The Emerging Community Economy in Spain

In earlier Picket Line entries, I’ve attempted to translate sections from the latest edition of the Spanish Handbook of Economic Disobedience (see , , , , , , , and ).

Today I’ll continue:

The community economy

It can be defined as the pooling of resources for the collective enjoyment of the people who interact, without accounting for the flow of trade. It functions under spontaneous reciprocity, relationships of affinity, mutual aid, and high levels of trust; without expecting compensation in return for what has been shared.

Some ecovillages and repopulated cores spent years functioning with a community economy such that all members of the community held their income and expenses in common with the aim of covering their basic needs. This is the case, for example, of Lakabe, in the valley of Artzibar, Euskalherria.

In many places they include free clothing stores and all sorts of second-hand goods, which are left behind and taken without any sort of auditing. The freestores, like libraries but for any sort of thing, are collective warehouses where everyone leaves what they only use occasionally in order that other people can also use it.

Community gardens, resistance boxes [places where people can deposit extra money, or get money when they’re in need, named from their use during labor strikes], public free meals, are among the other ongoing or periodic examples that show us how a market-free economy is not a utopia but increasingly a part of our reality.

Barter

Non-monetary acts of the exchange of goods, services, and know-how. A direct verbal agreement between the offerer and bidder that satisfies the claims of both parties in relation to the fairness of the exchange.

Multi-reciprocal barter: Alternative currencies

Alternative or local currencies are a tool that goes beyond direct exchange, faciliting multi-reciprocal exchanges and establishing value for goods, services, and know-how that are exchanged. They are also part of the key to relocalizing the economy, promoting human relationships and economies of proximity at the local and bioregional level. It generates a social market open only to activites that incorporate ethical, ecological, and social criteria that permit all people to interact fairly and without middlemen.

Alternative currencies are an opportunity to reduce the hegemony of capitalism. They could gradually replace the euro while guaranteeing abundance, as each individual participates in the creation of resources to meet collective needs, putting their skills and know-how at the service of the community.

An exchange network can be put into motion by a small, critical mass (30–40 people near or far would be sufficient) who associate at the local level to boost economic relations based on trust and proximity, over a range of bioregional action.

As a tool of the transition that inevitably coexists with the capitalist economy, we must promote a mixed system in which the LETS system and the exchange of money complement each other. The LETS (Local Exchange Trading System) system establishes the guidelines for promoting networks of local exchange in which there is no interest on the exchanges. Currency is generated when an exchange takes place (the bidder has a positive balance equal to the agreed value of the exhange, and the claimer is dinged with an equivalent negative balance), permitting a deficit according to the rules of the network.

When it comes to currency exchange, it is usually allowed to change official money (Euro) for liberated money but not the reverse, since the undertaken path is to reduce the hegemony of the capitalist economy.

In addition we mention the transparency required for this new way of understanding the economy based on trust. For this, we use the virtual systems of administrating networks of exchange, which are nothing more than internet software applications and that serve to register the exchanges.

These software applications are much like those used in banks to manage our accounts, with the difference that the basic data of balances and transactions are accessible to all members of the network.

The systems that are supported by the exchange of paper money are essentially fragile, besides the danger of counterfeiting and the cost of printing the currency, they hide fluctuations that occur in the system because we do not know the quantity of money that each person has.

The CES (Community Exchange System) is a management system for alternative currency (online software) with more than 10 years behind it, developed in South Africa. It has thousands of users and more than 500 exchange networks spread throughout the world. The diverse integrated cooperatives and bioregional networks of exchange (Ecoxarxes) that exist so far in the state are being the drivers of CES up to the point where in three years there are already 150 CES networks in the state, being far and away the most prolific place in the world in this system of exchange. However, despite its potential, this software has some weaknesses that limit its expansion and use, so that a more intuitive and agile version is in the works for their next version: the Integral CES. See www.ces.org.za and www.integralces.net.

The transitory relationship with the capitalist economy

To construct a counter-economy is a necessary duty if we want to expel the capitalist economy from our lives. It is evident that for many of the projects of transition we need injections of euros in order to set them in motion. To make use of the capitalist economic resources of a legal character (wages, unemployment, inheritances, scholarships) may not be enough, and here we come to the role of actions of economic disobedience that we have discussed in these pages.

This is a question about which we have to define our own strategy, on a case by case basis. At last, we will have reference to a method that can be very useful for driving the process of transition previously expounded: crowdfunding or collective microfinance.

Crowdfunding is a system of co-financing of projects and initiatives through collective cooperation, where each individual acts as a “patron” by providing some amount of money to drive some project.

Its primary mission is to promote, beyond the individual rewards in exchange for donations, the creation of common goods promoting liberated knowledge. Some examples of this type of platform are www.goteo.org or www.verkami.com.

Among those on the point of launching is Coopfunding.net specifically for helping cooperative and self-managed projects, which has already been used in the Beta period for the “Prison Cannot Hold Disobedience” campaign which, among other projects, has served to assist in the dissemination of this handbook.

I’ll stop here today. There are about five or six pages to go.

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