The economic importance of Cooperative enterprises in the sustainable development of local communities is essential. These economic entities are a genuine reflection of a human activity based on dignity, freedom and solidarity. Therefore it is important to define the term itself, describing what a genuine cooperative is, how it works and how this term is often misunderstood and deliberately misused.
According to the Oxford English Dictionary, a cooperative enterprise is a “farm, business, or other organization which is owned and run jointly by its members, who share the profits or benefits.” From this definition it is clear that a COOP first and formost it is based on the respect and safeguard of private property of each member of the enterprise. In a genuine cooperative system, the means of production are owned, therefore the productive property is also owned by its members and not by the State like in communist planned economies as witnessed some twenty years ago. To be clear, a genuine cooperation has nothing to do with the brutal socialist collectivisation, where private property was abolished, the land was seized, profit confiscated and the people persecuted. That was a fake form of cooperation based on the brutal intervention of the state.
By joining together in solidarity, the members of a COOP don’t lose their private property ( land, investment capital), they mentain it, and run it democratically, and redistributing the profit being one of the most successful models within the capitist system which is fully compatible with the principles of democracy, free market and sustainable development. In the following lines I will try to explain why.
Given the current global conditions in the aftermath of the economic crisis, COOP’s represent a viable solution to achieve economic growth, tackle unemployment and save the environment. In this respect, cooperation plays a huge role in boosting and reviving local economies and empowering people to act in solidarity and in accordance with their own dignity and economic interest.
Cooperatives perfectly fit in the holistical paradigm of a global thinking and local action, therefore 2012 was decalred by the United Nations, the International Year of Cooperatives.
Cooperatives can take many formsas viable solutions for the development of the local economies, offering perspectives in the field of agriculture, micro-finance ( credit unions, community owned banks), communication technologies and small and medium-sized industries.
The succes of these enterprises is well known and a large amount of examples can be provided. Among them: Cooperative Enterprises from the United Kingdom, Germany, Switzerland, France, Romania the Mondragon Corporation of Cooperatives from Basque Country in Spain and Cooperative Enterprises in Canada and United States.
Cooperative system is based on sustainable patterns of consumption and production and represent a viable alternative to tackle youth unemployment that plagueing our countries today. It is an attractive model for young professionals to empower themselves and to become genuine job creators and not merely job seekers. COOP’s are a genuine form of empowerment and achievement of freedom of excellence.
By Victor Ciumac, advocacy fellow at WYA Europe.