Abstracts: Workshop on Developments in Eastern Europe and Russia (1997)



Abstracts : Workshop on Developments in Russia and Eastern Europe

                    October 1997

Source : Abstracts presented to the ICA Committee on Research Annual Conference
The Co-op Advantage in Civil Economy, Bertinoro, Italy, October 1997


Galina Chvetsova,  Deputy Chief of Educational,  Legal  and  Personnel Department,
Centrosojuz of Russian Federation

Russian social  -  economic  reforms  have resulted in radical changes in the life of the
society.  They  were  accompanied  by  the disintegration  of  the  union  state , 
refusing one-party political system ,  lowering efficiency of economic activities and 
standard  of  living of the most part of the population,  increase of unemployment . The
situation with protecting social and job rights and guarantees  of the citizens has also
grew worse.  Permanent lack of means has limited the state opportunities in
implementation of  the  social  policy.  In such  conditions the state can not guarantee
social maintenance at the level the working people had before perestroika.

Consumer Co-operation  of  Russia  is  also  overcoming  great difficulties. 
Unfortunately ,  it is leaving  its  positions  in  the consumer market, volume indices
of economic activities are decreasing. The consumer co-operative economics doesn't provide
proper  wages  and financial support to the social sphere objects. There are more  than  4
 thousand  agricultural  and  regional consumers'  societies  and  80  regional  unions 
in  Russian consumer co-operative system.640 thousand people  are  engaged  in 
diversified economy,  the  specialists  comprise  their third part.  The number of
shareholders is  more  than  15  million  people.  Before perestroika Russian  Consumer 
Co-operation  had  a  large number of social sphere objects.  About 200 of them (nursery
schools,  pioneer camps,  holiday homes  and  boarding  - houses,  hospitals and
sanatoriums) were still functioning in 1990.  Unfortunately,  their number has greatly
reduced due  to  the fact that the consumer co-operation can no longer finance them.  All
social sphere objects  are  functioning  on  self-repayment basis.  Earlier  those 
engaged  in  consumer  co-operation  had large privileges when getting  passes  to 
nursery  schools,  sanatoriums  ,holiday homes.  There are no social co-operatives in
Russia ,  but the activities are of social character,  and those who live in the country
-  side are suffering the reducing results of consumer co-operation. We may say that the
only branch of  consumer  co-operation  ,  which  has survived in such complicated
conditions, is the system of co-operative education.  It hasn't suffered any forcible
variants  of  reforming  privatisation,  and  has saved its experienced staff ,  and is
playing important role in introducing the state's social policy.  There are 98
educational institutions in Russian consumer co-operation.  They teach both the workers
of mass professions and highly qualified experts  and scientific workers.  Educational
institutions of Consumer co-operation render their help in problems of  teaching  and 
employment  of  rural youth,  rising  their standard of culture.  The shareholders'
children have privileges when being enrolled ,  many students study free, owing to the
co-operative organisations paying for them ( we have to pay for education in Consumer
co-operation as there is no financing  from  the state budget means);  various branches
and subdivisions of educational organisations are being founded in different regions in
order to bring the  education  process  nearer  to  the  permanent  addresses  of the
students,  what is very important now because of  reducing  income  of rural  population.
 More  than  90  thousand  people study in Consumer co-operative educational institutions
of Russia, the education process is being realised in accordance with state educational
standards,  the graduates  receive   state   standard   diploma.   These educational
institutions  are  also  undertaking  serious social tasks by means of extension courses
and courses for improving one's qualification, as it is   impossible   to  improve 
co-operative  activities,  uphold  it's positions and problem solutions in  new  economic
 conditions  without experienced and highly qualified staff.

1990 - 1997

Prof. Dr Zofia Chyra-Rolicz, Co-operative Research Institute, Warsaw, Agricultural and
Pedagogical Academy, Siedlce, Poland

The privatisation of national property was the main goal of political transformation in
Poland in 90ties. During almost half a century of Polish People's Republic there was an
obligatory dogma about three types (levels) of property: the first, more important and
"the best" - it was state property; the second type - it was "social or socialist"; the
third one, much worse - private. The co-operative estate was seen as common "socialist".

In fact, the origin of co-operative's property after the Second World War was very
tangled. The co-operative's property was formed from different sources: 

- an old co-operative estate (established before the war), which was seen earlier as the
private property. It had important meaning in housing co-operatives, where members were
the owners of apartments or small family houses;

- shares paid by members in currency or in real apportionment (lands, buildings, tools);

- estate taken in possession of co-operatives according the government order. It belonged
earlier to the class of big and middle landowners, bourgeoisie and it was also left
estate after the war. In time of socialist revolution many peasants, merchants and
craftsmen were forced to establish co-operatives and put into their lands, buildings or
workshops and tools;

- state's facilitates in credit, capital expenditure, and assignation of lands and
machinery, also in guaranty of monopoly's activity;

- co-ops' surplus divided on investment and developing funds.

The reorganisation, so called „rebuilding" of Polish co-operatives decided in 1989 -
1990, was oriented to breaking old socialist bureaucratic structure of co-operative's
organisations and to create a new voluntary co-ops, restoring a private property of
co-ops' members.

The decision of liquidation the old co-operative system was made by the „Act on the
changes co-operative structure and activity" of January 20, 1990. This act put all
central and middle level unions into liquidation and some rules of co-operative law (from
1982) concerning co-operative unions and their inspection had been suspected for almost
1,5 years. This act opened also the problem of division common  co-ops' unions' property
such different enterprises, factories, laboratories, buildings, training centres. There
were no patterns or rules how to do it. The process of liquidation of co-operative unions
was long lasting and plenty of conflicts. The co-operative lustration had been suspended
until the new regulation of co-operative law. Inspection over co-operatives (analogues to
all kind of instruction on enterprises in the state) had been made by the specialised
governmental organisation - the Superior Chamber of Supervision. In the time of quickly
and deeply political and economical changes co-operatives had been deprived their own
instruction and lustration. In the time of deeply transformation of co-operative
property, the abolition of co-operative lustration had created the possibility for many
irregularities and malversations.


Lydia Teplova, Belgorod University of Consumer Co-operatives, Russian Federation

Consumers' cooperative system of Russia is a powerful economic and social organization
which provides goods and services for rural population in the main. Consumers'
co-operative societies are involved in trade, procurement, production, education,
training and other economic activities. In the complicated conditions of social and
economic restructuring the state encourages the development of consumers' cooperative
system, its democratization. On the initial stage of the economic reform in Russia
membership participation in the work of consumer societies was deliberately reduced.
During 1992-1995 the number of shareholders in the consumers' cooperative system has
decreased almost twofold.

The implementation of the Decree of the President of Russian Federation on "Measures of
stabilization of goods and services supply to rural population" as of May 31, 1996 and
Russian Federation Government Decrees on the given problem were decisive factors in the
maintenance of consumer cooperatives membership. 3,7 mln people returned to consumer
societies in 1996. Consumers' cooperative societies membership amounted to 15,6 mln. Low
member involvement in the management and control of the work of cooperatives created
conditions for the violation of democratic cooperative principles. Serious changes in the
structure of the management of cooperatives and their unions are to be introduced to
solve this problem. Low member economic participation in the work of consumer
cooperatives complicates financial situation in the consumers' cooperative system. The
main forms of member economic participation are investments, contributions, purchase of
goods in cooperative stores, sales of agricultural products through cooperative units.

Reduction of rural population income, lack of finance resources in the cooperative
organizations are objective causes of low member economic participation in the work of
their cooperatives. The subjective factor is the inflow into cooperative organizations of
administrative workers who are not familiar with the cooperative values, peculiarities of
economic activities in these organizations and methods of collaboration with the members.