The Uralungal Labour Contract Cooperative Society (ULCCS) in northern Kerala is a remarkable institution, founded as part of the early 20th century anti-caste movement. The Cooperative's raison d'être – as enshrined in its bylaws – is to 'promote the economic interests of the labourers of the Society'. Despite ups and downs over its 90-year history, the ULCCS is a highly successful cooperative, both in terms of its profitability and in its enhancing the lives of its worker-owners. This, despite the neoliberal policies that have suffocated much economic activity that lies outside of monopoly capitalism's interests.
Building Alternatives provides an honest appraisal of a heroic venture of a cooperative enterprise, demonstrating that cooperatives are not only able to survive in a small niche, but are able to grow into substantial institutions within the social life of a region. The book does not gloss over the problems that come with this history, providing a rich empirical account that helps us learn from the challenges and successes. The story of ULCCS is not merely an inspiration to the world, but a guidebook to the resilience of cooperatives as alternatives within capitalism.
The authors of the volume deserve special thanks for providing a detailed account of a pioneering and successful organisation that needs to be replicated in large numbers.
C.T. Kurien, Frontline