Cooperative Economy

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A component of our mission is to promote the development of a cooperative economy within Aberdeen, in order to sustain the city post-oil.

The template for accomplishing this was pioneered in Cleveland Ohio:

“In 2009, during the depths of the Great Recession, a small laundry opened in one of the most depressed neighborhoods in the poverty-stricken city of Cleveland. This seemingly obscure event proved to be a large salvo in what is slowly becoming a national dialogue on the future of wealth democratization in America.”

The following links (in bright white) provide a vast repository of information on the Cleveland Model, with much of it focused on Preston’s efforts to implement it here in the UK. Click on each one in order to learn more:

What next for the Preston Model? Investing in worker owned co-operatives in the city.

UCLan and partners keen to establish Preston Co-operative Development Network.

Preston Model setting standard for Labour councils across country, says Shadow Chancellor McDonnell.

What is the Preston Model?

The EU didn’t cause any of this: but Brexit owes a lot to the working-class alienation that grew from the demise of our factories.

In an era of brutal cuts, one ordinary place has the imagination to fight back.

How Hartlepool is chasing Preston’s new economic model. With no money forthcoming from central government, the north east town wants its own alternative to austerity.

As another vote looms amid the pantomime of Westminster, the core issues behind leave’s win have been ignored.

In 2011 Preston hit rock bottom. Then it took back control.

Preston named as most improved city in UK.

How Preston Council claim they are starting a financial revolution.

Could Preston provide a new economic model for Britain’s cities?

Traditional city growth models, based on attracting inward investment for big infrastructure projects, could no longer be relied upon. Nor, under conditions of recession and austerity, could conventional tax-and-spend redistribution.


Cllr Matthew Brown on the Preston Model and the economics of the imagination.

The Labour Party, including Cooperative Party members, took control of Preston City Council in 2011. We quickly recognised that there was a need for a systemic transformation of the local economy to bring about social improvements to the local community.

How one city became an unlikely laboratory for Corbynomics.

Following the failure of an economic development plan based on attracting inward investment, Preston City Council saw the need for a new approach to address the growing needs of the city and its people. In 2013, they enlisted CLES to help make it happen.

The Preston model: UK takes lessons in recovery from rust-belt Cleveland.

How Preston – the UK’s “most improved city” – became a success story for Corbynomics.

The Preston Model of Community Wealth Building in the UK.

Local democracy with attitude: the Preston model and how it can reduce inequality.

The Cleveland Model—How the Evergreen Cooperatives are Building Community Wealth.

Cleveland’s cooperatives show us how to solve the problems of deindustrialisation.

Thoroughly green and worker-owned, co-ops are a vibrant response to economic distress.

The Evergreen Cooperatives of Cleveland have become a global innovation model for creating more sustainable regional economies.

Learning From the Cleveland Model: Notes on the Next American Revolution.

In Cleveland, co-op model finds hope in employers rooted in the city.

Disaster Capitalism

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The median annual global income is currently £2,237, whereas the median annual UK income is £28,677. That may seem like a significant level of inequality, but really it’s not… because according to Oxfam, just 26 people now possess a total wealth equal to the poorest 50% of the Earth’s population.

Let’s put this into perspective. Jeff Bezos amasses wealth at the rate of £60,137,280,000 per annum. The average UK citizen would have to labour for over 2 million years to earn what Jeff makes in just one year. The average person in the world, would have to labour for almost 27 million years to amass that. That’s 134x longer than the 200,000 years or so that humans have walked the earth. This amounts to nothing short of economic tyranny.


But actually, it’s far worse than that. Setting aside the well publicised issue of global warming, there’s only 60 years of soil left, due to degradation caused by industrial farming. Even if we solve that, insect life is presently on a trajectory towards extinction, so will it even be possible to fertilise any crops? Then there’s the shortage of natural resources. Not oil – no there’s plenty of that. Stuff like copper. Most of the copper we now use is reclaimed. Soon demand will outstrip supply. Neoclassical economics assures us that price will regulate demand, but recent experience with fishing indicates that prices do not begin to rise significantly until scarcity becomes acute. So much for the theory that pricing saves the planet by efficiently allocating natural resources!

We have until 2040 before copper becomes scarce, but we’re scheduled to have exhausted our reserves of gold, silver, platinum, iridium, lead, zinc, and numerous other resources long before then. In fact tungsten is already scarce, and antimony is due to become scarce next year. Ultimately, many of the materials critical to the manufacture of the iPhone used to blog this, will no longer be affordable to anyone other than Jeff. And lets not get started on the environmental impact of fitting lithium-ion batteries to every car. Or that building wind farms is creating lakes of toxic waste in China. There’s “renewables”, and then there’s actual green energy.

To top it all, there’s the meat industry, which in hindsight is going to make every other holocaust, short of a nuclear one, seem like a school picnic. Oh… and there’s that too – the constant threat of atomic annihilation

The thing is, and here’s the dirty secret: it really doesn’t have to be this way. We’re strip mining the planet to line the pockets of people like Jeff, with exponentially more money than any human could ever possibly spend. Jeff could feast on nothing but truffles for the rest of his life, whilst heating his skyscraper by literally burning dollar bills… and he’d still die richer than he is now. Because bank interest. Not only is it wrong to be that greedy, it’s fucking futile attempting to spend it. Yet still they hoard.

”Teach people to fish… and most will choose to eat the bait instead”

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Recruiting for a worker collective involves ploughing through hundreds of applications from those who failed to read the advert. The few accompanying cover letters are generic, typically extolling the candidates self-proclaimed predisposition for teamwork, or their aptitude for “thinking on their feet”. Those that demonstrate any degree of awareness, often come from people who seem ominously “keen to make a mark”. Interviews are dominated by candidates making all the right noises, but who fail to comprehend that we’re ultimately seeking to recruit a co-owner rather than a wage slave.

Hence one of the challenges faced by a worker collective is separating those who genuinely desire freedom, equality, and solidarity, from those who “just want a job”. This scenario is analogous to offering free fishing trips, only for people who are starving to sign up because they perceive this as an opportunity to chow down on the bait. You can explain the benefits and principles of fishing until you’re blue in the face, but these misguided souls will slowly nod their heads, and be like “it’s just so much hassle learning all that shit. What’s it to you if we just sit here eating the maggots? Drive the Goddamn damn boat wherever you want. Nom nom nom.”

Capitalist conditioning is so insidious, that many people actually perceive autonomy as “a hassle” rather than empowering. It’s akin to someone opting for a jail sentence over a holiday, because the chalet is self-catering.

Part of the issue appears to be, that cooperating ostensibly consists of doing much the same stuff as employment. This is like saying “well in prison we eat, sleep, and wander around, so I don’t really see any difference between that and being on vacation. Sure on vacation I’d have freedom to wander around more, but what if I can’t be assed?” The logic is clearly lacking, but try communicating that to someone who has been incarcerated from birth. Their take on it will be, “but surely there must be guards? I know you say there aren’t any, but without guards how will people know when it’s time to get out of bed, to eat, shower, or visit the bathroom? Surely everyone will just spend all day lying in their bunks? What you’re describing is a nice thought, but it’s impossible, because people aren’t like that! Without the guards, what’s to stop us all just beating the shit out of one another? Such behaviour is not a symptom of incarceration, it’s just human nature.” And so on…

The underlying problem is that someone institutionalised from birth, would struggle to imagine how any other social structure would operate, and at best they’d see freedom as an alternative way of doing things, rather than a vastly superior experience. Hence a cooperator cannot directly convey the advantages of worker self-management to those institutionalised by wage slavery, any more than it’s possible to convey the reality of a 3D existence to Pacman. The best we can do is to provide some indication of contrast based on analogy, but anyone sold on the concept has to engage with the experience, because yes… it’s entirely possible to treat a holiday chalet as though it were a prison cell. First free your mind.