Young Negroes' Cooperative League

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Founded in 1930 by the black Anarchist George Schuyler, the Young Negroes' Cooperative League (YNCL) coordinated twenty-four African American-led consumer cooperatives and buying clubs across the so-called "United States." The organization put into practice principles of participatory democracy and gender equality. Schuyler explained, "We are ultra democratic and all power rests in the hands of the rank and file." [1]

Schuyer believed that by building consumer cooperatives and worker cooperatives, the working class would gradually replace and destroy capitalism and the state:

Co-operative democracy means a social order in which the mills, mines, railroads, farms, markets, houses, shops and all the other necessary means of production, distribution and exchange are owned cooperatively by those who produce, operate and use them.

Whereas the Socialists hope to usher in such a Utopia society by the ballot and the Communists hope to turn the trick with the bullet, the co-operator (who is really an Anarchist since the triumph of his society will do away with the state in its present form--and I am an Anarchist) is slowly and methodologically doing so through legal, intelligent economic cooperation or mutual aid.[2]

The YNCL's chapters were autonomous, and the National Office served as a clearinghouse of information and as publisher of the group's newsletter. The YNCL's commitment to gender equality set it apart from most political organizations of the time. Ella Baker served as the YNCL's first national director. She travelled across the country meeting with chapters and promoting their efforts. In 1932, Baker explained the group's purpose: "We accept with zest the opportunity which is now ours to prove to ourselves and others that the Negro can and will save himself from economic death."[3]

Although Schuyler later became a conservative social commentator, Baker remained an autonomous anti-capitalist for her entire life. She became a central organizer in the civil rights movement and an adult adviser to the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee,

  1. Barbara Ransby, Ella Baker & the Black Freedom Movement: A Radical Democratic Vision (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2003), 82-83.
  2. Ransby, Ella Baker, 87.
  3. Ransby, Ella Baker, 83, 87.