While walking up ‘Loma de Candela’ (this was on Sunday, 1st November 2009), in the valley below we saw farmers working the fields. For a farm doesn’t know Saturdays and Sundays, nor holidays. Animals have to be fed every day, 365/366 days a year. Crops need attention when they need it, not only on weekdays. So the farmers work constantly. They produce the food we eat. If they should refuse to do what they do so well, wouldn’t we all be at a loss? Clearly, they deserve a good deal. The Cuban revolutionaries saw this too, and tried. But after 50 years of socialism their deal is not any better than it used to be. Probably worse. Socialism’s basic mistake was to take away the farmers’ property. Most of them own no land now, nor cattle. They hold these in usufruct or work for collectivized State-farms.
It is precisely on this topic, the right of property, that the book ‘In Defense of Human Dignity’, by CESJ-collaborator Michael Greaney, gives an in-depth analysis. The book lays down the religious/ethical/philosophical basis of Solidarism, making the system complete. The root of much of Solidarist thinking can be found in the writings of Thomas Aquinas, as Greaney clearly explains. It is a fascinating book for those religiously or philosophically inclined. Every priest and pastor should read it. It can be ordered via CESJ (www.cesj.org) . About the book we can be short: Magna est veritas et praevalebit!
Solidarism is based on natural law. This, ultimately, is a spiritual basis. We have said so repeatedly. That doesn’t mean we are opposed to atheism. On the contrary. We recognize the important role atheists play in society. Although we cannot understand their point of view and base our thinking on interfaith spirituality, we readily admit they are the best debunkers of religious madness and fanaticism. And there is a lot of that around, so society sorely needs them. In a solidarist society they are very welcome therefore.
This also means that in a solidarist society, atheist politicians don’t have to go to church anymore to win votes (or avoid losing votes). And religious people with socialist inclinations don’t have to fake atheism anymore. Solidarism has a place for all. Nor do we have any wish to outlaw capitalism, nor socialism. Truth prevails, not force. Once the people are aware, they will freely choose the blocks with which to build the best society that is humanly possible by the grace of God. Therefore, in a truly democratic society there are at least three political parties, each representing one of the three main political/economic systems that exist. And that is why, if Solidarism would have to choose a color to symbolize it, it would either be the rainbow (i.e. all colors), or ‘white’ to represent transparent light, which contains all colors. The sun is its ultimate symbol.
Last but not least ...
An overview of Solidarism wouldn’t be complete without mentioning the invaluable work of CESJ-collaborator Dawn K. Brohawn. Apart from doing much of the daily nitty-gritty work, she has compiled a very important practical book, entitled ‘Journey to an Ownership Culture’, evaluating 25 years of experience with ESOP-companies in the U.S. There are about 10.000 companies (large and small) in the U.S. that - to a greater or lesser degree - make use of the ESOP-legislation that was passed during Louis Kelso’s lifetime. The legislation is far from complete (no more than 20% we would say), but it is a beginning.
Brohawn’s book contains many tips and much practical advice. The most important conclusion is that ESOP-companies must take time to educate their employees on how to function effectively as a worker/partner. People who have worked all their lives as wage-slaves do not become responsible co-owners overnight. However, provided enough time and effort is put into training and education, and provided management adapts wisely to the new ESOP-ownership culture, an increase in production of 20% or more can be expected under the present circumstances (this is with only 20% of ESOP-legislation in place!). In Cuba this percentage would be much higher. It would be unwise to mention a percentage without any experience to base it on. However, we can say that a highly unionized company that turned ESOP in the U.S., achieved a production increase of over 400%! Change is possible, Cuba!
To conclude, we mention the work of Peter Challen, co-author with Rodney Shakespeare of the book ‘Seven Steps to Justice’ and chairing weekly ‘roundtable’ discussions on Solidarism in London and Shann Turnbull who is pioneering Solidarism in Australia and has written various essays and articles on the subject. There are also a few ESOP-associations in the U.S. that support and lobby for their members.