Communal economy

Wealth through sharing

A communal economy means to us: Everyone gives their income, property and assets into the community, everyone satisfies their consummation needs out of the shared community pot and all means of producation always belong to the community at large, never just one individual.

What we mean exactly
Our community’s aim is to have all members share the same economic structure. This means that everyone gives their whole income into the communal pot. It doesn’t matter where this money comes from or how it was obtained (wage labour, selling of products, public funds or from grandma) nor how much it is. Out of this communal pot we’ll pay for everyone’s day to day needs, of individual members as well as the community as a whole. Socks and toothpaste will be paid out of this pot as well as wall paint and print-out paper.

Until now we know two different systems for this income pot: The pocket-money-principle that means that everyone get’s a certain amount of money a month out of this pot and is free to do with this, whatever he/she wants to (therefore also saving it). And then there’s the “free“ model, which means that everyone takes out of one pot according to what they need (and how much is in it, of course). We can see advantages and disadvantages with both of them and haven’t decided yet, which one suits us more. Anyway it is important to us that there will be transparency about money. We want every member to be able at any time to have a general idea about our financial situation: How much money do we currently have? How much money is in the everyday pot? On what do we spend money? Where does our money come from?

This first pot will be fed by our current receipts (the community’s and it’s member’s) and contains the money for the day to day consumption. There’s another pot for our property / savings. That pot contains all savings and property of the community’s members, since everybody brings in their money after a certain amount of time. That is to say: Money, gold, jewels, real estate, cars, shares (as if…), all those things that have a high monetary value but aren’t personal treasures, like a musical instrument or a bike.

So that means two things:

First of all we have a shared monetary property and are therefore able to buy means of production, make retirement arrangements, reconstruct real estate and so on. The first step that will be bought out of this pot will by land and real estate in Spain. So we’re talking big money, so we’re probably going to have to put money from our income pot into our property pot on a regular basis. We haven’t decided on a complete model for this yet but are waiting for more voices with good ideas. This communal property is supposed to enable us to get out of capitalist adhesion contracts (rent, lease) and to own the means of production (vehicles, land, machines) as a group. Connected to this is also the state of self-sufficiency that we aspire as it will be impossible or senseless and inefficient without.

Secondly we own stuff together. Mostly this means again means of production, houses, land, machines, vehicles and so forth. But of course everyone is free to donate their stuff into the community, for example pots or loudspeakers or furniture. But with this stuff it’s discretionary of each of us individually. If it’s really important to someone that his or her stuff is treaded very carefully might decide against donating stuff and that’s just as ok as the decision to clear out your whole appartement. Transparency is very important here, too: In order to be able to respect someone’s right of ownership at the tabletop football they will have to move into their private room or communicate clearly how it is supposed to be used.

Entry and exit
There won’t be an entry without an exit-contract. All items a member wants to keep when they leave will have to be listed on an exit-contract which has to be signed when someone joins us. Big, expensive means of productions are excluded. They will be donated and can not be demanded back. The exit-contract also says how much money the community will give the member in case it decides to drop out.

Legally the joining of a member means two things: Firstly that person is now entitled to vote, in our case that means that he or she is coequal with the other members in decision-making-processes. Secondly his or her savings and property and income go into the communal pot. To make this step easier – especially those who own a lot – we’re planning on having a graduated system. We’re open and thankful for ideas.

Our communal economy brings about that we have to deal with our consumption critically and self-critically, because it’ll not just be about if I am able to afford something, but if we’re able to afford something. And that involves the question about the other’s consumption. Should I take less because every one else takes less? Do I want that? How do they do that? Can I take more? Will I be happy if I continue taking less than others? Do I dare to take more than the others? Can I deal with having identified some needs of others as “wrong” or “compensatory”? Why do I want to buy this? Is it good for me? Do I need it? Do I really want it? We’re not about asceticism or abstinence, but rather develop / maintain a critical view on our consumption.

We’re all used to live in a capitalist society with individual economy. A communal economy is something we might only know from our nuclear family. But even as children most of us got some pocket money that for most of us was to small and that couldn’t satisfy all of our wishes. Anyhow, reaching into the fridge or using the sofa was allowed at all times. But still most of us don’t have any experience in a real communal economy and least of all with one that is non-hierarchical or self-determined. But most of all we probably all have gained some negative experience with money and other people. On that account it’s important that we never forget to act respectfully and attentively with each other. We will have to develop sympathy and trust for each other. And that’s the reason why it makes sense to design a gradual entry into the communal economy. Individually differing needs for security, consumption-needs (or wishes), fears … that’s all ok to some degree. We always have to account for those differences so we can find arrangements and decisions that are ok for everyone.

Transparency is a value in itself which if it stands alone is quite empty. When it comes to economy and finances it’s about the following: Only the one who knows how much money is spent on what can reasonably think about where it makes most sense to save money. Only the one who knows where our money comes from is able to reasonably think about where we can get some more without much effort. In this field transparency is supposed to enable all members to reasonably think about this topic for themselves, in small groups or workgroups or as a whole group. We don’t want a cadre of caretakers or trustees who’re acquainted with our financial situation and who take decisions about this topic only on the grounds of being well informed. We want to use transparency to prevent conflict (i.e. fraud, careless or irresponsible use of money; who owes whom how much, or not any more) and with transparency it’s much easier to solve existing conflicts.

In practice that means: All spendings and investments of the community as a whole, of small groups or workgroups will be documented (in written from!) and will be visible to all members at all times. In case of an open pot for daily consumption we will document every withdrawal (date, name, category (i.e. food, communication, culture, clothes and so forth)).

Transparency links → work with our communal economy. We want everybody to know who does what and how much wage labour, to generate money for the community. Not only to give those who do that recognition but also to know where it makes sense and in which case it might make more sense to stop doing wage labour. And it’s also the question if I should do some wage labour (or generate money otherwise) or if we’re able to afford that I reduce the amount of wage labour I do or stop it completely. To decide about this I have to know how good or bad we’re doing at the moment.

Major (we haven’t set a number yet) purchases (communal as well as private ones) will have to be agreed upon in a consensus of the whole group. Smaller purchases can be agreed upon in a consensus meeting of the respective small group or workgroup. In this case we should all ask ourselves the questions: Is this decision relevant for others? It could be that there are other people who’d want to use this purchase and maybe that has effect on the quality of the product? Can we afford it? Are there other pending purchases that are more urgent? Is that interesting for other people, should I inform more people about this question?

Handling of stuff
A communal economy brings the responsibility that I have to handle the stuff I can use with care. Handling things, houses or soils negligently doesn’t only affect my life and financial situation, but also all other members of the community. That is why I will have to treat everything with care and responsibility.
In order not to create conflicts when it comes to communal things, we will have to come to agreements about a reasonable handling and abide by those rules. When we buy a new thing we should define straightaway how we want to deal with it (use, storage, maintenance, repair), but also who’s allowed to use it or rather which criteria have to be met to use it.

  • In practice that could mean:
    When we buy a car together, of course it belongs to everybody but only those who have a driver’s licence and is able to drive in the concrete situation (i.e. isn’t drunk) is allowed to use it. Refuel after use. Leave clean.
  • If we buy a chain saw it’s evident that children aren’t allowed to use it and that everybody who wants to use it but has never done that before, has to get a briefing from somebody who is well versed in it. And you can only work with it when there’s a buddy watching your back.
  • All bikes have to be stored in the bike-shed (don’t leave them standing in the rain). After using a bike make sure it’s ready to go for the next one who wants to use it (inflated, light works, brakes work)
  • Coated or enamelled pots and pans will not be scrubbed with a metal sponge.
  • Tools will be cleaned after usage (dirt, chemicals, grease…) and put at the right place.

More complex, complicated, dangerous or very important things (i.e. cars) we always want to have a responsibility-person. This person is the contact person for any questions or problems and generally responsible for this specific communal property. That way it’s always ensured that the car for example is in running condition, and fuelled, that taxes and insurance are paid at the right time, all necessary repairs are done and so on.

This kind of rules that implement the knowledge and experience of all of us can help us to reduce conflicts over things and at the same time ensure that those things work more time and that there are less accidents. And of course the principle of transparency will be applied here as well: Only a rule that is known can be observed.

Why we want a communal economy
No matter if I supply a financial contribution (at all times) or am able to do so, I can always be sure that I can meet my needs to the same degree all the others in the community can. I have food, a roof over my head, I can do sports, have a social and cultural life and so on. Therefore the communal economy gives us all a kind of financial stability and security that none of us can achieve on our own in capitalism. It doesn’t release me of responsibility towards the community but it does relieve the pressure.

The communal economy also means that I’m not forced to sell my lifetime, my energy, my creativity or my conscience on the so called “free market” in order to meet my basic needs, to ensure my livelihood or maybe even a life worth living. On the individual level this means more freedom, more self-determination and more happiness. On the social and political level it means that we take each other off the market and theoretically (if systems like ours spread) strenghen the bargaining position of the poor / exploited / suppressed (the 99%).

My education, my sex, my familial or geographic origin, my age, my predispositions and talents and so on will no longer decide how much right to consumption (in other words right to need satisfaction) the society grants me. As an equal part of the community I am entitled to satisfy my needs irrespective of my exploitability.

A communal economy makes sense also from the perspective of → ecology: We have to buy way less things within our group (which also means they don’t have to be produced, packaged, transported and thrown away), since we share a lot of everyday items. But not just that: Since we only buy for example one fridge we’re more likely to be in the position to be able to buy an eco-friendly model or to develop one with our shared knowledge and time that fulfils the same functions. And then there’s the ecological aspect of self-sufficiency: The local cultivation of food for a self-sufficiency alone or in a nuclear family isn’t possible. As a bigger group on the other hand we can manage peak periods or failures together and each work can be done by those who like it the most.

Areas of work that wouldn’t make much sense in an individual economy can make sense in a communal economy. That applies to self-sufficiency of food but also to “old” handicrafts and artisanry, the repair of broken things or the invention of new technologies and probably much more. Another example: If a single person or someone with an individual economy wants to construct and “earth fridge” for their self-cultivated vegetables, that’s something that is unlikely to work, neither financially nor with regards to his or her time. He or she still has to do wage labour in order to be able to reproduce him or herself. In a bigger group with a communal economy that decided in a consensus-process that building and running such an “earth fridge” is a recognised activity however, this can be a challenging and rewarding activity that saves money and gives us a product that is better than any on the “free” market.

And inwards a communal economy means less hierarchies and domination since a different acces to money and other resources will make some susceptible to blackmail, powerless and more sorrowful… And we want to end the different valuation of different work, as it is normal in capitalism. Generating money is important to the community but organisational work, house work, care and relationship work, construction, handicrafts are essential, too.