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We can live in an economy and a politics of abundance. Workers can earn living wages in dignified, fair conditions.
We can collectivize care so we can spend more time with our loved ones.
We can dwell in public green spaces where our children play outside safely and breathe clean air — flanked by vibrant, diverse, and transit-accessible Main Streets, where local independent store owners are part of and accountable to our communities.
We can realize this vision of a Liberation Economy. By making corporations pay their fair share of taxes, we can reinvest revenue in our neighborhoods and all that grants us the economic security to thrive.
To achieve this, we’ll need nothing short of a political and economic transformation — helmed by grassroots power and international, multiracial coalitions. But we’re up against decades of neoliberalism, an ongoing pandemic, an accelerating climate crisis, and the many compounding forms of theft, exclusion, and exploitation that feed racial capitalism. These forces have allowed capital to concentrate and inequality to skyrocket — forcing workers and communities to organize on shifting terrain.
How, exactly, can antimonopoly policy support the grassroots movements fighting concentrated capital and corporate hegemony?
First, we need a leftist antimonopoly framework that centers racial justice, foregrounds class struggle, and pursues bold economic transformation in service of collective liberation.
Amazon is the second-largest U.S. private employer — and its dominance extends into nearly every economic sector. From its digital commerce platform to its cloud computing system— the largest in the world — and its sprawling distribution network, Amazon’s monopoly power has grown across the world.
The metastasizing company has entrenched racial oppression, endangered communities, and eroded democracy — strangling our economy and our lives. Yet common wisdom has cast Amazon as a corporate behemoth too entrenched to break up, too large for federal policy to tackle, and too powerful for workers to successfully organize.
But over the past several years, grassroots movements have emerged to disprove those claims. Local communities, independent small business associations, and workers across the United States are creating new conditions of possibility for organizing within and against Amazon.
This week, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is heeding our call, announcing a major lawsuit to break Amazon’s e-commerce monopoly. The suit could potentially disentangle the mega-corporation’s business lines, which give it illegal advantages over would-be competitors.
This case represents a critical point of departure from recent decades of laissez-faire, anti-worker, and top-down antitrust enforcement.
The FTC’s sorely needed leadership follows grassroots organizing, movement scholarship, and progressive advocacy that made this case possible to reveal fundamental insight: Antimonopoly policy can powerfully, directly contest corporate power. Society won’t just accept monopolistic predation and extraction because of the past legal status quo.
This victory — proof of the antimonopoly movement’s momentum — presents a moment to rewrite our rules to shape the future we all deserve.
But we need greater power in order to do so.
Even breaking up Big Tech, Big Pharma, and Big Agriculture wouldn’t be enough to create a Liberation Economy.
Racial capitalism will rearrange itself to continue exploiting us. For federal antimonopoly enforcement to be effectively leveraged toward emancipatory horizons, we must abandon the depoliticized, formalistic, and so-called race-neutral approaches of the past.
Legal scholar Sanjukta Paul explains that antitrust law allocates economic coordination rights to certain groups or individuals over others.
Under the dominant neoliberal order, antimonopoly enforcers allocated power to firms like Amazon in the name of “efficiency” and consumer welfare — actively undermining the economic coordination of workers’ organizations, small businesses, and other constituencies that could counter corporate hegemony.
Public policy created Amazon’s dominance by granting the company immense state-delegated power with virtually no corresponding public duties.
For instance, Amazon has successfully lobbied to extract over $6.8 billion in state and local tax subsidies, which the company used to expand its distribution network. Through Amazon’s Delivery Service Partner program, Amazon shifted its legal and employment obligations onto nominally independent businesses to complete the majority of its last-mile deliveries.
Notably, Amazon pitched its delivery partners as an opportunity for aspiring “Black, Latinx, and Native American entrepreneurs,” whose companies could grow under the corporation’s tutelage.
In reality, Amazon promotes this system to skirt its legal obligations and crush worker organizing and competition with vertical restraints. The company retains near-total control over the Delivery Service Partners’ operations and workforce, down to the length of workers’ fingernails.
This fissured labor structure disproportionately harms the very communities Amazon shamelessly claimed to be its beneficiaries. But delivery workers are fighting back. Teamsters Amazon delivery drivers from Palmdale, California are on strike until the e-commerce giant ends its unfair labor practices — And they’re not alone.
Today, a reinvigorated, militant labor movement has set its sights on Amazon. Amazonians United, Bessemer workers organizing with RWDSU, the Amazon Labor Union, CAUSE, Southern Workers Assembly, the Teamsters, and worker centers in the Athena network have built the foundation for an unprecedented level of Amazon worker activity.
The Teamsters launched a dedicated Amazon Division in 2022 to secure “more workplace protections in the warehouse and logistics industry,” and the UPS Teamsters historic and standard–elevating contract is reverberating across the economy.
Amazon Studios is also under pressure, as striking workers with the Writers Guild of America (WGA) and Screen Actors Guild – American Federation of TV and Radio Artists (SAG-AFTRA) urge antitrust regulators to investigate Hollywood mergers, which enable media conglomerates to depress workers’ wages and imperil their futures.
Organizers have long understood that the law is a tool of power. As the FTC’s lawsuit against Amazon demonstrates: “Organize, and the law will follow.”
After all, as labor economist Brian Callaci notes, “markets do not arise spontaneously from nature, but rather sit atop legal rules, regulatory infrastructures, and informal norms and power relationships that structure them.”
A leftist vision and practice of antimonopoly aims to dismantle the oppressive social and economic systems that give rise to concentrated corporate power in the first place. Through this lens, we see the law, the state, or the market as constructions of human hands — not naturally emerging or neutral things.
Antimonopoly activism must foster democratic and collaborative practices that keep law and policy in dialogue and in solidarity with emancipatory social movements.
By pursuing non-reformist reforms that modify power relations, we move beyond the narrow question of what is possible in a current political moment and pursue solutions to build “new centers of democratic power.” Then, we can radically reconfigure our political economy.
Antimonopoly can be a transformative tool that supports grassroots organizing movements. By reorienting its previously narrow focus on “efficiency” and “competition,” we can use it to democratize relations of political and economic power — and usher in an economy and a politics of abundance.
This essay builds on Liberation in a Generation’s newest report “From Big Business to a Liberation Economy: A Racial Justice Agenda for Reining in Monopoly Power.”