Born in 1771, in Newtown, Wales, Robert Owen moved to Manchester and became a highly successful capitalist. Appalled by the divisions industrial capitalism wrought on society and children in particular, he fought for legislation to improve the health, education and rights of working people, and strived to put his own ideas into practice.
He encountered much opposition, not least from the Church of England. However he influenced many social reformers. Frederick Engels was a friendly critic and great admirer. On the occasion of Owen’s death he played tribute to him as the first man “to place socialism on a practical basis.”
Today the Co-operative Movement embraces one-billion members world-wide. Its tremendous success, especially in the form of workers’ co-operatives, remains a testament to his foresight, as well as providing living proof there are viable and more efficient alternatives to global capitalism.
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