Part of the CCDS team at the conference: Kathy Sykes, Janet Tucker, Harry Targ, Paul Krehbiel

By Paul Krehbiel
Committees of Correspondence for Democracy and Socialism

"The capitalist class is in a serious crisis without solution," said David Schweikart at the Moving Beyond Capitalism conference held in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico from July 30-August 5, 2014.  "But there is a solution," he said, "economic democracy, democratic socialism." Over 200 people from 15 countries discussed how to make this happen, organized by the Center for Global Justice.

Chronic high unemployment, depression of wages and benefits, cuts in social services, and growing inequality and repression, and social and political resistance are endemic to nearly all capitalist countries, said Schweikart, a Philosophy professor at Loyola University in Chicago, and author of After Capitalism. 

Schweikart’s model of democratic socialism calls for a regulated competitive market economy, socialized means of production and democratic workplaces (he advocates worker-run cooperatives as an example), non-profit public banks to finance projects, full employment, and a guarantee that human needs will be meet for everyone. 

Cliff DuRand, a conference organizer, said people are creating alternatives to capitalism today all over the world.  "If we’ve built these alternative institutions, the next time the capitalist system collapses…we will be able to survive without it."

Gustavo Esteva, a former Mexican government official, founder of the University of the Land in Oxaca, and an advisor to the Zapatistas in Chiapas in southern Mexico, gave a good account of how the indigenous people of this region are creating a new democratic and socialist-oriented society that they control, within the borders of a capitalist Mexico.  The Zapatistas launched an armed uprising in the mid-1990′s to stop NAFTA and the Mexican government from allowing multi-national corporations to come into Chiapas to extract minerals to enrich the corporations and destroy their lives and their local economy. 

Ana Maldonado of the Venezuelan Ministry of Communal Economy could not attend, so University of Utah Professor Al Campbell filled in for her.  Campbell has worked in Venezuelan with the Community Councils, a new form of grassroots democracy and socialism.  Created in 2006 by the late socialist president Hugo Chavez, there are 20,000 Community Councils today, each holding meetings in neighborhoods where all residents can attend, discuss, and vote on decisions for their community. 

Private, for-profit banks came under sharp attack for causing the 2008 Great Recession, and for ripping off billions of dollars from people world-wide, primarily through charging high interest rates.  Ellen Brown, founder of the Public Banking Institute based in California, declared, "Without interest payments, there would be no national debt," which now stands at over $15 trillion.  Politicians use the debt as an excuse to cut funds for education, health care and other social programs.  An example of local bank rip-offs is a bank loan for the purchase of a house, where the homeowner pays the bank 2-3 times or more than the cost of the house due to interest payments. 

Brown said the solution is to set up not-for-profit public or state banks — like the Bank of North Dakota.  She describes how to do it in her book Democratizing Money: The Public Bank Solution.  Since the 2008 economic crash, 20 other states including California have introduced bills to study or establish publicly-owned state banks.

"The US controls third world countries," Brown explained, "by putting them in debt and then forcing repayment with high interest rates," which they can’t afford to pay.  Brown said the book, Confessions of an Economic Hitman, by John Perkins, explains how devastating this is. 

Coops in Cuba

Camila Pineiro Harnecker, a leader of the cooperative movement in socialist Cuba, explained that her country is giving much more attention to the development of worker-run cooperatives as a way to help workers create jobs for themselves, and learn how to become masters of their work and work lives. The state socialist sector dominates the economy, but coops now comprise 12% of the workforce and are expected to increase in number.

There were many examples of people struggling against capitalist-caused injustices, to survive, and also to weaken capitalism by creating socialist-oriented building blocks within capitalist society.

Margaret Flowers and Kevin Zeese of the Occupy Wall Street movement in Washington D. C. facilitated discussions about how the Occupy movement redirected talk of cuts in social services to stopping the top 1% from enriching themselves at the expense of the 99%.

Enrique Lazcano, a member of the Authentic Workers Front (FAT) in Mexico, talked about building cross-border solidarity with the United Electrical workers (UE) in the US, and how this strengthened both unions to win improvements.  Juan Jose Rojas Herrera of Mexico spoke about the Solidarity Economy, where work is done with as little capitalist exploitation as possible and for the common good. One day of the conference was devoted to visiting a near-by cooperative market and learning how it is run.  David Schwartzman, a professor of Biology at Howard University in Washington, D. C., spoke about the need to combat the capitalist-fueled crisis of climate change by changing the system to socialism. 

Song Mengrong, of an educator in China, spoke about new policies recently enacted by the Chinese government to focus on the needs of the people, calling it "Socialism with Chinese Characteristics." Francisco Javier Ramirez of Mexico spoke about the Morena party, a new people’s party, pledged to reverse the neoliberal policies of the Mexican government which have served the corporate elite at the expense of the people.  Harry Targ, Political Science professor at Purdue University in Indiana, spoke about "fusion politics" – uniting many social movements to oppose capitalism and imperialism, and highlighted the struggles of the Arab Spring and "Moral Mondays" in North Carolina to stop the attacks on civil rights and democracy in that state. 

Kathy Sykes of Mississippi talked about the campaign to organize a union at Nissan and a socialist-oriented Cooperative Economy project initiated by the late mayor of Jackson, Chokwe Lumumba.  Janet Tucker, former president of the statewide organization Kentuckians for the Commonwealth and the national organizer for the US-based Committees of Correspondence for Democracy and Socialism, spoke about building grassroots labor-community coalitions in Kentucky.  This reporter spoke first-hand about how member-driven union Stewards Councils were built in large public hospitals in Los Angeles County, California, and how these councils empowered workers on the job.  One theme that came up in many presentations was that organizing was a full-time job, and if ignored, gains could be reduced or lost.

Cynthia Kaufman, a Philosophy professor at De Anza College in California, director of an organization encouraging civic engagement, and author of Getting Past Capitalism, captured a key element of the conference: "We get past capitalism by building on the healthy non-capitalist aspects of our world, while we also do pitched battle with the capitalist aspects that we have a fair chance of winning against."

The conference ended with a discussion to help set priorities.  One was to fight neoliberalism and especially trade agreements like the Trans Pacific Partnership, and the second was to build the environmental movement to fight climate change.  -end-

Category : Capitalism / Education / Marxism / Socialism / Solidarity Economy

One Response to “‘Moving Beyond Capitalism’ Conference In Mexico Works to Build More Humane World”

Walter Teague, lll September 30, 2014

Glad David Scwartzman was there to raise the major issue that will affect all else, Catastrophic Climate Change. Otherwise it might not have been even a secpnd priority. But this relegating environmental issues to a secdary position is explained by the prominance of Schweikart who has argued for adaptation rather than prevention of climate change. His position in my opinion rationalizes needless death of millions .