Radical cooperatism can deliver fairer capitalism

Mike Morgan-Giles

Image © Uli Harder

2012 has been officially named by the United Nations as the International Year of Cooperatives. They are widely recognised as being a force for good – with the impact of cooperatives extending from housing to community shops to football clubs.

Yet it appears this is an opportunity that the Government plans to let slip. By the end of this Parliament, their only commitment to a cooperative agenda will likely have been the conversion of public services from being state run to being cooperative led.

While this isn’t necessarily a bad thing, it is an indication that the Coalition views cooperatives and mutuals as mechanisms to disengage the state from the provision of public services, rather than because they genuinely believe in the development of a cooperative economy and society.

On the other hand, Labour has held a historic connection to the cooperative movement, with the Co-operative Party having been a sister organisation since 1927. In fact, there are 29 Co-operative Party MPs, with further representation in the Scottish Parliament, Welsh Assembly and in local government.

The MPs range from senior figures like Ed Balls and Stephen Twigg, to fast up and comers such as Stella Creasy and Luciana Berger. This is a Parliamentary coalition that should be utilised to promote a new consensus on the companies where people work, the shops and services that people use and the places where people live.

Earlier this year, the Government said that they intend to introduce a Cooperatives Bill in the upcoming Queens Speech on 9th May. This is to be cautiously welcomed, but undoubtedly the devil is in the detail.

Creating a genuinely cooperative society requires more than just a bill – it requires direction, policies and an end target. There are around 13 million cooperative members within the UK, all of varying degree, but the ambition should be to involve almost every person across the country in one way or another.

The left therefore need to start laying out what is required in law to make this a reality. A good start would undoubtedly be simplifying the rules around starting a cooperative or mutual and providing advice to do so. But there is a need to go a great deal further.

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Should We Celebrate a Decline in Global Poverty?

Adam Parsons – Originally published by Share The World’s Resources

The World Bank’s latest data suggests a decline in global poverty throughout every region of the developing world, as well as the fulfillment of the Millennium Development Goal (MDG) on halving poverty well ahead of schedule. But is this really the ‘good news’ that we are led to believe?

You may be forgiven for missing the good news recently reported by the World Bank: that the number of people living in extreme poverty has declined in almost every region of the developing world. According to the latest global poverty estimates, both the percentage of people living on less than $1.25 a day and the number of poor declined between 2005 and 2008, the first time that an across-the-board reduction has been reported since the World Bank began monitoring poverty. Not only that, but preliminary estimates indicate that the share of people living in extreme poverty declined between 2008 and 2010, even despite the global financial crises and surging food prices. By 2010, it appears that the $1.25 a day poverty rate fell to less than half the 1990 rate, which means that the United Nation’s first Millennium Development Goal (MDG) for cutting extreme poverty in half has already been achieved, five years ahead of schedule. This is surely a cause for celebration – or is it?

To answer this question, we first have to understand why the World Bank’s poverty statistics are so important, which is not only for what they tell us about the number of poor people in the world. The World Bank is the monopoly provider of global poverty figures, and it is no secret that they are often used to support the view that liberalisation and globalisation have helped to reduce poverty worldwide. In other words, a reduction in global poverty can usefully defend the Bank’s neoliberal policies that favour economic growth and free markets as the overruling means to combating poverty. Since around 2000 when the Millennium Development Goals were first conceived, the World Bank has consistently painted an upbeat picture of the global poverty situation. This is not a conspiracy, as some people might suggest, but simply an ideological justification for the current arrangements of the global economy and the status quo. So long as the MDGs remain in sight and global poverty is on a downward trend, then the Bank’s continued defence of neoliberal policies can be vindicated.

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