Australia is a functioning representative political democracy, but with so many important decisions being made in the economic sphere of social life, most of us are effectively disenfranchised. Key decisions about the allocation of resources, job creation or job destruction, and what form of economic development we want for our country, are too often taken by a small number of wealthy individuals, behind closed doors.
I argue that a system based on the endless and limitless accumulation of private wealth is not only socially and environmentally destructive: it is ultimately self-destructive. We have seen this already in the past 100 years with two major world wars and a seemingly endless succession of minor wars. As inequality reaches stratospheric levels in the first decades of the 21st century, the globalizing capitalist system is once again at breaking strain, and the drums of war are beating loudly yet again.
Happily there are powerful alternatives emerging, in the form of the the peer-to-peer, commons-based economy, the co- operative movement and economic democracy. All of these have natural affinities with the global food sovereignty movement. All are expressions of the solidarity economy, which Brazilian author Euclides Mance describes as being practiced daily by millions of people,
[W]ho work and consume in order to produce for their own and other people’s welfare, rather than for profit. In a solidarity economy what matters is creating satisfactory economic conditions for all people. This means assuring individual and collective freedoms, generating work and income, abolishing all forms of exploitation, domination and exclusion, and protecting ecosystems as well as promoting sustainable development.
In the context of food sovereignty, this is captured by Via Campesina leader Nettie Wiebe, who describes how the experience of working together for a common vision and cause is unifying and powerful:
To stand…and to walk shoulder to shoulder with people who all recognise that what we’re struggling for here are sustainable, nutritious, locally-based, empowering systems of farming, and that that’s key to all of us, that’s a tremendous strength…The hardships that we suffer, and the joys we have, don’t look the same, but…they’re very real in our own context. That kind of solidarity, generated of course by the political necessity of standing in solidarity with each other, has been just a powerful, powerful dynamic internationally. And it has sometimes surprised us in La Via Campesina just how powerful that has been.