Chapter VIII


The Rochdale Pioneers set aside two and a half percent of their surplus savings for cooperative educational purposes--to teach people the ways of cooperation and to promote understanding of its possibilities. Here are people spending some of the money, which they might have as cash in their hands, to teach other people how to enjoy the same advantages they enjoy. This is not pure philanthropy but good business, because the more members, and the more loyal and understanding those members are, the greater is the turnover and capital and the better it is for all.

Promotion of cooperative education is a cooperative method. All societies make appropriation for this purpose. It averages about two and a half percent of their surplus saving, although some appropriate more. A society in New York recently allocated 50 percent of its savings to this purpose. The British societies spend over a million dollars a year on education.

Cooperation is a kind of business which is interested in increasing the number of partners in the business. It would take into its partnership everybody of every country and spread out its benefits as wide as the world. Each member benefits as more members are added to enjoy its advantages. Education which is promoted by the cooperatives teaches these simple facts. Such teaching is education toward peace and toward harmonizing the interests of people engaged in getting the things they need. People learn that in the cooperative movement the same interest stands behind the counter that stands in front of the counter. Then they learn that the same is true of international boundary lines across which cooperation is practiced. Cooperatives teach that their purpose is not to do business with other people, but with themselves, and that they themselves may become everybody.

Political governments, confronted by the changing scene, can serve their citizens and subjects best by carrying on cooperative education. European governments did this after World War I, and taught the people how to set up cooperative housing societies. In many countries the government teaches people cooperative banking and helps them establish their own credit institutions. The United States Government, while giving most attention to the interests of profit business, still publishes some 64 different pamphlets on cooperation. All this is in the educational field, and shows how these political institutions may respond to the demands if not to the needs of the people. The great opportunity of the state is to carry on such education as will make possible the peaceful and evolutionary transference to a service economy without leaving the change to the uncertainties of revolution or laissez faire.

If the best government is that which governs least, people should be taught how to perform for themselves the services which would relieve political governments of much of their tasks. Government, sincere in its interest for the public welfare, could show people how to make themselves less and less beholden to government as they build up their cooperative organizations. The state itself could make government less and less necessary by doing the things that make for the fading out of the state. For government is largely made necessary by failure of the people to do things for themselves.

Prime Minister Paul Ramadier, of France, in 1947 said:

Cooperation should oppose the purely state character of economic direction. While in certain conditions of scarcity the government collection and rationing of goods demand compulsion, such a regime can not endure without endangering industrial freedom, and threatening even the productive forces of humanity. Economic dictatorship in the political organization suffocates the individual who represents, at the same time, the moral forces of social life and the essential force needed for material prosperity. Cooperation is born out of a synthesis of order and freedom. It is based on the liberty of its members; it aims at establishing their solidarity. It is the only conception of organization which corresponds to the democratic aspirations of progress. For this reason it demands that its conception of free harmony be retained in the new times. It demands above all that state and corporation compulsion recede before cooperative ability. To restrict the joint cooperative action of consumers, farmers, peasants, and workers within the straight-jacket of Government regulations is against natural law. Is it not time now to appeal to the traditional ideas of cooperation for the moral and economic rehabilitation of the world? (Review of International Cooperation, Aug. 1947)

International cooperative education is under the administration of the International Cooperative Alliance. This organization conducts the International Summer School which brings together each year students from many countries for discussion of cooperative theory and practice. It publishes literature and guides national cooperatives in their educational work. It fixes the date of an annual celebration, called Cooperative Day, which is observed in forty countries in its membership. Each year a peace resolution is submitted to all these countries for adoption. This resolution in 1949 read in part as follows:

The International Cooperative Alliance declares that economic nationalism, which has proved a dangerous incitement to war, must be substituted by free economic collaboration between all nations, which will guarantee to all peoples free access to the riches of the earth as well as their right to their equitable distribution, and will give the economically under-developed countries the assistance necessary for their advancement.

These expressions from authoritative sources constitute a part of the framework of cooperative education which is international as well as local. The Cooperative Alliance constantly holds up its member societies to peace education. Defense of peace is at all times a part of the work of cooperation. "The role of the cooperative movement, national and international, is to organize the moral forces that, potentially at least, lie in its world-wide organization, and to direct that influence into the channels of diplomacy, statesmanship, and government, through any and every available means, in order that men may lay down weapons of warfare and turn again to the arts of peace." This was issued by the Alliance in 1938. While it recognizes governments as makers of wars and realizes that cooperation must influence governments, it does not imply that in order to do so the cooperative movement needs to ally itself with any government or officially participate in their politics.

"The Role of the Cooperative Movement in the Defense of Freedom of Association" was set forth in the Report of the Central Committee of the International Cooperative Alliance to its Paris Congress in 1937, as follows:

The plight of free institutions calls, not for verbal declarations, but for action. It is not enough that the Alliance should continually set out the aims and demands of voluntary association or the great contribution which the cooperative economy can make to the culture of civilization, the well-being of humanity and the achievement of Peace. These ideals and the demand for their adoption by governments and peoples must be placed in the forefront of every national movement in a way which will strike the imagination and enlist the moral support of the millions of potential members at present outside the cooperative ranks and inspire them with the desire to be citizens of the world, as every true cooperator is a citizen of a world-wide organization.

Liberty and independence, which are being lost to some countries and compromised in others, can only be maintained by constant vigilance. Efforts are needed to restore these priceless privileges to those who have lost them. The peace that is universally desired is the fruit of constant endeavor to create the condition in which it can thrive and by education to make those conditions understood.

As apostles of a newer and better order, cooperators are called upon to exert their energies in the realization of these ideals which cooperation--economic, social, and moral--is capable of giving the world. The need is great, the means of action are available in the organization which cooperators have built throughout the world. What is needed is the accord of the great mass of cooperators in the determination to make the principles of cooperation prevail over the forces of social reaction.

The Alliance, besides its organizational and commercial promotions, maintains a series of international educational cooperative institutions, which enable the national organizations to collaborate in their educational work and make the experience of each available to all. When International Cooperative Day is celebrated in the cooperative countries the rainbow flag, the banner of the Alliance, is displayed. Cooperators unite on this day in manifestation of their faith in the movement's principles and achievements.

International Conferences on Cooperative Press and Educational Work promote mutual consultation and exchange of ideas between editors and educational directors, respectively, and give stimulus to the efficiency of publications and of schools of the national organizations. The societies in membership in the International Alliance publish over 700 cooperative journals, having an aggregate circulation of 10,000,000 in thirty countries. These are freely exchanged among all of these countries. There are in use a large number of cooperative movie films which pass from one country to another. The societies in the Alliance aim to encourage educational and cultural programs on behalf of international peace and security, to promote the flow of ideas and information among the peoples of the world, to conduct and encourage research and studies on educational and cultural problems, and in general to seek social progress through international organization.

Cooperative leagues of many countries maintain cooperative colleges. The cooperative college of Great Britain is a high-class educational institution. The colleges of Sweden and Denmark provide notably practical courses. Rochdale Institute, the projected College of the Cooperative League of the United States, the national institution of this country, is chartered under the Department of Education of the State of New York, and is planned to provide academic and practical training for people aiming to become educators and business executives in the cooperative societies.

Every local retail society is supposed to have an educational committee. Many large societies have a full-time educational director. Federations of societies have educational departments, conduct training courses, and give attention to educational publicity. Their education is addressed both to members and public. Cooperative tours, consisting of cooperators visiting societies in their own and foreign countries, travel extensively. Cooperative travel bureaus are maintained in several countries. Exchange of employees is also practiced between cooperative businesses of various lands.

This educational work improves the quality of cooperative understanding, since every cooperative society is an educational institution in its way. Through their educational committees local distributive societies reflect the international spirit. The thousands of local cooperative schools maintained in cooperative countries promote knowledge of internationalism and constitute a force which is drawing the peoples of many lands into closer sympathy and peaceful action.