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thorough investigation of the New England States by Prof. Ford of Harvard University.
Signs of Revival.
Then, certain external forces are stimulating the movement. The Agricultural Department, in its work of fostering productive co-operation, has organized a movement which has here and there been observed to exploit certain consumers' co-operatives; and which, it has been predicted, must eventually clash horns with the consumers' movement; yet, it must be granted, the Department has done much to re-awaken the idea of co-operation; and the agrarians are procuring laws in about thirty states that experience has proven are necessary to the stability and expansion of cooperation. Moreover, it is significant, that although the number of such stores may not be increasing, there is a widespread attempt at union. The following are some of the most important: 1914 Conference of sixty stores belonging to Washington State Federation; Conference of Consumers Co-operative Union, New York, 16 stores represented; National Conference in Chicago to federate all consumers' bodies, formed National Committee on Co-operative Federation; Conference of 12 stores and 1 mill in Chicago-formed the American Co-operative Organization Bureau; Conference in Madison, Wis.
1915-Conference of 60 stores in Iowa to federate, and another of 22 stores in 1916; First National Conference of Producers and Consumers, Minneapolis Union of Farmers & Labor Union Co-operatives; A union of Farmers union stores in Texas, organizing stores and mills on the "O'Brien plan." And 1916 in Texas, a conference of Socialists, grangers, Labor unions and others to federate co-operative
And finally and most important:
First annual convention of the local co-operative stores of Illinois and the Co-operative Society of Illinois.
Thirty miners' stores have been federated with seventeen farmers' stores and six others-fifty-three in all, affiliated with, but not financed by, the Illinois Federation of Labor and Executive Board of the United Mine Workers of Illinois. This group holds a conference July 29, 1916, when it hopes to launch a wholesale. Were it not for this active and rapidly expanding Illinois movement, led by John Walker and Duncan McDonald, and for the Finnish federation of
about sixty stores and a wholesale at Duluth, we should have reason for discouragement.
Right and Wrong Methods.
But students of foreign co-operation believe that the movement here is bound to grow in spite of the requiescat pronounced over its remains by our sociologists. Upon the logical necessity for such a development the Co-operative League of America, initiated by Albert Sonnichsen, William Kraus and James P. Warbasse, has organized a propaganda campaign, and, hoping for the support of the Consumers' Co-operative Union of New York and that of other societies, it is actively working for the union of all Consumers' Cooperatives. Should such a federation be effected an incalculable advance would result. The basis for a workingmen's movement still survives, but, to compete with a highly developed capitalism, co-operation must start from a certain degree of organization. If we could once form a national union in touch with the stores in all parts of the country and own our wholesales, the trick would be done. How are we to get this initial organization? Labor has been patient, but has it been scientific? We must carefully analyze the situation and difficulties: large area, heterogeneous and fluid population, thriftless habits of workers, etc. These are difficulties, but nothing more. Extent of area and heterogeneity of population merely demand elaboration of organization. Thrift is not a necessary factor could we substitute another stimulus to co-operators: e. g., class-consciousness. Before those hindrances should be labelled insuperable obstacles, we should further carefully examine our history and methods. Has not our work been empirical, for the most part? A matter of trial and error? Have we studied and applied the successful foreign methods of co-operation?
In the first place, for decades the co-operative movement in America was organically united with the labor unions. Experience in most other countries has shown that this union is apt to increase the difficulties. And organized labor in America has had to fight to keep its head above water. Several times when it was temporarily submerged a promising co-operative beginning was dragged under with it.
Secondly, for a long time our methods were not scientific; we neglected to study either the English or German methods. We did not sell at market price; our capital stock was not paid in; we paid high dividends; we gave credit; we did not allow for depreciation of stock, etc. Indeed, several of our early movements were merely club-or commission buying on a large scale. Even now, strictly democratic management and Rochdale methods are exceed
ingly rare. Nor do the stores protect themselves against exploitation by money-seekers within their ranks.
Thirdly, we have not pushed a vigorous campaign to obtain protective laws. In many states, stores must, to get limited liability, incorporate under corporation laws and, therefore, members have a voice in the management proportionate to the numbers of shares owned, instead of an equal voice, as in a true co-operative. To evade this, in some regions-Illinois, for instance, the stores limit to one the number of shares owned by one person. There are also legal difficulties in forbidding the transfer of stock-a prohibition necessary to the protection of a co-operative; and difficulties in the way of one society owning stock in another-an essential feature in the organization of a co-operative wholesale. One reads how government persecution in Germany stimulated co-operation. But this suppression of co-operation by laisser faire methods is quite another thing. The English movement floundered like ours until protective laws were obtained; and then astonishing strides were made.
Fourthly, we have no energetic propaganda. Enlightened men and women still think of co-operation as a middleclass, shop-keeping affair; a bourgeois, penny-saving device. It would be easy to convince them that only the penniless will use a penny-saving device. And that it is not middleclass because it bases itself upon the consumer and is therefore open to all. It is indeed only available to those who can conceive and practice a democratic form of government; by its nature, therefore excluding the undemocratic and commercial. Agricultural co-operation may or may not be commercial; and here and there some subsidiary idea, such as "pure food," may support a middle-class consumer's society; but, as a matter of fact, not more than two or three middleclass consumers' societies have ever been recorded, aside from the co-operatives which are seldom true co-operatives. A middle class consumers' co-operative has no raison d'etre. The necessity which drives to the conception of a co-operative, the zeal, loyalty and sacrifice necessary to maintain one, are products of a working class, and the more class-conscious the co-operative, the more successful it is.
Finally, industrial productive co-operation has ever been the dream of American Labor. It has been tried even more faithfully and futilely, than distributive co-operation. But have we closely studied in the history of other countries the theory and practice of the different modes of co-operation? In Italy, alone, has the co-operative factory been able to keep a footing. Fostered by the government and zealously begun in France, the workshops are not fulfilling the hopes of their founders. The goal of co-operation is, truly, control of the
tools of industry, but, in grasping at this by means of the co-operative factories, Labor has been uncontrolled and unscientific. When Organized Labor has grown strong enough to throw off the existing machinery of organization which now grips it; when it once more thinks and acts for itself, it will certainly take hold of a systematized, well considered plan of co-operation-that which is already, quietly transforming the industrial world abroad. Success is not to be hoped for until working-class consumers have organized in sufficient strength to own their own wholesales and factories, and have learned a social point of view equal to running these industries. If the struggle of Labor to get control of Industry shall not have socialized it, the case appears to be hopeless, at least for a long time. For where shall we look for a more efficient social schooling? And this mental attitude is the sine qua non of industrial freedom.
The Belgian Example.
Hence, to return to and close with our own problem, the Belgian, non-dividend paying method of co-operation, the social centre, social service co-operative would seem most desirable for us. And there are strong indications that the Belgian idea is that best adapted to the psychology of our people. We are not shop keepers by nature, but are a fun-loving people. In substantiation of this observation many of the most successful American associations are imbued with this social spirit; notably: Charleroi, with its branch stores; The Workingmen's Co-operative of Queens County, New York; the Purity Co-operative of Paterson, New Jersey; the West Hoboken Co-operative; the Haledon Co-operative; the Central Labor Council Co-operative of Charleston, W. Virginia; the North American Co-operative of Philadelphia; the Svea Co-operative of Minnesota; and much of the Illinois movement show a marked tendency to emphasize the social rather than the pecuniary advantages of co-operation.
It is only in the case of a strike that we appreciate the full depth of the employer's regard for the sanctity of con
Reformers generally would succeed better if they were to give less attention to the effects of the strike and more to the causes thereof.
The labor press is the only remaining free press,
COMPULSORY EDUCATION LAWS.
BY BENJAMIN C. GRUENBERG.
Every State in the Union has upon its statutes laws making school attendance compulsory for young children. The minimum of school attendance for each year is usually prescribed, and the age limit is steadily being advanced. In every State also, exceptions are made, or "Exemptions," as they are called, permitting non-attendance to certain classes of children, or to all children under certain conditions. The tendency, however, is to reduce the exemptions. For example, many states exempt children residing beyond a certain distance from the nearest school; progressive localities provide suitable transportation. Or, children suffering from various physical or mental defects are exempted; progressive communities make special provision for handicapped children, and so on. The exemption of the children of the poor, on the ground that their services are needed to help in the support of the family, or on the ground that the parents can not afford suitable clothing, still holds in many states, although it is coming to be generally recognized that however indigent the parents of a child may be, it is poor economy for the community to permit the child to escape an education. The states in which this class of exemption still holds may be considered as socially backward. There are eighteen states in this class. Ten states leave considerable discretion to local authorities in exempting children from school attendance, and thus leave the door open for the escape of the needy children from suitable supervision and instruction. On the other hand, five of the states (Michigan, Montana, Ohio, Oklahoma and Vermont) require that wherever necessary financial assistance shall be furnished to families to make school attendance of children possible.
In Kentucky, North Carolina, Texas and Virginia children may leave school and go to work at twelve years of age-and in Virginia, if the child is "able to read and write" he need not attend school at all. In ten states (California, Minnesota, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, South Dakota, Utah, Vermont and Washington) the age of compulsory attendance extends to 15 years, or 16 (Oklahoma, South Dakota; and for girls in Ohio). Beginning in 1917. Alabama and New York will also be in the 1 year class. In the states not mentioned, the age is 14 years. For illiterates, and for children who have not completed a certain amount of schooling (usually the sixth grade) 28 states require attendance up to the age of 16 years, either in regu