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Catalyzing worker co-ops & the solidarity economy

Idea of co-ops is outdated

In Kuwait, the first attempts at cooperation began in 1941 at Al-Mubarakiya School, through a cooperative association to manage the school canteen, and after that the experience spread to other schools, and in the fifties I was a contributor to the Al-Sabah and Al-Siddiq school associations.

As for the first official cooperative society owned by the people of the region, it was the Kaifan Society, which was founded in 1962, with the purpose of serving the region and providing consumer goods and foodstuffs to the region’s residents and patrons.

The experience of the societies was successful in its beginnings, and today its annual sales have reached more than 4 billion dollars, but with ‘The Unblessed Awakening’.

The religiously ideological parties succeeded in controlling the boards of directors of many of them, and perhaps that was the beginning of corruption eating into the body of their majority, and their transformation into a political tool and illicit enrichment, and the subsequent referral of some of their members, or their entire boards of directors, elected or appointed by the Ministry of Social Affairs to the prosecution to investigate them for serious financial violations.

Corruption included almost most of the cooperatives, and over time it became one of their characteristics, the source of everyone’s complaints, the cause of headaches for the Ministry of Social Affairs, and a blackmail tool for those dealing with it, including tenants and suppliers, with its social services being modest, other than financing ‘Umrah’ trips for some of them.

Over time, sharp criticism of cooperative societies increased, and demands to cancel the entire idea increased, and others suggested reforming it. A third group demanded that the right to manage the central markets be stripped from its board of directors and handed over to professional marketing companies.

Read the rest at Arab Times


Matt Noyes

This is an important cautionary tale that also reflects the diversity of co-op experiences around the world. In "Rhodesia" cooperatives were explicitly part of the settle colonial project, for example. Of course, the same can be said for many form of social and economic organization, like trade unions, which can come under mob-domination, government control, or be grassroots democratic organizations. So, I'm not sure the problem is the idea of co-ops, seems more like the practices of corruption and cooptation.

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