las Indias’ 2017 Winter

LIWint1 This year María and Nat celebrated the Chinese New Year in London

LIWint2Birthdays are a big celebration among us. We celebrated Mayra’s with an oyster lunch and…

LIWint3…a special meal prepared by one of our customers who happens to be a great chef already recognized with two Michelin stars

LIWint4Caro will come back from Argentina during the Spring for a couple of weeks. Meanwhile we have chats and videochats.

LIWint5We started an «open doors» program for people under 30. Almu is the first visiting member.

LIWint6Young people participating in the program live and work with us learning information analysis and experiencing communal life.

LIWint7The arrival of visiting communards fuels conversations almost every day after midnight… sometimes until dawn.

las Indias’ 2017 Winter

Why producing in common is the starting point

by David de Ugarte, from El Jardin Indiano, Thursday, January 19th, 2017

It would seem that the whole history of technology, with all its social and political challenges, has coalesced to put us within reach of the possibility of developing ourselves and contributing autonomy to our community by taking the leap to producing in common with those close to us.

If we study the productive reality of the last thirty years, the changes turn out to be amazing. Among all of them, the most striking, the most unexpected, the one that most strongly contradicted the idea that the great economic systems of the twentieth century had about themselves, was not that the future would be full of computers, cellphones, and electronic equipment. That idea had already appeared in the ’40s and ’50s in science fiction and popular futurism. Nor was it globalization. The idea of a world united by free trade had been part of the Anglo-Saxon liberal ideal since the Victorian era, and from the foundation of the League of Nations, between the wars, it was part of the declared objectives of the great English-speaking powers.producing1

No, the most shocking thing was the beginning of the end of business gigantism. From the State businesses of the USSR, to shipbuilding and metallurgy in Asturias, from Welsh mining to United Steel or the big automotive companies, the oligarchs that had been the model of “enterprise” for the contemporary industrial world, stopped hiring, collapsed, and fired tens of thousands of workers. It wasn’t just “de-localization”: the new Chinese or Vietnamese plants didn’t grow indefinitely, either. Markets like electronic products expanded year after year, and yet personnel and capital global used were reduced. It was said that the new labor-intensive industries would be services, especially services connected with the new dominant form of capital: finance. But soon, banks and insurers that employed hundreds of thousands of people at the turn of the century started to reduce personnel. Today, the great banks are on track to reduce personnel by 30% over the next decade.

What happened?

producing2What had happened was, in fact, amazing. Following the Second World War, the United States had become the great provider to the world. When the war ended, US GDP was around half of the global GDP. Benefiting from the European need for reconstruction and from peace treaties that, while not reaching the level of humiliation of Versailles, were openly asymmetrical, big Anglo-Saxon businesses globalized at great speed speed. It was a dream come true for their shareholders. It wasn’t at all strange to economists. At the time, if Marxists, Keynsians, and neoliberals agreed on anything, it was that businesses were able to, and in fact tended to, grow indefinitely. But by the ’50s, it was already obvious that something was going wrong. In the USSR and the countries of the East European, you could always blame the arbitrariness of the political system or the mistakes of the planners. But in the USA, it was different. And yet, it was there, present and invisible, like an elephant in a high-society gala. The first to realize it was a economist called Kenneth Boulding. Boulding noted that American businesses were reaching the limit of their scale, the point at which inefficiencies due to having to manage a larger size were not compensated for by the benefits of being bigger. Looking at the America of his time, he also warned that big businesses would try compensate for their inefficiencies using their weight in the market and in the State. We were under pressure long before “too big to fail” in the crisis of 2008, but he could already tell that Big Businesses would not hesitate to use the power they had as a result of employing tens of thousands of people to get made-to-fit regulations and thinly-veiled monopolies. Business over-scaling, warned Boulding, could end up being a danger to the two main institutions of our society: state and market.

producing3But what came next was even more surprising. Businesses bet on improving their systems and processes. They discovered that information was important—crucial—to avoid entering the phase in which inefficiencies grew exponentially. It also became obvious that a business size that was inefficient for one market became reasonably efficient for a larger market. As a result, they used all their power to promote a branch of technology that had shone only marginally in the great war: information. With this same objective, as soon as the opportunity arose, they pushed governments to reach commercial agreements and, above all, frameworks for the free movement of capital, since the industry that had scaled fastest and had begun to give alarming signs of inefficiency was finance. Meanwhile, the champion in business scale, the USSR and the whole Soviet bloc, collapsed, to the astonishment of the world, in an obvious demonstration that operating life wasn’t infinite.

producing4A true revolution in support of the feasibility of large scales in crisis was implemented in the West. The political result was called “neoliberalism.” It basically consisted of the extension of free-trade agreements, which expanded markets geographically; financial deregulation, which allowed the rise of “financialization,” or extension of markets over time; and a series of rents and monopolies for certain businesses, which were assured by regulations, like the hardening of so-called “intellectual property.”

producing5The technological result was known as the “IT revolution,” which is to say revolution of information technology. But it came with a surprise, following a series of apparent coincidences in the search for ways beyond the limits on efficiency imposed by the rigid hierarchical systems inherited from the previous century. At the end of the ’60s, the structure of networks that connected big university computers, which was financed by defense spending, took a distributed form. This would not have brought about a radical change if a new field, domestic information science, had not evolved towards small, completely autonomous computers, known as “PCs.” The result was the emergence in the ’90s of an immense capacity for distributed and interconnected calculation outside the fabric of business and government: the Internet.

The revolution of scale

producing6The Internet brought profound changes in the division of labor, which overlapped with the ongoing reduction of optimal scales, and changed the social results expected from delocalization, the first trend in globalization.

In the ’90s, when the “end of history” seemed go hand in hand with the consolidation of a new string of industrial technology giants (Microsoft, Apple, etc.), free software, which had been a subculture until then, built the first versions of Linux. Linux is the “steam engine” of the world that is emerging: the first expression of a new way of producing and, at the same time, a tool to transform the productive system. Over the next twenty years, free software would come to be the greatest transfer of knowledge and value in the contemporary era, equivalent to several times all foreign aid to development sent from developed countries to those on the periphery since WWII.

producing7Free software is a universal public good and, in an era in which information infrastructure is a fundamental part of any productive investment, a free form of capital. Free capital drove an even greater reduction in the optimum scale of production. But it also helped make value chains of the physical goods with strong technological component distributed. Globalization and delocalization had broken the links in value creation in thousands of products throughout the world, especially in the less-developed nations of the Pacific basin, but all those chains were re-centralized in the US, and to a lesser extent, in Japan, Germany and other central countries, where big corporations (from Apple to Nike) branded, designed, marketed, and hoarded the benefits of intellectual property. The possibility of free software was key for many of those chains to “insource” in countries like China, and produce all the elements, including those of greater value added.

producing8The immediate result was prodigious economic development, the greatest reduction in extreme poverty in the history of humanity, the greatest increase in real wages in the history of China, and the appearance of new global centers of innovation and production in coastal cities. These cities play by a new set of rules that, not surprisingly, include an extreme relaxation of intellectual property, an accelerated reduction of scales, and production chains systems and assembly systems that allow a formidable increase in scope, which is to say, the variety of things produced.

The Direct Economy

producing9As all these changes were set in motion in Asia, in Europe, the free software model was expanding into a whole spectrum of sectors. Soon, groups would appear that replicate the mode of production based on the commons (“the P2P mode of production“) in all kinds of immaterial content—design, books, music, video—and increasingly, in the world of advanced services—finance, consultancy—and industrial products—drinks, specialized machinery, robots, etc.

But while the “P2P mode of production” is a fascinating path for a transition from capitalism to abundance, its direct impact—how many people live directly from the commons—is relatively small. As in Asia, Europe, and the US, structural change will begin in an intermediate space that is also based on the digital commons: the Direct Economy.

producing10The Direct Economy is all those small groups of friends—and therefore, a basically egalitarian organization—that design a product that generally incorporates software and free knowledge into itself or its process of creation, sell it in advance on a  crowdfunding platform (making bank financing or “shareholders” unnecessary), produce it in short runs of a few thousands in a factory, whether in China or on the side of their house, and use the proceeds to improve the design or create a new product.

producing11The Direct Economy is bar owners who invest 10,000 euros in equipment and begin to produce beer 100 liters at a time, or a few tens of thousands of euros and gain capacity to prepare almost 1,500 liters every 12 hours in continuous production—and then go on to bottle and begin distributing nearby and in networks of beer artisanal lovers.  And of course, they will have more varieties than the big brewery in their are, higher quality, and a better quality/price ratio.

The Direct Economy is the academy or the high school that installs a MOOC or Moodle to be able offer its students services over the summer, independent app developers, the role-playing bookstore that buys a 3D printer and starts selling their own figurines, or the children’s clothes store that starts designing and producing their own strollers, toys, or maternity bags.

producing12All of them are small-scale producers making things that, until recently, only big businesses or institutions were able to make. All of them have more scope than the scale model. All of them, at some point in the process, use free software and knowledge, which reduces their capital needs even further. All of them take advantage of the Internet to reach providers and customers for low costs—for example, by being able to reach very geographically dispersed niches or find very specialized providers. Most will not have to resort to banks or investors to finance themselves, but rather, will use pre-sale and donation systems on the network to raise money. And some of them use the “commodification” of the manufacturing industry and its flexible production chains for the process.

producing13As for internal organizing, we’re generally looking at models that are much “flatter” and more democratic than conventional businesses. While traditional businesses are autocracies, or at best aristocracies based on hierarchical command and responsibility, the large majority of projects in the Direct Economy are “ad-hocracies,” in which the needs of the moment shape teams and responsibilities. This even happens in cases where big businesses decide to take a gamble on creating a spin-off and competing in a new field. Instead of an org chart, there are task maps. Rather than “participation in management,” there emerges the type of energy that characterizes any group of friends that make something “spontaneously.” If the legal process wasn’t still so arduous, if it didn’t require notaries and endless paperwork, we would say that the natural way to the Direct Economy is worker cooperativism.

Conclusion

 

But none of this is as important as the broader meaning of the Direct Economy to people’s possibilities in life. In Wage Labor and Capital, one of his more accessible works, Marx explained the trap in the narrative that exalts social mobility and equality of opportunities: wages can’t become capital. Or, rather, couldn’t… and it’s true that it continues to be unable to in a good part of the world and in many branches of industry. But we’re seeing something that is historically shocking—the reduction to zero of the cost of an especially valuable part of capital, which materializes directly knowledge (free software, free designs, etc.). And above all we see, almost day by day, how the optimum size of production, sector by sector, approaches or reaches the community dimension.

producing14The possibility for the real community, the one based on interpersonal relationships and affections, to be an efficient productive unit is something radically new, and its potential to empower is far from having been developed. This means that we are lucky enough to live in a historical moment when it would seem that the whole history of technology, with all its social and political challenges, has coalesced to put us within reach of the possibility of developing ourselves in a new way and contributing autonomy to our community.

Today we have an opportunity that previous generations did not: to transform production into something done, and enjoyed, among peers. We can make work a time that is not walled off from life itself, which capitalism revealingly calls “time off.” That’s the ultimate meaning of producing in common today. That’s the immediate course of every emancipatory action. The starting point.

Translated by Steve Herrick from the original (in Spanish)

The Communard Manifesto

Why producing in common is the starting point

Communal Postcards

by las Indias

Postcards were created in Austria for first time in 1869 but its «golden age» started with the Paris Universal exhibition of 1900. When tens of thousands of visitors from the whole world arrived to Paris, postcards illustrated with all kind of modern wonders and monuments were waiting for them. Among them, a few images of the phalansteries and the famous Guise’s Familistere, the most successful social experiment of the time and the most remarkable edification of communitarism since the Antiquity. Even if Fourierism was a cooperative movement, not a communal one, we could say it was the first image of an intentional community recorded in a postcard.

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Familistere de Guise. Postcard sent in 1900 part of our collection. The Familistère was created in 1858 by famous Fourierist activist and innovator Jean Baptiste Andre Godin. It endured as a worker’s cooperative until 1968.

Ten years later, postcards already were an usual media for promoting «advanced ideas», specially of those groups and movements with a transnational aim, as Esperanto… and communitarism. Only few months after the birth of Degania, the first kibbutz, they produced their first postcard. In the one we have in our dining room wall, you still can recognize the young faces -all of them were around 20 years old- of the founders of the first egalitarian community of the twentieth century. It probably was the first photographic image of a living egalitarian community ever seen in Europe. Since then, Degania and dozens of other egalitarian Israeli kibbutzim made hundreds of them. You could explain the rise, trouble, differences and decay of the kibbutz movement just with them, covering decades of history.

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Postcard of the 1909 Universal Congress of Esperanto in Barcelona.

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Postcard sent from Degania, the first kibbutz, in 1910 after the first crop, also in our collection.

When we moved back to Madrid in 2015 we decided to get back to this tradition, making postcards a media for recording and sharing our own history as a community. We made then our first one and we sent it during the New Year celebration. The picture chosen was very symbolic: it was shot during the presentation of «The book of Community» in Gijón, an industrial town in the North of Spain and in the back you can see a gigantic reproduction of «Il quarto stato », the painting that has been «the» symbol of the worker’s movement in the twentieth century. We got the idea of adding to it a present. So, we prepared a web page optimized for smartphones with an electronic edition some of our books and we added a QR code in order to allow the receivers to easily download them in their cell phones.

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Postcard send by us at the end of 2015 during the new year’s celebrations of 2016

This year we made a second postcard. But, what was the image of the year? We made a lot of things during 2016: we published «The Communard’s Manifesto» and a book of readings, Caro became the first communard accepting a political responsibility in a national government since the seventies, our workers cooperative grew until 40 people and with them we made beer and for first time we successfully crowdfunded a project, we made a lot of activism, we also made new products and customers in the midst of the Spanish economic crisis… But the picture we choose was not related to any of this good news, nor it was as beautiful as the one in 2015. It was shot in Madrid’s airport very early in the morning, our eyes were almost closed but we were specially happy because it was the day Caro came back to Madrid from Buenos Aires to celebrate with the rest of us our 14th anniversary as a community. We added a QR code too, it has became a tradition.

postcard5

Postcard send by us at the end of 2016 during the new year’s celebrations of this year

As the postcards of Fourierist, kibbutznik or Esperanto propagandist, our postcards crossed the world and got into the houses of hundreds of friends an image of other possible way of living during a very troubled year. Many of them sent us back pictures of our postcards framed and exhibited in a wall of their homes. It meant a lot to them and to us. In a world of instantaneous massive free media, postcards are slow, small scale and low cost, nobody will expect anything great from them, won’t they? But they also are personal and full of meaning and ours is a movement focused in persons and full of meaningfulness.

Wouldn’t it be beautiful if we start a regular correspondence between communities and between every community and their friends with postcards of our own creation? Will it not be empowering to spread the world with meaningful letters and images telling of our way of live, values and aesthetics?

Communal Postcards

Winter meals and the vegan guest

by las Indias

In las Indias, cooking is felt to be a service and a creative personal expression. It is the everyday way of showing the others how you care for them. Around one o’clock someone, the first who are tired of work or have already finished the tasks they wanted to do during the morning, volunteers for going shopping and preparing lunch. We prepare the table with a tablecloth and we start every lunch with a little ceremonial toast. Lunch is meaningful. We spend more than two hours enjoying dishes and wine -usually from different parts of Spain- and conversation. And then we come back to the office.

But we are six, we often have visitors and guests, and we don’t have a big kitchen. That means we prepare small dishes and delicatessen as aperitifs and, if the «fresh ingredient» of the day is a light one, we will have to prepare a second dish that is scalable and powerful, specially during winter. For example, we cannot cook more than a big fish in the oven, but yesterday we bought a beautiful fresh hake of one and a half kilogram, so while Mayra prepared it for the oven we prepared our famous tuna sauce in the pressure cooker and I blanched in some tuna sirloins. Meantime the rest of us set the table and prepared some small aperitifs (homemade cheese carried from parent’s home, partridge pate made by a friend, spiced black Aragon olives…). You can imagine it. We use to say «without celebration nothing remains», and we try to make every day a memorable one.

And then imagine someone appears who says they are a vegan.

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**The vegan guest**

When our friend GPaul was on his way to visit us the first time, he received creepy stoic advice from Danish communards: «You are vegan, be careful, you will suffer in Spain». There is some truth in it. In popular bars and «food houses», it is almost impossible to eat vegan. Spanish traditional food is full of fish and the «iberian pig» is more holy for the most of the people than any particular invocation of Virgin Mary.

Paradoxically traditional Mediterranean cooking is full of dishes that are objectively vegan. The problem is locals don’t recognize them. When they receive a vegan at home, they look for processed vegan food (tofu burgers, etc.) they would never eat, or specific «vegan recipes» on the Internet. These recipes come from English and German books of the seventies and the eighties. Let’s face it: few people come to Europe looking for traditional English or German cuisine and it happens for a reason.

We also know many vegans have a kind of martyrdom vocation which allows them to eat Mediterranean Summer food during the whole year: toasted bread with olive oil and vegan pates, humus, gazpacho, ajoblanco (a gazpacho of almonds, without tomatoes), boiled vegetables lightly fried in a wok… but if you go to the street with this in your stomach during Madrid’s winter, you will probably freeze before the bus arrives.

On the other hand, as you probably noticed, we are not vegan, but lunch is about sharing. The arrival of vegan visitors means to cook vegan convincingly enough not only for the newcomer but also for your fish eaters, pork lovers, and cheese fanatics too.

So, let’s look for help in the indiano traditional cookbook and let’s prepare some Mediterranean cuisine winter menus… vegan friendly.

**First Menu: On ancient revolutions**

The Revolt of the Comuneros (=communards) was the first Iberian bottom to top democratic movement. It set the cities of Castille against the coronation of Emperor Charles Habsbourgh (Charles V in Germany). It put an assembly controlled urban democracy up against the Imperial regime that was coming with the new dynasty. It finished in 1521 with a big battle -a massacre- in the town of Villalar, where thousands of revolutionary free peasants and bourgeoisie, badly armed, found the Imperial professional troops managed by the main nobles of the kingdom.

Villalar passed into popular History thanks to a famous «romance» of the battle preserved as folklore until today. But also because of its lentils. They still cook them with a simple recipe we improved with a honey touch.

– Wine: Caballero de Castilla, Ribera del Duero

***First dish: Leeks with ajoaceite***

We wrap the leeks in aluminum foil one by one. We put them in the oven at 180ºC for some minutes. We open it and we put them on the plate. We serve it with the company of a little bowl of «ajoaceite» sauce.

Ajoaceite means «garlic and oil». It is an strong and bitter vegan alternative to «mahonesa» (a sauce from Mahó in Menorca, whose name in English became «mayonnaise»). To prepare it, we put in the blender a clove of garlic without its heart, a bit of salt and half the juice of a lemon. Usually we make it with extra virgin olive oil, but sunflower oil produces a lighter result. While mixing them we slowly add oil until it curdles.

***Second dish: Communard lentils***

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The night before, we put the lentils (around 1/2 kg) in a big bowl with water. Before cooking we will drain them.

We will use a pressure cooker. We stir fry three onions, cut in julienne strips, with olive oil. When they become transparent we add generous powdered nutmeg, salt and two glasses of oloroso or if we haven’t got oloroso, white wine.

Then we add the lentils and we cover them with 3/4 of lemonade (made just with water, honey and lemon juice) and 1/4 of white wine. We close the pressure cooker and leave it around 30 minutes (depending on the pressure cooker, the time changes). Finally, once opened, before serving, we will mix the result with the juice of half a lemon.

**Second menu: On abundance in poverty**

Chickpeas have been the life jacket of popular classes since the Roman times. Chickpeas were one of the first domesticated plants 8000 years ago in Anatolia and they never abandoned the Mediterranean sea. There are even Latin treaties on its, supposed, medical and moral properties. And the Spanish classic literature (Cervantes, Quevedo, etc.) is full of references to the «olla», the medieval stew of chickpeas that is still the basic winter dish in many Spanish regions. Nonetheless chickpeas were complemented since Renaissance times with potatoes, the only American treasure European working classes of the Empire could enjoy for centuries.

Our second menu will have two dishes: a very traditional one, «Poor person style potatoes» and Indiano chickpeas, a dish that is also rooted in tradition but with our own style.

– Wine: Peñamonte, Toro

***First dish: «Patatas a lo pobre»***

We cut five big potatoes in slices and we salt them, three onions in julienne, two peppers in strips and four garlic cloves in small cubes.

We stir fry in a big pan with very low fire, the garlic cloves in something around a half to a quarter of a glass of olive oil. When they are lightly toasted we give life to the fire and we add the peppers. When they lose their rigid look and the skin starts to separate from the pepper’s flesh, we add the onions until they become transparent.

Then lowering the fire, we add a little spoonful of hot paprika and the potatoes, mixing all with care. When potatoes take the paprika color (red), we add a glass of white wine (better if «oloroso» sherry) and put a frying pan top on, letting the vapor to go out through the valve.

It will take a around 25 minutes. We stir it carefully with a wooden spoon every 5 or 10 minutes and we serve the result with a topping of fresh parsley cut in small squares.

***Second dish: Indiano chickpeas***
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We let chickpeas (around 1/2 kg) rest in a bowl full of water during the night and before cooking we drain them.

We fry with olive oil three onions cut in juliennes. When they are transparent we add two little coffee spoons of sweet and sour Paprika (usually «de la Vera», the best Spanish denomination, from «la Vera» county, in Extremadura) and immediately (there’s nothing worse than burnt paprika) 5 small juicy tomatoes. When the tomatoes are cooked, we will add three or four big spoons of soy sauce (depending on how salty you like them), two glasses of white wine (an «oloroso» sherry would be perfect) and we will blend it all. Then we cover with grape juice and water (50/50) and we close the pressure cooker, cooking them for about 45/50 minutes.

**Third menu: On the first workers strike**

The first workers strike in Spain is documented in the XVII century. In those days, tuna became more expensive and the ship owners decided not to allow the fishermen to take a piece of their captures for making their stew. In its place they would receive a salmon. When the fishermen tried to make their traditional tuna stew with salmon… it did not work, the flesh was too soft for stew and the result was clearly unsatisfying. So they stopped working until they were allowed to use their own fished fresh tuna. It was a big strike, the first remembered by Iberian History.

Indianos prepare a tuna stew of our own. But it is not bad at all for vegans… if we don’t use tuna but, in example, hearts of chives and small carrots. It is powerful, so it really doesn’t need a first dish, but just a little more of (vegan) aperitifs, like home made asparagus pate, artichoke pate or olive -green/black- pate. We will serve it with a wine called «Privilegio» (=privilege) just in order to give this very cheap menu an ironic taste 😀

– Wine: Privilegio, Ribera del Guadiana

***Heart of chives and small carrots stew***

We stir fry two big peppers and three onions in olive oil in the way we did in the recipes before, this time using sweet and sour paprika «de la vera» and 6 tomatoes before blending it all.

Then we add 1/2 l grape juice and 1/2 l of white wine and 3 big potatoes cut in little cubes. We add salt, a big spoon of honey, three spoons of soy sauce and we cook the mix in the pressure cooker for 20 minutes. We blend the result, we add the carrots and the hearts of chives, and again close the cooker and cook for another 10 or 15 minutes.

**A good meal**

The important and most valuable part of preparing a meal together is priceless and cannot be found in the market. In this post, we added History and popular culture to learn how to transform Nature in the most productive way, with the less consumption of resources. We shared our little ceremony: every day a different one of us dedicates the work of the day to the meaningful things he/she considers the day have to be dedicated to, with a toast. And we enjoy our senses, being with the other indianos and our guests, and conversation: body, feelings and reasoning. And of course, we can share it with with our guests, vegans or not, too… even during a cold winter day.

Some notes:

Every menu here cost less than US$1.25 per person wine included.  Communal living is really more productive than an individualistic one in a very accountable way.

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In Spain, lunch is the more important meal.   If people had to lunch out -as the majority do in Madrid- their quality of life will worsen -as they cannot share it with their families- and if they have to have lunch in a food house or a restaurant they will never pay less than 7 times what it costs to us…

For people thinking about making an urban community, making good cooking of any kind (vegan or not) can be really affordable…  We hope for American readers maybe this will make cooking itself and eating legumes a little bit more attractive.

We think that spreading cooking-culture is a big front in the fight against social decomposition. An NGO we met in Gijón (North of Spain) discovered that their program with the most social impact (and they do all sort of things) was when they created an industrial kitchen where they cook every day with migrant families. The original goal was to avoid the health consequences in kids from processed food and poor nutrition (many of them come from the Dominican Republic and Colombia where apparently low income workers and disclassed people have adopted the American industrial food culture). But their revolutionary achievement was to encourage the families to have lunch or dinner together. Just reimplementing this small institution not only changed their health levels, but also improved the achievements of the kids in school, reduced drug use and  alcoholism, etc. Since these migrants come from Hispanic countries, not only the language but the deep culture is the same, so the meals in every house opened them to neighbors, interchanging dishes, having coffee together… so, this NGO started with cooking but ended creating community feelings with more depth and extent than any program designed for confronting xenophobia and racism in troubled neighborhoods.

Here we have food markets in every neighborhood more like an American «farmer market» than to a supermarket, but they are always open and they are a lot cheaper than supermarkets (supermarkets are adapting now, distributing local producers and promoting them). So the majority of people eat what you call «real food» and have a discipline of family lunch or dinner that could turn out to even be oppressive if your couple’s parents or yours insist in extending it to the weekend every weekend (family lunches are really more like an unending assembly with friends visiting, table games, football matches, etc.). Paradoxically this institution of «dining with parents and brothers/sisters and visiting friends» has made the difference during the crisis in Spain, Portugal and Greece. In Spain, better productivity of real food cooked at home and extended family model allowed close to two million families, with kids and no wages nor income because of unemployment, to eat everyday thanks to the, usually small, pension of the grandparents.

The good side of all this is that the pride of community and family, as the basic institutions of society, grew. And with it an egalitarian community like ours changed a lot in social perception from something «odd», distrustable, associated with cults in the catholic imagination; to a healthy way of living and working happier and a model/lab for learning from and playing with. The bad side is that traditional culture pride also fed nationalisms of all kinds because people associate traditional culture with welfare and surviving and identify cultural challenges as attacks. The sad result is by first time in our memory Spanish left, specially the new left, is nationalist… and that is sad and dangerous.

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Winter meals and the vegan guest

A new and much more open “Indies”

from las Indias 34 ~ Wednesday, August 31st, 2016 ~ Link to original article

(Note: las Indias is a commune in Spain.)

Gonfalon-terciopelo

At the end of last year, we began the fusion of Enkidu and Las Indias. Not only was it the logical conclusion of the logic of integration, but also a reorganization of the whole group that prepared us for a new stage, both in terms of the market—with new products, channels, and ideas we’ve been working on since 2015—and our social impact and utility for our surroundings.

mayra manuel nat notarioAt the beginning of July, we sealed the first part with the signing of the merger between the two cooperatives. It was the first “paw.” But we have two more: the Art, a tool that we have never been able to develop the way it deserved, and the Club, which, since November, has been holding activities almost every Thursday. So not surprisingly, the guide to reorienting both “paws” has been fed by the public discussion among the members of the club in La Matriz. The result of all this reflection is that we believe that we have finally found a form and growing activities that are called to make the most of each of the pieces we’ve built during these years. And we’ve given ourselves an objective: it’s all going to be ready before October first, the eve of the 14 anniversary of Las Indias.

Our toolbox

indianos manuel y mayra barajasThe Group has always been a “toolbox” for us, more than an end in itself, because we have always distinguished clearly between the community, in all its degrees and forms of relationship, and objects—cooperative, association, whatever—which let the people of that community build what they want. That doesn’t mean that they can have things any way they want. A clear and orderly toolbox, where it’s intuitively clear which tool to go to for each new idea or problem, and which also puts them within arm’s reach, ultimately leads to building more and better.

In the group, there are three tools: Sociedad de las Indias Electrónicas (Society of the Electronic Indies), which is the economic base and the market-facing platform of the Indiano communards, with its own system of integration; El Arte de las Cosas (the Art of Things), which is the structure to spread cooperativism through community production of everyday goods and objects; and las Indias Club, which is the group’s space for deliberation, reflection, and learning. We Indianos commit to involve ourselves both in Art and in the Club and contribute as much as we know how and are able; but not all members of the Art will participate in the reflections of the Club, nor will all the members of the Club want to make beer or whatever is proposed at a given time in the Art.

The Cooperative Group in detail

  1. Esfera_armillarThe Sociedad de las Indias Electrónicas («Society of the Electronic Indies») is the worker cooperative through which the Indiano communards enter the market. As head of the group, it is responsibility for sustaining and driving the other two pieces. Because, like the medieval monastaries, it’s not just about having founded a community way of life, which is sustainable, thanks to the market, and which allows the communards to enjoy their passion for learning and growing; it’s also about making everything we’ve learned available to our surroundings because, if we do it well, new ways of living and working will expand around us—a new culture and a different economic practices “within the shell of the old society,” which will be what really creates social change.
  2. Aguila_calimalaEl Arte de las Cosas («The Art of Things») has became a worker cooperative with an open social base, dedicated to the promotion of cooperativism through the community production of everyday goods and objects. That is, it’s about expanding the community experience and cooperative production, making, offering integration as a “collaborating partner” to whoever wants, for example, to make beer, as we are already doing, soap, books, electronic gadgets, drip irrigation systems, etc.; We are already organizing anyone interested in the community production of beer for personal consumption and enjoyment, in the same way we would organize market-oriented cooperative production. That is, the Art is becoming our main tool to empower our surroundings with practices and productive technologies applied to everyday life, so people can enjoy and make the most of the reduction of optimal scales of production and experiment and learn the modes of production among peers.
  3. granada clublas Indias Club is already the group’s space for deliberation, reflection, and learning. From November to July, it went through a “constituent” stage. In the new stage, it has to to keep creating spaces of deliberation outside of the ambient noise, proposing new topics—from robotification to poetry, or the new forms of expression in the blogosphere—like we did from February to June, in more than a dozen meetings. And we practice new, more regular formats, like the next European gathering around the news that Eŭropano publishes on a daily basis from a transnational perspective, which is so valuable these days.

Surely, this is the moment to change the format of the “Someros.” Somero is first and foremost the annual conference of the Club, and the Club is already mature enough to move on to a new kind of meeting: to go from listening to outsiders’ experiences, to listening to its own members. The format needs to go from the kind typical of every event intended to get the public’s attention to the kind used in the “Meetings of Economic Democracy” that we organized years ago (which doesn’t mean we might not organize other event with a form similar to the one used so far in Somero, with another name). Now, the members of the Club need to do the talking. They are the ones that need to do presentations, take part in gatherings, discuss new ideas, make proposals, and offer reflections to others. It’s about taking the leap from the “call to action” that the two first “Someros” were, to the social constitution of the Club as an association with mood and momentum of its own, dedicated to feeding the rest of our community, in the broadest sense, with ideas and deliberation.

In the same self-managed logic, we should, over the remainder of year, organize the GNU social Camp in an open call specific to the members of the club and people involved in the development of GNU social across Europe.

Forms of integration

indianos notaría fusiónEvery tool has its own forms of integration, which, together, allow for a whole range of commitments. The Society of Las Indias has its own itinerary of integration, which is well-known for all its alternatives and possible results; in the Art of Things, the normal way will be enter as a collaborating partner to be part of concrete projects oriented towards personal consumption (beer, for example) or the market (creating a book, developing a product for the direct economy), but it could well be that over time, it could have full-time worker-members; and in the Club, one could be a full member—those dedicated to maintaining and financing the structure, or collaborator—the members who participate in deliberation and activities.

What about the future?

aniversario lamatriz 1Among friends and members of the Club, there already exist initiatives that indicate that in the Indiano community, which is made up of all members of the three structures, all kinds of ventures will emerge. We hope that many of them will be integrated naturally into the cooperative group.

So, if we do things well, we could be on the path to having, with an expanded group that can hold many more people than today, the first node to materialize the big idea that arose from this community to win over theoreticians and activists from across the world, from Michel Bauwens to Kevin Carson: the phyle. That’s what orients us, and we must not lose it, but also not forget that, as the Communard Manifesto said:

We have to confront a gigantic problem created by over-scaling, from smallness, with smallness, and step by step.

Translated by Steve Herrick from the original (in Spanish)

A new and much more open “Indies”

On diversity

by David from las Indias

Diversity always was an important subject for las Indias. We were born a community of conversation. And for a long time, we had in common an (online) conversation, not an economy.

While our conversation and its results took place on the Internet, everything was easy. If we published an online book and there were two possible covers, we did not choose between them, but published both and left the readers to choose which to download. If we wanted to protest against a law because we thought that it ruled against our civil rights and there were two strategies… We followed both and each member of the community chose which one to do… Or even to do both. We call this system “plurarchy”. Plurarchy is the essence of distributed networks: nobody can filter anybody, everybody can do, say and publish what they want without subtracting from the opportunities for other’s expression, and the “decisions” are seldom a clear yes or no, but usually “more or less”. As our conversation deepened, we became closer and more consensual but our diversity did not decrease. In fact, just the opposite happened. We had more diversity. To the external world we might look like a crazy rainbow of surprisingly passionate nuances.

LI In a Madrid Bus

In a Madrid’s public bus going to celebrate Caro’s birthday few months ago (Caro is the one closest  to the camera). All six of us are in this picture.

But in some cases it was necessary to make a decision. If we published a book on paper, there usually were big savings of scale and we could not afford publish two different editions with the money we had. That is, sometimes we were in situations of scarcity and scarcity makes it necessary to decide. And to make a decision means to renounce a certain degree of diversity.

Through this we discovered that every conversation that acted as if there was only one output from all the inputs of our members was condemned to centralization, as democratic as it might be. The problem is that, once you create a mechanism for centralizing, it is very easy to generate artificial scarcity.

For example, why is it that a newspaper–however democratic–cannot reflect as many points of view as there are? Why are not all articles in Wikipedia approved? Why is that the “Towel Day” article is “relevant” in the English Wikipedia but “irrelevant” in the Spanish version and thus remains unpublished? The short answer: because each incorporation, each extra text, increases the global costs and therefore subtracts opportunities for the other contents that are published thanks to a limited amount of money. It is necessary to choose. It can be done through authoritarian methods–as it happen in the usual newspapers–or through oligarchy–as with Wikipedia’s bureaucrats–or democratically–as in some alternative media. But you must choose, because scarcity is real…

Yes, it is real… but unnecessary, we said. It is a kind of artificial scarcity because there were other way to organize the media or a wiki which makes abundance and thus maximum diversity, possible. There is no bureaucracy or voting system in BitTorrent. Nobody decides which contents can be published in the blogsphere or in the world wide web, because distributed networks make abundance possible: a new page, a new point of view, is not an extra cost for anybody.  Choose a distributed structure for publishing your book, your magazine or your encyclopedia and we are back to the world of diversity!

Since then we have investigated distributed networks and how apply their logic to more and more fields of the human activity, even physical production. We learned something extremely important: diversity lives in distributed networks… but not necessarily in its nodes.

Take other example: we used to insist that a blog is not media, the blogsphere is. Why? Because a blog has the same problems that a newspaper or Wikipedia has. Alone it lives in scarcity. But as part of the distributed world network of blogs, it takes part and contributes to abundance and diversity.

LI at the las Indias Club

We are having a beer in a bar close to our home after a gathering of “las Indias Club”, as we do every Thursday.

Why am I telling you this story? Because when I listen the concerns about the diversity of American communes, I feel they are like a blog trying to include the whole content of the world in itself. And I think that is not their role or what they should want from themselves, but from their network.

Nodes, communities, have to be free and distinctive to contribute to a really diverse network, and not try to substitute for the role of the network we must build.

Take las Indias. We are sociologically not representative of our environment in many issues. For example: the number of females is double the number of males. It also happens that the percentage of us born in South America, 50%, is a lot higher than the percentage of people born out of Europe living in Spain… but it is a lot less than the percentage of South American born people in the global map of Spanish speakers… and so on, and so on…

The question is, are we more or less diverse than the society we live in? I cannot say. We are just different, as it is different today to live in an egalitarian community. We have a distinctive culture and it attracts–and selects by itself–distinctive persons. We have had in our history more male sympathizers than female sympathizers but, the fact is, our way of living has been more attractive for women. Are we doing anything wrong? Should we worried about not being representative? Should we refuse the application of new female members for a while in order not to become sexually biased in our way of looking the world? We don’t think so.

LI  in Gijón

We six again on the day we presented “The Book of Community” in Gijón, an industrial town in Northern Spain last year.

I understand the concerns of American communities. It is shocking for me that you have so few “foreigners”. English is one of the three most spoken languages in the world and there is a vibrant conversation in English online. Shouldn’t you represent these diversities in your composition? Or is it the diversity of your suburb, your state, the USA or English speaking North America that you should represent? I think the answer is that you should not represent anything but yourselves. It does not mean a community should not be concerned about diversity. But the diversity we have to be worry about is not about how our fellow communards “are” according to sociological divides, but what the communal life allows them/us to do. The kind of diversity directly linked with what we call “abundance”. I think the main ethical commitment of the commune life is not to artificially produced scarcity and I also believe that abundance, diversity in what we do, is the real measure of success for a community.

The kind of diversity many of you are concerned about, even looking for, sex, sexual orientation, race, etc. will come by itself, but probably not to every community, but to the network we must build together.

(If you want to know more about our ideas, please read and discuss “The Communard Manifesto” and, if you like it, please share it.)

On diversity