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The Advent of Cooperativism

On December 21, 1844 in the district of Rochdale, Manchester (England), 27 male and one female weaver founded the "Rochdale Society of Equitable Pioneers" with the proceeds of the monthly saving of one pound from each participant during a year.

With mankind as the main purpose - and not profit, the weavers of Rochdale were seeking an economical alternative to work in the market at the time, in vie of the greedy capitalism that submitted them to abusive prices, exploration of the workday of women and children (who worked until 4 p.m.) and of the growing unemployment brought about by the industrial revolution.

On that occasion the formation of a small consumer cooperative on what was then called Toad Lane was to change the economic standards of the time and to give rise to the cooperative movement.

Said initiative was scoffed at by merchants, but in the very first year of its existence, the society´s capital climbed to 180 pounds, and approximately ten years later "Rochdale Store" already had 1,400 cooperative members. The success of this initiative henceforth served as an example for other groups.

Cooperativism evolved and achieved its own space, defined by a new train of thought about mankind, work, and social development.

Due to its equalitarian and social nature, cooperativism is accepted by all governments and acknowledged to be a democratic formula for the resolution of socioeconomic problems.

Cooperativist System

The appreciation of the union among cooperatives has existed since they first appeared, and nowadays they are organized worldwide. The entity that coordinates this movement in all continents is International Cooperative Alliance - ICA.

Created in 1895 and currently headquartered in Geneva, Switzerland, this non-governmental and independent association assembles, represents and provides support to cooperatives and their corresponding organizations. It pursues the integration, autonomy and development of cooperativism.

In 1946 the cooperativist movement represented by A.C.I. – Aliança Cooperativa Internacional was one of the first non-governmental organizations to become a member of the Board of the United Nations.

We are proud to declare that Roberto Rodrigues, a Brazilian farmer and professor has been president of ICA since September 16, 1997. The first non-European to assume the principal position in 103 years of existence of the organization. When in Brazil, the head office of the president of ICA is also on the premises of OCESP.

In the sphere of the American continent this coordination is performed by the Organization of Cooperatives of the Americas - OCA, founded in 1963. Today this entity is headquartered in the city of Bogotá, Colombia, and is an integral part of the representations of twenty countries, including Brazil.


O.C.B - Organização das Cooperativas do Brasil

The representation of the entire national cooperativist system is assigned to Organização das Cooperativas Brasileiras - OCB, established on December 2, 1969, during the IV Brazilian Cooperativism Congress.

More than a century and a half after the "Rochdale Society of Equitable Pioneers" cooperative was founded, the values of mutual aid, equality of rights and duties cultivated by the English weavers remain unaltered, expanded by the world in all segments of human activity.

Cooperativism in Brazil

Going back in time, we will find the beginning of the construction of a cooperative state on solid bases in the year 1610, when the first Jesuit reductions were founded in Brazil. For over 150 years, this model served as an example of solidary society, founded on collective work, where the wellbeing of the individual and of the family came above the economic interest of production. The action of the Jesuit priests was based on persuasion, fueled by Christian love, and on the principle of mutual aid (mutirão), a practice found among Brazilian indigenous peoples and in almost all primitive peoples, since the dawning of humankind.

However, it is in 1847 that we pinpoint the beginning of the cooperativist movement in Brazil. This was when French physician Jean Maurice Faivre, a follower of the reformative ideas of Charles Fourier, founded, with a group of Europeans, in the back-country of Paraná, the Tereza Cristina colony, organized on cooperative bases. Despite its brief existence, this organization, made a contribution in the collective memory as an element that formed the flourishing Brazilian cooperativism.

Nevertheless, to expound on the historical development of cooperativism in Brazil, it is necessary to do so by branch, i.e. type of cooperative, since each one had its own history, with different difficulties and accomplishments, almost always depending on the facilities or obstacles offered by the Government.

The Symbols of Cooperativism



Pine trees: In ancient times the pine tree was considered a symbol of immortality and of fecundity, due to its survival in less fertile soil and to the ease with which it multiplies. United pines are more resistant and highlight strength and the capacity to expand.

Circle: Represent eternity as it has no final horizon; neither a beginning nor an end.

Green: Reminiscent of trees - a vital principle of nature and the need to maintain a balance with the environment.

Yellow: Represents the sun, a permanent source of energy and heat.

International Cooperativism Day: established in l923 at the ICA Congress, and is celebrated on the first Saturday of July of each year. It is an occasion for all peoples linked through cooperativism to celebrate.

Thus did the symbol of cooperativism known worldwide come into being: a circle encompassing two pine trees to indicate the union of the movement, the immortality of its principles, the fecundity of its ideas and the vitality of its followers. All this marked by the ascending trajectory of the pine trees that point upwards, seeking to rise higher and higher.

Flag: Cooperativsim possesses a flag formed by the seven colors of the rainbow, approved by ICA - INTERNATIONAL COOPERATIVE ALLIANCE in 1932, which signifies unity in variety and a symbol of peace and hope. Each one of these colors has its own meaning:
     red - courage.
     orange hue - view of future possibilities.
     yellow - challenge at home, in the family and in the community.
     green - growth both of the individual and of the cooperate member.
     blue - distant horizon, the need to help the less fortunate, joining up with others.
     indigo - need to help self and others through cooperation.
     violet - beauty, human warmth and friendship.

Inquiry Sources
OCB - Organização das Cooperativas Brasileiras
MA - ministério da Agricultura e do Abastecimento
SDR - Secretaria de Desenvolvimento Rural
DENACOOP - Departamento de Cooperativismo e Associativismo Rural
O ABC do Cooperativismo Author: João Vitorino Azolin Benato - OCESP – 4ª Ed.– October/1997
Gratefulness the Magazine TO COOPERARATE to allow the publication of some photos


Ocesp – Organização das Cooperativas do Estado de São Paulo
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CEP: 01327-002 – São Paulo/SP
Fone: (11) 3146-6200

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