Monday, January 30, 2012

No money/crisis in Vanuatu

On Sunday 29 January we went by train (bus/train) down the mountains to Sydney, where the SEARCH Foundation had its first Roundtable for 2012. We, as the co-editors of Life Without Money, and Ariel Salleh, as a contributor, spoke along with Steve Keen (UWS) and Graham Larcombe (Director, Strategic Economics) on non-monetary and monetary values.

There was general discussion, before participants broke up into smaller groups for discussion, reconvening for reports back and then a panel discussion. Again the engagement was rich and diverse and we felt really energised to be part of it.

One of the participants in yesterday's SEARCH Foundation roundtable (see post immediately below) was anthropologist Kirk Huffman, honorary curator of the Vanuatu Cultural Centre. He left me with a Sydney Morning Herald (9 February 2009) article of his 'A palmy balm for the financial crisis', in which he wrote:
'Real poverty is almost non-existent in even the most remote areas, as everyone has land, food and culture. Only in the two urban centres — the only places where you need money to live — can you see signs of "real" poverty...

'I was at the Vanuatu Cultural Centre in November to attend the annual meeting of field workers from the outer islands. Many are chiefs, and some are from extremely remote areas. I gave a rather long talkin Bislama (pidgin English) about the financial crisis and its causes...

'After the talk, one of the chiefs, an old and dear friend, came up to me and we shared cigarettes and bananas outside. He said: " We are very, very sorry to hear about all of the problems the white man is having now and our heart goes out to them. Some of us have tried to warn them before. When you go back overseas, you can tell them that if they want to learn how to live a good [sustainable] life, they can come and stay with us and we will be glad to teach them.'

Varuna launch

On Saturday afternoon (28 January) Lis Bastian (CEO,  Varuna, the Writers' House) launched our book in our bioregion, the Blue Mountains (Australia). It was an in conversation event with us as co-editors, which then broke out into a question-cum-answer session and general discussion.

By 4 pm when the event was due to start there was already standing room only and many latecomers had to be turned away. It was a lively affair and, what with with signing books later, we didn't leave Varuna till after 7 pm.

Some of those who we work with in sustainability networks up here — Transition Blue Mountains, Transform Australia, Slow Food Blue Mountains, our local Alternative Technology Association, PaGaian Cosmology, Permaculture Blue Mountains and more — announced a new 'Urgency' group to bring unity and improve communication between all the groups working not just for sustainability but also for our survival.

Gary Caganoff filmed the event — we now have a 100 mins DVD, which we'll edit and prepare for U-Tube. Gary worked on this in exchange for my writing a study guide a few years back for his award winning film, The Garden at the End of the World.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

P2P Book of the Day

On 16 January Franco Iacamello put up Stephan Merietz's notice about our book as the P2P Book of the Day.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Response to Simon

Simon Millar posted on our Facebook Life Without Money (non-market socialism)'s Wall:
'I am vaguely interested to read this book but, from a Marxist point of view, money will only disappear when a complex and lengthy economic process is resolved. (The first step is the incredibly difficult task of workers gaining both political and economic power.)

'Money under socialism would change from its price/commodity form to being a form of account reflecting both the the labour time and availability of a product or service. A qualitative change in property relations would see the market replaced with economic planning, where the decisions on what we produce, how we produce it and in what quantities is intimately interwoven into democratic processes which begin and end at the "shop floor". The underlying motive force is no longer profit but the fully conscious expression of human need/s. Utopian?

'Workers already run all major industries some are simply paid a lot more to play managerial/technical/engineering roles. But those who actually own and reap the lion share of the wealth generated often never have to step foot inside one of their investments. So I just worry that with a title like this it leads people to believe that money is the essence of our problem.'
Like Autonomous Marxists (Harry Cleaver, John Holloway and Antonio Negri) we believe that money will disappear when people stop using it. We are the motive force in any 'complex and lengthy economic process', which, as you also say, involves the 'incredibly difficult task of workers gaining both political and economic power'. By refusing to deal in monetary values and relationships, and dealing instead directly in use values, we undercut capitalist values and activities.

Our book discusses ways that people can directly make decisions about what and how they produce. We include examples (see some posts below, and for more on the book, see We think that such decisions and activities need to involve everyone, not simply workers' control/councils.

We'd like to see not only 'the fully conscious expression of human needs', as you put it, but also environmentally sustainable production and exchange, which takes account of nature's needs and limits.

The kind of 'labour value' and demand–supply dynamic you refer to as existing in your ideal form of socialism is quite close to the capitalist model. In a certain sense, yes, we are saying 'money is the essence of our problem', with the qualification that 'money is not a thing' (or tool) but rather a set of relationships and dominating value.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Left Forum Panel

We have just had confirmation that the journal Capitalism Nature Socialism is sponsoring a panel, 'Occupy the World', at Left Forum, Pace University (New York) 16 to 18 March 2012, to discuss the ideas in our book Life Without Money.

The panel will be chaired by Joel Kovel (editor-in-Chief of Capitalism Nature Socialism 2003–). Panel participants are Paul Mattick (Adelphi University, author of Business as Usual: The Economic Crisis and the Failure of Capitalism 2011, Reaktion Books), Caroline Woolard (Our Goods, NY), Mary Mellor (Northumbria University), Ariel Salleh (University of Sydney, and contributor to Life Without Money) and co-editors Anitra Nelson and Frans Timmerman.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Non-monetary exchange in a monetary world

I belong to the Demonetize it! discussion group. Recently David wrote, ‘I think we need to be quite assertive in certain contexts — and be aware that people will (as Frank has reminded us) try to turn gifts into profits if the opportunity arises to do so.
‘It has also become evident to me that many people interested in "open-source" — and, indeed, "ecology" — have little or no interest in alternatives to commerce. Likewise with many people who aspire to self-sufficiency, or getting "off-the-grid" — they have little or no interest in the fostering of solidarity or cooperation, or sharing, or the gift economy. Indeed, living a "green lifestyle" for many people means acquiring several acres of land, building a fence around it, and keeping it more-or-less to themselves (while charging anyone who wants to make use of it).

‘This is an issue which has struck me numerous times when discussing with people interested in self-sufficiency — lots of talk about "sustainability", but very little about sharing or cooperation.’

I responded: ‘We don't talk about self-sufficiency but rather collective sufficiency so that shared decision making over production and exchange is implicit. Even so, my experience in Australia has been that most people who are into self-sufficiency are into simple living and have a collective and mutual aid mentality. However, you are quite right that there have always been individualistic hermit and entrepreneurial hippy stereotypes who are all for themselves, the former in pure self-sufficiency and the latter in exploitative forms. For these reasons we come to the notion of supporting “collective sufficiency” so the social is at the heart of it — see our Blue Mountains Fruit and Nut Tree Network blog for event coming up this Saturday.’

In fact Frank’s and David’s discussion stresses why consciously and conscientiously moving to a money-free world is so important. Frustrations and difficulties with current sustainability and social movements (e.g. ‘fair trade’, co-operatives etc., which often contain such contradictions) pushed us into embarking on the Life Without Money book. It’s also why we have a chapter on Twin Oaks community (see post below), where the common purse becomes a way of limiting the eroding effects of the monetary economy, to show that we can transition in viable ways and steps towards a different world. Our vision of collective sufficiency embraces a common purse as a transitional strategy to a moneyfree economy where everyone and the planet’s needs are met.

Saturday, January 7, 2012


On Friday 6 January, The Drum, the ABC (Australian Broadcasting Commission) Online highlighted our opinion piece, Growth=Debt, in their daily selection. If they've archived it by the time you see this, you will find it here. The main point was that as capitalism grows so does debt, by implication. It attracted 185 comments.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Twin Oaks

In our book, we have a chapter on Twin Oaks community, Virginia USA. In the Leaves of Twin Oaks community newsletter (Winter 2011/2012 #111) there is a great photo of member, Sabrina, holding up a sign as one would at a demo, which reads:

I live communally with 100 people in Virginia. We run a miniature society, with government and businesses we collectively own, and produce lots of our own food. We aren’t tuned into TV/iPhones. We each earn $5000 a year (on average) and all of the money goes to the community. By sharing what we have — seven big houses, fifteen cars, a variety of talents and skills — we get by on very little. We have no leader and there is always plenty of food, comfortable shelter and no trouble getting bills paid. We are all lucky to be secure and happy with our lives. I choose to live this way because corporatism is destroying American government and society, and because I am the 99%.  Thank you Occupy Wall St!!

At the 'your passport to complaining is your willingness to do something about it’ blog, is 're-post Island' ( — go to 'Older posts' to find it (10 December 2011 post), a report of living at Twin Oaks by another member, Paxus Calta. It glimpses a non-market socialist world.