Best Wishes to the President of the ICA

This document has been made available in electronic format
     by the International Co-operative Alliance ICA
                     January 1996

      Our very best wishes for a fair wind to the
                President of the ICA

by Yves Regis

Manchester and Rochdale

Manchester - one of the most celebrated cities in the history of the
co-operative movement - was the chosen place to hold the Congress marking
the centenary of the International Co-operative Alliance.

One of the birthplaces of the movement - the most  famous of all - was the
small store in Rochdale which was to become a place of pilgrimage during
the Congress.

The Congress was a celebration of the foundation in 1895 of the
International Co-operative Alliance by the production co-operatives in
France and by the English consumer co-operative movement.

Last year - 150 years after the proclamation in 1844 by the Equitable
Pioneers which has since echoed around the world - the Queen of England
officially opened the Museum of Co-operation in Rochdale.

We respect this magnificent image and recognise, in its Anglican origins,
that combination of rigour and realism which also brought political
democracy into the world.

But Rochdale is not the only birthplace of the worldwide co-operative
movement. I will go further; the Rochdale idea, like all members of the
movement, was to be enriched by a convergence of similar aspirations,
prophecies and successful experiments, first in a European and later in a
world-wide context.

It is difficult to name a single country without a history of founding
fathers and early - and sometimes heroic - achievements, often dating back
to well before 1844.

Think of France, with Fourier and Buchez at one extreme and Proudhon and
Jaures at the other; of Germany, with Raiffeisen and Schulze-Delitsch; of
practically all the countries of Central and Eastern Europe, which
rediscovered their deeply ingrained co-operative roots long before the
communist tidal wave; of the artels in Russia (the name is used in the Bill
on production co-operatives which the Duma is currently adopting); and of
Samuel's Farmers' Convention.

Remember, too, Jurkovic in Slovakia (precisely in 1845) and Ampelakia in
Greece (1780-1812).

More recent are the developments in Italy and Spain (in the latter country,
the Mondragon group in the Basque country was the forerunner of present-day
industrial co-operation).

Equally, the pioneers of a co-operative republic in Argentina, the
deeply-rooted African traditions and the village tontines deserve mention.

Nor, of course, must we forget the founders of Indian and Asian
co-operation, Mahatma Gandhi and Jawaharlal Nehru.

I greatly appreciated the address given from the pulpit by the Bishop of
Manchester on co-operation, sandwiched between two bugle-calls and other
fanfares by the Rochdale Band. But I was not entirely satisfied with the
promised ecumenical character of the service. In particular, there was not
the slightest element. of genuine Islam, of Buddhism or of Hinduism - all
of them champions of tolerance - or even of an agnosticism seeking eternal

It is true that we have been taught by the European romantics that the
Universal is attained by starting from the most profound expressions of
individual personality. Nevertheless, during the second century of its
existence the ICA must become less English, less European, less
consumer-orientated and much more universal.

The new President of the ICA - Graham Melmoth

Mr President: this is, if I may say so, the task we expect you to undertake.

Graham Melmoth, an Englishman from Manchester, comes to us from the CWS
(Co-operative Wholesale Society). He succeeds Lars Marcus - a great
President, whose main achievements include support for substantial
development of the movement in the four continents and stimulation of a
review of co-operative values and principles which led to their
reformulation - at the Manchester Congress.

Mr President: now that our values and principles are proclaimed and
implemented, you are no longer English, but international; no longer a
consumers' man, but an all-purpose co-operator; and your Labour
sensitivities must give way to a comprehensively humanistic outlook.

And, as I suggested from the rostrum, there is now a place for each one of
us in the enormous task of implementing the values and principles we have

The old theologians used to speak of individual grace. Might your path to
that grace not lie in becoming more and more ecumenical and international
and open to all patterns of thinking directed towards the achievement of a
less unjust society through the instruments of self-help and economic
democracy ?

The choice of the poorest and the most disadvantaged (work, care and
housing; but also knowledge, participation and dignity) is that of
co-operation world-wide. In these uncertain times, this choice offers the
least risk of error.
It is not so much compromise we need as enthusiasm to seek the aid of all
in the honest and persevering application of our renewed values and

Mr President: we wish you a fair wind in your travels throughout the four
continents in which the banner of Co-operation flies.