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Catalyzing worker co-ops & the solidarity economy

Movements Moving Together 2

December 16, 2013
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michael johnson


What I am trying to do in this series of Movements Moving Together (MMT) blogs is think out loud about how movements that want to advance democracy more deeply and broadly into our cultures can work together in this multi-century project that is probably in its 3rd century at this point.

If thinking is primarily a social process rather than a private one, then blogging is an excellent format for thinking out loud together. I invite all of you to weigh in with your comments. Two of my GEO colleagues, Marty and Len, have done this with my first blog on Movements Moving Together. (I included Marty’s input at the end of my first blog, and Len posted a blog in response to mine. Their responses and the thinking of many others have helped form some basic questions that forms the bulk of this blog.

In my first blog I identified this as a major strategic issue:

how can the diverse movements and projects committed to the idea that “another world is possible" connect together so that they can move toward what they have in common while maintaining their autonomy and developing the rich possibilities they envision. (See the first blog for the kinds of movements I am thinking about.)

Why? Because together there is the possibility for power and duration; apart, weakness. And we need power to endure. The World Social Forum represents this principle of solidarity as did the overwhelming response to Occupy. It's well understood that representing the principle is only a beginning as is well understood. Embodying it and spreading it takes many life-times.

I believe that the notion of advancing democracy more deeply and broadly into our cultures can serve as a rallying point for developing the essential solidarity and long-term durability for advancing deeply democratic change. More than that, I believe this idea of advancing democracy embraces all of the core work—internally and externally—that our movements need to do in order to do what they want to do.

If this line of thought is useful, then where do we go with it?  Below are four inter-related questions (out of the many confronting us) that I think we should think about together as allied movements. Actually, it is misleading to call them questions. The 'questions' are basically a device to focus attention and what we need to think through to become more and more viable as substantial alternatives to the reigning neoliberal project.

1. Given the overwhelming presence of neoliberalism and its relentless drive to dominate and shape all political economic realities, how do we strategically take measure of what we need to do to become substantial, developing, and enduring alternatives that are recognized as such in our locales, homelands, and across the globe?

2. Are there any indications that activists in the 21st century are more able now than in the 20th century to bring autonomous movements together and unite them around some kind of shared body of themes and agendas? If not, what do we need to do to develop that capacity?

3. If there are positive indications for creating the solidarity we need, and if these indications seem strong enough to risk investing time, energy, and resources to the endeavor, then some key questions come into focus for each movement and each of us personally:

  • What projects, organizations, and enterprises would you want to bring into a coalition for developing a more deeply democratic world?
  • What criteria would you use in selecting who and what to ally with?
  • How negotiable are you about these criteria? That is, how open are your ears, mind, and heart for negotiating strong differences of opinion?

4. Given the reality that mainstream “politics is not a dinner party, but more like a civil war by bloodless means,” how do we pursue our visions for a deeply democratic world without getting sucked into seeking to destroy what is seeking to eliminate or, at least, keep our diverse projects and MMT possibilities radically marginalized?

These are thematic questions I intend to explore in this blog series. For now I want to leave you with a statement from one of the outstanding American students of democratic movements, Lawrence Goodwyn. I share it because I think advancing democracy is both a fundamental struggle in our democratic movements as well as a benchmark for measuring how we are doing.


There wasn’t anything in my culture that taught me that to build a movement one has to create social relations among people that would cause them to be in a room where politics is the center of discussion. I’d been taught that what mattered is what people said in the room. But the key question is how to get people into the room to hear—and respond—to whatever is being said there.

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