Page images

and increasing cost of service to the public—they arrogantly demand that their control over the arteries of the nation shall be maintained, whereby they are able to determine at will and for private advantage the health or sickness of every part of the body politic.

The railroad owners are pouring millions of dollars into propaganda factories, into press associations, into hand-picked conferences, into advertisements, into political organizations and into hidden channels for moulding public opinion. The dependent order of professional liars has waxed great. Its membership has grown large and plump, nourished by railroad money. Those who seek to support the public interest cannot stem this flood of organized falsehood. They can only furnish the facts as they can uncover them to those public servants who stand firm in high places above the flood. These public servants can broadcast again and again the old, old stubborn facts. All those who seek to serve the public interest are working against great odds. But they are relying on the terrific power of truth. Even in these days of the scientific organization of mendacity into national and international propaganda, they still believe that an ounce of fact may destroy a ton of lies. They still have faith that truth is mighty and that in the end it will prevail.

Labor's Stake in Co-Operation


Albert F. Coyle

An address given by the Editor Loco-
motive Engineers Journal, and Ex-
ecutive Secretary, American Co-op-
erative Commission, to citizens inter-
ested in co-operation.


What does co-operation mean to you? Is it just a new fad, the idle dream of a few visionaries, or a vital, practical concern which means more bread and butter for your family, better clothing, and a higher standard of living,-in short, the most important movement in the world to you, next to your union itself?

The labor movement is like a man with two arms, both of which are necessary if he is to make a decent living and enjoy the blessings of life. Its right arm is co-operation. Its left arm is political action. Look around you, and you will find that where labor is making the greatest progress, it is using both of these arms; and wherever it is standing still or slipping backward, it is neglecting to use these two powerful aids.

A nationally known labor leader said to me not long ago: "If the American labor movement had spent half the time in expanding the spending power of the workers by co-operation that it has in battling for an increased wage, it would be twice as far along as it is today. For too often increased wages have brought only higher living costs, so that the workers' wage increases have gone into the pockets of the profiteers, leaving their standard of living lower than it was before."

Our European comrades have long since learned the tremendous value of co-operation as the ally of trade unionism. In the words of Fred Bramley, Secretary of the British Trade Union Congress,—"The trade union official who forgets that the worker is not only exploited as a producer but also as a consumer, will not render adequate service to his organization; and trade union members making the same mistake will continue to demand increases in wages as the only and final method of improving their conditions."

What is co-operation, you ask, and how can it help me secure a better living? The word "co-operation" simply means working together, which is just another way of defining teamwork and brotherhood in action. As applied to production and distribution of the necessities of life, it means the organization of a group of producers or consumers to manufacture or distribute food to eat, clothes to wear, houses to live in, or credit to do business with, on the basis of service instead of profit, of demo cratic instead of autocratic control. The Rochdale pioneers, who started the co-operative movement in Britain, declared as their broad purpose “to arrange production and distribution, education and government.” Robert Owen, the father of producers' co-operation among English speaking people, prophesied for the future "unrestricted co-operation among all men for all purposes of life.” Today both of these predictions have come true, for thirty million co-operators in fifty-eight civilized lands are now supplying practically every conceivable human need, from beefsteak and buttons to houses, schools and hydro-electric power, by various forms of co-operative enterprise.

At the outset I wish to tell you several things that co-operation is not. It is not a mere penny-saving device, enabling you to squeeze a cent or more out of every dollar. It will do this for you, but it will also achieve something infinitely greater by building up a group of brotherly-minded men with the common purpose of helping each other, instead of exploiting the weaker fellow. This is the essence of the co-operative ideal for every business, every industry, every activity of life. Think of the marvelous civilization we could create if the co-operative spirit pervaded our daily life.

Neither is co-operation a job-getting agency for your friends. The co-operative enterprise depends upon superior efficiency for its success, and can go ahead only if competent men are in positions of management and control. Nor is co-operation a substitute for unionism. Quite the contrary, it depends upon unionism to help to solve the problems of production at the same time that it aids the union worker to lengthen his pay envelope as a consumer.

Nor is co-operation a reformist device for tinkering up the capitalistic system so that it will work a little better. In the trenchant words of President M. Llewelyn Davies at the Fiftyfourth Congress of the British Co-operative Union:

These two ideas, democratic control of industry
and the abolition of profit-making, mark out co-
operation as nothing less than a revolution, so fun-
damental, vital, and transforming is the change it
is effecting in the economic structure of society.
It is obvious that co-operation is far more than
a reformist movement. We are working for no
patchwork modifications, for no “reconciliation of

capital and labor," for no "infusion of a better
spirit” into old industrial forms. We are laying
the foundations of a new industrial civilization.
Co-operation is surely subversive enough for the
violent revolutionary, orderly enough for the paci-
fist reformer. It holds the glamor of future possi-
bilities for the idealist, while the most practical
materialist could not reasonably be dissatisfied
when he notes what has already been accomplished.

Let us now turn to the positive side. What does co-operation promise to you as a worker? What has it already accomplished where it has been tried ?

Let me say first that co-operation is no longer an experiment. Consumers' co-operation alone embraces thirty million families in all parts of the world. There are whole communities in Europe where co-operation has put private profit business out of existence. Even in the British Isles, where private profit-making is most strongly entrenched, the co-operatives feed and clothe more than one-half the total population.

Let us take a look at what co-operation does for the pay envelope. The pioneer of modern co-operation was the co-operative society founded at Rochdale, England, in 1843 by a little group of twenty-eight discouraged weavers who had just lost a strike for better wages. If they could not increase the amount of money they received, the only alternative to starvation or the poor house was to lengthen the pay envelope by getting more for their money. They started a one room co-operative store, open two nights a week. Today these twenty-eight pioneer co-operators have increased to four and a half million, while the $130 stock of that little store has expanded to an annual trade of more than a billion dollars, returning in one year $65,000,000 to the people in co-operative dividends besides an equal sum placed in a surplus reserve for the expansion of the movement.

This substantial success is by no means confined to Europe. A chain of six co-operative grocery stores in the city of Cleveland, last year did a quarter of a million dollars worth of business on a $25,000 capital, with an earning of $8,000, or over 30 per cent on the investment. Hundreds of similar co-operative successes could be named in other American cities.

American workers have long been fooled by securing a few more dollars in their pay envelope when the cost of the necessities of life have mounted faster than their earnings. We have yet to learn that wages are only worth what they will buy, and that the worker who gets a dollar a day more at the cost of paying $1.25 for increased rent, food and fuel, is merely going

« PreviousContinue »