Italian Center for Documentation on Cooperation and Social Economy | Virtual museum - From Resistance to Reconstruction

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From Resistance to Reconstruction

At the fall of Fascism in July 25, 1943, the cooperatives began to gain back some of their autonomy which for years they had seen so limited. In the centre north, the period of the Resistance was one of clandestine development for the cooperative movement. Although working in the environment of a war economy, foreign occupation, and civil conflict, the movement continued to develop strategies for a future return following the arrival of the Allies, with the intention of combining material with moral reconstruction. This project was supported by the resistance organizations, in which various groups were working to define a post-war plan within which cooperatives would have a leading role.
In fact, the post-war period was marked by a flourishing, in some ways surprising, of new cooperative enterprises, especially production and work, coops and consumer coops, which sought to satisfy the more immediate needs caused by material reconstruction and price control.
This phenomenon was comprised of two different but complementary trends: the first was the tendency to get into spontaneous association, motivated by enthusiasm and direct commitment, while the second was institutional, led by the leaders and politicians of the cooperative movement. Both were motivated by the idea that the cooperative association was most appropriate for that particular historical period, as well as being the key to future development. Despite this common vision, they were not able to overcome traditional ideological divisions which, as a cultural phenomenon, Fascism had suppressed but was not been able to eliminate.
The League and the Cooperative Confederation rebuilt themselves directly following the War, and the Catholic liberal-mazzinian cooperatives followed in 1952. In that year the representative organs of the Republican and Social Democratic parties split from the League after the latter adopted a policy which was more openly communist and built A.G.C.I.(General Alliance of Italian Cooperatives). In essence, the establishment of three national federation of cooperatives corresponds to the visions that each of the political parties of the period (D.C., P.C.I, P.S.I, P.R.I) had for cooperatives which could – independently – respond to the needs of the poorer urban and rural classes. This prevailing multi-dimensional vision had its roots in the end of the XIX century, as we have already mentioned. A fourth federation was born in the 1970s – the U.N.C.I (Unione Nazionale delle Cooperative Italiane, National Union of Italian Cooperatives). Right from its beginnings it claimed full political autonomy, despite being inspired by the social doctrine of the Catholic church.
If the lack of unity in the movement constituted a weakness, the cooperative movement benefited from a decidedly favourable legislation. In the new Republican Constitution, an article was included that recognized the social and non-speculative function of the cooperative movement, and the State was requested to encourage its growth. Soon after, in December 1947, the so-called Basevi Law was passed. This law consolidated the solidarity and democratic principles, which were to be the inspiration for the new cooperative movement, and contained a clause which guaranteed, in accordance with the Constitution, that the prerequisite of mutuality was respected.
Further reading:
F. Canosa, Bianca rossa, verde. La cooperazione in Italia, Bologna, 1978.

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