International Cooperative Alliance ICA

International Cooperative Alliance (ICA)

 

an international organization that brings together national and regional unions and federations of cooperative societies, including consumer, credit, and agricultural cooperatives. It was founded in London in 1895.

In late 1974, members of the ICA included cooperative organizations in 65 countries with a total membership of more than 305 million. The Moscow Central Union of Consumer Societies (now Tsentrosoiuz SSSR) entered the ICA in 1903. The cooperative organizations of Bulgaria, Czechoslovakia, the German Democratic Republic, Hungary, Poland, Rumania, and Yugoslavia are also ICA members. The governing bodies of the ICA are the congress, which is called once every three to four years; the central committee, which is convoked each year; and the executive, which consists of the ICA president, two vice-presidents, and 13 members. The ongoing work is managed by the director and secretariat. The ICA headquarters is located in London. The ICA charter defines the categories and conditions of membership and gives the membership dues and the representation in the governing bodies of the ICA that go with each category.

The principal goals of the ICA, as proclaimed by its charter, are promoting the development of cooperatives in all countries, propagating the principles and methods of the cooperative movement and protecting and representing its interests, establishing and developing mutual contacts, building cooperation among the cooperatives of different countries, and promoting the establishment of enduring peace and security.

The ICA has consultative status at the United Nations, and it cooperates with a number of UN agencies and specialized organizations and takes part in their sessions; among the organizations are the Economic and Social Council, the Economic Commission for Europe, the Economic Commission for Latin America, the International Labor Organization (ILO), the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), and UNESCO. International auxiliary committees attached to the ICA study issues and work out concrete approaches to them. These include committees on cooperative agriculture, insurance, banking, housing, consumer cooperative trade, and worker production and craft cooperatives. The ICA publishes the Review of International Co-operation (since 1909), Co-operative News Service, and Agricultural Co-operative Bulletin.

After World War I, the leading figures of the ICA (right-wing socialists and social democrats, followers of the theory of “cooperative socialism”) advocated the idea of the “political neutrality” of cooperatives, arguing that working people could wipe out capitalist exploitation through the cooperative movement without class struggle. After the victory of the Great October Socialist Revolution and the appearance of representatives of Soviet cooperatives in the international arena, a struggle developed in the ICA between the two main elements in the cooperative movement, the proletarian and bourgeois elements. Between the world wars, representatives of Soviet cooperatives in the ICA presented numerous critiques of the position of the organization’s leadership and called on cooperative members in all countries to take an active part in political life and join forces in the struggle against war.

The formation of the world socialist system and the development of the national liberation movement had an enormous influence on the change in the correlation offerees in the international cooperative movement and in the ICA and fostered a growth in the ICA’s democratization and political awareness. On the initiative of cooperative members from the socialist countries, the organization adopted a number of decisions on the fundamental problems of the international cooperative movement, such as developing cooperation between cooperative members in different countries, strengthening cooperative democracy, promoting international cooperative trade, fighting the capitalist monopolies, protecting the consumer, and assisting the cooperatives of the developing countries. From 1963 to 1966 the ICA responded to the suggestions of cooperative members from the USSR and the other socialist countries and revised certain principles of the cooperative movement that had made it difficult for cooperative members to take part in political struggle. Specifically, the principle of the political neutrality of cooperative members was finally rejected. In 1972 the ICA adopted resolutions in defense of peace and in support of the European Conference on questions of security and cooperation, on combined actions by the cooperative and trade union movements, and on the struggle against international monopolies. A prolonged struggle by representatives of Tsentrosoiuz SSSR and the cooperative organizations of the other socialist countries succeeded in abolishing the unequal membership categories.

With the active participation of Tsentrosoiuz SSSR the ICA Development Fund was established. It is intended to finance assistance to cooperatives in countries that have been liberated from colonial oppression. Since 1961 the department of foreign cooperative members at the Moscow Cooperative Institute of Tsentrosoiuz SSSR has been training cadres of cooperative organizers for more than 30 countries in Asia, Africa, and Latin America.

A. I. KRASHENINNIKOV

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