Amoureax by Eve Arnold

A conversation with a respected friend of mine, Ian Barnes, directed me to the writings of G. D. H. Cole and to Associational Socialism more broadly. This Owenite socialism bears a likeness to anarchism and is related to Christian Socialism.

In reading the second chapter of Cole's book The British Co-operative Movement in a Socialist Society entitled "The Ideals of Co-operation", there seemed to me to be a rich repository of ideas here. I have done little more than become more enthusiastic to pursue some of the sources and practices of these ideas but I feel compelled to share my excitement in this limited form.

The Owenite notion of "Villages of Co-operation" was foundational to seminal Co-operation in Britain. Cole describes them thus:

"...local communities in which men, women, and children would live, produce, consume and gain benefits of education in common, and would govern their own affairs so as to have little to do with governments of the 'old, immoral world.'" p28

The Rochdale Pioneer's Co-operative Society stated their aim:

"That, as soon as practicable, this Society shall proceed to arrange the powers of production, distribution, education and government; or, in other words, to establish a self-supporting home colony of united interests, or assist other societies in establishing such colonies." p28

Cole suggests that local self-government and loose forms of federation were envisaged as the only necessary forms of government.

This vision of communities of cooperative relationships was begun, not by a dramatic program of social engineering but through a Co-operative Weaving Society, which was unsuccessful, and later through a small shop. Coles writes:

"... they intended to feel their way by stages from mere shopkeeping on a mutual basis to achievement of their comprehensive Co-operative Socialist ideal." p29

The maintenance of this encompassing vision proved difficult and before long was replaced primarily with consumer co-operatives. Consumer co-operatives which simply employed producers in the fashion of the capitalists were seen to fall short of the active partnership between consumers and producers by the keepers of the Owenite vision.

From this fleeting glance I feel the pull of Cole's plea of 1951 for the

"... devising of new forms of Co-operative enterprise to meet the challenging social and political conditions, and at the same time trying to get back some of the idealism ... so largely lost." - p36

Newer Posts Older Posts Home