Posts Tagged ‘Spain’

British Labor leader Jeremy Corbyn considers socialism—which he defines as “You care for each other, you care for everybody, and everybody cares for everybody else”—to be obvious.

As it turns out, socialism is increasingly obvious for folks on this side of the pond. Like Bernie Sanders. And Mark Workin and Melissa Young, who made the film Shift Change. And Richard Wolff, through Democracy at Work.

Now they’re joined by Shannon Rieger, a recipient of the Janice Nittoli “Forward Thinking” Award from The Century Fund.

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Rieger’s argument is that, in the face of growing inequality (such that the top 1 percent wage has increased by 138 percent since 1979, [while] the wages of the entire bottom 90 percent of earners have grown by the comparatively meager margin of just 15 percent—and an even more unequal distribution of wealth), it’s imperative that the United States “develop policies that not only mitigate existing economic inequality and poverty, but that actually reverse these trends for the long term.”

And her proposed solution? Enterprises that are owned and managed by their employees.

By creating a policy environment to support and promote democratic employee-owned businesses, the United States could promote a more equitable employment system and a more just distribution of wealth. Doing so would not only help the country recover from the recent economic devastation of the Great Recession, but also begin to reverse the deep wealth and income disparities that have plagued American workers and families for decades.

Worker-owned cooperatives (which, across the world, employ more than 250 million people, and in 2013, generated $2.95 trillion in turnover) are a particular form of democratic employee-owned business that Rieger considers to have particularly rich potential in the United States.

But they need support, to “help grow the sector to scale.” So, as Rieger explains,

it is crucial that the United States establish a national-level regulatory framework for worker-cooperatives. Foundational components of such a framework could include a clear, universal definition for worker-cooperatives and a national worker-cooperative incorporation code; financial support mechanisms, such as a dedicated worker-ownership fund; and cross-sector partnerships with the existing decentralized network of employee ownership service providers.

Using examples from around the world (including the Marcora Law in Italy) Rieger makes the obvious case for the growth of democratic worker-owned enterprises in the United States.*

Worker-owned enterprises, as a key feature of a socialist transition from capitalism, are certainly obvious to me.

 

*The Marcora Law, which was passed in 1985, offers workers an array of financial support options and a “right of first refusal” opportunity to purchase and re-launch troubled businesses as worker-cooperatives. As Rieger explains,

a U.S. worker-buyout policy modeled after the Marcora Law should become a component of federal-level policy framework for worker-cooperatives. By creating federal legislation that recognizes the worker-owned cooperative business as a distinct form of democratic employee-ownership, and that aligns existing state-level incorporation codes and the worker-ownership service provider network under universal regulatory guidelines, the United States could make a meaningful, effective commitment to expanding the democratic worker-ownership sector.

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For more than a week, vast nocturnal protest gatherings that are rising in number—from parents with babies to students, workers, artists, and pensioners—have spread across France [ht: jf] in a citizen-led movement that has rattled the government.

Called Nuit debout, which loosely means “rise up at night”, the protest movement is increasingly being likened to the Occupy initiative that mobilised hundreds of thousands of people in 2011 or Spain’s Indignados.

Despite France’s long history of youth protest movements – from May 1968 to vast rallies against pension changes – Nuit debout, which has spread to cities such as Toulouse, Lyon and Nantes and even over the border to Brussels, is seen as a new phenomenon.

It began on 31 March with a night-time sit-in in Paris after the latest street demonstrations by students and unions critical of President François Hollande’s proposed changes to labour laws. But the movement and its radical nocturnal action had been dreamed up months earlier at a Paris meeting of leftwing activists. . .

The idea emerged among activists linked to a leftwing revue and the team behind the hit documentary film Merci Patron!, which depicts a couple taking on France’s richest man, billionaire Bernard Arnault. But the movement gained its own momentum – not just because of the labour protests or in solidarity with theFrench Goodyear tyre plant workers who kidnapped their bosses in 2014. It has expanded to address a host of different grievances, including the state of emergency and security crackdown in response to last year’s terrorist attacks.

Spain wages and total employees

According to those in charge, Spaniards should have been thrilled. After years of stagnation, the country has in fact been growing.

For example, earlier this year, IMF Chief Economist Olivier Blanchard admired the country’s “virtuous cycle”of confidence, investment, and consumption. For his part, German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble applauded Spain’s “far-reaching reforms” as the reason for one of the highest growth rates in Europe. Meanwhile, the government of Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy was preening: “The contrast in growth is the result of this government’s economic policies. Spain is now a role model,” Economy Minister Luis de Guindos said in April.

Yet, Pedro Almodóvar’s country is actually on the verge of an economic breakdown—which is why the two ruling parties lost so badly in yesterday’s election.

Just as in the United States, the economic recovery in Spain has been fundamentally lopsided, with a tiny minority at the top benefiting from government-imposed austerity policies and everyone else falling further and further behind.

As Tyler Durden recently explained,

Amid all the singing and dancing over Spain’s miraculous recovery and Europe’s renaissance on the back of Draghi’s money-printing machine, it appears – just like in America – that below the glossy veneer of engineered equity and bond prices, all is not well. . .the average wage in Spain has fallen to its lowest level since 2007, according to figures released by the Spanish Ministry of Finance, and after peaking at 19.3 million in 2009, the number of workers is also collapsing. . .

The ministry says the fall was not so much due to salaries being lowered for people at work, but that newly created jobs now offer much lower pay than before the crisis.

However, the crisis has no effect on Spain’s biggest earners as those who earn 10 times the minimum wage saw their salaries continue to grow. The 127,706 people fell in this category earn an average of 148,824 euros in 2014.

The reason for those declining wages and employment is, of course, that unemployment rates—for all workers (25.1 percent, as a three-year average) and, especially, for young workers (53.2 percent, even higher than in Greece)—still remain extremely high.

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For years now, the country governed by, first, the Socialist Party and, then, the Popular Party, has been on the verge of an economic breakdown.

And, yesterday, Spaniards responded that the two ruling parties and their European supporters had their chance and squandered it. There was still time last year, earlier this year, even in recent months. “But now it’s too late.”

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The details of the agreement between Greece and its European creditors are now available. And there’s no doubt about it: this (as the top-trending Twitter hash tag puts it) is a coup. Greece has been forced to surrender (or, given the upcoming debate in parliament, to have the freedom to consider surrendering) a large part of its national sovereignty in exchange for a new European Stability Mechanism program bailout.

Alexis Tsipras [ht: sk] may or may not be a hero, “who fought like a lion against unfathomably large interests” and made it possible for Greece “to live to fight another day.” But that’s really beside the point. So, in the end, is Greek sovereignty—and, for that matter, the humiliating terms sponsored by Germany.

Because what we’re really witnessing is a coup in Europe as a whole. Merkel, Tsipras, Schäuble, and the rest are just the dramatis personae of a series of events that have turned the European project against its own people.

The dream, of course, was to expand democracy, eliminate national rivalries, and promote universal prosperity. But now the European project has become a nightmare of enforcing the conditions of creating and capturing profits—of large enterprises and banks—across an entire continent. And anything that gets in the way—whether existing pensions and state-owned enterprises or rehiring doctors, nurses, and cleaning women—will be sacrificed on the altar of those free-flowing profits.

And who are the losers? The hundreds of millions of workers, farmers, students, young people, and children who are being forced to endure extraordinary levels of unemployment, poverty, and economic insecurity in order to promote a post-2008 recovery that is benefiting only a tiny minority across the continent. And that’s just as true in Germany as in Greece, in England as in Spain. Not to the same degree, of course. But the current negotiations over Greek debt—in which all of their leaders and finance ministers have participated and to which they have given their assent—have demonstrated to the working people of Europe that nothing will be allowed to stand in the way of the interests of the free deployment of capital under conditions that are administered by the troika.

And if an entire nation has to be humiliated in order to serve as an example, so be it. . .

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