Reviving interest in the Co-op Movement

Dear Editor,

Two happenings have prompted this brief correspondence on what could now be considered a relatively quaint issue, once of national significance – the Co-operative Movement.

First, I was approached to consider ideas to promote interest in and indeed the rejuvenation of Co-operative Societies throughout Guyana. (Poor me, I had the feeling that “Co-ops” hardly still existed in our society. Despite the fact that our Republic is still officially “the Co-operative Republic of Guyana.”)

Secondly, I’ve just read a piece on “The Socialist Revolution” penned by a former Speaker of our Parliament who was also a former top PPP player who would be President. I must note too that the same introductory section to our Constitution which describes the country’s official title also reminds that Guyana is a “… democratic sovereign State in the course of transition from Capitalism to Socialism.”

Of course it is quite understandable if most of our Guyanese citizens today wouldn’t grasp the “Capitalism-to-Socialism” Constitutional aspiration. Personally, I am of the view that whilst Socialism as a socio-economic ideal is not completely deceased, the overwhelming principles and behaviours of Capitalism (in terms of the production of assets, markets wealth etc.) prevail. But why do I link any consideration of the Co-operative Movement to or with Socialism?

Perhaps because various socio-economic systems set out to achieve very similar objectives – like creating and distributing wealth equitably, after the elimination of exploitation and poverty. Alas how the best of intentions fall woefully short. Co-ops ,however, are managed by the small members who are all owners of the business enterprises. The State of Israel utilised the Co-op Society system to kick-start economic development and I once visited a giant Agricultural Co-op in faraway Uzbekistan.

Our own early Co-op Movement boasted numerous success stories especially in land development, consumer enterprises and thrift societies. This prompted Forbes Burnham to insert “Co-operative” in the country’s official name and to declare that, along with the government and the private sectors, Co-ops would be the third vehicle to travel the road of national economic development. I wonder: did Co-ops die with Forbes Burnham?

Not really, but it seems that “the small man” has turned to IPED, the Small Business Bureau and other facilities to develop small businesses. There is nothing to prevent Co-operative Societies, well organised and managed, to utilise those facilities as well.
Fifty–two years ago as a young teacher in training it was compulsory for me to do a “Course in Co-operation”. Perhaps elements of such a programme should be brought back. The Guyana National Co-operative Union Limited (GNCUL) is about to launch its Co-operatives Education and Management Programme. Interested citizens should contact the Union at 178 Waterloo Street, South Cummingsburg, Georgetown. Telephone numbers: 227-0672, 226-9587, Email:
Yours faithfully,

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