Skip to main content

For a Republic that seems to idolize Democracy our work places remain almost consistently autocratic. This top down structure over the years has  made a few individuals and families "filthy" rich and politically powerful while most struggle to survive on what "trickles down" off their tables. Margaret Thatcher once told us that there is "no" alternative to capitalism:

I would like to challenge Maggie's presumptuous assumption and "submit for your approval" the Mondragon Cooperative.  

"a federation of worker cooperatives based in the Basque region of Spain. Founded in the town of Mondragón in 1956, its origin is linked to the activity of a modest technical college and a small workshop producing paraffin heaters. Currently it is the seventh largest Spanish company in terms of turnover and the leading business group in the Basque Country. At the end of 2009 it was providing employment for 85,066 people working in 256 companies in four areas of activity: Finance, Industry, Retail and Knowledge. The MONDRAGON Co-operatives operate in accordance with a business model based on People and the Sovereignty of Labor, which has made it possible to develop highly participative companies rooted in solidarity, with a strong social dimension but without neglecting business excellence. The Co-operatives are owned by their worker-members and power is based on the principle of one person, one vote."

The questions that haunts me over the years is why didn't any of the major US Trade Unions (UAW, Teamsters, AFLCIO...) consider such a model as Mondragon as an alternative to endless "collective bargaining" with guys who owned the factories or places of business? With rumors of NAFTA and the WTO  in the air,  they should have seen this global FOXCON "Jedi mind trick" coming!   One would think that the "billions" of dollars in union dues over the years could have started a cooperative or two?  I hear some unions are looking at the Mondragon model, but imagine if this was done in parallel with collective bargaining 30 years ago consider where workers would be now.    

Labor creates all wealth. This is a fact that even old Adam Smith could not over look. In the Mondragon group the highest payed member can not be paid more than 4.5 times what the lowest member is paid. From the out side the Mondragon group looks and acts like a 40 Billion dollar corporation; but internally, this vast group of interlocked Cooperatives is a model for economic Democracy. The Economist Richard Wolff explains in detail in his 3 part youtube lecture (below is the link to part one):

The primary function of any capitalist company/small business is to maximize profits be it to the share holder or the individual(s) who owns the enterprise. Workers to large corporations and small business are generally seen as a pool of cheap labor to be exploited at will.  Labor creates all wealth. This is a fact that even old Adam Smith could not over look. . The only asset that an unskilled worker has to offer is his/her labor.  Mondragon and other cooperative's core mission is to create "sustainable good paying jobs (with a full range of benefits) for  it's members and grow until the place where we spend most of our waking adult life is own by the many and not the few.

Because the Mondragon model  works within the capitalist system (market) while delivering the "socialist" goods to it's members it may allow a bridge between Liberals and Libertarians  on economic issues.


Your Email has been sent.
You must add at least one tag to this diary before publishing it.

Add keywords that describe this diary. Separate multiple keywords with commas.
Tagging tips - Search For Tags - Browse For Tags


More Tagging tips:

A tag is a way to search for this diary. If someone is searching for "Barack Obama," is this a diary they'd be trying to find?

Use a person's full name, without any title. Senator Obama may become President Obama, and Michelle Obama might run for office.

If your diary covers an election or elected official, use election tags, which are generally the state abbreviation followed by the office. CA-01 is the first district House seat. CA-Sen covers both senate races. NY-GOV covers the New York governor's race.

Tags do not compound: that is, "education reform" is a completely different tag from "education". A tag like "reform" alone is probably not meaningful.

Consider if one or more of these tags fits your diary: Civil Rights, Community, Congress, Culture, Economy, Education, Elections, Energy, Environment, Health Care, International, Labor, Law, Media, Meta, National Security, Science, Transportation, or White House. If your diary is specific to a state, consider adding the state (California, Texas, etc). Keep in mind, though, that there are many wonderful and important diaries that don't fit in any of these tags. Don't worry if yours doesn't.

You can add a private note to this diary when hotlisting it:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary from your hotlist?
Are you sure you want to remove your recommendation? You can only recommend a diary once, so you will not be able to re-recommend it afterwards.
Rescue this diary, and add a note:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary from Rescue?
Choose where to republish this diary. The diary will be added to the queue for that group. Publish it from the queue to make it appear.

You must be a member of a group to use this feature.

Add a quick update to your diary without changing the diary itself:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary?
(The diary will be removed from the site and returned to your drafts for further editing.)
(The diary will be removed.)
Are you sure you want to save these changes to the published diary?

Comment Preferences

  •  The distinction between capitalism and (9+ / 0-)

    Co-op's is a co-op is sustainable. Capitalism is designed to continue until no more wealth can be extracted meaning eventually it will cease to grow or thrive ie: go bust. A co-op works for the good of all participants so the model is expressly self perpetuating ie: sustainable.

  •  Hope this gets more eyes, Mondragon is a (4+ / 0-)

    huge, long established and stable model  to hold up as an example of what's possibe. And desirable. We're not just dreaming, it's a concept that works, and has for decades.

    We have had similar large co-ops here, but they are routinely bought out by corporations. The Amana colony was essentially a worker co-op building kitchen appliances before being acquired by a conglomerate.

    Information is abundant, wisdom is scarce. ~The Druid.
    ~Ideals aren't goals, they're navigation aids.~

    by FarWestGirl on Sun Aug 18, 2013 at 09:23:18 AM PDT

    •  I hope so too FarWestGirl, (4+ / 0-)

      the Mondragon Model could be one of the possible alternatives to "slave-wage" global capitalism. My sister-in-law lives in Phoenix; while  visiting her she took me to a worker owned Super market (warehouse Costco-type) called "WinCO". I talked to one of the "members" and he also told me that they had had offers from large chains to buy them out. Obviously, the corporate powers that be see worker own cooperatives as a threat.

      •  Win-Co is well known. A lot of farm co-ops still (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Darwinian Detrius

        exist as relics of farmers' fights against the robber barons and raiload interests. I wish we could work on reviving that connection to cooperation in rural areas.

        (sorry about the typo, the iPad wouldn't let me spell the name properly, kept substituting 'wince' ::sigh::) ;-)

        Information is abundant, wisdom is scarce. ~The Druid.
        ~Ideals aren't goals, they're navigation aids.~

        by FarWestGirl on Sun Aug 18, 2013 at 10:21:36 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  If I had a nickle for every typo (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:

          I have make I could probably fund my own cooperative by now. Wouldn't it be nice if some of the trillions (I do not exaggerate ) we tax payers transfer to private corporations (TARP, Military Industrial Complex NSA sub contractors, Big Pharma...)  via our elected representatives could be used as "seed" money to start regional and local cooperatives?  

          •  The last 'regular' job my father had was with (0+ / 0-)

            Crocker Bank in Berkeley as a systems analyst. He got bored one day, and for fun, just to see if he could do it, wrote a self erasing program that swept up all the extra decimals from rate calculations that got rounded off and dumped them into a single account.

            In 1983, the first sweep netted over $20M. Scared him so bad he went to his supervisor then & there and reported it so he wouldn't be tempted. We could do so much with the miniscule transaction tax on Wall Street that they keep talking about. They'd never miss it and we could change the world with it. ::sigh::

            Information is abundant, wisdom is scarce. ~The Druid.
            ~Ideals aren't goals, they're navigation aids.~

            by FarWestGirl on Sun Aug 18, 2013 at 04:36:10 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

  •  It has long amazed me (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    ZhenRen, Horace Boothroyd III

    that people will spend their entire working lives in these dictatorships and still believe they live atop the pinnacle of freedom. Just because they have (maybe) the option of working at a different dictatorship.

    One good thing about music, when it hits you feel no pain -Bob Marley

    by Darwinian Detritus on Sun Aug 18, 2013 at 09:50:26 AM PDT

    •  Sometimes it seems to me (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Darwinian Detrius

      that we as a corporate culture love to "talk the talk" of Democracy waving flags at every opportunity, but fear "getting down and dirty" into the "messy" muck that is walking the walk of Democracy.  Dictatorships to the herd have always seemed safer. Very astute observation Dawinian Detrius.    

    •  Have you ever wondered why (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Darwinian Detrius

      the same "Pyramid"  structure (few at the top controlling the many at the base) has more or less remained in place since the  Pharaoh?  Pharaohs were replace by emperors and kings; and now thank to the likes of Medici Brothers the "merchant class" has installed themselves as our new masters. Such an unbroken chain of custody says a lot more about "us" than them.  

  •  The next revolution (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Darwinian Detrius, ZhenRen

    It took a few hundred years but we managed to kick the kings off of the political throne. Now it's time to kick them out of the boardroom. There is no fundamental reason why the production of goods and services should require us to give up our freedom. The activities of productive industry create the conditions for our well-being or lack thereof and so we have a right to have a say in how industry functions. Matters in this area should no more be left up to the whims of a small minority than should those of state.

    We need a revolution. It must not be violent, but must come from within our capitalist states through individuals choosing to no longer work as slaves to their bosses, but as equals working together for mutual benefit and for that of their communities.

    There's a difference between a responsible gun owner and one that's been lucky so far.

    by BeerNotWar on Sun Aug 18, 2013 at 10:30:45 AM PDT

    •  BeerNotWar, what a great name; (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      I agree that we should "own" our economy. After all, "labor creates all wealth" and human labor be it skilled or unskilled should never be bought and sold so cheap! If we allow them to devalue our lively hood (labor) odds are our very lives will be "cheapened" as well. I also agree  that revolution should be non-violent, but if you do not hold the police and the military to the same standard as human beings we then give up our right of "self defense".  

  •  Yes! Magazine (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    Thanks for writing this. Mondragon is a model that deserves more attention.

    Yes! Magazine Spring 2013 issue was devoted to the rise of cooperative ventures. Well worth investigating.

    Also look into the highly successful Evergreen Cooperatives in Cleveland.

    I agree with your question about labor unions not jumping on this sooner, although they are going getting into cooperatives now. Who knows? Perhaps someone can enlighten us.

    "Let us not look back to the past with anger, nor towards the future with fear, but look around with awareness." James Thurber

    by annan on Sun Aug 18, 2013 at 11:01:58 AM PDT

    •  Hello Annan: (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      The Evergreen Cooperative in Cleveland, wasn't that in
      Dennis  Kucinich's old district?  I too came across  a few things about Unions  looking into cooperatives. It breaks my heart when I consider all the billions of worker dollars that unions used to line the pockets of politicians over the years with so little to show for it. That "seed" money could have built many Mondragan size cooperative networks. The private sector would be begging for our labor allowing for such direct competition.  

  •  Great piece by Corey Robin that applies here (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    petral, OtherDoug

    Hat tip to Paul Krugman for pointing to it.  Robin is looking at the conservative mind, and while capitalism may be about profit, there's a more basic dynamic at work.

    Despite the very real differences among them, workers in a factory are like secretaries in an office, peasants on a manor, slaves on a plantation—even wives in a marriage—in that they live and labor in conditions of unequal power. They submit and obey, heeding the demands of their managers and masters, husbands and lords. Sometimes their lot is freely chosen—workers contract with their employers, wives with their husbands—but its entailments seldom are. What contract, after all, could ever itemize the ins and outs, the daily pains and continuing sufferance, of a job or a marriage? Throughout American history, in fact, the contract has served as a conduit to unforeseen coercion and constraint. Employment and marriage contracts have been interpreted by judges to contain all sorts of unwritten and unwanted provisions of servitude to which wives and workers tacitly consent, even when they have no knowledge of such provisions or wish to stipulate otherwise.
    As Krugman notes:
    For that is what conservatism is: a meditation on, and theoretical rendition of, the felt experience of having power, seeing it threatened, and trying to win it back.
    As an interesting sidelight on this, an article by Jay Porter about his restaurant where tipping was not allowed (an 18% charge was added onto the bill instead) got some of the most heated resistance from customers who wanted the power to punish their servers if they felt they deserved it.
    Despite—or maybe because of—all the documented damage caused by tip culture, plenty of people are deeply, emotionally invested in keeping tipping propped up. When we abolished tipping at the Linkery, we met a few of these people. We would periodically hear guests express anger about not being able to choose the amount of their tip. Their refrain was, It's not about money ... I always tip more than 20 percent. These people were angry even though they had spent less than they otherwise would have, because they had been robbed of their perceived power over their server.
    I think the most notable opponent we encountered who wanted to cling to the tipping model was our local city attorney. In spite of our posted signs and check stamps and menu text and blog posts that outlined the service charge, his office accused us of trying to deceive consumers with it, and threatened me with fines and jail time. I thought this made me a special kind of outlaw, until this year when the same city attorney tried to stick one of my neighbors with 13 years in jail for writing protest slogans on the sidewalk using water-soluble children's chalk. In neither case did the prosecutor prevail. But the example illustrates, I think, the kind of person who will fight to save tipping culture: a person who lives in a world of offenses and punishment, someone invested in the idea of authority and the feeling of power. Incidentally, this kind of person is often a middle-aged white guy.
    It's about power as much as anything.

    "No special skill, no standard attitude, no technology, and no organization - no matter how valuable - can safely replace thought itself."

    by xaxnar on Sun Aug 18, 2013 at 01:04:16 PM PDT

    •  Being a Liberal I rarely judge (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      the chosen lifestyle of others. I have friends who are into the sexual role playing (S&M) who enjoy what they call the "freedom" to be dominated (?), yet still be able to evoke a "safe" word when things get out of hand.  While reading Corey Robins comments I wondered if as a people submersed in this corporate culture are we afraid of the freedom and responsibilities that come with a Democratic work place? Based on human history, is this the best we can do? Lastly, if we are as a species incapable of  economic Democracy, should we have a "safe word"?  

      "the kind of person who will fight to save tipping culture: a person who lives in a world of offenses and punishment, someone invested in the idea of authority and the feeling of power."

      Your above comment is so sad, but true. These guys would feel right at home with a Dominatrix. Getting away from that theme, there was always something about Occupies 1% against the 99% argument that just did not sit right with me. When I looked at the guys cracking their heads, spraying tear gas and pepper spray in their faces I did not see many business suits. About 30% of the population it would seem can always be counted on to act as a blunt instrument for the 1% to erase any forward progress.  

      •  People fear disorder (0+ / 0-)

        And real freedom is not on the best of terms with order.

        There is this about living in an authoritarian world - you have a lot fewer decisions to make when you only do what you are told.

        "No special skill, no standard attitude, no technology, and no organization - no matter how valuable - can safely replace thought itself."

        by xaxnar on Sun Aug 18, 2013 at 04:35:03 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  over time any system no matter how (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:

          unfair will work to legitimize  it's self.

          "I submit for your approval" 10 slices of pie; also, 10 guys who all being equally human should get one slice each. One of the 10 is less fat, younger and much faster than the other 9. The "fleet one" gets to the pie first and claims the whole pie. When the other 9 finally reach the pie the fleet one asserts "legitimate" ownership of the entire pie due to his speed and possession of the pie. At this point the 9 could acknowledge his claim to the whole pie, or pool their numbers, over power the "1" and take their fair share.  Buying into the "myth" of Capitalism they codified his claim.

          Once we submit to the unreasonable claims of the fleet ones, give up our human right of self defense the game is over.

  •  Kim Stanley Robinson's Mars Trilogy... (0+ / 0-)

    ...introduced me to the Mondragon Cooperatives.  His characters use it as the basis for the economic system they set up on Mars.  I found the books to be fascinating, but was thrilled to realize that what he described was real, not some fabrication to build his novels on.

    So often we are confronted with rhetoric that claims that corporate capitalism is the only successful way to organize an economy, but Mondragon puts that the lie to that claim.

    •  Thanks, I will check out the (0+ / 0-)

      book; I am a long time Science Fiction reader.

      "So often we are confronted with rhetoric that claims that corporate capitalism is the only successful way to organize an economy, but Mondragon puts that the lie to that claim."

      How true; the system that  boasts of "choice" usually goes out of it's way to marginalize or destroy any alternative system. At some level I wonder if Capitalism is nothing more than a front for Corporate Socialism? Consider TARP, government contracts to private companies; and the infrastructure business survives on (roads, courts, power grid, public airways, ...) thanks to tax dollars. Could capitalism really be a myth?  

  •  The reason (0+ / 0-)

    that big unions didn't support co-ops and kept with gigantic corporations is twofold:

    1) Big Labor and Big Business were symbiotic for most of the 20th Century: the labor aristocracy saw genuine challenges to business ownership as potentially dangerous to their cushy arrangements. And since they'd kicked out all the good organizers (the communists and socialists) in the 30s, it's not like they thought they could anyway.

    2) Co-ops were seen as a threat: that worker-owners, having actual democracy in the workplace, would think they didn't need a union anymore.

    A larger issue that has to be dealt with is how to move the cooperative model from a piecemeal tactic into something that becomes the norm for the economy. The wealthy (and their fully-owned political class) are much too smart to roll over and allow such a thing to happen. So how does it turn into a social movement? How do we get to the point where workers are occupying their factories and businesses, demanding democratic ownership and control?

    Join the fight for student power on campus:

    by Liberaltarian on Mon Aug 19, 2013 at 12:11:55 PM PDT

Click here for the mobile view of the site