Echoes of the Co-op Wars in the Occupy Movement

In this interview for Radical Roots from 2013, ex-Cooperative Organization (CO) member Lynette Malles reflects on the divisions within the Twin Cities Occupy movement that resemble those in the early co-op movement, and how Occupy Homes flirted with the techniques that did so much damage when practiced by the CO.

As she describes, Occupy split into two groups. The activities of Occupy Mpls resembled the kind of practices that frustrated many about the early days of the co-ops: long meetings with everybody able to express themselves, but that led to little being accomplished. Occupy Homes had an emphasis on organization and practical work for the oppressed, which is what the CO and its sympathizers professed to be their goal. Fortunately, Occupy Homes only flirted with the kind of self-criticism that the CO was so fond of.

The CO campaign to transform the co-ops floundered not because of its position on food policy or store organization, but because of its authoritarian structure and internal practices. Many of its stated goals (tighter business practices, stocking of canned goods and sugar) were eventually accomplished, but through democratic means thought brought people together instead of driving them apart.

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