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Locals refuse money for food at Preserves & Produce for People Not Profit event

On Saturday, August 14, from 11am to 2pm, folks came to People's Food Co-op for a money-free barter event for home-grown, home-processed, or wildcrafted food. More people brought a greater variety of goods than last year's event, in part because the scope of the event was widened to include tinctures and fresh food. People brought all kinds of jam and preserves (incl. plum, blueberry, marionberry, blackberry, orange, strawberry, and more), pickled cucumbers, beans and carrots, canned fruit, applesauce, home-made herbal tinctures, fresh kale, dill, squash & tomatoes, home-brewed beer, and urban wildcrafted plums. Everyone seemed delighted with the trades they made at this anti-capitalist event. One woman walking by tried to buy a tincture, but was told that wouldn't happen! (Eventually, she was given the tincture for free, with contact info if she wanted to acquire more later.)
A happy trade!
A happy trade!
The spread, early in the event. (Later expanded to second table.)
The spread, early in the event. (Later expanded to second table.)
Preserves!
Preserves!
More Preserves!
More Preserves!
Greens and Dill!
Greens and Dill!
Fresh Produce and canned plums!
Fresh Produce and canned plums!
Home-brew!
Home-brew!
Even more Preserves!
Even more Preserves!
Tinctures!
Tinctures!
"The best pickles you'll ever have!" (he claims)
Pickles and squash!
Pickles and squash!
Ginger plum jam!
Ginger plum jam!
Zucchini bread!
Zucchini bread!
As the organizer, i talked to Kate from KBOO's Food Show. (The segment aired this morning, but i'm hoping she can upload the show, as it sounded like she had some great folks on.) i told her that, after the anti-war movement fizzled in March 2003 (when the U.S. attack on Iraq intensified), it seemed like many activists including myself weren't sure what to do or how to organize around anti-capitalist/anti-imperialist ideas. For me, the path led to food, which is a basic human right that has become so commidified, commecialized and corporatized that healthy examples are often out-of-reach of people. In the best of all possible worlds, basic food, water, shelter and clothing would be available to everyone, of course. And i'm not talking about more gov't-issued cheese, either. i mean food that is good for you to eat. That would be food that has as many of these qualities as possible: local, in-season, sustainably grown. (Since "organic" became a gov't designation, the word has lost some of its meaning. Some farmers don't choose to certify -- because they don't want to spend the money or they don't trust the gov't -- but they are still raising food in ways that are healthy for people and not harmful to the environment.)

Here in Cascadia, the climate is great for growing food, and you can harvest some things year-round (like hardy greens and root vegetables). We can garden (even in cramped quarters) and wild-craft many different fruits and vegetables. Still, food preservation is an enjoyable and practical activity because only some local produce is available fresh in the winter. Canning is not difficult and it brings the delicious tastes, smells (and vitamins!) of summer to the wet overcast months. Drying and freezing are also possibilities, though a power-outage could cost you your set-asides in the case of the latter method.

This event, Preserves & Produce for People Not Profit, aimed to take money out of the food equation (even if it was for just a couple-three hours) and encourage people to share instead. In that sense, it was definitely successful. Enthusiastic and generous gardeners showed up with their bounty and everyone went home with someone else's.

This event will be repeated twice more this year, on Sept. 18 and on Oct. 16 (when People's is celebrating Co-op Month and other fun activities will be going on). i'm grateful to have found a good outlet for expressing radical politics and creating a space outside of capitalism. As with last year, i'll be trading with some of these folks between and after the official events, too. That's community-building, and there's many ways to do that, but there are few methods that are more delicious!

Shit! I MISSED it! 16.Aug.2004 18:41

CatWoman

And here I had all these jars of jam and home made apple pectin and such. I couldn't remember when it was....

Hey spArk! Remind me next time! I bet you mean August 14th, not April 14th. Either way, though, I wanted to be there. (Those pickles do look mmm good.)

Great event! 16.Aug.2004 18:58

--

Couldn't be at this one but will prepare for the next. I hear the pickles are almost better than kissing cute anarchist boys...

I'm confused 18.Aug.2004 14:03

Derek Maddox

Why do you refer to this as an anti-capitalist event? Bartering is an essentially capitalistic exchange. You have something that you place a value on, and you offer to exchange that valueable object for something offered by another person. Cash isn't necessary for a capitalistic society. Only a free market where values are determined by owners and prices (exchange values) are determined by basic supply and demand. If anything, your event was purely capitalistic.

yes, you are confused, but understandably so 18.Aug.2004 14:15

not confused

The problem comes from the term "capitalism" which people use in a variety of contradictory ways. There is no set agreed upon definition of what capitalism "is".

 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Capitalism

However, though some people want to equate "free market" with capitalism many would argue that they are quite different. I'm not aware of anyone that would argue that capitalism exists without money (that is "capital"). Mostly attempts are made in a disingenuous manner to claim that all human exchange constitutes "capitalism" to try and defend capitalism as somehow "natural". But this line of reasoning is specious, at best.

So, while this event may fit your definition of "capitalism" it most surely does not fit the definition to those who organized the event (and I will not attempt to speak for them). Therefore, you are talking about completely distinct abstract ideas, and hence your confusion.

hi folks 19.Aug.2004 20:13

author of comment: (required)

hello ppl im just warping by on my superfast copper phone line connection to say that the high-bandwidth download of the mp3 coverage of the event (front page) simply re-links to the  http://portland.indy..etc. main front page. not like i could download it anyway but there u all go have a good one i luv canning food too. but sometimes i call it jarred food because it just makes more sense to me.
i 'specially like pears.

Come now, come now.... 20.Aug.2004 08:20

Derek Maddox

Capital is simply the means of production. Equipment, facilities, proprietary technology or information, all of these are capital. Money is simply a convenient medium of exchange for the abstract concept of "value". You can get paid money for intangible services rendered just as easily as for physical products. Remove the physical manifestation of "money" from a transaction and you have the barter system of a patient paying the doctor for medical services with two chickens and a pig. This is the functional equivalent of the patient selling the chickens and pig to an interested third party for cash, then using that cash to pay the doctor for services rendered. The money has nothing to do with it, other than being a convenient means of conveying value.

Any time you have two or more parties engaged in commerce by agreeing among themselves the common value of goods and services being exchanged between them, and each has individual control of the means of production of their respective goods and services, you have a capitalistic system.

Don't get me wrong, your event sounds wonderful. I often participate in swap meets for computer and radio equipment, books, and other items of interest. I frequent local farmer's markets where vendors are open to bartering or trading equivalent goods and services for their produce. Just don't get carried away with believing your event is a model of anti-capitalism.

so, Derek 20.Aug.2004 11:30

economist

According to your definition, communism is actually capitalism.

I doubt many people would agree with your definition. I know I for one do not believe that any form of exchange can be considered capitalism. In fact, I find that notion laughable and woefully naive.

Let's try again... 20.Aug.2004 13:48

Derek Maddox

In any communist society established to date, the individual neither owns the means of production nor establishes the rates of exchange. The state, or communal organization, owns the means of production and specifies the relative values or rates of exchange.

This is not true in a capitalist system, even the system evidenced by the Preserves and Produce event under discussion here. Each participant in that event owns (presumably) the pots, pans, stoves and other equipment required to produce the pickles, preserves, jams, and homebrew available for exchange. The individual providers determine the quantity of goods to be produced, as well as establishing the rate of exchange by accepting or refusing deals offered by potential consumers.

You should also read a bit more carefully, economist. I never stated that "any form of exchange can be considered capitalism". In fact, I made a point of stipulating that the individual must own the means of production AND establish the relative value of goods and services in the marketplace for a capitalist system to exist. The event in question certainly fits that description. Don't blame me -- maybe everyone involved should agree to common ownership of all means of production and allow a central committee to establish exchange rates for goods. THEN you'd have something approaching a non-capitalist system.

As long as everyone involved is using their own kitchens, their own gardens, their own pots and pans to create the goods offered at the event, and as long as each individual is allowed to freely negotiate each exchange of goods, then the event is the picture of capitalism.

no need to try again 20.Aug.2004 21:36

economist

I understand exactly what you are saying. You are a zealot missionary for the capitalist religion and that is very evident from your posts. The primary task of a zealot missionary is to convert others, often through assimilation. In this case, you are trying to convince people that what they see as anti-capitalist is actually capitalist. In this you will fail. You will also fail to understand the worldview of those who disagree with you, though as I said, many will. I could say capitalism is an economic system where people trade standing on their heads, but most people wouldn't agree with me. I could also give you a rigorous economic refutation of your claims which are neither necessary nor sufficient to define capitalism. But what would be the point? I have no interest in tearing you from a God that comforts you and brings meaning to your life. Nor do I believe you are even possible of understanding my point of view (as people always have trouble with those who don't worship the same God). The best I can hope for is that you understand that your definition of capitalism that you clearly and dearly cling to is not an accepted definition and one that you will have trouble finding others who will agree with. But don't take my word for it; your experience will be a far better teacher than me. I sincerely hope you can learn something from it.

take an econ 101 class, Derrick 20.Aug.2004 22:19

mtb

"the individual must own the means of production"

Hmmm, then I guess most countries referred to as "capitalist" really aren't because most individuals (excepting the capitalists, that small percentage owners) don't own the means of production. If that is your benchmark of capitalism there are no capitalist economies. Or can you name a country where the individuals own the means of production. In this country people don't own the means of production; artificial fictitious legal entities do.

Communism was one way to address this, by giving control of the means of production to the workers (yes, the individuals).

Could Derrick possible be confusing communism with capitalism. I guess with all their similarities it wouldn't be surprising. Both lead to a corrupt ruling class if there are not appropriate and effective checks on the accumulation of power; the routes just look a little different.

Dead end road 21.Aug.2004 07:59

Derek Maddox

Quite frankly, I'm astonished by the shallowness of the intellectual exchange I'm finding here. Name calling and "proof by blatant assertion" are no substitute for reasoned argument.

Economist, you seem to insist that there is no agreed definition of what constitutes capitalism. This is simply not true. In fact one of your own, writing under the terribly creative nom de plume "not confused", kindly pointed me to a definition found in the Wikipedia (see the post above for the link) that agrees in large part with all other definitions of capitalism I've found over the past few days in other dictionaries, encyclopedia, and text books. All of them agree on two basic tenets: personal ownership and control of capital, and free market determination of relative values of goods and services.

If you have a definition of capitalism that doesn't include those two basic tenets, then you are quite mistaken in your ideas.

You also seem confused in your concept of capitalism as a system of religious belief. It is, rather, an economic system that requires no element of religious faith. I encourage you to visit the church of your choice to clarify the difference between religion and economics.

The "arguments" put forward by mtb are no more cogent: in the US individuals do, indeed ultimately own the means of production. Remember, this is a marketplace of goods AND services.

There are thousands upon thousands of small businesses in this country, owned by ordinary folks engaged in production of goods and services. In fact, most employment in this country is derived from small businesses. With few exceptions (tobacco farmers come immediately to mind) no one tells these entrepreneurs what to make, how much of it to make, or what varieties of products to offer. No one tells them how much to charge for their products and no one tells them where they can market their products. There are licensing requirements, of course, but I'm enough of a libertarian to agree that those are oppressive. But there are no roadblocks to entering the marketplace. In fact, it is relatively easy and inexpensive to license your home kitchen for commercial production of jams and preserves. In most areas, good quality home-made products are a lucrative industry.

Not everyone owns their own business, however. Right now, I'm among those. However, I provide a service to the company for which I work. The company and I have negotiated a compensation package that I feel adequately pays me for the services I provide. We periodically renegotiate that package, and if they fail to meet my expectations, I can take my services elsewhere. At the end of the day, however, I own my skills and am free to market and sell those skills to whomever I wish.

No one is telling me where I must live, what job I must do, or what I will be paid. That's all up to me.

Absolutely none of this is true for a communist economic system. If anyone is having difficulty distinguishing between communism and capitalism, it's you guys.

In a communist society, mtb, the "workers" don't own or control anything. All plants, farms, facilities, and other capital are owned and controlled by the state. All production is specified, in type and quantity, by the state. Workers are allocated to industries with little regard to the individual workers' preferences and desires. All prices and wages are established by the state.

It is my fervent hope for you, children, that you will take ownership of your skills and capabilities. Start your own business, own the capital and the profits derived from your labor. The American Dream is attainable by anyone with the willingness to work hard and take risks. Come on in, the water's fine!

My apologies 22.Aug.2004 08:25

Derek Maddox

I apologize for the double post. For a day and a half after my last post (next to last, I suppose I should say) and it still didn't show up on the page, so I thought it had gotten lost in transition. Turns out there was a problem with the cacheing on the proxy used by my ISP.