workers freedom

economics as if workers mattered

Self-Management & Libertarian Communism

Bekken, Hahnel, Buendia and Fotopoulos (left to right) at the plenary

The National Confederation of Labor (CNT-AIT) launched a month-long conference on “Alternatives to Capitalism” on April 9th and 10th, 2010, in Barcelona, Spain, as part of centennial celebrations that will last through 2010.
In the opening session, economist Miren Etxezarreta warned that real economic recovery is doubtful, pointing to the decades-long assault on workers’ living standards. “The recovery, even if it occurs, will lead to societies even more capitalist, more exploitative, and more oppressive. … More important than struggling against the crisis is to struggle against capitalism, with or without crisis.”  Economist Toni Castells followed, concluding that this economic system is dying: its end will make way for another society, “and what its form will be is up to us.”
More than 200 people attended the session where this essay (The Economics of Freedom, published in ASR #54) was presented. Takis Fotopoulos, political philosopher and former professor of economics at the University of North London, offered a presentation on “inclusive democracy as a political project for a new libertarian synthesis.” In this vision, the means of production would be owned by the entire society, but administered by municipal assemblies.
Economist Robin Hahnel, co-creator of the economic model called “Participatory Economics,” was the final presenter, arguing for participatory planning of the economy by councils of workers and consumers. “Authoritarian planning denies workers the ability to decide, whereas participatory management of the economy allows those who are affected to speak out directly,” Hahnel said.
Other talks addressed the history of libertarian communism in economic thinking, the dimensions of the current economic crisis and possible responses to it, and economist Endika Alabort’s analysis of workers’ self-management, which needs to be “understood not as a tool for survival within the capitalist system, but as a tool for overcoming it.” There were lively discussions following all the presentations, which the ICEA intends to post online.
The conference was organized by the Institute for Economic Sciences and Self-Management (ICEA), which has as its historical reference the “Institut de Sciences Econòmiques de Catalunya,” established in 1931 in Barcelona. The ICEA’s Luis Buendía stressed the need for “a majority of workers to understand the operation of an economic system so that we can manage a libertarian economy, an economy and a society controlled by and serving the working people.”  (excerpted from a report in CNT)

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