Monday, December 31, 2012

The alternative to capitalism

You can find a very good summary of a non-market socialist vision and strategies in The Alternative to Capitalism by Adam Buick and John Crump out now as a Kindle eBook (originally published in 1986/1987). Extracts follow.
Capitalism is an exchange economy in which most wealth, from ordinary consumer goods to vast industrial plants and other producer goods, takes the form of commodities, or items of wealth that have been produced with a view to sale on a market. Although states have intervened in capitalism ever since it came into existence, in so far as the aim was merely to interfere with the operation of world market forces, their intervention was only at the level of the division, not the production, of surplus value. However, over the past 100 or so years, there has been a definite trend in capitalism for states to go beyond merely trying to distort the world market, and to involve themselves in the actual production of wealth by establishing and operating state enterprises.
If state capitalism is not socialism, what is? In other words, if state ownership and management of production does not amount to the abolition of capitalism but only to a change in the institutional framework within which it operates, what would be the essential features of a society in which capitalism had been abolished?
To find a coherent set of ideas which are subversive of capitalism, and which do offer an alternative to production for the world market, one must turn to the 'thin red line' represented by … anarcho-communism; impos­sibilism; council communism; Bordigism; situationism …

[T]here is a basic set of socialist principles which these currents share. Initially, four such principles can be identified. The currents of non-market socialism are all committed to establishing a new society where:
1) Production will be for use, and not for sale on the market.
2) Distribution will be according to need, and not by means of buying and selling.
3) Labour will be voluntary, and not imposed on workers by means of a coercive wages system.
4) A human community will exist, and social divisions based on class, nationality, sex or race will have disappeared.

Let us clarify these four principles for those readers who may not immediately grasp all their ramifications...
Published by Theory and Practice, a paperback will be released if demand proves high.

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Non-market Land Trust

Austrian Andreas Exner — in the Demonetise It discussion list — asked us to promote a call for contributions to a a land trust (Bodenfreikauf) with non-market aims. He writes the following.
We have set up now our weblog to gather three more contributions of 8.000 EUR each to buy arable land of about 1 ha in Styria with the following aims:

1. to permanently decouple it from the market
2. to increase crisis resilience of participants through subsistence agriculture
3. to foster commons instead of the market
4. to contribute free food to society

The project is part of a larger range of initiatives, with the common aim to build a pool of surfaces dedicated to collective and egalitarian production.

This call for contributions explains our motivations and the current state of the project:

Please distribute widely!
We wish them the best of luck and look forward to providing updates of their progress.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Wellbeing versus wealth

Kirk Huffman was interviewed by Sean Dorney recently on ABC Radio National about the Alternative Indicators of Wellbeing in Melanesia Report, which attempts to convince 'economists that wellbeing, contentment, security of traditional land tenure, community relations are actually more important than money'.

Dorney asked Huffman about some of the findings and impact of the report that came out a few months ago — when we had a post announcing the publication. Here are some more key quotes from the audio-interview and transcript available from the link above:
Traditional lifestyles or modified traditional lifestyles actually give an awful lot of security and contentment. They are not poor! This is the mistake that economists make. They think, 'Oh, they've got no money so they're poor.' That's wrong. The province in Vanuatu that's got the highest levels of contentment and satisfaction and everything is Torba Province right up in the far north which is the area of Vanuatu that receives the least of various glitterati things or the bling things from the modern world. And that's where the levels of contentment and happiness are actually the highest. It turns out that some of the most important things of course is land. Something like 92 per cent of people surveyed have access, traditional access to land in Vanuatu ...

... The Alternative Indicators of Wellbeing in Melanesia Report is already available online in the French speaking world. The French economists - it's very interesting - French economists and French philosophers and thinkers picked up on it immediately. Absolutely immediately. And even though the report at the moment is only out in English it's available on French websites that deal with important philosophical questions. The French speaking world is living in the Age of Enlightenment sort of period where there's intense debate on philosophical questions of great importance. The English speaking world has lost that! The English speaking world is, sort of, unfortunately, become more concerned with just business, jobs and, you know, bling and various things like that.
This news item, with its singular message about the weaknesses of a monetary framing of our future, can be contrasted with one from the Guardian (1 December), 'Gross national happiness in Bhutan: The big idea from a tiny state that could change the world', by Annie Kelly Thimphu, which reveals the contradictory and undermining forces of upholding 'happiness' without withdrawing support for production for trade and money, and monetary evaluations:
Despite its focus on national wellbeing, Bhutan faces huge challenges. It remains one of the poorest nations on the planet. A quarter of its 800,000 people survive on less than $1.25 a day, and 70% live without electricity. It is struggling with a rise in violent crime, a growing gang culture and the pressures of rises in both population and global food prices.

It also faces an increasingly uncertain future. Bhutan's representatives at the Doha climate talks are warning that its gross national happiness model could crumble in the face of increasing environmental and social pressures and climatic change.

'The aim of staying below a global two-degree temperature increase being discussed here this week is not sufficient for us. We are a small nation, we have big challenges and we are trying our best, but we can't save our environment on our own,' says Thinley Namgyel, who heads Bhutan's climate change division. 'Bhutan is a mountainous country, highly vulnerable to extreme weather conditions. We have a population that is highly dependent on the agricultural sector. We are banking on hydropower as the engine that will finance our development.'

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Swapping and sharing

The Faulconbridge Crop and Swap in the lower Blue Mountains of NSW runs every second Saturday in the local community hall. Everyone arrives at 10 am and sets up what they have to swap. At 10.30 am exchanging starts and ends around noon. People take all kinds of things to swap, including:
  • vegetables, fruits and nuts that they've grown
  • foods that they've cooked, such as baked goods and jam
  • foods they've made, such as cheese
  • fresh eggs from local chooks.
There are three principles determining what you can offer and how you conduct the exchange, which must be: home grown or hand made; quality produce; swapped 'in good spirit'. No money changes hands, except if you offer to donate a gold coin to cover costs for insurance and hall hire.

Sometimes similar events are held on an ad hoc basis in community gardens, our fruit and nut tree network promotes swaps theough an e-list and you can always leave garden produce to sell or give away at our 10/7 food coop in the upper mountains.

If you want to replicate the idea, may be start here. Or leave a comment about similar opportunities to swap.

In the upper Blue Mountains you will find book swaps in cafes and one at a local railway station, Leura (see photos).

A much larger version of the 'book club' exists in a central mall of Victoria's capital, Melbourne Central Station, amongst the glare of icons of over-consumption and the boppy music market researchers can prove make people buy more are massive old bookshelves where people leave and take books.

Also check out this inspiring video: