Chapter Two (5/8)

Difficult Publicity

In his effort to educate and spread ideas through society, Arizmendiarrieta did not limit himself to study groups and to lectures and sermons. He tried to make use of all media within his grasp, and the former war journalist in the daily Eguna was quite aware of the power of the press. "There is one lever of power," he wrote, "whose effectiveness is not always taken into account, and this is the effectiveness of well trained and well informed minds. I refer to public opinion. A duly channeled current of public opinion is so powerful and effective that no one, or very few, can resist it." But for that to happen, public opinion must be appropriately created" (CAS, 222).

Nevertheless, Arizmendiarrieta lacked a press which could serve as his platform. He had to create one himself, and in the ’40s, it was not easy to be a journalist "on your own."1 See the following letter (1947) from Arizmendiarrieta to the Honorable Alberto Bonet:

"I would not have wanted to bother you regarding a matter of such little substance, but I cannot manage to make any progress without calling on someone. You are the victim of my mania for venting about an issue.

We were publishing a pamphlet entitled Aleluya, which was suspended for lack of authorization. In the seventeen issues we published, they found nothing censurable, but we were publishing with ecclesiastical authorization without worrying about anything else. We appealed to the governor for the authorization. After a year of waiting, we had nice promises and nothing more. Finally, this Christmas, we put out the same pamphlet with the title Equis. Nobody said anything to us. But neither have we dared to continue to tempt fate, because we were open to being taken the wrong way. Once again, we insisted, and this time they authorized a single issue, "because the Spanish market is poorly supplied with paper." Before distribution we had to submit it to censorship. How curious! We waited for the submitted copy to be returned to us, and after more than a week it did not arrive, so we did the distribution. Nothing has happened.

We now have a complete plan of action and of publicity throughout the village, and in order to move forward we need an organ of information and contact, modest and simple, but capable of explaining everything which must be explained in order to motivate the masses a bit. I am sending you the issues which I have on hand so that you can get an idea of the object we are pursuing. We think that the time is not yet ripe to propose the idea of constituting a new entity. Before taking that step, we want to warrant our best elements as a credit to the people, and we want to congregate the workers around concrete, defined objectives. In this matter, publicity which stays in the lofty area of principles will not be of interest at this time. And the application of principles, the firming up of objectives always brings on greater difficulties, above all within privileged classes and people. There’s no problem in stating general principles, but carrying out the practical purposes contained within them immediately incites the apostles of prudence and discretion.

I think that here, even when they grant authorization, they will do so reluctantly. I know those who get involved in these matters, and they even see politics in soup, or they are suspicious of everyone. That is why I remembered X.X.,2 but it seemed more prudent to turn to you first and to abide by your advice. If you should feel it advisable, I will be happy to contact him to resolve this matter once and for all. So, I hope that you will be so kind as to advise me as to how to proceed.

I am reading TU. What I fear is that all these matters will fall on deaf ears. The attitude of many people seems stranger every day, and every day I understand some things even less. Perhaps I will have occasion to greet you at the end of April, since there is going to be an Assembly of Professional Education and His Honor the Bishop has expressed to me his desire that I attend. I will go with little hope, for I believe that there is very little sense of justice in many spheres."3

Difficulties and censorship did not come only from the government. Already in this letter there is allusion to "privileged classes and people" which seem to have begun to feel annoyed by Arizmendiarrieta’s work. As the social movement was taking shape around Arizmendiarrieta, there were no doubt in Mondragon those who felt they had a reason to feel their authority was being undermined or their positions threatened. Once more it is Arizmendiarrieta himself who will describe it in all its detail:

"Just today we had a small, but unpleasant, incident which because of the way it got blown out of proportion, has provoked much comment. It is not the first time and will likely not be the last, if some people do not learn to understand things better. I will explain the facts to you.

During these eleven years that I have been serving as a councillor of Youth and Men of Catholic Action, we have published several pamphlets, some mimeographed, some printed, etc., for the purpose of maintaining communication with youth who are absent, of carrying out other social campaigns, of promoting some programs of ministry, and even to train youth in the handling of the pen [journalism] by offering them the chance to work. Some of these pamphlets we called Aleluya, others Equis, others Despertar, etc. Some were circulated privately and others were flyers. When they were given to the public, generally we gave them to the censors, and of course they were inspired by a constructive spirit. In testimony, we can offer the entire collection which we have in our archives. A few times, people with bad intentions have tried to see political intentions in us, and we were even turned in once or twice. Recently, we had to call on His Excellency, Governor Baron de Benasque to protest the bothersome interference of one individual or another, and we made a clear declaration of everything to the Police Commissioner. After that interference, we have had peace to the present day.

A month ago, which is to say, around February first, we posted a few typewritten sheets entitled Echoes on the bulletin board in a room in the Center of Catholic Action. It was a sort of "broadsheet" newspaper to be read by those who come to the Center. The Center serves as the social hall not just for the Men’s Branch of Catholic Action, but also for the Marian Congregation of Saint Louis congregation, the Sporting Youth of Mondragon, and even for the Education and Culture League. In the first editorial, the purpose was explained. A mailbox was placed along with the sheets and beneath them so that people could leave articles and questions. As you can see, it was quite a modest endeavor, private in nature, without public circulation and in our own center. As well, you can see in the copies which I include for you, everything was thought out according to a constructive plan.

At midday yesterday our mayor Mr. X.X.,4 who also frequents the Center, learned that those sheets were posted. He got angry because he had not been told about them. He spoke in strong language against the Board and the Center, criticizing that kind of action. When I was informed by a member of the Board who was present for all this, I wrote a letter that afternoon saying simply that he was giving too much importance to the matter, that that publication, which did not go beyond a completely private matter and which was posted on the premises of Catholic Action, did not need special authorization, but in any case I could give him all the information he wanted if he needed it in order to understand the situation.

We don’t know what happened after that. This morning the civil guard pulled the sheets as well as the mailbox off the bulletin board. Then they called the headquarters of the President of the Board of the Center, and of the Youth Group, as well as the custodian. I did not have to go because they could not find me, since I was going from school to school. As you can see, today at noon there was more than a little alarm around here.

I am explaining all this to you and am sending you copies so that you can tell us what we are to do in view of this. I do not think we can continue at the expense of the ill feelings of some people. But, on the other hand, we know each other well enough so that more understanding and spirit of cooperation can exist among us. All this has repercussions among the people. We work so hard to gain their collaboration and interest and then, in one day, everything falls apart since the reaction of many is that nothing can be done when these public examples of intolerance and interference occur. If I thought that everything was going to end here I would not have been so forward as to take the liberty to address you, disracting your attention. But I know from experience what some people are capable of when they start to put up roadblocks."5

  1. Abellan, M.L., Censura y creación literaria en España (1939-1976), Península, Barcelona 1980. GUBERN , R., La Censura. Función política y ordenamiento jurídico bajo el franquismo (1936-1975), Península Barcelona 1980.

  2. We omit the name.

  3. Letter from Arizmendiarrieta to the Honorable Alberto Bonet, Madrid, 20 March 1947 (Arizmendiarrieta Archive). Do not confuse the journal TU, of the JOC, to which this text refers with the one which Arizmendiarrieta will found in 1960 with the name Cooperation, and which, after 1964, will also be called TU – Trabajo y Union.

  4. We omit the name.

  5. Letter from Arizmendiarrieta to the Honorable Tomas Garicano Goni, Civil Governor of Guipuzcoa, 5 March 1952 (Arizmendiarrieta Archive). Among the many media used by Arizmendiarrieta to get his ideas out must be listed the creation of a local "Parish Radio Station" as part of the Professional School. Beginning in 1957 and up to the mid sixties, it was under the direction of E. Illarramendi.

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