Cooperative movement, social and economic activity aimed at the creation and development of cooperatives (consumer, credit, production, supply and marketing, housing, etc.).

Cooperative movement first became widespread in Great Britain, where from 1769 the originally rapidly disintegrating consumer co-operatives began to emerge (see Consumer Co-operation). Cooperatives in this country gained wider spread in the 1st half of the 19th century when, under the conditions of accelerated development of capitalist production after the industrial revolution, some strata of workers and other exploited population groups saw in cooperatives one of the possible means of struggle against increasing social oppression. An important role in the development of cooperatives in Great Britain belonged to R. Owen, who urged workers to join cooperatives, which, in his opinion, could ensure the gradual transfer of production into the hands of those who create material goods by their own labour. Advocacy of the creation of cooperatives for the socialist transformation of society, attempts to theoretically justify and practically implement this utopian idea occupied a crucial place in Owen's public activity.

The illusions about the possibility of socialist transformation of society through the development of cooperatives within the framework of capitalism were shared by many socialist utopians: Ch. Fourier, who put forward the idea of creating phalanges - production associations of cooperative type, covering industry and agriculture, followers of C.A. Saint-Simon, especially - F.J. Buchet, etc. Utopian plans of destroying the vices of capitalism through cooperation were also put forward by P. J. Prudon.

In 1844 Owen's followers in Rochdale (Great Britain) organised a consumer society (originally 28 people joined it) and called it the Society of "Fair Pioneers". "The Rochdale Pioneers formulated the most important principles of co-operatives that developed over time: voluntary participation in cooperatives; democratic character of management and control (election and accountability of all bodies to the members); equal rights for all members, regardless of their share fees (one member - one vote); sale of goods at average market prices and only in cash; sale of high quality goods only, by clean weight and exact measure; allocation of a share of profit to raise the cultural level of the members. These principles became widespread in the C.E., which was later supported by the petty-bourgeois reformist group of English Christian socialists.
 After Great Britain, the C. c. started to develop in other countries as well. In France, in Lyon, in 1848, weavers organised a consumer society called the United Workers. After the law on societies with "variable membership and capital" was issued in 1867, co-operation in France began to develop more rapidly. In 1885 the 1st congress of cooperatives was held in Paris, where the Cooperative Union was founded. In Italy the first consumers' society appeared among the railway workers of Turin in 1853. In Germany, the Rochdel-type co-operative society also emerged in the middle of the 19th century. Here the so called Hamburg trend of the co-operative movement spread, which was characterised by the profit limitation, that was made by the co-operative to be distributed proportionally to the purchase of goods, and by the creation of the fund for helping the needy members. In 1849, the German bourgeois economist and politician G. Schulze-Delich presented a plan to "save" proletarian craftsmen and workers from the poverty by establishing credit cooperatives, supply cooperatives, and consumer cooperatives among them. In contrast to Schulze-Delitzsch, F. W. Reifaisen attached particular importance to the creation of credit cooperative societies among peasants. The cooperative conceptions of Schulze-Delich and Reifaisen, who propagated illusions about the possibility to create within the framework of capitalism the conditions for the economic stability of small producers and a secure existence for those who toil through the organization of cooperative associations, diverted the masses from the class struggle (about cooperative theories see Cooperative). In Belgium, where the first worker's consumer co-operative was established in the end of the 40s of the 19th century, special significance was attached to the organised in 1880 in Ghent "Forward" consumer society, whose members put forward an important statement about the links between cooperatives and the socialist party and trade unions.

Starting from the middle of the 19th century, co-operation (first consumer, later credit and supply cooperatives) spread gradually in Austria, Italy, Switzerland, Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Russia, etc., and by the end of the 19th century - in Japan. Housing and industrial co-operation (mainly handicraft co-operation among artisans) spread to a smaller scale. As early as in the first half of the 19th century in the West European countries an agricultural cooperation emerged that in the second half of the 19th century as these countries were drawn into the orbit of the capitalist mode of production covered an increasing part of their unselfish rural population. In Russia and other East-European countries agricultural cooperation began to develop in the second half of the 19th century. Agricultural cooperation developed mainly as supplying and marketing cooperation, whose members, producing mainly for the market, unite for the joint sale of their production. At the same time they also supply their members with some goods for production purposes. In the beginning of the 20th century, agricultural cooperation appeared in India and other Asian countries (in these countries the establishment of cooperatives was often prescribed by the colonial authorities that used cooperatives as a tool of colonial exploitation) and in Latin American countries.

The development of cooperation was accompanied by the perfection of its organizational forms and formation of national cooperative organizations (for instance, in Great Britain the Wholesale Cooperative Society was created in 1863, Scottish Cooperative Wholesale Society in 1868, British Cooperative Union in 1869; in Sweden the Swedish Wholesale Cooperative was founded in 1869, in USA - the United States Cooperative League in 1916).

The experience of the international cooperative movement was closely studied by the founders of scientific communism. In the programme document of the 1st International - "Constitutive Manifesto of the International Workingmen's Association" - K. Marx refers to this experience, pointing out that the successes of cooperation proved the ability of workers to cope with the organization of production on a large scale without capitalists. But at the same time, the results of cooperative societies under the capitalist system unquestionably prove "... that no matter how excellent in principle and useful in practice cooperative labour is, it will never be able to arrest the exponential growth of monopoly, nor liberate the masses, nor even noticeably relieve their poverty, as long as it does not go beyond the narrow circle of accidental efforts of individual workers" (Marx K, see Marx K. and Engels F., Opus, 2nd ed., vol. 16, p. 10). The real means of emancipation of the working class and its great responsibility is the conquest of political power.

 In view of the spread of cooperative illusions among a section of the workers which distracted them from the revolutionary struggle (these illusions were supported by Proudhon, Lassalle and Owen's followers), Marx returns to the question of cooperation in the course of preparations for the 1st (Geneva) Congress of the 1st International (1866). In the Instructions he drew up for the Congress it is again stated that the transformation of social production "... into a unified, extensive and harmonious system of free cooperative labour..." is only possible as a result of "... the transfer of the organised forces of society, i.e. the state power, from the capitalists and landowners to the producers themselves" (ibid., p. 199). Marx's point of view on the question of cooperation triumphed, as reflected in the resolution adopted by the Geneva Congress against the resistance of the Proudhonists.

Struggle between revolutionary and reformist directions of working class movement over the question of cooperation continued after the dissolution (1876) of the 1st International; this question remained equally urgent for social-democratic parties that joined the 2nd International founded in 1889. Many of them succeeded in establishing close links with cooperatives, which helped to rally a broader section of workers around the labour movement. The support of the cooperators helped the workers' parties to win more and more votes in parliamentary and municipal elections. Under the influence of socialists, cooperatives provided substantial material support to workers during strikes and lock-outs. At the same time, the experience of the workers' movement refuted the cooperative-reformist illusions propagated by the opportunists, who saw the cooperatives as elements of socialism, promoting the gradual, revolution-free transformation of capitalism into socialism. Such views were shared by E. Bernstein, E. David, F. O. Hertz and other revisionist Bernsteinists.

В. Lenin, fighting against all kinds of reformist conceptions in Russia and in the international arena, revealed the utopian nature of the cooperative reformism of the liberal Narodniks, Social Revolutionaries and Mensheviks, and West European Social-Democrats. In his polemic with the Mensheviks, Lenin wrote: "As long as power remains in the hands of the bourgeoisie, as long as consumer societies are a pittance, they do not guarantee any serious change, do not bring about any decisive change, sometimes even distracting from the serious struggle for a revolution" (Collected Works, 5th ed., vol. 11, p. 370).

Lenin and the Bolsheviks, noting the important role of workers' cooperatives as mass organizations, considered it necessary to embrace the cooperative societies with social-democratic influence, contrary to the position of the reformist advocates of protecting their "autonomy". This, in particular, was stated in the 1908 decision of the Central Committee of the RSDLP on cooperatives. Lenin's position on the question of cooperatives was clearly formulated at the 8th (Copenhagen) Congress of the 2nd International (1910) in a draft resolution proposed by the RSDLP, opposing the majority project of the French Socialist Party (draft by J. Jaures), which clearly reflected the cooperative-reformist concept. As a result of negotiations between Lenin and J. Gaude, who submitted a draft which was close in some essential points to the draft of the RSDLP (the Congress also considered the "intermediate" Belgian draft), a single resolution adopted by the Congress was drawn up, which contained "... a correct definition of the tasks of proletarian cooperatives in the main points" (Ibid., vol. 19, p. 353). This resolution noted that "the co-operative movement, although it can by no means lead to the emancipation of the workers, must nevertheless be an effective weapon in the class struggle...".

 The ideas expressed by Lenin, as well as the study of the new experience of the C. D., formed the basis of the decisions of the Communist International on the question of cooperation. The theses of the 3rd Comintern Congress (1921) on the work of communists in cooperation emphasized that communists were obliged to work in these mass organizations of workers and ensure that these organizations were more actively involved in the class struggle.

The 4th Congress of the Comintern (1922), confirming the theses of the 3rd Congress in its resolution on cooperation, stressed again the necessity of waging the most energetic struggle against cooperative illusions and imaginary political neutrality of cooperation that actually concealed the explicit and implicit support of the policy of the bourgeoisie and its servants.

The further development of the C. D. in the capitalist countries confirmed the correctness of the evaluation of the role of cooperatives by the classics of Marxism-Leninism and the international communist movement. It showed that cooperatives under capitalism at all its stages - including state-monopolistic capitalism - are an integral part of the capitalist economy, which constantly influences their development.

 After the 1st World War of 1914-18 and in the following years the specific weight of cooperation in different spheres of economy in some capitalist countries increased considerably. Thus, for instance, in Scandinavian countries, where after the economic crisis of 1929-33 agricultural cooperation began to develop particularly rapidly, the latter gained an essentially monopoly position in the marketing of some agricultural products. Consumer co-operation in Great Britain and many other capitalist countries remains a significant factor of economic life. Housing co-operation is developing in the countries of capital (especially after the World War II in Denmark and Sweden). Being connected with the economy of capitalism, cooperatives obey the general laws of its development. The process of concentration and centralisation of capital developing in capitalist states also includes cooperatives, the number of which in many capitalist countries has decreased by 30-60% since the mid-50s. In Sweden the total number of shareholders in these years increased by 26%, whereas the number of cooperatives reduced by more than half; in FRG, where from 1955 to 1970 the number of cooperative societies reduced from 303 to 154, it was planned the fusion of these cooperatives to 20 large regional societies; in Belgium the ten largest cooperative societies in the beginning of 1972 provided 96% of retail trade turnover of consumer co-operation of the country. Many co-operative organisations invest their funds in shares of trade and industrial concerns, government securities, and have close links with private banks and enterprises. For example, the British Co-operative Wholesale Society has become a kind of wholesale empire. It is a major shareholder in the largest English sugar monopoly, Tate & Lill, and one of the main owners of the state monopoly Manchester Ship Canal, which controls a large part of Britain's inland waterways, and has warehouses and purchasing organisations in New Delhi, Montreal, Vancouver, Sydney, Wellington, Buenos Aires. Giant wholesale cooperative societies operate in a number of other countries. The enlargement of the sphere of activity and size of cooperatives and their enterprises, the growing inclusion of big cooperative associations into the unified system of modern state-monopolistic capitalism is sometimes accompanied by abandonment of basic cooperative principles (including the principle "one member - one vote") and consequently by drawing some cooperatives closer to joint-stock companies by the character of their activity. Thus life refutes reformist conceptions of the transformation of cooperatives in the bourgeois countries into a decisive force capable of "transforming" capitalism into socialism. At the same time cooperatives - mainly in the sphere of circulation - can (as the long-lasting experience of C.D. be witnessed) play a certain role in alleviating the situation of the working masses in the countries of capital. The communist parties of the developed capitalist countries, attaching importance to the work in cooperative organizations, take into account not only the specific weight of cooperatives in this or that branch of economy in various countries, but also the fact, first of all, that cooperatives unite in their ranks great masses of workers, that even in those states where cooperatives are not a substantial factor of economic life they involve very considerable strata of industrial and agricultural workers (in the capitalist countries in k 70-80% of their members are workers, peasants, craftsmen, clerks and free tradesmen). Therefore it is the task of the communists to direct the masses united in the cooperatives in the struggle against monopolistic capital by making use of the opportunities created by the cooperative organisation. That is why they stand for the preservation and development of the democratic principles inherent in the C.D. and against the forces seeking to undermine cooperative democracy. An important field of action of the cooperators in which communists and other democratic forces participate is the struggle for democratic cooperative legislation: supporting laws in favour of cooperative development and opposing laws that place cooperatives in worse business conditions than private capitalist enterprises (in particular those imposing petty regulation of cooperative activity by the bourgeois state) and aiming at subordinating cooperatives to monopolies.

The social role of cooperatives increases when they participate in the economic and political struggles of the working class. In those cooperatives where the progressive direction has won and where genuine representatives of the workers are at the head (the National League of Cooperatives of Italy, the Central Cooperative of the Mines District of France, etc.), great attention is paid to the advancement of workers and employees, to the use of cooperatives as one of the means of securing employment. In Italy, for example, in the Emilia-Romagna region, in the province of Mantua, there are cooperative societies for collective renting and joint cultivation of land. These cooperatives provide work for 'surplus' agricultural workers, small-scale tenants and usufructuaries. The progressive cooperative organizations acting as big wholesale buyers are making great efforts to influence the working conditions of the workers in the factories of suppliers, are fighting against the increasing prices of consumer goods and taking over, among others, some of the functions of trade mediators. The participation of the broad masses of workers in capitalist countries in the C. D. determines the struggle of political parties for influence among the cooperators. In a number of countries (first of all in Great Britain, Sweden, Norway, Japan, Germany) a considerable part of cooperatives is under the influence of social-democratic parties; in agricultural cooperatives the conservative parties, often Christian-social ones, enjoy considerable influence.

  The cooperation of the left-wing forces in the C.E.D. - The basis for the involvement of the co-operators in the anti-monopolistic front, the most important cementing force of which are the communist and workers' parties. The communists take an active part in the cooperators' struggle for the betterment of the broad masses of workers, for peace and democracy, which is inseparable from the struggle for socialism.

  C. D. in the socialist countries. After the socialist revolution, when the state power passes into the hands of the working class and its allies, in the conditions of the predominance of the national ownership of the means and instruments of production, the socio-economic nature of cooperatives, and consequently the role of cooperatives in social development, changes radically. Under the new conditions cooperative property acquires a socialist character; therefore the development of co-operatives directed by the socialist state serves the construction and development of socialist society. Already in the first legislative acts of the Soviet power the place, functions and principles of various kinds of co-operation as an important link in the economy of the Soviet state and in the building of socialism were defined. In the first years of the Soviet power Lenin continued to develop the scientific theory of involving the peasantry in the socialist construction on the basis of the co-operation of the peasant households, which went down in history under the name of Lenin's co-operative plan. On the basis of that plan the mass collectivization of the agriculture started in the USSR in 1929, the completion of which meant the victory of socialism in the village (see a special section of the article about Co-operative Building in Russia and the USSR).

  The experience of cooperative building in the USSR was used by foreign socialist countries with due regard for the specifics of their historical development, socio-economic and political conditions. The support given to the C.E. The support of the state authorities in socialist countries is expressed in constitutions and other legislative acts, which strictly protect the rights of cooperative organisations to their property and ensure that cooperatives have a legal position in which they can occupy an independent place in the socialist economic system. This support also includes the supply of consumer and industrial goods to cooperative organisations by the State industry, granting them considerable credit, tax, rent, insurance and other privileges and benefits.

In most of the socialist countries abroad, as well as in the USSR, agricultural production co-operatives have developed widely, on the basis of which the socialist restructuring of agriculture was carried out. As the most important form of cooperatives they occupy the leading place in the production of agricultural products in those countries (see Production cooperatives in agriculture, Co-operation of peasant farms in socialist countries).

  Alongside production co-operatives in foreign socialist countries there are various kinds of co-operatives, among which especially important are consumer, supply-sale, industrial and housing co-operatives. In Poland in 1971 co-operatives bought 75% of the agricultural products sold by peasant farms. The share of the cooperative trade in Poland (1972) constituted over 50% of the total retail trade turnover of the country, in Bulgaria - 37%, in the GDR - 34.2%, in Hungary - over 31%, in Czechoslovakia - 27%, in Romania - 30%. The range of goods covered by cooperative trade includes food and industrial goods, household and cultural goods, agricultural implements, fertilisers, etc. In some socialist countries supply and marketing co-operatives perform very important tasks in strengthening intra-farm relations. For example, in the DRV half of all rural trade was in the hands of supply and marketing co-operatives in 1971.

  Cooperatives in socialist countries are extensively developing their own production, based on the maximum use of local resources. In 1971, for example, cooperative enterprises in the GDR produced 31% of sausage meat, 24% of wheat bread, 60% of matches, and 41% of soap. In Czechoslovakia, consumer cooperatives produced 45% of all baked goods and 25% of confectionery. In Poland, the value of production produced by cooperatives was 15% of the value of the country's industrial production in 1971. The role of cooperatives in domestic services is considerable. For example, in Hungary in 1971 cooperatives accounted for 70% of services provided to the population. The cooperative organizations in the socialist countries carry out great cultural-educational and educational work among their members and the population. The great successes of the cooperative societies in the socialist countries are the result of the advantages given by the socialist system of economy to the cooperative activity, the leadership of cooperation by the communist and workers' parties, the creative energy and initiative of millions of cooperative workers and members actively participating in the building of socialism and communism.

  The C. D. in the developing countries is one of the important means of gradually overcoming economic and cultural backwardness, of creating an independent economy, of eliminating feudal relations, a school of collective economy, a means of upbringing and education of the population. The number of cooperatives of various types in these countries is growing first of all in the main branch of their economy - agriculture. In India, for example, during the years of their independent existence the number of members of cooperatives increased three times and by the beginning of 1972 exceeded 55 million; by this time the primary agricultural cooperative societies embraced 89% of total number of Indian villages and 42% of rural population of the country. In Africa a definite shift in the development of Co-operative societies started in 1960s after liberation of most countries of that continent from colonial domination. In 1969, the number of cooperative members reached 3.5 million (332 thousand in 1937). Cooperatives are relatively well developed in the following African countries: in East Africa - in Tanzania, Kenya, Zambia, and Uganda; in 3. Africa-3. in Nigeria, Ghana, Sierra Leone, Cameroon, and the Ivory Coast; and in S. Africa-Egypt. Africa - in Egypt. In Central Africa, cooperation has been much slower to develop.

The forms of agricultural cooperation in developing countries vary greatly, due to the specifics of their socio-economic structure and level of economic development. For example, in South and Southeast Asia, the Near and Middle East, where the development of commodity-money relations proceeded somewhat faster than in developing countries of other regions, credit cooperatives were relatively widespread along with supply and marketing cooperatives. However, even in African countries expansion of commodity-money relations promotes the establishment (still in small amounts) of credit cooperatives (in 1971 there were 4100 credit unions in African countries). On the whole, marketing cooperatives dominate in Africa, due to the difficulties in addressing the marketing problem in those countries, in particular because of the monocultural, colonial legacy of their economies. In Tanzania, for example, cooperatives were responsible for 1/3 of agricultural exports in 1972 (almost all marketing of cotton and coffee - the main crops in the country - was through cooperatives), in Nigeria - 20%; in Kenya, cooperatives were responsible for 86% of coffee marketing, in Senegal - 53% of groundnut, etc. It is not uncommon for marketing cooperatives in African countries to also serve as supply and marketing cooperatives. Supply and marketing cooperatives have developed considerably in Latin America, where they have been established as a means of protecting peasant interests against encroachment by large landowners and monopolies, including foreign ones.

  Consumer co-operatives are becoming increasingly important in developing countries. Thus, in India, where in 1962 the Government adopted a plan to promote the development of cooperation, in 1972 there were more than 10 thousand consumer cooperatives with 816 thousand members. In Egypt in 1972 there were about 400 consumer societies uniting up to 200 thousand people. Consumer cooperatives in Sri Lanka encompass approx. 1 million people. Consumer co-operation is developing in Algeria, Burma, Syria, Tanzania and some other developing countries. In sub-Saharan Africa, its growth is hampered by competition from small traders, and especially by the acute shortage of qualified cooperators.

  In countries that have embarked on non-capitalist paths of development, production co-operatives have become important in agriculture. In Egypt there were 6,000 agricultural cooperatives in 1971; more than half of them practised cooperative land cultivation. The cooperatives for joint cultivation of land unite small farmers who receive newly developed land. In Burma, where agricultural production co-operatives are recognised as the main tool for development of agriculture, the Co-operative Societies Act was passed, which stipulated creation of over 24 thousand production, consumer, credit (including saving) co-operatives in the 70s, which would involve over 10 million people. Peasant production co-operatives are also carried out in other socialist-oriented developing countries. On the whole in the socialist-oriented countries where reforms are carried out which undermine the foundations of private property and prepare the conditions for the liquidation of the exploiting classes and groups, the C.E. can contribute to the creation of an economic basis for a non-exploitative society and become a significant factor of social progress.

  The cooperative movement in Asian, African and Latin American countries develops, overcoming various obstacles and difficulties: insufficient funds and personnel, the competition of small private entrepreneurs, the resistance of large landowners and usurers to the establishment of production and other types of cooperatives that threaten the size of their incomes and undermine the market for cheap labour. The further development of cooperation in the developing countries will depend first and foremost on their chosen path of social development and the pace and depth of their social and economic transformation.

  International cooperation between national cooperative organizations is carried out both bilaterally and multilaterally. The largest international association of cooperatives is the International Cooperative Alliance.

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