“The Solidarity Economy and Self-Management: Principle of Communal Power” by Claudio Nascimento

Claudio Nascimento
“The Solidarity Economy and Self-Management: Principle of Communal Power” by Claudio Nascimento, (Brazil) Historian, activist, popular educator, author of several essays on self-management and the Solidarity Economy. Cabinet member of President Lula da Silva, member of the National Secretariat for Solidarity Economy of President Dilma Rousseff. Watch the video. Listen to the audio file in English or audio file in Portuguese and Spanish. – Read the Spanish translation.

[Translation of his presentation at the First Global Prout Conference in Venezuela, “Building a Solidarity Economy based on Ethics and Ecology”, July 7-9, 2011, Caracas.]

Good morning everyone. Time is short and our subject is complex. I sent a text in Portuguese that everyone can access through the Internet. In the short time that we have I’ll try to answer some questions.

The solidarity economy in Brazil, as everywhere else, is a very old matter. It existed in many places where communities tried to build a process of work and life. In Brazil, we can find many experiences of movements including the Quilombo settlements formed by runaway slaves, and women’s projects, where we have the principle we call communal power. My companion, Nora Castañeda, gave a good example of how a new economy is built from the community base.

In Brazil there are many experiences of what we call the Solidarity Economy: cooperatives, associations, local and territorial power that function all over the whole country. At the start of President Lula da Silva’s administration in 2003, the national Solidarity Economy Office was created to encourage education and develop the solidarity economy. We also have 11 ministries that develop solidarity economy experiences. To us, the solidarity economy based in self-management is a social movement strategy that unites workers from all over the country, organizing conferences and making a political project and a platform to think about another society and another world.

In addition to making a strategy that includes a mutual discussion from the grassroots base of the people to the state level, to us the solidarity economy is an ideal, an ideal on the horizon that has to develop a daily experience, while always thinking of the horizon. In this sense, we say that it is a concrete utopia that comes from the possibilities that exist in communities and the capacity that exists in human beings. So we develop this strategy dialectic, which is a utopia with its feet on the ground. What we call communal power is made of the oldest experiences of primitive societies before capitalism.

From the studies, values, and research of what we call communal power, we have synthesized that communal power implies three things. First, the socialization of the means of production. The solidarity economy and self-management cannot exist if the means of production do not belong to men and women: the means of production and the means of reproduction of social life, plus the means of nature, such as water, woods, etc. This is the starting point to think about a socialist world.

The second point is the socialization of state political power through a process that is happening in Latin America, the remaking of the state from a constitutional process in which power that belongs to society goes back to the communities. This experience is being developed today in countries of Latin America and Central America.

The third point is what we call another logic of life. Life today is transformed by capital, which turns everything into merchandise. Everything capitalism touches becomes merchandise. We need to find life again, to rediscover that which existed in ancient societies, the magic of indigenous communities, the hope of women and children, and break apart the commercial logic, to find the world again, to fall in love with life again. This is the fundamental element. Communities carry this element in their fight against capitalism and patriarchy. We must promote fundamental ethical and ecological values, in which primitive communities did not separate the human being from nature, nor did they separate the necessary work to survive from what was produced as merchandise. So these would be the three fundamental elements to include in a popular, communal, ethical, ecological, and anti-patriarchal power.

In Brazil we have built a network of schools for the solidarity economy. We realize clearly that socialism is not only an economic issue, but also an ethical and moral one. Quoting Paolo Freire, “If education does not transform the world, at least it will transform people who will transform the world.”

To us, the educational process is fundamental. It is spread in Brazil through the citizen education network that is part of the presidential cabinet and which has links throughout the whole country, carrying out 3,000 grassroots workshops every year based on the ideas by Paolo Freire. We also conduct conversations with small communities at workplaces to discuss these problems and build values. Because the solidarity economy not only produces material products, it also builds another human being that is both spiritual and ethical.

So what we are trying is what we call self-management pedagogy. If we want to have a solidarity economy in enterprises, in schools, in territories and communities, the means of production of life and work should belong to men and women. They have the need to develop another kind of education where each enterprise is a school of cooperative and social work, where every worker is an educator. In order to achieve this, we are developing a group of educators in every workplace. Through various experiences we articulate, share and combine the knowledge that is within men and women in communities, in factories, in enterprises, in workplaces; we combine the deep knowledge people have of their life experiences with a more scientific and academic research knowledge. These are different types of knowledge, but they both have value, they are both knowledge for social practices.

There is a very big problem here, because it is commonly believed that science is produced in universities, and we know it is not like that. This is Paolo Freire’s challenge, that I would like to discuss with you during the afternoon workshop, to build a self-managed pedagogy, in which Cuba is also present, because self-management is the pedagogy of socialism. Let us exchange ideas about this. Because finally we have articulated in the World Social Forums to think about popular education in all of Latin and Central America as “our America”. Because if social transformation goes through a deep process of popular education, it can contribute to the social transformations that is happening in our continent. This is what I brought for you, and I invite you to discuss this later on.

Thank you.
[Translated by Eugenio Mendoza and Dada Maheshvarananda]
Panel 1 questions and answers