Day Two of Tragedy of the Market: From Crisis to Commons

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Tragedy of the Market: From Crisis to Commons
January 6-8, 2012

All panelist biographies are here.
Below are some lessons learned and observations from the sessions.


The opening panel is recorded in the Twitter storify here.


Opening Panel
A Global Tradition: History of the Commons

Silvia Federici

  • Rebuilding our Commons will allow us to live in a free and self-determined way.
  • When we talk about the Commons, we are not talking about small-scale experiments like communes, but whole social formations.
  • The Commons involves sharing our resources because nature is not for sale. The principle of common use/sharing prevails. There is also no Commons without community.
  • We have to reject the notion of global Commons as proposed by the World Bank because we don’t have a global community.
  • The Commons has a very democratic character.
  • The “public” is regulated and controlled from above. The Commons is controlled, managed and shaped from below.
  • So it is obvious that capitalism had to destroy the Commons. And now dispossession is a feature of capitalism, and now neoliberalism is commited to the total marketization and commercialization of all of life.
  • Not only Commons in space, but Commons of knowledge is being privatized.
  • So in our political and everyday lives, we need to overcome the ideas that capitalism has conditioned in us: the opposition to common interest.

Glen Coulthard

  • There can be two ways of looking at self-determination: place-based and relational as well as sovereigntist and exclusionary.
  • Mutual obligation means that as people honour our obligations to the land, the land will provide for us.
  • Capitalist accumulation has been an affront to people’s relationship with our environment.

Farah Shroff

  • An injury to one is an injury to all.
  • In many languages we use family words to speak to strangers: brother, sister, uncle, auntie.
  • Unity and oneness are founding platforms for creating a commons.
  • We also have to remember how we can see the whole in the one.

Reclaiming Knowledge Panel:

Silvia Federici, David Chariandy, Pat Howard, Heather Morrison

  • The panellists presented a general overview of neoliberal motivations to privatize public services like education, the corporatization of academic journal production and the challenge of creating a commons within the education system while think past the commons within a context of a mode of production.
  • Competitiveness in academia undermines sharing and communal knowledge. Competitiveness is a tactic of enclosure of the Commons.
  • How do we work towards keeping knowledge in the Commons?
    • the open textbook movement
    • restoring First Nations languages
    • attending school for knowledge instead of just or a degree
    • bridge the gap between academia and the rest of society
    • resist patenting genes
    • develop alternatives to universities that support the search for knowledge, not producing “university graduates”
    • build a commons in the classroom [without getting fired]
    • be the media, but outside of Facebook [blogs, Twitter, etc.]

Autonomous Labour Organizing

Dave Bleakney, Susan Lee, Jeff Shantz & Sara Sahulka

  • A review of temporary foreign and migrant worker programs, policies and ideologies. In 2008/9 there were 280k temporary visas outnumbered immigrants seeking permanent resident status leads to a permanent class of precarious workers.
  • The Vancouver Compassion Club has been run as a collective fro 14 years with democratized leadership and decision-making.
  • BC’s labour laws were used to force an employer to actually pay undocumented workers who had been unpaid for 5 months.
  • Labour unions are sometimes happy to support activists groups without actually encouraging members to show up to physically support activist actions.
  • Unions are the strongest when locals are talking to each other, not following directions from above.
  • We need to build more meaningful relationships between unions and activist groups making a difference on the ground.
  • Unions used to be more present in our daily lives, contributing to working class culture and community building like bowling leagues and dances.
  • Unions need to build structures that allow members to support each other on the ground.
  • Union resources can be used to support organizing with anti-poverty groups and equity/justice groups.
  • Unions can organize flying squads to support actions from activist groups.
  • What models of organizing will help unions do more progressive action beyond just bargaining for wages, benefits and working conditions?
    • Workers need more decision-making at work and in their unions.
    • Workers need ways of supporting all social justice actions in the community.
    • We need to build connections between worker movements and cooperative movements.

Creating Spaces for Our Movements

Purple Thistle

  • The Purple Thistle is a community space collective that provides space for groups to work on projects and be involved in activist events.

Kirpa Kaur

  • From the Sikh tradition, communal meals were illegal centuries ago because of caste laws, but now the value of that joined space is enriching spiritual/political space.
  • Sikh spaces today are generally depoliticized without strong bridges built to marginalized communities.

Lisa Moore

  • Rhizome is a shared living space of diverse communities that can support social justice work and grassroots organizing.
  • The space is autonomous and directed by those using it.
  • While it is legally structured as a business, it is anti-profit, so it sells food, but it also collects donations.
  • The space is for meetings, events, planning meetings, socializing, celebrations, and free stores, with about 250 events/year.
  • With concurrent meetings, there is also some unpredictable cross-polination among participants.
  • Any space can be a model to the capitalist norm: they look like a restaurant.
  • They are challenging the norms of the market, beyond the pay for food or beg for food model, beyond individual consumption, with pay what you can/feel.
  • Shared space builds community because we learn each other’s name and empower their presence in society.
  • Decision-making is participatory, and since they’re a business, any space/organization can do this.


    • Space issues became in public conversation because of the Occupy movement, particularly when it comes to who has/controls/needs space.
    • Media space is important, particularly in contrast with corporate media.
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Stephen Elliott-Buckley

Post-partisan eco-socialist. at Politics, Re-Spun
Stephen Elliott-Buckley is a husband, father, professor, speaker, consultant, former suburban Vancouver high school English and Social Studies teacher who changed careers because the BC Liberal Party has been working hard to ruin public education. He has various English and Political Science degrees and has been writing political, social and economic editorials since November 2002. Stephen is in Twitter, Miro and iTunes, and the email thing, and at his website,

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