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John MdDonnell and Bernie Sanders

John McDonnell and Bernie Sanders talk democratic economy

Centering community and place Expanding democratic ownership

Sen. Bernie Sanders stressed the importance of democratic ownership and control of the economy in a wide-ranging discussion September 25 with John McDonnell, a member of the British Parliament and former shadow chancellor under former Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn.

The two leading socialist politicians were featured at The World Transformed conference in London at a session co-sponsored by Reclaim the Future and The Democracy Collaborative.

McDonnell said that early in his political career he was inspired by Sanders' leadership as mayor of Burlington, Vermont, particularly the fight he led to convert Northgate Apartments, a troubled, privately owned affordable housing complex, into tenant ownership. He said the example inspired him and other activists in London in how to deal with developers: "You don’t stroke them; you use the Bernie Sanders treatment of banging the table."

Sanders said that his approach begins with asking the public what it wants with regard to the issues they are dealing with, and then devising policies that include them in the solution, particularly "the community land trust concepts, in saying that if you want perpetually affordable housing, you have to allow people to own their housing and when they sell it, it stays affordable."

He added that as a senator [and chairman of the Senate Budget Committee], "what we are trying to do is get this concept of community land trust, housing land trust into the federal budget for the first time."

McDonnell explained how community wealth building has developed in the United Kingdom in response to austerity policies imposed on local governments that have stripped them of resources to support their residents. "We described it as the Preston model because there is one town in the northwest of England where they are developing this concept of community wealth, where they bring all the different agencies together with the community itself, see what resources they have within that community, then build upon it ... combining the contracts of the health authority, the university, the local council to employ locally but also to employ at trade union rates and to ensure that when they employ, when they use contractors, they then abide standards of how they treat their workers and contribute overall."

Watch the full hour of the McDonnell-Sanders conversation.

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