Jeremy Corbyn has appealed to the co-operative movement to come forward with ideas to “transform our economy to work for the many, not the few”.
The Labour leader said there are two areas that co-operators can work on now:
1: “We know that co-operative start-ups are more likely to survive than conventional business start-ups so what can you as a movement do now, to engage with entrepreneurs to take up the co-operative model, working with local chambers of commerce and the Federation of Small Businesses. Let’s get Labour councils, the co-operative movement, and small business organisations working together to promote the co-operative model.”
2: “We are entering a period of unprecedented opportunity for socialist politics and co-operative principles. New technology is empowering participation, new social movements today are horizontalist rather than hierarchical, networked rather than top-down. The technology of the digital age should be empowering workers, enabling us to co-operate on a scale not possible before and yet too often it has enabled a more rapacious and exploitative form of capitalism to emerge.”
On the growth of technology, he added: “Look at Uber, Deliveroo, and others. The platforms these companies use are the technologies of the future. But, too often, their business models depend not on technological advantage, but on establishing an effective monopoly in their market and using it to drive wages and conditions through the floor.
“Digital platforms are opening up huge opportunities for horizontal, more democratic, forms of organisation to flourish. Imagine an Uber run co-operatively by their drivers, collectively controlling their futures, agreeing their own pay and conditions, with profits shared or re-invested. The next Labour Government, working with you, can make that a reality.
“The biggest obstacle to this is not technological but ourselves. We must have the confidence and organisational skill to make it happen. That’s why we commissioned our report on Alternative Models of Ownership. To start asking fundamental questions about who should own our economy in the digital age, and how to ensure that it’s enormous potential benefits serve the many, not the few.
“Its authors recommend that co-operatives be supported by government through access to finance, through legal changes to level the playing field for cooperatives in the market, and through a better government procurement policy, so that public money is being used to support companies that serve the public good.”
In closing his speech at the Co-operative Party conference, Mr Corbyn said: “We don’t have all the answers yet but are thinking radically about how we can shape the next thirty years to use the power of new technology to make our economy work for the many not the few.
“Today Labour and Co-op parties are the largest in Britain with more members than all the other parties combined. We are winning the arguments … with support for public and co-operative ownership. And we are inspiring millions. We are a movement ready to take office and ready to shape our country for the future.”