This page aims to make amends for things that I, Berta Malles, did and said in the Coop Wars of 1975-1976. The letter below shows that twenty-seven years ago I saw the importance of bringing completion to the unfinished business of all that intense struggle and conflict that we in the Coop Organization initiated. Terms like "truth and reconciliation", "peace treaty" or perhaps "burying the hatchet" come to mind. After two years of knock-down, drag out fighting, the CO was defeated in its attempt to seize the food coops and place them in service of the international proletarian revolution. We left the coops and took our secrets with us. I believe that it is high time to negate and transform our secrets and our rigid positions and harsh criticisms. Further, the CO picked the fight, so it is fitting that the CO should make the first move in the community-wide project of coming to terms.
Crucial to this process is making internal documents of the Coop Organization public, and telling our personal stories. I was in the Organization for seventeen years and it was definitely a formative experience. It is a challenging story to tell, as the internal logic seems weird. Many people around the world have taken up the theoretical tools that we in the Organization. I believe it is worthwhile to make our experience available to the public, even if we failed in our strategic aim.
March 20, 1995
To the Editor of Southside Pride
Thank you for publishing Leo Cashman's review of Storefront Revolution by Craig Cox in one of your recent editions. As I read the review, I realized that I owed an apology to Leo for my role in the Coop Struggle, in particular my participation in the assault on Seward Coop in January 1976, in which those of us in the Coop Organization attempted to seize control of Seward Coop by physically ejecting Leo, Kris Olsen and others who ran the store at the time.
I recently talked to Leo and apologized to him for the assault in 1976. He graciously accepted it, and in the conversation that followed he suggested that I might make a public apology to him and others that had been effected by the Coop Struggle by means of a letter to the editor of Southside Pride. I accepted his suggestion. That is what gets me to the point of writing this letter.
I owe an apology to each person with whom I a) broke off a friendship or working relationship because my politics disagreed with theirs, b) accused, either in person or indirectly, of selfishness, profiteering or personal aggrandizement in the way that person lead or managed a coop, and c) physically injured or threatened to injure in the People's Warehouse takeover, the attempted takeover of Seward Coop, or other confrontations. Looking back over the scores and hundreds of people that I parted company from in the course of the Coop Struggle, I can think of no one who justified to me the level of personal attack and vilification that I dished out, either directly and in person, or indirectly through my participation in the CO. Similarly, I can think of many people on all sides of the Struggle whom I actively miss in my daily life, and with whom I would love to have the opportunity to be communication.
Many, many things come to mind when I think all that has transpired since I first encountered the People's Pantry in 1970. Having said the things above, I would say that I don't apologize for having committed my life to the revolutionary struggle against imperialism for seventeen years, nor do I apologize for errors in judgement or analysis that mainly a result of youth and naiveté.
Other than these things, people may be interested to know that I lived in the Chicago area from 1981 to 1993. My wife, Lynette Wells Malles, and I left the CO three years ago on Good Friday. After years of work in machine shops and as a computer programmer, I am presently employed in a bakery in Edina. Lastly, I would love to have an opportunity to catch up with anyone that knew me in the "old days" of 1970 to 1975.
Sincerely, Bob Malles