A Spiritual Life, the Co-operative Business Model, Green Business, NGOs, the World Social Forum, Solidarity Economics, and Scandanavian pro-Labor Social Democracy are among existing practices which offer an alternative to the prevailing destructive corporate and campaign finance models. Here, I invite people to explore Grassroots Sustainability and Social Responsibility through Social and Ecological Political Economics.
The spiritual basis of this discussion is essential.
Sunday, February 26, 2012
Two Truthout.org Articles on Co-ops
Truthout.org has loads of interesting posts to my taste, and two recent ones discuss co-operatives. Jim Hightower is a writer who I learned about through Mother Jones magazine years ago. Richard Wolff's an economist I learned about through a friend and colleague who heard him on WBAI, 95.5 New York, and Gar Alperovitz I learned about only recently through his op-ed in the New York Times, the latter truly a remarkable piece in my view.
Co-operatives over Corporations by Jim Hightower
tightly clutching their wealth, the wizards retort that the only
alternative is the hellish horror of government control, screeching
"socialist" at all critics to scare off any real change.
wait. The choices for our country's rising forces of economic and
political democracy are not limited to corporate or government
control. There's another, much better way of organizing America's
economic strength: The Cooperative Way.
can (and do) provide a deeply democratic, locally controlled, highly
productive, efficient percolate up capitalism. Co-ops are wholly in
step with the values, character, spirit and history of the American
socialism has been cast by the corporatists as a destroyer of our
sainted free-enterprise system, the cooperative approach is not an
-ism at all, but a democratic structure that literally frees the
enterprise of the great majority of Americans -- which is why the
co-op movement is fast spreading throughout our country.
it's rarely mentioned by the conventional media, completely missing
in the political discourse, not considered by economic planners and
chambers of commerce and not known by most of the public, there are
30,000 cooperatives in America (with 73,000 places of business). A
2009 survey by the University of Wisconsin's Center for Cooperatives
found that these energetic enterprises have 130 million members,
registering $653 billion in sales and employing more than 2 million
might be surprised to learn that such national brand names as ACE
Hardware, Best Western Hotels, Organic Valley, REI and True Value
Hardware are organized as co-ops, rather than as corporations. The
strength of the movement, however, is in the limitless number of
local cooperatives flowering all across the country.
Economic Alternatives to Capitalism Interview of Gar Alerpovitz by Richard Wolff
.... Wolff: No,
the inequality is stunning.
particularly in capital ownership, the structure of the ownership. So
these institutions willy-nilly are beginning to change the ownership
of capital in a way that people understand in very practical
terms...They’re “talking prose” and don’t know that there’s
something very important happening there. So partly, we have to make
manifest, make available to people what they already are beginning to
do. And there’s a building up, people are learning from this. The
most interesting development is something that’s going on in
Cleveland, where there’s a complex, in part based on the Mondragon
experience in the Basque country of Spain, a big, very successful
cooperative effort--100,000 people, roughly. But in Cleveland, there
are 3, 4, 5 linked worker co-ops; they’re building a whole complex
of worker-owned companies, and these are not little co-ops. For
instance, there is a large-scale industrial laundry, there is a
hydroponic greenhouse, capable of producing something of the order of
3 million heads of lettuce a year. There’s a solar installation
company. And they’re building a complex which is linked together
throughout the community through a non-profit corporation.
it’s not just worker-ownership, it’s community building and
includes a revolving fund to help build more of these entities. Well,
that structure in turn is building on things people have learned over
the last 30 years particularly in Ohio, beginning with the decay of
the steel mills in that state. It’s also using the purchasing power
of public and quasi public institutions like hospitals and
universities that are buying from the co-ops in ways that also help
to stabilize the market. And that’s a really important principle—in
part stabilizing (but not subsidizing) the “market” through
public or quasi public purchases.
important point is that there are many, many things that are
developing that the press simply doesn’t cover. I wrote America
Beyond Capitalism partly to give focus to the idea of what can be
done in this phase of development--and hopefully building beyond that
to much more interesting things once we learn more about how to do
real things on the ground.
I can add a little example of my own about the importance of books
like yours and programs like this and other efforts to get the word
out. Before we even sketch alternatives that are better, to even make
the American people aware of what they themselves have accomplished
in this area. I taught for many years at the University of
Massachusetts. Just a few miles up the road from the small city of
has a public power company, and the public power company services the
people of Holyoke. And it provides them with two benefits: lower
rates for electricity than are paid by the surrounding communities
that don’t have public power, a power operated by the community.
And not only does it give them electricity for lower rates, but even
at the lower rates, it makes a profit which it contributes to the
city’s treasury, thereby lowering the taxes these people have to
pay. A double benefit of public over private power, that they would
save on electric rates and lower their taxes compared to what their
neighbors a few miles down the road have to do with the big utility
yet, when I had students from Holyoke, they were the ones whose eyes
opened the widest when the learned of this, because they had grown up
for 20 years in a community that never had explained to them in any
school room or any kind of public way what they had and how it
differed from the normal businesses in the United States.....
comment at the site-
agree with wonderinwhy that the personal attack is unnecessary,
although the feeling of frustration that this basic issue of existing
alternative capitalisms is missing in almost all US activism is also
a pressing one. As a longtime US-based activist, I worked for a
food co-op for years in relative ignorance simply of the larger
existing networks. As I explored Fair Trade while volunteering with a
non-profit advocate group, I began to connect the dots, along with
finally reading William Greider´s The Soul of
Capitalism. Stakeholder capitalism had come to my attention, but
then while pursuing my master´s was I, albeit unaided by any direct
support, able to stumble upon Co-determination in Europe, and the
historical development of European Workers Councils. I found several
books discussing the subject, such as Lecher, W., B. Nagel, and H-W.
Platzer et al. The Establishment of European Works Councils: From
Information Committee to Social Actor. While I am glad to
recognize some apparent accomplishments of social capitalism in
Europe, one commentator at least mentions the definite limits of the
Co-determination system. Another source discusses the presence of
corporate lobbyists in the European parliament. The ability of
Europeans to represent their alternative in a strong and enlightened
way also remains to be seen. Denmark´s history with wind power is an
example, since their development was seriously compromised due to
neoliberal policymakers. Germany is a major representative of this
view, but efforts could be combined from several Northern European
countries especially, although the EWC´s have been pan-European
since 1992 and the Maastricht Treaty, if I recall correctly.