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Now that marxism has finally, belatedly expired, there is no left wing context for reviewing capitalism, we are left in the grip of mercantile corporatist raiders.

I am optimistic that cooperativism is ripe for coming into its own.  After decades of pushing by committed pioneers, cooperativism will soon reach the point where it takes off like a flywheel spinning faster and faster, propelled by its own weight.

Cooperativism had a false start in the U.S. as well, in the age of Populism, at the end of the 19th century.  Indeed, one of the railroad barons, Leland Stanford, who became U.S. senator and governor of California, before founding Stanford University, "converted" to cooperativism and even tried to get a bill passed to promote cooperativism in the United States.  His bill did not follow the Rochdale principle of one person-one vote, as voting rights would be based on capital contribution, but his commitment was clearly to a vision where workers were their own employers, where people worked together as partners, and not in employer-employee relationships.  In an interview with the New York Tribune Stanford "drove home his vision by imagining what would happen if the industrial system had always been cooperative, and now someone were proposing to reorganize it as a corporate system":

To comprehend it in all its breadth, however, let us assume that in all time all labor had been thus self directing. If instead of the proposition before us to change the industrial system from the employed relation and place it under self direction, the co-operative form of industrial organization had existed from all time, and we were now for the first time proposing to reorganize the employment of labor, and place it under non-concurrent direction, I apprehend the proposer of such a change would be regarded in the light of an enslaver of his race. He would be amenable to the charge that his effort was in the direction of reducing the laboring man to an automaton, and ... would leave but small distinction in the minds of workingmen between the submission of all labor to the uncontrolled direction of an employer, and actual slavery.

Beyond Capitalism: Leland Stanford's Forgotten Vision

Earlier in the interview, he states:

When you see a man without employment, ... the contemplation is necessarily saddening. The fault is with the organization of our industrial systems. ... The hirer of labor uses other men in the employed relation only to the extent that his own wants demand. Those therefore, who having productive capacity, remain in poverty, belong to the class who constitute the surplus over and above the numbers required to satisfy by the product of their labor the wants of the employer class. The numbers belonging to this surplus class would be constantly diminished, and would eventually disappear under the operation of the co-operative principle.

His bill did not pass, but I was surprised to learn that one had even been proposed in the Senate at so early a date, and by a railroad Robber Baron to boot.

Are there any politicians today for whom cooperativism is even on the radar?

Truth unfolds in time through a communal process.

by marco on Sat Feb 24th, 2007 at 01:23:29 PM EST
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