Re: that last boost, subtoot-ishing because IDK how on topic this is.

I've watched a lot of Richard Wolff lately and I love learning about workplace democracy. Coop-ifying and unionising the economy is unequivocally good.

But the one problem here is that a lot of these solutions are mostly labour based, and seems to take it granted that in a just world there's good work for everyone.

Is it so? Should it be so? Or should our livelihoods be detached from income and labour? Is this sustainable?

@cadadr A long time back (sometime between 2011 and 2018 probably), and likely on G+, I looked into co-ops and where and how they seem to work.

First, there are a number of different types of co-ops, including some HYUUUUGE producer co-ops. Visa and Mastercard both started as same, though they reverted to a more traditional business organisation in the 1990s AFAIR. Former CEO Dee Hock has written two books on his "chaordic" principles, "Birth of the Chaordic Age" and "One from Many".

Worker co-ops are a different story, and (from memory, not notes), I recall these being mostly fairly loosely-organised activities, with Wolff's favourite, the Mondragon Co-operative, being the notable exception.

Food service, especially restaurants, cafes, and groceries.
Some farms.
Acting groups. The San Francisco Mime Troup, maybe, or another group Peter Coyote was active with in the 1960s/70s.
Several publishing houses.
Smaller technical activities, such as bike shops and the like.

What you don't see a lot of is massive technical or industrial concerns, at least not that have come across. No Co-Op Ford, GM, Siemans, IBM, or Boeing (though the Free Software movement might be an alternative organisational model). There's a lot of creative work (where individuals are highly independent), or loosely-coordinated work (restaurants/cafes). Little that's got strict regulation or trust concerns.

There are also worker-owned companies and co-op housing (a form of asset ownership), among others.

#CoOps #CoOperatives #WorkerCoOps #WorkerCooperatives

@dredmorbius @cadadr I think the most notable — and usually not as often mentioned in these fedi discussions — co-op sector is food production, all the way from agriculture to production to grocery stores. It's also the most stabilized, which is probably why it is so often forgotten. In many countries the majority of food chain is in co-operative hands.

@Stoori True, though keep in mind that much of that ag cooperative structure is producer co-ops. Some of this is a relic of various ag policy decisions (notably in the US), as well as what had until recent decades still been a pretty loosely-structured and decentralised sector.

What's been happening under major producer monopolies (Tyson Chicken, Monsanto and ConAgra for a whole slew of grains and field crops, Armour in pork, IIRC) is that "independent farmers" are effectively serfs or sharecroppers to the monopolies. The documentary "Food, Inc." covered this pretty well about a decade ago.

You've got integration of independent owner-producers, but it's NOT a cooperative model. It's feudal.


@dredmorbius For me it basically looks like you're actually talking about the general problem that when a co-operative gets bigger, its democratic member control gets more complicated, and if not enough structural changes are made, you may end up with an undemocratic managerial ”co-op”.

Or to put it differently, ”how it started” and ”how is it going” are usually very different pictures in big co-ops. @cadadr

@Stoori AFAIU
capitalist coops of the kind @dredmorbius is referring to are completely different from worker and/or consumer coops, and they are basically the haute-bourgoisie ganging up on workers and consumers. While they are semantically in the same category, philosophically / economically they're fairly alien to the kind of coops that we'd wish see be established.


@cadadr @dredmorbius It's good that you clarify that you're only referrening to part of the co-operative movement and not to the whole. (There's also more, like banking & mutual insurance and all kinds of service & infrastucture co-ops.)

But before you bash too much on producer co-ops categorically, take a look at what they can achieve outside the North Atlantic sphere. This example is from Rwanda.

@Stoori @dredmorbius Thanks for the link! I'm very fresh to this whole thing and still learning, slowly.

Is Corporiz Ntende not a worker coop? Am I misunderstanding it? Frankly I don't really grok the terminology and don't know the history so chances are I'm totally mixing concepts up.

@cadadr @dredmorbius The video isn't exactly clear on that point, and whatever the situation is, it should be viewed against the Rwandan land reform (eg, which I by no means know well.

But as I've understood (and I can be wrong), land is owned by individual small farmers, who in this case have joined their forces to acquire supplies, market their products, educate themselves etc. collectively.

That's how producer co-ops have started, whatever some of them may be today.

@cadadr @dredmorbius Anyway, the concept of a co-op can be viewed from different angles, which raises the risk of not talking about the same thing on online discussions.

One angle is legal: a co-op is whatever is legally a co-op. This is problematic, because every country has a different legal definition for a cooperative, and many of those laws don't have strict requirements on the co-operative nature of operations. This is how you can get ”fake” cooperatives or miss some de facto co-ops.

@cadadr @dredmorbius The other angle is to look at what are the common values and principles that eg. ICA has defined. By this view, a cooperative can be any organization, regardless of its legal form, that adheres to these values and principles.

There are other angles too, like viewing only one part of cooperatives as ”true” and denouncing the others. But those two are the most prominent.

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