Book Reviews

    This document has been made available in electronic format
         by the International Co-operative Alliance ICA 
                         June 1995

                       Book Reviews

Co-operation and Development

by Patrick Develtere, ISBN 90 334 3181 5, price 1,120 Belgian
Francs, Academische Cooperatief (Acco ) c.v. at: Tiensestraat
134-136, B-3000 Leuven, Belgium , Fax: (32-16)) 207 389.

Co-operatives have received a lot of attention from Governments,
international agencies and nongovernmental organisations in their
attempt to step up development in Africa, Asia and Latin America.

What are the forces that have contributed to the establishment
in less than a century of a co-operative sector presently
involving more than 850,000 co-operatives and more than
330,000,000 persons in the developing world? What does explain
the alleged high mortality rate and weak social and economic
record of these co-operatives? How can one give legitimate and
valuable reasons for the success stories in co-operative
development? How can the uneven development patterns among and
within national co-operative sectors be understood? And, how can
one understand the present upsurge of new co-operative movements
outside the boundaries of State-led co-operative development

In this work, a social movement frame of reference is presented.
It isolates the factors that led to serious distortions in
co-operative development in the developing world. It also helps
to understand how new co-operative movements, in close alliance
with other social movements, can develop forms of economic

Patrick Develtere studied Sociology at the Catholic University
Leuven (Belgium). Associated with international organisations and
NGOs, he worked and works with co-operative and social movements
in Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean. He published
on the subject in several international journals.

Who Was J.T.W. Mitchell ? 

by Stephen YEO, CWS Membership Services, Manchester, 1995, 93pp. 
ISBN 0 85 195 221 6

The title already is an invitation to reading. The not-so-usual
question tag at the end marks the departure of an intellectual
quest to unfold the social project behind the man and the
institution he represented. 

But there is no mystery nor wonder. Peter Yeo does not want his
reader to explore the meanders of 19th century co-operative
history  by himself, to discover who was J.T.W. Mitchell, the man
whose pale, gray photo appears on the cover page. One would call
him a soldier if he were not an apostle of consumer co-operation.
The question mark is a provocation, the way to enter the subject
without preambles: Well, let's go to the basics : since you
probably do not know who he was, I will enlighten you.   "The
most important fact about Mitchell is that he was Chairman of the
Co-operative Wholesale Society from 1878 to 1895, re-elected
Quarter by Quarter all through that period. By the late 1880s the
turnover of the CWS exceeded 6m a year, its 'warehouse at
Manchester is a small town', and it was administering nearly a
million of funds, in shares, loan capital and reserves." (p.1).

These were times of glory, a Sturm und Drang period, when Stores
were making considerable advance over other forms of
co-operation. Since the beginning the hero is defined by his
relationship to a mighty institution, powerful by its finances,
materialized on earth by heavy and numerous buildings, warehouses
instead of castles. It's not so much the personage itself which
is of interest, the real hero is the CWS, as a central pole of
co-operative movement. The subject, Mitchell in the
circumstances, is totally melted with the object of description
in the vast panorama of co-operative politics. Was the man
guiding the institution or was it the institution shaping the
frame for the man's mind ? It is probably rather like in the
famous Mayakovski's poem: We say Lenin and we think of Party, we
say Party and we think of Lenin.    

The story is told in supple, elegant sentences and  keenly using
the citations. The author, with his habitual erudition, is
guiding ably the readers through Quarterly meetings, looking into
the balance sheets, examinating minutes, expenses, travel
schedules. All the great people are there : we met Beatrice Webb
at dinner table, E.V.Neale polemizing over an admission, G. J.
Holyoake answering back on the meeting. The quarrels, personal
opinions - and God, they were opinionated at those times - are
accounted for in order to better show the intellectual currents
shaping the development of the Co-operative Movement. Mitchell
was at odds with Christian Socialists, he despised profit-
sharing, did not believe in socialism. No wonder that E.O.
Greening, to defend his ideas, had to look for assistance of
foreign friends and to set up the International Co-operative
Alliance, whose first name, by the way, was International
Alliance of Friends of Co-operative Production.  An essay can
also be fascinating reading.

- Alina Pawlowska

Weavers of Dreams - Founders of the Modern 
Co-operative Movement

by David J. Thompson, Davis, CA: Center for Co-operatives,
University of California, 1994, pp. XV, 152 ISBN: 1-88564-05-2

Saga of co-op pioneers' struggle for justice, a must read for
co-operators. The best way to celebrate and commemorate momentous
events in our society is to write books about them. David
Thompson has done just that. He has written a book, Weavers of
Dreams, about the origins of the modern Co-operative Movement on
the occasion of the one hundred and fiftieth anniversary of the
founding of the Rochdale Society of Equitable Pioneers and the
opening of their first store in 1844.

The message is familiar. Working people have long struggled to
achieve a sharing and caring society. Co-operation in the
Rochdale fashion has proven to be successful in accomplishing
that objective. The courageous efforts of the weavers to
establish economic enterprises over which they had control are
placed within the larger historical context of the working
people's struggle for their rights during the industrial
revolution of early and mid-nineteenth century England and
Scotland. The phenomenon of formal co-operation and the
development of co-operative enterprises blended with efforts in
the struggle for a more humane society in which the ravages of
capitalism and industrialisation would be leavened by respect for
the dignity of the person. The Chartists, the Owenites, the
Utopians and other worker groups joined the struggle for social
and economic reform.

Weavers of Dreams eloquently singles out the philosophical and
strategic foundation upon which the Rochdale Pioneers built their
struggle. This foundation had three important dimensions: capital
accumulation for the service of people, democratic organisation
through which working people could assert control over their
destiny and co-operative economic education which provides the
analytical tools and knowledge necessary for organisational
vision and direction. It is important to point out that of all
the components in the struggle for fairness and justice during
the first half of the nineteenth century, the one which survived
and had the most profound impact was the co-operative movement.
It comprises in excess of 725 million people around the globe and
stands as the people's bulwark against exploitation and
injustice. Thompson's authorship is an eloquent and cogent
reminder of the importance assigned to co-operative education by
the Rochdale Pioneers. His skilful prose leads the reader to an
appreciation of its increasing relevance today. So committed were
the Pioneers to education that '... the co-op set aside 10 per
cent of its profits to go toward education.' (p. 111)

The book presents the reader with a thorough appreciation of the
variety and rapid growth of co-operatives in Britain and beyond.
Of significant importance is the political leadership exhibited
by the co-operatives in promoting and demanding higher public
standards in food purity, healthier and safer working conditions
and better housing. They actively campaigned against the Corn
Laws, high tariffs and other trade restrictions which caused
untold hardship for the poor and working people. So active was
the political life of the movement that it established the
Co-operative Party. It successfully contests electoral seats in
both municipal and national assemblies to this day.

The message presented by David Thompson is credible and a
pleasure to read. He relies heavily on primary and secondary
sources for his information and supports his interpretations by
reference to reputable authorities. The chapters are replete with
interesting and amusing anecdotes. His prose is eloquent and
inspiring. An example: 'Spirit furnished the members' capital,
hope provided their inventory, hearts nurtured community, while
their minds focused on their future'. (p. 38) The book includes
a number of appendices of valuable information, one of which
lists the names and vital information about each of the 28
members of the Rochdale Pioneers. It also includes a very
comprehensive bibliography which will prove to be of great value
to all students of co-operation.

Weavers of Dreams has so impressed this reviewer that I recommend
it to every co-operative member, director and manager. It should
be available for purchase on the bookshelves of every
co-operative store and listed in the catalogue of books in every
public library. This book makes learning enjoyable. Read it!

- Sidney I Pobikuskchy