As TUC draws to a close it's worth a look at the relationship between trade unions and co-ops - a subject of much discussion on the internet recently.
John Merrit of Social Enterprise Link Wessex has pointed out some of the historic divisions between the two - for example, co-ops often have strong syndicalist tendencies while trade unions take a more "democratic centralist" approach.
It is indeed a pity that despite a shared opposition to shareholder capitalism co-operatives and trade unionists have seldom been able to work together to create new models of democratic ownership.
And new models of ownership are a vital question right now. Despite the evidence of the complete failure of neoliberalism it still has the ruling class and its acolytes in thrall.
You only need to look at the absurd debate about whether the blood-sucking leech that gets the franchise for the West Coast main line should have a beard or not.
And though the colossal wastefulness of the privatised railway system is clear to everybody the Labour Party cannot bring itself to state the obvious - that privatisation has been an unmitigated disaster and the railways have to be brought back into some form of public ownership.
As a co-operator I believe that the precise form of that public ownership should be up for discussion to ensure railway workers, rail passengers and the government get a say in how the system is managed and run.
There's no scope for private ownership of key utilities - they are natural monopolies that have a social function as well as carrying out key economic roles.
Private companies can behave reasonably in some areas, but in others - health care, education and the criminal justice system are all examples - the pursuit of profit is inappropriate. It distorts outputs and increases costs.
I remember listening to our former PM Gordon Brown railing at electricity companies about their pricing structures. It was even worse with the devastating summer floods of 2007, when the Gloucestershire town of Tewkesbury was threatened with complete submersion. Brown demanded that private water companies give up their profits and dividends and invest more in flood prevention.
You may as well tell a dog to be a cat. Obviously companies whose raison d'etre is profit will use all their efforts to subvert whatever regulatory system you put in place. If you don't want a utility to behave like a private business don't make it profit-seeking in the first place.
This year Co-ops UK signed a memorandum of understanding with the TUC.
We have a common interest in protecting the co-operative brand from dilution and reputational damage from the creation of pseudo-public service mutuals.
We can easily agree that key services and utilities should be in the public sector. But that still leaves an awful lot of the economy where there is scope for co-operative ownership models.
I'd say the Post Office, which consists of a large number of small private businesses, or the provision of certain council services such as waste collection and grounds maintenance seem ideal for co-operative business models - and don't get me started on the potential for co-ops in finance.
In the United States the largest worker co-op is Co-operative Home Care Associates, whose 2,000 members are represented by branch 1199 of the Services Employees International Union. Its slogan is "the provision of quality care through quality jobs." Not a message that would strike a chord with Britain's private social care vultures.
Over here trade union Unison has signed an agreement with the Schools Co-operative Society, which promotes co-operative trust schools. Teaching union NASUWT has also signed an agreement with this society to ensure schools remain not-for-profit and democratically accountable.
This is a development we need to keep up. The sadistic Tory cuts will continue while they are in power, however much the Lib Dems whine about them.
And despite Ed Miliband's rhetoric about good and bad businesses, Labour has not woken up to the reality that the old ways have failed and we need new ownership models.
Events from the collapse of Lehman Brothers four years ago to G4S's spectacular bungling this summer should give the lie to any notion that private ownership is more efficient than the alternatives. But even more essential to the question of ownership is human dignity.
One recently lost comrade, Ken Coates, was the driving force behind the Institute for Workers Control.
For Ken, workers' control was needed because without it people were disempowered and alienated.
"It is not simply about the worker taking all the decisions," he wrote. "It is about the environment being such that human development is the crucial datum, not profit and loss."
Tory austerity is about destroying any hope of development for the working class. It's about breaking us so we are grateful for whatever crumbs we are given.
It's up to us - trade unionists and co-operators - to map out an alternative future.
As the great Jimmy Reid said back in 1971: "Alienation is the precise and correctly applied word for describing the major social problem in Britain today.
"It is the cry of men who feel themselves the victims of blind economic forces beyond their control. It is the frustration of ordinary people excluded from the process of decision-making."
It was true then. It's even truer today. More and more of us are the slaves of global capital and its lackeys, prostituting ourselves in search of "investment."
But we have a choice. Ownership matters.
We can reverse this trend and find ways of making the economy work for people, not the other way round.
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