The Co-Operative Movement: Impressions from an Alien

Co-operation is the self help movement of the mass of the people to protect themselves from exploitation in the purchasing of their domestic requirements. Using well tried old traditions and new forms of old ideas, these people group together for buying their food and raw materials or selling their products or producing on a joint basis or organizing saving and banking. The starting point is the formation of a society to conduct trade on a mutual basis and to extend their enterprise from simple retailing to every kind of business. The object differs according to the stage of economic development, the character of the people (ability to organize) and the class of co-operators. Ordinary people do their buying of food and other supplies in their co-operative societies. In each group there is a certain amount of co-operative banking done, but this is most important with people who conduct a little enterprise of their own. 

Co-operation is not the child of thinking and agitation, but was created in different places by the needs and worries of the day. The views of the theoreticians of the different co-operative groups differ, but some features are common to every true co-operative work. A co-operative society is in people and not of capital and shares and is everywhere based on self-help including the financing by the savings of the members. The most important feature is that it is in every case conducted help and not for profit. 

The task of co-operation is not to get interest for the investor but to help the member in their life. In such a way all sorts of co-operation started without any influence from the political and economic ideas from its members, a new system free from any capitalistic ideals. However, in spite of these common features there is no unity among the different kinds of co-operation as the co-operators derive their ideas usually not from their co-operative work but from the culture and the state they belong to.

Written by Tadgh Quill-Manley, Cork North Central Branch 

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