Summary: Mondragón Cooperative Corporation (MCC) is the world’s most famous cooperative organization and the largest and most successful network of cooperatives. Located mostly in the Basque region of Spain, MCC is a network of more than 200 individual cooperatives working across several sectors. It consists of about 80,000 workers (80% of which are owner-members). As shown in this news clip, this cooperative network functions very differently from capitalist organizations in the following ways: profits go to the workers, unemployed workers are transferred to other coops in the network to maintain stable employment, profits of one coop can be used to keep struggling coops operating in times of crisis, workers participate in decisions affecting their lives, and pay scales (i.e. income inequality) are much lower than in capitalist firms (this article systematically addresses these differences). MCC has helped its region have lower unemployment than the rest of Spain, has expanded globally, and fosters a culture of innovation and participation in a competitive market (although it has suffered some setbacks recently). In an era where statist societies with centrally planned economies have failed, some view MCC-style networks as a viable alternative to capitalism, or as a “bridge to a new socialism.” It illustrates Erik Olin Wright's concept of real utopias, which are "utopian ideals that are grounded in the real potentials of humanity ... [including] utopian designs of institution that can inform our practical tasks of navigating a world of imperfect conditions for social change" (2010: 6). This cooperative market economy also suggests what a broader society of “market socialism” might look like because it consists of collectively owned and controlled means of production, where economic decisions happen through markets rather than central planning. However, some criticisms about MCC from the left are markedly missing from the video (e.g. over time, MCC has appeared more capitalist by hiring more temporary employees, acquiring capitalist subsidiaries, some power has shifted toward experts, and two of the most successful cooperatives have left the network). Nonetheless, it remains significantly different from contemporary capitalist firms. For similar projects, see the movement of recuperated businesses in Argentina, the Cleveland model inspired by MCC, and other examples of workers’ control.
Submitted By: Paul Dean