Sidor som bilder



A system of co operation, correctly applied and honestly carried out, will prove to be a great step towards the solution of the labor question, and the long and hard struggle between capital and labor may terminate in the union of both those interests, by their identification.

By the principle of co-operation a share of the profits derived from the labor of the wage-worker, will be assured to him, in addition to his regular daily wages, and in various instances may eventually combine in the wage-worker both employer and employe. Capital and Labor will be brought into closer and friendlier relations, and be made more confidential and sympathetic with each other. Co operation established in this way will secure greater economy in production, and cause better results, as the laborer is as much interested in profitable results as the employer, and consequently will exert himself more in utilizing time, in economy in using raw materials, tools, etc., and in a general way to make the enterprise in which he is engaged a success.

Co-operative associations have been in existence in various countries in Europe many years, and have mostly proved to be successful. In these countries workingmen, on account of extreme low rates of wages, and employers, on account of like small profits, turned to cooperation as a remedy. In America these conditions have heretofore not existed to such an extent, laborers generally receiving satisfactory wages and employers reasonable profits, until the last few years, when a general depression in trade reversed these conditions, and consequently considerable attention has been paid to co-operation.

Strikes and their disastrous results in many instances have directed the attention of both employers and employes to the fact that the money expended and lost by strikes would be a great saving to both, and would, if properly applied in co-operation, cause the employe to finally be his own employer and render him independent.


An example of this can be seen in the successful organization and working of the "Co-operative Coal Company" at Bevier, Macon county, Mo., it being partly the result of last summer's coal miners' strike in those coal fields. This organization combines capital and labor, capital being represented by the owner of three large coal mines, fully equipped for operation, who furnishes the mines and takes part interest in the co-operative association; and labor, by the miners work. ing these mines, who each take shares in the company. These mines are leased by the company for fifty years, at a stipulated annual royalty. The value of each share is $10, but no stockholder is permitted to own more than ten shares. The affairs of the company are managed by a board of five directors, elected annually, and who serve without compensation. The other officers consist of a president, secretary and treasurer. This company has now agents at all principal points in the Missouri Valley for the sale of its coal, and is reported to be doing an excellent business. It is hoped by all interested in this question, that this may prove to be the forerunner of many similar ones.

The company has been in operation only a few months, and consequently no report of its operation can now be given.

From the "Age of Steel" I quote the following admirable article on co-operation:

A state of war, or at least an armed truce, is the condition under which industry has been pursued throughout the greater part of the last quarter of a century. The antagonism of capital and labor during this period has manifested itself in frequent strikes, and lockouts attended with violence, outrage and coercion, followed by irretrievable loss and inconceivable misery. The injury inflicted, not only on the parties to the contest, but on the community in general by strikes and lockouts, cannot be measured by the loss which they cause, considerable, though, that loss undoubtedly is. The suffering and misery they create must be reckoned in the account against them. The poverty, pauperism and degradation of thousands of families are among the baneful consequencies of these cruel and often prolonged contests, and among their victims are to be found the members of industrial firms in startling numbers. But the direct money loss for which these conflicts are responsible is enormous. It has been shown by carefully complied statistical computations that in the period from 1870 to 1879, inclusive, 2,352 strikes occurred in England, and that the cost to the workmen in the decade was $134,064,000, or an average yearly loss of $13,405,400.

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

The capitalist's or employer's amount of loss in consequence of strikes and lockouts during the same period is estimated at $20,947, 500, an average of $2,094,750 per annum. The two sums to the debt of labor I and capital consequently amount to the total of $155,501,150 per annum. The extent and importance of the moral and material damage I done by industrial warfare during the last twenty-five years in all parts of the industrial world is almost beyond computation. That it is both costly and demoralizing is universally conceded. It is equally beyond dispute that, so long as the interest of the employer and employed diverge, antagonism and hostility will characterize the pursuit of industry, and the complete and most profitable development of industrial enterprise will be delayed. It is obviously, therefore, to the advan tage of all that some means should be found and adopted to make those interests identical by the substitution .of some form of equitable divisions of the fruits of labor. To this end co-operation is suggested. Combinations under this title for ministering to the wants of the community have been long in active operation, and have made rapid and successful strides. Co-operation has been classed under three heads: co-operation of capital, co-operation for distribution and co operation for production. Of the first form of co-operation, nothing need be said at this time. Co-operation for distribution has been eminently successful in England, Scotland and Wales. The progress of this description of co-operation has indeed been marvelous since 1861. Its societies then counted less than 50,000 members, employing a capital of £333,290, and doing £1,512,117 value of trade. The total business done by the workingmen's societies in the last twenty five years has been about £250,000,000, and the net profits upon this business have been about £20,000,000, nearly the whole of which has gone into the pockets of the working classes. We show below the latest obtainable statistics regarding the present condition of co-operation in Great Britain :

[blocks in formation]

At the end of 1883, there were 667,463 members of the co-operative societies in Great Britain, among whom a profit of £2,305,887 was distributed. The principle and progress this movement has made is sug. gestive of universal extension. Why, it may be asked, has not a system so excellent been more generally adopted in the United States? So far as this country is concerned, the wages of labor have hitherto been so large that workingmen have been pretty well satisfied with their condition, and have not been driven to devise new ways of gaining a livelihood. Another reason is that workingmen everywhere lack confidence in the honesty and fidelity of one another. Many of the cooperative stores in this country have come to grief on account of some faithless treasurer. Another reason may be summed up in the statement that "" every man wants to be boss."

It is only when we come to consider co-operative production that we find the relations between labor and capital brought to a prominent position. The theory of association of workmen for production has among its advocates many of the most eminent political economists and philanthropists of this generation, Thomas Hughes, Prof. T. Rogers, Prof. Cairns, John Stuart Mill, Lord Derby, Mr. Thomas Brassey, Earl of Shaftsbury, and others equally well known. Lord Derby declares that the experiment of co-operation promises well, and ought to be fairly tried, and argues that the principle is not discredited by the fail. ures hitherto encountered in its practical working, inasmuch as almost every other great principle has been brought into operation through just such repeated failures. Mr. Thomas Brassey, the rich contractor and employer of labor, said, in a recent article on this subject: “I earnestly wish success to the experiment of adopting the co-operative principle to productive industry. It is quite probable that there are some trades and some kinds of business in which it cannot be brought about at all; but it seems to me that it is in this direction that the efforts of the best workers and the ideas of the best thinkers are tending, and we are not to be disappointed because we do not hit at once upon the best way of doing what has never been done before." Prof. Cairns also, who was unquestionably one of the ablest of modern political economists said, "co-operation constitutes the one and only solution. of our present problem, the sole path by which the laboring classes as a whole, or even in any large number, can emerge from their condition of hand to mouth living, to share in the gains and honors of advancing civilization."

The introduction of the co-operative movement in society was necessarily slow, as it involved great changes in existing social conditions. The first efforts in this direction were made on the "co operative distributive" plan in the early part of the present century, and in

« FöregåendeFortsätt »