Without cooperative self-employment no future is possible

From spain, comes a manifesto in defence of creating networks of autonomous, ecological, feminist, self-managed work and consumption as the only viable political alternative to the State and Capital.  A manifesto speaks for itself; it is an affirmation of presence which cannot be taxed for lack of subtly or detailed argumentation.  It is an interpolation.  And it is for those called to, to respond or not.

Originally published on the El Rincón de Martinico blog (21/04/2017), we share the text below in translation.  And we do so because it resonates with our own defence of occupations and the creation of autonomous networks of self-managed mutual aid.  Indeed, it compliments our most recent post by Inés Morales Bernardos that covers similar concerns in greece, as well as older and numerous posts on experiments that move in these directions in greece, italy and spain (e.g. La canica, Madrid).

Where we have doubts with regards to the manifesto is precisely where it affirms certainties: that the State and Capital can be simply hollowed out from within, so to speak, crumbling before its own inability to mobilise energy and resources, when such a scenario of passive destruction seems unimaginable; that the alternative is to be understood as a counter-power, when counter-powers often reproduce the power they contest; that what is necessary is an alternative economy, alternative networks of labour and consumption, when what may be necessary are social relations beyond any “economy”, or “labour” and “consumption”.

But then what is an anarchism that ignores material needs, desires, we might say, that ignores bodies?  This manifesto speaks to this also.

Our comments are doubts, doubts from which questions emerge.  Questions that anarchists must continue to work through in thought and action.

Without cooperative self-employment no future is possible

Reflections on cooperative self-employment, the eco-social political strategy and the impossibility of transforming the system institutionally.

By way of synthesis and being conscious of the society in which we live, from my point of view, there are two fundamental problems:

1) to see in professionalised politics, and therefore in political parties, the only possible path for transforming society, NOT being conscious of all of the negative and obstructive situations that are developed within these structures of power.  There are basically two problems that haunt such a view:

1a) firstly, we could speak of what of the problem of “your lenses” depending on professionalised politics.

1b) secondly and in relation to the first, such a situation of dependence provokes, in the project of economic change that you “intends to apply, on paper”, is frustrated in practice by the pressures that the regime, with all of its apparatuses, both legal as well as from the media, subject you to.

Arriving at this point, it is then that those who come to hold public office are confronted by two options, either resign because of their convictions of change and economic transformation, or, by contrast, to adapt themselves and allow the system to assimilate them as part of its structure and machinery.  Let us not forget and as I said before, “their lenses” now depend on professionalised politics.  (I am obviously speaking of those who present themselves with the desire to overcome the capitalist system).

2) the absence of self-employment and networks of consumption and production, as well as the difficulty of acceding to basic self-managed services in terms of education and health in different towns, cities and regions.

Such a situation leaves us at the mercy at of the system in all social spheres and levels, as much in the socio-political, as in the socio-economic.  On the other hand, and as a reflection, it is disturbing though comprehensible, given the absence of alternative networks to state institutions, that many of the social economic projects find themselves under the umbrella of subsidies and projects offered by the “supposed municipalities of change”. [The reference here is to the municipal governments ruled by “Left” leaning coalitions after the March 24, 2015 municipal elections in spain; e.g. Madrid and Barcelona.]

This brings about, in these municipalities, that with one hand they continue to feed the system of consumerism – given that they cannot put an end to capitalism institutionally, as many desired through the application of an essentially Keynesian mixed system – and with the other hand, giving money to the social economy as a source of experimentation, but never as the primary engine for the production of goods and services.  The latter, as a project, would lead to de-growth, and this, neither Podemos nor the almost extinct Izquierda Unida labours towards.

Within such a horizon, nothing remains for us but to organise and organise.  Combative and class based unionism should and has to understand that it is useless to only defend the working classes in the centres of labour – centres of labour governed by the rules of consumption and production of the capitalist productivist system.  For this reason, the creation of a network of cooperative labour, a network of networks, that has as its principal objective to remove the social majorities from the current relations and conditions of work, is imperative and urgent.

To starve and de-capitalise the State-Bank system from a position of economic independence, this should be our principal goal in this 21st century.  Such an endeavour, that is by no means simple, cannot be reduced to a taking of the means of production.  On the contrary, it can only be carried through from my perspective by re-thinking the productive system, breaking with productivism and constructing an eco-social and libertarian society that takes into consideration the limits of the planet as well as the inequalities that result from consumerism and the exploitation of natural resources between the world’s peoples.  Having reached this point, it is more than obvious that the only path possible is that of an integral revolution that strives towards de-growth.  For this, I propose the following reflection:

If we try to re-think strategy and we try to go beyond the State-Bank in the creation of a counter-power that generates work and leaves behind its chain of consumption and production, are we not at that moment in the position of affirming that we are dealing the capitalist hydra that represses us a mortal blow?

This question is one element that we have to work through in the social movements, learning from the mistakes and creating a conjuncture where the strategy focuses on unmasking the system’s violence, repression and lack of ethics, and at the same time, constructing a scenario in all towns and regions where cooperatives, consumer groups and eco-social networks have the capacity to manage society horizontally and politically, free of a professional political class.  If we can reach this point, we should have no doubts that that then and there, that we are in great part breaking with the domination and control that the State and capital exercises over us.

This text is a manifesto and a call to action.  More than a reflection that desires to die on paper or to live only in speech and not in deed, with these lines I am aiming for the beginning of a process of dialogue and of union of the disunited; where libertarians, ecologists and disobedient feminists reaffirm ourselves; while even though in our day to day, we are all of that in our private lives and even in our organisations, once outside these spheres, we are nothing more than labour fodder that either works for capital or the State itself, in its various domains of control (administrative, technical, electoral, etc.).  Only a small percentage of the population can live from a project of self-employment and self-management, which in the majority of cases finds itself deprived of networks of mutual aid.

The diagnosis is clear and severe, without the creation of cooperative self-employment, no future is possible.  And following on this reflection, we should work with all of the organisations and individuals that we want to walk together with towards the creation of a society with neither State nor Bank.  The cure for the diagnosed illness is clear, to again understand unionism as the CNT did in the 1930s of the last century, when this organisation created a structure in different spheres of life that generated an alternative of services and employment to that of the state apparatus.  This cure must be accompanied by two fundamental elements in the 21st century: first, the struggle against hetero-patriarchy, and second and as an irrevocable element, the defence of the territory.  For this, social ecology and feminism are two basic ingredients of this proposal that connect with libertarian ideas.

Our proposal of political, social and economic change is clearly pacifist, feminist and eco-self-sustainable with the planets ecosystems and the living beings that inhabit them.  It will therefore be for the State and the Bank to decide how they will struggle against the new social order that we have decided to propose non-violently and as a political strategy.

We libertarians are not opposed to the creation of an organisation that promotes, generates and organises work, consumption and social services.  What we are opposed to are the coercive, vertical and repressive forms of organisation.

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