1995 is a very important year for international co-operation being the
Centennial of our International Co-operative Alliance.

A Centennial is a cause for celebration, but it is also a time for taking
stock, for seeing how far we have come and for planning future strategy,
for deciding the direction we wish to take in the next hundred years.

"May you live in interesting times"  is apparently a Chinese Curse and it
is a curse which co-operators today have to live with. These are certainly
interesting times . The world is changing at a rate which the co-operative
pioneers would never have believed possible. This makes it an extremely
difficult era for the leaders of our movement. The co-operative movement,
as indeed the whole world, is at a crossroads. The problems we are facing
offer a challenge which is at best daunting.

Some time ago I asked for readers to share their views via this media.
Several people have taken the time to do so and two such letters are
published in this issue. One is a continuation of the discussion about
Co-operative Principles, especially the issue of to whom a co-op belongs,
and airs the authors' views on co-operative shares and the indivisible
reserves.  This is the sort of discussion which could be carried out most
efficiently via the Internet, using the new electronic communication
technology .  We have written to our members explaining about the ICA's new
"Electronic Information and Communications Strategy for Co-operatives"  and
others who are interested in this project should contact the Secretariat
for copies of the project proposal and  gopher (databank) plan which we are
setting up in collaboration with the University of Wisconsin (USA).

The letter published on page 139 begins by addressing the subject of
electronic networking, but please read this long and passionate letter to
the end because it is the postscript that raises some soul-searching
questions. This is a cry for help from someone who has obviously worked in
the field, has seen the need, has seen the hungry, the homeless, the
"reality of failure and neglect" first-hand.

What more can I do as an individual? " the author asks,
So we have shared our experiences, now what? "

I don't think that I am qualified to answer such a letter, but I feel that
the questions raised deserve an answer - demand an answer  -  and not
through "a  polite article beloved by liberal academics and humanitarian
do-gooders" - as the author so poetically puts it.

Daryl Barker stresses that  the reality is of failure and neglect, not
success, as most of the review articles seem to describe.

We are aware that we have both successes and failures but that as a
movement we need to stress our successes to the rest of the world if our
message is to be heard.

But what of the failures and what of the neglect?

What can we do as an organisation, as an alliance of federations, as local
co-operative societies,  as  individuals? What are we doing and what more
can we do?

Daryl Barker asks these questions and he or she asks:

"What have we to celebrate in this coming centennial year if there is not
to be an outpouring and sharing of Co-operative Charity in the very real
sense, instead of what might be an exercise in smug, indulgent,
self-congratulation at preserving our illusions and privileges?"

What indeed?!

                          Mary Treacy
                          Director of Communications