March 17, 2015

Workers cooperatives (not an alternative) excerpts from a piece by Phil Gasper here The idea that society can be transformed by the introduction of cooperatives is not a new one. It was part of the strategy for peaceful social change advocated by the German socialist Eduard Bernstein at the end of the nineteenth century. But Rosa Luxemburg subjected Bernstein’s ideas to withering criticism in her pamphlet Reform or Revolution8, and Luxemburg’s criticisms retain their validity today. “Co-operatives,” wrote Luxemburg, “especially co-operatives in the field of production, constitute a hybrid form in the midst of capitalism. They can be described as small units of socialized production within capitalist exchange.” The problem is that cooperatives that are established in the context of the capitalist market must compete in order to survive, and if the rate of exploitation is high among your competitors, then you must match it. As Luxemburg put it, “in capitalist economy exchanges dominate production. As a result of competition, the complete domination of the process of production by the interests of capital—that is, pitiless exploitation—becomes a condition for the survival of each enterprise.” She continues: The domination of capital over the process of production expresses itself in the following ways. Labor is intensified. The workday is lengthened or shortened, according to the situation of the market. And, depending on the requirements of the market, labor is either employed or thrown back into the street. In other words, use is made of all methods that enable an enterprise to stand up against its competitors in...

Jodi Dean

Jodi Dean is a political theorist.

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