5 June 2013 1:35 PM (igalia | cooperatives)
It's difficult for anyone with an open heart and a fresh mind to look at the world without shuddering at its injustices: police brutality, obscene gaps between rich and poor, war and bombs and land mines, people without houses and houses without people. So much wrong! It is right and natural not only to feel revulsion, but to revolt as well. Fight the man! Down with the state! No god, no master!
So to those working against foreclosures and evictions of families in your neighborhoods, more power to you. Fight the good fight.
However, revolt is unfortunately not sufficient. We must also think beyond the now and imagine a better world: life after the revolution.
I'm sure I've lost some of you now, and that's OK. We are all at different points of political consciousness, and you can't speak to all at the same time. Some of the words like "revolution" probably bother some people. It sounds strident, right? But if you agree (and perhaps you do not) that there are fundamental problems with the way the world works, and that symptoms like banks kicking families out of houses using riot police are ultimately caused by those problems, then any real change must also be fundamental: at the foundation, where the roots are. Radical problems need radical solutions. Revolution is no more (and no less!) than a radically different world.
For me, one of these roots to dig up is hierarchy. I take as a principle that people should have power over and responsibility for decisions to the extent that they are affected, and hierarchy is all about some people having more power than others. Even if you do away with capitalism, as in the early Soviet Union, if you don't directly address the issue of hierarchy, classes will emerge again. A world in which some people are coordinators and other people are workers will result in a coordinator class that gradually accretes more and more power. Hierarchy is in essence tyrannical, though any specific instance may be more or less so.
On the other side of things, hierarchy deadens those at the bottom: the listless students, the mechanical workers, the passive and cynical voters. The revolution has to come about in a way that leaves people more alive and curious and energetic, and that seems to correspond not only with greater freedom but also with personal responsibility. I think that a world without hierarchy would be a world whose people would be more self-actualized and self-aware, as they would have more responsibility over the situations that affect their lives and those around them.
Well. I don't want to wax too theoretical here, in what I meant to be an introduction. I've been having these thoughts for a while and finally a couple years ago I decided to join in a collective experiment: to practice my chosen craft of computer programming within a cooperative context. I haven't had a boss since then, and I haven't been the boss of anyone. I'm not even my own boss. There are no masters!
I've gotten so used to this way of working that sometimes I forget how unusual it is to work in a cooperative. Also, we're usually too busy hacking to write about it ;) So in the next few articles I'll take a look at the internal structure of our company, Igalia, and try to give some insight into what it's like working in a cooperative.