The Cooperative Movement vs. Global Capitalism | Grassroots Economic Organizing
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Finding funding sources for all but the most labor intensive projects, however, has been a major issue. Mondragon helped develop several cooperative projects that use private capital from nonprofit corporations, unions and other private banks. In their effort to try to solve two of the most persistent problems for cooperatives — finding capital for development and creating capital intensive projects — they forgot the third major value of successful of cooperatives: The outside shareholders designed the projects to meet the needs of the local market and institutions before they even hired the workers so the workers had no input.
The designers did not consider that by jumping immediately to economies of scale, the management of the projects might be difficult for the workers to handle with no prior experience and no time to grow into the job. One of the local businessmen hired to implement the program admitted, three years after he started, that he still felt hesitant turning the project over to the workers.
The project was initiated in with the goal of creating ten cooperatives providing the community with jobs in five years.
Only one coop is making a profit. The local institutions that were supposed to be their customers have contracts with other suppliers which prevent them from using the coop services. The economic crisis of certainly was one reason the project is so far behind, but a number of the problems limiting its success are internal. Instead of the horizontal structure Mondragon uses, and contrary to the cooperative goals, the structure is hierarchical with the outside shareholders nonprofits, anchor institutions at the top designing the project before the workers are even hired.
Several workers once they could afford it, have bought a house in another neighborhood. The other model that developed in the United States in recent years is the union coop model. This is a more complicated discussion as the presence of a union representing the coop both connects coops in a potentially positive way by connecting the cooperative businesses to the large working class, but also suggests the need for an outside group to monitor the growing class relations in the cooperatives.
The joint ventures between Mondragon and the Steelworkers also have a somewhat hierarchical nature where the full projects have been planned in advance making one wonder just how much the workers in the coop are involved in the planning similar to the Evergreen Initiative. The final model in the non-socialist countries is the State Model, where the interconnections between the Coops are primarily regulated and coordinated by the state instead of through private sector actors such as nonprofits, credit unions or unions.
These have generally occurred in socialist leaning countries that have not had a full transition to a planned socialist economy. The recent coop movement in Venezuela, under the leadership of Hugo Chavez who was elected inmost closely follows the Marxist model which says that any socialist economy must have political control of the state if it is to succeed.Matisyahu - King Without A Crown
While what Chavez billed as the Bolivarian revolution was not a complete revolution in the Marxist sense, Chavez democratically controlled a majority of the National Assembly and had the authority to govern based on a new constitution, which was written and passed by a majority of the Venezuelan citizens and contains a number of socialist principles of equity and citizen participation. When Chavez was elected in he inherited an economy developed under US-backed neoliberal policies that was profoundly individualistic, unequal, and discriminatory.
Eighty percent of people were below the poverty line, with 5 million people living in substandard barrios.
The Cooperative Movement vs. Global Capitalism
InChavez led the movement for the Law of Cooperative Associations. This law did not come about in isolation. The law was supported by a broader legislation that would not only fund and regulate cooperatives directly, but provide training and health, housing, and other social needs necessary to make a cooperative society a reality. The law itself was written by cooperative experts; it set the minimum number of members at five and requires the government to give preference to cooperatives when awarding contracts.
It set up a national job training program that paid minimum wage to the unemployed while they learned about coops and got basic occupational skills, and encouraged graduates to form coops.
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Coop registration was made free, coops were exempt from income tax and micro-credit was made available to them. Although several smaller cooperative networks developed within the broader model the Cooperatives of Social Services of the Lara State under the auspices of the Catholic church; the Strategic Solidarity Alliance network of 17 cooperatives that service Caterpillar heavy equipment throughout the country; Banco Mujer which provides microloans and cooperative education to women the failure to integrate individual cooperatives into cooperative networks in the fullest sense might prove to be a general limitation of the state model.
The Bolivarian government itself recognized this problem and between shifted to fully socialized communal councils based on political-economic cultural structures, collectively referred to as the communal state, which basically consists of fully socialized groupings of families involved in self-governing projects of families in urban areas and families in rural areas based on participatory principles based on social justice.
The biggest danger to the cooperative communal council model in Venezuela or any socialist-leaning state is the constant pressure from global capitalist forces to overthrow the entire State apparatus against which those of us who support socially oriented societies must be constantly vigilant.
The Bolivarian Project had been under constant attack from the neoliberal forces in the United States, including five recall elections, at least two attempted coups, economic sanctions from the United States as well as US efforts to sanction and possibly remove the Venezuelan government through the Organization of American States. Interestingly, even since the government stopped supporting cooperatives inanother 40, new ones have been registered.
There are currently 90, active cooperatives with over a million members. Whether this is simply yet another moment when cooperatives are a temporary response to depressed economic conditions, they are still a strong force of community empowerment for the common good and for combatting the values of individualistic competitive capitalism.
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