Solidarity Economy - Abstracts in English

Ágnes Gagyi: Solidarity economy and capitalism

In face of the global economic and climate crisis, a growing consensus of green, feminist and left movements converges around the idea of a reproductive, democratic economy. This article reviews the specific new models that have gained currency in recent discussions due to support by new Western movements, and then places these models in global and Hungarian contexts. First, it shows how new streams of thinking about reproductive autonomy in economy fit into a long-term tradition of critical thought on capitalism - and particularly, the tradition of critical research and strategic organizing that conceived capitalism not only in its relation to wage labor, but in terms of long chains of accumulation that reach from wage labor to various forms of informal, free and bonded labor, and "cheap" nature. Then, the article shows how system-level contradictions between capital's limited accommodation capacity and labor's reproduction have played out in the long crisis of the postwar global cycle starting from the 1970's. It shows how labor's capacity to reproduce itself outside of capitalist relations has served both as a puffer and a resource for maintaining relations of accumulation despite a decline in accommodation capacity, and as a new ground for anti-capitalist political organizing. The last part of the article looks at Hungary. It reviews the main shifts through which reproductive labor has been incorporated into accumulation streams throughout the history of modernization, and how growing areas of informal reproductive labor have been part of the social negotiation of the global crisis since the 1970's locally. The article concludes that informal reproductive labor works as a systemic component in today's accumulation regime. On the one hand, this shows its power - without the bottom-up subsidies informal reproductive labor provides to capital, systemic structures of accumulation would collapse. On the other hand, this shows that the capacities of reproductive labor are subordinated to accumulation streams. The question of solidarity economy, from this perspective, is how this existing capacity for reproduction can be organized in such a way that connects its power in growing reproductive circuits, and shields them from extraction.


Orsolya Lazányi and Tamás Veress: Commoning for an ecologically sustainable and solidaire society

Our study presents the concept of the commons understood as democratic and communal way of creating goods, spaces, processes needed for human life with respect to the ecological boundaries. Unlike capitalism aiming to accumulate wealth (and the socialist command economic system), which are based on the exploitation of cheap labor and natural resources, commons are self-organized communities that do not aim to produce commodities to be sold on the market but directly address the real needs of society, while they do not destroy the natural systems which sustain them but rather enrich those. Initiatives prioritizing social and ecological reproduction, operating independently of market and state coordination mechanisms, can serve as shelters easing the pressure of capital accumulation and growth-oriented economic systems. The process of commodification which expands the market logic to more and more areas of life, carries the risk of enclosing and commodifying the commons. In this study, through the example of sharing economy on the one hand, we illustrate how a socially embedded form of satisfying people's needs, sharing can be co-opted by business models. On the other one, we also represent how sharing can contribute to create sustainable spaces of social reproduction which can rather be described by the concept of the commons, and how those look like.


Andrea Czerván, Loren László and Noémi Katona: The reorganization of care

The starting point of our paper is that the capitalist socioeconomic system treats life-reproducing reproductive work and one of its forms, care as free resources, as individual responsibilities, placing their costs on families and households, especially women. The low level of state engagement and the emergence of for-profit market services further exacerbate the crisis of care as well as inequalities in care. In the paper, we first introduce grassroots cooperatives and initiatives in the field of elderly care and child care that revalue and reorganize care in a participatory, democratic and solidarity-based way in order to strengthen carers as well as those with care needs, and to improve the quality of their lives. These include workers' (carers') cooperatives, users' cooperatives (cooperatives of people with care needs), multistakeholder cooperatives and mothers' centers, the communities of women with small children. We then introduce political movements struggling for the systemic transformation of reproductive work and care. We argue that the institutions of care should be owned and controlled by communities, while the state should continue to play a coordinating, funding and regulatory role in meeting needs and recognizing care work.


Bálint Balázs: Food sovereignty

By food sovereignty we mean everyday practices and political strategies that enable communities to organize food production in a socially and ecologically sustainable, democratica and resilient way - as opposed to the profit-driven, unsustainable practices of the global industrial food production. All approaches of food sovereignty (bottom up or top down, coordinated by the market, the state or by civil society) consider food as commons, and their aim is to produce and distribute food in a democratic way.


Zsuzsanna Pósfai and Csaba Jelinek: Community responses to the housing crisis: The possibility of tenant cooperatives in Hungary

Since the crisis of 2008, housing is yet again and increasingly becoming a form of profitable financial investment. This tends to dominate over the claim that each person has the need and the right to access affordable, good quality housing. Across the globe this tendency is intensified by state policies as well. However, bottom-up initiatives organizing themselves for collective housing solutions are also gaining ground. These self-organized, „self-help" models open the possibility for economically vulnerable social groups to support each other in finding solutions for their housing problems, and also to collectively access resources that would individually be impossible to reach. This paper presents such an alternative housing solution, notably the model of rental-based housing cooperatives. Rental housing cooperatives are institutions organized in a bottom-up manner with the aim of providing affordable, good quality and stable housing for their members. We discuss two examples from Germany and from Uruguay for successful rental housing cooperative networks, which have existed for several decades. Finally, we present the steps which have been taken in the past years in Hungary and in the Eastern European region towards the establishment of such a model. 


Virág Buka and Kristóf Nagy: Culture as commons

This article focuses on the emergence of the paradigm of solidarity economy and of the commons in the field of professional cultural production. We unfold the possible mutual cooperation of cultural producers and commoning social movements by examining the case studies of the Resonate music streaming co-op and of the Dutch Stad in de Maak housing-initiative. The case of the Resonate exemplifies how cultural producers can reorganize their industry in a cooperative way to hinder capitalist value extraction. Another type of encounter takes place between culture and commons when cultural producers utilize their knowledge and skills in various solidarity economy projects. We demonstrate this possibility through the case of the Rotterdam-based Stad in the Maak, where the artist-architect founders launched a long-term community housing initiative.


Gábor Horváth and Sára Lafferton: The critique and possible alternatives of the current financial system 

In this paper we try to briefly analyse the main working principles and the social consequences of the financial system. In the second part of our article we describe several alternative solutions to the current system: in our opinion, some of these could help and enable the work of establishing a democratic and solidarity economy. 


Dénes Csurgó and Márton Fabók: The workers' place in the struggle against climate change. Just transition and the new wave of trade union politics

The trade union movement has been going through fundamental changes in the past decades, but it is still the biggest organized social movement in the world. Because of this, it's really important to see the trade unions' position in climate struggles. The following article describes two distinct strategies regarding the issue of climate change: the strategy of "social dialogue" is trying to achieve reforms within the system of global capitalism, whereas the aim of the "social power" strategy is to fight for radical structural changes in order to stop climate change. The latter strategy builds heavily on the tradition of trade union politics that tries to respond to the members' needs both within and outside of the workplace, by building institutions that tackle issues from the housing crisis to the care crisis. At the end of this paper, we shortly discuss the relevance and potential of such strategies for Hungarian trade unions.


Nóra Fülöp: Solidarity economy initiatives in Eastern Europe today

The six organizations described in the following essay implement different practices of solidarity economy in Southern and Eastern Europe. The first initiative described is ROZA, which supports serbian women workers in labor law issues. Then the activity of Women's Foundation for Reconstruction from Belgrad will be described, which enable economic and political independence for progressive groups, as well as individuals who fight against women's oppression, ethnicity or militarism. In addition will be the Croatia based BRID presented, an initiative that develops trade unions and supports workers. The third section of the text describes a project, the Workers´ University, that supported a factory occupation in Bosnia and Herzegovina with the aim of getting the plant under self-management and restarting its production. The second last solidarity economy example will be Solidarity Network, which is uniting trade union struggles to increase the political power of organized workers in the precarious economic environment in Georgia. The essay is to be concluded with the case of the Croatian Cooperative for Ethical Financing, which aims the economic and energy independence of communities through the establishment of a cooperative and its ethical bank, that focuses on social reproduction and is about to fulfill the financial needs of cooperative members. The purpose of this essay is to inspire progressive people, as well as initiatives and encourage their cooperation.


Zoltán Sidó: We are the state! The possibilities of the state for a green and democratic transformation of the economy

According to international case studies on the topic, the rapid and efficient scaling of solidarity economy initiatives requires interventions from the state. This paper analyses three types of state interventions: first, changes in the financial and legal regulations of cooperatives and solidarity economy projects; second, policies that aim to relocalize the economy on a municipal level; and third, efforts to transform state infrastructure in a green and democratic way. We illustrate all three types of interventions with actual case studies.


Zoltán Sidó and Márton Szarvas: Ant in the world system. A critical history of the Hungarian cooperative movement in the first half of the 20th century

Hangya, a largely successful cooperative network in Hungary, active during the first half of the 20th century is one of the most spectacular stories from the history of the Hungarian cooperative movement. Hangya's story is appalling mostly because of two reasons: first, because it established a vast cooperative network in only a couple of decades; and second, because this was achieved in cooperation between the small peasantry and members of the political and economic elites of the time. In this paper we analyse the nature of this odd coalition. We argue that Hangya's activity played an active part in the crisis management and modernization efforts of the pre-WWII governments, representing the interests of large estates and large capital.


Márton Szarvas and Soma Kiss: "When it's cool, it works like a swiss watch." Cooperatives, csettegő and technological autonomy in the Hungarian countryside

The article shows the importance of technological autonomy for the reproduction of social solidarity economy networks through international and Hungarian examples. It argues that technological innovation is necessary for such projects. Through an example of a handmade agricultural vehicle the article demonstrates the way people tend to organize the necessary technological tools for their social reproduction. The case study is situated in a region called the "Golden Triangle". Here specialized cooperatives were established where the local lands could be cultivated only through technologically or labor-intensive ways, while the goods produced, like grape, sour-cherry or elderberry, were profitable enough on a small scale. Parallel to the development of specialist cooperatives, locksmiths started to put together vehicles, which were capable of maneuvering in tight rows and deep sand. These were adapted from engines and chassis of Soviet military vehicles. According to our argument the liberalization of the production of agricultural vehicles in the region stimulated employment through the creation of entrepreneurs, while at the same time it enabled the necessary technological innovation required to maintain productivity.


An interview with Erzsébet Szalai, Tamás Krausz and Eszter Bartha. Attempts on workers' self-management in Hungarian history

There were several attempts on workers' self-management throughout the 20th century in Hungary: multiple factories were occupied by workers during the end of the 1st and 2nd World Wars, the revolution of 1956 and the regime change of 1989. Erzsébet Szalai, Tamás Krausz and Eszter Bartha are experts on this topic. In this interview they walk us through the various attempts on workers' self-management and talk about the difficulties and dilemmas of movements that try to seize the means of production.


Julianna Kiss and Melinda Mihály: Institutional development and the current situation of social and solidarity economy in Hungary

Many concepts that describe social and economic initiatives, which provide an alternative to the state and market logics are known and used internationally and in Hungary as well. Such terms include civil society, the non-profit sector, the social economy, the solidarity economy, community enterprises or social enterprises. In this study, social enterprise is understood broadly as formal and informal organizations of the social and solidarity economy. On the one hand, in our paper we outline the major turning points in the development of the institutional environment for social enterprises. On the other hand, we explore how the main actors (the state, international development organizations, the EU, networks and researchers) have shaped the formal organizations of the social and solidarity economy in Hungary, and how the stakeholders of the social and solidarity economy (social entrepreneurs, researchers, social enterprise developers, supporters) see the development of the sector.