Thursday, September 03, 2009

Day One: co-operation

Conferences don't always have the feel of love and kindness to them. Sometimes you have factions or deeply embedded divisions that can make the event a bit stressful. Thankfully there isn't much of that here at Hove and I've been pleasantly surprised at the great team working spirit in many of the sessions. That's a very good thing because if I'm going to be somewhere for four days I want it to be among friends, not egotistical windbags.

The workshop on co-operatives is a case in point. Whilst everyone knows that Greens are in favour of workers, housing and consumer co-ops our actually policy is a bit thin, apparently. So Brian Heatley very kindly put together a broad brush stroke motion filling the gap. There were fifteen people in the workshop and not one of them was opposed, but it was one of the most interesting discussions of its kind I've been to for a long time.

Because the policy was so broad it gave a lot of scope for people to explore the ideas. People discussed the projects they were involved in around mutualising football clubs, schooling, housing co-ops and food co-ops. They also pushed at the boundaries of the policy and we discussed the de-mutualised financial institutions and whether we should advocate sledge hammer legislation to make our point or a more nuanced approach to suit cautious and reasonable folk (boo!).

One of the reasons people got excited about the motion was that co-ops are not just nice things that encourage local ownership, they also present a different kind of economic model. One where workers own their workplaces, fans own their football clubs and tenants collectively own their housing. There's no room for landlords, profiteers or financial speculators in that model but plenty of room for a real and deep democratisation of everyday life.

Brian's policy was particularly good, I thought, because it went beyond simply looking to helping new co-ops get set up but also explored ways of turning existing for profit companies into workers co-ops - something far more controversial. I think that's brilliant and as we've already shown over our plan to save Vestas (using the Sustainable Communities Act to fund a workers' take over of the parts of the business being shut down) these are achievable aims in the here and now that can have real value for those effected.


Matt Sellwood said...

Are we at different conferences? :)


David Cox said...

Why stop the having the right to mutualise private companies? giant socialist state-run enterprise is indistinguishable from giant corporate enterprise. The problem is one of size and ultimate power. Unfettered capitalism and socialism both end up in much the same place – centralisation, environmental destruction and alienation of people.
Independence and self-determination through industrial common ownership, mutualism, co-ownership, and community interest companies, can offer an alternative sustainable economic system.

Jim Jay said...

You obviously aren't going to the right sessions Matt :)

David - I agree

Pippa said...

Totally agree that it was a bit of a love in, huggy conference in the end. I think the best, in that regard, that I've ever been to. Lots of people even said thank you! So thanks to all those who said thanks (I know you all read this...), I might even stand for a committee again one day :)