Last night I attended an event that I found inspiring. I am not good at these kind of events normally as I want the speakers to stop speaking so I can get on with networking. But not in this case. I was at the launch of The Co-operative Revolution: The Graphic Novel and was treated to some genuine and amusing speakers from the Co-operative Group and a chance to hear Polyp, the artist. I was pleased to hear people directly challenge the "selfish gene" myth and we were treated to Polyp's insight into what he thought those original RADICALS who founded the Rochdale Pioneers Equitable Society might have been thinking & what Rochdale in 2044 might look like to inform his art, before being treated to a "behind the scenes" look at how a graphic novel is constructed. When I arrived at the venue (Waterstones in Picadilly) I was blown away by the queue round the block before realising they were probably there for the Jessie J book signing! We've got 13 million members of the Co-op movement in this country so an easy mistake to make....
Onto the book:
If, like me, you enjoy graphic novels you will realise that £5.99 is an absolute steal - the reason being that The Co-operative Group has subsidised the printing of this 71 page treat which has been produced by New Internationalist. They realise that the message is more important than turning a profit on this project. That's the difference with the co-operative movement - it's not all about economic return, sometimes we do stuff for the social benefit! And they have also made it available to read online for free. But for less than the price of 2 pints, why not have the book gracing your radical bookshelf?
The graphic novel element of the book takes us through several stages - Yesterday, Today, Always, Tomorrow. "Yesterday" brilliantly recounts the struggles and victories of the early pioneers of the Co-operative movement and is the best introduction you could possibly give someone. It really brings it to life, and puts the co-op movement's founders in the context of social upheaval and protest movements and struggle for democracy of the time. For instance, did you know that the first Toad Lane store had a green door? Green because it was the colour of the Chartist movement. "Today" treats us to some key facts about the current co-op movement with interesting graphics and a couple of pastiches of classic British comics which would make damn fine posters. "Always" might be the most important section of the book as it illustrates how co-operation is the key for survival of all creatures on the planet and debunks the selfish gene myth. In digestible form, this could be the key text to educate young people about the alternative to the mainstream individualist approach they have rammed down their throat at school. "Tomorrow" is the science fiction chapter. 2044. A Mars landing led by a Rochdale co-op with a woman at the helm. Pioneers to the last.
Although I believe the graphic approach is the best way to tell a compelling and important story of our radical movement, it is really useful that the book is topped off with a Timeline of key co-op movement events, and on the last page is a call to action. Something you can do simply and quickly. But I won't spoil the surprise.
So at the risk of sounding like some kind of co-op evangelist, I recommend you to get this if:
- You like graphic novels
- You are part of the co-op movement
- You are interested in co-ops
- You are a social entrepreneur - find out about the roots of your movement and an approach that has sustained for 160 years
- You are interested in radical politics
To get The Co-operative Revolution visit http://www.newint.org/books/politics/cooperative-revolution/ or to read it online visit http://www.co-operative.coop/graphic-novel