Guest Report by a Participant on the Mondragon, Spain Tour

Mondragon, Spain
By Nancy Berlin,
Past director of California Partnership and longtime community organizer

“All of us on know that the capitalist system is not a good idea for society.” You might be thinking I’m recounting a dream I had, or maybe you’re wondering what I’ve been smoking. But in fact I heard this from a banker at Caja Laboral,
the bank created by the Mondragon Cooperatives.

While Spain’s economy is in trouble, with a quarter of the people out of work, the town of Mondragon, tucked in the hills of the Basque Country, has almost no unemployment. That’s because of a 50-plus-year experiment here that has created a consortium of worker-owned cooperatives employing over 80,000 people (mostly in the Basque Country). It has a business management model that clearly puts people as their first priority, and describes capital as an instrument of the people. Great words and theory, but what does this mean in the real world? It means that Mondragon transfers workers between cooperatives instead of laying off workers, and coops loan each other funds when banks can’t. Now that’s worker solidarity!

Is this too good to be true? As a Mondragon Cooperative representative explained, “This is not paradise and we are not angels.” And I can see, for instance, that they have a long way to go on gender equity issues (only 1 in 10 managers are women). But maintaining jobs in this economy is certainly a far cry from what’s going on in my home town of Los Angeles.

Can we create a better world? One man in Mondragon told me, “the most important value is not to create more profits but to create more workers.” Now if we could only hear that from one of the presidential candidates. Okay, maybe I am dreaming….

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About Kitty Kroger

Kitty Kroger is a retired high school teacher of E.S.L. She has published her first novel, "Dancing with Mao and Miguel," which takes place in the 70s and deals with political, social, and personal concerns of that decade. In addition to writing, she is also involved in trying to make the world a better place, concerning herself with issues such as climate change and attacks on refugees and immigrants. She enjoys photography, including street photos (find her work on kittykroger.smugmug.com and Instagram), writes poetry, and plays in a piano ensemble. She also publishes a blog called "Voices of the Sixties and Seventies" (sixtiesandseventiesblog.wordress.com).
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5 Responses to Guest Report by a Participant on the Mondragon, Spain Tour

  1. Do you know how Mondragon is coping with the current crises? In the 80’s, the Caja Laboral took a big hand in capitalizing the pay packets and keeping all but 3 of the coops afloat. I don’t have good information on what is happening now, but if you have some, I hope you post it.

  2. Bonnie Bostwick says:

    Keep on digging for the best of all of our worlds, Kitty. I have to believe that it is out there somewhere!

  3. Maria Manetta says:

    “YOU may be a ‘dreamer’ … but you’re NOT the only one”
    A friend shares your perspective! 🙂

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