Continue to Home Index ....

Welcome to the Justpeace Front Page.

Each week this page highlights a particular aspect of the study, spirituality, and practice of the justice and peace teachings of the Roman Catholic Church. The new page goes up Monday evening. The previous Front Pages may be accessed at the bottom of this page. To continue on to the main part of this site, and its 1300+ links, click on home index above. This week our eye is on Cooperative Enterprise, an alternative to corporate capitalism. The "twin pines" logo is recognized as a symbol of cooperative enterprise.

"Many visitors come here and ask us why we have such an unusual business. But, I say to them: Don't you think it's strange that more organizations in the world aren't like this one?" comment by a worker-member of the Mondragon Cooperatives of Spain, quoted in Democracy in the Workplace.

"A co-operative is an autonomous association of persons united voluntarily to meet their common economic, social, and cultural needs and aspirations through a jointly-owned and democratically-controlled enterprise. Co-operatives are based on the values of self-help, self-responsibility, democracy, equality, equity, and solidarity. In the tradition of their founders, co-operative members believe in the ethical values of honesty, openness, social responsibility, and caring for others." International Co-operative Alliance, Geneva, Switzerland

The ICA estimates that 750 million people worldwide are involved with some kind of cooperative economic activity. The largest sector of cooperative enterprise is the financial, with credit unions having the most members.

Catholic social teaching demonstrates that the sanctity of work derives from the dignity of the human person. The popes -- John Paul II in particular -- have clearly taught that markets are important, but they also have limitations. Further, there are values which the marketplace doesn't always embrace, but which are fundamental to the vision of Catholic social justice.

Co-operative enterprise is one possible way of realizing this vision of justice for all people. It has the virtue of being accessible to even very poor persons, who by combining their efforts can establish businesses that provide social, personal, and financial benefits to the members. In an era in which transnational corporate capitalism is triumphalistically touted as the only economic alternative to hard-core Marxist collectivism, it is refreshing to remember that this claim just isn't a true statement, it is corporate propaganda masquerading as social and economic analysis. There is a third way, and it isn't theory, it is in practice, every day, in every country in the world. It is rooted in both natural law and the explicit teachings of the Roman Catholic magisterium.

The "co-operative movement" began in 1844 with a pioneer consumer co-operative in Rochdale, England. In the 20th century, however, there has been significant Catholic participation and today there are thousands of cooperatives throughout the world that owe their genesis to either Catholic seed money or Catholic organizational activities. Two large scale co-operative movements -- the Mondragon Cooperatives of Basque country in Spain, and the Antigonish movement founded at St. Francis Xavier University in Nova Scotia -- were fruits of Catholic action. There are links regarding these movements listed below. Also linked are various secular sites relating to the co-operative movement, many of which include information on the practical how-to-do-its related to "starting your own co-operative".

Remember: if a person needs a job, there are two alternatives: he or she can get a job provided by somebody else, or they can invent a job, either individually or in cooperation with others.

Pope John XXIII on the importance of cooperative enterprises from his 1961 encyclical, Mater et Magistra (Christianity and Social Progress).

Two co-operative movements that began through activities relating to the teaching and practice of the social justice teachings of the Catholic Church:

The Antigonish Movement of Nova Scotia began in 1928 as the result of the activities of the Extension Department of St. Francis Xavier University in Antigonish, Nova Scotia. In response to the great suffering caused by the Depression, the Extension Department presented a series of public speeches and lectures in communities throughout the province regarding self-help and cooperative economic enterprise, under the leadership of two Catholic priests: the Reverend Doctors J.J. Tompkins and M.M.Coady. This began the Antigonish Movement, which organized farmers and fishers co-ops, credit unions, and mutual aid societies. It's principles are:

+ the primacy of the individual

+ social reform must come through education

+ education must begin with the economic

+ education must be through group action

+ effective social reform involves fundamental changes in social and economic institutions

+ the ultimate objective of the movement is a full and abundant life for everyone in the community.

This movement continues today, with a world-wide focus. The University sponsors the Coady International Institute, which offers a Diploma program in social development, a five month program of study, and three to six week Certificate Programs in Adult Education and People-based Development, Community Economic Development, and Participatory management for social change. The Coady Institute has four decades of experience, and has trained more than 22,000 men and women in Antigonish and in overseas programs. History and Philosophy. ...Partners and Linkages an overview of the Institute's activities worldwide, in areas such as savings and credit, producer's organizations, tribal development, women and development, community health, food and water security.

The Mondragon Cooperatives of the Basque people of Spain began in the apostolate of a Catholic priest, Fr. Jose Maria Arizmendiarrieta to teach the social doctrine of the Catholic Church, at a technical school he had organized. In 1956, five of his students began making paraffin stoves. By 1959, the movement had its own bank. Its 1991 gross was $3 billion in sales, it's productivity and profitability is twice that of similar enterprises owned by corporations. It is one of the 12 largest business enterprises in Spain.

Mondragon Corporacion Cooperative web site of the Mondragon cooperative movement, available in English, Spanish, and Basque languages. Basic Principles a discussion of the 10 principles that govern the Mondragon cooperatives. Today the movement has about 30,000 workers in close to 100 cooperative enterprises, gross assets of US$20 billion, producing everything from machine tools to refrigerators to electronic equipment, and operating schools, housing cooperatives, a consumer/worker cooperative with over 40 stores, plus four second level cooperatives that provide services to the primary cooperatives (these second level co-ops are a bank with 120 branch offices, a technological research institute, a League of Education and Culture (which funds a Polytechnical College, a business school, and a professional college) and a social security and medical cooperative.

Mondragon: the Remarkable Achievement a look at the Mondragon Industrial Cooperatives, describes its personalist approach to economics and business organization. The first rule of a Mondragon cooperative is that the chooser and the doer, the owner and the worker, must be the same person and every member must be in both. Mondragon and Relationships article in a secular journal discusses how the Catholic-founded and inspired Mondragon cooperatives manage their relationships.

Enabling Employee Ownership examination of the business organizations in Spain known as the Mondragon Cooperatives, located in the Basque region, movement founded by a Catholic priest and heavily influenced by Catholic social teaching. These co-ops are owned by the employees and some are large industrial enterprises. (Article in a non-Catholic secular website devoted to considerations of alternative economics.) "Always begin a new cooperative venture with a group of people who are already friends with each other."

Mondragon Cooperatives discussion at a United Nations site, surveys history and activities of the Mondragon cooperatives.

Democracy in the Workplace: Theory and Practice from the Perspective of Communication, considers workplace democracy in cooperatives, with special attention to the real-world situation of the Mondragon Cooperatives in Spain. Long academic journal article (32 pages), comprehensive bibliography. By the same author is Many Meanings of Solidarity, which discusses the negotiation of values in the Mondragon Worker-Co-operative system.

More Co-operative Resources

(secular, non-Catholic)

Aries -- online network for the social economy European co-operative network. Social Economy European description of the co-operative movement ("social economy", originally a French description, is used in Europe to describe cooperative enterprises. The European Commission statistics indicate there are 269,000 cooperatives in Europe, employing 2.9 million people, annual economic volume of 1,550 billion ECU. 53.7 million people belong to one form or another of cooperative economic activity in Europe, over half in credit unions and co-op banks.

Canadian Co-operative Association, on-line presence for Canadian co-operatives. Has cooperative FAQS. . . Starting your own Co-operative, a guide for young entrepreneurs.

Co-op America"Consumer Strategies for a Better World". Sweatshop stuff, co-ops, alternative economic organizations and methodologies.

Cooperative Peace, by James Peter Warbasse, published in 1950 by the Cooperative Publishing Association, this is a cooperative "manifesto" advocating cooperative economic enterprise as an alternative to international competition that has led to war.

Economics in an Intelligent Universe directory of grab-bag of articles about small enterprise, co-operative enterprise, and alternatives to Marxist/corporate capitalism.

Federacio Valenciana d'Empreses Cooperatives de Treball Associat, in English and Spanish, has excellent description of the cooperative movement in Spanish, plus Spanish instructions for starting a co-operative business enterprise.

International Co-operative Alliance an international non-governmental organization which unites, represents, and serves co-operatives worldwide. Located in Geneva, Switzerland, big site, lots of very interesting stuff, worldwide access. List of famous cooperators includes several Catholics. Statement of Co-operative Identity -- principles of the co-operative movement.

National Cooperative Business Association, founded in 1916 as a national association to protect and advance the interests of cooperative enterprises and their member/workers. Site includes information on how to start cooperative businesses. Food Co-ops ... Child Care Co-ops ... Co-op Web Site.

Society of Co-operative Studies in the United Kingdom

University of Wisconsin Center for Cooperatives mega-site with world access to the cooperative movement, plus academic research on the movement and its economics. Industrial Cooperative Association, promotes human and economic development through the creation of model worker-owned and community-based enterprises that create and save jobs, active since 1978.



Previous Justpeace Front Pages

Microenterprise, "entry-level" free enterprise, discusses how poor people can help themselves by starting their own very small businesses.

Memorial to the victims of the Oklahoma City Bombing commemorates the third anniversary of the bombing of the Federal Building in Oklahoma City, April 19, 1995.

Holy Week Home Page access to meditations and scripture for Holy Week

Lenten Meditations Page daily justice and peace meditations for Lent, based on the lectionary readings. Lent Entrance Page

Just War and the Iraqi Escalation page of information and prayers relating to the on-going escalation of the situation in Iraq. Includes novena to Our Lady of Sorrows and Angelus in Time of War.

Roe v. Wade Anniversary with a prayer to Mary for Life by Pope John Paul II.

Home Index access to the main sections of this site.