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Catalyzing worker co-ops & the solidarity economy

Conference wrap-up--pleased, uneasy, and inspired

August 13, 2010
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In my first posting about the conference I talked of my concern about us having an ?honest hope.?  That we would be coming to the conference sounding the theme that worker co-ops is the solution, without being honest about the monstrous gap between our capacities and the enormity of economic suffering confronting us.  

We are not going to become the solution any time soon, but I believe that we have the opportunity to achieve a lot, like laying down a foundational strategy and infrastructure open to diverse approaches for the generation to come.  The opportunity arises from the massive breakdown of the standard operating economics and politics.  And there is going to be more of this kind of opportunity as the already-inflicted damage to Mother Earth?s metabolism begins to take its unavoidable toll. 

So there is no reason for us to despair.  We have so much to offer and the time has come where we will be heard more and more, and we have a younger generation coming to the fore with strength, intelligence, vision, and heart.  And an older generation producing things like the Cleveland model, the Mondragon/United Steel Workers union, our GEO news service project, etc.

But we should fear blind enthusiasm as much as despair.  

Among the many things I sought to do at this conference was to test the soil as to where we are regarding the need to expand to scale and the necessity to begin developing our capacity to work creatively with how to solve face-to-face problems.  On the first count I think we are doing pretty well.  A movement infrastructure is emerging, and its development is seen as a major priority.  Our younger generation is a driving force behind this as demonstrated by the fact that all the special leadership awards went to them, four of them for their work in networking.

On the second count I didn?t find that much that impressed.  There were some significant markers, though.  There were at least two workshops that were all about group processes for working with face-to-face issues, and a few other that focused on developing an ethos of cooperation within our co-ops.  And I especially appreciated this progress because at the previous four ECWD and USFWC conferences I have attended I felt very much like a lone wolf.

There is an intense and frustrating irony here.  On the one hand, there is a great deal of awareness and feeling about not being able to work out issues face-to-face, and about how costly they can be both emotionally and collectively.  On the other, there is hardly any passion to find out how we can develop effective methods that can be spread throughout the cooperative movement and all the other democracy movements.  Some interest, yes, but no passion.

I see no way that we can expand to scale without developing a very powerful and diverse capacity for our groups to work with face-to-face issues.  It could be a major source of personal and collaborative power.  Instead, it is a constant drain on our energy, good will toward each other, and power.

Let me end on a more personal note.  The passion, energy, and love manifested at this conference were exhilarating.  I came with a lot of personal anxiety about being my self-perceived ?lone wolf.?  As disappointed as I was in our lack of engaging with the face-to-face issues, I came away more inspired to work on it and feeling much less the ?lone wolf.?

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