Chapter 9 - Co-operative Principles and Social Progress (1986)


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    This document has been made available in electronic format
         by the International Co-operative Alliance ICA 
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                         May, 1986


          (Source:  Co-operative Principles, Today & 
               Tomorrow by W.P. Watkins, pp.139-157)
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                         Chapter Nine

          Co-operative Principles and Social Progress
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`Social progress' is a term requiring definition, otherwise it
is liable to beg a multitude of questions. During the Co-
operative Movement's period of development, people's ideas of
progress have undergone a fundamental change. At the time when
the basic types of co-operative were being conceived and
established in Europe, popular exponents of philosophy taught -
and a great part of the public, including co-operators, was ready
to believe - that progress was inherent in the natural order and
could not be set aside. The spread of evolutionary thought and
the growth of wealth resulting from scientific discovery and
technological invention induced a mood of optimism in which the
notion of a law of progress found ready acceptance. `Progress',
wrote the English philosopher, Herbert Spencer, `is not an
accident but a necessity. What we call evil and immorality must
disappear. It is certain that man must become perfect'.

Such breathtaking optimism seems today to be founded on much too
narrow a basis of art, experience and history. It carries no
conviction to a generation which has suffered two world wars,
with their concomitant political and economic convulsions, and
to another generation which lives now under the threat of nuclear
annihilation. It is not surprising that many react to the
opposite extreme, after the manner of the man who became a
convinced pessimist through living too long among optimists, and
deny the possibility of progress in the sense of any general or
permanent improvement in the condition of mankind. Time has laid
bare the crazy foundations of 19th century optimism. Progress
results, not from any impersonal law of nature, but from human
effort, according to the directions in which it is exerted.

Progress in certain directions may prevent or endanger progress
in others. It is not merely that the progress in natural science,
technology and industrial organisation, through which men in
parts (but only parts) of the world have achieved a control over
their physical environment hitherto unknown and scarcely
conceivable, has been accomplished at the expense of needless
human suffering and destruction of moral and cultural values. It
has distracted and still distracts attention and interest from
the solution of the human and social problems inevitably
engendered by technical and industrial revolutions. Mankind is
prone to take the line of least resistance: it seems easier to
control natural forces than human desires, easier to calculate
quantities than to distinguish between qualities, easier to send
astronauts into orbit than to make scores of millions of men,
women and children secure from hunger.

Herbert Spencer's affirmation of the perfectibility of mankind
seems as unfounded as his belief in a law of progress. The
improvement of society, likewise the improvement of the
individual, can result only from determined effort and the choice
of the appropriate methods of education and organisation and,
even then, its possibilities are subject to severe limitations
of time and place. In any event, what is improvement? By what
standards are we to judge better or worse? Towards what goals do
we wish to advance? Despite the development of the social
sciences, there is probably no entirely objective answer to be
given to those questions. Value judgements are unavoidable, but
this is not necessarily a fatal disadvantage if we are aware of
what they are and from what standpoint they are made.

The line of progress which has brought Western society, and the
rest of mankind along with it, to the brink of destruction by
nuclear war is not one that any reflective man or woman would
wish to pursue. Why then do the nations still linger on the
brink? One answer may be that war, preparations for war and
mutual deterrence against attack are endemic in an economic and
social system in which capitalistic motive, gain through
investment, is the main driving force. These must also represent
a serious risk in a world distracted by the competitive co-
existence of opposed ideological and power systems. If that is
not the complete answer, but only a part of it, another part may
be that mankind and its leaders persist in applying to the issues
of the 20th century the intellectual instruments and ideas of the
19th and yet earlier centuries.

Any one can see with hindsight how the pre-Industrial Revolution
economics of Adam Smith were applied with disastrous social
results to post-Industrial Revolution problems, but our
generation is committing a similar blunder by attempting to force
problems demanding co-operation on a world scale into the
straitjacket of ideas of national sovereignty and aggrandisement,
regardless of the fact that these have already plunged the world
into two calamitous wars within 30 years. What is worse, the
newly-liberated peoples seem intent on copying the behaviours of
the senior nation-States whose example is, of course, always more
convincing than their precept.

But how should the newly-developing States learn when the old-
established governments, while preaching co-operation, practise
competition and `sacred egoism' and while contributing money to
international organisations, frustrate their work by preferring
national to international solutions? The tension between the fact
of increasing interdependence and the cult of nationalism again
and again inhibits international action, whether to maintain
peace, restore order, restrain warlike preparations, stimulate
the flow of trade or stabilise the currency exchanges. Statesmen
with a world vision can achieve a modicum of international
collaboration only by trimming their policies to the self-
interest of their unenlightened constituents or by making
concessions to the cupidity of pressure-groups. Schizophrenia
would seem to be the most common ailment in what George Bernard
Shaw once called `the planetary lunatic asylum'.

There is in fact only one way in which the world can retire from
the danger zone of nuclear destruction and that is the path,
indicated by the old Owenites, of `unrestrained Co-operation for
every purpose of social life'. Neither the individual nor the
social order can be improved, apart from co-operative effort.
Social progress depends upon and consists in continually
increasing men's capacity for co-operation and the effectiveness
of their performance in co-operative action. An amiable cynic
once remarked that the chief differences between man and the
other animals were his use of cooked food and of articulate
speech. The present writer would add a third difference even more
important than the other two, and that is man's greater capacity
for organised collaboration. The true line of progress lies in
the enlargement of these differences, and especially the third.
But if men are to work together whole-heartedly and successfully
on whatever scale, they must be able to agree on common objects,
the selection of their organisers and leaders, the method of
sharing the benefits, as well as be willing to train themselves
in the appropriate techniques - all this to achieve co-operation
(with the small `c'). If they are to succeed at co-operation they
can hardly leave out of account the Principles of Co-operation
(with the capital `C'). Here we may perhaps catch a glimpse of
the relation between the economic and social macrocosm and the
microcosm of the co-operative movement, as well as what the
French Socialist leader Jean Jaures meant by his famous
comparison of the Movement to a laboratory for the study of the
problems of future society. Co-operation between nations must
rest on a foundation of co-operation within nations.

To link co-operation with Co-operation in this way is not to
forget, contradict or diminish the differences between them
pointed out at the very beginning of this study. On the contrary,
it is to emphasise that, if co-operation is to achieve even
greater effectiveness and success, especially on the
international level, it will be obliged more and more to imitate
and resemble that synthesis of Association with other universal
Principles represented by the techniques and doctrines of Co-
operation. In the social climate of today, people attempting to
work together sooner or later risk self-frustration unless they
can persuade not only their collaborators but society at large
that their collaboration results in economy rather than waste,
is democratic rather than dictatorial in its organisation and
spirit, checks exploitation and reinforces social justice,
promotes social responsibility in the exercise of power and
extends rather than diminishes personal freedom. Nevertheless
much co-operation is still improvised, sporadic, amateurish in
method and restricted in outlook. It could become much more
systematic and stable, besides immeasurably more competent, if
it could borrow from the arsenal of methods, techniques and
structures which the co-operative movement has accumulated in its
long practical experience of social organisation.

Before passing on to consider what specific contributions co-
operative principles may offer to social progress, we may recall
how contemporary society is behaving in the fundamental and
universal situations briefly mentioned in the discussion of the
Principles in Chapter One. It is one of the commonplaces of our
time that the evolution of science, technology and the arts of
administration and management is leading the world more and more
into situations where Association in some form or other is
inevitable in this sense: that it appears to be the only course
which people of intelligence and goodwill could contemplate.
Advantages beckon in the shape of savings and gains effected
through large-scale operation. New administrative techniques and
equipment such as computers facilitate concentration. The
necessity of ensuring and maintaining the yield of massive
capital investments acts as a driving force. All combine to bring
about interdependence and encourage integration in every larger
units, be they co-ordinated transport or power systems on the
national level or, on the international, the customs unions, free
trade areas and common markets in which national markets may come
to be merged, to say nothing of the old-established groups and
concerns such as operate in the petroleum, edible oil, chemical,
automobile and electrical industries and exert a powerful
influence in all the world's important markets. Competition is
not eliminated, but its scope and force are considerably modified
by the growing preference for association, agreement and
organised control in more or less permanent forms.

This tendency has been reinforced by the extension of government
activity in economic affairs, not so much in the  form of State-
created or State-sponsored enterprise as in the form of
consultation, initiative, regulation and forward planning. In
these conditions, emphasis tends to shift from considerations of
simple profitability to the prosperity of the whole national
economy and the prospective role, increasing or declining, of any
given industry in it. There thus develops on the part of both
government and industry, a fuller recognition of the functional
principle and among leaders of industry, commerce and banking,
as well as their various chambers and federations, a keener sense
of their responsibilities from the social point of view.

With that comes a broader conception of the proper aim of
industrial and commercial enterprise as being not merely profits
but the widest possible diffusion of economic well-being. Here
emerge those considerations of social justice which the co-
operative pioneers called Equity. Granted that the size of
private incomes within a national economy must bear some relation
to the growth and productivity of that economy, there still
remain the problems of distributing income between those who
contribute capital and those contributing labour or professional
skill, between those working for home and those working for
export markets, between industry and agriculture and so forth.
In Great Britain, for example, the implementation of a national
incomes policy, if it were to imply restraint on demands for
higher wages and salaries, could only be workable if it entailed
control of interest and profit rates also.

The concentration of power and the growth of responsibility at
the summit of the economic system are not necessarily accompanied
by an increase, and may be accompanied by a decline, of
responsibility at the base. In fact, as the seat of power becomes
more remote, loss of participation in control may lead to
repudiation of responsibility. There is a discordance, still to
be resolved, between democracy in politics and hierarchy in
industry. The term pluto-democracy is not unjustified when it is
applied to societies which give people as citizens rights of
consultation, besides imposing duties of decision, on matters of
which they have little or no direct knowledge, and at the same
time refuse them to people as workers on matters within their
daily and year-long working experience. This antimony creates
tensions which check or hinder production through stoppages and
in numerous other ways. The dilemma is critical, if the co-
operation of the workers is needed by management (and it surely
is), then democracy cannot be in the long run excluded from
industrial organisation - or if it is, then democracy in politics
will fade away into demagogy, ultimately tempered by
dictatorship.

The price of democracy, as of liberty, is eternal vigilance. Any
kind of democracy decays unless it is constantly renewed and re-
animated by education, just as any economic system will lapse
into inefficiency for the same reason. Social progress,
therefore, is unthinkable and unattainable apart from cultivation
of the abilities and characters of individual men and women, the
enrichment of their knowledge of their physical and social
environment, the development of their manual and intellectual
skills, the sharpening of their perceptions and judgements, the
broadening of their sympathies, and their training in self and
social responsibility.

Yet the contribution which education is now making to true
democracy and social progress in general is much smaller than it
might be and than it must, as soon as possible, become. Education
is betrayed by its internal weaknesses, as well as handicapped
by external obstacles. Much of it is still backward - rather than
forward - looking in both content and method; it has not yet
absorbed, still less applied, what the psychologists have
revealed about the importance of the years children spend before
they go to school; it is still prone to premature and improperly
balanced specialisation in the studies of adolescents; it is
oriented more towards individual acquisitiveness and careerism
than towards social service. Externally, education of any kind
has to struggle continually against hostile influences which are
often in the short run more powerful. The conflict may be
typified by the schoolchild's hesitation (or lack of it) between
homework and television, the latter standing for the whole genus
of commercialised pleasures and distractions which, if not in
fact deleterious, are no more than mere pastimes, contributing
nothing to the growth of the mind and personality.

For this purpose commercialism has too often appropriated
education's proper tools. A kindred type of mis-education is the
abuse of mass-communication media for either profit-making or
political ends. The object is to sway people in masses, either
to build up the markets required for profitable mass-production
or to condition them into conformity with a given policy or
ideology. Herdmindedness is accordingly strengthened at the
expense of the individual judgement and conscience. Shrinking
from social inferiority or ostracism, people keep up with their
neighbours or go along with the crowd. The noble conception of
the sovereign people declines into mob-rule. The truth of any
superstition is regarded as proved by the millions of people who
can be persuaded to believe it. The deliberate use of mob-
demonstrations by anti-democratic governments in certain
countries and by anti-democratic parties elsewhere is significant
in this connection. The choice before the world, as Ch.H. Barbier
rightly declared to the ICA Press and Education Conference in
1963, is between a mass and a Co-operative civilisation. This is
not a choice which concerns only the nations of advanced economic
development. Third World nations have the same difficult decision
to make as to the direction of their social, economic and
political evolution.

The circumstances, of course, differ considerably in the two
cases. If an over-simplified distinction may be drawn, for the
sake of brevity, between the `affluent' and the `indigent'
societies, the chief difference may perhaps be stated as follows:
the affluent societies are still carried along in a direction
determined by the momentum of their previous technical and
industrial development, competitively increasing their volume and
means of production, although they have reached the point where
the output of necessities greatly exceeds need, and quality,
rather than quantities, should be the aim; whereas the indigent
are still in the stage where their greatest immediate need is the
most rapid expansion possible of their output necessities greatly
exceeds need, and quality, rather than quantities, should be the
aim; whereas the indigent are still int he stage where their
greatest immediate need is the most rapid expansion possible of
their output, either of primary necessities or of commodities
easily exchangeable in foreign markets for such necessities.

The affluent, despite many years of effort, either directly or
through international organisations, to provide aid and capital,
have failed to narrow the gap between their own standards of
comfort and those of the indigent societies. The well-fed nations
are still greater food-producers than the under-fed. Those with
wealth accumulate still more, those without tend to sink deeper
in poverty and, where freedom without tend to sink deeper in
poverty and, where freedom of movement is still possible, export
their wholly or partly unemployed labour to countries  of over-
full employment. No one dares to deny the celebrated dictum of
the International Labour Organisation that `poverty anywhere is
a menace to prosperity everywhere,' but attempts to free the
exchanges and build an equitable system of distribution so as to
give the indigent more favourable terms of trade are frustrated
again and again by the vested interests in production of the
affluent and their unwillingness to sacrifice their actual or
prospective gains under the present system. Not until and unless
a more abundant life, conceived as the liberation of the human
spirit for the pursuit of loftier ends, rather than the
accumulation of the means to and appurtenances of living, becomes
the general goal and object of emulation, will the affluent
nations be able to free themselves from enslavement to their
possessions and what American poet Walt Whitman called `the mania
of owning things'.

Their problem is to gain control of the processes which have
carried them to the giddy verge of catastrophe and divert them
so that they minister too mankind's spiritual fulfilment. It may
be remarked in passing that there seems no great difference - and
that only a difference of degree - between the nations with mixed
and the nations with centrally-planned economies. What is
significant is the ever-greater concern for consumers' interests
and satisfactions manifested in both types of economy and the
evidence it gives that both are following much the same course
towards the same end: an overwhelmingly material and
materialistic superabundance, a plethora of things measurable by
statistics.

The indigent nations, on the other hand, require, as the first
step in their progress, a great increase of material wealth,
especially in forms ministering more or less directly to the
preservation of physical life - food, shelter, medical care and
so on. Their peoples must be adequately nourished, protected from
the elements by good housing, trained in hygiene, relieved from
drudgery, so that their working capacity and their expectation
of life may greatly increase. But even in their present stage of
development they cannot evade the question of means and ends.
Granted that they would be free from hunger and insecurity,
exploitation and alien oppression, what would they be free to do
and to become? They cannot postpone their search for their
answers to this question, for men's characters are formed, not
only by what they do, but also by how they do it. Already the old
cultures are crumbling. Ancient social custom and tribal
authority are yielding place to modern systems of government and
administration. The desertion of the countryside continues
irresistibly as the need for higher incomes impels the menfolk,
accompanied or followed by their families, to seek a living among
the rootless proletariat of the growing seaports, mining camps
and centres of transport and manufacture, where their very
poverty will prevent them from absorbing anything but the dregs
of Western cultures, commercially supplied.

The foremost thinkers of the developing nations, who have contact
with the wider world, have insight enough to realise that there
is little virtue in mere imitation, that political liberty loses
its value unless it sets them free to develop according to their
national or racial genius. The African and the Asian must
maintain their own originality, not barter it in order to become
copies of the European or American. Some of their politicians on
the morrow of liberation from colonial rule pointed to the
democratic Welfare State as the proper goal of a united national
effort. But more than a few political leaders have found that the
national unity, built up in order to throw off alien rule, has
had to be created anew under conditions of self-government. It
is much easier to acquire the trappings of nationality than to
develop a sense of nationhood among disparate tribal and racial
elements. In any event, nations grow in cohesion only as their
citizens come to recognise their common interests and acquire the
knack and the habit of working together. Unless the indigent
societies are willing and able to co-operate they will not attain
the Welfare States of their dreams or accomplish anything else
of truly human value. Their material progress may be slow at
first, but that very fact offers the opportunity of controlling
it and subordinating it to human needs, before it grows strong
enough to impose its own limited and lop-sided values on society.

Broadly speaking, there are two ways in which co-operative
principles can influence social progress. One is obviously
through the projection of co-operative ideas upon the wider
economic and social world and its evolution. Within the last 20
years, the co-operative movement has attained world-wide
extension. Its further progress should consist more and more in
the intensive development co-operative sectors within national
economies through the growth of existing co-operative
organisations; the application of co-operative methods to diverse
fields of economic activity and to new problems as they arise;
the consolidation and integration of the various types of co-
operative; and closer economic and moral links between the co-
operative movements of different countries and continents under
the fostering care of the International Co-operative Alliance.
No limits can be set a priori to this development which is bound
to be affected and in some ways determined by what happens
simultaneously in the private (capitalist) and public sectors
with which the co-operative is, in a certain measure in
competition, although complementary to them.

At this point in the argument it seems necessary and appropriate
to refer to the present position and state of the world-wide co-
operative movement, the most important part of which is enrolled
in the International Co-operative Alliance. The aggregate
individual membership of the Alliance is now some 500 million in
about 70 countries. The most striking fact about this membership
is its diversity. It is not simply that co-operatives have been
formed by all sorts of people for almost all sorts of purposes,
but that they differ in size and age and social and economic
background. Some societies are well over 100 years old, others
less than a dozen. Some national organisations number their
members in scores of millions, others in a few thousand. The one
common element is adherence to the co-operative idea, but whether
that means the same to all of them it may be permissible to
doubt. One object of analysing the co-operative idea into its
component principles is to help towards a common understanding
between all co-operatives, those already existing and those to
come.

The influence of the co-operative movement on social progress
depends very largely, and will depend on the power of co-
operative movements to make headway against competition, to adapt
themselves to economic and social changes which they can neither
withstand nor control and, in short, to survive in an environment
different from that in which they were formed. In Europe, where
the Movement began, there are already signs of a loss of dynamism
in a disinclination to make changes and a tendency to persist in
old ways when they obviously will not meet the needs of the
present. When that happens, co-operation loses its superiority
and with it its power to hold its members and attract new ones.
This will be seen in its loss of market share or membership or
both.

In Great Britain and in Germany, consumer co-operatives were
experimenting with self-service as early as 1950, but apparently
without realising that it was not simply a new method of handling
goods and cash, but the spearhead of a revolution which was going
to transform retail trading. Swedish co-operators were probably
the first who appreciated what would happen. Sweden was neutral
during the war and the Swedes had been able to keep in touch with
what was happening in America. It was they who moved the
resolution at the Copenhagen ICA Congress that set up a
Rationalisation Committee. They also kept watch on the Swiss
entrepreneur Gottlieb Duttweiler, who not merely converted his
system of travelling vans into self-service stores but sought to
bind his customers by offering them shares and consulting them
on policy, converting his company into a co-operative in Swiss
law. Duttweiler was far from being the only trader who could
forecast the future. Private shopkeepers all over Europe banded
themselves together in `voluntary chains' and within a year or
two formed an international association.

With the consumers' co-operative movement, however, consolidation
was - and is - a process strung out over decades and in some
countries is not yet completed. There was not merely reluctance
to amalgamate, there was resistance, almost to the point of
liquidation. In Holland that point was passed and two-thirds of
the consumers' co-operatives were privatised in one way or
another. In Denmark, a scheme of amalgamation was not completed
before the wholesale federation FDB had to appeal for help to its
Scandinavian neighbours. In Western Germany, the consumers' co-
operatives were saved by the intervention of the trade union bank
and the adoption of the company form of enterprise (with a few
notable exceptions of which Dortmund is the chief). The bank
controlled most of the rest as a group through a holding company
called the Coop Zentrale Aktiengesellschaft.

By contrast, in two of Europe's smaller countries, the consumers'
co-operative movement has apparently successfully carried the
process of consolidation through to the national stage. They are
Switzerland and Austria, and their national organisations are
known respectively as Coop Schweiz or Coop Suissee and Coop
Austria. It is no mere coincidence that these two movements are
remarkable for the high standard of their educational work, more
especially in management training. Not that the membership is
neglected. The Austrian system of member participation has
already been mentioned in an earlier chapter. The Swiss Movement
is noteworthy for its members' journals which are published
weekly in newspaper form, with a total circulation that compares
very favourably with the aggregate individual membership.

Turning to Great Britain one cannot but deplore the apparent
inability of the movement to make up its mind what it wishes to
become. Some co-operators believe that a national consumers' co-
operative society is both desirable and inevitable. Others
believe in a regional system and the figure of regional societies
has been officially mentioned, although it is not entirely clear
whether the figure is but notional. Others again seem incapable
of thinking about a change of structure until affairs reach a
stage when the choice is either liquidation or a transfer of
engagements. There is also the unique phenomenon of Co-operative
Retail Services which is neither national nor regional but a last
refuge for non-viable societies in any part of the country, its
membership growing as the number of societies diminishes. What
seems certain is that the British Movement let the best time for
change and restructuring slip by when the economy was still
booming and societies were financially stronger than they now are
after years of depression. How the movement will come through and
in what shape is not possible for me to predict.

The general impression is that in the European market economies,
the consumers' co-operatives find it hard to hold their ground
or make headway against the aggression of the retail competition.
They would do well to confer more than they do at present. In
fact, they might do worse than set up a common institute whose
function would be to regain and retain for the whole Movement its
superiority in retail trade. The Scandinavian countries would
have much to contribute to a pool of information and ideas, and
the countries like Greece, Spain and Portugal, where consumers'
co-operation is still in its early stages, could draw information
and inspiration from it. What is needed is an institute whose
researches would cover all economic and social movements which
are likely to affect the forms and methods of retail trade, whose
experts would give technical advice of every kind which would
help to raise the standards of co-operative retailing, while
giving practical help and encouragement to those organisations
which encountered special difficulties. The object in view all
the time is to trade successfully, while sticking to the
Principles of Co-operation.

There is probably no better example of success in Europe than the
Society with its headquarters at Dortmund in West Germany. In
1982 this Society increased its turnover by 10.2 per cent, with
an increase in market share, and added 20,000 new members to make
a total of 355,000. It paid a dividend on purchases of between
2 per cent and 3 per cent, in addition to interest of 11 per cent
on share capital. In the course of 1983, it added 823 persons
(495 being apprentices) to its staff of 8,151. To quote the
eminent German Co-operator Dr. Erwin Hasselmann: "Co-op Dortmund
is the living proof that a co-operative controlled by consumers
and well managed can not merely maintain its position but also
come victorious out of the battle with the most powerful and
aggressive of competitors." If consumers' co-operatives
throughout Europe were working at the Dortmund standard, there
would be little cause for anxiety.

It is remarkable how the very depression has brought about a
revival of interest in forms of co-operation other than
consumers', more especially in the countries of the European
Economic Community in which unemployment is rife and prospects
of re-employment are bleak. In Great Britain, workers' co-
operatives have proliferated with the help of the Government's
Co-operative Development Agency and the assistance and advice of
other co-operative bodies. Housing co-operatives have greatly
increased in numbers following the example set by most European
countries and the United States. Credit Unions, introduced mainly
by West Indian and Irish immigrants, are gaining ground. Co-
operation has become fashionable for a number of other purposes,
and steps are being taken, with the support of the Co-operative
Development agency, to bring the various types of co-operatives
into closer and mutually helpful relations.

In France, Belgium and even West Germany, redundant workers
without other hope are seeking to employ themselves by mutual
aid. In France especially, the government attaches considerable
value to the workers' co-operative production as a means of
counteracting local unemployment. But there exist also two things
which could be copied with advantage by other countries. The
first is an organisation called the Groupement National de la
Cooperation which embraces every known type of co-operative and
enables them to communicate on all matters of common interest,
and where necessary and practicable, to take action in common.
The second is the recognition by the Socialist Government o the
Co-operative Movement as the most important element what is
called `the social economy', which is different in nature from
both the private and public sectors of the economy and therefore
requires different legislative and administrative treatment.

However, co-operative movements in our time need not only to
unite on the national level and receive appropriate recognition
from national states, they need also to be able to influence
supra-national authorities of which the European Economic
Community is one example. The national consumers' co-operative
federations in the EEC have been associated in Euro-Coop for over
20 years and the agricultural Co-operatives in COGECA. Other
types of co-operatives have followed their example. They are now
agreed in principle that for some purposes they should all act
together, otherwise co-operation may well be ignored by the EEC
or find itself subject to some form of EEC company legislation.

At the world level, the Co-operative Movement is represented at
the United Nations by the International Co-operative Alliance
which has consultative status with the Economic and Social
Council. Its huge aggregate membership gives it broader popular
support than any other consultative body. Consultative status
means much more than the right to attend Council meetings,
suggest questions for the agenda and submit oral and written
statements. It includes among many other privileges the right to
attend meetings of the Regional Economic Councils which serve the
different Continents, and the meetings of special Committees of
the Council, as well as to receive all kinds of information on
matters coming before the Council. The ICA has similar
consultative status with the International Labour Office, the
Food and Agriculture Organisation and UNESCO, the United Nations
Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation. The ICA thus
has numberless opportunities of exerting influence on behalf of
the movement and many different ways of furthering the cause of
Co-operation - more opportunities in fact than it has the power
and resources to exploit. It has never been adequately funded by
its members' subscriptions for the tasks it is expected to
perform and has had to rely too much on help from friendly
governments, the ILO, the UN and certain affiliated national co-
operative organisations to finance many of its projects.

The removal of the headquarters of the Alliance to Geneva and the
consequent close proximity to the Co-operative Department of the
International Labour Office open up possibilities of closer
collaboration which should be of great benefit to both of them,
besides offering opportunities of tackling some problems on a
global scale. One of the most deplorable features of the present
world-wide economic depression is the failure of both public and
private enterprise to find any common bases from which to start
a return to prosperity or even to alleviate the depression's
worst efforts. The number of undernourished, to say nothing of
starving people in he world does not diminish. Of the millions
unemployed there is a high proportion who can never expect to
work for wages again among the old, and where there is an equally
high proportion of the young who have had to leave school without
the slightest prospect of employment. The very helplessness of
governments and entrepreneurs is a reason why co-operators, like
their ancestors who pioneered the Co-operative Movements in the
last century, should bestir themselves in whatever kind of co-
operative action which offers hope of relief.

Dr. Alexander Laidlaw in his well known report Co-operatives in
the Year 2,000 suggested fur areas in which co-operatives should
find scope for action and development - feeding a hungry world,
workers' co-operative production, conservation, and urban
community planning. The first conjures up a vision of a great
coalition of the ICA, the FAO and the IFAP with the great
agricultural supply and marketing federations and the consumers'
wholesale societies, taking a section of the world at a time and
working out on their several levels a system extending from
cultivation and stock-rearing to marketing and processing,
storage and distribution, which would allow where necessary for
import and export, all running on co-operative lines and aiming
at being eventually self-financing.

We have seen in the last 20 years a new start in workers' co-
operative production, which is still largely struggling to find
its feet, but should be encouraged to think of long-term
development and self-finance. But they should also federate for
all matters in which they have a common interest and ally
themselves with other types of co-operative, forging
international links. Societies for conservation and other
community societies are increasing in numbers and should be
supported as a counterpoise to local and national bureaucracy.

Of course for any of these aims to be realised the co-operative
movement has to fulfil certain conditions. Co-operators must be
clear in their minds about their Principles and the reasons why
they must preserve them intact, not like stuffed animals in a
natural history museum, but alive through continual renewal in
the birth of new Co-operative entities and structures which meet
the demands of changing times. Again, as nearly as human fraility
and fallibility allow, the Movement's practice must illustrate
and faithfully exemplify its Principles. Co-operators must pursue
efficiency in every branch of the Movement's activity with no
less persistence and ruthlessness than their opponents who work
for profits. They may conceive efficiency in different terms from
those of the capitalist and entrepreneur but they have to prove
the validity of their Principles in action, by showing that Co-
operation works, delivers the goods and manifestly honours the
claims they make for it.

Where confusion prevails about the Principles, especially where
they are controlled and appear to be falsified by practice, co-
operation has no safeguard against degeneration or perversion.
The common bond that unites co-operators everywhere and serves
as the basis of their international collaboration would dissolve.
The Movement would lose its only assurance that it can preserve
its identity in world of change and face the certainty that the
more it changes, the less (not the more) it will remain the same
thing. Inevitably the co-operative sector will tend to imitate
and reproduce the private and public sectors and when it can do
no more than that, it will be due to be absorbed by them or swept
into the dustbin of history. Co-operation can find no neutral
state between advance and retreat, expansion or decline.

There seems no justification, when the growth of the Co-operative
movement is surveyed in retrospect against the background of the
world's economic, social and political history during the last
200 years, for thinking that it has passed its zenith and is due
to wane before its greatest mission has been discharged. Despite
world wards and economic depressions, the collapse of empires and
the re-drawing of national boundaries, political repression and
persecution, the co-operative idea, with all its set backs, has
survived to become more relevant than ever and has continually
increased the number of its adherents in most parts of the
habitable globe. Even in the countries where the position of the
co-operative movement is most furiously assailed by large-scale
capitalist competition which may appear to have halted its
advance, it still posses material, intellectual and moral
reserves which have not yet been fully mobilised, to say nothing
of deployed. In the regions where it is the only agency capable
of leading the people step by step out of a natural into an
exchange economy, training them to play an active and responsible
part in their own social progress and enabling them to make with
success the transition from tribal to national and international
solidarity, it has work before it for generations to come.