The ICA in 1927

THE ICA IN 1927

International Co-operative Bulletin No. 2, February 1928
The ICA in 1927

The Congress Year of the Alliance is usually crowded with activities, and
rather naturally draws the fierce light of publicity more persistently upon
our methods and achievements. The year 1927 was no exception to the rule
and, looking back upon its passage, we feel constrained to say that it
shows an appreciable advance of the ICA in almost all its activities.
Certainly it can be said with truth that the International Co-operative
Movement came more fully into its own as a recognised economic force of
world wide importance than it has ever done before. Its contribution to the
solution of world problems in Geneva will be referred to in some detail
later. Suffice it to say for the moment that the Alliance emerged from the
more or less restricted confines of its own organisation and demonstrated
to the world at large its capacity to construct, to administer, and to
govern, in the widest spheres.

If we regard the progress in membership alone we shall have no reason to
modify our estimate of the extension of the International Co-operation.
When we have succeeded in embracing 36 States the addition of new countries
becomes a rare and refreshing fruit. In 1927 we advanced from 34 to 36, but
with five new national organisations and several potential additions. The
income of the Alliance from subscriptions made no great advance, but with
the improved economic conditions the gradual stabilisation of the national
currencies, we may hope for a greater increase in the current year.

In the matter of publications we had a record year. The Bulletin*  has
returned to its normal dimensions from which it had fallen owing to
post-war conditions; its circulation, however, increases slowly, but is
greatest in the German edition. With due modesty we can say that its
contents have been improved and varied, while every endeavour is made to
present pictures of the development in the various countries, and to record
the main features of National Congresses. The Bulletin  cannot now be
described as a `second hand' journal in the sense of only presenting news
copied from other journals. Even if it retained that character completely
it would render an unique service to the Movement in collecting, in the
regular issues of one journal, an international variety of matters of the
first importance, presented in three languages, which no other source of
information provides. But it does much more than this; it provides original
matters of international interest, and we are glad to note the greatly
increased use which is made of its contents (though often without
acknowledgement of the source) by many national co-operative journals. So
that the Bulletin in this respect has completely reversed its role.

Our other issues in 1927 included the publication in four languages -
English, French, German and Spanish - of a pamphlet on the `Aims and
History of the ICA' - which has had a greater circulation in Spanish
speaking countries than anything yet published by the Alliance; the Agenda
of the Stockholm Congress, containing the Triennial Report on the Work of
the Alliance, together with the Special Congress papers on `The Relations
between Consumers' and Agricultural Societies' and `Problems of Modern
Co-operation'; the Special Report on `International Co-operation, 1924-26';
a Statistical Statement concerning all the affiliated Organisations; two
Reports on Co-operative Propaganda and Education; a History of the
International Co-operative Banking Committee; an International Directory of
the Co-operative Press; the Manifesto on Co-operators' Day; and there is
now in the Press the official `Report of the Proceedings of the 12th
Congress at Stockholm' containing a practically verbatim report of the
speeches of the delegates.

Apart from these matters which concern the expansion of the ordinary
activities of the Alliance, the outstanding features of the year just
closed are the International Economic Conference and the Stockholm Congress
of the ICA. To take the last first, it cannot be said that our hopes, as
expressed in our last review, were fully realised. Certainly, the meeting
place and the arrangements made for the reception of the delegates were all
that could be desired. The varied and extensive programme of the Congress
Meetings, Conferences, Exhibition, Auxiliary Committees, etc. was carried
out in its entirety, but the circumstances of the debates and Conferences
were such as to prevent any real grip of the business by the delegates, and
left the feeling that the subjects of the Agenda were largely on parade.
This condition of things was due to several causes, the first of which was
the limited amount of time at the disposal of the delegates for any of the
meetings. This defect belongs at least as much to the Congress sittings
proper as to the various Conferences and Committee Meetings which are now
an essential part of the Congresses of the ICA. If the work of the Alliance
is to succeed and grow, an increased and ever increasing amount of time
must be given to the proceedings of each and all of its authorities.
National Organisations must face the necessity of releasing their
representatives for longer periods to the performance of international
duties which have become a necessary part of national progress. Excursions
and entertainments must take a second place. The next cause of incomplete
handling of the work of the Congress is undoubtedly the difficulty of
dealing with a long and varied Agenda in a few plenary sessions of the
Congress. Some form of devolution will have to be found by means of which
the Congress will be able not only to cover more ground, but to give it
more intensive cultivation. As is known to our readers, the Central
Committee occupied itself with proposals in this direction previous to the
Stockholm Congress, but, in the circumstances at that time, its was found
impracticable to apply a new system at short notice. Now is the time to
prepare the plans for our next great international assembly. The third
cause of the dissipation of energies at Stockholm was of a more personal
character, and has already been dealt with in another issue of the
Bulletin.

Of the decisions of the Congress it is difficult to say, with any degree of
certainty as to the general approval, which were the most important. There
can be no doubt that the relations to be established with Agricultural
Co-operation, of which Mr Jaeggi treated, is a vital and urgent question.
The Alliance will pursue the study of that question in the hope of finding
solutions, for it is certain that no one solution will suffice for this
most urgent problem.

Mr Johansson dealt with Problems of Modern Co-operation in a way which
finally left the conviction that, after all, the fundamentals of our
Movement were amongst the most pressing questions in the modern development
of Co-operation. The way in which the desire for merely commercial success
seems to create the desire for more, leads often to dangerous experiments,
and the abandonment of the principles on which our Movement has built up
both its prestige and its economic success. The system of cash trading to
which Co-operators first schooled themselves with infinitely beneficial
results is a glaring instance of this, and the debates at Stockholm did
something to strengthen the original foundations.

`World Peace' and `Economic Reconstruction' came in for a fair share of
attention, and the expressions of the Congress on these questions confirmed
a sound tradition.

Turning to the International Economic Conference whose proceedings, so far
as they specially affect co-operators, have already been reported in the
Bulletin, the Congress manifested marked appreciation of the success which
had attended the co-operative participation at Geneva. It may not be out of
place to remind our readers once again that, in addition to being itself
directly represented in the Conference in the person of the General
Secretary, the ICA was indirectly represented by a score of co-operators
appointed by their respective National Governments. The character of their
contribution to the debates was recognised in the report while the
resolutions of the Conference testify to the influence of co-operation.

It is true that at Stockholm the Soviet delegates protested against any
association with the ILO or the League of Nations, and that elsewhere they
have endeavoured to pour weak ridicule on the League and all its works. But
to give that attitude of mind its proper value it is worthwhile remembering
that the Soviet representatives made a first appearance at the COnference
at Geneva, where they provided a regular procession to the tribune to
solemnly announce either their reservations or their abstentions, yet they
ultimately ranged themselves on the side of no less than 16 resolutions of
the Conference, ranging in subject from Simplification of Custom's Tariffs
and Armament Expenditure to Campaigns against Diseases affecting Plants and
Animals! So that even in the Soviet section of the ICA there must be some
measure of satisfaction with the results of the World Economic Conference.
The Stockholm Congress expressed its agreement in principle with the
resolutions of Geneva; declared its intention of pursuing their economic
aims to the utmost of its power; and expressed its readiness to continue
energetically the collaboration with the world organisation of economic
problems so happily begun.

Later on, when the Assembly of the League had ratified the findings of the
Conference, and had decided to appoint a more permanent Consultative
Committee to follow up their application, the Alliance pressed for direct
representation. In the result direct representation was refused, but, all
the same, three prominent co-operators were appointed in their national or
personal capacities. International Co-operation is, therefore, sure of a
place and authoritative voice in the councils of the economic section of
the League and, therefore, of the world. That is no mean achievement in the
course of a single year, but we hope to improve upon it as the work
proceeds. The chief concern of the Alliance must be to coordinate its views
and policy on the economic problems of the hour, and to organise its own
effort towards their effective practical expression.

We cannot close our brief review without another word about our Press and
Propaganda Exhibition which brought together a wonderful array of devices
for bringing home to the minds of the populace the advantages of
co-operation, the beauty of its principles and the superlative quality of
its productions. Too little attention was given to the exhibits which were
confined to the corridors and anterooms of the Konserthus, and to the
observation of the delegates. They deserved a better fate. All the same
they served as effective illustrations to the papers of Mr Keto and Mr
Toivonen on Co-operative Propaganda and Education, in which were advocated
the intensive culture of co-operators by means of conferences, films,
posters, documentation and publications of a real international character.
Here again the proper conception of a real international character. Here
again the proper conception of the proposals was incapable of realisation
owing to the restricted conditions under which the Conference took place.
The ideas propounded received some friendly criticism which, we are
confident, will, like the Exhibition, bear fruit in the days to come.

The outstanding personal events of the year were the retirement of Mr
Goedhart from the Presidency, and the election of Mr Tanner in his stead.
The first was the passing out of an old friend and stalwart who had stood
by the Alliance in good and evil report almost since its foundation, who
had been one of its outposts during the Great War, and, when the slash of
arms had ceased, came into the Presidency as a benevolent chief to control
the affairs of the Alliance through a still more difficult period, and to
act as a happy mediator between its conflicting elements at the period when
they were settling down again to work in common. The elevation of Mr Tanner
to the Presidential Chair was the triumph of a quiet, efficient, and
forceful administrator who had won his spurs in other fields, while
contributing immensely to the advancement of Co-operation. Mr Tanner had
been for some years a member of the Central Committee, and in that capacity
had contributed to its work, but his greatest efforts - in spite of
exceptional linguistic abilities, and wide knowledge of affairs - had been
reserved for his own people. Recently he has resigned his position of Prime
Minister of Finland, and may now be expected to throw himself into the work
of the ICA.

The year upon which we have entered gives plenty of promise for the
extension of Co-operation.

The fine task of the Alliance is to keep in fraternal association all the
different elements of its membership, with their varying outlook upon
affairs whether political, religious, social, or economic - even life
itself - but which, in spite of the gaps between their numerical or
financial importance, are yet united by a common faith in a practical means
of social amelioration and world peace.

Notes and Comments
Soviet Co-operation and the Executive of the ICA clash again in another
article from the graphic pen of Mr E. Variash, one of the chief officials
of Centrosoyus and a mouthpiece of Soviet Co-operation, which appears in
the January issue of the Communist Journal, Internationale Presse
Korrespondenz, published in Berlin, but inspired in Moscow. Its diatribes
against the Alliance and its members are common enough, and as a rule we do
not give them a second thought. But in the present instance the attack upon
the Executive is so vicious and so utterly without foundation that we are
compelled to refute its falsehoods.

It declares that a section of the Executive, sufficiently numerous to
succeed, prepared themselves to hang up the tasks of the Alliance and to
bury the decisions of the Stockholm Congress; that they designed to vent
their accumulated fury of months against Soviet Co-operation; the Executive
was unanimously against Soviet Co-operation, with the exception of the
French and Czechoslovakian representatives who were absent, but who, the
article suggests, would have supported the Soviet cause had they been
present! A further charge is that the Executive dealt with Russian
questions to their detriment in the absence of the Soviet representative.

No one knows better than the writer of the article how false that statement
is, because three separate official communications to Centrosoyus assured
them that, in the absence of the Soviet representative, all Russian
questions on the Agenda at The Hague had been adjourned until the next
meeting.

To honourable men and women it is not necessary to declare that the charges
of bad faith, ill-will, and double dealing against the leaders of
Co-operation who constitute the Executive of the ICA are as ridiculous as
they are defamatory. We only state them here to show to what unscrupulous
lengths the Soviet leaders are prepared to go in support of their
revolutionary aims and in order to deceive the mass of co-operators who are
unacquainted with the facts.

Co-operative Types form the subject of a most interesting and somewhat
detailed study by Dr G. Fauquet, Chief of the Co-operative Section of the
ILO, Geneva, which was specially entitled `Principal Types of Co-operative
Relations between Producers and Consumers of Agricultural Products'. In
opening the study Dr Fauquet points out that `the best way of utilising
past experience for future developments may consist of characterising the
principal types observed and determining the particular conditions to which
the birth and development of each of them has corresponded.' This he
proceeds to do by grouping together the co-operative units participating in
local or regional relations, under which heading he examines the principal
categories of local Consumers' Societies and also those cases in which the
production and consumption of agricultural products are established in a
single Society. Here the subdivisions become interesting and help to shed
light on the difficulties of the larger problem discussed in Mr Jaeggi's
report to the Congress at Stockholm, which had already loomed large in the
discussions of the Economic Conference at Geneva, and which constitute a
live problem for International Co-operation.

Dr Fauquet is, of course, fully alive to the various aspects and
possibilities of the question. He devotes a section of his report to that
aspect of the subject, and finally discusses the nature and form of the
relations from which he draws the conclusion that the relations between
these different types are capable of expression under an infinite variety
of forms. Dr Fauquet writes with restrained enthusiasm on a subject which
forms but a corner of the intellectual area he has made his own. It is
obvious that in a short notice we can only indicate the outlines of the
study, but we would commend its more careful perusal to every student of
economics, and especially to those interested in the future of
International Co-operation.

Annals of Collective Economy is the up-to-date title of the economic Review
which, for the past 16 years, has appeared under the highly skilled
direction of Prof. Edgar Milhaud at Geneva, but under the title Annales de
la Regie directe, an international review concerned with the activities of
the Public Services. It is published in four languages, English, German,
French, and Spanish. It purveys the strong meat of progressive economics,
culled from many lands and served in international forms. Its distinguished
director is a master of eloquence, whether written or spoken. The study of
Dr Fauquet referred to above formed part of a recent issue of this Review,
and has been published as a separate brochure. It is perhaps superfluous to
remind our readers that Prof. Milhaud is a member of the Committee of
Honour of the ICA and, with the collaboration of his colleague Dr Fauquet,
made important contributions to the advantage of Co-operation to the work
of the International Economic Conference.

Co-operation in Catalonia is the subject of an interesting account of the
Co-operative Movement in Spain, by Eldio Gard_ Ferrer, one of the best
known co-operative workers of his time. From the translation of its main
outlines which is before us, we gather that so far back as in 1898 some 20
Co-operative Societies of Barcelona proposed to unite in a Federation
entitled `La Federacion Cooperativa Barcelonesa', but their scheme was not
realised. Nevertheless, before the year was out a conference was held at
which it was decided to start a newspaper under the direction of our friend
and colleague, Juan Salas A???? The journal appeared a month before the
first Congress of Catalan Co-operators, which was held in June, 1899.

Since that time the Movement has passed through many changes and even now
cannot be regarded as a robust National Movement. Nevertheless some good
progress has been made. In 1902 the Union was represented for the first
time at a Congress of the ICA. It has passed on from stage to stage and
through quite a number of crises. Though the Movement survives and even
extends - there are now about 100 Societies in Catalonia and the Northern
Provinces of Spain - and though valiant efforts have been made towards
wholesale trading, it cannot yet boast an established National Federation.

The writer of this little history is the centre of a band of militant
co-operators who are determined to carry the torch of Rochdale into the
industrial centres and the provinces in which our Movement has not yet
taken root. They anticipate that before long the desired National Movement
will be an accomplished fact.

Spanish Co-operation has not prospered in the past. Although many efforts
have been made in Catalonia it has never had any permanent success. There
are many reasons, but one of the strongest lies in the Catalan character,
which is strongly individualist, proud and self-centred, with little desire
to explore or adopt any fresh ideas. Apart from this there has been a lack
of skilled direction among the leaders of the various Societies and among
the rank and file an almost complete indifference. On the other hand, there
has been no organised ill-will or opposition.

However hard may have been the struggle in the past, it will be necessary
to grapple with the difficulties afresh. It seems incredible, says the
writer, that the systems and formulas set out in this book could have
failed here, being commonplace and well-established in other lands. The
collapse must be attributed to the apathy of the great majority of those
who form and direct the various Societies.

But Spain is not the only country in which Co-operation has suffered many
failures before arriving at any measure of success, and the reason for
these ultimate successes was that the co-operators persevered in the face
of all difficulties.

New proposals are being made with the object of reestablishing the Movement
on a solid basis. If they succeed Catalonia, after its years of work,
sacrifices and failures, will march rapidly towards the inspiration of the
masses with co-operative ideals.

Some Spanish Characteristics are indicated in a report we have received
from a competent observer who has recently returned from an extended visit
to that alluring country.

>From this report we learn that Co-operation in Catalonia - and probably in
the whole of Spain - can make no progress while the intellectual level of
the workers there remains at such a low level.

It must be remembered that in Spain every village is a self-contained unit,
from which a large number of its inhabitants never move from birth to
death. A journey to another town is looked upon as a rash and alarming
proceeding. Every province in Spain is shut up jealously within itself, and
has little more dealings with its immediate neighbours than in the days
when each was, in reality, an independent kingdom. Distances are very
great, travelling expensive - all of these facts are considered in face of
the continual charges of `apathy' made against members of Societies and of
mismanagement by directors of branches. There are, in these circumstances,
practically no opportunities for the acquisition of new ideas or
instruction in new methods, and it is not difficult to understand how hard
it must be for a Movement which is essentially `broad-minded' to make any
headway against the inertia and prejudice of people so restricted in
outlook.

Conferences in Valencia and Madrid show traces of much inter-provincial
friction, especially between the Catalans, who are largely industrialists,
and the Valencians, who are mostly peasant proprietors, and as such, like
many agriculturalists, practice Co-operation among themselves in the orange
orchards and rice fields.

There is always a great deal of this inter-provincial friction, but it is
always most acute between Catalonia and the other provinces. Although by
far the most advanced of all the Spanish provinces it is violently
`separatist' in politics, and, in consequence, looked upon with suspicion,
more particularly as the workers use the Catalan language, some not even
speaking Spanish, or speaking with a pronounced accent.

There is only the one hope, and this the Co-operators of Catalonia seem to
have grasped, that is in intensive teaching and propaganda to enlist the
women on the side of Co-operation, which in other countries has had good
results. The Catalan and northern women of Spain are most intelligent and
shrewd.

In the Biscayan Provinces Co-operation seems to have taken a greater hold
upon the people than has been generally recognised. This is particularly so
among the large mining districts of Galicia, but it also applies to the
railway workers, the dock workers at the four important ports of Vigo,
Coruna, Santander, and Bilbao, and among the agricultural folk of these
very fertile provinces.

It really works out here again to a question of communications. Not only
are these provinces accessible to each other by boat along the coast, but
they are open to outside influences by the constant calling of ships at
their big ports. It is hardly too much to say that the Biscayan provinces
are in as close touch with English influence as Catalonia with that of
France, for big Liverpool liners as well as smaller trading ships touch
their ports weekly all the year round.

The Northern Spaniards of these provinces are of a very different stamp to
those either of the South or of the East. Vascongada (Spanish Basque)
produces most able men and women, and from all these provinces, especially
from Galicia, emigration is a common thing instead of something strange and
terrible. The return of these emigrants naturally brings fresh ideas and
tends to break up narrow provincial feelings and prejudices.

* Predecessor to the Review of International Co-operation. The first
Bulletin was published in 1907 and the name changed to the one now used in
1927.