The Co-operative Contract of the Democratic Federation of Northern Syria

A – Definition and Principles

The co-operative is a social organisation that does not seek profit, but the fulfilment of the basic needs of society, based on collective work, sharing, solidarity and self-governance.

The co-operatives are basic moral-political pillars of the restructuring of society on a democratic foundation.

The co-operatives do not limit themselves to economic production. In both their economic activities and support in other social fields, they are determining factors of democratic society.

The co-operatives follow the basic principles and approaches of the democratic-communal economy paradigm as their basis.

The satisfaction of basic social needs and ecological compatibility are taken as the underlying principles of all co-operative activity.

Co-operatives embrace the economic experiences of the last two centuries of democratic-social resistance, and the goals of free individual – democratic society. The aspects of these experiences that contribute to the moral and political development of society are taken as a basis.

The co-operative takes as its basis the type of production of a democratic-communal economy. A co-operative aims to internally carry out all aspects of production of the specific basic need that it is founded to produce.

Democracy is the operative principle in co-operative administration. In the co-operative community the workers are not only passive members with voting responsibility, but active agents in the administration of the co-operative. They carry out this responsibility of active participation.

The co-operatives build their governance mechanisms using democratic means.

Participation based on labour is central to the co-operatives. In special cases, there can be participation by means of capital. Such participation is subject to the approval of the members of the co-operative.

The administration of the co-operatives is subject to direct, open and complete regulation by both the members of the co-operative and those of the commune the co-operative is part of.

The decisions regarding the internal workings of the commune are taken and put into practice with the participation of every member of the co-operative.

While every unit within the co-operative takes decisions autonomously, decisions that also relate to the other units and the co-operative as a whole are made jointly. In situations involving the larger community, the formulation of policy and its implementation is carried out by all of the communities involved.

All means of production, livestock and fields used in co-operative activity are at the disposal of the commune, and are to be used for the satisfaction of common needs and joint economic production.

B – Binding Clauses

1 – The legitimacy of the co-operative is grounded in the presence of moral and political restructuring of society and its economic field.

2 – In the co-operatives, democratic conscience and social organisation complement one another. In this framework, co-operative activities are also activities that promote the education and organisation of society on a democratic-communal basis.

3 – Between the co-operatives and the other institutions of democratic society, there is a complementary and holistic relationship. The existence of the co-operatives presupposes the existence of democratic self-governance mechanisms such as the communes, assemblies, town councils and congresses.

4 – The co-operatives are voluntary organisations that are open to all those who accept the responsibilities of membership and are able to make use of their benefits, without sexual, social, racial, political or religious discrimination.

5 – The co-operatives are democratic organisations regulated by their members. The elected coordinators are responsible towards members.

6 – All members have an equal vote. If a member is also a member of another co-operative, they can only become a coordinator in one of them. The co-operatives are based on the principle of self-governance.

7 – Anyone can participate who espouses the communal economy and sees in themselves the conviction, will, determination and power to act for its realisation. Every person who accepts the paradigm, principles and measures of the democratic-communal co-operative, and makes an effort to realise it, can become a member.

8 – The co-operatives are autonomous, self-reliant and self-governing organisations. In the event that the co-operatives enter into an agreement with other institutions, including governments, or increase their budget through external sources, they carry these out in such a way that the democratic government by the members and autonomy of the co-operative are preserved.

9 – The co-operatives provide educational opportunities for their elected representatives, coordinators and workers, to actively contribute to the development of the co-operative. In this framework, the co-operatives are responsible for providing and supporting activities to encourage vocational, social, cultural, and athletic education.

10 – The co-operatives can form associations on the basis of their activity and area of production, and on regional, national and international scales. However, these associations are not to seek economic monopoly or hegemony, but to satisfy the needs of the community.

11 – The co-operatives work for the sustainable development of their communities through consensus-based policies. The democratic-communal co-operatives are the economic models of the democratic reconstruction of society. They operate not just for their members, but for the sustainable and holistic development of the whole society and the commune and associations they are part of. In areas such as health, infrastructure and services, transportation, communications, and ecology, they carry out activities to the extent that their means allow and offer support for the existing ones.

C – Organisational Structure and Procedures

Eight people can come together to form a co-operative. The co-operatives can come together to create a common co-operative association. These associations are formed of at least three co-operatives active in the same sector.

Co-operative associations are responsible for tasks such as regulation of member co-operatives, conformity of the programme with co-operative principles, forming bonds with the canton co-operatives and collecting membership fees.

The co-operatives can form multiple workshops and facilities.

The Co-operative General Assembly is composed of its members. The designation and maintenance of procedures and activities within the co-operative and the intra-co-operative division of labour are carried out by the General Assembly. The production strategy, division of labour, production process, rules and methods are democratically decided in meetings. Representatives are chosen for administrative positions based on the allocation of work and duties in the co-operative. The co-operative regulates productive activities.

The General Assembly holds term meetings every six months, and general meetings annually.

The board of management is composed of democratically elected members. Only one person per family is allowed to be a member at any given point.

The General Assembly can make changes according to the general needs of the co-operative in terms of the creation of the board of management, their functions, period in office and labour process. It can call the elected members to account, recall them before their term is over, or change their position.

The Co-operative Board of Management is chosen, given tasks and regulated by the General Assembly, and re-elects the board in annual meetings.

In the co-operative management boards, there is a principle of using the system of co-chairs.

The Board of Management is responsible for carrying out the decisions of the General Assembly. It cannot make and implement decisions beyond the parameters defined for it.

In extenuating circumstances, such decisions can be taken with prior approval from the General Assembly.

The Board of Management reports on its activities to the General Assembly every six months.

The activities and procedure of the co-operative, and their compliance with the principles and rules set out by the General Assembly, are regulated by the House of Co-operatives. They issue proposals for investigation into practices that violate the paradigm, principles and rules. Recommendations are made to help correct observed insufficiencies and errors. The House of Co-operatives feeds back to the General Assembly every six months.

D – Working Principles

The co-operatives have a collective work model. All members that are fit to work take part in at least one enterprise based on the rules and measures.

Families are granted the opportunity of private production insofar as this does not interfere with collective work.

The working day and hours of operation are organised based on the balance between the satisfaction of the economic needs of society and social transformation.

Vocational training across all subjects relevant to the co-operative are carried out in order to establish self-sufficiency. The General Assembly is authorised to regulate the division of labour and work shifts.

The co-operatives actively struggle against sexism in all of their activities. More active participation for women is facilitated through a division of labour that aims to transcend the sexist roles allotted to women and develop women’s agency. In the activities of the co-operative, the Women’s Law is the reference point for all issues concerning women.

E – Approach towards Markets

In the co-operative system, markets based on monopolising profit, speculation and inequality are not allowed.

The markets are built by the communities and the co-operative. Aside from this, no regions or communities can take or enact unilateral decisions that concern other regions and communities when creating their markets.

The market is built cooperatively between the people and regions concerned. In the construction of a market, mentalities of excessive localisation, centralisation and universalism that are out of touch with the local area are not given space.

Different co-operatives, settlements, regions or cantons can create markets jointly. Collective production, distribution and enjoyment are essential to the co-operative. A part of the produce of the co-operative is distributed to the members in order to satisfy the needs of the commune members, and the remainder is put on co-operative or local, regional, inter-communal and international markets.

Co-operative Committee

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