It’s hard to do a better job explaining what the Mondragon Co-op (MCC) is and what it means than Nick Romeo did in an article that came out today in New Yorker magazine.
Its creation, its present, its ups, its downs, the profile of its founder, José María Arizmendiarrieta (whose profile you can read here), and its challenges, expectations, and uncertainties of this amazing example that there are other options to savage, unbridled capitalism and to bureaucratic state-run enterprises, both of which are incapable of offering a dignified future to society.
It covers many matters and aspects of the MCC, including the distortion caused when a co-op company has workers out in world, outside the co-op system, and the explanations MCC gives for this incongruity.
“At the same time, it wouldn’t be easy for the Mondragon model to succeed in a country like America, Ucín thought. ‘You can’t have coöperatives without coöperative people,’ he said.”
They explained it very well with a local legend about a dragon that used to terrorize the town of Mondragón, told at a culinary club lunch while the journalist was there:
“‘He came down from his cave in the mountains to eat people,’ Etxeberria said, of the dragon. ‘The villagers told him, if you only come once a year, we will give you the most beautiful young woman in town. But this was not a good solution, so they tricked him—they made a woman out of wax, and when he began to eat it, it melted in his mouth. Then all the ironworkers rushed forward together and killed him with their tools.’ He paused for dramatic effect before intoning the lesson: ‘In other towns, they hired St. George to kill their dragons, but in Mondragón, we killed him coöperatively.'”
The complete lack of understanding of how the “Mondragón model,” or Basque cooperativism in general, works is reflected in how many people see it as “communist.” The article shares the anecdote of an American visitor wondering “how Arizmendiarrieta could be a real priest if he was a communist.”
We really liked how the article ended, enough to use the word “miracle” as part of our entry’s title:
“He recalled his father telling him about a senior religious functionary from the Vatican who’d once visited Mondragón to collect evidence of miracles for Arizmendiarrieta’s possible canonization. As he left, the visitor made a half-joking comment that, Gorroñogoitia thought, struck home: even setting aside the supernatural, Mondragón’s coöperatives looked like a kind of miracle“
We’ve discussed the MCC on many occasions because it is a recurring topic in international media given how extraordinary and how successful it is. However, as far as we can recall, this is without a doubt the best article we’ve come across.
Just one thing we’d like to tell Nick Romeo: the Francoists were not “nationalists,” which was the name they chose for themselves to try to cover up their criminal actions. They were, as Steer reported in his chronicles, they were “insurgents,” “rebels,” or simply “fascists”.
Be sure to read this article!!!!
New Yorker – 27/8/2022 – USA
How Mondragon Became the World’s Largest Co-Op
Jorge Vega Hernández, a mechanical engineer working in northwestern Spain, returned from a business trip and started to feel sick. It was March, 2020—the beginning of the pandemic—and so he called a government help line. He was told that he might have the coronavirus and that he should stay home. But, without leaving the house for a test, Hernández couldn’t get proof of his illness—and, without that proof, he had no excuse for not coming into work. A week after he got sick, he said, his company fired him. (The firm cited “insufficient” job performance as the motive.)