Saturday, 6 March 2010

European Socialism, Syndicalism ...
“Viva España!”

by Jeffrey Wallder

Published in European Socialist Action No 26

General Franco certainly saved Spain from the Reds and fifty years of Stalinist oppression. But as Mosley said in private before the war, “Franco wasn’t a real fascist”. A nationalist yes but a socialist never. Once he was in power the big landowners continued to own the land and the industrialists continued to own the factories. The stock exchanges of Spain remained open and life was hard and hungry until the post-war tourist boom brought some relief.
Spain’s real Man of Destiny was Jose Antonio Primo de Rivera, founder and leader of the Falange. This charismatic aristocrat pledged himself to the service of the working people and put forward a blueprint for the complete reorganisation of economic life based on a Spanish version of syndicalism. This involved the re-distribution of power and profit directly among those employed in each factory, farm and retail enterprise.
The cause of worker ownership, against communism, against capitalism, was almost brought to an end in 1936 by the murder by Reds of Jose Antonio in the Spanish Civil War. Franco then assumed the mantle of Caudillo or Leader of the Falange, and began to purge it of the syndicalist element beginning with Jose Antonio’s deputy. Although the Spanish economy was reorganised after the Civil War to give a semblance of syndical structure, power remained firmly in the same old hands.
However, among the blue-shirted rank and file members of the Falange Espanola y de Nacional Sindicalista there was a faction that remembered the original syndical ideals of Jose Antonio and knew that they and their fathers had fought for a better Spain than this.

Mondragon establishes Worker Ownership
in post-War Spain

During the late 1940s and 1950s, Oswald Mosley and Raven Thomson developed a policy of ‘European Socialism’ which applied syndicalist principles to the post-war world. Although Mosley and Raven visited Spain several times during this period, there is no evidence to suggest that they were in contact with the founding members of the Mondragon Corporation which began establishing worker-owned businesses in Spain at about the same time. But the thinking behind the two groups is remarkably similar.
In 1956, five graduates from the Basque region set up Spain’s first syndicalist enterprise making oil-fired heaters and cookers. From its earliest days, Mondragon has been run by a Congress voted to power directly by the workforce. This body then elects an executive council charged with the day-to-day management of the Corporation.
Each Mondragon business also has a Work Place Council that elects a president to work alongside a company manager. Both president and directors are elected on a ‘One Worker, One Vote’ principle.
If the business prospers, the workers benefit directly - but if there is no profit they receive no dividend, only their basic wage. In the event of a company experiencing financial difficulties, Mondragon’s policy is to introduce temporary pay-cuts rather than redundancies.
However, in the first fifty years of its existence only one company, a fishing co-operative, has failed. This is out of 150 businesses engaged in everything from manufacturing machine tools and electronics to refrigerators and retailing. The latter includes Eroski Supermarkets: the largest Spanish-owned retail food chain.
Mondragon is recognised as being one of the greatest commercial success stories of post-war Spain. Today it has almost 100,000 worker-owners and is the seventh largest business corporation in the country with sales of 16-billion Euros.

All other ‘isms’ are obsolete

In the space of just twenty years, first communism and then global capitalism have both passed their use-by dates. As systems they are irretrievably damaged, totally discredited and increasingly seen as having no relevance to the modern world. Inevitably, more attention is being given to the third system of syndicalism on which the European Socialism of Oswald Mosley and Raven Thomson is based.
A major breakthrough is the recent news that North America’s largest industrial union with 1.2-million members, the United Steelworker’s Union (USU), has agreed a framework of collaboration with Mondragon to establish syndical start-ups in Canada and the United States.
The USU President explained: ”We see Mondragon’s co-operative model with ‘One Worker, One Vote’ ownership as a means to re-empower workers and make business accountable to Main Street not Wall Street … too often we have seen Wall Street ‘hollow out’ companies by draining their cash and assets, shedding jobs and shutting plants. We need a new business model that invests in workers and communities!”.
This new syndical initiative has been overwhelmingly endorsed by Union members with one observer describing it as “a new social invention that makes capitalism, communism, state socialism and all the squabbling between these ‘isms’ as crude, obsolete and irrelevant”.
Most readers of European Action will wish the Mondragon-USU collaboration well but many will be surprised that this first co-operative venture should be with a non-European organisation. Surely within the homeland of our own continent there are many working groups with the vision and ambition to make the Mondragon factor work successfully for them.
It is up to those of us who understand what Mosley meant by European Socialism to promote its virtues. Whether by word of mouth, correspondence with local news media or any other means at our disposal, it is the task of all to bring to the attention of the people a system that advances enterprise, initiative and incentive throughout the workforce - and rewards it free from the rapacious demands of state owners or absentee shareholders.


Anonymous said...

'Leftie' remarks:

The UK has co-operatives where employees are the partners in the business and share its profits and strategy making: the John Lewis/Waitrose group is the most notable of these. There are also small credit unions that are, arguably, also syndicates.
Whether any of these would recognise either Oswald Mosley or European unity as an inspirations is not known and, in any case, doubtful.
The key point is that workers' syndicates are powerful and important parts of our economic relationships and work well for their workers, suppliers and customers. Which is beneficial to all of us.

Anonymous said...

From Balbo,
This links up so nicely with your next article. Only by credit creation being in the hands of the community can such Syndical enterprises be created on a wide scale. The other important aspect is that pension funds are placed in the hands of the very workers who pay into them and that the funds go towards worker investment in their own firms. In terms of returns alone, they could hardly do worse than pension fund investments have done recently and would have the added motivational aspect.
Raven saw the direction for the movement to be strong involvement in industrial relations. Such a shame he was lost so prematurely.

haidamaka said...

Europe a Nation blog by Robert Edwards

Posting on here for Europe a Nation