Newfoundland; Economic, Diplomatic, and Strategic Studies

By R. A. MacKay | Go to book overview

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THE CO-OPERATIVE MOVEMENT

THE co-operative movement has both economic and social implications. From an economic standpoint it is an alternative form of business organization to the forms normally found in a capitalistic society. But the economic side of co-operation is ordinarily regarded by its supporters as merely a means of improving the lot of lower income groups by encouraging collective self-help. Moreover, in Newfoundland co-operation has been actively sponsored by the Commission of Government as a social welfare measure. For these reasons it is discussed in this section of the study.

Before 1936 Newfoundland had had little experience with co-operation, and with one exception the few experiments that had been tried had done more to discredit the movement than to win for it public approval and support. The exception was the Grand Falls Co-operative Society, Limited, which had been organized on the British model, as strictly a consumers' co-operative. In 1934 the Horace Plunkett Foundation, following a suggestion from Sir Wilfred Grenfell, sent out Miss Margaret Digby from England to investigate and report upon the possibilities of the co-operative movement in Newfoundland. Miss Digby, who was encouraged and assisted by the Commission of Government, pointed out in her report that there was plenty of scope for the co-operative movement, although she emphasized certain serious obstacles.

The most serious difficulty, Miss Digby thought, would be found in the inadequate background and training of the people. "Tradition", she writes, "is all in the direction of competition and private interest, while the academic character of school education does not help people to take an intelligent view of their means of livelihood."1"Intelligence is not

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1
Margaret Digby, "Newfoundland and Iceland: A Parallel", Year Book of Agricultural Co-operation, 1935. ( London, 1935), pp. 178-9.

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