In our previous article The Canary spoke to Cooperation Birmingham which, since the lockdown, has begun distributing hundreds of meals from a community space called the Warehouse Cafe. Cooperation Birmingham has begun planning several new cooperative projects, aimed at building the ‘solidarity economy’ in Birmingham. These projects include a cycle courier cooperative aimed at creating an alternative to the precarious zero-hour contracts of companies like of Uber and Deliveroo.
We asked John from Cooperation Birmingham how its food distribution project fits in to a broader strategy for change. John responded:
Unlike the helpful but temporary work being done by countless neighbourhood mutual aid WhatsApp chats, our focus is on building permanent institutions and infrastructure that will continue to build working class power…
[During the lockdown] our organising has touched on distributed manufacturing; accessible and democratic online decision making; production and delivery planning; mutual aid disaster relief; open source tech development; land commoning and autonomous farming; providing for our own material needs even under crisis conditions – these are all areas of struggle that will continue to be relevant once the pandemic is over.
A focus on ‘the commons’
We asked John whether he thought Cooperation Birmingham would continue after the pandemic:
Definitely, although our focus will certainly change. For one thing, we don’t anticipate to have to provide for people’s material needs on this scale indefinitely.
For another, our current planning is reliant on an army of underemployed labour, much of which relies on the furlough wage, so this will mean a big change in our operations. Of course, we are already trying to resist the impulse to return to a post-coronavirus society that is identical to the old, broken one. Post-crisis, our longer-term work on the commons, on cooperation and on democratic participation in the local economy will come to the front again.