Revolution from below: Cooperativa Integral Catalana

In continuity with an earlier post about an initiative that originated in Cataluna calling for the creation of an international network/space for the ideological and practical elaboration of autonomies beyond capitalism (integrarevolució), a return to one of the groups, members of which are involved in this initiative: the Cooperativa Integral Catalana.

The Cooperative is one of the most radical expressions of anti-capitalist politics in spain today, both in terms of its guiding ideals, as well as the projects that it has sought to put into place.  And it has, previous to, but also in the wake of 15M, inspired a number of similar efforts (Madrid, Auzolan (Basque region), Riojana, Andaluza, Valenciana, Aragón, Asturias).  What follows is a partial translation of a text that presents the Cooperative, as well as a translation of a text in which is defended the collectivisation of public services, in a conscious effort to move beyond the welfare state.

 

Cooperativa Integral Catalana

What is the CIC ?

The Integrated Cooperatives are a model to subvert the savage reality beneath which we suffer as a society and as an implicated part in the system of capitalist domination, managed by only a few persons, but with the support and the sustenance of the state apparatus, which is that which feeds it.  Accordingly, an Integrated Cooperative is a tool for the construction from the base of a counter power, having as its point of departure self-management, self-organisation and direct democracy and which permits us to move from the current state of dependence on the system’s structures towards a scenario of fully conscious liberty, free of authority and where everyone may develop themselves in an equality of conditions and opportunities.

It is a constructive proposal for disobedience and generalised self-management for the reconstruction of society from below (in all areas and in an integral manner) and the recuperation of affective human relations, of proximity and based on confidence.

The Cooperativa Integral Catalana began its development in May, 2010, with the first constituting assembly and it defined itself as follows:

Cooperativa, as a project that practices economic and political self-management with the equal participation of all of its members.  Also, because it legally assumes this juridical form.

Integral, to join all of the basic elements of an economy, such as production, consumption, financing and its own currency and at the same time because it seeks to integrate all of the areas of activity necessary to live: food, housing, health, education, energy, transportation …

Catalana because it organises itself and functions principally within Catalan territory.

The legality of the integrated cooperatives aim to protect self-management from the actions of banks and of the State.

(Follows a description of the ways in which a cooperative can benefit from the relative autonomy that the spanish laws governing cooperatives allow for in relation to the legal distinction between private/public, salaried/volunteer, for profit/non-profit, etc.  In the context of spain, it is also important to be familiar with the diversity of such laws, from one autonomous region of the country to another.)

We cannot ignore that the constitution and maintenance of a cooperative is a task that requires a bureaucratic interaction with the structure of the State, and for this reason, it is not a question of constituting a cooperative for every one of the self-managed initiatives that arise.  The key lies in using the cooperatives as collective tools, reducing to the maximum possible the management and inversion of time called for in whole torturous bureaucratic process.

Organising ourselves in cooperatives can help us to live without banks and without worrying ourselves about former debts.

That property which passes to a cooperative whose statutes impede speculation and profit is a property that is removed from capitalism and the State and becomes a common good.

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Cooperative Public System

Constructing an integrated cooperative public system

Organised in a collective and cooperative manner, we can generate activities that have as their objective covering the needs of everyone, in this way recuperating the public as a collective good, neither belonging to the state, nor private, a natural form of management that emerges from the cooperation between humans.  We can identify these needs as food, education, health, housing, transportation and energy.

It is for this reason that we must on the one hand promote the collectivization of goods, lands or buildings, and on the other hand recuperate education and public health, at the margins of the economic power created by the state and capital.  We nevertheless take health and education as a right and a public good that should be guaranteed in a communitarian manner, creating spaces of collective learning where knowledge can be shared in a free way.

What animates all of this is the need to empower ourselves and to move beyond simple assistance to cooperation, to move beyond the welfare state to a system of networks of mutual aid.  The state desires us weak and without support.  Our wager is placed on autonomous cooperative action, an action in which we decide what are our material and non-material needs.

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Presented in both Catalan and Castilian, the web site of the Cooperative offers a statement of principles, a description of how the Cooperative is organised, and a presentation of the methods of decision making.  Different self-management initiatives form a decentralised territorial network, with each node in the network comprised of nuclei of local self-management.  Examples, with a diversity of aims and of varying complexity, are numerous: Ca l’Afou, Centro de Formación Ca L’Estrolic, Can Calçada, SOM Comunitat, Aurea Social, BUS Cooperatiu, CIRI Cooperativa de instalaciones y rehabilitaciones integrals, L’art du Soleil, Restaurante Cooperativo Ca L’Alegria.

The implications of the ideal are radical, involving as they do a complete rethinking of the economy on non-capitalist lines, as well as a reconceptualisation of politics (horizontal, assembly based, direct democracy) and a parallel change in the understanding of what is public (collectivisation of public services, such as health, housing and education).

The Cooperativa Integral Catalana is an example, one undoubtedly among others, of the path of revolution, but a revolution that is created through the path that leads to it, that is in other words the path itself. 

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