la evolución de los principios cooperativos

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la evolución de los principios cooperativos
LA EVOLUCIÓN DE LOS PRINCIPIOS COOPERATIVOS
Historia del cooperativismo
LA EVOLUCIÓN DE LOS
PRINCIPIOS COOPERATIVOS
Algunos apuntes
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LA EVOLUCIÓN DE LOS PRINCIPIOS COOPERATIVOS
ÍNDICE
ÍNDICE ......................................................................................................................................... 2
LOS PRINCIPIOS COOPERATIVOS EN LA ACTUALIDAD ............................................................... 3
Así aparecen en la web de ACI-Américas [12.10.2003] ......................................................... 3
REVISIONES DE LOS PRINCIPIOS Y VALORES COOPERATIVOS .................................................... 7
Rochdale Principles of Co-operation 1937 ............................................................................. 7
Co-operative Principles 1966 ................................................................................................. 7
Statement on the Co-operative Identity 1995 ....................................................................... 8
EVOLUCIÓN DE LOS PRINCIPIOS COOPERATIVOS. CUADRO RESUMEN .................................... 9
(1937) LA APLICACIÓN ACTUAL DE LOS PRINCIPIOS DE COOPERACIÓN DE ROCHDALE ......... 10
Introduction.......................................................................................................................... 10
1. The Principles of Co-operation as practiced by the Rochdale Pioneers .......................... 11
2. Their Present Application ................................................................................................. 13
3. Conclusions and Recommendations ................................................................................ 27
(1966) INFORME DE LA COMISIÓN DE LA ICA SOBRE LOS PRINCIPIOS COOPERATIVOS ......... 30
Introduction.......................................................................................................................... 30
Consideration of Co-operative Principles ............................................................................ 37
Análisis general de la declaración de 1966 .......................................................................... 92
(1966) ANÁLISIS DEL INFORME DE LA COMISIÓN DE LA ICA SOBRE LOS PRINCIPIOS
COOPERATIVOS ........................................................................................................................ 62
Análisis de otros principios no incluidos en la declaración de 1966 .................................... 75
(1995) LA DECLARACIÓN DE MANCHESTER ............................................................................. 94
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LA EVOLUCIÓN DE LOS PRINCIPIOS COOPERATIVOS
LOS PRINCIPIOS COOPERATIVOS EN LA ACTUALIDAD
Así aparecen en la web de ACI-Américas [12.10.2003]
Los principios y valores son los elementos distintivos de las organizaciones y empresas
cooperativas. Ya en 1844, los Pioneros de Rochdale, fundadores de la primera cooperativa
de la historia, habían formulado un sistema de principios simple, claro y contundente, que
les aseguró la conducción de la organización en beneficio de sus miembros.
La nueva Declaración de Identidad Cooperativa adoptada por la II Asamblea General de la
ACI -que se realizara en el mes de setiembre de 1995 en la ciudad de Manchester, en oportunidad de la celebración del Centenario de la Alianza- incluye una nueva definición de
cooperativa y una revisión de la formulación de los Principios y Valores Cooperativos. La
nueva formulación mantiene la esencia de un sistema de principios y valores que demostró
ser eficiente en casi 170 años de historia y contribuyó a transformar al cooperativismo en
una de las mayores fuerzas sociales y económicas a nivel mundial, a la vez que incorpora
nuevos elementos para una mejor interpretación del momento histórico actual.
Definición de cooperativa
Una cooperativa es una asociación autónoma de personas que se han unido voluntariamente para hacer frente a sus necesidades y aspiraciones económicas, sociales y culturales comunes por medio de una empresa de propiedad conjunta y democráticamente controlada.
Valores cooperativos
Las cooperativas se basan en los valores de ayuda mutua, responsabilidad, democracia,
igualdad, equidad y solidaridad. Siguiendo la tradición de sus fundadores sus miembros
creen en los valores éticos de honestidad, transparencia, responsabilidad social y preocupación por los demás.
Principios cooperativos
[Los principios cooperativos son pautas mediante las cuales las cooperativas ponen en práctica sus valores. ]
Primer Principio: Membresía abierta y voluntaria
Las cooperativas son organizaciones voluntarias abiertas para todas aquellas personas dispuestas a utilizar sus servicios y dispuestas a aceptar las responsabilidades que conlleva la
membresía sin discriminación de género, raza, clase social, posición política o religiosa.
Segundo Principio: Control democrático de los miembros
Las cooperativas son organizaciones democráticas controladas por sus miembros quienes
participan activamente en la definición de las políticas y en la toma de decisiones.
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LA EVOLUCIÓN DE LOS PRINCIPIOS COOPERATIVOS
Los hombres y mujeres elegidos para representar a su cooperativa, responden ante los
miembros.
En las cooperativas de base los miembros tienen igual derecho de voto (un miembro, un
voto), mientras en las cooperativas de otros niveles también se organizan con procedimientos democráticos.
Tercer Principio: Participación económica de los miembros
Los miembros contribuyen de manera equitativa y controlan de manera democrática el capital de la cooperativa. Por lo menos una parte de ese capital es propiedad común de la
cooperativa.
Usualmente reciben una compensación limitada, si es que la hay, sobre el capital suscrito
como condición de membresía.
Los miembros asignan excedentes para cualquiera de los siguientes propósitos: El desarrollo
de la cooperativa mediante la posible creación de reservas, de la cual al menos una parte
debe ser indivisible; los beneficios para los miembros en proporción con sus transacciones
con la cooperativa; y el apoyo a otras actividades según lo apruebe la membresía.
Cuarto Principio: Autonomía e independencia
Las cooperativas son organizaciones autónomas de ayuda mutua, controladas por sus
miembros.
Si entran en acuerdos con otras organizaciones (incluyendo gobiernos) o tienen capital de
fuentes externas, lo realizan en términos que aseguren el control democrático por parte de
sus miembros y mantengan la autonomía de la cooperativa.
Quinto Principio: Educación, formación e información
Las cooperativas brindan educación y entrenamiento a sus miembros, a sus dirigentes electos, gerentes y empleados, de tal forma que contribuyan eficazmente al desarrollo de sus
cooperativas.
Las cooperativas informan al público en general, particularmente a jóvenes y creadores de
opinión, acerca de la naturaleza y beneficios del cooperativismo.
Sexto Principio: Cooperación entre cooperativas
Las cooperativas sirven a sus miembros más eficazmente y fortalecen el movimiento cooperativo trabajando de manera conjunta por medio de estructuras locales, nacionales, regionales e internacionales.
Séptimo Principio: Compromiso con la comunidad
La cooperativa trabaja para el desarrollo sostenible de su comunidad por medio de políticas
aceptadas por sus miembros.
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LA EVOLUCIÓN DE LOS PRINCIPIOS COOPERATIVOS
Valores cooperativos (algunas ideas utilizadas por la UCMTA en sus documentos)
Autoayuda
Se basa en la creencia de que todo el mundo puede y debería esforzarse por controlar su
propio destino. Los cooperativistas creen, sin embargo, que el desarrollo individual pleno
solamente puede producirse en asociación con los demás. Como individuo, uno está limitado
en lo que puede intentar hacer, y en lo que puede conseguir. A través de la acción conjunta y
de la responsabilidad mutua, se puede conseguir más, especialmente aumentando la influencia colectiva de uno en el mercado y ante los gobiernos.
Los individuos también se desarrollan como personas mediante la acción cooperativa debido
a las habilidades que adquieren al facilitar el crecimiento de su cooperativa, al conocimiento
que consiguen de sus consocios, a las nuevas percepciones que alcanzan sobre la sociedad
más amplia de la que forman parte. A este respecto, las cooperativas son instituciones que
fomentan la educación y desarrollo continuos de todos los implicados.
Autorresponsabilidad
Significa que los socios asumen la responsabilidad de su cooperativa, de su fundación y de su
vida continua. Además, los socios son los responsables de promover su cooperativa entre
sus familias, amigos y conocidos. Finalmente, la “autorresponsabilidad” significa que los socios son los responsables de asegurarse que su cooperativa permanece independiente de
otras organizaciones públicas o privadas.
Igualdad
Las cooperativas están basadas en la igualdad. La unidad básica de la cooperativa es el socio,
que es un individuo o bien una agrupación de individuos. Esta fundamentación en la persona
humana es una de las principales características que distingue a una cooperativa de las empresas orientadas principalmente en beneficio del capital. Los socios tienen el derecho de
participación, el derecho de ser informados, el derecho de ser escuchados y el derecho de
estar involucrados en la toma de decisiones. Los socios deberían estar asociados de la forma
más igualitaria posible, a veces una tarea difícil en las grandes cooperativas o en federaciones de cooperativas. De hecho, la preocupación por conseguir y mantener la igualdad es un
reto continuo para todas las cooperativas. En última instancia, se trata tanto de una forma
de intentar hacer los negocios como de una pura y simple declaración de principios.
Equidad
Se refiere, primero, a cómo se trata a los socios en una cooperativa. Deberían ser tratados
equitativamente en cuanto a la forma de recompensar su participación en la cooperativa,
normalmente mediante retornos, asignaciones a reservas de capital en su nombre o reducciones en precios. Desde la perspectiva teórica, la equidad es tan importante para la cooperativas porque es la forma en la que intentan distribuir ganancias o riqueza en base a la contribución y no a la especulación.
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LA EVOLUCIÓN DE LOS PRINCIPIOS COOPERATIVOS
Solidaridad
Asegura que la acción cooperativa no es simplemente una forma disfrazada de interés personal limitado. Una cooperativa es más que una asociación de socios; es también una colectividad. Los socios tiene la responsabilidad de asegurar que todos ellos son tratados de la
forma más justa posible; que el interés general siempre se tiene en cuenta; que hay un esfuerzo constante para tratar a los empleados de forma justa (sean socios o no), así como a
los no socios vinculados con la cooperativa.
La solidaridad es la misma causa y consecuencia de la autoayuda y la ayuda mutua, dos de
los conceptos fundamentales en el centro de la filosofía cooperativa.
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LA EVOLUCIÓN DE LOS PRINCIPIOS COOPERATIVOS
REVISIONES DE LOS PRINCIPIOS Y VALORES COOPERATIVOS
Descargado de la web de la ICA el 28 de octubre de 2004
ICA has undertaken three reviews of the Co-operative Principles: 1937, 1966 and 1995. These reviews modernised the idea of Co-operation, maintained its relevance and proivide an
up-to-date test of whether an organisation qualified to call itself a co-operative. The definition of a co-operative as established in the 1995 Co-operative Principles has been included in
a number of policy documents including the United Nations Guidelines, the International
Labour Organisation Recommendation 193 on the Promotion of Co-operatives, the European Co-operative Statute and a number of national laws.
Rochdale Principles of Co-operation 1937
1. Open Membership
2. Democratic Control (One Man, One Vote)
3. Distribution of the surplus to the members in proportion to their transactions
4. Limited Interest on Capital
5. Political and Religious Neutrality
6. Cash Trading
7. Promotion of Education
Other features of the Rochdale system were also endorsed, but not given the status of Principles. These included:
8. trading exclusively with members
9. voluntary membership
10. sale at current market price
Disagreement arose, however, on the question of "inalienable assets", because of different
practices in different ICA member organisations. Finally it was agreed to recommend that cooperatives should make regular allocations to inalienable reserves and seek legislative provision for indivisible collective assets.
Co-operative Principles 1966
1. Membership of a co-operative society should be voluntary and available without artificial restriction or any social, political or religious discriminations, to all persons who
can make use of its services and are willing to accept the responsibilities of membership.
2. Co-operative societies are democratic organisations. Their affairs should be administered by persons elected or appointed in a manner agreed by the members and accountable to them. Members of primary societies should enjoy equal rights of voting
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LA EVOLUCIÓN DE LOS PRINCIPIOS COOPERATIVOS
(one member, one vote) and participation in decisions affecting their societies. In
other than primary societies the administration should be conducted on a democratic
basis in a suitable form.
3. Share capital should only receive a strictly limited rate of interest, if any.
4. Surplus or savings, if any, arising out of the operations of a society belong to the
members of that society and should be distributed in such manner as would avoid
one member gaining at the expense of others.
This may be done by decision of the members as follows:
a) By provision for development of the business of the Co-operative.
b) By provision of common services; or
c) By distribution among the members in proportion to their transactions with
the society.
5. All co-operative societies should make provision for the education of their members,
officers, and employees and of the general public, in the principles and techniques of
Co-operation, both economic and democratic.
6. All co-operative organisations, in order to best serve the interests of their members
and their communities should actively co-operate in every practical way with other
co-operatives at local, national and international levels.
Statement on the Co-operative Identity 1995
The current Statement on the Co-operative Identity was adopted at the 1995 Congress and
General Assembly of the International Co-operative Alliance, held in Manchester to celebrate the Alliance's Centenary. Recommended to the Congress by the ICA Board, the Statement was the product of a lengthy process of consultation involving thousands of cooperators around the world. The process was chaired by Ian MacPherson of Canada, who
prepared numerous drafts of the Identity Statement and its Background Paper in an effort to
understand the state and needs of the co-operative movement at the end of the twentieth
century.
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LA EVOLUCIÓN DE LOS PRINCIPIOS COOPERATIVOS
EVOLUCIÓN DE LOS PRINCIPIOS COOPERATIVOS. CUADRO RESUMEN
Rochdale, 1844
Paris, 1937
Viena, 1966
1
Manchester 1995
3
 Libre ingreso y libre retiro
 Adhesión libre
 Adhesión libre y voluntaria
 Control democrático
 Control democrático (una
persona, un voto)
 Organizaciones democráticas
(una persona, un voto)
 Distribución a los asociados
del excedente a prorrata de
sus operaciones
 Limitación del interés al capital
 Neutralidad política, racial y
religiosa
 Ventas al contado
 Devolución de excedentes
 Interés limitado sobre el
capital
 Interés limitado sobre el
2
capital
 Educación continua
 Excedentes para desarrollo
de las actividades de la
cooperativa, servicios comunes, distribución entre los
miembros en proporción a
sus operaciones
 Promoción de la educación
 Neutralidad política y religiosa
 Intercooperación
 Asociación voluntaria y abierta
 Control democrático por los
asociados
 Participación económica de
los asociados
 Autonomía e independencia
 Educación, capacitación e
información
 Cooperación entre cooperativas
 Preocupación por la comunidad
 Venta al contado
 Desarrollo de la educación
1
Prefirió enunciar con mayor amplitud los principios.
2
Hasta aquí los principios considerados “esenciales”.
3
Incluye el principio de neutralidad política y religiosa.
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LA EVOLUCIÓN DE LOS PRINCIPIOS COOPERATIVOS
(1937) LA APLICACIÓN ACTUAL DE LOS PRINCIPIOS DE COOPERACIÓN
DE ROCHDALE
Fuente 1: The Present Application of the Rochdale Principles, Studies and Reports, ICA, London, 1964.
Descargado de la web de la ICA el 28 de octubre de 2004.
Fuente 2: Kaplán de Drimer, Alicia y Drimer, Bernardo. “Las cooperativas: fundamentoshistoria-doctrina”. INTERCOOP, Editora Cooperativa, 1975.
Descargado de sitiosocial.com el 25.10.2003
Los miembros de la A.C.I. advirtieron que los principios rochdalianos, si bien perduran en sus
aspectos esenciales, no constituirán normas absolutamente inmutables; resultaba preciso
estudiar hasta qué punto y en que forma la evolución del medio económico-social habla determinado adaptaciones en esos principios; en otros casos, era evidente la necesidad de clarificar conceptos o reconocer mayor flexibilidad en la aplicación de normas tradicionalmente
admitidas, a fin de que se adecuaran a los distintos tipos de cooperativas.
En 1930, el 13° Congreso de la A. C. I., realizado en Viena (Austria), encomendó a su Comité
Central el nombreamiento de un Comité Especial “para examinar las condiciones bajo las
cuales son aplicados los principios de Rochdale en diversos países y, si fuera necesario, para
definirlos”; este Comité Especial fue integrado por los miembros del Ejecutivo de la A. C. I.
(presidido entonces por Väinö TANNER y constituido, entre otros por E. POISSON, V. SERWY
A. JOHANSSON y E. LUSTIG, con la secretaría general a cargo de H. J. MAY) y, además, por los
siguientes miembros especialmente designados: Dr. A. SUTER de Suiza M. RAPACKI de Polonia, Dr. G. NILADENAU de Rumania, Profesor P. SALCIUS de Lituania, J. VENTOSA ROIG de
España, Dr. J. P. WARBASSE de EE.UU. y E. de BALOGH de Hungría. El informe de ese Comité
consideró en un comienzo sólo la encuesta realizada entre las cooperativas primarias de
consumo y fue tratado por el 14° Congreso de la A. C. I. , reunido en Londres en 1934; el informe final, que tuvo en cuenta la extensión de la encuesta a otros tipos de cooperativas, se
trató en el 15° Congreso de la A. C. I. Realizado en París en 1937.
Introduction
At the London Congress of the ICA in 1934, the Special Committee appointed to enquire into
the Present Application of the Rochdale Principles presented their Report on the first part of
their task, that is to say, on the enquiry into the historical facts and their present application
by Retail Distributive Societies (Consumers' societies). It had been agreed in the early days of
the enquiry that this investigation was fundamental, and by reason of the greater extension
of consumers' co-operation within the International Co-operative Alliance in comparison
with the other forms - viz., Co-operative Wholesale Societies; Workers' Productive Societies;
Agricultural Productive Societies; Credit Societies; and Co-operative Banks - constituted at
least half of the task of the Special Committee.
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LA EVOLUCIÓN DE LOS PRINCIPIOS COOPERATIVOS
Certain of the proposals of the Special Committee having been received with opposition on
the part of some of the delegates, the congress eventually decided to adjourn their decision
upon the recommendations until the work of the Special Committee had been completed.
For this purpose, the Report was remitted to the Special Committee, who took up the enquiry again and, as a preliminary step, decided the issue of separate Questionnaires to each
of the five remaining groups above mentioned. The original Questionnaire being adapted to
each group ensured that the main lines of the enquiry were identical in all the types. It must
be admitted at the outset that the responses to our enquiries have been disappointingly
few, and in many instances too vague to provide the basis of sure conclusions. They have,
however, been sufficient to show that considerable variations exist in respect of the practice
in different countries, but not sufficient in many to constitute serious abrogations of Cooperative Principles.
The method of the Committee's enquiry and the results obtained from the original Questionnaire addressed to Consumers' societies were set out in the Report to the London Congress, and are available both in the Agenda and Report of the Congress proceedings. Similar
details concerning the other groups have been submitted to the Special Committee in several reports. It does not, therefore, appear necessary that they should be reproduced here.
We, therefore, propose to submit the results of the combined enquiries under three aspects:
1. The Principles of Co-operation as practiced by the Rochdale Pioneers;
2. Their Present Application; and
3. Conclusions and Recommendations
1. The Principles of Co-operation as practiced by the Rochdale Pioneers
The Rochdale Society of Equitable Pioneers was registered under the Friendly Societies' Acts
of 1829 and 1834, the basis of which was the provision of Mutual Benefits. The creation of
Friendly Societies, their organization and control, was provided for in a whole series of legislative enactments adopted between 1790 end the present time. The Societies were formed
to provide the members with financial aid or `Benefits,' in a word - insurance against sickness, old age, infirmity, and death. The Act of 1834 contained the provision that Societies
might be formed for the foregoing purpose `or for any other purpose which is not illegal.'
The Rochdale Pioneers with native shrewdness and intelligence, sharpened by their conflicts
with the regime under which they lived and suffered and by their studies of economic and
social solutions, found legal authority and protection for their society in these Acts. The evolution of the co-operative legislation which followed fully justified their confidence and acumen. The Act of 1846 contained a new and enlarged statement of the purposes for which a
Society might be formed, including `the frugal investment of the savings of the members for
better enabling them to purchase food, firing, clothes or other necessaries....with or without
the assistance of charitable donations.' This latter phrase rather suggest that the legislature
had not, up to that point, realized even the elementary possibilities of Co-operative Societies
as trading concerns.
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LA EVOLUCIÓN DE LOS PRINCIPIOS COOPERATIVOS
By 1852, some glimmering of potentialities of Co-operative Societies, or at least the direction
of their evolution, had seized the minds of legislators, and the Industrial and Provident Societies' Act of 1852 was introduced and passed into law. This was the first Act of Parliament
which specially provided for the formation of Co-operative Societies, taking them henceforth
out of the sphere of Friendly Society legislation, or at least giving them separate legislative
authority.
Meanwhile, the twenty-eight Weavers had established their Store in Toad Lane, and commenced their heroic attempt to stem the tide of competition and exploitation that threatened to overwhelm them, by the simple process of uniting in the common purpose of efficiently doing for themselves, upon a basis of mutuality and self-help, what had hitherto been
inefficiently done for them at a cost which impoverished their families but provided wealth
for the individual captains of industry and trade.
It will be observed, however, that at the time the Pioneers opened their store in 1844, and,
indeed, until 1852, there was no possibility of their Society being registered as a Co- operative Society, as its legal existence was only assured under the authority of a law that provided for mutual benefits. This fact doubtless accounts for the name given to their Society, the
reason for which has been the subject of much conjecture on the part of the curious and of
students. There is another point in this connection worth noting, especially by those who
seek in the `Laws and Objects of the Rochdale Society of Equitable Pioneers' a completed
constitution and the expression of the entire philosophy of co-operation. Only eight years
after their start was the legislation adopted which gave Co-operation, as an economic system, legal recognition. The idea of `associated effort' on the part of the working population,
whose first co-operative manifestation appeared in Great Britain, as early as the third quarter of the Eighteenth Century, was slowly crystallizing, not only in the minds of the workers
themselves, but also in those of the politicians, statesmen, and publicists, who were led in
this direction by a choice band of enthusiasts who have always been recognized as the literary exponents and animators of the earlier efforts in Co-operation.
It is, therefore, not to be expected that the Weavers of Rochdale should produce their whole
policy in a night, or even in a single document. The `Laws and Objects' of the Pioneers contained the main part of their plan, but it is necessary to study at least the first ten years of
their development to obtain a comprehensive notion of the system which they founded.
During that period, modifications and definitions of their plan emerged form their minutes
of proceedings; their practice; and the decisions of their general meetings.
In this enquiry, the Committee have taken into account only those things which appeared to
them essential and of permanent value. They have disregarded a number of other elements
in the early History of the Rochdale Pioneers which seemed to have only a transitory importance.
After careful study of the available facts the Special Committee have come to the conclusion
that the following seven points may be considered from the historical point of view as the
essential Principles of Rochdale and the characteristics of the autonomous system founded
by the Pioneers, for each of which justification can be found in the constitution, rules, and
practice of the original society, founded at Rochdale in 1844:
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LA EVOLUCIÓN DE LOS PRINCIPIOS COOPERATIVOS
i.
Open Membership
ii.
Democratic Control
iii.
Dividend on Purchase
iv.
Limited interest on Capital
v.
Political and Religious Neutrality
vi.
Cash Trading
vii.
Promotion of Education.
El 15° Congreso de la Alianza Cooperativa Internacional, reunido en París en 1937, aprobó la
siguiente formulación de los principios cooperativos:
i.
Adhesión libre.
ii.
Control democrático (Una persona, un voto).
iii.
Distribución a los asociados del excedente a prorrata de sus operaciones.
iv.
Interés limitado sobre el capital.
v.
Neutralidad política y religiosa.
vi.
Venta al contado.
vii.
Desarrollo de la educación.
Conforme a la recomendación del Comité Especial que informó acerca de la aplicación de los
principios de Rochdale, la A.C.I. admitió una diferenciación entre estos siete principios; y
señaló que la adopción y práctica de los cuatro primeros principios indicados (principios i, ii,
iii y iv) deciden el carácter esencialmente cooperativo de una entidad, mientras que los últimos tres principios enunciados (principios v, vi y vii) “aun cuando forman parte, sin la menor
duda, del sistema rochdaliano y han sido aplicados exitosamente por los movimientos
cooperativos de diversos países, no constituyen sin embargo una condición de adhesión a la
A.C.I.“.
2. Their Present Application
In order to obtain a clear idea of the situation revealed by the enquiry, it would seem desirable to present a brief resume on each of the 'Principles'
i. Open membership
Consumers' of Retail Distributive Societies - The whole spirit and intention of the legislation
to which we have already referred is that the membership rolls of the Societies should be
wide open to admit all people of good character into their ranks and to the enjoyment of the
benefits of Co-operation. Where, in later years, certain laws give liberty to a Society to limit
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the number of its members, it is clearly shown to be an exceptional feature, in some cases
involving penalties.
The Rochdale Pioneers framed their rules to secure an open door to the admission of every
fit and proper person who applied and, according to their standard, a Consumers' or Retail
Distributive Society which refused membership to any proper applicant would be an anomaly.
The attention of the Committee was drawn to instances in which societies, by their rules or
periodical resolutions of the members, limit the number of the members of the society.
There are also those which fix a high entrance fee or a preliminary period of membership,
any of which conditions detracts from the Principle of `Open Membership.'
In the case of Wholesale Societies of Consumers, which is a simple continuation or sequence
to the activities of the primary societies, the membership is limited to societies of the same
character and constitution, and the Principle of `Open Membership' is observed in the admission of all Societies that conform to the constitution laid down in the Rules of the Federation. The enquiry shows that this Principle is generally observed by the twenty-three wholesale societies which have replied to our enquiry.
Federations of Producers, only four of which out of sixteen have replied, show no essential
deviation from this Principle. The case is different, however, with the primary societies of
producers which constitute the Federations. In these, the membership is necessarily restricted by the extent of the market the society can command for its production and also by
the special training and skill required for the technical efficiency of the society's operations.
Agricultural Producers' Societies, reply in the affirmative as to the observance of the Principle, and have no restrictions upon the admission of members, either by law or in their statutes.
Of the twenty-four Credit Societies addressed, only eight have replied, four of them with a
clear affirmative, while the remainder reveal slight modifications. One is a state institution
and membership is limited to regional credit societies. The remaining three exclude foreigners and/or limit the membership to a given area. This latter condition is imposed by the
character of the operations, and is not a derogation of the Principle of `Open Membership,'
which is safeguarded by the freedom to establish other societies in adjoining areas.
The Co-operative Banks reply that the membership consists of individuals and corporate
bodies, but the Czech and Hungarian Banks state that they are also Joint Stock Companies.
The Joint Stock Principle and Voluntary Co-operation are not necessarily irreconcilable, but
the fact that shares of Joint Stock Companies may be transferred or sold on the open market
involves the risk of changing the co-operative character of the institution. In fact, however,
92 per cent of the shares in the Czech Bank and the majority in Hungarian Bank are in the
hands of co-operative societies.
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In the aggregate and in relation to the Movement as a whole, the cases in which the Principle and practice of `Open Membership' are not fully applied may be regarded as exceptional.
It is, nevertheless, necessary that they should be noticed here and an endeavour made to
secure their conformity with the Rochdale basis.
ii. Democratic Control
It is clear from the replies received that, so far as Primary Societies of Consumers or Retail
Distributive Societies are concerned, there is little appreciable deviation in practice from the
Principle of "One Man, One Vote", without any respect to the amount of shares or other
capital interest that any respect to the amount of shares or other capital interest that he
may have in the society, and that is the essence of the democratic basis of the movement.
The Wholesale Societies of Consumers present a considerable variety of practice. So long as
the variation is in relation to the number of members and consists in the delegation of authority to vote to selected representative, in their turn freely elected, the democratic principle is maintained. Of the wholesale societies supplying data no fewer than thirteen have
modified the voting qualification of the membership, either in relation to share capital or
purchases, while only five relate the voting power solely to membership.
All the wholesale societies provide opportunities to their membership to exercise their power of voting by the holding of General Meetings of the members, though in the great majority of countries general meetings of the members of the C.W.S. are only held annually; in
Norway, biennially, in Great Britain, quarterly.
The election of Committees of Management and other administrative officers is secured
generally by the members' meetings, either directly or through the Supervisory Councils.
The Federations of Workers' Productive Societies follow the practice generally of `One Man,
One Vote'. The information given is very meagre.
Agricultural Societies-The replies on this question show that the Principle of `Democratic
Control's is carried out in all respects.
Credit Societies - Four out of eight state that the basis of their voting is democratic - one on
shares, and three on a mixed basis; the general meetings of the members follow the practice
of Annual meetings.
Co-operative Banks - With the exception of Romania, where the State always holds a number equal to half the vote present at the general meetings, the distribution of the voting
tends to limit the concentration of power in the hands of individual shareholders. It is not
possible, however, to find the orthodox application of the Principle, `One Man, One Vote' in
any of the banks, though in practically all instances an attempt is made either to limit the
number of shares held by any shareholder or to limit the voting power (Czechoslovakia,
Denmark, Hungary).
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iii. Dividend on Purchase
Consumers' or Retail Distributive Societies- Forty organisations reply that the net surpluses
of their societies are distributed in cash according to purchases of their members; two say
that their distribution is made partly in goods; `Centrosoyus,' that dividend has been abolished on the demand of the members. In Yugoslavia, the movement is in the position of being exempt from taxation only if the annual surplus is not distributed.
The amount or rate of the dividend appears generally to be governed by local practice and
not to conform to any fixed standard. In certain cases, restrictions are imposed by the law,
usually with reference to exemption from taxation. The highest rate quoted is 15 per cent,
but 3 per cent is nearer the average.
Dividend to members only is the practice in the large majority of cases, twenty-eight organisations replying in that sense; six others declare that non-members' purchases are recognised and half-dividend is paid to them.4
Co-operative Wholesale Societies - Eighteen national wholesales declare their adherence to
`Dividend on Purchase,' but one of them, Yugoslavia, only on its own productions. Four societies carry their surpluses to Reserve Funds, Special Depreciations, and/or Social Welfare
purposes. The rates of dividend on purchase paid by these societies vary from half percent
to 7 percent, which are usually fixed by the general meetings after consideration of the results.
Workers' Productive Societies in France are the only societies which apply this principle solely to the workers, and thus in accord with the declared objects of these societies. In Great
Britain, the net surplus available for this purpose is usually divided between the workers, the
purchasers, and the shareholders, who may or may not be workers in the society. From the
reply given by the Chamber Consultative, Paris, it appears that 25 per cent to 30 per cent of
the net surplus is allocated to the workers. In Austria and Czechoslovakia, the surplus is usually placed to reserves.
Agricultural Societies - The replies are in the affirmative. The Swiss Union, V.O.L.G., states
that the dividend in almost all the agricultural societies of Switzerland is stabilised. This has
been forced upon them by the Rebate Association of the Private Traders. V.O.L.G. adds that,
in this way, the dividend has, to a large extent, lost its true character and the practice no
longer agrees with the theory.
4
In the Questionnaires on the following five types of Societies, the question relating to `Dividend on Purchase' was stated in a more general form as corresponding more accurately to their constitution and operations. The actual text was : "Does your organisation adhere to
the practice of distributing the net surplus of its trading operations to the members as a cash dividend in proportion to their transactions
with the organisation?"
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Credit Societies - Six credit societies reply that they do not practise `Dividend on Purchase,'
and one society uses the surplus to reduce the rate of interest to borrowers and to increase
the rate to depositors.
Co-operative Banks - The dividends of co-operative banks generally correspond to those of
private capitalist enterprise, that is to say, they are distributed in the form of interest on
shares. The Rochdale system does not appear to be applicable.
There appears to be no serious difference of opinion as to this practice and the necessity of
maintaining `dividend on Purchase' as the basic Principle of our Co-operative Economic System, and the pivot on which the non-profit making organisation of commerce and industry
revolves. The committee, however, desire to draw attention to the widely varying rates of
Dividend on Purchase, which obtain in different countries and often between different societies of one country, and also to the fact that in certain societies, both wholesale and retail,
no dividend is paid, the whole of the surplus being carried to Reserve Funds.
It is suggested that the practice of paying too high a dividend should be avoided. One of the
principal aims of co- operative trading is to increase the value of real wages by supplying the
wage earner with the necessaries of life at the cheapest possible rates consistent with the
maintenance of the business on a sound financial basis and compliance with the general
Principles of the Movement. In the practical pursuit of these aims, the making of some surplus is inevitable, and it is only such surplus that should be available for Dividend on Purchases. One of the greatest services which Co-operation can render to the community is that
of a price fixing standard for the production and distribution of commodities. That valuable
purpose is modified to the point of non-existence in the degree in which the practice of high
dividends is adopted - rather than conformity to prices based upon a reasonable margin
above the cost price for expenses, and taking into account the necessities of competition. In
this respect, there is a great advantage in uniform methods, at least in each country.
It does, however, seem necessary in view of the varied development of co-operative enterprise at the present time, no less than with regard to the actual membership of the ICA, that
a more general interpretation of this Principle should be stated in this report and inserted in
the rules of the Alliance. The necessary generalisation of the Principle would seem to be contained in a statement that:
"The Principle of the distribution of the surplus amongst the members in proportion to their
contribution to the operations of the society - whether by purchases, deliveries of produce,
or labour."
iv. Limited Interest on Capital
Consumers's or Retail Distributive Societies - All organisations that pay interest on shares - of
which the returns show thirty -adhere to the practice of paying interest only at a limited
rate. Six organisations state that they pay no interest on shares. The rate most generally
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adopted is 5 per cent, but a few societies go to 7 or 8 per cent. In recent years, a number of
large societies have reduced their interest on shares from 5 to 4 1/2 per cent.
Co-operative Wholesale Societies - All organisations, in so far as a share capital exists upon
which an interest is paid, adhere to the practice of strictly limiting the rate paid. That rate is
usually in the neighbourhood of 5 per cent. Austria is a notable exception in the payment of
10 per cent. In a number of cases, notably in Great Britain, the rate has been lowered during
the post-war period and is now about 4 per cent, though the rules of the Scottish C.W.S.
provide for a maximum of 6 per cent. Several national wholesales state that they are guided
by the current bank rate.
Workers' Productive Societies - All the replies received declare adherence to the Principle of
`Limited Interest on Capital,' and that they follow the practice of the Co- operative Movement of their respective countries.
Agricultural Societies - The payment of a Limited Interest on Capital is practised by the Czech
Societies: the Swiss Societies have no capital. The information furnished is too meagre to
make it possible for form any clear conclusion.
Co-operative Banks - In so far as a share capital exists in the co-operative banks, they adhere
to the practice of paying only a limited rate of interest. The limits are usually laid down in the
rules, but the actual rate is decided by the general meetings.
Taking a broad view of the field of operations of our Movement, it must be admitted that
the practice of the Pioneers in this respect is being followed with fidelity to the Principle that
capital should only receive a strictly limited rate of interest.
v. Political and Religious Neutrality
Consumers' or Retail Distributive Societies - The strict observance of this Principle is claimed
by forty-one organisations, `Centroyus,' Moscow and one of the Unions of Denmark, Det
Kooperative Fallesforbund, state that they are not neutral in policies; and `Konkordia,' Switzerland, indicates that it is not neutral in religion. Thirty-nine organisations declare that they
have no organic relation with any political party. Of the remaining five, Belgium, Det Kooperative, Denmark, acknowledge close relations with the Socialist or Labour parties, while the
British Union has organised a political party of its own. `Centrosoyus' answers the question
in the negative and explains that the Communist Party only accepts individuals.
Co-operative Wholesale Societies - Twenty-one out of the twenty-four societies state that
they are neutral in politics and religion; one society is neutral in politics but not in religion;
three are neutral in religion but not in politics. These latter act in collaboration with political
parties in their respective countries.
The Workers' Productive Societies, Agricultural Productive Societies, Credit Societies and Cooperative Banks all declare the observance of the Principle of Neutrality in Politics.
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It is worthy of note that none of the subjects included in our Questionnaires has received
greater attention than this Principle of Neutrality in Politics and Religion. Few, if any, have
been replied to with such definiteness and precision. With the extension of the enquiry to
other types than Consumers Retail Societies, the number of national organisations replying
has increased from forty-five to ninety. Of this total, no less than eighty-four have declared
their adherence in principle and in practice to Neutrality in Politics.
In view of the recent developments in the forms of National Government and the interpretation which in some countries is given to the status of nationality, it seems to the Committee
that it is necessary to give a wider interpretation to the Principle of Neutrality as applied to
the Co-operative Movement, National and International. They, therefore, suggest that in
rules and documents setting forth this Principle, it should be clearly stated that Neutrality
applies equally to Politics, Religion, Race and Nationality.
The Committee desire to emphasize the fact that the Political Neutrality of Co-operation is
not a renunciation of the responsibility of Co-operators to defend the legitimate interests of
their economic system before the legislature, but rather a strengthening of their defence by
reason of its freedom from identification with any particular political group or party, thus
enabling the Movement to give the most catholic and representative character to its claims,
whether for equitable and just treatment under the law; the reform of the law; or even new
legislation.
Neutrality further implies the full recognition of the universal appeal of Co-operation to the
community on the grounds of economic and social betterment, free from any implication of
a political label attaching to the membership of a Co-operative Society.
vi. Cash Trading
Consumers' or Retail Distributive Societies - The replies given by forty-five organisations to
the questions posed under the heading of `Cash Trading' are far from satisfactory and, in
many instances, are vague and even irrelevant. In some cases, the organisations do not appear to have clearly seized the import of the supplementary questions. We, therefore, only
give the replies to three out of eight sub-headings of the Questionnaire on this subject, viz:
Sales to Members - Twenty-one organisations declare that the Principle of `Cash Trading' is
laid down in their rules, while an equal number state that their rules impose no obligation in
this matter.
Societies' Purchases: Nine organisations say that the purchases of their societies are made
for cash.
Proportion of Credit Trade: A return of the proportion of the credit trade of these organisations seems very difficult to obtain. About twenty of them give figures or estimates of the
position which it is difficult to summarise. They show variations between 5 and 90 per cent
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of credit trading. Of the twenty organisations replying to the question as to the amount or
percentage of credit trading in their present operations, eleven admit more than 10 per
cent.
Co-operative Wholesale Societies - The purchases and sales of the Wholesale societies are
effected mainly on the basis of 30 days' credit. Only in exceptional cases is the interval of
payment extended to 90 days from the delivery of the goods, and then usually in the case of
textiles. As a rule, the time allowed to member societies to make payments follows the general practice of the wholesale trade. Financial credits to members by wholesale societies, as
for instance the English C.W.S. Bank, or through the affiliated banks like that of the V.S.K.,
Switzerland, are secured by mortgages, bills of exchange, or other securities, and in such
cases the wholesale societies act as bankers - not as suppliers of goods. Provision of short
and long-term credit is, however, an exception and not the rule.
Workers' Productive Societies - One organisation replies that it practices Cash Trading and
gives the period of delay between purchase and payment as 30 days. The others give the
same method of payment, but describe the transaction as credit trading.
Agricultural Productive and Supply Societies: - It appears that both the Czech and Swiss Agricultural Producers' Societies apply the Principle of `Cash trading' so far as it is possible. As
the income of the farmer does not consist of regular monthly and weekly wages, but depends upon the disposal of the harvest, the societies are compelled to supply him with artificial fertilisers, feeding stuff, seeds and other agricultural implements on a relatively longterm credit basis, from six to nine months.
Credit Societies and Co-operative Banks - The principle of Cash Trading is scarcely applicable
to these societies, and the form of the Questionnaire was varied in this respect to comply
more nearly with their operations. The following notes summarise the replies to our enquiry
on The Scope and Methods of Financial Operations.
Credit Societies - The scope and method of financial operations reveal that the credit societies are engaged in a large variety of financial transactions. The Austrian societies grant financial accommodation in the form of personal credits secured either by wages or by mortgages. The Czechoslovakian societies grant all forms of credits, including bills, endorsed by
two persons. The Korean, Latvian, Palestinian, American and Yugoslavian societies are engaged in financing producers, farmers, artisans and grant personal credits. Only the French
and Hungarian societies limit their activities to farmers and artisans. The securities offered
include practically all financial instruments, including bills of exchange, overdrafts, financial
bills. The rates charged vary considerably, being determined to a large extent by the financial
conditions prevailing in the respective countries, and, since the data supplied comes mainly
from countries with relatively high costs of capital, it is no wonder that rates are rarely below 5 1/2 to 6 percent, in some countries rising to 8 1/2 to 9 per cent. It is worth noting that
the rates charged to clients are in practically all instances or by government authorities. Only
in Yugoslavia and to a certain extent in Latvia are the rates of interest fixed by the board or
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supervisory council. This undoubtedly shows that the membership has a considerable influence upon the financial policy of the societies.
Co-operative Banks - In the case of the co-operative banks, the analysis of the Rochdale Principles is closely connected with the enquiry into the Scope and Methods of their financial
operations and the structure of their liabilities and assets.
The Czechoslovakian bank has a relatively large percentage of its capital invested in financing
private persons and private firms, Kc.25 million, in comparison with a total of Kc.144.4 million. The English C.W.S. Bank has 2.2 million Pound Sterling of credit granted to private persons of a total of 86 million pounds, but this figure does not include the investments in Government Funds and other gilt-edged securities which indirectly constitute the financing of
private business. The Swiss Bank shows that mortgages to private persons and private firms
amount to Fr.,18.8 million out of a total of Fr.46.3 million, while the Hungarian Bank shows
advances to non-members of Pengo 4.5 million, out of a total of Pengo 8.6 million. It is obvious that the percentage of capital invested in financing private enterprise largely determines
the co-operative character of the financial institution.
Not less important is the composition of the liabilities. Of the total liabilities of the Czechoslovakian Bank, amounting to Kc.162.9 million, the deposits of private persons and private
firms amount to Kc.44.3 million, or about 27 per cent of the total. In Great Britain, the deposits of the C.W.S. Bank are composed, as to 70 per cent of the total of investments of Cooperative organisations and individual co- operators, but the amount shown for `other depositors'- probably consisting of private persons and firms, though there may be also municipalities and public bodies amongst them - amounts to 8.1 million pound sterling, which is,
however, considerably less than the amount invested by the Bank itself, directly or indirectly, in private enterprises and government securities. Other banks do not give the amount of
private deposits, but simply give `other depositors,' which is a too general term and not
helpful to our enquiry. The Czechoslovakian Bank gives a complete and clear classification of
the composition of its liabilities.
The information concerning the scope of financial activities and the structure of the assets
and liabilities is, however, too meagre to permit any general conclusion.
In reviewing the question of Credit Trading in the light of the further enquiries that have
been addressed to the other types of co-operative organisations, no less than of the discussions which have taken place on the present application of the Principle, the Committee desire to make some observations of a more or less general character. They would remark, in
the first place, that it does not seem to be either a practical or a reasonable proposition to
arbitrarily define Cash Payment as taking the goods with one hand and offering the cash
with the other.
The Committee are agreed that the system of Cash Payment, uncompromisingly laid down in
the First Laws of the Rochdale Pioneers, was applicable to consumers' or retail distributive
societies. The Pioneers in framing their constitution were only concerned with consumers'
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societies. The various types which have since been developed, having different constitutions
and methods of work, call for special consideration of their needs. At the same time, the
Committee would emphasize the fact that the consumers' societies remain the most important and numerous organisations of the Movement and, indeed, must ever remain so in
an Association which claims to be based upon the consumers' needs, to defend his interests
and, in short, to speak for the community.
Nevertheless, the Committee agree that it is necessary to examine more closely than has yet
been done the needs of all forms of co-operative enterprise in relation to this Principle.
In the case of Wholesale Trading, it is revealed in the answers to our enquiries that the cooperative wholesale societies conform to the usage of wholesale trade throughout Europe.
In some of the instances the rudiments of knowledge were taught, it was only to the extent
that would render the students receptive of the more specialised instruction which the Pioneers sought to impart.
William Robertson makes detailed reference to this phase of their activities in his chapter on
the origin of the News Room and library in the Rochdale Congress Handbook. He says:
"One of the objects of the founders of the Store had in view when they formed their plans
was to raise the people to a higher level by educating them, and the Committee recognised
that the library was the first step in that direction."
Again: "About the year 1853, it became necessary that the Rules of the Society should be
revised in order that they might avail themselves of the privileges of the industrial and Provident Societies' Act which had just been passed. The Committee, feeling that the necessity of
appealing to quarterly meetings for the usual sums of money for the maintenance of the
library was an objectional feature, determined to make an alteration. They asked that 2 1/2
per cent of the business profits should be devoted to the educational department."
In many cases, the finances of educational work are provided out of the general funds as
current expenses, and treated very much in the same way, so far as the accounts are concerned, as publicity and advertising.
This was at first the method of the Rochdale Society, but as we have shown was superseded
by the definite allocation of 2 1/2 per cent, included in the Rules. That percentage is still
maintained in many societies in Great Britain, though some limit the amount to 1 1/2 or 2
percent. On the other hand, a new practice is growing up amongst the more progressive
societies of basing the allocation to education on a rate per member of the society. This plan
yields a greater percentage than 2 1/2 per cent.
The replies received from other countries show that in fourteen countries the allocations
vary from 1 to 5 percent, while twelve national organisations make no allocation.
The conclusion of the Committee is that the Promotion of Education on the broad lines of
citizenship was an essential Principle of the Rochdale Pioneers, but that as our research into
their records, as well as the present practice of societies show, the exact method and per-
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centage of allocation of the necessary funds for this purpose might well vary according to
circumstances. The Committee are of the opinion that the maintenance of the Principle is
essential, and that regular allocations from the `net surplus' of the societies should provide
the means of promoting education in those matters which specially interact co-operators as
aids to the realisation of their ideals.
Other Basic Principles of Co-operation not expressly included in the Rochdale Rules
Throughout the course of the enquiry, the Committee have been faced with the necessity of
limiting the main lines of their Report to those Co-operative Principles expressly set out in
the Rules of the Pioneers. Certain other essential conditions of the constitution and practice
of Co-operative Societies have inevitably emerged during the discussions, which it is absolutely necessary to include in this Report as representing the Co-operative System, some o~
them to no less a degree than the seven Principles already dealt with which are enshrined in
the Rules and practice of the Rochdale Society.
In this category are the Principles of `Trading Exclusively with members' and `Voluntary Cooperation,' which are dealt with in the following sections.
Trading exclusively with Members (Non-members' Trade)
Two questions were included in our Questionnaire with a view to ascertaining in how many
countries the practice was prohibited by the rules and excluded, in fact, from their transactions; also to what extent it was practised by those Organisations which recognised it.
Eight National Organisations in five countries state that their rules and practice provide for
the exclusion of non- members' trade, while thirty-five organisations in thirty countries admit the practice to an extent which varies from 0.2 per cent to 83.7 per cent of the annual
business of the societies.
It was argued before the Committee that trade with non-members constituted no hindrance
to the application of Co-operative Principles if the profits on non-members' trade were allocated by the rules either to the inalienable reserves of the Society - even in the case of liquidation - or to disinterested enterprises, and that in some countries it was practised as a
means of propaganda with a view to hastening the recruiting of new members.
The Committee are of opinion that the Principle of dealing exclusively with members cannot
depend upon the constitution of the Rochdale Pioneers' Society but is inherent in the cooperative idea.
The essence of our system is that it should not make profit, and its greatest contribution to
economic life is that it furnishes a new basis of commerce and industry-therefore of societyin which the profit making motive is eliminated. That result can only be realised completely
when the trade of the society is exclusively with its own members.
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The question that immediately presents itself in the presence of the widespread practice of
trading with the public is - How far is it possible to admit the practice and maintain the genuine co-operative character of the enterprise? The Committee think an arbitrary interpretation of the Co- operative Principle of trading exclusively with members cannot be sustained,
and that the amount of transactions of a society or movement with other than members in
the ordinary transactions of primary societies of consumers should be reduced as far as possible. It is suggested that if `Open Membership' and the simple facilities for entrance adopted by the Pioneers were universally adopted, there would be little ground or cause for trade
with non-members, have to meet casual and accidental demands.
There is also a further type of trading which has been mentioned in the debates, and that is
tendering for and fulfilling contracts of the Municipality and the State. The Committee have
no hesitation in accepting the contention that in all public contracts for the service of the
community, the co-operative movement should take its part and demonstrate the superiority of the co-operative economy.
Co-operative Wholesale societies in their operation of production present a less simplified
problem. The necessity with every productive enterprise of disposing of its by- products,
which may be either altogether unsuitable for, or in excess of, the needs of the co-operative
community in whose service the production is carried on, is of very long standing and has
passed into the category of things accepted. The sale of the by-products of an industry in the
only markets which are open to them, whether co-operative or not, is a necessity of most
forms of production. When it comes, however, to the disposal of the basic products of the
enterprise, the question needs more careful consideration and even definition. Several
forms of this development have been considered by the Committee.
Another fact that should be faced in this connection is that non-members' trade is closely
connected with the principle of the 'elimination of profit.' In so far as these types of development succeed, they must detract from the claim that co- operative enterprise eliminates
profit. It is doubtful, however, whether co-operation has ever eliminated profit but only the
profit-making motive. Still further, it is clear from the replies to our Questionnaire that in
certain countries where the national organisations quite freely put their productions in the
open market, they also accept the position that they should be taxed in exactly the same
manner as private traders.
Voluntary Co-operation
The idea of obligatory membership of a Co-operative Society never entered into the conception of the Rochdale Pioneers, neither in planning their society nor in its subsequent development. The lot of the Weavers was a hard one, and the conditions of their employment,
when work was to be had, severe. They suffered from low wages, bad housing conditions,
adulteration of food and the system for `truck' which were the evil emanations of the capitalistic economic system. Politically, however, they enjoyed a free citizenship a little in advance of any other country. They were free as air to risk their savings in an Utopian enter-
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prise and to carry with them all their comrades and compatriots. The `voluntary' basis of
their society was, therefore, a 'sine qua non'. Any other idea was to them unthinkable.
The voluntary participation of individuals in associated effort in any country can only be restricted by the State itself, and not by any provision which it is in the power of the Association to make for itself, and it is, in fact, only in countries where limitations and restrictions
are imposed by the State that the `voluntary' character of co-operation or co-operative
membership is destroyed.
There are also certain instances in which societies are organised to serve the needs of sections of servants or employees of the State. Membership on the part of those eligible is obligatory, and the general public is excluded.
The Committee feel, therefore, that they have only to stress the need for the complete
recognition of this Principles as fundamental to the Co-operative System.
Two other subjects that have been mentioned, neither of which can be said to be essential
to any definition of the Rochdale System, are 'Sale at Current or Market Prices' and 'The Disposal of Collective Assets,' which are dealt with in brief memoranda.
Sale at Current or Market Price
This question impinges closely upon the Principle of `dividend on Purchase,' inasmuch as it
affects the genuineness of the surplus and the usefulness of the institution as a price fixing
medium. Perhaps, however, its effect upon the purchasing power of the consumer is the
aspect which appeals most strongly to the section of the membership which disposes of the
least financial resources.
Research amongst the achieves of Rochdale for guidance upon this undoubted practice of
the Pioneers does not yield much result. It appears evident, however, from contemporary
history that the first motive which influenced the Rochdale Co- operators was the all-round
convenience of adopting current prices for their business.
It has been stated by more than one continental interpreter of the Rochdale System that the
practice of the co-operative movement, first adopted by the Rochdale society, of selling
goods to their members at the prices current in the market or the sphere of their societies'
operations, was a Fundamental Principle of Rochdale, and they have even given it pride of
place in their list. We cannot find any justification for this view. It was nothing more than a
means for meeting the immediate necessities of their business, a temporary expedient
which possessed nothing of that `eternal principle of life' which characterises the true fundamentals of the Rochdale System. Sale at current prices provided a margin over the cost of
the commodity which would cover the cost of management, depreciation, interest on capital, etc., without involving loss to the society as the trading unit. Any downward trend of
prices which left out of account these elementary responsibilities of trading would not only
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be contrary to co- operative principles but inimical to the financial soundness of the organisation.
It also blunted the edge of the sharp opposition of private traders which the new system of
co-operation provoked, but inasmuch as one of the main purposes of the `Store' was to
cheapen the cost of living, selling at market price was a double measure of protection to the
growing association, to be abandoned for more drastic but equitable price cutting when the
society should reach that stage of stable and efficient organisation which would enable it to
give to its members the immediate benefit of their association.
There is no reason to think that the Rochdale Pioneers attached any greater importance to
this practice than is indicated above. Neither is there any ground for thinking that they regarded the market price as other than an upward limit, if not an absolute maximum. The
practice which obtains in many societies today of charging high prices to produce high dividends on the pretext of thrift is opposed.to the spirit of the Pioneers, and is inimical to the
interest of the community in general be•ause in results in a general increase in prices instead of acting, as co-operative trading should do, as a salutary check upon the exploitation
of the consumer.
It is interesting to note that where co-operative production is highly developed and distribution efficiently organised, the `current price' of certain commodities tends more and more to
be decided by the policy of the co-operative society, and to compel the private trader to
conform to its standards.
In the view of the Committee, this is the proper function of Co-operation and, taken in conjunction with what has been said elsewhere in this Report concerning the usefulness of cooperative trading as a price fixing standard, they urge that the Movement in every country
should direct its administration to achieve control of the markets.
The Disposal of Collective Assets
The question of the proper method of the disposal of the Collective Assets of a Co-operative
Society was raised at the beginning of the enquiry and, by common consent, a question was
added to the original Questionnaire with a view to ascertaining the practice of the Movement in each country. The replies received showed that in a considerable number of countries the Principle of the Indivisibility of Reserve Funds and Collective Assets was observed
and, in several of them, had the force of law. In others, the provision was contained in the
model rules of the National Organisation, or in those of the Societies.
In other countries, notably in Great Brita•n, the fund which remains over on the liquidation
of a society, after all its obligations have been met, is regarded as the property of the shareholding members of the society at the time of the liquidation, or dissolution, and is divided
amongst them in proportion to their shares. The view is held by some members of the committee that this latter course is contrary to the Principles of Co-operation, which provide that
the surplus resulting from the operations of the members with the society shall be divided in
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proportion to those operations. They content that shares in a co-operative society have no
claim upon any part of those surpluses beyond the limited amount of interest that may be
accorded by the rules. The Reserves for the Society are accumulated from various sources,
and only in part from the operations of the members. On the other hand, that portion of the
Collective assets which is derived directly from genuine co-operative activities results largely
from the operations of the past members of the society on which the members remaining at
the time of the liquidation have no legitimate claim.
In modification of that view, it is urged by others that the need for such a provision either in
our statement of Principles, or the rules or practice of the societies, is unnecessary in those
countries where, as in great Britain, Co- operative Societies are established without definite
term to their existence, and, in fact, only liquidate or dissolve by reason of their inability to
meet their obligations to their creditors when it is clear no collective assets remain for disposal.
The supporters of the Principle of Indivisible Reserves urge that the practice of most countries, supported as it is by the law of some, should be regarded as the correct co-operative
practice and be recommended for adoption by all. That practic} and law provide that the
collective assets of a society, after the settlement of all its just debts, shall be passed over to
some other co-operative organisation, such as the National Co- operative Union, to be used
for purposes of financing new co- operative enterprises; assisting societies in difficulties; or
to works of social welfare, education or public utility. This recommendation is, therefore,
submitted by the Special Committee in the hope that it will receive full and favourable consideration.
3. Conclusions and Recommendations
In concluding their Report the Special Committee desire to express their conviction that The
Enquiry into the Present Application of the Principles of Rochdale Co-operation, decided
upon by the Congress of Vienna, has confirmed - what the superficial evidence of general
observation and knowledge gained from reports and publications of National Movements
has always manifested - that the Consumers' Co-operative Movement of the world is generally, but insufficiently and incompletely, based upon the Principles laid down by the Weavers
of Rochdale in the statesman-like constitution and subsequent practice of the Rochdale Society of Equitable Pioneers in 1844. It was inevitable that within the spheres of forty national
movements, each interpreting standard doctrines according to their mental or racial habitudes, and influenced, to however small an extent, by the legislative and commercial customs of their respective countries, there should develop some variations in the application
of even such universally applicable Principles as those of Rochdale. Taking a broad view of
the whole field of Co-operation as revealed in the replies to the Questionnaires, and with the
reserve that in a few instances and in some countries rather acute divergences have been
revealed, the Committee feel that there is good ground for satisfaction that the character of
mutuality and solidarity of our peculiar economic system has been so fully maintained. It
would appear that these Principles contain the essential principle of life which is the highest
test of their genuineness. Today the basis of Rochdale exhibits the essential elements of a
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new economic system capable of replacing, and we believe destined to replace, the evils of
the competitive capitalistic system in civilised society.
We have endeavoured to exclude matters that appeared to us extraneous to the subject
matter of the enquiry, with the result that the Report deals only with the questions of first
importance to co-operation. We have endeavoured to place the ideal basis of society outlines in the `Law First' of the Rochdale Rules, and also its historic framework, in correct perspective as secondary to the main Principles, without which the true co-operative basis cannot be assured.
The Committee, having now had the fuller opportunity of examining the additional evidence
provided by the Wholesale Societies of Consumers, Workers' Productive Societies, Agricultural Co-operative Societies, Credit Societies and Co- operative Banks, desire to express their
conviction that the seven Principles as set out at the beginning of this Report still represent
the essential basis of the Rochdale System, and that nothing in the modern developments of
industry and commerce, or changes in economic method, has diminished their integrity.
In the course of the survey of these Principles, the Committee have indicated their view as to
the necessity of a less rigid interpretation of certain Principles in those types of organisations
which, in their constitution and operations, while genuinely co-operative, necessarily differ
from the simple form of consumers' societies for whose conduct the Rochdale system was
established.
They are further of opinion that it is necessary to express the Principle of `Dividend on Purchase' in a generalised form more in consonance with the variety of activities to which it is
sought to apply it. They, therefore, submit the following as calculated to meet the needs of
the case.
The Committee are of opinion that there should be some discrimination in the importance to
be attached to these seven points in deciding the essential co-operative character of any
Society or organisation. They suggest that the observance of co-operative principles depends
on the adoption and practice of the first four of the seven Principles,
1.
2.
3.
4.
Open Membership,
Democratic Control (One Man, One Vote)
Distribution of the surplus to the members in proportion to their transactions
Limited Interest on Capital.
In the opinion of the Committee, the remaining three Principles,
5. Political and Religious Neutrality
6. Cash Trading
7. Promotion of Education
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while undoubtedly part of the Rochdale System, and successfully operated by the Cooperative Movement in the different countries, are, however, not a condition for membership of the I.C.A.
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(1966) INFORME DE LA COMISIÓN DE LA ICA SOBRE LOS PRINCIPIOS
COOPERATIVOS
Fuente 1: Report of ICA Commission on Co-operative Principles in the Report of the 23rd ICA
Congress at Vienna, 5-8 September 1966.
Descargado de la web de la ICA el 28 de octubre de 2004.
Fuente 2: Kaplán de Drimer, Alicia y Drimer, Bernardo. “Las cooperativas: fundamentoshistoria-doctrina”. INTERCOOP, Editora Cooperativa, 1975.
Descargado de sitiosocial.com el 25.10.2003
En 1963, o sea un cuarto de siglo más tarde, el Congreso de la A. C. I., realizado en Botirnemouth (Gran Bretaña), encomendó a su Comité Central la designación de una Comisión Especial o “Comisión sobre los Principios Cooperativos” para que formulara “los principios
fundamentales de actividad de la cooperación en las condiciones actuales”; esta Comisión
Especial fue integrada por el Prof. D. G. KARVE de la India, A. BONNER de Gran Bretaña e
Irlanda, H. A. COWDEN de EE.UU., Prof. Dr. R. HENZLER de Alemania Federal y Prof. I. KISTANOV de U. R. S. S. (quien, en razón de enfermedad, fue luego reemplazado por su Colega
Prof. G. BLANK), secundarios todos ellos por el Director de la A. C. I., W. G. ALEXANDER, y el
Directo precedente de la misma institución, W. P. WATKINS. El informe final de esa Comisión fue considerado en el 23° Congreso de la A. C. I. realizado en Viena en 1966.
Introduction
Composition, Meetings and Procedure of the Commission
The Commission on Co-operative Principles was set up, at the request of the International
Co-operative Congress at Bournemouth, 1963, by a resolution of the ICA Central Committee
which met at Belgrade from the 3rd to 5th October, 1964.
On the recommendation of the Executive Committee, the Central Committee appointed five
members to serve on the Commission as follows:
Mr.A. Bonner
Mr. Howard A. Cowden
Professor Dr. R. Henzler
Professor D.G. Karve
Professor I. Kistanov
Senior Tutor, Co-operative College, Co-operative Union Ltd.,
Great Britain and Ireland
Member, Board of Directors, Co-operative League of the USA
Director, Institute of Co-operation, University of Hamburg,
Germany
Chairman, ICA Advisory Council for South-East Asia
Professor, Economics and Co-operation, Moscow Institute of
People's Economy, USSR
In December 1965, Professor Kistanov, acting on medical advice after a severe illness, did
not attempt the journey from Moscow. His colleague, Professor G. Blank, Head of the Department of Economics, Moscow Co-operative Institute deputed for him at this and at subsequent meetings.
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The Commission held its first meeting at the Headquarters of the ICA in London on the 15th
and 16th December, 1964. Professor D.G. Karve was elected Chairman, to preside over the
meetings and deliberations of the Commission throughout.
Secretarial services, it was decided, should be provided from the Secretariat of the ICA under
the direction of the Director Mr. W.G. Alexander, who should enlist the services of a rapporteur to assist him in the drafting of the Commission's report. Accordingly, Mr. W.P. Watkins,
formerly Director of the ICA, was commissioned to undertake this function.
The plan of work of the Commission provided, first, for the collection and analysis of information relating to the present observance of the Principles of Rochdale as formulated in the
report adopted by the ICA Congress at Paris in 1937. It was agreed that this purpose would
best be achieved through the issue of a questionnaire to the ICA's affiliated organisations, as
well as to selected non-member organisations and individuals well- known for their wide
acquaintance with the Co-operative Movement and their acknowledged position as exponents of co-operative ideas. On the basis of proposals submitted by members of the Commission, a questionnaire was drafted by the Secretariat and, after approval by the Commission, was circulated on 1st June, 1965.
The final date for the receipt of replies by the Secretariat was fixed at 31st August, 1965.
Although a large number of replies were received by that date, many others continued to
arrive in succeeding months until the total actually exceeded 100. As they were received,
replies were copied, translated when necessary, and circulated to the members of the
Commission. The information, opinions and fresh suggestions they contained represented a
large sample of the ICA's affiliated organisations, a number of which brought their own affiliates into consultation. This material gave the Commission a useful insight, not only into the
extent to which the Rochdale Principles were actually observed at the present day, but also
into the reasons why co- operatives of different types considered it impossible or inexpedient in certain cases to apply them in practice.
The Commission held a second series of meetings, partly at Helsinki from the 18th to 22nd
September, and partly at Moscow from the 24th to 26th September, 1965. As Helsinki was
also the venue of the Central Committee of the ICA, it was possible to arrange a number of
interviews at which the commission was able to hear the opinions of leading Co-operators
from American, Asian and European Co-operative Movements on questions which ranged
over the whole field of its investigation. At Moscow the Commission had the advantage of a
meeting with the President and Board of Centrosoyus, and of hearing their explanations of
various features of Co-operative activity in the USSR.
The Commission entered upon its own discussion of its approach to the study of Cooperative Principles against the background of contemporary economic and social life and
on the significance of the seven principles defined by the Report of 1937. These discussions,
begun at Helsinki, were continued in Moscow.
While in Helsinki, a further request was communicated from the central Committee that the
Commission should endeavour, by all means, to complete its work in time for its final report
to be discussed by the next International Co-operative Congress at Vienna in September
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1966. To enable the Commission to fulfil the Central Committee's request, it was agreed to
hold meetings in December 1965 and February, 1966.
The analysis of the replies to the questionnaire was completed by the Research Section of
the IC_ Secretariat in November 1965 and made available to the members of the Commission before the third series of meetings was held at ICA Headquarters from the 12th to 16th
December, 1965., As the Commission had the benefit of studying the originals, summaries
and analyses of the replies to the questionnaire, it was in a position to take decisions after
dull deliberation regarding the retention, reformulation or rejection of the Principles adopted in 1937, together with any suggestions for additional principles offered for its consideration.
The draft report was completed and dispatched to the members before the end of January
in time for consideration at its fourth series of meetings in London from the 14th to the 18th
February, 1966. At this meeting the final report of the Commission was unanimously adopted.
The Commission would like to place on record its sense of obligation to the large number of
co-operative organisations and individual co-operators who readily and unreservedly placed
their information and views at its disposal. The trouble which some among them took to
respond to our invitation to meet us in Helsinki and Moscow is deeply appreciated by us. In
Finland, UK and USSR, the National Co-operative Unions, and some of their affiliated organisations, were good enough to offer cordial hospitality which enabled the Commission to
broaden its understanding of conditions and views of the respective co- operative movements.
Mr. W.P. Watkins, former Director of the ICA, who accepted the Commission's invitation to
act as Rapporteur helped the Commission in several ways. The efficiency and the speed with
which he prepared drafts of the Report for the Commission's use were indeed very remarkable. Without his assistance in this respect, it would have been well nigh impossible to produce the report within the limits of time desired by the Central Committee of the ICA.
Mr. W.G. Alexander, who had been good enough to accept the Commission's invitation to
act as its Secretary, in addition to his heavy duties as Director of the ICA, has borne a very
heavy burden, administrative as well as deliberative, cheerfully and most fruitfully. The
Commission would like to make special mention of Mr. Alexander's contribution towards the
timely and satisfactory results of the Commission's work.
Staff and assisting members like Mr. I. Williams, who recorded a verbatim statement of the
deliberations, Mr. V. Kondratov, who helped with Russian interpretation and Mr. J.H. Ollman
and Mrs. L. Stettner of the ICA Office, along with other members of the ICA staff, have
helped in their respective positions very materially towards organising the Commission's
work. The Commission's best thanks are due to all these.
Terms of Reference
The objects and scope of the Commission's investigation were first indicated in the resolution adopted by the Bournemouth Congress in the following terms:
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"The Congress requests the Central Committee to: constitute an authoritative commission to
formulate the fundamental principles of activity of co-operation under modern conditions;
empower the Commission to study which of the principles of the Rochdale Pioneers have
retained their importance to the present time; which of them should be changed and how,
in order to contribute in the best manner to the fulfilment of the tasks of the co-operative
movements and, finally, which of them have lost their importance and should be substituted
by others; empower the Commission to formulate new principles of co-operative activity;
include in the Agenda of the 23rd Congress of the alliance consideration of new principles
for the activity of the Co-operative Movement; empower the Executive to request the national co- operative organisations, members of the ICA, to send their proposals on this subject; ask the Central Committee to consider the proposals of the national co-operative organisations and those of the Commission at a meeting preceding the 23rd Congress and to
submit its opinion to the Congress; ask the Central Committee to consider the proposals of
the national co-operative organisations and those of the Commission at a meeting preceding
the 23rd Congress and to submit its opinion to the Congress."
The Central Committee, after considering the request of Congress, adopted a resolution
providing for the constitution and administrative arrangements for the Commission and stating its terms of reference in para 4, which runs:
"4. The task of the Commission shall be: To ascertain how far the Principles of Rochdale - as
defined by the ICA Congress at Paris in 1937 - are observed today and the reasons for any
non-observance; To consider in the light of the results of the foregoing study, whether the
Rochdale Principles meet the needs of the Co-operative Movement having regard to the
present-day economic, social and political situation or whether any of the Principles should
be reformulated in order the better to contribute to the fulfilment of the aims and tasks of
the Co-operative Movement in its different branches; if so, to recommend a new text of
texts."
The first part of the Commission's task, as will be seen above, was to enquire into the present-day observance of the Principles of Rochdale and into the reasons for any non- observance disclosed by its enquiries. It was in order to enlist the assistance of interested Cooperative Organisations, especially on this part of the Commission's terms of reference, that
the questionnaire already mentioned was framed and circulated. Their answers, summarised
and tabulated by the ICA Research Section will become generally available in due course.
The replies to the questionnaire provided only part of the basis for the Commission's findings and judgement, which also had to depend largely on the studies and experiences of its
members. The whole body of material received from correspondence was contributed entirely voluntarily, and a number of organisations brought their own affiliates into consultation before submitting their replies to the Commission. The material thus represented a
large sample and its value for purposes of information and illustration was very considerable
Even more valuable was the evidence, given by the replies, of the great extent to which Cooperators all over the world, irrespective of the type of co-operative organisation to which
they are attached and its economic and social environment, posses a common co-operative
philosophy, from which they derive common sentiments and attitudes to basic problems
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greatly outweighing their inevitable diversities of objectives and method. A further result
was to reveal the historical continuity which connects the pioneers of Co-operation in the
early stages of the Industrial Revolution of the 19th century, even before the Rochdale Pioneers, with the pioneers of the newly developing regions of the 20th. This made the Commission's tasks of answering the question, whether the Principles of Rochdale meet the
needs of the Co-operative Movement today, much easier than it might have been. The task
proved to be one, not so much of revision, as of clearing up confusion and removing unnecessary rigidity rooted in unbalanced or over-simplified interpretations, in other words, a process of re-burnishing which permits the underlying principles to shine with a brighter light.
Historical Background
The Resolution of the Bournemouth Congress which called for the present investigation was
adopted by an overwhelming majority. The need for a review of the Principles of Cooperation was recognised from several standpoints. Far-reaching changes had occurred in
the political constitution and economic organisation of nations. Under the stress of a revolution in distributive trade many co-operative organisations encountered difficulties in maintaining their traditional practices. In the newly- developing regions of the young co-operative
movements had still to reach their full capacity to implement the Movement's principles and
apply them in their special economic and social setting.
Compared with the Special Committee of 1930-37, the Commission has been working in
greatly altered circumstances. Although the basic problems may appear to be essentially the
same, namely, to maintain the Co-operative Movement's autonomy vis-a-vis political parties
and governments; to correct tendencies to compromise on principles for the sake of business advantage; to clarify the essential differences between true co- operatives and other
enterprises apparently imitating co- operative methods to stress the vital necessity of keeping the Movement's democratic machinery and its educational system up to date, they were
posed in different forms and with somewhat less urgency thirty years ago. The general situation was less dynamic than it is today. The main work of that Special Committee was not
merely to clarify, but also to reaffirm the principles handled down from the Movement's
pioneer days. The International Co- operative Alliance itself was smaller in respect of its total
membership and mainly dependent for support on consumers' Co- operative Movements in
Europe, a fact which was bound to influence the outlook of the Special Committee and the
focus of its interest.
Even during the Second World War the Co-operative Movement played an important part in
the economic life of many countries. After the fighting ended and the work of national and
international reconstruction began potentialities of co-operative organisations for economic
and social reorganisation became more widely recognised in all countries irrespective of
their economic and social systems.
Meanwhile important changes have taken place in technology and especially management.
The world appears to stand on the threshold of a new industrial revolution even more comprehensive than the old. The function of Co-operative Organisations, therefore, is more than
the defence of group interests; they should be making a positive contribution to the welfare
of their participants in an expanding economic system. The needs of co- operatives for large
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masses of capital and for trained man-power will therefore grow, though capital used by
them will not dominate but only earn its fair interest. Again, in the development over a long
period of large-scale business undertakings with many ramifications, an intricate form of
organisation is necessary, in which too absolute interpretations of principle are not appropriate. The Movement cannot remain content for the future. This consideration is as important for the newly-developing countries as for the more advanced, for wrong applications
of principle may not only hinder the Movement's progress but produce results with Cooperators do not desire. They must recognise that involvement in public policy and in other
sectors of the economy than their own is inevitable, and they would be mistaken to wish it
otherwise.
As the awareness of the demands of the new era into which the movement is passing has
spread amongst Co-operators, they have reacted at every level - local, national and international. Structural changes involving far-reaching consolidation, concentration and integration
have already been made in a number of national Co-operative Movements; more are contemplated. In the last five years, these changes have been the subject of study and exchange
of ideas in the Authorities and the Auxiliary Organisations of the International Co-operative
Alliance. But as they carry through their measures of reconstruction many leading Cooperators feel with greater urgency the need for guidance in matters of principle - the need
to distinguish what is essential and must be maintained at all costs from what may be varied,
discarded or added, according to circumstances. They also feel the need of making firmer
the common intellectual and moral ground on which Co-operators of all nations, of all
schools of thought, of all branches of the Movement, can unite. The work of the Commission
therefore takes into account the structural transformations now in progress and proposed
for the future.
The Commission's Analysis and Approach
The Co-operative Movement is world-wide. The International Co-operative Alliance is becoming steadily more and more representative of it. Although co-operative organisations of
many countries in Africa, Asia and Latin America have yet to join it, the Alliance grows in
membership from year to year and its membership becomes better balanced because it is
more inclusive of the diverse types of co-operative society. Consumers' and agricultural cooperatives still greatly predominate, as is inevitable, but it is significant that a growing number of unions and federations operating in the field of credit, housing, fisheries, etc. are being admitted. Sharp divisions formerly existing between co-operatives of various types can
no longer be maintained. In the newly-developing regions especially, multi- purpose societies tend in several cases to replace co-operatives of specialised types which may be too
small or otherwise ineffective. More important still is the fact that despite the obvious differences between the economic and social systems under which co-operatives carry on their
work, the Alliance maintains its unity, as the only international organisation dedicated entirely and exclusively to the propagation and promotion of Co- operation.
The Commission, in its approach to its tasks has been profoundly influenced by its awareness
of these facts. On the one hand, it felt bound to recognise that the practices of co- operative
organisations must needs vary, in ways too numerous to mention and with considerable differences of emphasis, not only according to their purpose and type, but also according to the
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environment in which they have to further their members' interests and survive. On the other hand, there must necessarily be common elements from which they derive the resemblances which prove their membership of the co-operative family. This or that branch of the
Co-operative Movement may have specific principles which are of minor importance to others, but the Commission considered that principles which are of minor importance to others,
but the Commission considered that its primary task was to attempt to formulate those general principles which could and should be observed by co-operatives of all types in all social
and economic systems.
it has already been remarked that the ICA Special Committee in its Report of 1937 may have
been influenced to a certain degree by the composition of the Alliance at that time. This
notwithstanding, the principles it enumerated were intended to apply universally to cooperatives of all kinds at all times and places. The Commission, therefore, took this Report as
its starting point, as requested by its terms of reference, and based its discussion on the
principles formulated therein. Since experience has shown that too brief or simple a formulation can be misleading, the Commission has deliberately chosen, at the risk of being no
longer and more qualified in its statements, to bring out the full implications of its thought
on any given topic.
Moreover, it has endeavoured at all times to bear in mind the point of view of practical cooperators, emphasising in many cases the spirit rather than the letter of principle. It has preferred to keep in the foreground the consideration that, in varying contexts and historical
circumstances, different aspects of Co-operation receive varying degrees of emphasis and
that innumerable groups of Co-operators in their own environment have been trying out
how best to attain the ultimate goals of the Movement. What the Commission has considered important was not so much the verbal or semantic formulae as the substance of these
objectives.
Co-operative Principles and Ideals
It is also in relation to these objectives that the Commission framed its working definition of
Co-operative Principles as those practices which are essential, that is absolutely indispensable, to the achievement of Co-operative Movement's purpose. This purpose has been described in various ways at different stages of the Movement's historic development. The
Rochdale Pioneers, like some of the Co-operators who preceded them, declared their aim to
be the establishment of communities supporting themselves by their own labour on their
own land. For the most part, the Movement did not advance along this line of intensive development but developed extensively, by spreading out geographically and by breaking into
one field of economic activity after another. Its success encouraged many to visualise its ultimate end and ideal as a Co-operative Commonwealth. At a later stage again, and with
broader experience, many Co-operators became content to accept the less ambitious ideal
of a Co- operative Sector complementary to, but exercising an influence upon, the public and
private sectors of the economy.
The common element at all times has been that Co-operation at its best aims at something
beyond promotion of the interests of the individual members who compose a co-operative
at any time. Its object is rather to promote the progress and welfare of humanity. It is this
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aim that makes a co-operative society something different from an ordinary economic enterprise and justifies its being tested, not simply from the stand point of its business efficiency, but also from the standpoint of its contribution to the moral and social values which elevate human life above the merely material and animal.
It follows from the standpoint adopted by the commission that no distinction of degree of
validity can be drawn between essential principles. The Commission has not given some
principles a higher priority than others. On the contrary, if every principle denotes something essential, all posses equal authority and the essential substance of all must be equally
observed to the full extent and in the manner that circumstances permit at any time and
place. This qualification is inevitable in the application of theoretical principles which have to
be effective in a variety of circumstances. The Commission has done its work in the hope of
arriving at formulations of essential values in Co-operation which will supply meaningful interpretations and guidance to Co-operators who have to meet the challenge and grasp the
opportunities of the modern world.
Consideration of Co-operative Principles
Membership
It has been usual in the past to describe the principle of co-operative membership by such
words as `Open' and `Voluntary'. For several reasons the Commission felt that these brief
descriptions do not bring out fully the characteristic features of the relationship between a
co-operative institution and its individual constituents. One fundamental consideration,
which corresponds fairly closely to the facts and normal practice of co-operative societies
should and do become its members and, conversely, that the membership of a co-operative
consists of persons with needs which its services can and do supply. Another fundamental
consideration springs from the very nature of the Co- operative Movement which is at once
a social movement seeking to increase the numbers of its adherents and economic organism
capable of expanding and occupying wider fields of activity. Its attitude to persons eligible
for membership is, therefore, normally to welcome them when they wish to join it and, even
more, to encourage and assist them to join societies appropriate to their situation and
needs.
Obviously, the whole group of questions involved in membership can and must be studied
from two complementary standpoints, that of the individual and that of the co-operative.
The freedom of each - the individual and the co-operative - to consult its own interests and
act accordingly - needs to be reconciled and blended with that of the other. On the one
hand, the individual should be free to join a co-operative and share its economic and social
advantages on an equal footing with other members. That implies that he must shoulder this
due share of responsibility also. But he should not be coerced into joining, either directly, by
legal or administrative compulsion, or indirectly, under social or, possibly, political pressure.
His decision to apply for membership should normally be the result of his unfettered appreciation of co-operative values and consideration of his economic advantage, including that of
his dependants. He should be free also to withdraw from a co- operative when he finds that
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he no longer has any need of its services or when the co-operative is unable to supply his
needs.
In the nature of things, this freedom can rarely, if at all, be absolute. It can be modified or
overridden by other considerations of wider application and greater essential validity. A
government which is assisting a farmer to reclaim land on which he is to settle may not unreasonably impose membership of a supply or marketing co-operative, at least for a limited
time, as a condition of its assistance or support, in the interests of the farmer himself. A producer or group of producers may in effect sabotage the efforts of a voluntary co- operative
to improve the marketing position and incomes of producers by refusing to join it and so
giving a foothold to opposing, may be reactionary, economic interests. In order to counteract this government may intervene with legislation compelling all producers to join a cooperative or at least to market their products through it, if a prescribed majority of the producers vote in favour of such measures. Other examples may be cited, where the refusal of a
small minority of individuals, after every effort has been made to persuade them to join a
co- operative, say, for managing an irrigation scheme or for providing and using pesticides or
adopting a new system of cropping with the prospect of much higher yields, may frustrate
the whole plan of action. In such cases, refusal to join the co- operative is essentially antisocial and can be justifiably overridden in the interests of the whole community, provided
that all the circumstances of the case are taken into account and safeguards adopted against
the abuse of power through the extension of compulsion in circumstances where it is unnecessary or inappropriate.
A co-operative, on the other hand, also needs freedom to modify its welcoming attitude to
applicants for membership, even to the point of refusal, as well as to have in reserve powers
to terminate membership if the interests of its members as a body so require.
It is a mistake to interpret the rule of `open membership' in the sense that all co-operatives
are obliged to enroll all persons who may apply to join them. Open membership has never
meant that. The Rochdale Pioneers at no time attempted to apply such a rule, for one very
good reason that their society, witness the celebrated `Law First', was conceived as something more than a retail distributive enterprise; it was a community in embryo; its growth
and success would depend greatly on internal harmony which might easily turn to discord, as
earlier experiments had shown, through the admission of bad characters, irresponsible individualists or trouble-makers. Nothing is to be gained and much may well be lost by bringing
in a person who unsettles the cohesion of the membership. In the same order of ideas, the
savings and loan bank or credit union may be justified in refusing to admit an applicant
known to be creditworthy. Another kind of limiting condition, imposed for the sake of orderly and economical working or of avoidance of unhealthy competition, is the exclusion by one
society of would-be members from the territory served by another. Several instances of
similar obvious limitations on the unfettered admission of members may be cited by examples from all forms of co-operative societies.
It may also be stated as a general proposition that persons or associations who desire to
join, or to form, a co-operative for dealing in produce or labour other than their own or of
their own members, cannot be said to act in pursuance of the basic co- operative principle -
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that of association among persons, considered as human beings with equal status, for mutual service.
Taking into account of the preceding limitations, it would seem that `open membership' in a
very broad sense can and should be the universal practice of consumers' co-operatives, if
only because every man, woman and child must consume to sustain life. In the case of other
organisations, however, there are further obvious limitations on the admission of members.
For instance, the very specialisation of producers' co-operatives, whether promoted by artisans or wage-earners engaged in the same trade or industry or by farmers or cultivators,
automatically limits their membership to persons interested in a given product or range of
products and excludes others who have no such interest. For example, cultivators not interested in citrus-growing for the market have no place in a citrus-marketing society, but a citrus- marketing society would not be acting in a fully co-operative spirit, if it closed its membership against applicants for membership who were citrus-growers. In general terms, the
essential consideration is that, if an individual has interests within some specific field of service for which a co-operative is formed, he should be regarded as eligible for membership
and, if he applies, admitted, unless he is personally unacceptable on some obviously justifiable grounds similar to those indicated above.
In the case of the workers' productive societies, the members of which find their daily employment in the society, limitation may justifiably be stricter. Not every worker who may
seek employment or membership in such a society can or ought to be admitted, because the
society's capacity to employ its membership and add to the number of workers who may be
applicants to membership is itself limited. Again, a limitation adopted by some of these societies on prudential grounds is the fixing of a probationary period for candidates for membership, in order that those who are already members can make sure that the new entrants will
possess the necessary degree of technical skill and have sufficient regard for the interests of
the society. The fact that these limitations may be capable of abuse by some co- operative
associations does not make them unreasonable in themselves, though continued employment of workers to whom membership is being denied would offend against open membership.
Another important class of co-operative which may be obliged to limit their membership are
the housing societies which are engaged in supplying a commodity which is naturally limited
in supply and can therefore only cater for a limited number of persons. They cannot guarantee that all who may want to join them will obtain within a reasonable time the house or flat
they may desire and the only fair course may therefore be to close their membership register until vacancies actually occur. In these cases, the essential question has to be posed in
the converse way; has the society tenants who have been denied the right to become members? If the answer is no, the society is not acting in an un-co-operative spirit.
The preceding examples, without being exhaustive, may serve to illustrate the natural limitations to which the admission of members to co-operative societies may be subject. These
notwithstanding, co-operation can maintain its proper character as a voluntary movement
offering to share its benefits with all who need them, only if co-operative societies of every
type unreservedly accept their obligation to admit to membership any one who, in return for
these benefits will undertake in good faith to fulfil the duties which membership implies.
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Regulations, policies and practices which are exclusive in their effects, reserving to a select
few what should be open to all, are unacceptable restrictions.
One kind of restriction may be called economic since it consists in the erection of barriers
which some people eligible for membership may be unable, for economic or financial reasons to surmount. If a society requires new members to pay entrance fees or subscribe a
minimum shareholding which are beyond the means of any appreciable number of possible
applicants, so that they are deterred from applying for membership, it is acting restrictively.
Stating the essential consideration positively, it would be correct to conclude that the entrance fee (if any) and the value of the minimum shareholding should be fixed at amounts
which the poorest prospective member could pay without hardship. The general practice of
co-operative societies for generations past has been in the direction of easing the conditions
of admission by allowing shares to be paid up in instalments or out of accumulated savings
on purchases or sales (patronage refunds) and by abolishing entrance fees, but there are
limits set to these facilities by the capital requirements of the societies. Within the last 20
years or so, these limits have tended to be drawn tighter, partly by reason of monetary inflation, partly by reason of the greatly increased capital requirements in order to finance business expansion and structural re-organisation to meet competition of unprecedented severity. Certain national co-operative movements have thus been obliged to raise the nominal
value of the share or the number of shares to be held as a minimum, a measure which would
appear to be entirely justified, provided that the new figure does not have restrictive effects
on the admission of new members. Under conditions of high and stable employment and
rising wages the restriction may not be appreciable, but any proposals for raising minima
may well be examined from this angle before they are adopted.
A second kind of restriction may be indicated by the term `ideological' for lack of something
more comprehensive which would include the most important matters which tend to divide
people in society, irrespective of their economic situation and needs. The chief of these areas of conflict have been in the past and still tend to be in the present, politics and religion.
Distinct from but partly overlapping these are race, colour, caste, nationality, culture, language any of which can provoke intense and sometimes chronic hostility. From the Cooperative Movement's earliest days wise co-operative leadership realised that if a cooperative society was to maximise the economic power of its membership, actual or potential, it would be a mistake to exclude any person of goodwill on account of political opinions
or activities, religious creed or lack of creed, race, colour or any other consideration not relevant to the economic and social purpose of the co-operative. And with few exceptions, that
rule is followed today even by co-operative organisations which may have always had close
affiliations with political parties or religious institutions. The important consideration is that
the society shall demand from its members no other allegiance or loyalty than what is owed
to itself and its own democratic decisions and shall admit all who are prepared in good faith
to give their allegiance.
Before passing from the question of admission to other aspects of the relations of cooperative societies with their members, the Commission would point out that the consequence of restrictive policies in general is not simply to stunt a society's economic development, but to risk the deterioration of its character as a co-operative. The normal cooperative practice, as was indicated in a previous paragraph of this section, is that the mem-
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bers and the users of the services of any given co-operative society are one and the same
body of people. Nevertheless in actual business life, it is extremely unlikely that many societies, especially those trading in highly developed industrial or agricultural areas, can avoid
dealing with non- members. A non-member is a potential member. If he uses a society's services once and is satisfied, he may well do so again. Many far-sighted societies accumulate
his patronage refunds for him and when they amount to a minimum share, offer him the
opportunity of membership and so of regularising his relations with it. On the other hand, in
a society which pursues a policy of restriction, the existing membership tends to form an
exclusive and narrowing circle, whose democracy becomes sooner or later suspect and
whose business practice tends more and more to resemble that of profit-seeking enterprise.
If it be accepted that the co-operative system is one which the motive of mutual service rather than profit is dominant, then the rule of `open' membership, with all the qualifications
and modifications in its application already mentioned, provides indispensable safeguards
against degeneration into business of the ordinary type. Thanks to open membership, the
shares of co-operative societies remain constantly at the nominal value fixed in the society's
rules and can be acquired by any new member at that value. Trafficking and speculation in a
co-operative shares are therefore rendered profitless and do not arise.
Naturally the salutary effects of open membership are reduced if the distinction between
members and non-members becomes blurred. Because they undertake the risks, it is members and no one else who are fairly entitled to share in the savings which a co-operative
makes, but only in so far as these savings result from their own transactions with it. The society must itself be scrupulous in dealing with any revenue which accrues from dealings with
non-members using its regular services; if it is not reserved for individual non-members as
an inducement to them to apply for membership, then it should be devoted to some purpose of common benefit, preferably for the wider community beyond the society's membership. In no case, should it be added to the savings distributed to members, otherwise they
would participate in profits in a manner that co-operation expressly abjures. The distinction
between members and non-members becomes increasingly difficult to preserve with the
necessary clarity under contemporary trading conditions. The stores of the great urban consumers' societies of the highly developed countries stand open to the general public and in
some countries the national Co-operative Movement claims sale to the public as a right, or,
at least, a condition necessary to the movement's growth and its effectiveness as a priceregulator. There is a disposition among a public pampered by advertising to take the benefits
offered by the consumer co-operatives but to decline membership since that involves responsibility. Open membership as a means of keeping the door open to the younger generation and becoming effete may nowadays be less effective than formerly, but it still has a certain value, especially where it is supported by the right educational policy - a subject to be
discussed under another heading.
If an individual should be free to join a co-operative society, he should be in principle free to
withdraw from it. But in doing so he does not or cannot immediately shed the responsibilities he undertook when he became a member. He has an obligation to consider the interests
of the society and the management of the society has the duty of safeguarding those interests, especially as cessation of membership normally entails a claim to the withdrawal of
share capital. In this way the resignation of a single member with a large capital holding or
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the simultaneous withdrawal of a number of members may seriously inconvenience a society or even jeopardise its financial position. Societies' rules therefore rightly include provisions governing the termination of membership, the withdrawal or transfer of share capital
and sometimes the period of a member's liability after he has left it. No member should be
given any excuse for ignorance of the conditions he must fulfil if he leaves. In an earlier stage
of the movement's development considerations of financial stability and safety induced Cooperators to prescribe in their societies' rules that members should hold a minimum of
transferable as well as withdrawable shares, but in the older and well-established cooperative movements today the tendency is to facilitate the withdrawal of capital because
this facility is itself an inducement to members to take out shares above the minimum holding required by rule. The legislation of different countries regulates this situation in different
ways, but, in general, while a member leaving a society cannot usually enforce the repayment of his share capital as a right, the management of a society, where society's liquidity or
financial position are not impaired, would act fully in a co-operative spirit by avoiding the
infliction of any hardship through standing strictly on the letter of the rules and in an emergency by doing everything possible to afford relief.
Finally, a co-operative society, in the interests of the whole body of its members must have
the right and must take power in its rules to terminate an individual's membership, given
just cause. This is also a case in which the rules should lay down the conditions under which
resort to expulsion is possible and the procedure to be followed before expulsion is finally
decided, so that all members can be aware of them. It is not grounded in any specifically cooperative principle but in a natural principle, common to all incorporated associations, which
permits them to eject elements acting against their interest or contrary to their objects. If
the decision to expel is taken in a democratic manner by the elected authorities of the cooperative, that is to say, either the board of directors or the council of supervision or both,
the member affected should have the right of appeal to his fellow-members, either in the
general meeting or in a representative assembly, invested with the functions of the general
meeting, before expulsion takes effect.
Membership of Co-operative Organisations above the primary may consist of co-operatives
or of co-operatives and individuals. With very few exceptions the rules and practice regulating the admission to and withdrawal from these organisations are similar to those of primary
societies already discussed and raise no important questions of principle. Whereas however
membership of primary societies may occasionally include, without impairing their cooperative character, a small minority of corporate bodies not forming part of the Cooperative Movement, the case of many organisations established for special services needs
close examination because the conditions are not necessarily similar. A real possibility exists
that co-operative organisations would be in a minority. In this case, they might not be able
to assure the observance of co-operative principles by, and the retention of true cooperative characteristics of, such organisations. Where the co-operative membership is not
in a position to ensure that co-operative principles will be maintained the organisation is in
danger of losing its eligibility for recognition as a co-operative.
The important consideration is not necessarily the legal constitution of the organisation but
whether in fact the co- operative principles are observed. The same consideration governs
the participation of co-operative societies in non-co-operative associations. Co-operative
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societies ought not to participate in and ought to withdraw from, an association if it involves
them in practices for which there is no justification in terms of co- operative principle.
In conclusion, the Commission, after reviewing the practice of many types of co-operative
societies in varying social environments today, finds that voluntary membership without
artificial restriction or discrimination, as this has been interpreted in the preceding discussion, should be maintained as a fundamental characteristic of the co-operative system of
economic organisation because it is essential to the achievement of its immediate and ultimate aims. The individual who seeks to participate, along with his neighbours or fellowworkers, in a co-operative, must do so of his own free-will, not from external pressure or
constraint, nor must the co-operative place any artificial or discriminatory obstacle in the
way of his entry or impose, as a condition of admission, his adhesion to any organisation or
doctrine not relevant to the society's economic and social purpose. The individual should be
under no compulsion to remain a member any longer than his own interests dictate, nor
should the society be obliged to retain him as a member if he acts in a manner detrimental
to its interests and hostile to its aims. The conditions under which individual and society can
terminate their association should be clearly laid down in advance and well known to both
parties.
Democratic Administration
The primary and dominant purpose of a co-operative society is to promote the interest of its
membership. What the members' interests are in any given situation only they can finally
determine. A co-operative therefore will not in the long run work well and prosper without
agreed and efficient methods of consulting the members as a body and enabling them to
express their wishes. Moreover, since it is the members who bring a co- operative into existence and whose constant adhesion and support keep it alive, those who administer its affairs and, in particular, conduct its day-to-day business must be chosen directly or indirectly
by the members and enjoy their confidence. It follows further that the administrators and
managers are accountable to the members for their stewardship, report regularly in a business-like manner on their activities and submit the results to the members' judgement. If the
members are not satisfied, they have the authority and the power to criticise, to object, and
in extreme cases, to dismiss and replace their officers and officials.
This is what is meant by saying that co-operatives are administered in a democratic manner.
It is significant that amongst all the documentation placed before the Commission, there was
not one serious challenge to the claim of democracy to be recognised as an essential element in Co-operation. What divergences of opinion or disagreement were revealed referred
only to the different rules, conventions and practices necessary to achieve effective democracy in varying circumstances.
It is not therefore that the principle is in any doubt, but that its implementation becomes
more and more complicated with the growing size of Co-operative institutions and the scope
of their economic commitments, as well as with the rapid and far- reaching changes now
going on in the Movement's economic and social environment. The evolution of industry and
of co-operative enterprises in particular makes continual modification inevitable. Refine-
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ments in the forms and machinery of administration are not, therefore, to be regarded as a
departure from democratic principle.
Development of the co-operative's administrative organs, if they are to embody the democratic principle, must remain anchored to certain fundamental rules and assumptions which
the Co- operative Movement has accepted from its very beginnings. The co- operative society, unlike a joint-stock company, being primarily an association of human beings, the status
of all its members should be equal and all should have equal opportunities of participating in
decisions and expressing views on policy. There is no way of ensuring this save by giving each
member one vote and one only. Further, since the Co-operative Movement exists in order to
place the common people in effective control of the mechanism of modern economic life, it
must give the individual (only too often reduced to the role of a cog in that mechanism) a
chance tao express himself, a voice in the affairs and destinies of his co-operative and scope
to exercise his judgement. It is a corollary of the principle of voluntary membership that the
individual member should feel that he has a real responsibility for his society's good administration and achievements. Accordingly, there should be no exceptions to the rule of one
member, one vote in primary co-operative societies, that is, in associations of individual persons.
The right of every member to one vote and one only, enshrined in the rule-books of cooperative societies, is not in itself a guarantee of effective democratic administration, especially in the vast and widely-extended primary co-operatives, notably of the Consumers' Cooperative Movement, of today. Much depends on the circumstances in which members are
called on to vote and in which their votes are given. In societies growing rapidly, whether by
simple expansion or by amalgamation, the general meeting of members becomes less reliable and authoritative as a supreme democratic organ. It is therefore often replaced by a representative body legally invested with the powers of the general meeting and exercising its
functions. The individual members no longer directly elect the administrative board but only
the representatives who elect the board. Instead of one general meeting, the members are
convened to a number of branch or district meetings, the agenda of which can cover, of
course, the whole filed of the society's operations and not simply branch or district affairs.
Moreover, personal knowledge of officers and candidates diminishes, giving place to impersonal relations between administration and membership, at the same time as the increasing
scope and complexity of societies' operations outrun the ability, not merely of the ordinary
members, but of their elected representatives also. to keep track of them.
The tendency to evolve towards the creation of ever larger and more closely integrated operational units is not only characteristic of the economic world but also inherent in the cooperative form of association. The Co-operative Movement therefore must attempt to
match it by a corresponding development of its democratic organs and a judicious balancing
of centralisation by decentralisation. The more the affairs of primary societies have to be
entrusted to trained and experienced professionals and the greater the extent to which vital
decisions have to be taken by an official elite at the centre of their administrative systems,
the greater the importance grows of consolidating the societies' local foundations and
strengthening their influence on the minds of their members. To counterbalance the officials
and their natural leanings towards bureaucracy, their responsibilities as guardians of the
members' interests and spokesmen for their wishes. To make this possible the general body
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of members must themselves be well informed about the affairs of the society. It is not within the Commission's terms of reference to prescribe methods of constitution-building or systems of organisation, all of which are bound to require more or less adjustment to circumstances which vary from continent to continent, but it would fail in its duty if it did not call
attention to the seriousness and urgency of the main problems involved in the preservation
of the Co-operative Movement's essential democracy under contemporary economic and
social conditions. In a period when precedent is becoming an ever less reliable guide, there
is need for constant testing and experiment. In this connection may be cited the efforts being made in several countries to improve the quality and qualifications of elected officers
and the attempts to train members of management committees and to devolve upon the
members in their localities matters, even the appointment and dismissal of manager, in
which the local interest is paramount.
It is necessary at this stage to consider democracy in relation to another important aspect of
the evolution towards larger operational units, and that is the enhanced role already played
- and promising to be greater in the future - by unions and federations of co-operatives, as
well as other secondary, even tertiary, organisations. The secondary organisations which are
created by the co-operation of co-operative societies are themselves undoubtedly cooperative organisations, with the same obligation as the primary societies of conforming to
the essential co-operative rules. The members of secondary organisations have equal rights.
This equality gives them the proper basis for democratic management. It is, therefore, quite
consistent to apply the rule of one member, one vote to secondary organisations, as well as
primary societies. That, in fact, is what is done in a number of secondary organisations, including some of national dimensions. it would appear to work satisfactorily in organisations
where there is no great disparity in size between their affiliated societies. Another method,
which unquestionably pays proper respect to the human factor, is to base voting power upon the individual membership of societies. This is characteristic of the consumers' cooperative movements in which the national and regional unions may comprise village societies with a few hundred, as well as urban or district societies with scores or even hundreds of
thousands of members. A variant of this system is found where voting power may be based
on capital contributions which are themselves based on membership. On the other hand, a
tendency is observable in some producers' co-operative movements to take account of the
different degrees of interest displayed by the affiliated societies in their common organisation, as indicated for example, by their volume of purchases from it or of produce marketed
through it. There are, of course, a number of consumers' wholesale federations whose
member societies vote in elections and appoint representatives to general assemblies and
congresses in proportion to their purchases. It does not appear, however, that these departures from the strict rule of equality of person shave yet led anywhere to a distribution of
voting power radically different from that which would have been made on a membership
basis, and, from a practical angle and in the light of experience, they may represent a necessary or desirable concession for the sake of unit, equity or efficiency or any combination of
these. This case may be illustrated with special force by marketing or processing societies,
operating without a binding rule that obliges their affiliates to deliver all their produce to
them, which feel obliged to draw distinction in favour of those which make constant, compared with those which only make intermittent, use of their services.
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With hardly any exception however, whatever the basis of differential voting adopted, the
largest constituents are not permitted to possess an unlimited number of votes. Normally
the rules lay down a graduated scale and impose a ceiling which may not be exceeded, as in
the rules of the International Co- operative Alliance. Such a method reduces the likelihood of
undemocratic decisions resulting from the power of a small coalition of large organisations
to outvote a much greater number of small ones. It is quite possible, however, that, as a result of the amalgamation of local primary societies into regional units, many of the present
glaring inequalities of size among the affiliates of national unions will disappear.
The present discussion of co-operative management has proceeded so far on the assumption that, given the proper democratic structure and a modicum of education, the members
of co-operative organisations can, as a rule, manage their business in their own interests in a
competent manner. This assumption agrees fairly well with the facts, otherwise the Cooperative Movements now well-established in the advanced industrial countries would not
be able to boast of a century's or half- century's successful development. Nevertheless there
are considerable areas of the globe where any such assumption is not justified and may be
very much at variance with the facts. This is far from saying that it will not be possible some
day to make the assumption and know it to be true. Meanwhile, the fact must be faced that,
in a number of the newly-developing countries, people who are just beginning to learn cooperation are not always sufficiently well equipped by themselves to manage their societies
successfully without advice and guidance from some friendly outside source. If they do not
receive this help, co- operative development may not take place. The possible sources are,
generally speaking, two, namely: government, or institutions and individuals in sympathy
with co-operative methods and ideals.
It can scarcely be contested that without the support of generous amounts of government
finance, the development of co- operation in the newly-liberated countries will be painfully
slow and uncertain. But if governments provide or guarantee large loans or take out large
holdings of share capital they will insist on checking the use which is made of public money
and on satisfying themselves that proper technical advice is being taken and due financial
prudence exercised. Government may, therefore, ask that its representatives shall sit on
boards of management for a time, not with power of veto, but to make sure that the aid
provided is being utilised in the way in which it was originally intended. The important consideration is that the government representative shall continue to sit a day longer than is
necessary. The more successful a society is, the more likely are the members to conceive the
ambition of acquiring independence of government supervision and work to achieve it.
There is no doubt in the minds of the Commission that democracy in the management of cooperative organisations necessarily implies autonomy in the sense of independence of external control, apart from the obvious obligation of co- operative societies to bow to the
same general laws as all other business undertakings and accept the discipline imposed by
the State or the planning authorities. In a fully developed co- operative unit, the management must rest in the hands of the members and all decisions be taken by the co-operators
themselves, with no external interference. Autonomy is therefore a corollary of democracy.
At the same time, it must be recognised that, in co-operatives which are themselves at the
beginning of their development, their democratic organs also are very probably underdeveloped and, likewise, the capacity of their members for carrying out democratic procedures
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efficiently and for submitting readily to democratic discipline. The important thing is that
they shall be continually advancing towards full and effective democracy, as they very well
can if they are willing to learn from their experience as they gain it. If they are prepared to
reflect on their experience and discuss their good and bad decisions with their fellowmembers, they can make the knowledge of their rights and responsibilities the basis of a
sound democratic technique. But there is no finality, as the co- operators of the older Cooperative Movements have been forced to realise in the last two decades. In a rapidly
changing world democracy and democrats must learn to be dynamic.
Interest on Capital
The Co-operative economic system has broken with the practice of ordinary profit-seeking
enterprise, not only through its rules of association and democratic administration, already
discussed, but also through the rules which determine the allocation and division of savings
and other financial benefits successful co-operatives yield to their members. This has its
origin notably in the resentment with which many working people regarding the distribution
of property and income in 19th century society, because in their eyes it was both unequal
and unjust. While the immediate goal of co-operative effort among them might be to cheapen the necessaries of life for consumers or to provide a decent living for producers, the ultimate aim was to establish a new social order characterised by what they called `Equity' in
the distribution of wealth and income. The new industrial techniques, then as today, had an
insatiable appetite for capital. People who possessed or commanded money for investment
wielded a bargaining power which enabled them to obtain, at the expense of the other factors of production, high dividends and an accretion of capital values representing something
much more than interest - the lion's share of the profits of industry as well.
The Rochdale Pioneers realised that, for their immediate plan of opening a store and likewise for their ultimate plan of establishing a community, capital was indispensable. They
recognised the added productivity which the use of capital gave to labour as a reason for
remunerating those who supplied it. Their idea, however, was labour working with capital,
not labour working for capital or its possessor. They therefore rejected the claim of the
owners to any part of whatever surplus remained after the other factors of production had
been remunerated at market rates, although admitting their claim to interest at fair rates.
Here it is desired to emphasise that co-operative rules regarding interest and the division
and use of surplus are the twofold result of a firm resolve to establish and extend a more
equitable division of the product of economic organisation than is commonly found in the
profit-dominated business world.
The men of Rochdale, poor though some of them were, decided to provide the initial capital
for their venture from their own personal savings. As the venture was successful they were
able to add co-operative savings, notably in the forms of reserves and depreciation of their
society's real property, to their individual contributions of capital. Self-financing by these
two methods became customary and widespread among old Co-operative Movements,
whether of producers or consumers, because of its obvious advantages of economy and security. Provided that capital is forthcoming in adequate amounts when required, selffinancing is an added guarantee, in a competitive economy, of a co- operative society's inde-
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pendence and freedom to solve its problems of growth and development through the untrammelled application of co-operative principles. Moreover, individual savings in the form
of share capital are a pledge of the members' support. The fact that their own money is
risked gives powerful inducements to exercise prudence and foresight when playing their
part in their society's administration. Naturally, self-financing is not so easy in the younger
organisations of the newly- developing countries but it can be recognised as a desirable objective to work for and attain in time. Meanwhile the members ought to be obliged, as a
matter of principle, to contribute at all times as much capital as they reasonably can, however little. In the old-established Co-operative Movements, with their powerful central institutions for trade, banking and insurance, the rule of self-finance must receive, under contemporary conditions, a broader formulation. Self-financing tends to become ever harder
and may end by becoming impossible for primary societies. The time may even come when,
under the stress of competition and the urgent need to extend their structures and renew
their equipment, the national movements will be unable ti finance their operations without
attracting capital from outside. Cases may even occur when the necessity of competing successfully for the favour of people with savings to invest against savings banks and the securities dealt in on the stock exchanges may tend to restrict the freedom of co-operative organisations to fix their interest rates according to their own principles. All the more reason,
therefore, why Co-operators should clearly understand what their own principles require in
this connection.
The capital structures of the different national Co- operative Movements are not uniform.
Three main categories may be distinguished in most of them, but in proportions which may
vary widely from country to country and from one branch of the Movement to another. These are: the members' share capital; capital owned by the societies in the form of reserves
and special funds on which the individual members have no claim; loan capital, which includes all external borrowings, as may be from banks or governments or other co-operative
institutions, as well as all kinds of loans made or savings deposited by members over and
above their share-holdings. Of these three categories, no interest is payable by the society
on the second, although it may calculate interest for the purposes of internal accounting. On
the third, the interest rates are not likely to exceed the rates prevailing in the external money and capital markets or fixed by authority in a centrally-planned economy for equivalent
kinds of investment. Clearly then, it is the first category, the share capital - subscription of
which is an attribute of membership and which is closely associated with risk-bearing - which
is subject to fixed and limited rates of interest.
Admittedly, Co-operators are by no means unanimous on the question whether any interest
should be paid on share capital at all and the practice of different movements varies accordingly. The question, however, is not one of principle. There is no co- operative principle
which obliges interest to be paid. The principle is that, if interest is paid on the share capital,
the rate should be limited and fixed, on the ground that the supplier of capital is not equitably entitled to share in savings, surplus or profit, whatever the term employed to denote
what remains of the value of the society's output of goods and services, after its costs, including the remuneration of labour, land and capital, have been met. There appear to be
four different situations in which the policy of any co-operative regarding interest on share
capital can be tested in the light of this principle. The first is that already mentioned, when
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no interest at all is paid on share capital. This practice does not conflict with any essential
principle of co-operation. A second situation is that in which interest is paid, but at a figure
which is deliberately held below the rate which would regarded as fair at any given time on
the ordinary market. A limited rate of interest in this sense is not in conflict with cooperative principles. The third situation is the one in which a limit is applied but only for definite periods or raised and lowered in relation to the bank rate of discount or some other
rate which is generally regarded as being kept at a fair level in the conditions prevailing on
the ordinary market. This limit is equivalent to a fair return on capital regarded as capital and
not specifically as share capital. This fair return is not indicated by the frequent and rather
wide fluctuations of the short-term money market but by the long-term movements of interest rates over years or generations. If co-operative societies adjust the upward limits of
their interest rates to the level set by these long- term tendencies once again there would
not be any contravention of the true principle.
There is, finally, the fourth situation, already alluded to, when co-operative organisations
may feel obliged to include in the interest paid on shares an additional amount which resembles a premium to the lender, intended to induce him to invest his money in the cooperative rather than elsewhere. Such a practice is from a co-operative point of view, at
least dubious. Nevertheless, it has to be regarded from a practical standpoint and the greatly
increased capital needs of those branches of the Movement which have to make headway
against capitalist enterprise on the largest scale equipped with every modern technical device. If then Co-operative Organisations have to convince their members that they will not
lose appreciably by placing their capital in the co-operative, in preference to a profit-making
enterprise from which they can ultimately expect not only dividends but increased capital
values in time, it may be necessary to offer higher interest rates in order to ensure the continuance of the practice of self-financing, with all its advantages. The question is whether the
additional interest is a tolerable or an excessive price to pay for adherence to a sound traditional method. If the addition is no more than marginal, in these circumstances, the departure from principle may have to be examined as a special case, but if the addition is considerable and is not to be explained away by a situation such as has been described above, it
will be difficult, perhaps impossible to justify.
The Commission is of the opinion that the limitation of interest should not apply only to the
minimum share-holding which most societies' rules oblige members to hold in order to enjoy
their full rights, but also to any share capital they subscribe above this minimum.
In concluding this section of the report, the Commission is of the opinion that a word may be
appropriately said on methods and machinery adopted for fixing rates of interest on share
capital. In the Movement's early years, in an age of greater apparent stability than the present, when the quality of stability was essential in any co-operative society which intended
to endure, rates of interest were often stated in societies' rules and remained constant for
relatively long periods. They were thus subject to all the rather cumbrous and roundabout
procedures required for the amendment of rules, such as a two-thirds majority vote in a
special general meeting convened after so many weeks' notice. The members placed their
savings in their society's care for the sake of security, much more than for any additional
income in the form interest, and left them with it to accumulate through the automatic
transfer to share account of dividends (patronage refunds). Contemporary conditions in the
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countries of advanced economic development demand some more elastic system of interest
limitation. If the Movement is to be more than a mere camp-follower of the more progressive private sector and blaze new trails and lead the entire economic systems, the whole
question of capital availability has to be studied in a much more mobile and dynamic manner
than was possible in earlier days. This does not imply any departure from the principles hitherto accepted, only their application in a more flexible manner. If co-operatives adhere to
the principle that nothing more than a legitimate rate of interest will be paid, one is no more
and no less co-operative than another, whether it fixes its rate for long periods by rule or for
short periods by reference to some standard rate prevailing in the market.
Disposal of Surplus (Savings)
The group of problems to be discussed under the above heading is complementary to that
considered in the preceding section. After the question of fair remuneration of capital in
relation to the other factors of production has been dealt with, there remain the problems
involved in the equitable sharing among the members of a co-operative of any surplus or
saving resulting from its activities. There are two main questions for solution: first, to find
the proper balance between the interests of the individual members and those of the society as a whole; second, to do justice as between one individual member and another. The
discussion of these questions has been much confused in the past through misconceptions
springing from analogies mistakenly drawn between the financial benefits derived by members from their co- operative society and the profits distributed by joint-stock companies to
the holders of their ordinary (equity) shares and, as a consequence, through the use of ambiguous terms. The Commission therefore feels obliged, at the risk of traversing what is to
many very familiar ground, to clear the air by restating certain fundamentals.
The economic benefits conferred by co-operative societies on their members are of various
kinds and become available according to circumstances in a variety of ways. They may take
the form of money, goods or services. They may be immediate, short-term or long-term.
Some may be enjoyed collectively; others can only be enjoyed individually. In deciding in
what forms and in what proportions or amounts the surplus or savings shall be allocated or
divided, the members as a body have, and ought to have, absolute discretion.
In reaching their decisions, however, there are two sets of considerations which, if they hope
to prosper, they dare not neglect. On the one hand, there are considerations of business
prudence; on the other considerations of equity. If they neglect the former, they will run into
economic and financial difficulties. If they neglect the latter, they will provoke resentment
and disunity in their society. In some countries a conspicuous economic benefit of a prosperous co-operative is a money payment or patronage refund it makes to its members periodically after its accounts have been balanced, audited and approved, along with the proposed allocations and divisions, by its general meeting. These payments are frequently called
`dividend', and this is the first occasion of confusion, because the same term is used in company practice to denote payments to shareholders from profits. From this confusion arises
another, namely, that the payment of a money dividend is an object, even the principal object, of a co-operative society, just as it is of a company. Despite all that has been done in the
past to educate the public and the mass of co-operative members, to say nothing of politi-
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cians and tax-collectors, to understand that the sums distributed by co-operatives are yielded by a different type of economic organisation and result from a different series of transactions from company profits, the errors persist, first, that the principle of `dividend on transactions' implies an obligation on a co-operative to make a periodical distribution of its earnings, and second, that the rate of dividend is the most reliable index of its efficiency.
The fallacy is exploded by three well-known facts. The first is that co-operative societies can and many agricultural supply societies, for example, do - adopt a policy of allowing their
members to purchase at prices so near to cost that no margin remains large enough to be
worth distributing, especially if the second and third facts play a role of any importance. The
second fact is that business prudence sometimes counsels a society to place to reserve or
capitalise the whole or greater part of its net earnings, notably when its own position is in
any degree difficult or the general economic outlook is uncertain or if it is contemplating a
new departure requiring all its financial resources. The capitalisation of surpluses, especially
by unions and federations, has always been a powerful factor in co- operative commercial
and industrial development. The third fact is that societies often devote a portion of their
net surplus or savings to the provision of services for the common enjoyment of their members, as being more useful to them than individuals. The overriding consideration throughout is that whatever is to be done with a society's net surplus or savings is determined by
democratic decision by the members according to their judgement of what is just and expedient. Moreover, the amount which is subject to their decision is not profit in the ordinary
commercial sense.
Here the Commission would recall that the questions whether to divide or not, and, if there
is division, what shall be the method, have been constantly present to the minds of Cooperators throughout the Movement's history. Theoretically, in the pre- Rochdale Cooperative Movement of Great Britain, the net savings or surplus of co-operative societies
were to be kept indivisible and added to the societies' capital in order to assist their development into self-supporting communities. Practically, division of net surplus amongst the
members was widespread without any uniformity of method. Equal division, division according to capital contributions, division according to purchases were all practised. The Rochdale
Pioneers, when faced by the same question, decided in the light of their experiences and
after much reflection and discussion, that there should be division, for the cogent reason
that in order to gain the support of any considerable number of members, their society must
offer them some immediate or short-term advantages. The British wage- earners' economic
position in the "hungry" 1840s needed relief there and then. It would not permit them to
make sacrifices for a distant community ideal. The Pioneers' decisions to divide and to divide
in proportion to purchases were really dependent on a previous decision as to price policy.
They chose to retail goods at current market prices, at this would administratively be easier
and simpler than sale at cost prices - costs and expenses were difficult or impossible to forecast accurately - and return to the members periodically in proportion to their purchases
what they had paid over the counter in excess of the cost of procuring the goods they
bought. The experience of over a century proved the practical wisdom of their decision, but
it is significant that those who adopted Rochdale methods in several other countries tended
to modify them, once again in the direction of conferring an immediate benefit on the mem-
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ber, by adopting an "active" price policy of slightly under-selling the market with the further
consequence of lower rates of dividend on purchases.
Before passing to the discussion of these questions, it should be noted that a number of customs and conventions have grown up around the dividend system and these have more or
less profoundly modified its practical application. One is a tendency to stabilise or even
standardise the rate of dividend. On the one hand, the members in time come to reckon
with a constant rate for the purpose of their personal or household economy, the managers
tend to budget for a constant rate and include it in their calculation of prices, thus in effect
turning the system upside down. In either case, the correspondence between the dividend
rate and the trading results of a given balancing period may be broken, and the danger arises
that a society, in order to maintain the regular rate, will pay a dividend in excess of its earnings and draw on reserves or development funds in order to do so. This temptation increases
with the pressure of competition, but it is one which should at all times be strenuously resisted in the interests of sound management.
Co-operative societies have also to face the reactions of their competitors to the power of
dividend to attract custom and buttress the loyalty of members to the co-operative store,
whether they are purchasing consumption or production goods. This reaction takes the obvious forms of discounts, rebates, premiums, etc., which, if they represent cash or its equivalent, may appear more advantageous than a dividend for which the member must wait until
the year's or half-year's end. Not seldom co-operatives have felt obliged to make some concession to offset these inducements, as, for example, by giving their members the choice of
receiving discount at the time of purchasing or waiting for the dividend ultimately declared.
No breach of principle is apparent here, if the rate of discount does not exceed the rate of
dividend or patronage refund.
The Commission took note of the tendency for the role and importance of dividend in the
economy of Co-operation to change with altered economic and social conditions, particularly
in the countries of advanced industrial development. In these countries today, where competition is fierce, dividend rates display a downward trend, the combined result of diminishing trade margins in the branches in which co-operatives traditionally engage and of rising
costs due to labour's increasing demands and to inflationary factors. The importance of dividend also declines in the estimation of the membership as increased earnings, full employment and state welfare services bring about greater security and higher standards of comfort, and with that, the power of dividend to induce constant and `loyal' purchasing over the
whole range of commodities societies supply. Recent researches tend to confirm that the
rate of dividend now exercises less influence on purchases of consumer goods, compared
with their quality and presentation. The role of dividend in the self-financing of cooperatives is also liable to change. Members leave their dividends to accumulate in their
capital accounts with their societies to a lesser extent than formerly, unless the societies
adopt special measures to promote self-financing in new ways, designed to bring in additional cmpital for special new ventures or to enable the society to retain part of members'
dividends as capital for long period, e.g. as int he family savings account system of the Swedish Consumers' Co-operative. Parallel changes are to be seen in the social, educational and
recreational services traditionally provided by co-operatives out of their net earnings, as
they are replaced by more comprehensive and effective state welfare and educational sys-
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tems. This does not necessarily mean that the advantages of collective over individual expenditure are ceasing to be significant in co- operative economy but that the purposes for
which allocations are made must change with the times, as new habits and modes of living
open up fresh possibilities, notably in the cultural field. Nevertheless, all these differences
imply no more than changes in the pattern of disposal of surplus; the elements remain unchanged. They still are: provision for the society's stability and development; provision for
collective services; dividend to members according to transactions. In those parts of the
globe where free market economies prevail and commodities are bought and sold by cooperatives to and for their members at market prices or prices varying according to market
conditions, savings will be made and accounts will show surpluses, if societies are successful.
Under these conditions there seems no need to depart from the principle, already observed
for over a century as the most equitable and convenient, of distribution on the basis of
transactions.
Politics and Religion
The topics discussed in this section may appear at first sight to lie to a large extent on the
fringe of the Co-operative Movement's proper concerns. The Movement's action has hitherto been, and, many believe, must always be, centred in the economic and educational
spheres. For the better performance of these tasks, prudent co-operative leadership has
constantly tried, as far as possible, to concentrate the attention of the Movement on them
and avoid the risks of disunity and dissipation of energy incurred when issues of no obvious
relevance, on which people are bound sooner or later to disagree, are imported into the
consideration of Co-operative affairs. The strong feeling that this treacherous ground must
be avoided at all costs found expression in the formula "Political and Religious Neutrality"
employed in the Report adopted by the ICA Congress of 1937. The Report not only gives
Neutrality the authority of a principle, but also imparts a wider significance to the term by
linking it with race and nationality, as well as politics and religion. In the present Report,
even where race and nationality are not specifically mentioned, they may be assumed to be
covered by politics, for both are capable of erupting into political conflict in more than one
region of the globe.
It is the term `Neutrality' itself which is increasingly called in question by Co-operators more
or less everywhere. It was never a good term, because it carried overtones of passivity and
indifference which did not harmonise with the facts or the practice of Co-operative Organisations which were not, and had no intention of being, indifferent or inactive where the interests of the Movement were involved. The term is to-day almost completely misleading
and its use has been abandoned in favour of `independence' by many Co-operators. But to
reject the term is not necessarily to abandon all the underlying ideas, and the Commission
will attempt in the paragraphs which follow to bring out, as far as possible in a positive manner, certain considerations of significance for the formulation of co- operative policy in regard to politics and religion under contemporary conditions.
To begin with, there are considerations which may be called internal, because they concern
the relations of a co-operative with its members. They have already been touched upon in
this Report under the head of Membership. There should be no discrimination either among
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applicants for membership or among actual members, on religious or political grounds. No
one should be obliged to subscribe to any doctrinal declaration. This leaves the member entirely free to hold whatever belief or opinion he chooses or to adhere to any religious or political organisation which attracts his sympathy and loyalty. On its side, the society will not
compromise its freedom to carry out its proper co- operative tasks through subservience to
any political party or religious organisation and will abstain from taking up attitudes on purely party-political or religious issues. Such a policy would not appear to involve any great formal difficulties in its implementation.
No firm line of demarcation can be drawn between internal and external considerations.
They merge into one another. The external considerations are obviously those which spring
from the relations of the co-operative unit, or the Co-operative Movement as a whole with
the external social and political system. Economic interests and doctrines play an important,
often a dominating, role in the shaping of political policy and the choice of its objectives. Cooperation, as a movement with an economic doctrine of its own and representing welldefined economic interests, cannot avoid involvement in affairs of government, which,
whether they are or are not the subject of party conflict, are in their nature political. The
action developed by the International Co-operative Alliance and a large number of its affiliated Organisations to promote the greater enlightenment of consumers and more effective
protection of their interests include efforts to influence the legislative and administrative
measures of governments, as well as the opinions, attitudes and policies of the national Cooperative Movements. Or again, it is inconceivable that at a period when the productivity
and prosperity of agriculture are objects of such greater concern to governments, agricultural co-operative Movements should deny themselves the privilege, even if they do not regard
it as a duty, of expressing the views of their members, giving government the benefit of their
experience when it is considering farming policy and rural welfare, warning it against mistakes and complaining if the results are unsatisfactory.
Much inevitably depends on the manner and methods by which the Co-operative Movement
seeks to intervene in a given political situation. On the one hand, Co-operative Organisations
need to choose the methods which promise to be most effective. These range from private
representations to government departments and deputations to Ministers to lobbying in
parliament, agitation among the public or alliances, temporary or permanent, with political
parties. On the other hand, they have to consider which methods will secure the maximum
of consent and support among their members and entail the minimum risk of division. Those
co- operative organisations are not necessarily the most powerful or influential which take
part in election campaigns and seek representation in parliament. Those which are content
to work on the administrative level and have earned the confidence of government because
of the wisdom and objectivity of their advice, may play an even greater role in shaping policy
and determining final decisions. From the point of view of keeping the members' loyalty and
support, those organisations which adopt a consistent policy of non-partisanship, that is to
say, independence of party and entanglements and intervention based exclusively on cooperative interests and co-operative principles, are obviously on safer ground. The overriding consideration is that any weakening of a co-operative's unity impairs its power to act
effectively, not merely in the political field, but in all the other fields as well. Yet in these
days, it is not always safe to abstain from taking up attitudes or engaging in action on politi-
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cal issues which have any bearing on the Movement's interests or prospects. To declare neutrality, as has been well said, is to express a political point of view in any case. It is inconsistent with the aims and spirit of the Co-operative Movement that its leaders and members
will endeavour to act, in political as in other matters, so as to promote unity and reduce conflict by seeking at all times the highest common measure of agreement.
This consideration is of the utmost importance if the Co- operative Movement is to make its
most effective contribution to the solution of those great human problems, which although
they cannot be resolved without governmental and inter-governmental action of more than
one kind, transcend politics and even religions. Great world issues - such as the avoidance of
war, disarmament and the consolidation of the bases of peace through the extension of international collaboration in every sphere; the deliverance of the under-privileged half of
mankind from hunger, want, squalor and ignorance: the assertion and maintenance of human rights to individual freedom, equal citizenship and personal development - are not
questions on which Co-operators can profess neutrality or indifference. The Movement's
philosophy and its practice, the whole trend of its growth and extension, are carrying it onward towards an era of international integration of which the International Co-operative
Alliance is the precursor and, in a sense, the progenitor.
The present generation of Co-operators, moving about the world to a greater extent than
the previous one, is learning from its own experience that co-operative brotherhood transcends all limitations. It is of the utmost significance that in congress after congress of the
International Co-operative Alliance, the delegations of the national movements, whatever
their social, economic or political background, will make every possible concession and strain
every resource of language and phraseology in order to secure unanimous agreement on
resolutions about international peace. In this way the practice of the Alliance illustrates the
statement in its rules that Co-operation "is neutral ground on which people holding the most
varied opinions and professing the most diverse creeds may meet and act in common". Just
as peace is not simply the absence or cessation of war, so the attitude of Co-operators to
political questions is not simply the negative one of abstention, but the positive reflection of
their resolve to meet and work together on common ground.
It will be clear from the foregoing that the Commission feels that it cannot follow the Report
of 1937 in giving the same absolute authority to Neutrality as a principle. Neutrality in certain circumstances is a right and proper policy. There should be freedom at all levels of the
co-operative structure for the individual members, primary societies, secondary organisations and international institutions, to take to political questions the attitudes which are
necessary or most appropriate to their circumstances at any given time or place. This freedom includes independence of alliances or engagements which may impair the performance
of their basic task in the economic and educational fields. It is also subject to the primary
need of promoting at all levels that unity amongst co-operators which is indispensable to the
successful fulfillment of the Movement's mission.
Business Practices
Under this heading the Commission considered two important groups of problems which, if
not of equal interest to all types of co-operative association, are of special concern to all
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those engaged in trade, whether in consumers' or producers' interests. In respect of both
the Rochdale Pioneers made strict rules for themselves. They decided to practice cash payments in buying as well as selling. They also decided to deal in goods of the highest standards of purity, and, when selling them, to give full weight and measure. The Report of 1937,
while it made no reference to the second rule, declared that the first was a principle to be
closely adhered to for both financial and moral reasons. In the judgement of the Commission
these rules are applications to particular problems, within a limited field, of considerations
which need under present-day conditions to receive a broader formulation and are capable
of considerably wider application. Although neither has the universal validity of a principle,
they are nevertheless so important as guides to business policy as to require discussion in
this report.
To begin with, it should be borne in mind that the term `cash trading' has never meant simply that goods have to be paid for at the moment they are handed over the counter or delivered at store or domicile. General trade practice has always permitted a little latitude. A few
days' delay in payment is not held to conflict with the cash rule especially if payments are
regularised so as to be conterminous with the receipt of wages or salaries, weekly, fortnightly or monthly. And, if consumers' co-operatives find themselves obliged to conform more or
less to what is considered sound practice in retail trade in general, the same is also true, say,
of agricultural marketing or industrial producers societies, which allow their customers
whatever trade terms are usual in a given market. Cash trading and its alternative, credit
trading, in one form or another, require to be considered together in the light of what common sense indicates as financially sound. Despite the strictness of the Rochdale rule, it is not
possible to say that either is at all times entirely good or entirely bad. Each stands or falls in
relation to the whole set of circumstances in which it is employed.
The Rochdale Pioneers had good reasons for adopting their rule of cash payment. Experience
of earlier co-operative enterprise had shown them that unregulated, indiscriminate credit to
members could be a mortal disease to young co-operatives. So long as their range of commodities was virtually limited to foodstuffs of daily consumption, in which the turnover was
rapid, they could well dispense with credit. Apart from safeguarding the liquidity and financial stability of their society, they desired to help their members to emancipate themselves
from debt, mainly to shopkeepers. When wages are low and employment irregular, the retailer is the working-class consumer's nearest source of credit after his savings are exhausted. The position of the small agriculturist living on subsistence level or even below, is very
similar and leads to similar results chief among them a debt- servitude which may be lifelong. The remedy, though applied in different ways and through different forms of organisation, is fundamentally the same, a financial discipline which encourages and assists thrift,
while making unregulated and unsecured credit difficult or impossible. People who consciously suffered under a burden of debt could be roused to make the effort involved in
changing their buying habits, if liberation were brought within their reach by co-operative
enterprise.
It would be different with a later generation, born and brought up under more comfortable
and easy conditions. Higher earnings, greater spending power, greater family possessions in
savings and real property, rising standards of comfort, a rise in the social scale, a widening
range of goods and services on which money could be spent - all played their part in creating
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among the public a mentality easily accessible to the suggestion of the salesman to buy now
and pay later, dividing the total due into periodic installments within the customer's earning
capacity. Under these conditions co-operative societies, whether consumers' co-operatives
extending their assortment of commodities from food to clothing, ironmongery and furniture, or agricultural societies extending their business into, say, machinery, were forced to
face the fact that they could not secure or retain their members' custom without providing
facilities for payment equal to those offered by their competitors. The traditional rules were
breached and the breaches were widened. Even the rule in the agricultural co-operative
movement of granting credit for production rather than for consumption was no longer applicable in those newly developing countries in which the cultivator had to receive credit in
order to subsist and work until his crops were harvested and marketed. The private merchants and producers made him advances on the security of his growing crop; unless a cooperative could do the same it was hardly in business at all.
The crux of the question is how far, if at all, the grant of credit should be combined with the
purchase or sale of commodities. Credit is a service which entails costs like any other. Members of a co-operative society purchasing on credit receive a service which, unless a special
charge is made, they obtain at the expense of the cash-paying member. This is inequitable,
and the costs may also be difficult to calculate when they are incurred in innumerable tiny
transactions. The general practice of consumers' co-operatives is, therefore, to require purchases of good and small household articles to be made for cash, all the more because the
commodities are, for all practical purposes, consumed immediately. For larger and more
durable articles it is possible and usual to make special arrangements, including the payment
of an appropriate interest to cover extra costs and risks.
Here again, the question of combining credit with trade arises in another form. Are members
of the sales staff competent to judge credit-worthiness and allow credit? The answer must
be: not by any means always, unless they undergo special training. The alternative is set up a
special credit union or credit department, operating alongside of the selling departments, to
take the responsibility of extending credit, and so enabling the trading departments to work
to all intents and purposes on a cash basis. It would seem that unless special care is taken to
separate credit from trade, societies are li_ble to incur costs of which they may be for a long
time unaware. Societies are naturally anxious to increase their volume of trade, but an increase obtained by extending credit at too high a cost cannot be regarded as sound business.
A further factor is the heavy drain credit, when it is extended for six or eight months, may
make on the capital resources of an agricultural trading society. The capital employed for
members' credit is not available to the society for its development. It is inevitable therefore
that, where no co-operative credit organisation already exists, co- operators think of creating one especially in order to relieve the burden on the trading societies.
When the problem of credit is considered from the standpoint of the members, the outstanding fact is that they are exposed all the time to the blandishments of sales people of all
types, offering all kinds of commodities on what are called `easy terms' which may turn out
to be impossibly hard. The evil results of yielding to the temptation to overspend and the
usurious practices of many credit-selling enterprises are notorious and have been the subject of preventive and restrictive legislation in a number of countries. The problems of Cooperatives which desire to avoid placing themselves and their members at a disadvantage by
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not providing credit facilities is to provide credit on fair terms for them without joining in the
competition to induce them to spend more than prudent household or farm management
would permit at any given time. It may be plausibly argued that, with managed economies
less liable to booms and slumps, and with full employment, the practice of splitting large
items of expenditure, such as furnishing a home, into monthly installments related to the
buyer's present and prospective income, is a much less risky practice than it was, both for
the consumer and a co-operative society. It is even argued that such a practice is justified in
order that consumers may enjoy the rapid rise in the standard of comfort which modern
technical and economic progress has made possible. Nevertheless the fact remains that the
system of cash payments has its economic merits and advantages for both co-operators and
their societies and that, at times, it is a mistake to forfeit them for the sake of the convenience of credit buying. Co-operatives have a responsibility towards themselves and their
members to decide carefully when, and in what manner, it would be permissible to rely on
credit, especially in regard to articles of consumption.
The important thing is to hold the balance fairly and, for co-operative societies especially, to
look at the question of cash or credit policy, not only from the standpoint of their own business advantage, but also from the standpoint of the true economic and moral interests,
short-term and long-term, of their members. Moreover, societies will be failing in their educational duty if they do not take pains to instruct their members in the issues involved, so
that they make intelligent decisions which will later justify themselves by their consequences, in terms of both co-operation and good household or farm management.
The reasons why the Rochdale Pioneers found it necessary to emphasise their determination
to sell goods which really were what they professed to be and not to cheat in weighing and
measuring are well-enough known to economic and social historians. There were adulteration of food and other malpractices common in distribution business int he first half of the
19th century in Europe, and by no means unknown to our own time. But the idea underlying
the Rochdale rule has to be expressed in a much broader context today and in the future. It
is that co-operative institutions, in all their activities especially where they have to deal with
the general public, should be characterised by a high sense of moral and social rectitude.
When there is scarcely any branch of commercial activity in which co-operatives of one type
or another may not now be found, co-operative institutions should be able to justify their
existence, not only by the advantages they yield to their members, but also by their sense of
responsibility and their high standards of probity in all that they undertake. The temptation
to copy the doubtful practices of competitors should be resisted, even when societies appear to suffer financially because of them. Adulteration, said one 19th century publicists,
was an aspect of competition. It is to the honour of the Rochdale Pioneers that they began
to shift the area of competition from fraud and adulteration to purity and good quality,
some years before the state intervened to set minimum standards and to punish those who
failed to observe them. More than one co-operator, versed in the economic and social problems of the newly-developing regions, has emphasised that a similar role could be played by
the Co- operative Movement in countries where the government has not yet been able to
deal effectively with adulteration. Just as consumer co-operatives can set standards of purity
in foodstuffs, so it is possible for agricultural societies to counteract dishonest trading by
supplying farmers with goods and chemical fertilisers of good quality.
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The conferences on the protection and enlightenment of consumers, convened during the
past eight years by the International Co-operative Alliance, have given plenty of evidence
that governments cannot be relied upon always to give adequate protection to consumers
or even effectively to enforce their own legislation. The rise of consumers' secretariat is
proof of consumers' suspicion of and discontent with the manner in which they are sometimes treated by the manufacturers and sellers of new products or old products, made or
preserved by new processes, which do not justify in use the claims made on their packages
or by those who advertise or sell them. The relatively slow processes of protective legislation
mean that it nearly always lags considerably behind the inventiveness of manufacturers and
technical innovators in making new marketable products. There is therefore still need of an
organisation like the Co-operative Movement which can, not only agitate and protest, but
supply economically practicable alternative products which are genuine and reliable. No less
than the Rochdale Pioneers, the Movement today is capable of shifting the ground of the
competitive struggle and of leading trade into a newly and socially reputable paths. But if it
is to do so, the ethics of co-operative business must be invariably high, higher and never
lower than the law requires, and publicly known to be so.
Education
It is no mere coincidence that so many eminent pioneers and leaders of Co-operation have
been also great popular educators. The effort to reshape the economic system on the basis
of Co- operative principles requires a different discipline from those of either individual or
governmental enterprises. Co-operation as a form of mutual aid appeals to other motives
than man's selfish or self-regarding impulses or obedience to duly- constituted authority.
Collective self-discipline is not a wild or self-propagating but a cultivated growth. Cooperation requires of those who would practise it effectively the acceptance of new ideas,
new standards of conduct, new habits of thought and behaviour, based on the superior values of co- operative association. No co-operative institution, therefore, can be indifferent, in
its own interest and for its own survival, to the need for educating its members in appropriate ways.
For the purposes of Co-operation, however, education needs to be defined in a very broad
sense which includes academic education of more than one kind but much besides. It includes both what people learn and how they learn it. Every phase of experience, which adds
to people's knowledge, develops their faculties and skill, widens their outlook, trains them to
work harmoniously and effectively with their fellows and inspires them to fulfil their responsibilities as men or women and citizens, can have educational significance for Co-operation.
Less and less in the contemporary world can education be limited to what is learnt in schools
and colleges at special periods of people's lives. The Co-operative concept is of education as
a life-long process.
All persons engaged in Co-operation need to participate in this process of education and reeducation. For the present discussion they can be divided into three groups. There are, first,
the members, those in whose interests co-operatives are established and who, because of
their democratic constitution, collectively exercise supreme authority over them. There are,
in the second place, the office-holders, whether they are members' elected representatives
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or professionals employed by the co- operatives. The education which both these groups
require consists mainly of knowledge of technical skill, and a training and behaviour. The
knowledge must be as accurate, as systematic and as up to date as they have time and capacity to absorb. It will include not only knowledge of the special forms of co- operation in
which they are engaged but also knowledge of the economic and social environment in
which their societies operate.
In respect of the elected officers it will include a great deal of business knowledge; in respect
of the professional employees, it will include all that will make them at least as competent as
those engaged on the corresponding levels of the private and public sectors of economy. The
employees will also need the best available training in the appropriate techniques, that is
obvious. It is not so obvious and therefore needs emphasis, that the democratic processes of
co-operation need technical skill quite as much as the economic, and that the members and
their representatives need to be trained to use these processes skilfully and effectively to
their society's advantage. Without drawing hard and fast lines, it may be said that the education of the members forms part of adult education and is carried on today in a decentralised
manner by methods of discussion and various kinds of group work, whereas the education of
employees and officials for careers in the Co-operative Movement is carried on in technical
training institutions and universities. The establishment by national co-operative organisations of central co-operative colleges and training schools is today, it is gratifying to note,
becoming normal. The number of universities with special institutes or departments for cooperative studies and research is also on the increase.
The third group consists of people who are potentially, rather than actually co-operators the greater public still outside the Movement's membership. More and more, with the passage of time, the Co-operative Movement will be obliged, if it is to make headway, to keep
the public better informed than in the past about its aims, its organisation and methods, its
achievements and its plans for the future. Further, when it has a point of view justified by its
own experience, which needs to be put in the interests of the whole body of consumers or
producers on an issue of public policy, it should speak out with clarity and force. The battle
for the acceptance of co-operative ideas has to be fought in the intellectual, as well as the
economic field.
In view of the Commission, education of appropriate kinds for the different groups of persons who make up all but the very simplest of co-operative societies is a necessary responsibility of co-operative institutions. It by no means follows that they all have to provide every
kind of education they require. The expansion of national systems of public instruction can
and will take some of co-operators' educational burdens off their shoulders. Nevertheless, it
will not relieve the Co-operative Movement of the educational responsibility it alone can
discharge of educating people in the ideals of co-operation and the proper methods of applying its principles in given circumstances. it cannot devolve this function on any other institution. Of course, the many thousands of small co-operative societies in remote neighbourhoods have few resources for educational work. It is, therefore, the duty of the secondary
organisations, more particularly the unions and federations which undertake promotional
and supervisory functions, to provide all kinds of assistance - publications and audio-visual
aids as well as technical guidance - which will ensure that there is in every locality a nucleus
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of alert, reasonably well-informed co- operators with an outlook extending beyond the area
of their primary society.
The Commission would emphasise the fact, of which co- operative educationist have become increasingly aware in recent years, that the movement's educational standards must
be constantly rising if they are to match those of the outside world. The structural changes
which the Movement in many countries is now being obliged to make, with all the concentration and construction of larger-scale operating units they entail, demand at the highest
level personnel with experience in and training for management and administration equal to
the best employed elsewhere. This problem of education is plainly insoluble apart from
problems of recruitment, remuneration and promotion, but its emergence is evidence that
the time has come, if it is not overdue, when the Co-operative Movement has to regard its
educational activity much more seriously than it has often done in the past. It should define
its educational problems in much broader and more comprehensive terms and provide in its
budget sufficient funds for a well- planned educational programme.
As one example, the Commission would refer to the idea of the co-operation of co-operative
organisations discussed in a latter passage of this report. More and more this co-operation
will have to be organised and carried on across national frontiers and from continent to continent. It is a fundamental task of the International Co-operative Alliance to promote and
assist its extension, while serving itself as an instrument of collaboration for an increasing
number of purposes. It should be self-evident that training for this kind of international cooperation is something which will inevitably outrun the capacity of the national co-operative
schools to provide. Training for international co-operation must be established on an international basis. The Commission would therefore point out that the idea of setting up, under
the auspices of the International Co-operative Alliance and in close association with its Secretariat, a co-operative education centre and training institute, is already an old project of
which the Authorities of the Alliance have more than once signified their approval. Such an
institute, with an international staff recruited from the most eminent co-operative educators
of the world, is needed to produce leaders capable of spearheading the accelerated development of co-operation on the international level now within the Movement's reach. The
time has gone by for small beginnings. The Alliance's resources are too small to permit it to
undertake this task alone. The national institutions, especially those powerful organisations
now operating in the field of trade and finance, should joint together and come to its assistance, not least in the interests of their own future development.
The Commission has no hesitation in accepting Education as a Principle of Co-operation - as
the principle, in fact, which makes possible the effective observance and application of the
rest. For the Principles of Co-operation are more than verbal formulae, more than articles in
a rule book, to be literally interpreted. In the last analysis the Principles embody the spirit of
Co-operation, which has to be awakened and renewed in every fresh generation that takes
over the work of the Movement from its predecessors. That awakening and renewal depend,
more than anything, upon the care and assiduity with which each generation keeps the torch
of education aflame.
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(1966) ANÁLISIS DEL INFORME DE LA COMISIÓN DE LA ICA SOBRE LOS
PRINCIPIOS COOPERATIVOS
Fuente: Kaplán de Drimer, Alicia y Drimer, Bernardo. “Las cooperativas: fundamentoshistoria-doctrina”. INTERCOOP, Editora Cooperativa, 1975.
Descargado de sitiosocial.com el 25.10.2003
A diferencia del Comité Especial que se expidió en 1937, la Comisión Especial de la Alianza
Cooperativa Internacional no recomendó en 1966 una formulación breve o simple de los
principios cooperativos; afirmó que esa formulación podía resaltar engañosa y prefirió enunciar con mayor amplitud su pensamiento en relación con cada uno de los diversos tópicos
considerados tampoco reconoció la prioridad de unos principios sobre los otros y afirmó,
como ya observamos, que ellos forman un sistema y resultan inseparables.
En su estudio acerca de los principios cooperativos, la Comisión Especial de 1966 incluyó los
cuatro primeros principios adoptados por el Comité de 1937, reconoció como principio
esencial la promoción de la educación e introdujo en carácter de principio la integración
cooperativa (o sea la cooperación de las organizaciones cooperativas con otras cooperativas,
a nivel local, nacional e internacional).
En cuanto a aquellos principios cooperativos enunciados en 1937 y no reiterados en 1966 la
Comisión advirtió que, si bien no son actualmente de aplicación universal, pueden mantener
su vigencia en relación a los movimientos cooperativos más jóvenes o inexpertos; además, si
bien la Comisión no dio a la neutralidad política y religiosa el carácter de principio independiente, la enunció en vinculación con el primer principio cooperativo, al pronunciarse en
contra de cualquier discriminación política, racial o religiosa que afectase el ingreso de los
asociados.
El 23° Congreso de la A. C. I. reunido en Viena en 1966 aprobó recomendaciones y conclusiones de la citada Comisión, en los siguientes términos:
“1. La adhesión a una sociedad cooperativa debe ser voluntaria y estar al alcance, sin restricción artificial ni cualquier discriminación social, política, racial o religiosa, de todas las personas que puedan utilizar sus servicios y estén dispuestas a asumir las responsabilidades inherentes a la calidad de asociado”.
“2. Las sociedades cooperativas son organizaciones democráticas. Sus operaciones deben
ser administradas por personas elegidas o nombradas de acuerdo con el procedimiento
adoptado por los miembros y responsables ante estos últimos. Los miembros de las sociedades primarias deben tener los mismos derechos de voto (un miembro, un voto) y de participación en las decisiones que afecten a su sociedad. En las sociedades que no sean primarias, la administración debe realizarse sobre una base democrática en una forma apropiada”.
“3. Si se paga un interés sobre el capital accionarlo, su tasa debe ser estrictamente limitada”.
“4. Los excedentes o economías eventuales que resulten de las operaciones de una sociedad, pertenecen a los miembros de esa sociedad y deben ser distribuidos de manera que se
evite que un miembro gane a expensas de otros.
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Esto puede hacerse, de acuerdo con la decisión de los miembros, de la siguiente forma:
(a) aplicación al desarrollo de las actividades de la cooperativa;
(b) aplicación a servicios comunes; o
(e) distribución entre los miembros en proporción a sus operaciones con la sociedad”.
“5. Todas las sociedades cooperativas deben tomar medidas para promover la educación de
sus miembros, dirigentes, empleados y público en general, en los principios y métodos de la
Cooperación, desde el punto de vista económico y democrático”.
“6. Con el objeto de servir mejor los intereses de sus miembros y de la comunidad, todas las
organizaciones cooperativas deben cooperar activamente, de todas las maneras posibles,
con otras cooperativas a nivel local, nacional e internacional”.
1. Membership of a co-operative society should be voluntary and available
without artificial restriction or any social, political or religious discriminations, to all persons who can make use of its services and are willing to accept the responsibilities of membership.
1. El ingreso y el egreso de los asociados son regidos en las por el principio tradicionalmente
designado con la expresión “libre acceso y adhesión voluntaria” ; se trata en realidad de dos
normas , como veremos, conceptos diferentes:
a) La norma de acceso libre indica que el ingreso a las cooperativas se halla al alcance de
todos cuantos quieran incorporarse a ellas; de ahí la expresión “puerta abierta” que también
se aplica habitualmente.
Las condiciones para el ingreso han de constar en el estatuto de las cooperativas; y deben
ser mínimas y de carácter general. Basta que los solicitantes puedan utilizar los servicios de
las cooperativas (por eso, por ejemplo, se requiere ser productor del campo para ingresar a
las cooperativas agrarias), no tengan intereses contrarios a ellas, se comprometan a respetar
el estatuto y los reglamentos de las respectivas entidades (o sea a asumir los derechos y deberes de los asociados) y cumplan las simples formalidades establecidas al efecto.
Las cooperativas no deben exigir derechos de ingreso gravosos ni la integración de un elevado monto de acciones, que de hecho excluyan a las personas menos pudientes.
b) La norma de adhesión voluntaria indica que el ingreso y egreso de los asociados debe depender de su voluntad, sin que exista imposición legal o de hecho que obligue a cualquier
persona a asociarse a las cooperativas o a permanecer dentro de ellas contra su deseo.
Las cooperativas conservan la facultad de expulsar a sus asociados, pero sólo por causas justificadas y con las garantías previstas para asegurar los derechos de estos últimos.
En caso de retiro de los asociados, las disposiciones estatutarias que establecen prioridades,
plazos o porcentajes para la devolución de las acciones integradas por aquellos, se justifican
sólo en cuanto preservan la estabilidad financiera de las entidades y las defienden contra los
riesgos de un retiro masivo o intempestivo de acciones cooperativas.
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2. Las normas que estudiamos han servido de fundamento para la adopción, en numerosos
países, de disposiciones legales que consagrar la ilimitación en el número de asociados y en
el monto del capital social de las cooperativas. Esas normas de libre acceso y adhesión voluntaria (y la consiguiente ilimitación en el número de asociados y el capital social hacen que
puedan suscribirse por lo general nuevas acciones cooperativas, sin necesidad de que se
adquieran las acciones ya emitidas, de manera que estas no alteran su precio por la demanda ni pueden cotizarse consiguientemente en las bolsas de valores.
Observemos a este respecto que., en otros tipos de entidades, la limitación en el número de
socios y en el capital social hace que las parte sociales o acciones ya emitidas tengan un precio variable, que puede o ni cotizarse en las bolsas de valores, pero que cierra las posibilidades de acceso o, en el mejor de los casos, obliga a las personas que quieres, ingresar a entidades prosperas a efectuar erogaciones suplementarias. En las cooperativas, por el contrario, aun cuando se trate de entidades muy prosperas y que cuenten con grandes reservas de
cualquier naturaleza, las acciones cooperativas no pueden ser acaparadas ni vendidas a un
precio superior a su valor nominal, establecido en el respectivo estatuto; de modo que se
evita toda maniobra interesada y toda especulación en relación a las acciones cooperativas.
Destaquemos en este punto los siguientes conceptos contenidos en el informe de la Comisión sobre los Principios Cooperativos, considerado por la Alianza Cooperativa Internacional
en 1966: “Gracias al acceso libre las acciones de las sociedades cooperativas mantienen
constantemente el valor nominal fijado en el estatuto de la sociedad y pueden ser adquiridas
por cualquier nuevo asociado a ese valor. Por ello, la negociación y la especulación con acciones cooperativas no resultan lucrativas y no se manifiestan”.
Como norma general, pues, los nuevos asociados ingresan a las cooperativas en las mismas
condiciones que sus predecesores y a los asociados salientes por cualquier causa (renuncia,
exclusión) se les reintegra por sus acciones cooperativas no valor no superior al que hayan
aportado.
3. Se verifican en la práctica una serie de restricciones a las normas que estudiamos, algunas
de ellas perfectamente justificables, otras criticadas en forma más o menos severa por la
doctrina.
a) En lo que se refiere al libre acceso, se justifican indudablemente aquellos requisitos que
derivan de la misma naturaleza de las actividades que desarrollan las cooperativas, tales
como la referida condición de productor del campo para las cooperativas de colocación de la
producción agraria, la condición de obrero, técnico o profesional para las cooperativasde
trabajo, etc.
Otros casos resultan más cuestionables. Así, algunas cooperativas de consumo limitan el
acceso de asociados a aquellos que forman parte de determinado gremio o habitan en una
determinada zona, algunas cooperativas de vivienda, que reducen su objetivo a la adjudicación de un único núcleo de casas o de departamentos, limitan el número de asociados estrictamente al número de esas unidades de vivienda; las cooperativas de trabajo suelen limitar
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lado de sus operaciones, pues una ampliación de sus actividades no resulta siempre posible;
diversos motivos técnicos o económicos suelen inducir a algunas cooperativas de colocación
de la producción a limitar el ingreso de nuevos asociados productores, etc.
b) En cuanto a las restricciones a la norma de adhesión voluntaria, ellas pueden derivar de
circunstancias de hecho o de disposiciones legales o estatutarias.
Citemos algunos ejemplos: la circunstancia de que en una zona rural opere una sola cooperativa de colocación de la producción, puede imponer de hecho la necesidad de que un agricultor de la zona se asocie a ella, si no desea afrontar la venta de su producción en inferioridad de condiciones la asociación de una municipalidad a una cooperativa constituida con el
objeto de proporcionar un servicio esencial (agua potable, energía eléctrica, etc.), puede
obligar de hecho a los habitantes de ese municipio a utilizar los servicios de la cooperativa;
de acuerdo con las reglamentaciones legales vigentes en diversos países, la venta de primera
mano de determinada producción pesquera debe realizarse obligatoriamente a través de
cooperativas Y ello implica que los pescadores deban asociarse o al menos utilizar necesariamente los servicios de tales cooperativas; numerosas cooperativas de colocación de la
producción de electricidad, etc. establecen en sus estatutos que, las personas que voluntariamente deseen adherirse a ellas, deben permanecer asociadas durante un determinado
número de años, para asegurar así una mayor estabilidad y hacer posible la consolidación de
importantes realización es cooperativas, etc.
e) En cualquier caso, conviene consultar al respecto la opinión prevaleciente en esta materia, expuesta a través del órgano indiscutiblemente representativo del movimiento cooperativo mundial, o sea la Alianza Cooperativa Internacional.
4. Sin embargo, la comprobación de diversas restricciones acceso libre y la adhesión voluntaria, no debe llevar de ninguna manera a desconocer la trascendencia de estas normas, que
han de continuar orientando las actividades de las entidades cooperativas, pues son esenciales y resultan condición indispensable para la vigencia de otros principios cooperativos.
Tales restricciones sólo deben admitirse en casos fundados y siempre que no impliquen una
limitación artificial o una discriminación de cualquier tipo contra determinadas personas.
Recordemos a este último respecto que, si bien la Alianza Cooperativa Internacional no mantuvo en 1966 la neutralidad política y religiosa en carácter de principio independiente, manifestó con claridad, en el enunciado de este primer principio, su oposición a toda restricción
artificial y a cualquier discriminación social, política, racial o religiosa que pudiera limitar el
acceso a una entidad cooperativa.
2. Co-operative societies are democratic organisations. Their affairs should
be administered by persons elected or appointed in a manner agreed by the
members and accountable to them. Members of primary societies should
enjoy equal rights of voting (one member, one vote) and participation in
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decisions affecting their societies. In other than primary societies the administration should be conducted on a democratic basis in a suitable form.
El principio de organización democrática es uno de los que más nítidamente destacan los
caracteres sociales junto a los económicos, y señalan la importancia que debe asignarse en
las entidades cooperativas al elemento humano en relación al capital. También ha sido calificado como el principio que establece el control democrático, la igualdad de todos los asociados y la autonomía de las entidades cooperativas.
1. Cada asociado tiene un solo voto cualquiera sea el número de sus acciones cooperativas.
Todos los asociados, reunidos en asamblea general, deciden los asuntos importantes y eligen
libremente, entre ellos mismos, a aquellos que han de dirigir la cooperativa. Los dirigentes
son responsables de su gestión ante los asociados, a quienes incumbe pues el control de las
operaciones.
El presente principio marca una diferencia fundamental entre las cooperativas y otras entidades de distinta naturaleza. En estas últimas, la influencia que cada socio tiene en la orientación de los asuntos comunes suele depender del capital que posea en ellas; y un socio
puede, si dispone del capital necesario, llegar a ejercer al respecto un poder absoluto. En las
cooperativas, en cambio, el poder de decisión depende de las personas en sí mismas y no del
capital que las apoye.
Es el mismo principio democrático que en materia política consagra a voluntad de la mayoría
de los ciudadanos; aquí se trata de la democracia económica, que adquiere plena vigencia
dentro de las entidades cooperativas y consagra la voluntad de la mayoría de sus asociados.
Las cooperativas deben ser muy celosas en la defensa del principio de organización democrática y rechazar aquellas condiciones vinculadas con el ejercicio del derecho de voto o de
elegibilidad que, aunque aparentemente justificadas, puedan llegar a restringir arbitrariamente tales derechos o a hacerlos efectivos sólo en relación a núcleos determinados de asociados. Desde luego, ello no obsta al reconocimiento de determinadas condiciones lógicas y
no discriminatorias, tales como el requisito de un mínimo de antigüedad para el ejercicio del
derecho de voto de los asociados (que puede prevenir determinadas maniobras de carácter
electoral) y el requisito de idoneidad a fin de ocupar los cargos directivos de la entidad.
Es importante señalar que la regla “una persona - un voto” se aplica indefectiblemente en
todas las auténticas cooperativas primarias, o sea en aquéllas constituídas predominantemente por asociados individuales. En cambio en las uniones, ligas, federaciones o confederaciones de cooperativas, que se hallan constituidas predominantemente por otras entidades cooperativas, la regla “una persona - un voto” cede ante diversas consideraciones de
carácter práctico (tales como la diferente dimensión de las organizaciones asociadas o la
distinta medida en que ellas operan con la entidad federativo); sin embargo, aun en estos
casos., la votación y la participación de los asociados en la deliberación general y el control
de esas entidades, deben efectuarse sobre bases democráticas y compatibles con el “ espíritu cooperativo”. Así lo estableció expresamente la Alianza Cooperativa Internacional cuando, al reformular en 1966 los principios cooperativos, determinó que: “En las sociedades que
no sean primarias la administración debe realizarse sobre una base democrática en una forma apropiada.”
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2. En las cooperativas todos los asociados tienen iguales derechos; y esa igualdad se manifiesta tanto en el ejercicio del derecho de voto (incluso en la frecuente limitación del voto
por poder) como en el derecho a ser elegido para los cargos directivos y en el uso de los servicios que proporciona la cooperativa.
Ni siquiera los iniciadores o fundadores pueden reservarse derechos especiales que se nieguen a los demás asociados o bien ventajas y privilegios, tales como votos múltiples, mayor
participación en los beneficios, etc.
Tampoco las personas elegidas para ocupar cargos directivos tienen derecho por esta circunstancia a recibir un tratamiento privilegiado o ventajas especiales. A los miembros del
Consejo de Administración se les reintegran comúnmente los gastos efectuados por ellos en
el ejercicio de su cargo; también se les puede remunerar, aunque sólo en la medida de su
trabajo personal efectivamente realizado y nunca en relación con los beneficios o excedentes del ejercicio.
Demás está aclarar que estos caracteres igualitarios diferencian a las cooperativas de otras
entidades, pues en éstas resulta frecuente la concesión de ventajas especiales a los dirigentes y de privilegios a los iniciadores o fundadores, a través de una mayor ingerencia en la
dirección o una mayor participación en las utilidades.
Puede afirmarse, en consecuencia, que el principio de organización democrática (reforzado
por el principio ya referido de acceso libre y adhesión voluntaria y por otros principios
cooperativos) consagra el carácter igualitario de la institución cooperativa, para la cual todos
los asociados son iguales y tienen los mismos derechos.
3. Por otra parte, el presente principio de organización democrática señala la necesidad de
que las cooperativas mantengan su autonomía frente al Estado. Según veremos con mayor
detalle en otro capítulo, se le reconocen a este respecto al Estado funciones de reglamentación legal, registro, estadística, fiscalización, etc. de las cooperativas y también funciones de
estímulo más o menos intenso, de acuerdo con las necesidades socioeconómicas del medio
en que se desarrollan; pero se critica la eventual intervención directa del Estado en las
cooperativas, de una manera que torne ilusoria la administración democrática realizada por
sus asociados.
Efectivamente, como todas las demás entidades, las cooperativas tienen que desempeñarse
dentro del marco legislativo y reglamentario establecido por el Estado y sujetarse a las normas de fiscalización previstas por este para proteger los intereses generales. No obstante,
debe evitarse una intromisión oficial directa en la administración de las cooperativas; y la
única excepción admisible a este respecto la constituyen aquellos casos en que, como veremos más adelante, el Estado participa con carácter transitorio y de alguna manera en la administración de las entidades promovidas en determinadas zonas, a fin de orientarlas y verificar el empleo de recursos adelantados para apoyarlas, hasta tanto esas entidades precooperativas estén en condiciones de desempeñarse eficazmente por sí solas.
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4. Los conceptos antedichos se refieren a las ideas fundamentales contenidas dentro del
principio de organización democrática de las cooperativas. Pero faltaría aún aludir a otros
conceptos en, relación con la adaptación de este principio tradicional a las condiciones económico-sociales del mundo moderno; ello no implica necesariamente limitaciones pero demanda, en muchos casos, una visión más práctica o realista respecto a diversos problemas
de actualidad.
El ejercicio directo de la elección y el control democrático de las cooperativas, que resultan
más fáciles en las organizaciones de tamaño reducido en donde prevalece el conocimiento
personal de los asociados, se van dificultando a medida que crece el tamaño de las entidades
o la complejidad de sus operaciones; y esas dificultades se hacen aun más agudas en las
grandes entidades de carácter regional o nacional, que se constituyen como consecuencia de
los modernos procesos de integración cooperativa.
Los cooperadores han advertido con alarma tales problemas, en particular el posible desinterés de diversos núcleos de asociados (evidenciado, entre otros hechos, por una disminución en la asistencia de asociados a las asambleas de las grandes cooperativas); y buscan
afanosamente nuevos métodos que, sin obstaculizar el progreso y la eficiencia de las entidades cooperativas, preserven en su seno los caracteres democráticos.
Ello explica, entre otros, los esfuerzos desplegados en las grandes cooperativas para: a) atribuir mayor importancia a las asambleas locales de asociados que preceden la formación de
la asamblea general de delegados; b) conocer la opinión de los asociados mediante la organización de diversos tipos de encuestas o de un apropiado “referéndum” y la realización de
consultas a los grupos de estudio existentes; c) dar a los miembros nuevas oportunidades de
participar en las actividades comunes a través de la integración de comisiones de asociados
que colaboran con la administración general, tales como comités locales o de sección, comisiones de amas de casa, comisiones de educación, de recreación, etc.
No nos referiremos en detalle a estas cuestiones en el presente punto pues preferimos remitirnos, con el objeto de evitar innecesarias reiteraciones, a los conceptos expuestos con gran
autoridad por el Comité Especial de la Alianza Cooperativa Internacional en 1966 y resumidos por nosotros en el “Apéndice II”, así como a otros puntos de este libro en donde se tratan temas análogos.
Sólo aclararemos desde ya que las cuestiones consideradas en aquella fecha por la A. C. I. se
refieren, en particular, a los siguientes puntos: a) la frecuente sustitución de la asamblea
única de asociados por asambleas de delegados de sector o de distrito y la consiguiente aplicación de la elección indirecta en las grandes cooperativas; b) los diversos métodos puestos
en práctica con el objeto de contrarrestar los peligros del burocratismo y también de la posible actuación discrecional del personal técnico, dentro de las complejas organizaciones
cooperativas modernas; y c) la frecuente complementación o sustitución de la regla “una
persona - un voto” en las uniones, federaciones o confederaciones de cooperativas, mediante otras normas que responden a consideraciones justificadas y respetan las bases democráticas del sistema.
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Para terminar reafirmemos que la organización democrática de las cooperativas exige, desde
luego, la aplicación de la regla “una persona - un voto” en las cooperativas primarias u otras
reglas apropiadas en las asociaciones de cooperativas, de modo que los dirigentes sean elegidos libremente por los asociados y den cuenta del cumplimiento de su mandato; pero ella
requiere también, en las condiciones socioeconómicas actuales, el fomento de una efectiva
participación de los asociados en las grandes organizaciones cooperativas, sobre todo a través de una adecuada educación, el empleo de modernos métodos informativos y la práctica
de diversos sistemas de consulta y colaboración.
3. Share capital should only receive a strictly limited rate of interest, if any.
1. El presente principio establece que las cooperativas sólo pueden abonar, sobre las acciones suscriptas e integradas por sus asociados, un interés de tasa limitada.
Mientras que los dos principios anteriores tratan aspectos preferentemente sociales, el presente principio y el que le sigue consideran aspectos predominantemente económicos. Estos se refieren, en efecto, al destino que puede darse a los excedentes que derivan de las
operaciones realizadas por las cooperativas; y, dentro de este concepto general, el presente
principio establece la retribución que puede asignarse al capital accionarlo aportado por los
asociados de las cooperativas.
2. Las cooperativas requieren el empleo de capitales para organizar, ampliar o perfeccionar
sus actividades y, cuando se desempeñan dentro de un medio que remunera el aporte de
capitales, advierten frecuentemente la conveniencia de retribuir esos capitales con el fin de
atraerlos hacia sí en la medida requerida. Además, ellas reconocen la importancia del capital
como uno de los factores de la producción y, por lo tanto, admiten que se pague por su uso
una compensación adecuada.
Pero las cooperativas procuran una más justa distribución de los beneficios; de ahí que se
nieguen a reconocer al capital un papel preponderante o decisivo, tanto en la dirección de
las operaciones sociales como en la apropiación de los posibles beneficios o excedentes resultantes de sus actividades. Respecto a la dirección de las operaciones sociales, recordemos que el principio ya referido de organización democrática reconoce en las cooperativas
primarias un solo voto por cada asociado, cualquiera sea el monto de sus acciones cooperativas; respecto al destino de los excedentes, el presente principio dispone que el capital accionarlo se retribuya a lo sumo con un interés limitado.
Repitiendo la imagen ya consagrada en esta materia, mientras que en otras entidades el capital es amo absoluto, en las cooperativas sólo reviste la condición de un asalariado en cuanto se halla sujeto a una retribución limitada.
3. Cabe destacar en vinculación con este principio algunos conceptos a menudo puestos en
duda en el pasado, pero actualmente ya definitivamente aclarados:
a) El pago de un interés de tasa limitada se refiere al capital accionario, o sea a las acciones
cooperativas aportadas por los asociados para formar el capital social; de manera pues que,
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si una cooperativa firma obligaciones o realiza otros tipos de operaciones que no consistan
en la suscripción de acciones por sus asociados, podrá pagar por el uso del dinero las correspondientes tasas de interés que rijan en el medio económico-social en que se desarrolla (y
que pueden o no coincidir con aquella tasa de interés accionarlo).
b) El presente principio de ninguna manera obliga a pagar un interés por el capital accionarlo, pues admite implícitamente la posibilidad de no abonar interés alguno y sólo establece
que, cuando se resuelva pagar interés sobre el capital accionarlo, la tasa de ese interés debe
ser estrictamente limitada.
c) Aun en los casos en que se prevén intereses sobre el capital accionarlo, su pago sólo procede cuando el balance de la cooperativa comprueba la realización de beneficios o excedentes; no se trata, pues, de intereses sobre prestamos o sobre depósitos, que deben necesariamente calcularse y abonarse a manera de gastos, sino de una forma de retribuir los aportes accionarlos de los asociados mediante una tasa determinada y en la medida en que se
disponga de excedentes.
El término “interés”, en consecuencia, no resulta aquí completamente adecuado, pero ha
sido consagrado universalmente y sirve para destacar con claridad la idea de una retribución
fija al capital accionarlo; además, las tentativas que se han hecho para reemplazar en esta
materia el término “interés” por otro más adecuado, no han arribado todavía a soluciones
absolutamente convincentes.
Por otra parte notemos que en algunos países se insiste, a nuestro parecer inapropiadamente, en considerar estos intereses sobre las acciones cooperativas a manera de gastos, en lugar de abonarlos cuando se producen excedentes.
4. El pago de un interés sobre las acciones cooperativas ha de depender, dentro de la limitación que consagra el principio enunciado, no sólo de consideraciones de carácter teórico o
idealista, sino también de las circunstancias prácticas que derivan del medio económicosocial. Por ello se evitan, por lo general, las fórmulas demasiado estéticas (tales como la
fijación de una tasa de interés accionarlo en el estatuto social) y se prefieren, en cambio,
aquellos métodos que faciliten una rápida adaptación a las cambiantes condiciones económico-financieras (tales como la adecuación de esa tasa a determinadas tasas bancarias u
otras comúnmente aplicadas en el mercado).
Las mismas circunstancias prácticas, y en especial la conveniencia de atraer hacia las cooperativas mayores aportes accionarios, hacen que algunas entidades cooperativas sólo abonen
intereses sobre las acciones suscriptas e integradas por los asociados cuyo monto exceda el
mínimo requerido para afiliarse a ellas.
4. Surplus or savings, if any, arising out of the operations of a society belong
to the members of that society and should be distributed in such manner as
would avoid one member gaining at the expense of others. This may be
done by decision of the members as follows: by provision for development
of the business of the Co-operative; by provision of common services; or by
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distribution among the members in proportion to their transactions with
the society.
1. Según va hemos señalado, el presente principio se halla estrechamente vinculado con el
principio anterior, ya que ambos se refieren al destino de los excedentes (o beneficios, economías, etc.) que derivan de las actividades cooperativas.
Las cooperativas constituyen, en efecto, organizaciones socioeconómicas “sui-géneris” en las
que, mientras el capital accionarlo sólo tiene derecho a percibir un interés limitado, los excedentes resultantes de sus actividades se destinan a diversas finalidades comunes (desarrollo de las actividades de la cooperativa, servicios comunes) o bien se distribuyen entre los
asociados en proporción a sus respectivas operaciones con la entidad (operaciones de compra de artículos y servicios, de entrega de productos o de trabajo).
Aun en relación a un principio de carácter económico como el que nos ocupa, puede pues
afirmarse que lo más importante dentro de las cooperativas son las personas y no el capital,
ya que la distribución eventual de excedentes entre las personas asociadas no depende del
capital integrado por ellas, sino de su participación en las actividades comunes.
2. Tradicionalmente se advirtió que las cooperativas no producían ganancias sino “excedentes de percepción” o “excedentes de retención”.
En efecto, las cooperativas de distribución (de consumo, de provisión de electricidad, etc.)
suelen tener “excedentes de percepción” que consisten en las diferencias entre los precios
que abonan los asociados-compradores por los artículos o servicios que requieren y el costo
que tiene para la cooperativa la distribución de esos artículos o servicios (precio de fabricación o compra al por mayor, alquileres, salarios, gastos generales, etc.).
Las cooperativas de colocación de la producción suelen tener “excedentes de retención”,
que consisten en las diferencias entre los importes deducidos a los asociados-productores
para hacer frente a los gastos ocasionados por los servicios de colocación o venta de su producen (que pueden incluir asimismo servicios de conservación traslado transformación de
productos. etc.) y el costo de esos servicios.
Por su parte, las cooperativas de trabajo también suelen tener "excedentes de retención
que consisten en las diferencias entre los importes adelantados (mensual, quincenalmente,
etc.) a los trabajadores asociados durante el ejercicio, por su respectivo trabajo, y los beneficios o excedentes obtenidos anualmente y evidenciados a través del balance de la respectiva
cooperativa de trabajo.
En cualquier caso esos excedentes deben, una vez aprobado el balance correspondiente,
destinarse a finalidades comunes y/o distribuir se entre los asociados en proporción a su
participación en las operaciones sociales, o sea en proporción a las compras realizadas por
los asociados en las cooperativas de distribución, en proporción a los productos entregados
por los asociados en las cooperativas de colocación de la producción y en proporción al trabajo realizado por los asociados en las cooperativas de trabajo.
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3. La distribución de los excedentes entre los asociados en proporción a sus respectivas operaciones, constituye un rasgo característico de las cooperativas; y ha sido considerada por
diversos autores como la norma fundamental que permitía diferenciarlas de las demás entidades. Pero la evolución posterior, sin quitar de ninguna manera validez a esta norma., ha
llevado a aclarar algunos puntos y a señalar la posibilidad de que las cooperativas resuelvan
fijar para sus excedentes otros destinos comunes, en lugar de distribuirlos entre los asociados.
En efecto, tanto el pago de un interés sobre el capital accionarlo a que se refiere el principio
anterior, como la distribución de excedentes entre los miembros de la entidad, no son de
carácter obligatorio, sino que dependen de la decisión adoptada por los asociados. Las
cooperativas pueden, por ejemplo, realizar operaciones a precios muy aproximados al costo
y reducir en consecuencia hasta un límite mínimo el monto de sus excedentes; pueden también destinar la totalidad o una parte de los excedentes al autofinanciamiento, es decir a
consolidar, ampliar o perfeccionar sus actividades; y pueden igualmente destinar una parte
más o menos amplia de los excedentes a fines educativos o de bienestar solidaridad o previsión.
La Alianza Cooperativa Internacional lo expreso claramente en 1966 al enunciar el cuarto
principio cooperativo, cuando señaló que los excedentes o economías eventuales pertenecen a los miembros de la respectiva cooperativa y, de acuerdo con la decisión que ellos
adopten, no sólo pueden distribuirse en proporción a las operaciones de los miembros con la
entidad, sino también aplicarse al desarrollo de las actividades de la cooperativa o a servicios
comunes.
4. Lo que marca en realidad una diferencia fundamental con otras organizaciones, si bien las
cooperativas pueden decidir que no se distribuyan excedentes entre sus asociados, ellas no
podrían distribuirlos en base a otro criterio que no fuera la participación proporcionar de los
asociados en las operaciones sociales; no podrían, por lo tanto, distribuir excedentes en base
al capital accionarlo de sus asociados, en base a su actuación en los cargos directivos, etc.
En lugar de forzar los conceptos doctrinarios para justificar situaciones o experiencias especiales, convengamos en que las normas que se apartan de los conceptos. indicados constituyen una excepción. A este respecto es necesario señalar que determinados tipos de cooperativas, en base a consideraciones muy respetables de orden práctico adoptan en algunos
países normas que reconocen una más amplia participación del capital accionarlo en los resultados de las operaciones sociales (muchas veces fundamentadas en disposiciones legales
o reglamentarias vigentes que así lo autorizan).
5. La importancia que se atribuye a los retornos cooperativos -o sea a la parte de los excedentes que se reintegra a los asociados en proporción a sus operaciones- varían según los
diversos tipos de cooperativas y, dentro de cada uno de ellos, según las diversas épocas y
medios económico-sociales en que se desarrollan.
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Las cooperativas de consumo, por ejemplo, subrayaron tradicionalmente la importancia del
retorno como forma de: a) reintegrar a los asociados-consumidores la parte que en justicia
les corresponde dentro de las actividades comunes; b) destacar que los asociados se desempeñan, al mismo tiempo, como adquirentes de los artículos o servicios y como socios o dueños de su cooperativa; c) estimularlos a operar con mayor constancia y a vigilar mejor la gestión de las operaciones comunes; d) facilitarles la formación de ahorros personales; e) atraer
a nuevos asociados, etc. Otros tipos de cooperativas prefieren acentuar la importancia de
los servicios que proporcionan a sus asociados, sin asignar a los retornos la misma atención
que las cooperativas de consumo; y aun estas últimas, interesadas en realizar una política
activa de rebaja de precios de los artículos y servicios, han asumido contemporáneamente
una posición más variada a este respecto.
5. All co-operative societies should make provision for the education of
their members, officers, and employees and of the general public, in the
principles and techniques of Co-operation, both economic and democratic.
1. Se trata de una norma fundamental que deriva de la naturaleza misma de la institución
cooperativa; así lo ha reconocido la Alianza Cooperativa Internacional en la formulación de
los principios cooperativos realizada en 1937 y, aún con mayor amplitud, en la reformulación
de 1966.
Desde el punto de vista práctico cabe observar que las cooperativas, en su carácter de entidades socioeconómicas basadas en el “esfuerzo propio” y la “ayuda mutua” de los asociados, colocan en manos de estos últimos (por sí mismos o a través de los representantes elegidos entre ellos) funciones de deliberación general, dirección y control interno de las actividades; de modo que los asociados han de adquirir los conocimientos que les permitan llenar
acertadamente sus importantes funciones. Pero también desde el punto de vista espiritual,
en su carácter de asociaciones de personas que aspiran a regir sus relaciones socioeconómicas en base a normas de igualdad, solidaridad, justicia y equidad, las cooperativas necesitan
difundir el “espíritu cooperativo” a través de la educación.
Puede afirmarse que así como la democracia política requiere para funcionar correctamente
la educación política de los ciudadanos, la democracia económica requiere indispensablemente la educación económica de los asociados en su doble condiciono de productores y de
consumidores.
2. La educación cooperativa debe desarrollarse a distintos niveles abarcar tanto a los miembros elegidos para dirigir las cooperativas, como conjunto de asociados, al personal empleado y al público en general, captándose en cada caso a las respectivas necesidades.
En términos generales, puede afirmarse que la educación cooperativa debe proporcionar
conocimientos acerca de los principios y métodos cooperativos; debe inducir a los asociados
a participar activamente en su cooperativa, a deliberar correctamente en las asambleas, a
elegir conscientemente a sus autoridades y a controlar su actuación; debe enseñar a los dirigentes a orientar y expandir adecuadamente las actividades comunes; debe proporcionar al
personal empleado los conocimientos técnicos y doctrinarios necesarios para su correcto
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desempeño; y debe Comentar también el sentido de solidaridad y de responsabilidad de la
población en general. Además, allí donde sea decididamente bajo el nivel cultural de la población, corresponde que las cooperativas procuren difundir entre sus ociados los conocimientos fundamentales, sin los cuales se dificulta el ejercicio consciente de la democracia
política o económica.
Los métodos y sistemas de enseñanza y difusión de las cooperativas son muy variados; mencionemos la organización de cursos especiales de distinta duración e intensidad, la edición
de libros, diarios, revistas, folletos y otras publicaciones, el funcionamiento de bibliotecas y
salas de lectura, la organización de círculos o grupos de estudio, la exhibición de carteles,
diapositivas o películas, los programas de radio o televisión y otros medios audiovisuales, las
conferencias, foros y paneles, la enseñanza correspondencia, etc. Además, debe propiciarse
la inclusión de la enseñanza del cooperativismo en los establecimientos de educación primaria, media, superior y universitaria, así como la organización y funcionamiento de cooperativas escolares y estudiantiles.
3. La importancia que las cooperativas asignan a la educación plica la intensa actividad desarrollada en este sentido, sobre todo por las uniones o federaciones regionales y nacionales
de cooperativas, que cuentan frecuentemente con recursos financieros y técnicos más apropia, efecto. Los requerimientos son siempre crecientes, pues, a medida q actividades económicas se hacen más complejas, aumenta el nivel de conocimientos que se requieren para
que los asociados en general particular los dirigentes elegidos y el personal empleado, puedan desempeñarse adecuadamente.
Por otra parte, la educación cooperativa resulta necesaria tanto países económicamente
más desarrollados y de mayor desenvolvió cooperativo como en aquellos que se hallan en
vías de desarrollo. En últimos países, el gobierno suele propiciar las actividades cooperativas, como forma de elevar el nivel de vida general; y en tales casos, es también frecuente
que diversas entidades nacionales y algunos organismos internacionales fomenten la educación cooperativa de la población, en forma paralela o coadyuvante con la acción emprendida por las mismas cooperativas y sus uniones o federaciones.
Nos remitimos en este punto a un capítulo posterior, que se dedicará especialmente a la
consideración de este trascendente tema de la educación cooperativa. Señalemos, desde
ya, que de la seriedad con que emprenda la educación previa e ininterrumpida depende, en
gran parte, el éxito de toda acción de promoción cooperativa.
6. All co-operative organisations, in order to best serve the interests of their
members and their communities should actively co-operate in every practical way with other co-operatives at local, national and international levels.
1. En su afán por proporcionar más y mejores servicios a un número de asociados, las cooperativas advirtieron tempranamente la posibilidad de asociarse entre sí a través de entidades
de segundo, tercer y cuarto grado o sea de uniones, ligas, federaciones y confederaciones de
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cooperativas; también advirtieron la posibilidad de estrechar las relaciones con otras cooperativas, a través de acuerdos de carácter más o menos amplio o duradero.
Esta tendencia hacia la integración responde a la naturaleza cooperativa, pues se basa en la
unidad de esfuerzos (esfuerzo propio) y la colaboración recíproca (ayuda mutua); además,
procura decisivas ventajas de diverso orden, sobre todo en cuanto la acción conjunta facilita
o perfecciona el funcionamiento y permite extender el campo de acción d entidades cooperativas. Por ello los cooperadores de todo el mi recibieron jubilosamente la consagración
que la Alianza Cooperativa Internacional hizo en 1966 de esta tendencia, al asignarle el carácter de un principio cooperativo.
El principio de integración cooperativa señala, pues, que las cooperativas deben cooperar
con otras cooperativas, en todas las formas posibles y tanto a nivel local, como nacional e
internacional. En otras palabras ese principio indica la necesidad de que las entidades
cooperativas se asocien entre sí y constituyan uniones, ligas, federaciones o confederaciones
de cooperativas, con el objeto de realizar en común diversas tareas económicas, técnicas y
sociales que interesan a todas ellas (integración cooperativa vertical u organización federativo del movimiento cooperativo); y señala, asimismo, la conveniencia de que las cooperativas
celebren acuerdos de distinto carácter con otras entidades cooperativas, para facilitar la
consecución de sus respectivas finalidades (integración cooperativa horizontal o relaciones
intercooperativas).
2. No deseamos dar aquí extensión a la consideración de este tema, que será tratado con
detalle en un capítulo posterior dedicado, precisamente, a la integración cooperativa en sus
dos aspectos de organización federativo y relaciones intercooperativas.
Sin embargo, queremos destacar especialmente que el proceso de integración cooperativa,
si bien supone una efectiva unidad de acción en diversas materias importantes, debe respetar la autonomía de las entidades cooperativas de base, su organización democrática y los
propósitos de servicio del sistema. Además, no deben afectarse en ningún caso los intereses
de los mismos asociados y de la comunidad; así lo ha entendido la A. C. I. cuando expresó, al
enunciar el principio de integración cooperativa en 1966 y según el texto transcripto más
arriba, que la cooperación con otras cooperativas debía realizarse “con el objeto de servir
mejor los intereses de sus miembros y de la comunidad”.
Análisis de otros principios no incluidos en la declaración de 1966
Neutralidad política y religiosa
Determinar si debe atribuirse a la neutralidad política y religiosa el carácter de un principio
cooperativo, constituye un tema todavía controvertido; y ello se debe, no sólo al hecho de
que esta materia abarque distintos aspectos igualmente importantes, sino también a la diversidad de sistemas económico-sociales existentes y al apasionamiento con que suelen defenderse situaciones o posiciones ya tomadas al respecto.
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1. Dentro de los términos neutralidad o independencia social, política, racial y religiosa, se
incluyen diversos aspectos sobre los cuales coinciden todos los cooperativistas:
a) No debe existir ningún tipo de discriminación en cuanto al ingreso de los asociados a las
cooperativas.
Bajo este aspecto., la neutralidad complementa el principio ya enunciado de acceso libre y
adhesión voluntaria, pues ello sólo resulta factible cuando no se imponen diferenciaciones o
discriminaciones por motivos de raza, religión, nacionalidad o ideología.
b) Debe rechazarse cualquier discriminación social, política, racial o religiosa en cuanto a la
elección de las personas que han de dirigir las cooperativas y al ejercicio de las demás actividades de los asociados.
c) Deben evitarse las discusiones por motivos políticos o religiosos en el seno de las cooperativas, para eliminar factores importantes de discordia y favorecer la solidaridad de todos los
asociados.
d) La vigencia de la neutralidad política y religiosa de ninguna manera se opone a que las
cooperativas, actuando en forma coherente y en representación de sus asociados, asuman la
defensa del movimiento cooperativo frente a otras empresas o en relación a las autoridades
públicas; tampoco se opone a que las cooperativas hagan conocer su opinión en las cuestiones que se refieren particularmente a ellas (legislación, tributación, etc.) o en los problemas
que interesan a toda la comunidad (aprovisionamiento, servicios públicos, etc.).
Más aún, resulta conveniente que las cooperativas procuren estrechar sus vinculaciones
externas e influir sobre el medio circundante, colaboren con el Estado en todos los casos
procedentes y propicien soluciones para los problemas generales dentro del espíritu cooperativo que las anima.
e) Por fin, tampoco se discute la conveniencia de que la Alianza Cooperativa Internacional,
como entidad representativa del movimiento cooperativo mundial, mantenga celosamente
su neutralidad o independencia frente a las diversas tendencias políticas o religiosas existentes y procure aunar a todas las cooperativas del mundo que merecen el nombre de tales.
2. - Pero existen dentro de esta materia otros aspectos que dividen la opinión de los cooperativistas:
a) Muchos afirman que las cooperativas no deben de ninguna manera embanderarse en determinadas doctrinas ajenas al cooperativismo, no deben afiliarse o sostener a los partidos
políticos ni declarar su adhesión a ninguna religión determinada. Los asociados podrán participar de las tendencias sociales, políticas o religiosas que prefieran y desarrollarlas activamente fuera de las cooperativas; pero dentro de estas entidades deben, sin renunciar a sus
convicciones personales, prescindir de toda manifestación que las exteriorice y limitarse a
desarrollar junto a sus asociados actividades específicamente cooperativas.
b) Además, muchos cooperativistas opinan que el concepto de neutralidad o independencia
político-religiosa debe aplicarse asimismo a las relaciones de las cooperativas con el Estado y
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sostienen, al respecto, que las cooperativas tienen que mantener una posición prescindente
o autónoma frente al Estado. Según ellos, no serían verdaderas cooperativas aquellas entidades que, en lugar de limitarse a colaborar en distintas formas constructivas con los organismos oficiales, se manifestasen absolutamente identificadas con el régimen político bajo el
cual se desenvuelven hasta el punto de convertirse, en algunos casos, en simples engranajes
de un sistema económico-social dirigido por el Estado.
3. Se plantean, pues, frente a este tema de la neutralidad política y religiosa posiciones
opuestas: por una parte, la posición de aquellos que consagran la neutralidad o independencia en toda su amplitud y en todos los aspectos que acabamos de examinar; por otra parte,
la posición de aquellos otros que sólo reconocen esa neutralidad bajo los aspectos más limitados que se exponen en el punto l., o bien adoptan una actitud ecléctica al respecto.
Se alinean en estas últimas posiciones restrictivas, las cooperativas que funcionan dentro de
regímenes autocráticos o donde se verifica una preeminencia casi absoluta de las actividades
del Estado, pues difícilmente pueden librarse en esos países de ciertos rasgos o influencias
que se manifiestan en la vida político-económica general; además, donde no existen partidos
políticos de oposición o las actividades religiosas son muy restringidas, no tiene sentido o
resulta redundante bajo esos aspectos el requisito de independencia o neutralidad.
Pero también dentro de regímenes liberales y aun en relación a algunos países de notable
desarrollo cooperativo, pueden constatarse situaciones que no condicen con los aspectos
más amplios de la neutralidad o independencia política o religiosa; en tales casos, las cooperativas afirman abiertamente su adhesión a determinada religión o partido político (Bélgica,
Italia, etc.) o llegan a constituir un partido político propio (Gran Bretaña).
4. Frente a estas posiciones opuestas, la Alianza Cooperativa Internacional, que había enunciado en 1937 el principio de una “neutralidad política y religiosa” separadamente, ha resuelto en los últimos tiempos adoptar una actitud moderada y tolerante, a fin de contemplar
diversas situaciones, no herir susceptibilidades y evitar su desmembramiento como entidad
internacional.
Era notoria, en efecto, la insistencia con que diversos movimientos cooperativos nacionales
(Bélgica, Gran Bretaña, U. R. S. S., Polonia y muchos otros) defendían su derecho a apartarse
de uno u otro de los aspectos implícitos dentro de una concepción amplia del principio de
neutralidad.
A ello se debe que, en 1966, la Alianza Cooperativa Internacional haya establecido expresamente la norma de neutralidad o independencia sólo en el aspecto relativo a la no discriminación por motivos sociales, políticos, raciales o religiosos de las personas que deseen adherirse a cooperativas (dentro de la formulación del principio l.) y tal vez también implícitamente, al tratar de la democracia y la igualdad cooperativas (Ver principio 2.). Además, el
informe de la “Comisión sobre los Principios Cooperativos 1” ha efectuado interesantes consideraciones en cuanto a caracteres y alcances de la norma de neutralidad o independencia,
pero evitado pronunciarse en forma definitiva sobre aspectos más comprometedores de esa
norma.
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5. Como lo reiteraremos más adelante, pensamos que la neutralidad o independencia política y religiosa (incluso social, racial, etc.) es la que mejor condice con los caracteres cooperativos y, en especial, con conceptos de solidaridad, igualdad, justicia, equidad y libertad que
constituyen bases espirituales del cooperativismo. De modo, pues, que neutralidad o independencia debería considerarse una norma fundamental a la que tendrían que sujetarse las
nuevas cooperativas y un ideal que habrían de tender las organizaciones que se han apartado en mal o menor medida de aquella norma.
Las cooperativas tienen importantes funciones sociales, económicas y educativas que cumplir en beneficio de sus asociados; y deben resistir toda alianza o compromiso con organismos o instituciones que les impongan el pago de aportes pecuniarios, determinen la realización de tareas de adoctrinamiento o las alejen de cualquier otra manera del cumplimiento
de sus actividades específicas.
Permítasenos observar que el ya aludido e incuestionable derecho del movimiento cooperativo a expresar su opinión en relación con problemas que afecten a sus asociados o interesen
a toda la comunidad, se perfecciona en aquellos casos en que se mantiene la independencia
frente a toda tendencia política, racial o religiosa, en particular en cuanto el movimiento
presenta entonces mayores garantías de imparcialidad.
Agreguemos que la neutralidad o independencia favorece la ayuda mutua entre personas o
entidades que sostienen diversos puntos de vista en relación con otros temas o problemas;
además, protege la continuidad de esfuerzos del movimiento cooperativo frente a eventuales cambios en los partidos o tendencias políticas dominantes.
Venta al contado
De todas las normas aplicadas por los Pioneros de Rochdale y reconocidas en carácter de
principios cooperativos por la Alianza Cooperativa Internacional en 1937, la “venta al contado” era sin duda la más endeble; resultaba pues previsible la posición adoptada por la A. C. I.
en 1966, en cuanto reconoció la importancia de esta norma dentro de ciertas condiciones y
circunstancias, pero le negó la validez de un principio.
Ante todo, debe advertirse que la “venta al contado” constituye una norma tradicional aplicada sólo por determinados tipos de cooperativas, en particular por las cooperativas de consumo. Y cabe también señalar que la adopción de esta norma respondió a un determinado
nivel de organización económico-social, de manera que la evolución de esa organización
impuso cambios en la concepción y alcances de la norma cooperativa.
Sin embargo, la “venta al contado” resulta todavía universalmente aconsejable en relación
con algunas actividades cooperativas; además, mantiene decididamente su vigencia en ciertos ambientes económico-sociales poco evolucionados y por eso semejantes, bajo ciertos
aspectos, a aquellos en los cuales surgieron las cooperativas. Todo ello obliga a dedicar a
esta norma una atención especial.
1. La adopción de la norma de “venta al contado” sustentó originariamente el propósito de
afianzar la situación financiera de las cooperativas, evitando las operaciones a crédito que se
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consideraron como una de las principales causas del fracaso de experiencias anteriores; pero
esa norma se propuso también independizar a los asociados de la servidumbre a que frecuentemente los sometían las compras a crédito de diverso artículos.
En efecto, y siguiendo en gran parte a Charles GIDE que consideró con especial atención este
tema, puede observarse que la “venta al contado” presenta las siguientes ventajas morales y
económicas:
a) Desde el punto de vista de los asociados:
- Induce a comprar estrictamente lo que se necesita.
- Crea hábitos de orden y de economía en los gastos.
- Permite adquirir los artículos en el lugar y en la forma que más convenga, suprimiendo la
necesidad de comprar donde conceden créditos y de tolerar los posibles abusos de los proveedores.
b) Desde el punto de vista de la cooperativa:
- Permite disponer de mayores sumas de dinero en efectivo y, en consecuencia, comprar
también total o parcialmente al contado, en mejores condiciones de precio y calidad.
- Facilita la reposición rápida de las mercaderías adquiridas por los consumidores asociados.
- Hace posible un funcionamiento eficaz con menor capital. Evita la necesidad de recurrir a
préstamos que encarecen los costos.
- Impide que los socios que sean malos pagadores perjudiquen a los demás.
2. De acuerdo con lo expuesto más arriba, la primera limitación a la norma de “venta al contado” se verifica en relación a la naturaleza las actividades desarrolladas por las cooperativas.
En efecto, esta norma se adapta en especial a las actividades de consumo o sea de distribución a los asociados de artículos o servicios de uso y consumo personal y familiar; pero es de
difícil aplicación en el caso de las actividades de provisión a los asociados de elementos necesarios para la producción agraria., pesquera, artesano, etc., debido a que, por general, los
productores deben enfrentar períodos de espera más o menos prolongados antes de obtener recursos suficientes; y resulta prácticamente inaplicable en las actividades de colocación
de la producción y de trabajo, pues es evidente que las operaciones de las cooperativas necesitan acomodarse a las condiciones del mercado.
Aun dentro de las actividades de consumo, la presente norma conservado su validez en relación con los artículos comestibles y otros productos de reducido valor unitario y de utilización más o menos inmediata (artículos de limpieza, de tocador, etc.); no así en cuanto a los
artículos de elevado precio unitario y de uso extendido a lo largo de varios meses o años.
Recordemos, a este último respecto, que la técnica ha creado mecanismos o artefactos de
uso doméstico desconocidos en siglos pasados, cuya utilización ha llegado a constituir una
necesidad común (lavarropas, enceradoras, aspiradoras, radios, televisores, etc.); y que, tanto estos nuevos elementos como otros tradicionalmente señalados por su elevado precio y
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su durabilidad (muebles, cocinas, cortinados, trajes, etc.), suelen hacerse accesibles a la población mediante determinadas facilidades de pago. De manera que las cooperativas han
debido disponer la venta a crédito de estos elementos,, para ponerlos al alcance de la mayor
parte de sus asociados.
La prohibición de conceder créditos para el consumo, que frecuentemente establecían las
leyes o reglamentaciones aplicables a las cooperativas, ha cedido consecuentemente en su
rigidez, para circunscribirse por lo general a los artículos de consumo inmediato.
3. Además de la naturaleza de las actividades, es preciso considerar las diversas circunstancias particulares del medio en que las cooperativas se desenvuelven.
Así, según ya hemos observado, los cambios en la organización económico-social suelen quitar validez a los argumentos que antes apoyaban la adopción de la norma de “venta al contado” mencionemos, en particular, la influencia que al respecto ejerce la elevación del nivel
de vida de la población, la acción de la competencia del comercio particular, los mayores
controles ejercidos por el Estado, etc. Conviene, pues, advertir que la presente norma resulta en la actualidad más aconsejable en los ambientes económico-sociales poco evolucionados.
4. Se reconoce, por otra parte, que la norma de “venta al contado” debe aplicarse en cualquier caso en forma razonable y atendiendo a determinadas circunstancias específicas, transitorias o de excepción.
Dentro de este orden de ideas, se admite comúnmente que el pago quincenal o mensual de
los servicios de electricidad, gas., teléfono, etc. no implica una excepción a la norma de venta al contado, pues la forma de prestación de estos servicios aconseja su facturación periódica. También es frecuente admitir que el pago de diversos artículos en el momento en qué
los asociados-compradores perciben sus sueldos o salarios (tal como el conocido “descuento
por planilla”), no debe considerarse violatorio de la norma de venta al contado, pues se ajusta por lo general a las posibilidades de los asalariados y a las modalidades vigentes.
5. Si bien se evidencia el desarrollo en las cooperativas de diversos sistemas de crédito, se
aconseja en cualquier caso independizar cuida. mente las demás operaciones de las operaciones crediticias.
Se trata de no afectar la administración general, evitando distraer los recursos financieros o
el personal de las cooperativas de su destino u ocupación específicos; y se procura, por el
contrario, que las operaciones de crédito sean realizadas por personal especializado y con
todos los recaudos que permitan prestar ese servicio en forma eficaz y reducir los riesgos
consiguientes.
En particular y según lo veremos más adelante, la separación entre las operaciones de consumo y de crédito suele conseguirse mediante la creación de departamentos o secciones
independientes dentro de las mismas cooperativas de consumo, o bien orientando a los asociados hacia otras entidades cooperativas que se dedican específicamente al otorgamiento
de créditos.
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6. Por fin, para no dar excesiva extensión a este punto, limitémonos a reconocer que, mientras otras entidades sólo consideran en materia de crédito sus propios intereses económicos, las cooperativas tienen la obligación de desarrollar al respecto una labor educativa, esclarecedora y moralizadora (desanimando los consumos superfluos o las operaciones riesgosas, fomentando el uso consciente y racional de los recursos disponibles, etc.).
Tanto las eventuales disposiciones legislativas y reglamentarias aplicables, como las mismas
entidades cooperativas en la orientación práctica e inmediata de sus operaciones, deben
tener en cuenta los referidos aspectos sociales de la actividad cooperativa y, reiteramos,
consultar las condiciones del medio para poder fijar apropiadamente los alcances de la norma que estudiamos.
Pureza y exactitud en el peso y medida de los artículos
Ya hemos observado, al tratar las bases espirituales del cooperativismo, que las cooperativas
deben desenvolver sus operaciones de acuerdo con elevadas normas éticas; y una de las
manifestaciones de esa preocupación, consiste en los esfuerzos realizados a fin de operar
con artículos de buena calidad y asegurar exactitud en su peso y medida.
Tales esfuerzos han tenido especial significación en el pasado, pues abundaban en todas
partes las maniobras de adulteración en la calidad y de fraude en el peso y medida de los
artículos; por eso a las primeras cooperativas, y en particular a la cooperativa de los Pioneros
de Rochdale, se les reconoce el mérito de haber aplicado rigurosamente y contribuido a difundir esa norma práctica.
En la actualidad puede advertirse que, en las regiones de mayor desarrollo económicosocial, diversos factores tales como el progreso tecnológico, la acción de la competencia y el
control del Estado, han conseguido reducir notablemente las maniobras inescrupulosas en
torno a la calidad, peso y medida de los artículos; en cambio, en las regiones en vías de desarrollo, esas maniobras resaltan todavía muy frecuentes y se mantienen así en plena vigencia
los argumentos que avalan la norma que estudiamos.
Sin embargo, aun en las zonas de mayor desarrollo, la acción defensiva de los factores arriba
indicados resulta a menudo insuficiente y se revela asimismo la conveniencia de que las
cooperativas protejan a sus asociados, especialmente como consumidores de bienes de viso
personal o familiar y en la condición de compradores de diversos elementos necesarios para
el ejercicio de su respectiva actividad económica.
Por otra parte, la tradicional acción cooperativa de defensa de la calidad, peso y medida de
los artículos, debe entenderse en la actualidad en un sentido más amplio, como reacción
frente a las maniobras o prácticas competitivas desleales y como esfuerzo común tendiente
a afirmar el sentido de responsabilidad moralizar la economía; a tal fin, las cooperativas no
sólo pueden asumir una posición de protesta, pues se hallan en condiciones de ejercer la
defensa activa de sus asociados mediante la realización de sus propias actividades socioeconómicas con propósitos de servicio. Así lo reconoció la Alianza Cooperativa Internacional
que, si bien no asignó a la presente norma el carácter de un principio cooperativo, subrayó
en estos sentidos su permanente importancia.
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Realización de operaciones exclusivamente con los asociados
La vigencia absoluta de la presente norma (que puede anunciarse también como prohibición
de realizar operaciones con no asociados o viso de los servicios de la cooperativa sólo por los
asociados) es discutible y su aplicación ha variado a través del tiempo; ello hace particularmente interesante el estudio de los diversos motivos que inducen a apoyarla o rechazarla.
Observemos desde ya que esta norma se refiere, lógicamente, a las operaciones que ligan en
forma específica a la cooperativa con sus asociados (tales como las operaciones de distribución a los asociados de artículos de uso personal o familiar en las cooperativas de consumo)
y, de ninguna manera, a aquellas operaciones que normalmente vinculan a la cooperativa
con el exterior (tales como la venta a terceros de los artículos producidos por las cooperativas de trabajo).
Señalemos también que el presente punto se vincula con el problema de la identificación de
asociados y usuarios de las cooperativas; pero este último tema resulta más amplio, pues se
refiere no sólo a la posible realización de operaciones de las cooperativas con no asociados
(usuarios que no son asociados), sino también a la existencia de asociados que no utilizan o
sólo utilizan raramente los servicios de su cooperativa (asociados que no son usuarios).
1. Entre los motivos que se alegan para determinar que las cooperativas realicen operaciones exclusivamente con los asociados, destaquemos los siguientes:
a) La realización de operaciones con no asociados parece contradecir caracteres fundamentales de las cooperativas, en cuanto se trata de entidades integradas por grupos de personas
que se asocian con el objeto de atender a sus propias necesidades socioeconómicas y se basan en el esfuerzo propio y la ayuda mutua de estas personas.
b) La realización de operaciones con no asociados parece contradecir asimismo el carácter
no lucrativo de las cooperativas, pues los asociados podrían eventualmente aprovechar en
tales casos, directa o indirectamente, los resultados de las operaciones realizadas con extraños.
c) Las exenciones o reducciones impositivas y otras ventajas de distinto orden que en diversos países se reconocen a las cooperativas, entre otros motivos porque operan exclusivamente con los asociados, perderían parte de su fundamento si estas entidades efectuaran
operaciones con terceros no asociados.
d) La realización de operaciones con terceros podría estimular a algunas cooperativas a cerrarse en si mismas y a restringir el acceso de asociados.
e) En determinados casos, la posibilidad de los no asociados de operar con las cooperativas,
privaría a estas últimas de los aportes materiales y morales (capital accionarlo, participación
en la administración común, etc.) que realizarían las personas descosas de operar con esas
entidades si asumieran el carácter de asociados.
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2. Entre los motivos que se aducen para justificar que las cooperativas efectúen también
operaciones con no asociados, señalemos:
a) La realización de operaciones con no asociados permite aumentar el volumen de operaciones de las cooperativas; ello facilita a su vez el mejoramiento y diversificación de los servicios proporcionados, disminuye la incidencia de los gastos generales e incremento la productividad de sus actividades económicas.
b) En relación con el punto anterior, cabe observar que diversos tipos de cooperativas encuentran serios escollos en la realización de determinadas actividades económicas, cuando
no se hallan autorizadas a operar, en forma permanente o transitoria, con no asociados. Así,
en la realización de actividades de producción de pan, vestidos, muebles, etc., las cooperativas de consumo necesitan frecuentemente contar con la posibilidad de vender los productos
que excedan las necesidades de sus miembros a terceros no asociados, con el fin de que
aquellas actividades resulten económicamente viables; y es aconsejable que las cooperativas
de colocación de la producción integradas por agricultores, pescadores, etc., cuenten con la
posibilidad de transformar o industrializar también la producción de terceros no asociados,
cuando las instalaciones excedan momentáneamente sus necesidades y se presenten periodos de escasez, sequía u otras dificultades, a fin de superar tales circunstancias y proseguir
en forma conveniente sus actividades.
c) Algunos tipos de cooperativas (en particular las que desarrollan actividades de consumo)
pueden, cuando se hallan abiertas al público, influir más fácilmente en el mejoramiento de
los precios de mercado.
d) Las operaciones con terceros sirven para difundir el sistema y promueven el ingreso de
asociados, pues dan oportunidad a los extraños para probar anticipadamente las ventajas de
la acción cooperativa.
e) En los medios menos desarrollados, la realización de operaciones con no asociados permite a mentido atender las necesidades de diversas personas que, de otro modo, no podrían
satisfacer tales necesidades adecuadamente.
3. Por otra parte, para responder a las objeciones que se manifiestan respecto a la realización por las cooperativas de operaciones con no asociados (ver punto I.) y justificar asimismo
una posición más tolerante, puede aducirse que:
a) No se contradicen caracteres fundamentales de las cooperativas (punto I. a) cuando,
complementariamente y sin afectar la atención de las necesidades socioeconómicas de sus
asociados, estas entidades prestan servicios que protegen o favorecen también a otras personas no asociadas.
b) No se atenta contra el carácter no lucrativo de las cooperativas (punto 1. b), cuando los
excedentes obtenidos en las operaciones realizadas con no asociados se destinan (en base a
disposiciones legales, reglamentarias o estatutarias) a fondos y reservas comunes de la respectiva cooperativa o a otros fines desinteresados o de interés general; más aún, suele
aconsejarse que aquellos excedentes no se destinen a la formación de fondos o reservas que
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puedan beneficiar indirectamente a los asociados de las cooperativas, sino a obras que beneficien a toda la comunidad.
Tampoco se atenta contra el carácter no lucrativo de las cooperativas, cuando los excedentes obtenidos en las operaciones realizadas con n asociados se destinan a integrar el capital
accionarlo de aquellos que, habiendo operado con la cooperativa, deseen ingresar como
asociados.
c) En cuanto al argumento relativo a la vigencia de exenciones reducciones impositivas u
otras ventajas especiales acordadas a las cooperativas (punto 1. c), cabe observar que tales
disposiciones se justifican e razón de la peculiar naturaleza cooperativa y también por motivos de orientación político-económica oficial (dada la conveniencia de fomentar este tipo de
entidades en base a consideraciones de interés general de la comunidad); de modo que
aquellas disposiciones sólo toman en cuenta en forma secundaria el hecho de que las entidades cooperativas operen o no con personas no asociadas.
d) Por fin, los riesgos relativos a que algunas cooperativas tiendan restringir el acceso de
asociados (punto 1. d) o bien se vean privadas de lo aportes materiales y morales de nuevos
asociados (punto 1. e), puede evitarse o atenuarse mediante la adopción de normas legislativas, reglamentarias o estatutarias apropiadas; tales disposiciones establecen determinadas
pautas, condiciones o porcentajes adecuados, para asegurar que las operaciones con no
asociados representen una parte complementaria nunca fundamental dentro del monto
total de operaciones de las cooperativas.
4. - Respecto a la evolución experimentada en el tratamiento doctrinario y en la práctica de
la presente norma observemos, sucintamente que:
a) Los Pioneros de Rochdale aplicaron y reconocieron la procedencia de las operaciones con
no asociados.
b) El informe considerado por la Alianza Cooperativa Internacional en 1937, asumió una posición ecléctica y señaló la gran proporción de cooperativas que realizaban en esa época
operaciones con no asociados.
c) El informe considerado en 1966, por su parte, reconoció que la identidad miembrousuario constituye la práctica cooperativa normal pero advirtió que resulta muy difícil evitar
la realización de operaciones con no asociados, sobre todo en las zonas de mayor desarrollo
económico.
5. De los conceptos expuestos anteriormente se infiere que, la realización de operaciones
exclusivamente con los asociados, no tiene ni ha tenido la validez universal de un principio.
Se trata de una norma cuya aplicación depende, en algunos casos, de las disposiciones legales vigentes en el respectivo país y, en otros casos, de las normas estatutarias o reglamentarias establecidas por las mismas cooperativas. Su adopción o rechazo resulta del balance de
las consideraciones recién expuestas y, sobre todo, de la necesidad de adecuarse al medio
económico-social en que las cooperativas se desarrollan.
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Por otra parte, la realización de operaciones con no asociados suele resultar más justificable
y práctica para ciertos tipos de cooperativas (consumo, provisión, colocación de la producción, etc.) que para los demás.
En cualquier caso, conviene reconocer que la realización por las cooperativas de operaciones
con no asociados debe tener un carácter complementario de sus operaciones habituales,
pues no podrían considerarse auténticas aquellas cooperativas que realizasen una, gran parte de sus operaciones con personas no asociadas.
Respecto al caso particular de las cooperativas de trabajo, la realización de operaciones exclusivamente con los asociados debe entenderse como fuentes de ocupación exclusivamente para los trabajadores asociados y consiguiente prohibición de emplear personal asalariado
(salvo durante períodos limitados de prueba y para la realización de tareas transitorias o
accidentales). Como ya hemos observado, esta disposición es más celosamente respetada
en algunos países (como el nuestro), pero resulta menos rigurosa en otros (Francia, México),
donde se constata la actuación de una considerable proporción de personal asalariado en
este tipo de cooperativas.
Venta a precio corriente o de mercado
Se trata de una norma aplicable a las cooperativas que desarrollan funciones de distribución
de artículos o de servicios.
1. Obviamente las cooperativas no pueden distribuir los artículos o servicios al precio de
compra o producción, pues necesitan afrontar mediante el precio de venta, no sólo ese precio de compra o producción, sino también diversos gastos y previsiones vinculados con su
distribución (alquiler de local, salarios de empleados, amortización de instalaciones, seguros,
etc.). Por otra parte, es muy difícil calcular de antemano la incidencia de estos factores, pues
ello depende del volumen general de operaciones, de las pérdidas eventuales, de la variación en el nivel de los salarios, etc.
Resulta entonces necesario, para establecer el precio de venta de los artículos o servicios,
agregar a su precio de compra o producción un margen prudencial y, a tal efecto, las cooperativas pueden adoptar algo de las siguientes modalidades: venta a precio corriente o de
merca venta a precio ligeramente inferior al de mercado, aplicación de determinados porcentajes sobre el precio de compra o producción, aplicación de una política activa de precios, etc.
2. Sin entrar en detalles que escapan a los propósitos de capítulo, aclaremos que la venta a
precio corriente o de mercado ha la norma técnica o modalidad empleada tradicionalmente
por las cooperativas de consumo; ella consiste en la venta al mismo precio que aplica demás
empresas del lugar aunque, más exactamente, suele afirmarse consiste en la venta al mismo
precio que aplican aquellas empresas lugar que venden más barato (siempre que resulte un
precio razonable no artificial o arbitrario, aplicado transitoriamente por otras empresas como recurso publicitario, etc.).
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La venta a precio corriente o de mercado presenta las siguientes ventajas: a) da a la cooperativa un margen amplio de beneficio mediante el cual puede expandir sus actividades, hacer frente con tranquilidad a gastos, constituir reservas para prevenir periodos de crisis u
otras dificultades y, eventualmente, distribuir entre sus asociados retornos cuados; b) resulta cómoda, pues toma un punto de referencia general y; c) hace que la reacción del comercio particular sea menos violen inmediata.
La misma modalidad de venta a precio corriente o de mercado presenta, en cambio, algunas
desventajas, pues: a) las cooperativas que aplican estrictamente no pueden influir sobre las
condiciones del cado, como podrían hacerlo a través de una disminución de precios que beneficiaría tanto a los asociados como a toda la comunidad; y b) la falta de un aliciente económico inmediato para los compradores, retarda la afluencia a las cooperativas de nuevos
asociados o del público en general.
3. Los Pioneros de Rochdale aplicaron en sus primeros tiempos la norma de venta a precio
corriente o de mercado; pero los informes considerados por la Alianza Cooperativa Internacional en 1937 y 1966 negaron a esta norma el carácter de un principio cooperativo.
4. Se trata, efectivamente, de una simple directiva, norma técnica o modalidad correspondiente a las funciones de distribución de artículos y de servicios (cooperativas de consumo,
de provisión, etc.), que se adapta a determinadas circunstancias socioeconómicas.
La venta a precio corriente o de mercado continúa siendo recomendable para las cooperativas que realizan funciones de distribución dentro de un medio ambiente hostil, o bien son de
reciente creación, se hallan poco difundidas, prefieren por motivos especiales brindar a sus
asociados retornos considerables o no pueden, por cualquier causa, hacer competir sus precios en el mercado y desean ante todo consolidar su situación financiera.
En cambio, cuando esas cooperativas han alcanzado suficiente desarrollo, estabilidad o eficiencia en su organización y, sobre todo, han arribado a la etapa de la propia producción,
tienden a realizar una política activa de precios; en tales casos, suelen adoptar precios inferiores a los corrientes o de mercado, de modo que obligan a las empresas particulares a
acomodarse a los precios de las cooperativas y logran de esta manera una elevación en el
nivel de vida general. A este último respecto, no puede dejar de citarse el ejemplo de las
cooperativas de consumo de Suecia que, contando con un volumen considerable de operaciones, una eficiente organización y el apoyo decidido de sus asociados-compradores, han
logrado consolidar sus actividades de producción en fábricas propias, vencer las maniobras
de diversos monopolios e imponer a su vez rebajas sustanciales en el precio de muchos artículos de consumo popular (lámparas eléctricas, zapatos de goma, harina, margarina, etcétera).
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Destino desinteresado de.¡ sobrante patrimonial en caso de disolución de la
cooperativa
Se trata de la norma que suele también señalarse como “irrepartibilidad de las reservas sociales”, “indivisibilidad de las reservas colectivas”, “reservas inalienables”, “inalienabilidad
del fondo de reserva y del haber colectivo”, “transmisión desinteresada del activo líquido” o
“irrepartibilidad del sobrante patrimonial”.
1. Al tratar el principio cooperativo de libre acceso y adhesión voluntaria, ya hemos observado que, como norma general, los asociados ingresan a las cooperativas en las mismas condiciones que sus predecesores y, a los miembros salientes por renuncia o exclusión, se les devuelve un valor no superior al que hayan aportado. De manera que los nuevos asociados no
abonan suma alguna en concepto de compensación por las reservas sociales constituidas; y
los asociados salientes no tienen derecho recibir parte de las reservas sociales existentes.
Pues bien, en caso de disolución de las cooperativas, y en un número, considerable de países, a los asociados también se les devuelve por sus acciones cooperativas integradas una
suma no superior a la que hayan aportado, de modo que ellos no tienen derecho individual
alguno sobre el sobrante patrimonial que resultara una vez realizado el activo y cubierto el
pasivo de la respectiva entidad.
Suele establecerse que, en caso de disolución de las cooperativas, ese sobrante sea destinado a fines desinteresados, tales como la promoción de nuevas cooperativas o la ayuda a
otras cooperativas existentes, la integración de determinados fondos de las federaciones de
cooperativas, la educación cooperativa, la educación económica del pueblo, la realización
de actividades de bienestar social o utilidad publica, etc. Tales disposiciones resultan en
algunos casos impuestas por la legislación, mientras que otras veces son simplemente difundidas por la práctica general adoptadas en el estatuto de las cooperativas.
2. Es indudable que las normas a que acabamos de aludir se complementan, pues si las personas que ingresan a la cooperativa nada tienen que abonar en razón de las reservas u otros
fondos sociales comunes y sólo pueden retirar, cuando egresan por cualquier motivo, un
valor no superior al que hayan aportado por sus acciones integradas, es natural que tampoco puedan repartiese entre ellas el sobrante patrimonial que resulte en caso de liquidación
de la cooperativa (una vez cubiertas las deudas sociales y devueltas las acciones cooperativas integradas).
De lo contrario, ello conduciría a beneficiar injustificadamente al núcleo de personas asociadas al momento de disolución de la cooperativa y podría eventualmente inducir a estas últimas a provocar tal disolución para aprovechar así individualmente las reservas y otros fondos sociales constituidos, no sólo gracias a su propia actividad, sino también a la actividad de
asociados ya fallecidos o egresados a lo largo de toda la actuación de la cooperativa.
En vinculación con los conceptos antedichos cabe agregar que, la injusticia del reparto de las
reservas sociales entre las personas asociadas al momento de la disolución de las cooperativas, se acentúa en el caso de que esas cooperativas cuenten con recursos retenidos o recibi-
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dos en carácter de estímulo y a título gratuito o semigratuito (tales como los que emanan,
en algunos países, de exenciones impositivas reconocidos o de subsidios y otras liberalidades
otorgadas en mérito al carácter cooperativo de tales entidades).
Además, corresponde observar que el peligro de una disolución intencionada de las cooperativas por los asociados presentes, a fin de usufructuar las reservas comunes, resulta poco
temible en la mayor parte de las cooperativas, que aplican con amplitud el acceso libre y los
demás principios cooperativos pero ese peligro se agudiza en algunas cooperativas que absorben en más amplio grado las actividades o los intereses económicos de sus miembros,
tienen menor número de asociados y pueden presentar cierta tendencia a cerrarse en si
mismas.
3. Normalmente, la aplicación de la presente norma implica que, producida la disolución de
la cooperativa, se devuelve a los asociados una suma que puede resultar inferior pero nunca
superior al monto nominal de sus acciones cooperativas integradas.
El problema que se presenta a ese respecto y que se ha agudizado en los últimos tiempos es
también, como en el caso del retiro individual de asociados, el que plantea una acentuada
desvalorización monetaria por efectos de un proceso de inflación que puede afectar injusta y
desigualmente los intereses de los asociados que se retiran o que formalizan la disolución de
las cooperativas en diversas épocas.
Se ha intentado resolver este problema a través de la formación de una reserva especial o de
una adecuada revaluación de las acciones cooperativas integradas por los asociados, que no
resultaría teóricamente contraria a las normas cooperativas en cuanto tendería a restablecer
las condiciones de igualdad entre ellos; según algunas opiniones, esa revaluación podría realizarse, siempre que las circunstancias lo aconsejasen, tomando en cuenta los índices oficiales u otros ya consagrados sobre la evolución de precios o de costo de vida, de salarlos, etc.
del respectivo país.
Sin embargo, los diversos métodos propuestos para hacer frente a la devaluación monetaria
son pasibles de fundadas críticas, pueden poner en peligro el funcionamiento de las cooperativas y dan lugar a muchos otros problemas de distinto orden que resaltan de difícil solución. No debe olvidarse que las entidades cooperativas sufren también los efectos de la inflación y no pueden en muchos casos asegurar, ni a sí mismas ni a sus asociados, contra los
efectos de procesos de devaluación monetaria que se originan fuera de ellas y que afectan a
todas las actividades económicas.
4. Es preciso destacar que, en diversos países de larga tradición y amplia difusión cooperativas, la presente norma no es impuesta por la legislación ni aplicada habitualmente. Por el
contrario, se admite en esos países (anglosajones, escandinavos, etc.) que, en caso de disolución y consecuente liquidación de las cooperativas, el sobrante patrimonial se distribuya
entre los asociados existentes al momento de la disolución; y suele disponerse que la distribución entre los asociados se efectúe, ya sea “per cápita” (por partes iguales), en proporción
a las operaciones que hayan realizado con la cooperativa durante los últimos años o, lo que
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resulta aún más criticable desde el punto de vista doctrinario, en proporción al respectivo
capital accionarlo de los asociados.
En descargo de la posición indicada se arguye que, por lo general, siendo la duración de las
cooperativas indefinida o bien tan amplia que resulta prácticamente ilimitada, la norma relativa a la distribución del sobrante patrimonial es aplicada en escasas ocasiones; y que, en
caso de producirse una disolución, ella estaría generalmente impuesta por una mala situación financiera y daría difícilmente lugar a la formación de recursos distribuibles por sobre el
monto nominal de las acciones cooperativas integradas.
Otros tratadistas apoyan decididamente la distribución de las reservas cooperativas en los
casos en que las entidades cooperativas se hallen sujetas al mismo tratamiento impositivo
que las demás y, en especial, cuando sus recursos resulten del ahorro o renunciamiento esforzado y voluntario de los asociados. Aquellos afirman la posibilidad de aplicar sistemas
que aseguren a cada asociado la parte del sobrante patrimonial que en justicia le corresponde; y suelen sostener que son los mismos asociados quienes deben decidir acerca del destino del sobrante, en los casos en que la respectiva legislación no lo haya previsto.
5. La norma que consagra el destino desinteresado del sobrante patrimonial en caso de disolución de la cooperativa, fue ya propiciada por Philippe Buchez en 1831 para las cooperativas
de trabajo (o cooperativas obreras de producción), cuando aconsejó la formación de un fondo indivisible; y fue también aplicada alrededor de 1848 por Raiffeisen a las cooperativas de
crédito, cuando propició la integración de un patrimonio colectivo, que afirmarla la continuidad del esfuerzo de los cooperadores de una a otra generación.
Los Pioneros de Rochdale la adoptaron expresamente en el artículo 44 de su nuevo estatuto
de 1854; pero los informes considerados por la Alianza Cooperativa Internacional en 1937 y
1966, si bien destacaron la importancia de esa norma, no le asignaron el carácter de un principio cooperativo.
Se trata, en efecto, de una cuestión ampliamente debatida; y las diferentes opiniones existentes al respecto se pusieron en evidencia una vez más entre 1963 y 1966, al discutirse la
nueva formulación de los principios cooperativos. En esta oportunidad, se apreció la posición netamente favorable al establecimiento de la irrepartibilidad del sobrante patrimonial
de las cooperativas, adoptada por los tratadistas franceses, belgas e italianos, frente a la
posición más condescendiente de los tratadistas anglosajones, japoneses y escandinavos.
De cualquier manera, el hecho de que la Alianza Cooperativa Internacional no le haya reconocido en 1937 ni en 1966 el carácter de un principio, deriva de razones prácticas impuestas
por la diversidad de posiciones existentes; y resulta avalado, sobre todo, por la comprobación de que esa norma no es actualmente consagrada por importantes movimientos cooperativos de distintos países, sin aparente desmedro de los demás rasgos cooperativos esenciales.
Por nuestra parte, afirmamos modestamente nuestra opinión favorable a la consagración de
la presente norma en carácter de principio cooperativo, en base a las consideraciones enunciadas más arriba (punto 2.); creemos que esta norma resulta particularmente importante
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en los medios socioeconómicos menos evolucionados; y confiamos en que tanto la práctica
como la doctrina mundial se inclinen finalmente en el sentido recién indicado.
Expansión constante
Existe, evidentemente y desde sus orígenes, una tendencia en el movimiento cooperativo a
intensificar y perfeccionar su acción, así como a ampliar el campo de sus actividades con el
objeto de proporcionar nuevos y mejores servicios a un número siempre creciente de asociados; todo ello dentro de una aspiración a solucionar diversos problemas de carácter económico-social, para procurar la elevación del nivel de vida y el bienestar general.
La constatación de esta tendencia ha hecho que se le atribuyera fundadamente el carácter
de una norma o aun de un principio cooperativo; no debe, pues, extrañar que las cooperativas de algunos países (entre otras, las cooperativas norteamericanas) la incluyan habitualmente dentro de la enumeración de sus principios.
Los que sostienen que debe atribuirse a la expansión constante el carácter de un principio,
afirman que no son auténticas cooperativas aquéllas que vegetan en una actividad limitada y
no se esfuerzan por lograr el constante desarrollo de sus servicios. En cambio son verdaderas cooperativas, por ejemplo, aquéllas cooperativas de consumo que procuran ampliar sus
locales de venta, el número de sus asociados o la variedad de artículos distribuidos y tratan,
también, de producir algunos de esos artículos por sí mismas o a través de procesos de integración con otras entidades; aquellas cooperativas de trabajo que se esfuerzan por crear
nuevas fuentes de ocupación para los asociados; aquellas cooperativas de colocación de la
producción que procuran mejorar la conservación y completar la transformación de los productos que reciben, para aumentar su valor y favorecer su colocación en el mercado, etc.
Si bien puede concebirse la labor expansivo realizada en forma aislada por diversas cooperativas, es indudable que la integración cooperativa (o sea tanto la organización de cooperativas de segundo, tercer o cuarto grado como el estrechamiento de las relaciones intercooperativas) constituye el método más práctico y más acorde con el “espíritu cooperativo” para
realizar o perfeccionar ese proceso de expansión.
Cabe afirmar entonces que la Alianza Cooperativa Internacional, que no incluyó esta norma
dentro de los principios cooperativos en 1937, se aproximó a ello en 1966 al consagrar en
carácter de principio la cooperación con otras cooperativas ya que, como acabamos de observar, la integración constituye uno de los métodos más apropiados para realizar ese proceso expansivo. Señalemos que la “Comisión sobre los Principios Cooperativos” manifestó en
el informe considerado por la A. C. I. en 1966, al exponer sus conclusiones y luego de enunciar los primeros cinco principios: “A éstos hemos pensado que resulta importante agregar
un principio de expansión mediante la cooperación mutua entre cooperativas”.
El tiempo revelará si la opinión mundial se decide en el futuro a reiterar la formulación de
1966, o bien a incluir la integración cooperativa dentro de un contexto que se refiera más
específicamente a la expansión constante del movimiento cooperativo.
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Coincidencia con los intereses generales de la comunidad
Las cooperativas se constituyen y funcionen con el objeto de proporcionar servicios a sus
asociados; ello es innegable, como lo es también el hecho de que la mayoría de las personas
que ingresan a las cooperativas lo hacen con el fin de defender, a través de ellas, sus legítimos intereses socioeconómicos. Pero, uno de los rasgos que distingue netamente a las
cooperativas de otras entidades, es que aquéllas deben defender los intereses de sus asociados en la medida en que tales intereses coincidan o, por lo menos, no se opongan a los
intereses generales de la comunidad.
Esta condición fundamental es más fácilmente cumplimentada por las cooperativas de consumo y otros tipos de cooperativas de distribución, que sirven los intereses generales de la
población. Pero podría ser descuidada por otros tipos de cooperativas que atienden los intereses de sectores más limitados o específicos; no actuarían en forma verdaderamente
cooperativa, por ejemplo, las entidades dedicadas a colocar la producción de sus asociados o
a proporcionar fuentes de ocupación cuando, aprovechando situaciones especiales, impusieran precios desproporcionados por los productos o servicios de sus asociados o incurrieran
en otras maniobras abusivas en detrimento de la masa de consumidores.
De manera pues que, si bien las cooperativas deben defender los intereses legítimos de sus
asociados en el carácter de consumidores, productores, profesionales, trabajadores, etc.,
deben cuidar también, para merecer el nombre de cooperativas, los intereses generales de
la comunidad; y para ello han de buscar métodos o asumir posiciones que favorezcan al
mismo tiempo a sus asociados y a toda la comunidad, realizando esfuerzos continuos para
conciliar los respectivos intereses. Así, el incremento de ingresos de los productores asociados a las cooperativas. debería procurarse a través del aumento de la producción, la disminución de los costos o la supresión de la intermediación innecesaria, en lugar de apelarse a
maniobras restrictivas y egoístas tendientes, por ejemplo, a restringir la oferta o a operar
exclusivamente con aquellos artículos de precio más elevado.
En todos los Estados modernos, las autoridades se ocupan en alguna medida de prevenir
abusos y orientar la economía en el sentido más beneficioso para el conjunto de la población; pero a esta acción preventiva y sancionadora del Estado, debe unirse la fuerza moral de
las mismas entidades cooperativas, que han de actuar con su sentido de protección a la comunidad.
La presente norma no fue reconocido en carácter de principio cooperativo por la Alianza
Cooperativa Internacional en 1937. En 1966, al consagrar el sexto principio referente a la
integración cooperativa, la A. C. I. afirmó que la cooperación activa entre las organizaciones
cooperativas tiene que realizarse “con el objeto de servir mejor los intereses de sus miembros y de la comunidad”.
Creemos que debe darse a estas palabras toda la importancia que merecen, pues introducen
claramente el concepto a que nos referimos más arriba. Se trata de una expresión todavía
tímida pero promisoria; ella autoriza a confiar que, en el futuro, la norma que estudiamos
será consagrada por la asociación mundial de cooperativas en términos más explícitos y generales.
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Análisis general de la declaración de 1966
La labor de la Comisión Especial ha sido sin duda muy encomiable pero, como toda labor
humana, resulta perfectible; nos atrevemos, pues, a expresar al respecto las siguientes dudas y observaciones:
a) Resulta comprensible la posición adoptada por la Comisión Especial, cuando suprimió la
enunciación compendiada de los principios cooperativos con el objeto de dar mayor exactitud a los conceptos enunciados. Pero corresponde preguntar sí, dado que el cooperativismo
es un movimiento de carácter eminentemente popular y puesto que la educación cooperativa constituye una norma fundamental, no convendría completar esa enunciación detallada y
amplia con la adopción de una enunciación compendiada, lo más correcta posible y avalada
por la misma A. C. I. , para facilitar la difusión de los principios cooperativos en el grueso de
la población.
b) El reconocimiento en 1966 de la neutralidad o independencia sólo en vinculación con el
ingreso de los asociados y desprovista, en consecuencia, del carácter de principio general
que le asignara la A. C. I. en 1937. responde sin duda a poderosos motivos de conciliación y
unidad del movimiento cooperativo. Pero cabe preguntarse si la A. C. I. no ha sacrificado, en
este caso y en alguna medida, la pureza de los principios a razones de carácter circunstancial; y si no hubiera sido preferible mantener la misma posición consagrada a este respecto
por la A. C. I. en 1937 , es decir señalar la neutralidad o independencia como meta o ideal al
que deben tender las cooperativas, aunque sin exigirla como condición necesaria para la
admisión de las cooperativas en el seno de la Alianza Cooperativa Internacional.
c) Participamos de la opinión de aquellos autores que, apartándose en este punto de la posición adoptada por la A. C. I., atribuyen al destino desinteresado del sobrante patrimonial que
puede resultar en caso de disolución de las cooperativas, el carácter y la validez de un principio.
No obstante, la constatación de que en diversos países de notable desarrollo cooperativo no
suele aplicarse esta norma, podría llevar a conclusiones semejantes a las expresadas en relación con el principio de neutralidad o independencia, es decir a considerar aquella norma
como una meta o ideal al que deben tender las cooperativas aunque sin exigirá como condición de adhesión a la entidad internacional.
d) Aplaudimos, como todos, el hecho de que la cooperación entre cooperativas haya sido
consagrada por la A.C.I. en 1966 con el carácter de un principio. Pero nos preguntamos si no
hubiera sido conveniente consagrar el principio más amplio de expansión cooperativa y señalar a la cooperación entre cooperativas como método más apropiado para realizar ese
proceso de expansión.
La norma de expansión constante destaca, como ya hemos observado, la necesidad de que
las cooperativas se esfuercen de manera perseverante para proporcionar nuevos y mejores
servicios a mayor número de asociados. Sin necesidad de fijar por anticipado los limites de
la acción cooperativa, el reconocimiento de la expansión constante en carácter de principio
equivaldría al reconocimiento de la naturaleza dinámica del movimiento cooperativo.
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e) Por fin, aplaudimos la inclusión del concepto de servicio a los intereses de los miembros y
de la comunidad, dentro del principio sexto expuesto por la A. C. I. en 1966. Pero corresponde preguntar si no hubiera sido preferible una expresión más amplia en el sentido de
que, no sólo en relación a la cooperación entre cooperativas sino en todos los casos, las
cooperativas deben servir los intereses o aspiraciones de sus asociados en la medida en que
tales intereses o aspiraciones coincidan con los intereses generales de la comunidad.
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(1995) LA DECLARACIÓN DE MANCHESTER
Algunas fuentes para analizar esta declaración pueden ser:
ICA (1995). Declaración de la Alianza Cooperativa Internacional sobre la
identidad cooperativa. COCETA. Madrid, 1996
[Disponible en la biblioteca de CSE (www.cse.coop)]
Kaplan de Drimer, Alicia. (1995) “El XXXI Congreso de la Alianza Cooperativa Internacional y la nueva formulación de los principios cooperativos.” en
Anuario de Estudios Cooperativos, 1995.
La autora realiza un exhaustivo repaso a la última reformulación de principios cooperativos
realizada por la Alianza Cooperativa Internacional (ACI) en 1995. Tras señalar los motivos de
tal reformulación, analiza la definición de cooperativas, de valores y de principios cooperativos, así como la formulación de cada uno de los siete principios que se han establecido,
comparando la nueva formulación con la anteriormente en vigor -adoptada en 1966- y añadiendo además un comentario crítico a cada uno de estos puntos. Por último, y a modo de
repaso, establece unas conclusiones generales.
Martínez Charterina, Alejandro (1995). Los valores y principios cooperativos. REVESCO: revista de estudios cooperativos, ISSN 1135-6618, 61, 1995;
págs. 35-46.
[Se integra a continuación]
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Los valores y los principios cooperativos
Alejandro Martínez Charterina
REVESCO: revista de estudios cooperativos, ISSN 1135-6618, Nº. 61, 1995 (Ejemplar dedicado a: La identidad
cooperativa), págs. 35-46