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Jose María Arizmendiarrieta, 1915-1976. Founding Father of Mondragon. Classical theories on Mondragon: Religiosity of Basques Basque (rural) tradition Basque nationalism

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jose mar a arizmendiarrieta 1915 1976
Jose María Arizmendiarrieta, 1915-1976

FoundingFather of Mondragon


Classical theories on Mondragon:

  • Religiosity of Basques
  • Basque (rural) tradition
  • Basque nationalism
  • The religious interpretation emphasizes its original status as social movement and the decisive role of its ‘founding father’
the priest


Educated as a ‘Social priest’ in the Vitoria Seminar

Intellectual sources: Pope Leo XIII’s encyclical RerumNovarum (1891), the Social Code by Cardinal Mercier (1920), the papal encyclical Quadragessimo Anno (1931) by Pius XI

Influenced by jesuit J. Azpiazu’s works and 2 key professors: Barandiaran and Thalamas

Introduced by the last one to strategies of Catholic cooperativism all over Europe

arizmendiarrieta in mondrag n
Arizmendiarrieta in Mondragón
  • He formed a group of young Catholic workers who participated in social activities and gradually took on leadership and management tasks
  • Arizmendiarrieta taught them classic values from Catholic social doctrine ,which were the ethical bases for the future culture of Mondragon co-operatives: enthusiasm for work, austerity in everyday life, sacrifice for community ideals, faith in social initiatives, self-examination and personal integrity in collective tasks…
  • Professional and technical training became the main pillar of Arizmendiarrieta’s social work : he founded the Technical School of Mondragón on August 1943
  • British Labour Party political thinking had an early impact on the content of Arizmendiarrieta’s discourse, along with French Catholic philosophers like Maritain and Leclercq
the beginning of mondragon
Thebeginning of Mondragon
  • He formed an elite of young workers and trusted them with his most cherished goal: the creation of a new Catholic enterprise to promote a social movement which subordinated capital to labour
  • The first company was founded in September 1955, with the trade mark of Fagor
  • The business model of Fagor was followed by many other industrial enterprises stimulated or suggested by Arizmendiarrieta
  • These co-operatives were supported financially by the credit co-operative CajaLaboral, founded in 1959

The Technical School was rebuilt as a Polytechnic in May 1964


In 1969 the institutional pillars of Mondragon were set up:

  • an industrial sector articulated around Fagor;
  • a banking sector, with CajaLaboral and the insurance co-operative Lagun-Aro;
  • a distribution sector, Eroski;
  • An educational sector, with the Polytechnic School (currently the Mondragon University)
  • The Statutes of each co-operative acted as a ‘co-operative constitution’ to which the Regulations inserted ‘amendments’ in response to social change
  • According to both documents, the Mondragon workforce brought labour and capital together through a co-operative contract represented through four principles: equality, solidarity, responsibility and democracy
  • Co-operation was inseparable from spirituality, and the route to it led through deep Christian self-examination

An intense secularization process affected the Mondragon co-operatives during the 1960s and 1970s

  • From the late 1960s the Mondragon project begun to attract members who lacked religious concerns applicable to the world of labour
  • Marxism and Basque nationalism filled the gap left by secularization among the new generations of Mondragon workers
  • The collective memory of Mondragon fixed within the co-operatives from the 1980s onwards combined amnesia and idealisation
  • Arizmendiarrieta was repositioned as an iconic presence in all the public spaces of the movement , without any meaning for the new generations more than being the ‘founding Father’ of everything