Building Alternatives

“To my mind, the so-called ‘socialist society’ is not anything immutable. Like all other social formations, it should be conceived in a state of constant flux and change. Its crucial difference from the present order consists naturally in production organized on the basis of common ownership by the nation… 

To begin this reorganization tomorrow, but performing it gradually, seems to me quite feasible. That our workers are capable of it is borne out by their many producer and consumer cooperatives which, whenever they’re not deliberately ruined by the police, are equally well and far more honestly run than the bourgeois stock companies”  

Engels, Letter to Otto Von Boenigk (1890).

Capital strike is a problem for working class strategy and strength, as Adam Smith, Kalecki & Sweezy keenly observed. It makes sense not just to disrupt or tear down (though certainly that, see Marx, Piven, Domhoff & Zizek), but also to build fortifications around that fundamental vulnerability, as well as to build an answer to conservatives’ play on the fear of loss. See Rudolf Meidner.

…  Jodi Dean cites Chomsky discussing the importance of working class organize-to-rule strategies, including sit down strikes, co-operative takeovers of languishing industries and economic sectors (think green technology), and a build-up of broad working class-conscicous support for such initiatives:

“In one of the suburbs of Boston, about a year ago, a multinational decided to close down a profitable, functioning facility carrying out some high-tech manufacturing. The workforce and the union offered to buy it, take it over, and run it themselves. The multinational decided to close it down instead, probably for reasons of class-consciousness. I don’t think they want things like this to happen. If there had been enough popular support, if there had been something like the Occupy movement that could have gotten involved, they might have succeeded.” 

World without A Managerial Class, Amen, Amen

Wizard of Oz fashion, the precious NYTimes is in a tizzy, my friends. This time it’s because, in the face of the ever-so-noble neoliberal war on public education, in many states, teachers are self-managing schools. You know. Like co-ops.

This is out of hand! This is not what We meant by education reform! The servants are getting dreadfully uppity.

Whatever shall we do without financial capital’s illusion that we need a massively-overpaid management class to rip wealth from the toiling classes and deliver it unto their capitalist god-kings?

It’s like the Teach for America Trojan Horses are turning on their own elite owning-class families! Like the 60s all over again! Quick, somebody save Our staggering hiveminds from this living nightmare by earnestly engaging the ridiculous pretense that the market + charity is a boon to the permanent underclass (and don’t forget the cockles-warming Great White Father photo op)!

Cooperative Network Movements

Casino capitalism blows for the working class.
Let the rich eat cake.
Let’s make an exit option for the rest of us.

Here are some examples of cooperative network movements:

Network of Bay Area Worker Co-ops

North American Network for the Solidarity Economy

Schoening, Joel. 2009. “Cooperative replication at WAGES.” Grassroots Economic Organizing 3(2).

Japan’s Consumers’ Co-operative Union

Swedish Cooperative Center

US Federation of Worker Cooperatives

U.S. Solidarity Economy Network

Workgroup on Solidarity Socio-economy (WSSE)

Books:

Matthai, Julie, Jenna Allard and Carl Davidson. 2008. Solidarity Economy: Building Alternatives for People and Planet: Papers & Reports from the 2007 US Social Forum.

Pencavel, John. 2002. Worker Participation: Lessons from the Co-ops of the Pacific Northwest. Russell Sage.

Williams, Richard C. 2007. The Cooperative Movement. Ashgate.

Production Reform in Venezuela

Head of the Ministry of Basic Industry in the Chavez Administration, Victor Alvarez, has set up procedure for the reform of some state-owned businesses. In an effort to root out corruption and ineffeciency, the managers of some state businesses, such as those at an aluminum processing plant in the southeastern state of Bolivar, are being let go. They are to be replaced with a new mangement program designed by the workers, in which workers are elected to the position of manager. Current plans include a flat salary for workers and managers, in an effort to discourage the kind of corrupt, self-maximizing behavior that plagued the previous management.

From Monthly Review, May 2005, v. 25 no. 1.