What Would Rosa Do? Co-operatives and Radical Politics

Marisol Sandoval (2016) “What Would Rosa Do? Co-operatives and Radical Politics”, Soundings 63.

The question of what co-operatives can contribute to the left is explored in the light of Rosa Luxemburg’s apparent rejection of reformist organisations in her ‘Reform or revolution’, written at the beginning of the early twentieth century. Drawing on interviews with worker co-operatives in the UK cultural industries, Sandoval teases out the politics of working in co-ops, and shows that, although the kinds of co-ops she is discussing tend to operate at the small-scale prefigurative level, they help open up the political spaces on which bigger political action can build – although this undoubtedly requires making connections both between individual co-ops and between co-ops and the wider left. Her conclusion is that different times require different tactics, and that, though Luxemburg would not have seen much value in co-ops solely as a form of prefigurative politics, she would have valued them if they could at the same time contribute to advancing the greater goal of building a radical alternative.