Global Revolution: Can We Take Money Out of the Social Equation?

Our neo-liberal capitalist world order is crumbling. Massive popular protests have erupted in the past few weeks in Greece, Spain, Portugal, Haiti and France.  The current system has made money and financial considerations at the core of everything. People are valued for their assets or net worth, not for what they are as human beings. Even the “left” political parties in Europe-which have the impudence to call themselves “socialist”-are applying the same logic. Money, debt and the management of it, is the number one consideration for their policy decisions. Greece used to have a “socialist” government, but yet it is promoting neo-liberal policies of austerity to please its European partners, the IMF and the banks. France recently elected President, the  pseudo Socialist Francois Hollande is, as matter of fact, implementing economic and human rights policies- persecution of the Roma- similar than the one of his predecessor Sarkozy. What French protesters called on September 30, 2012 the “Merkozy Plan” trying to impose austerity measures is still being implemented. Naturally, Angela Merkel -the German Chancellor with the political “vision” of an East German accountant- is doing the bidding for the banksters of the global financial system. If the Obama administration has chosen the Keynesian route of printing money, called generally by economists “stimulus policy”, Merkel in Germany and Cameron in the UK are going for a belt tightening approach for the poor and the middle-class.

Meanwhile, the global banking system is even more crooked than before the crash of 2008. While banks charge substantial interests on credit cards and loans, the return all of them offer on money invested- saving accounts, money markets or CDs- is closed to zero. Basically, for the few people lucky enough to have some sort of money reserve, keeping it with a banking institution doesn’t make sense, they would be better off  installing a good floor safe at their house. Recently, the credit ratings of Spain, France and even Germany were downgraded. Countries are in debt, individuals are in debt: our social fabric has become all about servicing and managing debts. This twisted and truly perverted system has put money as a prime source of concern, and often the only one, for most people. Most of us have let this meaningless exchange facilitator instrument rule our lives. This disease, and the illusion of security that it is supposed to bring, motivates most people more than the true values of empathy, creativity and love. This obsession with money is the worst addiction of all: it breaks dreams, it enslaves people and even countries, it can even poison and ultimately  kill relationships which should be based on compassion and  love.

As the  global  revolutionary movement- call it Occupy, call it Indignados or something else- is putting the issue of austerity and the greed of the global 1 percent at the center of all debates, some people within that global wave of social changes still think that capitalism can be reformed, improved upon. That the blood sucking cannibalistic hydra can be tamed. But, unfortunately it can’t. For the global revolution to succeed the beast must be killed. The most peaceful way to do it would be by starvation: either by coordinated global general strikes and consumer boycott, and down the line the reintroduction of the thousand years old economic system of barter: an economy with NO CURRENCY. But so far, nobody within the global movement, is pushing the envelope quite as much by saying that money should be taken out of the social equation.  Especially in the United States, the Occupy movement is all about a fairer society, putting the accent on equality and social justice. However, conceptually, it is about wealth redistribution within the confine of capitalism. A year ago, the 99 percent had finally told  the 1 percent “enough is enough”, but most occupiers are coming short of conceptualizing some more radical solutions. If money is the problem, why can’t we get rid of it? Without money, the parasites of the global banking system couldn’t survive. The more or less universally corrupt politicians would loose interest in governing.

A few people are starting to think down those lines, dreaming of re-inventing a system based on barter where people would trade goods and services in a direct fashion without using a paper currency. It is possible, if you think about it. Let say you are a pig farmer and you have a major dental problem. In this barter system you could pay for the services of your dentist by giving him half of a pig. Money would be effectively out of the equation. Last night, I was having a conversation on this topic with one of my closest friends. His name is George. He lives more or less off the grid with his wife Helen. I asked George a few questions over the telephone.

Don’t you think that a world functioning without money is a rather Utopian perspective?

“No, actually barter is not Utopian. The Utopian view would be people coming together as a community with no individual gains.” George said.

When and how do you think the goal of a society without currency can be achieved?

“When people realize that humanity is more important, and how would be to have more and more people working on becoming self sufficient as groups.”

Do you feel optimistic about the Occupy movement?

“Yes, the OWS movement is pushing the limits of freedom. However, their goal does not define freedom.”

Do you think that OWS tactic of a non-violent movement is effective and sustainable?

“Yes, because history has proven that violence breeds violence. It is the only tactic, and there is no other alternative.” said George.

People like George and Helen can and should be considered pioneers in what could be a system where financial considerations are no longer at the center of  our lives. And they are example of this ancient alternative of economic organization applied on a large scale. In Greece, the austerity measures, the unemployment, increased taxation and the cut off  from the banks to give people the ability to borrow money, the barter system is making a come back.We are living through one of the most exciting time in human history, which is causing a lot of anxiety for many people. But, it is perhaps a unique opportunity for us to think radically outside the box, put everything in question, drop all the failed social models or ideologies, and make ourselves open to real revolutionary solutions not only collectively but within ourselves by changing our own psychology. If most people would agree that greed-the love of money-is the “root of all evil”, then why not consider getting rid off money and going back to barter?

Editor’s Note: Photograph one by Liz West, photographs two, four, and six by Alejandro Juarez, and photograph five by Irina Slutsky.


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