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November 9, 2021

How Blair killed the co-ops

Over the years, what the social economy (for want of a better term) might deliver for the common good has long been a point of contention. Never easy to define in precise terms, the advent of social enterprise represented, for some, a genuine alternative to mainstream capitalism. For others it was perceived as a backdoor to the privatisation of publicly owned services. And yet for many communities, it was a means of providing a sustainable route to local self-determination and financial empowerment. Long standing social commentator, Les Huckfield, is about to publish his own thoughts on the matter.


Les Huckfield

Not enough has been written to recall the alternative local social economy which the Greater London Council, Sheffield and other local councils previously worked hard to create. Fortunately, Community Wealth Building is once more beginning in North Ayrshire and elsewhere in Scotland.

The analysis in Les Huckfield’s book shows that, based on directly relevant contemporary precedents in Quebec and France, which have been largely ignored, a wider interpretation and promotion of a non market alternative social economies might have been possible beyond London.

With antecedents in worker cooperatives and community organisations in Britain in the 1970s and 1980s, the book argues that, in recent decades, as opposed to providing an autonomous alternative to capitalism – social enterprise is, in fact, in danger of becoming one of its central components. More government policies now seek to put community controlled cooperatives and social enterprises into competition against the private sector to deliver public services.

While readers may not agree with all it says, it is nonetheless an important contribution for anyone interested in the role of the social economy within society. Please see the link here to register for book launch 

You are invited to attend at 1900 on Thursday 18 November 2021 for the launch of Leslie Huckfield’s important book, now published by Manchester University Press. Les has been involved with co-ops, social enterprise and the third sector since the 1970s so that for academics, those in the Cooperative and Labour Movements and from various parts of the third sector, this is an important contribution.

The launch will be chaired by Owen Hatherley, Author of “Red Metropolis” – the Greater London Council. An introduction by John McDonnell MP, who was Labour’s Shadow Chancellor, will be followed by a presentation by Les, then questions and discussion.

In his book review, Matthew Thompson from the University College London wrote:

“This is the book that many of us in the field of social economy and the cooperative movement have been waiting for – the definitive contemporary history of the fascinating politics behind how co-ops were sold down the river.

… Unlike other contributors, the author does not naively present the social economy as an autonomous alternative to capitalism but rather takes a critical perspective to identify how it has become a central component of its functioning – without losing sight of its progressive potential

“How Blair Killed the Co-ops”