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Silvia Federici — Feminism And the Politics of the Commons

At least since the Zapatistas took over the zócalo in San Cristobal de las Casas on December 31, 1993 to protest legislation dissolving the ejidal lands of Mexico, the concept of ‘the commons’ has been gaining popularity among the radical left, internationally and in the U.S., appearing as a basis for convergence among anarchists, Marxists, socialists, ecologists, and eco-feminists.
There are important reasons why this apparently archaic idea has come to the center of political discussion in contemporary social movements. Two in particular stand out. On one side is the demise of the statist model of revolution that for decades had sapped the efforts of radical movements to build an alternative to capitalism. On the other, the neo-liberal attempt to subordinate every form of life and knowledge to the logic of the market has heightened our awareness of the danger of living in a world in which we no longer have access to seas, trees, animals, and our fellow beings except through the cash-nexus. The ‘new enclosures’ have also made visible a world of communal properties and relations that many had believed to be extinct or had not valued until threatened with privatization. Ironically, the new enclosures have demonstrated that not only the common has not vanished, but also new forms of social cooperation are constantly being produced, including in areas of life where none previously existed like, for example, the internet. Download full PDF herefederici-feminism-and-the-politics-of-commons.pdf

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The Commoner N. 14 – Winter 2010 – Property, Commoning and the Politics of Free Software

Volume 1 / Two Volume Special Issue

CALL FOR CONTRIBUTIONS TO VOLUME 2 — Property, Commoning and Commons

Download complete issue or click to download individual chapters below. All PDFs are in A5 page size, suitable for printing two pages per A4 page.

Massimo De Angelis and J. Martin Pedersen – Preface / Volume 1 [PDF]

J. Martin Pedersen – Property, Commoning and the Politics of Free Software

CHAPTER 0 — Introduction: Property, Commoning and the Politics of Free Software
[PDF]

CHAPTER 1 — Free Culture in Context: Property and the Politics of Free Software [PDF]

CHAPTER 2 — Properties of Property: A Jurisprudential Analysis [PDF]

CHAPTER 3 — Free Software as Property [PDF]

CHAPTER 4 — Conclusion: Property and the Politics of Commoning (including bibliography of the entire essay) [PDF]

From the preface

This is the first of a two volume Special Issue. Both volumes will have a focus on commoning and property. The essay in this first volume – divided in chapters, which can be read separately – is based on an inter-disciplinary PhD thesis titled “Property, Commoning and the Politics of Free Software” completed February 2010, by J. Martin Pedersen at Lancaster University. Volume 2 will further combine practical insights with theoretical perspectives.

See the separate call for contributions and http://commoning.wordpress.com for further details

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Peter Linebaugh — Meandering on the Semantical-Historical Paths of Communism and Commons

The story begins at Blue Mountain Lake in the Adirondacks when, at a gathering of cultural workers for the commons and through no wish of their own, Peter and George Caffentzis were asked to speak about violence and the commons. Accordingly following dinner after what had been a chilly October day, they settled into armchairs by the fire and explained to the gathering that way back in the day (history) the commons was taken away by blood and fire and that, furthermore, as we all basically knew, it was still violently happening which ever way you happened to look. Indeed, this violent taking-away, or “expropriation,” was the beginning of proletarianization and thus of capitalism itself!
George added that he thought that there was a difference between the commons and ‘the tradition of communism’ which began in the 1840s. Peter (that’s me) wasn’t so sure about that, thinking that it was earlier, and that in any case there was considerable overlap. He said something about Cincinnati and promised to get back to everyone. So, making good on that promise, here’s what I had in mind.
Download full PDF meandering-linebaugh.pdf

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George Caffentzis – A Tale of two Conferences. Globalization, the Crisis of Neoliberalism and Question of the Commons

In the last decade the concept of the commons has increasingly become the basis of anticapitalist thinking in the antiglobalization (or, as some now have it, “the global justice”) movement. It has been politically useful both as an alternative model of social organization against the onslaught of “there is no alternative” neoliberal thinking and as a link between diverse struggles ranging from those of agricultural workers demanding land, to environmentalists calling for a reduction of the emission of “hot house gases” into the atmosphere, to writers, artists, musicians and software designers rejecting the totalitarian regime of intellectual property rights. But, like any concept in a class society, it can have many and often antagonistic uses. Our paper will show that there is a use of the concept of the commons that can be functional to capitalist accumulation and it offers an explanation as to why this capitalist use developed, especially since the early 1990s. The conclusion of this paper will assess the political problem that this capitalist use of “the commons” (both strategically and ideologically) poses for the anticapitalist movement. Download full PDF here:
caffentzis_a-tale-of-two-conferences.pdf

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Mariarosa Dalla Costa — To Whom Does the Body of this Woman Belong?

I have chosen to focus the thoughts I will develop today on a fact that I consider fundamental for every other discourse concerning women’s autonomy. That is: for women, in every part of the world, the construction of autonomy has meant first of all the re-appropriation of their body; it has meant to have the availability of that female body which has always been at stake in the relation between the sexes. This was true for us at the beginning of the ‘70s in Italy, as it was for the Mayan women when they began to draft their law, at the beginning of the ‘90s in Chiapas. To mention here and compare some aspects of our problematic and struggles on this terrain could be useful then in a battle that for us, as for them, as for many other women in many other countries, has reached important goals, but is far from being concluded. Download full PDF here: dallacosta_mexico_paper.pdf

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Mariarosa Dalla Costa — Women’s Autonomy and Remuneration for Care Work in the New Emergencies

Every construction of autonomy has its own history that evolves in a specific context and must face specific obstacles and battles. Yesterday I mentioned the first stages of this history through the initiatives of that feminist movement in which I directly participated—initiatives necessary for women to regain the availability of their body. I have also recalled how, on a planetary level, this battle is far from being concluded. Here I would like to consider other aspects of this history, starting again from the initial moments of that political experience, to assess what is the relation between women and autonomy today with respect to some emergent problems, and also to ask, in relation to the latter, what has happened to both the demand that housework (or care work) be remunerated and to women’s economic autonomy. Download full PDF here: dallacosta_mexico_paper2.pdf

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Robert Ovetz — Review of Chris Carlsson, Nowtopia: How Pirate Programmers, Outlaw Bicyclists, and Vacant-Lot Gardeners are Inventing the Future Today, AK Press: Oakland, 2008, 278 pp.

Jan 2010

Despite the devastating impact of the global crisis in the US over the past few years—rising unemployment, massive transfer of wealth to banks, widespread foreclosures, etc—the streets appear all too quiet. Or are they? For Chris Carlsson, new forms of resistance have been bubbling just beneath the surface out of sight of not only the mainstream media and social movement watchers but even the left.

Carlsson’s new book Nowtopia updates Trinidadian theorist CLR James’ idea of the “future in the present”. New self-organized movements of urban gardeners, bike rebels, pirate programmers and, yes, for all their shortcomings even biofuelorganized working class movements.

Carlsson sees nowtopias as terrains of conflict not over but against work and thus challenge us to rethink ideas of working class organization. Carlsson sees “in the Nowtopian movement not a fight for workers emancipation within the capitalist division of labor…. we see people responding to the overwork and
emptiness of a bifuricated life that is imposed in the precarious marketplace. They seek emancipation from being merely workers.” (p. 5) This is an attempt to articulate a new analysis and understanding of the strategy of self-organization emerging among the working class.

New emerging forms of resistance to capitalism lies, Carlsson asserts, in how people are attempting to transcend capitalism in the present by evading, reappropriating or subordinating work to more pleasurable community oriented projects. Such projects create new often short lived spaces that are outside or antagonistic to the objectives of control and profits. Nowtopia is packed with thoroughly documented examples of cooperative bike kitchens, urban gardening movements, biofuels coops, and the free software from someone intimately knowledgeable about each of these movements. The fundamental commonality among these nowtopias is their insistence on Do-It-Yourself (DIY) tinkering and inventing “to produce a different way of life. From reinhabiting cities with new transit choices to growing one’s own food in community gardens (challenging private property by making common the garden lands), to grassroots technological movements in fuels, software, and medicine, people are taking initiatives outside of wage- labor and business to make the world we want to live in now.” (p. 52) Nowtopia is a refreshing, accessible and inspiring testament to their both their successes and failures of these projects.
Unlike the recent onslaught of “green economy” mantras that offer remedies to pull global capitalism from its deepening crises, Carlsson seeks to reignite new forms of working class organization. Nowtopia is complimentary to Carlsson’s previous work as co-publisher of the infamous Processed World magazine
and co-originator of the now international Critical Mass bike ride movement. He examines these nowtopian projects in the context of current historical and political conditions to assess their ability to transform work into self-reliance, autonomy and community. Nowtopias are part of a strategy of working class resistance to the terror of the growing insecurity of life in the service economy. Part-time, temporary and contingent work without benefits combined with the growing drudgery of the available work and the realization that work is the fundamental cause of our social and environmental crises. This reorganization of work is increasingly a push factor driving more and more people to find a new ways to work with a sense of meaning, contributing to solutions and to build community. “By describing people who are making practical transformations, and creating new communities in the practice of these activities, I see an emerging type of working-class self-activity, and hopefully, self-consciousness,” Carlsson suggests offering a vibrant new class analysis. (p. 236)

These nowtopias are hardly “utopian” as the title would seem to suggest. Rather, they can be seen as existing futures in the present always teetering on Faustian choices between selling out, going commercial or getting funded and thereby self-sabotaging their autonomy and dynamism. Some survive, a few thrive principles in tact and most fade away. Those that do blossom and grow, Carlsson insists, are signs of a recomposition of new working class power. The shift to insecure work in the service economy is an attempt of employers to restructure, or recompose, the working class to make it more passive, malleable and profitable. These nowtopian projects are both the source of the crisis leading to such restructuring and existing forms of resistance to it by creating what autonomist theorist Harry Cleaver calls an “infinity of atomistic and molecular rebellions through which people rupture the sinews of the capital-labor relation and create alternative relations—however temporary and limited those ruptures and those alternatives may be.” (p. 44)

Vacant lot gardening illustrates for Carlsson a case study of the recomposition of working class power happening right now. Harkening back to communal peasant self-sufficiency and more recently victory gardens that kept America from starving during WWII and federally funded garden projects of the 1960-
80s, urban gardens have long been terrains of struggle.

For Carlsson, urban gardening is a crucial movement because “while contending social forces seek to control land and the political structures that administer it, space is also provided to unregulated social interaction. Gardens are important arenas for multi-generational circuits of communication, memory, and experience.” Urban gardens are resurrecting community between the young and elder generations passing along knowledge of tradition, ways to care for the land, community values and cooperation. In short, nourishing food is being produced and shared outside the circuit of the market thereby reducing the need to work for money to buy it. Meticulously detailing the little known popularity of backyard and community gardening, Carlsson reminds us that “they also grow community” that provide non-monetary sources of wealth. The disinvestment and capital strike in urban America over the past 30 years to undo the gains of the 1960-70s that has shattered our communities “has challenged those people who stay to reinvent the bonds that knit together a community. In the practical work of clearing vacant lots and planting and nurturing gardens, a different kind of working class emerges, independent and self-sufficient, improvisational and innovative, convivial and cooperative, very often led and organized by females.” (p. 89) In urban areas, these gardens become “liberated zones” that are earthen barricades to profit, control and the market. Witness the backlash against gardens in NYC, Fresno and Los Angeles since the 1980s.

Nowtopias can also lose their potential as new forms of working class self-organization as they become corrupted or de-evolve into commercial ventures. Burning Man, the annual do it yourself art festival in the Nevada desert, is one example in which this can happen. Far from being a free space for art and community experimentation, Burning Man has de-evolved from a free festival on a local beach to an exclusive event with skyrocketing ticket prices, heavy reliance on petroleum and cars, and corporate management. These characteristics lead Carlsson to conclude that the evolution of the festival is the “outcome of a deeper and decades-long process of remolding consciousness in conformity with capitalist values.” (p. 222) Likewise, the Bush administration mandated a rapid expansion of biofuel use triggering exploding food prices, food riots in dozens of countries in 2007-2008, and rampant land speculation. “The bigger problem” with biofuels, Carlsson argues, “is how the growing market penetration of big capital will shape the technology to its own interests.” (p. 177)

What Nowtopia doesn’t address is the relationship of these temporary ruptures to more predominant forms of working class activity and resistance. How can we link up these many DIY movements and projects to already existing forms of resistance in the workplace, neighborhoods, the watersheds and the streets. How can these linkages strengthen and expand these nowtopias into powerful movements that can both resist and provide spaces for solving real needs for daily needs and community? In otherwords, how do we organize the knitting circles, urban homesteaders and bike kitchens so that they are not only talking with one another but complementing the efforts of those on the streets? While missing from Nowtopia, Carlsson’s Reshaping San Francisco series of talks (and similarly named web project) is a vibrant monthly encounter (which, in full disclosure, I once participated in) among and between circles, projects and movements that makes these exact kinds of circulatory linkages.

If commentaries on the crisis from the left have mostly emphasized the dangers, Carlsson has identified opportunities and where to look for them. Nowtopia is the place to go for inspiring reports on new forms of self-organized working class movements already simmering just out of our field of sight. Recognizing these and other nowtopias will better prepare us for when and if the bubbles begin to reach the boiling point.

Robert Ovetz, PhD is an adjunct professor of political science and sociology at two community colleges in
the San Francisco Bay Area.

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Olivier De Marcellus — Reclaiming Power in Copenhagen. A decisive step towards a global climate justice movement

For many of us coming back from Copenhagen full of hope and energy, it was strange to see that many people who followed the summit from afar see what happened there as catastrophic.. But it has been clear for some time that « at best » they were only going to impose their false (but highlyl profitable) solutions. Clear headed political analysts, like leading scientists such as James Hansen, were already saying that No Deal would be better than a Bad Deal. Finally the deal was so bad that it was impossible to impose (the so-called Copenhagen Accord was not agreed by all parties).

Appalled by our rulers’ greed and total irresponsibility, many don’t realise that this tragic farce – and the unified action of different grassroots networks – has opened a new political space where real solutions have a chance. As I write, Evo Morales’s announcement of an alternative climate summit of social movements arrives. The space is widening. As one slogan put it « Who’s summit ? Our summit ! »

***

The French Revolution is generally said to have began when part of the clergy and minor nobilility deserted their respective assemblies, which had been convened by the king, to join the assembly of the commoners, the Third Estate. If the word gets out, perhaps the Reclaim Power and Peoples’ Assembly action of the 16th of December, will spark something as important.

That may sound pretentious. We were only a few thousand, only a handful made it briefly onto the grounds of the Bella Center and those inside were beaten back from joining us. But in Seattle too, it was just a few thousand kids who took the decisive action, and they only delayed the summit a few hours. In Copenhagen, the cops won tactically, but their violence only underscored our amazing political victory.
While the world’s powers lost all credibility, fighting among themselves to grab as much CO2 (that is to say as much production and profits) as possible, hundreds of accredited NGO delegates (our modern equivalent to the clergy of the Old Regime), and the governmental delegations of Bolivia, Venezuela and Tuvalu decided to leave the Conference in order to join the Peoples Assembly and discuss the real solutions.

That was our best case scenario.

We never dreamed that our enemies would be so stupid as to dramatise their fear of our action : excluding hundreds of NGOs that they suspected would join us, kidnapping the demo spokespersons and « leaders », seizing the sound truck and above all using clubs to drive back the demo of official delegates who tried to force their way out to join the Assembly. After the massive police infiltration, the dozens of arrests and the trumped up charges against Ya Basta people during the police attack on the assembly in Christiania two days before, the searches and seizures of all sorts of material (even bikes and banners !), this apparently irrational level of repression probably reflects how much power felt menaced by our project.

Very clearly, from the start the police plan was to disorganise our action, provoke us, then beat us up a bit and serve us to the media as a « riot ». But they hadn’t imagined that the demo- even without the sound truck or the « leaders » – would be capable of self-organising and continuing according to plan : trying to get in, assembly with speakers and small groups, compact march back, etc.
Some of the most experienced activists were disappointed that more material didn’t get to the fence, that more concerted efforts to get over didn’t happen, that the other blocks were neutralised so fast. But, although illegality and the practical efforts to break in were an absolutely essential part of our political statement, we mustn’t stay hung up on the purely concrete, tactical level. The objective was not to break in as such, it was to affirm practically our RIGHT to break in and hold an Assembly to talk of the peoples’ solutions. To make it impossible to ignore that there IS an alternative agenda. That was why holding the Assembly – be it finally just inside or just outside the fence – was the essential goal.

Most of the mainstream media had run off by the time the Assembly was held, but that didn’t affect the political importance of a march and an Assembly which brought together the northem activists of CJA with the most significant grassroots movements of the South . There were farmers movements of Via Campesina from all continents, Jubilee South and tmany other movements represented in the From Trade to Climate Caravan : the peoples of Oceania, the Philippine Fisherfolk, the landless of India, indigenous peoples of Mexico, Panama, Colombia and the Andes, etc. They are all menaced by climate change and totally reject a neo-neo-colonial aggression, which under the guise of « market solutions », seeks to make the South pay – more brutally than ever – for a new cycle of « green » capitalist expansion. But more importantly, they were there to offer real solutions, such as : food sovereignty, energy sovereignty, leaving the oil in the soil, re-localised production and another conception of « liviing well », which calls on the North to recognise its Climate Debt and radically question the capitalist project of infinite growth, over-production and over-consumption,

The critical point is that this Assembly was not a chance and fleeting moment. It marked a longer term convergence of different networks and political cultures : global networks of movements and progressive NGOs like Climate Justice Now and Our World Is Not For Sale, networks composed more of young northern activists like Climate Justice Action, the Climate Camps, old Peoples’ Global Action hands, etc. Political victories aren’t just about getting the better of the cops (and even less about the results of the official summit),. Victories are about coming out the battle more credible and more united than before. Credible : today, hopefully the people who imagined that it would be enough to pressure our rulers into a « good » deal, will better understand the necessity of building ourselves the solutions and imposing them through grass-roots popular power. United : since the Zapatistas called forth the anti-globalisation movement 13 years ago, there has never been such a broad alliance of organisations calling for « system change ».

Spontaneously, the same proposition came out ot the evaluations of CJA and CJN : organise People’s Assemblies everywhere, to tackle climate change issues at the local and regional level. These could organise against local sources of CO2 (in transport, for example) or false solutions (nuclear power, etc.), but also impose or construct directly real solutions (organising local food distribution systems). At the same time, by their links to the other assemblies, they would build a global movement, with a global day of assemblies next summer and a global day of action under the banner « System change not Climate change ! ».

So much for the ideas, but maybe its also important to talk of the spirit, the conviction and enthusiasm that made that demo and other moments in Copenhagen so magic for many. Objectively, we were practically kettled in by the cops, but it didn’t affect most people at all. There was no fear or powerlessness in the air. The march back, which had been rather dangerously announced as a « victory march », actually did rather feel like that. After eight hours in the cold and snow, the demo arrived in the center still compact and continuously belting out slogans. Even the last anti-repression demo was not only very large, it seemed to me to have an almost joyful feeling. For instance, the mother of an arrested spokesperson sang Janis Joplin and a song she had come to her during the Reclaim Power demo. People have to feel very sure of their ideas and very sure of each other for this kind of « moment of excess » to happen. As we marched through the night, a phrase came back to me again from Seattle : « We are winning .»

Now we all have to go home, get the word out and make it happen. Now its clear that we can only count on ourselves. The challenge is colossal, but everywhere there are people who know that we don’t have any other choice.

Olivier, from the Climate Caravan

The Reclaim Power action on the The Guardian’s video :
http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/video/2009/dec/17/copenhagen-climate-change
Video of The Peoples’ Assembly
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FGY9ruYpx3o
And much more at http://www.climate-justice-action.org/

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Richard Pithouse — In the Forbidden Quarters. Shacks in Durban till the end of apartheid

Durban was built as a colonial city – a node in the system of appropriation in which the lure of the market did, indeed, draw the Western European bourgeois “over the whole surface of the globe.” It remains a colonial city in the sense that neither its land holdings, its spatial layout nor its ruling conception of development – which continues to render the expropriated as both dangerously criminal and childishly backward – have been decolonised. For Aimé Césaire in the confrontation with the brutalization and degradation of the colonial relationship it is essential “to see clearly, to think clearly – that is, dangerously.”

The confluence of the flows of money and people pulled into the vortex of this city were consequent to enclosures in England, India and Southern Africa. “Capitalism”, as Rosa Luxemburg saw so very clearly, “arises and develops historically amidst a non-capitalist society.” And enclosure, as Peter Linebaugh and Marcus Rediker saw so clearly, depends on “systematic violence and terror, organized through the criminal sanction, public searches, the prisons, martial law, capital punishment, banishment, forced labour and colonization.”

But the dispossessed of three continents did not meet in Durban with all holiness profaned and no other relations between man and man than naked self interest. As in Europe men could demand mastery over women. And in Durban, a settler city, the new social relations that were produced as others were torn asunder were also structured around the ongoing invention of race as a system of division and control. There have been eruptions of insurgent and cosmopolitan solidarities among the dispossessed in this city but they have been rare moments of grace. [download full PDF->http://www.commoner.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2009/11/r_pithouse_durban.pdf]

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Massimo De Angelis — Obama meets Lenin

Obama meets Lenin

Edited version of a talk delivered at the alternative g20 summit, University of East London – Dockland Campus Dead-Shell, April 1st 2009.

Obama (“at this defining moment in history”) meets Lenin (“what has to be done”?)

At this defining moment in history what has to be done? The many crises (poverty, debt, environmental chaos, stress, meaning, value, anxiety, war, happiness, . . .) that have hit the world in the last few decades, and have converged in the financial meltdown of the last year, require us to try to answer this question. How shall we answer it?

Shall we use the answer chosen by the management of this university? This is an answer that sees the managers of our institutions of knowledge production as oblivious to their responsibilities towards the victims of these crises, hence to the many movements that have been gathering for years in the streets around the world to struggle against the same policies that are at the roots of today’s crisis. They are oblivious to the many who are now gathering in London to demand a fundamental change in the ways we govern our world. They are even oblivious to a petition that in few hours collected more than 3000 signatures from around the world demanding that this university be open to welcome the alternative summit. Instead, this university’s management arrogantly promulgated its edicts, even closed the university for normal academic activity, and filled it with security guards. While we are standing here in defiance of these edicts, the empty buildings of this campus are now a warning to us all of the times that may come if we do not stand on the way of it, at every scale of social action. The answer based on “securitisation”, is an answer that delivers empty buildings, empty spaces, empty brains, empty souls. Bowing to this answer is giving up on any alternative project; it is being part of the problem and not the solution. Whatever solutions we seek in order to address the challenges of our times, we will have to need universities communities that are open to the world, not closed to it; who keep an open mind to the solutions, not restrains themselves to market principles; who welcome and nurture critical thinking and the participation of social movements, not discourage it; who regard campuses as living spaces, not empty shells.

Shall we instead answer it in the way Barak Obama seems to suggest? The newly elected US president is certainly a symbol of hope, because he delivers a message of empowerment. In speech after speech, he reminds us that we definitively can seize control on our lives; that we have power to shape the future by taking action today, that “yes we can!”. But in the policies that are taking shape under his watch, this message of empowerment is coupled with a blind faith in global capitalist markets that turn that empowerment into an instrument for undercutting others, for threatening other people’s livelihoods, for increasing anxiety and artificial scarcity, in a word, for market competition. We are within the premises of an educational establishment, hence let me exemplify with his stand on education. In speech after speech, he promises to increase funding on education, to give US students the best education they can get. But the rationale for this, he repeated several times, is so as the child in Chicago or Detroit can best compete with the child in Beijing and New Delhi. To frame education in terms of competition, is to frame it in the language that reproduces the hierarchies of power at the basis of today’s crisis, that rank the value of lives, livelihoods and dignities in terms of money. This is not the solution we seek, because it is part of the problem.

Shall we instead answer our question in the way Mark Thomas has so energetically put it in his otherwise brilliant intervention here, echoing so many others from within our movements: “kill laissez faire capitalism”? But this way to put it risk to channel the many alternatives into one: “substitute laissez faire capitalism with regulated capitalism.”

The last time we had “global regulated capitalism” was in the post-WWII years up until the late 1970s and early 1980s.

The last time we had “global regulated capitalism” we had high-speed factories and foremen breathing on the neck of workers seeking to accelerate the speed of assembly lines. We also had an explosion of workers movements in many parts of the world, against work intensification, better work conditions and better wages.

The last time we had “global regulated capitalism”, we also had the Vietnam war among others, millions of farmers bombed, a jungle napalmed, and many children born after the end of the war carrying mutilated bodies as birth mark of agent Orange sprayed by American helicopters which somehow found its way into the bodies of their mothers. There were also bitter struggles against this war, in the US, in Europe, in Vietnam, around the world.

The last time we had “global regulated capitalism” we also had a system of education that reproduced hierarchies and prepared the youth to serve as masters of privilege. We also had enormous student movements to democratise both the content of degrees, the arbitrariness of teachers’ judgment, the collusion of university with the military and corporate power, and the right to access education.

The last time we had “global regulated capitalism” we also had the largest development of nuclear power, and the beginning of the great nuclear scare, whether in terms of possible accidents in nuclear energy plants, or in terms of potential annihilation of humanity due to nuclear war. We also had an acceleration of greenhouse emissions that are putting climate change on today’s agenda, and mass development projects that turned rivers into flows of poisons. This is a period however that saw the birth and the consolidation of large new environmentalist and anti-nuclear movements.

The last time we had “global regulated capitalism” women were confined at home, and the home confined women to a subordinate role – as unwaged and invisible. This is a period however that saw the birth and development of women struggles and a revolution in the understanding of politics as pertinent even to the “private” sphere.

The last time we had “global regulated capitalism” we also had racial prejudice and ghettoes where Afro-Americans or the majority of South Africans were confined. We also had many struggles, from anti-apartheid in South Africa to the civil right movement, the Watt riots, and the Black Panther movement in the US. All these movements, among others, have put the question of race on the agenda of social justice, without which Barak Obama would never have become president.

The last time we had “global regulated capitalism” we still had colonies, and if not, the neo-colonial project of development, which impoverished farmers, bled natural resources from entire countries, and set up bloody dictatorial regimes. But colonies where wiped out by national liberation struggles, and neo-colonial projects were contrasted by vast movements that overthrew regimes, and defended their land and resources.

In a word, these many struggles of the excluded from the benefits of capitalist “regulation” have contributed to kill the regulated capitalism of the post war period. Could a new form of “regulated capitalism” for today really deliver us with the solution of social, economic and environmental crisis we face? Hardly so, because if we think carefully of the meaning of all these diverse struggles and movements that contributed to the collapse of “global regulated capitalism”, we can really think of them to fall into two main groups. The struggles that demanded a share of the wealth produced. And the struggles that demanded changes in the way that wealth was produced. In other words, these struggles were about “commons” and “commoning”, the same broad typology of struggles ? cast in new social forms ? we find today.

The key: our relation to the commons

I believe the key to the current crisis and the key to its solution is our relation to the commons. It is the key to the current crisis because the relation to the commons and to the “shared” that global elites have been promoting in the last thirty years is the main cause of the current crisis. Neoliberal capital has responded to the crisis of “regulated capitalism” through massive enclosures of the commons and the planetary intensification of a form of social production, of “commoning”, which is based on a civil war of all against all, what they call “competition”.

But after all, what would you expect from a set of policies that have found inspiration from an economic discourse that see the “shared” as a tragedy? This discourse is for example simply put in 1968 by Gareth Harding “tragedy of the commons” argument, which goes something like this. Imagine a group of producers, say of herders, who access the land held in common. In the fashion of economic assumptions, each of the herders is assumed to want to maximise its return with no regard for the “common good”. In this condition, each of the herders will try to get most pasture for their own cattle. But if all do this, the common will be depleted, hence the tragedy of environmental degradation, resource depletion and of poverty. From this simple parable, there are only two possible policy implications: either privatize the commons, build fences, and let the private producers take care of their own now privately owned resources. Or get the state to manage it. In other words, the commoners’ livelihoods will be preserved only through markets or through the state (or a combination of the two). And so, upon this principle, the last thirty years have seen privatization and enclosures of land, rivers, public services, water, education, and many other resources around the world. But with the enclosures of all forms of commons, and the heavy repression of movements that have raised in their defense, what was also engineered was the dependency of people to the market that increasingly became the only viable option to reproduce their own livelihoods. With increased worldwide competition, lowered access to common wealth as entitlements or community wealth, and new labor market laws that promoted “flexibility” and reduced workers rights everywhere, the result was the increase in poverty, precarity and debt. And the current crisis was triggered by debt!

There are two possible ways to confront the “tragedy of commons” parable, both of which offer us some important hints for the possible direction forward. On one hand, there is the one provided by new communities of commoners who through peer to peer networks, open sources programming or simply the sharing of music and videos on the internet in defiance of property right laws on knowledge and culture, have demonstrated to us how commons are not a dead residue of time past, but are at the basis of innovation and creativity into the XXIst century. On the other hand, there is the one provided by the communities of “traditional” commons themselves, by virtue of their simple presence, sustainability and renewal in spite of powerful social forces that have been demanding their annihilation. This is because there is a major fallacy in the “tragedy of the commons” argument. In this parable, the commons are understood as resources for which there is “free” and “unmanaged” access, resources for which there is no one responsible, there is no one who take care of them. By assuming that commons are a free for all space from which competing and atomized “economic men” take as much as they can, Hardin has engineered a justification for privatization of the commons space rooted in an alleged natural necessity. Hardin forgets that both historical and contemporary evidence show that there are no commons without communities within which the modalities of access to common resources are negotiated, as a previous speaker has abundantly illustrated drawing from his anthropological research. Incidentally, this implies that there is no enclosure of commons without at the same time the destruction and fragmentation of communities. Common resources and empowered communities are two sides of the same coin.

But if we instead choose to highlight the commoning that economic theory chooses to blur, the answer to the question “what has to be done”, is slightly clearer. Because commoning is nothing else than the activities of the community of commoners who decide for themselves what to produce, when to produce, how and how much to produce, when to produce and how to redistribute among themselves the products of labour and the tasks of social reproduction as a function of needs, desires and abilities rather than of money, managerial hierarchy and power. This is for us a defining moment of history then, because the crisis of capitalism coincides with a massive crisis of social reproduction at many levels, and the crisis of the capitalist form of commoning can give way to socially just and environmentally sustainable forms of commoning. But this only if we reclaim the commons, all of them, wherever we are, by reclaiming democratic forms of commoning. To raise to this challenge, the challenge of our times, there is only one thing to be done: we must claim ownership to the places and institutions we inhabit as workers, teachers, students, doctors, patients, producers and consumers, take responsibility for them and together reinvent our commoning, make it inclusive, healthy, and convivial, rather than competitive, unjust and blatantly stupid.

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