Sunday, November 27, 2011

Open response to it! (Stefan Meretz)

We note that, in the announcement of our new book Life Without Money by Stefan Meretz, initially published at and republished on the Demonetize it! website it reads:

"However, the book cannot be obtained »without money«, it has to be purchased in a bookstore. And the website indicates, that strict copyright applies. Creative Commons licenses are not used, which contradicts the aim of the book."

As my co-editor (Frans Timmerman) points out to Stefan, Mao would probably categorize it as a 'non-antagonistic contradiction', meaning that there are benefits from (and logic to) the strategy, rather than its being totally irrational or contradictory in the mainstream meaning of the word. He asks, 'Haven't you (or someone else) paid for the computer you're working with? Or, even if you haven't, hasn't it been produced and distributed within capitalism? Even your time invested in creative free work on the Internet is likely to be partially supported by sustenance from the capitalist system, which we cannot extract ourselves from entirely right now.'

Actually your argument is very popular amongst capitalists and conservatives who imply we are hypocrites when they chide us: 'And so, don't you use money to live? Your position is unsustainable. If you socialists were sincere you'd give away all your possessions and live a simple spiritual life like St Francis of Assisi. Everything you produce should be free.' Oh boy, this takes us so far away from the real points that need to be made!

Frans's point is that under capitalism there is no way of printing and distributing a book, especially beyond a small locality, without someone spending money. In the present system, we have no (or very little) control over the means of production, which exists as a chain of monetary ownership and use so that any — especially material — goods are almost inevitably sourced or somehow connected with the capitalist system.

For many years I have been pointing out that, although we live in the 'free' world, we are not free to determine how we live. We are unable to live completely without money or irrespective of monetary structures and relationships and values because of the prevailing economic system and state structures that support the rule of capital and money. I will do many things in as money-free a way as possible but, in order to remain an activist within this society, I chose to follow certain strategies beyond doing things freely.

My MoneyFreeZone site has operated for years and a post of mine on Radical Notes (16 October 2008) spreading these ideas has received over 3000 visits and we have supplied my own creative work under a creative commons licence on the website (see under Anitra Nelson in authors) as well as linking to other free sources of material. However, most people are not exposed to or don't seek out these kinds of spaces for learning and sharing their ideas. As one of my friends who has been involved in money-free activities for years said about our book, 'Wow. Now everyone can see what we're doing, and know why we're doing it!'

I'm not arguing in a reformist way for using the system to beat it. But I do think that we must engage with people deeply embedded in the monetary world and explain our position to them. If a successful way of doing that is by giving the rights of our work to a publisher to publish a book, which people buy, so be it. People can get our book through a library, and we advocate that they do that, as well as suggesting people pass on copies to as many people as possible.

These are imperfect practices in an imperfect world.


  1. Basically you are right, there isn't an individual way out. But in the concrete case there are alternatives as numerous examples of publishing a book _and_ making the content available for free via downloading show. So it is simply not true, that there is no way to publish outside the copyright regime. Do you want to make surplus money out of the book or do want to cover costs to make the book happen?

    Secondly, the content is under copyright which makes it impossible to spread the message by distributing your texts.

    The point is not to »give away all your possessions«, imho this is undialectical either-or thinking. The point is to establish more and more zones free of profit-logic, which is what the commons and peer-production are about. There are tools and experiences to do so, we are not completely disempowered.

    [And what I find weird about posting a comment is, that I am forced to use an existing profile instead of using data that I find appropriate. Here I have to use my hacking wordpress-account, this is odd]

  2. Just for your and the readers info: My announcement of your book originally appeared here

    The re-post on is result of the planet function which automatically copies respective posts from the member blog (e.g. your article).

    Thus »Response to Stefan Meretz from« would be better.

    [Hey, using my own data when commenting is now possible -- great!]

  3. Of course, if it was distributed as a downloadable PDF under a Creative Commons license (or similar), not only would it be closer to theme of the book, but it would also receive greater distribution.

    At the moment, the text is a "damaged good", a deliberately encumbered product that establishes a monopolistic profit for the holders of copyright.

  4. Hi Lev

    For several years we have had some of this info up the site, but now it's in a book (which you can get free, ordered through a library) we have received greater coverage and interest so, for us, it has been a worthwhile exercise. There's no point in us iterating the arguments we've already made. Anyway, it was great to see you and Erika at our book launch. Thank you for coming. I guess we have to agree to disagree on this and related matters.

    Cheers, Anitra (& Frans)