Art for Change, Change for Art
Shelburne Falls, Mass.
I have followed a path similar to that of Antonino D’Ambrosio in valuing the role of creativity in helping us contend with the world around us [“We Own the Future,” Jan. 28]. I came to see creativity more broadly, and became focused on workable models of social and economic justice that move us beyond critique into constructive response and responsibility. So it was exciting to see mention of the Mondragón cooperatives. Mondragón, though, is just the tip of the cooperative iceberg. The United Nations designated 2012 as the International Year of Cooperatives, which brought them to the attention of activists. Around the world, more people are members of co-ops than directly own stock in publicly traded corporations, enabling millions to have more control over their economic destiny. But you won’t find mention of this in business schools. As the International Co-operative Alliance launches its “Blueprint for a Co-operative Decade”—a vision for co-ops to become the fastest-growing type of enterprise by 2020—I hope The Nation will cover it.
ERBIN CROWEL, executive director,
Neighboring Food Co-op Association;
National Cooperative Business Association
It was a pleasant surprise to see my father, Frederick Schuman, quoted in “We Own the Future.” Perhaps he seemed so “cynical” in January 1941 because he had been predicting World War II since he wrote The Nazi Dictatorship in 1935. It was followed by Europe on the Eve and Night Over Europe, and still the American people did not wake up to the coming conflagration. (I remember Max Lerner, too. He and my dad were pretty good friends, although they sometimes disagreed.)
In November 1942, my dad was working for the State Department and predicted that the Nazis would lose at Stalingrad. He was roundly criticized for this prediction. The following February it came true, whereupon he was investigated by the Dies Committee, the predecessor of HUAC, because it was thought that to make that prediction, he must have had access to secret Soviet intelligence. He did not. He simply saw that Goebbels was preparing the German people for a defeat.One could say my father’s prediction of the demise of democracy has come true, since we are now a plutocracy.
Haiti: Hotels or Houses?
Amy Wilentz’s “Letter From Haiti: Life in the Ruins” [Jan. 28] contains some inaccuracies and misrepresentations regarding the Royal Oasis Hotel in Port-au-Prince. We at the International Finance Corporation (IFC) know there are no simple answers when it comes to helping Haiti rebuild after the devastating 2010 earthquake. However, we believe that job creation offers the surest path out of poverty. Supporting local businesses, like the Oasis, that provide much-needed employment is one way to begin breaking the cycle of aid dependence that Wilentz describes. The hotel created 800 jobs during construction and now directly employs 250 people. It will help support another 1,000 indirect jobs by sourcing food and other supplies from local businesses.
Had Wilentz contacted the IFC, we would have clarified that Oasis was supported by approximately 100 Haitian investors. This group runs the gamut from Haiti’s pension company and local business people to members of the diaspora, local schoolteachers and middle-class Haitians, some of whom invested as little as $1,500.
The earthquake halted construction of the Oasis for months. In July of that year, IFC offered financial and technical support to help resume construction. We committed $7.5 million, sending a signal of confidence to Haiti’s business community when the country was still reeling from the earthquake. This helped attract commercial funding, which ultimately put the IFC’s own financing on hold. Had Wilentz contacted us, she would have learned that the IFC does not provide grants, as she says, but commercially priced loans.