Keep it Co-op and ensure a strong voice for cooperatives in politics

The Co-operative movement has a long and proud history in this country, working to build a society where wealth and power are shared.

Corporate capture of the Co-op – and how you can stop it

keep it coopWhen Sir Graham Melmoth raises concerns about what is going on at the Co-operative Group – as he did recently in the Guardian – then it is worth listening. Graham Melmoth was a highly successful Chief Executive of the Group and is the man who saved the Co-op from de-mutualisation.

He is just one of a number of committed co-operators who are highlighting that there is something extremely troubling happening under the cover of the General Election. The Co-op’s new bosses are pushing through what amounts to a corporate takeover of the business, trying to end a century of democratic political involvement. Continue reading

Benneconomics – a tribute

arguments for socialismI got to know Tony Benn well when I worked as a researcher to the Socialist Campaign Group of Labour MPs in the mid-2000s. I’d first met him when he was about to stand down from Parliament “to devote more time to politics“, a promise which he fulfilled. He filled venues around the country with his “Audience with …” one-man shows, and maintained his prominence as an anti-war campaigner through his presidency of the Stop the War Coalition.

But perhaps the most unexplored aspect of his life has been his contribution to economic thinking for democratic socialists. While no economic theorist or econometrist, Tony Benn emphasised the need for political theory to inform economic policy. Continue reading

Labour needs to design a co-operative, democratic economy

Mondragón model of interlocking elementsThe very ideas of ‘guild socialism’ and ‘distributism’ have been rarely advocated since the early 20th century, yet the case for equality and common ownership is stronger than ever. Perhaps the marginalisation of guild socialists is a product of the global polarisation that has made us forget about the fundamental power of economic co-operation? We have always been presented a choice between Keynesianism and neoliberalism, state intervention or untamed markets. Put simply, both Keynesian policy and laissez-faire capitalism have failed to create working economies for ordinary people – we need a radical alternative. Continue reading

Help save the Gay Hussar and give co-ops a bost

Gay HussarIs it madness to want to save a 60-year-old restaurant, the Gay Hussar in London’s Soho, because of fond memories of goulash, fierce argument and good humour – and to want others to have similar experiences? The late Tom Driberg tried famously to persuade Mick Jagger to stand as a Labour candidate there; Victor Sassie, longtime maître d’, whose claims to Hungarian parentage were diluted by his less trumpted familial links to Barrow-in-Furness, witnessed libidinous former foreign secretary, George Brown, fall outside in the gutter. Even in my time, Tribune dinners were attended by among others, Michael Foot, Barbara Castle, Kenneth Clarke and the late Lord Rothermere, who, having been kissed by journalist Nick Cohen, took himself and Foot off for a nightcap at the Ritz.

A group of us, call us devotees, have formed a co-operative to buy the restaurant, having invested time and money in the place – the latter often courtesy of our employers – over many years.

We think we are in good company. Continue reading