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From Co-op to Co-op


From Co-op to Co-op

Laura Flanders

From Brooklyn to Brattleboro, I just drove four and a half hours to go from co-op to co-op.

In Brooklyn, it’s the Park Slope Food Co-op—one of the nation’s, and the world’s, largest. A history-making experiment in pooling resources and worker hours to access high quality food at affordable prices. Now the place has more workers than it can use and produces more revenue per square foot than the fancy grocery store Whole Foods. That’s not my research; it was conducted by Forbes.


If you are interested in co-ops go to Richard Wolff’s website Democracy at work for further info. He is a Marxist economist and this is the policy he is promoting to curb the problems of Capitalism.


Many cities are supporting worker owned cooperatives. Oakland, New York (especially), Madison, Minneapolis, Austin, and of course Cleveland. Cleveland’s Evergreen Cooperatives are very well known. Co-ops are necessarily place based enterprises, they are internally democratic, equitable, they necessitate the co-op owners gaining business and leadership skills, they help people to learn how to work together cooperatively, and they are (for a number of reasons) far less likely to create negative externalities.

Here is the third annual report from New York City on their program, which supports the growth of worker owned cooperatives:


Part of the advertising for the food co-op I belong to was to print on giveaway bags that for every $1000 spent in the co-op, $1600 stayed local strengthening the community. We do ‘round-up’ projects each month where the checkout gives you the chance to round up to the nearest dollar to raise funds for local organizations. Tens of thousands are raised every year. Twice a year there are ‘truck load sales’ where you can pre-order in bulk at substantial savings. Co-op : good that goes around comes around to do good on another go. Each project strengthens an aspect of community and stronger communities make wiser choices and determine their futures. Gotta love it!!


thanks for the link


Here’s another: http://imaginedeconomy.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/08/report3_citycoops.pdf


The library that is being compiled around the world is really something to behold. I can remember a year after NAFTA I went to the border to participate in tour with Borderlinks, which spanned government, the maquiladoras (factories), churches Border patrol, sanctuaries, and the shanty villages built from forklift platforms on the hills surrounding the factories. In one adult literacy class, study was based on working with the language of whatever problems the class members were experiencing that day. The environment was electric, fast, engaged - and these were illiterate women! They in turn taught each other and friends…


Very interesting. I have been working on some things with a few others regarding co-ops, which might be coming out in the months ahead.


I used to enjoy the old Co-op America catalogue and their thorough list of U.S. cooperatives that produced stuff I was thinking of buying. They now have a more general focus and changed their name to Green America (see www.GreenAmerica.org) but they are still the source I go to for finding stuff about cooperatives in the U.S.


The thing is co-ops can do good things like you describe with the “rounding” concept, I love it. But, their incentive is NOT profit for profits sake. They can use the profits first and foremost for their employees AND to re-invest in their communities etc.


After a couple of hundred of years of co-ops, just where are we with them and has co-ops brought socialism any closer?

If we haven’t got the message now, i shall leave it to someone from the mid-19th Century to answer Flanders and perhaps it might sink in.

“I contend that co-operation as now developed, must result in failure to the majority of those concerned, and that it is merely perpetuating the evils which it professes to remove… That the co-operative-system, as at present practised, carries within it the germs of dissolution, would inflict a renewed evil on the masses of the people, and is essentially destructive of the real principles of co-operation. Instead of abrogating profitmongering, it re-creates it. Instead of counteracting competition, it re-establishes it. Instead of preventing centralisation, it renews it—merely transferring the role from one set of actors to another. Your co-operative ranks are thinned, your firms find, one by one, they can no longer in make the returns equal the expenses, they cannot sell as cheap as the capitalist, they can therefore no more command the market, their co-operative fires die out in quick succession, stores and mills close over their deluded votaries—and the great ruin will stand bald, naked, and despairing in the streets.” - Ernest Jones, Chartist

Richard Wolff with his Workers Self-Directed Enterprises and Gar Alperovitz and his Pluralist Commonwealth may be well-intentioned on how they would like to see the capitalist economy transformed to be in the interests of the workers. But they and their suporters like Flanders have it backside-forwards. Co-ops are not the means towards socialism but they are the end. Only in socialism can we really achieve cooperative values and have the work-places for production and distribution organized cooperatively.

It is why the socialist society aimed for was so often described as the cooperative commonwealth in the 19th and early 20th Century.


Thanks for the link. I will be joining two friends in starting a housing co-op in upper NY and will introduce the idea of forming a small bakery co-op based on some Vermont ideas and incorporating a literary magazine in our collective effort. We have one electric car and one hybrid available. Also, will introduce a “Free Store Idea” since there is so much poverty which includes the three of us for clothing and non perishable food. Both will be open 24/7 and the bakery will be on an honor system. The link you provided will come in handy. Thanks so much!


Sounds like a great endeavor Giovanna. I wish you all the best in making it a reality.


From Brooklyn to Brattleboro, I just drove four and a half hours to go from co-op to co-op.

Is the author aware there is an Amtrak train, NYC to Brattleboro, which is quite fast - only five and a half hours - and very much cost competitive? So instead of staring at the road for nearly five hours, the author could have been napping, reading a book, working on this article - or maybe just playing a game of chess.


So instead of staring at the road for nearly five hours

…risking her’s and others’ lives…