Extract and conclusions of the «Basque Cooperativism Report». This report, promoted by the Council of Cooperatives, was prepared by LKS in the year 2000.
The union of wills is the best way to solve problems, and cooperatives are essentially that: an example of human cooperation to satisfy needs, and that through the management and organization of a company. Throughout their 150-year history, these societies have shown that, thanks to cooperation, people have a great opportunity for development and also contribute to the construction and improvement of their social, economic and cultural environment. And as such a union of people, it has its own personality, due to a series of values and principles that distinguish it from classic commercial companies. On these common bases, cooperatives are present in all sectors of activity, in all corners of the world, regardless of cultural, ethnic or religious differences.
The birth of the cooperative philosophy
The cooperative philosophy was born in Europe in the mid-19th century, along the lines of the deep social inequalities caused by the industrial revolution, with the initial objective of giving the company a social and human dimension, in which work was a factor. of alienation for the person. Despite previous experiences, the inspiring model for the following cooperative manifestations was that of some English weavers: the Rochdale Direct Pioneers formed the first consumer cooperative. Fed up with the excesses of local merchants, men and women came together to manage their consumption and thus obtain quality goods at a fair price, establishing the bases, principles, and cooperative values of modern cooperatives.
The birth of industrial cooperativism
This modest association formula allowed all partners to participate equally in the management of the company and little by little it spread throughout Europe, where workers and the marginalized classes experienced a situation of similar oppression. This is how industrial cooperativism was born in France, credit in Germany, as well as agricultural, service, housing, health, etc. cooperatives.
The theoretical bases of these societies were established by the thinkers Robert Owen, Charles Fournier, Claude-Henri Saint-Simon, or Louis Blanc, determining the principles of cooperation. Little by little, mutual aid became the best way to manage all areas of people’s lives and cooperative experiences were successfully extended to all areas where there were unsatisfied human needs. In the institutional sphere, the creation of the International Cooperative Alliance, ICA, stands out.
In the Basque Country, cooperatives appeared at the end of the 19th century and the first consumer cooperatives emerged around large industries such as Altos Hornos de Bilbao. Ways were then opened to apply the cooperative ideology to all sectors of the economy, always with the common objective of improving the quality of life of the members. The Basque cooperative movement was based on various ideologies, the most important being Catholic, Socialist and Nationalist.
In the Basque Country, Alfa was the first manifestation of associated work cooperativism in the 1920s, and this type of cooperativism is the one that has had the most roots in Basque society; Subsequently, the Mondragón Experience was born in 1957, the first business group with Basque capital today (MONDRAGON), and one of the most studied models internationally due to its successful social and business results. The recent history of Basque cooperativism is marked by the effort of the Higher Council of Cooperatives of Euskadi to integrate and structure the movement, which since its creation in 1982 has worked to promote and promote the development and modernization of Basque cooperatives.