From:   rj@riseup.net
Sent time:   Wednesday, November 09, 2011 1:57:39 PM
To:   september17@googlegroups.com
Subject:   Re: [september17discuss] Re: OWS: Yes, we are anti-capitalist!
 

This conversation is really rich!

 

Something that seems to be coming up is that one of the challenges we face

today (from time to time and in place to place) is definitely the

distribution of certain, scare resources... like water.

 

Water is often administered by either a state-owned company or by a

private company. I'm guessing we're aware of the problems that often arise

with both of these systems, which is why I think it is exciting that there

is discussion here of the commons as a framework that can operate outside

of either of those logics.

 

One real-life example of an urban community successfully self-managing the

commons is the over 400,000 residents of southern Cochabamba, Bolivia who

collectively constructed and directly and democratically control their

water system (and this is an arid region where water is scarce).

 

I found a good series of videos on this example:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yFOU38zsAck

 

Also, if it is easier for you to read, I had to do a quick write up of the

situation for a project at work, and it's included below.

 

Hugs,

RJ

 

 

WATER FOR ALL

 

What if it was possible for our communities, even urban communities, to

directly and democratically control even the most fundamental resources

upon which we rely?

 

… What if this was true not just for the rich and middle classes, but even

for people who are today the most impoverished and marginalized?

 

… And what if this were true even for the scarcest of resources?

 

What if… is!

 

In 1995 the then Vice-President of the World Bank, Dr. Ismail Serageldin

told a Newsweek report, "Many of the wars this century were about oil, but

those of the next century will be over water."

 

And, like clockwork, on April 2000 a water war broke out… but it might not

have been the kind of war that Dr. Serageldin was predicting. The battle

took place in Cochabamba, Bolivia, a city of approximately 800,000 people,

where the water had recently been privatized and sold off to Bechtel

Corporation, the largest engineering firm in the United States. The battle

was between Bechtel, along with the police and military of Bolivia, on one

side, and on the other side almost the entire population of the city

Cochabamba and its countryside. The people won. What’s remarkable is not

only that the people of Cochabamba succeeded in deprivatizing their water

supply, but they also maintained the right to self-administration… a

directly democratic alternative to the problem of corruption within the

state-run water company.

 

The story actually goes much further back than April of 2000. It goes back

to the 60s, 70s, and 80s, when hundred of thousands of indigenous farmers

and miners migrated to the city due to the collapse of the agricultural

and mining sectors of the economy following liberalization.

 

The over 400,000 people who would come to make up the southern half of the

city of Cochabamba found that they were not receiving water service from

the city, and that purchasing water from the private sector would cost

them seven times what it cost their fellow citizens in the north of the

city. Already financially poor, and in an arid climate, the neighborhoods

of Cochabamba began forming water committees based on a model of community

self-management.

 

To create their own, self-managed water systems, community members chipped

in their money and their labor to construct water storage tanks,

distribution networks, and wells going up to 100 meters in depth.

 

Since the cooperatives are neighborhood-based associations, there is no

single owner or executive. Instead the ultimate authority is the entire

assembly of the community, a totally democratic process.

 

There are currently over 140 community systems operating in the south of

Cochabamba. Following the victory to deprivatize their water in 2000, and

the election of the first indigenous president of Bolivia, Evo Morales, in

December of 2005, the self-managing communities of Cochabamba faced a

different set of challenges as the state run water company, SEMAPA, began

to show an interest in providing water to their communities.

 

With their experience of social management, beyond the false dichotomy of

state versus private sector, the residents decided to not be absorbed into

the state-owned water company. And instead chose joint administration:

they would purchase water from SEMAPA at very reasonable rates, store the

water in large tanks, use their community systems to distribute water to

the families… and continue demanding that the state fulfill its obligation

to bring water to the entire population

 

The chose to stay in control of their water because it allowed them to

maintain the organizations they have built, which are spaces in which they

discuss not only water, but all issues which affect the neighborhood and

the whole country. They have achieved a form of popular sovereignty and

social influence that points toward greater democracy than what most of us

currently experience.

 

Despite marginalization and extreme poverty, the people of Cochabamba have

out of necessity created an ingenious response to some of the most

pressing issues of our times… they have created a model which consists

wholly of decentralized, horizontal initiatives that is successful,

sustainable, efficient and without bureaucracies.

 

 

> p.s.i am writing to the old school marxists--let me add, do not

> underestimate the contribution of the dadaist, the surrealists, the

> situationists either.. we are here alive and well perhaps we are

> orphans of marxism *almost a century and a half later-- do not

> underestimate marxism or attempt to limit its polyphonous cacaphony of

> diversity. Anyone who would like to challenge this--please do email me

> separately. Still what holds us together is the idea that we can

> change the future and we are not doomed to repeat the mistakes.

>

> On Wed, Nov 9, 2011 at 12:27 PM, shaista husain <shaistahusain@gmail.com>

> wrote:

>> Dearest Snafu, thank you for your clarification, (phew!)

>> Our Commons: the Planet Earth is nothing but a common dump and

>> wasteland of the most toxic substances ever conceived.

>> The fear is not that individuals will take what they can from the

>> Commons, as you point out (eg how many trees a tribesman can cut down,

>> how many fish an individual can fish in a given day) but the

>> corporations who not only TAKE what they want, but DUMP their putrid

>> wastes into our air and water.

>> One can not have "COMMONS" in one nation only, like 'socialism in one

>> nation'--we have learned our bitter lessons--not all who died and

>> fought valiantly for revolution thought any different from us when

>> they began. Today, we have a whole century of failures and the ability

>> to revisit our historical tragedies with lucidity and sobriety, this

>> our historical blessing and never return to those models. Some folks

>> fall into cyclical temporalities believe everything is doomed to

>> repetition, and the other temporal fallacies is that there a certain

>> future, some model that we will eventually arrive at if only

>> x..y..z.., this inductive reasoning is both hegelian and kantian or

>> religious thinking. Both are incorrect, we have to look at the past in

>> order to produce solutions for the future that will not repeat

>> themselves. This kind of clarity of thinking today is only found in

>> the marxist philosophers, in that it offers liberation from the

>> conundrum of history in the attempt to construct a future that is

>> neither promised but created and forged out of proper archeology of

>> knowledge. (derrida, bergson, deleuze guaatari--obsessed with

>> postmodern repititions--i will save this argument for another

>> day...and old school kantians hegelians and heiddegarians about the

>> categorical future imperatives...)

>> So, folks, let us not confuse marxism with the Thermidor of

>> centralized gov't, kangaroo trials and top down bureaucracy. We are

>> also allowed to consider the idea that revolution is possible

>> "without" armed struggle ie. Leninism, Maoism etc. This is another

>> fallacy that people impose of marxism, assuming all marxists are

>> proponents of armed struggle. I do not discount Lenin or Trotsky or

>> Mao's writings, they lived within their historical limitations and

>> necessities..no, but allow me to plug in here, one of the earliest

>> proponents of decentralized and non-violent revolution was Rosa

>> Luxembourg, less known in her day, but her understanding of Marx and

>> her poetical writings, exemplify a most profound elaboration on the

>> expansion of capitalism into new unequal markets, ie. imperialism

>> which is our fact of life today, a century later.

>> As this article attempts to formulate, but also fails as Andy pointed

>> out, by red baiting the WWP (who by the way were not stalinist as this

>> author gossips, but trotskyist and later maoist) so YES, there is a a

>> great need to recuperate and subject an unbiased analysis, to begin

>> again without prejudice and never ever to assume a question as

>> exhausted no matter how simple or complex. We must and can do better

>> with the best theories at our disposal.

>>

>> The main problem today, i believe, are conspiracy theories type

>> thinking, characterized most forcefully by the right wing. folks who

>> blame individual "errant capitalists" for our global problems and

>> propose as a solution some messianic figure like Ron Paul who has all

>> the answers. But why stop there, that is too easy, it is not just the

>> Ron Pauls or right wing (fascists like to blame certain people, ie,

>> Jews or Muslims) Unfortunately, some of our most profound theorists

>> too, in our ossified economic depts at our top universities fall into

>> this paradigm, albeit not as perniciously, into the notion that we can

>> save capitalism or "eqilibriate" capitalism, or just bring forth

>> "capitalism with a human face." Sorry to be so trite, but it always

>> returns to the same question: REFORM or REVOLUTION? let us look

>> carefully at this question, and be careful, just because you are so

>> GUNG HO, and scream revolution!!, doesn't necessarily mean you know

>> what you are talking about--and i speak to myself too--i have noticed

>> that the right wing screams out much much louder than we can. We

>> should rather carefully examine this question and whisper our

>> solutions with careful sobriety ask fellow comrades to re-visit this

>> age old question again and again as we set forth...

>>

>> Please folks, when someone disagrees, let us not call them "leeches"

>> or "infiltrators" or "irrational" this kind of suspicious

>> fearmongering is what is wrong with all of us on the left and similar

>> to the tactics of the right wing, they really believe that replacing a

>> few individuals with "good" individuals (themselves or messianic

>> leader) is the solution to the worlds problems and only they know it,

>> because as elitists, they don't believe the public has a clue about

>> its own oppression and is powerless. That is why the obsession with

>> leaking and hidden knowledge that only certain people have, the rest

>> of us are stupid. Let us stop red-baiting, as Andrew pointed out

>> earlier--establishing such a a historical precedence--a methodology-an

>> ethics---will enable us to never make the same mistakes that are the

>> central features of the counter-revolution and deepest failures of the

>> left.

>>

>> Sorry to go off on a tangent folks

>> Peace and Love,

>> Shaista

>>

>>

>>

>>

>>

>>

>>

>>

>>

>>

>>

>>

>>

>>

>> On Wed, Nov 9, 2011 at 9:35 AM, rob hollander <lesrrd@gmail.com> wrote:

>>> Snafu -- the answer to corporate control over a "democracy" is ... a

>>> social

>>> protest movement like OWS!

>>> It's sort of like "90% of success is just showing up."

>>> But the consequences of a movement can go in any direction, favorable

>>> or

>>> otherwise.

>>>

>>> I agree about resources. If some forms of exploitation are taken off

>>> the

>>> table by enforced law, the need will find its way for other forms of

>>> exploitation which may be less dangerous -- or more. That's the long

>>> history

>>> of legislation. Good legislation should recognize a need and facilitate

>>> satisfying it while protect adverse consequences.

>>>

>>> But a shift from an expansion economic model requires a global shift.

>>> Look

>>> at what happened with the Occupy Wall Street trademark. OWS didn't

>>> pursue

>>> the capitalist model, and some entrepreneur tried to trademark it,

>>> recognizing that someone or other would do it eventually.

>>>

>>>

>>> On Wed, Nov 9, 2011 at 9:07 AM, Snafu <snafu@thething.it> wrote:

>>>>

>>>> Shaista I am not making a Malthusian argument here. On the contrary, I

>>>> just stated that capitalism relies on a constant expansion of the

>>>> world

>>>> population to increase production-consumption and, yes, the workforce

>>>> reservoir.

>>>>

>>>> Rob, John a system can never be truly democratic if predicated upon

>>>> massive inequality in the distribution of wealth. Those who own the

>>>> most

>>>> will always a louder voice than those who own less. The Supreme Court

>>>> has

>>>> candidly ratified this fact by defining corporate donations to

>>>> political

>>>> candidates as free speech (i.e. who owns the most speaks the most).

>>>>

>>>> So the struggle for democracy has to go hand-in-hand with the struggle

>>>> for

>>>> social and economic justice. And if you want to attack the problem at

>>>> the

>>>> root you have to take *some* resources off the market and manage them

>>>> in

>>>> common. The main difference with state socialism being that this

>>>> system

>>>> would be highly decentralized. Yet in a world that is highly

>>>> interdependent

>>>> and globalized some resources cannot be simply managed locally. Take

>>>> the

>>>> Amazon, the lungs of the earth. Given the global importance of this

>>>> resource

>>>> should its management left to local companies and populations? If not,

>>>> what

>>>> kind of alternative resources can be provided to Brazilians so that

>>>> they may

>>>> not cut the forest for their livelihood? The same goes for the

>>>> Delaware

>>>> River Basin and the property rights of upstate landowners to lease

>>>> their

>>>> land to fracking companies. What kind of alternative resources can be

>>>> provided to impoverished farmers so that they may use the waters

>>>> wisely?

>>>>

>>>> When you begin thinking at this level of scale, the question of the

>>>> commons gets complicated because many resources--including energy

>>>> production--are not locally bound. Yet these issues can be tackled

>>>> much

>>>> better when the interested parties are not driven by the profit motive

>>>> but

>>>> try and solve their conflicts (which won't end in a post-capitalist

>>>> society)

>>>> on the basis of their reproductive needs. A system driven by profit

>>>> such as

>>>> capitalism rewards the most primitive instincts in human nature. A

>>>> communal

>>>> system of management would be predicated upon the preservation and

>>>> reproduction of the common good.

>>>>

>>>> On 11/9/11 12:06 AM, shaista husain wrote:

>>>>>

>>>>> Rob, despite all my disagreements with you--i must say here you are

>>>>> correct--- Snafu i like your ideas but to underlie your ideas with a

>>>>> natural law of scarcity --this is the easiest and first polemic marx

>>>>> destroyed-- of the conservative malthusian economists... the reserve

>>>>> army of labor is popular control that is peculiar to the capitalist

>>>>> mode of production.

>>>>> "The error of Malthus and the classical economists was to focus their

>>>>> analysis of capital accumulation and its effects upon specific

>>>>> sectors

>>>>> of production instead of looking at the relationship between total

>>>>> social capital and the total labor force. This perspective leads them

>>>>> to confuse the laws that regulate that general ratio with the laws

>>>>> which regulate the allocation of specific sectors of the labor force

>>>>> to specific sectors of production (Marx, 1970:638-639).

>>>>>

>>>>> On Tue, Nov 8, 2011 at 11:41 PM, rob hollander<lesrrd@gmail.com>

>>>>>  wrote:

>>>>>>

>>>>>> I like Andy's tiger. You remove the tiger's teeth -- and be very

>>>>>> careful

>>>>>> not

>>>>>> to forget to declaw him too -- but let him keep his legs under your

>>>>>> harness

>>>>>> and his hunger.

>>>>>>

>>>>>> Which leads to the anti-hunger Malthusianism that the green movement

>>>>>> has

>>>>>> managed to legitimize. I don't see that Malthusianism is any more

>>>>>> true

>>>>>> now

>>>>>> than it was when it first appeared. I would not underestimate the

>>>>>> ingenuity

>>>>>> of human invention, if only it were cultivated with quality

>>>>>> education

>>>>>> accessible to all, instead of for just the few, and turned to human

>>>>>> problems, rather than to corporate interests. There is the place for

>>>>>> big

>>>>>> government where capital falls short, and that's a notion older than

>>>>>> socialism, it's the social contract. It's also called democracy --

>>>>>> making

>>>>>> your gov't work for everyone.

>>>>>>

>>>>>> The answer to rapacious capitalism has got to be democracy. That's

>>>>>> what

>>>>>> OWS

>>>>>> seems to be at bottom all about. We've got a plutocracy of thieves,

>>>>>> it

>>>>>> doesn't work for us, we've had enough of it; we want our government

>>>>>> back.

>>>>>>

>>>>>> I do agree with snafu that capitalism is the ultimate Ponzi scheme.

>>>>>> But

>>>>>> what

>>>>>> happens when you call out a Ponzi scheme? Everyone is left

>>>>>> destitute.

>>>>>>

>>>>>> I like the commons notion. There's something Georgist in it -- pool

>>>>>> the

>>>>>> social resources including all land. Georgism doesn't cure

>>>>>> capitalism,

>>>>>> but

>>>>>> it wouldn't hurt.

>>>>>>

>>>>>> On Tue, Nov 8, 2011 at 11:00 PM, Lauren<celliwig@gmail.com>  wrote:

>>>>>>>

>>>>>>> What alternative has even been allowed to run unimpeded?

>>>>>>>

>>>>>>> Socialism? Social-capitalism is merely a stopgap to make the

>>>>>>> european

>>>>>>> and latin american working class shut up.

>>>>>>>

>>>>>>> Communism? Communism in Russia died in 1921. Maoism is confucianism

>>>>>>> with a coat of red paint.

>>>>>>>

>>>>>>> Anarchism? Yes, I guess being beaten by the combined might of

>>>>>>> Hitler,

>>>>>>> Stalin, Mussolini and Franco, despite there being a war between

>>>>>>> each

>>>>>>> other, could count as an objective measurement of failure, assuming

>>>>>>> that your ethical standards are those of a jackbooted thug.

>>>>>>>

>>>>>>> Where is the success of capitalism in Africa? Why do we keep being

>>>>>>> reminded about the kulaks, but never about the millions who died

>>>>>>> during the rubber boom, never about the millions who died during

>>>>>>> the

>>>>>>> dust bowl, never about the millions who died because of Britain's

>>>>>>> laissez-mourir approach to famines in India, Ireland, Africa?

>>>>>>>

>>>>>>> Capitalist wealth is the wealth of empire. It's the illusion

>>>>>>> brought

>>>>>>> about by concentration, by homogenization of societies that used to

>>>>>>> be

>>>>>>> heterogenous even there; wealthy countries with wealthy regions

>>>>>>> with

>>>>>>> wealthy cities with wealthy neighborhoods. Hey, some of the country

>>>>>>> doesn't have electricity and running water? It's okay, we have

>>>>>>> billionaires in the capital who are really enjoying the success of

>>>>>>> capitalism.

>>>>>>>

>>>>>>> </rant>

>>>>>>

>>>>>> --

>>>>>> Rob Hollander

>>>>>> Lower East Side Residents for Responsible Development

>>>>>> http://savethelowereastside.blogspot.com/

>>>>>> 622 E 11, #10

>>>>>> NYC, 10009

>>>>>> 212-228-6152

>>>>>>

>>>>>>

>>>>

>>>

>>>

>>>

>>> --

>>> Rob Hollander

>>> Lower East Side Residents for Responsible Development

>>> http://savethelowereastside.blogspot.com/

>>> 622 E 11, #10

>>> NYC, 10009

>>> 212-228-6152

>>>

>>>

>>

>

 

 

 

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