The Experience of Co-operative Societies in RojavaThe Movement for a Democratic Society I Social Movement Studies I Analysis I February 15th, 2016
[TEV DEM - the Movement for a Democratic Society - is a broad-based organisation playing a key role in guiding the development of Rojava's innovative society. Its Economic Committee has published the following statement about the role, scale and rules of co-operatives which are playing an increasing part in Rojava's social economy.]
The economy in Western Kurdistan (Rojava) has been exposed to plunder and exploitation on a large scale by the Syrian state, which controlled the country's entire resources, rendering the community powerless. This policy was not only economic, but also social as well and led to the division of society in Rojava, which has always had a tremendous community spirit and culture. Accordingly, the culture of participation, teamwork and mutual confidence has declined in the past 10 years. Rojava is still a war zone and under siege, making its market outside the society's control. There is a lot of political, societal, economic and infrastructure destruction in Rojava. In addition, the migration of capital and humans has further aggravated the situation. Therefore, the revolution and the society of Rojava are struggling economically.
A condition and a situation like this necessitates the development of social economy urgently through developing local communes and cooperatives. Although there are a lot of challenges, the most important thing is the individual and the culture of community. On this basis, during the early stages of the revolution, some of the economic events were conducted expeditiously. Priority was given to projects dealing with agriculture and infrastructure. Some co-ops were established in the past three years. The development of those co-operatives has boosted the confidence of our citizens in building a contemporary and advanced society. It has proven to be an important experiment. Now we have to move to a new stage, which in turn requires reorganising society.
Our immediate goal is to build more independent and local communes and co-ops. Soil, water and energy are our priorities. We have to approach those projects in a more communal way. Many practical steps have been taken in this area and work is still in progress.
1. Agricultural Co-operatives
Co-operatives have been established in 9 different areas in Al Jazeera Province. Each co-operative has its own administration. Those co-ops are as follows: 12 general co-ops and 6 independent women co-operatives. There are 6315 members of those co-ops. They own shares between SYP10000 to SYP 25000 [SYP = Syrian pound ; SYP1 = US$0.0046 approx]. The income of those co-ops are shared between the communes' treasury and members. Shares also change according to work, but the focus is always on economic development.
Through those co-operatives, 328.270 acres of farmland have been planted.
- Wheat: 105.374 acres.
- Barley: 197.155 acres.
- Coriander: 8.780 acres.
- Lentils: 7.720 acres.
- Chickpeas: 5.270 acres.
- Legumes: 2.250 acres.
- Cumin: 301 acres.
- Nigella sativa (black-caraway): 1.420 acres.
2. Cooperative Societies for Livestock Owners:
There are 162 members of those co-op societies. Therefore, a new village for the co-operative.
3. Cooperative Societies for Cleaning Factories:
There are 3 co-op societies of this type. There are 107 members who own shares between SYP 10000 to SYP 25000.
4. Union Co-operatives:
There are many cooperative of this type with 6885 members, who own 12039 shares (SYP 15000 per share).
5. Greenhouses Co-operatives:
Greenhouse co-operatives for the cultivation of vegetables are placed on ten acres and 13 vegetables hangers have been built. There are 140 members of those co-ops and the membership is increasing steadily. Each share is at the price of SYP 25000.
6. Small and Medium -Sized Industrial Co-Operatives:
- Public market co-operative: 240 members - share SYP 50000.
- Electrical cables co-operatives.
- Roasting seeds and pistachios co-operatives.
- Generators co-operative:
--1. Mineral water bottles co-operative: 992 members - share SYP 130000.
--2. Oils co-operative: 1250 members - share SYP 50000.
--3. Fuel stations co-operative: 100 members - share SYP 15000.
--4. Real estate construction co-operative: 124 members - share SYP 730000.
7. Agricultural Villages Communes:
- Commune of Faqira/Derbasyeh: members 24 families.
- Commune of Jadida/Derbasyeh: members 17 families.
The Rules of Procedure of Participatory and Democratic Co-operatives in Communes
A. Basic Principles and Standards
The construction process is based on the democratic, independent, participatory and communal economy. All Economic activities are designed to encourage and develop the participatory and collective life of communes. The life, work and management of cooperatives are based on the principle of liberty and equality. Women, therefore, play an important role. The culture in those communes are based on the principles of democracy, human values, self-sufficiency and gender and social equality.
People are free to join and become full members of co-ops. Commune members can also join co-ops, once their membership has been approved by the commune. Membership of communes and/or co-ops are based on democratic and social values. Communes and co-ops can deprive memberships. Members are fully responsible for the communes and co-ops' activities. Members work together and decisions are made collectively.
Members of the management are also workers in co-ops, which means that everybody actively participate in the running of the co-op. There is no difference between a manager and a worker.
Only one person from a family can take a management position. For example, if a person from a family is in the management team of a commune or a co-op, another person from the same family cannot take a different management position. In addition, there is a difference between the management and financial authorities and an individual cannot join both authorities. Members of authorities are democratically elected for 1 year. The rule of (60%) of votes applies when making decisions, which have to be formally documented. Minutes of meetings have to be written down and published periodically. An emergency meeting can be convened if its outcome has direct effect on members (one-third of members have to attend the emergency meeting).
1. Commune Council
Members of the co-op are also members of the commune.
2. General Authority
All members of a co-op are also members of the General Authority, which meets periodically and evaluate the work of the co-op, organises its activities, makes decision and allocates tasks to members.
Tasks and responsibilities, and the mechanism of their implementation, are decided by the General Authority of the co-op.
3. Management Authority
The Management Authority is composed of at least 3 members of the General Authority.
Its work is determined by the General Authority. The Management Authority submits its reports to the General Authority, which in turn evaluates its performance.
4. Financial Authority
The Financial Authority is established by the General Authority. It composed of at least 3 members elected for 1 year to run the financial affairs of the co-op. It submits weekly and periodic financial reports to the General Authority.
5. Monitoring Authority
Monitoring is generally conducted by the co-op and the commune. However, if necessary, a monitoring authority can be formed. Three members are chosen by the General Authority to become members of the Monitoring Authority. Those members are not allowed to become members of any other authority, such as Financial and Management, simultaneously. It reports to the General and Management authorities.
6. Co-ordinating Authority of the Co-operative
Co-ordination takes place via monthly and periodic meetings between members of the Management and Financial authorities and the Co-ordinating Authority, with the presence of another three people. In those meetings, policies are set to develop co-op and collective work between various units and authorities. Decisions are also made and a three-monthly report is sent to the General Authority.
7. Joining a Co-operative Society
Membership is based on the number of shares, the responsibilities within the co-operative and the capital involved.
A minimum share is 1 and maximum 5. People who do not own a capital can also join the co-operative by borrowing from the General Fund of the Co-op, as a loan, which is paid in instalments in accordance with the rules and regulations of the co-op.
An active member is the person who joins the co-op and work for it.
A capital member is the person who only joins the co-op by their wealth and capital.
D. Financial Management Authority
Each co-op has its own "General Fund." The Fund is responsible for the co-ops' incomes and expenditure, which is documented daily in the accounting book.
Every month or year or following the completion of a project, The Financial Management Authority submits its financial report to the General Authority.
Net profit is divided based on three principles:
- a proportion is allocated for the future needs, work, activities and projects of the co-op.
- a proportion is equally divided among members according to their needs and the work and efforts they have done for the commune.
- a final proportion is allocated for the provision of the need of the co-op and the commune, such as health, education, electricity, water, roads maintenance, etc. In addition, some of this proportion is also saved to spend on the severally ill people.
A financial committee can monitor and audit the account book.
Co-op expenses must be documented, receipts must be kept and 2 members must approve any transactions or reimbursements.
E. Profit Division (Income and Profit)
At the end of the financial year, profit is divided as follows:
- 50% is divided between shareholders.
- 30% is kept in the co-op's fund to increase capital.
- 20% is deposited in the commune's fund in order to fulfil the need of society.
When a co-op is formed, its capital increase by 30% in the 1st year, by 25% in the 2nd year, by 20% in the 3rd year, by 15% in the 4th year and by 10% in the 5th year.
Each member of the commune receives a monthly salary and their share of the profit after the end of the financial year or upon the completion of a major project.
An active member who has physically worked for the co-op receives the highest share of the profit. A member who has contributed financially or a capital member,. Who is not a member of the commune, receives the lowest share of the profit.
Members who has physically worked for the co-op and has contributed financially also receives the highest share of the profit.
In a co-op, privilege is given to members who work actively in the co-op. Members who are highly qualified and active are welcomed, but the co-op can hire individuals from outside, if necessary, between 6 months and 1 year. Eventually, those individuals become permanent members of the
F. Financial Measures
A co-op that is making a financial loss in a single year, the General Council (a meeting of the co-op members) has the right to change the management and replace it with a new team. Also, members of the Financial and Management authorities could be reshuffled during that period.
If it made more losses in the second year, the Council could decide to close the co-op down.
Members of the Financial and Management authorities in a losing co-op, are not entitled titled to run for any office for the entire financial year. They, however, can run for an office in the following year, once their candidacy has been approved by the General Council.
Within 5 years, if the co-op fail to make any profit and make losses in 2 years within the same period, members of the Financial and Management authorities are prohibited from holding an official position for the next 10 years. If those members decide to join another co-op and did not succeed in making profit, the same members are banned from holding any position for the next 10 years.
G. Meetings and Reports
The General Council and all other authorities convene periodical and emergency meetings, during which important decisions are taken in those meetings. The General Council of the co-op meets once every 3 months. Plans and future projects are examined and discussed for the entire financial year.
Other co-op authorities organise their meetings according to their work schedule. However, they must meet once a month and submit their reports to the Co-ordinating Authority of the co-op, which in turn meets once every month.
Each authority must write their reports and minutes of their meeting and document/archive them accordingly.
If a member fails to attend a meeting without prior permission, he/she must submit self-critical assessment. If a member fails to attend to successive meetings, he/she must submit their self-critical assessment to the General Council. If a member fails to attend three successive meetings, he/she are then expelled by a decision of the General Council and loses their rights and entitlements.
H. Employment Terms and Conditions
Plans and projects must be designed and implemented in accordance with the health and safety procedures. Work place hygiene and safety are very important during and outside working hours. All necessary measures and equipment (first aid kit, local doctor, etc) must be in place in case of emergency.
In the event of an accident, the co-op or the commune must treat the injured. In the case of death of an employee during work, the co-op or the commune must continue supporting the family of the deceased.
I. Penalties and Sanctions
The penal system of the co-op or the commune is derived from the justice system of the Movement for a Democratic Society (TEV DEM) - based on social justice.
J. No Capital Control
- a large co-op: maximum capital is €1 million.
- a medium-size co-op: maximum capital is €200.000
- a small size co-op: maximum capital is €50.000
A member of a co-op authority cannot be a member of another co-op authority.
Rules of Procedure of Agricultural Co-operatives
1. The objectives of the co-operative:
--1. The development of the community's economy and the participatory and communal life.
--2. The development of the communal agriculture via enterprise ownership of lands.
--3. The distribution of land available to the commune as one of the social necessities.
--4. Strengthen the spirit of social and communal responsibility in order to build a creative and political society.
2. Types of co-operative affiliation:
--1. Affiliation by capital and effort: members of this category pay a contribution as well as performing cooperative actions.
--2, Affiliation by effort: members of this category (10%) do not pay any contribution, but get paid as they work in the co-op. They also receive a share of the profit.
3. Terms and condition of co-op membership
--1. Members of a co-op must be a member of a commune.
--2. Members of a co-op must be a resident of the canton.
--3. Members whose children left the YPG and/or YPJ cannot join a co-op.
--4. For a small family, a maximum of 1 person is allowed to join a co-op.
4. Principles of co-op affiliation
--1. To join a co-op, the commune must approve within a week.
--2. Commune members who want to join a co-op must report to the commune administration within that week.
--3. A passport-size photograph is needed to registered in a co-op.
5. Work in a co-op:
--1. As mentioned above, the aim of the co-op is to encourage collective work, mutual support and participatory communal life.
--2. Work in co-ops is allocated during the first few meetings.
--3. Those who fail to fulfil their duties without providing any appropriate explanation or justification, are warned in the first instance, and in the second instance, the co-op board call for an emergency meeting, discussing his or her situation and following a unanimous vote, the individual is punished by cutting 10% of their salary.
--4. Members who fail to attend at least 2 meetings a year, are stripped from their membership and their capital is returned to them at the end of the financial year.
6. Profit distribution in the co-op:
--1. The agricultural institution receives 35% share, and 10% of that share is given to the commune.
--2. The commune's share is 25%.
--3. Members of the co-op receives 50% share (the actual share is 65% but 15% is given to the commune).
--4. Shares change from one co-op to another and according to the region too.
7. Co-operative board:
--1. During the first meeting of the co-op, a board is elected and the number of members are determined. A minimum of 3 people is needed in each co-op
--2. A member of the co-op board cannot be a member of any other co-op authority.
8. The financial authority of the co-op:
--1. During the first meeting, the financial authority (no less than 3 members) is elected.
--2. A member of the financial authority of the co-op cannot join any other authorities.
--3. Weekly and monthly financial reports must be submitted to the co-op board. However quarterly reports must be submitted to the General Authority of the co-op.
9. Follow-up committee
--1. A committee (minimum of 3 people) is elected by the community, if necessary.
--2. A member of the committee cannot be a member of any other authorities.
--3. The committee submits its report to the General Authority of the co-op.
10. Co-ordinating authorities of co-ops:
--1. The co-op board elects a board member to become a general co-ordinator.
--2. The co-ordinating authority meets regularly every month. During the meeting, members discuss the activities of the co-op and write the monthly report.
--3. Each co-ordinating authority shares with the co-op board the minutes and outcomes of its meetings.
Published at The Pasewan.