Chapter Two (7/8)

Education

We begin by insisting that Arizmendiarrieta, once again, ties in completely with Basque social tradition. From Meabe and Madiabeitia, at the beginning of the century the Basque UGT has recognized the transcendental importance of education, aiming its efforts since then more toward the education of workers than toward agitation.1 Meabe favored the creation of socialist youth groups "whose primary objective was this training."2 The Casas del Pueblo became the "school of moral, intellectual, and political education,"3 with the objective of turning workers into "conscientious workers" and creating a culture friendly to worker groups.[^ch2- 88] In the extraordinary educational work which they undertook, the socialists were able to count on the help of eminent intellectuals from Bilbao.4

From the most external considerations (workers’ training centers should have dignified architecture and respectable premises) to the most profound requirements, whether theoretical (training of the whole person, not just professional; the importance of moral education; the creation of a worker culture, etc.), or practical (doing a job well, taking advantage of free time for cultural activities), it will be the same language of the Basque UGT members that we find repeated in Arizmendiarrieta at surprising lengths of coincidence.5

For its part, the Christian workers movement also undertook great educational efforts. To this end the Basque Collective of Social Action, AVASC,6 was founded (1932). The purpose of AVASC was, as we read in its literature, to orient and serve Christian labor organizations.

"We must train the social leaders of the country."7 To this end it organized training workshops and lectures, and published pamphlets and articles on social issues in the press. The Basque Social Workers University, also linked to AVASC, was created. It was similar to the ISO of Herrera Oria: "The principal aim of the USOV will be the solid social and Christian training of workers and employees in the Basque Country, with a goal of raising social culture and training advocates among the same classes of workers and employees."8

As usual, Arizmendiarrieta will find no less a source of inspiration in the personalist authors. "Mankind is not just an animal of nature," Maritain taught, "like the bear or the lark. He is also an animal of culture, and his species can only subsist through the development of society and of civilization. He is an historic animal; thus the multiplicity of cultural or ethical-historic types that make up humanity; thus, also, the importance of education."9

This general human need for education is sharpened in the current moment of crisis. "If humanity manages to overcome the terrible threats of slavery and of dehumanization which it has to confront in our day," Maritain writes during the war," it will surely thirst for a new humanism, and be anxious to rediscover the wholeness of man, as well as to put an end to the internal divisions from which the earlier period suffered so much. In order to match this holistic humanism, a holistic education must be promoted…"10

Mouniere will recall with the same insistence the need for a new kind of education for the building of a new order. And he will show the same interest as Maritain in distinguishing the goals of this personalist education from the objectives supposed to be characteristic of Marxist education. "The fact is that we do not distinguish between the spiritual and the material revolutions. We simply affirm that there can be no fruitful material revolution that is not spiritually rooted and guided. That there are Marxists who want a spiritual renewal of mankind with all their heart, we have no doubt. But we continue to believe that, even if we try, without other values in the mix, only those of comfort and power will emerge from a purely economic stimulus. And to inject such values in the mix is to turn the entire mechanism of methods on its head. Thus, the revolutionarily profound work is not to awaken oppressed mankind to the awareness of his unique oppression, thus inciting him to personal hatred and demands and, as a consequence, to a new avoidance of himself. It is to show him above all, and as the ultimate goal of the struggle, the acceptance of responsibility and the will to overcome, without which all the means available will be nothing more than good tools in the hands of bad workers. It is to lead him toward responsible and free action starting now, rather than diluting his human energy in a fine collective consciousness—even if it seems outwardly active—in the hope of a miracle of "material conditions." Together with doctrinal objections, this "starting now" is the principal tactical divergence which separates us from the best of the Marxists.11

Any order that calls itself human must extend education to the entire population. That is to say, it must give, in the current situation, special attention to the education of the working classes, which, to date, has been delayed. Apathetic or resistant children, observes Maritain, with no desire to learn and no curiosity of spirit (the "laborer souls" as Arizmendiarrieta would say) are no more numerous within the poor classes than within those more favored by fortune. "All those who have had contact with working youth and with the world of work know that nowhere else is one likely to find a similar desire to learn, when sufficient means are at hand. This thirst for knowledge, for a liberal education, is mixed with the thirst to achieve social liberation and a historical coming of age. The education of the future must provide the "common man," the everyday man, the means necessary for his personal perfection, not only in his work, but also in his social and political activities in civil society, and in his free-time activities."12

Arizmendiarrieta has always given the highest importance to education. In 1947 he drafted "The Rights of the Child" (PR, I, 168-194), in which he states: "The child is born in order to become a man, and it is education, more than age, which makes him one. With respect to both the temporal and the eternal ends of the child, education and training are the key" (Ib. 189).

"They [children] have the right to nurture their hopes and live their lives, and the rest [of us] the duty to tend to them," he says elsewhere (Ib. 191). Arizmendiarrieta at times has reflections of extraordinary delicacy and tenderness with regard to children. But in general he moves on a starkly realist level. This is so when attention paid to the child, it is understood (as it frequently is in his writings) as a profitable investment: "No money is better invested than that which is spent on children. Not only is it money saved later on on clinics and hospitals, but it is also capital which becomes productive through the work of strong and healthy men" (Ib. 190).

"War, J. Larranaga tells us, "left an indelible trace on him. He understands the difference in power that comes from knowledge and learning.

"He sees the distribution of categories, the listing of captains, sergeants, and the other military ranks, as a simple cultural choice. Those who can read and write, those who able to communicate and engage in dialogue, are chosen. And this is when he determines something which, because it is evident, is brutal: an ignorant people is an enslaved people, dependent on the powerful minority."[ch2-98

A new order, such as that conceived by Arizmendiarrieta, in which the working class is to fully assume its responsibilities, doing without outside managers to organize their activities, presupposes a double educational action: moral transformation and technical training. Let us remember that a writer like Lavergne, a "classic" of cooperativism,13, as late as 1971, judged worker self-management to be an unrealizable goal, showing himself in favor of turning over the management of large enterprises to the state. The Marxist idea of "free and equal association of producers" will be considered a utopian dream from the nineteenth century about relatively primitive enterprises. It seemed incomprehensible to him that thinkers of the present century, like Vandervelde and Sorel, could maintain the same proposition. "This is to try to ignore the extent of technical knowledge necessary for engineers, and the economic and financial knowledge indispensable for the decisions which constantly lead these great institutions to their success or their failure. Additionally, this denies the value of all modern science."14 Nevertheless, this will be exactly what Arizmendiarrieta will propose with all his strength.

A close analysis of the roots of Arizmendiarrieta’s thought reveals that they go deep into the nineteenth century and the movement of social emancipation of that turbulent period. "Work and education ("Bildung"), K. Lowith wrote, became in the nineteenth century the substance of life of civil society. No earlier society experienced such a wholesale expansion of general education while at the same time developing a work energy as what Burckhardt ironically called "the century of education," whose work process Marx subjected to criticism.

Work became the means of existence of the day laborer, and gaining instruction the prerogative of the learner. Nevertheless, in this very division of work and learning into two different categories, their essential connection is still evident in as much as the workers aspire to claim ownership of the prerogative of bourgeois education, while the learners have only been able to call themselves "intellectual workers," in order that their prerogative not appear to be an injustice."15 It is precisely overcoming this dichotomy that will become one of the foremost concerns of Arizmendiarrieta.

At times, Arizmendiarrieta gives us the impression that he is a latter-day Enlightenment figure, living outside his century. Because of his grounding in this powerful social movement of work and study, and also because of his Personalist mentors, his educational goals tie in with Kant, to whose Padagogik he owes not a few of his ideas and his favorite expressions concerning education.16

From Kant, Arizmendiarrieta derives his central idea that man is not born, but made; that "only through education can man become man. He is no more than what education makes him."17

From him, he also derives the ideal of humanity being happiest when transformed by education; that the individual person, as well as "the human race must, little by little, awaken through its own effort all the natural dispositions of humanity. One generation educates the next."18 Arizmendiarrieta even finds in Kant the response to possible objections to this utopian ideal of a society transformed by education: "Perhaps education will continue to improve and each successive generation will move one step closer to the perfecting of humanity, since the great secret of perfecting of human nature lies in education […]. It is delightful to imagine that [human] nature, through education, can be continually improved upon, and that it can achieve a state worthy of humanity. This opens up to us the perspective of a happier human race. A tentative theory of education is a splendid ideal, and there is no harm done, because at present, we are still not in a position to make it a reality. We should not judge the idea out of hand to be fanciful and reduce it to a beautiful dream, though obstacles may stand in the way. An idea (ideal) is nothing but the concept of perfection which is yet to be to be found in experience."19 The same criticism can be made of civil authorities who think of their subjects "only as instruments to serve their purposes,"20 unconcerned about their authentic education, which would take them to maturity and liberation. Or the criticism can be made of short-sighted parents, more concerned that education be geared to the immediate success of their children within society, rather than fixing their gaze on the idea of a better humanity in the future.21 Arizmendiarrieta found all of these criticisms in the short work by Kant, as well as the idea that education is nothing more than the careful cultivation of the seeds contained in natural aptitudes and talents, and the idea that the educator of mankind is man. Clearly the importance of moral education, of discipline, of slow and sacrificing maturation, which should begin in childhood, are ideas that Arizmendiarrieta found underlined in the stern philosopher from Königsberg.

Let us highlight one final aspect concerning pedagogy, and do so by making use of the underlining which Arizmendiarrieta made in his reading of the book Pedagogy of the Oppressed, by P. Freire, another book in his library which is full of underlining and marginal notes. He who educates the oppressed person, the worker, is at the same time being educated himself. That is to say, the pedagogy of the oppressed person, as Arizmendiarrieta underlines, "should be developed with him, and not for him."22 It is necessary to live with and sympathize with him, to share feelings, faith, and hopes with him. "If a person is incapable of considering himself as much a man as others, he has a long road to travel to catch up with them. At this meeting point, there is no one who is 100% ignorant and no one who is 100% wise. Rather, there are men who, by communicating, seek to know more."23

Summing up, education must be understood as a process of dialogue, a process through which a transformation occurs that gives rise to a new term. No longer "the teacher of the student," no longer "the student of the teacher," but rather, teacher-student along side student-teacher. In this way, the educator is no longer the only one who is educating. Rather, simultaneously, while he is educating, he himself is being educated by means of dialogue with the one he is teaching. Thus, both are jointly transformed in a process in which they grow together and in which claims of authority no longer are the rule."24


  1. Olabarri, I., Relaciones laborales en Vizcaya (1890-1936), L. Zugaza, Durango 1978, 92.

  2. IB. 93.

  3. IB. 96. By attacking dancing, drinking, bullfighting, gambling, and even sports, Basque socialists seem to have understood morality with a puritan rigor akin to the harshness of Arizmendiarrieta (101).

  4. Ib 93.

  5. It is not necessary to repeat that the most direct and decisive influence on Arizmendiarrieta was that of the "priest advocates" and other theoreticians of ELA. Still, we think that, even through them, the socialist influence is clearly perceptible. For as indisputable as are the differences and the opposition of Basque nationalism and the ELA with respect to Basque socialism, it is no less true that the latter was the great social school from which all later movements in Euskadi have learned with benefit. We also need to remember Arizmendiarrieta’s own confession that he had been a reader of El Liberal, edited by Zugazagoitia, cf. Larranaga, J., D., José María Arizmendi-Arrieta y la experiencia cooperativa de Mondragón, Caja Laboral Popular 1981,28. Undoubtedly, Arizmendiarrieta also drew inspiration from the experience of socialist countries, especially the Soviet Union, where, in the words of J. Trillat, it was clear "how the school becomes the factory workshop, and how the factory and the koljos live in a close union with the school," cited in Ponce, A., Educación y lucha de clases, Akal, Madrid 1981, 179.

  6. The Arizmendiarrieta Archive holds a copy of the program of AVASC. Jose Antonio Aguirre was the President of the collective; F. Horn the vice president. M. Oreja, who would be killed during the uprising of October 1934, in Mondragon, was a voting member. This collective attempted to act independently of political parties. Its goal in good measure was to achieve a union of the Catholic and nationalist labor groups. Later, organized workers and nationalists will keep their distance from AVSAC, cf. Elorza, A., Ideologías del nacionalismo vasco, L. Haranburu, San Sebastián 1978, 294-310.

  7. "Agrupación Vasca de Acción Social," 1932, 5.

  8. Tusell, J., Historia de la Democracia Cristiana en España, Cuadernos para el Diálogo, Madrid 1974, 18-19.

  9. Maritain, J., La educación, 12-13.

  10. Ib. 149. "For the highest interest of the new civilization for which we are fighting, it is more necessary today than ever that education be education for mankind and for liberty, training for free men for a free community. Education is the place where freedom has its deepest human nooks and crannies, and where the reserves of freedom are kept alive" (171). On the subject of a personalist education see, also DAWSON, Ch., La crisis de la educación occidental, Rialp, Madrid 1962. GARCIA HOZ , V., Educación personalizada, Instituto de Pedagogía del C.I.S.C., Madrid 1970. ID., ¿Qué es educación personalizada?, Docencia, Buenos Aires 1979. REBOUL, O., La philosophie de l’éducation, PUF, París 1981. QUILES, I., Filosofía de la educación personalista, Depalma, Buenos Aires 1982. UNESCO, Aprender a ser, Alianza, Madrid 1974.

  11. Mounier, E., Manifiesto, 53-54.

  12. Maritain, J., op. cit., 152. On pedagogy as "a science for transforming society" and education as a lever of history in Ortega y Gasset, cf. Llopis, R., Hacia una escuela más humana, Ed. España, Madrid 1934, 25.

  13. This is the opinion of Aranzadi, D., Cooperativismo industrial como sistema, empresa y experiencia, Universidad de Deusto, Bilbao 1976, 258.

  14. Lavergne, B. Le socialisme à visage humain. L’ordre coopératif, P.U.F., París 1971, 24, (translation by the author).

  15. Loewith, K., Von Hegel zu Nietzsche. Der revolutionäre Bruch im Denken des 19. Jahrhunderts, F. Meiner, Hamburg 1981, 284 (translation by the author). A remarkable relationship in the Basque language has been clearly established between "work" (lana) and "culture" or "training" (landau, and even lendua), for example in the nineteenth century work of J. B. Agirre, Eracusaldiac: añ landu gabeac, eta jaquinezac (I, 144), añ landugabeac badira guraso oec (I, 489), nolere bait landugabeac ceuden (I, 610); alaere badira guizon batzuec añ landugabeac, edo zuec esan oi duzuen bezala baso lana ere artu bagueac (II, 98), badira batzuec añ landugabe, eta basatiac, añ aberequiac (II, 348); baña oec ciran guizon jaquinezac, leundugabeac (III, 26). See also: GIRREBALTZATEGI , P., "Gizona kultura bidetan," Jakin Sorta, Nr. 4, 1971, 17-37.

  16. Disregarding the fact that Kant is one of the few authors named in his writings, Arizmendiarrieta on numerous occasions either quotes literally or transcribes with slight variations expressions from Kant, especially from the little book Padagogik, published by F. Th. Rink.

  17. Kant, E., Pädagogik, in: Kants Werke / Akademie Textausgabe, W. de Gruyter, Berlin 1968, vol. IX, 443 (translations by the author).

  18. Ib. 441.

  19. Ib. 444.

  20. Ib. 448.

  21. Ib. 447.

  22. Freire, P. Pedagogía del oprimido, Siglo XXI, Buenos Aires 1974, 40.

  23. Ib 108.

  24. Ib 90.

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