Thursday 2 September 2010

Labour Leadership Contenders on Cooperatives

This email comes from the Co-operative Party. Readers who are either members of the Labour party or of no party are eligible to join, and I would recommend that you do so here.


As members of the Labour Party and trade unions prepare to vote for a new Labour Leader, all five candidates have answered our questions on their vision for a co-operative future for the Labour Party.

Andy Burnham highlighted the leading role he played in forming Supporters Direct to give fans a voice in football and gives his vision of a strong NHS and 'aspirational socialism'.

Andy Burnham on football and finance ]

David Miliband talks of his membership of the Party and his local credit union, and the potential for co-op structures for Northern Rocks, pubs, schools and energy.

David Miliband backs mutualisation of the BBC and canals ]

Diane Abbott underlines her own commitment to co-operative values and describes her own background in a journalists' co-op in the 1980s.

Diane Abbott wants to make the co-op movement relevant to a new generation ]

Ed Balls - the first ever co-operative MP to stand for the Leadership - outlines his record in Government on co-operative schools and financial services and wants to expand co-operative housing and re-mutualise Northern Rock.

Ed Balls calls for a designated Government Office & Minister for Mutuals ]

Ed Miliband reminds readers of his role in making the last manifesto the most co-operative ever and promises to argue for a greater role for the mutual model in banking and to give users and workers a greater voice in public services.

Ed Miliband pledges to put the co-operative ideal at the heart of public services ]


Anonymous said...

Why are you encouraging people to join the co-op party, when their current policy is (as I understand it) to break up the NHS with social enterprises?

Aside from that, what does the co-op party actually do?


Boffy said...

Don't Marxists want to replace all Capitalist enterprises with social enterprises? Isn't that what Socialism is?

Phil said...

Danny, I refer you to my recent post on Gramsci and economism. But Boffy's essentially right - a mutualised health service is also one more concerned about the democratic influence workers and patients exercise over it. That is more of a step in a socialist direction than an NHS subordinate to vast and unaccountable bureaucracies.

There are concerns about how foundation trusts have been implemented and socialists should be critical and look at ways of deepening the process, while struggling to ensure they don't become a backdoor for the intrusion of private capital.

Re: the co-op party, as I've banged on about the necessity for socialists to be involved in all three wings of the labour movement - Labour, unions, and co-ops, that's why I think the left should join and try to get involved in the party and societies in their area.

Anonymous said...

Phil I would refer you to what the NHS unions say about social enterprises, they are a 'trojan horse' to privatising the health service, as are foundation trusts

Posting about Gramsci while ignoring what concerned groups of unionised workers are saying about their own 'industry' is a strange sort of highbrow socialism, I cant say I'm impressed


Anonymous said...

Boffy 'social enterprises' as they actually exist are about replacing public services with busineses, read the link above.

Socialism, as I understood it, is about workers power, not having the market dictate who you can deliver a service to (or not), losing your pension and ultimately being taken over by BUPA.

Clearly we have our work cut out if we have to debate this on socialist blogs.

But I doubt the co-op's party stance on this is based on ignorance


Boffy said...

But, the NHS is a business too, and one in which there most certainly is no "Workers Power". On the contrary, it is a Monopoly in the hands of the bosses State.

Surely, the answer to the union's objection to a "Co-operative" NHS is for the unions themselves to take an active role in establishing such a Co-op so that it most certainly could not be a trojan horse for anything other than that "Workers Power" you speak of, a real Workers Power here and now rather than just the fantasy of such at some indeterminate time in the future. That after all is what the biggest union in the US is doing. The United Steel Workers are joining forces with the Mondrago Coi-ops to establish Workers Co-ops across North America.

On not having the market dictate that is not at all equivalent with Workers Power. Workers gained power in Russia, and yet they were forced to accept the reality that the market continued to dictate to them, not just the world market but even the domestic market. In fact, it was lenin who reintrodued the market, because of the recognition of that reality.

Finally, could you give us the actual statement by the Co-op party calling for the break-up of the NHS, and establishment of Social Enterprises, because I am having difficulty locating it, and a proper discussion requires everyone to know exactly what they are discussing?

Phil said...

Danny, I refer you to this passage in my comment above:

"There are concerns about how foundation trusts have been implemented and socialists should be critical and look at ways of deepening the process, while struggling to ensure they don't become a backdoor for the intrusion of private capital."

What foundation trusts represent is an attempt to mutualise 'from above', which is as nonsensical as trying to impose socialism. Small wonder unions are hostile. But as Boffy says, unions need to get more involved in building cooperatives.

Anonymous said...

Maybe socialists need to get more involved in supporting health workers, who are actively resisting social enterprises because they know more than anyone else what they are really about ?

Otherwise the discussion here is on a fantasy level, it starts from an abstract position of what the world should be like rather than what it actually is.

The NHS is the National Health Service, its an immensely popular national instituion and there is no popular demand to break it up and re-shape it on free market lines.

The Co-op party is perhaps naive but clearly out of step on this issue, see pages 42 & 43 and compare it to the position that unionised health workers take in the link I posted above.

Then you decide whose side you are on.


Boffy said...


Firstly, the majority of Health Workers are actually not opposing or supporting Social Enterprises. A majority of workers in hospitals and elsewhere where the workers themselves have established Co-operatives and Social Enterprises ARE supporting their social enterprise, because they set it up! Do you support those particular Health Workers?

The Monarchy is also a much loved institution supported by a Majority of workers. On the basis of your argument, are you also in favour of its retention, do you think that Socialists should drop any criticism of it, and simply tail the majority of workers as you propose they should do in relation to the State Capitalist NHS?

The majority of workers, unfortunately beleive that unemployment is related to Immigration and Imports. Should socialists stop pointing out that this is not the case? Should they acquiesce in the workers illusion, and support Immigration and Import Controls, rather than pointing out that unemployment is caused by Capitalist profit seeking, and that the solution is workers ownership of the means of production?

If you turn Socialists into just bag-carriers for the working-class then Socialism is impossible, because the Socialists will always be limited to mirroring the existing bouregois consciousness of the working-class rather than transformining it. In the meantime the leadership that the Socialists should have been providing will be provided by the bouregoisie who already have a massive advantage in that regard because of their ownership of the means of production and the State. They will set the agenda and lead the workers wherever they want them to go, and on your basis the socialists will simply be left bringing up the rear.

Chris said...

I am puzzled why Boffy responded to Chris here, as I have not said anything!!

While personally I am sympathetic to Boffy's argument in this particular case I think the point about the NHS being popular is not irrelevant as Boffy's argument is based on the idea that the NHS gives its 'customers' a shit service. Whereas the Monarchy is not a direct consumer service.

Boffy said...

My argument is NOT based on the idea that the NHS gives workers a shit service, it is based on the fact that it gives them a CAPITALIST service. It is a State capitalist organisation, it is designed to provide Health as a commodity to workers, and to do so in the context of fulfilling the needs of Capital for the reproduction of Labour Power.

I am particularly in favour of such an important service for workers being taken out of the hands of Capitalists and put in the hands of workers. But, as I have stressed many times, and as Phil has also stated above, that is for workers to decide themselves, it is for workers to bring about themselves. It cannot be imposed on them from above by the Capitalist State (or any other state for that matter). The Tories proposals not only amount to such an imposition, but not surprisingly do so in a restricted and restricting way.

Anonymous said...

These are just not credible arguments for socialists.

Social enterprises in health are about taking public services out of that domain and into a market system, where workers have far less control than they do now.

Of course working class people support all sorts of things, but unionised workers have at least a degree of class consciousness, and maybe have more to teach Gramscian socialists than vice versa here.


Phil said...

Ever get the feeling someone hasn't read your arguments properly?

Boffy said...

Or pretend they haven't for the purpose of pepetuating a trolling debate?

Chris said...

"Or pretend they haven't for the purpose of pepetuating a trolling debate?"

Or Danny has genuine concerns and everyone who disagrees with you is a troll?

By the way you have said that the NHS delivers a bad service to consumers so you have explain why it is such a well loved institution among its direct consumers. The comparison with the Monarchy is flawed - this is not a direct consumer service.

Boffy said...


I came across this Blog today, which you might find interesting.

Worker Co-operatives, certainly more interesting than replying to trolls.

Chris said...

It is interesting watching the TUC how many delegates back up my estimation of the current situation. Not one delegate has stood up and said, don’t worry guys big capital will come to our rescue. But anyway I digress from my trolling. (Or disagreeing with Boffy to put it another way).

It took almost 20 years to bring these social cooperatives into existence. It took ten years for the law on social cooperatives to be passed in Italy. It is a long term ‘answer’ requiring a great deal of intense struggle to ensure the law makes its workable and it was born out of the kind of attacks on services we are seeing now. It has no significance whatsoever to any current defensive cuts campaign. On the contrary it is waving the white flag and accepting the ConDem agenda.

You could take the long term view here and say these kinds of long term solutions are historically progressive but in the heat of the current battle they seem irrelevant.

Any move to socialism will have to deal at some stage with the expropriation of the expropriators. Either some revolution will do that or some huge increase (very gradual no doubt) in the number of producer coops will do it alongside control over the finance and retail sectors. Either way these kinds of social cooperatives are just less crumbs from the capitalist table without that expropriation.

Boffy said...

Odd how so many of your comments are posted on weekdays during working hours! Hardly fits with the current persona you have adopted of a hard working, high flying Accountant, beavering away advising on how best to make cuts in Public Services that the rest of us are spending our time orgtanising against!

Chris said...

I was on Flexi leave when posting that comment, I know what you are thinking, how they spoil us! Though I could have been working from home that day, that happens in 2010 you know.

“Odd how so many of your comments are posted on weekdays during working hours!”

Well let’s test that with some empirical evidence shall we.

Here is a thread where I made a number of comments:

My first comment on this thread was 16:27, second was 18:26, third 17:24, fourth 19:09, fifth 09:45, sixth 17:07.

But maybe you are referring to this thread, well first comment was at 16:54, second was at 19:51, and third was at 13:53.

Now you will have to explain how that accounts for so many comments posted during working hours, or maybe you have other comments in mind? Please provide the evidence. This is in keeping with your need to make up the facts to fit your narrative. Again Marx would be proud!

Personally I would stick with the bowling green attack if I were you, so devastating.

During this week I have been on IFRS training. I have also been reading from my TISonline instant CIPFA email account about the proposed changes to the accounting of infrastructure assets. No longer will they be valued on an historic cost basis but will now be valued on current value. To quote ”A major area of difference between the current FReM and the SORP is the valuation basis for infrastructure assets, where the FReM requires a current valuation basis and the SORP an historical cost basis (both are consistent with UK GAAP).
Although not strictly linked to IFRS it is likely that the valuation of infrastructure assets will move to a current basis. If enacted, this would have a profound effect on the share of asset values that local government would take as a percentage of the total UK public sector assets.”

One outcome of the implementation of IFRS is ”While approximately half the debts associated with PFI deals are not registered on public sector balance sheets, a move from UK Generally Accepted Accounting Practice to IFRS should, in theory, see the outstanding £23bn moved ‘on balance sheet’, FRAB noted.”

I.e. More debt on the government’s books!

“the rest of us are spending our time orgtanising against!”

All I have heard from you are selective quotes designed to attack the TUC. And why? Because they are in a defensive campaign against cuts. Instead of solidarity you opportunistically use the ConDem attacks to push your own minority agenda, like some cleric at an earthquake. Thanks!