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By Bill Caspary

Democratic workplaces are splendid achievements. A publication that celebrate and studies cooperatives has purpose enough. But we also see workplace democracy as part of the struggle for a peaceful, just world, where humans flourish, not merely survive. For us at GEO, the movement for worker owned and managed businesses is allied with progressive movements for peace, human rights, community development, fair trade, globalization from below, sustainable development, environmental justice, animal rights, and more. Individually, and as an editorial collective, we are active alongside our sisters and brothers in these movements.

We at GEO believe that genuine democracy, powerful participation in the decisions that control our lives, is a crucial thread binding all these progressive ideals. Democracy of this robust sort is a human right, and democratic governance gives us the power to protect other rights. With it we can ensure that people control corporations rather corporations controlling us; that young men and women are not sent to die in battle by older men who stay at home –and who answer to no one but a manipulated “public,” which they create; and that those who suffer from the despoiling of our air, water, resources, and climate have power over the industrial and commercial practices that cause that destruction.

The vision of a democratic economy is an alternative to rapacious capitalism and its latest incarnation as neoliberal globalism; but it is equally an alternative to top-down, state-owned, command economies. A democratic economy makes possible a democratic politics by removing the excessive power of the corporate rich. Democratic media give the essential resource of information and interpretation back to the people. One keystone of a democratic economy is cooperatives - worker owned and managed businesses in all sectors of production, distribution, and communication. Corporations get massive public subsidies – tax breaks, infrastructure, wage givebacks, military protection, and export promotion. It is time, as Argentinians have recognized, to challenge corporations’ claims to exclusive sacrosanct ownership of productive facilities paid for by workers and citizens.

Our world is beset by civil wars, terrorism, and state violence. Innocent people are killed by bombs and artillery, landmines, suicide bombers, and snipers. Yet “structural violence” is even more pervasive and destructive. Due to discrimination, maldistribution of resources and power, and obscene extremes of wealth and poverty millions of ordinary people are humiliated and alienated, and suffer and die needlessly from malnutrition and disease. Viable local communities are destroyed daily by corporate agribusiness. Millions are trapped in illiteracy, their right to an education not even acknowledged. Women and children suffer most grievously from these cruelties. The world community is faced with an enormous task of peacemaking (ending wars), and peacebuilding (ending structural violence). Democratic workplaces should be seen as an essential component of peacebuilding. And their spirit of democratic deliberation, decision-making, and conflict-resolution is closely allied to peacemaking.

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