The Strange Death of Co-operative England: comment

The Strange Death of Co-operative England, by Carl Rowlands : . Some comments. (link here , if it does not work please google the article which is put out by New Left Project)

What might help a revival.

  Cooperatives and mutuals have at best secondary supplementary, presence in the economy of England, these in the main the surviving mutuals and consumer cooperatives .  Most are instrumental and corporate with nominal mutual democratic governance and poor membership engagement.  They are survivors of a form of enterprise that grew in cultural conditions that have all but withered.  Rowlands article deals nearly exclusively with the consumer cooperatives that have with a few exceptions lost dynamism and live off assets built up by past generations. Rowlands mentions   Beatrice Webb  as major influence on the understanding of cooperatives in the UK which for her were preferentially  consumer coops.  G. D. H. Cole instead believed that consumer directed cooperatives tends to passivity while a worker directed economic democracy, as “democracy at work” would be liable be more active and vital.   The Webbs, Beatrice and Sidney,  were very effective propagandists and have had a considerable influence. They advocated top down paternalistic technical governance, though this was contextualized within UK’s parliamentary semi-democracy. Late in life they fell in love with Stalinist Soviet Union which they fooled themselves into believing was the socialist future.  Their influence lingers on with a top-dowm manageralism prevalent in public sector and which extends to mainstream cooperatives and mutuals, this has led to poor membership engagement.

  When the general strike failed in 1926 the Webbs celebrated the demise of the influence of the syndicalist and guild socialist movements which campaigned for industrial democracy. The idea of the citizen or worker participation in the administration of their workplace or for that matter citizens in general or tenants having direct part in the running of their housing was dismissed by them. The legacy of this attitude survives, cooperatives in the UK are dominated by the consumer form and are usually seen by the public as such.  Mutual organizations usually have even less membership engagement. While worker cooperatives have a weak presence in the UK and have never developed a mature self-sustaining federative structure based on supporting secondary cooperatives, which include, effective self financing instruments, sourced from the community and workers in a democratic multi-stakeholder relationships. In addition, to a democratic multi stakeholder financial facility, they need a way of developing new enterprises from within this relationship, with research, education, training and cooperative enterprise incubators.  Such a development is liable to attract those with ideas and drive to form new democratic enterprises. This as some have pointed out is the building up of a self forming systemic relationship required to maintain a cooperative culture and practice within a capitalist dominated world.

  The tendency in the long run is to accommodation and absorption. Can there be a cooperative means  of  escaping the Uranian gravity of a corporate capitalist dominated world?  A systemic approach seems the best bet to achieve a density of interrelated and mutually supporting cooperative forms, with viable practice, product and administration  This needs  a change of culture which leads to a more widely engaged membership across the various stakeholder  categories, be they worker, tennent, customer or investor, as appropriate.

 To complete a rough sketch of what belongs to the cooperative spectrum mention can be made of  employee ownership, this path has some very successful enterprises though are ambiguous as part of a worker cooperative movement. There are also a host of emerging cooperatives forms,  most modest, many as vehicles for the preservation of dying services in communities were these have been hollowed out. Subsidies has allowed the emergence of community renewable energy cooperative forms. The Phone Coop and the Energy Cooperative are recent projects at scale but are rare. See Cooperative Economy information on blog roll left on screen Cooperatives UK

Coop  Group Troubles

The recent troubles in the Cooperative Group have led to a watered down version of PLC corporate governance adopted, as advocated by Lord Myners; who signed off Fred Goodwin’s huge salary and bonus as this corporate genius was helping to wreak the RBS bank and the British economy. The appointees of this board will have the appropriate corporate capitalist pedigree with salaries, while the Cooperative Group pays many of their shop floor workers a few pennies above the minimum wage.  There is a nominal supposed commitment to cooperative principles but what that means is open to question.  The cooperative group has been bounced into having a PLC like 10 person board,  7 who will be appointed and three who will be appointees of a supervisor council of no more than 100 elected members. This has all the hall marks of democratic centralism. They had to bring the issue of governance to a conclusion and under the circumstances the result might be understandable.

  There was some opposition and this was illustrated by a 17% vote against registered at the August 3oth 2014, meeting to decide on the new governing rule book  of the Cooperative Group   These opposed the changes as they were proposed, and  argued that the democratic governance was being substituted by  PLC type structure while the cooperative nature and principles of the group is compromised by the changes.The governance of the Cooperative Group has  been poor  and improvements were needed and were poor as cooperative and hardly anything to be defended.  The elections were little more than a sham.  Members were sent a short statement with name and a small photo and unless the member was   in the know through insider knowledge they were hardly able to know who to vote for.  There was no way to get to know the candidates, there was little interaction between members and those elected, who furthermore were bound to confidentiality pledges,  this bound to lead to poor transparency or accountability.  The result is that  at most 3% of the membership bothered to vote. The Cooperative Group was supposedly under the governance of some 500 people in different regional committees who seem themselves poorly informed or able to understand the problems of the Group.  All this hardly a good example of cooperative principles, the issue that those who opposed the reform campaigned on.

A campaign it seems at least in part organized by Cooperative Business Consultants, has been the main drive against the form the recent reforms to the Cooperative Groups governance took. They perhaps with others have organised two conferences on cooperative governance  calling for a deeper understanding and practice more fully compatible with cooperative principles, Way Forward I and II.   They now have scheduled a Way Forward III  conference for January 23rd 2015.  These conferences seem aimed at cooperative consultants and practitioners so will be bound to be a conversation which each other and poorly connect with those outside. A consideration might be making Way Forward : Associating for a Democratic Economy so turning it into an association open to open membership to all who subscribe to a set of principle and objectives and work to make them a practical reality.  It is not as if we lack the problems which beg new types of solutions, more inclusive, equitable, environmentally responsible, building up democratic commonwealth, distributing benefits in kind or financial and that does not have taken-all the power and money administrations. The association can be free of political party affiliation so more open to a wider public.

A first port of call might be to put forward a slate of candidates for election to Cooperative Groups council with a clear committment to better engagement with members and public and declaring clear principles and objectives.  If 6-10% of the Cooperative Groups members voted and demanded to be treated in an adult way, which included a commitment to more accountability, transparency and engagement with membership. This precedent might then be applied to other mutuals and eventually demanded within the public sector. A working example would advance this cause.  Perhaps the We Own It campaign can consider extending their area of interest to large Cooperatives and Mutuals.

  Already The Way Forward people have used the internet lobbying vehicle Change and such internet mechanisms. as  38 Degrees point to ways facilitating better stewardship and engaged membership.  The internet alone will lead to capricious associations, this will need to be supplemented with more direct and substantive association.   A bit of light schism might be stimulating, though what is suggested here will need to be worked into a pragmatic form, structure, culture and practice.

Is there life after all?

PS,  An alarming development:

The FCAs ( Financial Conduct Authority) proposed stipulation of severely limiting interest or dividends to investors in (bencoms?) and IPS type coops will kill them off as a serious option for running an enterprise or building a significant sector on democratic economic principles. This needs an evolved set of self reinforcing relationships between the various stakeholder groups which gives each appropriate  benefits, financial or in kind, based on a symmetry of benefits principle. Cooperatives are enterprises and need to be run on what might be called principled pragmatism. They need to at least to break even financially and are not charities.   They need to be flexibly applied to meet various kinds of needs  and functions, as they arise, and may have more that one stakeholder membership category, each should be given its due as appropriate. They greatly benefit from non dominant patient capital   which comes from IPS type withrawable shares, These are invested usually with the aim of a mutual  benefit on the understanding that the investment is only withdrawble after a lock in stipulation has been met, if there are sufficient funds at the time, and that this is done at risk.  A condition needed to raise venture capital to pioneer new coops. It is an adult and informed relationship all being correct, that does not justify over regulation and the stifling of the citizens right to choose. The returns on investments are pitched to be sufficient to attract and hold what is needed and this will vary with circumstances.  A narrow and restrictive application of the regulations both in regard of how IPS type coops can used and how they remunerate their investor stakeholder members will be damaging.   It might be a living death, if this stands as reported by some.   See Link here

In Interesting times, are there buds of Economic Democracy?

We may be in interesting times, ominous as the Chinese Curse implies. The Economic recovery if it be such seems to be skewed towards benefiting  a small portion of the population.  Evidence grows that wages have flatlined  for the majority and earnings for the poorer half of the population is falling in developed countries such as the USA and Uk.  Any recovery seems confined to the better off and driven by an artificially primed house price bubble with quantitive  easing, low interests and mortgage guarantees,  this  may  become unsustainable. The hope is that this will release business animal spirits. Time will tell whether this is a weak unbalanced recovery, some indications point to this possibility. A  wealth gap  seems to be widening, as Thomas Piketty and  several others  have indicated.and if  so this shows up,  no denial will do.  It seems that  wealth is still growing and spreading in the developing world, usually driven by  economies based on a mixture of market and state directed governance.  While in highly developed economies dominated by finance, increases of wealth, where it occurs is being grabbed by the richest portion of the population.  Harry Shutt and Gar Alperovitz in slightly different ways indicate that we have entered a period of stagnation and perhaps decline, which Alperovitz  calls ‘punctuated stagnation’.  If this becomes clear and many face declining living standards then the search for other options will gain traction.

Some recent items and papers from think tanks such as CLASS  and NEF  have picked up the theme defined by Andy Cumbers, a redefining of public ownership in an economic democracy form.   This theme has also surfaced in items on the Compass site.  These are largely directed towards the public sector. This needs pioneering among autonomous self forming cooperatives and mutual enterprises if  not to degenerate into a top down  centralizing Webbian bureaucratic paternalism so often promoted by agencies funded by institutional power . This leads to the adoption of governance tainted  by corporate business management  practice and ideology.  The paymaster will tend to shape the agenda. Autonomy and self-sufficiency when ever possible is  vitalizing  and allows development of new forms of governance and enterprise defined from grass-roots that is conducive to membership /citizen engagement and economic democracy.  This all being well will lead to viable solutions that are inclusive and equitable.

A movement for economic democracy will be predominantly an economic one,  this needs to define  clear social purpose while developing instrumental functions that deliver good products or services.  Research is needed to develop good practice.  A dedicated   organisation is ideally needed to develop and define such an agenda. Should the economic recovery be partial and fail for many, these proposals might begin to make more sense.  In the end all the papers and reports count for little if  the doing does not follow. The implementation of enterprises based on economic democracy through direct agency, doing it ourselves in a cooperative way within communities, as a start, will allow the practice to be tested and honed,  and if successful will prompt the politics to follow.   Proposals for new solutions based on multi-stakeholder participation and democracy may be preliminary signs of  a spring towards an emancipatory economy.

FC United of Manchester, a medium-sized mutual under membership control, with healthy engagement , seems to be   a current example of developing forms of governance suggested above. This example is being used by a fan based football club but the form and practice may lend itself to adoption and application in other areas of the economy both as autonomous enterprises in the market and also in the municipal and public sectors.

See Links in Blogroll left on Screen     :  Democratic Public Ownership for the 21st Century ;  and      :  NEF- New agenda for public services beyond the Market

Cooperative Enterprise and System Change

Joe Guinan has written a piece called Cooperative Enterprise and System Change which clarifies what this might mean in a short paper.   Joe Guinan works in association with Gar Alperovitz at the Democracy Collaborative and in a similar theme on the pluralistic commonwealth go to the  link here.

This blog mutualsforecondemocracy is an attempt to prompt thought and action around this theme with emphasis on how a culture of “direct agency” or ” dong it ourselves” can be revived, similar to early cooperative pioneers operating in unfavourable circumstances such as the early British cooperatives  in the 1820-40s.  The other example is the Mondragon Coops that emerged in the Basque Country (1956)  after the Spanish Civil war under a dictatorship.  We are today blighted by a quasi authoritarian economic system which impacts on  politics that tends to inequality and exclusion .  Democracy as a practise is blighted while excluded from the economic aspects of our lives. A key element in the pioneering periods was a community including workers, able to socialize and democratize capital though autonomous means by using a mutual instruments, like a credit union,  where savings can be invested and then used to finance cooperatives.  This requires a symmetry of benefits,  so that the interest of all stakeholders are cared for without capital as investments dominating.  Some savings will belong to the community as retained surpluses or individual savings, often including those of the retired, all stakeholder groups need  consideration without undermining the democratic multi-stakeholder relationship of which  Worker cooperative and co ownerships can be a central aspect.  This seems to be best achieved in a federative systemic relationship and with democratic finance and education, research and training, enabling support  to an incubatory culture that allows democratic enterprises to emerge .  Things might begin to be different if there are enough people willing to risk trying to do enterprise  in an equitable and democratic way, but then there has to be done with competence to become a reality.

If interested scroll to first blog which gives an idea of the theme of the site:   1.  Is there a Mutual Road to Economic Democracy?

 

 

Carl Davidson on Jackson Rising Conference Mississippi

The Jackson Rising conference on the Solidarity Economy was held in May 2 to 4, in Mississippi USA.  This puts the theme of democratization of the economy as an aspect of  fuller emancipation of Afro-Americans and others.  The conference was a homage to  Chokwe Lumumba, who died early this year shortly after being elected mayor of Jackson. His aspiration was to create an economy that works equitably and the flavour of the conference gives a sense of the inspiration that prompts people  to pioneer cooperative solutions for workers and their communities. The report is by Carl Davidson, on the Solidarity Economy Net web site, see Blog roll.

There is  also a closely related  item on Keys to a Worker Owned Economy on the same site .

Patrick Gray, Coop Group troubles and Comments

Looking for solutions for good governance and administration of democratic enterprises

Patrick Grey of Midcounties Cooperative talks good sense regarding the reform of the governance and management of the Cooperative Group. In recent times the democratic character of the large corporate consumer cooperatives has been poor.  The elections to the regional councils have low participation and the electors are poorly informed on who they are voting for and what these folk stand for.  The result is that only few in the know, vote, a perfect condition for coterie capture, even if unwitting. The elected members seem to be in a bubble and poorly informed.  Engagement with the general membership is all but non-existent and in so far as there is democracy at all it is in purdah. Apparently those elected have to commit to a vow of non communication with outsiders because of commercial confidentiality;  the new cover up all, as business eats up the public sector.  As if this was not bad enough the enterprises administration has become a disaster. New thinking is needed and reforms made to both the democratic governance and management conducive to an enterprise with a  social purpose  and democratic.   This at least maintaining in good order the commonwealth trust, built upon the efforts of past members, that larger  cooperatives represent if acting as such. The reality is that  enterprises true to cooperative principles  need to negotiate the difficulties of surviving within an economy  based on market capitalism.   Under these conditions it is a difficult to remain in the long-term and at scale a viable enterprise true to operative cooperative principles, it needs special skills and a supporting culture which include clear do-able principles and practice, enterprise with adaptability without loosing  cooperative purpose.

The Myners report has an element of shock and awe about it, bombast can put people’s backs up.  A take or leave it “I know best and will decide for your best interest”  is the prevalent attitude.  However it seems that he has not exaggerated, and the cooperative group seems in hoc to an array of  corporate banks.  These may become twitchy and call in their debts and exposure could go critical.  Any debt expositor to the post Cooperative Bank will be will tend to make the Cooperative Group a  debt serf to the vulture funds that now largely own the  bank.  The ambiguous “brand” of “ethical’ is the weak cord that might stay a dismembering and devouring of cooperative assets by  corporate capital of much of what is left of compromised  cooperative commonwealth that the group represents. Consumer cooperative are only one aspect of what cooperatives represent but they are the most prominent form in the UK.   The Cooperative Group seem to have managed to be poor in  both its democracy and management.  Some of what are under the Cooperative UK banner are nominally instrumental cooperatives. Democracy is in effect nearly non-existent, membership is generally passive if not dormant.  This is generally even worse with many other mutual forms, such as mutual insurance, building societies, credit unions, as is also the case also with trade unions.  Associational solidarity as  democratic practice is generally at a low ebb.  We no longer live in a culture which values a moderated collectivism that an associational democratic enterprise requires if it is to be vital.  Membership all too often  relegated as a category and instead customer/customer is pressed as a substitute to membership or citizenship. Membership is based on one vote per person and not on a franchise  proportional to units of ownership or purchasing power. A fundamental characteristic of democratic enterprises, cooperatives and mutuals is that they have an egalitarian core or commons to them that substantiate equitable relationships.  These have to be operative to mean anything.  Lip service will usually be made by mutual functionaries to this but the conduct all too often tends to managerialism,  with the large salary culture copied from management in the private sector. Take all,  power and money is seen as the mark of the “professional”.  The  functionaries in mutuals  are sometimes weakly held to account and democracy amounts to going through the motions in poorly attended AGMs. An improvement in the democratic quality of a mutual or cooperative enterprises might prompt better cooperative management practices.

Cooperative enterprises and mutuals have to cope with the challenge of operating in a  financial and corporate dominated market.   The goods and services need delivering to sufficient standards, while  the enterprise covers  costs and gradually builds  up assets through retention of surpluses. This obvious fact needs repeating as all to often idealist hopes are expected.  As enterprises in a mutual form their capital raising potential is limited.  Ordinary companies especially public limed companies ( PLCs)  will unusually access the financial markets, stock exchanges, and corporate banks.  These will tend to want to maximize liquidity and hold within them huge sums monetary wealth, the main holdings being corporate funds, hedge funds and sovereignty funds, pension funds playing a lesser role and personal share holdings even less.  The notion of a share holding democracy has  little substance.  Much finance is dedicated to extracting profit through speculation,  trading in contrived financial derivatives, bundled debts, hedges, or trading in  raising and falling share values. A lesser  portion is invested in the real economy, productive industry or services. But when  investment opportunities arrises for making profits  the financial markets and investment banks can supply finance at a huge scale, this gives the capitalist system great powers, all too often serving narrow interests at  cost to others.   Highly developed modern economies do not need all the finance available and this tends to direct much capitalist finance into seeking a return in speculative activity, making these as investments ,   short-sighted , short-term and unstable. Never the less much our society has been wittingly or unwittingly incorporated into it and it has immense power of self replication and expansion while drawing on our savings, pensions and purchases.

In contrast mutual and cooperative investment base are on a much smaller scale and modest. The investments are usually more long-term and directed to the “real” economy.  More potentially can be done with less with good planing and competence.  With cooperative venture capital is usually raised through the use of withdrawable shares in IPSs ((Industrial and Provident Societies).    Consumer cooperatives will usually have this legal form.  which was first established by an act in 1852  giving a legal form to the emerging cooperatives. Providence and prudential attitudes was natural to the largely working class founders of cooperatives, mutual associations, including trade unions . These were often influenced by non conformism, such as the primitive methodists.  They instinctively had a semi-detached attitude to establishment, institutional power so built their own self-help organizations, unions, medical aid societies, penny banks, friendly societies and cooperatives. This  gradually empowered  the common people and was happening at the time the voting franchise was being extended and by the end of the 19C this became a base to the increasing political power of the working class. This grew upon a movement based on democratic economy giving empowerment and self help through  direct agency.

An important component but not only one, was the raising of dedicated capital and finance.  William King in 1828 pointed out the importance of  raising dedicated finance for the formation of cooperatives and the  Rochdale pioneers, 28 of them, self financed their venture, having learned from other previous cooperative projects by investing  £1 each, a sum  then worth more than today.  In 1872 the consumer cooperatives set up the Cooperative Industrial Bank to hold deposits belonging to  cooperative societies  which then became the base capital for loans to fellow cooperatives. This was to eventually become the Cooperative Bank , which has sadly become  compromised.  The Cooperative bank was mainly a creature of the consumer cooperatives which in the 1980s were not supportive of the then emerging worker cooperatives.   The important point to learn is that by and large cooperatives are safest borrowing from within a mutual self-supporting relationship and not too exposed to debts outside this relationship.

The Mondragon cooperatives, after an initial worker cooperative was set up in 1956, soon then went on to setting up a credit union like enterprise, the now Bank, Caja Laboral. They were obliged then to raise their capital from within their community and workforce.  They were operating within a potentially hostile political settlement and were obliged to depend largely on their own resources, by means of direct agency. This gave them a sound foundational platform onto which they were able to form incubatory conditions that allowed them to spin-off new cooperatives which were  linked in a federative   mutually supporting relationship.  While the Mondragon cooperatives were in federal relationship they all were autonomous , free to break away and if going bankrupt screened from contagion of other cooperatives.  When it became clear  that the debts of FAGOR the founder   Mondragon Cooperative would infect the whole federative corporation,  it was cut off and allowed to go into liquidation.The Cooperative Bank was a PLC 100% owned by the Cooperative Group but the disastrous amalgamation with the Britannia Building Society  exposed it to the financial markets through the capital base of the Britannia being dependant on bond holders. This allowed the vulture funds to buy the devalued bonds from the bond holders.  Financial autonomy had been seriously compromised A cooperative sector needs to be semi-detached and screened from contagion from the finacial markets if it is to retain its integrity as cooperative and remain autonomous.  The  Cooperative Bank had some problems which seem to have been manageable if it had remained as a small basic bank growing organically but it got into serious trouble when it parodied other banks  including mis-selling. Growing through acquisitions can incorporate enterprises that do not have a cooperative culture so compromising cooperative integrity. This has become a problem  both with the Cooperative Group and the Mondragon Corporation.   It was not only incompetent cooperative governance but bad advice from consultants of J P Morgan that ended the Cooperative Bank.   The worst of it was that this has led to contagion of the Cooperative Group which is now distress selling of capital assets, farms and property, built up by generations of members.  The Group is  mired in crisis and scandal.  The one positive development is the tin opening of the goings on in the group, more transparency and information to the members was long overdue.

The Myners report and the Kelly revieww all point to bring in a PLC form of governance into the Cooperative Group.  Talk of moving the headquarters near the City illustrate their ethos of subordinating cooperatives into just an appendage of Corporate and Financial Capitalism ruled by governance brought in from management and business University departments.  But saying all this is well and good, the fact is that there has been a failure of governance and enterprise administration.  The need is to develop effective management that is conducive to  democratic integrity and social purpose of what cooperative principles imply.  To these principles a commitment to a living wage policy and wage solidarity within human scale wage differentials is needed.  The large salaries paid to the  CEOs at the Cooperative Group indicates that a powerful element see the Cooperative Group as just another capitalist corporate body with the exception that it does not have shareholders, but instead  nominally answerable to an apathetic  membership.   But we live in the world we live in and the big consumer cooperatives have been severely compromised in this regard .  Cooperative and mutual forms are sometimes used instrumentally as means to hang a business for a consortium of people and are only nominally cooperative.  Historically even cooperatives which started with a social purpose have tended over time to emulate the norms  prevailing in society. Cooperative principles and practice as a minority ethos need effort to maintain as effective.   The consumer cooperatives with their origins from the Rochdale Cooperatives of 1844 and their pioneering predecessors have gradually tended to ape practices from prevailing in society.  This has happened to the Kibbutz movement in Israel  were the early cooperative ethos has withered and there are indications that this tenancy has set in at the iconic Mondragon Corporation.  All organizations need to renew and adapt and if they are  not to decay and die.  The challenge for the coop group is to meet its problems, reform while trying to save the coop baby.  This is unlikely to be an easy task. They need,   can do and candor to recover.

The Midcounties Cooperatives seem to have retained some cooperative integrity, that is judged from the remarks coming from  them and have been able to innovate, be  good employers and seem a sound enterprise.  This despite their recent clumsy mishandling of price tariffs of  electricity prices with the Energy Cooperative. They have retained some autonomy and are not fully incorporated into the Cooperative Group.  Any further consolidation of consumer cooperatives might be questioned and a possible way forward is to break up the group into autonomous Cooperatives , allowing administration to be more connected to, worker , member and customers.  While large-scale enterprises are sometimes needed cooperatives are more likely to retain their integrity at a modest scale.  A problem with cooperatives is how to be effective at scale while retaining subsidiarity,  Traditionally cooperatives have dealt with scale by the use of federative relationship of smaller units working together and linked through secondary mutual enterprises. A federative relationship also has the advantage of bulk heading the federative relationship, by having some separation of enterprises, so that if one fails this does not pull the others down.. See NB 3. below

There has been a suggestion that the Cooperative Group be reformed into a multi stakeholder cooperative, with half the voting power being given to the workers and the remaining retained by the customer members.  This would work in a partnership element, like that with the paternalistic John Lewis Group which with whatever short fall as a cooperative is a succesful enterprise.  This is likely to incentivize the workforce, but will lead to a weakening of the influence of the consumer members.  The present elected members have a flawed mandate as it stands.   The Cooperative Group workforce are anxious for their jobs  and seem inclined to back the Myners review. Given how the Cooperative Group has been consolidated into a corporate behemoth something like a PLC governance might be the only effective solution in the medium   term until a new form of effective cooperative  governance can be developed. But once a PLC type governance is established and there is already a hybrid form, it will be difficult to change.

The benefits of solving the problems of good democratic governance at the Cooperatives at scale have implications beyond the cooperatives.  Success in this field could inform the reconstruction of a public sector based on economic democracy.  The challenge is to escape the force field created by the culture of corporate and financial capitalism and its methods and instead create a significant sector of effective enterprises based on alive democratic governance, this done from with in the world we live in. Democratic enterprises need to be freed of triangulation, and develop forms of governance and administration that do not undermine an alive democratic culture that directs them towards equitable and inclusive outcomes, sourly now needed. There is no reason why an economy cannot be made up by plurality of forms allowing the development of different sectors to address problems and needs that cannot be solved by the  current economic near monoculture. Work  and experimentation needs to be done to develop  a counter positional economy that works and has sufficiency. It needs a critical mass of support. Can it be done?

A first step could be an awakening  of greater  mutual and cooperative membership activism.  The inter net might help if used in a way that links people beyond capricious superficiality, perhaps organization like 38 Degrees are pioneering methods that can have wider applications. This could be a starting point as a means to engaging a wider public to take an interest in  cooperatives and mutuals, after all they should as coops and mutuals belong to us as members.  We often hear of share owner activism but rarely of cooperative and mutual membership activism. As membership is based on one person this should be a field of activism, this as relationships, if not absolutely egalitarian, is at least equitable, so calling us to proper stewardship, in defence of cooperative and mutual integrity. In doing so we defend enterprises that hold  in democratic trust,  commons, which are potentially there for all. This makes  good governance and effective administration of democratic enterprises a key issue to be solved.

More information on the issues raised here can be found on;  Bibby on Cooperation and Dave Boyle,s  Blog  Please see blog roll on left hand side of screen.  Cooperative News is also a good source  of information

NB:

1. Myners reply to Patrick Grey  LInk here 

2. Letters to Guardian about Coop Group  Link here

3. Several views on the Co-operative Groups future Link here

4.  Myners final published report via Guardian Ma7 th Link here 

Needs some editing!

Italy’s Marcora Law helps set up Worker Coops

Richard Wolff is an enthusiast of the Italy’s Marcora Law that allows unemployed workers to direct their rights to benefits towards financing the setting up of Workers Cooperative.  This is conditional on workers gathering a group of at least 9 fellow unemployed with a plausible enterprise plan.

The Italian region of Emilia Romagna has one of the highest density of cooperative enterprises.  This has been a major contribution  to improved general popular prosperity.

See Link to Richard Wolff  on BlogRoll  on left hand side of screen.

Added June 16 20015;

For further reading about the context with in which the Marcora law operates see this document.