John Curl on the History of Cooperatives and Communalism in the US

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We interview John Curl, author of “For All the People: Uncovering the Hidden History of Cooperation, Cooperative Movements and Communalism in America.” John discusses the efforts to create real democracy in the US pre-dating the Revolution and obstacles to their success. His book results from a lifetime of research and experience in cooperatives.

Article: Cooperatives and Community Work are Part of American DNA

Show #41 on History of Cooperatives in the US with John Curl, author “For All the People.” by Clearingthefog on Mixcloud

johncurlJohn Curl has been a member of Heartwood Cooperative Woodshop in Berkeley for over thirty years, and has belonged to numerous other cooperatives and collectives. His historical writings includes History of Work Cooperation in America (1980). Memories of Drop City(2007) is his memoir of the 1960s commune movement. He is a translator and biographer of Inca, Maya and Aztec poets in Ancient American Poets (2006). His seven books of poetry include Scorched BirthColumbus in the Bay of Pigs, and Decade: the 1990s. He is a longtime boardmember of PEN, chair of West Berkeley Artisans and Industrial Companies, a social activist, and has served as a city planning commissioner. He is a professional woodworker, and resides in Berkeley, CA.



FATPFor All the People: Uncovering the Hidden History of Cooperation, Cooperative Movements, and Communalism in America, 2nd ed. 

Author: John Curl
Introduction by: Ishmael Reed
Publisher: PM Press
ISBN: 978-1-60486-582-0
Published July 2012
Format: Paperback
Page Count: 608 Pages
Size: 9 by 6
Subjects: History, Political Science


It is the cooperation of working people that has brought the best of the United States to life. Cooperatives have played a vital role throughout the American saga, starting in its formative years. A staggering 120 million Americans belong to cooperatives today–yet the existence of such a movement, and its dramatic and stirring story, remain all but ignored by most historians.

For All the People seeks to reclaim this history.

The very survival of indigenous communities and the first European settlers alike depended on a deeply cooperative style of living and working, based around common lands, shared food and labor. Cooperative movements proved integral to the grassroots organizations and struggles challenging the domination
of unbridled capitalism in America’s formative years. Holding aloft the vision for an alternative economic system based on cooperative industry, they have played a vital, and dynamic role in the struggle to create a better world.

In this groundbreaking, scholarly, yet eminently readable study, Curl surveys the vast range of cooperatives that have shaped America’s past and continue to inform, and transform, our present. With an expansive sweep, and breathtaking detail, For All the People examines each of the definitive cooperative movements for social change—farmer, union, consumer, and communalist—that have been all but erased from our collective memory.

John Curl, with over forty years of experience as both an active member and scholar of cooperatives, masterfully melds theory, practice, knowledge and analysis, to present the definitive history from below of cooperative America.

The Buzz

“It is indeed inspiring, in the face of all the misguided praise of ‘the market’, to be reminded by John Curl’s new book of the noble history of cooperative work in the United States.”
–Howard Zinn, author of A People’s History of the United States.

“This new edition is greatly welcome, because we need a cooperative movement and spirit more than ever before. Curl surveys all, and explains much. New generations of readers will find this a fascinating account, and aging co-opers like myself will understand better what we did, what we tried to do, where we succeeded and where we failed. Get this book and read it, Curl will do you good.”
–Paul Buhle, coeditor of the Encyclopedia of the American Left, founding editor of Radical America (SDS).