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Sun Jan 6, 2013, 11:39 AM

Richard Wolff on Workplace Democracy


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Reply Richard Wolff on Workplace Democracy (Original post)
limpyhobbler Jan 2013 OP
JDPriestly Jan 2013 #1
physioex Jan 2013 #2
JDPriestly Jan 2013 #3
limpyhobbler Jan 2013 #4
jtuck004 Jan 2013 #5
limpyhobbler Jan 2013 #6

Response to limpyhobbler (Original post)

Sun Jan 6, 2013, 03:08 PM

1. I would like to point out that what Richard Wolff is suggesting is the absolute opposite

of socialism. The government does not own the cooperative. The employees own the cooperative. I would like to see more employee-owned businesses, but I think you need to start this with smaller groups of people.

The big challenge in running a cooperative, it would seem to me, would be the fact that inevitably a few very opinionated people would gravitate into leadership positions and cause controversy due to their big, out-of-proportion egos.

To handle that situation, my advice to people starting a cooperative is to study the fundamentals of Nonviolent Communication. I recommend the book on this by Marshall Rosenberg, Ph.D.

Cooperatives, in my opinion, could be the key to bringing the American economy out of its current downward spin.

Cooperatives are free enterprises, truly free enterprises. They are not incompatible with a basically capitalist system. In fact, in a true cooperative, the owners are the workers and are at the same time the capitalists. It's the best combination, but it takes employees/owners who are willing to work together and to set aside their egos to do this.

I base my opinions about the challenges of cooperative enterprises on my work in community organizations and the personalities and problems that I have observed in that work.

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Response to JDPriestly (Reply #1)

Sun Jan 6, 2013, 06:04 PM

2. Ohhhhh I would love it....

If the electricity I use could come from a local cooperative. If we invested more in solar and wind this could potentially happen soon. I would much rather have my money go back into the community than a state monopoly.

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Response to physioex (Reply #2)

Sun Jan 6, 2013, 09:43 PM

3. In Los Angeles, the city owns our electricity system.

During the Enron-manufactured crisis here, Los Angeles sold electricity to other communities in California. Goes to show you that public companies can in some instances be more efficient and cheaper than private companies. And cooperatives can be much better if they can run themselves well. It's a challenge to our social development. I like that.

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Response to JDPriestly (Reply #1)

Sun Jan 6, 2013, 11:57 PM

4. So my take is...

Some views of socialism do revolve around government (democratic) control of enterprises. Other views revolve around direct worker control of enterprises by workplace democracy. Rick Wolff seems to prefer a system that blends both of those models. Seems good to me. Some people do see worker-run enterprises as a building block of a better economic system, but not everyone does.

You make a good point about the communication issues that would arise. I've heard of that Nonviolent Communication book before and it seems like a good suggestion. Rick Wolff actually talked about some education issues in his podcast. He stresses in order for collective management to work well there will be quite a bit of education needed. Just like we needed to invent a certain type of public education in order to have a political democracy, we also need some education to train everyone to help manage a worker's self-directed enterprise. (Starts at 44 minutes: http://rdwolff.com/download/sites/default/files/Econ_Update_Truthout_2012.11.10.32k.mp3)

How it fits in the capitalist system? Yes I think you're right that if you embed a worker-run co-op in a capitalist system, it becomes just a more democratic version of a capitalist business. So for that reason if we really wanted some better system I think we need to get at it through the government at that point, by having better rules, and the government could work with the worker-run companies to help manage the big picture of the economy. He talks about that too. (starts at 49 minutes http://rdwolff.com/download/sites/default/files/Econ_Update_Truthout_2012.10.13.32k.mp3)

Start small? Yes that makes sense. Mondragon in Spain started with just 6 people and now has over 100,000.

Key to bringing back the economy? Good idea. Especially in hard hit areas like cities where factories have disappeared and there is long term structural unemployment.



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Response to limpyhobbler (Original post)

Mon Jan 7, 2013, 09:35 AM

5. Some things never change...

In response to the dynamiting of the LA Times building by steelworkers President Taft created the Industrial Relations Commission in 1912 to investigate workplace conditions across the country. Many of the names of people (the ones who actually fought for the 8 hour day and unemployment, instead of just reaping the benefits of their sacrifice and giving it away as we are doing today) testified.
...
Reminiscent of current political "commissions" they were unable to agree on a conclusion so issued three different final reports, and instead of calling for workplace Democracy suggested a labor board, a way to keep decision making out of the hands of workers.

In this excerpt of the hearing Socialism, Social Democracy, and the IWW were lumped together, and Haywood took exception.

"Big" Bill Haywood was the General Secretary of the I.W.W. and being questioned.
...
Commissioner Weinstock: There is a radical difference between the I.W.W.s and the Social Democrats, Mr Haywood?
Answer: Yes
Commissioner Weinstock: The Social Democrat wants the state to own all the industry?
Answer: Yes
Commissioner Weinstock: And the I.W.W., then, as you now explain it, proposes to have the industries not owned by the state but by the workers.
Answer: By the workers, I repeated
...

1)http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Commission_on_Industrial_Relations
2) Bill Haywood's Book (Copyright 1929)

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Response to jtuck004 (Reply #5)

Mon Jan 7, 2013, 02:05 PM

6. It seems like the idea of democracy at work is starting to make a comeback.

Yes it has been an open question for 200 years at least. It seemed like it was on hold for a while during the late 20th century but I think it's going to be making a comeback.

Thanks for the link. Very interesting stuff.



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