Chapter IV

UNLIMITED MEMBERSHIP


A principle in the cooperative movement is that of unlimited membership. A cooperative society must admit anyone as a member who wants to join, with the single exception of the person who would enter the society to do it harm. Not religion, race, politics, or other classification, can reject an applicant for membership. This means not only that the hand of friendship is held out to all, but it means unlimited issuance of stock. This tends to keep stock at par and prevent speculation and price fluctuations. A limited amount of common stock only can be bought by each member. The stock of the member who retires is bought back at par.

Political governments can not afford to invite into their citizenship all who would come; for one reason because of the economic struggle for the profits of business going on within their borders. The labor market is a competitive business, and labor must be kept scarce in order to keep up the price. Trade-unions in the United States have been responsible for laws excluding craftsmen of other countries whose admission to this country would be of benefit to themselves and to consumers who need their services. This exclusion has been for the sake of making labor scarce in order to make it expensive. Limitation of the number of doctors and other workers prevails for the same reason--and with the same disadvantages to the consumers. Exclusiveness, discriminations, and separating people is a part of the introduction to war. All this may be necessary in a competitive economy. But it does create international animosities. The urge to scarcity is not found in the cooperative society. A common form of organization which invites all people into its membership has peace-promoting qualities.

If we look about to find a common ground upon which all people may unite in a common interest, we find that people differ in occupation, tastes, nationality, religion, and politics, but they all have the same interests as consumers. They all want to get the best possible access to things and services. As consumers they may unite cooperatively, and in their cooperative societies they may concern themselves only with the supplying of their consumer wants. None of the questions that tend to separate people needs to appear.

The worker who has labor to sell at a profit, the tradesman with goods to sell, the doctor, the lawyer, the political official, the farmer--everybody who consumes--is found in membership in consumer cooperative societies, uniting to supply some need. The fact that they get their incomes in competitive profit business does not militate against their cooperating to supply their needs as consumers and to improve their purchasing power. Both the needy unemployed and privileged royalty are found in these societies. Such membership is in response to a natural human urge to unite in a confraternity making for peace and plenty. Only two classes desist from such a union--the uncooperative and sulky individuals, and those who are unaware of the meaning of cooperation.

This unlimited membership in the cooperative movement is something unique. While there are other organizations which would like to have all people within their fold, these other organizations lay down certain tenets to which all people can not subscribe. However, all people can subscribe to the consumers' cooperative theory. Their common wants and needs make this possible. If the peoples of the world are ever to be united, cooperation holds out to them the opportunity. Such union is also unique in that the more who come together in the cooperative societies, the greater is the advantage to each.

Attempts to create a League of Nations, United Nations, a Federation of the World, and similar bodies, suffer the difficulty that they are political organizations. Their agreements and mutual understandings deal largely with force and power politics. For them to gather all nations and all peoples into an international body of unlimited membership is difficult because of diversity of interests. They may proclaim unlimited membership, but limitations are imposed. Being composed of political governments, the wellspring of laws, they act true to form and complicate their union by a congeries of legalistic enmeshments incomprehensible to most individuals concerned. Unlimited membership in the cooperative democracy of the world can be provided for by agreements so simple that they can be understood by all and written on the palm of the hand. A way to world federation and peace is offered by simple union of consumers to help one another get the things they want, ward off dangers, and maintain social conditions conducive to the best good of all.


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