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Critiquing the Emilia-Romagna coops system

The network of cooperative businesses of the Italian region of Emilia-Romagna is often hailed as an example of a decentralized business network based on ethical principles.

Our Italian correspondent Marco Fioretti says that there is a lot of critique though, but the links below are all in Italian, so we would appreciate any knowledgeable english commentary on the topic.

Marco Fioretti:

The problem is that most of this stuff is in Italian only. Anyway:



"enough of fiscal privileges to the coops",

the book "Red coops: the greatest conflict of interests in Italy since
WWII" (original title "Le coop rosse. Il più grande conflitto di
interessi nell'Italia del dopoguerra."); a comment to the book is at

the book "Falce e Carrello" (www.falcecarrello.com): the title is a
joke based on the almost identical sound in Italian of:

"falce e martello" (sickle and hammer, the symbol)
"falce e carrello" (sickle and hyper-department-store-cart)

to mean that yesterday's communists have thrown the tools of
traditional workers away to become capitalists, while keeping the
external appearance of being faithful to old ideals

comments to this other book at







Mandatory Disclaimers:

1) I have not read the two books above, but all the excerpts and
reviews, forums etc... that I have seen and quote them are
consistant with other reports I've read or heard on TV in several

2) almost all the links above are not from independent, neutral
voices. "Libero" and "il Giornale", for example, are very
right-wing/neoliberal newspapers (the second, IIRC, belongs to
Berlusconi). The author "Falce e Carrello", for example, is the
owner of Esselunga, one of the bigger department store chains here
in Italy, that is a direct competitor of LegaCoop.

let's just say that even if all the links above only told half of the
story, if half of what they say were true it would be enough to be
careful when talking about coops and E-R

3) things change greatly with the size of the coop. LegaCoop and
similar are ordinary corporations, just as ruthless and tied to
banks and big political parties as Fiat, just to stay in Italy.
Marco Travaglio, a journalist who is everything but pro-Berlusconi,
defined the Unipol-LegaCoop ties a dramatic conflict of
interests. Coops with ~10 members are a whole different story, but
this doesn't mean they won't get unfair privileges just because
they call themselves a "social" usiness whose members will commit
to vote the right party

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