted wealth from the many to the minuscule (1%) and in its wake, have left us with perpetual war, environmental collapse, starvation, and immense suffering.
Our political system, economic system, and corporatized mainstream media have turned their backs on this truth as they have found their safety niche within this dysfunctional, destructive arrangement. Where does this leave the people? Feeling very much isolated and for many increasingly afraid and angry. Fragmentation is very much the goal of the ruling class. It undermines efforts to build mass movements that challenge their power and control. What must be done to stop the decline of our democracy and the dehumanization of our culture?
Let's consider two tracks as essential:
The progressive movement in America has been put on its heels. At the same time, everyone can see crises in which we are all immersed. We must create a mass movement with the power to challenge the growing greed, destructiveness, and oppression of the ruling class.
However, there is a second track that we must begin to commit serious time and energy to. This is the track of Community Based Economics, one of the Green Party's 10 Key Values. Grassroots economic structures focus on meeting the people's needs rather than generating profits for the few. This article is written to explore these issues and provide examples of regaining economic control over our lives. It is an invitation for all to share thoughts, experiences, and ideas for building local, community-based economic institutions. It is not intended to be one person's prescription of what is to be done. Collectively we have many answers. Singularly we falter.
By building both a mass movement and local social and economic institutions, we develop a sense of empowerment (personal and community), expand community connectedness and capabilities, create a sense of hope and accomplishment, and by increasing control over our lives, develop an antidote to despair.
Below we offer a few examples of Community-based Economics as points of encouragement and inspiration. We offer these as a starting point for thinking, planning, and acting to strengthen our communities and rebuild an economy and politics that works for the benefit of all.
- Members of our Central Mass GRP have been actively involved in addressing the food and nutrition crises in North Central Massachusetts through the Central MA Local Food. Local non-profits, farmers, food-related businesses, consumers, schools, hospitals, the Worcester County "Buy Local'' organization, some of the area towns' Agricultural Commissions & other interested parties/businesses. LFW is about 5 yrs old. Their mission focuses on a fair, equitable, sustainable values-driven aggregation & distribution (order & delivery) system rather than a strictly profit-driven one for the 27 or so N. Central MA towns & will coordinate many parts of a holistic food system ....some of which are already provided by our coalition partners on a smaller scale. This effort takes food and nutrition decision-making out of the hands of absentee owners distant from the needs of the people and places it in the hands of local communities that work to meet the nutrition needs of their community, not the profit desires of mega food corporations.
- Some communities across the state have developed local digital “swap, share, giveaway” websites that local participants can utilize to find products and services needed as well as create an outlet for no longer needed but functional goods. This decreases the use of landfills and provides an inexpensive community-based means of meeting others’ needs.
- Buying locally through local farms, CSAs ( Community Supported Agriculture), and food coops reduce the dependency on multilayered, national-profit food chains, keeps local resources in our communities, provides local employment in the food production process, reduces transportation needs and thus reduces fossil fuel dependency. If grown organically, it preserves quality farmland and provides more nutritious food.
- Credit Unions are financial institutions that are member-owned, not-for-profit, and differ from commercial banks in that income in excess of expenses goes to benefit the members via higher interest rates on deposits and lower interest rates on loans. In commercial banking, these excess revenues are distributed to shareholders, wherever they live, who generally have no interest in the local community other than the funds they can siphon away via dividends. Credit unions, savings and loans banks, and cooperative banks are established to benefit their members and meet the needs of the local communities in which they exist.
Building Community-based economies are limited only by our imaginations and ability to come together. This effort should work in tandem with mass movement building that challenges the prevailing power structure while building the alternative system that is so sorely needed. Let's not “build back better”. Let’s “build back new”
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