chapter  5
17 Pages

Producers and Consumers

Identified by Hobsbawm as The Age of Capital, in the history of Co-operation in the United Kingdom the period 1848 to 1875 is marked by the emergence of the Consumers' Movement as a major feature of retail trade, the exposure of the antithesis between it and Producers' Co-operation and, as a result, the virtual abandonment of the latter as an expression of democracy. Perhaps more significant are the events in the remaining and short history of the Rochdale Co-operative Manufacturing Society. Yet, for two main reasons, the demise of the Rochdale Co-operative Manufacturing Society did not finally close the question of how in principle co-operative production should be organised. The first reason was external, the second internal to the Movement. The Consumers' Movement is unlikely, however much capital it may dispose of, to become the financier of future productive ventures unless they are to be conducted under its own control.