Endüstriyel gıda üretim/pazarlama/satış sisteminin insanın kendisine, hemcinsine, ait olduğu eko sisteme ve evrene yabancılaştırma konusundaki başarısına şapka çıkarmamak elde mi ? Mahalle kültürü, küçük esnaf, bütüncül ticaret hakimken ülkenin şehirlerinin önemli bir bölümüne, sadece 10-15 yılda gelinen noktaya bakıverin: “Eskinin” her türlüsünü patavatsızca ve aşağılayarak yok eden bir AVM kurma ve yüceltme yarışı !
Tarımsal/hayvansal üretim ve gıda işleme ise altmışlardan kalma “kalkınmacı” zihniyetin ve “çağdaş dünyaya yetişme” hastalığımızın son perdesi AB mevzuatlarının güdümü altında tüm gelenekselliğini, bütüncüllüğünü, sürdürülebilirliğini kendi kendine yok ediyor. Toprakla uğraşan bostan yapmıyor nenesinin yaptığı gibi, çünkü artık monokültür yüksek teknolojili endüstriyel üretimden elde ettiği ürün geliri var. O gelirle bulgurunu da, salçasını da, sebzesini de bir AVM’ye ailesi ile gidip alabilir. Alışverişin hediyesi de “çağdaş, batılı, tüketim” toplumuna koskoca bir hoş geldiniz kapısının aralanması olacaktır kuşkusuz.
Organik Tarım ve -soft organik- İyi Tarım’a ne demeli ? Şehirli, entelektüel, bilinçli “tüketiciler” için sıkı bir oportünizm zemini gibi geliyor bana. Hele hele 50 milyar dolarlık küresel pazarı ile organik üretimin, konvansiyonel üretimden ne kadar –şeklen- ayrılabileceğini düşünebiliriz ki ? Yıllardır, organik sektör büyüdükçe, mevzuat yumuşuyor garip bir şekilde, 20 yıl önce konulmuş olan sosyal, etik, ekolojik prensipler birer vicdan temizleme girişgahından öteye geçemiyor ve de gittikçe kenara atılıyor yönetmeliklerde. Doksanların bio fach’ında, organik fuarlarında sabolu, kotlu neo-çiftçilerin, köylülerin sohbetlerini, uluslar arası dev gıda şirketlerinin organik departmanlarından lacivert takım elbiseli satış elemanları yerlerini çoktan almış bile.
Büyüme –her anlamda- işin cılkının çıkmasını, nesnenin tüm masumiyetine rağmen bir güç merkezi, rant merkezi olmasını da zaruri olarak ortaya koyuyor. Organik Gıda’da da bu oldu bence. Halbuki Schumaher ne güzel demiş 35 yıl önce yazdığı kitabında: Küçük güzeldir diye. Bu karamsar tablo karşısında kuşkusuz birçok insan kuramsal bir karşı duruş içerisine girebiliyor. Ancak kendi bireysel tercihlerini çok sınırlı bir şekilde bu karşı duruşun içine alarak ne yazık ki. Kimilerimiz de –kollektif ya da bireysel- formüllerle yaşamımızın temeli olan gıdayı yeniden kurgulamaya çalışıyor.
Romantizm, idealizmle birleşince Tire, Milas, Urla pazarlarında dolaşıp yaşlı teyzelerin topladıkları otları tüketmek, başka birinin pekmezini, peynirini almak, diğerinden –kökeni ile fazla ilgilenmeden- bez parçaları içindeki “yerel” tohumlardan almak son derece tatmin edici geliyor. Bu sosyal iletişimin kalitesine tek bir olumsuzlama yapmadan şu gerçekliği de görmemiz gerekiyor: Bu üretim-tüketim ilişkileri baş döndürücü bir hızda yok oluyor. Pazarlar kalsa da, satıcılar daha çok pazarcılar olacak, kalan üretici – satıcılar da birer endüstriyel gıda üretim sisteminin parçası olacaklar.
Bir örnek vermek istiyorum. Çay ve şeker. Bu toprakların vazgeçilmezi gibi değil mi ? Halbuki çayın bu topraklardaki mazisi 60 yılı, şekerin de 80 yılı anca geçiyor. Ankara’nın planlamacı ekonomistleri üretim ve tüketimi ne de güzel tasarlamışlar: her köşeye birer şeker fabrikası ve etrafında binlerce şeker pancarı üreticisi; Doğu Karadeniz’in her kasabasına birer çay fabrikası ve binlerce çay üreticisi bir tarafta. Diğer tarafta da milyonlarca çay ve şeker tüketicisi. Sonuç kendi planlamacı merkezi ekonomi anlayışı içinde başarılı bir üretim ve tüketim sistemi tasarımı.
İşte TDT (Toplum Destekli Tarım) de bizler için bu tür bir tasarım kanımca. Hem de elzem bir tasarım. Özet bir tanımı ile TDT, bir tarafta 20 – 30 veya daha çok tüketici hanesinin –genelde şehirli- bir araya gelmesi, diğer tarafta da bir veya daha çok üreticinin organize edilmesi ile oluşan aracısız bir doğrudan üretim-satış sistemi. Ürün dediğimiz küçük bir bahçeden çıkabilecek mevsimlik sebzelerden tutun da, tahıllar, bakliyatlar, işlenmiş geleneksel ürünler, her tür hayvansal ürünler, ekmek vs’ye kadar mutfağa girebilecek her türlü ürün bu sisteme dahil edilebilir. Önemli olan bir üretim üssü veya bölgesinin oluşması, aynı zamanda da bu üretimin sağlıklı bir şekilde planlanması, üyelere dağıtılması ve para akışının sağlanmasında yatıyor. Üretimin yerel tohumlar kullanılarak, ekolojik tarım prensipleriyle, kompost desteği ile yapıldığını belirtmeye gerek yok sanırım.
Yapının güçlü yanı sistemin insani boyutta sınırlandırılması. Diğer bir deyişle tüketenin üreteni tanıyor olmasında, istediği zaman üretim alanına gidebilmesinde, hatta tüketeceği ürünü kendisinin bile toplayabilmesinde yatıyor sistemin temeli. Bu birebir ilişki, insani bir güven ilişkisini doğuruyor. Bu güven ilişkisi de organik sertifikalandırmaya, organik satış organizasyon kurumlarına ve devletin üretim izinlerine/kısıtlamalarına olan ihtiyacı ortadan kaldırıyor. Ciddi bir maliyet düşüşü söz konusu burada. Fakat aynı zamanda da yukarıda bahsettiğim endüstriyel gıda sisteminin getirdiği yabancılaşmayı kökünden yok ediyor. Yapı insani boyutu aştığında bir hücre bölünmesi gibi kendisini ikiye bölerek gereksiz ara yapıların ortaya çıkmasını, dolayısı ile güç, kontrol ve maliyet unsurlarını bertaraf ediyor.
TDT aynı zamanda bölgesel bir organizasyon olduğundan şehirlerarası ulaşımın doğurduğu maliyet ve karbon salınımını da azaltıyor. Hazırlanan üretim deseninin bir mutfak ihtiyacını haftalık karşılama temelinden dolayı çok çeşitlilik arz etmesi, üretimin de ister istemez mono kültürden uzak bir yapı sergilemesini doğuruyor. Hayvancılıkla entegrasyon sağlanabilirse ürün deseninde, yine ister istemez hayvansal gübre tedariğinin sağlanması mümkün olabilir. Aynı şekilde gerek sebzelerin sevkiyata hazırlanmasında ortaya çıkan organik atıklardan, gerekse de salça, turşu, pekmez gibi geleneksel ürünlerin üretim atıklarından ciddi miktarda kompost üretimi söz konusudur. Bu gübre ve kompost zinciri aslında şu anda organik tarımda kimsenin uğraşmadığı ürün zincirlerinin tekrar kurulmasına ve de toprağın zenginleştirilmesine de yaramaktadır.
TDT aynı zamanda vergi ve kayıt dışı bir yerel üretim ve tüketim sistemidir. Merkezi hükümetin aldığı vergi, tekrar topluma hizmet olarak aktarılmak üzere toplanır diye bilinir, ancak bu ülkede bunun bu yönde yapıldığına inanmıyorum. TDT ise bu hizmet aktarımını iki yönlü olarak kendi paydaşları arasında zaten yapıyor. Üye tüketiciler kırsaldaki üreticileri, yerel tohumları, toprağı, geleneksel üretimi ve üretenleri destekliyor. Fakat diğer yöndeki –üreticiden tüketiciye – destek salt temiz, güvenilir, sağlıklı, ucuz ürünlerin tedariğinden oluşmuyor. Aynı zamanda özünden kopmuş, toprakla, gıdası ile teması kaybolmuş bir tüketici kitlesini özgürleştiriyor desek yeridir sanırım.
Bu toplumu değiştirici gücü olan yapıların çoğalması dileğiyle.
THE NEED FOR TRANSITION TO THE SIMPLER WAY
(Two page summary; 5.10.2010.)
The basic cause of the many alarming global problems we face is the pursuit of affluent “living standards” and economic growth…the determination to produce and consume more and more, without limit, even in the richest countries. There is no possibility that the per capita levels of resource consumption in rich countries can be kept up for long. Only a few of the world’s people have these “living standards” and the rest can never rise anything like them.
- Resources such as food, land, forests, fisheries soils, minerals and energy (especially petroleum) are being depleted because the people in rich countries are consuming grossly unsustainable amounts, and the rest are trying to live as the few in rich countries live…and all are determined to consume more and increase GDP all the time and without limit.
- The environment is being destroyed because far too much is being taken from nature and too many wastes are being dumped back into nature. The environment problem cannot be solved unless rich world per capita levels of production and consumption are greatly reduced, possibly by a factor of 10. For instance the Australian “footprint”, the amount of productive land per capita used, is 8 ha, but by 2050 the amount available in the world per capita will only be about .8 ha.
- The Third World problem of perhaps 4 billion people living in deprivation and poverty (and 3 billion on an income of less than $2 per day) is basically due to the fact that the global economy gears most of the Third World’s resources and productive capacity to enriching our rich world corporations and stacking our supermarkets. We could not have our high “living standards” if we were not taking far more than our fair share of the world’s resources.
- Most problems of armed conflict and of oppression are due to the determination of some to take the resources of others. If we all go on fiercely intent on living in, or aspiring to, ways it is impossible for all to rise to, then there must inevitably be more and more armed conflict. We in rich countries could not have our high “living standards” if we were not getting far more than our fair share. We do this partly through the way the grossly unjust global economy works. It allows the rich to outbid the poor for scarce things, and will only permit development of what is most profitable to corporations, i.e., of ventures that serve our supermarkets. But in addition the rich countries support oppressive regimes and engage in military actions in order to keep Third World countries to the policies that suit us.
- Social cohesion and the quality of life in even the richest societies are being damaged, because the supreme goals are raising business turnover, incomes and the GDP, not meeting needs, building community and improving the quality of life.
These problems are inevitable consequences of a society that is driven by acquisitiveness, competition, the profit motive, market forces and growth. It is not just that this society is grossly unsustainable and unjust – the point is that such a society cannot be made sustainable or just. It is not possible to reform such a society so that it does not generate the above problems, while it continues to be about the fierce drive to get as rich as possible and to allow development to be determined by what will be most profitable to corporations and banks.
Most people however believe that technical advance, such as the development of more efficient cars and of renewable energy sources, will indeed enable us to plunge on down the affluence and growth path for ever while it solves the environment and other problems. But the magnitude of the overshoot, the unsustainability, is far too great for this to be possible. If by 2050 all the world’s people had risen to the “living standards” we in rich countries will have then given 3% p.a. growth, then world economic output would be 30 times as great as it is now…and right now it is at a grossly unsustainable level. Technical advance cannot make such a situation remotely sustainable…and with 3% growth the task would be twice as great every 23 years thereafter.
The second fundamental fault in consumer-capitalist society is that it is based on a massively unjust global economy. Most of the world’s resources and markets are taken by the few in rich countries, basically because it is a market system. Markets allow the rich to tae most of what is produced, and to ensure that the development” that takes place in the Third World is development that will enrich corporations and rich world shoppers. There cannot be peace or justice in the world until the rich countries stop hogging most of its wealth and begin to live on their fair share. Again this is not possible unless they accept moving down to much lower levels of consumption.
The can be no solution to these alarming problems unless there is transition to ways in which there are,
– Simpler lifestyles, much less production and consumption, much less
concern with luxury, affluence, possessions and wealth, and much more
concern with non-material sources of life satisfaction.
– Mostly small, highly self-sufficient local economies, largely independent of the global economy, putting local resources to meeting local needs. When petroleum becomes scarce there will be no choice about this.
– More cooperative and participatory ways, enabling people in small communities to take control of their own development, to include and provide for all. In the coming era of scarcity communities that cooperate to meet needs will have much better chances. We must develop commons and working bees, and there must be town assemblies, local committees and referenda making the important decisions about local development and administration.
– A new economy, one that is not driven by profit or market forces, and one that has no growth at all, that produces much less than the present one, and focuses on needs and rights. It might have many private firms and markets, but there must be (participatory, democratic, open and local) social control over what is developed, what is produced, and how it is distributed. Most economic activity will be local, using local resources, controlled by ordinary citizens, and geared to maximising the quality of life of all in the region.
– Some very different values, especially cooperative not competitive, more collectivist and less individualistic, and concerned with frugality and self-sufficiency not acquisitiveness and consuming.
The alternative or Simpler Way is about ensuring a very high quality of life for all without anywhere near as much work, worry, production, consumption, exporting, investment, environmental damage etc. as our present society involves. It is about liberation from the consumer rat race, and the insecurity, inequality, conflict and cultural squalor that goes with it. Consider having to work for money maybe only two days a week for money, and therefore having a lot of time for arts and crafts and personal growth, living in a rich and supportive community, and in a diverse and productive leisure-rich landscape, having socially worthwhile and enjoyable work with no fear of unemployment…and knowing you are not contributing to global problems.
Many people now accept this view of our situation and the solution, and are working for transition to the alternative way. There are now Global Eco-village and Transition Towns Movements trying to move towards new settlements of the required kind. The fate of the planet depends on whether these movements can provide many impressive examples of sustainable, just and pleasant settlements showing people in consumer society that there is a better way.
What should one do? Form a group in your town or suburb to start developing elements of the new way, such as small cooperative gardens and workshops, community working bees, edible landscapes, festivals…and helping to organise wasted local resources such as unemployed, retired and excluded people into producing to meet some of their own needs….with the vision of gradually expanding until we have transformed the entire suburb. But these efforts must go beyond merely creating community gardens etc.; they must be informed by the vision of vast and radical system change, such as getting rid of an economy driven by profit, market forces and growth. As conditions in consumer society deteriorate, led by the coming petroleum crisis, people will see the wisdom of coming across to The Simple Way we are pioneering.
THE TRANSITION PROCESS.
How can we get to a sustainable and just society?
(This is a summary of Chapters 12 and 13 in
The Transition To A Sustainable and Just World, Envirobook, 2010.)
Only when we are clear about the nature of our global predicament and the radical system changes that are needed, and about the form a sustainable society must take, are we in a position to think about the best way to work for the transition.
The global situation.
Consumer-capitalist society is grossly unsustainable and unjust. We are far beyond levels of production and consumption that can be kept up or spread to all. In addition consumer-capitalist society provides a few with high “living standards” by delivering to them far more than their fair share of world resources. Technical advance cannot solve the problems; they cannot be fixed in or by consumer-capitalist society. There must be dramatic reductions in levels of economic output, and therefore there must be radical and extreme system change. (For the detail see Part 1 of http://ssis.arts.unsw.edu.au/tsw/02c-TSW-14p.html)
There must be transition to The Simpler Way, involving simpler lifestyles, high levels of local economic self-sufficiency, highly cooperative and participatory arrangements, an almost totally new economic system (one that is not driven by market forces or profit, and one that has no growth), and fundamental value change. Many realise a sustainable and just society must be mostly made up of small local economies in which people participate collectively to run their economies to meet needs using local resources, and in which the goal is a high quality of life and not monetary wealth. This is a largely Anarchist vision and the coming conditions of scarcity will give us no choice about this. Big, centralised authoritarian systems will not work. (For more detail see Part 2 of the account at the above site.)
Implications for transition.
Following are some important implications of the foregoing analyses for the transition process.
– The conditions we are entering, the era of scarcity, rule out most previous thinking about the good society and social transition. The good society cannot be affluent, highly industrialised, centralised or globalised, and we cannot get to it by violent revolution led by a vanguard party. Governments cannot make the transition for us, if only because there will be too few resources for governments to run the many local systems needed. The new local societies can only be made to work by the willing effort of local people who understand why The Simpler Way is necessary and who want to live that way and who find it rewarding. Only they know the local conditions and social situation and only they can develop the arrangements, networks, trust, cooperative climate etc. that suit them. The producing, maintaining and administering will have to be carried out by them and things can’t work unless people are eager to cooperate, discuss, turn up to working bees, and be conscientious, and unless they have the required vision. A central government could not provide or impose these conditions even if it had the resources. It must be developed, learned by us as we grope our way towards taking control of self-sufficient local economies.
Working for transition therefore has to focus mostly on helping ordinary people to understand the need for The Simpler Way and to move towards its willing acceptance, and towards enthusiastic participation in the long process of learning how best to organise in their own area. The best way for us to do this work is to start building new ways where we live (below.).
Thus our strategy differs from the classic Left/Marxist one which focuses on building a political movement that will take over the state and then reorganise things from the centre, perhaps with a heavy hand (although Marx thought that in time the need for a central authoritarian state would fade away.) That made more sense when the goal seemed to be to shift energy-intensive, centralised and industrialised systems from capitalist control to ”socialist” control.
– There is therefore no value in working to take state power, either within the parliamentary system, or by force and revolution. Even if the Prime Minister and cabinet suddenly came to hold all the right ideas and values, they could not make the required changes – in fact they would be instantly tossed out of office if they tried. The changes can only come from the bottom, via slow development of the ideas, understandings, and values of ordinary people, and these cannot occur except through a lengthy process of learning the new ways from eperience in the places where people live.
– Working for Green parties to get Green candidates elected is not the best use of scarce energy. They can’t get the necessary radical changes through parliaments, given the dominant ideology. The task is to change that ideology, and that is not best done by working in the electoral political arena. Green parties and movements are now almost entirely merely reformist; they do not challenge market forces of affluence and they are not calling for radical structural changes away from affluent consumer-capitalist society.
– We do not have to get rid of consumer-capitalist society before we can begin to build the new society. Fighting directly against the system is not going to contribute much to fundamental change at this point in time. (It is at times necessary to fight against immediate threats.) The consumer-capitalist system has never been stronger than it is today. The way we think we can beat it in the long run is to ignore it to death, i.e., to turn away from it as much as is possible and to start building its replacement and persuading people to come across. The Anarchists provide the most important ideas, especially that of working to “Prefigure” the good society here and now, and focusing on development of the required vision in more and more people.
– The main target, the main problem group, the basic block to progress, is not the corporations or the capitalist class. They have their power because people in general grant it to them. The problem group, the key to transition, is people in general. If they came to see how extremely unacceptable consumer-capitalist society is, and to see that The Simpler Way is the path to liberation then the present system would be quickly abandoned. The battle is therefore one of ideology or awareness. We have to help people to see that radical change is necessary and attractive, so that they enthusiastically set about building new local economies on mostly collective principles. The Left has always understood the importance of ideology and consciousness but has failed to focus on the task of developing the necessary awareness and values in people in general. They have tended to assume that the necessary consciousness can be developed after power has been taken from the capitalist class. Again vanguard parties using force cannot get us to The Simpler Way; we will only achieve it if ordinary people build new systems in the places where they live, and they will not do that unless large numbers have come to hold a radical consciousness.
– The readiness to question consumer society has declined over the last thirty years. Affluence has generated increasing preoccupation with the trivia of TV, sport, celebrities and mindless self-indulgent hedonism. Above all there is a refusal to listen to any challenge to growth and affluence, a failure to even think about the fact that the quest for these is leading to catastrophic breakdown. Governments, media and the general public give no attention to these issues, despite the accumulation of an overwhelming case over the past fifty years.
– There is no possibility of significant structural change in the near future. We are nowhere near the necessary level of public awareness of the need for it. There will be no significant change while the supermarket shelves remain well stocked. Nothing much will change until serious scarcity jolts them. The underlyingproblems are becoming more acute and this will make people more likely to realise that consumer-capitalist society will not provide for them and that there must be a better way. If/when a petroleum shortage occurs it will concentrate minds wonderfully. But when it comes the window of opportunity could be brief and risky. If things deteriorate too far there could easily be too much chaos for sense to prevail and for us to organise cooperative local alternative systems.
– Therefore the top priorities for anyone concerned about the fate of the planet must be
a) to contribute to the development of radical global consciousness, that is, to help as many people as possible to understand that capitalist-consumer society will not provide for all, cannot be fixed and has to be largely abandoned, that there is a far better way, and
b) to contribute to the building of elements of The Simpler Way, here and now. In the last 20 years many people around the world have begun to build, live in and experiment with new settlements which enable simpler ways. When things begin to shake loose we need to be ready, to have built enough impressive examples of The Simpler Way, so that people can see there is a better alternative, and can quickly move into it.
The main reason why we should do this building is not to have more of the new institutions – it is to be in the best possible position to influence the thinking of people. By working with them on local projects we will be in the best position to help them to see that we must eventually go far beyond more community gardens etc. and embrace radical system change.
– The most promising development to work within is the rapidly growing Transition Towns Movement. If we make it to a sustainable and just world it can only be through a movement of this general kind. But again much has to be done to get the movement to go beyond its presently reformist aims. The things being done now within the Transition Towns movement will not solve the big global problems. They are only reforms within consumer-capitalist society and are no threat to it. The movement is not about replacing consumer-capitalist society; it is about surviving within it. For instance it does not have the goal of getting rid of a growth economy. Global problems cannot be solved unless this is eventually achieved.
This is the general fault in the green movement, the failure to grasp the distinction between system reform and system replacement. Many good alternative, local, green practices are being developed now, such as farmers’ markets, local agriculture, recycling co-ops. However these are almost entirely reformist; that is they do not come from any vision that recognises the need to scrap and replace the core structures of growth and affluence society. They do not include the most crucial purposes, such as to get to a zero-growth economy, to much simpler lifestyles, and to taking control of local economies away from market forces. Unless things like this are done the many (desirable) green initiatives occurring will not and cannot achieve significant social change
The reformist nature of these movements is understandable and inevitable, and are a very welcome beginning. As people become concerned to develop more sustainable ways of course they will start by supporting things like Permaculture and local agriculture. This is very healthy, but it is far from sufficient. It is inevitable that at first people will think about reforms, rather than see that fundamental structures of the system have to be scrapped. Over time quite different goals must be added, to do with replacing things like the growth economy.
It is also a serious mistake to assume, as many do, that the things happening now within movements like Transitions Towns will in time lead to the big radical structural changes called for above. Just building more community gardens etc. cannot lead to the establishment of a zero- growth economy. That goal can’t be achieved unless it becomes clearly and widely understood as necessary and unless a lot of work over time goes into designing and developing a zero-growth economy. If all you do is build more community gardens all you will end up with will be a consumer-capitalist society with more community gardens in it.
– So beware the mistakes that could waste your valuable time and energy! Each of us should think very carefully about what we can do that will make the biggest contribution. Again there are many (desirable and noble) “light green” actions that make no contribution whatsoever to the transition. For instance working to save the whale, increase recycling, stop wood chipping…are good causes… but they do nothing to move us towards a sustainable society, because that requires transition from consumer-capitalist society, and more recycling and forest-saving does not contribute to that. The best use of our scarce energies is to work within these light green campaigns and movements to try to spread the more radical global vision to ore people.
– Change will be rapid when it comes. The problems in consumer-capitalist society are intensifying. If we do achieve transition it will be via rapidly increasing discontent with the failure of the present society to provide.
– The breakdown of consumer-capitalist society will force us towards small, local economies whether we like it or not, to cooperate and to shift from high consumption. Local farms, jobs etc. will (have to) emerge as petroleum dwindles and transport and travel become too costly.
– It could be a very peaceful revolution…if we can get enough people to see the sense of moving to The Simpler Way. The rich and the corporations will have no power if enough of us decide to ignore them and to build our own local systems. The corporations and banks will probably soon be grappling with the breakdown of their systems and will not have the resources to block the initiatives people will be taking up in thousands of towns and suburbs. They can’t run armies and secret police forces very well without lots of oil.
– At this point in time our chances of a successful transition would seem to be very poor. Very few people have any idea that it is required, hardly anyone wants to even think about the need for transition to The Simpler Way, because it contradicts the most cherished values in modern Western Culture…and time is running out. Despite the efforts of a few over 50 years to draw attention to these issues the mainstream still refuses to think about them.
– Not only is working together to build elements of the Simpler Way the
best effective purpose for people concerned about the planet to put their energy into, it provides the best possibility of maintaining morale and enthusiasm. This strategy enables us here and now to practise and enjoy elements of the post-revolutionary society.
An Outline of a Practical Strategy.
Following are the steps we can start to take immediately, within our suburbs and especially in dying country towns, to start building the new local economies. ( It might take many years to get all these things going.)
Form a Community Development Collective.
A group must come together and form itself into a Community Development Collective (hereafter referred to as CDC.) Ideally the CDC will eventually develop into a mechanism for the participatory self-government of the town or suburb, but at first it might involve only a handful of individuals seeking to do a few humble things.
Set up a community garden and workshop.
The CDC’s initial goal is to identify and organise some of the locality’s unused productive resources of skill, energy, experience and good will so that a few people can start to produce for themselves some of the basic goods and services they need. The most promising first step is to establish a community garden and workshop, especially to involve low income receivers in the production of food and other items for their own use.
The CDC should then look for other areas in which further cooperative production to meet local needs could be organised. A promising early possibility would be bread baking. Once or twice a week a cooperative working bee might produce most of the bread etc. the group needs, again perhaps selling some to outsiders for cash. Another early possibility would be the repair of furniture, bicycles and appliances. The workshop could become a shop where surpluses are for sale. Scavenging from the locality, especially on council waste collection days, will provide furniture, appliances, bicycle parts and toys to be repaired and materials for use in the workshop. Other possible areas of activity would be cooperative house repair and maintenance, nursery production, herbs, poultry, honey, preserving and bottling fruits and vegetables, toy making, making slippers, sandals, hats, bags and baskets, car repair and the “gleaning” of local surplus fruit from private back yards.
Later the CDC would explore somewhat more complicated fields in which it could organise productive activity, such as planting fast growing trees for fuel wood, aquaculture based on tanks, simple house building and repairing, insulating houses, recycling and planting “edible landscapes” on public land.
These activities would also provide important intangible benefits, such as the experience of community and worthwhile activity. The involvement of local people who are not on low incomes would be important, especially gardeners, handymen and retired people. Ideally the garden and workshop would become a lively community centre with information, recycling, meeting and leisure functions. Specific times in the week should be set when all would try to gather at the site for the working bees, followed by a meal, discussions, entertainment and social activities.
Cooperatives would tally work time contributions and pay for these from later produce or income. This in effect creates our own money, enabling economic activity among the poorest people who have little or no money. This is the first step to an economy in which all participants can contribute time to many different productive ventures, earning the right to acquire the many different products our cooperatives and firms are producing, even though they might have no normal job or money. Some of the most viable CDC activities could in time become small firms run by a family or cooperative.
The huge significance of what we have done at this point could easily be overlooked. We have established a radically new economy, one geared to need not profit, one that is cooperative and caring, independent of market forces, and under our own local participatory social control. We now have the power to set up the enterprises we need, provide jobs and livelihoods, decide what will be invested in and developed, identify and fix local problems such as unemployment, and lend or give wealth and capital, for instance to organise working bees to build a shed for the new beekeeper. Our enterprises might be nowhere near as “efficient” or dollar-cheap as those the corporations can provide, but this is not important; what matters is that we can provide for ourselves, securely.
The significance of this step is immense. We have ceased to make reforms within the old society, we have started to establish a new economy to replace the old one.
Connect with the normal/old economy — stimulating the town’s internal economy.
The next step must be to enable people in this new sector to trade with the normal/old firms that exist within the locality. Right from the start we can sell small amounts of our produce to people in the town, (which also gives us a great opportunity to explain the project.) But more importantly the CDC must find out what things the new sector as a whole can start providing to some of the old sector firms in the town. For instance in the case of restaurants the answer is vegetables from the CDC’s cooperative garden.
We would not set up firms that compete with the existing small firms in the town. There is no net benefit in us setting up a bakery that wins all the scarce bread sales opportunities and therefore just puts people in the existing bakery out of work. We would compete against the supermarket where we could, because our goal is to replace its imports. Our focus must be on creating sales and jobs in a new economy involving those people previously excluded from economic activity. However this will not be possible unless the CDC finds items it can sell to the old firms or to people in the town.
It is in the interests of the old firms to join us enthusiastically, because this will enable them to increase their sales and their real incomes. They will be able to start selling to that large group of people previously not involved in much economic activity (e.g., because they were unemployed.)
Organise town working bees.
The development of the garden and workshop would have taken place through cooperative working bees. Before long the CDC should organise voluntary neighbourhood or town working bees, perhaps occasional at first but eventually occurring at set times aimed at developing the locality in ways that will make it more sustainable, e.g., planting fruit and nut trees in local parks, or building simple premises for new little firms. These activities can have powerful awareness raising effects within the town.
These research, monitor, organise, e.g., how to grow various things well, raise poultry and fish, graft fruit trees, run good little firms, buy in bulk, deal with water, wastes, liase with council, organise our financial affairs, provide for our self-education (e.g., on global affairs), monitor the quality of life, cohesion, and problems.
Start developing commons
…throughout the neighbourhood, such as sheds, tools, clay pits, patches for herbs, bamboo, fruit trees and timber. The working bees get the jobs done.
Organise market day
This would be organised mainly to sell CDC produce and products, and so that many people who do not operate firms or work full time for wages can gain income by selling items they produce in small volume through home gardens, craft activity or family produce.
Later start working on replacing imports to the town or suburb.
The proportion of the town or suburb’s consumption that is met by imported goods is typically very high. When goods are produced somewhere else and imported this means that the jobs that were involved in their production are not located in the town, and it means that money is flowing out of the town. The CDC should explore what items the town is most likely to be able to start producing to replace imports. Food is an obvious item. Other possibilities are fire wood, and house insulation as a replacement for imported energy, timber from woodlots, earth for building, and entertainment (concerts, plays, picnics, talks, festivals.)
Work on reducing the need for money in the first place.
The CDC must constantly focus attention on the importance of living simply, making things ourselves, home gardening, repairing, sharing and re-using. The fewer goods people consume the less that the town will have to import or provide. The more simple their demands are the more likely that these can be met from local resources. The more we do without or make for ourselves the less money we need to earn in order to buy things. Every dollar we can cut from our expenditure the less the town needs to produce for export.
The CDC should develop craft groups to increase home production. It could organise classes, skill sharing and display days for gardening, pottery, basket making, woodwork, cooking, sewing, preserving, sandal making, weaving, leatherwork, blacksmithing, etc. It would list skilled people willing to give advice or run classes. It would also list sources of materials, especially those free from the commons such as bamboo clumps, reed beds and clay pits. The CDC could develop recipes for nutritious but cheap meals mainly using plants (and weeds) that grow well locally. It would run field days and visits, and bring in experts, to increase our knowledge and skills.
Leisure, entertainment, celebrations, festivals and culture.
One of the committees within the CDC should focus on the possibilities for providing local entertainment, especially including regular concerts, dances, visiting artists, drama groups, craft and produce shows, art galleries, picnic days, celebrations, rituals and festivals. We would organise our own news services, such as occasional bulleltins gleaning material from global sources on sustainability and quality of life themes. Eventually the main news media will be local radio stations.
Form a town bank (or credit union) and business incubator
This creates the power to set up the kinds of firms the town needs. For example we can lend capital, and organise working bee labour to develop premises for the boot repairer, whether or not it is profitable. We would debate and vote on the bank’s rules and elect our own board. The business incubator helps new firms to get going. Both institutions assist old firms in the town that are failing (as oil scarcity hits transport and imported goods) to shift to production of needed items. Thus we would eventually take control over the town’s economic development, eliminating unemployment and creating the firms we need, and ensuring that everyone has a secure livelihood and a valued contribution.
Develop collective spirit.
Emphasise cooperation, sharing, helping, solidarity, feeling of mutual support and security. Synergism multiplies good effects and brings out the best in all. (Competitive individualism brings out the worst.) This is no threat to individual freedoms – we just need to make the good of all the top priority.
The research and educational functions of the CDC.
The CDC must constantly study the local situation, working out what needs we have, what resources we have, and how to organise better ways. The most important functions for the CDC are to do with the education of people within the wider locality. After all the main point of the exercise is to bring people to understand the need for and the rewards offered by the new ways. All our activities such as working bees and market days provide opportunities for increasing awareness within the surrounding region.
Above all the goal must be to help people understand a) that there has to be vast and radical system change; a society based on affluence, growth, competition and market forces cannot solve our problems, and b) the Simpler Way defuses the problems while liberating us for a much higher quality of life. We in the CDC must clearly understand that the point of the project is not just securing comfortable “downshifted” lifestyles for ourselves within a society that remains a part of consumer capitalist society.
In other words it is important that the main goal of the CDC is changing the consciousness of the locality, so that we can move from implementing reforms within consumer society to replacing it with radically different institutions and ways.
If we do make it to a sustainable and just world order then the transition will have been begun by tiny groups of people who at some point in time have taken on this task of working out how they could start to move their towns and suburbs towards being highly self-sufficient and cooperative local economies. Governments cannot do it. Only the people of the town can learn their way to the procedures that work for them. Those ways cannot work unless all are energetic, conscientious citizens keen to live The Simpler Way.
The approach outlined is positive and immediate. It is not about destroying before we can start to build. It enables living in and enjoying the new ways, to some extent, here and now, long before the old system has been transcended. There is nothing to stop us starting this work immediately. Above all, given our global situation, what other action strategy makes as much sense? Is any other more likely to get us to The Simpler Way?
Bugün dünyanın her yerindeki anneleri – bizi doğuran kadınları ve bize toplumun dürüst üyeleri olmamızı öğreten kadınları onore ediyoruz. Çoğumuzun annelerimizle ve çocukluğumuzla ilgili güzel anıları var, saçlarımızın bizi teskin eder şekilde okşanması, hasta olup da yatakta yattığımız o zamanlar ve annelerimizin sırf bizim için pişirdiği nice yemek… hepsi aklımızda.
Ama dünyanın her yerinde milyarlarca anne var ki onlar anneler gününü kutlamıyorlar. Aslında bu anneler Anneler Günü’nde yas tutuyorlar. Anneler günü onlara kendilerinden neyin çalındığını hatırlatıyor. Sözünü ettiğim anneler; yemek, giysi, evcil hayvan üreticiliği, eğlence sektörü ve laboratuarlardaki deneylerde kullanılan milyarlarca anne hayvan; bu hayvanlar yavrularının nerede olduğunu bilmiyor, hayattalar mı onu da bilmiyorlar.
Süt sığırlarının danaları her sene onlardan alınıyor. Çoğu ineğin kısacık ömrü içerisinde beş ya da altı yavrusu oluyor. Dişiler anneleri gibi korkunç bir kadere mahkûm oluyor, erkek yavrular ise küçücük bölmelerde kısacık hayatlar sürüyor ve sonunda dana eti olmaları için öldürülüyorlar.
Tavukların civcivleri onlardan alınıyor. Erkek civcivler canlı canlı gömülüyor ya da plastik çöp tenekelerinde boğularak ölüyorlar. Onların hayatlarının insanlar için hiç bir anlamı yok. Ama anneleri için onlar hiç anlamsız değiller.
Evcil köpek yavrusu yetiştirme merkezleri yas tutan annelerle dolu. Bu hayvanlar yavrulama makineleri olmak için esir edilmişler, tek kıymetleri sürekli yavru köpek üretmek.
Dirikesim endüstrisi de yas tutan annelerle dolu. İster laboratuarlar için yetiştirilsin, isterse daha yavruyken doğada annelerinden alınmış olsun; beagle, primat, fare, sıçan, kedi bütün anneler yas tutuyor.
Yarış atları da taylarını özlüyorlar. Yabandaki filler sirkler ve hayvanat bahçelerinde sergilenmek için kendilerinden çalınan yavruları için yas tutuyorlar. Kaplanlar ve aslanlar, yunuslar, tazılar, bu hayvanların hepsi yavrularını insanların eğlence sektörü adına kaybettikleri için yas tutuyorlar.
İnekler, koyunlar, ipekböcekleri..hepsi moda adına kaybettikleri yavruları için yas tutuyor.
Bu yüzden annelerimizi hayatlarımıza getirdikleri neşe ve kıvanç için onore ederken aynı zamanda insanın damak tadı, geleneği ve keyfi için yavruları esir edilen, işkence gören ve nihayetinde öldürülen milyarlarca anne için de acı çekiyor ve yas tutuyoruz.
Eğer bugün gerçekten anneler gününü kutlamak istiyorsanız, vegan olarak yaşamayı seçin. Annelerinizi milyarlarca hayvanı ve onların yavrularını onore ederek onurlandırın. Vegan olmak hem bugün hem her gün acı çekip yas tutan bütün anneleri onaylar ve destekler.
Previously nation states had at times expelled people whom they considered undesirable, but they had not attempted to prevent immigration. Britain, for example, expelled all Jews in the thirteenth century, but it was not until 1905 that it adopted laws to keep them out in the first place.
Failure of the Declaration of Human Rights
The growth of the culture of human rights has so far failed to assert the right of people to chose where they wish to live, except within the states whose nationality they are born with, or have obtained. Thus the United Nations’ Universal Declaration of Human Rights, adopted in 1948, asserts in its Article 13-1 that “Everyone has the right to freedom of movement and residence within the borders of each state,” which means the state in which they are officially allowed to reside. Therefore if, for example, people wish to leave an area of high unemployment and look for work where there is plenty of it, the authorities are not supposed to interfere with this wish provided it is within the boundaries of their “own” country. When, as in the Soviet Union and China, governments prevented their citizens from moving to particular areas within the country, this was considered an example of the repressive nature of these states, and widely condemned.
The Universal Declaration also states, under Article 13-2, that “Everyone has the right to leave any country, including his own, and to return to his country.” When the Soviet Union, East Germany and other states in eastern Europe prevented their citizens from leaving their countries, sometimes by arresting and even shooting them, and sometimes by building high fences and walls, perhaps reinforced with razor wire, this, again, was rightly considered shocking.
Less however is said about the walls, fences, razor wire, armed guards and other repressive devices which are supposed to stop people entering rather than leaving territories. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights has nothing to say about the right of people, who are supposed to be free to leave their own countries, to enter another. In a period when the powers of nation states are being undermined by the the forces of globalisation, states nevertheless cling tenaciously to one of their last prerogatives: the right to select which foreigners they will admit, and which they will try not to admit.
The Introduction of Immigration Controls
Historically states have needed immigration to expand their economies. In the early years of European empire, labour was obtained by varying degrees of force and compulsion. After the Second World War, in the period of reconstruction and boom, most European countries actively engaged in the recruitment of workers from abroad, first from other European countries and then from their former colonies, from North Africa, South Asia and the Caribbean, and from Turkey. But by the early 1970s, with recession and growing unemployment, the European countries which had previously imported labour had all set up controls to stop further migration for work. Legal immigration for employment largely ended. The apparatus of controls to stop people entering Europe and other rich areas without permission grew.
By the late 1990s some governments were also increasing their efforts to deport the people who had already come. In France, for example, people who had had more or less automatically renewable ten-year residence permits suddenly found that their permits were not renewed, or were given one-year permits, which meant they had either to go underground and work illegally, or leave the country in which they had lived for many years. They organised themselves as Sans papiers (undocumented people) to resist. In Britain, the government set targets for deportation, and began to increase random checks, arrests, detention and deportation of longterm British residents who had infringed some provision of the immigration laws. But as campaigners and visitors to Campsfield and other immigration prisons have discovered, in many cases those who were detained and deported had jobs, houses, wives and young children, and the latter might then lose their houses and become dependent on public funds for survival.
Undermining the Right to Asylum
One, at first legal, route for entry remained. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, in Article 14, stated that: “Everyone has the right to seek and to enjoy in other countries asylum from persecution.” But, after objections by the British, the declaration did not give them the unqualified right to receive asylum, only to seek it. It is left to the recipient states to decide who they will or will not grant refugee status to, rather than, as would be logical and as was the practise in the nineteenth century, leaving it up to refugees themselves to decide, as they are best qualified to do, whether they need to flee. On the whole, during the Cold War, when people did succeed in leaving the Soviet Union and other east European states, they were accepted in the states they went to. Similarly, after the Cuban revolution, Cubans were allowed into the United States (but Haitians were not).
The 1951 Geneva Convention on Refugees and its 1967 Protocol incorporated the right to asylum; they also gave it a restrictive definition. A refugee is defined as: “Any person who owing to well founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion, is outside the country of his nationality and is unable, or owing to such fear, is unwilling to avail himself of the protection of that country.” Some governments, including the German and French, have restricted this further, saying that persecution must be by state agents in order for the applicant to qualify for asylum. And over the years states have accepted declining proportions of the number of people who claim asylum, though the claims themselves differ little. They assert that this is because the “asylum seekers” are not really fleeing persecution but are merely seeking to improve their economic situation. They have started to attack them, in Britain for example, as “bogus,” “abusive,” and “illegal” (as if a person could be “illegal”).
The authorities, rather than making it their task to examine fairly and objectively a person’s case for asylum (which itself is likely to be impossible), take on an adversarial role: immigration service officials see their role as, like prosecution lawyers, to find inconsistencies or inaccuracies in the accounts given by refugees of their reasons for fleeing, which they then say undermine the credibility of their claims. In one case in Britain, for example, a Zairean asylum seeker said in one interview that there was no window in the cell in which he had been imprisoned, and in another that there was in fact a small grille above the door to the cell; this was given as grounds for refusing his claim.(1) In another case Home Office officials gave as grounds for refusal their (incorrect) assertion that escape across
the Congo river was impossible because it was full of crocodiles.(2)
In a minority of cases these refusals are overturned at appeal. But the officials determining appeals are themselves appointed by the Home Office and are far from impartial. The process is arbitrary, a cruel farce. It is clearly influenced more by quotas and targets than by considerations of justice or truth. As a result governments turn down many asylum claims which nevertheless meet the criteria set by the international conventions to which they are signatories. They then claim, quite unjustifiably, that this is evidence that most asylum seekers are “bogus.” Asylum seekers come overwhelmingly from areas in which there are wars and severe political persecution. A few of those who, with exceptional enterprise and courage, make it to Europe and other rich areas and claim asylum may do so in order to improve their financial situation. But the reality is that nearly all asylum seekers, whatever their reasons for migrating, are highly educated and are often dissident members of the elite. Many take a large drop in their standard of living, losing jobs, houses and land as well as their families.
Smuggling as Last Resort
Having progressively undermined the right to receive asylum, governments are now attempting to make it harder for people to apply for it. They do this, above all, by imposing visa requirements on the nationals of what they call “refugee-producing” states, which of course means the states people are most likely to need to flee from. The requirement to obtain a visa means that refugees cannot travel legally to the country they wish to go to. Clearly they cannot apply for a passport to the authorities they are trying to escape from. Supposing they already have a passport, they could in theory go to a foreign embassy to apply for a visa, braving the security guards outside and the possibility they might be denounced by local employees inside. But if they then asked for a visa to apply for asylum, they would normally be quickly ejected; there is no such thing as a refugee visa. They could in theory apply for a visitor’s or student’s visa, but this would require documentary proofs and probably some funds, and would in any case constitute deception.
The usual course for refugees therefore became to buy false documents from agents. But this itself is becoming increasingly hard. Under various Carriers’ Acts, airways, ferries and other transport operators are now required to ensure that the passengers they carry have documents, and are fined if they allow them to travel without them. Governments spend large amounts of money on technology to enable carriers to become better at detecting false documents, and sometimes post their own agents at foreign airports to assist in this process. If they succeed, they hand refugees back to the authorities they are fleeing from. Refugees are therefore forced to resort to even more dangerous, clandestine methods of travel. They usually have to pay large sums of money to agents, to enable them to flee in the holds of ships, in the backs or even in the tyre casings of lorries, underneath trains and even aeroplanes, in often overcrowded and leaky boats. In the process they endure great suffering. Many thousands die each year, of suffocation or drowning. Governments then announce that they will clamp down on the illegal smuggling networks, for whose existence they are entirely responsible, and have the gall to proclaim their concern over the cruelty of the agents and traffickers organising the refugees’ escape.
Prisons for Refugees
The objective of governments is to reduce, by this and other means, the number of people seeking refuge in their countries. In Britain, for example, the Prime Minister Tony Blair set a target of halving the number of applications for asylum. This supposed that the applications were not related to the real needs of people to flee, but to the attractiveness of Britain as a place of refuge; the government said it was determined to take tough measures and not to be “a soft touch.” The government met its goal, mainly because it had set the target in relation to the month in which applications peaked, and because this peak had itself been almost entirely the consequence of the number of Iraqis fleeing the threat of US-British invasion.(3)
But governments appear to continue to believe that the way to reduce the number of refugees is not to refrain from creating the conditions which people flee from, but to make conditions harsher in the countries they are trying to flee to. They lock refugees up in prisons and detention centres, and they reduce them to destitution. Refugees are punished not for anything they have themselves done, but in the, probably largely mistaken, belief that their treatment will deter others who might follow in their footsteps. In the process governments flout a long list of human rights: the right not to be subjected to inhuman and degrading treatment, the right not to be arbitrarily arrested and imprisoned, the right to a fair trial by a properly constituted court, the right to family life, the right to work, among others. Amnesty International has said that Britain, for example, in its treatment of asylum seekers, violates article 5 of the European Convention on Human Rights, article 9 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the UN Body of Principles for the Protection of All persons under Any Form of Detention or Imprisonment, and virtually all of the guidelines on detention of the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR).
Immigration prisons now exist in all of the rich, or “developed,” countries to which refugees flee. The largest numbers in absolute terms are locked up in the USA. Australia, until recently, detained all those who applied for asylum. Britain was one of the first European countries to detain asylum seekers, and it remains the only west European country to do so without judicial supervision and without time limit. In theory the British government derives its right to detain asylum seekers and other migrants from its 1971 Immigration Act, which stated that they could be detained prior to removal. Although detention centres have been renamed removal centres, in practise only a small minority of those detained have had their cases finally dismissed and have removal directions. Some cannot be deported, for a variety of reasons, and therefore cannot legally be detained. Around ten per cent of those arriving at ports and claiming asylum, who are therefore not even technically “illegal immigrants,” are detained. The process is arbitrary, and has to do with filling the available spaces in detention centres and prisons; the decisions are made by junior immigration officials, who have to give only general reasons, such as “we believe that the person is likely to abscond;” one of them, asked by the author what evidence he had for this belief, merely replied “we are not a court of law.”
The numbers detained under immigration laws have increased from 250 at any one time to over 2,500 now. Some are detained in ordinary criminal prisons, subjected to prison procedures, sometimes locked in their cells for 23 hours a day, occasionally locked up with convicted prisoners. Others are detained in centres designated for immigration purposes, some of which were previously prisons and still have prison regimes, surrounded by high fences and razor wire. Most are run for profit by private security firms such as Group 4, whose guards, detainees tell us, are blatantly racist. Worse, the Labour government now imprisons children. This practise is not new, but previously the government admitted it was not legal, merely detaining thirteen-year-olds on the basis of travel documents which gave their age as thirty, and refusing to believe evidence to the contrary. It now systematically imprisons whole families, including young children, babies and pregnant women, sometimes for months at a time.(4)
Denied Social Rights
To varying degrees and in different ways, most European countries now also deliberately reduce asylum seekers who are not locked up to destitution. In most countries they are not allowed to work. Increasingly they are denied access to minimal public support, including in some cases health services. In some countries, public financial support and accommodation is denied to those who have had their claims rejected but who may still be pursuing legal avenues to avoid deportation, or who cannot be deported (because they have no papers, because conditions in their countries are recognised to be unsafe, or because transport to their areas does not exist). In France public support, of a limited nature, is available only after a claim for asylum has been lodged, which may take months.
In Britain it is not available to those who are deemed not to have claimed asylum immediately on arrival (which in effect means that two-thirds of new asylum seekers are made destitute), and to socalled “failed asylum seekers.” Although the courts have partially condemned this measure as inhuman and degrading treatment, and individuals can apply to have the decision reversed, many thousands of people, many of whom subsequently get refugee status, are currently living in various degrees of destitution with neither the right to work nor the right to receive any form of state support. The denial of public support to “failed asylum seekers” has now been extended to families; the intention (defeated after protests by social work trade unionists among others) was that this would mean that their children would be taken away from them and put into state “care.” The support which is available to others has been progressively whittled away. Asylum seekers in Britain now receive some two-thirds of the sum considered to be the minimum subsistence level for the rest of the population. They are dispersed away from their communities, lawyers and sometimes families to one “no choice” offer of accommodation, often in sub-standard housing including condemned public housing estates, where they are isolated and vulnerable to racist attacks, to the extent that some of them fear to go out.
Immigration controls thus give rise to some of the worst abuses of human rights in Western societies. Asylum seekers suffer mistreatment of a sort to which the rest of the population is not, so far, subjected. But the abuses threaten to spread to the rest of the population, and some have talked of a creeping “fascisisation” of European countries as a result of their increasingly desperate attempts to stop people entering Europe. Denial of benefits to certain categories of people could spread to the unemployed and others considered undesirable. Police surveillance and random checks of immigration status can affect long-term residents who look “foreign.” In Britain, where politicians and others pride themselves on the long tradition of absence of the obligation to carry identity papers, many immigrants nevertheless already find it prudent to carry their papers around with them. Asylum seekers have been issued with “smart cards” which carry their photograph, finger-prints, and a statement on whether or not they are allowed to work. And finally, the government has decided that identity cards themselves are to be introduced, and made obligatory at first for foreigners.
Especially since 11 September 2001, the issues of immigration and terrorism are becoming blurred. In Britain, under an Anti-Terrorism, Crime and Security Act, indefinite detention in high security prisons has been introduced for foreigners “suspected” of terrorism, some of whom are refugees and therefore cannot be deported; in an even harsher version of what asylum seekers already suffer, they are subjected to judicial procedures which are a mockery of justice, much of them held in private and in which neither the defendants nor their lawyers have the right to hear what they are being accused of. An earlier Act, introduced in 2000, made it a criminal offence to belong to or support certain “terrorist” organisations. This means for example that Kurdish refugees from Turkey have to choose whether they wish to be prosecuted if they say they are members of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), or fail to obtain refugee status if they do not. Their British supporters have also been prosecuted, and the act has been used against protestors against, among other things, the arms trade and against the invasion of Iraq.
Recruiting and Rejecting
Curiously, the escalation in the repressive apparatus of immigration controls, and the attempt to keep foreigners out, takes place at a time when European populations are declining, or forecast to decline. These declines, the ageing of the population, and the worsening ratios of working to non-working populations, are expected to cause serious economic and social problems in most European countries. The United Nations Population Division has estimated that to maintain existing ratios of young to old people, European countries would need extra immigration of several million people per year. Their governments usually accept that more, rather than less immigration is needed if their economies are to prosper. Most of them are now back in the business of recruiting foreign workers, especially skilled workers in trades such as computing and health services where there are obvious skills shortages, but also unskilled workers, mainly in sectors and jobs in which long-term residents are unavailable or unwilling to work and which cannot be transferred abroad, such as agriculture, catering, cleaning and some building work. In Britain the issue of work permits to employers, enabling them to recruit workers from abroad for specific jobs, nearly doubled between 1998 and 2002. In Germany and elsewhere there are government programmes to recruit computer specialists.
It is at first hard to understand why governments are thus recruiting and encouraging foreign workers, and at the same time redoubling their efforts to keep foreigners out; for example they recruit nurses in Zimbabwe and the Philippines, and imprison nurses who come on their own initiative to seek asylum. The explanation appears to be that they want to control, or “manage,” migration flows: to select desired migrants and reject others. But this too requires explanation. Some supporters of the free market argue, with a consistency which is absent elsewhere, that the movement of labour should be free in the same way as the movement of capital and goods is in theory supposed to be free. They do not agree that governments should determine the availability of labour to employers or attempt to set quotas according to some estimate of the needs of the economy, and believe recruitment decisions should be left to employers.
Insecurity and Exploitation
Some liberal economists also argue that, like free trade, the free movement of labour across borders as well as within countries would greatly increase prosperity; not only for the migrants themselves but also in the countries the workers migrate to and in those they migrate from, and in the world as a whole. Right-wing media such as the Wall Street Journal and the London Economist have long argued, to varying degrees, the case for the free movement of labour. Employers in the United States in particular have called for it, for the obvious reason that it would suit them to have easier access to the reserves of cheap labour that exist outside the rich countries. There is much evidence, now supported for example by recent research by the British Home Office, that immigrants make large contributions both to economic growth and to public finances, since they are mostly young, fit and educated at others’ expense.(5) Most, if they are legally permitted to and sometimes if they are not, are willing to work for long hours and in poor conditions for jobs which do not require their qualifications. Even the eugenicist Oxford professor David Coleman, main researcher for the anti-immigration lobby Migration Watch, has to admit that immigration increases income per head for the native population; he merely argues that it doesn’t do it as much as the government claims it does, and says the real problem is the threat to “social cohesion” and “British identity,” whatever that may mean.
There is one possible economic rationale for immigration controls, which is that their existence makes immigrant workers precarious, and therefore more exploitable and “flexible,” as the official euphemism has it. Most western economies, and especially the United States, are highly dependent on super-exploited immigrant workers, many millions of whom have no legal immigration status. None of the rich industrial countries of the West have signed up to the United Nations’ International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families, whose intention is to guarantee some minimum protections for migrant workers, including the prevention of inhumane working and living conditions, equal access to social services and the right to participate in trade unions, so as to ensure that migrants have equality of treatment and the same working conditions as the nationals of the countries they are working in.
Governments’ attitude to illegal working appears to be entirely negative and punitive, designed only to detect and repress it. In most cases the proposals for more government-permitted immigration are that the new workers will be admitted on short-term contracts, tied to particular employers and jobs (in Britain and some other European countries this represents a radical departure from previous labour-importing policies). Whether they are working “illegally” or on legal, but temporary, contracts, the workers are extremely vulnerable. They can be employed in exploitative conditions, at the mercy of employers, and denied basic employment rights. If they make an attempt to improve their situation, for example by joining a trade union, or to obtain redress against employers who fail to pay them the agreed amount (or at all), sexually harass them or in other ways mistreat them, they can be sacked.
In the case of the so-called “legal” workers, this will mean leaving the country or going underground. Even if they have been working entirely “legally” for many years in professional jobs, they are easy to get rid of: For example in Oxford large numbers of Filipina nurses have had their contracts suddenly, after many years, terminated, as a result, their union representatives say, of an increased supply of “local” nurses. Contract workers in the BMW Cowley factory, now an increasing proportion of the workforce and also increasingly migrants, were sacked with no notice and no redundancy payments in 2009. So-called “illegal” workers are of course in an even worse situation; the police and immigration authorities may be called in, quite often by their employers, and they may then be detained and deported. In Britain New Labour has created the new “serious criminal offence” of having false papers; those caught receive a oneyear prison sentence, followed by deportation and/or an indefinite period in immigration detention.(6)
Left-Wing Support of Migration Controls
We are told (for example by Polly Toynbee in The Guardian) that immigration may benefit the rich, who get cheap nannies and nice restaurants, but damages the interests of the working class, whose wages and conditions the immigrants may undercut. Trade unions themselves have a shameful history of calling for immigration controls, especially at the end of the nineteenth century. Others, such as left-wing alliance Respect in Britain, have an even more shameful record of refusing to call for the abolition of immigration controls on the grounds that this might “put people off” (i.e. the white working class?). However trade unions and their members, even in the United States and Britain, are increasingly coming round to the view that the way to protect their interests is not to call for more controls, but equal rights for all workers. In the recent round of unofficial strikes in Britain, the media gleefully printed pictures of workers holding up banners saying “British jobs for British workers,” but they failed to report that many of the activists were completely opposed to such xenophobia, and in particular attempts by the British National Party (BNP) to infiltrate the strikes. One worker, who was reported in media as saying that “they could not work alongside” the foreign workers, actually was complaining about the employers’ policy of keeping them apart, so that they could not organize together to demand the respect of local agreements on wages and conditions.
Immigration controls are used, quite deliberately, by governments and employers to divide and weaken the working class, and to help to create scapegoats to distract attention from their own failure to permit decent wages, employment and housing, and to facilitate the current massive increases in inequality and brazen wealth of the elite. In France the Sans papiers argue that other workers should support them not as any form of charity, but in their own interests. They say that the precariousness created by immigration controls is a deliberate policy of neo-liberal governments, designed to ensure that immigrants provide a model of flexibilisation and “precarisation” which can be spread throughout the sectors in which they work and eventually to the economy as a whole.
But it is not clear that the policy benefits the economy, and employers, as much as allowing free entry to workers from abroad would. It also does not adequately explain why governments are apparently so anxious to crack down on “illegal” immigrants, who are the ultimately exploitable workforce, and “illegal” working, and to increase the rate of deportations and deter asylum seekers. The explanation is almost certainly that governments’ attempts to prevent the entry of asylum seekers and other clandestine migrants have more to do with electoral than with economic considerations. Governments claim that the way to defeat the growth of the far right in Europe is to adopt their policies. They apparently believe they must demonstrate that they are being “tough”: that they are adopting progressively more vicious measures to deter asylum seekers and others who might come into the country (to do the dirty and dangerous jobs which employers cannot find locals to do), and that they are doing their utmost to keep them out, or to evict them if they nevertheless succeed in getting past immigration controls.
Appeasing the Racists
Ultimately, the inescapable conclusion is that immigration controls, and government repression of migrants and refugees, are explicable only by racism, or at least by attempts to appease the racists. Immigration controls certainly have their origins in racism. In Britain for example they were first introduced in 1905 as a result of agitation by racist and extreme right-wing organisations, at this time against Jewish refugees.(7) Similarly, when controls were introduced in 1962 to stop immigration, this time, for the first time, from the former British empire, their introduction again followed agitation by racist and neo-fascist organisations. Up to 1962, all mainstream politicians had proclaimed that the principle of free movement within the former British empire would never be abandoned. Government reports had found no reason for immigration controls other than the supposed “non-assimilability” of the new immigrants. The covert aim of the 1962 Commonwealth Immigrants Act was to stop “coloured” immigration; since the economy still required an expanding labour supply, the legislation was framed so as to exclude Irish workers from controls and, it was hoped, let in white British subjects from the “old” Commonwealth while excluding black ones from the “new” Commonwealth.(8)
Politicians constantly reiterate that the way to deal with racism is to demonstrate to the racists that their concerns are being met. However, immigration controls do not appease the racists – they merely legitimate racism. And they also embolden the racists to demand more. When politicians lament the recent increase in racism, they fail to acknowledge that it is precisely their own actions, including their constant complaints about the supposed “abuses” committed by “bogus” asylum seekers, that explain the rise in racism after a period when it had been in decline. Their actions and their words feed the parts of the media whose political agenda it has long been to stir up racism; these media use information, and phrases, which are often clearly derived from government sources. Governments only very rarely attempt to counter the lies propagated by the media and others, or give information which might correct the distortions and misinformation.
As a consequence, people believe, for example, that the number of immigrants and asylum seekers is far higher than it actually is. They fail to realise that asylum seekers, who have become the new object of race hate campaigns and violence, actually constitute an insignificant proportion both of the total number of refugees in the world as a whole, and of the number of other people entering Europe. In Britain in 2002, for example, the peak year for asylum seekers arriving in Britain, there were 100 times more visitors, 18 times more returning British citizens, 4 times more new foreign students, and 3 times more foreigners given official permission to work. Since then the number of asylum seekers has declined; the government boasts that it is because of its “stronger borders,” but it is mainly because of a decline in the number of Iraqi refugees, and perhaps also because many people have decided it is better to go underground than risk getting locked up for being a refugee. It remains hard to understand why governments appear so concerned to reduce the numbers of asylum seekers, rather than of anybody else, unless their purpose is simply to appease the racists and in this way, they hope, win votes.
Equal Rights – Everywhere!
Immigration controls are inherently racist. Any scheme which tried to make them “fair” or non-racist must fail. Even if they did not discriminate, as they now do, against black people, east European Roma, the poor and anybody else who are subject to the current manifestations of prejudice, they would still discriminate against foreigners and outsiders in general. Those who demand tougher controls talk about “our” culture, whatever that may be, being swamped. Every country in the world, except perhaps in East Africa where human beings may have first evolved, is the product of successive waves of immigration. There are few places where there is any such thing as a pure, “native” culture. European culture, for example, if such a thing exists, is arguably under much greater threat from the influence of the United States, whose citizens have little difficulty in entering Europe, and from its own home-grown consumer excesses, than it is from people who might come from anywhere else. Moreover “non-racist” immigration controls, even if these were conceptually possible, would be pointless, since racism is the main reason for their existence. On the contrary, one of the very best ways to undermine the arguments of the racists would be to abolish immigration controls.
For the abolition of immigration controls to make sense, those who migrate must have the same rights as the residents of the places they migrate to. Immigrants need to have not only the right to work, but all the gains for the working class that exist in the countries they migrate to, including protection against unfair dismissal, the right to join and organise in trade unions, the right to leave their job and look for another one, the right to receive unemployment and sickness benefits and holiday pay, in the same way as everybody else. They should have full public rights, and they should of course have full access to social provision, including health provision and education for their children.
Immigrant workers do not usually take the jobs that might otherwise be available to existing residents and immigration does not usually lead to any worsening of wages and conditions in the countries they go to (on the contrary there is much evidence that it increases prosperity for all by enabling economies to expand and industries to survive). Nevertheless if there was any threat to the wages and conditions of the existing workforce, it would come from the fact that migrants, if they have no or few rights, can be forced to work in bad conditions and for low wages and cannot fight for improvements without risking deportation. They can come to constitute an enslaved underclass, which employers may hope not only to exploit directly, but to use as a means of weakening the position of all workers. The way to prevent any possibility of this happening is for trade unions, and all of us, to argue for full citizenship rights for all workers and residents, regardless of their nationality or how long they have lived in the country. This was more or less the situation, before 1962, of citizens of the UK and colonies who migrated to Britain; it accounts for their political strength, their militancy in their workplaces and their higher than average trade union membership. It is, with limitations, the situation of citizens of the European Union who migrate from one EU country to another. It is also of course the situation of United States citizens who migrate between states in the US federation. And it is the situation of people who migrate from one local authority to another within states, and receive the level of public services prevalent in the area they move to.
Free Migration is Possible
There are many who say that the abolition of immigration controls is politically impossible in a world in which there are severe international inequalities. But the argument that, without controls, there would be “floods” of migrants who would overwhelm the rich countries some of them go to is little more than scaremongering. The fact that there are huge international inequalities in material wealth does not mean that, as neo-classical economists might predict, there would be mass movements of people throughout the world until material conditions and wages equalised. It is true that if there were no controls there would probably be more migration, since the dangers and cost of migrating would be less; how much more is impossible to estimate. Immigration controls, however much money is poured into them and however much the abuses of human rights involved in their enforcement escalate, do not work well; if for example, after years of expensive and painful legal processes, asylum seekers finally have their application refused, governments often find it impossible to deport them; and with each new, and more vicious, advance in the apparatus of repression, people are forced to find new, braver and more ingenious ways of circumventing it. It might be better if more people migrated to countries where there are more jobs, wealth and available land.
But most people require powerful reasons to migrate; in normal circumstances they are reluctant to leave their countries, families and cultures. When free movement was allowed in the European Union, some feared there would be mass migration from the poorer to the richer areas; the migration did not happen, to the chagrin of the proponents of flexible labour markets. The great desire of many who do migrate is to return to their own countries, when they have saved enough money, or if conditions there improve. Immigration controls mean that they are less likely to do so, because they cannot contemplate the struggle of crossing borders again if they find they need to.
In addition, when people migrate from choice, they normally do so because there are jobs to migrate to. For example, when subjects of the former British empire were allowed to enter, settle and work in Britain without immigration controls, and had the same rights as British subjects born in Britain, as was the case until 1962, migration correlated almost exactly with employment opportunities; when job vacancies increased, more people came from South Asia and the Caribbean, and when they declined, fewer did so. Especially for the migrants from South Asia, the pattern was that families sent their young men to do a stint in hard jobs in the factories of northern Britain and then return, perhaps to be replaced by a younger member of the family. When the threat of immigration controls became real, there was for the first time a surge in immigration which did not correlate with job opportunities, to beat the ban; well over half the Indians and about three-quarters of the Pakistanis who arrived in Britain before controls did so in the 18-month period preceding their introduction; after controls were introduced, immigrants could no longer come and go, and were forced to bring their families and settle in Britain; by 1967 90 per cent of all Commonwealth immigrants were “dependants.” Similarly, there is evidence that the harder the US government makes it to brave the razor wire and other obstacles to cross the border into the USA, the more Mexican immigrants find themselves forced to make the hard decision to settle in the USA, and give up hopes of return. Finally, if people are extremely poor, they cannot raise the money to migrate, except perhaps to neighbouring countries or into cities; this will, sadly, be the case for the vast majority of so-called “climate refugees.” And people do not or cannot undertake the risks and expense and painful separations of migration, in order to live in squalor off public funds.
It is of course the case that too many people are forced to flee, if they have the means to do so. People should be free to migrate if they wish to, but they should not be forced to migrate. Supposing the governments of the rich countries were in reality concerned by the problem of forced migration, there would be more humane, and probably more sustainable and effective, ways to reduce it than by casting around for yet more brutal ways of enforcing immigration controls. Governments themselves often bear direct responsibility, and are nearly always partly responsible, for creating the conditions from which people flee. There is much that they could do, and above all not do: they could refrain from supporting and arming repressive regimes or the opposition to more progressive regimes; they could, as a minimum, not supply weapons to the participants in wars and civil conflicts; and they could cease to invade other countries. They could refrain from exploiting the peoples and resources of Third World countries; thus, for example, the conflict in East Congo, in which millions have died, and which has forced many thousands to migrate if they can, was fed by the rapacity of western corporations, which arm and finance the militias who supply them with the resources they want, especially coltrane. When the West’s corporations or its agencies the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund engage in projects which displace people or pollute their land, or impose policies which impoverish them and create unemployment, people who are made destitute or landless are unlikely themselves to have the resources to migrate, but the situation may feed war, conflict and repression which force those who can to migrate.(9)
The increases in asylum seekers in Britain, for example, in the last few years were overwhelmingly from four countries bombed and/or invaded by the West: Somalia, former Yugoslavia, Afghanistan and Iraq. In particular, while there was a steady trickle of refugees from Iraq under the Saddam regime and in the years of economic sanctions, there was a surge in numbers in response to the threat of US/British invasion. Others, for example from Angola, Mozambique, Chile, have fled from proxy forces of the West, which systematically attempts to destroy any government which might be attracted to socialism, or just carry out reforms, such as land reform, nationalisation, or any redistribution of wealth from the rich, foreign or local. The destruction of the Soviet Union and the triumphalism and excesses of neo-liberalism in the USSR and East European countries have created more refugees, some of them, for example, medical professionals who are no longer being paid.
It should be an elementary principle that human beings have the right to decide freely for themselves where they wish to live and work. Having made that decision, they should not be condemned to be second-class citizens and to virtual enslavement in exploitative conditions, divided from the rest of the population. They should have exactly the same rights as all other residents of the place they have chosen to live in. Immigration controls serve no purpose other than to make many thousands of innocent people suffer, build an escalating apparatus of repression, undermine the human rights of all of us, divide and weaken the working class, and feed racism. They should go – like slavery, apartheid, and other horrors in their time.
1. Asylum Aid, Adding Insult to Injury: Experiences of Zairean Refugees in England (London: Asylum Aid, 1995).
3. Most of the figures in this article are taken from the British Home Office, Statistical Bulletins.
4. See for example Bail for Immigration Detainees, Pregnant Asylum Seekers and Their Babies in Detention (London: The Maternity Alliance, Bail for Immigration Detainees and London Detainee Support Group, 2003) as well as many other sources.
5. Ceri Gott et al. (London: Home Office Research Directorate, 2001 and 2002).
6. See for example campaigns by No Borders groups, especially in London, and by CAIC (Campaign Against Immigration Controls) and No One Is Illegal. See also Hsiao-Hung Pai, Chinese Whispers: The True Story Behind Britain’s Hidden Army of Labour (London: Penguin, 2008); Rahila Gupta, Enslaved: The New British Slavery (London: Portobello Books, 2007). Gupta, after interviewing a number of migrant workers, concludes that the one thing that would free them from effective slavery would be the removal of the threat of deportation, in other words “open borders.”
7. See for example Steve Cohen, Standing on the Shoulders of Fascism: From Immigration Controls to the Strong State (Stoke on Trent: Trentham Books, 2006)
8. I. R. G. Spencer, British Immigration Policy Since 1939: The Making of Multi-Racial Britain (London: Routledge, 1997).
9. See for example Teresa Hayter, The Creation of World Poverty (London: Pluto Press, 1992).
- anti-otoriter / anarşizan
- antropoloji, arkeoloji
- bu topraklar
- ekokoy – permakultur
- ekolojist akımlar
- ekotopya heterotopya utopyalar
- kadın ve doğa / ekofeminizm
- kent yasami
- kir yasami
- komünler, kolektifler
- kooperatifler vb modeller
- savaş karşıtlığı
- sistem karsitligi
- somuru / tahakkum
- sınırlara hayır
- tarim gida GDO
- türcülük, doğa / hayvan özgürlüğü
- totoliterlik / otoriterlik
- tuketim karsitligi
- yerel yönetimler
- yerli – yerel halklar
- yeşil kapitalizm