Gólya Cooperative Bar and Community House

Introduction

Gólya („Stork” in Hungarian) is a co-operative bar and community house in the 8th district of Budapest, Hungary. It has a large inner space with a garden, a separate office space, houses a daycare establishment, a music rehearsal studio, an attic and a basement, currently used for storage. The bar and kitchen provide a wide selection of drinks and meals, including daily lunch menus every weekday. There are live music events every week, with other programs such as film clubs, presentations, lectures, discussions, board game playing and other activities. Gólya hosts both public and closed events of groups or organizations, such as birthdays, proms, conferences, fundraisings, trainings, and meetings of all sorts, including political events. We work and strategize together with a number of allied groups who use our spaces.

The road so far.

The cooperative enterprise of Gólya has its roots in a previous project, a café situated in the inner city area of Budapest, Frisco Café. The cooperative of Frisco was founded in 2011. The group that ran the place decided to move and to reform itself. The new team assembled in 2013 and opened Gólya in the September of 2013.

Since then some people left and a lot joined. Now (as of December, 2017) there are nine co-op members, four member candidates and six non-member workers who are in their „pondering” phase of their involvement trajectory. There are also some jump-in colleagues who work irregularly.

Management of the co-operative, rules and principles of organization and operation

The methods of organization have been developing organically since the 2011 foundation of the Frisco collective, which was the direct predecessor of Gólya. These methods emerged from the need to include people into enterprise ownership, in order to disperse the economic burden and to motivate everyone to become collectively responsible and to maximize their efforts, because of the lack of available capital. The members first didn’t really look for already existing co-ops for adapting solutions, however, with the gradual consolidation of their operational methods or rules and economic relations, these became very similar to internationally known collective principles. In time, Gólya became more and more involved in getting to know other similar organisations and exchanging knowledge.

The Organizational and Operational Rules describe the mechanics of membership and the economic relations of the enterprise. This document states the co-op’s current set of principles.

To become a member (owner-worker) requires an amount of time spent working at Gólya, together with an initial cash investment (buying shares) and the univocal respect of current members. However when one starts to work at Gólya, they gain the status of „fix worker”.  It’s not 100% like the position of the employee, because they are included partly in decision-makings and have access to all information about the enterprise, but they gain a wage for their work and are less involved in collective social security. This is only a temporary status, during the worker can decide for him/herself, they want to become a member and start the probation period. If the worker doesn’t want to become a member or the membership does not accept them as applicants, they have to leave after a notice period – this system was installed so that over time, the membership would be able to maintain the place in itself (there wouldn’t be workers outside of the bonds of the membership).

Members (and only members) own shares, which cannot be bought or sold. Shares can be obtained with cash investment (equal amount for all members) and time spent working in the cooperative (both are required). Shares represent the capital value of the enterprise, and the share package of a member represent the member’s contribution to this value. If a member decides to leave, one receives half of the nominal value of their total shares over the time of six months. (If they had worked enough in the co-op, this results in a higher sum of money than their original cash investment.) However the money value of ownership is only taken into account when a member leaves or the cooperative disbands itself, because neither the salary, nor the right of decision-making is based on the share ownership.

Members decide the amount of their salary which is a fixed amount, equal for members working equal hours. This is distributed every 4 weeks. New members recieve the 75% of this fixed amount for a year, then they reach equity. This is also a way for them to „buy in.” The membership decides what to do with the profits beyond the cumulative sum of the salaries in every quarter year. (Whether they want to invest it, save it, divide it, or finance projects with it). Also there is a minimum wage which is paid regardless of a month’s profits to every member.

Membership also comes with social benefits, such as food and drink provision, vacation, housing allowance, maternity/father’s leave, sick leave, and special considerations for studies or other personal needs.

Members need to work at least 40 hours a week, of which at least 18 hours must be physical labor (tending the bar, working in the kitchen, or cleaning the place). The rest is specialized work that is managed by a system of working groups responsible for different areas of activity, such as organizing programs, marketing, logistics, finance and bureaucracy. They must be present on weekly assemblies and monthly meetings dedicated to strategic planning and team-building.

Organization of production and the collective itself is managed at the working group level (meetings, mailing lists) and the weekly assembly of members. Every second meeting is open to non-member workers who can present their issues and also have a chance to influence decisions concerning the operation of the enterprise. Each member has one vote, regardless of the percentage of shares that one owns, however, decision-making is consensus-based, and regularly concludes in some kind of compromise between different suggestions or opinions. Members also have the right to veto a decision.

Members are responsible for each other, the enterprise and the social mission of the co-operative. If a member causes damage with obvious responsibility for it, the members can pass on its costs to them. If the enterprise failed somewhere, the incurred loss would be shared equally between all members, since responsibility is shared collectively.

History of the site and the neighbourhood

„Gólya” itself has a long and rich history. The place was built in the 1880’s, and has always been called Gólya, and was originally intended to be a bar. It became an integral part of the 8th district, which served as the home of workers and artisans in the 20th century. After the system shift of 1989 and the following austerity and restructuring of the economy, most of the district’s residents lost their jobs and livelyhoods, and Gólya was also closed down. It hasn’t been re-opened as a bar until 2013. In the 90’s the 8th district became a stigmatized ghetto of a new underclass, formed by people who lived there before and migrants coming from rural Hungary or abroad. There is also a large proportion of gypsy residents, and sadly the stigma surrounding the district is ethnicised. The 8th became an isolated part of the city, structured by extended family relations, community networks and competing gangs or families. Social distress in the neighbourhood developed its own social rules in the context of extreme poverty, crime and drug use.

However, in the middle of the 2000’s, a joint real estate development project of the district municipality and a private firm (public-private partnership) with a budget of hundreds of millions of euros started the redevelopment of the neighborhood. It is called „Corvin Project.” In the first phases of the project they had built an office building, a mall, a promenade and residential buildings with relatively expensive flats. This process involved the eviction of a number of residents and the demolishment of many old buildings, and initiated a process of gentrification. However, the 2008 crisis halted the project because of  consequent financial problems. The area is increasingly gentrifying, which is only slowed by the specialities of Eastern European home property structure and other factors. In 2014, they started the construction of another office building, right next to the building of Gólya, and they have finished that in 2016, after which they began to  and they have finished that in 2016, after which they began to erect a new, residential building in the other parcel next to Gólya which was – for the time being – taken off of the development plans. In the next phase, many more people face eviction and further existential instability, while new residents are moving in from other parts of town, coming from a higher, upper-class social strata.

The social mission of the co-operative

The Gólya project is constantly analyzing the local environment and the wider social structures they are integrated in, trying to understand its own position and role as clearly as possible, in order to plan its strategies reflexively. Based on this, the declared mission of the co-op is threefold. Above all, it concentrates on maintaining and developing a working co-operative model of organization and production that can assure members’ control over the means of production, the well-being of members and their long-term safety. The Gólya team wishes to make their model transparent and open to the public, and they also wish to co-operate with similar projects in Hungary and internationally, to share their knowledge and maybe take the organization to a higher level. By understanding the possibilities and restraints of collective ownership and production under capitalist conditions, they wish to propagate working models of economic co-operation.

The second goal is to maintain a space for partner groups, projects and organizations, which help achieving their own purposes. The Gólya team wishes to mediate between these different groups, to communicate their agendas, and to support the formation of a wider social movement. In order to help this happen, they hold regular „community meetings” for their audience and partner organizations.

The third goal is connected to the process of gentrification in the neighborhood. The co-op realized that with their limited assets, they cannot bring significant change to what’s happening (against the political power of the municipality and the economic power of the real estate development firm), and they also realize that as a newly opened bar with an audience of inner city youngsters, it is also part of the „pioneer wave” of gentrification. However, while perceiving these limits, they wish to cooperate with other organizations that work against gentrification and housing poverty, and to alter their negative effects. They also wish to communicate the actual structural mechanisms of gentrification to 8th district locals and others, in opposition to the rosy promises about progress and prosperity.