Chasing Utopia

In short, co-ops, once an integral part of radical political movements, are now largely integrated into the capitalist order. They may lobby for particular changes, but they no longer mobilize alongside those fighting capitalism.

Instead, the main interest of co-op members is generally no more radical than getting a higher selling price or lower buying price in the market — nothing to scoff at, but also nothing to make capitalists sweat.

Even with these shortcomings, takeovers and co-ops do have some positive strategic attributes. The enthusiasm for employee stock-ownership plans, in contrast, is downright puzzling. Under ESOPs, workers are partially compensated through company shares that are held in trust until they retire or leave. A notable proponent, Alperovitz concedes that ESOPs are far from perfect but still cites them as evidence of “evolutionary reconstruction” in the advance of democracy.

Yet ESOPs were introduced to undermine workplace democracy and worker power, not enhance it. Corporations like Proctor and Gamble, IBM, Coca-Cola, and UPS chose employee stock-ownership plans for the tax breaks and to help keep unions out (or at least limit their mobilization against wage or benefit concessions by offering a partial “offset”).

Read the full article at Jacobin


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