Is another way possible? July 17

July 17, 2015

NOTE: Images in this archived article have been removed.

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A roundup of news, views and ideas from the mainstream press and the blogosphere.  Click on the headline link to see the full article.

Urban Gardening in Greece – a New Form of Protest

Orestes Kolokouris, Green European Journal
Guerrilla gardening and local consumer-producer networks are redefining life in today’s Greek cities. While the crisis has shifted politicians’ attention away from the climate, “transition and recovery movements” work hard to keep the environment on the agenda.

… Environmental politics were never well developed in Greece, but in the last years before the economic crisis the Greek environmental movement has had a short “renaissance”. First, there was the movement against the Olympic Games, which helped reinforce other local urban movements fighting to reclaim public spaces for societal use. Secondly, the massive series of forest fires in 2007 led to an increased public awareness about the causes and effects of global warming, which then led to the creation of new environmental grassroots movements (e.g. Green Attack, Bloggers, Guerrilla Gardeners etc.), and the reinforcement of the Greek Green Party that gained an MEP in the 2009 European elections. This in turn has led to the “greening” of the public discourse of other political parties (mainly Pasok and Syriza). Finally, the Greek riots of December 2008 and the participating youth movements have led to the creation of new social experiments around the social and solidarity economy, this involves the so called “transition and recovery movements” (movements aiming to transform economical activities and every-day life rather than to protest and reclaim changes from the authorities) or the theory of degrowth.

… Urban agriculture essentially did not exist until very recently in Greece. Its rapid development coincides with the rapid deterioration of living standards in Greek society in recent years due to the deep crisis. But it roots can be traced back to a few years earlier: to the first years of the 21st century, when small libertarian and alternative and ecological circles decided to experiment with this way of life. The projects first managed to raise attention following the fires of 2007. This was the period when guerrilla gardeners became active and the first more permanent activities of urban agricultural activities (eg. the creation of a Botanical Garden in Petroupoli, West-Athens) were reported on. The crisis accelerated the diffusion of urban agriculture in Greek cities.

… The self-managed urban exploitations are generally small in size and operate with collective management. Almost always these exploitations have many other political or cultural activities (seminars, public debates, festivals, theatrical groups etc.) apart from production. In terms of internal organisation they operate by the principles of grass-roots democracy. Their activists are generally middle class, young educated people in socially, politically and culturally active areas but the audience gradually widens to other groups of people.
(3 July 2015)

Mixed fortunes as solidarity economy takes root in Greece

Emma Graham-Harrison, The Guardian
Time banks, farmer-to-buyer sales groups and alternative currencies springing up but expansion has not been steady or easy As money has become tighter in Greece, an alternative “solidarity economy” has sprung up providing everything from food and medical care to hairdressing and language classes to thousands – without a euro changing hands.

The Athens Time Bank, for example, allows members to collect credits by offering an hour of their time to someone who needs their services. The bank boasts doctors, dentists, electricians, yoga teachers and plumbers among its ranks, but the most popular service on offer is psychotherapy – highlighting how years of austerity have eaten away at more than just savings and living standards.

“These are the seeds, we are still in the beginning,” said member Christine Papadopoulou, who is also one of the coordinators of an annual “festival of solidarity” that brings together thousands of people for discussions, concerts and workshops each autumn.

… Of all the “solidarity economy” projects, alternative currencies have drawn perhaps the most media attention amid questions about what Greece will do if it runs out of euros or decides to leave the shared currency. But running a currency is complex and demanding, and most have been short-lived.
(17 July 2015)

The end of capitalism has begun

Paul Mason, The Guardian 
Without us noticing, we are entering the postcapitalist era. At the heart of further change to come is information technology, new ways of working and the sharing economy. The old ways will take a long while to disappear, but it’s time to be utopian

… over the past 25 years it has been the left’s project that has collapsed. The market destroyed the plan; individualism replaced collectivism and solidarity; the hugely expanded workforce of the world looks like a “proletariat”, but no longer thinks or behaves as it once did.

If you lived through all this, and disliked capitalism, it was traumatic. But in the process technology has created a new route out, which the remnants of the old left – and all other forces influenced by it – have either to embrace or die. Capitalism, it turns out, will not be abolished by forced-march techniques. It will be abolished by creating something more dynamic that exists, at first, almost unseen within the old system, but which will break through, reshaping the economy around new values and behaviours. I call this postcapitalism.

As with the end of feudalism 500 years ago, capitalism’s replacement by postcapitalism will be accelerated by external shocks and shaped by the emergence of a new kind of human being. And it has started.

Postcapitalism is possible because of three major changes information technology has brought about in the past 25 years.

… Almost unnoticed, in the niches and hollows of the market system, whole swaths of economic life are beginning to move to a different rhythm. Parallel currencies, time banks, cooperatives and self-managed spaces have proliferated, barely noticed by the economics profession, and often as a direct result of the shattering of the old structures in the post-2008 crisis.

You only find this new economy if you look hard for it. In Greece, when a grassroots NGO mapped the country’s food co-ops, alternative producers, parallel currencies and local exchange systems they found more than 70 substantive projects and hundreds of smaller initiatives ranging from squats to carpools to free kindergartens. To mainstream economics such things seem barely to qualify as economic activity – but that’s the point. They exist because they trade, however haltingly and inefficiently, in the currency of postcapitalism: free time, networked activity and free stuff. It seems a meagre and unofficial and even dangerous thing from which to craft an entire alternative to a global system, but so did money and credit in the age of Edward III.

New forms of ownership, new forms of lending, new legal contracts: a whole business subculture has emerged over the past 10 years, which the media has dubbed the “sharing economy”. Buzzwords such as the “commons” and “peer-production” are thrown around, but few have bothered to ask what this development means for capitalism itself.

… The modern day external shocks are clear: energy depletion, climate change, ageing populations and migration. They are altering the dynamics of capitalism and making it unworkable in the long term. They have not yet had the same impact as the Black Death – but as we saw in New Orleans in 2005, it does not take the bubonic plague to destroy social order and functional infrastructure in a financially complex and impoverished society.

Once you understand the transition in this way, the need is not for a supercomputed Five Year Plan – but a project, the aim of which should be to expand those technologies, business models and behaviours that dissolve market forces, socialise knowledge, eradicate the need for work and push the economy towards abundance. I call it Project Zero – because its aims are a zero-carbon-energy system; the production of machines, products and services with zero marginal costs; and the reduction of necessary work time as close as possible to zero. (17 July 2015)

John Holloway: cracking capitalism vs. the state option
Amador Fernández-Savater, Roar Magazine
With left parties on the rise in Spain and Greece, John Holloway reflects on his influential 2002 thesis: can we change the world without taking power?

In 2002, John Holloway published a landmark book: Change the World without Taking Power. Inspired by the ‘¡Ya basta!’ of the Zapatistas, by the movement that emerged in Argentina in 2001/’02, and by the anti-globalization movement, Holloway sets out a hypothesis: it is not the idea of revolution or transformation of the world that has been refuted as a result of the disaster of authoritarian communism, but rather the idea of revolution as the taking of power, and of the party as the political tool par excellence.

Holloway discerns another concept of social change at work in these movements, and generally in every practice—however visible or invisible it may be—where a logic different from that of profit is followed: the logic of cracking capitalism. That is, to create, within the very society that is being rejected, spaces, moments, or areas of activity in which a different world is prefigured. Rebellions in motion. From this perspective, the idea of organization is no longer equivalent to that of the party, but rather entails the question of how the different cracks that unravel the fabric of capitalism can recognize each other and connect.

… John Holloway: In the last twenty or thirty years we find a great many movements that claim something else: it is possible to emancipate human activity from alienated labor by opening up cracks where one is able to do things differently, to do something that seems useful, necessary, and worthwhile to us; an activity that is not subordinated to the logic of profit.

These cracks can be spatial (places where other social relations are generated), temporal (“Here, in this event, for the time that we are together, we are going to do things differently. We are going to open windows onto another world.”), or related to particular activities or resources (for example, cooperatives or activities that pursue a non-market logic with regard to water, software, education, etc.). The world, and each one of us, is full of these cracks.

The rejection of alienated and alienating labor entails, at the same time, a critique of the institutional and organizational structures, and the mindset that springs from it. This is how we can explain the rejection of trade unions, parties, and the state that we observe in so many contemporary movements, from the Zapatistas to the Greek or Spanish indignados.

… If we’re not going to accept the annihilation of humanity, which, to me, seems to be on capitalism’s agenda as a real possibility, then the only alternative is to think that our movements are the birth of another world. We have to keep building cracks and finding ways of recognizing them, strengthening them, expanding them, connecting them; seeking the confluence or, preferably, the commoning of the cracks.
(29 September, 2014)


Photo: Dining in the Davie Community Garden, Vancouver, BC, Canada (2010) by Geoff Peters via Wikimedia Commons.

Bart Anderson

Bart Anderson lives in a small condominium in the San Francisco Bay Area. Since retiring in 2002, he spends most of his time monitoring and writing about peak oil, climate change and sustainability. As energy issues have grown in prominence, he’s had to cut back on his gardening and work in Master Gardeners, as well as the natural history and outdoor activities that he loves. In his previous lives, he was a technical writer for Hewlett-Packard (computer diagnostics and repair), a high school teacher, and a newspaper reporter/editor. He is active in a nascent Transition Palo Alto.

Tags: capitalism, community gardens, Greece, Temporary autonomous zones