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twenty to thirty persons, from the ages of fourteen to forty for mutual instruction on Sundays and Tuesdays. . . . “The corn-mill was of course rented, and stood at Small Bridge, some distance from the town—one mile and a half. The Society have since built in the town an entirely new mill for themselves. The engine and the machinery are of the most substantial, and improved kind. The capital invested in the corn-mill is 8,450l. of which 3,731. 15s. 2d. is subscribed by the Equitable Pioneers' Society. The corn-mill employs eleven men.” At a later period they extended their operations to the staple manufacture itself. From the success of the Pioneers' Society grew not only the co-operative corn-mill, but a cooperative association for cotton and woollen manufacturing. “The capital in this department is 4000l., of which sum 20421. has been subscribed by the Equitable Pioneers' Society. This Manufacturing Society has ninety-six power looms at work, and employs twenty-six men, seven women, four boys, and five girls—in all forty-two persons. . . . . 53 “In 1853 the Store purchased for 745l., a warehouse (free-hold) on the opposite side of the street, where they keep and retail their stores of flour, butcher's meat, potatoes, and kindred articles. Their committee-rooms and offices are fitted up in the same building. They rent other houses adjoining for calico and hosiery and shoe stores. In their wilderness of rooms, the visitor stumbles upon shoemakers and tailors, at work under healthy conditions, and in perfect peace of mind as to the result on Saturday night. Their warehouses are everywhere as bountifully stocked as Noah's Ark, and cheerful customers literally crowd Toad Lane at night, swarming like bees to every counter. The industrial districts of England have not such another sight as the Rochdale Co-operative Store on Saturday night.”
* “But it is not,” adds Mr. Holyoake, “the brilliancy of commercial activity in which either writer or reader will take the deepest interest; it is in the new and improved spirit animating this intercourse of trade. Buyer and seller meet as friends; there is no overreaching on one side, and no suspicion on the other,
Since the disgraceful failure of the Rochdale Savings Bank in 1849, the Society's Store has become the virtual Savings Bank of the place. The following table, completed to 1860 from the Almanack published by the Society, shows the pecuniary result of its operations from the commencement.
I need not enter into similar particulars respecting the Corn-Mill Society, and will merely state that in 1860 its
. . . . These crowds of humble working men, who never knew before when they put good food in their mouths, whose every dinner was adulterated, whose shoes let in the water a month too soon, whose waistcoats shone with devils' dust, and whose wives wore calico that would not wash, now buy in the markets like millionnaires, and as far as pureness of food goes, live like lords.” Far better, probably, in that particular; for assuredly lords are not the customers least cheated, in the present race of dishonest competition. “They are weaving their own stuffs, making their own shoes, sewing their own garments, and grinding their own corn. They buy the purest sugar and the best tea, and grind their own coffee. They slaughter their own cattle, and the finest beasts of the land waddle down the streets of Rochdale for the consumption of flannel weavers and cobblers. (Last year the Society advertised for a Provision Agent to make purchases in Ireland, and to devote his whole time to that duty.) When did competition give poor men these advantages? And will any man say that the moral character of these people is not improved under these influences. The teetotal. lers of Rochdale acknowledge that the Store has made more sober men since it
capital is set down, on the same authority, at 26,618. 148. 6d., and the profit for that single year at 10,1641. 12s. 5d. For the manufacturing establishment I have no certified information later than that of Mr. Holyoake, who states the capital of the concern, in 1857, to be 5500/. But a letter in the Rochdale Observer of May 26, 1860, editorially announced as by a person of good information, says that the capital had at that time reached 50,000l. : and the same letter gives highly satisfactory statements respecting other similar associations: the Rossendale Industrial Company, capital 40,000l. ; the Walsden Co-operative Company, capital 8,000l. ; the Bacup and Wardle Commercial Company, with a capital of 40,000l., “ of which more than one-third is borrowed at 5 per cent, and this circumstance, during the last two years of unexampled commercial prosperity, has caused the rate of dividend to shareholders to rise to an almost fabulous height.” It is hardly possible to take any but a hopeful view of the prospects of mankind, when in the two leading countries of the world, the obscure depths of society contain simple working men whose integrity, good sense, self-command, and honourable confidence in one another, have enabled them to carry these noble experiments to the triumphant issue which the facts recorded in the preceding pages attest. Their admirable history shows how vast an increase might be made even in the aggregate productiveness of labour, if the labourers as a mass were placed in a relation
commenced than all their efforts have been able to make in the same time. Husbands who never knew what it was to be out of debt, and poor wives who during forty years never had sixpence uncondemned in their pockets, now possess little stores of money sufficient to build them cottages, and go every week into their own market with money jingling in their pockets; and in that market there is no distrust and no deception; there is no adulteration, and no second prices. The whole atmosphere is honest. Those who serve, neither hurry, finesse, nor flatter. They have no interest in chicanery. They have but one duty to perform—that of giving fair measure, full weight, and a pure article. In other parts of the town, where competition is the principle of trade, all the preaching in Rochdale cannot produce moral effects like these. “As the Store has made no debts, it has incurred no losses; and during thirteen years' transactions, and receipts amounting to 303,852l., it has had no law-suits.” The Arbitrators of the Societies, during all their years of office, have never had a case to decide, and are discontented that nobody quarrels.”
to their work which would make it (what now it is not)
their principle and their interest to do the utmost, instead
of the least possible, in exchange for their remuneration.
In the co-operative movement, the permanency of which
may now be considered as ensured, we see exemplified the process for bringing about a change in society, which would combine the freedom and independence of the individual, with the moral, intellectual, and economical advantages of aggregate production; and which, without violence or spoliation, or even any sudden disturbance of existing habits and expectations, would realize, at least in the industrial department, the best aspirations of the democratic spirit, by putting an end to the division of society into the industrious and the idle, and effacing all social distinctions but those fairly earned by personal services and exertions.
Associations like those which we have described, by the
very process of their success, are a course of education in those moral and active qualities by which alone success can be either deserved or attained. As associations multiplied, they would tend more and more to absorb all work-people, except those who have too little understanding, or too little virtue, to be capable of learning to act on any other system than that of narrow selfishness. As this change proceeded, owners of capital would gradually find it to their advantage, instead of maintaining the struggle of the old system with work-people of only the worst description, to lend their capital to the associations; to do this at a diminishing rate
of interest, and at last, perhaps, even to exchange their
capital for terminable annuities. In this or some such
mode, the existing accumulations of capital might honestly,
and by a kind of spontaneous process, become in the end the joint property of all who participate in their productive
employment: a transformation which, thus effected, (and
assuming of course that both sexes participate equally in
the rights and in the government of the association)* would be the nearest approach to social justice, and the most beneficial ordering of industrial affairs for the universal good, which it is possible at present to foresee.
§ 7. I agree, then, with the Socialist writers in their conception of the form which industrial operations tend to assume in the advance of improvement; and I entirely share their opinion that the time is ripe for commencing this transformation, and that it should by all just and effectual means be aided and encouraged. But while I agree and sympathize with Socialists in this practical portion of their aims, I utterly dissent from the most conspicuous and vehement part of their teaching, their declamations against competition. With moral conceptions in many respects far ahead of the existing arrangements of society, they have in general very confused and erroneous notions of its actual working; and one of their greatest errors, as I conceive, is to charge upon competition all the economical evils which at present exist. They forget that wherever competition is not, monopoly is; and that monopoly, in all its forms, is the taxation of the industrious for the support of indolence, if not of plunder. They forget, too, that with the excepion of competition among labourers, all other competition is for the benefit of the labourers, by cheapening the articles they consume; that competition even in the labour mar
* In this respect also the Rochdale Society has given an example of reason and justice, worthy of the good sense and good feeling manifested in their general proceedings. “The Rochdale Store,” says Mr. Holyoake, “renders incidental but valuable aid towards realizing the civil independence of women. Women may be members of this Store, and vote in its proceedings. Single and married women join. Many married women become members because their husbands will not take the trouble, and others join in it in self-defence, to prevent the husband from spending their money in drink. The husband cannot withdraw the savings at the Store standing in the wife's name, unless she signs the order. Of course, as the law still stands, the husband could by legal process get possession of the money. But a process takes time, and the husband gets sober and thinks better of it before the law can move.”