Reflections and challenges for friends, colleagues and myself.
An alternative World Banner
or a World Bang!
Draft, June 7th, 2005.
Luis Lopezllera Méndez
Promotion of People’s Development, PDP, Civic Association, MEXICO.
These days, a wolf was substituted by another wolf. Mr. Wolfensohn retired and Mr. Wolfowitz is the new President of the World Bank. This man was the under secretary of defense, one of Mr. Bush’s men. Mr. Wolfowitz was the mastermind for the Irak’s war. Another World Bank’s president, Mr. MacNamara, was the mastermind of the Vietnam’s war. Why a bank should be managed by warriors? The WB is shelling the world with money creating more individualism, illusion, competition and division at the grassroots. The world is suffering an unconfessed collapse and soon it will explode as a World Bang, the antithesis of the original Big Bang.
We need to reflect deeply trying to understand.
Today we may compress History. We may assess the human condition evolving through hundreds and even thousands of years and then consider its actual dilemmas. Under this scope, I have only experimented a very short length, the life of my person within a specific generation, a sensitive conscience with deep social commitments during the second half of the 20th century.
Now at the beginning of the 21st Century I see a human spiral repeating the same horrible tune with different instruments. When I was ten years old I was shocked by the killing of 150,000 civilian Japanese in a few seconds with atomic bombs in Hiroshima and Nagasaky. I asked who made this holocaust and the answer accused the same power that exterminated almost all native indians in the U.S. and stole by military action two million square kilometers to our forebears.
(At that time (1847), Thoreau having been an anchorite for two years in Walden Pond, protested against this cynic war and robbery. He was put in jail because he refused to pay taxes in order to raise the army to invade Mexico. The philosopher Emerson wrote him a letter wondering why he was in that situation and Thoreau answered asking him: "Why are not you too in jail here with me!" and then wrote his famous essay "Civil Disobedience". In its first page he put: "Witness the present Mexican war, the work of comparatively a few individuals using the standing government as their tool; for, in the outset, the people would not have consented to this measure". Gandhi was later inspired by his writings).
Today, every day, poor people in the world die of hunger and diseases related to lack of food for an equivalent of 300 Jumbo Jets crashing with all their passengers. But this world in lethargy does not experiment any effective and massive commotion.
(If only one plane plenty of first class passengers, businessmen, tourists and travelers belonging to wealthy and middle classes would crash every day, it would be a worldwide scandal and no doubt mighty institutions would react urgently and effectively to stop the massacre).
As an adolescent, I started wondering if the present progress we witness and even admire (Humanity put their feet on the Moon 36 years ago!), as the result of very productive global powers, has a fundamental wrong cause. We got today after the recent tsunami phenomenon in the Indian Ocean a similar figure of victims caused by the nuclear holocaust 60 years earlier. Are the human and natural catastrophes linked? Surely they are, there is an unconscious linkage between the planet and their inhabitants.
Was there a crucial struggle between the Neanderthals and the Cromagnons? History tells us how civilizations have dealt with the human predicament through several huge cycles where facts and utopias struggle among them in order to create something better. We know the results have been a combination of paradise and hell. Now I need to better understand what has been the challenge for my generation and if my diminute contribution has been, is, or may be, worthwhile.
We suffer the abyss’ vertigo.
We may focus on key issues like love, work, power, justice, war, art, faith, trying to understand the connexions among them. At the end perhaps we may conclude that the most synthetic approach is to consider the good and the evil manifested through human actions and their consequences. Unavoidably, one arrives to the ethic and even transcendent dimension, my life, my generation, my epoch, dealing with means and ends.
One key issue today afflicting humanity as a vertigo is the always growing gap between “rich” and “poor” people. We could say better between the few and the many disputing power for concentration or for distribution of goods. It is not only a huge gap, it is a shocking abyss, cause and effect of intrinsic and structural violence. Is it manageable today with "standard" thoughts? I do not believe it. We face a very few people concentrating and managing the resources of the planet in contrast with a massive process of exclusion and annihilation, morally and physically, of billions of people. Nobody rightly may deny or attenuate this monstrous fact. This is a devilish process alienating people in both extremes, those in the upper levels and those in the bottom, and has terrible consequences not only in human terms but also in terms of the planet’s integrity, the base for any kind of life.
We have religious and moral instances throughout the history of the world and its different cultures, teaching us to behave in a more human and even divine way in order to avoid, to resist, to overcome, the persistent tendency of some people to exploit much more people and to build powerful empires submitting classes, nations, continents, today a monocentered worldpower.
Together with moralists, philosophers and educators, we have also scientists, politicians and businessmen trying to create a better world. But if some progress is reached sometimes spectacularly, like Humanity communicating instantaneously through Internet, we witness also how poverty, wars and planet destruction continue multiplying challenges everywhere.
Our dilemma is how do we relate power with nature and people. History gives us chains of tragic events with some people trying to humanize the whole through teachings, reforms, rebellions, revolutions, mixing love and hate and arriving always to new kind of dictatorships, in each new phase better concealed even now under the veil of a "participatory democracy" or a “wider free communication”. Freedom and Democracy are today the worldwide official mantras and at the same time we witness the cynicism, hypocrisy and stupidity of many politicians talking so.
It seems that war is constitutive of human nature. Almost 200 million people died violently in wars during the 20th century according to Erik Hobsbawn. During the 1st World War only 5% of the killed people were civilians, today any war victimizes 80 or 90% of them. We may ask ourselves if humanity is only an ideal and if in fact we are the lost link between apes and something else perfectioning the way of killing.
Today, Mr. Bush invoking God is a liar making war in Irak under false arguments in order to control every day more scarce oil ressources and to implant his "democratic" model among people that has another idea about how to relate fairly among themselves. Perhaps he will coin the term of "Democratic Dictatorship", as long time before was coined the term “Illustrated Despotism”, trying to manipulate the present dualism between power and people. Without doubt this misbehaviour pertains to a behemoth producing confusion and fear but also indignation and bloody radical resistance.
("Democratic Dictatorship" is a term whose substance has been the practice in Mexico for more than 70 years, a "Soft Dictatorship" ("Dictablanda") according to the common understanding, the "Perfect Dictatorship" according to one famous latinamerican writer (Mario Vagas Llosa). It produced a deplorable result, a culture of dependency, clientelism, abstentionism, among many people and corruption, cynicism, pragmatism among almost all politicians. In year 2000 the so called "official party" lost the elections for first time in its history. A new President and a rightist party are now in turn but dull behaving with old and new tricks typifying the elusive and multifaceted political power. A rooted culture of simulation, servilism and ceremonial spectacles, now improved by the mass media and its "virtual reality", is still heavyly diverting and exhausting the civic efforts of committed people struggling for a more convincing democracy).
Mutation in the midst of chaos and collapse.
Wise people do not talk anymore about the already conventional coined terms as Revolution or Democracy, Reform or Development. Certainly those secular concepts and trends imply the participation of people, in order to put new faces and discourses in the same conventional powerful summit and then try to change institutions with a top down effect. Wise people realize today that the main challenge is not to continue with a mechanic management of powerful institutional tools but to practice anthropologic experiments looking for networks based on selfreliance and reciprocity in the middle of adverse and corroding global frameworks. We need to learn how to deal with power from our within, practicing a moral human way to produce, endogenously, culture, politics and economy. We need to talk about a necessary M u t a t i o n.
Personal and collective mutation in order to resist, neutralize, dismantle and overcome power, in the midst of its chaos and dealing with a collapse in process.
We recognize three expressions of power that nurture this alienated framework: Myths fostered by the mass media (Hollywood and CNN underscoring the American interests and a consumerist way of life); Weapons supporting political structures (the Pentagon and the Military Industry lobbying Washington) and Money amassing markets and corrupting all kind of exchanges which try to link productive work with legitimate needs (Wall Street and the Federal Reserve still making business as usual but now challenged by Brusssels and Beijing). Undoubtely these three powerful tools are close connected among themselves and they nurture each other in a very hideous cycle.
The end of money.
Lets focus on the last one, Money, a crucial point that affects the mind, the purse and the existence of everybody in this world.
The primitive community working cells (gatherers, hunters, fishers, farmers, craftsmen) traded their surpluses thanks to Barter. In the prehistoric times bartering implied reciprocity in one place among two dealers exchanging useful commodities for mutual satisfaction (considering energy, time and creativity involved). A lot of difficulties limited bartering when trade had to face lack of coincidental convenience among exchangers, undivisible merchandises or properties, heavy loads and big distances to canvass, etc. The exchanging distribution of goods as vital values through people, space and time, was resolved, then, with Money.
(Putting aside the early practice of delivering women or slaves for trade, Money has been an evolving device invented by humanity to foster economic dialogue and to settle agreements related to valuables. This device at the beginning was another useful commodity, like cows or working tools, then, a more portable and precious commodity like silver and gold later transformed into coins. Money has served to fix prices, to pay and to save, three functions implemented sometimes by different tools. For instance, in Mexico, Aztecs had an economy based on family and community selfreliance, resdistribution of surpluses and common gifts through religious festivities. For trade, overcoming barter, they fixed prices with cotton blankets and payed with cacao beans. For savings, they used the jade. But money was not so determinant for the daily life as it is today.)
In the European middle ages, money made a shift in kind, jumping from tangible value to representative value (something similar to the gap between direct democracy and representative democracy!). Metalic money was kept safely in the goldsmiths’ vaults and became a signed receipt in paper, which could circulate among traders. Anybody possessing the receipt could claim metalic money with real value to the goldsmiths, who were at the origin of modern bankers. Money later became bank notes, private paper issued for public circulation, during the XVII Century, in Sweden (1661) and England (1694). It was the establishment of fiduciary money, a massive and very profitable issuance of bills having only a small percentage of them a support in gold or silver as real value. People knows that banks keep the money saved by people but forgets or ignores that banks not only keep but issue money (in a way provoking J.K. Galbraith to say “The process by which banks create money is so simple that the mind is repelled”).
(It was not an original invention. Marco Polo had discovered that in China money in paper ("pao tsao") was invented long time ago during the Tan Dinasty, VII Century, in order to substitute cooper coins. Wars brought inflation and the experience ended at the beginning of the IXth Century. Another attempt started in year 970 and the Ming Dinasty still fabricated bills at the end of the XIVth Century. The use of money paper was finnally discontinued in the mid XVth Century.)
Unfortunately it has been much more easy to fake value using paper as a false representative. Paper money, always privately linked to usury, became more vulnerable to counterfeit and inflation. Bankers started creating much more paper money without keeping enough gold or silver in their vaults but always earning interest on it, making a fantastic business. Some fell from time to time in bankruptcy when confidence disappeared and all people came together to change paper for metalic money and finding nothing. These "Cracks!" continue happening periodically even today, at national or international levels, despite the supposed effective control of the IMF, the Federal Reserve in the U.S. and the main international clearing house for banks in Basel.
(It is very famous the collapse of the John Law’s bank, a bank privately created in France after the dead of king Louis XVI (1715), supported by the Regent as its first client, and called later the Royal Bank. The issue of notes was supported first by a fund of real money (six million livres) but later by lands in the Mississippi bassin in Louisiana, North America. It was a huge bubble built under the illusion of a territory plenty of gold. Mr. Law, a Scotsman, a sort of gambler and seductive financier, gave very risked loans to the government, printed in six months 800 millions livres in notes and besides could not stop a tumultuous speculative spiral with stocks without any real sustainment. In 1720, suddenly, after some claims for gold and dubbious responses, confidence was lost, the bubble popped and thousands of greedy people had at the end only paper in their purses without any credibility and acceptance. Mr Law had at the instant to escape outside the country and 4 years of a spectacular illusion ended affecting all the economy in a domino effect.)
(Mexico experimented his last crack in 1995, implying a huge intervention of the State in order to save big investors and speculators using the banking system. Now several Mexican generations must pay with their taxes billions of dollars compromised at that date. Despite all this huge engagement, today the Mexican banking system belongs to a few international corporations. The debt business belongs to foreigners and their policies. Argentina came later with its deep crisis in 2002.)
If the money tools have suffered mismanagements in history, in order to deal with them we need nevertheless to understand what is its deep nature and meaning.The more pure nature of money is better understood as something that help us to exchange vital values in order to be alive and improving life. It should be a word of value, a promise to correspond, a memory of transactions implying two parties with debit and credit. A fundamental human dimension in order to survive and progress is Trust among the society´s members, trust is something untangible and indispensable, it deals with time because considers past, present and future. The combination of two known sentences is not for free: “Time is Money”, “In God we Trust”.
We became more aware that money was created mainly as a symbolic vehicle, material first, then abstract, of vital values like goods and services, fostering their circulation among people to satisfy human wants. Money was born to overcome the limitations of unilateral delivering (nature, gift, love) or unilateral taking (violence, pillage, compulsory tax) and to organize societal exchanges to fairly distribute the products of work, in time, space and kind.
(Money became a second human nature, related to wants, work, word and honor, reinforcing confidence and linking people to people in terms of production, consumption, space and time. Money facilitated trade thanks to its fluid circulatory quality permeating almost all human activities in order to implement transactions and to register them. Money was created as a meaningful sign to organize life in a societal way at the beginning with very tangible tools and today with electronic figures. Money first materialized and then only symbolized trust. Modernity started with scriptural tools -bank accounts, electronic transactions- meaning and manipulating trust.)
Rule and greed together.
The State and the Market, Governors and Merchants, needed money in order to coexist, one imposing taxes, the other one making business. History tells us how those entities managed to control the issuance of money. Priests were originally involved because the teleological and even sacred nature of money implied identity, mutual engagement, risk and uncertainty. Fortune was not only a human affair. In Greece and Rome, the mints were placed in the temples. Aristotle advised not to confound economy, the wellbeing at home, with crematistic, the greed for money. According to his philosophy, money was a mean for life not an end of life. Unfortunatelly his call was not heard.
(In biblical Israel, every 49 years, debts should be cancelled, encumbered or forfeited land should be returned to its original owners and slaves be liberated. "This was intended as a hedge against the inevitable tendency of human societies to concentrate power and wealth in the hands of the few, creating hierachical classes with the poor at the bottom", explains Ched Myers. Nevertheless, Jesus Christ was crucified because he expelled out of the Temple those that had converted money in a very profitable business, the money changers.)
Money was less and less a tool facilitating common life and became more and more an end in itself, something with proper life capable of reproducing itself thanks to the burden of usury. Money became an idol, something like God, despite the fact that all religions have condemned the greedy accumulation and the imposition of interest for its use. Moses condemned those adoring the golden calf and 3,000 worshipers were killed to pay this sin.
In the middle ages bankers became not only the keepers of money but much more important to consider, the creators of money when this tool was reproduced in paper and no metalic value supported its issuance. The bankers transformed an historical tool expressing a deep cohesive social dimension, trust, into a private business very profitable for a very few people.
Through centuries money lenders became the power behind the throne and the State, step by step, became dependent of their almost magic function. Authorities needed money in order to pay for arms and finance wars against other armed nations and even their disarmed subjects. Millionaire debts were created by these prestidigitators manipulating and fostering the almost naive credulity of the many, multiplying money "from the thin air", organizing speculative games putting or retiring money, creating its scarcity at will and affecting the prices of the commodities in the markets, always looking for more money business.
We have in history of modern capitalism, many exemples of people aware of this yoke, who tried to liberate people exercizing its inalienable right to use free money. In Mexico, during the colony, because the scarcity of golden or silver coins siphoned to the metropoli of Spain, the local merchants invented the "tlacos" made by cardboard and the indigenous people still used in the XIXth century the prehispanic money, cacao beans. The creation of the United States of America as an independent nation was provoked because the English throne did not accepted the colonies could issue their own money. Benjamin Franklin insisted on printing their own money as a colonial scrip.
(Franklyn said: "We issue it in proper proportions to the demands of trade and industry to make the products pass easily from the producers to the consumers. In this matter, creating for ourselves our own paper money, we control its purchasing power, and we have no interest to pay to no one".)
The different English colonies created paper money since the mid XVIII century (overcoming the use of wampoons -small beads made of shells as indian money, leathers and tobacco leaves) and local economy worked so well. Money was debt free money printed in the public interest and not backed by metalic commodities, only based on trust. Later during their Independence War they created the Continental bills originating an historic conflict between the State and the Banks in order to decide who should issue official money, in which proportion to real values and mainly, to decide if this function means a private for profit business or a public service, a national or a transnational power, a peaceful tool or a hidden tax to make wars
(Robert Morris, the founder of the first privately owned central bank in the U.S., following the Bank of England’s model, was a war materials trader. Jefferson and 30 years later Jackson, both presidents convinced on having free money not for profit, should struggle against Hamilton and later against Biddle, both politicians supported by foreign bankers lead by the Rotschilds. It is known that privatelly-controlled central banks sometimes financed both sides in a war and deciding who finnally will win upon the guarantee that the victor will honor the debts of the vanquished. Jackson was lucky enough and could defeat in 1836 the intention of having a centralized private national bank but could not eliminate the numerous state-chartered banks practicing the issue of fiat money and the huge business of usury.)
The French Revolution created the assignats, a national money independent of bankers. And during the Mexican Revolution, each armed party created its own currency, more or less ephemeral according to triumphs and defeats. It is clear that wars imply urgent measures over the economy and the issue of currency always arrived to an excess of money, inflation and devaluation of the currency.
Some historic efforts to recover by people the issuance of money.
In England, the so called "utopian" socialist Robert Owen, originally a worker then a succesful entrepreneur, created in 1833 a workers’ scrip based on one hour of labor to be used within a proper stock exchange among cooperativists, the National Equitable Labour Exchange set up in London, Brighton and Birmingham. This original experience was on the make for a few years only. But Owen inspired a world movement that has been signified by the Pioneers of Rochdale, the first consumer cooperative born in the 1840’s and himself was a pioneer for the following trade union movement (he succeeded to involve half a millon workers in a Great National League, an important number at that time). His community villages model have been an inspiration for the Kibbutzim in the XXth Century.
(Robert Owen (1771-1858), an agnostic entrepreneur, historically known as a pioneer utopian socialist, was nevertheless very practical and originally inspired by the quaker’s ideals and the labor associations promoted by John Bellers one century earlier. With previous experiences in Manchester, in the middle of the industrial revolution, he first transformed a factory (a cotton spinning mill) with hundreds of workers in a labor community (New Lanark, near Glasgow, Scotland, he started there in 1799). This experiment was very succesful in profits and also in social innovations, being by 1825 very famous as a living utopia in all Europe. In 1827 he traveled to the U.S. and founded another community (New Harmony, Indiana, U.S.) but unfortunatelly he had many problems with local followers and lost there almost all his fortune. One year later Owen came to Mexico and tried insistently but unsuccessfully to negotiate with the Mexican government the creation of a Social Republic in the North of Mexico, including the provinces of Texas and Coahuila, who would have an exit to the Pacific Ocean in Topolobampo. He even asked the Mexicans for a 1,000,000 dollars fund in order to support organizing activities. His model was a net of self-sufficient agricultural colonies, called "Villages of Co-operation". He was concerned about the expansionism of the U.S. government and warned the Mexicans to foresee a very probable future war. Coming back to London, he still wrote at least three times to the Mexican government without affirmative response. He was a prophet: In 1848 the U.S. seized two million square kilometers of Mexican territory. Today there is in Mexico a network of successful cooperatives in the city of Tacámbaro, state of Michoacán, accomplishing 50 years of self reliant activities inspired by his ideals and adopting his name as an umbrella for training and coordination. ¿What has Mexico to attract European utopians? Even Saint Simon came to Mexico at the end of XVIII century (then the New Spain) and tried to promote the construction of an interoceanic channel in the Istmus of Tehuantepec.)
President Lincoln also created national money, the Greenbacks, in the middle of the Secession War and there is the thesis that in reality he was killed in 1865, because he planned to consolidate this national money instead of asking for loans to the bankers. James A. Garfield, another US President, assasinated in 1881, was also concerned about the big banking business.
(Garfield declared a few weeks before being killed: "Whoever controls the volume of money in any country is absolute master of all industry and commerce... And when you realize that the entire system is very easily controlled, one way or another, by a few powerful men at the top, you will not have to be told how periods of inflation and depression originate".)
All these attempts to liberate the entire society from the transnational bankers failed not only because lack of experience about how to reach a right balance with real values but because the bankers playground has been global and for the challengers their field of action was only national.
(Rothschild was the historic banking trunk and then Morgan, Schiff, Warburg, Rockefeller and others following througout the world, all of them vanished at the end by the huge and anonymous financial acronyms in New York like Chase Manhattan and Citicorp merging and dominating the Federal Reserve System.)
(The causes of the Great Depression in the 30’s, a black hole in the economic history of modern humanity, were apparently resolved by the 2d World War movilizations and later by those of the Cold War and the Third World repressions. A permanent war was finally the apparent solution. We know the liberation efforts emerged in the South against this economic monopoly, taking the State’s power like Cuba (1959) -or the Sandinistas for a decade (1979-89)- in Latin America, we know enough about their resistance, failures and lessons, but we can not ignore or forget the attempts of the people at the grassroots levels to overcome the industrial and financing power during the Great Depression, not only centered on the State’s faculties. Combining lessons, we may imagine what are the solutions in a new era where the entropic weight of the world is much more heavy. The conversion of China to Capitalism (1978), the collapse of the URSS (1989), the consecration of the U.S. as the world’s police (Afghanistan, Irak) and the efforts to recreate Europe as a counterpower with a proper currency (the Euro) are landmarks inaugurating the 21st Century.)
Douglas and the social credit movement.
Perhaps the most clever challenger to the financing power has been Major Clifford Hugh Douglas (1879-1952), a Scotish engineer whose career was developed in Canada, Argentina, India, England and at the Royal Flying Corps - RAF during the 1st World War. He was the founder of the Creditist Movement who took a worldwide significance during the 20’s and 30’s. He was an acute outsider, almost subversive to the economist’s establishment. The economists reacted against him defending their own prejudices and conventional assumptions, but fortunatelly a lot of common people got the substance of his ideas. He attacked the classic economic dictum which says that to produce things automatically generates the income to pay for them (Say’s Law). If Marx focused on the sphere of production and where the values were going within the enterprise, Douglas, paralelly and independently, focused on exchange and the trap of the prices in the market. He called the public attention, making scandals like Greenpeace today, to the fact that banks create money from nothing (ex-nihilo) and have a cruel business on it. This was a much bigger problem than unemployment itself, and saying so he entered in controversy with Keynes. He accused that there is always scarcity of money for daily life of common people but there is always plenty to make war. Keynes, nevertheless, was inspired later by his thoughts.
He studied 100 big enterprises and found the fact that their total costs always exceeded the sums paided on wages, so, workers never had money enough to buy all the products put in the market. With this assertion, he coined the “A+B theorem” and the expression “Purchasing Power”. There is always an increasing gap between production and consumption and the only way to sell the products already put in the market would be to initiate more enterprises, in every stage more artificial and unnecessary. Then, the workers would have money to consume the past production but not enough to the new one. So, permanent growth was put as an imperative solution, a false solution, a sort of race ad infinitum, the rats’ race we are involved today. Douglas was a campaigner against growth 50 years before the Club of Rome, but growth is still today the mantra for any established economist. Frances Hutchinson and Michael Rowbotham have deeply studied his critics and proposals in order to clarify them and to nurture them in the new contexts.
(He has put a main strategic principle, the State must recover the faculty of issuing money now in hands of banks, it means the introduction of debt-free money. And he put two main basic proposals: the “Just Price” reached by supplying subsidiary money to the industry to recover the missing money the worker can not provide as a buyer and the “National Dividend”, a sort of birthright for everybody, not a dole or charity, a universal basic income to avoid the compulsion to work (foreseeing the increasing substitution of workers by machines and new technologies, today an evident fact). Resolving the economy alienated by a very profitable debt, we could free people from the massive wage-slavery and to reorient creative activities towards communal interests not fixed by greed, fear and accumulation.)
Today we face the contradiction of a system with overproduction and underconsumption, managed by the greedy principle of money’s scarcity. The only way to keep balance within this system is to burn unsold production through war. The race generated by the perverse misconception of a money created artificially by greed, then earning interest and multiplied by speculation, leads inevitably to the destruction of products, being war the huge factory to do it, a factory that today is global and inevitably permanent if the present banking system prevails. There are more interesting consequences to his vision which should be studied deeply.
(The satire written by Leonard C. Lewin in 1967, “Report on Iron Mountain”, whose ironic conclusion is that peace is not possible but also undesirable in the present global system, described a few months before the 68 worldwide rebellions how we are immersed in a very monstruous system always justified by ruling pragmatists (where overproduction -growth- leads to war and underconsumption -scarcity- leads to misery). We need more time and space to study this enormous dilemma.)
Money is a universal semiotic product of the entire humanity, today evidently privatized in a secular shrewd process. As nature, language, moral and cultural values, trust and credit at the end, as all the public advances of the accumulated civilizations, money must be put at the service of everybody and not as something pertaining to a few and earning a killing rent.
(Douglas, underscoring economic democracy over formal democracy, had followers everywhere. In Canada, in the Province of Alberta, a party could win in 1935 applying his proposals (issuing a stamp scrip during two years reaching the figure of 359,000 Canadian dollar certificates), and it remained in power until 1971. In British Columbia it was also a firm attempt during the 50’s, an electoral breakthrough to control local banks and to reach a debt free level. Still with scarec results because those partisan actions were slowly becoming more conservative.)
(From the civil society we may mention another landmark. Louis Even (1885-1974), born in Brittany and then making a living in Montreal, was a faithful catholic investing after 1934 all his life to promote the ideas of Douglas. At that time, ideas and militancy demanded a kind of uniform to be distinguished among other movements and Evan’s followers adopted the white beret and a white flag putting their action “under the protection of the archangel Saint Michael”. Louis Even generated the social credit movement in Canada and beyond and was also a firm critic of the political parties monopolizing and corrupting ideas in order to get the formal power without finnally effective results.)
Other heterodox initiatives.
During the Great Depression in the U.S., Upton Sinclair, a socialist writer was not satisfied with the Roosevelt’s New Deal’s strategy. According to him it was fine but not good enough facing unemployment. In October 1933 he published a book under a seductive title: "I, Governor of California. How I ended poverty: A true story of the future". He coined the slogan "production for use, not for profit". He proposed heavy taxes on corporations, banks, insurance companies and unused land held for speculative purposes. These taxes would be invested on agricultural colonies made up of unemployed laborers and bankrupt farm families. According to Watkins, "the colonies would grow everything they needed and trade their excess production for goods manufactured in state-owned factories. The whole program would be bound together by an internal system of credits and scrip to give it economy autonomy within the capitalistic system around it - said capitalism, of course, ultimately to be overwhelmed by this new creation." Leuchtenberg adds: "The state would rent idle factories in which unemployed workers could turn out staples like clothing and furniture. The key idea was to give a chance to the jobless to produce for their own needs. They would be paid in scrip which could be spent only for goods produced within the ‘production-for-use’ system".
(Sinclair contended in 1934 for governor of California in the ranks of the Democratic Party. His EPIC campaign (End of Poverty in California) could not win despite the original ideas he proposed through his bulletin with a circulation of 1.4 million because the Republican Party concentrated there all its very tricky maneuvers and extraordinary length of money. Even among his fellow partisans belonging to the Democratic Party there were doubts and fears about his radical thesis and he was subverted and betrayed by many. In order to discredit the Sinclair’s proposals, his opponents distributed thousands of snide scrips called "Utopian Sincliar" dollars, the "Red Currency, redeemable if ever at the cost of future generations". Nevertheless Sinclair could raise at that time near 900,000 votes against more than 1,100,000 for the Republicans). Roosevelt himself, in 14 March 1933, “advised that the monetary system was in danger, outlawed any more scrip systems and gave the existing ones a short time to wind themselves up”, reports David Boyle. The same medicine applied by the IMF in Argentina in 2003.)
Germany could escape of the global control when Hjalmar Schacht, a financier genius, as a special national currency commissioner, put an end in 1923 to the inflationary collapse of the German Mark during the Weimar Republic. He concentrated all the foreign debt dealings of German private enterprises on his hands, resisting to pay disproportionated and unfair war indemnities and creating the Rentenmark currency, based psycologically on all public properties. Speculators using foreign currencies were put away when law ordered all transactions of real state should be made with this new currency which eliminated the German Mark. The devaluated currency was absorbed with an equivalence of one trillion to one Rentenmark.
At that time the exporting entrepreneurs which have had created the Notgeld (Notmoney) as a parallel and emergent device to delink from the currency collapse and maintain among themselves some real economy, accepted to exchange their device for Rentenmarks in order to recreate a sustainable internal market.
Repression has been also a measure to eliminate local wonderful experiences, like those practiced in Schwanenkirchen, Germany and Woergl, Austria, during the economic crisis after the 1st. World War, outlawed by the pression of bankers in years 1931 and 1932. According to Thomas H. Greco, Silvio Gessel, a German businessman, deeply knowing how money works in the capitalist system, imagined the issuance of a ‘stamp scrip’ by a voluntary association of small enterprises, factories, business, in order to pay wages and for trade. This scrip would promptly circulate among workers, shopkeepers, wholesalers, manufacturers, all of them invited not to hoard it by paying a penalty if the scrip was kept for more than a week, a sort of negative interest called "demurrage". The promotors of these experiments were, in the German case, the entrepreneur of a closed coal mine together with the workers. In the Austrian case, a conjunction of the town, merchants and the savings local bank. The success of these experiences reactivating the local economy called the national attention and started being emulated in other localities but the intervention of the big bankers upon the authorities ended this promisory initiative.
(At the IIId Reich’s beginning in 1933, 20% of the work force was unemployed. Schacht was called in again as the Reichsbank President. If Roosevelt created the New Deal, he created the New Plan which included to resist paying the interest of foreign debt whose deals again were concentrated in his hands. He created a Conversion Fund and succeeded to establish a moratorium and 50% discounts. Germany will pay the rest half in cash and half in scrip. Weits reports that "this scrip could be converted into various forms of ‘special’ marks, all to be used with enticing discounts". He created new different moneys, the Reisemark (for trips to or inside Germany), the Registermark (for investments in Germany or purchases of German goods to be exported into the creditor countries) and the Askimark (for special purposes, such as the support of people or causes, all within Germany), free all of them from bankers’ games. "Schacht began his sweeping ways of tackling foreign debt, mobilizing the mark, and boosting exports. Naturally, there were protests abroad... He insisted that foreign debtors must think of themselves as investors. He implied that they had to share the problems of their investments". Besides autobahn, railways and river projects in order to build modern infrastructures and provide employment for the many, Schacht also shifted to the manufacture of armaments, allegedly to reinforce the German political position and its talks among all other national powers spending also in armies, providing by the way work and salaries to the people. In only one year, unemployment decreased 30%. Schacht was put aside by Hitler in 1939.)
War, the industrial military system and big business.
The money game in the 20th century among nation states with different ideologies always has been resolved through wars. Douglas denounced it very clearly. War has been the ultimate expedient to define whose currency is the rule in order to shape markets at convenience of an imperial power. Capitalism has defeated fascism, communism and Third World emancipations thanks to its skillful art combining money created from nothing, a very destructive power based on credulity and fear, and investing it in "technology & armies".
By 1939, the U.S. could not still, despite the Roosevelt’s New Deal, resolve the deep unemployment crisis originated at the beginning of the decade. The total U.S. population being 130 million at that time, there were 9,500,000 unemployed people in the U.S. (25% of the labor force), another similar figure represented underemployed people. A huge war was the solution.
The armed forces were in 1939 only 370,000 men. At the end of 1945 they were 11,400,000 military plus 7 million civilians added to the employed labor force. This war took only four year for the U.S. but immediately later, began the Cold War implying several decades of a permanent war economy. A military economic system was born under the title of "Pentagon Capitalism" managing 20,000 principal firms and 100,000 subcontractors, according to Seymour Melman.
Bretton Woods, the turning point in 1971 and the Speculative Era.
The dollar is created by huge corporative banks assembled in the Federal Reserve Board. Unbelievable, it is a private affair. Not yet finished the 2d world war, a worldwide financial power was established even before the creation of the United Nations. It was the Bretton Woods agreement (July 1944), who enthroned the U.S. dollar based on gold as the world currency to lead all the other currencies. In order to deal with stabilization of national currencies always refered to the dollar the International Monetary Fund was created and also the World Bank for reconstruction and development projects. The funds were provided by powerful industrialized countries and served in dollars.
The U.S. banking system has had during decades an immense worldwide advantage issuing dollars for domestic needs but also for the capitalist development all around the world. This development has never been separated from war games. The power to issue money, in fact without being restricted to real value, as gold or any other real product of work, money as an expensive commodity earning interest, has belonged to private hands.
Came the Cold war and the U.S. financed huge armies and sophisticated weapons (Korea, Viet Nam, coup d’états and dictatorships in all continents), and related infrastructures, burocracies, contractors and suppliers, for an amount, according to Seymour Melman, similar to the cost of another entire U.S. industrial infrastructure! All these expenditures created more growth and gains in dollars everywhere in the world. Joel Kurtzman estimates the cost of being the world police during almost 30 years in 7 trillion dollars, most of them paid only through printed paper. The U.S. financed them without fiscal money nor loans, only by issuing money and paying with it but without any respect to the gold commitment agreed in Bretton Woods. The U.S. bought products and services all around the world with "funny dollars". When the industrialized nations like France, UK, Germany, Japan, worried by the huge amounts of dollars in their accounts, tried to change them for gold, the U.S. refused, there was no gold. President Nixon declared on August 15th, 1971, that since then the dollar would value as itself alone without any reference to the gold value. It was, in fact, a worldwide masterstroke based not in value but in military strength. The rest of nations had no option, they should accept it, and continue dealing with dollars avoiding to enter in a sort of worldwide bankrupt. In fact it was an unimaginable and giant fraud.
In 1971 another managing money era was inaugurated in the world, the Speculative Era. Since then, money uprooted from real values has been managed as in a Casino, not to produce wealth but much more money taking advantage of the advanced computering technologies and instant communication tools. Today, every day, there are in the world transactions for an amount of two trillion dollars but only 3% of them are related to real goods and services, according to Bernard Lietaer. The wizards of this floating money system, based on usury and speculation, have accumulated unthinkable amounts of money whose dynamic is to go wherever there is a chance to produce more money disregarding the original end of money: to produce wealth among and between people.
In the entire world there is a debt of 50 trillions dollars producing more interests which are accumulated in a very limited banking accounts (only two trillions are indebted by countries of the Third World but the bank’s ears are deaf to cancell them; we do not forget that the German debt after the 2d World War was half cancelled in the early 50’s!). This massive financial power determines with huge investments the so called progress in different world regions but because there is no proportion between real and virtual values we face the growing of a bubbling economy based everywhere on white elephants and their illusory short term progress.
One billion people in the world or more are using credit cards for everyday expenditures. Money created from the thin air, backed by the properties of common people but earning interests for a few banks. The XXIst Century is claiming for a new way of arranging societies in order to produce value and to share it in a more equitable and creative way. Is it possible to create an alternative credit card for six billion people empowering them with a web of positive organic cells all around the world recovering from the banks this essential faculty?
Civil society reacts to the monetary exaction.
Civil society is reacting to these perverse monetary and financial worldwide enveloppe in order to create positive alternatives to this exaction. There is a huge bubble capitalizing and corrupting the imagination and creativity of people. If we had the Industrial and Colonial Capitalism in the XIXth century, the Warring and Telematic Capitalism in the XXth century, now in the XXIst Century we have the Illusionist and Unsustainable Capitalism. If in the past we witnessed the struggle between the State and the Bankers in order to prevail on issuing money, now we have the renewed emergency of many poles and networks of common people engaged in an axiological, semiotic and vital renaissance. The challenge today is how civil society tames “money lords” in order to build a sustainable organic society.
Local and Community Currencies have been a cyclical response to this monetarian challenge. If in the 30’s there was a wave of local autonomous experiments, today it comes with more sense like a world movement. It is worldwide known the emergence of the Local Employment and Trade Systems, LETS, created initially by Michael Linton in British Columbia, Canada in the early 80’s and then multiplied in the U.S., Australia, Europe, etc. (in France as the SEL, Systemes d’Échange Local). The LETS is a non profit clearing accounting system where creditors and debtors, producers and consumers, developing trust among themselves, balance their trade managing credits and debits.
(Within the LETS, a parallel currency as unit of account, originally called “green” dollar, is used in all transactions and may be combined with the official one. The system has a bulletin announcing products and services in order to foster trade (more employment and more relationships). The members communicate through computers and collaterals are not a requirement.. To maintain a dynamic and progressive balance is a responsibility for everybody pertaining to the system. All transactions should be reported by telephone or mail to the record keeper or promotor center whose costs are covered by membership fees. All individual balances are public or informed by request in order to know who is in debt and who in credit. Tom Greco reports that probably there are worldwide 1,600 to 2,000 LETS, SEL, etc. each one with a membership between hundreds to two thousand members (in Australia, the biggests, where even a province authority is fostering them.)
There are many other models. Edgar Cahan promoted in the U.S. the Time Dollar, based on one hour of social service, now multiplied in U.K., Italy, Japan, etc., this model has been later supported by respective authorities. Instead of accounts, this system uses bills which circulate among the people who accepts them. Similarly, Paul Glover created the Ithaca Hour bill, in Ithaca, N.Y., each unit equals ten dollars, having remarkably success (400 local businesses participates). It is followed by experiences in other regions, many communities, enterprises, agents, started issuing their proper money.
In Japan, the community money issue has been studied by Makoto Maruyama and more recently by ‘Miguel’ Yasuyuki Irota. Makoto Maruyama coined the concept of chiiki-tsuhka (local money) and describes three types of local currencies, the first one, the group Dandan, focuses on close mutual aid mainly among neighbors; it was experimented in the island of Okamura (west of Japan) with small plastic disks representing one working hour. It was inspired in 1994 by Edgar Kahan, the creator of Time Dollars. The second one focused more on products and services building the local economy and a proper market; it was generated within the Seikatsu Club in Kanagawa Prefecture, it was a brief attempt following the LETS model. And the third one, called Eco-money, in Kuriyama-cho, Hokkaido Prefecture, focuses on reciprocity creating the local market. Visiting Mexico at the end of 2001, Makoto Maruyama declared that the boom of community currencies in Japan started at the end of the 90’s as a reaction to the globalization process and people’s impoverishment in many senses.
(Yasuyuki Irota has studied the diversity of models and experiences of this boom and has pointed out that “Japanese Community Currencies, Ccs, have developed their own style which can not be found in any other area of the world... their unwillingness to communicate each other makes them isolated, preventing them from improving their system by sharing wisdom of other cases. So it will be harder and harder for researchers to grasp the whole pisture of Japanese Ccs as their activities get more and more invisible”. “Miguel” has visited Korea on December 2004 and discovered some very promisory experiences inspired on the LETS system.)
(Stephen DeMeulenare reported in January 2005 that “the Japanese Ministry of Internal Affaires and Communications (MIC) has started to develop a model of a local currency system as part of its support measures for regional revitalization which utilizes information technology (IT) equipment such as basic resident registry cards and cell telephones”. The model would be developed as a test at the end of 2004 and the results would be distributed to local governments in April 2005. The three municipalities chosen for the testing are Kitakyushu in Fukuoka Prefecture (southern Japan); Ichikawa City in Chiva Prefecture (a suburb of Tokyo) and Oguni Town in Kumamoto Prefecture (southern Japan). Stephen reports that more than 300 varieties of community currencies exist today in Japan.)
We know in other Asian countries there are initiatives pioneering the social money, in Thailand, Indonesia, China (Hong Kong), Korea, and there are also in Africa, at least in Senegal and South Africa. Australia and New Zealand are skilfull on the LETS model.
Latin American initiatives.
In Latin America there are several experiments that we may mention here. The case of Argentina is perhaps the most famous because in the recent national crisis (2002) it took an amazing dimension with millions of users. The "vale crédito" (credit voucher), a scrip issued by a network of nodes, in order to foster the exchanges of products and services among the users of the system. Born in Buenos Aires in the mid 90’s (the original promotors were Horacio Covas, Heloisa Primavera, Carlos de Sanzio), it got later supports from the authorities, it spread to the interior of Argentina and countries like Uruguay, Chile, Brazil. Unfortunatelly the system was overwhelmed by the pressure of the economic crisis, it entered into an inflationary growth without control and it suffered division and mismanagement among its leaders. It was an enlightening blow up. Now the experiment continues in a more realistic, sustained and promisory way.
(The deep crisis in Argentina not only movilized the creativity of civil society. The local authorities created scrips in order to pay their employees, scrips later accepted by the local stores, that was the case of the "Patacones" issued by the government of the state of Buenos Aires -"Patacones" were the traditional silver coins carried in the belts used by the "gauchos", the Argentinian cowboys-.)
The cases of Brazil have not been affected by the Argentinian stumble and have had the inputs of national experts like Euclides Andre Mance (Curitiba), and institutions dealing with a Solidary Economy, like PACS (Rio de Janeiro), Banco Palmas (Fortaleza), Santa Catarina’s University (Florianopolis), and also the assistance of Henk van Ankel and Camilo Ramada from the Strohalm Foundation (The Netherlands). All of them and others created at the end of 2001 the "Movimento Monetario Mosaico" (Mosaic Monetarian Movement).
In September 2004, a First Brazilian Encounter of Solidary Exchange Groups was organized in Mendes, Brazil. 120 leaders and activists participated involving a dozen of regional experiences dealing with social money looking for a better level of coordination with the government and among themselves. "Disolving the borders" was called the moment where experiences from Argentina and Mexico were invited to share their advances and own apprenticeships. Together with Marcos Arruda, from PACS, there was generated the motion for the launching of a worldwide social currency to be adopted in the World Social Forum to be held in Porto Alegre, January 2005.
(Since then, time was very short to well define the formula and to be prepared to launch it in the Forum having previous motivation, agreement and some common strategy among hundreds of organizations. In fact it was an impossible mission having only three months ahead. A scheme was suggested in Mexico but there was no time nor resources to present it in Porto Alegre and to discuss it properly. The challenge continues being a major task for all those concerned with the mega monetary tsunami that is today threatening humanity. In all Latin America we have experiencies dealing with this issue. In addition to the already mentioned countries, we may cite Colombia, Venezuela, Ecuador, Perú, where there are already experiments and lessons regarding this key theme.)
New initiatives to engage the private and public sectors.
Bernard Lietaer has suggested the creation of a worldwide currency called Terra supported by, remarkably, big trading corporations putting their products as a backing (a basket inventoring important services and raw materials) and as a wise measure to counteract usury and speculation. The private sector, which today practices barter for one trillion dollars by year, would be acting by itself in a very positive way creating a process more stable, predictable and confident. Starting as a pilot experiment it could catch the public which is becoming afraid about the losing value of the conventional currencies. And Richard Douthwaite is proposing an international currency, Special Emission Rights, based on the entire humanity rights to burn scarce fossil fuel according to a worldwide progressive contraction process, calculated for a 50 years term, in order to keep those rights as a “reserve currency” of precious value. This measure will recover the lost Earth’s capacity to absorb the gas, avoiding more environmental catastrophes. It implies the compromise of big institutions like the IMF.
Attempts to network the emergence of monetary people’s initiatives.
Near New York, June 2004, there was organized a summit of experiences on social money, convened by the Schumacher Society. There at the end the main discussion was centered on how to create a worlwide exchange system reinforcing the local ones. In Europe, there is already settled in Germany a Secretariat working for the European union of social complementary currencies, the Money Network Alliance, MoNetA, under the leadership of Margrit Kennedy and the assistance of Agniezka Komoch.
So, we have now a panoply of models originated in developed as well as developing countries, first, as defenses resisting the voracious concentration of monetary resources, denouncing profitable figures imbued with artificial scarcity, interest and a combination of fear and greed; then, as alternatives to rebuild a world where cooperation instead of competition may be possible to produce real inclusive progress.
A worlwide social currency. A Mexican dream within the WSF.
A little more than 60 years ago, the almost winners of the 2d World War gathered in Bretton Woods, New Hampshire U.S., July 1944, to establish the currency which would command all transactions in a worldwide main project. This move would be previous to the creation of the United Nations one year later, a clear lesson about which step is first, the money or the parlament. Keynes proposed there an international clearing house as a world monetary authority and the creation of a new global currency, the Bancor, which would dynamize the world economy keeping the trade balanced. But the U.S strategy defeated him and the U.S. dollar linked to gold was put as the key currency, giving all the advantages of issuing international currency to only one country. The International Monetary Fund and the World Bank were created then.
(Soon, the system started to show inadequacies and failures, a medicine was applied, the creation of the Special Drawing Rights within the IMF in 1969 (a basket of main currencies) in order to increase international reserve assets that serve as a unit of account and as a means of payment. The last operation of this innovation was at the beginning of the 80’s. Now George Soros is proposing to retake this device and to mprove it in favor of Third World countries (U.N. Summit on Development Financing, Monterrey, Mexico, 1992).
As already explained, during the Cold War the U.S. abused of this prerrogative function, the dollar lost its gold base and everybody was cheated in favor of the military strength of only one power. The lack of a real counterweight for the dollar has provoked the crazy "hyperdevelopment" of the present modernity -consuming time, energy, brains, of the population and destroying environment, energetics, identities- that could be described as a fantastic bubble implying not only illusions but huge worlwide white elephants supported by alienated votes and weapons but without vital values. Anxiety, fear and war are the result.
Mainly in Latin America the crisis started at the beginning of the 80’s, Mexico could not pay the dues of its international debt and the big banking powers movilized to exorcise the risk of a general domino effect that could deeply threat its big business based on debt. At the end of the 80’s came the Washington Consensus (with the big multilateral banks), imposing through the IMF a tough policy toward the developing countries already with big debts. The IMF imposed a global development model (with "structural adjustments") based on the opening of frontiers in favor of the big corporate business, the privatization of many public institutions, the reduction of the State programs, avoiding any inflationary risk that could affect the debt business. This neoliberal policy has put money as the main value over the workers and the common citizens. It attempts to manage Poverty, with a sort of "containment" projects (projects as projectiles), counterproducing more division, competition, dependency, frustration and rage among the poor and even middle classes. Mexico has paid in 30 years, 350 billion dollars as debt service but sill owes 250 billions as principal.
(Mexican organizations belonging to the civil society have 50 years of "modern" history. In the 60’s very few were born under the auspices of the Catholic Church as an effort to get some autonomy facing the overwhelming concentration of power by the "official" revolutionary party (the P.R.I., Institutional Revolutionary Party) giving already signs of wide demagogy, deep corruption and repression of social selfreliant efforts. Trade unions and cooperatives were also the main source for social reactivation at that time, fostered also by the President Kennedy’s Alliance for Progress (ALPRO), a continental program reacting to the Cuban Revolution (1959). ALPRO tried to channel the grassroots energies to reformist programs as a front against the communist chances. These programs, counterproductively, provoked more repressions and mismanagements from the ruling classes. In Mexico we had the 68’s massacre of students. The 70’s implied a generation of more radical organizations committed with the "liberation theology" looking for more structural changes, in Mexico but also in Central and South America against the dictatorships there. In the state of Chiapas emerged the Indigenous Congress in 1974 challenging the status quo. The 80’s, with the revolutionary struggles in Central America, mainly in Nicaragua (the Sandinista’s Revolution reached the state´s power in1979), got a peak and provoked the U.S. intervention (with the armed "Contras", a guerrilla openly supported by the U.S. President Reagan) frustrating the generation of a new social model of participation and grassroots progress. Mexico City suffered in 1985 a terrible earthquake which movilized hundreds of NGO’s linked to grassroots organizations. Civil Society demonstrated its great potentiality with effective reliefs overcoming the governmental weak programs. The growing consciousness about the role of an independent society facing the Public and Private sectors was neutralized later by the government cooptations of these organizations and by their dependency of private and foreign money. This fact developed a deep criticism among more radical sectors and the urge for a more sustainable and autonomous way of action.)
During the 90’s, a network of grassroots experiments catalyzed by PDP developed a system of selfreliant knowledge and strategies called "The OTHER Stock Exchange" with participation of hundreds of organizations from Mexico and abroad. This knowledge’s system launched in the mid 90’s a more concrete and vital initiative, an exchange system among producers, distributors and consumers (inspired by Mark Kinney, a pioneer of communitarian money in the U.S.), using a proper bill called Tlaloc (Tlaloc means the divinity of water, thunder and life in the cosmology of the Aztecs and previous cultures). This experiment is still working, not without difficulties, ups and downs, and has influenced the creation of similar systems and bills in other Mexican regions and abroad. A new hopeful initiative will combine in June 2005 the participation of microenterprises with the support of the local authorities in a rururban municipality of southern Mexico City.We need to multiply community currencies everywhere there is consciousness and commitment and at the same time we need to think in a “glocal” way avoiding to remain in a sort of confetti game.
Our proposal for a World currency looks for a genuine value produced and demanded by the people itself. It does not originate in the dominant market and its conventional laws but first from the common people. It starts from the giving economy creating or reinforcing identity and then it will work for an endogenous market, the exchanging economy, in an autonomous way, globally and locally.
1) Under the Giving Economy paradigm, it will be produced a worlwide unit of account called "Pass" and based on a journey of Hospitality. It does not matter if this journey is offered by inhabitants in Alaska or in the Amazon, in Cairo or in Paris, in Porto Alegre or in Mumbai, in Hong Kong or in Mexico City. We understand for Hospitality the holistic caring of one people visiting a friendly committed host. It is holistic because it implies lodging, sharing knowledge and solidarity in terms of short and long range, a recognition of the importance of the environment and a specific culture, putting the link value over the use value and the exchange value. So, this human based currency may be issued and circulated by people belonging to poor, middle and wealthy classes. This value is a social value that works in another dimension than the dominant market, it develops the social tissue, much more needed today than any kind of commodities, gold, illusions, profits and guns. It is not a quantitative uniform tool but a sign of diversity, quality and subjectivity in order to create linkage, confidence, reciprocity and trust.
Our dream for the World Social Forum has been to launch the Pass there. Imagine 100,000 conscious people visiting and participating there during 5 days. If as an average they would spend 50 Euros a day, they would need a budget of 25 million Euros for the entire stay. If just 20% of them, 20,000 people as debtors, could fit with local partners, imagine 5 to 10,000 hosts as potential creditors, and circulate among them the Pass, it would mean the substitution of 5 million Euros with 100,000 Passes, something more valuable based on a solidary journey, a new social world currency not submitted to the games of the market. This journey has the same link value wherever it is fulfilled (and a very different comparative value facing standard moneys and prices, in Manhattan it could mean the double or triple in dollars, in Calcutta perhaps only 10% or less in rupees, but, of course, who cares if we are looking for a new concept of value, the link value?).
The individual participants to the WSF are, many of them, supported by social organizations performing at different levels. These organizations can guarantee the moral and social solvency of individuals. It has been announced the participation of 5,000 organizations. This wide solvency can be sharpened and implemented in terms of social market by several organizations skilled on social currencies. There are many leaders, experts, central poles and networks, using and promoting different complementary & alternative currencies all around the world as already mentioned here. They need to reinforce their own devise but they can also share a common one. There are approximately 4,000 local organizations dealing in the world with local currencies. Hypothetically we may count on 400 that could be committed to build a new common one. A worldwide agreement should be done among them creating the antithesis of the World Bank and the IMF. Together with the WSF they may catalyze the creation of an organic World Social Banner catalyzing and using the “Pass” based on Hospitality, recognized, fostered and monitored by all these units operating in the North, South, East and West. The tool may be a scrip, an accounting system, an intelligent card, a combination of all them and the issuer would be in the first step 20,000 attendants to the next Forum and around 5,000 to 10,000 hosts, in different degrees and modalities of organization. This exercise could be repeated in following similar gatherings multiplying the volume of Passes. With the increasing movility and travels, all those accepting the Pass in the WSF and similar events will get reciprocity in the short, middle and long term, according to their possibility of displacements.
2) The next step deals mainly with the use value and the Exchanging Economy Paradigm. There is the need to define a basket of products and services for a “glocal” (global & local) right livelihood, for a day, a week, a month, a year and a life. Unity and diversity in kind and time.
The catalyzer cell, the local banner, in each region and culture, a peculiar and defined identity, should describe it. Each territorial -or virtual- identity (a participatory research cell) should define its livelihood and the basic products and services implied.
Basic needs as nourishment, health, clothing, shelter, transportation, organization, education, training, leisure, spirit, etc., should be analyzed and typified (in a very proper and differential manner) according to the diversity of identities, cultures and places. It is a huge caleidoscope which may in the long term integrate 10,000 different cultures existing in the world (50% condemned already to extinction!). It is important to know how many of these basic values (goods and services) are produced by insiders and how many are coming from abroad. The border between the proper and the foreign should be defined.
We may coin the "Vital" as a multifaceted currency which will vary, as does the Pass, according to the cultural and situational differences. We may have several Vitals based on time, one day or one life being the opposite extremes. For practical use those refered as Vital Day, Vital Week and Vital Month will be the currents. The Vital Year and the Vital Life would play the role, perhaps, as the big round stones have played in the Yap Island, Micronesia, where the islanders created long time ago huge and scarce landmarks for honor, reciprocity and trust. Perhaps this profusion of Vitals may appear complex but we may think that time refered to life has its richness instead of the reductive simplicity of time refered to money and abstract manipulated accounts. Price is not appraisement.
(Time is a category of human life that every culture and civilization may conceive differently. Our indigenous cosmology and its callendar differs radically from the western schemes. The Mexican year is formed by 18 weeks (or months) of 20 days each and some complemenatry days with a specific fateful function, being this calendar linked to the agriculture periods and the moon effects on the whole earth. An epoch was conformed by 52 years divided by four sets of 13 years.)
Each identity, an old&new flag, should operate with a local alternative "banner" which will create a real free specific market. Market here does not mean the “supermarket” where you only know the cashier and cash, not you, is the effective actor. Market, a social market, in our concept works towards Fair and Fairness or, in a more radical view, potlatch, as was analyzed by Mauss in his view about authorship and authoritative distribution of goods for everybody.
(There is not a problem of quantity but a problem of proportion. When I visited Ivan Illich a few months before his passing away, I asked him what was the problem he was studying those (last) days. “Proportion”, was his answer. Talking with Michael Linton, during a TOES workshop (The Other Economic Summit, challenging the G-7 in Denver) I put a Hamletian question: “To measure or not to measure”.)
3) Specific localized currencies, as Lets, Sel, Time Dollar, Talent, Ithaca Hours, Friendly Favors, Toronto Dollar, Wir, RoMa, etc., as well as the Chiiki-tsuhka, the Tlaloc, the Dinamo, the Maya, the Mutirao, the Palmas, the Ecovale, the Vale Crédito, etc., etc., will be the local banners. The local banner will establish the conversion of the worldwide Vital (which may be divided in subunits for the practical trading) with its own specific currency and, through this device, with the official currencies affecting the daily life: dollar, euro, yen, yuan, etc.
They will continue multiplying themselves and functioning locally or regionally. They will define the local exchange value of the Vitals towards themselves and consequently towards the prevailing national official money and towards the dominant reserve currencies as dollar, euro, etc.
The banners will continue dealing with prices fixed on capitalist money but now they will have another paradigmatic tools to work for: the Pass and the Vital, the proper human compasses. Their main function is to recover the power of issuing money without interest and to enter into the appraisal of incomensurable values beyond prices.
So, we will have a world link value: the Pass, a world use value, the Livelihood Basket, a world exchange value: the Vital. And each locality or specific network, its own currency dealing with present prices: Lets, Time dollar, Tlaloc, Palmas, etc. All of them in the framework of an incommensurable value: Hospitality! All this complex would tame the international monetarism represented by the IMF and the WB, whose bubbles would burst sooner than later.
4) Democratic governments, realistic corporations and international bodies (under sharpened paradigms like participatory democracy, sustainable development and structural systemic change), should sponsor and innovate plans and campaigns as those already cited here, the Creditist Movement proposed by Douglas and the international currency based on environmental protection proposed by Douthwaite. All those superstructural institutions wold get some new chance to be reformed and alive cancelling the international debts created under wrong premises (irresponsible loans realized under evident or concealed dictatorships, without enough consensus or without public wealth creation), almost all the Thirld World international debt.
As Richard Douthwaite envisages, we will have in the near future the creation of multiple currencies, as a creative rebellion against the monopoly of banking moneys. They will accomplish distinctive functions, as a moral identification, as an account unity, as an exchange tool, as a reserve for safety, some issued by governments, corporations or international bodies and many, by the people.
A lot of energy and ultimate sacrifice has been delivered by the people struggling and working for a better world. Still, the threshold towards a better life for present and future generations is not crossed yet. There has been during centuries and generations an incommensurable human investment in lifes that can not have counterpart in terms of money. The vital values are within us, we are 6 billion inhabitants inheriting a very fragile planet, we most protect it and protect our vital values, dismantling all institutions inherited from the past that today are threatening all life in favor of a perverse fantasy. Let us reinforce our intelligence, love, hope and firm decision to pass the threshold for the better. Here follow some unforgetable testimonies that deserve the conversion of everyone towards their ideals and oblations.
Utopias, rebellions, autonomies, repressions and new emergencies.
When Mexico was conquered by the Spanish warriors, 1521, ten years later arrived a humanist pertaining to the European wave of utopian thinkers reacting to the incipient capitalist injustice, like Thomas More (whose "Utopy" was published in 1515). Vasco de Quiroga was the name of this Spanish educator and organizer in terms of another society avoiding the exploitation of people specially the natives in their own country. Quiroga came as the emperor Charles V’s delegate, as a magister to control the outrages commited by the conquerors. He was a layman but very a spiritual leader which later became a bishop of the wide region called Michoacán. He wrote the rules of a new indian society, a Charter, but went beyond More, because they were not idealistic rules but the result of 30 years of experimentation. He founded the famous Hospitals (for pilgrimage, learning and medical caring), a sort of indigenous republics signified by the respect, learning, work and exchange among the indians. A kind of republics considering a population of 60,000 inhabitants to learn how to become selfreliant. He, called later by the indians "Tata" Vasco (“Tata” means Father) founded two famous hospitals: Santa Fe de los Altos with the Aztecs in the western heights of Mexico City and Santa Fe de la Laguna with the Purepechas in the shore of the Lake of Patzcuaro, state of Michoacán.
(The first one became very famous because the enigmatic anchoret Gregorio López inhabited there and produced the first book in America on indigenous medical herbs and treatments. Unfortunatelly today it is the zone where the globalization neoliberal trend has had the worst impact building there high white elephants for the offices of transnational corporations. Fortunatelly, the influence of the second one persists. It has been still more famous because the 15 villages around the lake were organized adopting each one a specific trade in a manner that all the region could be selfreliant. This organic framework still exists today and twice a month they organize a common fair where the use of the official currency is forbiden, the market functions by bartering, it is a symbol of resistance against the imposition of false foreign values, it is a feast (fiesta) where people revives the giving economy instead of the profiting economy. The fair is organized by turn in a different village. Today, almost 500 years later, the indigenous people in the middle of poverty stands up and tells the world that first is to be organized in order to show dignity and solidarity.)
The utopian cycles repeated constantly in America. We may mention the “Reductions” organized by the jesuits in Paraguay in the XVII and half XVIII centuries protecting, reorganizing and reinforcing the Guarani indians from the plundering made by Portuguese and Spanish commissioners (encomenderos).
Experiments continued to be organized by several ideals always linked with freedom and progress and each cycle has given its lesson, benevolent or enraged utopias, paternalistic or revolutionary ideals have been experimented in all the continent.
We may mention the rebellion of African slaves in Brazil, getting away from farms and plantations, creating their “quilombos”, a sort of free republics in the mountains and forests that recreated their original livelihoods called “little Angolas” and adopting Brazil as their new Africa. The quilombos were reproduced during three centuries but were prosecuted and annihilated by superior forces (the bandeirantes) belonging to the white colonizers. The most famous quilombo was the Free Republic of Palmares, near Pernambuco (Northeast), founded in 1605 and having a long life during 70 years, including 18 hidden villages called “mocambos” and covering 24,000 km2. Its famous guerrilla’s commander was Ganga Muíza followed later by Ganga Zumba and Zumbi, trying each other to truce or to fight until the end. Palmares is an epic landmark in Brazil’s history as the independenc of Haiti as been in the Caribbean.
(In the last decades of XIX century it was the turn to entire populations, white, mixed, black, many times led by thaumaturges, to react to oppresive institutions. Paralelly, the peasants had on the “cangaceiros” their warrior heros to fight against the oppresive system, these rebels were accused as brigands and were violently prosecuted. Their most famous leader, Lampiao, was killed in 1938.)
(Brazil, an empire since the 1820’s, became a huge republic in 1889 but already since the 1870’s several movements, inspired this time by religion and millenarism instead of race, emerged as separatist efforts in a sort of holy war. We may mention the Movement of Canudos led by Antonio Conselheiro, he could constitute a settlement of 30,000 inhabitants, Arraial de Canudos, in the North East of Brazil, and create a bartering system among nearby villages. They could resist several attacks during“The War of the World’s End” but finally in 1897 they were annihilated by 8,000 soldiers and their canons. Another experiment was done in Contestado, South of Brazil near Santa Catarina, this time poor peasants were expelled from the region by lumber and railway businessmen. They organized a fraternity led by a monk, Joao Maria, and organized the resistance in Caraguatá between 1913 and 1916 but they were also annihilated.)
(Perhaps the longest localized experiment was known as the prefecture of Juazeiro, also in the Northeast, that could survive for 60 years the repressions. This one started also in the 1870’s and was led by Father Cicero, a commited and “miraculous” priest, excommunicated later by the Catholic Church at the end of the 1920’s. He died in 1936 but during his life, because his strong position, he could negotiate with the formal authorities some tolerance. Their followers created Caldeirao, a settlement with 2,000 inhabitants, looking for production, selfreliance and even autarchy with equal distribution of food for everybody. This promisory experiment was not tolerated and was destroyed by the army, with the burning of all huts. New efforts were organized but the last one, near Baia, was repressed in 1938 by the killing of 400 followers.)
The independence’s wave of the XIXth Century created the present Latin American republics forged under a mixture of the U.S. and the French XVIII Century revolutionary models. Liberalism permeated during the XIX Century all attempts to reach freedom and sovereignity, it created the present Latin American Nation States but frustrated the Bolivar’s dream for a strong Latinamerican Confederation. Political independence could not overcome economic dependence from the former metropolis and continuous interventions mainly from the U.S. and France. Then, Mexico initiated in 1910 the worldly reported first social revolution in the XXth. Century, the human cost being very high, a 10th of the population disappeared violently during 10 years of struggles (1910-1920). Cuba and Nicaragua came later (1959, 1979), being Central America the other killing fields. In Colombia still some violent utopians and revolutionaries manage to survive in the middle of a confusion of opposed interests and criminals.
Recently the Andean indian populations have massively reacted against their neoliberal "democratic" leaders renewing the historic movilizations led by messianic leaders like Juan Santos Atahualpa (mid XVIII century) in Central Peru or Tupac Amaru, 30 years later in Cuzco. Unrest and frequent uprisings have been always the constant in our region provoking every time a more sophisticated or repressive interventions and even the U.S. open direct reaction (Dominicana, Grenada, Panama, etc.).
People on the move, MST, Chiapas, the Andean people, the FSM...
The present biggest movement in L.A. is the Movement of Landless Workers (Movimento dos Trabalhadores Rurais sem Terra. MST), in Brazil, accomplishing already 20 years of social struggle (it emerged in the south and was inspired by the Sandinista’s revolution in 1984), challenging the latifundium system, where landowners concentrate more than one million hectares of land (there is one individual property -a fazenda, a huge ranch- the size of Belgium!), much of it without production when millions of people starve lacking land for a minimum of food production. The strategy for the MST is to occupy unproductive land as a basic people’s right to survive. These seizures are performed without violence by the force of quantity, want and collective courage, implying hard negotiations with authorities and legal owners. More than 350,000 peasants have been provisory settled with this strategy, 100,000 more waiting their turn distributed in 500 camps. This is the first step followed by more organized ways in order to produce a common economy through settlements providing productive tools, trade and services. To network all these mushrooming effort may permit to create a firm solidary and alternative market. A very democratic movement, they have 11,000 delegates in their five-year National Congress. On their move, they have created 1,800 schools for children and very soon they will inaugurate a national school, “Florestan Fernandes”, for cadres and grassroots engineers. The MST has the moral support of several catholic bishops and belongs to “Via Campesina”, a worldwide network of one hundred national peasant movements.
(Brazil, having today a leftist government, can not still provide a real support to this paradigmatic movement representing poverty and courage. Just two weeks ago the MST organized a protesting national march ending in a huge demonstration in Brasilia, capital of the country.The claim: an effective Agrarian Reform. There it was possible to confront present reality with the liberal utopia of former President Kubitschek, inaugurating in a luxurious manner the most beautiful modernist capital in the world -in April 21st of 1960, the traditional day consecrated to Tiradentes, a sacrificed hero struggling for the national independence-. This modernist urban compound built by the best architects and urbanists to glorify the Nation State and its related organisms, immediately at that time was challenged by the grassroots builders -the candangos- creating peripherical settlements with precarious huts inhabited by unemployed and poor people. What would be the reaction of Tiradentes facing this dualism?)
In a more extreme situation, the indigenous of Chiapas, Mexico, revolted ten years ago in order to emancipate and, after many public demonstrations and resistances, to start building a kind of small “autonomous municipalities” challenging liberal and conventional paradigms, the “Caracoles” (Shells) in the forest like those dreamed by several generations of indigenous people struggling against injustice and exploitation, together with bishops like Fray Bartolomé de Las Casas, contemporary of Tata Vasco, and, a recent one, Samuel Ruiz.
The World Social Forum (Foro Social Mundial) has accomplished 5 years of remarkable gatherings as a reaction to the Davos World Economic Forum, characterized as the strategic think tank of the capitalism today. The WSF has been a space not only to protest or for massive manifestations but to share new visions, strategies and practices all around the world that work under the slogan “Another world is possible”.
“Time is money” or “TIME IS HOPE”.
Step by step, the emancipatory brotherhood of Latin American Nation States is being recovered by the votes and movilizations of the people. Venezuela, Argentina, Brazil, Uruguay, they have already popular leftist regimes and probably Mexico in two years will shift into another one.
But today there is no free place for more utopias, the Democracy trend linked only to space is empty, there is almost no place where the capitalist globalization has not deeply penetrated with the invisible linkages of fiduciary and scriptural money, a massive and instantaneous empowerment device for the few. Coca Cola arrives to the furthest places in mountains, jungles and peripheries of cities. The mass media, mainly the TV, is entirely a brain washing effective mechanism.People, a lot, is today migrating and loosing the control of its original place. People, a lot, is massified and atomized.
The imperial capitalist money rules the world with the slogan: "Time is Money". Facing this challenge we need to recover not only our territories but our time as power: Trust, credit, hope. This challenge is not only for Latin America, it includes all the emergent countries in the world, specially those emergent ones that have been very interested on the World Social Forum and its Solidary Economy Cluster, like India, China, Africa, and their civic organizations. So, we need to combine our historical utopias with ukronias in order to change the dominant slogan into another one: "Time is Hope". So, if the collapse of all the monetary system is very probable, a sort of World Bang with “democratizing and developing projectiles" sent by the current World Bank, we need to create the World Banners of the people.
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Cambiemos a una Vida Digna y Sostenible.
Let us change for a Sustainable Livelihood.