Cooperativism in the Basque Country

The Basque Cooperative Movement encompasses more than 1,200 cooperatives employing 54,000 workers in the Basque Country. It is defined by its large number of Worker Cooperatives and for having in its midst the international reference, namely, the cooperatives that comprise Mondragon Corporation. It is made up by the Basque Cooperative Confederation, the sectoral Federations and the Higher Council of Basque Cooperatives for the defence and promotion of the interests of Basque cooperatives.

The Basque Cooperatives, at the late 19th century and early 20th century, focused their activity on services, mainly consumption, not only because of the need for less investment, but also the feeling of unfair dealings from existing trade. They emerged from a local perspective, motived by people who discovered the possibility of meetting needs through self-organisation.

Result of the success of the primary idea and the many needs, the scope extended to housing and agricultural cooperatives,… and gradually production, health care, credit and education cooperatives began to emerge.

Modern cooperativism emerged side-by-side with industrialization, a reaction to the established order, under ideological influences and aspiring to create a new economic-social system. Today, the Cooperatives that are set up in the Basque Country are almost all Work Ownership.

Forokoop identified different keys for the success of cooperativism in the Basque Country:

a leader that guides, a strong tradition of the associative movement, a sense of belonging and identity, values, a country of challenges, critical of the present yet thinking of the future….