I’m not a ML but I’m full suscriptor to materialist thinking and as such, I’d be in agreement that worker cooperators, while being highly useful for them to acknowledging the virtues of cooperatives over capital enterprises (which by the way, I find many) within the currently (yet temporally) historically predominant market-based system of today, sometimes might need to go further and do a daily exercise of putting into question whether this course of action might have structural negative externalities for workers, that cannot be resolved just by isolated individual and small-scale collective initiatives, by self-maintaining such system both in its macro and micro economic dynamics even if the quota of cooperative property increases.
This is not to point fingers and promoting defeatism, but instead, to mutually criticise us in a way we get to conditions of knowledge, consciousness and “collective intelligence” where we can actually dynamically improve and adapt our strategy in a point we can move beyond idealist elucubration and the dominant (yet temporally dominant) mode of production of today, to transform society.
I’m originally from the Shetland Islands, and we have a long tradition of not taking any shit from anyone.
When i was a kid, we used to do a lot of hill-walking, and one time we went out, we were shown the ruins of a watermill. My grandfather told me that when he was a child, he remembered that watermill being burnt down by the local laird and his men.
There was also the story of a mother and her two children being found dead in the snow on the morning of Christmas day, around 110 years ago.
The Up-Helly-Aa festival, while it is presented to the tourists as a celebration of our traditional Viking heritage, the real events that took place were a very different story.
It’s the anniversary of the riots that followed those events, where a mob of locals set fire to the local police station. They had tried to read the Riot Act, and were stoned by the local peasants.
When the next year flowed around, and the locals were celebrating the anniversary of these events, instead of reading the Riot Act, and banning the celebrations, the local council decided to organise a proper party.
There was also a long history of co-operatives in Shetland.
Most of the local infrastructure is still owned and run by the local council, as it’s more cost-effective that way.
Yes, there were cases where the local co-operatives went bankrupt, but that wasn’t because they were co-op’s, but because they were run poorly.
This is also why i tend to emphasise the pragmatic approach, where it doesn’t matter whether an enterprise is a co-operative or a private business. It still has to be organised and run effectively.
This also harks back to a long conversation with Harry, during one of the CoTech Christmas parties, where i was saying exactly the same thing.
A worker-owned business is still a business, and needs to be run as effectively as possible.
So far, so historical background.
My real optimism, these days, comes from the Free Software movement, and the Open-Source HardWare movement.
The tools exist already, to feed, to clothe, to house, to educate, and, to provide medical/social care, to everyone on the planet, without destroying the biological infrastructure that we need to survive.
Most of the time, it hasn’t been done, as there’s a lack of political will, but with the Force-Multiplying effects of our current levels of technology, it is possible for people to build the tools to make the tools to provide these necessities for themselves.
This is why i work on Open-Source HardWare.
There are effective tools that cannot be made by For-Profit organisations, as those designs are too effective.
The best example that is currently floating around, is the Edison Cell power storage system.
It’s a Nickel-Iron battery, using Alkaline-based electrolyte, so has a much lower energy-density than the Lead-Acid, or the Lithium-Ion, batteries, so it doesn’t really work for portable power.
If you used them in a mobile phone, the phone would weigh 40Kg’s
But as a power-storage unit for a static system, they’re great.
With proper maintenance, they will last more than a century.
There are some places where they are still using the original batteries that Edison sold them.
If you are running a For-Profit Factory, then you cannot make products that people will only buy once a century, but if you have a need for a reliable, resilient power-storage system, that will last for 100 years, then, with the proper equipment, it’s fairly simple and cost-effective to make them for yourselves.
This is why i am optimistic.
Also, we are currently able to have this conversation without being murdered, which is also a good thing.
This last point, however, is also an example of white privilege that we need to extend to everyone.
The murders of the organisers of the Ferguson protests shows that we still have a long way to go.
Nice thread @BillySmith. I take a view that the competitive advantages in worker control - and also, to a lesser extent, non-democratic employee ownerships (EOs) - such as enhanced productivity, higher return on capital employed, and so on, are happy by products of that control, rather than core ‘virtues’ of the worker co-op system.
Tammy I didn’t get anything of value out of your post. Could you please elaborate on how you’re trying to add to the conversation? Is there a solution you are proposing here? It just seems like you are cherry-picking others arguments without adding anything of substance. I would like to be convinced.