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:
Alternatives to the System
Constructing a form of life at the margin of the current system: Integrated cooperatives
On the previous pages we have seen distinct lines of action linked to economic disobedience. Some of them, as in the case of bankruptcy, mean turning your back on full participation in the current system as a way to prevent the State or the bank from getting away with our money which we believe does not belong to them, and, instead, to dedicate it to construct projects based on self-management.
In this chapter we will look at different initiatives that will allow us to realize that a new economic system is being created in which we all can participate completely. Additionally, we can learn a little more about projects that can become the purposes of our tax resistance actions.
Integrated cooperatives are being built as a model for subverting the savage reality we suffer as a society and as a those involved in the capitalist system of domination, managed by a few and supported and maintained by the state apparatus that feeds it. This is a tool for constructing a countervailing power from below, starting from self-management, self-organization, and direct democracy, allowing us to transition from the current dependence on the structures of the system towards a scenario of full freedom of conscience, free of authority and where we all can fully develop equality of conditions and opportunities.
It is not therefore an escape for a few, nor a partial escape, but a constructive proposal of generalized disobedience and self-management in order to reconstitute society from below, in all of its facets and in an integrated manner, recovering human and affective relationships, from proximity and based on trust.
The basic principles are the minimal agreements that must be taken by all those processes that interact in the context of an integrated cooperative.
It is also crucial to respect autonomy and capacity by means of solidarity, eliminating the bureaucracy and building confidence and free choice.
Participation must be completely open (as the foundation of the assembly) and free (apart from being associated or not), and it is fundamental that decisions are made by consensus, in order to ensure respect for the diversity of opinions and positions while at the same time promoting group cohesion for the optimal development of the process.
The best form of self-organization is that which is organized around a decentralized network; which is the most effective method of self-defense and survival that exists. If any of the nodes is attacked or is corrupted from within, the network will maintain its robustness thanks to the many redundant reciprocal interconnections that exist between the nodes that participate in it. When we say node we refer to any group active in the network which acts, produces changes, and interfaces with the rest.
The network is composed of different self-organized spaces according to the territory they cover. Autonomous projects are initiatives that bring to life a specific activity and that are based on the mutual trust of all of their members. The cores of local self-management or local integrated cooperatives are zones of interaction based on proximity where collective initiatives and self-managed projects interact with a high level of trust. The territorial benchmark would be a neighborhood of a city, a mid-sized village, a collection of small towns near each other, etc.… Bioregional self-management networks (also called ecoxarxes or ecoredes) are the bioregional space or district where the above-mentioned elements interact on an equal footing. At this level a counter-hegemonic economy takes form, promoting the use of alternative currencies, which serves to strengthen the local economy and relationships of trust. Finally, an integrated cooperative is a basis of reference and coordination, within which collaborative and collective means are generated according to the previously-mentioned process, that can choose and use tools from legal ones (cooperatives) through on-line ones, and, especially, methods and plans of action to deepen self-sufficiency and self-organization.
Integrated operations spread in the region
Currently there are about 20 integrated cooperative developments active in the region. Last April 25–28 the second meeting without borders of integrated cooperatives took place, where more than a hundred people from these projects met to exchange experiences and to move forward from there. Some of these projects have already been able to legalize their first legal tools so it is expected that next year there will already be many of these integrated cooperatives up and running.
Public integrated cooperative system
It is important to highlight that the major objective of an integrated cooperative must be that of meeting the basic needs of all of the participants, by means of self-managed and collective action. Some of these basic needs would be food, education, health, housing, transportation, and energy. It is for this work that the integrated cooperative reclaims the commons, understanding the commons as a collective, neither government-run nor private, but a primal form of management born from cooperation between humans.
This means that, on the one hand, we must promote the collectivization of goods, land, housing, and on the other, the recovery of public health and education, with self-managed services outside of the monopoly doctrine established by the State and capital.
The basic cooperative income or allowance is a project to generate common resources (monetary or not) to guarantee the basic necessities of the people who form part of a community (and therefore, of society), resource allocation that cannot be accumulated, because its object is to cover a minimum welfare. As a transition tool, people most involved in the processes of dynamization can be the first to receive this income that the collective is charged with balancing with, for example, community work.
The cooperative labor exchange is another tool with which people or projects that need resources can interact with other ones. This way the relation between the offerer and the bidder will be completely on an equal level and without intermediaries. And the remuneration can be either monetary (in euros or alternative currencies) or non-monetary.
Already in Catalonia the development has begun of a Cooperative Public Health System, in which the provision of funds from the Catalonia Integral Cooperative for the health system goes toward developing a pooled, mutualist system of financing of various health nodes. Among these the Center of Self-managed Primary Health of AureaSocial has already been initiated in Barcelona.
More information: salut.cooperativaintegral.cat
Integrated economic system
The dominant economic system is, currently, a complex system protected by the State and its tentacles of social control, beyond the reach of ordinary people, the people who interact at the local level and in communities. So it is no accident that in the economics academy there is not a single class dedicated to addressing questions of substance for today’s world, such as the creation of money from debt or the control over fluctuations in the financial markets.
The reality of economic relations is much more simple and comprehensible for most human beings. This is why our responsibility is to develop tools that facilitate economic interrelationships that promote collective self-sufficiency and networking.
In these pages we share proposals and experiences concerning a new, public, self-managed system, assembly-oriented and locally-based, that will guarantee the maintenance of basic needs above any particular interests. That said, following will be some tips for constructing an integrated economic system of transition capable of interacting with the reality of the capitalist economy, with an objective of leaving it behind, one step a time.
I’ll stop here for today.
My first impression is that there’s an awful lot of utopian-sounding theory about how these integrated cooperatives ought to work, without a whole lot of humble recounting of how they have worked in practice. This makes me pretty skeptical. I’d much rather hear from experienced people saying “these are the ideals we went in with, these are the challenges we faced, these are the compromises we made, perhaps you can learn from us” than from idealistic people saying “in the future everyone will be happy, free, and equal and will be guaranteed an income, healthcare, housing, education, transportation, and energy!”