Edited and introduced by Maliha Safri, the twin origins of this exchange—Safri's activist and scholarly work on class analyses of worker cooperatives undertaken in conjunction with the U.S. Social Forum, and, concurrently, the conversations among various members of the Association for Economic and Social Analysis around the analysis done by J. K. Gibson-Graham on worker cooperatives—offer some insight into the stakes of this discussion. As Safri tells us, these exchanges began to take a more public form at last year's Left Forum and produced the collection of essays presented here.
Although by no means without their differences, Safri points out that “All the pieces examine certain critical questions: Are cooperatives communist or communal? What is the relevant moment of appropriation? How do we flesh out both the theoretical underpinnings of a communist social formation and its empirical bases today, and how should our strategies differ and focus for a macro, meso, and micro level of radical class transformation?” And, as she further remarks, this is an exceptional beginning for establishing an ongoing conversation around these issues. It would be impossible to improve upon Safri's excellent introductory remarks, which both situate the symposium and provide an important sense of the positions at stake in the essays by each of the writers. For example, Bruce Roberts's “Exploitation, Appropriation, and Subsumption” and David Ruccio's “Cooperatives, Surplus, and the Social,” establish the poles of the discussion. While Roberts argues that forced-value distributions undermine the ability of cooperatives to be exploitation-free, Ruccio contends that even in the face of forced-value distributions, the internal dynamics of cooperatives do provide for the possibility of worker appropriation of value. David Kristjanson-Gural's “Value, Cooperatives, and Class Justice” to some extent shares Roberts's doubts. Notably, however, as Safri makes clear, his contribution, along with Stephen Healy's “Cooperation, Surplus Appropriation, and the Law's Enjoyment,” and Ian Seda-Irizarry's “Crisis, Class, and Cooperatives: Some Comments on the United Steelworkers-Mondragoacuten Alliance,” share a common investment in the exploration “of a suprainstitution that could support, encourage, finance, oversee, and proliferate worker cooperatives; theirs are precisely the invitations needed to think past the micro-level of the cooperative as an instantiation of a communist site.”