Alternatives to Capitalism

Capitalists have done a good job of convincing people to believe “there is no alternative” to capitalism – or TINA. This is not true. Workers’ self-management, workers’ control and worker cooperatives currently exist and are surviving better than many capitalist businesses.

These organizations are managed and run by the workers themselves, most of whom have ownership in the company. Through regularly held assemblies workers decide together what will be produced, how much will be produced, how long and how hard they will work and what they will be paid. They also decide what tools and resources they will purchase and what they will do with their profits. This is a radical departure from companies where workers have no say in any of these matters. Under capitalism, a board of directors that typically have no direct involvement with the operation of the organization, yet who take the lion’s share of the profits, makes decisions on all of these issues.

Perhaps the biggest and the best-known example of worker-cooperatives is Mondragon, which is a federation of worker cooperatives in the Basque region of Spain. At the end of 2014 it employed over 70,000 people in 257 companies. While the rest of Spain, and most of Europe, is struggling with declining economies and “austerity”, in spite of some recent economic setbacks Mondragon is thriving. We don’t expect miracles from any worker coop because they still have to exist within a world-capitalist system. Their chances of success are better under non-authoritarian forms of socialist regimes.

About Barbara MacLean

Barbara MacLean has worked as an academic and career counselor at California State University, East Bay (CSUEB), Merritt and West Valley Colleges and as a career counselor and manager of the Oakland One Stop Career Center, a public career and jobs center in partnership with EDD. She is a co-founder and editor of Planning Beyond Capitalism.

View all posts by Barbara MacLean →

2 Comments on “Alternatives to Capitalism”

  1. Have been meaning for a long time to learn in more detail about Mondragon. Any suggested sources for a good overview?

    1. Hi Noah: I really don’t know. the criteria I would use for picking a book is recency. Also watch out for overly idealistic interpretations. In part because of its size, some say it has moved away somewhat from its more radical roots.I would look for something that is critical yet sympathetic. I would try either PM press or Ak press to have the greatest variety of books on the subject. As I think you know they are both anarchist publishers.Let me know how it goes.

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