The Worker in Modern Economic Society

By Paul Howard Douglas; Curtice N. Hitchcock et al. | Go to book overview

CHAPTER XXII
CONSUMERS CO-OPERATION

1. THE EARLY HISTORY OF CONSUMERS CO- OPERATION AND ITS FUNDAMENTAL PRINCIPLES1
The modern co-operative movement virtually dates from 1843. In that year, in Rochdale, a manufacturing town of northern England, a group of twenty-eight flannel weavers, who had just gone through an unsuccessful strike, met to discuss what they should do. They decided to start a co-operative store which would free the workmen from the high prices charged by company stores under the credit system. Ultimately, they hoped to abolish the wage system and to establish "a self-supporting home colony." The members painfully saved twopence a week until each had accumulated a pound, and with this scanty capital, amounting in all to only $140, they started a store, open only two evenings a week and tended by the members themselves. The first week's sales amounted to only $10. Few expected the store to survive while often the members themselves lost heart. Nearly eighty years have elapsed since then, and from this apparently insignificant venture has sprung a mighty movement with over four and a half million members in Great Britain alone, belonging to some 1,400 societies, whose sales to members in 1920 amounted to one and a quarter billions of dollars. These societies in turn owned two gigantic wholesales, the English and the Scottish, whose net sales amounted to approximately six hundred and fifty million dollars. The amount of capital invested in the retail and wholesale societies, practically all of which is owned by the working class, amounted to nearly six hundred million dollars.What are the principles which have caused this extraordinary growth? They were those originally embodied in the plan of the Rochdale pioneers and which have ever since served as the model for successful co-operation.
To charge the market price for goods and to sell for cash and not for credit.
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1
By Paul H. Douglas.

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