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(en) Czech, AFED: Commons - A little introduction to the topic of generally shared goods [machine translation]

Date Mon, 2 Dec 2019 09:07:54 +0200


Commons - a foreign word that probably doesn't say anything to many of our readers. And yet it means something that is so important to all of us. In short, it indicates what is accessible to all. In Czech it is most often replaced by the equivalent of "shared goods". ---- We are convinced that it is important for the anarchist theory and practice to adopt this word. It is important for our analysis of relationships in society and for understanding how these relationships are transformed through understanding and claiming ownership. ---- Commodification ---- We often reiterate that capitalism is characterized in particular by private property, from which social inequalities and exploitation, which inherently belong to capitalism, are derived. We also often oppose the commodification of various areas of our lives, public services, nature and living creatures. Commodification is the process of turning something that we take for granted and common into commodities. The utility value and the equal approach change to the exchange value and the exclusive approach. Common is turned into private. The company must be robbed in order to create private property. Ownership is theft, one would say with Proudhon.

So when we talk about commons, about common, we are talking about its theft, fence. Since the description of privatization of common, municipal land, the concept of fencing has been passed on to other victims of commodification. We are talking about a new enclosure.

New fencing

In a way, this is synonymous with neoliberal policy, which destroys societies in the name of privatization, cuts, the introduction of a market environment, the abolition of workers' rights, etc. It is a mistake to understand neoliberalism as a duel between the welfare state and the market. Behind all this is the almost taboo concept of commons, which puts the reflection on the new enclosure into play. It is precisely the supporters of capitalism that tend to ignore or misinterpret commons and thus create arguments for privatization.

A new enclosure has been talked about (but not in the mainstream media) since the 1980s, when large-scale structural adjustment programs dictated by developing countries by the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund began to be introduced. Their real goal was not to help poor countries, but to expand capitalist relations and the world market. Their consequence was the liquidation of local commons (privatization of land, water, education ...). The manifestations of new enclosures can also be seen in Europe, for example, in the process of gentrification, where public space is privatized and the character of cities is transformed from places for people to places for generating profits.

Pillars of new enclosure

The new fencing can be introduced by five basic characteristics that enable it. The first is to reduce people's access to land and other basic living conditions, thereby losing their joint control over their livelihoods. The second instrument of the new enclosure is debt, which allows corporations and multinational financial institutions to control entire states. Similarly, debt works at the individual level. The third manifestation is the creation of a mobile and flexible workforce. Keeping people moving, separating and individualizing them makes 'human resources' more adaptable. The whole process leads to the undermining of the ability of workers to organize and to the destruction of popular communality. The geopolitical transformation associated with the collapse of the "Eastern Bloc" continued to foster new protections. Markets / corporations could, through the policy of supranational financial institutions, as a last resort, with military intervention, to expand unlimitedly around the world. The fifth pillar was the development of genetically modified organisms, technologies of all kinds and business with so-called intellectual property, which started to expropriate common knowledge.

Anti-capitalist perspective

The notion of a new enclosure allows a different view of neoliberalism in class struggles, environmental struggles, as well as the alterglobalization movement, initiatives against water privatization, or student protests against the introduction of tuition fees. This perspective still has the potential to be a unifying element and to interconnect many at first sight unrelated struggles. Especially in poor countries, these struggles are about preserving commons.

Anti-capitalist demands must not stop on the left-wing demand that the public and collective be placed under state administration. The anarchist perspective goes beyond the state and rejects the intermediary administration of the commons. We must not confuse the state sphere with the sphere of generally shared goods. We would not change anything about the fact that we lost control of the common, and commodification took only a different form. The anti-capitalist struggle should therefore not be fought for the preservation or resuscitation of the welfare state; on the contrary, as a struggle for commons is a vivid alternative that brings us closer to the principles of autonomy, self-government and organization from below.

Commons half way

Commons need to be contemplated, both in view of its forms and transformations on the long journey of the human race, and of its manifestations today. In this way of thinking, we come across the question of the constraints of various communities or projects that internally act as egalitarian in access to decision-making and ownership. However, these principles are applied only within a given group, which may be, for example, a production cooperative. Outwardly, however, such communities act like any other private entity and are co-opted in capitalist relations.

A nationalist view of the commons, which necessarily leads to discrimination and excludes anyone who does not meet ethnic and racial criteria, can become dangerous. However, discrimination may also occur according to social standards, as we might have experienced during the municipal elections (2014), when one candidate in Pilsen promoted "free public transport, but not for the homeless".

Small steps

But enough theorizing. Let us ask ourselves what we can do for the commons here and now to take back what we have been stolen from the common and to re-generate and shape the common.

In addition to the "big" battles, we can do it in small steps, each alone and in cooperation with others. Let us establish autonomous social centers that create a common space in the broadest sense of the word. Let's occupy empty houses, let's take back the expropriated space for living. Let's fight for the public space of cities, which is occupied by commercials, sterility and cars - let's fight graffiti, street art, billing, damaging and altering commercials... Let's make food and eating a common thing - gardens, recycling waste, providing surpluses, community boarding... education - free lectures, screenings, workshops, folk universities... Let's refuse intellectual property and copyright institutions, use free software, make our own and everyone else's pleasure... And other examples could be continued.

Even small steps can be taken a long way. And perhaps we will learn to take great steps to guide us towards a society where material and mental values are not concentrated in the hands of a privileged minority, but become truly shared assets.

https://www.afed.cz/text/7071/commons
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