Syriza MPs help to promote the social economy by donating 10-20% of their wage

anca voinea co-opIn a Co-operative News article, Anca Voinea notes that  Syriza has highlighted the importance of reviving the co-op movement, seeing it as a distinct economic model that would be part of their movement for a broader social and solidarity economy.

Syriza had shown interest in the movement over the last two years and is preparing for new legislation to support co-operative principles, promote co-operative education, transfer of companies to the workers and establish co-operatives of similar standards to those in Latin America and France.

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When incoming prime minister Alexis Tsipras (above) presented his agenda to parliament, he made a commitment to growing the social economy, including co-ops. Syriza has now launched a public consultation to gather opinions about the promotion of the social economy.

VioMe in Thessaloniki went bankrupt and the workers, who had not been paid for over a year, occupied the building to prevent the owner from taking away the machinery and products in stock. The factory is now in public administration and the workers are fighting a legal battle for ownership of the enterprise. They are also calling for a change in the legal framework to allow workers to take over enterprises. Mr Tsipras promised to support this effort with legal reforms. He has also spoken about the importance of co-operative banks as a vehicle for development.

Reading about this venture reminded the writer about an Argentinian workers’ initiative recorded here.

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An online platform, Solidarity4all, first mooted by the late Tony Benn, showcases different examples of informal co-operation, from social pharmacies to grocery stores or free lessons, including newly formed co-ops. Syriza has helped the Solidarity4All initiative, with each MP donating 10-20% of their wage to promote the social economy. People have taken matters into their own hands through grassroots activism and local collective action. The many and varied social solidarity initiatives include social pharmacies, social medical clinics, social kitchens, social groceries, Okmarkets without middlemen, a social collective of mental health professionals, social solidarity drop in centres, time banks (sharing skills and time), olive oil producers sharing olive oil, the ‘potato movement’ where farmers trade direct with consumers cutting out the supermarkets. Read more about Solidarity4All here.

The Financial Times reports a co-operative revival

Andrew Bounds has reported ‘a co-operative revival’ in the Financial Times – a trend first noted in this blog in 2010. He notes that the number of share offers and co-operative members in new societies doubled between 2009 and 2012 as the economic downturn has continued, according to figures from Co-operatives UK, the umbrella group for mutual societies.

Unlike most of the large retail co-operative societies, smaller co-ops are democratically controlled by their members, have low income differentials and some offer training for job rotation.

The Daily Bread Co-operative

A fine example is Daily Bread in Northampton – above. News of other worker co-operatives may be seen here.

Wind farms, hydroelectric projects, book shops, village stores and pubs,are among assets now owned by their communities. Of the 114 funded (2009-2012), there were 28 shops and 35 power schemes (see the LWM blog), raising in all £20.9m from 23,700 members.

An earlier article noted that Oliver Letwin, at the cabinet office, works four hours a month behind the counter in Thorncombe village shop, in his Dorset constituency. He is a founder member of a co-operative that took over the store in 2009 when it was threatened with closure.

William Hague joined 150 members of his constituency to reopen a pub, buying shares in a co-op that took over the George and Dragon in Hudswell, North Yorkshire.

The co-operative renaissance, kick-started by the 1976 Common Ownership Act and its revolving fund, led to a boom with worker co-ops opening every week, which slowed down to a trickle as recession set in. Now, as banks are reluctant to lend and are offering very low interest rates for savers, local investment opportunities which serve the community are attracting more people.