Ukrainian cooperative movement of the early 20th century

“Samopomich” ideology derives from such an extraordinary historical phenomenon as the movement of Ukrainian cooperation, which swept the lands of Western Ukraine in the early 20th century.

Since the end of the 19th century various European peoples have been fighting for their national rights freeing themselves from the shackles of colonial rule. Ukrainians weren’t an exception – in the lands of the Greater Ukraine (which was under the rule of the Russian Empire), and on the territories of Halychyna, Bukovyna and Carpathian Ruthenia (Austria-Hungary) they joined together to spread the idea of national liberation and unity of the Ukrainian lands, looked for the most effective forms of survival and development.

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Dr. Olesnytskyi was convinced that prior to imposing political ideas on ordinary people, it is necessary to secure their basic needs

At the beginning of the century a number of political leaders of the Ukrainian movement in Halychyna, in particular Dr. Yevhen Olesnytskyi (lawyer, chairman of Stryiska “Posvita” and a member of the Austro-Hungarian Parliament since 1907), conceived to promote the cooperative movement among Ukrainian peasants.

Dr. Olesnytskyi was convinced that prior to imposing political ideas on ordinary people, it is necessary to secure their basic needs – the ability to support a family, to educate children, to make a decent living out of their hard work. “You won’t do policy with the poor,” said Yevhen Olesnytskyi and organized seminars, where he gathered those like-minded.

His call was supported by local “Prosvita” activists, and already in 1904 in the village of Zavadiv in Stryi region local priest and composer Ostap Nyzhankivskyi set up the first dairy cooperative.

Наступний успішний кооператив – Союз руських молочарських спілок, який під керівництвом о. Остапа Нижанківського до 1914 року об’єднав понад сто спілок.
The Union of Ruthenian Dairy Unions under the leadership of Ostap Nyzhankivskyi brought together more than one hundred unions

After certain mistrust and resistance of conservative peasants were overcome, came the first success: people saw that it is economically profitable to join forces. The idea quickly spread over the region – cooperatives started to appear like mushrooms in the darkness, and demanded new forms of cooperation. The Union of Ruthenian Dairy Unions was created, and under the leadership of Ostap Nyzhankivskyi it brought together more than one hundred unions by 1914.

At the same time, they began to issue their own press organ – the newspaper, which was called “Samopomich”.

Після створення першого молочного кооперативу люди побачили, що об’єднання зусиль є економічно вигідною справою
After the creation of the first cooperative, people saw that it is economically profitable to join forces

World War I and then the Ukrainian-Polish war of 1918-1920 over the lands of Halychyna prevented the development of the business. Most of the cooperation’s activists became leaders of the West Ukrainian People’s Republic. Ostap Nyzhankivskyi himself headed Stryi District Commissariat and was killed in the battle for the city on May 13, 1919.

After the war, the idea of co-operative movement started evolving with renewed vigour. Former officers of the Ukrainian Halychyna Army, who for some time were in exile, studied the experience of cooperation in Czechoslovakia and Denmark, returned home and brought back the best European practice of cooperative business management.

By the end of the 1930s the members of a new corporation – Ukrainian “Maslosoyuz” Union – were already 500,000 farms of Halychyna, and the very Union became an important player in the market of agricultural products not only in Halychyna, but also in Europe.

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Ukrainian “Maslosoyuz” Union became an important player in the market of agricultural products not only in Halychyna, but also in Europe.

In addition to agriculture, on the principles of cooperation and using the slogan “A friend to a friend to give each other a hand” Ukrainians of Halychyna organized banking business (Bank “Dniester”), a huge trading network (“Maslosoyuz” and “People’s Trade” shops), supervisory structures (Audit Union of Ukrainian Cooperatives), insurance companies and the like.

At the same time Ukrainian cooperation was not only an economic phenomenon, but also included cultural, scientific, military, educational and sports spheres. It was the need to organize their own, independent from the state national life that pushed Ukrainians to the principle of self-organization.

Representatives of “Prosvita” and “Native school” built almost an alternative system of education, in which Ukrainians received the knowledge ignored in public schools.

“Plast”, “Sokil”, “Vidrodzhennia”, “Ukraine” Sports Society popularized healthy lifestyle and sports.

Українська кооперація поширювалась на культурну, наукову, освітню, військову, виховну, спортивну сфери. До прикладу, діячі «Просвіти» та «Рідної школи» вибудували практично паралельну систему освіти, де українці здобували знання, ігноровані у державних школах.
Ukrainian cooperation included cultural, scientific, military, educational and sports spheres. For example, activists of “Prosvita” and “Native school” built almost an alternative system of education, in which Ukrainians received the knowledge ignored in public schools.

Shevchenko Scientific Society was a kind of non-state Academy of Sciences.

A person who played a significant role in the history of Ukrainian revival and cooperative movement, in particular, was the head of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, Metropolitan Andrey Sheptytsky. For Ukrainians he became not only a great moral and spiritual authority, but also an example of service to social needs of people. On his initiative church actively constructed and took care of schools, hospitals, orphanages. Metropolitan Sheptytsky himself, being a descendant of a wealthy aristocratic family, actively financed most of the important social projects of the time. Religious leaders were among the most active participants in the Ukrainian cooperation movement.

The Second World War and especially the post-war Soviet repressions destroyed this phenomenon. All organizations were eliminated. Activists of the movement either ended up in exile, or went underground and took part in guerrilla warfare, or were victims of arrests and executions by the NKVD.

Activities of "Samopomich" in the early 2000s

In 2004 in Lviv on the initiative of director of NGO “City Development Institution” Andriy Sadovyi a group of like-minded people assembled together and decided to restore the traditions of self-organization. Public organization “Samopomich” started functioning on November 4, 2004. At the beginning, the main areas of activities of the organization were:

– legal literacy of citizens;

– establishment of centers of self-organization (association of citizens on professional, territorial or project basis);

– promotion of healthy lifestyle;

– organization of voluntary movement.

In 2006 leader of “Samopomich” Andriy Sadovyi was elected Mayor of Lviv. “Samopomich” principles of activity – self-organization, self-discipline, self-government – were now applied by the local authority. Development and implementation of “Strategy for the Development of Lviv” by the “Samopomich” team made it possible to start solving the basic problems of the city and to give impetus to the development of the city. Soon, the city began to occupy leading positions in the rankings of competitiveness, investment attractiveness and popularity among the other cities of the country.

Creation of "Samopomich" Union political party

In 2010, Andriy Sadovyi was re-elected Mayor of the city. At the same time, it was becoming more and more obvious that the dream of the “Samopomich” team – to build a city in which you want to live – cannot be realized without solving a number of national-level issues.

Meanwhile, the local government in Ukraine was intentionally being destroyed and humiliated by the central government. It was happening both in the days of the “orange power”, and under the regime of Yanukovych. More and more powers were taken away from local communities, and corruption verticals with the centre in the capital were being built. During elections each party promised “local powers” and, once in power, did the opposite. “Samopomich” team was either dissatisfied with how the government conducted humanitarian, defence, and foreign policy. It was not satisfied with the total dominance of populism on the political arena, with the lack of ideological representation of the interests of society, and with the irresponsibility of the politicians.

On October 14, 2012 Andriy Sadovyi announced an initiative to create a new political party – “Samopomich” Union. Conservative Christian values – “Be yourself! Cooperate with others! Help those who are in need! Unity is the power!” – became the party’s ideology.

Іn 2013 in the Building of Pedagogical Museum in Kyiv (former Central Council of Ukraine) a founding congress of the “Samopomich” Union political party was held. The party began to organize its offices across the country, to look for the like-minded people, to familiarize those interested with its ideas and principles.

The first political test for the “Samopomich” was the uprising against the regime of Yanukovych. The party deliberately didn’t use Maidan to promote its own brand, although all the “Samopomich” activists became active participants of Maidan. The biggest office of the party – the Lviv one – was one of the centers of resistance movement organization. Clear and decisive position of Lviv Mayor Andriy Sadovyi, who supported Euromaidan since its first days, courage and dedication of public activists, patriotism of the city’s community let Lviv become one of the bastions of the Revolution of Dignity.

Elections to Kyiv City Council in 2014

The first electoral experience of “Samopomich” were the early elections to Kyiv City Council, which took place on 25 May 2014. The uniqueness of this experience was that the party leadership decided to appeal to the public with an offer to jointly and openly make up the list of candidates from “Samopomich” to Kyiv City Council. Within a few weeks, all the Kyiv residents had the opportunity to propose the candidates who, in their opinion, were the most worthy to defend their interests.

Попри невелике представництво депутати від «Самопомочі» є одними з найактивніших у столичній раді.
Despite the small representation, the “Samopomich” deputies are among the most active in the City Council.

Subsequently, “Samopomich” leader Andriy Sadovyi held talks with the most interesting candidates, whom people offered the most, for compatibility of ideological values and desire to work in the interests of the community. The party has also applied a unique for Ukraine method of forming the final list – on the principle of “open list”.

The list of candidates was put up for a vote, and the supporters of “Samopomich” themselves could affect the position of a candidate on the list.

So elected team of candidates from the “Samopomich” Union to Kyiv City Council prepared a program “Kyiv – a successful city” and ranked third in the election with the result of 7.4% of the votes of Kyiv residents. Five representatives of “Samopomich” were elected City Council members.

Despite the small representation, the “Samopomich” deputies are among the most active in the City Council. You can follow their activities at kyiv.samopomich.ua.

Parliamentary elections 2014

Early parliamentary elections in 2014 became a new challenge for the party.

Post-Maidan Ukraine expected rapid positive changes: cleansing government from traitors and thieves, resistance to the Russian aggressors, creation of the conditions for economic growth, destruction of corruption and restoration of the rights of local communities.

Forming the list of candidates “Samopomich” once again called for the public – collected proposals and held a public discussion on the list of candidates. The party declared its openness to cooperation with different communities. Thus, the “Samopomich” lists were supplemented with representatives of the military and political block of volunteer battalions, experts of Reanimation Package of Reforms and Public Lustration Committee, and others. The very leader of the party, Andriy Sadovyi, got 50th place in the list.

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Parliamentary campaign in 2014 was held under the slogan “Take and do it!”

Parliamentary campaign in 2014 was held under the slogan “Take and do it!”. The main idea of the campaign was the self-organization of communities and decentralization, the responsibility of every Ukrainian for their fate and the fate of the country, the maximum renewal of political elites. Therefore, “Samopomich” became one of the greatest breakthroughs of the election and got 11.8% of the votes, that is, the support of 1,750,000 Ukrainians.

Thus, in the Parliament now there is the “Samopomich” Union faction, which includes 32 deputies. The faction joined the parliamentary coalition together with Petro Poroshenko Bloc, “People’s Front”, the Radical Party and “Fatherland”. “Samopomich” delegated Oleksiy Pavlenko to the government for the post of Minister of Agrarian Policy and Food.

“Samopomich” deputy Oksana Syroid was elected to the post of Vice-Speaker. Three representatives of the faction – Yehor Soboliev, Hanna Hopko and Oleksandr Danchenko – took on leadership of the parliamentary committees.

On January 21, 2015 Kyiv hosted the fourth congress of the “Samopomich “Union” political party. Its leader Andriy Sadovyi outlined the main priorities in the activities for 2015.

He noted the need for development of local branches, training local staff and participation in the elections to the local authorities. He suggested that the MPs of this political force focus on reforming the state apparatus, the judiciary, decentralization of powers, strengthening control over the use of budget funds, and fight against corruption.

In addition, the deputies of the “Samopomich” Union faction are to control the use of state budget funds constantly. Especially of those 90 billion hryvnias allocated for defence.

Work in the Parliament

“Samopomich” Union faction consisting of 32 deputies currently operates in the Parliament.

“Samopomich” Union faction entered the Parliament with its 32 deputies, signed the coalition agreement and delegated its representative to the post of Minister of Agricultural Policy and Food. “Samopomich” MP, Oksana Syroid, was elected as Vice-Speaker; three representatives of the faction headed the parliamentary committees – on Preventing and Combating Corruption, on Informatization and Communication, and on Foreign Affairs.

“Samopomich” Union faction treated its work in the Parliament with due responsibility. Expert discussions of draft laws, agreeing on a common stance on voting are the foundation of the faction. Professional discussions take place daily during the plenary week which is an unprecedented instance of collective thinking in Ukrainian politics. “Samopomich” lawmakers do not miss sessions and voting. According to OPORA Civil Network, “Samopomich” deputies attend 84% of plenary sessions and committee meetings – which is one of the best figures in the Parliament.

During the VIII convocation of the Verkhovna Rada “Samopomich” has drafted more than 500 bills (about 200 of them were elaborated by “Samopomich” deputies exclusively, others – in collaboration with colleagues in the Parliament), some of them have become laws and defend the interests of Ukrainians. Among them there is a complete package of the most advanced in Europe anti-corruption legislation, simplification of procedures related to condominiums, reduction of the burden on the wages fund by reducing the unified social tax rates, legislation on transfer pricing, packages of laws in the sphere of energy, information technology and others.

The work in the Parliament has brought many challenges as well. The first of these was the voting for the amendment to the Constitution in August 2015, which entailed expulsion of 6 members from the faction. Based on the principles of collective thinking and responsible public administration the faction made this difficult decision in order to unite the like-minded people around the values shared by the Ukrainians who had given their votes for “Samopomich.” Currently the faction in the Parliament is represented by 26 MPs.

In November 2015 there was an extraordinary event – residents of Kryvyi Rih rebelled against oligarchic tyranny and unfair elections. “Samopomich” supported the citizens who were against fraud in a climate of inactivity of the law enforcement agencies and Central Electoral Commission. A temporary special investigatory commission was set up in the Parliament at the faction’s initiative. The commission investigated the violations and recommended holding new mayoral elections in Kryvyi Rih thus ensuring the main right of a citizen in the country – the right to elect the authorities.

The March mayoral elections were held amidst a dirty information campaign and pressure on administrative resources. “Samopomich” was forced to make a difficult decision and eliminate from its ranks the candidate for mayor who had colluded with the “Opposition Bloc” and nominate another candidate less than a month before the elections. Semen Semenchenko received the support of more than 10%, of Kryvyi Rih residents, but the massive bribery of voters led to the victory of the oligarchic clan representative. The elections in Kryvyi Rih manifested that despite the pervasive influence of oligarchs, active civil society is being formed in Ukraine and these people are ready to defend their electoral rights.

In February 2016, as a result of the acute political crisis that arose due to the inability of the government to implement quality reforms policy and effectively cooperate with the Parliament, “Samopomich” Union decided to leave the coalition. The faction sees its further duty in being a true statist opposition, in supporting government’s useful initiatives and in constructive criticism of those harmful ones.

The key tasks for the faction is creation and launching of the electoral law on proportional system with open lists, new CEC composition and a new, worthy of Ukraine Prosecutor General.

Local elections 2015

Local elections have become an important step for the development of “Samopomich” as an all-Ukrainian political force. Voters in the West, as well as the East and South of Ukraine supported “Samopomich” Union having elected more than 900 deputies to represent their interests in the councils of various levels.

“Samopomich” representatives are presently mayors of such regional centres as Lviv and Mykolaiv, as well as of Bila Tserkrva, Boryslav, Truskavets, Skadovsk, Bar, Yavoriv, Peremyshliany.