Skip to main content

Catalyzing worker co-ops & the solidarity economy

Richard D. Wolff on The Worker Co-Op Solution

The frustration of the left, given this exhaustion of traditional socialisms' appeal, arose from having no other broadly agreed-upon vision of an attractive alternative to capitalism. The left could not provide what mass audiences craved as they deepened their criticisms of capitalism's longer-term decline and short-term crisis.

Enter the notion of workers' cooperatives or, better, the awkward but more specific term: workers self-directed enterprises (WSDEs). This centuries-old idea has been revived, redesigned and applied to go well beyond traditional socialism. The result is a new vision of an alternative to capitalism that could help to mobilize a new left.

WSDEs replace hierarchical, top-down capitalist enterprises run by major shareholders and the boards of directors they select with a democratic enterprise directed by all its workers. The latter, collectively and democratically, make all the key decisions of what, how and where to produce. Most importantly, they decide how to use the enterprise's net revenue.

Read the full article on


Kathy Jaffey

Cooperatives are not socialism, in my understanding.
The company, ideally, is owned by the workers cooperatively.
This is not state ownership. This is private ownership with the difference that the workers themselves own the business instead of
investors in the stock market owning the business.
There are so many benefits for the economy and for society of having the people who show up every day to work in the business own the business and make the decisions about costs, production and profits, including what to do with the profits.
This model does not need to criticize small businesses that are owned by only one or two people and are not publicly traded.
Ideally, in such a small business situation, the people who work there would still have a strong voice in the decisions of the company.
There is no need, however, to confuse people by calling cooperatives "socialism" or "communism." This is capitalism, just a much much better application of capitalism than its primary appearance in the world today.
Even worker directed or worker owned enterprises need to have workers who are willing to make decisions that benefit or at least do no harm to the local community and to the world environment.
For cooperatives to have a chance, to even get started in our current economic environment, would require a bank that would loan money to start up coops and a fair rate. Major banks today won't do that. And coops need protection from the extremely unfair competition environment of Walmart and Amazon to not be crushed before they can succeed. That would require legislation.
I hope it can all happen.
Ownership (which is pretty much the opposite of socialism or communism) is wealth and power. The promise of cooperatives, as I see it, is that ownership can be spread around much more liberally instead of being more and more concentrated in fewer and fewer hands.
It still needs to be spread into hands that value the good of society and are not focused on repeating all the mistakes of the current system.
I'm interested to see what you are saying about cooperatives.


Karl Marx stated socialism is the workers ownership and democratica management of production. Worker assemblies and Worker councils within the enterprises/workplace collectively own the means of production and democratically vote on decisions. Regionally and nationally these worker councils and local assemblies elect delegates or representatives to the regional and national worker councils. This is the traditional socialism Karl Marx promoted. This is Soviet Democracy. This is socialism.

Workers of the world unite!


To Kathy Jaffey: where did you read that socialism is about "state ownership" and that "ownership" is opposed to socialism and communism ? The latter sounds more like some leftist anarchist theory, and this has clearly nothing to do with the Marxist theories. The state isn't the center of a socialist revolution, it is merely a transitory tool used to redistribute the cards more evenly, however there was never the intention of replacing human interactions by state interactions. The ownership of the means of production and the egalitarian distribution of outcomes is what differenciates socialism and capitalism. Cooperatives are by essence socialists.

Add new comment

Plain text

  • No HTML tags allowed.
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.
  • Web page addresses and email addresses turn into links automatically.
CAPTCHA This question is to verify that you are a human visitor and to prevent automated spam.

What does the G in GEO stand for?