As Will perhaps be surmised from the style in which it is written, it was the intention of the author to offer this essay to some magazine or review, but before it was quite finished it occurred to him that it would be more likely to reach the class for whose benefit it was intended if issued in its present form. When this thought first occurred to him, it also seemed that it would be desirous to re-write it in a style more in character with a popular address, but, on mature consideration, he does not deem it needful to do so, as there is nothing in it that will not come homo to the commonest understanding. For many of the facts, and for some of the ideas, it contains, the author is indebted to Mr. George Jacob Holyoake's History of Co-operation; and as Mr. Holyoake is the greatest living authority on the subject, and has been for the last thirty years its chief moving spirit in England, no better source could possibly be found. In offering the essay to the public, the author is actuated by no other desire than to benefit his fellow-creatures by disseminating a knowledge of what he knows to be the most powerful agent yet discovered in softening and alleviating the social grievances and injustices which are now the lot of the poorer classes; and he will be more than rewarded if he is in any way instrumental in the recognition of this fact by some of those in New South Wales whoso fate it is to be ranked among those classes.
A Student of contemporary history, with the capacity of understanding the significance of the social movements he sees in operation around him, cannot but be struck with the fast-growing tendency towards amelioration in the position of the labouring classes, and towards equalization in the distribution alike of the good and bad things of this world, which these movements exhibit. Philanthropic schemes are started in every direction, some highly judicious and beneficial, and others well-meant but ill-judged and vicious in their operations; some paternal, and granting as favours what should be conceded as rights, and others recognising these rights, and fostering the principle of self-help. Especially are these efforts directed to-wards the too great accumulation of property in one class, to the detriment of another, and towards the more equitable division of it among all. In days happily gone by for over, and whose notions are now to be found only among a few worthy, old-fashioned, simple-minded people, and among a few with whom the pernicious occupation of money-grubbing has warped the intellect, all such schemes were stigmatized as Communistic, and Socialistic, and on these grounds, contemptuously put aside, exactly as all conceptions of religion drawn from nature were denounced as atheistic, and likewise contemned. That those who acted thus could neither, if desired, define the terms of contumely used, nor explain the action of the schemes, or the principle of the doctrines in relation to which they were employed, is a fact now only too well known, but which need not concern us here. In our own day, all things are decided on their own individual merits, and, whether socialistic or atheistic, on these merits they must stand or fall.
Among all splendid contrivances for the more equitable distribution of material wealth, which have emanated from the human intellect, there can be no question that the discovery of the principle of Co-operation holds the first place; and yet, strange to say, it is the one above all others concerning which the greatest amount of ignorance is displayed. Nor is this ignorance confined to Co-operation alone, for all purely social questions appear to be alike unstudied by those who aspire to lead the opinions of the English race—the bookmakers and journalists of England. The one thing deemed to be needful appears to be a knowledge of political economy, and as political page 6 economy has, as yet, to a very limited extent, taken cognisance of these questions, they are, in consequence, entirely neglected. And thus Communism, Socialism, Rationalism, Co-operation and Internationalism are confused together and mixed up in the most bewildering and amusing manner. Not only are they thus confused, the one with the other, but the meaning of not one of them seems to be understood. Thus, there are at the present day prominent English statesmen, and writers, and editors of leading London journals, who think that the object of the Paris Communists of 1871, was to obtain community of property, whereas a similarity in the sound of the word is the only connection between them, and they are as distinct as a horserace and the human race. The Commune meant the parish, and the sole object of the Paris Communists was to obtain parochial boards of self-government, such as are enjoyed by England, New Zealand, and Victoria, and their proper name should have been Communards, as was proposed by some of themselves, to avoid the very confusion which has since arisen. Only seven of the seventy Communist leaders had Communistic ideas, such as we understand. That so much confusion should have taken its rise from a similarity in the sound of two words, is only another instance of the truth of the saying of the sage, "With how little wisdom is the world governed!"
But co-operation is so little understood that even those who write upon the subject, with a view of spreading a knowledge of its beneficent principles, nay many of those who take part in practical schemes for its establishment, seldom appear to have mastered the science—for science it is—in its entirety. Thus we see in England numerous establishments like the Civil Service Supply Associations, or like the Civil Service Co-operative Store in Sydney, which call themselves, and are popularly supposed to be, co-operative stores. But as a matter of fact these stores are no more co-operative than are those of Messrs. Shoolbred, or of Farmer and Company. Co-operation is a distinct and well recognised principle, or science, and any establishment professing to be carried on on co-operative lines which does not comply with every particular of the science is trading under false pretences. An establishment is either co-operative or it is not, but the mere fact of having the word "Co-operative" over the doorway is not of itself sufficient compliance with the principles at issue to render it in very truth a co-operative store, and is just as misleading as would be the announcement of a chiropodist that he was Corn Cutter to the Khan of Khiva. And in like manner neither does the partial assent to, or carrying out of, the doctrines of the science, make an establishment truly co-operative; any more than the mere act of signing the pledge would make a man a Good Templar, although he did not leave off his drinking habits. That those establishments are useful in their spheres, and decidedly beneficent in their operations, is readily admitted; but page 7 that is not the point, and it is distinctly denied that they are really co-operative.
Co-operation may be divided into two branches, Distributive and Productive; but the principle is precisely the same in both cases. The former branch comprises the stores, by which the produce of the world is distributed among the people; and the latter includes manufacturing, banking, farming, mining and other kinds of business. It is the former which is proposed to be chiefly dealt with, both as being more adaptable to the present stage of progress in the colonies, and as being more widespread in its general influence, and likewise because it should always precede the Productive phase. The one standard principle of co-operation is, that all who participate in the creation of wealth should likewise participate in its profits; or in still plainer language that, all who participate in the creation of wealth should share that wealth among themselves, in exact proportion to their share in its creation. This appears plain enough, and yet few seem able to understand its full meaning. Civil Service Co-operative Stores established to sell things cheap among the proprietors, and afterwards divide the profits among the shareholders; industrial partnerships admitting some of the operatives as limited partners; co-partnery which hires money and labour and divides the profit, and other similar trading societies do Not comply with this standard principle, and are therefore—however good in themselves—distinctly Not co-operative. In distributive co-operation all concerned in their creation share the profits—the shopmen, clerks, travellers, buyers, managers, And Also the Purchasers, or Customers, of the Stores. Herein lies the one secret in the distribution of wealth. For what profit could a store make if it could find no purchasers? The purchasers are in fact the great power by which all profit is made, and to leave them out of the division of these profits is clearly to violate the principle above enunciated, that, "all who participate in the creation of wealth should share that wealth among themselves, in exact proportion to their share in its creation." And in like manner in productive co-operation all concerned in their creation share the profits—the managers, clerks, operatives, mechanics, labourers, and the customers, or purchasers. The action of this principle is threefold—it attracts customers to the store, and thereby increases business and profits; it divides the specific profits made in an equitable manner; and it assists the great generalisation of a righteous dissemination of material wealth among the mass of the people.
It will be observed that, in thus laying down the principles of the distribution of profits, no mention is made of capital; and herein does co-operation radically differ from all other trading and industrial societies. In Co-operation Capital Does Not Participate in the Profits. For what is capital? Capital is not a man, it is a thing; and for it to share in the profits would page 8 be as equally absurd and illogical as that the house in which the business is carried on should do so, or that the machinery should do so. What could the house, or the machinery, do by itself? And what can capital do by itself? It is the brain and muscle that use these things which make the profit, and without them they would be useless; and therefore it is the brain and muscle to which the profit must go. Capital, therefore, is Paid for, and done with. In all co-operative establishments capital is a fixed charge, like salaries, rent, and wages. Five per cent is paid to it, and beyond that it receives nothing whatever, in any shape or way. For it to ask for more is just as absurd as it would be for the landlord to ask for a bonus on his rent, or for the doctor to demand a double payment of his bill; and it is one of the anomalies of the time that this fact is not yet generally recognised, as it soon must be.
This, then, is the fundamental principle of co-operation—that all profits should be equally distributed among all engaged in creating them, or to benefit the capitalist at the expense of the workmen, or to benefit the workmen at the expense of the purchasing public, would be clearly to violate this principle, and therefore any societies that do so are not co-operative.
The benefits claimed to arise from a general adoption of the co-operative principle are so numerous, so wide-spreading, so in accord with, the spirit of the times, and so really surprising in degree—not merely in theory, but actually demonstrated in practice—that the thoughtful mind involuntarily becomes yet more thoughtful in observing how slowly it makes its way among those to whom it would be a real Jacob's ladder, by which they could climb into what would be a comparative heaven. The reason, however, is not far to seek. Like those of Free-trade, the processes of Co-operation are marked by a certain degree of intricacy, which, though simple enough to follow by those who are able to generalise a little, and whose minds are not too much filled up by a single idea, may, nevertheless, be doubtless not quite so apparent to those who have not the ability or the time to study them. Processes that are not immediate in their effects, or whose effects are not directly perceptible, require a certain degree of mental culture for their appreciation, and are often apt to be misunderstood, or undervalued, by the average and uncultivated mind, and by that peculiar, but very largo class of mind which has been termed "gaseous," and in which ideas become so inflated that only one at a time can be contained.
Even to enumerate these benefits would of itself require a volume of respectable dimensions, and nothing more than the indication of a few of them can here be attempted. But before fore doing this it would perhaps be as well to explain the practical working and management of a Co-operative Store, in order that these benefits may be more fully understood and better appreciated.page 9
In the old country, where shops are mostly confined to the sale of a single class of article, a "store," selling everything—from a needle to an anchor, and from a "lolly" to a haystack, was of course a greater anomaly than it would be in colonies, where we have long been used to see such establishments, conducted by private individuals. The celebrated Robert Owen, a philanthropist, with ideas much too large for the days in which he lived, but whose socialistic schemes were strangely mixed up with an amount of High Tory paternalism and Imperialism, which rendered them altogether impracticable, was the first to establish stores on a system of co-partnery, which he did among the operatives employed at his extensive cotton mills. But they were not co-operative, and it was not until 1844, when Mr. Charles Howarth discovered the principio of including the purchasers in the division of profits, that Co-operation became possible. In establishing a co-operative store, small beginnings are best. The great Rochdale store, which is now dividing an income of nearly sixty thousand per annum, and increasing it very largely every year, commenced business thirty-six years ago, with twenty-eight members, paying twopence per week each! and this was all the capital it had! In ten years it had 900 members, and a profit of £1700; in ten more 4750 members, and a profit of £23,000; and in another ten 7650 members, and a profit of £41,000. As a commencement, two or three people, who fully understand what they want to do, and how to do it, and why it should be done, must call a meeting of those likely to be benefitted, and explain the whole matter, keeping the interest alive by active propagandism. Capital is provided by each person putting down his, or her, name for threepence, sixpence, or a shilling a week, or as much as they are able, towards the payment of one five pound share. It is not considered a sound principle for members to be proprietors of smaller interests than five pounds, and of course the more that are able to subscribe it at once the better the commencement of the business will be. Borrowed money should on no account be resorted to, as all co-operative business is conducted on strict cash principles, and credit of any kind, and in any direction, should be entirely ignored. A secretary and treasurer arc, then to be appointed, and two or three collectors to gather in the weekly payments of members. The business may then be commenced, and it is more judicious to begin with a grocery and general provision store, leaving other branches to grow with the extension of trade. Technical knowledge will, of course, be required, but there should be no difficulty about this, though many stores have suffered for want of it.
The available funds are disposed of quarterly in six different directions. First: expenses of management, including all salaries, wages, commission, rent, rates, taxes, insurance, stationery, horse feed, &c., &c. Second: an amount equivalent to ten per page 10 cent, per annum on the value of the fixed stock, set apart to cover its annual reduction in worth owing to wear and tear. All fixings and properties other than stock-in-trade are included in this item. Third: dividends on subscibed capital of members. These are always fixed at five per cent., and no further interest or bonus of any kind whatever is awarded to it. Capital is thus a fixed charge in the working expenses, and does not participate in the profits. Fourth: such sum as may be required for the extension of business. As will be shown, the profits of a co-operative store are very much larger than in an ordinary shop, and when once the affair is soundly established, business, with good management, increases rapidly; but it is safer not to launch too fast into extensive operations. Fifth: two and a half per cent, of the remaining profit, after the above items are provided for, to be applied to educational purposes. This is of paramount importance, and should by no means be neglected. By educational purposes is meant the establishment of a reading-room provided with papers, magazines, books of reference, &c.; to be ultimately supplemented by a library, by a few scientific instruments as microscopes, electric apparatus, &c., by scientific classes, lectures, &c., and by the issue of a monthly or weekly journal of propagandism. The Rochdale Store has all these, and much more, its reading-room being equal to that of some of the best London Clubs. Sixth: the residue, and that only, is then divided among all the persons employed, and members of the store, in proportion to the amount of their wages, or of their respective purchases during the quarter, varying usually, from eighteen pence to half-a-crown in the pound. The value of an employés services, and consequently the share he is supposed to have had in the creation of the profits, is estimated by the amount of his salary, and in this proportion is he awarded his share in these profits. The first part of this principle has by some been objected to as inequitable because a manager in receipt of, say, £1000 a year, would get ten times as much as an assistant in receipt of £100; but it would be very easy to show that the manager, by the exercise of his brain, created ten times more profit than the assistant by his handiwork. A store without good managers would soon come to grief. Its operation, moreover, has boon found to have the very best effect, for every one connected is stimulated to his utmost in the creation of profits, having a direct personal interest in their increase, and thus managers draw custom by well-devised schemes, by supplying the very best articles at reasonable rates, by making the premises as attractive as possible to the eye, and by other similar means; while all assistants vie with each other in civility and attention. Thus service is not, as in competition, a menial office; in Co-operation, it is a position of influence, and there is a direct bond of sympathy between the customer and the server, instead of an antagonism, in which each tries to better the other. For page 11 it is to the benefit of both that the store should profit by the trade done; therefore the customer is not so much inclined to haggle, knowing that he will get back in dividends what he is unsuccessful in knocking off in price, and the server is all sauvity and alacrity, knowing that the more favorable the impression that he makes, the more will the business increase.
With respect to that portion of the residue which is awarded to the purchasers, the method employed is as follows:—The amounts is not paid in cash, or by a discount on the price of the goods bought, but are retained by the store, and entered in a book, the customer being given a metal or other check. When the accumulated sum due to any customer equals the value of a share, he is at once registered as a proprietor, and receives a dividend of five per cent, besides being admitted to participate in all the privileges of the establishment, whatever they may be. Thus, without any effort of his own, without parting with a single penny, and without becoming the recipient of any bounty, he finds himself part proprietor of a flourishing establishment, and on his way to become a man of capital. For it will undoubtedly appear to him that the more he spends the richer he gets, and though this, of course, is really a fallacy, it is one that the uncultivated mind, would find some difficulty in explaining; and as, unlike most fallacies, it works in the right direction, there need be no extra pains taken to explain it. The effect on the great body of working men of the operations of this principle cannot be over-estimated. Even from a purely material point of view, the gain to them is equal to a rise in their wages of nearly ten per cent., and this without strikes, without disputes with employers, without extra work, and without any difference whatever in their daily routine. For instance, if a skilled labourer, in receipt of £150 a year, spent £100 at the store, he would, at the end of a year, be the owner of two shares and a-half, worth £12 10s.; if a dividend were declared, as it nsually is, of two shillings and sixponce in the pound; and he would also receive twelve shillings and sixpence interest on these shares. If they were allowed to capitalize, instead of being parted with, he would, in ten years, be a shareholder to the extent of £125, and would, besides, have received £34 during that time for interest, thus being £159 richer, which is more than ten per cent on his wages. And the only work he had done for this, was the agreeable one of spending his money! and, of course, the shares being transferable, he could, at any time, realize, and could therefore, with the assistance of a building society, be, in a very short time, the unincumbered owner of a house and garden, and be, as a matter of fact, much better off than many a so-called "gentleman," with three or four hundred a year. These figures are no myths, and their accuracy has been demonstrated in numberless instances in England, some of page 12 the working-men proprietors of the Rochdale store holding shares to the amount of between two and three hundred pounds.
Nor is this all. It is a very old saying that the poorest have the most servants, and buy their necessaries in the dearest markets. The man with capital at his command can go straight to the wholesale dealer and lay in a stock of goods of the best quality, at wholesale prices. But before these goods can get to the poor man, who can only afford to buy very small quantities at a time, they go through two or three different establishments to get to the small shopkeepers, from whom the poor man buys, and each establishment has to make a profit, all these three or four separate profits, being drawn from the poor man's money. Besides which they undergo an amount of doctoring in their travels, at which we can do little more than guess. At the time of the outcry against the miserable pittance paid to needle-women in England, it came out that these worst-paid of all working people, had to buy their one luxury—nay, necessity—tea, in half ounces, and were charged at the rate of sixpence an ounce, or more than double what the rich man paid. Co-ope-rative stores do away with all this. Buying in the wholesale market they are enabled to sell the very best unadulterated goods at a fairly reasonable rate. For, as the store avoids all the expenses arising from the necessity of the middle-men making profits, and thus intercepts these profits, and as, owing to the cash system not calling for the employment of so many hands as the credit, the business is conducted with greater economy, they are enabled to sell all quantities, large or small, at similar standard prices. The buyer of an ounce is thus able to purchase at the same rate as the buyer of a hundred weight, or if any difference is made it is only trifling, to pay for the extra labour in making up the orders. The member of a store is, therefore, not only better off in actual cash, but his health must be better, for he uses genuine wholesome tea, coffee, sugar, butter, flour, &c., instead of undergoing a slow process of poisoning by iron-filings, burnt saw-dust, sand, tallow, and ground tomb-stones.
His children also, if earning anything, could likewise become members, and many a young woman has in this way brought quite an acceptable little marriage portion to her husband. Indeed, in some of the manufacturing districts, a young woman, who is not a member of a store, finds difficulty in getting married at all. The advantage to himself and his family which arises from access to a reading-room is also absolutely incalculable, and though of course the room cannot at first be conducted on a very liberal scale, the funds available for the purpose increase annually, and the Rochdale store can afford periodically to spend hundreds of pounds merely in the preparation of a catalogue of books in the library.page 13
But although, the material benefits accruing to the working man from the connection are so great, they are even over-shadowed by those affecting his moral nature. The chronic state of the average workman is one of debt, and debt means a certain degree of self-abasement and want of self-respect. Few men, who are always in debt to the shopkeeper, can walk along the street with chest out and shoulders back, in dignified self-satisfaction and a sense of perfect freedom and ease of mind. They rather slouch and slink along with an air of apology, and never know what it is to be absolutely careless of what people think of them. By buying at a co-operative store all this is escaped, for all co-operative business is strictly ready money. It may be said that if he can pay ready cash to the store, he can also do so at the shop, but there is this fundamental difference—by buying at the store the debt extinguishes itself without any effort; whereas, at the shop, it grows, with interest and other charges, instead of decreasing. A man with an income only sufficient to live on, can rarely catch up a debt. Once contracted it is for ever afterwards an incubus he cannot shake off. But at the store it takes itself off by the simple operation of mere living. The store, by awarding a dividend on every purchase, and then retaining this dividend until it has grown to five pounds, not only teaches him the advantage of saving, but also actually saves for him at the same time. It is very easy to say that the man might save for himself, but that is to show great ignorance of human nature, and in fact to suppose it perfect. An average uncultivated man with half-a-crown in his pocket would not regard this coin with any great degree of veneration. He would not be able to recognise the latent possibilities that lay in it, and would most probably toss it away on the first whim that occured to him, such as a drink a piece for throe or four friends. But if some kind fairy were to transmogrify it to a five pound note he would think twice before he got rid of it; and would most likely take it home to his wife and consult her as to its disposal for mutual benefit. This is exactly what the store does, and thus the man gets a lesson in the advantage of saving and self help that cannot but have the very best effects on his moral character; and what is oven yet more important through him on his children. "No homily, no precept, no wise saw or modern instance, no exhortation, or prayer, or entreaty, can inspire strength of will, or wise and lasting purpose in the average mind of any class." But the Co-operative store Does teach the man this, and that in spite of himself. The lesson is iterated, and reiterated, to him every day of his life, and even if he is too stupid to learn it he, at all events, reaps the material benefit it would bring if he did. No other human device has ever effected the one thing or the other. Nothing is more calculated to keep a man out of the public house than that sense of increased dignity and social elevation which the assurance of being part page 14 proprietor of a flourishing establishment, and of being actually a man of capital, must of necessity give; and this combined with the counter attractions of the reading room must always make a co-operative store one of the most powerful agents of the cause of temperance. These are but a few of the moral benefits which co-operation gives. Others will be gathered in the course of this essay, and without hero re-enumerating them it must be admitted that those already pointed out are of the most important character.
The great problem of the day is how equitably to reconcile the conflicting claims of capital and labour, of workmen and employers. Hitherto almost the only elucidation of this problem has been in the direction of making the breach wider, instead of drawing the extremities together. Trades unions have been the instrument of the workmen, and strikes their only offensive weapons; and the masters have retaliated with combinations among themselves to keep down wages. As Mr. Holyoake has pointed out "industrial conspirators have not been very intelligently treated. A combination of workmen to advance their industrial interests is called a conspiracy, and treated as such, while a similar combination of employers passes under the pleasant description of a 'mooting of masters to promote the interests of trade'." But herein the workmen have chiefly themselves to blame, for entering into conflicts that can have no permanently beneficial results, when there are methods of curing the evil without conflicts at all. For although it is readily admitted that trades unions are useful in showing workmen that union is strength, and that by combination they can wield a power completely invulnerable, yet it certainly appears that strikes are in a very great degree suicidal. Whichever way they are looked at it cannot be denied that they entail upon the district in which they occur a great and permanent loss of capital, For both the profits of the employers and the savings of the men are completely dissipated. "A strike is a war, and all war is a waste of the material means of the combatants." Moreover beyond this, and beyond the physical suffering they entail and the consequent lasting injury to health, there is a point in connection with them generally overlooked, but which should be of the first consideration to all workmen of liberal proclivities. To profess liberal principles and then to attempt to limit the freedom of ones fellows by coercion is a very contemptible proceeding, but it is exactly what trades unions do. "Of course, it is necessity of trade war—but, at that point, the union action becomes a tyranny." In the words of Lord Derby: "There is hardly a despotism since the world began that has not founded itself on this plea that it would carry into effect more surely than free citizens the recognised will of the majority. To refuse to recognise the freedom of your neighbours, is the first step towards losing your own." The only strikes at all page 15 excusable, and which trades-unions would be justified in supporting, are strikes against the demand of employers that their members should do cheap, bad work, by which both their own characters as workmen and the character of the industry of the country is injured; and strikes for industrial partnerships. As Mr. Holyoake shows, these latter would be fairer to both parties than strikes for higher wages. For all profits must be earned before they are had; whereas, in strikes for wages, the employer is simply plundered, if he is forced to yield where he really cannot afford it. By industrial partnerships is meant that system by which all operatives receive a per centage on the profits over and above their wages. Thus, in good times, when profits are large, the workmen's per centage would be large, and, in bad times, small. But trades unions take no consideration of these things, and often arrange strikes for higher wages in bad times, by which injustice is done to employers.
But Co-operation does away with all necessity for strikes. Instead of quarrelling with the masters for an extra slice of their capital, it quietly and silently goes to work and creates now capital of its own. It does not discuss with them, but it dispenses with them. Co-operators do not petition for an increase of wages, do not send deputations and wait upon the great man's pleasure; they simply increase their own wages, and make themselves masters. They supply their own capital, fix their own wages, and divide the profits among themselves. They rob no one, deprive no one of his wealth, inflict no injury on existing wealth, but simply exercise the right of all to create new wealth. They use no coercive measures, set no bounds to the freedom of their fellows; but, on the contrary, join hand-in-hand, in perfect amity with all, and proclaim and practice the most perfect liberty of individual action. Their system entails no hardships, demands no privations, calls for no half-wages and semi-starvation, initiates no contest in physical endurance; but, quite otherwise, it increases material comforts, and gives repletion of the very best qualities of food. Dr. John Watts, in a lecture delivered in England, nearly twenty years ago, thus puts the two different methods and results of Trades Unions and Cooperation, in connection with the great strike at Colne, in Lancashire, in 1860. by which 4000 looms were kept idle, and the weavers were out for fifty weeks. "If the Colne people, instead of going on strike for fifty weeks, had kept at work, and lived on half-wages, as they had to do during the strike, and saved the other half, and if the East Lancashire people had subscribed £20,000, as they did towards keeping the Colne people on strike, the result, at the end of fifty weeks, would have been £54,000 in hand, and at £15 a loom, that money would have sot to work in perpetuity, For the Hands Themselves, 3600 looms out of the 4000 in Colne. The self-same effort which threw them into beggary, would have raised them into independence." page 16 Strikes seldom have any real permanent effect that would not have come in the ordinary course of trade competition, though, perhaps, a little more tardily, and what they do effect they effect at the cost of the loss of all previous savings, and of a terrible amount of privation. Co-operation, on the other hand, gives an immediate and permanent, though, at first, not altogether perceptible, rise in wages, without any squabbling, any loss, or any hardship. It is a silent and perpetual strike, having for its object, not the injury of the masters, not the confiscation of his capital, not the seizure or depreciation of the property of others, but an honest effort at creating new wealth, to be enjoyed by those only who create it. Workmen should never demand anything as a "right," any more than employers should insult them by offering them a "bonus," for they have no "right" for more than they contract for. They may prefer a claim, and refuse an agreement to work unless it is conceded. In Co-operation, where capital is only an agent, and all profits belong to the producers, everything is done by mutual agreement. But competition is not mutual agreement, but hostility and war. Outside of pure Co-operation there is no right; it is all claim and contest. The capitalist has no right except to what he can keep, and the workman has no right except to what he can get. It may be urged that as strikes only occur in large industries, these arguments refer to industrial co-operation only, and that a mere co-operative store has little or no bearing on the matter. But this is a mistake, for as I have endeavoured to explain, it is the store that gives the immediate and direct rise in wages. Industrial Co-operation can either be established separately or allowed to grow out of the store. In the colonies it will be found that as the business of a store increases, the addition of corn mills, of bread and biscuit factories, of tinned and preserved provision branches, of sugar refineries, of cloth factories, of candle and soap manufactories, of dairy farms, of market gardens, of tanneries, boot factories, tailoring establishments, printing offices, and many other kinds of businesses, will be both easy and appropriate, and of the greatest possible benefit to all concerned. Industrial Co-operation, established separately, of course requires capital to start it, and as workmen are not often overburdened with this necessary, it is almost impossible, without application to the userers, which is at the best but a very bad principle. Nevertheless there are many industries not requiring a very large amount of capital at first, which might, with much advantage, be initiated, prominent among which may be mentioned all classes of mining, taking contracts for road-making, fencing, &c., corn and maize growing, and others. Gold mining is especially adapted to being carried on on co-operative principles, and the miners of Victoria lost a grand chance when they allowed the profits of their mines to pass practically into the hands page 17 of Melbourne capitalists. It is, however, not too late to remedy this in New South Wales, for there can be no question that here mining is in its infancy. That a country the size of this colony can be properly prospected for a century to come is one of those things that are manifestly absurd. When a country is limited in extent there may be some sense in saying that its mineral wealth is worked out, but in the present case there can be none. It is an old adage that there are as good fish in the sea as ever came out of it; and when a country has a metaphorical sea to fish in, as New South Wales has, the adage will be found to bear practical fruit; therefore gold miners should band themselves together in Co-operative Societies and extend their operations at every chance as new rushes occur. It is only an extension of the principle of half-a-dozen or so working together as mates. In a Co-operative Gold-mining Society all are mates together, and after all expenses are paid in the manner already pointed out, the residue is divided among all concerned, from the manager to the kitchen man, in proportion to the amount of wages they are in receipt of.
In this way it will be seen that that great curse of all new countries—absenteeism, is completely done away with. All wealth created is divided on the spot among those who create it, and those who have no hand in creating it cannot possibly have any hand in the spending of it, except at second-hand after the original creators have done with it and passed it away. Thus such exhibitions as the Mackays spending millions in Paris, while the miners are making it for them in Nevada, or as colonial grandees cutting a dash in London, with dividends drawn from Ballarat, would be absolute impossibilities. This phase of co-operation is lost sight of even by Mr. Holyoake, but its importance can hardly be exaggerated. Protectionists, and other blind leaders of the blind, may rave about their nostrum for keeping money in the colony, but compared with co-operation it is absolutely non-effective. As it should be a standing rule in all co-operative societies that no individual member should be allowed to hold more than a certain number of shares, after the business is fully established, no important income could possibly be drawn by any not actually engaged on the spot in building up the dividends. The object of this rule is of course to guard against the attempts which are often made to transform the establishment into a common joint stock affair, in which the shareholders divide the whole of the profits and the creators of them get none. This is always a great danger, for it is a melancholy fact that so selfish are the majority of mankind that when once they begin to finger dividends they lust to increase them, even though this can only be effected at the expense of their fellows. The best safeguard against this is in educating the members in the real processes of co-operation by weekly journals and lectures; for when once they have fully mastered these there page 18 is little chance of a few selfish dividend hunters talking them out of it.
It has been objected that co-operative stores can only be established at the expense of injury to existing shops, and that thus while they do good in one direction they do harm in another. Nothing can be further from the truth. There is room for both, and when there is a flourishing store in a street all shops in its neighbourhood flourish as well; just as shops in the neighbour-hood of Messrs. Shoolbred or Messrs. Marshall in London, or the great Louvre shop in Paris, flourish. This is a well-known fact, and the reason is plain enough. The majority of people can never, in our day, be got to see their own interest properly, and will always continue to buy dear bad things even when they can get cheap good ones, if the cheapness is not a direct cash cheapness. As Mr. Holyoake says, "no fool can be a co-operator," and it is a sad, but undisputable, fact that a good many of our race Are fools. When it is said, "what the co-operator gains comes out of the shopkeeper's pocket," a misstatement is made—mischievious alike to the shopkeeper and the Co-operator. The profits of a store are four or five times as large as those in a shop, but the extra profit is not made at the expense of the shopkeeper, but is simply consequent on the principles on which the store is carried on. Those principles enable economy to be practised to its very fullest extent. There is economy in buying; for by purchasing direct from the great Co-operative wholesale Society, of Manchester, the very best markets are reached, while at the same time creating a fund by the dividends awarded by that Society to all purchasers. (Of course, it is readily admitted that this could not be done at first, but it is a step that should be taken as soon as practicable). There is economy in management, resulting from the cash system, and the few books therefore required to be kept. And there is economy in distribution, to a very large extent. It is by these means that the extra profit is made, and by keeping faith with customers, and by members giving a discriminating support to capable and business-like managers,. As Mr. Holyoake says: "If every shopkeeper was abolished to-morrow, by Act of Parliament, Co-operators would not gain a penny if they relaxed in fidelity, in the principles of concert, of confidence, of mutual trading, of honesty in quality of goods, and equity in distribution of profits, which are the main source of Co-operative profits."
And while Co-operation does not injure the shopkeepers, neither does it attack capital. On the contrary, it gives capital a wide berth, and lets it go its own way; and the more of it there is about, the bettor for the Co-operator. It stands apart, and creates new capital of its own. Capital already created is sacred in its eyes, and if it requires its assistance, it pays for it honestly, and shakes hands genially at parting. It bears no grudge against capital, and puts no barriers in the way of its page 19 employment. All it attempts is, that wealth not yet created, and which every one has a right to scramble for, should be more equitably distributed among a large number, instead of gravitating into the hands of a few lucky ones, It is thus, instead of being like a round game of loo, or vingt-et-un, in which one wins at the expense of the rest, rather like a round game in which all receive winnings from a mechanical and exhaustless pool. No doubt there are some, especially among those who are habitually lucky, who would prefer the excitement of the loo, but if the will of the majority were taken, they would choose to sit down to the game in which the winnings were certain, even if small. Every one looks forward to share in the wealth that is yet to be developed in the world, and Co-operation simply aims at giving every one a share. It is true—but sad—that every one also looks forward to getting a larger share than his neighbour, but herein Co-operation does not countenance him. It calls him greedy. It looks upon him as actuated by bad, dishonest, and immoral principles; and awards him just as much as he is worth, and no more. If he works hard, with either brain or hand, and creates a large amount of capital, he gets a large share of it; if he loafs, and shirks his work, he gets a small share, but so long as he is a Co-operator, he gets a share of some sort.
But Co-operation does not encourage idleness and dependence. The loafer will soon get turned out of a co-operative society. "The instinct of Co-operation is self-help; only men of independent spirit are attracted by it." It aims at teaching men to help themselves, and shows them that if, while doing so, they help others also, the benefit to themselves is the greater. Thus the beauties of fraternal justice are inculcated. The man who wants to better himself at the expense of his neighbours can never be a co-operator; but if he is glad to see that while he is bettering himself he is also doing the same to others, then he is a true co-operator. Self-reliance is the foremost characteristic of the co-operator. He sets to and looks after himself, and asks for neither sympathy, charity, pity, nor prayer. Charity is a fine thing in its proper place, but co-operation dispenses with it. It is no doubt very generous, and high-principled, and benevolent, for the grandee, or the wealthy man, to give bonuses in bad times, and "do what lies in his power for the less fortunate," but the co-operator declines to trouble him. He takes off his coat and makes for himself what others are content to receive in charity. Or, rather, he makes it for himself without taking off his coat, for the profits of Co-operation are so large that the hours of labour may be materially shortened, if desired, by general consent.
Co-operation is like Free-trade—it benefits the many at the expense of none. Protection and competition benefit the few at page 20 the expense of the many. They prey upon the mass of the people in order to holster up a few private diggings.
It is not claimed for Co-operation that it cures all social inequalities, and does away with all social wrongs, and produces a millenium. Every social scheme is effective in its own particular direction, and numberless agencies are at work with the same end of equalising the burdens of the world, and all that is claimed for Co-operation is that it is by far the most powerful of them. Acting with all the rest, aided by them, and giving aid to them, it trascends the whole of them in the power it is able to wield, and in the energies it is able to bring to bear against social grievances and injustices. It alleviates distress, and accelerates the acquirement of competence, as no other organistion can possibly do, It softens down the differences of classes to a degree that reformers of a few years ago could only dream of as a consummation they yearned for but saw no practical path to; and it does this, not by bringing down the higher to the level of the lower, but by raising the lower gradually from the depths into which they have in former times been forced. Yet in its infancy, it is the great power that will control the future, and those who look with a philosophical eye over the surgings of the society of the world, and dwell thoughtfully on its seemingly aimless movements, see by its light that all these movements have a meaning—a meaning unknown to those who take part in them—that they all tend to one and the same end, and however dangerous they may appear they regard them complacently, for they Know that that end is equality for all, and that Co-operation is the most powerful agent by which it will eventually be brought about.
They gave me advice and counsel in store,
Praised me and honoured me more and more,
Said that I only should "wait awhile,"
Offered their patronage, too, with a smile.
But, with all their honour and approbation,
I should, long ago, have died of starvation,
Had there not come an excellent man,
Who bravely to help me along began.
Good fellow, he got me the food I ate,
His kindness and care I shall never forget;
Yet I cannot embrace him, though other folks can;
For I, myself, am that excellent man.