Monday, January 24, 2011

Lyons - Corn-merge Veridique et Social - Co-operative

Attention has recently been called to the distinctive positionheld by the city of Lyons in the annals of co-operation in France. It was out of strikes and bloodshed that the first co-operative society of Lyons emerged, largely through the efforts of two earnest souls : Michel Demon and Joseph L. Reynier.

Michael Demon (born in 1803) owned a small silk factory, and his symp
athies would naturally be with the employer. But brought in early manhood into touch with the socialist teaching of St. Simon and Fourier, he became one of the school whose object was " the association of workers of thought and of the workshop, and the establishment of a society of producers." In a book published in 1834, Demon declared that the remedy for the unrest of the people was " the peaceful organisation of industry and commerce." Joseph Reynier was a manager under Demon. Born in 1811, the only boy in a family of seven—all silk weavers—he early became a strong champion of the workers.

Unlike the 28 of Rochdale his ability brought him into some prominence in various spheres in Lyons. He died at the great age of 86, and in his will he wrote the touching lesson for his children and his colleagues : Aimez vous les uns les autres.
In 1835 Demon and Reynier—par nobile fratrum—started the " Corn-merge Veridique et Social," in plain Englis
h, a co-operative society. It lived three years, and was then killed through bitter local influences. Like the phoenix, a new society," L'Avenir Regional," rose from the ashes which flourishes to-day.

Not so isolated, one may note, but that July 7th was celebrated in fitting fashion as the first Co-operators' Day.
The names of Demon and Reynier are dear to the weavers of Lyons. At the unveiling of a monument to the memory of Reynier in 1920, M. Gaumont (a prominent co-operator) pronounced a glowing eulogium upon these
brother pioneers.

The oration begins : " The tomb before which we here reunite for a solemn and grateful homage, is not that of a lord of the earth, of a hero in politics or war.

This modest monument is worthy of the modest man, a son of the people, who rests under this slab of stone."
Further on we read :— "Let us piously consider the name of Michel Derrion, henceforth sacred to men of goodwill who, by millions, are grouped now in co-operation, with the same ideals.

By the side of him we will place the name of Joseph Reynier, associated with him during 10 years of misfortunes and difficulties, and which should shine in the same peaceful glory for co-operators of the entire world as those of Charles Howarth, James Smit
hies, and William Cooper, founders of the Rochdale Society."

Co-operative Wholesale Society CWS Year Book 1924