Interview with Na Croisbhealai workers co-operative - organising without bosses in Belfast


Na Croisbhealai workers-co-op is the latest centre to emerge in Belfast along with the Warzone centre providing a practical example of workers self-management in action. Located in the city centre the café offers a space to organise and agitate under every shade of the political left, and a delicious international cuisine from all corners of the globe courtesy of its chef Hugh Corcoran. In the same building is Fresh Claim photography hosting a range of impressive photos and colourful portraits from conflict zones across the world including the recent troubles in Ireland.  Below is an interview with Jack Corcoran from the collective who talks about how it organises without bosses and its role in building a better society for all.

Could you tell me a bit about the history of the Na Croisbhealai workers co-op and why did you decide to get involved?

Na Croisbhealaí Workers Co-Op started in June 2011 and was born out of the idea of the Belfast Youth Assembly which one of our members was trying to organise. Through research on youth assemblies and Squats in the Basque Country came the idea of a Café/Restaurant and social centre to be run as a workers Co-Op and to create a space for radical thinking and organising which is something lacking in Ireland. I became involved in the Co-Op as I was inspired at the idea to set up workers Co-operatives and social centres aimed at the left in Belfast, I agreed originally that I would volunteer to help get the Café started and from there got fully involved in the project as a worker and organiser.International cuisine 

What is the aim of the collective and what type of events does it organise?

Our general aims are to promote co-operation, equality and left wing views in the work place through the use of Workers Co-Operatives and outreach through them. We also aim to politicise, educate, and self- empower the people of Belfast and Ireland so that they are not held hostage by the arms of capitalism and right wing thought. The Co-Op organises events which try to enhance culture, Political thought, awareness and to raise money for certain causes or other events. We see the space as social and open to all comrades who would like to take advantage of it. We have had different political groups, Unions and other organisations organise events and fundraisers. The space has held film showings, AGMs and language classes, we aim to improve these events and also to organise a library and other educational aspects with a future view of having a functioning outreach section of the Co-Operative. 

At the moment we are bearing the brunt of a vicious class war in terms of cuts and attacks on our standard of living. Do you remain optimistic for revolutionary change in our society and what role can workers collectives play?

I personally do remain optimistic for revolutionary change and believe that many others in our society would feel the same. If we look at Africa, South America, Asia and even Greece and other European countries there are uprisings along with revolutionary thought and activities in abundance. This is true to a certain extent in Ireland and the UK and with a system of workers Co-Ops it makes it easy for radical thinkers to get involved collectively in a movement and to learn from Co-workers and other Co-Ops. Setting up Co-Ops can improve organisation and funnel activity towards revolutionary change and protest. Our Co-Op has been used as a space for creating banners and flags for protests as well as organising demonstrations and education in political thought, these things and more appropriate forms of this depending on the situation can help to implement these changes.Banner making for the 30th Nov public sector strike

Finally, how can people get involved in the collective?

People can easily get involved through coming into Na Croisbhealaí and talking to one of the workers, people can bring ideas for use of the space or events openly to our Co-Op and if the use is seen as valid and important by the workers we will try our best to accommodate it. If people would like to be involved in another way they can approach us to offer their experience or interest and can become involved as a worker, organiser, or occasionally contribute a service to us. We generally operate under the view that membership is open to any worker able and willing to fulfil the responsibilities of membership and are currently drawing up official responsibilities of the membership and new members will have a probationary period before becoming full members. Any questions or comments about our Co-Op can be sent Via our Facebook page at Na Croisbhealaí Béal Feirste or you can call in and visit us Tue-Sat at 48 King Street Belfast.

The WSM will be hosting a public meeting on Fighting the Cuts & Anarchist Alternative in the centre on the 28th January at 2pm. All welcome!