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Voices of Europe Milton mair American author and lecturer broadcaster and professor in the Institute of Social Research from Frankfurt University has been traveling throughout many of the countries of Western Europe recording the voices of ordinary people on a wide variety of subjects. These are voices of Europeans who are alive and sensitive to the tragedy and dilemma of the conditions that surround them. People who speak directly and candidly of their own feelings and their own aspirations. Today in the city of Manchester England the headquarters of the Co-operative Society of Great Britain Milton Mayer interviews Mr. Headley Whitehead who is Warden of one of the three residential youth centers maintained in different parts of the country by the Co-operative movement. Mr Whitehead at the age of 35 is secretary of the co-operative youth center society of Britain. He says that he grew up in the philosophy of the Co-operative movement. He was the son of an engineer in the city of Sheffield. His mother had been a village school teacher after finishing high school and working as an office boy in a law
firm and then in a factory. And then as a secretary in a trade union he entered the movement as a full time worker. Here is Milton Mayer to interview Mr. Headley Whitehead Mr. Whitehead. Will you tell us the story of the Co-operative movement in England. Were or was a sore C-8 the name Robert Jordan and the date 1844 with the start of the story of the British co-operative movement. Well a little research into our history books would tell of earlier attempts to deal with problems of the times by cooperation and by cooperation I mean the joint working of two or more people for mutual help. The outstanding characteristics of cooperation is its simplicity. Uniting the people as
consumers and users of goods and organizing the supply of these goods as a communal service. And this principle of mutual help has expanded from a small retail store keeping to a nationwide wholesale trading in which one fifth of the population of England participate. The pattern of cooperation which has proved so successful in Britain was evolved by the Rochdale pioneers whose society was started in 1844 and whose store internally was opened in December of that year. There were regional pioneers are reputed to number 28 and their practices have come to be known as the rock still principles of corporation. The four main
principles are summarized our membership open membership Democratic control. Distribution of surplus in proportion to purchasers. A limited interest on the capital. To be there are in Britain a little corpse of all types and retail cooperatives membership totals over ten and a half millions and the neural retail trade is about six hundred and thirteen million pounds. That would be six hundred thirteen million pounds just about one billion seven hundred million dollars as the annual retail trade of the cooperative mode.
Yes there are many cities with large memberships memberships of over 100000 and in the city of London they co-ops have membership of more than a million. The government rationing records indicate that the number of consumers registered for Russian commodities such as sugar butter margarita in cooking for us very little or worse of 14 million which is some indication of the trooping strain. All British co-operative societies 14 million would be what percentage roughly Mr Whitehead of the number of. A British of retail buyers in England. Well this represents about Rome fifth of the population on
basic rations practically every local co-op is engaged in the food trade. Many many co-ops are engaged in other suppliers to members with clothing footwear household goods furniture. Textiles and the like. Society is corporatist the senators. Have come for his restroom to tell those and to give some sort of indication of the magnitude of the work. There is an amount of more than three hundred million pounds capital invested by individual members as in coffee shops. Three hundred million pounds capital yes about 840 million dollars invested by the members of a cooperative societies in their
own shops and their own stars. Yes that's co-operative money in co-operative societies for co-operative trade and development. To give some sort of indication of the picture. In 1886 there was a trade of. Roughly 20 million pounds and today that trade is in the region of six hundred and thirteen million pounds. A Ministry of Food analysis shows that the registrations for sure how by co-op shops they use twenty seven point three percent of the total they do stray shoes. I should mention that there's been no census of distribution in Great Britain and Bess says the newest measure
that one can take as to the provision which the Co-operative movement is making in the sphere of retail distribution that is Mr. Whitehead if I understand you that with 100 percent of the population of England I registered under your rationing system for the purchase of such commodities as sugar twenty seven point three percent of the entire population is registered in the co-operative stores which indicates that that percentage of the population is something more than one fourth of the whole population is buying at least its basic commodities through co-operative stores. Yes I think that's a very fair assessment. Mr. Whitehead in America in the States that is. We have a consumer's cooperative movement
on the identical principles the Rochdale principles that you have a lusty little fellow it is growing I believe at a very modest. But steady rate. But it is still a very little fellow playing really no substantial role in the American economy. It's quite clear from the figures you have a few figures you've given me that the cooperative movement in England plays a real role in the national economy. There's little doubt that the Co-operative movement isn't a struggling with will follow. It's an organism to be reckoned with locally nationally. The Co-operative. Movement is behind much of the
domestic development in various parts of the country. I would like to quote one or two examples if I may. As to the influence which co-operative trade and the fact of co-operative trade How does the domestic economy. You do know that dividend that is the rebate on purchases made in local co-op shops is paid back to of the member goes at varying periods of the year. Sometimes it's twice a year sometimes four times a year according to the decision of the members made through their members me to use. In Scotland for example a dividend generally in the co-op store coin sides with the time state and the
Scottish housewife looks upon her dividend to pay her quarterly Rand her quarterly taxes. And we find a similar sort of picture in the north of England particularly where the Co-operative movement is the center of the economic life in the dimmest in the domestic scene as to why that what is the role of the Co-operative movement so powerful as it is both in numbers and in the wealth. What is its role in British politics in that way. Well it's necessary to give a word of explanation as to the organization. All of the individual co-operative societies the co-op shops.
I think that's the sort of expression which you use in America as a central organization of the coffee shops in the British Isles is the co-operative Union which is centered in Manchester. And which was established in 1869 to which retail wholesale productive and special societies are admitted as members. The union is the center of coronation for the entire co-operative movement so that the unit so provides facilities for the individual costs from that union. We find various activities political prayers productive wholesaling on the line. But the cooperative movement itself is supposed to be non political as it is the union the cooperative
Union the whole organization of cooperative ism in Britain nonpolitical the Co-operative movement. Is it an observation religious and political neutrality. But the Co-operative movement has found that by reason of a tight need by the capitalist organism it's found it necessary to see that consumer interest was Reggie's was registered in the political seed and so we found in 1917 the creation of the co-operative party this co-operative power to lose a member of the Labor Party and works with the Labor Party through the co-operative Union. I believe members of the cooperative societies the
actual retail purchasers the consumers either they largely the Labor Party people. It would be rather difficult to say yes to a question of that sort because not all cooperatives but not all cooperatives are affiliated to the co-operative party. For example in Leeds in the large city of Leeds you have a very large amount to leave in the Co-operative movement in the Co-operative movement. Shopping in the co-op show us in another district you may find a very strong pro-labor movement but the Co-operative movement is a member of our the National Council of labor in partnership with the Labor party and at the moment the co-operative party has
something like 80 members in the House of Commons Mr Whitehead. Would you say that the Co-operative movement so highly developed not only here in England but also in the Scandinavian countries is essentially anti-capitalist. Eliminating as it does the element of private profit. And private individual enterprise is it in your view a part of the anti capitalist socialist development in the world. Well I believe it must be anti-capitalist. The aims and the intentions of core operative trained are in direct conflict with that of capitalist enterprise. On the one hand in co-operative trade we find trading for Common me in the provision of goods and services
not for profit and in the capitalist economy we find the operation for private profit. In effect the Co-operative movement in its trade is concerned with the means and the capitalist is concerned with the OEM's. Then I read you say that they co-operative movement is actually engaged in a frontal struggle against the private enterprise or capitalist system. Mr Wyatt Well I don't think the Co-operative movement regards itself as struggling at the moment. I could quote instances where. The Co-operative movement has found it necessary to struggle against the restrictive nature of capitalist economy.
For example the Co-operative movement produce a radio its name is define it. The name was created out of defiance to the radio manufacturers association who refused to supply the Co-operative movement with particular trade names in radio and the Co-operative movement. So you're right. We will produce our own radio. We will set up our own plant for the production of the US and we found the birth of the defiant radio now an established radio in this country. Then you will find a position. Actually I think I understand your your statement that the Co-operative movement cannot be called a struggling organization. You are in a position to set up your own plants your own distribution productive centers you can set
up whole industries and I take it that you do in direct competition with the private enterprise organisations. Oh Essentially yes. We've gone further than that. The Co-operative movement in an endeavor to give a lead to the contrary in paying the cost of living operated a system of price cuts some essential commodities. You know that we have price control on ascent on commodities such as butter and sugar and logged and TV and the Co-operative movement by reducing these prices a half penny or a penny. Last. Was setting an example in cutting the margins in cutting the prices you know and I never took the cost of living from the housewife when she was purchasing daily essentials in the way of food supplies.
There was a how exactly. How did that work. Let us take a cooperative shop and a private shop side by side Mr Wyatt. If we take a commodity we will say bah to. The Co-operative shop would be selling about to a penny a pound cheaper than the private U. In addition to which the profits which were secured by the co-op shop would be returned as a rebate on the purchases at the end of the quarter of all off year only year. Mr. Whitehead How does the non co-operative segment of the British economy and the British polity regard the Co-operative movement. Is the Co-operative movement taken in England as a an enemy of the free enterprise economy. The Independent producer the independent distributor the independent merchant is the
Co-operative movement in England regarded as part and parcel of. The struggle for socialism in the world. I think that the Co-operative movement is a log for us. And as such a government on private trade ally you have to recognize the force of this co-operative movement which represents as I've said well over 10 million people in the country. The capitalist element of our society. I think recognizes the strength and power and it is willing to work. Hundred in hand with that cooperative economy. For my own part I believe that if opportunity presented
itself of. The capitalism as we know it in this country would be very quick. To down the Co-operative movement and I feel that the Co-operative movement should be engaged more vigorously in a struggle against the competitive element in our capitalist system. I quoted earlier video. I believe the Co-operative movement should be extending in developing on lease lines in so many other fields of. Trade and activity. Of course when you speak of the opposition of the Co-operative movement to the basic capitalist notion of the accumulation of. Profit.
And the utilization of capital you are still confronted with the fact Mr. Whitehead that they co-operative movement is a bit of a capitalist organization itself. With its eight hundred forty million dollars of investment by its members and its annual trade of something like one billion seven hundred million dollars. Do you find that in the development of the cooperative movement to the point which it has reached. Any of the signs of its going capitalist so to speak. Do you find any failings any signs of cracks in the cooperative idealism with which Robert Owen in the Rochdale pioneers began the movement are the principles
intact and are the practices intact. Well I you said in my introductory remarks I believe that simplicity was between nodes of cooperation and. My opponents would say that the pattern has not change from 1844 and that the principle is lost tell being operated today. But I believe that we have the strength and the capacity and the goodwill to extend in the sphere of cooperative development. In effect we should produce. We should be producing far more of our own goods many that we produce. We produce very many at the moment but we should be producing far more. We should be manufacturing every commodity which can be used in the household. And at this time you are distributing selling.
Privately produced goods side by side with cooperatively or yes I feel that our first stage of development for our next stage of development should be to reduce the quantity of private traders goods capitalist goods into co-operative shops and to increase the number of goods which the Co-operative movement produces. Unfortunately or fortunately as the case may be. The Co-operative movement say is if your customer wants axis come flakes then our responsibility is to provide them. I say that we should educate. Mrs Brown to use him co-operative cornflakes. Mr Whitehead. Does the cooperative movement in your
view. Have a real role to play in the economic situation of our time. Or is it merely a shopping device possible in highly developed areas like England and the Scandinavian countries in Great Britain. We usually have. The ability to look for a middle course. My little contact with the American scene to visitors to this country and newspapers shows the pattern in very sharp relief. Many people appear to see the two ways of political and economic organisation. On the one hand the private profit known as freedom and free enterprise I believe in your country. And on the other
totalitarianism sometimes known as collectivism or communism in each case we see the destruction of the individual. I believe the Co-operative movement provides a middle course in which we can next as scape both please even us. It's necessary to separate the principles when trying to deal with your question. The Co-operative movement today is accepting the notion of free enterprise. In fact it's a junior partner of the Western system. I'm quite convinced that he could take on the role of leader through the middle course. The principles of cooperation have stood the test.
I would like to mention these again. The open membership of the Democratic control. The distribution of surplus in proportion to purchasers. And I think an extremely important principle the principle of religious political neutrality. Beneath the principles in my conception is the under underlying ideal of co-operation. The ideal that cooperation is a way of life that man will work together voluntarily not for self-destruction but for common needs. Is this is not the Christian idea. Then I don't know Ortiz thank you very much Mr. Weiss.
Milton Maier has been interviewing Mr. Headley Whitehead secretary of the cooperative youth center society of Great Britain a young man who grew up in the philosophy of the Co-operative movement and who serves today as warden of one of the three residential youth centers maintained in different parts of the country by the movement. The interviewer Milton Mayer is an American author lecturer broadcaster and professor in the Institute of Social Research from Frankfurt University who has been recording the voices of Europeans people who speak directly and candidly of their own feelings and their own aspirations to help us to understand the basic conditions of life in Europe. The program you have just heard has been made possible under a grant from the fund for adult education an independent organization established by the Ford Foundation. These programs prepared and distributed by the National Association of educational broadcasters in the interest of better international understanding are introduced by Norman McKee and this is the NASB tape network.
Voices of Europe
Headley Whitehead
Producing Organization
National Association of Educational Broadcasters
Contributing Organization
University of Maryland (College Park, Maryland)
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Episode Description
Milton Mayer interviews Headley Whitehead, British warden of a residential youth center in Manchester. They discuss the co-operative movement in Britain.
Series Description
Interviews with noted Europeans on a variety of subjects, conducted by Milton Mayer, American author and broadcaster, lecturer and professor in the Institute of Social Research at Frankfurt University.
Broadcast Date
Global Affairs
Consumer cooperatives--Great Britain--History.
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Interviewee: Whitehead, Headley
Interviewer: Mayer, Milton, 1908-1986
Producing Organization: National Association of Educational Broadcasters
AAPB Contributor Holdings
University of Maryland
Identifier: 52-37-32 (National Association of Educational Broadcasters)
Format: 1/4 inch audio tape
Duration: 00:28:39
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Chicago: “Voices of Europe; Headley Whitehead,” 1953-01-01, University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed July 25, 2024,
MLA: “Voices of Europe; Headley Whitehead.” 1953-01-01. University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. July 25, 2024. <>.
APA: Voices of Europe; Headley Whitehead. Boston, MA: University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from