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.