Cooperativism is the movement and the doctrine that drive the promotion and organization of cooperatives: autonomous societies whose members seek to satisfy a common need.
Different principles govern cooperativism. These are values that this type of society and its members must respect, which are also found universally among all people, since they are ethical values of responsibility and cooperation. One of the most important is mutual support, since the purpose of a cooperative is to act together to pursue the resolution of common problems.
Let us see below other principles of cooperativism:
* direct democracy in decision-making processes related to the management of society itself, which must be collective and include all associates through protagonism and participation;
* self- effort, understood as the willpower and motivation of the members, always with an eye on achieving the planned objectives;
* fairness in the distribution of profits. Surpluses must be distributed fairly and equally among the members of the association;
* responsibility, a level of performance that allows the proposed activities to be fulfilled in order to achieve common goals, propelled by an unwavering moral commitment to the rest of the members;
* Equality among associates, who have the same rights and the same obligations and are free to join and withdraw from the association whenever they wish;
* Solidarity can also be mentioned as a pillar of cooperativism. These associations must serve to solve problems of their partners and their families, but also of the community in which they are inserted.
Cooperativism must promote these principles and any ethical value that makes transparency, honesty, commitment to the community and social responsibility.
The history of this movement has a documented start date, October 24, 1844, but more than one precedent that goes back almost a century before. In 1769, for example, the consumer cooperative Fenwick Weavers’ Society was founded in Scotland. On the other hand, there are also exceptions, both practical and theoretical, in the hands of utopian socialism, a group of socialist thinkers prior to Marxism.
Returning to the date on which cooperativism effectively began, we are situated in England, when a woman and twenty-seven men who worked in the textile industry of Rochdale, a city located in Greater Manchester, founded a company they called the Equitable Society of the Rochdale Pioneers, with a contribution of 28 pence each. These people had lost their jobs after participating in a strike.
These pioneers presented before the House of Commons a list of regulations that are considered the basis of the aforementioned principles. Some of the points to highlight from these general guidelines, established by the founders of cooperativism, are the following: religious and racial freedom; limited interest on principal; continuing education.
The International Cooperative Alliance is the institution that brings together and represents cooperatives from almost a hundred countries. Among the functions of this entity created in 1895 is the dissemination of cooperativism.
It is important to keep in mind that cooperatives belong to the so-called third sector or social economy, which combines issues of the capitalist economy and the public sector. Cooperativism, in this framework, constitutes a current that goes beyond capitalism, since it is not based on the generation of profits (profit), but on the satisfaction of the needs of the people.