Home, imagination, history
“Economy is about how we take care of home.”
A blog by Nat Marshik. Nat is a writer, sauerkraut maker, and visual artist currently working for CCEC as a community engagement organizer. Stay tuned for more blog posts over the coming weeks.
I begin this blog post with a small theft—a quotation taken with great appreciation from Decolonizing the Solidarity Economy, a webinar hosted by economic justice activists in the U.S. earlier this year.
As the newest (and youngest) organizer for the CCEC Development Society and credit union, I’ve been busy this spring hosting roundtable discussions with local activists, artists, thinkers, and economic experimenters. These have encouraged reflection and advisement on economic democracy in Vancouver, as CCEC’s Board seeks new visions for our role in an increasingly austere, neoliberal city.
Joanne, CCEC’s faithful communications co-ordinator, has asked me to write two hundred words summarizing these roundtable discussions. It turns out this is no easy feat. I have I decided, therefore, to do away with empiricism altogether. I’m going to get poetic on you.
First, home. It’s been at the tip of our tongues in all these conversations, whether we’ve been talking about loan sharks and Money Trees, co-operative mortgages, crowdfunding and micro-lending, raising the rates, supporting migrants and non-status workers—home is there, endangered but also resilient.
Second, imagination, and third, history. These are key ingredients in our conversations, representing both liberation and constraint—a necessary tension.
In a review of Jessica Gordon Nembhard’s Collective Courage: A History of African American Cooperative Economic Thought and Practice, straitjacket on our imaginationbetter ways to organize our economic lives.” As a child of the 80’s who never saw the heyday of the credit union movement, I too want to know: How might we expand our “horizons of expectations” and push against what’s been normalized?
At the same time, history must anchor us, often in uncomfortable realities. I wish to question, for instance, the sometimes self-congratulatory rhetoric of co-operatives and credit unions. I am interested in the ways we have fallen short, failed, or been instruments of domination.
In Decolonizing the Solidarity Economy, for example, Nembhard explains how farming co-operatives as an economic model were crucial to making pioneer settlement—and dispossession of Indigenous land—viable in Canada’s Midwest. This is only one of many contradictions and critiques raised by the speakers of the webinar, and at our roundtables, about the exclusions and limitations of co-operative economic movements.
Can progressive institutions like CCEC recognize such contradictions, even when they stretch us into discomfort, vulnerability, and uncertainty? And can we, as we step into uncertainty, open ourselves to the play of imagination?
For more resources, check out the solidarity economy facebook group or watch the video for Decolonizing the Solidarity Economy, featuring speakers from the Black Mesa Water Coalition, Center for Earth and Energy Democracy, Southwest Workers' Union, Hip Hop Congress, and the US Social Forum. Thanks to AORTA workers’ co-op for the tip.