Ecuador as a state form, the proposal for a ‘Partner State’, and lessons for future Commons Transition Strategies

“A little discussion on the partner state concept in the context of the flok experience:

I think there are really big misunderstandings if the relative failure (which also means relative success ) of Ecuador is interpreted to mean that it means the failure of the Partner State.

The Ecuadorian state is not a partner state, it’s a market state, though different from the neoliberal one.

I interpret as a state that wants to rebalance the market state towards local sovereignity and the local bourgeoisie, with a better deal for most citizens, and seeing the necessity of a strong state to balance extracitive foreign capital. It represented a different type of class alliance that wanted to strengthen the local state to tame international capital for its own ends. After a more radical phase in 2007, it is now slowly retreating and seeking a new accomodation with Empire. The famous National Plan is now mostly playing an ideological role, the actual policies of the state are often opposed to it. The results are a mixed bag of very strong social justice results, but a disempowering of civil society as a collective force. It is remarkable that after meeting more than 70 different civic groups, I could not find a single one that supported the government, and even the ones that once did, are now alienated from it. The kind of heated discussions pro and con that I witnessed in the fall of 2013, are now entirely absent. Nobody comes up for its defense.

The Ecuadorian state is technocratic, ‘knows best’ and dislikes participation. They dislike independent civic groups as much as, if not more, than neoliberal capital. So-called neosocialism is a statist approach to make Ecuador fit for a socially better kind of capitalism. It’s mostly better than what existed before (though quite a few civic groups disagree and say they have less freedom now), but it’s neither socialism nor p2p nor participatory. It is more difficult to create a coop in Ecuador, than a private company, and as our researcher John Restakis has found, Coops and NGO’s are highly regulated and controlled. As I was leaving Ecuador, there was an attempt by a government agency to destroy and close the most dynamic and successful cooperative in the country. (The civic groups that we encountered, including those that once supported the government, told us it was almost impossible for them get meetings with government officials while corporate CEO’s had a direct line). I am not claiming that Ecuador is less free than say the repressive government of Spain, or Colombia, where activists are assasinated, but it would be incorrect to idealize it.

The second important point is that while we can never idealize the state, the big and central question remains:

1) is it possible to imagine a class society without a state ? My answer is no, as who would stop the homeless of going into empty houses, or elite paramilitaries to take away the land of the farmers … While failed states are possible, they are generally worse. I am not aware of big migrations to Somalia, nor of colombian urban dwellers to the lands of the paramilitaries, but am only aware of the opposite. People able to vote with their feet, flee stateless regions

2) is it possible to imagine abolishing class society by fiat. My answer is no. Therefore in any transition period, there will be a state to defend the mass of the people and their democracy against attempts at restoration.

Thus the state is simply unavoidable.

So the question becomes, what kind of state? My answer is the partner state, a state where the people themselves are the state, and the historical precedents are of course the greek polis and the free medieval city states described by the anarchist Kropotkin. If you agree, I don’t care what other name you use for it, that is the partner state we are talking about, nothing else can be it.

The third question is: what do we do in the meantime?

My answer is:

1) build autonomous social organisation

2) engage with the state to fight bad legislation and promote good legislation

3) create prefigurative partner state policies where the people’s forces have majorities.

So back the question: does the relative failure (or succes) of flok prove anything about the failure of the partner state concept?

My answer is: the opposite. Ecuador shows that anything but a partner state approach is relatively doomed. It wasn’t a partner state, we thought a prefigurative experiment was possible at scale, and it wasn’t (though various successfull micro-projects are still possible).”

5 Comments Ecuador as a state form, the proposal for a ‘Partner State’, and lessons for future Commons Transition Strategies

  1. Bob Haugen

    Michel, this is important. It’s in quotes. Did you write it? and did it come from another conversation? If so, is the context available?

  2. willi uebelherr

    Dear Michel,
    on the P2P/F list i answer to your text. Yow don’t continue this inportant discussion on the list. Now, i read the same text in the blog.
    It’s not a good way to fly from a strong discussion base and act on different areas with the same thing without to continue the process of reflection.
    many greetings, willi
    now Bogota, Colombia

    ——– Original-Nachricht ——–
    Betreff: Re: [P2P-F] an evaluation of the flok
    Datum: Sun, 06 Jul 2014 11:53:45 -0500
    Von: willi uebelherr
    An: P2P Foundation mailing list

    Dear Michel,

    many thanks for your general answer. I will also use it to a more
    general answer.

    The answer to the question for our relation to the state construction,
    always based on the roman constitutional law, follows immediately from
    our perspectives. I think, therein, we agree.

    After then, we check what is the state. And then we can decide.

    Based on my personal principles:
    1) all people are equivalent. It follows
    a) all opeople have the equal rights
    b) all our working have the same values
    2) never we accept the private ownership of common resources
    3) all decisions about the way of life are taken local

    Based on my principles of development as a result of the principles of
    the nature:
    a) massivly decentral
    b) massivly parallel
    c) massivly redundant

    Immediatly we come to the concept of the world society as a network of
    local independent community. The P2P environment of local communities.
    This, because we live always in local communities and we act as a part
    of this communities. The stability of our lifebase is a direct function
    of our local independent economy. And this rest always on our local
    technical infrastructures.

    The destination for me is, that the people in the local communities can
    create and build most of that, what they need or what they think, that
    they need. Also this is a local decision.

    Because we know, that many task for that are more general, we follow the old principle: “global thinking, local doing”.

    This means, that all our theoretical work we do together in an open and
    free environment. Therefore, the communication system is so important.
    But in his inner structure we use our general and fundamental
    principles. The free access to the free communication for the free
    access to our free knowledge and information exchange.

    Knowledge is always worldheritage. It is always a common resource.

    Now to the state construction.

    In general it is a system from the elites for the elites against the
    people, against the self-organisation of the local communities. In the
    political systems we have two poles:
    a) the representative systems
    b) the democratic, local self-decision systems

    In the area of the representative system we have a big garden of
    different flowers. But in his core it is always the same. Incapacitation
    and centralization.

    The elites need this to organize her parasitic existence. And, because
    it is not so easy, they need the violence apparatus and the bureaucratic instances. Always based on the incapacitation of the local people.

    The private ownership of common resources is a necessary part of that.
    And to legitimate and stabilize this they need the control of the law
    system, based on the violence apparatus.

    This is in short form my general view. And immediatly, we see, that
    never we can operate together with any state system that follows a way
    against our principles, agains the people.

    States always are parasitic instances. They use but never they create or build. But in our perspective, we need the reduction of parasitic
    instances and change to a overall creative and productive activities.
    With that We can massively reduce the individual cost, the individual
    effort.

    Om the blog of Robert Steele we find the sentence in the head:
    “the truth at any cost lowers all other cost”. Maybe, this is a more
    free interpretation from me. But this is the core for distribution of
    the activity for our life.

    If all people are part of the basical activities in the areas for our
    material existence then all people have enough time to study the laws of the nature to extent the reduction of the efforts for our material
    life-basics.

    Of course, we can first disolve all not necessary instances, the
    parasitic instances. May be, this is the most effective part on our way. Likeany military and all infrastructure for that.

    In the communication system we can see it very clear. All this parasitic instances we don’t need any more. All this stupid instances of “Internet Governance” are superfluos. And we can massivly reduce the volume of packet transports.

    The same we will find in all spheres of our life.

    many greetings, willi
    now: Medellin, Colombia

  3. Quiliro Ordóñez

    Great to see Michel’s and Willi’s great perspectives.

    I wonder what can be done in order to prevent the powerful from abusing the minorities or even the majorities in a stateless society as Michel states. Many times the majorities are manipulated in order to run over people that oppose the powerful, whether these powerful are part of the state or not. Other times, the powerful use violence and bureaucracy to exert their power over the majorities. What can we do in a stateless or stateful society against these abuses?

  4. willi uebelherr

    dear Quiliro and all,

    your question, i think, is the most important question. What we have to do for independence in our development of our life environment?

    Michel and Silke Helfrich think and say that we need the state as a partner state, as a cooperation partner. But we can see in Germany, what is going on. And we can see in Ecuador, what are the results of that.

    I give here to links to very different writings about the same situation.

    Dangerous practice of digital mass surveillance must be subject to independent checks and balances – Pillay
    http://www.ohchr.org/EN/NewsEvents/Pages/Media.aspx?IsMediaPage=true&LangID=E

    Peer to Peer (P2P) Production as the Alternative to Capitalism – A New Communist Horizon
    http://www.networkedlabour.net/2013/05/peer-to-peer-p2p-production-as-the-alternative-to-capitalism-a-new-communist-horizon/

    Navi Pillay and Jakob Rigi act on the same themes on her different backgrounds and her different perspektives. State or people self organization. But this is a pre-step in our thinking and doing.

    This means, that the first is that we disolve our own slavery system in our thinking. If we create our own perspectives and our ways for that, then we can cooperate with all people without to lost our orientation for our future.

    Of course, the result is that we are self-responsible for our life and never we can go to any institution to ask for our life basics. We have to do self. But never alone.

    Here come in the Comunas. The local life community. We break the primitive dualism Individual or state. As single persons we live in communities. This are the constitutional elements for our bigger social societies.

    State never exist. It is a virtual construction. So, why we should follow any stupid production of thoughts of stupid persons? I don-t understand, why Michel and Franz Nahrada and many other follow this religion.

    many greetings, willi
    Bogota, Colombia

  5. Bob Haugen

    Willi, I did not get the impression that Michel or any of the other participants in the FLOK experiment thought that the current state of Ecuador, or any other state, was the partner state they advocated.

    Did you?

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