Skip to content

Commons

Pirate Care, A Syllabus

Alarmed that certain types of caring for people has been criminalized, a large group of Europeans assembled a course syllabus in 2019 on what they call “Pirate Care.” As the convenors of the project explained, “We live in a world where captains get arrested for saving people’s lives on the sea; where a person downloading scientific articles faces 35 years in jail; where people risk charges for bringing contraceptives to those who otherwise couldn’t get them. Folks are getting in trouble for giving food to the poor, medicine to the sick, water to the thirsty, shelter to the homeless. And yet our heroines care and disobey. They are pirates.” Hence the idea of “pirate care” – and the need to offer humanitarian or lifesaving care even if the state chooses to criminalize it. 

A New Model For Community-Owned Farmland

Today Agrarian Trust announces the launch of a transformative new model for community-based farm and ranch ownership and tenure, the Agrarian Commons. After several years of development and collaborative input, the Agrarian Commons launches in 10 states across the country. Co-founded with 12 farms representing 2,400 acres of diversified agriculture serving local foodsheds and communities, the Agrarian Commons is a profoundly collaborative endeavor and central to Agrarian Trust’s mission to support land access for the next generation of farmers. Agrarian Trust was founded in 2013 to address the staggering loss of farmland and the extreme challenges facing farmland seekers. Initially launched as a project of the Schumacher Center for New Economics, Agrarian Trust was established by a diverse group of stakeholders from across the United States, many of them farm service providers and beginning farmers who have witnessed firsthand the formidable obstacles facing agriculture’s next generation.

Russia Slams US Order To Privatize Outer Space

Russian officials on Tuesday criticized a US executive order paving the way for the exploitation of off-earth resources. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said it would be "unacceptable" for the US to unilaterally privatize space. Roscosmos deputy director Sergei Saveliev went further, arguing that the order would allow the US to occupy off-earth territories. He said it undermined the spirit of international cooperation in space. "Attempts to expropriate outer space and aggressive plans to actually seize territories of other planets hardly set the countries for fruitful cooperation," Saveliev said. US President Donald Trump on Monday signed an executive order establishing US policy on the exploitation resources in space.

The Horror Films Got It Wrong; COVID-19 Turned Us Into Caring Neighbors

You can watch neoliberalism collapsing in real-time. Governments whose mission was to shrink the state, to cut taxes and borrowing and dismantle public services, are discovering that the market forces they fetishised cannot defend us from this crisis. The theory has been tested, and almost everywhere abandoned. It may not be true that there were no atheists in the trenches, but there are no neoliberals in a pandemic. The shift is even more interesting than it first appears. Power has migrated not just from private money to the state, but from both market and state to another place altogether: the commons. All over the world, communities have mobilised where governments have failed. In India, young people have self-organised on a massive scale to provide aid packages for “daily wagers”: people without savings or stores, who rely entirely on cash flow that has now been cut off.

The ZAD: Revenge Against The Commons

From making our own bread to running a pirate radio station, planting herbal medicine gardens to making ‘rebel camembert’, from a rap recording studio to a pasta production workshop, an artisanal brewery to two blacksmiths’ forges, a communal justice system to a library and even a full-scale working lighthouse – the ZAD has become a new commune for the 21st century. This beautifully-imperfect utopia in resistance against an airport has been supported by a radically diverse popular movement, bringing together tens of thousands of anarchists and farmers, trade unionists and naturalists, environmentalists and students, locals and revolutionaries of every flavour. Everything changed on 17 January 2018, when the French prime minister appeared on TV to cancel the airport project – and in the same breath declare that the ZAD, the ‘outlaw zone’, would be evicted and ‘law and order’ restored.

Omnia Sunt Communia: May Day 2017

By Peter Linebaugh for Counterpunch. The constitution of the U.S.A. began when an assembly of rich white bankers, lawyers, and slave owners gathered behind closed doors in Philadelphia in 1787. They organized a government which in the first instance monopolized money-making and war-making and in the second instance did so with a series of legal mechanisms to minimize democracy – the Electoral College, the 3/5s clause, the Senate, the Supreme Court – so familiar to us. They were led by “the father of the constitution,” a man owning more than a hundred slaves, James Madison. He makes clear the fear that underlay this constitution; it was omnia sunt communia. The states ratified this constitution over the next two years in no small part because of the tireless efforts of Alexander Hamilton and James Madison collected in The Federalist Papers. The tenth of these papers tells it all. There Madison expresses his fear of “theoretic politicians,” that is, those who advocated an “agrarian law” or equalization of land, those who favored “perfect equality,” those who were “equalized in their possessions.” In brief, the U.S.A. was to become a massive state against the commons. This was an appeal to the men of property, the men of private property, the men who commanded property as capital.

How To Form A Global Counter-Economy

By Michel Bauwens and Vasilis Kostakis for Open Democracy. We outline a list of six interrelated strategies for post-corporate entrepreneurial coalitions. The aim is to go beyond the classical corporate paradigm, and its extractive profit-maximizing practices, toward the establishment of open cooperatives that cultivate a commons-oriented economy. First, it’s important to recognize that closed business models are based on artificial scarcity. Though knowledge can be shared easily and at very low marginal cost when it is in digital form, closed firms use artificial scarcity to extract rents from the creation or use of digitized knowledge. Through legal repression or technological sabotage, naturally shareable goods are made artificially scarce so that extra profits may be generated. This is particularly galling in the context of life-saving medicines or planet-regenerating technological knowledge. Open cooperatives, in comparison, would recognize natural abundance and refuse to generate revenue by making abundant resources artificially scarce.

Re-Imagining Value: Care Economy, Commons, Cyberspace & Nature

By David Bollier. What is “value” and how shall we protect it? It’s a simple question for which we don’t have a satisfactory answer. For conventional economists and politicians, the answer is simple: value is essentially the same as price. Value results when private property and “free markets” condense countless individual preferences and purchases into a single, neutral representation of value: price. That is seen as the equivalent of “wealth.” This theory of value has always been flawed, both theoretically and empirically, because it obviously ignores many types of “value” that cannot be given a price. No matter, it "works," and so this theory of value generally prevails in political and policy debates. Economic growth (measured as Gross Domestic Product) and value are seen as the same.

Newsletter: Privatization vs. The People

By Kevin Zeese and Margaret Flowers for Popular Resistance. The essence of privatization today is to turn a public good into a profit center for Wall Street. US economic policy has created a wealth class that is grotesquely wealthy and under-taxed so that it has the money government needs to provide public services. This forces the government to borrow money from or sell a public service to the privateers or to create a public-private partnership (disguised corporate welfare and crony capitalism) in order to provide essential services. There is another way. We’ve reached a tipping point, as evidenced by the worldwide revolt through Occupy, the Arab Spring, the Indignados and other movements. We can reverse the trend toward privatization and inequality by claiming the commons for our mutual prosperity. If we believe in a more just, sustainable and democratic world, a world based on the common good, we will build the foundation for a world in which people work together to solve common problems and create an equitable economy that betters the lives for all.

Building The Commons As An Antidote To Predatory Capitalism

By Margaret Flowers and Kevin Zeese for Moving Beyond Capitalism. We've reached a tipping point in awareness of the effects of the current global economy that has erupted in a worldwide revolt as we can see in the Occupy, Arab Spring, Idle No More and Indignado movements. People are searching for alternative ways of structuring the economy and society that are empowering and more just and sustainable. Part of this work includes understanding and building the "commons," which is the opposite of the predatory market economy. As we will describe below, concentrated wealth is derived by taking from the commons for personal gain in an undemocratic way. We can reverse the current trend toward privatization and wealth inequality by claiming the commons and using it for mutual prosperity. The commons cannot exist without a participatory governance structure. Therefore, building the commons is a fundamental step toward real democracy.

Barcelona’s Struggle To Create The City As A Commons

By David Bollier for Shareable - On a visit to Barcelona last week, I learned a great deal about the city’s pioneering role in developing "the city as a commons." I also learned that crystallizing a new commons paradigm -- even in a city committed to cooperatives and open digital networks -- comes with many gnarly complexities. The Barcelona city government is led by former housing activist Ada Colau, who was elected mayor in May 2015. She is a leader of the movement that became the political party Barcelona En Comú (“Barcelona in Common”). Once in office, Colau halted the expansion of new hotels, a brave effort to prevent “economic development” (i.e., tourism) from hollowing out the city’s lively, diverse neighborhoods.

Here’s What a Commons-Based Economy Looks Like

By David Bollier - So what might a commons-based economy actually look like in its broadest dimensions, and how might we achieve it? My colleague Michel Bauwens of the P2P Foundation offers a remarkably thoughtful and detailed explanation in a just-released YouTube talk, produced by FutureSharp. It’s not really a video – just Michel’s voiceover and a simple schematic chart – but the 20-minute talk does a great job of sketching the big-picture strategies that must be pursued if we are going to invent a new type of post-capitalist economy. Michel focuses on the importance of three specific realms that are crucial to this new vision – ecological sustainability, open knowledge and social solidarity. Each is critical as a field of action for overturning the existing logic of market capitalism.

Newsletter: Billionaires Fear Revolt As People Power Grows

By Kevin Zeese and Margaret Flowers. Last week there was a populist revolt from across the political spectrum. Congress received tens of thousands of phone calls every day from people who are clear which side they are on: they want people and planet before profits; they want an open, transparent democracy not a secretive oligarchy. The campaign to stop Fast Track for corporate trade agreements like the TPP is a clarifying moment. It is democracy vs. oligarchs making decisions for us. It is transparency vs. secret law. It is the people vs. big business. It is a mobilized people vs. big money. These are the issues that unite people into a movement of movements. These are conflicts that let us know who is on the side of the people.

Reimagining Our Collective Powers Against Austerity

By Max Haiven in Roarmag. You ask about the utility and power of claiming a “right to the commons,” and how that might inform the circuit of struggles we are today encountering in Canada, where I live. I think the answer here depends on how you imagine “rights.” Is a right something granted by a state or sovereign, or is it something that emerges more organically from communities as they struggle? I think the latter is true. And so then how can we speak of a “right” to the commons? I think we cannot imagine that this right will ever be “granted” to us by those in economic and political power. In the end, the ideal of the commons (horizontalist, grassroots democracy, sustainable reciprocity, community-level decision-making and radical autonomy) is completely antithetical to the state-form and the Eurocentric regime of sovereignty that has, to date, been the “container” of “rights” as we are accustomed to imagining them.

We’re Building A Moral Commons, & We’re All In This Together

Shared vulnerability is empowerment. This is a theme embraced by other activists around the country. It might be the key to an emerging thread: the ethical prerequisites to a consciousness of economic justice. In my work promoting cooperative economic structures and policies, I wanted to know more about the precise role played by consciousness. On the one hand, as Karl Marx wrote, “Life is not determined by consciousness, but consciousness by life.” One doesn't merely imagine oppression away, and the new age obsession with language and symbol change can often become a substitute for real material change. On the other hand, our values inform our behavior, and even the most scientific-minded revolutionaries like Leon Trotsky emphasized that consciousness must precede (and accompany) revolution.
Sign Up To Our Daily Digest

Independent media outlets are being suppressed and dropped by corporations like Google, Facebook and Twitter. Sign up for our daily email digest before it’s too late so you don’t miss the latest movement news.