A conversation with Cesar Rudnicki

On January the 9th, we had the pleasure to host an extraordinary guest, Cezary Rudnicki, who showed us a new perspective on the issues of the 21st century. He is a research worker at the Department of Social Though and European Solidarity Centre;  he has also published articles on some important philosophers and intellectuals such as Edward Abramowski.

His area of research concerns the way out from the contemporary socio-political problems: neoliberalism, degradation of the natural environment, degeneration of democratic capabilities and fascist backlash. In his opinion, the “cooperative movement”, as a form of organization of the enterprises and as the prosocial ideology, offers a better solution than those given by other “political ways of thinking”.

In the first part of the conversation, he exposed to the GG students the organization of the presentation: the reasons behind the choice of the topic, Abramowski’s contribution to it, the problems faced, and his philosophy.

The Polish Cooperative movement is linked with specific-useful strategic situations and Mr. C. Rudnicki exposed some of them with the idea of a specific ideological-existential dimension of it.

The historical context of the cooperatives in Poland is located between 1795, partitions of Poland and 1918, the end of the first World War and the independence of Poland.

Edward Abramowski was born in Stefanin (present-day Ukraine) in 1868. He was a Polish philosopher, anarchist, psychologist, ethician and supporter of cooperatives. His most important work was “Socialism & State” and he shared his philosophy in other words “The Republic of Friends” and “General Collusion Against the Government”.

He founded the biggest countrywide consumer cooperative called “Spolem” (together) and co-founded the Polish Socialist Party. In 1906  the Cooperativists‘ Society [Towarzystwo Kooperatystów] was born and its founders were Abramowski, Stanislaw Wojciechowski (the future president of Poland) and Romuald Mielczarski (a socialist and cooperative activist). In 1916 he was given a chair in Experimental Psychology at the Warsaw’s University until his death.

“In this way, communism would not only be immensely superficial and weak, but, moreover, it would transform itself into statehood, oppressing individual freedom; and in place of the old classes it would create two new ones: citizens and officials,  whose mutual antagonism would have to become manifest in all areas of social life”

The main goal of the cooperative was, in a nutshell, the generation of benefits for everyone. Members were also “owners”; it was an open organization and everyone represented one vote. Importance given to the “person itself” is fundamental to understand the spirit of the community.

There is the existence of three kinds of “co-ops”: the Schulze Delitzsch model, the Raiffeisen model about social educational activism, and the Rochdale model, with lower social classes and consumer-workers. The importance of underlining this division is linked to the active participation of the population into the market, and the beginning of a new era of work; a new picture of the society.

The turning point in the cooperativism movement is right after the Second World War; the State, indeed, began to control the co-ops actions. There was a smart use of mass media and, according to Abramowski’s philosophy, there was the need for an “older modernization”. Solidarity and help, in its pure meaning, can build a welfare state with a bureaucratic revolution.

“Once we have understood how important it is to make people capable of friendship; once we have seen that not only the good of the individual, but also the power of the nation depends mainly on this; then we must above all ask ourselves ‘how to teach friendship’, how friendship can be strengthened, spread and  developed among the people”.

This process should  become a reality thanks to the help of associations where everyday matters to provide for: free child care, help in case of illness, protection against addictions, etcetera.

Nowadays, the cooperative movement is a huge one.  According to the “International Co-operative Alliance”, more than one billion people around the world are members of cooperatives.

This sense of mutual assistance and friendship has to be spread all over the world; other than simply being beneficial both on a personal and community level, it can stimulate the economic development not only of the European countries (Italy is an example), but also of both industrial giants, such as Japan, and less developed countries.

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