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No one should be surprised these days when yet another company goes belly-up in these difficult financial times, especially in devastated economies such as Spain.  Yet the bankruptcy of Fagor, the flagship cooperative in the Mondragon Cooperative Corporation (MCC) has shaken many anti-capitalists around the world as akin to witnessing the ending of Camelot. The fact that at least two of the other largest cooperatives in the Mondragon network, Caja Laboral (the bank and financial center of the corporation) and Eroski (a chain of retail stores throughout Europe)  are in dire financial straits has only added to the ominous threat.

Fagor, with its 5,600 workers, is a relatively small part of the whole. Even so, Trevino (Fagor's CEO) warns that its fall “will have an uncontrollable domino effect on the rest of the group with major social implications.” He believes Fagor’s liquidation would create a €480m hole at Mondragon, including inter-group loans and payments the group’s insurance arm would have to make on Fagor workers’ unemployment policies.

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Mondragon has promised to find new jobs or offer early-retirement terms for as many as it can of Fagor’s Spanish workers, but this is a tall order in a country with 27% unemployment. Besides their jobs, workers stand to lose the money they had invested in the co-op if it is liquidated.

Demystifying the Mondragon Myth

For the last 50 some years, the growth of what is now the Mondragon Cooperative Corporation has given many anarchists, socialists and other progressives in the cooperative movement the hope that yes, Virginia, there really is a viable alternative to Capitalism or, at the very least, an economic system that could provide a transition to socialism. Moreover, although many socialists won’t easily admit it, there is often the underlying hope that somehow this transition could occur “peacefully”, without a real class struggle ending in state ownership; that somehow, within the belly of the beast of capitalism, the cooperative model could “out compete” the capitalist multinationals at their own game and become the dominant economic paradigm.

Yet, as one blogger commented in Alternatives to Capitalism,

“There is no escaping the need to challenge Wall Street and the other big financial centers across the world for political and economic power which requires a well-organized and intense class struggle [...] something the promoters of these cooperative schemes try to evade as they try to convince workers there are ways around bringing mines, mills and factories under public ownership which is going to require the nationalization of entire industries.”

Unfortunately, many of Mondragon’s supporters (of which I am one) tend to promote the Mondragon model in a very schizophrenic way.  On one hand we talk about the ideology of cooperation over competition in an almost mythological way. We talk about how Mondragon was started in 1956  by Father José María Arizmendiarrieta, a priest who, in the shadow of the fascist dictator Franco, began a cooperative with five workers in the isolated, impoverished Basque region in northern Spain.

We talk about how it is the Father’s vision of worker-owned and worker managed cooperative enterprises, based on democratic control, equality and cooperation among the workers, that makes Mondragon different than other capitalist enterprises.

All the workers in a cooperative would be owners. All workers would have one share and one vote. All workers would have an equal voice in decision-making and setting the company’s policies. Workers would elect their own managers who could not make more than twice the highest paid worker.  Cooperatives would remain small (no more than 500 people) and educate all incoming workers so that the cooperative way of life, focusing on the workers and the needs of the community they lived in, would not be replaced by the competitive greed of capitalism. The cooperatives would form a network of manufactured goods and service cooperatives that would support each other.

Yet, when we promote the Mondragon model to others, we tend to evaluate the success of the “Father’s vision” based on capitalist measurements of success–how much money do the coops pull in and how big are the enterprises(the capitalists’ bottom line). After all, if we are going to create a cooperative economy, we have to be able to compete with “the big boys” on their own terms. We seem to have forgotten measurements such as workers stability, democratic decision making, and making products which will enhance our communities, instead of for profit maximization.

So we point to the fact that Mondragon developed into a world-wide network of cooperatives that boasts $14 billion in total revenues, distributed among 110 cooperatives, 147 subsidiary companies, eight foundations and a benefit society with total assets of 35.8 billion euros. The MCC currently employs over 80,000 people, 32,000 of which are coop members, and include in their products manufactured goods as diverse as washing machines and high end bicycles as well as financial products such as hedge funds and a network of retail stores that span Europe. Fagor alone, has over 5,600 employees in 5 factories in Spain and eight other non-cooperative factories in China, France, Poland and Morocco, and the ratio of the CEO’s salary is limited to 10 times that of the highest paid worker.A cursory reading  of the above litany promoting Mondragon’s huge financial success when compared to the ideological model clearly indicates some serious contradictions between theory and practice.  Fagor far exceeds the recommended size for a cooperative; the majority of workers in the Mondragon Cooperative Corporation are no longer cooperative members with voting rights but hired employees. Even among the coop members the conditions have changed – it is no longer one vote per share but one vote per coop member no matter how many shares they own. And while the CEO can only make 10 times what the highest worker makes (which is exponentially lower than traditional capitalist CEOs who make 200-300 times what a worker makes), it is still a much greater degree of inequality than in the original cooperatives.

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Can we develop large scale global economies that can compete with a capitalist system without losing our cooperative soul?

In Mondragon and Globalization, Basque Country and Ghosts, Mondragon managers discuss why Mondragon has succeeded as a cooperative business: “Sustainability, worker participation (sovereignty), education, integration, diversification, innovation and flexibility.

How are these terms used in investor-controlled companies? How do we talk about cooperative businesses outside of the dominant paradigm? As part of this we discussed the pillars or keys to success:

• Control and use of capital
• Redefinition of labor/management relations
• Management education
• cooperative development
• lack of “silo” mentality—horizontal and vertical integration
• Inter-cooperative fund mechanism.

All of these are the key to Mondragon’s success. It is hard to imagine that they would be the same cooperative without a commitment to these pillars. Of course, Mondragon, like the rest of the cooperative world, is an island in a capitalist ocean. The problems of capitalism can’t help but creep into our cooperatives because we are part of society and societal norms get determined through a capitalist lens (for now).

Did Fagor Need to Go Bankrupt?

As a practical and real world matter, three decisions exposed Fagor to trouble just before the recession hit Spain in 2008:

1)  When the large multinational moved production to low-wage Asian countries, Fagor, also opened some private non-coop companies in low wage countries to take advantage of cheap parts for its products. However, it refused to close most of its assembly lines in high wage countries such as Spain and France to preserve worker-owners' jobs in keeping with the cooperative principal prioritizing worker security and local job stability.

This policy decision led to two different interpretations:

According to the Wall Street Journal, by keeping the cooperative workers jobs in Spain and France, instead of moving the whole operation to low wage countries, MCC could no longer compete with those multinationals who use  solely cheap outsourced labor. This led to loss of sales and profits in the parent country and raised Fagor’s debt burden which made it more financially vulnerable.

However, according to Gar Alperovitz, a supporter of Mondragon, much of the sales plummeted in Spain due a housing recession which was the product of the overall capitalist created banking crisis of 2008 not due to FAGOR’s policy decisions  – if people don’t have houses, they will not buy domestic products such as washing machines, cooking ware, etc. no matter what the price.

2) Fagor acquired a French appliance company to try to achieve the scale to compete with Whirlpool Corp. and Electrolux in the free-market global economy. This however, again led to a massive increase in debt and more financial vulnerability.

3) Fagor sank €6 million into the Driron, a refrigerator-size invention that could dry and iron clothes at the same time. A €1,875 price tag and clunky look made it MCC’s Edsel. Again, given the over-heated speculation in the global market, was this a wise time, from the point of view of the workers’ job security to make an expensive speculative investment?

Alperovitz, in an analysis in Truth Out Now, places the blame for the bankruptcy on the cooperative community’s attempt to utilize an internal cooperative model in the MCC while trying to compete in a free market economy without taking into account the mechanisms of the dominant capitalist economic model. He suggests that, if we wish to encourage a cooperative economy we must also include systemic changes in both trade and the domestic market if cooperatives are to survive.

Alperovitz suggested a form of planned trade is necessary in the global market.

According to Alperovitz:

“A serious "next stage" systemic design almost certainly will have to adopt one or another form of "planned trade" rather than "free market trade" - else the fate of specific firms, and specific groups of workers, and also the communities in which both exist, become subject to the ever-intensifying challenges as corporations play one low-wage country off against another, with the destruction of wage standards and firms (cooperative or otherwise) the inevitable result (http://www.truth-out.org/...).”
In fact, Mondragon did attempt a limited form of planned trade that incorporated both capitalist and planned trade strategies by trying to keep open plants in both the high wage and low wage countries in a policy known as co- or multi-location.

The second challenge according to Alperovitz, takes us beyond the question of planning in connection with trade to planning in connection with the domestic market:

"It was never the goal of the Mondragón Corporation to seek a planning solution to the problems of the Spanish economy. Nor was "changing the system" part and parcel of its primary mission. It always sought to compete successfully in the existing system, at the same time demonstrating a superior form of internal organization. Americans concerned about fundamental, longer-term change need to ponder this particular point carefully. The challenge any system-changing vision presents is at least twofold: First, how to include new models of cooperative organization in a larger strategy that includes managing (and restructuring) the wider economy in its goals; second, how to begin to think through much more carefully issues of sectoral planning within larger democratic or participatory planning goals (http://www.truth-out.org/...)."
Alperovitz sites nationalization done briefly in the auto sector in the United States  during the 2008 crisis as one example of systemic change in the broader economy. As an example of sectoral planning, Alperovitz sites the transportation sector suggesting each part of transportation cooperative network be designed to enhance and support the other parts.  With vertical and horizontal planning, it would be difficult for outside marauding multinationals to penetrate the network, Both examples involve state planning, much as Venezuela has started doing in its communal community councils.  

How far has Mondragon deviated from the original model?

It is important to recognize when quantitative change has become qualitative.  Here are a few additional indicators of how the MCC has strayed from the cooperative principals:

1) While each year, Mondragon University and other education centers within its industrial cooperatives teaches workers cooperative principles, the economic educational component is based on traditional neoclassical capitalist economics.

2) Since its entry into the global market during the 1990s when it reoriented its development goals to compete in a global  economy, it has abandoned the cooperative principal of keeping cooperative control in local communities. Instead of using networking of local cooperatives as support for each other and as a  buffer against rapacious capitalist outsourcing, it has developed 25 partnerships between local parent cooperatives in high wage countries and private non-cooperative companies in low wage countries. In a 1999-2006 study MCC justifies this major deviation from cooperative principals by saying that they will be more competitive with the pricing of capitalist multinationals so that  they will have to lay of fewer workers in the cooperatives and that they can eventually educate and introduce worker cooperatives in their non-cooperative companies in low wage countries.

3)  Although Mondragon was able to save all its cooperative workers in the first economic meltdown in 2008 all the workers had to agree to take a 20% pay cut and give back some of the equity they had acquired over the years as owners so they could pay back some of the debt some of the larger, more globally oriented coops had acquired  although the workers in the coops had little decision-making power in the acquisition of these debts.

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4)  Although the MCC was able to save its cooperative workers in 2008, they laid off all their temporary workers in Spain (about 40% of the workforce and mostly women) who had never had any decision making power, job security or equity in the cooperatives. The same fate may await many of the non-cooperative employees in the Eroski coops in foreign countries.

5)  Some of Caja Laboral’s newer coop projects are hedge funds which have a very bad record as far as encouraging risky capitalist speculation.

6)  Trevino, the current manager of Fagor wanted to take Fagor in the restructuring and move it to Poland and restart it as a regular capitalist shareholding corporation.

7)  The majority of Eroski’s workers, the large retail chain that spans Europe, are not coop members and have no voting, job security or equity rights;

8)  For decades, the giant network of industrial and retail cooperatives of Mondragon was held up as an international model of solidarity -- whenever one co-op got into trouble, the rest of the Mondragón Corporation would rescue it with cash or take on workers at risk of losing their jobs. In this year of 2013, the Mondragon Corp voted for the first time, to let one of the coops (Fagor) go bankrupt. Of the 109 remaining coops, all but three coops wanted to continue to bail Fagor out but the Board of Directors of Caja Laboral and Eroski, the other two largest coops (which also happen to be the two coops that have strayed furthest from the coop model in terms of a nondemocratic hierarchy and risky financial speculation) voted to let Fagor go bankrupt and, since the vote has to be unanimous, broke the solidarity pact that has been the backbone of the Mondragon  model.

For those of us who have never seen the cooperative movement as an end in itself, but as a way of organizing workers as part of a transition to socialism, the rational has been that the coops are still a lot better than the purely capitalist enterprises (I agree).  The question then becomes when do quantitative changes become qualitative? And do we just proceed as usual, rationalizing that most of the network is still functioning even though it took a hit, or do we step back and say we have to recognize the need for larger systemic changes.  Do we put all our efforts into fighting for the nationalization of industries and, as some socialists believe, and refuse to be distracted by the cooperative model (even though socialist nationalization is a project that is nowhere on the immediate horizon?)  Or are there other options in between?

One final question remains –  Is the structural problem strictly due to the external dynamics of capitalism as Alperovitz maintains or, in addition to the systemic changes we must make,  must we also re-examine how the culture of capitalism, like a Trojan horse, has corrupted the internal culture of the cooperatives themselves?
Sources

1) Trouble in workers’ paradise. The collapse of Spain’s Fagor tests the world’s largest group of co-operatives. Nov 9th 2013 | MADRID | From the print edition, The Economist

2) Mondragon: An alternative to capitalism or part of the capitalist scheme of things?

3) October 13, 2007 Mondragon and Globalization, Basque Country and GhostsFiled under: Management — Tags: innovation, mondragon — John McNamara @ 2:38 pm

4) Mondragón and the System Problem Friday, 01 November 2013 09:04 By Gar Alperovitz and Thomas M Hanna, Truthout | Op-Ed; republished: http://www.garalperovitz.com/...

Originally posted to Anti-Capitalist Meetup on Sun Jan 12, 2014 at 03:00 PM PST.

Also republished by In Support of Labor and Unions, Global Expats, and Community Spotlight.

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Comment Preferences

  •  the ACM has been reposted to: (11+ / 0-)

    "Hegel noticed somewhere that all great world history facts and people so to speak twice occur. He forgot to add: the one time as tragedy, the other time as farce" Karl Marx, The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte .

    by NY brit expat on Sun Jan 12, 2014 at 03:12:44 PM PST

  •  ACM Schedule (6+ / 0-)

    January 2014:

    19th: NY Brit Expat
    26th:

    February:

    2nd:
    9th:
    16th:
    23rd:
    Annieli

    We are covered now until the 26th of January. So we need volunteers from the 26th of January until the 23rd of February! If there are any volunteers, it will be greatly appreciated!! Please, if you are interested in writing a piece, reply to this message or send a kos message to NY Brit Expat or send an email to our group email: dkanticapitalistgroup@gmail.com!! Can we get someone to volunteer for the 26th of January? If you can do the 19th, I will be glad to switch with you!

    "Hegel noticed somewhere that all great world history facts and people so to speak twice occur. He forgot to add: the one time as tragedy, the other time as farce" Karl Marx, The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte .

    by NY brit expat on Sun Jan 12, 2014 at 03:15:38 PM PST

  •  Hi folks- I'm online and hope we can have a good (6+ / 0-)

    discussion tonight about the future of the ondragon Cooperative Network and what it means to antica[italists

  •  asdf (13+ / 0-)

    I agree with you that departure from Mondragon's original cooperative model caused instability and the greed of certain parties accounts for the rest.
    Perhaps the answer to your question lies in the perception of whether or not the Spanish cooperative model fell or was pushed, and if it was pushed, by whom. The Cooperative Bank in the UK suffered failure this year because the CEO was spectacularly, and publicly profligate, even beyond the known excesses of other bankers. As with Fagor, the co-operative model then came into question. Perhaps the difficulty can also arise when a business model, conceived by one group of people, is implemented by another for their own ends. The history of many solidly capitalist companies, even successful ones such as Apple, have similar glitches in their corporate narrative. Perhaps Mondragon can self correct. Even if it can’t, that should not be a reflection on the co-operative movement as a whole, as both it, and the Co-operative Bank, are singular cases. Both Enron and Lehman Brothers died without a commonly held implication of Capitalism as a whole, much as those of us on the left might have wished it to be so.

    "The 'Middle' is a crowded place - that is where the effective power is - the extreme right and left might annoy governments, but the middle terrifies them." Johnny Linehan

    by northsylvania on Sun Jan 12, 2014 at 03:23:58 PM PST

    •  Thanks for your analysis northsylvania. Personally (9+ / 0-)

      I think the problem is structural as Alperovitz suggests and we have to start pushing for those structural changes -- that does not mean I don't appreciate the value of trying to make real changes while in the current structure.  But the biggest danger is when those inside the cooperative movement undermine it from within.  Then we don't even have a chance to find out how transformative the cooperative movement might be.

    •  The problems with the coop were not only (11+ / 0-)

      due to the jackarse (Paul Flowers) that was the CEO's personal failings (he was only hired in 2010), it was due to a serious bunch of errors such as the purchase of Britannia in 2009, the government's attempt to ensure centralisation of capital which fed these mergers (http://www.redpepper.org.uk/...) and the separation of the members of the coop from the decision making of the bank itself. The situation is essentially catastrophic with the coop bank controlled by a hedge fund (Aurelius), the same one that owned Argentina's debt, who sold their shares to a British hedge fund when they increased in value (see: http://www.theguardian.com/...) ... Unity Trust (a credit union used by community and left groups) is owned by coop which is still controlled by a hedge fund!

      "Hegel noticed somewhere that all great world history facts and people so to speak twice occur. He forgot to add: the one time as tragedy, the other time as farce" Karl Marx, The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte .

      by NY brit expat on Sun Jan 12, 2014 at 03:39:54 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  There is no reason to assume that a cooperative (4+ / 0-)

      will last forever.  Any co-op or business can fail for a wide range of honest reasons - technology changes, competition, change in market preference, sudden loss of consumer demand, failed new product launches, etc..

      It is prudent for individual workers to plan their personal finances assuming that their co-op if job at a corporation will not last forever.  

      What is most important however is that for ordinary workers, they should not have a large share of their net worth or retirement dependent on their co-op or employer.  

      The most important way to protect the environment is not to have more than one child.

      by nextstep on Sun Jan 12, 2014 at 07:20:59 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  On the other hand (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Geminijen, nextstep, Unca Joseph, Justina

      the precise understanding of capitalism is that in a market economy businesses that don't cut it, for whatever reason, will and ought to fail. So Enron and Lehman are illustrative of the expected workings of the system they are part of. But if large-scale cooperatives like Mondragon can't cut it without the entire economic world being refashioned to suit them, that leads to other sorts of reflections.

      •  It isn't a question of other people being (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Unca Joseph, NY brit expat, Justina

        refashioned to suit Mondragon. Mondragon itself, as I noted in this article, accepts that it is in the capitalist system and never set out to change the whole thing - however, a number of progressives (socialists and others) believe that cooperatives function better under a public and a private systemic structure (see the quotes from Alperovitz in the article) and are recommending democratic reforms to the free market system.  There has always been a tension in any approach to production between the degree to which it is controlled by the public political vs. the private capitalistic economy.

      •  Simple reflections . . . (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Justina, Geminijen

          While I acknowledge the scholarship far superior to my own which now advocates cooperatives as a helpful means to achieve a transition to socialism,  the successful seating of some of a corporation's workers on its board
        of director's may also be an effective means . . .
        Exempli Gratia:
           The supervisory boards of major German stock corporations and SE's are subject to employee codetermination and are comprised of representatives
        of the shareholders and employees.
           Depending on the company's total number of the employees, up to one-half
        of the supervisory board members will be elected by the company's employees.
           Not a bad 'foot in the door' for the German workers!
          By mentioning these few facts, it is not in any way to be taken on my part
        as an attempt to negate the more revolutionary ways of achieving success . . .
                            "Workers will own the corporations." - IWW

    •  This is a general problem of any large scale (0+ / 0-)

      coops. The model relies too much on people being decent.

  •  An excellent piece Geminijen! (10+ / 0-)

    Ever since the earlier discussions on Mondragon initiated by Tpau, I have been wondering about how far they moved away from founding principles of cooperatives. I have been extremely skeptical about coops attempting to compete with capitalist MNCs and the dangers that it would hold. You have done an excellent job summarising the situation and the bankruptcy of Fagor ... I am interested in discussing whether you think it is in the interest of cooperatives to actually try and compete with MNCs or should they serve a different role?

    Thanks so much for such an excellent piece and all your hard work in clarifying the situation; it was worth the wait.

    "Hegel noticed somewhere that all great world history facts and people so to speak twice occur. He forgot to add: the one time as tragedy, the other time as farce" Karl Marx, The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte .

    by NY brit expat on Sun Jan 12, 2014 at 03:26:42 PM PST

  •  Planned Trade (15+ / 0-)

    Well I see some economic thinkers have finally caught up to the time of Alexander Hamilton.

    Yes, trade needs to be managed regardless of whether the system is capitalistic or not.

    You know, it occurs to me that cooperatives are in many ways similar to family owned and many other kinds of small businesses. As a sole prop artisan manufacturer, all the economic issues of the multinationals, and of trade, seem to affect me as you're suggesting they affect coops.

    I think if we were back to at least a 60's level of managed trade, anti trust regulation and labor rights, both cooperatives and small businesses would find a much wider share of the market place viable for them.

    Maybe that's an angle to push in promoting the idea of cooperatives.

    We are called to speak for the weak, for the voiceless, for victims of our nation and for those it calls enemy.... --ML King "Beyond Vietnam"

    by Gooserock on Sun Jan 12, 2014 at 03:31:52 PM PST

    •  I agree Gooserock. Even the earlier import (11+ / 0-)

      substitution model would be an improvement.  It is clearly in the interest of monopoly capitalism to remove any social fetters at the nation-state level to "free trade" that tries to socially balance inequality between nation states. of course the 1% that owns the world economically has no problem reguloating trade when it is too their advantage (WTO regulations limiting laws that nation-states can pass to set up barriers to products from other countries).

      Unfortunately, technology is making the nation-state more and more irrelevant so that we have to find a new international social institution that has real power to set up social regulations. Certain agencies in the UN have been suggested even though the UN power is limited.  Any other suggestions?

  •  I don't see the co-op movement as, in any way, (12+ / 0-)

    revolutionary. Now, that's not to say that I see it as a bad movement. No, I think co-ops can be a good way for a few, only few, working people to cope with capitalism. But as a means of ending Capitalism, no, it will never happen thru co-ops.

    The working class can never afford to buy back the vast amount of accumulated wealth that the ruling class has stolen over the past many decades.

    So we go into debt to the ruling class to set up our co-ops. Well then we are collectively in bond to the ruling class instead of individually in bond to them...perhaps there is more security in collective bondage, but, it's still bondage.

    God spare me the Heart to fight them... I'll fight the Pirates forever. -Mother Jones

    by JayRaye on Sun Jan 12, 2014 at 03:37:53 PM PST

    •  I wouldn't say coops are revolutionary (8+ / 0-)

      however they can serve a transformative role in the sense that it provides a different type of ownership model and imbues the notion of cooperation rather than competition as a way of operation. If done properly and with principles, they can provide workers with many types of skills, put means of production back under their control, and can teach new methods of production with different aims than profitability.

      Are they revolutionary in themselves? No, but they can be transitional in some senses. Now, I would not support going into debt from the ruling classes to establish them, but I would have no problems with money being borrowed or given from the state as start up funds; another possibility as Geminijen has raised previously was for funding to come from progressive unions for start-up. I agree that the moment we become indebted financially to the ruling class, we need to function such that they will make profits and we are in trouble as our principles cannot stand up in the face of the power of finance capital.

      "Hegel noticed somewhere that all great world history facts and people so to speak twice occur. He forgot to add: the one time as tragedy, the other time as farce" Karl Marx, The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte .

      by NY brit expat on Sun Jan 12, 2014 at 03:48:30 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  I just don't see how any worker can live outside (5+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        annieli, NY brit expat, Geminijen, AoT, Justina

        the capitalist system while the capitalist system exists.

        The ruling class has the power and we cannot buy our way out from under that power.

        The co-op movement could also become a means of luring the working class into the pipe dream that they can purchase their own company, run it with the right principles and, thus buy their way out of the catastrophe that is capitalism.

        It could be a way out for a few, yes, but not for the working class as whole. Actually, it's only a way out for a few with respect to their work day lives. And that is a good thing for those few workers, yes. But even those few workers are still living in a world being destroyed by capitalism. Unless they establish their co-op on some other planet, they have not escaped capitalism.

        Socialism is still something that we, the working class, must organize and fight for. It is not something that we, as a class, can buy our way into.

        God spare me the Heart to fight them... I'll fight the Pirates forever. -Mother Jones

        by JayRaye on Sun Jan 12, 2014 at 04:13:14 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  I agree we need a revolution, but I don't think it (6+ / 0-)

          is any more of a distraction than let's say small sectarian left groups that are so "pure" no other movements are worth working with or academics who sit around drinking their red wine in their comfortable condos discussing Marx and the revolution with great sentimentality but little actual activist work. Anjd I do think it lead people toward a more revolutionarty perspective and role.

          When the WTO said it was holding its conference in
          Seattle (the Battle of Seattle) in 96 I just laughed because I knew what they were in for -- and at least part of Seattle's radicalism has to do with its cooperative history as well as the IWW.  By the way, the Knights of Labor who were the group that ended up in the Mayday massacre in 1886 in Chicago and the leading revolutionary movement during the Robbe3r Baron Days believed both union organizing and cooperatives were part of the revolution.  So did Emma Goldman and the anarchists.

          •  And Mother Jones thot that co-op-type groups (5+ / 0-)

            smacked of economic privilege. When she left the Ruskin Colony behind, she said that she preferred to be out in the the thick of the fight. She believed that the co-op movements of her day blinded those who could afford to establish their own little private island of socialism from the real struggles of ordinary working people.  I agree with her on that. Altho I am less judgmental on that score. If some people can buy themselves and their friends some shelter from the storm of capitalism, then I'm happy for them. Not everyone can cope with being in the thick of fight.

            And Mother Jones certainly wasn't any kind of left sectarian, she worked and fought with plain ordinary working people, as do I.

            And talk about old, these panacea movements are as old as the hills.

            God spare me the Heart to fight them... I'll fight the Pirates forever. -Mother Jones

            by JayRaye on Sun Jan 12, 2014 at 05:14:18 PM PST

            [ Parent ]

            •  The Red and Black Cafe (5+ / 0-)

              a small IWW shop in Portland, run by anarchists, is hardly some island of economic privilege. They struggle, often on the edge, but they provide a meeting place for the community, and if not an island of privilege, it is an island of shelter for people wanting a place to meet, talk, organize.

              People who form a co-op, or collective, starting on a shoestring, with possibly no loans at all, I think are engaging in revolutionary act of sorts. I don't think all such co-ops have to follow the American business model. I see immigrants starting businesses all the time, beginning very small out of the back of a pickup truck, then growing larger with a little help from their friends.

              So, depends on how people do this.

              I even think self-employed people (employing no labor other than their own) are also in a sense liberating themselves from the humiliation of working under the boss. But then I'm an anarchist, and anarchists place a high value on getting away from the wage slavery, the servitude to an authority in a hierarchical order. It isn't just economics, but also quality of life by not being a slave to authority.

              Of course, anarchists differ from Marxists, in the philosophy of carving out the eggshell from within by living as much as they can by anarchist ideals, rather than waiting for the revolution to come to have this experience. This is not by any means a privilege, since it can be very hard to achieve at great sacrifice and even a reduction in income.

              Anyway... I don't want to expound on this at length. But if people can get away from banks, from the hierarchy of the workplace, and from the awful, life-killing world of subservience to a boss, I think that is a step forward. It can also free people to do more activism, rather than fear the termination by the employer finding out that one attends anarchist direct action events. And, when the day comes, people who create these associations in advance will have valuable experience to put to use.

              "The moment some people participating in an action feel they have more of a moral commitment to those who are threatening to attack them than they do to another activist, the game is over." -David Graeber

              by ZhenRen on Sun Jan 12, 2014 at 10:10:16 PM PST

              [ Parent ]

              •  Like I said, co-ops are a great alternatives (2+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                Unca Joseph, Justina

                for those who have the money to start one. Millions of workers do not have the funds to start their own small business, co-op or not.

                God spare me the Heart to fight them... I'll fight the Pirates forever. -Mother Jones

                by JayRaye on Mon Jan 13, 2014 at 10:40:32 AM PST

                [ Parent ]

          •  You need to check your labor history. (3+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Geminijen, Justina, NY brit expat

            The Knights of Labor most certainly did not end up in the Mayday Massacre of 1886. The Knights were an extremely conservative organization, and vehemently denounced the soon-to-be Haymarket Martyrs in their Chicago newspaper:

            Let it be understood by all the world that the Knights of Labor have no affiliation, association, sympathy or respect for the band of cowardly murderers, cut-throats and robbers, known as anarchists, who sneak through the country like midnight assassins, stirring up the passions of ignorant foreigners, unfurling the red flag of anarchy and causing riot and bloodshed. Parsons, Spies, Fielding [sic], Most and all their followers, sympathizers, aiders and abettors should be summarily dealt with. They are entitled to no more consideration than wild beasts. The leaders are cowards and their followers are fools.
            This was published May 8, 1886 in
            The Knights of Labor,
            the official organ of the K of L.

            SOURCE
            The Haymarket Tragedy
            -by Paul Avrich

            The Knights of Labor were definitely not leading any revolutionary movement in the Robber Baron days, far from it. In fact they were a brake on the Labor Movement. As conservative as it ended up being, the A F of L was actually an improvement over the Knights. And of all the reading that I've done on the Knights, I don't recall them voicing any opinion on co-ops one way or the other.

            God spare me the Heart to fight them... I'll fight the Pirates forever. -Mother Jones

            by JayRaye on Sun Jan 12, 2014 at 06:03:03 PM PST

            [ Parent ]

            •  Actually I was conflating - Knights of Labor did (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              NY brit expat

              include cooperative workers in the working class, many of the anarchists like Big Bill Haywood, the Parsons, etc. were all in the labor movements of that period and knew each other much as our very conservative communist party today who associate with the democratic party and many of our Trotskyist and Maoist groups who criticize them for it, know each other and occasionally end up at the same actions.

              You are, of course, right,it  was very sloppy and there is no excuse since I used to teach this stuff. Actually, many people attributed the subsequent decline and fall of the Knights to the fact that the "terrorist" anarchists were the "cause" (not proven) of the Haymarket massacre in 1886.  Also, Emma Goldman and other anarchists who also supported cooperatives as legitimate parts of the left were not active until 1908-1916 or there about. (I'm still being a little lazy as I'm doing this from memory).

              But your right. I was extremely sloppy and there is no excuse for that. Thanks for correcting me.  As for which was more radical KOL or the AFL of the period, both wre pretty conservative and many  might argue with you that because there interpretation of the working class was broader and relied on more oriented toward political changes for the whole class was potentially more radical that the craft unions all male, no blacks only AFL, even though it focused more directly on point of production economic actions.

              •  The AFL was not all men and was not all white. (3+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                Justina, NY brit expat, Geminijen

                It wasn't even all craft unions.

                Fully 1/3 of the membership of the AFL (factoring in ebbs and flows) was made up of one union, the great United Mine Workers, which was an industrial union, and always an integrated one. Even had black officers.  Your view of the AFL is very narrow. There was a huge amount of variation within the different member unions. The ILGWU, for example, was a member of the AFL, it was both an industrial union and included many women.

                Many many of the members of the AFL were Socialist, Victor Berger, for example, who was elected to congress from Milwaukee. Many of the officers and members of the UMW, (a member union of the AFL) were Socialist. And were very active in politics.

                The AFL is much more complicated than just a collection of craft unions. There were many different unions within the AFL, some conservative, some more radical. Even tho the national officers were conservative, state and city affiliates often were more radical. Many area affiliates even reached out to the IWW and gave them support in their struggles, for example during the San Diego Free Speech Fight, the defense campaign for Joe Hill, etc, etc.

                There was a huge difference between the AFL and the K of L.  For example, unions within the AFL conducted strikes, and received support for those strikes. whereas Terence V Powderly was bitterly opposed to strikes, considered them uncivilized and clamped down on members who tried to strike. Conducting militant strikes is a huge difference from being opposed to strikes. And that right there accounts for the disintegration of the Knights and the rise of the AFL. Where workers are bitterly oppressed, they will stand up and fight, and will demand an organization that supports those struggles.

                Now, eventually the AFL became the brake on the labor movement that the K of L had been earlier, and thus the IWW and later the CIO arose. But the AFL was a great step forward for the union movement from the K of L.

                And speaking of the great 8 hour movement of 1886, that actually began as a resolution within the AFL, before they actually adopted the name AFL, but the same organization.

                God spare me the Heart to fight them... I'll fight the Pirates forever. -Mother Jones

                by JayRaye on Sun Jan 12, 2014 at 07:23:38 PM PST

                [ Parent ]

                •  In think it is more complicated than either you or (3+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:
                  unfangus, NY brit expat, Justina

                  I are suggesting here, but to suggest that there was not a problem with including women, minorities, etc. in the AFL takes the history and cherry picks facts and takes this discussion out of its time.  I personally have worked for ACTW and was offered work with the ILGWU in the late 70s.

                  KOL was much more conservative and you are absolutely right about the  strike issue (and about Powderly).

                  What was the organization called that did the original call for the 8 hour day? It would be helpful if you included dates as many of these issues were different at different times of their history.

                  I personally feel KOL also played a role labor history and in its broad populist approach much as OWS which ranges from radical to fairly mainstream ideas in the same movement serves as a counterpoint to some of the other more defined left political groups.  Movements are large and complex and change over time and can be bad with good points and good with bad points.

                  Interestingly I am also getting critiqued from the cooperative movement for not being realistic and suggesting that it is wrong to want the cooperatives to actually try to live up to the principals they propose.

                  I think movements are never that unblurred. I appreciate your making me be historically correct but also think you are coming at this from a specific point of view which eliminates facts that do not support your position.

                  I would love to see you write a diary that doesn't simplyt document labor history as you know it, but compares different aspects of labor (as you do with KOL and AFL. Would also appreciate it if you brought it up to compare with present labor struggles.

                  •  Where did I say that the AFL was not without (2+ / 0-)
                    Recommended by:
                    Unca Joseph, Justina

                    its grave problems? But neither was it made up of only white, male, and craft unions as you made it out to be.

                    The long complicate history of the AFL is too long to condense into a comment. Hellraisers has addressed the racism and sexism anti-foreignism, etc, within the leadership of the AFL many times and will continue to do so.

                    Hellraisers also covers the struggles of the United Mine Workers, the jewel of the AFL, which also made up 1/3 of the total membership of the AFL at various times in its history. And that is not an insignificant fact, in light of the heroic struggles waged by that organization.

                    God spare me the Heart to fight them... I'll fight the Pirates forever. -Mother Jones

                    by JayRaye on Mon Jan 13, 2014 at 10:48:02 AM PST

                    [ Parent ]

                  •  Except that OWS (3+ / 0-)
                    Recommended by:
                    NY brit expat, Justina, Unca Joseph

                    Was pretty much not at all involved in any political action. It was all direct action, most often civilly disobedient, usually choosing to work completely outside the requirements of government, and not asking for permission to exist by getting permits to march, or assemble, and many did not set up police liaisons, and those camps which did work with police found the result to be unfavorable.

                    And it is precisely due to avoiding political action that it was successful in making the 1% vs 99% meme popularized around the world.

                    For the record...

                    "The moment some people participating in an action feel they have more of a moral commitment to those who are threatening to attack them than they do to another activist, the game is over." -David Graeber

                    by ZhenRen on Mon Jan 13, 2014 at 12:18:34 PM PST

                    [ Parent ]

              •  Bill Haywood was not an anarchist, he was a (2+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                Geminijen, Unca Joseph

                Socialist. He was a member of the Socialist Party of America and on the Executive Committee of same. He ran for Governor of Colorado on the SPA ticket.

                God spare me the Heart to fight them... I'll fight the Pirates forever. -Mother Jones

                by JayRaye on Sun Jan 12, 2014 at 08:20:10 PM PST

                [ Parent ]

            •  Of course, the anarchists were framed (4+ / 0-)

              I hope anyone reading here knows the entire case and trial was a trumped up sham. I realize some of you have some knowledge of this history, but most casual readers probably don't.

              Parsons (one of the accused) even had his two small children at the event. Hard to imagine he would have exposed his children to a known planned bomb attack about to occur.

              This notion anarchists were all sitting around hatching bomb plots is so cliche. The ending speech at the rally was by all accounts rather tame, and the meeting was close to ending anyway. 180 police arrive, telling them to disperse (which they were about to do anyway) and anarchists would think it wise to, just then, throw a bomb?

              Here's a link, for a short history, for anyone wanting to learn more about this.
              http://libcom.org/...

              "The moment some people participating in an action feel they have more of a moral commitment to those who are threatening to attack them than they do to another activist, the game is over." -David Graeber

              by ZhenRen on Sun Jan 12, 2014 at 10:30:23 PM PST

              [ Parent ]

              •  Thank you, ZhenRen. (5+ / 0-)

                Yes, Parsons and Spies, esp, are two of our greatest Labor Martyrs. And the lack of Solidarity shown them by the K of L, as they were on trial for their lives, was appalling. And "lack of Solidarity" is putting it mildly.

                Sadly, events at that May 4th protest meeting have so over-shadowed the Great 8 Hour Movement of 1886 that few realize the incredible organizing work that was done, esp by Lucy and Albert Parsons, leading up to May 1st, the date set for a nation-wide general strike for the 8 hour day.

                Altho the 8 hour movement was started by a resolution adopted by the AFL, much of the organizing work in Chicago, where the movement was esp strong, was done by the Anarchist, for the Great 8 Hour Movement was a movement that caught on and spread far beyond the AFL unions. (Note: the resolution for the 8 hour day strike was adopted by the Federation of Organized Trades and Labor Unions which later changed its name to AFL.)

                Sadly, because of the so-called "Haymarket Riot," most people remember May 4th rather than the massive peaceful march held by the working people of Chicago on May 1st, 1886.
                http://www.ilwu19.com/...

                God spare me the Heart to fight them... I'll fight the Pirates forever. -Mother Jones

                by JayRaye on Mon Jan 13, 2014 at 07:47:33 AM PST

                [ Parent ]

        •  JayRaye Hits the Nail on the Head! (3+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          JayRaye, NY brit expat, Geminijen
          I just don't see how any worker can live outside
          the capitalist system while the capitalist system exists.

          Convict the War Criminals, Surveilers and Fraudsters. Support universal health care, unions, WikiLeaks, Manning and Snowden. On Occupy Wall Street! Time for a totally new, democratic economic system. Turn the corporations into worker cooperatives!

          by Justina on Sun Jan 12, 2014 at 07:23:10 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

    •  I think the most transformative aspect of coop- (12+ / 0-)

      eratives is their ability to provide real life support to progressive and socialist movements and to help us to understand and learn, in our real lives, what it means to ben cooperative rather than competitive.

      I lived in Seattle (incubator of coops) many years ago. When I lost my job for organizing in a factory, a local coop bakery that employed 18 people, Little Bread, gave me a job.  But in addition to things like that, the coop put flyers in eachy product that was distributed advertising local progressive news.  They also helped promote healthy eating issues.  In our meetings we learned (or tried to learn) a different way to run meetings (much like Occupy) instead of just running each other over in sectarian battles.

      We also had five independent health clinics for women in the working poor. We provided a spot where your children could play.  They were run by female nurse paractioners and introduced many new ways of looking at medicine that helped undermine the male medical patriarchy.

      The old left always denigrates the idea that we can visualize what a real socialist system would look like before we actually have the revolution.  But I think a little real life practice before the revolution will help prepare us for what we will have to struggle with afterwards.  How many revolutions have you seen go bad when the revolutionaries, once they gain power, become as reactionary as those they replace.  Such activity is certainly not the whole class struggle, but I think it can provide a really important element  to our struggle for a real revolution.

      •  I think that is very nice. (5+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        NY brit expat, Geminijen, annieli, AoT, Justina

        And, like I said, it helps a few people, and that's a good thing for those few people.

        In the mean time, millions and millions of people are working at shit jobs for shit wages, and there will never be enuf money within the working class to buy co-ops for all of them.

        The working class cannot buy its way out from under capitalism, because capitalism owns the vast majority of the wealth. And that is the plain and simple fact that the co-op movement fails to address.

        Call it "old-left" all you want. But it is just the plain simple fact of what capitalism is, accumulated stolen wealth. They have the wealth and we don't, so, while it's possible for a few of us to buy our way out from under capitalism, the vast majority of workers are left out of that plan for liberating the working class.

        The rest of us working slobs, just have to keep on organizing and fighting, however "old-left" that they may be.

        God spare me the Heart to fight them... I'll fight the Pirates forever. -Mother Jones

        by JayRaye on Sun Jan 12, 2014 at 04:25:49 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  Also, the cooperatives are really part of the (4+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          NY brit expat, JayRaye, AoT, Justina

          struggle in other countries around the world.  They are not the answer, but they are definitely proving to be part of the movement toward the socialist  revolution, although they can certainly be sidetracked and used manipulatively in the ways you say.

          For a long time unions, after working with the cooperative movement in the late 1800s, only saw them as a way of buying off workers.  Recently they are beginning to see that unions and coops working together == not to become more in system -- but as a way of bringing large segments of an unemployed working class into the struggle.  

          Personally I think that by working together -- unions and the cooperative movement -- they each guard against the potential nonrevolutionary dangers  of the other and the class struggle as a whole comes out stronger for their newly formed alliance.

          Desparate times require no approaches and sentimentality for a union movement that has been dessimated, while its history is important, can only help us move forward if we open ourselves up to new possibilities.

          •  There is nothing new about the co-op movement. (4+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            annieli, AoT, Geminijen, Justina

            Mother Jones joined one way back in !870s, she left because she said she preferred to be in the thick of the fight.

            Now, I am all for food co-ops and co-op clinics, etc, as ways to help the working class cope. But millions and millions of workers will never have the opportunity to join co-ops. Never. And that is where I will stay and fight. With them, in the thick of the fight. Right now they are choosing to do so in worker organizations that are are more loosely connected than unions. I have no opinion on that. Whatever works for them is fine by me. But the idea that the vast majority of workers can ever get the money to buy their own co-op businesses is simply unrealistic. They have no choice but to stand and fight right where they are.

            God spare me the Heart to fight them... I'll fight the Pirates forever. -Mother Jones

            by JayRaye on Sun Jan 12, 2014 at 05:25:04 PM PST

            [ Parent ]

            •  I am active with the fast food workers movement (6+ / 0-)

              which uses tactics that are closer to the political approach favored by the KOL. As the the coop movement being small, at this point there are more members of coops even in the US than in labor unions and coops have become a new form of organizing workers in many third world countries where capital mobility allows MN to flee at the drop of a hat and leave large numbers of destitute workers. Even there it is not viewed as the solution ----we agree on that--but it is a major p[art of labor organizing  these days.

              BTW, while I also support consumer coops, the really radical news is that worker or producer coops are beginning to emerge and have much more potential for radical action in my view than consumer coops. This is a long discussion. I'm going to e-mail you to come back to the site to read these comments. Hope you will.

              P.S. Workers in Venezuela do not have to put up collateral to become coop members -- though they do have to pay in from their paycheck and many of the problems you are afraid of I agree r real--i.e.that money eventually ending up in the hands of some wealthy capitalist banker as just another way to redistribute the wealth when the coops fail and many do)--is one reason I wrote this column. Just think I try to keep organizing options open especially in this very difficult time of change to a global economy. I'm more afraid of total inaction than sometimes making mistakes.

              •  The Fast Food Workers conduct strikes. (3+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                NY brit expat, Geminijen, Unca Joseph

                Terence V Powderly was against strikes. The K of L was anti-strikes, believed education alone was enuf to lift the worker up out of poverty.

                The Fast Food Workers use both strikes and political action which is straight out of the AFL-CIO play book. The AFL and later the AFL-CIO always conducted both strikes and political action. Mother Jones, as an employee of the United Mine Workers (an AFL union), did both also. She was on the front lines of a strike one day, and then in the halls of congress the next day. She even got political action out of Senator Kern while she was in the Military Bastile.

                I think you are confusing the AFL with the IWW which advocated direct action over political action. Altho Wobs seem to forget that Big Bill Haywood ran for Governor of Colorado while he was chair of the IWW. But that was before they took such a hard line against political action.

                God spare me the Heart to fight them... I'll fight the Pirates forever. -Mother Jones

                by JayRaye on Sun Jan 12, 2014 at 07:43:57 PM PST

                [ Parent ]

                •  I suspect it requires both. (5+ / 0-)

                  Fast food workers are, at present, enlightened enough to realise that they are being had, as are Wal-Mart workers. Their strikes are visible  as there is a Wal-Mart and/or a McDonalds in every town. Those workers make others, whose work is equally precarious but perhaps less visible, reflect on their own situation. However, the only way to attain social justice is to convince the majority of exploited workers, from adjunct lecturers to Amazon sorters, to make common cause with each other. In the meantime, we need to support those who are out there on the leading edge.
                  However, I think the goals of most current strikers do not reflect a dissatisfaction with the current system, only with their place in it.
                  In the meantime, cooperatives show a possible, probably small-scale, alternative to the top-down businesses model. I say small-scale because apparently the larger they are, the more likely they are to adopt aspects of exploitative capitalism to compete. Until the majority of workers understand that systemic socialism is in their own best interests, coercing them to accept it will not work. If cooperatives show how it can work on a small scale, people will be more likely to accept it on a large one. Our eventual aim is to change "common sense", to  use Gramsci's term, to a place where social justice is possible.

                  "The 'Middle' is a crowded place - that is where the effective power is - the extreme right and left might annoy governments, but the middle terrifies them." Johnny Linehan

                  by northsylvania on Mon Jan 13, 2014 at 12:32:40 AM PST

                  [ Parent ]

                  •  "Coercing" (3+ / 0-)
                    Recommended by:
                    Unca Joseph, Geminijen, Justina

                    Seriously? You can't make your case without resorting to a redbaiting, anti-union word like "coercing."

                    Do you have any idea what has been perpetrated upon unions and radicals as the Capitalists accuse them of "coericing" their fellow workers into finally standing up.

                    The Copper Bosses used this very word against the strikers in Michigan to disastrous results, likewise, this is the very charge that Rockefeller used against the United Mine Workers in Colorado 1913-14, the very charge that justified bringing in the militia, again with disastrous results for the strikers.

                    And I had this very word used against me when I was suspended for the work that I did as a union shop steward during our rank and file safety action. I was suspended indefinitely (lasted about 30 days) accused of having "coerced" my fellow workers into not performing certain of their healthcare duties. Reported to the State Board, so that not only my job, but my ability to work anywhere was threatened. My co-workers were forced to sign statements that I had somehow "coerced" them into a wildcat strike, when in fact we conducted a safety action based on language in our contract. However, we won that fight, and I did win my job back.

                    This ugly accusation of "coercing" has been used against unions and radicals by the Capitalist from the start of our struggles and has no place in any anti-capitalist debate.

                    Really, northsylvania, I expected better from you then to casually throw around an anti-union, redbating words like that.

                    God spare me the Heart to fight them... I'll fight the Pirates forever. -Mother Jones

                    by JayRaye on Mon Jan 13, 2014 at 11:09:53 AM PST

                    [ Parent ]

                    •  Sorry you had to go through that -props for (2+ / 0-)
                      Recommended by:
                      Unca Joseph, Justina

                      standing your ground and winning. I know that sometimes, even after you've won you end up licking your wounds for a long time because they make it so difficult and try to make you feel so isolated.

                    •  the comment by Northsylvania (2+ / 0-)
                      Recommended by:
                      Unca Joseph, Justina

                      was referring to what I believe is a strong error on the left which is trying to institute socialism from above rather than as a democratic movement built from below. It was not a reference to tactics in the labour movement as all labour movements (with the exception of anarcho-syndicalist ones) are essentially in-system oriented more towards reform than overthrow of a system. I think that is what Northsylvania was referring to in their comment rather than anything else. On that, I agree with her; socialism must be built as a democratic movement ... it cannot be instituted from above or we will never produce a democratic socialism.

                      "Hegel noticed somewhere that all great world history facts and people so to speak twice occur. He forgot to add: the one time as tragedy, the other time as farce" Karl Marx, The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte .

                      by NY brit expat on Mon Jan 13, 2014 at 05:09:33 PM PST

                      [ Parent ]

                      •  I'm really reluctant to jump in here (2+ / 0-)
                        Recommended by:
                        Justina, Unca Joseph

                        (I'm a little weary of dkos lately) but I will, to say that Anarchists are far more supportive of non-coercive tactics than most statist-socialists, depending on how this is defined. We all may have different notions of what coercion is.

                        I apologize in advance for the length. I'll admit I get sucked into the writing process to the point of being swallowed whole. I'm a bad editor.

                        It was not a reference to tactics in the labour movement as all labour movements (with the exception of anarcho-syndicalist ones) are essentially in-system oriented more towards reform than overthrow of a system.
                        Not quite sure what you've intended to suggest, so I'll answer in broad terms, for the general readership, with an intent to inform, rather than contradict your comment.

                        I think some might think you're suggesting anarchist tactics are coercive, even if that was not your intent. And I'm not quite certain how people define coercion. I've noticed people have widely differing views on this. Is direct action coercive? Is political action non-coercive? On this, anarchists would would probably state this in reverse. I thought I'd understood this exchange until your comment, NYbrit.

                        Since anarchists believe in horizontal direct democracy, wherein each person has the right to freely associate without force, and has an equal voice in community and workplace self management, based on networks of federations of small particpaotry communities, it follows that coercion of any kind is not endorsed by anarchists, and anarchists would not force socialism on people.

                        But as to forcing socialism on people, anarchists do not see their own forced, involuntary submission to wage slavery as non-coercive, and in fact view this as a form of extreme violence, since the state, through its authority, enforces private property rights with threat of arrest, and imprisonment, and even lethal force. Anarchists thus believe they must liberate themselves from this bondage, since the ruling class (which always controls to a large degree the electoral process) will not simply have an epiphany one day and see the error of their ways, and give us back our freedom, after having been asked politely. And the ruling class includes any form of central authority.

                        So, anarchists view all forms of the state (or central authority) as extremely coercive, and based ultimately on violence (and state sponsored violence, such as drone warfare that so many indirectly support with complicit votes, is part of this of course).

                        Anarchists are only minimally supportive of top-down, hierarchical unions. These organizations are seen as undemocratic and coercive towards the rank and file workers.

                        Anarchists would not view labor strikes or direct actions to put pressure on the owning class as coercive, but rather defending against coercion and ruling class domination.

                        The reason anarchists don't usually (although there are exceptions) work within the electoral process is not because they have a violent craving to overthrow government as a preferred preference, but rather because anarchist analysis sees this approach as more or less unproductive, and designed from the outset by elites to fritter away the money, time, and energy of the working class, leaving them exhausted and apathetic. It is seen as appealing for permission from the very interests which are diametrically opposite, and which will always oppose an egalitarian, democratic, stateless society. Since the State is hierarchical, and top-down, and central, it will never concede the error of its ways and relinquish power by choice, and voluntarily give back the thieved wealth to the people and willingly embrace a bottom-up social organization.

                        Anarchists see most movement forward as deriving historically from direct action, which is more in line with anarchist theory of direct democracy and horizontalism, since with direct action, there is no intermediary above from whom we must ask for permission before acting. Direct action is not coercive, unless one thinks putting pressure on the ruling class is coercive.

                        And anarchism is not necessarily violent, and certainly isn't violent towards people , or the working class, and as to terrorism, anarchists for the most part as a whole never endorsed that, but for a few lone individuals, and most of that violence ended more than 100 years ago. Most never endorsed violence against people and the few that did tended to realize it didn't work a long time ago. But this gets into how people define violence. Anarchists do advocate civil disobedience.

                        Anarchists are the least coercive all all branches of socialism, since it is all about free association, direct democracy, based on federations of participatory communities, with each person free to participate without force or coercion.

                        I think most of you in the anti-capitalist group know most of this, so I'm writing this to be informative and to clear up confusion, not to argue or lecture.

                        "The political arena leaves one no alternative, one must either be a dunce or a rogue." Emma Goldman, Anarchism and Other Essays

                        by ZhenRen on Mon Jan 13, 2014 at 08:29:57 PM PST

                        [ Parent ]

                        •  Great Subject for a Diary Post! (2+ / 0-)
                          Recommended by:
                          Unca Joseph, ZhenRen

                          And the post is half-way written already!  Perhaps you could take a date on the Anticapitalist's Meet-up schedule?

                          Convict the War Criminals, Surveilers and Fraudsters. Support universal health care, unions, WikiLeaks, Manning and Snowden. On Occupy Wall Street! Time for a totally new, democratic economic system. Turn the corporations into worker cooperatives!

                          by Justina on Tue Jan 14, 2014 at 12:55:06 AM PST

                          [ Parent ]

                •  Throughout Labor History there has always been (2+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:
                  TPau, NY brit expat

                  a gradient of groups from those primarily doing political education and reform to those striking and refusing to d political action.  I want to look at the interaction of all these approaches and find both the good and the bad in each.

                  •  People have been arguing about this forever (3+ / 0-)
                    Recommended by:
                    Unca Joseph, NY brit expat, Justina

                    Here's an anarchist view:

                    It is by and because of the direct acts of the forerunners of social change, whether they be of peaceful or warlike nature, that the Human Conscience, the conscience of the mass, becomes aroused to the need for change. It would be very stupid to say that no good results are ever brought about by political action; sometimes good things do come about that way. But never until individual rebellion, followed by mass rebellion, has forced it. Direct action is always the clamorer, the initiator, through which the great sum of indifferentists become aware that oppression is getting intolerable.
                    Voltairine De Cleyre 1866 - 1912

                    This is from the famous essay, Direct Action, and the case for it in effecting social change. She had a great mind and was thought by some to be a skilled writer in the anarchist movement. She was originally an individualist anarchist, but evolved to be more inclusive, and some described her as becoming more in line with anarcho-communism (like Kropotkin, Malatesta, Goldman) before she died.

                    I don't take this to mean she supported a large involvement with the electoral process (she was an anarchist -- most anarchists don't), but this is a statement which I agree with.

                    "The moment some people participating in an action feel they have more of a moral commitment to those who are threatening to attack them than they do to another activist, the game is over." -David Graeber

                    by ZhenRen on Mon Jan 13, 2014 at 11:45:07 AM PST

                    [ Parent ]

            •  the coop movement is an old one indeed! (2+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              Unca Joseph, Justina

              We can go back to the early 19th century in Britain for example; it has a long history.

              I agree with you that getting the investment money to buy in is problematic on an individual level for workers; however, funds could be borrowed from the government (as was the case in Wales with a coal mine that was going down that went coop; its technology and know-how was rather useful in Chile when the mine collapsed), workers there also were able to develop codes for health and safety which they were able to provide to others (they literally have been selling their knowledge rather than coal for quite some time). Wages will be higher than in a capitalist firm as profits are not the raison d'etre in the business so that even if contributions are taken after the fact to pay back the debt, they will not be starving as in the case of a straight-forward capitalist system.

              In the 19th century in Britain, it was the coop which defeated the tommy shops (the mill towns shops) and general bad provision of food for working people by providing better quality items ... the coop bank which was mentioned above, is part of the original coop on Toad Lane which was a consumers coop, which not only does food, but appliances, funerals, credit unions, pharmacies ... to join, I had to fill out a form ... it doesn't require me working, but whatever I spend is put into a pot and people get divvies back if they are members. The Unity Trust credit union run by coop provides a safe place for community, union, and left-wing groups to keep their funds. The Coop has been around for quite some time ... it has provided much to working people ... including jobs, decent food, affordable items, funerals, etc ...  

              "Hegel noticed somewhere that all great world history facts and people so to speak twice occur. He forgot to add: the one time as tragedy, the other time as farce" Karl Marx, The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte .

              by NY brit expat on Mon Jan 13, 2014 at 07:03:34 AM PST

              [ Parent ]

            •  Um, Mondragon started after a war, in a poor . . . (4+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              ZhenRen, Geminijen, NY brit expat, Justina

              district, by a politically suppressed group. How much worse could it have been for them?

              Coops don't need to emerge fully functional from the get go. They start small with small interests and overhead. The worker owns his work. In many cases, it is only the work that is traded initially to create the coop.

              Likewise, the fact that coops have been around and have not yet taken over the world and capitalism seems like not much of a point. Neither have worker unions or socialism.

              I agree with Geminijen. We need all the tools in the toolbox we can get. We need to use every bit to leverage, worker unions, strikes, political organization, AND ways out of the capitalist system like public banking and coops.

          •  I feel like there's some wishful thinking (3+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Justina, Geminijen, NY brit expat

            going on when I read things like this:

            Personally I think that by working together -- unions and the cooperative movement -- they each guard against the potential nonrevolutionary dangers  of the other and the class struggle as a whole comes out stronger for their newly formed alliance.
            Could you elaborate on this?

            If knowledge is power and power corrupts, does that mean that knowledge corrupts?

            by AoT on Sun Jan 12, 2014 at 07:16:43 PM PST

            [ Parent ]

            •  Nessecity makes strange bedfellows., With the (3+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              AoT, NY brit expat, Justina

              increasing loss of jobs due to technological changes and outsourcing through globalization, we have ended up with large pockets of unemployed workers in all countries who have no companies within which they could try to organize a union. Some unions in the US like the Steelworkers have recognized this and are trying to support the development of coops both as job creators and a new form of organizing worker solidarity.  They are still suspicious that coops have been generally used by bosses to bust unions by offering workers worker ownership without democratic control (generally this is to the detriment of workers), so they insist on a hybrid model that includes a union in the coop.

              Mondragon didn't used to allow unions but had a social committee that was supposed to deal with worker grievances. Over time, usually when the coops developed larger economies of scale and the relationship between the coop management and the regular worker became more distant, the social committee was insufficient - otherwise workers would not have to strike as they did at ULGOR, a Mondragon coop, in 2009.

              One of the problems of coops is getting capital which unions can now provide. Better to get the money from unions which come with a worker ethos, than capitalist banks. Unions can now educate and organize a new group of workers with a workers solidarity consciousness that are in coops. And it does provide jobs This crossfertilization is just starting (much more developed in other countries than the US)although it also has a history in the past century.

              We'll just have to wait and see what happens, but we need some changes in our model and new models if the labor movement is to survive globalization. (Mondragon and the Steelworkers Union now have some joint projects)

              -

            •  C link below for benefits of labor-union alliance (4+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              Unca Joseph, NY brit expat, AoT, Justina
      •  Great, Albeit, Sad Post, Geminijen. (7+ / 0-)

        I think that the cooperative movement can be revolutionary in as much it helps their members to learn how to self-organize, self advocate and extend their organizational and administrative skills, all skills that will be crucial if we are to throw the capitalist bastards out and re-organize a human society on a large scale.

        Perhaps learning about the difficulty/futility of trying to "compete" in the capitalist economic teaches the lesson that a total overhaul of our economic is needed, not partial fixes that, perhaps, temporarily ameliorates horrible working conditions, but ultimately cannot survive in the existing profit system.  

        Cooperatives can be almost counter- revolutionary if they become simply small businesses fighting in the capitalist world to compete with private capital, almost inevitably ending up mirroring their capitalist competition. Thus, for example, opening up non-cooperative factories in low wage countries, just like their private competitors and hiring employees in place of cooperative members in their own countries.  

        Cooperatives struggling to compete with private capitalism can also divert needed energy and ideas from the work to abolish capitalism altogether.

        This is the first I have heard about  Mondragon's creation of hedge fund companies within its structure, I am aghast at the notion.  That mirrors the very worst of capitalism's greed and serves only to perpetuate the private capitalist model. What the hell was its justification for creating hedge funds?  That alone suggests that the Mondragon cooperative has turned into its very opposite.

        Maybe one of the lessons to be learned is that it is not possible to abolish global capitalism by attempting to join the global club as a "cooperative" capitalist.  

        Time to go back to the original founding principles of Mondragon, as Geminijen suggests:  keep it small, keep it local and completely equalitarian, and form alliances with other cooperatives of similar size and structure.  Even then, it must be seen as only an experimental model for building a new economic and social system.  

        Cooperatives ain't the revolution, but they can help us to get there.  Conversely, the failure of cooperatives can also teach us an important lesson: what does not work to get to a new society.

        Convict the War Criminals, Surveilers and Fraudsters. Support universal health care, unions, WikiLeaks, Manning and Snowden. On Occupy Wall Street! Time for a totally new, democratic economic system. Turn the corporations into worker cooperatives!

        by Justina on Sun Jan 12, 2014 at 07:16:42 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

    •  I totally disagree. . . (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      ZhenRen, NY brit expat, Justina

      The ruling class is dependent for EVERYTHING on the worker. Food, shelter, even yachts are all made by the worker. The ruling class stole most of the riches because they had the power to buy governments and to write the rules that way.

      Thinking you have to do this by existing rules is accepting the teaching of the rich. Organized and focused, the power still belongs to the majority. It does have the power to rewrite the rules in its favor. It just has to realize it has that power.
      Cooperatives are one way to organize large groups of people, both for economic gain and for political power.

      As Pearl Buck says, "There is always one way. When the rich get too rich, there is always a way."

    •  France demanded Haiti "compensate" paper losses (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Justina

      … after the people rebelled and ceased being slaves and colonials. That compensation became part of the settlement whereby France recognized Haiti as independent.

      Result: Haiti has been deeply indebted and impoverished ever since.

      The Dutch kids' chorus Kinderen voor Kinderen wishes all the world's children freedom from hunger, ignorance, and war. ♥ ♥ ♥ Forget Neo — The One is Minori Urakawa

      by lotlizard on Mon Jan 13, 2014 at 04:51:27 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Excellent essay and discussion, all. (6+ / 0-)

    Taking a break from work: I will return to read more in-depth later. Thank you, Geminijen!

    There is no depth to education without art.- Amiri Baraka. RIP

    by Free Jazz at High Noon on Sun Jan 12, 2014 at 03:52:38 PM PST

  •  As we work to oppose the old style (4+ / 0-)

    trade agreements like TPP and the anti-democratic actions like Fast Track, great time to read ths post.

    Move Single Payer Forward? Join 18,000 Doctors of PNHP and 185,000 member National Nurses United

    by divineorder on Sun Jan 12, 2014 at 04:04:17 PM PST

  •  Hey, ex pat, I tried to get this to the coop (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    NY brit expat, Justina

    community, but think I was too late and not sure I had proper url as it didn't light up in blue.

    We should also start sending this stuff as a text message to our mobile lists since,even if they can't comment, they can read both diary and comments at least on Iphone. I know Android is different and you need a different structure but I don't know what it is.

  •  For additional support for helping cooperatives (5+ / 0-)

    to succeed, please note that the Catholic Church doctrine (as opposed to actual practice!) strongly supports "the idea" of cooperatives. I have to go and have not read most of the other comments, but if you'd like to consider the praxis implications of Pope Francis's Evangelii Gaudium, including the idea of potentially gaining some support for structural changes that would make cooperatives more successful through urging the Church to practice what it preaches, I think there is authority to push. This is an outside the box idea that intrigues me for extending beyond the usual supporters. I will make comments like this from time to time, but I am in no way grandiose in my expectations of the Church. Here is a link on this issue:

    http://gardenvarietydemocraticsocialist.com/...

    Most importantly, I want to say how excellent this diary was Geminijen. It is quite helpful to me in learning more.

    'Til we meet again, and I will jump back on tomorrow,

    Galtisalie

    I'm on the left wing of the possible. I write for the same reasons Eric Arthur Blair did, just not as well.

    by Galtisalie on Sun Jan 12, 2014 at 05:56:04 PM PST

  •  Meaty diary. I'll have to come back to "study" it. (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    NY brit expat, Geminijen, Justina

    Poverty is not an accident. Like slavery and apartheid, it is man-made and can be removed by the actions of human beings. —Nelson Mandela

    by kaliope on Mon Jan 13, 2014 at 12:44:11 AM PST

  •  From a selfish point of view (4+ / 0-)

    This is a real bummer.  Fagor was cutting edge on cookware that made a big difference in energy conservation.  Really high quality--I love my Fagor pressure cooker, and was pondering getting some induction units.  Fagor had an outsized presence in treehuggers' lives.

    •  I wrote a very critical essay because there are (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      NY brit expat, Justina, Don midwest

      diverse views from all coops are great, especially when they can produce such great cookware, to they are counterproductive and we should just stick with the clsss struggle and trying to nationalize our economy in the public sphere.

      I really love how much Mondragon has been able to create a cooperative counterculture that does focus on the workers and communities need even in the heart of rapacious capitalism.  Which is why it is important to point out the ways it is changing so we can save it and make it better.

  •  There is a way to keep the best parts of (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Geminijen, TPau, Justina

    capitalism while eliminating the weaknesses of coopism. I don’t know what to call it, because I am not an economist or a political scientist or a historian, but the idea I am speaking of surely has been tried before. The idea is to make the government more democratic (more responsive to the wishes of the People) while permitting capitalism to operate in the same way as it now does. In this arrangement the People, through their government will establish purchasing cooperatives that will negotiate with capitalists for fair prices for the People. In this way the purchasing power of the People will be concentrated and the playing field between capitalists and consumers will be fair and balanced. The anti-democratic collusion between government and capitalism will disappear and the capitalist model will begin to function as its proponents say it should: the twin holies of holies of capitalism (competition and risk) will flourish.

    Imagine what would happen if the government announced that it was prepared to buy 5 million kitchen appliances in the next 24 months. Bidders would go nuts.

    Imagine what would happen if the government announced that it was prepared to pay for the college educations of one million high school graduates over the next four years, bidders should justify in terms of outcomes, graduation rates, lifelong earnings, etc. Bidders would go nuts.

    In my working life, I bid on many government contracts for services along these lines. The process worked, except for corruption. In the system I am speaking of, the People would organize themselves to be the watchdogs, and they would have the authority and the incentive to keep everything on the up and up.

    Sure there would be some bad actors, but overall the process has to be much better than what we have now.

    Might and Right are always fighting, in our youth it seems exciting. Right is always nearly winning, Might can hardly keep from grinning. -- Clarence Day

    by hestal on Mon Jan 13, 2014 at 06:30:37 AM PST

    •  what are the best parts of capitalism that we (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Geminijen, Unca Joseph

      want to keep? the days of capitalism being a positive leap forward compared to earlier systems are long gone ... what it is now is a parasite sucking the life out of the planet and of the vast majority living on it ... government as we can see quite clearly is not independent from the system in which it exists;that is why in the midst of an economic crisis, wages and job conditions are being undermined throughout the advanced capitalist world to keep profits high (it is bad economics, but that is what they are trying to do); the potentially profitable parts of the state sector are/have been privatised to enable more profits to be sucked out of the system.

      "Hegel noticed somewhere that all great world history facts and people so to speak twice occur. He forgot to add: the one time as tragedy, the other time as farce" Karl Marx, The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte .

      by NY brit expat on Mon Jan 13, 2014 at 06:51:25 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  The best parts include someone with (0+ / 0-)

        a good idea deciding to invest his own money and put it into action. In other cases venture capitalists may invest. There are defective government attempts to encourage this kind of capitalism by providing the capital or by buying some of the results, but this process has been corrupted in two ways: the first is that companies who control a market may persuade government to underfund the project or otherwise abandon it. And in the case of the defense industry, the officials who are supposed to manage the costs of weapons systems do a terrible job. But, done well, the role of government as a funder of innovation, or as a supervisor who insists on appropriate expenditure of government funds can work.

        I have known many people who took an idea and turned it into a business that was good for the People. We need more of them, and one way to encourage that is to provide a ready market.

        But the capitalism that holds sway today is really confidence-game economics or even outright corruption such as brokerage houses and other financial service companies.

        I agree with you assessment of the performance of our government, but I view those problems as a reason to make changes, not as a reason to throw in the towel.

        Just because you can't think of a way to solve a problem, does not mean that someone else can't do it.

        Might and Right are always fighting, in our youth it seems exciting. Right is always nearly winning, Might can hardly keep from grinning. -- Clarence Day

        by hestal on Mon Jan 13, 2014 at 07:11:23 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

    •  Isn't this sort of like the social welfare state? (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Unca Joseph, NY brit expat

      As long as the production of goods necessary for our survival is in private hands, the private owners have control of the society and can dump the public good as we have seen in many countries like Greece, England, Spain, etc. when the private economy collapsed.

      •  But the job creators depend on their ownership ... (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Galtisalie

        ... as the private ownership of production is necessary for
        their own parasitical survival.    __   Can't you even see that?
                   "Workers will own the corporations." - IWW

        •  do we want corporations? I don't! (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Unca Joseph, Justina

          I want socialism, where the ownership of the means of production and distribution are commonly owned. Private ownership of means of production and land is the foundation of inequality.

          "Hegel noticed somewhere that all great world history facts and people so to speak twice occur. He forgot to add: the one time as tragedy, the other time as farce" Karl Marx, The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte .

          by NY brit expat on Mon Jan 13, 2014 at 05:12:08 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  my Dear NY brit expat, (0+ / 0-)

            My comment was not directed at you.
               I was most impressed 'Geminijen', and was attempting to better discern
            this gentle beings nature with a bit of mild sarcasm.
               You are most interesting yourself . . .
            So I say to you 'Good Luck' and 'Godspeed' in your pacifist attempts to convert greedy chickenhawk neo-fascists into loving, humanitarian socialists.   Adieu . . .
                                                 

      •  Not if the playing field is level. (0+ / 0-)

        Under our current system of capitalism, the capitalists work to gain competitive advantage by techniques such as favorable laws, monopolies, consolidation of competing companies, raiding pension funds, etc. All of these practices work against the common good. These tyranno-capitalists are able to get away with it by buying off Congress, which is the only part of our government that is supposed to defend the interests of the People. So, the People are on the outside looking in, they are constantly being exploited by tyranno-capitalists.

        But by making the government more democratic, which means it will respond to the wishes of the People, then capitalists will have to compete with each other by means of price, quality, service, reliability, square-deals, etc.

        Our present predicament in government, economics, medicine, etc. is due to poor systems design. All it takes is a system upgrade. What we need to do is easy to see. The hard part is getting there from here. The typical proposals from those who want change, involve marching in the streets, getting out the vote, becoming activists, etc. But those ideas, boiled down, are nothing more than trying to change a system that does not want to be changed and which has the built-in power to maintain its power. What is needed is an inter-generational approach to getting change. There is such a way and we have actually followed it a few times in our history and we need to do it again. It is not obvious, but once you hear about it, you will say that is totally obvious. I have actually lived through it.

        I'm working on telling the story.

        Might and Right are always fighting, in our youth it seems exciting. Right is always nearly winning, Might can hardly keep from grinning. -- Clarence Day

        by hestal on Mon Jan 13, 2014 at 12:58:25 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  But the playing field is crooked . . . (0+ / 0-)

          . . . and your outright defense of 'our current system of capitalism' is abhorrent.

          •  A person who does not read might as well (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Geminijen

            be a person who cannot read.

            Just because you cannot think of a way to solve a problem does not mean that others cannot. As I said, there is a way forward and I am working on it. In other words I am not sitting on my lazy ass criticizing others. By discouraging those who are working to improve life for all, which you are doing, you are protecting capitalism as it is now constituted. Nice try, but I see what you are doing.

            Might and Right are always fighting, in our youth it seems exciting. Right is always nearly winning, Might can hardly keep from grinning. -- Clarence Day

            by hestal on Tue Jan 14, 2014 at 07:11:41 AM PST

            [ Parent ]

      •  No, it isn't like the social welfare state. (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Geminijen

        But  keep trying, I am sure you will find a way to say that the situation is hopeless.

        In my working life I made changes to large enterprises to make them work better. That is what I was hired to do. And I constantly had to deal with people who hated the situation but thought the situation was hopeless and so they threw up their hands. Society does not make progress that way. Society is actually harmed by the naysayers. They need to get to work, or get out of the way.

        Might and Right are always fighting, in our youth it seems exciting. Right is always nearly winning, Might can hardly keep from grinning. -- Clarence Day

        by hestal on Tue Jan 14, 2014 at 07:15:59 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

    •  Sorry, No Capitalism Has Got To Be Abolished! (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Unca Joseph, Geminijen

      You wrote "* There is a way to keep the best parts of
      capitalism while eliminating the weaknesses of coopism."

      I believe that it is precisely because Mondragon has embraced many aspects of capitalism (low wage, employee producing factories abroad and employee producing factories at home) that it is failing as a cooperative and as a capitalist enterprise.
      Capitalism sucks the whole economy into a solely profit-driving mechanism which deeply undermines a truely human centered economy.

      Convict the War Criminals, Surveilers and Fraudsters. Support universal health care, unions, WikiLeaks, Manning and Snowden. On Occupy Wall Street! Time for a totally new, democratic economic system. Turn the corporations into worker cooperatives!

      by Justina on Tue Jan 14, 2014 at 01:03:51 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  As an alternative I propose.... (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    FG

    ..."progressive capitalism" rather than socialism, the anti-thesis.

    I agree that today's capitalism is wrong, very wrong.  Then again, I don't see socialism as the only alternative.  I cannot imagine socialism working from Main Street to Silicon Valley and many other key areas of our economy.

    Myself I want to walk the walk so I am forming a "benefit corporation" and a coop for one of the startups I am involved with.

    Daily Kos an oasis of truth. Truth that leads to action.

    by Shockwave on Mon Jan 13, 2014 at 08:01:17 AM PST

  •  I wrote a wonderful (for me) comment (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    TPau, Unca Joseph, NY brit expat

    and went to check one of the links and lost my comment. (I forgot that in Daily Kos comments you can't check your links and then come back to your comment.) I give up!

    I will not try to recreate it but tell you that I waxed on about how the cigar workers of the early 1900s that are a large part of my heritage were multi-tendency.

    They had their mutual aid societies, and they fought for the right to organize their labor for decades, and they tried to elect their own to office (and were sometimes successful, leading to annexation to stop that from happening again), and they supported Marti' (and decades later they supported Castro). My great great uncle, who was a lector, read to them what they democratically voted on they wanted read to them, which was often "Marx and other radical writers." Some workers thought of themselves more as anarchists, others more as socialists, others more as communists, but they were all radicalized labor (and threatened through their words, ideas, and actions the existing power structure of Florida) and ultimately they all got along (but woe to the scabs). For daring to think and to organize they were repressed in every way Hellsraisers Journal describes.

    I am pro-union, and pro-cooperative, and pro-system change, and pro-democracy. I am multi-tendency just like my grandmother, a proud cigar worker, and her people. And I think that if socialism is ever going to work it will have to be multi-tendency too, figuring out what works and implementing it democratically on a day to day basis. It will not be easy, for the world and the residual problems are complex, even were we rid of capitalism.

    I hope that I am loving, just like my grandmother, but also, just like her, know who is on the side of the working people, the exploited, the desperate, and the weak, and who is not.

    (This, by the way, will be the great challenge to Pope Francis: whether he will be willing to be "a divider" [forgive me Grandma, I have used a W term--the only consolation of her death at 89 I can think of was that she never had to live under W]. So much easier to be a sweet-talking "uniter" in a way that keeps "St. Patrick's Cathedral's remodeling project funded by the rich," than to be seen as being wild, and like Jesus, kicking those exploiters of the poor out on their selfish arses. If the world is going to change the way it needs to, it will not make the wealthy happy, no two ways about it, and it is not my prediction that the Church will be willing to accept this fact. So again, please don't take me for a dupe on the Church issues. But I want to work with the Church when and if the opportunity presents itself, and I have put a lot of thought into that issue because of my personal background.)

    Thank you for a vigorous and enlightening discussion. I am able to sit on my metaphorical cigar worker bench and listen to what you each have to say. Just like old, old times, which are constantly interrupted by one reactionary dirty trick or another, but we keep on sharing our ideas, and hopefully implementing them, en masse one day, but in the meantime, the best we can.

    I will leave you with a couple of other links about cooperatives, one that demonstrates that cooperatives can work well for financial services even under capitalism, and the second that shows that cooperatives/worker control must play a large role in any ideal/post-revolutionary society to avoid reconstructing capitalism.

    http://www.alternet.org/...

    http://gardenvarietydemocraticsocialist.com/...

    I'm on the left wing of the possible. I write for the same reasons Eric Arthur Blair did, just not as well.

    by Galtisalie on Mon Jan 13, 2014 at 09:35:47 AM PST

    •  Just to elaborate on the Bank of North Dakota (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      NY brit expat, Unca Joseph

      example, which is discussed in the first link:

      It was a progressive era entity that is still around. It pays management responsibly, or at least much more responsibly than private "second gilded age" banks do. It has an ethos at least to some extent of furthering the public needs of its jurisdiction as opposed to being purely private profit-oriented and recklessly investing around the planet according to the latest capitalist crap-shooting schemes with other people's money.

      It is in fact continually attacked for, and described in the title as, being "socialism," but it has survived a long time these kind of attacks and apparently is a generally-accepted part of the landscape.

      I am not endorsing all of its specific lending decisions, because according to some of the comments, it lends to finance some environmentally-questionable fossil fuel projects which all or most of us would oppose. But at least it is better than giving an added layer of fat to Wall Street, gives the regular people who invest in it a better alternative for banking, and may less bizarrely manage investments and avoid some of the sophisticated explosive paper few understand, perhaps since the management is not compensated for gambling.

      Anything that will cut out all or some of the financial riff-raff seems sensible and builds confidence that "socialism" is not such a bad idea after all. That is why many of the ideological right wingers oppose it so vehemently. They talk a good game about opposing socialism, but ultimately, they want to socialize costs and not profits. Now if the U.S. would just do that nation-wide in the finance sector, and ideally expand to a few other industrial sectors that have in many places slipped from public control, such as utilities, it would begin to threaten many assumptions and build grass roots support for not viewing the investor class as being the legitimate lords of our economy. Meanwhile, in an Gramscian way, it benefits anti-capitalist common sense.

      That is how I see it anyway.

       

      I'm on the left wing of the possible. I write for the same reasons Eric Arthur Blair did, just not as well.

      by Galtisalie on Mon Jan 13, 2014 at 12:49:52 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  I should not have included the word "ideological" (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Geminijen, Unca Joseph

        before right wingers. I could not give a hoot if they are sincere or not. It is hypocritical and wrong whether or not they realize or have a pretense or theoretical justification. Pope Francis said so!

        I'm on the left wing of the possible. I write for the same reasons Eric Arthur Blair did, just not as well.

        by Galtisalie on Mon Jan 13, 2014 at 04:25:25 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

  •  So sorry to be so tardy! (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Geminijen, NY brit expat, Justina

    Geminigen-
    What a great article. So much to consider. Here are some of my initial thoughts, for what it is worth at this late date.

    I have to disagree with the premise that civil unrest and class struggle would have been better somehow than bankruptcy. Okay, Fagor is going under, and for the anarchist model, that is a failure. But the anarchist model is not a magical model. There have been great successes and forward strides. There will be failures. Purely capitalist corporations go under all the time, and no one doubts capitalism will survive. Socialism has had its fair share of failures. That is the reality of life. Disappointing, but life is generally disappointing compared to magic.

    Civil unrest and open disruptive struggle do not have a great track record, either. They end in military dictatorship more often than they end in blissful democracy. And  they put the country in question into extreme economic distress usually for decades after they occur. The failure of Fagor has left many unemployed, and put Mondragon in jeopardy. But it has not created a military dictatorship in Spain or even in Basque. No one is laying dead in the streets. The economy of Spain is largely unchanged—it is just as bad as it was before.

    All the players here live to fight for economic justice another day.

    They have a choice here: give up and stop fighting the capitalist hurricane or take the hard lessons life just dealt you and internalize them to make your endeavor stronger.

    What could Mondragon have done to avoid this disaster, or avoid it in the next economic down turn? Several things:

    1.) The bank of Mondragon got caught up in the housing market schemes and hedge funds, just like other banks in the area, in an attempt to get rich quick. That put them at risk in the first place. We should all take a hard look at that and avoid anything that smells of Casino Capitalism from here on out. If it seems to good to be true, it is.

    2.) When the crisis hit, it was housing that was the main problem. Father José María Arizmendiarrieta had a way of looking at crisis when they showed up during his lifetime. Remember, he started Mondragon as a school because the community needed a school. During its life, Mondragon has provided housing, healthcare and education to its members. He took a very long horizon view. If the workers don't have homes they will not buy goods. Thus, a socially responsible corporation should supply them with homes so they are stable enough to purchase goods. Should the workers who were going to lose their jobs be employed at building modest housing for those losing their homes? Should the bank resources be used to purchase mortgages from banks about to foreclose and rewrite the terms to a 40 yr loan or a 50 yr loan or just pay the interest and no capital for the next year so that people would stay in their homes and purchase goods?

    3.) After so many years, one would have thought that Mondragon had the resources to weather a storm like this. When recovery does happen, find a way to put something away to weather the next storm.

    4.) Alperovitz is right in my opinion. States give advantage to large corporations because they are pressured to do so. Here in the Pacific Northwest the plane building giant, Boeing, just forced the state of Washington to give them a huge tax holiday by threatening to close plants. That is an old story. Cooperatives should find ways to force governments to put them at such a competitive advantage. For example, reinstating tariffs on good from outside the country if the goods can be made within the country. This would negate the price advantage of low wage workers elsewhere in the world and decrease the fuel spent transporting goods from far away places, improving global warming. A win for everyone BUT big corporations. If you are a regular working person, “free market” is NOT your friend.

    5.)

    Instead of using networking of local cooperatives as support for each other and as a  buffer against rapacious capitalist outsourcing, it has developed 25 partnerships between local parent cooperatives in high wage countries and private non-cooperative companies in low wage countries. In a 1999-2006 study MCC justifies this major deviation from cooperative principals by saying that they will be more competitive with the pricing of capitalist multinationals so that  they will have to lay of fewer workers in the cooperatives and that they can eventually educate and introduce worker cooperatives in their non-cooperative companies in low wage countries.
    How's that working out for them? Okay, there's a lesson for future anarchists. Mondragon should NOT have had two pay scales running at the same time, one for Spain and one for poor foreign nationals. It also should not have had a huge number of “hired” workers. They should have taken Henry Ford's point of view; pay the worker enough to afford the products you sell. And it should have stuck to supporting any community it was in, not joined the capitalists in raping one community for the benefit of another. Great lesson for the future cooperative.

    6.)

    "It was never the goal of the Mondragón Corporation to seek a planning solution to the problems of the Spanish economy. Nor was "changing the system" part and parcel of its primary mission. It always sought to compete successfully in the existing system, at the same time demonstrating a superior form of internal organization. Americans concerned about fundamental, longer-term change need to ponder this particular point carefully. The challenge any system-changing vision presents is at least twofold: First, how to include new models of cooperative organization in a larger strategy that includes managing (and restructuring) the wider economy in its goals; second, how to begin to think through much more carefully issues of sectoral planning within larger democratic or participatory planning goals 
    Right again. Or perhaps the importance of these missions should be reversed given what is occurring on a global scale right now. Perhaps it is more important to create inroads to a stable social/economic system within small geographic locations than to compete with capitalism on a global scale. Own the hearts and minds of one small village, then another and another until you have the strength and power to compete against the capitalist whole. After all, capitalism did not take on all of feudalism in one grand battle and win. It won a little at a time, slowly over hundreds of years.

    7.) I would point out that Venezuela's state planning has a local flavor, different than nationalizing the automakers in the US. The workers definitely did not “win” in the nationalization of the auto industry. Michigan is a wasteland. It was far from successful here in the US. Better to have a local focus on temporary nationalization and then give a nationalized company to the workers as a cooperative rather than back to the corporate leadership so they can continue to run it into the ground. Socialization/nationalization has made its share of errors over time as well.

    8.)

    For decades, the giant network of industrial and retail cooperatives of Mondragon was held up as an international model of solidarity -- whenever one co-op got into trouble, the rest of the Mondragón Corporation would rescue it with cash or take on workers at risk of losing their jobs. In this year of 2013, the Mondragon Corp voted for the first time, to let one of the coops (Fagor) go bankrupt. Of the 109 remaining coops, all but three coops wanted to continue to bail Fagor out but the Board of Directors of Caja Laboral and Eroski, the other two largest coops (which also happen to be the two coops that have strayed furthest from the coop model in terms of a nondemocratic hierarchy and risky financial speculation) voted to let Fagor go bankrupt and, since the vote has to be unanimous, broke the solidarity pact that has been the backbone of the Mondragon  model.
    People who are in charge of other people's money always make poor decisions. Strict adherence to democratic principals and placing the power into the hands of the people is a key element of worker-owner corporations that can not be sacrificed. Period.
    •  so glad to see you tpau!! :) (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Unca Joseph

      "Hegel noticed somewhere that all great world history facts and people so to speak twice occur. He forgot to add: the one time as tragedy, the other time as farce" Karl Marx, The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte .

      by NY brit expat on Mon Jan 13, 2014 at 04:55:06 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  Great Comment, TPau! n/t (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Unca Joseph

      Convict the War Criminals, Surveilers and Fraudsters. Support universal health care, unions, WikiLeaks, Manning and Snowden. On Occupy Wall Street! Time for a totally new, democratic economic system. Turn the corporations into worker cooperatives!

      by Justina on Tue Jan 14, 2014 at 01:07:40 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  About that Fagor wage slavery overseas and (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Geminijen, NY brit expat, Unca Joseph

    at home. Cooperative members who receive the benefits of cooperation only then to become capitalists with their own low wage hired hands is disgraceful and not any less of exploitation than that done by any other capitalists.

    So, I think JayRaye hits on an important point regarding the apparent lack of solidarity sometimes shown outside those with cooperative membership that can occur. By analogy, assume, for the sake of argument, the grocery store I shop at is cooperatively owned, and so is the office supply store next door. In the morning early on the way to my regular job, I go to the office supply store and see a woman working, and then after work, on my way home, I see her in another uniform working at the grocery store. She has two part-time jobs. This is typical in modern day U.S. employment. It would not be rendered more exploitative if her employers were Office Depot and (I'm in the Deep South) Publix. I use a real example I see on a weekly basis, except not with a cooperative-exploited employee. I want to focus my efforts on getting justice for that exploited employee not switching her exploiter.

    I realize that there are many good cooperatives, and again, for me cooperatives are an incredibly important part of the end where we want to be one day, and in the meantime can provide a lot of good mutual aid, but it is just something very real to ponder.

    By the same token, I worry about lack of solidarity across all forms of boundaries. It is certainly not just a problem with cooperatives. It exists across national, ethnic, sex, sexuality boundaries, etc. I know that it is a point of great concern and sensitivity, which I must face up to. It is good that many such as Left Unity in the UK are making feminism a high priority for this very reason. Within countries we must break down barriers based on a whole range of prejudices.

    Beyond the nation state paradigm, I am a citizen of the world, first and foremost, and to be segregating oneself behind any walls has no place. Tough, complex issues, but they are issues that to their credit the internationalist Marxists seem to have a pretty good theoretical answer for, one which I happen to accept and the challenge is to make it a reality under always tough circumstances with the reactionaries, usually with CIA funding, trying to spoil any successes, and, to me, the need to ensure the end result is not authoritarian. I am pro-Bolivarian, and I applaud the spirit of working to make Latin America a place for cooperatives that also do not forget to remain in solidarity.

    With resource competition and land grabs from poor people all around the world, justice in the service of love is ever the gold standard to me. It will never be easy to work out the details, and life will always be a work in progress (or regress), but the only moral choice is to keep trying.

    I started reading something TPau wrote at his website on trade issues that seems excellent regardless of where specifically one comes from in terms of anti-capitalism. There is so much for me to learn here among this group.
    Thank you all for the work of solidarity in creating and maintaining this unique group at Daily Kos. I hope it is around as long as it is needed. I hope that that is not a long period of time, but we all have to build ourselves and our movement of solidarity to last, so take care of yourselves and be nourished in the generosity you are showing your fellow humans by your work here in this diary and string and others down the road.

    In solidarity,

    Galtisalie

    I'm on the left wing of the possible. I write for the same reasons Eric Arthur Blair did, just not as well.

    by Galtisalie on Mon Jan 13, 2014 at 03:57:41 PM PST

  •  Thanks for a great discussion. BTW it really reads (4+ / 0-)

    well on my Iphone even if you can't comment there! See you next week!

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