About : Collectives
What's radical about running a coffeehouse and bookstore? In our society, most businesses aren't owned by all of the people who work within them - but some are! Worker ownership and control, at least to some extent, subvert the logic of capitalism and it's for this reason that the Red Emma's "business model" works the way it does.
We can break down worker ownership into a spectrum of four different types, each one more radical in turn. At the bottom, barely distinguishable from the normal business composition of empolyer-employee relations, are businesses which pay some wages in the form of stock in the corporation itself, often referred to as ESOP's or Employee Stock Ownership Plans - while nominally different from a pure money wage, we don't really think these kinds of arrangements pose any sort of real challenge to the dominant system, because corporations with ESOP's usually never transfer enough stock to the workers to transfer control of the corporation to them as well.
However, some businesses are owned entirely by their members - these are called cooperatives. In the case where workers are the members(as opposed to, say, consumers), this form of business is a worker cooperative. Here the workers do own and control the company - now we're getting somewhere! Cooperatives are perhaps the most widespread form of worker-ownership today, especially in the agricultural sector.
But cooperative ownership isn't enough - being a cooperative means that the workers own and control the business, but how they own and control the business is important. In a cooperative, different members may have more power over the governing of the company depending on how much work they perform, or based on what kind of capital they contributed to the cooperative upon joining. Worker control over the operations of the cooperative may be mostly nominal, with most decisions being made by a traditional board of corporate executives, making decisions in the name of the workers as their representatives. For anti-authoritarians like ourselves, this kind of arrangement is less than ideal, so we have organized ourselves as a collective, in which the real management of the company is carried out in a directly democratic and egalitarian manner.
What could be better than a collectively run business? Basically, the only thing left to do is keep the collective part and get rid of the "business", in other words, to run the infrastructure of our world for ourselves in a democratic way without recourse to the structures of capitalist ownership. In more liberatory Communist traditions, the workplaces in such a post-capitalist society are called workers' councils, and form the building blocks of a truly radical revolutionary government. (The original meaning of the word "soviet", before being co-opted by state capitalist ideology, referred to workers' councils.)
Red Emma's is most definitely a collective - we're owned exclusively by the workers, and this ownership translates into direct worker self-management on a completely equal basis. We'd like to think that, given our collective dreams for a economically and politically more just world, and the amount of time we spend trying to do whatever we can to make these dreams a reality, we're on our way towards being a workers' council as well....