How do we get from here to a Participatory Economy?
Winning a new economy will take time, but there are at least five areas in which people who want to see system change should want to see progress in the near future:
- Bigger and stronger reform movements in all spheres of social life. The goal has to be to create stronger support for social change in a majority of the population. Old reform movements like the labour, feminist, consumer and environmental movements need to be revitalised. And new movements, led by a new generation of activists with new strategies and tactics, need to grow bigger and stronger.
- Experiments with more participatory and equitable cooperation, allowing more people to interact in a ways that “prefigures” the new society. Without clear evidence that participatory, equitable cooperation is not only possible, but works better than competition and greed, it will never be possible to convince people to support fundamental system change. We need to create more workers- and consumer owned cooperatives, we need to launch more campaigns for participatory budgeting where neighbourhood assemblies democratically decide what they want to spend their taxes on. Initiatives to reform capitalism and initiatives to create experiments in equitable cooperation are both necessary strategies, but neither strategy will be successful on its own. Together they protect us from their respective pitfalls. Reforms on their own cannot achieve equal cooperation since any potential progress will be limited and exposed to a constant risk of defeat and to be rolled back as long as institutions such as private enterprise and markets are allowed to continue to reinforce antisocial behavior based on greed and fear. On the other hand, a one sided focus on the creation of alternative economic institutions within capitalistic economies will also not be successful since it will exclude a lot of people that will not be able to participate in the experiments, and because the market forces constantly will pressure non-capitalistic institutions to sacrifice cooperation in favour of commercial success. Involvement in reform campaigns helps to overcome the risk of isolation that is present in “prefigurative” projects. And a continuing work to increase the understanding of how equitable cooperation could work will help people engaged in reform work not to give up the thought of system change, and not to settle for a slightly improved version of a system based on competition and greed.
- Influencing “traditional politics” in order to create a more favorable environment for reforms and experiments in equal cooperation, but also to better reach out with our message to a wider audience. A large portion of the people that we need to mobilise show interest in politics mainly during election campaigns.
- Strategies to defend movement victories from anti-democratic forces. The ruling elite will not accept any democratic decisions, or hesitate to crush activist organisations or alternative experiments, if they believe that their ideology or privilege are threatened. The time when revolutionaries could take up arms and expect to win is over. The defense must therefore focus on organising massive resistance and civil disobedience since no elite, no matter how well armed, can decide over the people if they refuse to obey their orders.
- Finally, alternatives regarding how to make economic and other decisions in ways that are different than today, have to be presented in a more clear and concrete way. Last century’s attempts to create alternatives to capitalism failed miserably, and people are justified to be skeptical and to demand that anyone who advocates system change is clear about how a new system will be different in organising economic decision making.
All these activities are necessary for success but everybody does not have to participate in every activity, and the most successful mix of activities will be different in different times and places, and political groups with different ideologies will prioritise one activity over another. Since we need to make progress in all of these five areas there is no need to loose time on arguing which are the most important.