Saturday, September 22, 2007

An anarchist response to economic recession.

These are a few ideas that have gradually solidified over the last few months, I don’t really have many Ideas as to how specifically this strategy would work but think its something which would be useful to have a dialogue over.

Its fairly obvious that the control of land by those communitys living on it is vital for long term self sufficiency. To paraphrase derrick Jensen “community’s do not willingly destroy their landbase or allow others to destroy it” As well as being fundamental for long term sustainability the control of land is at the heart of the stranglehold capitalism has over the world. Without land to grow or gather food we become dependant on those who control the land to survive. Control of land by elites creates hierarchy and division of society. Those who own the land will often force an intensification of production above what is sustainable or desirable for those living on it and increased birth rates and land degradation results. Communities which are alienated from the land become disconnected from the affects of our actions.

I believe a movement around land control could be one of the major areas of success for left wing groups over the next few decades. Throughout the 90s and 00s the price of houses and rent has risen at a rate completely disproportionate to wages on the back of cheap credit and a perceived housing shortage. This has resulted in lifetime loans and rent prices so high it is a struggle to afford the other essentials of life. The crippling burden of house prices has covered all sectors of society with many in the middle and upper middle classes struggling to meet payments. There is an underlying level of resentment at the high cost of housing and accommodation this does not often spill over as long as wages continue to rise but added pressure from recession would significantly alter things.

On top of exorbitant rent and mortgage payments the price of food and other neccesitys is rising and with wheat expected to increase in price by over 30% by the end of the year. Oil prices to are expected to continue to climb in price as supply struggles to meet demand, this will begin to affect every aspect of our lives. The affects of even modest drops in global production of a few percent would be strong enough to hurt everyone in western countries. A cool down in the American economy driven by energy shortages and slowing growth is likely to spread across the world over the next few years an new Zealand despite our status as a primary producer will not be exempt. The point is this, right now people are unable to meet the cost of their mortgages and as the global economy and supply of credit contracts this will only get worse.

The current situation in the US housing market paints a picture of what could happen across western countries. Much of the growth in the US economy over the past few decades has been driven by rising house prices. Home buyers were prepared to pay extortionate prices because they knew that however much they payed for their house the price would always be higher next year. Many home owners wanting to use the increased value of their house remortgaged once or even more using the cash to buy consumer goods, money which was effectively siphoned from USA to the nations producing the consumer goods. All of this was fine and rosy until large numbers of people unable to pay mortgages they could never afford began to default, taking down several very major finance companys. The added problem to this already grim picture is that many of the suburbs bought up by Americans will be unlivable without cheap oil and the houses will not be worth the land they are built on.

It is in response to this illogical and unworkable housing system that I see left wing groups and specifically anarchists offering a viable alternative to the system. As mainstream society is unable to meet mortgage repayments and banks attempt to take propertys off their inhabitants communitys could be organised to resist. Community led rent and mortgage strikes could be coordinated in the areas hardest hit by economic recession. A strategy of direct resistance against the banking system would create a loss of confidence in the economic system by the general public and would create the opportunity to foster community control over land management. Alternately anarchists could use the opportunity to find and develop some pretty cool squats, this however would be a waste of a very good opportunity to mobilise the public.

A logical extension of this strategy is increasing community agriculture driven by higher food prices and increasing unemployment. This would lower the dependence of communitys on the industrial agricultural system and strengthen community. Disputes between rich absentee land owners (such as developers or banks) and community gardeners would present another opportunity to radicalise the public. The increasing control of land by the people living on it and collective resistance against absentee land owners would provide an achievably way of moving towards an anarchist/communist way of living without having to hand over control to left wing political partys which would inevitably sell us out to maintain control and continued economic growth.

The above strategy of community control over land would tie in perfectly with a militant union based campaign for increasing workplace control. I do see many of our current industrys become redundant as oil supplys contract but peak oil and ongoing recession would present some very favourable opportunities for radicalisation and control of the means of production by workers.

I believe as anarchists we should look towards the problems posed by energy descent climate change and eventually deindustrialisation and see how we can best place ourselves for the future. Our economy and food production systems could change incredibly rapidly and there is a risk that reactionary right or left wing governments could be seen by the population as a means of reattaining economic prosperity. Being prepared and able to agitate effectively over the next few years could mean the difference between creeping government control or building community control.

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