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Du Bois said this in various ways from about until the end of his life. Aside from doing the full study in , he actually held a conference at Atlanta University that same year. He got the people who were at the conference to sign a resolution saying just that, but I never found out how many people actually attended that conference. But four years after that he was saying the problem is that Black people are at a crossroad and we have to make a choice.

If we make the wrong choice, it will mean that a few of us will get some wealth for ourselves, but would leave the whole rest of the group behind. And nobody talked about the solution. They all focused on the other pronouncement about the problem. But people do not talk about what he said about the economy and capitalism — or that the solution is cooperative economics! I explain that those are precursors to cooperatives. They have a very similar structure and the same purpose.

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Mutual aid societies were also the precursors to mutual insurance companies which were really the first cooperatives. We have a long history of mutual aid societies, particularly coming out of fraternal and religious groups and benevolent societies. Those were the early co-ops.

As soon as co-ops were officially recognized in Europe, after , the U. We started using formal co-ops with some of the early integrated labor unions in the s, and we created our own Colored Farmers Alliance and Cooperative Union in , which also promoted cooperatives and credit unions.

Now, this is interesting. I just want to make sure that we are clear on this. In Europe when the Rochdale Pioneers codified what was considered the first official co-op in , and then the International Cooperative Alliance started in , the co-op movement came to the U. But before that, Blacks were involved in co-op-like companies, through their mutual aid societies. Even though the European cooperative movement labels everything as having started in , almost any society that we look at shows people being involved in some level of economic cooperation, some kind of use of the Commons and strict rules about shared resources.

African Americans, like all other groups, were involved early on in cooperative and collective economic activity. We also pooled our savings to help each other. So once you bought your freedom, you would save up money to help buy your Mom, or your Dad, or your sister or your brother or your wife.

So we were using pooling mechanisms from the very beginning. And then slowly making it more formal through churches and fraternal societies, the mutual aid societies, and then through unions so that by the time that Du Bois did his study in he had identified co-ops. He called those co-op businesses and not mutual aid societies. So in addition to the thousands of mutual aid societies, he noted these co-ops.

Some of them were credit co-ops. Some of them were transportation co-ops, which I think was everybody buying a tractor together kind of thing. They might not all have been formally structured. Yes , even though it was nationwide, it was still a lot considering, as I said, that most people thought that we did not do any of this at all, and that it was difficult to pull off establishing alternative economic practices.

The fact is that it was very dangerous to create any kind of alternative economics. Yes, because white supremacists and white competitors did not want Blacks to have independence. So that when Blacks did form these co-ops they got attacked. Sometimes they got beaten; sometimes they got shot at and killed; sometimes the place got burned down. Sometimes all of the white merchants would join together and demand that banks not give the Black co-op a loan. So they tried all kinds of sabotage. They would be shot or killed or lynched or run out of town.

Even the Black branches of labor unions had to have white leaders and the Blacks did all of the work underground. But also it takes the courage of fortitude and persistence to practice alternative economics — it takes deliberate action and re-education, both which could also be difficult. Tell us how important co-ops were to what we know about Black history and our advancement? Yes, I can talk about that some more. No one besides me seemed to think co-op practices were important when writing about Black movements or leaders.

I started reading autobiographies of people who I heard had something to do with co-ops. And I found enough to include them in the book, but usually it was just a quick reference. In another section it mentions more fully that Height also helped Fannie Lou Hamer 3 to start Freedom Farm by having the National Council of Negro Women fund the first 20 pigs for the pig banking effort that grows into Freedom Farm in Mississippi in the s. However, that information is a small section of the major biographies about her, and hardly mentioned in any shorter bio of her.

I argue that Baker got her early exposure to grassroots democratic participation and leadership from her early work in the cooperative movement. This early training was essential to the Baker that we come to know in the s. Now you have to read really carefully to find that he talks about when he was young in the s that one of his first jobs was a co-op developer.

But again, it is just a few paragraphs and you have to know to look for it. Even though SNCC actually was a supporter of co-ops, it was not the major point of the organization. Also in the s it was still dangerous to talk too much about cooperatives because of red-baiting.

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They wanted everybody on the same page. It was dangerous enough to talk about political rights. In the chapter on Economics, there was not a single reference to co-ops; there was a discussion of Black capitalism, but nothing about co-ops. I was so disappointed. Even today we have not clearly understood or recognized what he was saying and moved in that direction. It seems like it is as key and relevant today to our advancement because we have such economic issues. That is one of the reasons that I wrote the book, because I think it is crucial for any of us who care about economic inequality, about poverty, about community-based economic development, about economic justice -- that we understand how co-ops can be an important viable economic strategy.

A lot of it is because of the hegemony of capitalist ideology. I have argued before that families teach our children about morality in terms of how to treat one another, except when we enter the workforce. That makes no sense. What kind of sense can that make? And how can you do community development under those circumstances? Not all of them were co-op schemes. And with co-ops there is the added ignorance about how people can make joint decisions effectively about business and finance.

Then people started giving me examples and sending me information! And it was an integral part of who we are and our survival. Most of the same people who were fighting for our rights and freedom, and saying that things were wrong, were often also talking about that we should do co-ops or some kind of collective economics and trying to organize them.

They were using co-ops and lending co-ops credit unions to do that. Even though it only met once, the participants went back home and started cooperatives in the early s. Phillip Randolph , another one of our great heroes. Everybody knows him because of the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters. Well, earlier than that he actually was the editor of a magazine called The Messenger. In he was writing articles about how we need to use co-ops to develop ourselves. And then he developed and was head of the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters.

The Ladies Auxiliary actually started study groups about consumer education and cooperative economics. When you joined the Ladies Auxiliary you got a whole list of co-op magazines to subscribe to and books that you should be reading. Now that the sleeping car porters were unionized, for example, they actually had decent and stable employment. For 30 years the Brotherhood was promoting co-op development along with their labor union. And a name that nobody knows is the head of the Ladies Auxiliary for those 30 years, a woman named Halena Wilson.

Mindy Chateauvert, who wrote a book about the Ladies Auxiliary, introduced me to this information about Wilson. Also before Wilson became head of the Ladies Auxiliary to the Brotherhood, she ran a mutual aid society in Chicago.

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So again, the training ground for these local collective activities was in the mutual aid societies. She started studying co-ops in Sweden and Europe and was writing columns about them and summarizing the books about co-ops that she was reading for her fellow labor people. And she got invited by white labor organizations to speak at conferences. She got invited by the white Labor Society in Chicago to join with them to start a co-op eye clinic. The connections then get really incredible also in terms of connecting the Blacks, who then connected with the white labor union, that kind of thing.

DC people know her better because she lived in Deanwood [neighborhood] and they have a street and a school named after her. But guess what else she did? While she was president of the training school she also started Cooperative Industries of D. The school lent some of their classrooms for the group to meet, and to do some of their production. They started out producing brooms and mattresses. This is in the s, and she got grant money from the Federal government because under the New Deal there was a Self Help Cooperative Division of the Department of Commerce, I think it was.

They gave grants for groups to work with unemployed and homeless people, especially women during the Great Depression, to start co-ops. It took her three years to get the federal grant, but she finally got the money.

Meanwhile they had actually started the co-op without the grant and when they finally got the money, it allowed them to buy a farm out in Maryland. So in addition to doing the brooms and the mattresses, they were also employing DC residents on the farm and selling the farm produce in the city [DC] so people could get fresh produce from the farm. I was looking at her papers in the archives of the Library of Congress, and there are letters from the federal certifiers who would go every year and certify that the farm was clean, was using the right farm practices, that kind of thing.

She had letters from people in Baltimore and other places who were saying that they wanted to support the co-op and asking how much the brooms cost - and could they be mailed to Baltimore, did they have to come and pick them up in person, etc. And she has letters from the Cooperative League of USA now the National Cooperative Business Association asking her to come to their meetings and speak about co-ops to other people.

So she was known in the white co-op movement also. So then we have — this is actually controversial — some people think that Marcus Garvey 7 was also promoting co-ops. He was certainly promoting joint stock ownership and Black economic development. And some people think that his real vision was actual co-ops, real democratic ownership, not just joint ownership.

He was trying to send people who wanted to move back to Africa back there, and also establish permanent trade between Blacks in the US, Caribbean and Africa. The UNIA had also started The Negro Factories, which was also a joint stock ownership company to produce clothing and other commodities. Unfortunately, he was a poor businessman but also he was targeted by the government and charged with mail fraud and deported back to Jamaica in the s - another kind of sabotage. So the businesses did not survive. Du Bois suggested that the government was missing a point that all these Blacks were trying to invest in business.

By not restoring the stock money the government was missing an opportunity to give the money back so Blacks could do something constructive with that money. They definitely would not have liked that to happen. So then you get to the s, and Ella Jo Baker. Phillip Randolph on The Messenger. I had heard that story before but not framed in this way: They had their first conference in Pittsburgh and people attended, and 25 official delegates.

They had been acting in that capacity before. And the Young Negroes Cooperative League lasts about four or five years. They end up with about members nationwide. They have a second conference the next year at Howard [University] in DC, and they get some famous faculty to sponsor and support the conference. Also at the first conference, Ella Baker makes the closing speech on the role of women in the co-op movement and how important women are to the co-op movement.


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Before she is known for anything else. She is not really well known for this at all. I actually think that this is the beginning of her becoming a grassroots leadership development person. Those ideas she is known for I think she got them from her work in the co-op movement. It should the center point of anybody trying to understand Ella Baker. You have to understand her in the context of her community, and not just as a personality.

And really, Baker never left the co-op movement. You look at her papers and she was still trying to do some co-op stuff in in Harlem. She was running the co-op education committee in one of the co-ops in Harlem in the s. Yes, but Fannie Lou Hamer is mostly known as a voting rights activist in the s-early s. She is one of the co-founders of the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party. She is the one who testified at the Democratic National Convention in Atlantic City in and explained how they beat her so badly just for registering to vote and giving voter registration workshops, that she lost a kidney, was disabled and continuously suffered from bad headaches for the rest of her life.

She lost a kidney just because she signed up to register to vote and was going to voter training and trying to teach other people how to register to vote. So she is really known for that -- and she was a member of SNCC. And how can we have economic independence? We have to own our own land, control our own food production - and we have to do it through co-ops. Just like she and her husband — they were sharecroppers — the minute they signed up to vote, they were thrown off the property, evicted. So she said first, actually we did it the wrong way.

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So when we look at this we see that getting some kind of economic relief and independence was critical, even today. I hope that it is part of that dialogue. I hope Collective Courage shows a couple of things:. Even if you are not in that one co-op anymore, many things are learned and other things get created.

The whole model has not failed. You might create some other co-ops. You might go into some other kinds of business ventures. You get leadership development. We were talking about how ironic it is that we kept running into people who thought that the co-op movement was a white hippy movement, and so it seems like all that history of Black involvement in co-ops was not only not passed down to Black people, but also to any other people. I call it a long, strong, but hidden history. Sometimes it was dangerous for your life.

Sometimes it was politically dangerous. Yes, I had to find it — in a few little sentences in the middle of the book. So I figure not everybody is going to read it that carefully or even recognize what its significance is and what it meant. And then it turns out that in a document that Ella Jo Baker wrote around , also talks about how the same group promoted co-ops in Harlem.

They actually had a committee on co-ops, or Blacks and co-ops, and they invited a famous cooperator from Japan, Kagawa, to come to Harlem to talk about co-ops in And then just a couple of years ago I actually learned some of the rest of the story because I found an article in the Journal of Negro Education written in , while looking for more references to Nannie Helen Burroughs and co-ops.

And paying for a team to go to Antigonish in Nova Scotia to study the co-op movement with Father Coady. Almost half of the people were Black who went on this co-op tour to Canada together with these white people from the U. That reference said it was through Columbia University. And then recently I read the JNE article and find out that it was the Columbia summer program that sponsored the Antigonish tour. He was part of the group, these 19 Blacks with the other 20 whites who went on that co-op study tour. Also the president of Coppin State [College] 10 was there.

He did an interview with Father Coady about the Antigonish co-op education model, which was also published in the Journal of Negro Education in So these are fascinating facts. Do you think if more of us knew the rich history of cooperative history in this country, of Black participation in co-ops that we would be using some of these same tactics — churches starting co-op restaurants, schools teaching about co-ops?

It certainly would have been different if we had done more of it and stopped shying away from talking about it. And we would be able to convince even government entities, especially our local governments, that important economic successes can be leveraged with this. They should be able to get a great bang for their buck to support some of these kinds of activities.

Also the churches should be more involved. Cooperatives re-circulate resources through the community instead of resources going out all the time. Not only is it a good investment but it also an investment that will keep multiplying in the community that you invest in and not just have a one-time effect. So we should have a lot of people who should want to be supportive, and a lot of people who should want to do this. That there is no reason to be afraid. What do you think are some of the differences that people today might have to cope with today, for Black people in particular, getting co-ops started?

Do we have more issues or fewer issues to overcome? We should have fewer issues to face today, but we probably still have the same or similar issues. Capitalization is still a huge issue, especially if we are talking about promoting co-ops among low income people. You could bring your sweat equity.

You could bring your social energy, your enthusiasm, ideals, leadership. There are also co-ops that are built on a variety of resources, not just financial resources. And then we should be able to have ways to convince investors, and governments or whatever that these are great strategies that have multiple benefits and they are worth investing in or putting money into. And you need to study a variety of things. You need to understand your local economy.

You need to understand the co-op model. You need to understand the industry and business that you want to go into. You need to understand how to operate democratically, run a good meeting, use open book accounting, have everybody understand how to read a spreadsheet and income-expense statements.

Black Co-ops Were A Method of Economic Survival

I mean there are a million things to learn, which is why co-ops are so great because people get trained in all these areas and can use it in every other part of their lives. And also you learn by doing, so it is not so daunting. These are things that apply to all co-ops, and where do you see as a potential for some unity, some alliances with other people who might be doing co-ops or seeing that the world needs to change right now because it is not serving the majority of us?

I am sympathetic and probably a proponent of the Du Bois model which is to start with your own group. I do believe that races and ethnicities and women can start with people they are comfortable with, with cultures that they are used to, with people they have an affinity to. In fact, we do know co-ops often work better with groups that already have some kind of affinity with each other. And I also think for African Americans, since we still are marginalized economically that coming together-- voluntary economic segregation to create our own co-ops -- is an important first step.

And I think that we should develop co-ops where we can have leadership and we can create co-ops that serve our needs. But then there are three or four other steps after that. If we really want to transform society, we should be working with other groups who are doing the same thing in their groups. Then we should be interlocking our co-ops, we should be buying from each other; we should be supporting each other, we should all be coming together to support local, state and national laws that would promote more cooperatives.

We should be creating and surrounding ourselves with this kind of solidarity economy that could be multi-racial. And we can figure out how that works. Subaltern — groups who are not in the mainstream, who are not the dominant culture or power. So this brings a whole different model where everybody brings something. We were helping ourselves and each other. There are so many different things that we learn and strengths that we develop by being a part of a co-op.

Do you see a major obstacle to Black people building more co-ops? Did we discuss that? I guess the shorthand is there are still obstacles. So we need more education. We need more enabling legislation. We need better access to financing and capitalization because it still does cost money to do these things. That North Carolina example where they created a Black statewide co-op and credit union association but then allied with the white state-wide association, and were able to get resources from the larger organization, and still focus on Black development of co-ops.

So having the Young Negroes Cooperative League focused on it. Having a group like The Brotherhood focused on it. Having some schools teaching cooperative economics. There was a study in the s about Black junior colleges, colleges and universities in the South teaching consumer economics and cooperative economics. There were a majority of schools with at least one session on co-ops, and some schools had co-op businesses associated with them. There is plenty of great advice, however there is also a lot of impractical ideas and explanations that are somewhat contradicting.

Munzert clearly lived a simple life and should be applauded for existing so meagerly, but I suspect few would be willing to relinquish the amount of quality of life necessary to match Munzert's frugality. Who among us would be willing to build a boat out of used milk cartons or physically build our own houses? Is our time even best served taking on such difficult tasks?

Munzert also trips over some contradicting ideas in his message. After explaining so eloquently the issues and sources of inflation, he then completely ignores his own lessons when providing examples of the pitfalls of debt. Munzert emphasizes his point by calculating future balances and emphasizing thirty-year interest impacts without taking into consideration the differences in future value due to the inflation he so adamantly demonizes. Although his principle is sound, Munzert's message is clearly weakened by such contradiction and oversight.

Munzert is adamant about self reliance and producing as many goods as possible on our own to avoid the viscous cycles of floating fiat currencies; however he overlooks the consequences of doing so economically. Growing our own food permits us to avoid many of the effects of inflation, but it also removes us from the massive advantages of economies of scale as well as the significant benefits society provides via division of labor. Consider the labor required to produce a common breakfast of bacon, eggs, toast, and orange juice.

Now compare the labor required to produce enough money to purchase these same ingredients at any local grocery store. While I agree wholly with Munzert's premise that inflation and taxation have depleted much of our quality of life, separating our lives from society as much as possible as Munzert advocates is very faulty reasoning from an economic standpoint. Equally impractical is Munzert's ideals of barter. Bartering permits one to buy without the use of money, removing the situation from both inflationary pressures and lost productivity from taxation.

However, unless employed in a profession that has a direct-labor-to-customer relationship such as dentist, mechanic, plumber, accountant, etc , there is no real practical way to barter one's service. Many of today's workers are so specialized that their input represents only a piece of an end product, providing no real means of producing a service that can simply be bartered. Most of Munzert's advice is noble, yet the application is unrealistic. He provides too much advice that is short sighted and rationally unusable.

If you have a chance to skim the early sections of his book, I recommend doing so, but otherwise the bulk of the material is not worthy of your time. Even though the book was originally published in it is very relivant in todays world. I originlly purchased the book in the mid 80's and attended one of the building schools Heartwood. It was an excellent school which gave me the confidence to purchase an 's farmhouse and farm that needed alot of TLC. You are given numerous practical money saving ideas in areas like: This book was written for the average man in the street at a time when we had high inflation.

The author wrote "looming just over the horizon is the threat of a monetary and economic collapse that by comparison will make the depression of the 's seem like a picnic. Munzert then quotes from Alexander Tyler a 19th century statesman "democracy will only survive until its citizens discover that thay can vote themselves largess gifts out of the public treasury.

The entire structure will then collapse through sheer fiscal irresponsibility. The author then shows you ways to beat these destructive forces and to not only survive the rough times ahead but even to prosper. To understand money and the Federal Reserve, this is a must read. Follow the advice in this book and you can live on less than you are spending now. If your home is on fire, and you can grab only two or three valued books on your way out the door, which do you take?

First published in , Dr. The information remains vital, and increasingly pertinent due the declining US Dollar. Don't be put off by the title, this is an easy to understand book of applied economics for the common man, woman, or teenager. Reading this book will give you one of life's "AHA Can you list the Five Major Economic Concepts that impact your life? The five critical concepts covered in the first 48 pages are: Munzert eliminates mystery when he contrasts the Market Economy to the Household Economy.

Once you understand the five concepts, Dr. Munzert shows specific strategies to improve your financial situation. In the final section of the book, "Outlining a Personal Survival Strategy", you are shown how to "bring home" these vital concepts to improve your situation.