Co-operation v Charity

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Co-operative Culture
The Co-operative Movement: An Introduction
An Historical Perspective
Origins of the Co-operative Movement
Sheffield Co-operative Development Group
CWS 150 Years - A Sheffield Perspective
The Co-operative Party
Co-operation v Charity
CWS/Co-operative Group

Co-operative collective ownership is not generally understood in the capitalist mainstream culture.

An example of how the co-operative culture is subsumed by mainstream orthodoxy is the emphasis on Charity which we see in large co-operative societies. From Victorian times to the present, 'Charity' can be seen as a concept which fits comfortably within the capitalist orthodoxy. Large companies have always made token gestures in the way of donations to worthy causes. Philanthropy was very popular in Victorian capitalism and whilst there is nothing wrong with this in its self, it can never change the world. We can view 'Charity' as part of mainstream orthodoxy.

Co-operation is in fact the opposite. It is collective self help, and this does have the power to transform Society. This is people coming together to take control of the means to their sustenance and well being and cutting out the profiteers.

Capitalist businesses of all kinds give to 'Charity' in all sorts of ways. In particular, co-operative society rivals on the high street all have their 'Charity of the Year'. The 'Alzheimers Society' has been Tesco's Charity of the Year for instance.

There can be no objection to co-operatives making donations to Charity, but this is not part of what a co-operative is. 'Charity' is an easy option because it is a concept well understood by everyone and staff can easily buy into it.

But a co-operative is not a charity. Lets hope that all co-operatives, both large and small, become more authentic and foster the values of self-help, self-responsibility, democracy, equality, equity and solidarity and become known for their ethical values of honesty, openness, social responsibility and caring for others.

Steve Thompson
8th July 2015