The Prefigurative Revolution of Geo-Mutualist Panarchism

Difficulty    

 Introduction

A geo-mutualist panarchy would constitute a completely different society from the one we have today. As such, it is necessary to discuss the general approach by which such a society could be brought about. This will be a brief outline of the prefigurative institutions geo-mutualist panarchists wish to utilize in dual power struggle for the purpose of revolutionary gradualism. It will end with a description of how it can be applied.

Geo-Mutual Panarchist Methods of Societal Transformation

Geo-mutualist panarchists are not reformists. That is, we do not believe that the system of coercive hierarchy can be changed by appealing to those in power. Instead, geo-mutualist panarchists practice direct-action. Direct-action is an action which is taken without appealing to an intermediary, such as a politician, a boss, or someone else in charge, for permission or help. Instead, direct-action is an act which is undertaken by an individual or a group to resolve an issue that they are facing. Geo-mutualist panarchists support the use of non-aggressive direct-action to achieve our goals, rather than appealing to the state or crony capitalists. Geo-mutual panarchists don’t expect that our ideal society will be brought about overnight, but expect it to take a long, gradual, evolutionary, but also revolutionary, process of direct-action.

Taking a position of revolutionary gradualism, geo-mutualist panarchists take upon themselves the responsibility of demonstrating the possibilities that the future society has to offer. Revolutionary gradualism, a related view to direct-action, is the position that since the new society cannot be reformed through the normal means of elections, single-issue campaigning, or even the way we spend the dollar, that instead it must be revised by common people, slowly, and from the bottom, up. This means, instead of asking politicians to do things for us, or expecting money that we have no control over to give us bargaining power in the market, that we create institutions that reflect our interests as common people, and which grant us de facto power over our lives. Such institutions are often called dual-power institutions. This is especially so when they begin to defy mandates from the state, and compete with it for legitimacy. These grow from prefigurative organizations.

A prefigurative organization is one which is designed to reflect the mode of a future society’s operation in the present day. This is often an attempt to demonstrate to people that such a society can operate successfully, while slowly establishing the new society, piece by piece.

While not set into stone, geo-mutualist panarchism leans toward the support of a number of key prefigurative institutions to bring about gradual revolutionary change. These reflect the goals and values of geo-mutual panarchism,[1] which are primarily centered on fair access to land and credit, and freedom of association, with a somewhat ancillary interest in economic self-management.[2] The most important of these institutions include the confederation, land trust, mutual bank, and the civil registry. Of secondary importance include personal trusts, mutuals, cooperatives, collectives, partnerships, and independent contractors of various kinds, as well as the various associations, networks, and confederations they form.

The confederation is the network of geo-mutualist institutions. While also called federations at times— depending on the historical, regional, or ideological context—, confederations can also be formally distinguished from federations. When distinguished, the difference between the two is the level of free association, and the level of say that the member-organizations have in relation to the more central organization. A confederation is marked by such things as voluntary association and the right of secession, bottom-up decision-making, and limited funding to the central body, whereas a proper federation will disallow secession, will make top-down decisions, and has the ability to levy taxes on its member-units. Both confederations and federations will often have clear divisions of power between the central and affiliated units of membership, allocating certain powers to the central body, and limiting its powers over the smaller units.

Institutions of “Thin” Geo-Mutualist Panarchism

A geo-mutualist panarchist confederation would consist of various divisions, branches, and offices, as found desirable by the membership. Amongst these would be found the mutual bank, the land trust, and the civil registry. The members of the confederation would consist of “thick” geo-mutualists (those who want a geo-mutualist society within the larger geo-mutualist panarchy) and their allies, which could include any group with which an alliance is found suitably appropriate, including groups as diverse as agorist networks, labor syndicates, religious communities, nationalist groups, Jeffersonian patriots, etc. who are willing to work with others to create and compete within a marketplace of autonomous communities. That is, a geo-mutualist panarchist confederation would be the perfect structure to facilitate the kind of across-the-spectrum pan-secession project that Keith Preston talks about. The “thick” geo-mutualist, as well as the other “thin” groups, all have a stake in participating in such a network, especially when the tools of mutual credit and land trusts are involved. As I argue in “The Civic Bank” as well as in “A Geo-Mutual Panacea,” this is made possible by the fact that labor-backed currency has the power to dominate the market once a sufficient critical mass is hit, and by the proposed policies of the bank.

The mutual bank is a bank in which the consumers are also the policy-holders and the beneficiaries of the bank, which is run similarly to a trust. The bank is obligated in its policy to behave in a certain manner, as bargaining between consumers and producers entails. Most importantly, it is to supply credit without interest to its members and keep prices stable. It does so by accepting goods, promissory notes, warehouse receipts, the GDP of a nation, etc. as collateral. Many of my articles go into the details of mutual banking, so I will not be going into detail here. These are the basics.

The civil registry is an office which registers various forms of societal arrangements, governmental and anarchistic. This is very important to the philosophy of geo-mutualist panarchism, and provides an important office in the geo-mutualist panarchist confederation. The civil registry would register the various groups and rogue individuals as sovereign members of the confederation. As an extra measure of the confederation, upon registration each would agree to a set of standards regarding their behavior toward one another’s person and territory. This would be outlined in documents such as a mutually-controlled platform (such as that used by the Russian platformist anarchists, but written with the goals and values of geo-mutualist panarchism in mind) and constitution, and would be enforced mutually by the members of the confederation, as chosen by lot.

The land trust would provide an equal starting position for the communities to be started, regardless of the form that they take. The land trust would hold the land in common, and would act as the trustee of the members, its beneficiaries, to whom it would lease the land. Any free association which meets the conditions set forth in the constitution will be respected as a unit capable of leasing the land from the common trust. These associations may organize in any way they please, and may be as internally fascistic, capitalistic, socialistic, or communistic as they can afford. The rents from the land will go to pay for all common expenses of the confederation, and the rest will be evenly divided amongst the members, allowing each a fair and equal opportunity to test the viability of their desired political economy.

At this point— aside from some subsidiary offices and departments of the confederation or its branches—, all of the “compulsory” (for membership, not existence) portions of the geo-mutualist panarchist confederation (as I envision it) have been established: the confederation, and its component land trust, mutual bank, and civil registry. Participating in these alone would constitute a “thin” geo-mutualist panarchism. The “thick” variety merely entails carrying the structure of geo-mutualist panarchism down into the member-organization, as a sort of fractalized, cellular, or “nested” system. Political henosis is a term (I believe) I have coined to refer to the sort of gravitational effects I believe a “thicker” geo-mutualism to have. This is based on my personal preference for geo-mutualism, which I believe to take from, and remain open to, the best of all worlds. I believe geo-mutualism has an evolutionary advantage capable of establishing dominance in a manner that is non-coercive, and thus consistent with the values of geo-mutualist panarchism. I’m willing to test this, by allowing other forms of society to compete with its “thicker” variety within the context of the “thin.” This having of a “thick” and “thin” I refer to as henocentric law.

Institutions of “Thick” Geo-Mutualist Panarchism

The institutions of “thick” geo-mutualist panarchists would include, but would not be limited to, those already discussed, but in smaller forms. There may, for instance, be a smaller, “thicker,” geo-mutualist confederation which is a member of the larger, “thinner” one, and which subleases land to its members from its own leasehold, releases credit in a similar manner, and even allows for different modes of even “thicker” forms of geo-mutualism, which may all vary. It is expected at this level that the more radical aspects of mutualism can come into play in daily matters as well, such as self-management and equal liberty. These will take specific form in the mutuals and cooperatives of various sorts. Of course, independent contractors will always be celebrated for their skill and ingenuity.

A cooperative (co-op) is an organization which is member-owned and operated. What makes a cooperative a cooperative is that each member has an equal say in the overall functioning of the organization, usually by way of a general assembly. Co-ops can take many forms, some of them run as shareholder organizations, others as stakeholder organizations, etc. They are typically producer, tenant, or consumer-owned, though other forms of ownership exist as well. In a consumer-owned cooperative, for instance, a stakeholder may pay dues into the organization to cover general fees, but may purchase shares of product. It’s important to understand that in shareholder-run cooperatives, a member may only own one share of the cooperative, but the cooperative may facilitate inequal purchases for the members. For instance, members A and B are both shareholders of a consumer cooperative, and have one equal share, but A buys three shares of wheat through (not of) the cooperative, and B only one. The ownership of the cooperative has remained the same, but it has facilitated different amounts of purchases for the members, based on their demand. Likewise, a producer cooperative may have equal shareholders who perform different (or similar, but more experienced) work for different pay. Further still, a cooperative may function as a dues-paying guild, in which each producer receives common services from the whole, but operates largely independently (this is similar to many “Makerspaces” today). Similarly, an individual may be an equal member of a land trust cooperative or a co-housing community and, while having equal opportunity, pay different prices for different living places. A “thick” geo-mutualist society could expect to see a large number of cooperatives, and very little employment by others in a non-cooperative or non-transactionary (the way independent contractors do) basis. This would be ensured by the policies of the mutual bank.

A mutual is an organization which is run for the benefit of its policy-holders, typically represented by consumer interests. A policy is the mode, or rule structure, by which an organization operates. The policy-holder is the person who controls this rule structure. So, in a typical mutual organization, producers of a good or service will agree to sell the terms under which they operate for a fixed price, and thereby will agree not to be able to change their mode of operation for a specified term. They act as an agent, similar to a trustee, to the consumer, their policy-holder. The policy may include terms such as reallocation of any accidental profits of the firm back to the consumer policy-holders, and will state a fixed salary or a salary limit for those working inside. Mutual organizations are great solutions to natural monopolies or less-than-competitive industries, wherein simpler competition is not enough to drive prices to cost. In such markets, concerted activity may be necessary on behalf of the consumers to form a bilateral monopoly situation which later leads to mutualization. Imagine a natural monopoly that is run by a producer’s cooperative, which charges exorbitant prices for its products. The consumers form a consumer cooperative to have bargaining power (perhaps backed by a loan by the mutual bank, which sees the lowered prices as collateral for the consumers). The bargain settles in mutualization, with the producers selling a policy to the consumers, agreeing to terms favorable to each, and to redistribute the profits (not to be confused with salaries or wages of the firm’s workers). Mutualization may also be a necessary component of some capital-intensive industries, which are artificial, but possibly desirable monopolies to have, in which case consumers would put up capital in return for control of the policy. Mutual firms are expected to be common for distribution of products, insurance, healthcare, communication, power, and other places where monopolies currently supply the lowest-cost services.

It is expected that the institutions of a “thicker” geo-mutualism—cooperatives of various sorts, mutual, land trusts, etc.— have competitive advantages that allow them to outcompete autocratic or majoritarian institutions alike.

 Getting Started

So far, the end-results of our dual-power institutions have been briefly sketched, but how are we to get them going in the first place? How is the gradualist revolution going to evolve?

As we have mentioned direct-action, we already know that the revolution won’t be brought about by governmental officials, academic specialists, etc. but must be carried out by everyday working people and common folks of various sorts. This means it has to occur without public or private funding or support, but instead depends on cooperative self-reliance, community resilience, and mutual aid. All of the grand dual-power institutions we envision must evolve from prefigurative organizations that common people—not specialists (though we may reference their material), not officials (though we will ask if they have done anything of worth)— create. The revolution will be DIY.

Most importantly, we cannot get caught up worried about creating an echo chamber. The fight of the geo-mutualist panarchist should not be so much ideological as practical. It should be the gradual demonstration and cultural acceptance of prefigurative organizations, informed by the philosophy of geo-mutualist panarchism, which cannot occur through conversation alone, no matter how rational or logical. This is not to say that evangelizing the values of geo-mutualist panarchism does nothing to help, but that most people are not driven by to value-oriented action. Far fewer people, for instance, know exactly how a car works, compared to those who drive it. Most people get in the car and drive it to where they need to be, and if it breaks down, they get it fixed. Similarly, people will be more inclined to use the tools of geo-mutualist panarchism than they will be to learn the underlying principles. Those common folks who know how to design prefigurative organizations must do so in a user-friendly manner, in which it is only required for those with a serious interest to learn the about the specifics. Over time it will become second-nature to people, and especially as they find it necessary or beneficial to participate.

Organizing must be done across the various spectrums that currently disturb the lower classes. This means that anarchists must organize with statists, racist whites with black nationalists, communists with fascists, feminists with masculists, etc. This will be no easy task. People who don’t like one another culturally or ideologically often participate in spiteful and often self-deleterious acts of (as they see it) revenge. However, these same people also walk past one another in the grocery isle without conflict all of the time. Once again, the organizing—especially amongst non-organizing participants— should focus as little as possible on ideology, but the practical tools should be used to bring people of differing interests together. People who would otherwise hate one another come together in the grocery store, as customers, employees, and employers. Likewise, people of differing ideologies will come together so long as ideology is not made a focal point of the group, and the group provides them with practical things, such as access to land, money, and self-management.

The most important institution to begin with is probably a mutual credit system, which could function in many ways, but the one I would expect to be the most beneficial would be to back the credit with commodities and locally-desirable services. This would take a little know-how, but plenty of geeks and highschool dropouts could have a great time figuring the specifics out. As I mention in “Credit, Collateral, and Spot-Pricing,” I envision folks putting together something like a cooperative or mutual pawn shop, which would take goods, warehouse receipts, promissory notes, etc. as collateral for credit in the shop. I envision common people renting houses, spaces in houses, warehouses, or various other locations and forming underground networks wherein they supply goods and services to one another in an agorist fashion, utilizing mutual credit. Such underground banking systems could function in unlikely spaces (like in homes), thereby avoiding hassles with industrial rent and zoning restrictions and such. Similarly, various pirate restaurants, pop-up stores, the sharing economy, and other such projects could provide goods and services in the network. As the system grows, various open-source programs and apps could be created for use by the bank. Not too fast, though, it has to get going first.

The mutual bank will allow people to begin to employ themselves to some extent and will also begin to lower prices drastically (if done on the right scale). This has these effects: As people leave the governmental labor market (the one that uses federal bills), it drives up the price for labor (using those bills) in that market, and creates a greater dependency on labor for the crony capitalists while reducing the need for the workers; and it allows people to save their money (by avoiding regulations, interest payments, etc.). So, workers begin to make more money, and save more money, simultaneously. As their needs are more and more satisfied by the mutual credit economy, they make more money (both mutual credit and federal bills) and can begin to acquire property. When a transaction is made with the mutual credit, it means that one’s dollars are freed up, and these can be put to things that are harder to aquire with mutual credit, such as real estate. Using the mutual credit in the labor market frees up dollars for use on real estate. This is crucial, because this is our “grocery-store” tool, which allows us to bring diverse and even antagonistic interests together (without this, “thick” geo-mutualism could not be attempted or fostered, because the participants would be so low).

 No matter one’s ideological orientation, or even just one’s unbiased preferences, one needs access to property to put their thoughts into action. As the network grows to include more and more people of varying interests, a land trust can be utilized and a confederation can begin to form, recognizing the various interests through a civil registry which more-or-less incorporates them into a documented body. These could include anarcho-communist collectives, nationalist fasces, communes, private communities, or whatever else. These various groups would be able to access credit in a manner similar to individuals, thereby allowing them group agency, and could begin to lease land from the land trust as it is acquired. Eventually the system matures, and crony capitalists outside the system find it unfeasible to pay the high prices for labor (when they pay with dollars). Dependent on mutual credit to make exchanges, they have no choice but to join the network, wherein the policies of the bank dictate that their state-granted privileges are debited (as described in “The Civic Bank” and especially “A Geo-Mutual Panacea”), and the ruling class joins the lower class together in the new, enlarged, middle class. When large enough, tax resistance can be practiced in concert, and sovereignty of the panarchy established. Our little prefigurative organization has developed into a full-fledged dual-power institution, capable of facilitating a gradual revolution, utilizing non-aggressive direct-action.


[1] Geo-mutualists wish to create a society which is as completely voluntary and self-managed as the laws of nature allow. Geo-mutualism has much in common with strains of social anarchism, including participatory economics, anarcho-syndicalism, collectivist anarchism, and anarcho-communism. Like these ideologies, geo-mutualists promote industrial democracy and cooperation, economic confederalism, worker and community self-management, and participatory decision-making, to name a few of their commonalities. Geo-mutualists similarly hold values to be found in individualist strains of anarchism, such as classical American individualist anarchism, especially, but also by early libertarian capitalist thinkers, as well as by voluntaryism, cryptoanarchism, and agorism. Values in common with these include the sovereignty of the individual, the cost principle, equality of liberty, the principle of non-aggression, freedom of exchange, and abstinence from politics. Further, geo-mutualists find commonality with those wings of anarchism that are not necessarily individualist nor collectivist, such as eco-anarchism, distributist anarchism, egoist anarchism, and illegalism, to name a few. These anarchist perspectives and values are reflected in the institutions that geo-mutualism promotes. While having particularly much in common with anarchism, geo-mutualist panarchism is not limited to its anarchist positions, but also finds some common ground with classical and modern positions relating to “good governance.” These include ideologies such as Ricardian socialism, utopian socialism, Georgism, distributism, guild socialism, autonomous Marxism, council communism, situationism, as well as libertarian capitalism and Austrian economics, monetarism, Keynesian and post-Keynesian economics, chartalism, economic democracy, nationalism, fascism, and more. Especially important to geo-mutualists is panarchism. To be retained from these ideologies include issues relating to pragmatic and legitimate uses and limits of force, social order and cohesion, the proper relationships between units and subunits (subsidiarity), proper rates of taxation, proper management of the economy, the organic structure of society, and how to allow all of these governmental systems, as well as anarchical systems, to co-exist.

[2] Ancillary only because it is assumed to be a natural outcome of the former. Geo-mutualist organizers may prefer to forgo disputes about ideological specifics. Instead, they may stick to discussions about the tools that make their ideas pragmatically possible, and which enable, also, other ideologies to exist, so long as they may do so at their own cost. In other words, geo-mutualist organizers may wish to wield a “thin” variety of geo-mutualist panarchism, without going into the specifics of the “thick” to an audience that would be off-put by it. A “thick” geo-mutualism would utilize stronger language about anarchism, including worker self-management, community participation in decisions, the cost principle, etc. which is unnecessary to get a consensus on in order to bring into being. Once the tools of “thin” geo-mutualism—the land trust, mutual bank, and civil registry— are accepted and applied, the soil has been made rich for the seeds of its “thicker” variety.

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