Radical Routes

Birmingham Bike Foundry Trading Co-op

Birmingham Bike Foundry is a worker co-op with four members. We promote cycling activities and recycle discarded bikes.

We offer maintenance and cycle training to members of the public, schools and businesses. We offer workshop repairs, wheel building, bicycle hire, a tool club where you can come along and use our workshop. We source and sell bike parts, both new and recycled and we sell hand made cycling aids to make riding more comfortable, enjoyable and chic.

We aim to make a healthy, fun, affordable and environmentally friendly means of transport and leisure available to as many people as we can, however possible. We believe that cycling is an empowering activity that is part of the solution to Birmingham’s transport and health challenges.

Our aims are to foster a cycling culture in Birmingham, normalising thepractice of cycling, and to provide meaningful, democratic and disalienated labour to our workers.

This is our definition of social change, included here for general information and so that prospective member co-ops can see the position that will inform our decision when assessing their application to join. We share this policy with Gung Ho Housing Co-operative because we developed it together.

BBF’s definition of social change:

1./ Must be social –

That is working with people outside our immediate acquaintances and affecting society as a whole.

2./ Must be anti-capitalist

We recognise that the defining characteristic of our society is the exploitation of our class by the capitalist class. Social change work must be anti-capitalist; it must oppose this exploitation, or the other hierarchies and exploitations that underpin capitalism such as patriarchy, racism, homophobia, disablism &c..

3./ Can be constructive…

Beyond anti-capitalism we seek to establish a communist society based on the free association of workers, individuals and communities. Work towards this society is recognised. Steps towards syndicalising workplaces, making workplaces co-operative, federating associations and so on will be recognised.

4./ Can be destructive…

Organising and participating in strikes or resistance.

We take it as read that our members’ actions will be informed by a thought out and consistent critique of capitalism. This critique is not sufficient on its own in the same way that uninformed action would not be.

Being in a co-operative is not inherently radical. Co-operatives recreate the system of property. Rather than eliminating the contradictions of capitalism, co-ops internalise many of them. The landlord and boss functions are carried out by the workers/tenants, forced by market imperatives to enact capitalist exploitation on themselves. While workers are forced to work to live they will be wage slaves – whilst mortgages have to be paid tenants are exploited by the market. We believe that co-operatives could be a useful tool for building a post-capitalist society, but they are not in themselves a political or economic challenge to capitalism.

Aspects of an individual’s lifestyle such as commodities consumed (dietary or otherwise), participation in organic gardening or permaculture, sexual relationship preferences, the means of transport they use, or how they choose to bring up their children are not work for social change, nor can such choices be inherently radical. That’s not to say that we do not recognise that capitalism can have an impact on these sorts of choices but we can’t fight capitalism and associated oppression by elevating certain lifestyles that exist happily within it.

We are building towards a mass revolutionary movement so frank, inclusive, radicalising activities should be our focus.

Liberty, Equality, Velocity!

– Chris, Fin, Nancy & Lauren