Catalan Integral Cooperative

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Description

By Patricia Manrique, writing in 2012:

"The Catalan Integrated Cooperative (CIC) began two years ago; it now has 850 members and several thousand people who participate in debates and projects. Under the label "integrated," the Cooperative functions as a political project seeking to tie together consumer and labor initiatives "and many others, such as education, mechanisms to create a cooperative basic income, eco-stores, collective stores, meetings and events, and a legal structure to help the formation of eco-networks and other similar projects in Catalonia," explains its communication team.

The Catalan Integrated Cooperative is a step beyond consumer cooperatives, because it also seeks out the contribution of services, creating a network of trust that allows the people associated with the Cooperative to cover many of their basic needs, with a will to transform" explains Gema Palamós from the legal team. Legally, the CIC is a ’mixed cooperative’ according to Spanish and Catalan law, meaning that it doesn’t limit itself to any one activity.

The term "integrated" alludes to the Cooperative’s political project, although it’s not a second-level cooperative—a cooperative whose partners are also cooperative members. Rather, it’s a "first-level cooperative whose partners are physical people" clarifies Palamós. The project brings together various eco-networks that function throughout Catalonia, connecting them and providing a legal structure for the physical people associated with them. This legal structure benefits the CIC in financial and legal terms, as well as in labor matters. "If we all were conscious of the advantages of the cooperative model when it’s goal isn’t profit, but rather living from your work, there would be a lot more cooperative projects," points out Palamós." (https://www.diagonalperiodico.net/blogs/diagonal-english/from-critique-to-construction-the-integrated-cooperative-in-catalonia.html)

Principles

Social Transformation

  1. Concern for common good and for one’s own good
  2. Getting rid of materialism
  3. Cooperation and solidarity in social transformation
  4. Day-to-day social transformation and getting closer to making utopia a reality.
  5. Direct relation between practical action and theorization
  6. Inclusive cooperativeand encompassing the whole society

Society

  1. Social justice and equity
  2. Equality in diversity
  3. Self-realization and mutual support
  4. Commitment and self-evaluation
  5. Sharing our practices throughout society

Economy

  1. Addressing the needs of people above any other interest, everyone contributing according to their means.
  2. Money as a measure of the trading system between the people of a community, but without seeking accumulation as an end.
  3. Encouraging other non-monetary forms of exchange: free economy, direct exchange, communal economy.
  4. Establishing economic relations between producers and consumers: the cooperative regulates the estimation of fair prices based on their costs, its own needs and those of the consumers.
  5. The cooperative informs the producers of consumer needs to regulate production.
  6. ECOcoops can never be converted into euros and we do not agree on any form of interest on loans.

Ecology

  1. Ecology and permaculture
  2. Degrowth and sustainability


Political organization

  1. Democracy: direct, deliberative, participative
  2. Self-management and decentralization
  3. Transparency
  4. Subsidiarity: form local to global
  5. Based on assemblies

(http://cooperativa.cat/en/4390-2/general-principles/)

Governance

In summary, by Enric Duran:

- Big descentralization at the local and tematic level (only the things that affects all the process comes to the general assembly) - The decisions are done by consensus. (not voting involved) - The decision making spaces are open to everybody (yet first day coming...) - we trust that anyone have the capacity to know when need to be silent or to consent because dont have the knowledge or legitimacy to block a proposal,

How do we organize ourselves?

"Catalan Integral Cooperative is organized through fortnightly open assemblies where decisions about its functioning are taken. In these assemblies which are called ‘permanent assemblies’, among other issues, the tasks carried out by different commisions and working groups are reviewed. Also, if need be, creation of new working groups and commisions can be aggreed upon.

Working commissions are constructed as nodes. These comprise and interrelate various commissions that have a certain relation with one and other.

How we understand a commission is, a stable group of people carrying out a necessary task for the proper functioning of the cooperative. Commissions propose actions and fields of work, develop them and present their current states and results during permanent assemblies.

A working group is an ensemble of people who realize a punctual and fairly concrete task or initiate a new branch inside the cooperative from the moment the permanent assembly finds it necessary. In the cases that a task developed by the working group is time consuming but at the same time important for the collective, the issue is brought up in the permanent assembly and then the commission could become a commission. Both the working groups and the commissions are open to public participation.

A very important tool for commissions and working groups is the cooperative's social networking system through which those involved in a group can share information, develop ideas, create debates, upload files. It is a tool to communicate through data transmission. By browsing the social network one can see the scope of issues that were treated before." (http://cooperativa.cat/en/4390-2/how-do-we-organize-ourselves/)

Decision-making

The assemblies are the decision-making organs.Throughout the process, a minimum agreement on the basic principals should be reached, that should come to terms with all the projects within the framework of Integral Cooperative, as a tool to generate self-sufficient, affinity, mutual help networks and equality, based on self-management and assembly. We support a decentralized decision-making process, fundamental to the autonomy and empowerment of the cooperative through solidarity, ruling out bureaucracy and encouraging confidence and free will. Each cooperative project, working commission, eco-network or local group make their own decisions, always respecting the agreements reached within the framework of the CIC.

The questions that affect the totality of the composing elements of the Catalan Integral Cooperative are discussed in a combined manner in the permanent assemblies and seminars. Participation to the assemblies are totally open (fundamental principal of the assembly) and free (regardless of being an associate or not). The decisions are preferably taken in consensus, to make sure the diversity of the opinions and the cohesion of the group are respected and for the optimal progress of the process. In case of a predicament, the proposal is reformulated until the consensus is reached, thus eliminating the minorities and the majorities. All previous agreements are revocable.

The way to self-organize ourselves and the functioning is open to new proposals for better, that, after being debated and approved in consensus would alter the previous agreements." (http://cooperativa.cat/en/4390-2/decision-making/)


Seminars

The seminars are itinerant, meaning, each one is convened in a different place around Catalonia, to encourage participation of all and to raise conscioussness about the reality that exists in the places that they are realized. The place, date and the draft of the agenda of the assemblies are communicated to associates via mail, the social network and the webpage of CIC. If one cannot be present in the place where the meetings are taking place, according to the technical conditions, it could be possible to participate through Mumble, a video chat software. Any associate can add a point to the agenda of the assembly. The permanent assemblies, though also itinerant like the seminars, normally take place in the Barcelona metropolitan area. The tasks that emerge during a permanent assembly can be taken on by a person, a working group or a commission.


Permanent assembly

The decisions that affect CIC are brought up and debated in the social network and the decision is made in the permanent assembly, to which everyone is called to participate periodically, approximately every 15 days. One of each 2 assemblies coincide with the seminars, carried out in one joint monographic theme, which helps developing different aspects of the CIC." (http://cooperativa.cat/en/4390-2/decision-making/)


Interview

Conducted for and by Shareable magazine:

"MB: What are the peculiarities of the CIC approach in terms of governance and ownership models, and what exactly do you mean by ‘integral’?

In Spanish, “integral” means holistic, complete. That is to say, it concerns every single facet of life, and that’s what it means to us.

The CIC’s objective is to generate a self-managed free society outside law, State control, and the rules of the capitalist market.

In this sense, it’s a model for transition more than a model for society, wherein we progressively construct practices and take decisions that move us away from our starting point within the system, and towards the world we want to live in.

The governance model includes two types of general assembly: a monthly assembly on one topic we’re exploring to further our development, and a permanent assembly with an open agenda in which anyone can contribute. Those are every 15 days, so, one of every two assemblies is held within the framework of the general day of assembly.

The CIC’s objective is to generate a self-managed free society outside law, State control, and the rules of the capitalist market. In this sense, it’s a model for transition more than a model for society, wherein we progressively construct practices and take decisions that move us away from our starting point within the system, and towards the world we want to live in. In our view, what we’re doing is activism, an activism for the construction of alternatives to capitalism.”

Otherwise, our governance model is based on the decentralization of the entire organization, while at the same time striving to reinforce the empowerment of every local node, so that they can develop their own integral self-management. We also fully support the self-governance of each autonomous project (be they community, productive projects, health nodes, etc.), so they can self-organize by assembly and hold internal sovereignty for their projects, within the general common framework of the CIC.

In terms of ownership, the collectivization of resources to generate common goods is one of our lines of action. We encourage developing common properties for the whole CIC, which are managed by a sovereign assembly for every project.

Private property is one of the ways in which you can protect property, but it’s not the only one. We promote forms of communal property and of cooperative property as formulas that, to us, seem to enhance the self-management and self-organization of individuals, and which provide a great deal of strength to overcome the state and the capitalist system, as opposed to if we just defended private property. Our reasons for defending a certain type of property are always directly related to its use. We are against situations like multiple owners making profits from abusive rental contracts, while having no interest in the actual use of their land.

One of our counter-economic strategies is the collectivization of lands by means of cooperative purchase, or by donation from the individual owners. For this, we use what we call a “Patrimonial Cooperative”, which has no economic activity whatsoever, so the state has absolutely no reason to attack it with fines.

John Restakis: The decision making process, while embodying principles of direct democracy, decentralization and egalitarianism, sounds cumbersome and time consuming. How much time is required for people to take part in the permanent assemblies and for how long is it anticipated this process can last? Has participation fallen off over time?

Between the permanent assemblies and the monthly single-topic assemblies, we’d say that we spend around 16 to 20 hours a month in the big groups, while in the small groups it’s usually a lot more.

I think we’re quite satisfied with our decision-making process. Its level of participation has held up rather well over the years and, in fact, there’s even more participation now. Presently there are, on average, 50 in-person participants per assembly, while some of us participate remotely.

At the same time, the quality of the agreements is a great success, and there hasn’t been any major decision-making conflict in all these years.

Given that the majority of participants choose to take part in a project or in one concrete area of the CIC, but not of the whole, the number of participants in the assemblies doesn’t grow as much as the number of participants in some aspects of the CIC, and this number in the thousands. We also use a number of communication tools, like social networks and our mailing lists, which allow many people to contribute to the aspects they’re interested in, even if they themselves may not be physically present at the assemblies." (http://guerrillatranslation.com/2014/03/26/integral-revolution/)

Discussion

By Patricia Manrique:

"Today the CIC boasts buying centers (spaces to store the collective purchases that reduce the costs of products by cutting out intermediaries), an alternative currency called the eco, various people receiving a basic income in euros and ecos for their work, a collective bus and, recently, Ca L’Afou, the new project of a post-industrial, post-capitalist eco-colony that hopes to respond to the basic need for housing.

Anyone associated with the CIC can acquire products and services through a system of virtual community exchange (CES or Community Exchange System) as well as in fairs and barter markets. "I cultivate a garden and I hardly buy any food in euros: I acquire everything I need in the eco-network and through the CIC with the ecos I earn by selling my vegetables," explains Vendrells. Buying within the CIC allows others to live from what they produce. "While many people are excluded from the euro, that’s not the case with social currency because anyone has some abilities that they can offer to people and with that, acquire what they need." Currently they’re working on creating access to health centers through the use of eco.

But these fairs, markets, eco-networks, and the CIC that ties them together are also spaces to share life in. "Going to the markets and the fairs is like recreation, it’s meeting up with friends and family in a spiritual sense," reflects Vendrells. The fairs generally last one day, and are intermittent. In the markets, that occur less frequently, local associations also participate.

The political project of the CIC includes spreading the model. The members give talks about eco-networks, the cooperative, and social currency in various parts of the country. As a result there are seeds of integrated cooperatives en Basque Country, Madrid as well as in Valencia, where another integrated cooperative, Amalur, has been functioning since 2010. In Valencia, La Madrágora association has been organizing practical workshops on what the Integrated Cooperative is, and how to create one." (https://www.diagonalperiodico.net/blogs/diagonal-english/from-critique-to-construction-the-integrated-cooperative-in-catalonia.html)

Assessing the Impact of the CIC (2014)

Roig Ventiuno Crea:

"Enric Duran Giralt has calculated the reach of people involved in the integral revolution in initiatives like the CIC within catalunya on his website (http://enricduran.cat/lssss/): the cooperative, sharing economy in Catalunya reaches thousands who don't directly participate in meetings or have more than some basic idea of what happens: I think there are about 30-60 people who contribute to and use our shared tools a lot and are core participants in meetings etc, and in the sense of following the philosophy of being sustainable, spending less and adapting to be non-hierarchical and cooperative you can say they are fully supported by our activities. Also as the CIC is an open idea, we are happy for people to feel more or less affiliated with us. I guess one question about productive accountability is do we want to be like charities where normal non-monetary info donors or funders want is about mouths fed, kilos produced and participants at events, but maybe a good example is that 4 core members who are always participating in lots of commissions and assemblies, got together recently and harvested a field that would have not been touched otherwise. The produce was all split, prepared and put in jars to last all year, and all 4 members didn't make any money from it even in our social currency, the ecocoop, nor was it distributed around the coop: it's all to share and exchange with their own local neighbours who also preserve their produce. The question is I think if they were happy, did they learn from it, are they now more self reliant and able to work together, is the economy / ecology around them strengthened, and were they extending a cooperative idea into a practice that other people can now pick up on." (FB, August 2014)

Calafou

  • Calafou: colonia ecoindustrial postcapitalista

URL = https://calafou.org/

"We have collectively acquired an industrial colony with 28,000 msq of production space and 27 apartments. It was unused and had deteriorated significantly since the factory's closure implying a loss of industrial heritage and of the collective memory of an entire region. Its size and variety of usable space made the comprehensive cooperative fall in love with it and take it on. The formula we use for access to housing is to purchase the licensing of the use by the cooperative and productive spaces for the social rate rental services and resources are shared between all those involved in the project ." (https://calafou.org/en/content/about)

Aurea Social - Barcelona

PATRICK CHALMERS:

"Barcelona’s Aurea Social seems too posh a place from which to plot a global revolution, let alone bring it into being. Less so when you find its occupants are under imminent threat of eviction. Tucked away near the towering spires of Gaudi’s Sagrada Família, the premises carry all the trappings of their intended design as an upmarket health clinic. The previous owners gave the keys to the cooperative before defaulting on their loans.

So, while there is plenty of yoga on offer, the classes are open to all and jostle for space with fresh produce deliveries, film and theatre nights, health clinics, political meetings and much else.

Aurea Social is one of hundreds of projects sprouting up under ‘la Cooperativa Integral Catalana’ or CIC, a sprawling, work-in-progress experiment in building alternatives to capitalism. My visit there was to meet some members including one of their number willing to translate a planned internet call with Duran, the man whose civil disobedience helped it all happen.

Carolina Zerpa, a Venezuelan mechanical engineering graduate, is busy sorting fresh vegetable trays in the foyer as I arrive. It’s part of her work, connecting the cooperative’s producers and consumers.

Before I know it, I’ve volunteered to be a journalist embedded in revolutionary construction, helping cook lunch as Carolina explains how the place works.

Carolina has been at Aurea Social for sixteen months, coordinating its mosaic of workshops in return for a basic income paid in euros and the cooperative’s alternative eco currency. She brings experience and inspiration from the Trade School in New York, a project where students barter with teachers in return for classes.

With nearly six in ten Spanish youth unemployed, bartering for skills offers a precious alternative to piling up student debt with scant prospect of getting paid work at the end. Learning how Aurea Social works is probably as important as the classes themselves.

‘People think public means it’s for free but it’s a public cooperative,’ she says. ‘You have to be involved in how this education system is going to work. This is what we are trying to do at Aurea Social.’ That applies to all who cross the threshold – even journalists. She explains: ‘If you want something – get involved. We don’t want to give people the mandarin already peeled. People love to be children and if there’s someone who’s a bit mother like, it’s very easy!’

Up on Aurea Social’s roof-garden terrace, with beds of herbs, late-season tomatoes and peppers all around, Gorka, a Basque native who’s spent three years as part of the cooperative, explains the variety and extent of CIC activities. He says they include 400 or so projects to grow or make things, fifteen to twenty community projects and the same again dedicated to trading within Catalonia. Layers of assemblies and working groups coordinate relations between the largely autonomous nodes. Participants fare better or worse depending on how well they grasp skills including self-management, self-organization and ‘direct democracy’ decision- making.

What makes the CIC something of a cooperative with muscle is the preparedness of members to challenge existing power structures. That might mean illegally occupying buildings and land or pushing the boundaries of laws related to tax, currencies and cooperative legal structures. ‘We don’t accept the limits of the state and the market and the banks. We need disobedience if we want to overcome these limits,’ says Gorka." (http://www.opendemocracy.net/can-europe-make-it/patrick-chalmers/european-austerity-seeds-governance-alternatives)

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