The rise of the commons in Italy
|Date de publication||2017/01/02|
|Langue du contenu||EN|
|Fait partie de||Commons Space, Expérience italienne des communs urbains|
|URL de diffusion||https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4gyk73I3Gb8|
|Service de diffusion||youtube|
|Identifiant de diffusion||4gyk73I3Gb8|
|Contexte de production||Commons Space (FSM 2016, Montréal)|
|Producteur(s)||Remix the commons|
|Contributeur(s)||LÉONARD Nicole, SAURET Nicole, LESSARD-BÉRUBÉ Stéphanie|
|Type de licence||CC-BY-SA|
AA: Since the Belem World Social Forum since the emergence of the whole kind of the initiative of the commons style, In Belem... I’m trying to translate from Spanish. In Belem there was the big sort of transfer, maybe.... in the emergence of these new movements and the new movement of the Commons - maybe it’s not a movement - but the Commons was the Degrowth + the Social Economy + the Solidarity Economy etc. this new phenomena .. starting with your own experience, how do you see that, the entrance of the Commons?
JN: Well I’m not sure the Commons are a movement. They’re certainly a renewed paradigm that is very very useful to unite and to aggregate many of the different movements that today are today emerging. Since I would say, Seattle 1999 and the alter-globalist movement emergence the issue of the financial system and the economic system being central to our political struggles has been a growing conscientious sort of movement that has brought together the ecologists, environmentalists, one side all the NGO and development movement on the other side, the movements for different rights of women and other genders and, I mean, this has all been growing up from what before were very separate compartmental kind of movements, each one working on their own domain, on their own sector. Today I think what had really emerged, and the WSF has helped it, is this idea that we’re all united in the same fight. And the fight is against the privatization of everything by the big financial powers. Which, by the way, each one has a name. So, it’s not just an imaginary system.
And, what has happened is that also the public spaces, the state, has been occupied by the for-profit market powers and this has gradually reduced the spaces for community, for the appropriation of, the livelihood spaces for everyone. And it’s now something that is not just perceived by a small minority of intellectuals, or anarchists, or little ideological groups, it’s something that is really, I think, widespread and felt by a larger part of the population. And that’s where the commons come in, I think. That’s where realizing that, first of all, our environment, the nature, the sky, the air, the water, the land, these are not things that are the property of someone, these are everyone’s property and they have their own rights as well, as our indigenous friends from many nations have insisted and told us from a long millennium of traditions. So we’re rediscovering in a sense what this means, and we’re giving it a name, but not just a name, we’re giving it a sense. And this sense can become a political sense in the way that it can be the unity for a struggle to regain access and control, as people to what has always been of everyone.
AA: In your own experience in Italy, you have all kinds of initiatives.. coming from different levels, could be local, municipal, national... how do you see the tradition of all of this. Maybe you can first give examples of what has been going on in Italy and what you find interesting. And how all of this could articulate?
JN: In Italy in the last 6, 7 years, we’ve had a lot of very creative initiatives that were not under the banner of the commons necessarily, but that’s what they were actually doing, and I think, I prefer using the word "commoning" which we don’t have in Italian, than the commons in itself, because I see commoning as an active process as we were saying before, of regaining control and reclaiming spaces, not just physical spaces but also knowledge spaces, memory spaces, and a lot in the digital world as well. So, the referendum to re publicize the water systems, the management of water in Italy, water, like the essence of life, has been extremely important for the creation of a movement in Italy that went beyond any ideological or political arena. So it was really traversal, and it also involved a lot of the youth of the new generations that finally had something that could appeal to them and speak to them directly.
So, this referendum was a huge effort and had most of the political system against it, even the progressive part of the political system, they only joined at the very end when they saw that there was actually a mass movement that was being created, and this sort of victory was an incredible boost for all the social movements who joined it, as with the climate movement later, another commons if you want. But water really was so simple a message, that water is something you cannot privatize, it’s something that is really for everyone and should be available for everyone, you should not pay, and certainly you should not manage it in a privatistic way, gaining profit form it or extracting profit. That really helped boost. Then what happened after, was really in the vein of public spaces, urban spaces. So the direction is maybe not as direct as I’m putting it, but in the culture, actually I think it was. The equivalent of something that should be reclaimed as everyone’s. And there are a lot of public spaces today that are abandoned, not useable by the community who lives in them. And so a very creative process started from the people living in the neighborhood, to a public, community garden effort, to just create form a very abandoned periphery of a city a place that was livable and not depressing, to allow children and young people to have a space to play and to interact instead of the mall or the commercial center that has substituted one of the basic elements of Italian culture, which is the piazza, the square where you meet and the bar where you hang out. So all of this needs to be redesigned, recreated, renovated.
So that’s where the commons actually came in. But can you do it only as a civic initiative? Yes and no. We had some excellent examples in Rome. One of the oldest theaters, Teatro Valle?, was in failure, and it wasn’t subsidized anymore bu the government so the actors, the workers in the theater, occupied it and made a charter of the commons of culture to manage the theater as an open space for the city, for the people, and for the artists. And it was amazing how many initiatives they made, how many really, spaces they opened for young people who had no possibility of expressing themselves and learning from actors who had real experience etc. But this thing only lasted a few years, because there was no, common culture with the government, with the political level, and that’s why there’s been a huge need of creating this link so that not to subsidize or to or to pay for finance these public spaces, but to allow the creativity of the emergence of spontaneous action by the people.
And this started in one of the historic cities of cooperation and progressive culture which is Bologna, and there, the public administration, the local administration, actually decided to make a framework, with a regulation that would allow people to spontaneously propose their ideas, to be able to reclaim spaces, places, parts of the city, and to use them, creatively, even to change them, without having to go through a whole bureaucratic process. This has been about a 2 year process and the first of these charter regulations came out in 2014. After that, it was almost a viral effect, and almost 100 cities today have this regulation, each one adapted it for their wn context, and another 100 cities are in the process of doing it. Most of them involving the people and groups that have either occupied a space, or that somewhere informally are taking care of a place, and designing these charters. So each one is a bit different. The nice thing is that they are looking at each other and trying to copy what is useful, re-proposing and changing what is not, and this experimentation is very rich and productive.
In Bologna, after two years, there are about 220 projects that have actually been approved by the people themselves to be able to manage, and in other very even small towns, they just changed the idea of the relationship between the government and the people. Now it is a collaboration that is taking place.
AA: The interesting thing is that these Charters are called Charters of Urban Commons...ix this all the time?
JN: Not all the time...sometimes it’s civic collaboration, sometimes for urban spaces, public spaces, but commons is mainly, it’s always in the text somewhere, so it’s... common goods is what we use in Italy. We don’t have an English word or verb for commoning but i think that will come out because it’s extremely necessary. And one thing I want to point out is that thanks to this we are in effect sort of finding an antidote to the whole privatization and the alienation of public goods and spaces that has been going through the 90s until today. The city of Florence, my city, and the region of Tuscany, in which Florence is, has a list of historical public buildings that they are selling out. They are going to fairs around the world to try to sell these public goods before even offering them to the people. One good thing about this is that they finally mapped them so that we know what they are, and so we can start to reclaim them, so if we have a project, an idea, we can say, hey, we come first. And then only if there is really no other possibility, maybe you can alienate? it but first, the people.
AA: Now you need to speak about RIPESS and whether that is not only in Italy or in Europe, but internationally.
JN: RIPESS stands for intercontinental network for the promotion of social solidarity economy. SSE is one of those movements we were talking about before dealing with how to transform the economy back into something that is useful owned and controlled by the community, by society. So it’s not a reformist idea, it starts from practical initiatives of people getting together and finding solutions for their needs. That is in all domains, from food production, to clothes, to services, energy, etc. And this is also very rapidly growing movement, it’s not starting from scratch, in many countries there has been years and years if not centuries of histories of corporation, cooperation, mutual forms, in which people find a way to do a different economy, but today, the idea of networking all of these together is what is really making the difference. So you will have the consumers and producers working together, finding different ways of distributing, according to their needs of planning together, deciding what needs to produced, how it has to be produced, you have energy cooperatives which are owned by the consumers, so you are a producer and consumer of the same time of the renewable energy you produce and networked, gridded together, so that what you produce in excess is shared around, and this concept is the fundamental concept, so the idea is that we want a democratic economic system that is not only internally democratic as cooperatives are, but its generally democratic. And that means that society is who benefits from it. We want not an economy for profit but for benefit. We want that that benefit is not only for a few people but for everybody.
So in this conception, the issue of how do we actually do it, how do we govern, how do we share responsibilities, is crucial. It’s a very practical issue. And this is where I think the connection with the commons is very close. How do you manage the commons? Who is in charge, who is responsible? Who makes the decisions, and who is ultimately the sort of caretaker of the whole system? If it’s a public building, owned formally by the state and there’s a group of neighbors, citizens, residents, who are making it a live place and taking care of it etc., if someone gets hurt or if something is done wrong, who’s responsible? How do we take decisions on what should be done? That’s something we’re struggling with in the solidarity economy movement and we are creating very successful alternate examples as we go on, and I think that’ how we can link closely with commons with this whole new movement.
AA: Also I think these experiences show that.... if we take for example the experience of ABC in Naples, where I think there are real problems for a real civic of citizens.... all these initiatives at the moment, social economy, peer 2 peer, open cooperativism, degrowth etc., some of them claim to be very example experiences for a post-capitalist transition. So I would like you to think about that. How do you define this meaning?
JN: Well there are two elements here: post Capitalist and transition. We cannot thing of just abstracting ourself from the capitalist market that exists and in which we are immersed. So we have to deal with that. But at the same time we can start moving out of it as we create our alternative economic social systems, and the 2 things are very closely connected. So if we take money out of a commercial bank and we invest and create mutual forms of credit that are owned by the people who put the money and by the people as well who get loans from it, and the decisions are shared, etc. etc., we are taking, even if it looks like small portions, but we’re gradually taking a lot of money out of that system, and power de facto. And that’s good for the financial system and also the production system. Today, thanks to the technology, we can produce what to, up until just a few years ago, what you would need a big globalized production chain to do, we can now make it in micro-factories, on demand and where demand means, on the needs that we really have. And we can redesign because it’s open. So this will really, really change a lot and will subtract a lot from the capitalist system. But it’s there,so we have to take that into account. And the political system is designed around it,so we also have to change our relation to the political system and collaboration with those public political systems that are close to us and the public political systems for cities and for regions is the first way to do it.
It took about, what, 40-50 years to create this global capitalized system. Perhaps it will take a little less, but that’s sort of the time range we have to look at to change substantially a lot of the systems. And i don’t think it will evaporate the capacity of the resilience and of co-optation that the capitalist system has demonstrated is humongous, the power it holds is also very big. But at the same time I think the accumulation that has been going on is now so striking, so big, that it cannot be supported any longer. It’s not sustainable in itself any longer. Where there’s forms of green economy or Corporate social responsibility, that are trying to make capitalism look a little nicer, that won’t hold if we are able to create a real movement that is unified in the principles and the vision but very plural in the different ways of doing it.
AA: Last question, since we are here at the WSF. How do you think, what kind of role do we have here at the WSF... this new concept of the global commons?
JN: I think that the WSF is really, really, really needed in its model of bringing together, as it has done since the beginning, very different forms and pieces of society and getting them to strategize together and realize together that they are actually working on the same issues. The problem is however that it cannot continue in the same format. We cannot continue with an international jetset of a few people form rich NGOs, or even not rich NGOs but that put some effort in it to meet every once in a while in some remote place in the world..We have to really increase the multiplication of the model of the social forum, in the little village, in the region, and occasionally at the national and larger international levels, but also using a lot more of the new technologies we have at our disposal. So that’s where we have to be much more creative. And think of the WSF as a commons that everyone has to take care of, and not just something that a group of organizers every 2 or 3 years does with a big effort.
AA: Chico Whitaker, one of the founders, already said that he was part of the commons a couple of years ago so it’s...
- Entrevue réalisée à l'occasion du 12ème Forum Social Mondial tenu à Montréal du 9 au 14 août 2016. Pour la première fois dans l'histoire du FSM un Espace des Communs offrait différents ateliers et activités culturelles avec la participation de « commoners » théoriciens et praticiens de nombreux pays.
- Entrevista realizada en ocasion del 12mo Foro social Mundial realizado en Montreal del 9 al 14 de agosto de 2016. Por primera vez en la historia del FSM un Espacio de los Comunes ofrecia varios talleres y actividades culturales con la participacion de « commoners » teoricos y activistas de numerosos paises.
- Interview taped at the 12 th World Social Forum in Montreal August 9th to 14th 2016. For the first time in the history of WSF a Commons Space held various workshops and cultural activities with the participation of commoners, both theoreticians and practitioners, from numerous countries.