It is either a baffling paradox or a supreme irony that many people in the United States who call themselves solidarists often have neither a real understanding of solidarism, nor any practical experience in implementing the solidarist approach.
Few people are aware, for example, that Solidarność, the Polish Solidarity union (Niezależny Samorządny Związek Zawodowy „Solidarność” — “Independent Self-governing Trade Union ‘Solidarity’”), co-founded by Lech Wałęsa, its first president, considered the “Just Third Way” of the interfaith Center for Economic and Social Justice (CESJ) consistent with the Solidarity movement’s philosophy and goals. Members of Solidarność accompanied the CESJ delegation and participated in the private audience with Pope St. John Paul II, during which His Holiness gave CESJ his personal encouragement for its work in social and economic justice.
Solidarność had Every Worker an Owner, the orientation book for CESJ’s 1986 Presidential Task Force on Project Economic Justice (copies of which had been presented to President Ronald Reagan and Pope St. John Paul II), translated into Polish and distributed 40,000 copies throughout the country.
Yes, Wałęsa and Solidarność are well known in the United States. What should be at least as well known (but is not) is the solidarity movement in Central and South America, especially as exemplified by Solidarismo Costariccense (Solidarity of Costa Rica), and its founder, Don Alberto Martén Chavarría — who is the main subject of today’s posting.
On March 26, 2009, his one-hundredth birthday, Don Alberto was declared “Benemérito de la Patria” (“A Worthy of the People”; literally “A Worthy of the Homeland”) by the national legislature. Unlike some such encomia, the honor was well deserved.
As his father was in the Costa Rican diplomatic corps, Martén was educated primarily in Europe. It may have been at that time he first came across the thought of Father Heinrich Pesch, S.J., who transformed solidarism from the socialist theory developed by the French sociologist Émile Durkheim, into a theory consistent with Aristotelian-Thomism and the social thought of Pope Leo XIII.
|Rev. Oswald von Nell-Breuning, S.J.
There is a possibility that Martén may even have studied under Fr. Pesch directly, something we have not — yet — been able to verify, nor what his relations (if any) were with other students of Fr. Pesch, notably the members of the Königswinterkreis discussion group co-founded by Dr. Heinrich Rommen. Pope Pius XI summoned two members of the Königswinterkreis, Father Oswald von Nell-Breuning, S.J., and Father Gustav Gundlach, S.J., to the Vatican in the early 1930s to consult on the writing of Quadragesimo Anno, “On the Restructuring of the Social Order.”
Pius XI added the concept of a particular act of social justice to the thought of Fr. Pesch and the solidarists, thereby giving concrete form to Leo XIII’s general theory. CESJ’s Just Third Way is a synthesis of the economic justice principles presented by Louis O. Kelso and Mortimer J. Adler in their two collaborations, The Capitalist Manifesto (1958) and The New Capitalists (1961), and Pius XI’s social doctrine. Kelso’s theories and practical applications give a financially feasible and morally sound way to achieve the expanded capital ownership vision of Leo XIII and Pius XI.
|Louis O. Kelso
Don Alberto realized this, and corresponded at length with Louis O. Kelso, developer of binary economics, discussing the compatibility of Solidarismo with Kelso’s “expanded ownership revolution.” This he presented in Central and South America as “El Tercer Camino,” or “The Third Way,” seeing Kelso’s work as fully consistent with Solidarism and Catholic social teaching.
Dr. Martén was also very friendly with CESJ. He invited Dr. Norman G. Kurland, CESJ’s president and co-founder to Costa Rica in the early 1970s to meet with business and worker leaders involved in Solidarismo.
Dr. Martén asked Kurland, who had worked with Kelso and was instrumental in persuading Senator Russell Long of Louisiana to champion the initial enabling U.S. legislation for the Employee Stock Ownership Plan (ESOP) Kelso invented, to do a critique of Solidarismo. Don Alberto wanted to see how the implementation of solidarism could be improved by applying the principles and techniques of Kelso’s binary economics. Kurland and Don Alberto agreed on substance, but differed on certain specifics on the best way to implement the Just Third Way.
Nor was Solidarismo Costariccense Don Alberto’s only accomplishment. He was also the founder and first president of Grupo Acción Demócrata in 1943. In 1947 he laid the seeds of Plan de Ahorro y Capitalización, which came to be known as “the Martén Plan,”
Later, in 1948, Don Alberto took part in the Costa Rican civil war. He served as second in command of the Ejército de Liberación Nacional (“National Army of Liberation”). During the subsequent junta government, he was put in charge of the Ministry of the Economy and the Treasury, and (contradicting the spirit of Solidarism) nationalized the banking system.
It was at this time Don Alberto founded the Oficina de Coordinación Económica (“Office of Economic Coordination”). He served from 1949 to 1961 as its Director General. This was when he first introduced concepts of worker ownership under the name “Solidarismo.”
Don Alberto Martén Chavarría died December 26, 2009. His work lives on in the associations he founded and the many people whose lives he helped improve.#30#