SUMMARY OF THE SEMINAR
The seminar was aimed at fighting neo-liberal exploitation and to try and propose an alternative model of economy that is conducive to human welfare and development at the grassroots level. It also tried to explore ways of democratising national economies and bringing a major portion of individual national economies under the control of the common man.
Key issues debated
Solidarity Economy was the central theme discussed. The speakers presented their different versions of Solidarity Economy and its scope and reach in their respective communities. The Asian speakers touched on the concept of Solidarity Economy from three perspectives:
·Solidarity as a lifeline for sustainable development in the marginalized sector i.e. the underprivileged segments which otherwise are subject to what one of the speakers called ‘structural marginalisation’ (i.e. discrimination on the basis of caste) and liberation of such marginalised sections from the exploitative neo-liberal economic model.
·Solidarity as a political right (right to choose) i.e. it gives a right to choose the type of goods they want to produce (farmers) or the services they want to offer (bonded labourers).
·Solidarity as a tool to overcome gender inequalities i.e. overcoming the shortcomings of the neo-liberal economy. For instance, in the current economy, the services of the household women do not figure in the GDP of different countries. Moreover, even if women took credit from micro-credit institutions, eventually the control of the money is with the man in the family.
Viewing Solidarity Economy from the perspective of the North, speakers admitted that they were predominantly in a minority in their geographical contexts and were trying to use it as a tool to create a more equal and democratic economic order.
The speakers from the north focused on:
·Grassroots-level collaboration between communities i.e. inter-regional networking, which could further shape into intercontinental networking. This could be achieved through ground level mobilisation and intense collaborations.
·To them, Solidarity Economy is a process of democratisation of the economy. This economic model has brought about social equality since it entered Europe at a time of rampant exploitation of the underprivileged.
In a nutshell, Key issues debated.
·What is solidarity economy?
·Whether it has the potential to substitute the present neo-liberal economic model?
·Solidarity as a political right.
·Solidarity from a gender perspective.
·Seeking ways of sustainable development in the marginalized sector.
All the speakers agreed upon the need for an economic model that would address the interests of the grassroots comprising of the labour class, dalits (the subaltern) and poor women.
New concept that emerged out of the discussion: Structural marginalisation
Speaker: Duarte Bareto
Unionisation of marginalized sector
Pespective, paradigms, starting points :
Fedina is a voluntary organization established in 1983, which basically works for the emancipation of people at the grassroots. Its basic aims are economic empowerment of the marginalised people and securing housing rights for them. It also supports action-oriented research at the grassroots.
Subjects and topics focused:
The organisation categorizes its target group into three specific marginalised segments: agricultural workers, bonded labourers (dalits) and the informal sector (poor women). Marginalisation is structural in nature and, as a result, a serious challenge to forces striving for their emancipation. Besides, solving these problems require quite a lot of funds wherein the Government of India does not offer any help. Moreover, today even after 100% Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) being allowed in the country, voluntary organizations are still devoid of foreign funding due to the foreign intervention law passed by the government.
The solutions proposed were unionization of the marginalized sector, which would fight for core labour rights in major activities. Besides it would also allow a normal labourer to choose his work, access to government programmes and enable them to create their own programmes. Unionization, according to the speaker, also aims to fight the ‘dailiness of dalit discrimination’, by which he meant the discrimination that a dalit (a person belonging to the subaltern) has to face in every walk of life.
Emerging points:Cross-sectional networking at the grassroots level, fighting the ‘dailiness of dalit discrimination’, development in land reforms, organising the informal sector and implementation of employment guarantee schemes.
Political Solidarity, Global South, Global North, Co-operativism.
Perspective, paradigm, Starting point:
The speaker divided his speech into three parts:
1.Conceptual issues involved in Solidarity Economy in Asia.
2.Successful models of Solidarity Economy in Asia.
3.Issues and concepts essential to take the process forward and create replicable models.
Topics and points focused:
The economy of solidarity and the mainstream economic model differ from each other in different ways. First and foremost, the mainstream economy is, by its very nature, extractive, both of resources and communities. Second, it gives birth to monopolies in production, distribution and consumption. Third, it restricts the common man’s choices and leaves the consumer with few choices. Fourth, it is an economy of financial capitalism driven by the stock market.
On the contrary, there are several positive values associated with Solidarity Economy. Solidarity Economy is all about sharing, of resources and the products of human effort. There is a pooling of energies here. From the synergies of different actors in an economic activity, new products are created. Thus, Solidarity Economy becomes one of co-operativism or the coming together of different actors for a common cause. Such joining of forces is based on justice and ethical perceptions.
The principle of egalitarianism the guides the Solidarity Economy makes it the exact opposite of the traditional economic model, which is marked by profit motive and greed. Since identity plays a major role in economic discrimination in the traditional economic model, particularly in countries such as India where the vestiges of feudal social organisation are still widely prevalent, the Solidarity Economy model should help cancel out the negative impact of identity, be it based on caste, colour or race.
In Solidarity Economy, the control is with the masses, quite unlike the mainstream economic model where the control is in the hands of a few who decide what the society must consume and at what price and rate. So there is a democratisation of economic power here. It also focuses on the informal sector like, for example, the beedi and cigar industry in India, which has been hit by globalisation and the influx of products made by the U. S. Solidarity Economy is not micro-credit as it is understood today. Micro-credit has several extractive characteristics of the neo-liberal economic model. For example, under the micro-credit system, even when women take credit, she is not given the power to take decisions on what to do with it. The power remains with man.
The informal sector must be organised on the principle of Solidarity Economy. This would give relatively more bargaining power, especially to women. The grassroots has to be mobilized to look out for avenues of co-operative action in conventional or non-conventional ways. For instance, ‘Akode’, a Solidarity-based initiative in Tamil Nadu in South India, has mobilized adivasis to capture land to kick off a movement, which is not being helped otherwise by the government.
It should be the individual at the grassroots who decides what should be produced, consumed and distributed. Identity plays an important role in economic discrimination and Solidarity Economy should be focused on removing such discriminatory elements. The global economy has traditionally had a historic trajectory wherein resources have always been in the Global South and the Global North has had the monopoly of technology. Eventually, solidarity should be identified as an island of hope that will, by way of constant grooming, get transformed into a critical mass that will hold a threat for the capitalist economies.
Organisation:SWATE (Society of Women in Action for Total Empowerment).
Gender in solidarity economy.
Perspective, paradigm, starting point:
The speaker started by sharing her experience in SWATE. ‘SWATE’ an NGO started in 1991 in Tamilnadu in South India. Its basic objective was the empowerment of rural illiterate women, especially dalit (lower caste) women. Within no time, one million women joined the organisation in its anti-liquor movement in the State.
Topics and points focused:
The presentation mainly comprised of the following points:
·Empowerment of women means giving equal rights for women working on the field.
·Gender issues are crucial in any discussion on Solidarity Economy.
·Rights of dalit women should receive special attention.
·Women’s rights in social life are as important as her economic rights.
·Solidarity Economy should ensure economic independence for women.
Combat feminisation of poverty by making them economically independent. Women should learn to be conscious of their position in society and the opportunities available to them. Women are instinctively found to safeguard nature and their survival is closely linked to the survival of nature. For example, when SWATE started a movement to save riverbanks wherein illegal sand mining was taking place, the response from women was tremendous. There must be co-operative banks meant exclusively for women. Women’s political rights at the grassroots must be preserved.
Speaker: Carine Guidicille.
Organisation:GESQ (Group of Economic Solidarity, Quebec).
Perspective, paradigm, starting point:
Quebec, with its limited geographical space and high rate of illiteracy among its population, is falling prey to the capitalist US economy with very little strength for a fight back.
Quebec, which is predominantly an agro-based province, was being exploited on the choice of crops. Basically the topics discussed centred around various community networking practices that can combat US exploitation.
The main proposal of the speaker was that there should be inter-regional networking, which could develop into intercontinental networking. This could be achieved through ground level mobilisation and collaborations. Moreover, What is most essential is to motivate people to execute these proposals and ensure better quality management. There must be a concerted effort to seek support from organisations other than government bodies and to ensure better health services.
Organisation:PSES (Pole de Socio-Economie Solidaire) and MES (Movement for Economic Solidarity, France).
Social equality, Democratic diversity.
In Europe, Solidarity Economy had its genesis in the wake of industrialization. Today, it has come a long way in fighting the patriarchal structure of economy.
·For Solidarity Economy to succeed, there must a serious attempt to fight the negative mindset.
·There has to be democratisation of the economy.
·The young and old must have equal role in the Solidarity Economy activities so that the deficit in the annual national budget could be brought down.