Co-op World Music Project

A Melody of Co-operation Around the World: CICOPA World Music Project, a Legacy of the International Year of Co-ops

Now Moving into the Co-operative Decade, by Hazel Corcoran, Executive Director, Canadian Worker Co-op Federation

A CICOPA World Music Project resolution was passed in November 2011 in Cancun.  For the background, see:

Music selections, primarily from Canada, have been submitted.  A small committee has reviewed the submissions.  The committee members are: Rebecca Kemble (US), and Donna Balkan (Communications Manager, Canadian Co-op Association), Mark Goldblatt (Past President, CWCF), Colin MacDougall (Past director, CWCF) and myself, Hazel Corcoran (all from Canada).

We are very pleased to announce that the CICOPA World Music Collection is made up of 4 songs, as follows.
We hope that you will find these songs as inspirational as we do!

1. “Together” by Konfekoop – Basque Cooperatives Confederation, 4:54 minutes.

2. “The Big Idea Song”, by Greg O’Neill, of Calgary, Alberta (originally from Cape Breton, Nova Scotia), 4:00 minutes:

You can also see a 90-second video version, here:

3. “Join a Co-op” by Emily Erhardt of Saskatchewan, 2:29

4. “Ça nous appartient” (or “It Belongs to Us”), by Michelle Deveau, of Chéticamp, Nova Scotia, 3:33 (in French)

(The last two songs were composed and performed by youth.)

One of the songwriters, Greg O’Neill, has written the following about the power of art and music in social movements – including the co-operative movement, in a paper called “Integrating Art and Social Change”.

“As we have moved from a more traditional to a more convenienced way of life, it has become possible for a few to acquire unimaginable wealth and to create a belief that it is possible for everyone to do it. This belief system of perpetual economic growth through a Darwinian concept of economic development, as expounded by Milton Friedman and the Chicago School of Economics, is an aberration and a fairly recent view of economic development.

The Co-operative concept of organizing economy is the natural way for humans to organize things. What the people in the streets at the G8 summits or the demonstrations against the war in Iraq are protesting is a loss of our human-ness.

The example of Inuit traditional knowledge is a very profound one and it is very clear how the guiding principles of life have informed the way in which Inuit have developed their economic infrastructure. But there are many other examples of how culture and the creative forces inherent in all of us have been instrumental in reminding us of “those things that we have always known”.

At the turn of the 20th century, most of us now reading this paper would have only limited education. If we lived in the cities, many of us would have been working in factories from childhood. We would be working in factories that had no standards for health and safety. Many of us would be dead. Many of us would be living in houses that were owned by the factory owners and buying our food from stores that were owned by the factory owners. The factory owners would decide how much they would pay us, how much to charge for rent and how much to charge for our food. We would be eternally in debt to those we worked for.

Much of the abundant life that we enjoy today came from the efforts of those who organized themselves collectively into unions and fought to change the conditions of working people. The struggles of union organizing, the strikes and the battles of working people from the Winnipeg General Strike to Bloody Thursday on the Waterfront of San Francisco to the battles of the South African Labour Unions in support of the African National Congress are part of our collective heritage. Though this history is not taught in the schools to our children, the songs and other forms of artistic expression that supported and were created by this movement that transformed society are part of our culture.

There are many who contributed to the body of music, poetry, novels and plays that has become part of culture and heritage. There are the songs of Woody Guthrie, Lee Hays, Pete Seeger and The Weavers, the poetry of John Dos Passos, the novels of John Steinbeck and the journalism of Dorothy Day to mention just a few. The labour movement was buoyed by the creativity of those involved in its struggles and it became the spirit of the movement.

The works of these people not only enrich our lives because of their intrinsic artistic value, they inspired people to fight for a change that has led to a fundamental improvement in our quality of life. We now have child labour laws and universal access to education. We now have minimum wage laws.

The point here is that artists have been present in the significant “Movements” for social change. The poets, the singers, songwriters help us to gain perspective and inspiration.

There were Bob Dylan, Allen Ginsberg, Joan Baez, and Phil Ochs, creating songs of inspiration for those marching for Peace in the 1960’s.

There were Gilles Vigneault and Pauline Julien inspiring the French-speaking people of Quebec to fight for equality.

The rousing lyrics of “We Shall Overcome” was a force that energized civil rights marchers in the face of armed opposition, injury and death.

If we are to have a Co-operative Movement, we need spirit and passion. The goal is to germinate Co-operative enterprises in all fields of human enterprise. The conditions for a new explosive effort in Co-operative development exist.

It may be possible to engage those who have been actively involved in the Occupy Movement and Idle No More, and channel that energy into creating a constructive alternative to the corporate reality. It may be possible to engage people like Michael Moore, Bruce Cockburn, Tracy Chapman and the new musical and literary voice of young people’s dissatisfaction with the way things are in promoting the alternative. Anyone reading this can be a part of it. How do we engage those who are willing to risk serious personal injury at protests, and also channel their energy into a positive, productive activity?

We need to say loudly and clearly what we are for. The most successful movements are those that are very clear about their purpose. It is easy to be against something. Anybody can be a critic. We want to be creators.  There is such a diversity of groups, some social, some political, some based in Community Economic Development work, some cultural, some in the labour union movement, some religious and those in the Co-op sector already committed to building a movement. How often do these diverse groups get together? How many of these groups exist in other countries? Let’s have our own international Co-operative summit. Let’s bring these groups together in one place. Let’s entertain ourselves while we do it. Let’s invite the successful international Co-operatives to strut their stuff along with the green entrepreneurs, the artists and others that celebrate life. Let’s have a good time doing it. Let’s celebrate the joy, hope and spirit that is the basis of our Co-operative principles. Let’s let it loose. Let our Co-operative Movement be an explosion of creativity that is irresistible.”