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Congress for Solidarity Economy

Solidarity economy is part of a strategy against neoliberal exactions. Economic self-help must not be used as a social fig leaf for the continued neoliberal reorgani-zation of society. Neoliberalism or profit worship either sets the horse before the cart or bridles horse by the tail

Congress in Berlin from 11/24-26/2006

By graswurzel revolution

[This article published in: graswurzsel revolution 313 November 2006 is translated from the German on the World Wide Web,  http://www.graswurzel.net/313/so-kongress.shtml.]

Projects of a different economy are developing worldwide. More and more people are seeking economic alternatives in Latin America, Asia, Africa and Europe. At the same time the international global justice movement is growing with its political demands. In some countries, this justice movement is joined increasingly with the solidarity economy.

In Germany, a large economic sector solidarity economy embraces very different enterprises and projects, for example old and new cooperatives, self-governed enterprises, businesses with social goals, housing- and community projects, exchange rings, alternative financing institutions, fair trade, direct agricultural marketing, women's projects, initiatives for open access to knowledge and other forms of economic self-help.

The time is ripe for a congress that publically represents this economic sector and discusses political questions of the solidarity economy. This congress could boost courage for solidarian economic conduct, bring together diverse actors and offer a space for discussion of open and controversial questions.

In globalized capitalism, more and more areas of life are subject to profit maximization. The production of goods and services under the pressure of growth and efficiency destroys human living conditions and its natural foundations. Financing conglomerates buy up businesses, smash them and destroy vast numbers of jobs. Water- and energy supply, urban housing projects, transportation enterprises, hospitals and other previously public structures are privatized and subjected to market laws. The gap between poor and rich continues to grow.

It is time to offensively build another economy based on social, ecological and democratic values, an economy oriented in socially useful products and services directed to peaceful goals under dignified base democratic working conditions that promotes personality and does justice to the genders and spares natural foundations of life. We see this solidarity economy as part of our search for another world.

Neoliberal restructuring affects everyone. In view of the continuing mass unemployment, wage- and competitive pressure are intensifying, stress and anxiety for employees and pressure on job seekers to accept any work however precarious. Projects of a different economy cannot evade economic pressures and the value systems surrounding them. Still they could be places of an economy according to social, ecological and democratic values with all outward market pressures and inner contradictions. They offer space for self-realization and emancipation in exchange with others and a chance to further develop being and consciousness for more solidarity.

Many alternative concepts are exposed to existence-threatening tests of strength between market mechanisms on one side and emancipation claims on the other. The political goal and the readiness to shoulder joint responsibility often fall by the wayside.

A congress for the exchange of projects and new social movements can give ideas, courage and strength and bring the ideas into new circles.

Development of the solidarity economy "sector" needs the mutual support of existing businesses and new enterprises. Experiences from other countries (for example, Brazil and France) show the importance of framing political conditions. We want to discuss the demands of solidarity economy on politics. Solidarity economy is part of a strategy against neoliberal exactions. Economic self-help must not be used as a social fig leaf for the continued neoliberal reorganization of society.

In the past, connections hardly existed in Germany between political protest movements against neoliberal globalization and social cuts or initiatives of the unemployed on one side and projects of the solidarity economy on the other.

After collective political actions, many activists go home alone. They must individually master poverty, precarity or stress on the job with all their consequences. Those working in the solidarity economy sector are often devoured by the material struggle for survival and withdraw from political connections.

We invite persons from the most different social movements and projects to discuss whether solidarity economy can be an effective political strategy against poverty and exclusion and how economic structures can be built in view of the neoliberal restructuring of society.

Around 500 expected participants will discuss economic alternatives in more than 150 workshops, forums and roundtable discussions. A project- and enterprise fair is scheduled for Saturday and Sunday.

On the eve of the congress, 10 international speakers from Argentina, Brazil, Venezuela, Zambia, Canada, France and Poland in the "Info-Tour Solidarity Economy" will go on a German tour of over 25 cities to present and discuss their experiences.

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