re: The Co-operative Model: Mondragon, Reagan, and China

From Alex Day <>
Date Sun, 22 Aug 2004 21:29:44 -0700 (PDT)
In-reply-to <>

Rural coops

I glad Matt wrote this essay, both because of the
importance of the topic and personally because it
deals with the subject I am writing on.  I think,
Matt, that you bring up the right questions by linking
a discussion of the (new) coops and market socialism,
for this is how most of the activists involved in the
coop movement I have met seem to see it—at least some
of the biggest promoters see it them as part of market
socialism.  Jiang Bolin (whom Dong Xulin, Robert Weil
and I visited in Siping this summer after going to
Dingzhou) is one of the biggest promoters of New
Cooperatives.  He started several coops outside of
Siping and helped start the one in Zaicheng (where the
Yan Yangchu Rural Reconstruction School is located);
he also has spoken at Utopia in Beijing on New Coops. 
His coops grew out of the reform of rural credit
coops, to which they are strongly tied.  He stresses
that these coops are fully part of the market and they
should be.  I don’t think he really sees them as part
of a process of struggle or of breaking with markets
or even capitalism at all.  They are a way for
peasants to improve their “weak” position within the
market.  It is telling that the primary way they are
effective for peasants is through purchasing and
sales.  Grouped together, peasants can lose less money
to middle men—it is portrayed as a way to be in a
better competitive position vis-à-vis the middle men
in the market.  Others, a little more critical, point
out that this understanding of market competition is
flawed; they note that the coops aren’t really
improving their competitive position against the
middle men so much as against other, non-coop-member
peasants, who in turn get a worse price or have a
harder time selling their goods.  If all peasants were
in such coops, the benefits would end up mostly being
wiped out within the market.  
	All this doesn’t mean they don’t have value and
shouldn’t be supported.  But I think it shows the
limits to how they are being understood in China by
some of their promoters at the moment.  I think their
value lies elsewhere: in the increased active
participation of peasants and workers in the social
sphere.  It is as part of a process of social
transformation that these coops begin to really have
value—as Matt was also pointing out.  Jiang Bolin
stressed active participation of peasants in the coops
and their control; this is much stronger than places
like Nanjiecun.  The question is, whether these coops
will increase or decrease the combativeness of
peasants and workers.  I think it is still hard to say
and they have the potential to work either way.  It
depends more, I guess, on outside factors, such as the
extent to which there is a communist social movement
or not.  Another factor to think about is the role of
intellectuals in these coops.  Jiang Bolin made it
clear that the peasants wouldn’t have joined into his
coops if they had to bare any of the start-up costs—in
the end he and his family have born much of the
start-up costs.  
	People here have also suggested the Ollman (which
must be translated), so I will be definitely reading
it when I get back.  

There is a web site that focuses on these new rural
coops.  It is put up by a young peasant that now hangs
out at the YanYangchu school.



Do you Yahoo!?
Win 1 of 4,000 free domain names from Yahoo! Enter now.