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It is not in France alone that these associations have commenced a career of prosperity. To say nothing at present of Germany, Piedmont, or Switzerland (where the Consumers' Union of Zurich is one of the most prosperous co-operative associations in Europe), England can produce cases of success, rivalling even those which I have cited from France. Under the impulse commenced by Mr. Owen, and more recently propagated by the writings and personal efforts of a band of friends, chiefly clergymen and barristers, to whose noble exertions too much praise can scarcely be given, the good seed was widely sown; the necessary alterations in the English law of partnership were obtained from Parliament, on the benevolent and public-spirited initiative of Mr. Slaney; many industrial associations, and a still greater number of co-operative stores for retail purchases, were founded. Among these are already many instances of remarkable prosperity, the most signal of which are the Leeds Flour Mill, and the Rochdale Society ot Equitable Pioneers. Of this last association, the most successful of all, the history has been written in a very interesting manner by Mr. Holyoake ;* and the notoriety which by
ing account of the Provision Association of Grenoble has been given in a pamphlet by M. Casimir Perier; and in the Times of November 24, 1864, we read the following passage: "While a certain number of operatives stand out for more wages or fewer hours of labour, others, who have also seceded, have associated for the purpose of carrying on their respective trades on their own account, and have collected funds for the purchase of instruments of labour. They have founded a society—Society Generate d'Approvisionnement et de Consommation. It numbers between 300 and 400 members, who have already opened a "co-operative store" at Passy, which is now within the limits of Paris. They calculate that by May next fifteen new self-supporting associations of the same kind will be ready to commence operations; Bo that the number will be, for Paris alone, from 50 to 60.
* Self-Help by the People—History of Cooperation in Rochdale. An instructive account of this and other co-operative associations has also been written in the Companion to the Almanack, for 1862, by Mr. John Plnmmer, of Kettering; himself one of the most inspiring examples of mental cultivation and high principle in a self-instructed working man.
this and other means has been given to facts so encouraging, is causing a rapid extension of associations with similar objects in Lancashire, Yorkshire, London, and elsewhere.
The original capital of the Rochdale Society consisted of 282., brought together by the unassisted economy of about forty labourers, through the slow process of a subscription of twopence (afterwards raised to threepence) per week. With this sum they established in 1844 a small shop, or store, for the supply of a few common articles for the consumption of their own families. As their carefulness and honesty brought them an increase of customers and of subscribers, they extended their operations to a greater number of articles of consumption, and in a few years were able to make a large investment in shares of a Co-operative Corn Mill. Mr. Holyoake thus relates the stages of their progress up to 1857.
"The Equitable Pioneers' Society is divided into seven departments: Grocery,Drapery, Butchering, Shoemaking, Clogging, Tailoring, Wholesale.
"A separate account is kept of each business, and a general account is given each quarter, snowing the position of the whole.
"The grocery business was commenced, as we have related, in December 1844, with only four articles to sell. It now includes whatever a grocer's shop should include.
"The drapery business was started in 1847, with an humble array of attractions. In 1854 it was erected into a separate department.
"A year earlier, 1846, the Store began to sell butcher's meat, buying eighty or one hundred pounds of a tradesman in the town. After a while, the sales were discontinued until 1850, when the Society had a warehouse of its own. Mr. John Moorhouse, who has now two assistants, buys and kills for the Society three oxen, eight sheep, sundry porkers and calves, which are on the average converted into 1302. of cash per week.
"Shoemaking commenced in 1852. Three men and an apprentice make, and a stock is kept on sale.
"Clogging and tailoring commenced also in this year.
"The wholesale department commenced in 1852, and marks an important development of the Pioneers' proceedings. This department has been created for supplying any members requiring large quantities, and with a view to supply the co-operative stores of Lancashire and Yorkshire, whose small capitals do not enable them to buy in the best markets, nor command the services of what is otherwise indispensable to every store—a good buyer, who knows the markets and his business, who knows what, how, and where to buy. The wholesale department guarantees purity, quality, fair prices, standard weight and measure, but all on the never-failing principle, cash payment."
In consequence of the number of members who now reside at a distance, and the difficulty of serving the great increase of customers, "Branch Stores have been opened. In 1856, the first Branch was opened, in the Oldham Boad, about a mile from the centre of Rochdale. In 1857 the Castleton Branch, and another in the Whitworth Road, were established, and a fourth Branch in Pinfold."
The warehouse, of which the original Store was a single apartment, was taken on lease by the Society, very much out of repair, in 1849. "Every part has undergone neat refitting and modest decoration, and now wears the air of a thoroughly respectable place of business. One room is now handsomely fitted up as a newsroom. Another
is neatly fitted up as a library
Their newsroom is as well supplied as that of a London club." It is now "free to members, and supported from the Education Fund," a fund consisting of 24 per cent of all the profits divided, which is set apart for educational purposes. "The Library contains 2200 volumes of the best, and among them, many of the most expensive books published. The Library is free. From 1850 to 1855, a school for young persons was conducted at a charge of twopeDce per month. Since 1855, a room has been granted by the
Board for the use of from 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 84502., of which 373H. 15*. 2d. is subscribed by the Equitable Pioneers' Society. The cornmill 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 co-operative association for cotton and woollen manufacturing. "The capital in this department is 40002., 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'
"In 1853 the Store purchased for 7451. a warehouse (freenold) 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.* Since the disgraceful
* "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 iiu
proved spirit animating this intercourse of trade. Bayer and seller meet aa friends; there is no overreaching on one side, and no
suspicion on the other 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 devil's 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 piesent 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 grindtheir 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 ycur 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 teetotallers of Kochdale acknowledge that the Store has made more sober men since it commenced than all their efforts have been able to make in the ammo time. Husbands who never knew what
it was to be out of debt, and poor wives wbo during forty years never had sixpence uncondemned in their pockets, now possess little stores of money sufficient to build them cottages, and to 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 Kochdale 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 303,852/., 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 quarrel B."
* The latest report to which I have access is that for the quarter ending Sept. 20,1864, of which I take the following abstract from the November number of that valuable periodical the Co-operator, conducted by Mr. Henry Pitman, one of the most active and judicious apostles of the Co-operative cause. "The number of members is 4580, being an increase of 132 for the three months t
I need not enter into similar particulars respecting the Corn-Mill Society, and will merely state that in 1860 its capital is set down, on the same authority, at 26,618!. 14*. Gd., and the profit for that single year at 10,1642. 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 55002. 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 50,0002\: and the same letter gives highly satisfactory statements respecting other similar associations: the Rossendale Industrial Company, capital 40,0002.; the Walsden Co-operative Company, capital 80002.; the Bacup and Wardle Commercial Company, with a capital of 40,0002., "of which more than onethird 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 not necessary to enter into any details respecting the subsequent history of English Co-operation; the less so, as it is now one of the recognised elements in the progressive movement of the age, and as such, has latterly been the subject of elaborate articles in most of our leading periodicals, the most recent, and one of the best of which, was in the Edinburgh Review
the capital or assets of the society ig 69,536;.. 10s. Id., or more than last quarter by 36872. ISs. 7(2. The cash received for sale of goods is 45,8062. 0k. I0\d., being an increase of 22832. 12s. b\(l., as compared with the previous three months. The profit realized is 6713/. 2s. 74(2., which after depreciating fixed stock account 1822. 2*. 4$(2., paying interest on share capital 6982.17s. 6(2., applying 2$ per cent to an educational fund, viz. 1222.17«. 9(2., leaves a dividend to members on their purchases of 2s. id. in the pound. Non-members have received 2612. 18s. 4d., at Is. 8d. in the pound on their purchases, leaving 8d. in the pound profit to the society, which increases the reserve fund 1042. 15s. M. This fund now stands at 13522. 7s. I1\d. the accumulation of profits from the trade of the public with the store since September 1862, over and above the Is. 8rf.in the pound allowed to such purchasers."
for October 1864: and the progress of Co-operation from month to month is regularly chronicled in the "Co-operator." I must not, however, omit to mention the last great step in advance, in reference to the Co-operative Stores; the formation, in the North of England (and another is in course of formation in London) of a Wholesale Society, to dispense with the services of the wholesale merchant as well as of the retail dealer, and extend to the Societies the advantage which each society gives to its own members, by an agency for co-operative purchases of foreign as well as domestic commodities direct from the producers.
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.
Prom the progressive advance of the co-operative movement, a great increase may be looked for even in the aggregate productiveness of industry. The sources of the increase are twofold. In the first place, the class of mere distributors, who are not producers but auxiliaries of production, and whose inordinate numbers, far more than the gains of capitalists, are the cause why so great a portion of the wealth produced does not reach the producers—will be reduced to more modest dimensions. Distributors differ from producers in this, that when producers increase, even though in any given department of industry they may be too numerous, they actually produce more: but the multiplication of distributors does not make more distribution to be done, more wealth to be distributed; it does but divide the same work among a greater number of persons, seldom even cheapening the proI cess. By limiting the distributors to ! the number really required for making | the commodities accessible to the conrimers—which is the direct effect of the co-operative system—-avast number of hands will be set free for production, and the capital which feeds and the gains which remunerate them will be applied to feed and remunerate producers. This great economy of the world's resources would be realized, even if co-operation stopped at associations for purchase and consumption, without extending to production.
The other mode in which co-operation tends, still more efficaciously, to increase the productiveness of labour, consists in the vast stimulus given to productive energies, by placing the labourers, as a mass, in a relation to their work which would make it their principle and their interest—at present it is neither—to do the utmost instead of the least possible in exchange for their remuneration. It is scarcely possible to rate too highly this material benefit, which yet is as nothing compared with the moral revolution in society that would accompany it: the healing of the standing feud between capital and labour; the transformation of human life, from a conflict of classes struggling for opposite interests, to a friendly rivalry in the pursuit of a good common to all; the elevation of the dignity of labour, a new sense of security and independence in the labouring class, and the conversion of each human being's daily occupation into a school of the social sympathies and the practical intelligence.
Such is the noble ideal which the promoters of Co-operation should have before them. But to attain, in any degree, these objects, it is indispensable that all, and not some only, of those who do the work, should be identified in interest with the prosperity of the undertaking. Associations which, when they have been successful, renounce the essential principle of the system, and become joint-stock companies of a limited number of shareholders, who differ from those of other companies only in being working men; associations which employ hired labourers without any interest in the
profits (and I grieve to say that the Manufacturing Society even of Rochdale has thus degenerated), are, no doubt, exercising a lawful right in honestly employing the existing system of society to improve their position as individuals: but it is not from them that anything needs be expected towards replacing that system by a better. Neither will such societies, in the long run, succeed in keeping their ground against individual competition. Individual management by the one person principally interested, has great advantages over every description of collective management: co-operation has but one thing to oppose to those advantages—the common interest of all the workers in the work. When individual capitalists, as they will certainly do, add this to their other points of advantage; when, even if only to increase their gains, they take up the practice which these co-operative societies have dropped, and connect th6 pecuniary interest of every person in their employment with the most efficient and most economical management of the concern; they are likely to gain an easy victory over societies which retain the defects, while they cannot possess the full advantages, of the old system.
Under the most favourable supposition it will be desirable, and perhaps for a considerable length of time, that individual capitalists associating their workpeople in the profits, should coexist with even those co-operative societies which are faithful to the cooperative principle. Unity of authority makes many things possible, which could not, or would not, be undertaken, subject to the chance of divided councils, or changes in the management. A private capitalist, exempt from the control of a body, if he is a person of capacity, is considerably more likely than almost any association to run judicious risks, and originate costly improvements. Co-operative societies may be depended on for adopting improvements after they have been tested by success: but individuals are more likely to commence things previously untried. Even in ordinary business,