The history of co-operation as applied to economic questions is too often confused by theorists with social questions, i.e. co-operation and Socialism have been confused. This is an error. In order to have practical co-operation it is not necessary to have the "equal distribution" as set forth in the Socialistic propoganda. There cannot be an equal distribution of unequal earnings, else the basic theory of co-operation is exploded. Co-operation is the equitable award of gains proportionate to work done. Co-operation begins in mutual help with a view to end in a common competence. It is contemplated that worker, capitalist and consumer shall share in an equitable distribution.
There can be co-operation for profit only when the profit comes in just proportion to all concerned. When the artisan furnishes his labor he adds practice to the theory set forth in the brain of the inventor, while the capitalist, whose financial genius keeps even the thoroughfare of commerce, must needs join in the benefits to be derived from the co-operation with the other classes. The division of profit must be arrived at by mutual consent arid by a just and equitable arrangement of all the parts and particles concerned.
Co-operation is by no means a theory. In every branch of modern activity there is, should it be properly traced, more or less co-operation. But co-operation is not rated according to its sphere. Far from being a means to an end, it is the end for which all means are brought to play. The desired end of all activity is co-operation, so that all may possess a reasonable competency and enjoy peace and happiness.
But co-operation of component parts is necessary first. It is not a new principle. Jacob tended Laban's sheep became his son-in-law, established new conditions of life, all on the basis of co-operation. In the Middle Ages agricultural co-operative communities began to flourish in Europe. American fishermen, sailors of the world engaged in the Oriental trade, miners of many lands and workers in many fields today enjoy the blessings of co-operation, and their prosperity and independence prove the value of the plan.
Co-operation solves the problem of industrial strife, when grasping ambition can be subdued. There have been ideas of establishing equality by force, but this is needless in a country where we have a free press, free speech, and the right of holding public meetings. Co-operation was born of the feeling that at best unmitigated competition was war, and though war had its bards and its heroic memories, there was murder in its march. Progress should be accomplished by nobler means. What an enduring truce is to war, co-partnership co-operation is to the never ceasing conflict between labor and capital. It is the peace of industry.
"Co-operation" says Holyoake, "leaves nobody out who works Those who 4o not know1 this do not understand co-operation; those who do know it and do not mean it, are traitors to the principle. Those who mean it and do not take steps to secure it, or are silent when others evade it or do not advocate it when occasion offers are unseeing or supine. Co-operation touches no man's fortune; seeks no plunder; causes no disturbances in society; gives no trouble to statesmen; it enters into no secret associations; it needs no trades union to protect its interests; it contemplates no violence; it subverts no order; it envies no dignity; it accepts no gift nor asks any favor; it keeps no terms with the idle and will break no faith with the industrious. It is neither mendicant servile nor offensive; it has its hands in no man's pockets and does not mean that any other hands shall remain long or comfortably in its own; it means self-help self-dependence, and such share of the common competence as labor shall earn or thought can win.
Real co-operation is thoroughly set forth in the Lord's parable of the talents.
While all this is true it is also true that there are potent forces ever at work to delay and if possible, destroy the attainment of general co-operation. These forces are manned in many instances by honest and sincere performers but performers who are controlled by influences foreign to co-operation's best interests. The great combinations of capital are examples of the possibilities of co-operation while setting forth, in no uncertain way, the great obstacles in the way of the general accomplishment. As a prairie fire is stopped by another fire, so is it necessary in business and social life to meet competition with kind. This very thing means the final winning for co-operation and the awakening of all interests to the truth that "each is to the other all important and all necessary."
Many apparently excellent plans for co-operation have been wrecked by the failure of all concerned to become acquainted with the subject, and the arrogance of certain ones who took unto themselves more of opportunity and, hence, more of profit than could rightfully go to them and leave the system intact. The history of co-operation shows more failures than successes, yet each succeeding attempt has profited from preceding failures and literally grown stronger out of the bones of those that have gone before. Therefore there is plausibility and entire truth in the belief that eventually the theory of co-operation shall develop practice which, after each part becomes acquainted with its workings, shall form that united force which shall provide equality.
"All are but parts of one stupenduous whole,
Whose body Nature is and God the soul."
Organization, honesty, discipline and confidence are the corner stones on which co-operation rests. Co-operation is fundamental in Grange doctrine, and if it is conceded that it be right jn principle then it is worthy of being vitalized. Our numerical strength may be vested with a great deal more power. The key to commercial power and influence is today as it ever has been, money and its attributes. Owners of money have power to many fold its value, not so much because of the money itself as because of the credit it will procure. A few hundred thousand dollars in the hands of any good financier is made to do a business and exert an influence representing many times its face value, and when put to legitimate uses its benefits are apparent as they diffuse themselves through the arteries of trade everywhere and equity obtains between men.
But this power instead of being a blessing is often used in a way to become a curse not alone to our commerce and trade but to American manhood and independence as well. When it reaches a few financial centers throughout our country and in immense amounts is used for purely gambling purposes; with big financial institutions, Wall street and trusts, stifling fair competition and throttling individual effort, the masses feel that they have cause for unrest, socialism finds fuel for its flames, and blatant political demagogues, intent only on self advancement, go up and down our land inflaming and inciting the public mind against our government and our free institutions.
Can the Grange prevent such damaging effects by assisting to remove the primary cause? Can we help to give more power to more people by suggestion or otherwise? Can we assist the farmer in marketing his product to better advantage?
Without presuming to answer for this body we suggest co-operation as an agency worthy of consideration. To help people to get into position to help themselves, to do better and be better is the great duty of man to man. "It is self help," said William E. Gladstone, "which makes the man, and man-making is the aim which the Almighty has everywhere impressed upon creation."
We recommend for careful consideration upon well manured and carefully guarded plans the inauguration of co operative enterprises such as co-operative creameries, elevators, savings banks, trust companies, building and loan associations, warehouses, Grange fire insurance, co-operative marketing of farm products. The Grange as an organization should not become in anywise responsible for their management or obligations.
By self help, through organization and co-operation, communities, states and nations may rise to greatness. Co-operation for money profit only, fails to give to men the full share of its blessings. Let it enlist sentiments very much higher than this. Let it link people together, bringing sentiment, aspirations, the consciousness of common needs into the co-operative enterprise. While you put your co-operative movement upon a safe and profitable business basis, yet let higher motives also enter into its life for the benefit of the common good. Let men and women, not needy themselves, mindful of the parable of the talents, make acceptable and worthy use of their talents by aiding their fellowmen to attain positions where self help becomes efficient and advantageous to all.
"Inasmuch as ye have done it unto me one of the least of these, my brethren, ye have done it unto me."
W.F. HILL Chairman.
GEORGE W BAIRD,
MRS. M. LOUISE BELL
MRS. HATTIE M. FULLER
MRS. AUGUSTA M. KEGLEY