A Self-Financing Social Cooperative Network 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 conclude:

Alternative finance

We can contribute to attracting economic resources in a collective manner (savings or donations) and use them to finance grassroots, self-managed projects, of diverse kinds, that nourish and strengthen face-to-face human relationships, generating tools and alternatives for meeting basic needs from a collective perspective.

With these goals, in a self-financing social cooperative network emerged called CASX.

Principal characteristics of CASX:

No interest
We are talking about the first banking structure (in the form of a cooperative of financial services) in the Spanish State that will operate without interest. This means that lending (loans) and deposits do not generate interest for the participants; that is to say, money is not created from money.
Autonomy and the promotion of self-organization outside of the State.
Assemblies and working groups open to all members.
Overcoming bureaucracy
Subverting the law and putting people before bureaucracy. The collectives, projects, or assemblies that lack legal personhood may participate in the project on equal terms.

So this revolutionary banking project is another tool to further grassroots and self-managed financing, naturally with a clear desire to break with the obsolete capitalist schemes of economic profitability.

One of the goals is to attract deposits (savings), promoting the reduction of the need to have individual bank accounts, depositing our savings in collective accounts and putting them at the service of the decisions of the assemblies. This will also reflect donations that will serve to make such financial projects sustainable and, ultimate, to make self-management viable.

It is the participants in the assemblies, through pertinent working groups or commissions — which study the viability of the projects — who suggest their financing.

In this system there is no use for fractional reserve banking, the standard on which the world banking system operates, lending money it does not have. This practice has led to 95% of the money not having any sort of backing, which is to say, it does not exist. In the first system, deposits are classified in this way: ⅓ are reserve funds (never moved and guaranteed for the repayment of depositors), another ⅓ are invested in “safe” projects to assist social initiatives, and the ⅓ that remain serve to promote grassroots, self-managed projects.

In case a funded project fails, there are diverse mechanisms to make up for it: through different forms of donations and/or agreeing to an alternative path of repayment for the people responsible for the project. In this respect CASX has incorporated from the beginning the possibility of accepting alternative currencies, goods, and services as a form of repaying a loan.

More information at www.casx.cat.

As for ethical financial cooperatives with interest, we find consolidated situations like Fiare and Coop57.

Coop57 is a financial services cooperative that was created in Catalonia in and from began to spend throughout the Spanish State. It currently exists also in Aragón, Madrid, Andalucía, and Glaicia. It collects savings from people and entities, to allocate them to cooperative projects and social initiatives. It is a fully consolidated reality that currently has deposits of more than €15 million and finances more than a hundred entities per year. Its structure is financed by means of the interest paid by the financial projects. More information at www.coop57.coop.

Fiare is a project of creating an ethical credit union, which is to say, a financial entity valid by the rules of the central banks, and capable of creating long-term accounts. Currently and until it becomes a credit union, which is scheduled for , the Fiare project still functions at a state level and offers accounts linked to the Italian Banca Populare Ética. These savings accounts are only available to legal entities, but they operate without being limited to those in Italy. With these savings various kinds of cooperative projects are financed, including mortgages for cooperative farms. Currently it manages deposits totalling €29 million and has an equity capital of more than 4 million. More information at www.proyectofiare.com

As we have mentioned in the section on denouncing banking in this handbook, at present these proposals of cooperative and ethical financing are also being disseminated through the www.remuevetudinero.net portal where you can find more detailed information about the various initiatives and why to support them.

So it is necessary to assume that the relationship with the capitalist economy is a relationship in transition, as part of the path ahead which, inevitably, must start from the present order of things in order to reach in the long term the generation of another economy outside of the established one.

In this context, the deepening in the community economy, barter, alternative currencies and moving from euros into self-managed projects, have to be understood as complementary pivot points of the same strategy of transition.

Cores of local self-management

We understand by local self-management a way of taking control of our lives, providing our neighborhoods and towns the infrastructure that allows for the stable development of social projects organized from below. This serves to break with our current dependence on the precarious systems of public or private social provision, dominated by the State and the market.

It is at the local level where we can count on a larger capacity to extend the self-management process. Our everyday life where we encounter our neighbors and share our common problems is not to be sneezed at.

This means empowering ourselves, building integrated self-managed initiatives based on proximity. By means of these projects, neighbors recover mutual aid and regenerate community as a form of solving basic problems of our personal and collective lives.

There are various experiences and proposals for action that have in common the possibility of being applied in our neighborhood or town. If we can bring them together, we can all expect an integrated system of social self-organization. We list some of these proposals:

  • Neighborhood relations in the community, mutual aid and cooperation.
  • Social centers, free stores, resistance boxes, social libraries, etc.
  • Exchange (barter) of goods, services, and know-how; alternative currencies; social markets with participation from local businesses and professionals
  • Offices of economic disobedience, tax resistance, and unionizing of debtors.
  • Crowdfunding (collective microfinance) and interest-free credit cooperatives. Fiscal self-management.
  • Job pooling and help with the creation of self-employment projects.
  • Office of housing and resource bank of available properties.
  • Cooperative social housing.
  • Public self-managed health centers. Health facilitators.
  • Office of Education and spaces of collective learning.
  • Storehouses (supply and exchange places), consumer groups, shops of ecological products.
  • Community communication media.
  • Ecofabrication labs, open repairs and machinery.
  • Workshops on off-the-grid energy production.
  • Affinity groups of activists.
  • Popular assemblies.

In this way the cores of local self-management would be the primary space of practical application of the project of integrated cooperatives. That is, the area in which the diverse transition initiatives combine, particularly those related to basic needs, in order to generate a way of life based on making self-management widespread.

Living the Comprehensive Revolution

This past year the concept of the Comprehensive Revolution has been spreading as a way of naming the process of radical transformation of society and of our lives in which we are immersed.

The awareness that begins to grow today is accompanied by a radical rupture with imposed needs, material or not; voluntary simplicity, but without limitations on abundance from what is fundamental, in the stream of feelings, the good life and living well. For this we are learning to self-manage collectively the resources that will allow us to supply ourselves in a dignified manner with that which we really need, with the construction of ways of life that have as their basic foundation mutual aid and networks of trust. At the same time, we must topple the pillars of support of this society, and this will not be possible through passivity because the structural violence of the system of domination requires a living and organized response from the grassroots, with nonhierarichical projects of political action and ideological emancipation.

It’s not about the right or the left, nor even about who is down and who is up, but it’s about emerging together, all who want an organized way to reach another system that prioritizes the value of common and relational goods, cooperation, reciprocity, mutuality, and multiculturalism; assuming the limits of the Earth and focusing on the care of our common home.

All of this evolution towards liberation and reconstruction of the collective subject and of the conditions of our existence is what we call Comprehensive Revolution. A process of construction from self-management that is based on autonomy and the abolition of the existing forms of domination: States, capitalism, and all that negatively interferes in human relationships and in the relationship with nature. The Comprehensive Revolution implies a conscious action to improve and recover the qualities and values of common life and at the same time to construct new organizational forms that guarantee equality of choice and equity in the meeting of vital needs.

Many individuals and groups have been on this path for some time. There are even generations born in the heart of free and autonomous societies, free from the grasp of the authoritarian claws of all known systems. An example are the original peoples who resist with the awareness that their acts do not only impact the here and now, but that care must be taken for everything that allows a good life for all. They are the most radical anticapitalists, often without knowing it, without putting any “anti” against some other thing. Those who are living in the so-called West, also can retake the continual construction of a collective identity and direct action in the exercise of our rights, without asking permission of any authority outside of the local assembly process, because we also have the capability of recovering the identity of our people, of joining ourselfs with the elements of the environment, and of recovering the ancient knowledge that combines with the collective wisdom to give us the tools for the Comprehensive Revolution.

The Revolution is in those who live every day as they feel, in those who rebuild step-by-step the community ties between neighbors, in those who do not raise or lower themselves, in those who listen, those who laugh, those who dance, those who know how to give a second chance, in those who know when to break even their own rules, those who have no fear, those who trust, in those who love… All these people are already making the Comprehensive Revolution.

This is an attractive vision of transformation. But I’m a little skeptical.

Maybe there’s more to this, beyond this aspirational position statement, that I’m not yet aware of. A little too much of this sounds like the sort of naive utopian communism that wouldn’t pass the laugh test where I come from. And I don’t see any sort of “we know this may sound like naive utopian communism, but here’s why it’s different” disclaimer, which worries me.

But it’s early in the life of the project yet, and future editions of this Handbook may show us more concrete and down-to-earth examples of some of these visions.

After the section I have just quoted, the Handbook continues with an appendix that lists several “Offices of Economic Disobedience” around Spain (“spaces where people with disobedient intentions meet to share questions and know-how… collective learning spaces where through mutual aid and cooperation, participants can create new ways to act in their personal and collective lives”), and another that lists some other resources the readers might find helpful. The final page is a sample letter that tax resisters can use to accompany their tax forms:

Appendix: Sample letter for the Treasury

Mr./Mrs. Director of the State Treasury Agency:

With the payment of taxes I contribute to financing the expenses of the State. For reasons of conscience, and after an analysis of the of the meaning of these expenses for society, I cannot, I choose not to collaborate with all of these that do not contribute to the common good and that will only go for the benefit of a privileged minority, in the face of the needs of the great majority of society. For this reason, I make a declaration of my status as a tax resister.

Accordingly, I have sent __________ euros to the account of _______________ an entity or group that intervenes socially in an area necessary to create resources that are really public ones.

As I explained above, this part of my tax, which I redirect to a socially useful end, corresponds to the taxes I have withheld from paying to the army, the debt, the church, the monarchy, etc., which negate the satisfaction of more important social needs.

I ask that you acknowledge the Tax Resistance by redirecting money from injustice, not from a desire to defraud, as deduced by the publicity given to the 2013 Campaign of Tax Resistance, and from the very letter I am sending.

Sincerely, I remain at your disposal,

On ________, the _______ of _______, 2013