In 2017, several leaders in the DSA came together to form the Solidarity Economy Working Group(SEWG) . In our mission, as much a reaction to more social democratic initiatives as well as a love of anti-capitalist economics, we set out to create the most democratic socialist working group in DSA.
Our purpose is to educate those who are in DSA as well as the people in our communities about what the Solidarity Economy is, how to build institutions in the Solidarity Economy, and how it would change the world for the better.
“The Solidarity Economy … refers to cooperative, collective and non-profit, democratically-controlled enterprises, that emphasize the primacy of people over capital and embrace a philosophy of empowerment, equality and inclusivity.”
-Neamtan, Nancy. “Growing the Solidarity Economy.” (Excerpt from her talk at the US Social Forum).
Our mission is sustained by three pillars of activism: Education, advocacy, and community.
We seek to educate our fellow comrades and members of the community that there is an alternative to the exploitation of capitalism currently available to them in the here and now. In Chicago, the local SEWG is putting together a Solidarity Economy 101 guide to explain the elements of this program, that will in turn be shared with other groups. The national SEWG has been busy compiling answers to frequently asked questions, so that any chapter in DSA that is interested in exploring solidarity economics as part of their political education can do so in a quick and easy manner.
We advocate for the creation of cooperatives, land trusts, mutual aid organizations, timebanks (the exchange of skills between group members on a voluntary basis rather than through payment for services), and social ownership of resources. We also advocate for legislation that would lead to the promotion of workplace democracy, economic democracy and other initiatives that increase social wealth. As a working group, we believe it is essential to create a fertile environment for alternative institutions to capitalism. We can only do so by advocating for change in our communities.
We seek to build ties in our communities by creating coalitions with those who are actively building the solidarity economy and building institutions in those communities. We found that in most communities there are organizations that are attempting to resolve the problems of capitalism by incorporating tools of solidarity. There are groups tackling a lack of affordable housing through land trusts. Some other organizations may focus on alternative methods of allocating resources such as timebanks. In any of these situations, the DSA Solidarity Economy working group can play a vital role in supporting and nurturing these efforts.
Currently, we are active in strengthening our network of local solidarity economy/mutual aid working groups across the country. With active groups in Chicago, Cleveland and Central Arkansas, the SEWG has gotten involved in the creation of beverage co-ops, land trust development and various mutual aid projects. As our groups multiply, so will our capacity to create lasting change in our communities. The question is, who else will join us? Will it be you?
If you are interested in joining a local SEWG, check with the executive committee of your chapter to get in touch with your local organizer. If there is not a local SEWG and you are interested in starting one, suggest that your chapter’s executive committee consider starting a working group and contact the National SEWG for assistance. Either way, your journey into solidarity economics is just a few steps away.
Brandon Payton-Carillo, lead facilitator, DSA Solidarity Economy Working Group
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