Thursday, February 28, 2013

The End of Money @ Vienna Solidarity Economy Congress 2013

Franz Nahrada has provided us with the following report of exciting developments in Europe, specifically Germany:
The Vienna Solidarity Economy Congress 2013 had almost 1000 visitors, and was very significant in bringing various streams of people together — people from different movements and backgrounds, gathering around the idea of cooperation and commons as the main pillars of any future economy. This was not a real mass event, but almost a must for activists and networkers in Central Europe, allowing them to forge new relations, become informed about other initiatives, bringing forward their agenda. They were confronted with a plethora of offerings in two days: 120 lectures and workshops in the framework of the beautiful old Vienna University of Agriculture and, in particular, the modernist, bright Schwackhöfer building, plus booths and social events.

In the preparation for the congress, several initiatives merged their planning meetings with this event. Amongst them was Demonetize it! and the Solidarity Economy Winter School, who jointly ran parallel tracks on moneyless practices and theories of demonetization. It became obvious that demonetization is a discourse of its own and attracted at least 200 people following one or other of the 18 lectures/presentations/workshops focusing on the End of Money. When the demonetize tracks called for a final plenary, about 50 people were present and showed their dedicated support for the idea of 'networking our way towards demonetization'.

The spectrum consisted of many people with many different 'trades'. People who distribute free music, farmers who engage in community supported agriculture, people who want to build tractors and other open hardware, people who educate children, people who create maps, and so on. It was consensual that building demonetized alternatives consisted of the practical coming together of complementing activities: 'If you truly want to make it complimentary, you have to complement each other'. This is an exciting new phase. Every single person in the room agreed that the logic of exchange and LETS is not enough or even obsolete, that 'paying back' is an obstacle and that the real future rather lies in 'paying forward'. This works on the basis of agreements and reliable cycles of cooperation and the enormous productivity that comes from people doing what they really want.

To form cycles of cooperation is primarily a local task. You can only cooperate with people you have easy access to. This was the reason and the rationale of creating a new mailing list, which was aptly named 'miteinander' (together), and which is meant to promote immediate cooperation and the know-how for establishing long-lasting, successful cooperation. The new list will be in German mainly and focused on practical issues of establishing cycles of cooperation, whilst the discussion list should continue to focus on theory and fundamental issues of demonetisation.
The central themes of locality, networking and production/exchange based on needs and use value parallel the 'compact society' and 'collective sufficiency' concepts in our Life Without Money book.  

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Sharing stalls and gift economies

Vic Button and Frank Bowman refer to themselves as a 'working partnership'. They have worked in peace, justice and green movements. These and their own life experiences awakened them to the competitive culture we all live in. They advocate that: ‘we need to live within a Gift Economy, the Earth's Economy’. What follows is a brief history of their experiences, written by Frank.
When we started our sharing stall in 1992, two green councillors on the Wirral Green forum saw it and produced a leaflet that described how to run a give and take sharing day, and that went around the country. As well as working at the Connah's Quay weekly market, we attended national fairs and festivals, and anywhere we could, as well as corresponding with others in the USA, Canada and other places. And the idea, when seen, got copied on the Isle of Man, The Isle of Wight. Next, through the 1990s, we heard it had started in Brighton. Next we heard it was happening in France. Then we heard Holland and then Germany. And so it spread.
But, as I have said before, it is like tasting a cherry or cake. It has to be done to be experienced. How rich it is. How people share. At first it was a gamble but it just works. Community sharing works. All the fears you have about it don't appear. One would expect, for instance, that everything on the stall would go and the stall might be left empty, but no, the stall always gains more than was put on it originally, and yet everyone has taken things they want, and are so happy with such a good idea. It is more than a stall: it is a very happy space, a community space and a catalyst for more community skills and knowledge sharing in a locality to happen.
Recently I received a set of legal rules to look over for a new organization to form a group called Free Wrexham, which is proposed to be a networking group for gift economy projects in the Wrexham area. When it’s done they will set up an account for the Gift Economy projects in Wrexham to hold the money donations that come in from a community skills and knowledge sharing and community goods sharing free stall running every day now in the Peoples Market in the town and run by anyone who wishes to. It was set up last November 2012 and is running 6 days a week, originally set up by a coalition of Give and Take, Wrexham Bring and Take, and the Yum Yum project.
This stall has been on Heart Radio and BBC radio. The stall is on the BBC website here, the the Indymedia website here, with the Chester stall here.
There is no worry about the money that comes in as donations if it gets taken because it is not the money that is important, but the sharing that is happening. Paradoxically no one takes the money! Or very rarely. Our group give and take has now accrued £12000 for others for free community space.

As well as that, one of our members Vic has said he will gift his riverside dwelling and garden into it as free sharing space to be held free forever, we just need to get the legal structure done for that. It can be seen at
As well, some of the Wrexham people wish to create a big town community space: the Yum Yum project for gift economy arts, cafe, library, skills sharing, goods sharing, workshops, food sharing and anything else, like brewery, that the people wish to create and give to and take from for free.

Although Vic and I, and my children, and many others through the years have been doing gift economy for 20 years — at markets, fairs and festivals, and within our local Lets scheme, and developing two Gift Economy farm forest garden permaculture land projects — it is only in the last five years that it has grown and is growing. Through these years, from the first, I have always wondered where are the women in this? Well they are here now: they are the committed majority in Wrexham, which is so good. This is just in our area. I feel sure models be copied and will grow in all areas.

Genevieve Vaughan, in For-Giving, has written the book on the gift economy. It is the book of it, the spirit of it, the why and wherefore of it. And I think that it is with a rise of the power of women, and the rise of gift economy projects, which is happening now. Patriarchy is a construct, which we live under. Taken away from the mother, males are divorced from the learning of nurture, to learn competition and fighting. What does gang, competitive, fearful patriarchy not want to happen? The rise of women and the rise of sharing. Simple community sharing — sharing governance.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Modest lifestyles and solidarity

It's great to see leaders, such as the Broad Left's President of Uruguay Jose 'Pepe' Mujica (2010–), lauded for their modest lifestyles and looking like the rest of us.

Following an interview with the Spanish El Mundo, this former guerilla was reported in Univision News as living in solidarity with the citizens of Uruguay: giving away 90 per cent of his salary to charity housed in a farmhouse rather than a presidential palace.

He has managed to reduce corruption and moved to legalise marijuana and abortions.

Warming Eduardo Galeano's heart, as in certain neighbouring Latin American countries, the popular economies of mutual aid and shared ownership of means of production are being restored — and developing anew — in Uruguay.