The current economic crisis will not have been in vain if the world is reminded that grass roots initiative can triumph even over seemingly overwhelming adversity. In the aftermath of the devastation of the Basque region of Spain in the Spanish Civil War, a young priest, Don Jose Maria Arizmendiarrieta, himself only recently released from concentration camp confinement and narrowly spared imminent execution, was sent by his bishop in 1941 to the small steel industry town of Mondragon.
It was here over the subsequent decade and a half that he through painstaking pastoral care, grassroots organization, community development, consciousness-raising and technical education laid secure foundations for the great complex of some 260 worker-owned industrial, retail, agricultural, construction, service and support co-operatives and associated entities that the world now knows as the Mondragon Co-operative Corporation.
From a standing start in 1956, the MCC has grown to the point where by mid-2008 it was the seventh largest business group in Spain. Annual sales increased between 2006 and 2007 by 12.4 per cent to some $US20 billion, and overall employment by 24 per cent, from 83,601 to 103,731. Exports accounted for 56.9 per cent of industrial co-operative sales, and were up in value by 8.6 per cent. Mondragon co-operatives now own or joint venture some 114 local and overseas subsidiaries.
Hard-hit by the economic meltdown as like other business the co-operatives now find themselves, their members are tightening their belts in a further exercise of the solidarity that has enabled them to weather previous major downturns, and achieve new heights. For example, in 2008 worker owners at the Fagor appliance co-operative elected to forego the additional four-week's pay normally due to them over the Christmas period, and have subsequently cut their pay by eight per cent. As the MCC's Human Resources Director, Mikel Zabala, points out, "We are private companies that work in the same market as everybody else. We are exposed to the same conditions as our competitors". What then are the attributes to which Mondragon owes its remarkable success?
- Dr Race Mathews
Full article @ The Distributist Review