Cardijn influenced Mondragon founder
Dr Race Mathews

The Mondragon worker cooperatives founded by Father Jose-Maria Arizmendiarrietta in Spain’s Basque region were inspired and launched through the enquiry method of the YCW, according to former Australian parliamentarian Dr Race Mathews.

The Mondragon cooperatives now employ over 80,000 workers in 17 countries.

“The cooperatives’ triumph is attributable overwhelmingly to key attributes that set them aside from comparable conventional enterprises,” Dr Mathews writes in Eureka Street.

“Not to be overlooked are the conceptual framework that underlies the cooperatives, as well as the enduring solidarity and subsidiarity values that enliven them. These are the legacy to the cooperatives of their founder, the Basque priest Don Jose Maria Arizmendiarrieta.

“Internalised and in part secularised as the values and framework have so largely become, they stem directly from the unswerving adherence by Arizmendiarrieta to formation in the ‘see, judge, act’ or ‘inquiry’ study circle mould, as developed within the Young Christian Workers unionist movement.

“As recalled by one of the five lay co-founders of the cooperative group, ‘Father Arizmendi organised specialist courses on sociology to which he invited economics professors … His ecclesiastical training led him towards being a practical apostle. He not only tried to give guidelines on what should be the model for the ideal enterprise, but he put that social enterprise to which he aspired into practice.’

“The benefits of this model of industry underpinned by Catholic social values are manifold,” Dr Mathews concludes.

But, “why is the Church in the English speaking world so largely silent about the Mondragon cooperatives’ success in bringing to fruition the long struggle in the cause of its social teachings?” Dr Mathews asks.


Catholic social solutions to workplace fairness (Eureka Street)

explains the influence of the YCW and Cardijn on Father Jose-Maria Arizmendiarrietta, the founder of Mondragon workers cooperatives in Spain.