Rolling Jubilee


Yesterday marked the launch of Rolling Jubilee.

Strike Debt is an offshoot of Occupy Wall Street. First started in New York City, but inspired by movements around the globe, Strike Debt now has affiliates across the country. We believe people should not go into debt for basic necessities like education, healthcare and housing. Strike Debt initiatives like the Debt Resistors’ Operations Manual offer advice to all kinds of debtors about how to escape debt and how to join a growing collective resistance to the debt system. Our network has the goal of building a broad movement, with more effective ways of resisting debt, and with the ultimate goal of creating an alternative economy that benefits us all and not just the 1%.

How does it work?

Student debt has surpassed $1 trillion partly because it is one of the most protected forms of debt by federal law. Student debtors can rarely discharge their loans in bankruptcy and lenders have rights to garnish wages and social security payments. The vast majority of student loans have these federal guarantees. We cannot buy these loans because there is no secondary market. However, we believe it may be possible to buy private tuition debt of some sort that is not guaranteed by the federal government; Rolling Jubilee may attempt to purchase this kind of debt after doing further research.

Doug Henwood offers some critiques:

Call me old-fashioned, and I’m sure many have already done so, but I think that a discussion of those larger issues—stagnant wages, high unemployment, a crazy system of health care finance, madly expensive higher education—would lead inevitably to making demands on the state. (So too would debt relief: it would be a lot more powerful and effective if the Federal Reserve and the Treasury were buying bad debt and liberating debtors with their vast resources rather than a volunteer effort raising funds through Paypal.) And given the prominent role that anarchists and anarchism play in the Occupy movement, there’s not much inclination to make demands on the state. But what other institution in this society could raise the minimum wage, make it easier to organize unions, fund a Green New Deal to address climate change and create decent jobs, create a single-payer health care system, and provide universal free higher ed? The lack of those things in this very rich society contribute a lot to debt and deprivation. But that lack is not the product of a “debt system.”

Some of the critiques seem valid, but to quote Mark Blyth, “Why does everything have to be a panacea?” Also, see this NYT piece on the movement.