(en) Encounter2: Report of Economic table 1a/1b Madrid

Mark Connolly (mark_c@geocities.com)
Tue, 19 Aug 1997 11:50:41 +0000


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On August 3rd the 2nd Encounter for Humanity and Against Neoliberalism attended by 3-4000 activists ended in the Spansih state. This document is the

Report of Madrid Mesa 1a, Work and the Means of Production, and 1b, Creating Conditions for a Life with Dignity of the 2nd Encounter for Humanity & against Neoliberalism, Spain 1997

For more reports see http://www.geocities.com/CapitolHill/3849/gatherdx.html

I. Introduction

We came together to help make a world of dignity and justice and well-being for all humanity. This should include the dignified, democratic participation of us all, women and men, in producing the material things we need, redistributing the wealth, raising our children, and taking care of each other. But neoliberal capitalism offers us misery and exploitation so that to work is to create the chains of poverty and subservience for most of us and wealth for a few.

The system of capitalist work is a system of divisions and hierarchies: isolated individuals competing with each other through competing national economies, hierarchies between women and men, between north and south and within them, by race and national origin, by wage and kind of work. So our struggles against work must also overcome these divisions if they are to be successful.

Changes in the nature of work under neoliberalism are inherently contradictory. On one hand, employment is more necessary than ever in order to survive. But employment is less and less available and rewarding. This creates the conditions for increasing conflict against capitalist waged work.

So we meet in this mesa to share our understanding of work under capitalism and to develop the ideas, strategies, demands and networks of communication and struggle that will enslave us to go beyond capitalism and create a diverse and just world, to dare to invent our future.

II. Work

1. Changing North/South/East Relations

Relations between north and south and within both north and south are changing, in work and production, and in all social spheres. Today, there are similarities and differences in the forms of exploitation between north and south. The similarities are increasing, but there remain old forms of imperialism which are now being renewed by neoliberalism. Neoliberalism stimulates both development and underdevelopment in both north and south, so that we find the north in the south and the south in the north. Additionally, the workers in the east are now being prepared for various forms of exploitation by northern corporations. Workers in the north do not fundamentally benefit from imperialism -- it is the ruling class and the transnational corporations, and particularly speculative financial capital, that benefit -- but there is a lot of complexity and inequality in relations between the working class in the north and the working class in the south. Workers in every part of the world lose under neoliberalism, but the workers in the south lose more.

The structures, organization and relations of work in both north and south are changing. One reason is migration, especially from south to north and from the land to the cities as people are forced off the land, and neoliberal policies of austerity and opening of markets create massive poverty. Capitalist investment meanwhile moves some kinds of jobs from north to south in search of cheaper labor and no environmental or social regulations.

Those who hold economic and political power have central organizations that organize structural adjustment, force the payment of external debts, impose so-called free trade and privatization, and plan the reorganization of work and investment. These include the International Monetary Fund (IMF), Work Bank, World Trade Organization ( WTO ), Asian Pacific Economic Council ( APEC ), MERCOSUR , and the NAFTA and

Maastricht treaties. Social democratic institutions and the so-called socialist parties of Africa, Europe, the Americas, Asia and Oceania, and many trade union bureaucracies have all accepted neoliberalism and collaborate with global agencies, transnational corporations and governments to impose the neoliberal agenda. We oppose all these groups and institutions and their plans for our exploitation and death.

2. Many Faces of Work

Capitalists try to reduce all of human life to work and consumption in the market. Capitalist work is thus exploitation, so that the demand for capitalist work is the demand to be exploited. Many ways are used to force us into this exploitation. However, to work as humans is to produce and reproduce our conditions of life and means to relate with each other. The human way to work is not of competing atomistic individuals, but of social individuals working in cooperative, dignified, and democratic arrangements. The question of human work therefore opens the political question of direct democracy from below to determine the production and reproduction of our lives. However, we must all live, and to live today it often requires that we participate in one of the many forms of capitalist work.

Today, neoliberal capital uses every kind of work in its efforts to suck profit out of the lives of people. Much of the work in the world, perhaps that of half the people of the world, is done in ways that are not directly or immediately part of the market. This comprises mostly forms of agricultrual work and life, but also includes the many areas of the informal economy. The rule of money finds ways to exploit this work, make profit from it, and to bring it under market control.

At this most recent phase of world capitalist development, in both north and south slavery increases, as well as many forms of work that are semi-slavery, such as debt bondage, child labor, forced prostitution, prison labor and workfare . In free trade zones and the maquiladora factories, workers labor in near- slavery conditions.

Neoliberalism depends on increased exploitation of the unwaged and more unpaid work from everyone. Unpaid work includes all the work traditionally done by women in the home to raise children, make men ready for work outside the home, nurse the sick, care for the elderly, and reproduce the entire domestic sphere. It includes unpaid forced overtime, time spent looking for work, and labor obligations for landlords and local political bosses. Neoliberalism also blurs the distinction between waged work and semi- slavery by imposing flex- time, on-call labor, self-employment, working at home -- all ways in which the whole life is, like in slavery, reduced to work for capital.

Without a fundamental redistribution of work time to make it equal, there will also be more service labor in which the low-waged workers work for the higher paid workers. Today we see women migrating from the south to work in the homes of the wealthy in the north as they have done for generations in the south, while often the men are gardeners and take care of the property of the wealthy.

The neoliberal offensive removes labor protection laws relating to limits on hours of work, security of labor contracts, and the minimum wage. It imposes workfare in which capitalist work is made a requirement for receiving state unemployment and welfare benefits. New, superexploited and insecure forms of work are imposed especially on women and increase the exploitation of the family. These policies are imposed in both north and south, and they make conditions in the north more similar to those in the south.

There are also many socially destructive areas of work including the military and the police, prisons, social welfare bureaucracies, and the capitalist mass media apparatus. These forms of work destroy the dignity of those who do that work while even more destroying the dignity and often the very lives of those against whom they work. There are also many forms of socially useless work, such as in banking, insurance, trading and keeping track of who owns what piece of capital, as well as forms of work that only exist because of the overwork others of us are forced to do: such as fast food restaurants. The workers in these sectors must be helped to find other forms of employment.

We also need to carefully consider technology, to determine what technology is humanly useful and what is humanly destructive, what makes less work and what makes more work, what is environmentally sound and what is not. Neoliberalism uses technology not as a tool to liberate humanity from tedious and unnecessary work, but as weapon in the competitive battle, as a means to control and impose work. So we must also consider the forms of technology, modifying technology as necessary to use for human ends.

Finally, capitalist work and the search for jobs creates competition among us. Neoliberal strategies try to reduce us to isolated individuals and destroy our communities and solidarity in order to make us unable to resist capitalist work. Having to live under such conditions is a form of emotional and social work as we try to recover from these abuses. More, capitalist work involves the destruction of the environment and having to live with the consequences.

In response to slavery, semi-slavery, wage slavery and all forms of exploitation through work for capitalism, we assert the need for democratic, participatory control of production so that we all can live a life of dignity, including life at work, while eliminating useless and destructive work.

3. Consumption

Capitalist work and capitalist consumption are closely related, but they are mediated by the market, so that consumption requires money. Only those with money are free to consume in the free market. Here there is great inequality in both north and south and between north and south.

A society geared towards the production for profit creates superfluous consumption and lives devoted to consumption. Some forms of consumption are not ecologically sustainable or socially positive, and these must be reduced or eliminated. Neoliberalism also manipulates production to create new needs and new markets, and it imposes such forms of production as monocrop agriculture for export while destroying production of food for subsistence. There is also the use of enormous areas of land to produce meat, which is not globally sustainable. Meanwhile, billions of humans live of the edge of starvation or live with minimal subsistence. Their need must be met, but in ways that are dignified, and socially and ecologically sustainable.

These problems ultimately cannot be solved within the capitalist market. We must have participatory democratic control over production in order to solve questions of consumption. To solve these problems, we must be able to reorganize consumption on a more collective and ecologically sustainable basis so that we do not have to consider consumption in terms of more or less, but in terms of the quality it brings to our lives. Thus the political and ethical aspects of consumption could be taken into account, such as the real costs of our consumption to producers, other consumer, and the environment.

III. Struggles and Alternatives: Reducing Work Time and Creating Non-Capitalist Work

Struggles to reduce capitalist work time, to control land and the means of production, and to build alternative ways to produce and reproduce our life can unite diverse people against the inhuman vampire called neoliberal capital. We recognize that to survive we engage in many particular struggles over immediate issues, but when linked these struggles can open the door to wider and deeper struggles.

We need therefore to develop principles with which we can analyze our struggles to see if they put us in a better position to overcome the inhuman way of life we are forced into, whether they reduce hierarchies and create wider spaces of shared democratic participants. Some of these principles include: to reduce the risk of being co-opted by capital; to ensure that our struggles and demands correspond to many sectors, needs and aspirations; and to ensure they embody a principle of human liberation. We must therefore be sure that reductions in work in one place are not at the expense of work in another. We can also develop principles that distinguish between projects imposed from the top or outside by capitalism, and those from the bottom and inside, from the people.

The struggle to reduce capitalist work allows more time to struggle against capital and more time to develop alternative was to produce, live and redistribute domestic chores. We simultaneously demand higher wages and equalization of wages, between men and women, citizens and migrants, north and south, different kinds of workers, and races. The struggle to reduce work time for capital is a struggle not only of the waged workers, but also of the unwaged workers, the millions of farmers and peasants, students, unemployed, elderly, housewives and indigenous of the world. For example, a well in a village could mean the reduction of arduous work by men and women. When we reduce work time, we must ensure the equal distribution of the work that we decide needs to be done. While we reduce work time, me must insist on conditions that ensure dignity and health for the work that remains to be done.

A guaranteed income assuring life with dignity for all residents of nation is also right. We say residents because this right belongs to migrants as well as citizens: we all have rights to inherit the wealth and knowledge that are products of centuries of collective human activity. This right is independent of requirement to work for capital. Income without work can also be gained through various struggles such as occupying houses or land, reappropriations , and refusing to pay for services.

In the south, and in some places of the north, rights to land, water, and other means of agricultural production are essential to life with dignity and the creation of just societies. These rights must not be limited by requirements to produce for the capitalist market.

Creating alternative spaces for production and social life is good in itself because these spaces enable relations that are outside of and beyond the market. They also can put limits to capitalist expansion and support creation of spaces in which struggles can grow and be protected. We can learn through this how to create many visions of ways to organize our lives and production. The satisfaction of needs outside of direct control of the capitalist market enables us to fight capital on a terrain that is more favorable to us. These forms of alternatives can develop out of traditional forms of work, but some traditional forms involve exploitation and also must be abolished. Many forms of third sector work (supposedly depending neither on the market nor the state) are not true alternatives to capitalist work, but instead are a new form of lower-waged capitalist work.

All these struggles -- to reduce work time, guarantee income, gain control of means of production, and developing alternatives -- can be raised in both south and north, but in different ways that respond to the different particularities. These struggles can be contradictory, so we need to pay careful attention to how they can support and strengthen each other and not be used against each other. Our struggles are much stronger when they are combined so that each particular demand is not isolated or coopted. We need to create a process of building on and enriching our struggles that includes careful study and honest discussion. It is also important in this process of work to transform the relations between women and men in both personal and political lives. This means that men, not only women, assume the responsibility of this struggle.

To make successful struggles and to win a new world, we need many forms of organization. We insist on the right of all people to organize and defend themselves from attack by states, corporations, paramilitary and fascist groups.

IV. Strategies and Actions

To win our demands along the way toward a new world that contains many worlds, we must develop strategies and analyze them in light of our goals and principles. We must also understand the institutions and process of neoliberalism in their military, financial, political, ideological and cultural forms, as well as neoliberal forms of production and consumption. We understand that the neoliberal capitalist system is only one of many expressions of exploitative power that exist, some of which pre-date capitalism, including patriarchy, racism, and caste distinctions. We are committed to fight against exploitative power and oppression in all their multiple forms and guises.

We have agreed to create networks as a fundamental form of organization, rather than parties or other forms of organization. We see these networks as horizontal and participatory, as ways of living in part the future we are struggling to make, though we recognize that the construction of the networks as such will not solve the problems of power and democracy in the ways we organize ourselves. But we have many questions about the best ways to proceed: --how can we build upon existing networks? --should we set up our own network and undertake struggles specific to our own network so that people will take the Encuentro even more seriously? --how should we begin networks - locally, regionally, nationally, globally, or by subject or some combination? --how can we include struggles not represented by participants in the network? -- how can we create new ways to link struggles and networks and support each other? --how can we best use a mix of electronics and print media to reach people? --are there limits to networks as a form of struggle, and if so, what more do we need to create?

Actions coordinated across national boundaries by a network for practical struggle can take many forms including: --civil disobedience -- boycotts of specific transnational corporations, against their labor practices, their attacks on indigenous peoples and their ecologically destructive actions --campaigns against payment of taxes for destructive ends, such as the military --political and solidarity strikes -- mass public actions against austerity, structural adjustment and the institutions which impose them, and all neoliberal practices; and --self-defense by any means necessary.

Using these methods and more, we can take actions against the institutions and practices that attack us. Mesa 1A and 1B recognize that there are many actions worthy of support, but we here explicitly state our general support for the following: --support for the Declaration of Alcobenda

--counter-summit to protest the WTO meeting in Geneva in May 1998 --actions against Maastricht , NAFTA , and other continental of subcontinental strategies of strangulation on humanity --actions against the arms trade; and --campaigns against external debt.

V. Conclusion

We come together to help make a world of dignity and humanity. The richness of our discussions, the warmth of our exchanges, and the humanity of our experiences and struggles have demonstrated to us that we are dignified subjects. But this dignity is taken away from us when the capitalist work machine uses us for its purposes. We have outlined the general elements that could give voice to a strong collective NO! to this inhuman way of life. But we also know that there are many YESES! , many different but compatible visions of ways to exercise power on our lives as dignified human beings. The creation for the flowering of these YESES!

On these foundations we must now develop, discuss and debate strategies that we can use in our different circumstances to create a world of justice, direct democracy from below, and dignity. We expect that the next Encuentro will focus on the question of strategies and build on the work we do between now and then.

One NO! many YESES!

31 August 1997, Madrid, Spanish State, Third Planet from Sol.

P.S. Finally, we want to thank the companeras and compeneros who have organized this

Encuetro for the enormous work they have done. This silent effort has made it possible for us to get together and create, within the brutal capitalist world that surrounds us, what one member of our group call this precious communist bubble.

[Editor's note: Mesas 1a and b in Madrid involved 80-100 people from probably 15-20 nations (I do not have a count), mostly people from Europe.]

{Second editor's note: I hope persons interested in the work of this mesa will continue to discuss the issues raised and more importantly develop strategy that will help us reach the goals we have outlined in this report. I will circulate by the start of Sept. a brief proposal for this. If you see this report and want to see the brief proposal but do not receive it by the start of Sept., please contact me by email at <montyneill@aol.com> and I will forward it to you. If you see it and do not have email, write to me at Monty Neill, Box 204, Boston, MA 02130 USA.]

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