The Cooperative Movement is on the Rise

Finding alternatives to Capitalism – a tired old system

BY: Luis Fernando Arce, Chief Interviewer

twincities.indymediaThey have even called me “cynic” when I’ve proposed – either in a class discussion or in a drunken tirade in some bar – that the capitalist system is failing us and collapsing on itself. The objective truth of this statement, however, supersedes my own vices and rants – a truth which has manifested itself one financial catastrophe after the other worldwide since the 2008 meltdown.

This reality is becoming more apparent to working class folk as they desperately claw at any semblance of economic security like frightened animals as they realize that unfettered capitalism cannot solve all the world’s problems, and that it has “not helped working families,” according to Labour is Not a Commodity, a blog administered by four organizations focused on international labour issues.

As the economies of previously wealthy European countries collapse one after the other like dominoes, a radical component is budding across the globe with the strength and vitality of the anti-war demonstrations and civil-rights clashes of the ‘60s and ‘70s, with the exception that today we also have technology on our side. I could easily picture some angry old general somewhere in the Pentagon, frantically pegging little red dots on an enormous world map plastered on a wall, highlighting all the countries where the Occupy Movement has ‘infiltrated’, starting with the United States of America itself.

But that old fear-mongering about “communists coming to take your kids away” just doesn’t fly anymore. “Socialism isn’t a boogie-man anymore,: said Ethan Earle, Director of the U.S. branch of The Working World, a micro-credit firm created by Brendan Martin in 2004. He is also an ex-Wall-Streeter that dropped the high-powered life of Bears and Bulls after being inspired by Naomi Klein and Avi Lewis’ movie called La Toma, which depicts the rise of the cooperative movement in that country.

Hazel Corcoran, the Executive Director of the Canadian Worker Cooperative Federation (CWCF) – a “federation of worker co-ops across the country providing trade association functions like lobbying and conferencing, as well as support for the development of new worker cooperatives in Canada” – furthermore suggested that information is power as we chatted on the phone. She spoke hurriedly and excitedly, with a slight lilt, possibly because she was also packing for a trip, but it was obvious she was infatuated with her work.

“You look at the Occupy Movement and…other social movements out there and it feels that it’s a time when people are looking for an alternative way to organize business, society and the economy,” she beamed.
Indeed. The capitalist system’s biggest threat today is not the political left – represented one way or another in the Movements. Rather, it is the angry mob of educated and disillusioned young people who have taken to the streets to voice the roaring discontent of the middle- and working-classes.

Judith Lipp is the Executive Director of the Toronto Renewable Energy Cooperative (TREC), which was created in 1998 by a group of volunteers in order to create a community-owned wind energy project in Toronto. Today, it is a leader in the Renewable Energy Sector.

She voiced a similar perspective except with a hint of pessimism when she told me, in a soft-spoken tone, that she thinks that although people may be looking “to align their values in various ways to participate in society…at the same time a large segment of the population is focused on status and money, and has lost touch with what their values are and any kind of long-term thinking.” She in fact doubts that “we’re close to breaking that cycle.”

But there is something very interesting about the three people I’ve mentioned: they all work directly with a new business-model that challenges the old and tired notion that workers must be led by bosses at the helm.
Let’s face it, who hasn’t had that nauseating job where you had to deal with a belligerent, drunk-on-power fool of a boss who liked to find fault with everything you did while watching over your shoulder like a disease-ridden vulture? Well, I know I have. The worst part is that this is the best of cases: where in order to get fully paid all you had to do is eat a little shit.

In other cases, the tendons in both your shoulders and elbows snap like worn elastic bands, sending you to the surgery room, caused by the repetitiveness and physical strain that comes with five years of unloading trucks, just to be given the boot when “management upstairs” claims that they can’t find any other job suitable to your doctored-prescribed limitations because of your lack of English, which at the factory floor, many minorities will agree, never matters.

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