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English version | History

The history of the cooperative movement, particularly that of Bologna, can be summarized in four periods


1860 – 1920
The first Società Operaia di Mutuo Soccorso (Workers’ Mutual Help Association) was founded in Bologna in 1860 with the aim of safeguarding employment, the right to education, the right to strike, and universal suffrage.

In 1888, Bologna hosted the 2nd Federation of Italian Social Cooperatives Convention (the first had been held in Milan).

The last years of the 1800s and the first of the 1900s were years of great fermentation. In Bologna, new cooperatives continued to emerge in a wide variety of economic sectors: cooperatives of ceramists, bakers, and factory workers; agricultural cooperatives (such as those of Malabergo and Medicina which enforce insurance against accidents in the workplace); consumer cooperatives; and cooperatives for social housing projects. By 1921 the League included 3600 consumer cooperatives and 2700 production and work cooperatives.

1920 – 1945
In the first half of 1921, Fascist violence began to erupt against political party headquarters, chambers of labor, labor union leagues, and cooperatives.

In 1926, Fascism dissolved all political parties along with the newspapers of opposition parties, and founded the Ente Nazionale Fascista della Cooperazione (National Fascist Cooperation Authority), aiming to deprive the cooperative world of any and all autonomy.

During the war, many cooperative members supported and participated in resistance and liberation struggles against the Nazi-Fascist dictatorship. In 1945, the Comitato di Liberazione Nazionale (National Liberation Committee) greatly contributed to the rebirth of the cooperative movement: on 27 August, the Federcoop of Bologna hosted its first convention after the Liberation (while in the same year, the newly-formed National League of Cooperatives held its first convention in Rome).

1947 – 1970
In 1947, the Constituent Assembly voted in the 45th article of the Constitution, which recognizes the value of cooperatives: “The Republic recognizes the social function of cooperatives characterized by mutuality and without aims relative to private profit. The law supports and favors their increase in numbers through the most apt methodology and insures their character and purpose though opportune authority.”

These positive relations with government institutions cooled off however during the Scelba administration, which implemented a large-scale attack on the cooperative movement in 1955.

With the economic boom of the 1960s, at any rate the cooperative movement was able to impose its important social and economic role.

In 1962, the National League of Cooperatives Convention finalized the choice of cooperatives to remain autonomous from political parties.

1970 – 2000
The period ranging from the 1970s to the present has been a period of economic and productive “rationalization and restructuring” in the cooperative world as well.

As economic contexts become ever more global and competitive, the cooperative world equips itself to be able to respond to ever deeper and more rapid changes: the challenge continues to be that of balancing entrepreneurial efficiency and social values; of generating competitive organizations while guaranteeing members’ rights of participation.