Soviet Union Information Bureau


THE co-operative organizations of the Soviet Union play a big part in the economic scheme. Their membership was close to 35,000,000 in 1928, their annual turnover had risen to about $11,000,000,000 in 1928. During 1927-28 they conducted 55 per cent of the wholesale trade of the country (exclusive of sales of producers direct to jobbers), and 62.4 per cent of the retail trade, as well as about io per cent of the foreign trade. Their share in the internal trade of the country is steadily increasing and their annual turnover has quadrupled in the past three years. The Consumers' Cooperatives alone conducted 85,000 stores. They had a turnover of $7,475,000,000 in 1927-28.

Membership in the co-operative societies is about triple the membership prior to the Revolution. The increased growth has come during the past five years, for the co-operatives disintegrated during the period of civil wars.

The case of the Consumers' Cooperatives may be taken as typical. In 1913 the membership was less than 2,000,000. During the World War, with the breakdown of the normal processes of distribution and the steady collapse of administrative organs of the Government, the co-operatives gained importance rapidly as organs of distribution and their membership increased to 7,000,000 by 1917. After the Soviet Government assumed power, in the period when invasions and civil wars disrupted all economic processes, the Government was compelled to commandeer the machinery of the Consumers' Cooperatives for distributive purposes. Under this exigent regimen the voluntary membership fell off greatly. After it became possible to restore the autonomy of the Consumers' Cooperatives the membership began a rapid recovery. In 1926-27 it was over 15,000,000, 39 per cent in the cities, Or per cent in the villages. On October 1, 1928, it was 22,581,000. The membership represents 28 per cent of all peasant farms and 60 per cent of all city workers and office employees.

The Consumers' Cooperatives now sell to the public over 60 per cent of the cotton fabrics, 53 per cent of the kerosene, 73 per cent of the salt, 65 per cent of the sugar, 45 per cent of shoes and leather articles. Their share in purchases from the peasants includes 28 per cent in grain, 16 per cent in eggs, 20 per cent in flax.

During the period of civil wars and intervention, agricultural cooperation virtually ceased. The revival did not begin on a large scale until after the stabilization of the currency in 1924. In January, 1924, the agricultural co-operatives had 1,200,000 members. In October, 1927, they had nearly 7,700,000 members. On that date the membership represented 30 per cent of all peasant farms.

Purchases of the Agricultural Cooperatives in various commodities, run to the following percentages of the total marketed products: grain 16 per cent, butter 60 per cent, flax 35 per cent, tobacco r per cent, cotton 90 per cent, sugar beets 45 per cent. They furnish agricultural raw materials for industries. They are a major factor in supplying machinery and implements to farmers. They furnish loans in the form of both money and seed. They conduct stations for renting agricultural machinery and for seed-cleaning and testing. They maintain a widely distributed staff of 2,000 agricultural specialists to give assistance and advice to farmers.

The Handicraft Cooperatives unite the home craftsmen of the towns and villages, enabling them to secure better marketing conditions and to provide them with materials.

The Housing Cooperatives have taken on increasing importance from the rise of industrialization and the steady drift of population to the cities. Their function is the collective building and management of dwellings.

The number of cooperatives of the various types and their membership, as of 1926-27, is shown in the following table:

Type of Cooperatives No. of Societies No. of Members
    City 1,450 5,814,000
    Village 27,162 9,260,000
  28,612 15,074,000
Agricultural 66,800 7,691,000
Handicraft 11,957 616,000
Housing 21,100 1,050,000
Total 128,469 24,431,000

The growth of the three principal co-operative organizations prior to 1926-27 is shown in the following table:

  Oct. 1, 1924
  Societies Members
Consumers 22,621 7,093,447
Agricultural 31,008 2,467,800
Handicraft 8,076 331,658
Total 61,705 9,892,905
  Oct. 1, 1925
  Societies Members
Consumers 25,536 9,347,303
Agricultural 37,920 5,400,000
Handicraft 11,052 519,174
Total 74,508 15,266,477
  Oct. 1, 1926
  Societies Members
Consumers 27,438 11,401,708
Agricultural 40,200 7,138,152
Handicraft 11,227 589,173
Total 78,865 19,129,033

Growth of the turnover, past four years, in millions of rubles.

  1923-24 1924-25 1925-26 1926-27
Consumers 1,799 3,788 7,053 10,005
Agricultural 679 1,178 2,126 2,999
Handicraft 137 410 979 1,342
Total 2,615 5,376 10,158 14,346
Millions of dollars 1,347 2,769 5,231 7,388