May 4, 2015

Seeds of Real Communism: Workerless Factories

Robots with intelligent sensors is examining the products. (Photo/Gov.cn)

Manufacturing hub starts work on first zero-labor factory

China Daily
May 04, 2015

A manufacturing hub in South China's Guangdong province has begun constructing the city's first zero-labor factory, a signal that the local authorities are bringing into effect its "robot assembling line" strategy.

Dongguan-based private company Everwin Precision Technology Ltd is pushing toward putting 1,000 robots in use in its first phase of the zero-labor project, China National Radio reported. It said the company has already put first 100 robots on the assembly line.

"The 'zero-labor factory' does not mean we will not employ any humans, but what it means is that we will scale down the size of workers by up to 90 percent," said Chen Qixing, the company's board chairman.

After the work on smart factory started, Chen predicted that instead of 2,000 workers, the current strength of the workforce, the company will require only 200 to operate software system and backstage management.

Under the current pressure of labor shortage, calls to use smart robots in cities around the Pearl River Delta (PRD), including Foshan and Dongguan, are becoming louder.

"It is necessary to replace human workers with robots, given the severe labor shortage and mounting labor costs," said Di Suoling, head of Dongguan-based Taiwan Business Association.

(more…)

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April 23, 2015

Steal This Idea: City Water Generating Green Power

by @ 9:43 am. Filed under Green Energy, High Design

A previous LucidPipe installation, with one of the turbines visible inside the pipe (Photo: Lucid Energy)

Portland to Generate Electricity Within Its Own Water Pipes 

By Ben Coxworth
SolidarityEconomy.net via Gizmag

Feb17, 2015 - There's a lot of water constantly moving through the municipal pipelines of most major cities. While the water itself is already destined for various uses, why not harness its flow to produce hydroelectric power? Well, that's exactly what Lucid Energy's LucidPipe Power System does, and Portland, Oregon has just become the latest city to adopt it.

LucidPipe simply replaces a stretch of existing gravity-fed conventional pipeline, that's used for transporting potable water. As the water flows through, it spins four 42-inch (107-cm) turbines, each one of which is hooked up to a generator on the outside of the pipe. The presence of the turbines reportedly doesn't slow the water's flow rate significantly, so there's virtually no impact on pipeline efficiency.


A diagram of the system (Image: Lucid Energy)

The 200-kW Portland system was privately financed by Harbourton Alternative Energy, and its installation was completed late last December. It's now undergoing reliability and efficiency testing, which includes checking that its sensors and smart control system are working properly. It's scheduled to begin full capacity power generation by March.

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April 16, 2015

Call the Midwife: A Green New Deal Struggles To Be Born

by @ 10:28 am. Filed under Climate, Green Energy

Is the Age of Renewable Energy Already Upon Us?

By Michael Klare
SolidarityEconomy.net via TomDispatch.com

April 16, 2015 - Consider the extremes of our present climate moment by the numbers. Recently, Michael Greenstone, the Milton Friedman professor of economics at the University of Chicago and the former chief economist of President Obama’s Council of Economic Advisers, did a little calculating. He was curious to find out just how much the planet’s temperature might rise if we managed to burn all the fossil fuel reserves that “can be extracted with today’s technology.”

Without beating around the (burning) bush, the answer he came up with was a staggering 16.2 degrees Fahrenheit. To put that in perspective, climate science suggests that unless we keep the temperature rise from the burning of fossil fuels under 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit (2 degrees Celsius) catastrophic changes are likely to occur, including, as Greenstone points out, the melting of the Greenland ice sheet, which will reshape human life on this planet in grim ways. And even that 3.6-degree mark might be too high. Add in another nearly 13 degrees of warming and you could have the definition of an uninhabitable planet (at least by humans).

It should give us all the chills -- or more appropriately, leave us with fever dreams of a future in which humanity was incapable of getting itself together, dealing with entrenched fossil fuel interests, and saving a planet that had for so many tens of thousands of years been the rather habitable home of our species.

On the other hand, look at Spain: as Juan Cole reported recently at his Informed Comment website, that country is now getting almost 70% of its electricity in ways that do not generate carbon dioxide. That’s little short of extraordinary. It’s possible that somewhere down the line that country could even become “the first net-carbon-zero G-20 state”! As of this March, it received 22.5% of its electricity from wind power (with solar trailing badly behind), 17.5% from hydro power, and 23.8% from nuclear power (which will make some environmentalists uneasy). And the country hopes to almost double its wind power contribution to 40% in the next five years.

In other words, depending on what you care to look at, this planet offers a grim vision of humanity preparing to scourge and flood its own home or -- and this is a new development -- a more hopeful one. In that, humanity, under pressure and moving too slowly by half, is nonetheless beginning to reshape our world yet again in unexpected ways, using new technology that is quickly becoming ever cheaper and easier to employ.

TomDispatch energy expert Michael Klare suggests today that while nothing may be settled, damage is clearly being done, and the fossil fuel machine remains deeply entrenched and determined, there are nonetheless unexpected signs that we, like the cavalry of movie fame, may finally be saddling up to ride to our own rescue. This is the sort of news that should stir the blood and soul in all of us. It should leave us thankful for the years of toil in the wilderness by climate activists like those at 350.org who have worked so hard to bring us to awareness of the dangers ahead, and of activists like those in the fossil fuel divestment movement who want to shake what may be the most profitable industry in history to its core. –Tom

Here’s Klare..

Don’t hold your breath, but future historians may look back on 2015 as the year that the renewable energy ascendancy began, the moment when the world started to move decisively away from its reliance on fossil fuels. Those fuels -- oil, natural gas, and coal -- will, of course, continue to dominate the energy landscape for years to come, adding billions of tons of heat-trapping carbon to the atmosphere.  For the first time, however, it appears that a shift to renewable energy sources is gaining momentum.  If sustained, it will have momentous implications for the world economy -- as profound as the shift from wood to coal or coal to oil in previous centuries. (Continued)

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April 9, 2015

There’s an Emerging Right-Wing Divide on Climate Denial. Here’s What It Means (And Doesn’t)

by @ 8:29 am. Filed under Environment, Right wing

 

By David Roberts
SolidarityEconomy.net via Grist.org

April 8, 2015 - For as long as climate change has been a public agenda item — let’s date it back to 1988, when James Hansen testified to Congress — there has been a large faction within the public that refuses to accept it, composed primarily (not entirely, but primarily) of conservative white men.

It’s difficult to remember these days, but that faction did not always dominate the Republican Party. Establishment Republicans from George H.W. Bush to George W. Bush acknowledged that climate change is a real problem requiring a policy solution. John McCain put forward his own cap-and-trade plan when he ran against Obama in 2008.

But denial was always closer to the conservative heart than acceptance was. When the Tea Party swallowed the GOP in 2010, it eradicated the last shreds of accommodationism on climate. Since then, the party, at least the public face of the party, has been almost entirely dominated by old-school, unapologetic denial. The few remaining “moderates” in the party quickly fell in line and went silent (including courageous “maverick” John McCain).

The somewhat maddening truth is that denial worked for a long time. As long as the public was disengaged on the subject and only elites were pushing it, denial delayed action at effectively no political cost. The public didn’t care enough to make a fuss and neither, for the most part, did political journalists.

But climate has continued to worm its way into public consciousness. Business types are starting to worry about the financial risks; military types are worrying about the potential for resource conflicts; outdoor types are worrying about changes in seasons and species; farmers are worrying about shifts in growing conditions; ordinary consumers are getting interested in renewable energy and electric cars. Obama has nudged climate onto the agenda again and again, with EPA regs, the China climate deal, and a whole series of small executive-branch initiatives. Large majorities of the public favor climate action. (Continued)

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April 1, 2015

Co-ops Enable Low-Income Women to Work as Owners and Decision Makers

 

By Eleanor J. Bader
SolidarityEconomy.net via Truthout

March 30, 2015 - At Cooperative Home Care Associates, in their state of the art training facilities, these workers in training are finding eachothers pulses with the help of their training instructor (seen to the right). (Photo: Jordanna Rosen)At Cooperative Home Care Associates, in their state of the art training facilities, these workers in training are finding each others pulses with the help of their training instructor.

Co-ops not only give low-income and immigrant women a way to enter an often unwelcoming - and in some cases, hostile - economy, but also give them a way to exert some control over their work lives and simultaneously support themselves and their families. They have consequently been some of the early adopters in the not-yet-critical-mass movement of worker-owned cooperative businesses that has begun to catch fire in towns and cities throughout the United States.

Melissa Hoover, executive director of the Democracy at Work Institute, estimates that there are presently between 300 and 400 worker-owned businesses operating domestically. The fledgling cooperative movement is diverse. There are co-op bakeries, catering companies, tortilla-makers and cafes; bike repair shops; taxi companies; dog-walking and cat-sitting services; and upholsterers. There are also worker-owned farms, elder- and child-care agencies, tutoring programs, and factory and construction businesses.


A growing number of co-ops have been established as a way for low-income and immigrant women to earn a living.

What's more, they run the gamut in terms of size. Some have just three to five members while the largest, Cooperative Home Care Associates in the Bronx, has 2,100. And while most involve both men and women, a growing number of all-women co-ops have been established as a way for low-income and immigrant females to earn a living. (Continued)

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March 23, 2015

Who Needs a Boss?

by @ 8:14 am. Filed under Economic Democracy, Mondragon, Unemployment

By SHAILA DEWAN
New York Times Magazine

March 25, 2015 - If you happen to be looking for your morning coffee near Golden Gate Park and the bright red storefront of the Arizmendi Bakery attracts your attention, congratulations. You have found what the readers of The San Francisco Bay Guardian, a local alt-weekly, deem the city’s best bakery.

But it has another, less obvious, distinction. Of the $3.50 you hand over for a latte (plus $2.75 for the signature sourdough croissant), not one penny ends up in the hands of a faraway investor. Nothing goes to anyone who might be tempted to sell out to a larger bakery chain or shutter the business if its quarterly sales lag.

Instead, your money will go more or less directly to its 20-odd bakers, who each make $24 an hour — more than double the national median wage for bakers. On top of that, they get health insurance, paid vacation and a share of the profits. “It’s not luxury, but I can sort of afford living in San Francisco,” says Edhi Rotandi, a baker at Arizmendi. He works four days a week and spends the other days with his 2-year-old son.

Arizmendi and its five sister bakeries in the Bay Area are worker-owned cooperatives, an age-old business model that has lately attracted renewed interest as a possible antidote to some of our most persistent economic ills. Most co-ops in the U.S. are smaller than Arizmendi, with around a dozen employees, but the largest, Cooperative Home Care Associates in the Bronx, has about 2,000. That’s hardly the organizational structure’s upper limit. In fact, Arizmendi was named for a Spanish priest and labor organizer in Basque country, José María Arizmendiarrieta. He founded what eventually became the Mondragon Corporation, now one of the region’s biggest employers, with more than 60,000 members and 14 billion euro in revenue. And it’s still a co-op.

In a worker co-op, the workers own the business and decide what to do with the profits (as opposed to consumer co-ops, which are typically stores owned by members who shop at a discount). Historically, worker co-ops have held the most appeal when things seem most perilous for laborers. The present is no exception. And yet, despite their ability to empower workers, co-ops remain largely relegated to boutique status in the United States.  (Continued)

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March 18, 2015

On the Far Horizon: Fully Automated Luxury Communism

Supporters believe fully automated luxury communism is an opportunity to realize a post-work society, where machines do the heavy lifting and employment as we know it is a thing of the past

By Brian Merchant
SolidarityEconomy.net via The Guardian /UK

March 18, 2015 - At a time when robots crowd factory lines, algorithms steer cars and smart screens litter the checkout aisles, automation is the new spectre. The robots, they say, are coming for our jobs.

Let them, reply the luxury communists.

    The new age offers a number of undeniable boons and advancements ... that promise to make drudgery redundant

Cybernetic meadows and machines of loving grace

Located on the futurist left end of the political spectrum, fully automated luxury communism (FALC) aims to embrace automation to its fullest extent. The term may seem oxymoronic, but that’s part of the point: anything labeled luxury communism is going to be hard to ignore.

“There is a tendency in capitalism to automate labor, to turn things previously done by humans into automated functions,” says Aaron Bastani, co-founder of Novara Media. “In recognition of that, then the only utopian demand can be for the full automation of everything and common ownership of that which is automated.”

Bastani and fellow luxury communists believe that this era of rapid change is an opportunity to realise a post-work society, where machines do the heavy lifting not for profit but for the people.

“The demand would be a 10- or 12-hour working week, a guaranteed social wage, universally guaranteed housing, education, healthcare and so on,” he says. “There may be some work that will still need to be done by humans, like quality control, but it would be minimal.” Humanity would get its cybernetic meadow, tended to by machines of loving grace. (Continued)

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March 15, 2015

The Harder Question: Is Green, Rational and Efficient Transport Possible Under Capitalism?

How the U.S. Transportation System Can Save $1 Trillion, 2 Billion Barrels of Oil, and 1 Gigaton of Carbon Emissions Annually

By Jonathan Walker, Greg Ruck & Jerry Weiland
Rocky Mountain Institute

In the United States each year, our cars alone cost us well over $1 trillion, burn about 2 billion barrels of oil, and emit about 1.5 gigatons of carbon dioxide—one quarter of all U.S. emissions.

The indirect societal cost of these vehicles, including pollution, lost productivity (sitting in traffic), land use for roads and parking lots, road construction and maintenance, and injuries and fatalities cost us another $2 trillion per year, bringing the annual total to a staggering $3 trillion.

A big part of the problem is our cars and how we use them. Today’s vehicles are overdesigned, underutilized, underloaded, inefficient, polluting, and—thanks to the drivers behind the wheel—dangerous.

The average personal vehicle sits idle (i.e., parked) for 95 percent of its life. When we do drive our mostly parked cars, we tend to drive alone (more than 75 percent of American commuters are solo drivers) even though our vehicles are designed for four, five, or more occupants (empty third-row seat, anyone?). This leads to so much traffic that we spend 38 extra hours per year sitting in a purgatory of our own making.

In addition, tens of thousands of Americans are killed and hundreds of thousands are injured in car accidents each year. And finally, gasoline engines burn relatively expensive fuel inefficiently, as only ~20 percent of potential energy is converted into useful power for a standard internal combustion engine vehicle.

Thus the average American car owner spends an estimated $0.59 per mile to operate a personal vehicle, which adds up to a yearly cost of about $15,000 per household. Year after year, personal transportation is the second-highest expense for the typical American family, behind only housing and greater than food and leisure combined.

Public transportation systems are also underutilized in many U.S. markets. This often results in taxpayer subsidy, a crucial leg of support to combat transportation inequality since such public transportation often offers the only inexpensive option for those who cannot afford cars.

Reimagining the U.S. Transportation System

But there is a better way. A paradigm shift in our transportation system can drop per mile costs from $0.59 to $0.15, and when combined with public transit unlocks annual savings of $1 trillion. Or, if you’re business minded, you might see that substantial savings as value creation, for oil’s loss is another’s gain, in the form of new mobility service solutions that fill the gap between today’s fossil-fueled cars and tomorrow’s mobility paradigm. (For that matter, consumers too should be salivating. Someone who drives 12,000 miles per year could see his or her annual transportation costs slashed by more than $10,000 for two-car households.)

In addition to the monetary boon, the paradigm shift can reduce U.S. oil consumption by 50 percent (shaving off the full 2 billion barrels associated with our light-duty vehicles), and reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 1 gigaton per year. Cities, businesses, and entrepreneurs would be hard-pressed to find another arena with so much money on the table paired with so much potential societal benefit.  And the public, you, and us stand to gain the most from this value creation opportunity.

Forget Cars—and Transportation—As You Know Them Today

The transportation paradigm of the potentially not-too-distant future (e.g., starting in earnest by 2020) will look a world apart from the landscape of today, in which the Ford F150 remains the best-selling consumer vehicle in the U.S. Instead, tomorrow’s transportation system will involve shared, electrified, autonomous, lightweight, serviced-based vehicles. This will of course implicate our beloved American obsession with automobiles, but is not entirely synonymous with cars.

(more…)

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March 5, 2015

Why We Need a Green Energy Majority in Congress

This solar array at White Sands, New Mexico, is the largest of the U.S. Army's solar photovoltaic systems. The $16.8 million project includes nearly 15,500 sun-tracking solar panels spread across 42 acres.

Markets, States, and the Green Transition

By Fred Block
American Prospect

March 5, 2015 - If you believe in the perfect efficiency of free markets, then any government intervention, by definition, has to make things worse. Evidence is of no consequence.

I once participated in a debate on innovation with two panelists from two of Washington’s most market-oriented think tanks. When I pointed out that a government program—the Department of Defense’s Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA)—had created the Internet, my opponent was hardly fazed. He responded, in effect, by saying we don’t know whether the private sector might have done it faster and better had the government not been interfering.

Of course, we cannot know, but the historical experience of many other technologies that were accelerated by spending on warfare suggests that there is a strong connection between government investments and big technological breakthroughs. World War II alone was responsible for jet airplanes, the mainframe computer, radar, atomic energy, and it laid the groundwork for much of the space program that followed.

War and preparation for war loom so large for many breakthroughs because war offers the rare occasion for major government intervention in a society that otherwise professes belief in free markets. Ideology is waived because of the presumed urgency of national defense, and surprising technical breakthroughs often follow. Government needs to play the same role in the transition to a green economy.

In wartime, government action is so potent because it intervenes simultaneously by increasing both the supply and the demand for new technologies. As with the Manhattan Project, the military convenes large groups of scientists and gives them substantial resources, to see if a concept can actually be turned into something that adds to the military’s capacity. Then the military orders a lot of the new creation, so that the often slow and painful process of scaling up to mass production is done very quickly with no risk for private firms.

 

(more…)

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March 3, 2015

A ‘Single Payer’ Approach to Local Green Energy

by @ 8:10 am. Filed under Green Energy, Infrastructure

 

California communities seize control of their energy futures

By David Roberts

SolidarityEconomy.net via Grist

Feb 25, 2015 - An energy revolution is breaking out in California and a few other states, one that could radically increase the amount of renewable energy available to citizens and end the tyranny of foot-dragging utilities. Outside of the rapidly falling costs of solar power, it’s just about my main source of domestic optimism these days.

I’m talking about community choice, or, in the horrid legalese, “community choice aggregation.” I’ve discussed it before in passing, but it’s starting to seriously catch on, so I want to take a closer look.

Say a town, city, or county is dissatisfied with the power it gets from its utility — it’s too expensive, or too dirty. One option would be for each municipality to leave its utility and form its own “municipal utility.” That has its advantages, but it’s a pretty huge step, since the municipality would have to take over not only power procurement but grid operation and maintenance, billing, customer service, etc. In many smaller towns, it’s not practical.

The other, emerging option is community choice aggregation, whereby a county or municipality takes over only the job of buying and selling power, leaving grid management and billing to the utility. It aggregates customers from every participating city, town, and county and uses their collective purchasing power to procure exactly the kind of electricity it wants.

The two main motivations to opt for CCA are cheaper power and cleaner power. At least to date, those two goals have not come into conflict. In most cases, CCAs get power that’s cheaper and cleaner than what they were getting from their utility. (Whether those goals conflict in the future will be of keen interest.)

CCA must be enabled by legislation and it has been in six states: California, Illinois, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Ohio, and Rhode Island. According to the website Local Power, which tracks these things:

Today, 5% of the U.S. population is under CCA service for electricity in 1300 municipalities, including well-known population centers like City of Chicago, Cincinnati, Cape Cod, Sonoma County as well as hundreds of less known small towns and rural counties. CCA formation by municipal ordinance or local election is allowed and provided for under state laws governing 25% of the U.S. electricity market.

California has been particularly on the ball. Marin County started the state’s first CCA program — it now serves 125,000 customers. Sonoma County has followed suit.

(more…)

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February 23, 2015

Workplaces of the Future: High Design, Fewer Workers

by @ 9:42 am. Filed under High Design, High Road Economics

Breakthrough Factories Making Innovation

The hubs of advanced manufacturing will be the economic drivers of the future because innovation increasingly depends on production expertise.

By Nanette Byrnes
MIT Technology Review

Sept 16, 2014 - Visitors to the Crosspointe Rolls-Royce facility in Prince George County, Virginia, have to don safety glasses and steel-tipped shoes, just as they would at any traditional factory. But then things start to look different. Past the cubicles filled with programmers and support staff sits a 140,000-square-foot factory with spotless white concrete floors, bright lighting, surprisingly quiet equipment, and very few human beings.

Opened in 2011, Crosspointe is the kind of factory that makes a good backdrop to a political speech about advanced manufacturing, as President Barack Obama knew when he arrived less than a year later. It’s global: the U.S. operations center of a U.K. company, it uses titanium forgings from Scotland, Germany, or the United States; shapes them into fan disks; and, after milling, polishing, and testing, ships them off to England, Germany, or Singapore. Once there, each disk will become one of 10,000 parts in a typical engine.

It’s also highly automated: $1.5 million machines made by DMG Mori Seiki do the initial milling of the disks, following steps directed by Siemens software with a minimum of human interference. On a day in early summer, eight machines were being monitored by three operators. Computer screens in front of the machine displayed instructions in pictures and text, flashing warnings when a part had not met specs or the machine needed to be serviced. Later an automated measurement machine with a probe on the end would spend eight hours inspecting 1,000-plus distinct dimensions of the part. For the next 25 years, Rolls-Royce will keep data on each part, starting with exactly how it was made. Sensors in the engine will track how the engine and its parts are holding up, and maintenance and flight data will be carefully recorded.

It’s not just pristine floors, scarce workers, and a global network that make Crosspointe emblematic of manufacturing today. It’s also the ecosystem surrounding the facility. Just down the road is the Commonwealth Center for Advanced Manufacturing, a research center whose members include Airbus, NASA, and the University of Virginia.

There, Rolls-Royce staff who know the challenges and details of manufacturing work with researchers and suppliers to improve the factory and its products, says Crosspointe manufacturing executive Lorin Sodell. “Often a great idea for a new manufacturing process won’t ever make it into production because that connection is missing.”

(more…)

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February 13, 2015

High Design: The Future Is Now in Green Homes

by @ 10:16 am. Filed under Green Energy, High Design

This Remote-Controllable, Rearrangeable House Uses Almost No Energy

We still don't have flying cars (not quite, anyway, despite some works in progress). But the 1950s vision of the futuristic home is fairly close to reality.

Inspired in part by mid-century designs like the flying saucer-shaped Futuro house and a "home of the future" designed for the 1956 Ideal Home Show, a new house in the Netherlands is remote-controllable, energy-efficient, and can adapt as a family changes through an open, petal-shaped design.

"It's flexible," says Ben van Berkel, founder of UNStudio, the architecture firm that created the new house. "The rooms are designed with no columns in the spaces. If the client wants to turn living rooms in bedrooms or a working environment, that's all possible."

Everything electrical in the house can be controlled by smartphone. Minus the app, it's eerily similar to this prediction from a 1950 newspaper:

(more…)

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February 11, 2015

Cooperatives On the Path to Socialism?

by @ 5:46 pm. Filed under Economic Democracy, Marxism, Socialism

By Peter Marcuse

SolidarityEconomy.net via Monthy Review

Clarifying what Karl Marx thought of the role of cooperatives is useful, not to receive the “correct” answer to what that role will be, but to help think through what alternatives answers might be and how they might color today’s expectations of the cooperative movement. If one sees a non-capitalist or socialist organization of society as ultimately desirable, then how should we answer the following questions in the present day:

  1. Are co-ops in production, worker-owned enterprises, desirable experimental improvements to the organization of production over standard capitalist practices, in the direction of immediate social welfare?
  2. Are such co-ops in production also little islands of a different future, models of socialism within a capitalist society?
  3. Are they beachheads of socialism, politically practical steps along the road to bringing forth such a possible alternative society?
  4. Will they ultimately also be the foundations of such a society, if it develops?
  5. All in all, what is their importance, their role, in daily struggles?

The answer suggested here to the first three questions is: Yes. Co-ops today are experiments whose potential is not yet exhausted, certainly improvements over most existing capitalist arrangements which have perhaps portents for the future, but which have limitations that must be recognized.

The first four questions do not present mutually exclusive alternatives, in the sense that they could, but do not necessarily, provoke fundamental questions about the desirability of further change. They show that workers can run factories themselves, democracy in the workplace is possible, and capitalists are not necessary for the organization of production.

The answer to the fifth question, as to the net importance of co-ops today, of course depends on the strength of the answers to the first four questions, and on whether or not the goal is seen as a fundamental social transformation. Fundamental social transformation is used here to refer to a movement toward socialism, an alternative to the present capitalist social formation. Marx’s conception of socialism was of such an alternative, but one whose details could vary significantly as long as it was non-captialist.

Because Marx represents a clear starting point for a history of experience with the modern forms of worker co-ops, this article looks at some of his comments in this regard to set the context to a more contemporary evaluation.

Are Worker Co-ops Immediate Social Welfare?

Yes, worker co-ops are clearly superior to the conventional capital-owned and managed form of enterprise organization, for two reasons. First, they replace the capitalist with the democratic association of the workers—as Marx says, the workers become their own capitalists, they can thus arrange operations amongst themselves to the extent they wish. The workers’ welfare is materially enhanced, since the profits that the capitalist would have made as a result of ownership of the firm become incomes of the 99%, which are proportionately increased as that of the 1% is relatively decreased.

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February 10, 2015

Automation: The Gravedigger of Capitalism and, with Socialism, the Emancipator of the Working Class

by @ 4:05 pm. Filed under Capitalism, Cybernation, Unemployment

More Robots Coming To U.S. Factories

By Paul Davidson
SolidarityEconomy.net via USA TODAY

Feb 10, 2015 - Manufacturers will significantly accelerate their use of robots in U.S. factories over the next decade as they become cheaper and perform more tasks, constraining payroll growth, according to a study out Tuesday.

The development is expected to dramatically boost productivity and slow the long-standing migration of factories across the globe to take advantage of low-cost labor, says the Boston Consulting Group report.

"Advanced robotics are changing the calculus of manufacturing," says Harold Sirkin, a senior partner at the management consulting firm.

A handful of nations, including the U.S. and China, are poised to reap the biggest benefits of the automation wave.

About 1.2 million additional advanced robots are expected to be deployed in the U.S. by 2025, BCG says. Four industries will lead the shift — computer and electronics products; electrical equipment and appliances; transportation; and machinery — largely because more of their tasks can be automated and they deliver the biggest cost savings.

About 10% of all manufacturing functions are automated, a share that will rise to nearly 25% in a decade as robotic vision sensors and gripping systems improve, BCG says.

Meanwhile, costs are tumbling. The cost to purchase and start up an advanced robotic spot welder has plunged from $182,000 in 2005 to $133,000 in 2014, with the price forecast to drop another 22% by 2025.

(more…)

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February 5, 2015

In the Green Energy Business, ‘Doable’, Unfortunately, Is Not the Same as ‘Make It So’

by @ 11:53 am. Filed under Green Energy, High Design, High Road Economics

CEOs Call For Zero Emissions Goal In Paris Climate Deal

By Valerie Volcovici

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A group of high-profile CEOs on Thursday called on world leaders to agree to bring the balance of greenhouse gas emissions to zero by mid-century in a global climate change deal to be finalized in Paris in December.

The leaders of B Team, a coalition about 12 CEOs and policymakers including Virgin [VA.UL] founder Richard Branson, Unilever chief Paul Polman and Tata International's [TATAI.UL] Ratan Tata, said a global net-zero emissions goal by 2050 will prompt businesses to embed new investments and clean energy research into their business strategies.

Branson told Reuters in an interview the lofty goal - one of the options for a long-term climate goal being considered for the Paris draft negotiating text - is "doable" with private sector help.

"The politicians in Paris need to know business is behind them taking the right decisions and they are not going to damage the world economically by taking these decisions," he said.

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