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CO−OPERATION

I come lastly to co−operation. You will think me biased when I speak of its possibilities. I am. I have been for

eighteen years on the governing body of the Agricultural Organisation Society, and happen now to be its

chairman, and am therefore closely in touch with the work of organising co−operative effort. One sees fairly

clearly how difficult it is to make any class of English agriculturists combine for any mutual purpose, how

worth while it is, and what almost unexpected opportunities of useful work still exist. Thanks largely to

untiring work by Sir Leslie Scott−−who gave up the chairmanship of the society on his recent appointment as

Solicitor−General−−the country is now fairly covered by societies for purchasing requirements

co−operatively−−principally fertilisers, feeding−stuffs, and seeds. There are also affiliated to the movement I

have mentioned, many useful co−operative auction marts, slaughter−house societies, bacon factories, wool

societies, egg and poultry societies, and fruit and garden produce societies (but not nearly enough), besides a

thousand or so societies of allotment holders which, thanks largely to our friend, George Nicholls, set all the

others an example in keenness and loyalty to their parent body.

The ideal is that where a society exists the main raw materials of the industry shall be bought wholesale

instead of retail, and the main products of the industry sold retail instead of wholesale; that thereby

middlemen's and other profits shall be reduced to a reasonable figure, and that the consumer shall get the most

efficient possible service with regard to his supplies. It is also the ideal that farmers and others shall learn

more comradeship and brotherhood; that the big and small men alike shall become one community bound

together for many common purposes, and that thus the cultivators of the soil shall lose that isolation and

selfishness which is a reproach against them. The ideal is, however, not always realised. The farmer likes to

have a co−operative society to keep down other people's prices, but, having helped to form a society, he does

not see why he should be loyal to it if a trader offers him anything a shilling a ton cheaper. A good committee

is formed, but the members think they hold their offices mainly in order to get first cut for themselves at some

good bargain the society has made, and they start with the delusion that they are good men of business.

Things, therefore, get into the hands of the manager, and it is astonishing how much more quickly a bad

manager can lose money than a good one can make it. And if in these and other ways it is uphill work with

farmers' societies, the work is still more uphill with small−holders. It is the breath of their nostrils to bargain

individually, and if a society is started they will only send their stuff to be sold when they and every one else

have a glut, ungraded and badly packed−−and then they grumble at getting a low price.

But all co−operative work is abundantly worth while. And the field of co−operation is not limited to the

purchase of supplies or the sale of produce. It ought to cover the use of tractors and threshing sets and the

installation and distribution of power. And if agriculture gets a chance of settling down to a moderate amount

of stability and prosperity, it would not be beyond the bounds of hope that part, at any rate, of the profits of

co−operative enterprise should be used to develop the amenities of the common life of the community−−to

provide prizes for the sports and the flower show−−the capital to start an industry for the winter evenings, and

even seats for the old people round the village green. Times are not propitious for increasing the productivity of our land, excepting by the slow processes of

education−−which work particularly slowly in agriculture. Nor are they immediately propitious for raising the

workers' standard of life, though we should never leave go of this as an essential. But many of us can, if we

will, help a good man to start on the land, or help a man who has made good on the land to do better. Many of

us can help to develop real independence of life in the villages and, through co−operation, those kindly virtues

of friendliness and helpfulness to others and willingness to work for common ends which are sometimes not

so common as they might be. And those who can do any of these things should, without waiting for

legislation−−for the legislator is a bruised reed.

[Transcriber's Notes: The following apparent printer's errors have been corrected for this electronic edition:

misconduct necessitates military operations; was "operations:"

and if he tries to make his responsibility real was "responsiblity"

things slide−−the main virtue of Cabinet was "virture"

are two which are almost invariably present towards was "invarably"]