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Marx, Co-operatives and Capitalism

The recent failure of the co-operative bank and its rescue by hedge funds seems an apt time to review Richard Wolff's latest book, Democracy at Work: A Cure for Capitalism(Haymarket Books), which advocates co-operatives as the way towards economic democracy for the working class.   Wolff rejects the label 'co-operative', perhaps because of its historical baggage, and chooses another term, 'workers self-directed enterprises' (WSDEs), to describe what he advocates.  In practice, though, what Wolff advocates is indistinguishable from the historical aims of the co-operative movement to re-distribute profit amongst its members.  Wolff is also an open advocate for long-established co-operative projects such as Mondragon in Spain.  Wolff's aims, though, run deeper than support for extending the popularity of co-operatives as presently understood.  What Wolff seeks to do in Democracy at Work is to redefine working-class co-operative production

Book Reviews

Travelling People

Caroline Moorehead: Human Cargo: a Journey among Refugees Vintage £7.99

The title says it all really: human beings shunted from one place to another, in response to political events, and treated as objects to be kept at arm's length or sent back as quickly as possible to wherever they came from. There are perhaps 12 million refugees in the world today, and twice that number of internally displaced people (IDPs), who get less attention, and also less financial support when they return to their homes.

The International

Marx and Engels had no misapprehension whatsoever as to the fact that the first International could only be the means of carrying and spreading a knowledge of Socialism among the wage-workers throughout the world. Such a task, in face of the great apathy and ignorance of the toilers, was a tremendous one, as the history of the first International has demonstrated. Yet it cannot be gainsaid that the International from 1863 till 1872 was a far greater educational power among the proletariat than the present International, which was inaugurated in 1889. This comparison becomes more significant still when it is asserted by prominent writers and speakers of the present labour movement that the first International was only a roof without the house, while the second, the present International, is a house with a roof.

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