Draft Resolution on Co-Operative Societies from the Russian Social-Democratic Delegation at the Copenhagen Congress

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The International Socialist Congress in Copenhagen was held from August 28 to September 3 (New Style), 1910. The RSDLP was represented at the Congress by Lenin, Plekhanov, Lunacharsky, and others. Several commissions were set up by the Congress for preliminary discussion and drafting of resolutions on particular questions. Lenin worked in the Co-operative Commission. His draft resolution on the co-operatives was made the basis of the draft resolution moved in the Co-operative Commission by the RSDLP delegation. On the work of the Co-operative Commission and the text of the RSDLP delegation’s draft resolution on the co-operatives see Lenin’s article “The Question of Co-operative Societies at the International Socialist Congress in Copenhagen” (see pp. 275–83 of this volume).

The Congress is of the opinion,

1) that proletarian co-operative societies enable the working class to better its conditions by reducing exploitation by middlemen, influencing the working conditions in the supplying firms, improving the situation of office workers, and so forth;

2) that proletarian co-operative societies are assuming increasing importance in the mass economic and political struggle, giving assistance in strikes, lock-outs and in cases of victimisation, etc.;

3) that proletarian co-operative societies, when they organise the mass of the working class, teach them independent management and the organisation of distribution, preparing them in this sphere for the role of organiser of economic life in the future socialist society.

On the other hand the Congress is of the opinion,

1) that the improvements secured by co-operative societies are confined within very narrow limits as long as the means of production and distribution remain in the hands of the class whose expropriation is the chief aim of socialism;

2) that co-operative societies, being purely commercial establishments and subject to the pressure of competitive conditions, have a tendency to degenerate into bourgeois share companies;

3) that co-operative societies, not being organisations for the direct struggle against capital, are capable of engendering and do engender the illusion that they are a means of solving the social problem.

Therefore the Congress calls on the workers of all countries:

a) to join the proletarian co-operative societies and promote their development in every way, directing their organisation along strictly democratic lines (a low entrance fee, one share per person, etc.);

b) by untiring socialist propaganda and agitation within the societies to help to spread the ideas of class struggle and socialism among the mass of the workers;

c) with the growth of socialist understanding in the co-operative societies, to develop and strengthen organic ties between the co-operative societies and the socialist party, and also with the trade unions;

d) at the same time the Congress points out that producer co-operatives can contribute to the struggle of the working class only if they are component parts of consumer co-operatives.