The Worker Co-operative Solidarity Fund (SolidFund)

I’ve just spent a wonderful couple of days camping in Oxfordshire so that I could attend the Worker Co-operative Weekend (#WorkerWeekend). One of the many things I learned about (in addition to a five-hour course on basic financial literacy for co-operatives!) was the Worker Co-operative Solidarity Fund.

The SolidFund was an outcome of last year’s Worker Co-op Weekend and has been discussed intensively on Loomio over the last few months. Although it hasn’t yet been widely advertised, it’s currently accumulating about £2000/month and has the potential to grow considerably if members of all UK worker co-ops and their supporters join the fund.

To give you an idea of what it’s about, the first principle of the SolidFund is:

The Worker Co-operative Solidarity Fund (the Fund) is a permanent commonwealth resource, accumulated through a voluntary subscription paid by worker co-operators and workers’ co-operatives. It may also receive subscriptions and donations from other individuals or organisations who support industrial democracy and collective ownership.

You don’t have to be a member of a worker co-op to contribute to the fund. If you’re interested in supporting worker co-ops, 1 then you can help by joining the fund and through doing so, you can have a say in how it is used. The fund is held on behalf of its members by Co-operative and Community Finance.

Currently, there’s no formal website for the SolidFund (getting that ready was part of the discussion over the weekend), but you can read the mission statement and policies and sign up at these two links:

SolidFund rules: 

Join SolidFund:

Marx on co-operatives, political power, solidarity and knowledge

Karl Marx’s Inaugural Address of the International Working Men’s Association, “The First International”, October 21-27 1864. (my emphasis)

“But there was in store a still greater victory of the political economy of labor over the political economy of property. We speak of the co-operative movement, especially the co-operative factories raised by the unassisted efforts of a few bold “hands”. The value of these great social experiments cannot be overrated. By deed instead of by argument, they have shown that production on a large scale, and in accord with the behests of modern science, may be carried on without the existence of a class of masters employing a class of hands; that to bear fruit, the means of labor need not be monopolized as a means of dominion over, and of extortion against, the laboring man himself; and that, like slave labor, like serf labor, hired labor is but a transitory and inferior form, destined to disappear before associated labor plying its toil with a willing hand, a ready mind, and a joyous heart. In England, the seeds of the co-operative system were sown by Robert Owen; the workingmen’s experiments tried on the Continent were, in fact, the practical upshot of the theories, not invented, but loudly proclaimed, in 1848.

At the same time the experience of the period from 1848 to 1864 has proved beyond doubt that, however, excellent in principle and however useful in practice, co-operative labor, if kept within the narrow circle of the casual efforts of private workmen, will never be able to arrest the growth in geometrical progression of monopoly, to free the masses, nor even to perceptibly lighten the burden of their miseries. It is perhaps for this very reason that plausible noblemen, philanthropic middle-class spouters, and even keep political economists have all at once turned nauseously complimentary to the very co-operative labor system they had vainly tried to nip in the bud by deriding it as the utopia of the dreamer, or stigmatizing it as the sacrilege of the socialist. To save the industrious masses, co-operative labor ought to be developed to national dimensions, and, consequently, to be fostered by national means. Yet the lords of the land and the lords of capital will always use their political privileges for the defense and perpetuation of their economic monopolies. So far from promoting, they will continue to lay every possible impediment in the way of the emancipation of labor. Remember the sneer with which, last session, Lord Palmerston put down the advocated of the Irish Tenants’ Right Bill. The House of Commons, cried he, is a house of landed proprietors. To conquer political power has, therefore, become the great duty of the working classes. They seem to have comprehended this, for in England, Germany, Italy, and France, there have taken place simultaneous revivals, and simultaneous efforts are being made at the political organization of the workingmen’s party.

One element of success they possess — numbers; but numbers weigh in the balance only if united by combination and led by knowledge. Past experience has shown how disregard of that bond of brotherhood which ought to exist between the workmen of different countries, and incite them to stand firmly by each other in all their struggles for emancipation, will be chastised by the common discomfiture of their incoherent efforts. This thought prompted the workingmen of different countries assembled on September 28, 1864, in public meeting at St. Martin’s Hall, to found the International Association.”