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Showing posts with the label CO-OPERATIVES

Orbiston –The New Babylon

Since the beginning of civilisation, men have repeatedly attempted to build better societies than the ones they have known. The industrial revolution had changed both the prospects and livelihoods of the majority of workers, and rather than increasing their opportunities, they had led to greater uncertainties. The earliest communitarian movements attempted to transform this by forming religious and secular communities with participatory governments and to produce an equilibrium between the private and common ownership of property and work.
The word ‘socialism’ originates with the followers of Robert Owen who is still popularly regarded as “the father of British socialism”. It is not always remembered, however, that the socialism he advocated was co-operative or community socialism. Owen did not think along the lines of the later socialists. His approach was basically apolitical and he rejected the notion of class struggle as a means of social change. Instead, he believed in communitar…

Cooped up in Co-ops

Socialists should learn from history and experience. The idea that society can be transformed by the introduction of cooperatives is not a new one. The first cooperatives represented a peaceful attempt to build an alternative economic system by organising peoples' institutions that would co-exist alongside capitalist ones, and would gradually expand to involve the majority of the population as cooperative producers and consumers. The first American dairy cooperatives were founded in the Goshen, Connecticut and South Trenton, New York, both in 1810. A decade later a group of Ohio farmers formed America's first agricultural marketing cooperative on record. In 1822 Pennsylvania barley farmers set up the first cooperative brewery. The first cooperative wheat elevator was opened in Dane City, Illinois, in 1847. The Amalgamated Houses is the oldest non-profit housing cooperative in the country established in 1927, now with 1500 families in 11 buildings on 15 acres between Van Cortl…

Self-managed exploitation

In E.P. Thompson’s phrase, workers have “warrened capitalism from end to end” since the industrial revolution with co-operatives and self-help societies. It is not our intention to undermine any initiatives by those who, like ourselves, must often out of necessity search for a way to survive in the least painful way possible. We have no objection to the fact that some workers try to live the way they want and try to make the best of the circumstances in which they find themselves. In certain and appropriate situations, in many (but not all ) cases, workers might  be temporarily better off by forming some kind of co-operative where that is feasible. Many compromises have to be accepted and there is no need in condemning them if that was their choice in these circumstances.

 But what we want to point out is that these escapes are not really escapes at all, but ways of existing within capitalism. They can only be little more than adaptations to the current system and should not seek to …

Co-ops are for coping

One of the main proposals advocated by the New Economic economists and many others is worker-owned and controlled  co-operatives. It has never been argued by the Socialist Party that co-operatives are a means to-wards socialism but rather it is the aim of the people - the Co-operative Commonwealth.

The idea of the workers’ co-operative originated in the early days of the labour movement. It is based on the simple attractive idea: “Get rid of the bosses who make a profit from our work and instead work for ourselves so we can enjoy the full fruits of our work.” Capitalism is not to be overthrown by class war but undermined by the  cooperative movement until it crumbles is the theory  But how does the ownership of the factory by the employees differ from ownership by a capitalist? A cooperative has to buy its raw materials on the market, just the same as every other company. A cooperative has to sell its finished products on the market, just the same as every other company. A cooperativ…

The Co-Op Cop Out

“We are private companies that work in the same market as everybody else. We are exposed to the same conditions as our competitors.” - Mondragón’s human-resources chief

Many regard the co-operative movement as being in some way linked up with socialism. Socialists have come to realise that co-operatives cannot be used as a means for establishing socialism and that they only flourish to the extent that they can be successfully accommodated within capitalism.

The idea of the workers’ co-operative has flourished since the early days of the labour movement and has been seen by many as a possible alternative to nationalisation. The originators of the co-operative movement saw it as a movement that would eventually out-compete and replace ordinary capitalist businesses, leading to the coming of “the Co-operative Commonwealth” (which is an alternative name for socialism occasionally used by both Karl Marx and the Socialist Party). The co-ops would constitute, as it were, little oases in the …

Forward to the past?

The economic crisis has provoked a number of "non-capitalist" schemes to ameliorate the reductions in workers' living standards. Co-operatives and "peoples banks" [credit unions] are being hailed as alternatives to capitalist businesses. These attempts, however, do not significantly challenge the status quo. Creating a "non-capitalist" sector is like reinventing the wheel. We have had the experience of the 19th century thrift movement of savings banks and building societies and the local Co-op yet some still have not learn the lessons of the past.

Some advocate that workers should create a "non-capitalist" economic sector that could compete with the big capitalist enterprises and gradually overturn the existing order. If workers co-ops function efficiently under self-management, surely all other industries could be run in this manner goes the argument. Theorists of the co-operative movement see it as a movement that will eventually outcompet…

Exposing the ethics of the Co-op

On Thursday 22nd a dozen people, including members of benefit claimants' groups Black Triangle and the Crutch Collective, Clydeside Industrial Workers Of The World, Glasgow Anarchist Federation, Glasgow Solidarity Federation as well as other individuals took part in the hour long picket of the Co-Op Bank and supermarket on the same street in central Glasgow.

They gave out leaflets to Co-Op customers and the hundreds of people going pass on their way home from work. The leaflet highlighted the Co-Op's four year occupational health contract with Atos. Atos continue to make huge profits by continuing to assess most sick and disabled benefit claimants as fit for work, ignoring contrary medical evidence, to comply with Government targets for benefit cuts. The cuts are being imposed to make the poor pay again for the latest crisis in capitalism caused by the rich. They asked people to contact the Co-Op to tell the company, that sells itself as ethical, tha…

The Death of Co-ops

Co-operative Funeralcare, which organises more than 100,000 funerals a year from 900 funeral homes has begun an inquiry after staff were secretly filmed storing dead bodies like "stacking television sets" in a warehouse on an industrial estate off a busy motorway. While relatives believed their loved ones were at funeral homes,the bodies were being stored in a warehouse or "hub". The warehouse contained a garage with a fleet of limousines and hearses, storage for dozens of coffins, and a large refrigerated area – the mortuary – with rack upon rack of bodies, some of them uncovered. When families asked to see their loved ones, the body would be taken back to the funeral home, a journey of up to 30 miles. The documentary claims staff are under pressure to sell expensive funeral packages to mourners, to increase profits, which last year were £52 million. The former funeral ombudsman, Professor Geoffrey Woodroffe, described the practices alleged in the film as shockin…