Part V: Notes on a visit to the Mondragon worker-owner cooperative, Sept. 2012

By David and Lila Tresemer (www.MountainSeas.com.au and http://www.DavidandLilaTresemer.com)

Now for some observations outside of the congratulations for their successful economic model. We would like to speak about spiritual forces. David asked one of the managers, “As your movement was begun by a Catholic priest (Arizmendiarriete), did the success of this movement bring people to the Church?” Answer: “Yes, though many belonged to the Church already. But that has ended. Now only the elderly attend Church, except for funerals, when other people come. Now half of the weddings are in the Church, and half are ‘social.’” “Social” meant outside the Church in a public setting, where the focus is on …#2 in our list at the beginning of these notes. Mondragon has changed the old Biblical polarity “you can’t serve two masters, and must choose between God (spirit) and Mammon (money).” That comes from Gospel of Matthew Chapter 6, verse 24. The polarity has become Labor (humanity) versus Money.

After this visit to Mondragon and this conversation, I view this now as a three-some:

1. LABOR – Humanity – what we do with our time, our energy, our work, and our attention. The highest value here is freedom of expression. Work is meant to benefit and enhance a sane world.

2.MONEY– as capital. If you watch money closely, you realize that it functions as an a-moral force. It simply seeks places to grow, no matter what the method – organic food and weapons are only differentiated by their ability to make more money. The characterization in the Bible of money as expressing a negative spirit – Mammon – becomes clearer when you spend time at gatherings of investors, as David occasionally does. The values there are on clearing away all regulations that have been put into place in order to protect Humanity, in order for Money to grow more freely. You can understand these conferences as servants of money. The hyper-rich think that they control money, and occasionally realize that they are the servants to money. Mondragon realizes this and insists that “money is not the master – it is the tool.” The way they do this is through cooperatives, that is, the Labor factor above.

3. SPIRIT. When you begin to understand that there is a spirit of humanity and that there is a spirit of money, you look for the greater spiritual force behind the context for all of this. Call it Gaia, or call it Mother Mary, or call it The Virgin, or call it Jesus, or call it any number of things – and then ask what are the values of that Greater Picture, that includes the earth (#4 in our original list). Don’t settle for claims of spiritual prominence by holy wars, which are demonic spirits working with money to suppress Humanity.

We realized the importance of spirit near the end of our visit when we suddenly “woke up,” so to speak, from participation in the tour – hearing speakers, taking tours of buildings and factories, talking with people, etc. – to seeing our surroundings. A key piece came from one of the translators, who said, “People from Mondragon can easily work in China or Brazil for three months or more, if they see it as temporary. However, if you ask them to move their home from one Basque valley across the hills into another Basque valley, it is quite difficult for them to do.” Aha – we looked around us and could easily sense what we had missed before – the power of an angelic presence, what some people recognize as Spirit of Place, or the archangel who acts as the Folk Soul – and especially powerful here. When you see that the cooperative movement arises to ensure the connection of people with their community and PLACE, and you realize that the angel (or archangel) or that PLACE assists in the cooperative initiatives, you get a very different sense of how exportable this idea might be. For creating a successful cooperative is not just about applying a step-wise installation manual. It requires great clarity about the support you’re getting from your community, your geographical place, and your archangel.

Even if you can’t “see” archangels, you can sense these presences. We tested the waters with our group for conversation about this sort of thing and found soon that this was not territory in which others had much experience. Or they were shy, an unfortunate by-product of the monopoly that extreme religion has created on talk about Spirit.

I also wondered about congruency. Here are people working for years, building up a good retirement fund, and then there’s that last day that they leave the factory. Several people mentioned that they don’t look back. But if they were building or creating something congruent to their culture that they’re protecting, then you would find the elders hanging around the centers of production, just because they had a passion for it. It seems that the elders don’t come back to visit the factories for washing machines. Then I wondered, “Are washing machines congruent with any culture? In fact, aren’t they actually congruent with every culture – in that everyone in a ‘developed country’ uses washing machines? Or… is there a way that they could become more congruent?” These are outstanding questions at the end of our journey.

Rudolf Steiner recommended a three-fold social organization that included:

THINKING – the sphere of culture and ideas, where the key word is freedom of expression, and the currency streams from ideas.

FEELING – the social or middle sphere of political rights, what Mondragon has cultivated in the ownership by workers of their production, and their rights in voting in their cooperatives. The key word here is equality, and the currency streams from the heart.

WILLING – the economic sphere where the key word is brotherhood/sisterhood, working together for the common good. The currency can be money, though more truthfully the currency is human energy employed in work towards a goal.

Mondragon has been very successful, though imperfectly as they admit, in realizing a balance of these three.

As we watch the imbalances in the several models that we presented, in the primacy of OWNERS in Part I and the primacy of MONEY in this Part V, we see that this experiment in human organization has much to recommend it, and we wish it great success – both in the valleys of the Basque country and the other places in the world where it’s being tried.

End of notes from our trip of September 2012

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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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