The world needs co-operative values to solve its problems, says Jeremy Corbyn.
At the Co-operative Party annual conference in London, the Labour leader said: “Our economy is failing to deliver. For millions of people, the current system is failing to deliver secure jobs, failing to deliver secure housing, and failing to deliver rising living standards.”
He added: “Philip Hammond says that Labour poses an ‘existential challenge to our economic model’ – Yes, we do. Their economic model is broken. It doesn’t work for most people. Even the International Monetary Fund thinks inequality and low taxes for the richest are harming the economy.
“That’s why Labour is now the new mainstream, developing a new consensus of how to run an economy for the many, not the few.”
He said people looking to start up a business should “consider the co-operative model”.
He added: “When I meet entrepreneurs, and those trying to start their own business, their motivations are to express their creativity, serve their community, meet people’s needs, to create an income for themselves and jobs for others.
“Their inspiration is often closer to the pragmatic principles of the co-operative movement than it is to the abstract ideology of Milton Friedman.”
But, he added that co-ops need support too: “We have to acknowledge the obstacles to the co-operative model. Too often people who want to change their community or start a business don’t know about the co-operative movement. And yet co-operative start-ups are more robust than other forms of business start-up – twice as likely to still be in operation five years later.”
Mr Corbyn said a Labour government “will promote the co-operative option and support you to double the size of the co-operative economy”.
Already, Labour has made a proposal to create a legal definition for co-operative ownership to ensure workers have a right to own when a company is facing a change of ownership or closure. Plus it has suggested it will establish regional development banks to help deliver low-cost finance to co-operatives that support the creation of publicly-owned, locally accountable energy companies and co-operatives.
Mr Corbyn told the conference: “When we talk about taking natural monopolies into public ownership we’re not inspired by the centralised and remote models of the 1940s and 1950s. We’re determined to create models of ownership that involve workers and consumers based on co-operative principles, whether that’s at the community, regional or national level.
“Last year the profit margins at the big six energy firms hit their highest level on record, falling wholesale costs were not passed on, and since then providers like British Gas have hiked prices again by 12.5%.
“Why does this happen? Because energy is run for profit, for the interests of the few over the many.”
He added that he is also “committed to bringing Royal Mail into public ownership – run in the interest of the public, Royal Mail workers and service users”.
Mr Corbyn also called for co-operative values on an international level. “We live in a world riven by conflict,” he said, “spurred on by ego and neo-imperial ambition. Never has the time been more important to restate our commitment to the UN Charter, the third clause of which states its aim ‘To achieve international co-operation in solving international problems’.
“With the problems facing us of nuclear proliferation, climate change, the global refugee crisis, the humanitarian crises in Syria, Yemen and of the Rohingya in Myanmar – a global vision driven by our co-operative principles is more necessary than ever. Whether it’s Donald Trump or Kim Jong-Un, macho posturing needs to give way to calm, rational co-operation.
“And across the world co-operatives play such a huge role as a spur to development, empowering women, bringing communities together. And today there are over a billion people worldwide who are members of co-operatives and I am proud to say that I am one of them.”