Living in paradise by Christmas: close look at the Catalan Integral Cooperative

Founded by an assembly of activists in Catalonia in 2010, the CIC’s revolutionary aspiration is to antagonize Capital by building cooperative structures in the Catalan economy. Its commitment to the principles of the Commons, Open Cooperativism and P2P makes it a prototypical example of a new generation of co-ops connecting the Commons and cooperative movements. Their position is that a truly collaborative economy can only develop when it’s commons-based.

The principles to which the CIC refers are:

Social Transformation

  • Interest in the common good and feeling good about oneself
  • Detaching from materialism
  • Cooperation and solidarity in social transformation.
  • Transition based on the day to day and getting closer and closer to converting utopia into reality
  • Direct relationship between practical action and its theory.
  • Inclusive and networked cooperative for the whole society

Society

  • Equity and social justice
  • Equality in diversity
  • Self-realization and mutual help
  • Compromise and self-criticism
  • Share our experiences with the whole society.

Economy

  • Attending to the needs of people before any other interest and each contributing according to their possibilities.
  • Money is a system for measuring the exchange between the people of the community, excluding accumulation as a goal.
  • Other non-monetary forms of exchange are promoted: free economy, direct exchange, community economy.
  • Establish economic relations between producers and consumers: the cooperative will guide in order to calculate the right prices on the basis of its costs, its own needs and those of consumers.
  • The cooperative will inform producers of consumers’ needs to guide their production.
  • ECOcoops (the cooperative’s currency) will never be convertible into euros and no type of interest is accepted on its loan.

Ecology

  • Ecology and permaculture
  • Degrowth and sustainability

Political organization

  • Democracy: direct, deliberative, participatory.
  • Self-management and decentralization.

Transparency.

  • Subsidiarity: from local to global.
  • Assemblearismo

We had the opportunity to talk with Joel, a co-founder of the community who will explain in the coming webinar how the CIC was born and how it works.

Joel is a filmmaker who studied sociology and anthropology and who tried for twenty years to find alternatives to capitalism. Moving from Spain to South America and coming back in 2007 when the crisis was almost at its peak, he contacted the author of a book that interested him and they decided to fix up an old house to provide a place to work together.

They founded Catalan Integral Cooperative, an organisations that act as infrastructure for people businesses and ideas. A community where everything is possible:

  • Engineers became farmers;
  • Academics distribute food in local networks;
  • Scientific scepticism is brought to the government;
  • The individual knows best what they need and act in the network to do achieve it;
  • The ideal is to listen to all of us;
  • They make lists on how to make the world better and then do it;

Sometimes craftsmen go to them tell them what they do/need and then they discover how they can save money to buy other things through the social currency.

In Sweden, there was a doctor that went there to revamp the hospitals every 2 years. In education, they did the same: they started school and many other projects. All these things involve people so the basic concept is to give them a place in exchange of something they can offer back to the community.

  • Why is it free, how does it work?- someone might ask
  • What do you do?- They say
  • I am a graphic designer”
  • Do you have a hobby?
  • I love baking cookies
  • Bring some!

With this simple but powerful idea over time, they have access to local beer, or self-made toothpaste or many things like that in social currency.

So new initiatives are born around the cooperative and some of them become independent, and to attract more and more people they promote the CIC especially through social networks:

“Stop using the central currency - come to our cooperative and use Social Currency”

There are around 500 people involved in the cooperative, but they have thousands of associates. Many of them have their own expenses so the economists of the cooperative balanced the cooperative incomes with these expenses so they are able to report less to the state who has trouble to define this community for what it really is.

The internal economy of the CIC is based on a diversified economy:

  • Gift economy (the idea is that I don’t want to be your consumer, but I want to create a friendship/human relation)
  • Exchange
    • Social Currency (20% of the total economic money used in the cooperative)
  • An ethical cryptocurrency (fair coins)
  • Not ethical cryptocurrency
  • Euros
    • they rented a house in a beautiful village for very little in exchange for fixing little bits, they are renting now for 10 people for 600 euro.

An Integral Cooperative is a tool to build a counter-power from the base, starting from self-management, self-organization and direct democracy, and which allows us to transition from the current state of dependence on the structure of the system, towards a scenario of freedom with full awareness, free from authority, and where everyone can develop in equal conditions and opportunities. It is a constructive proposal of disobedience and generalized self-management to rebuild society from below (in all areas and in an integral way) and to recover emotions, proximity and trust-based human relationships.

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