THE RISE OF THE INTERNATIONAL COOPERATIVE MOVEMENT 4.1 Very early on, in 1835, Robert Owen founded an Association of All Classes and All Nations designed to bring together all the groups practising cooperation. The realization of this idea, however, came very slowly indeed. An attempt was made in 1867 to organize a first international meeting of cooperators in Paris, in concomitance with the Exposition Universelle, but the French government would not allow it, for fear of disorders. Other attempts were made, but the century had practically run out before 200 delegates from 13 countries could meet for a week in London, in August 1895, to emerge with the foundation of the International Cooperative Alliance. Nine of the 13 countries were European, and the other four (the USA, Argentina, Australia and India) were permeated by European culture. The ICA, which soon evolved into an association of cooperative federations (single cooperatives could not join directly) acted mainly to defend the cooperative identity in its congresses and publications – not without difficulty, given the wars that set member nations in conflict with one another and the presence of authoritarian regimes that opposed the very essence of cooperation, that is, its profoundly democratic roots. The ICA eventually had to grapple with the divisive question of admission for organizations that were nominally cooperatives but actually state-run bodies under Soviet control. The difficult decision eventually made was not to expel them, but the ICA had to defend itself against the attempts of the Soviet bloc representatives to...
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