Co-operative Day Message 1991

    This document has been made available in electronic format
         by the International Co-operative Alliance ICA 
                         December 1997

               69th International Co-operative Day
                    Saturday, July 6, 1991

       Message from the International Co-operative Alliance

          Co-operatives in Eastern and Central Europe

As countries in Eastern and Central Europe are slowly and
painfully but resolutely making the transition to the market
economy, co-operatives in these countries are having to fight
for their existence in an atmosphere charged with prejudice
and misconceptions.

Unfortunately, the name co-operative has, in many minds,
become inextricably linked to the political system based on
Marx, Engels, Lenin and Stalin. And, while it is true that the
co-operative movements in the former Eastern Block adapted to
these regimes and managed to survive in the planned economy by
helping to serve state objectives, their roots date back to
pre-revolutionary times.

Now that co-operatives no longer have to serve state
objectives, they are able to revert to their more legitimate
purpose of serving the interests of their members. Co-
operatives in Eastern and Central Europe need to return to
their roots and also catch up with the co-operative movements
which have evolved in a democratic political environment. And
they are looking to their co-operative brothers in the rest of
the world for models of efficient and democratic co-operative

But, although the new emphasis is on the capitalist free
market, the Eastern countries should not slavishly copy
everything in the West. They should be able to learn from
previous experiences, thereby avoiding the excesses of the
free market system and, with regard to the co-operatives,
avoiding some of the problems encountered by the Movement in
recent years.

The co-operative movements in Bulgaria, Czechoslovakia,
Eastern Germany, Hungary, Poland, Romania and the USSR can
look to the ICA Co-operative Development Programme for Eastern
and Central Europe for support in their efforts to adapt and
expand in their new political and economic environments. The
programme also aims to promote the development of mutually
beneficial contacts between co-operatives from the East and

The Programme seeks to achieve these aims through the
organization of regional and national training seminars on
issues of importance to the local co-operatives, by creating a
data bank and acting as a clearing house for information and
by providing advice to organizations and governments wishing
to promote co-operative development in the region.

ICA calls on its 600,000,000 members worldwide to help the
movements in Eastern and Central Europe by exchanging
experience with them at meetings of ICA's Central Committee
and its Specialized Organizations, by increasing trade
agreements with co-operatives in Eastern and Central Europe
and by supporting the ICA's Co-operative Development

We are deeply convinced that the co-operative movement can
help these countries return to democracy and build a society
which is egalitarian, just and free.