Friday, June 29, 2012

Upcoming Barcelona activity

Please drop by for this if you are in Barcelona...

9 July, Monday 7 pm
Trade School Barcelona at AureoSocial, Carrer de Sardenya 261–63, Barcelona 08013
A short talk — in English but translated into Castellano/Catalan — then participate in a bi/tri-lingual discussion on key themes in Life Without Money presented by the book's co-editor, Anitra Nelson, interpreted by Carolina Zerpa. The book's ten contributors argue that non-monetary systems of mutuality are essential to create socially just and environmentally-friendly practices. The book presents practical and strategic ways to construct a world without money. The workshop explores these ideas.
In exchange, participants side of the barter is to come along with 4 lists of:
1. 5 things you have available or services you can offer
2. 5 things or services you would like in return
3. 3 questions you have about a world without money
4. 3 to 5 examples of things you have done within the last week for free, but other people get paid for when they do them.
For more details, see Trade School Barcelona or contact 935 535 715
a o llama al 935535715

Jul 9, 2012 Monday
7:00pm to 8:30pm
Aurea Social
Calle Sardenya 261-263, Barcelona
Una breve charla y debate abierto alrededor de los puntos claves del libro Life Without Money: Building Fair and Sustainable Economies (La vida sin dinero: construyendo economías justas y sustentables), presentado por Anitra Nelson, coeditora. Los diez colaboradores del libro explican a través de la teoría y de sus propias experiencias, como los sistemas no monetarios basados en la reciprocidad son esenciales para crear prácticas socialmente justas y ambientalmente sostenibles. El libro presenta ejemplos prácticos y estratégicos para la construcción de un mundo sin dinero. Este taller pretende explorar estas ideas a través de la participación y el debate abierto.
About the teacher, Anitra Nelson
Me dedico, entre otras cosas, al activismo medioambiental, prácticas creativas, la investigación académica y la enseñanza, la permacultura. Intento vivir de formas alternativas y trato de aprender, escuchar y observar lo más posible a través de mi vida. Trabajo a tiempo parcial, por dinero, en la Universidad RMIT (Australia). Actualmente estoy en el extranjero por unos meses realizando un trabajo de investigación de los sistemas de intercambio no basados en la economía de mercado.

Friday, June 22, 2012


Matthew Switzer of the Planet Drum Foundation in San Francisco (Shasta Bioregion) made contact to engage over our bioregional strategy for achieving sustainability in a world without money (outlined in Chapter 11 of Life Without Money). He writes:
Ever since I debated my economics-major college roommate about the paradox of value (aka the diamond-water paradox), and whether someone would ever trade a car for an apple (e.g. when the car owner is starving to death), it hit me that money — exchange value — is nothing more than an abstraction backed by “credit” that fuels the drive to produce, invest, extract and consume, inevitably drawing on the planet's ecologies as resources for this kind of development.
Beyond that, I was always intrigued by the more “anarchist” economic theories that called for the abolition of the wage-system, mutualism and mutual aid, etc. to free us from the wage-slavery in which we commit all sorts of atrocities in the name of a paycheck. Anyway, for the longest time I felt like no one really recognized this as a legitimate concern and even had a book in my head all lined up: "The Declaration of the Free Society for the Abolition of Money." But thanks to your book I can put that off for a while!
A while back Planet Drum Foundation put together a Bioregional Association of North America (BANA) to bring together bioregional groups and restore natural systems, develop sustainable practices, and create a cultural identity based on the nature of one's place. It was dissolved before I began working here, but I believe something like it is critical, and perhaps if it was organized as a moneyless economy, it could really open up volunteer opportunities for restoration projects and growing sustainable trade networks that could shift the economy away from material consumption of cheap plastics to a more healthy culture, eliminating detrimental work for money to survive and move instead towards more self-fulfilling life-styles. Such is the dream I guess, and I think Planet Drum would like to resurrect that project in some way.
Personally, I'd like to incorporate the idea of gift circles and non-monetary transactions as a primary method to halt the flows of capital and destructive practices of industry, and thought it would be a good idea to talk. The founding director of Planet Drum Foundation, Peter Berg, who did much to popularize the bioregional movement, was also part of the Diggers movement in the 60s counterculture in the San Francisco Bay Area that called for what they termed “The inevitable gift economy,” also outlined in “A Modest Proposal,”  so I thought it would be a great idea to start putting something together as part of our 40th anniversary next year.
We'd like to offer the opportunity for those willing to get together and discuss the possibility for a new endeavor to these ends. It’s not against the rules of bioregionalism to help other bioregions, so what kinds of activities or communications are important to include in a global bioregional network? Who knows, maybe we set up a “Federation for the Reinhabitation of Earth’s Ecologies” (FREE), and do everything we can to live up to the name… :)

If interested, please don't hesitate to send a message.

From one bioregion to another,
Matt —

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Un Mundo Sin Dinero: El Communismo

In Adam Buick’s chapter in Life Without Money — and in his talk at Bolivar Hall (see post below) — he referred to a pamphlet Un Monde Sans Argent: Le Communisme (A World Without Money: Communism) published in France in 1975 by Les Amis de 4 Millions de Jeunes Travailleurs (The Friends of the 4 Million Young Workers), who had been influenced by situationists and the Italian communist Amadeo Bordiga, who Buick discusses in his chapter.

The group, who describe themselves as ‘a small collective of libertarian communists based mainly in and around London and Brighton UK’, have reproduced some quotes translated into English here. These translations were originally printed in the Socialist Standard (July 1979), a publication of the Socialist Party of Great Britain (SPGB), of which Adam is a member.

The quotes show The Friends of the 4 Million Young Workers following a classic Marxist line, that ‘Communism is the negation of capitalism … a world where human activity will never again take the form of wage labour and where the products of such activity will no longer be objects of commerce.’

They envisage a world which operates on a ‘logic of sharing’, democratically planned to share responsibilities for, and results of, production (rather than barter, which they refer to as ‘primitive exchange’).

The publication appeared in Spanish too.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

El Dinero No Se Puede Comer

This poster features the well-known quote pointing out that 'money cannot be eaten' — here in Spanish, 'el dinero no se puede comer'. It has been created by Santiago Armengod and can be viewed at the Just Seeds Artists' Cooperative website.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Adam Buick on a life without money

Adam Buick's script from our panel discussion on Life Without Money at Bolivar Hall (London) on 30 May 2012 follows. Well over half of the discussion involved the around 40 participants who attended and it was quite lively.

I spoke about why and how we came to write the book and Derek Wall talked more generally about the power of money and contemplating radical social change while the first question that Adam addressed was: What might a 'life without money' mean?

It’s an ambiguous idea. It can mean trying to survive without using money within or at the margins of existing money-dominated society. Or it can mean a change of society to one in which money would be redundant. Both points of view are represented in this book.

Then there is the question of what is meant by “money”. There are those who want to replace notes and coins, cheques and electronic transfers by labour credits or consumption vouchers. They too are represented in this book, even though some might regard them as only wanting a different form of money. But then, Karl Marx, a famous critic and opponent of money, envisaged using “labour-time vouchers” instead of money in the early stages of socialism pending it becoming possible to go over to full free distribution and full free access.

None of the contributors argue that all that needs to be done is to abolish money and leave everything else unchanged. That would be madness and would lead to a breakdown of production and distribution. If you’ve got a system based on producing goods and services for sale on a market with a view to profit, you’ve got to have money. So, no, we don’t want to go back to barter.

As a Socialist, I’m one of the contributors who wants to replace the present capitalist system with a new system based on common ownership instead of ownership by the few and with production directly to meet people’s needs instead of production for sale on a market with a view to profits. In such a socialist (or communist) society – the two words mean the same – money would be redundant. So I don’t want to “abolish money”. I want a change to a society with a system of production and distribution in which money would be redundant and so would disappear.

For me, the case against money is the case against capitalism.

Capitalism is the system which now dominates the world. No country escapes or can escape from its influence and effects. It is essentially an economic system where the means for producing useful goods and services take the form of “capital”, or wealth used to produce more wealth with a view to profit, and where the goods and services produced take the form of “exchange value”, they all have a price and have to be exchanged for money.

The farms, factories, offices and other places where wealth is produced are owned and controlled by rich individuals, capitalist corporations and states. Under the pressure of competition, those in charge of these “units of capital” are driven to seek as much profit as they can, not so much for the personal benefit of the owners (though this does come into it) as to get funds to reinvest in cost-cutting innovations so as to be able to compete with, and outcompete, their rivals. One consequence of this is that more and more capital is accumulated. This in fact is what capitalism is all about: the accumulation of more and more capital out of profits.

So, over time the means of production and their productive power have built up and society has now become able, in theory, to produce enough useful goods and services to meet people’s needs. But the economic mechanism of capitalism does not let this happen. Making profits and re-investing them as more capital always comes first.

It’s an irrational system of “production for production’s sake”, of “growth for growth’s sake”. There are other anti-social results of capitalism. Such as the recurring economic crises and slumps like the one we’re in now. Such as the wars and preparation for war that occur as capitalist states compete over sources of raw material, trade routes, markets and investment outlets. Such as putting short-term cost and profit considerations before protecting the environment and respecting a balance of nature. But the one I want to concentrate on is that it does not allow production to be geared to meeting the needs of people for food, clothes, housing, healthcare, education an the other amenities for an enjoyable life.

People’s needs are met but only to an extent – to the extent that they have money to pay for them. There are various ways an individual can get money. They can inherit it (be born with it). They can steal it. They can beg for it. Or they can work for it – which is what most people do.

I don’t criticise those who try to avoid this by establishing rural communes or by living off what they find in skips. That’s a lifestyle choice but not an attractive one for most people. I don’t even criticise those who chose to steal money, at least not as long as they steal from the rich.

But what sort of society is it where most people have to fend for themselves to get money so they can access what they need to live – and where, even in a developed country like Britain, 10-15 percent can’t keep up and are forced to rely on more or less meagre handouts from the state? This, when, from the point of view of technology, society could produce enough for all, especially if we get rid of capitalism’s artificial scarcity (the need to make a profit holds back producing enough to meet people’s needs) and its organised scarcity (not just of wars and preparation for war, but also all of the resources devoted to the counting and transfer of money).

As a Socialist, I say capitalism must go if we’re going to be able to provide a decent living for every man, woman and child on the planet.

What is needed in place of capitalism is for the Earth’s resources to become the common heritage of all. Then, they could be geared to satisfying people’s needs. If productive resources were commonly owned, then so would what they produced. The issue to be dealt with would be, not how to sell to people what had been produced (how could you when they’re already the joint owners of it?) It’s how to share-out/distribute what’s been produced. In other words, exchange (buying and selling) is replaced by distribution (sharing-out and taking). For this, money is not needed.

It’s possible – right at the beginning or as a result of some major natural disaster – that some useful things might be temporarily unavailable in sufficient quantities. In which case there would have to be a temporary rationing of them till supplies were increased or restored. But, given modern technology and capacity to produce, the general rule (and certainly the aim to be reached as rapidly as possible) would be free distribution and free access, the implementation of the old communist principle of “from each according to their abilities, to each according to their needs”. With free public transport, healthcare, education, gas, water, electricity, telephone, internet access, and other public services and amenities. And people free to take from the stores and distribution centres according to their needs. As I said, there would be no need for money. It would be redundant. The notes and coins we now use would find their proper place in museums.

Why not? Would it work? And how would  – or, rather, could – it work?

The main objection is a popular version of the basic dogma of modern conventional economics: that resources are scarce because people’s wants are infinite. Or, in its popular (populist) form, because people are greedy, so they would take too much and the whole system would collapse in chaos.

But are people’s wants really infinite? “Infinite” is the word they actually use in the textbooks. If literally interpreted, it would mean that everybody desires to obtain the whole universe. Which is absurd. People’s needs are not infinite. But are people “greedy”? In today’s society, where you can’t be sure of the future, it makes sense to make hay or gather nuts while you can in case things go wrong and your future money income is reduced (if, for instance, you lose your job or your employer or the government freezes your pay).

But even today within capitalism, when some things are free at the time of use and people know they will continue to be freely available they only take what they need. I’ve got a Freedom Pass that allows me to travel free on public transport in London. So have hundreds of thousands  of others. Do we spend all our time going from one end of the line to another or round and round the Circle Line? Of course not. We only travel when we need to. Maybe more than we would if we had to pay, but there’s nothing wrong with that. It only shows how having to pay means that some needs have to go unmet.

So, overconsumption is not going to be a problem. The problem will be organising so that the stores and distribution centres are always stocked with what people are likely to need. Here we can go again to the textbooks of conventional economics. They say that production is geared to meeting paying consumer demand. This isn’t the case, but let’s assume that it is. The theory is that consumers determine what is produced by the way they spend their money. What they buy over a given period is a signal as to what to produce. If stocks run short, that’s a signal to produce more. If stocks build up, that’s a signal to produce les.

This system of signals via stock levels can work just as easily irrespective of whether the stocks run short or build up as a result of what people buy or as a result of what they take freely. So the sort of central planning involving planners deciding in advance all that’s needed – which some people see as the only way to organise the production and distribution of useful things without money – is not necessary. In a moneyless society too, production and distribution could be largely self-regulating.

Anyway, this is not a blueprint, just an illustration of how organising the production and distribution of wealth without money is feasible.
The session was taped and will be posted on You Tube in about month's time.