In a Co-operative News article, Anca Voinea reports indications that Syriza’s win in January could boost the co-operative sector, noting that rebuilding the country’s economy was one of its major election pledges. In its manifesto, Syriza highlighted the importance of reviving the co-op movement and suggested looking at the most suitable sectors for co-operative development. The party sees the co-op movement as a distinct economic model that would be part of the broader social and solidarity economy.
According to Lukas Mprechas, co-founder of the Network for Social Solidarity and Regional Development, Syriza has shown interest in the movement over the last two years:
“Syriza has created committees to prepare a new co-op legislation. There has been emphasis on legislation for the transfer of the companies that have been closed to the workers, for the establishment of co-operatives of similar standards to Latin America and France.
“In recent years, the leaders of Syriza were prepared to listen to organisations such as ours, which are trying to promote co-ops to all Greek political parties, about the benefits of co-operatives in terms of decent living for people. They were already prepared to listen to calls for co-operative legislation which would adequately support the co-operative principles and the promotion of co-operative education.”
Incoming prime minister Alexis Tsipras (above) presented his agenda to parliament and made a commitment to growing the social economy, including co-ops. Syriza has now launched a public consultation to gather opinions about the promotion of the social economy.
When VioMe in Thessaloniki went bankrupt, the workers, who had not been paid for over a year, occupied the building to prevent the owner from taking away the machinery and products in stock. The factory is now in public administration and the workers are fighting a legal battle for ownership of the enterprise. They are also calling for a change in the legal framework to allow workers to take over enterprises. Mr Tsipras promised to support this effort with legal reforms. He has also spoken about the importance of co-operative banks as a vehicle for development.
Reading about this venture reminded the writer about an Argentinian workers’ initiative recorded here.
An online platform, Solidarity4all, showcases different examples of informal co-operation, from social pharmacies to grocery stores or free lessons, including newly formed co-ops. Syriza has helped the Solidarity4All initiative, with each MP donating 10-20% of their wage to promote the social economy. People have taken matters into their own hands through grassroots activism and local collective action. The many and varied social solidarity initiatives include social pharmacies, social medical clinics, social kitchens, social groceries, Okmarkets without middlemen, a social collective of mental health professionals, social solidarity drop in centres, time banks (sharing skills and time), olive oil producers sharing olive oil, the ‘potato movement’ where farmers trade direct with consumers cutting out the supermarkets. Read more about Solidarity4All here.