Thursday, October 25, 2007

Muslim and Jewish Anarchists

This was inspired by an exchange I had with a woman on ANARCHISM.net on the LEFT AND JIHAD thread. She said that she thought that Muslim Anarchists are ex-Muslim Anarchists. Her reasoning was that Islam is not consistent with Anarchy and one must relinquish either the one or the other.

The following is my response to what she wrote.

I've been in touch with a number of Muslim Anarchists and the overwhelming majority of them are not atheists. Their take on Islam is very similar to mine on Judaism. They are believers and find much truth in their Tradition, but they are totally non- and anti-authoritarian.

They also interpret all of the verses in the Qur'an Humanistically. I do the same with the Torah. This requires some very creative interpretation and a lot of hard work.

I believe that the Holy Scriptures were meant to engage us in that creative interpretation. I believe we are intended to go beyond what the surface of the Text *seems* to say and get to the *intention*, which is always pro-Humanity. It never pits God against Humanity. We are never asked to choose between God and Humanity. The correct interpretation of Holy Scriptures is always the satisfaction of both, and this is true Monotheism. If God is One, how can there be a separation between God and Humanity?

By getting used to thinking thus creatively, I believe we learn how to be creative about how to better society too. This type of thinking hones our skills as Humanistic thinkers.

The idea is not necessarily to reject religion. That may be right for some, even most ,Anarchists, but it is not right for all of us. The idea for those of us who wish to stay within the framework of our Traditions even as we are dyed-in-the-wool Anarchists (I am an Anarcho-Communist a la Kropotkin), is to reject the distortions of religion and return them to their original intentions.This can only be done in religions without authority, without an established clergy who decide what the interpretation is.


We most certainly need to respect and consult with a Council of Aged Scholars, but their authority cannot go beyond that which they receive by dint of the honor and awe they arouse in our hearts. Their role must be that of *advisors*, never those who have the final word. In the last analysis, having considered the opinions of a number of Elders and Sages, we must make the decision that feels right to us asking God for the wisdom to make the right decision.Practicing Muslim and Jewish Anarchists are very much in sync on this point and I think it is the kind of Anarchy most likely to be palatable here in the ME.

Doreen Ellen Bell-Dotan, Tzfat, Israel

DoreenDotan@gmail.com

Saturday, October 20, 2007

THE LEFT AND JIHAD

Lucien van der Walt of South Africa is a rare breed of Anarchist. He speaks the truth about radical Islam and is not taken in by their attempts to hijack the Left.

Leftists love to bash Israel for being part of the American hegemonic satellite.

The truth is we are a very weak suzerainty of the US. As van der Walt says below, the US has far more powerful countries in its satellite, among them Muslim countries: Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, Egypt and lesser partners: Indonesia, Malaysia and Pakistan.

How many Leftists know that and, if they know it, dare to "break ranks" and write it on the net?

However, let me hasten to say, and this is critical if we will have peace, that is a small number of genuine Muslim Anarchists and other progressive thinkers in Britain, the US and elsewhere. They are intrepid individuals. I am sure there are some in Arab lands too, but they dare not speak.

We Jewish Anarchists have A LOT in common with them. Every effort should be made to join forces with them. We have more in common as Anarchists who hold to a Monotheistic tradition than we have differences. Muslim Anarchists are not jihadists. They are very much "live and let live".


We should exert ourselves to put out "feelers" for Anarchists and progressives in our area and establish ties with them, support their efforts, let them know there are like-minded Jews in the area, and let them know they are not alone.

It transpires that there have always been a few Muslims with Libertarian ideas. This article is very interesting:

"Ibn Khaldun; A 14th C. Arab Liberatarian":
http://tinyurl.com/2ljek5

Let's put our conditioning and prejudice aside, as we ask them to do concerning us, and build bridges.

On Anarchy Africa van der Walt posted the following link:
"The Left and Jihad"


http://tinyurl.com/lw79a

He also wrote:

"I think we need to distinguish several things here: 1) the propaganda the US wages in its imperialism 2) imperialism and its effects on countries and 3) criticisms of Islam, as such.On the first point, sure, the US government has sometimes invoked the supposed flaws of Islam to justify its current interventions in the Middle East, and the more nebulous "war on terror" through which it is pursuing its military project elsewhere. I think, though, its a serious misrepresentation of the US propaganda to claim it is outright "Islamaphobic". Give me some concrete cases, not vague references to lots of materials being produced by the flunkies of the CIA, and show me I'm wrong.

I don't think the idea that "one who doesn't like muslims is not going to tell you he doesn't like muslims he's going to tell you he wants to defend the rights of women or freedom of speech" helps your case. You are simply asserting a hidden agenda, not showing one. And the implication of your argument thatIslamaphobia is orchestrated by the CIA, and that critics of Islam are the conscious or unconscious tools of imperialism, is that every critic of Islam is a scoundrel and a rogue, which is just insulting.Moreover, how does your theory explain the US setting up a puppet regime in Iraq, run by Muslim extremists? The fact that the US invasion of Iraq toppled a relatively modernist secular Arab nationalist in favour of his Islamist rivals? The point that one of the merits of the overthrow of Hussein highlighted by Washington was the massive expansion in public space for Muslims in Iraq? That the US-backed constitution makes Islam the official religion and source of law? Things are a bit more complex than the West versus Islam.

On the second point. Some historically Muslim countries are directly oppressed by imperialism but are they oppressed because they are Muslim? Are they oppressed any more than countries that are not officially Muslim? Are historically Muslim countries oppressed on a larger scale, in a larger number,in a more systematic fashion than other countries?Some historically Muslim countries are junior partners of Washington (like Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, Egypt); some are lower-level imperial powers who also sometimes clash with American agendas in their own regions (like Indonesia, Malaysia, Pakistan); some are directly subject to Washington (like Afghanistan, Iraq); some are seeking allies with other great powers (like the EU). The variety of relationships shows the picture is much more complex than the notion of "Islamaphobia" suggests; the same variety of relationships that exist between between historically Muslim countries and the great powers can be found for any other grouping of less powerful countries one might identify (e.g. sub-Saharan Africa).

Yes, I am against imperialism and capitalism, but I am also critical of Islam in general, and absolutely opposed to Islamic fundamentalism.On the third point, there is nothing wrong with criticising mainstream Islam, and there is an absolute necessity of fighting against Islamic fundamentalism. The first is a broad set of religious ideas, which take many forms, and have many contradictions, and which certainly contain many objectionable elements. The second is an actively reactionary movement, and the expression of the same upsurge of the far right that is represented in western Europe by forces like the NF in France. (We can and must distinguish between criticism of Islam as a religion, and the struggle against Islamic fundamentalism, although it is misleading of groups like the Labour Party in Pakistan to draw a neat and absolute distinction between the two, and claim that Islam as a religion is not a political force). We live in a time of all-sided ethnic, tribal, religious andracial conflict, promoted, deliberately and also accidentally, by the great powers, but also driven from below by local warlords and thugs.An anarchist must be a merciless critic of any doctrine, or behaviour, or institution, that hinders social and economic equality. Just like mainstream Christianity, mainstream Islam can and should be criticised. Islamic fundamentalism is a quasi-fascist and counter-revolutionary movement, activelyinvolved in massacring leftists and union members and feminists, and repressive in the extreme in power. It is anti-imperialist, but that is no saving grace: some of the worst thugs to cross the 20 century stage were anti-imperialist, among them Hendrik Verwoed, Idi Amin, and Mao Zedong.

I don't hold back on criticising capitalism because Stalin might have agreed with some of my points, and I don't hold back from attacking mainstream Islam just because George Bush might have agreed with some of my points. That a character like George Bush might agree with some of the criticisms that honest people make of Islam in no sense makes such criticisms illegitimate. If George Bush thinks slavery is bad, or that murder is bad, does it follow that people can't criticise slavery or murder? The only logical endpoint of the position that criticism of Islam is "Islamaphobic" is the uncritical defence of Islam, in all its forms, and regardless of its record.Finally.I said before why I think its a problem to call, without qualification, these countries "Muslim countries": do we call Latin American countries "Christian countries" or part of the "Catholic world"? This is just stereotyping: it ignores the struggles and varieties within these countries (the great clashes after 1945 between radical Islam/ Arab nationalism/ Communist forces, for example; the revolt of many youth against the old traditions; the rise of labour etc.), and concedes the key claim of the Islamic fundamentalists (that all countries where Islam played some role in the past are essentially part of auniversal Ummah).

But things are not that simple.

See, for example,Iraqi Communists Celebrate May Day 2007
http://www.iraqslogger.com/index.php/post/2583/Iraqi_Communists_Celebrate_May_Da\y

Farooq Sulehria, Making Of The Islamic Threat, Labour Party Pakistan
http://www.laborpakistan.org/articles/intl/notmyname.php

Houzan Mahmoud, The Constitution, Islamic Sharia law, and Women's Rights in Iraqand Kurdistan, Worker-Communist Party of Iraq
http://www.wpiraq.net/english/2007/HouzanMahmud-Media210307.htm

Lucien"

Let's clear out the obfuscations of radical Islam that is dressing up in Leftist clothing and make peace with real Muslim Anarchists and progressives.

In response to this, a contributor to another list wrote:

"Dear Doreen:

Having been a history buff, having studied all types of history for a lot of years; I've read some pretty horrendous things done to people, done mostly to the Jews who lived along the route either by the Christian or by the Muslims. Things I won't discuss on this thing as I won't talk like that in front of women or children. It's not obscene language it's the terrible things that were done to the Jewish women. When I first reared it I simply couldn't believe one human being could do this to another but after you read account after account of this sort of thing being done to innocent people just because they were Jews.
Now to learn that these people are teaching it to their children as though they or those who did this awful thing to the women and babies just because they were Jews, then these people are compared to devils. Not so, I wouldn't down grade a devil to level. Compared to these people who could justify the terrorist actions of those to children, they're worse than the one's who committed the acts in the first place.
I'm sorry for these as they'll have to pay for their crimes either in this life or in the next.
Shalom, Shalom."


To which I responded:

You may rest assured that Muslim Anarchists and progressives are not the kind of people who commit atrocities and are as sickened by them as you are.

They are as critical of that which does not serve humanity in their religion as Jewish Anarchists are aware of same in our religion.

It is no more fair to assign collective guilt to another ethnic group or religious group, in toto, than it is for the anti-Semites to assign such to all Jews.

There are those who fault all of us Jews for the horrific deeds that have been carried out at the behest of the super-wealthy Jews. The wars that have been waged to keep them rich have spawned deeds (carried out not by them, oh no, they don't get their hands dirty, but by the soldiers that were sent to do their dirty work for them and die and be maimed if need be) were *just as ugly* as anything ever done to us.

Yes, we have to *admit* the guilt of the Jewish rich. AND we have to admit that they have harmed the rest of Jewry no less than our enemies have and no less than they harm other Peoples and cultures. They care not one whit for our welfare. We should not excuse them to ourselves or to the world.

If we separate ourselves from the rich Jews who cause so much harm to the world, we will not be despised for their sake. It is because we cover for them that the guilt is laid at our doorstep too. The effect of this is that poor Jews in Israel die to keep rich Jews in America and Europe and Asia rich AND we have incurred the disgust of the world as well.

I say, let the world know that the rich Jews are no less a pox on us than they are on them.

Shabbat Shalom,
D2


In response to this he answered simply:

"Dear Doreen:
Amen!
Shabbat Shalom"


Doreen Ellen Bell-Dotan, Tzfat, Israel
DoreenDotan@gmail.com

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

ANARCHY FOR REGULAR FOLKS

Someone on the Anarchy Africa Yahoo!
list wrote me privately and challenged my position in my thread "The Bog". The strongest point in hir refutation, in my opinion, is that we Anarchists have not enjoyed astounding success and we need to take a good, hard look at ourselves and determine why and what we can do about it.

While I do not think that we'll find that answer among the Structuralists or the Post-Structuralists, I recognize the crying need for this self-examination.

It should be an internal audit among us Anarchists, in my opinion. While the thinking of non-Anarchists may help us in that endeavor, I think that we have the answers within the body of our own literature and we need not turn to agents of The Man like psychoanalysts for the answers. Certainly we cannot be made to feel that the opinions of those who have not adopted Anarchism as their own are de rigueur to consider.

One of my ongoing concerns is the redemption of Anarchy from the "punks" and misfits of all stripes who have become the soi-disant representatives and spokespersons for Anarchism.

While I certainly do not fault people who have become a little freaky as a result of living in sick societies (hey, who hasn't); I also recognize that the disturbed and the dysfunctional cannot be depended upon to be the ballast of any society, certainly not one that will require the exquisite common sense and self control that Anarchy will.

I would go further and say that we cannot even depend upon the proletariat to be those who make the revolution happen.

Please don't jump. Kindly allow me to explain my position.

In contradiction to Bakunin and Kropotkin, Gustav Landauer did not have faith in the proletariat to either be galvanized into a revolutionary body or to be able to carry out a successful revolution.

Landauer's heart was shredded by the suffering of the proletariat and to the purpose of eradicating their suffering, most especially, he devoted his thought and efforts as clearly articulated in
FOR SOCIALISM: "Priests and middle class citizens who submit to moral restraint have introduced the practice of speaking of these poor wretches as if they were animals, though they are innocently guilty for our despicable innocence. They are called beasts, swine, goats and animals. You stare at their features, when they lie in the morgue. You have spared your own flesh, and your notoriously sensitive hearts! Look at the poor, the miserable, the sunken, the criminals and whores, you good citizens, you withdrawn and reserved youths, you chaste girls and honorable women. Look and learn: your innocence is your guilt; your guilt is your life."pg. 41

Yet, he knew that the revolution could only be carried out with the support of the Middle Class.

He also wrote: "There they succumb to drink and can often no longer live without being intoxicated. They get drunk because nothing is so essentially alien to them as sobriety."
ibid.

As part of his scathing and uncompromising critique of Marxism he wrote: "Let it finally be understood, what is really being said here. It is recognized here that the workers are not a revolutionary class, but a bunch of poor wretches who must live and die under capitalism. ..But everything that is recognized, admitted ad conceded here, is a blow against Marxism, which seeks to understand the workers in their role as producers not as the poor lowest stage of capitalism but as the destiny-chosen bearers of the revolution and socialism."
pg. 86

"But a major part of suffering is the realization of ones' bad situation; and how many proletarians to this extent undergo not the least suffering!"pg. 111

"…what is called the proletariat will never of itself be the embodiment of a people..."pg. 117

Even Bakunin, in a moment of brutal honesty, addressed the proletarians thus: "Let us then be good brothers and comrades, and let us organize ourselves. Do not think that we are at the end of the Revolution, we are at its beginning. The Revolution is henceforth the order of the day, for many decades to come. It will come to find us, sooner or later. Let us therefore prepare and purify ourselves and become more genuine, let us be less talkers, less criers, less phrasemongers, less drinkers and less rakes. Let us gird our loins and properly prepare ourselves for this struggle which will save all peoples and finally emancipate humanity."
THE BASIC BAKUNIN WRITINGS 1869-1871, Translated and Edited by Robert M. Cutler, pg. 65

The revolution must have the support of the middle class and middle aged, the middle of the road – the sober of mind, the possessors of self-discipline, those able to compromise, those with the wisdom of decades of living under their belts.

The task at hand, then, as we see from the quotes above from Landauer, is to sensitize the middle class to the sufferings of the poor. We must counter the lack of identification with the poor that has been cultivated among the middle class as a method of "divide and conquer" on the part of the bourgeoisie.

The transition into a normalized Anarchic society after the revolutionary period will not be carried out by enraged teenagers, no matter how sympathetic we may be as to the reasons for their outrage.

Anarchy has to be the Movement of the stable, the mature, the rational, *the average*.

The revolution cannot leave us with a patchwork of Freetown Christianias.

Neither can the revolution cannot leave us with what Bakunin has rightly said is a negative stance – Anarchism. We must be *for* something. This the enraged and the too pained to function, precisely those now being attracted to Anarchism and running it afoul, cannot do.

Only when the Middle Class realize who they are being used and abused and overcome the illusion that they are not among the disenfranchised, just like the poor, will the Revolution occur.

Saul Alinsky recognized that too and just before his death he planned to undertake the major project of his life - the political radicalization of the average Joe. See the interview he granted to Playboy Magazine in 1972 on this URL:
http://tinyurl.com/qov5t . He did not live to succeed. That's a tragedy. If anyone could have done it, he could have. He was uniquely gifted to be the catalyst that set off an explosion of awareness and desire for radical change among the Middle Class.

Anarchy, in the final analysis, has to be a Revolution of the average people - not the intellectual, not the punk, not the enraged and disturbed past the point of being able to function. It cannot reach the necessary critical mass if it is the Movement of those on the sidelines of society.

I am convinced that the reason that Anarchy has not succeeded is because it has not convinced the Middle Class that they are among the outsiders, they too are disenfranchised, they are working 60 hours a week when about two hours per day will suffice if technology is employed properly, that they are *emotionally and psychologically destitute* and that is what is impinging on their ability to connect with others and that is why it is worth their while to get radical.

Anarchy must create a way of life that average people can live, feel comfortable with and feel at home in.

Either Anarchy will speak to and for the mainstream, or it won't succeed.

Doreen Ellen Bell-Dotan, Tzfat, Israel

Anarchist and 50-Year-Old Grandmother
DoreenDotan@gmail.com

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

A BEAUTIFUL ARTICLE ABOUT URBAN KIBBUTZIM

An Urban Kibbutz in Jerusalem

by Shulamit Reinharz, the Jacob Potofsky Professor of Sociology at Brandeis University, where she founded the Women’s Studies Research Center and The Hadassah-Brandeis Institute (
hbi@brandeis.edu).

Short excerpt: "Recently, three members of Kibbutz Reshit received a national prize for their
work. They were cited for providing education and social-community services with enthusiasm, creativity, persistence, and outstanding leadership. The prize rewarded ongoing, long-term activity that has enjoyed great success and is intended to benefit and, in particular, to empower a disenfranchised population."

This can happen in Anytown, Just About Anycountry.

Source:
http://tinyurl.com/2cbdxb

Doreen Ellen Bell-Dotan, Tzfat, Israel
DoreenDotan@gmail.com
THE BOG

What I am about to describe feeds on a pervasive character trait and worry among intelligent people, particularly those in a profession that requires that they stay on their toes. It goes like this: "I can't do anything or decide anything as I don't yet have enough information" and "I can't be thought by my colleagues not to be up on everything in my field".

Somewhere along the line, most Anarchists alive today are going to bump up against what is called "Post-Anarchism". It is a school of thought, founded by one Saul Newman, which attempts to reconcile Anarchist theory with poststructuralist thought.

And that's just the point. It attempts to reconcile Anarchist theory with poststructuralist thought. What for?

First, Anarchy is not theory. It is practice.

Second, in order to understand what "poststructuralist though" is, one has to understand what structuralist though is.

In order to do that one gets washed away in a sea of "social science". "Structuralism as a term refers to various theories across the
humanities, social sciences and economics many of which share the assumption that structural relationships between concepts vary between different cultures/languages and that these relationships can be usefully exposed and explored. " That's a whole lotta yada yada.

But wait!

As is the case with most "social science", their theories were soon found to be shot through with holes.

So a new movement arose, spearheaded by French psychoanalysts. "Post-structuralism refers to the intellectual developments in
continental philosophy and critical theory that were outcomes of twentieth-century French philosophy. The prefix "post" refers to the fact that many contributors such as Jacques Derrida, Michel Foucault, and Julia Kristeva were former structuralists who, after abandoning structuralism, became quite critical of it. In direct contrast to structuralism's claims of culturally independent meaning, post-structuralists typically view culture as inseparable from meaning."

The list of absolutely essential names to read in the Post-structuralist school goes on...

Admittedly, they weren't Anarchists. But, we are told, their thinking is very important, very important indeed, for the understanding of Anarchist theory.

We couldn't possibly understand Anarchy without plumbing the depths of the rumination of Galoise-puffing psychoanalysts.

And that, so I'm told, is the reason why rather than spending the next few months, perhaps years, helping the indigent; I should be reading the history of social (read that pseudo-) science, and its refutation, which is equally full of shit.

FUCK OFF!

Everything I'll ever need to know about Anarchy is this: Capitalism and the government that is spawned of it works against the people and enslaves them. It is pernicious and leads to what would be otherwise unimaginable evils. The way to freedom is the eradication of Capitalism and Government.

Then one rolls up one's sleeves and goes to work building a world without Government or Capitalism - instead of reading some worthless shit.

Doreen Ellen Bell-Dotan, Tzfat, Israel

DoreenDotan@gmail.com

Monday, October 15, 2007

How Many Hours Do/Did You Work?

How many hours per week do you, or did you if you are retired, have to work?

In considering the answers to this question that were given by people who studied the economy, please not the dates when they were written.

"The so-called "division of labour" has grown under a system which condemned the masses to toil all the day long, and all the life long, at the same wearisome kind of labour. But if we take into account how few are the real producers of wealth in our present society, and how squandered is their labour we must recognise that Franklin* was right in saying that to work five hours a day would generally do for supplying each member of a civilised nation with the comfort now accessible for the few only.
"
Chapter VIII, FIELDS, FACTORIES & WORKSHOPS, Peter Kropotkin, Second Edition 1912.

*Benjamin Franklin (1706-1790). That's right. According to Ben Franklin's analysis of the
market, and we may rely on the business acumen of a man born into a poor family of with thirteen children who became a millionaire and statesman; already in the 18the C. it was possible to attain a comfortable standard of living working five hours a day.

In reading the next quotes think about the implications of what Kropotkin is saying would have for Shmitta:


"In the domain of agriculture it may be taken as proved that if a small part only of the time that is now- given in each nation or region to field culture was given to well thought out and socially carried out permanent improvements of the soil, the duration of work which would be required afterwards to grow the yearly bread-food for an average family of five would be less than a fortnight every year; and that the work required for that purpose would not be the hard toil of the ancient slave, but work which would be agreeable to the physical forces of every healthy man and woman in the country.

It has been proved that by following the methods of intensive market- gardening-partly under glass-vegetables and fruit can be grown in such quantities that men could be provided with a, rich vegetable food and a profusion of fruit, if they simply devoted to the task of growing them the hours which everyone willingly devotes to work in the open air, after having spent most of his day in the factory, the mine, or the study. Provided, of course, that the production of food-stuffs should not be the work of the isolated individual, but the planned-out and combined action of human groups.

It has also been proved-and those who care to verify it by themselves may easily do so by calculating the real expenditure for labour which was lately made in the building of workmen's houses by both private persons and municipalities -that under a proper combination of labour, twenty to twenty-four months of one man's work would be sufficient to secure for ever, for a family of five, an apartment or a house provided with all the comforts which modern hygiene and taste could require.

And now, in the presence of all these conquests - what is the reality of things?
In industrially developed countries, a couple of months' work, or even much less than that, would be sufficient to produce for a family a rich and varied vegetable and animal food.
One month of work every year would be quite sufficient to provide the worker with a healthy dwelling."
Chapter IX, F F & W


"For centuries science and so-called practical wisdom have said to man: "It is good to be rich, to be able to satisfy, at least, your material needs; but the only means to be rich is to so train your mind and capacities as to be able to compel other men-slaves, serfs or wage-earners -to make these riches for you. You have no choice. Either you must stand in the ranks of the peasants and the artisans who, whatsoever economists and moralists may promise them in the future, are now periodically doomed to starve after each bad crop or during their strikes and to be shot down by their own sons the moment they lose patience. Or you must: train your faculties so as to be a military commander of the masses, or to be accepted as one of the wheels of the governing machinery of the State or to become a manager of men in commerce or industry." For many centuries there was no other choice, and men followed that advice, without finding in it happiness, either for themselves and their own children, or for those whom they pretended to preserve from worse misfortunes.

But modern knowledge has another issue to offer to thinking men. It tells them that in order to be rich they need not take the bread from the mouths of others; but that the more rational outcome would be a society in which men, with the work of their own hands and intelligence, and by the aid of the machinery already invented and to be invented, should themselves create all imaginable riches. Technics and science will not be lagging behind if production takes such a direction. Guided by observation, analysis and experiment, they will answer all possible demands. They will reduce the time which is necessary for producing wealth to any desired amount, so as to leave to everyone as much leisure as he or she may ask for. They surely cannot guarantee happiness, because happiness depends as much, or even more, upon the individual himself as upon his surroundings. But they guarantee, at least, the happiness that can be found in the full and varied exercise of the different capacities of the human being, in work that need not be overwork, and in the consciousness that one is not endeavouring to base his own happiness upon the misery of others.

These are the horizons which the above inquiry opens to the unprejudiced mind." End of Chapter IX, F F & W

"Overwork is repulsive to human nature--not work. Overwork for supplying the few with luxury--not work for the well-being of all. Work is a physiological necessity, a necessity of spending accumulated bodily energy, a necessity which is health and life itself. If so many branches of useful work are so reluctantly done now, it is merely because they mean overwork, or they are improperly organised. But we know--old Franklin knew it--that four hours of useful work every day would be more than sufficient for supplying everybody with the comfort of a moderately well-to-do middle-class house, if we all gave ourselves to productive work, and if we did not waste our productive powers as we do waste them now." - Peter Kropotkin, ANARCHIST COMMUNISM: Its Basis and Principles, 1887

Kropotkin treats the matter of how many hours of work are required of whom and under what conditions in depth in
Chapter VIII of THE CONQUEST OF BREAD (See:
http://tinyurl.com/fdtvn)

We have already obtained the unanimous assent of those who have studied the subject, that a society, having recovered the possession of all riches accumulated in its midst, can liberally assure abundance to all in return for four or five hours effective and manual work a day, as far as regards production."
Anarchism: It's Philosophy and Ideal", Peter Kropotkin, 1896

See: Johann Most's speech: " THE BEAST OF PROPERTY", c. 1884, which can be found on the following URL:
http://tinyurl.com/kxr8w

"Under socialism…With the idle rich and the idle poor working and the work day four hours long their bodies will grow strong again and their minds sane."
"Brutal Treatment of the Unemployed in Sacramento Star" – Helen Keller, March 16, 1914

"It can be statistically proven that three hours' work a day, at most, is sufficient to feed, shelter, and clothe the world and supply it not only with necessities but also with all modern comforts of life." –
Alexander Berkman, Now and After: THE ABC OF COMMUNIST ANARCHISM, Chapter 22, New York: Vanguard Press, 1929.

"No one wants to spend their whole life in the factory or workshop, but everyone needs nails, transportation, or rope at some time, It would only be fair that all people spend a few hours every week helping to provide these useful products in co-operation with their fellows. Machines do help us make these things more easily; people only become slaves to their machines because they are slaves to their bosses and to a wasteful, growth-oriented economy. If there were no useless bosses who collect the profits but do no work at the machines they own or oversee, and if production did not always have to be increased to fuel an ever-expanding, growth-oriented consumerism, then it is doubtful that any of us would have to work more than a few hours per week. Those who are by temperament "workaholics" could spend their time improving upon, and experimenting with, products or projects of their choice." - "ANARCHO-SYNDICALSIM, TECHNOLOGY and ECOLOGY" by Graham Purchase
http://tinyurl.com/el9fs, writing in 1995.

The Catholic Worker Movement: Societal structures need to be built so that it will be "easy to be good." Advocates the four-hour work day in order that workers become scholars and Scholars workers. (See:
http://tinyurl.com/oou45).

Is it any less imperative for Jews to be scholar-workers than for Catholics?

I have spoken to an inventor about this matter. He has a number of patents to his name. In response to my question: How many work hours would be required of a person to live an upper-middle class lifestyle today, given today's technology; his answer was: TWO hours per day. All the rest that you work is going into someone else's pocket. Internalize that.

Think of how many things you could do for your community, how much more energy you would have, how much more time you would have with your loved ones, how much you could do to edify yourself if all of those work hours that are being stolen from you in order to make someone else rich were given back to you.

What do you expect the length of your work life to be, or, if you are retired, of how many years' duration was it?

Kropotkin says in his book, FIELDS, FACTORIES AND WORKSHOPS, Second Edition 1912,
that technology had advanced his Franklin's time. Let's read on.

"But we have made some progress since Franklin's time, and some of that progress in the hitherto most backward branch of production--agriculture --has been indicated in the preceding pages. Even in that branch the productivity of labour can be immensely increased, and work itself rendered easy and pleasant. If everyone took his share of production, and if production were socialised--as political economy, if it aimed at the satisfaction of the ever-growing needs of all, would advise us to do--then more than one half of the working day would remain to everyone for the pursuit of art, science, or any hobby he or she might prefer; and his work in those fields would be the more profitable if he spent the other half of the day in productive work--if art and science were followed from mere inclination, not for mercantile purposes. Moreover, a community organised on the principles of all being workers would be rich enough to conclude that every man and woman, after having; reached a certain age--say of forty or more--ought to be relieved from the moral obligation of taking a direct part in the performance of the necessary manual work, so as to be able entirely to devote himself or herself to whatever he or she chooses in the domain of art, or science, or any kind of work. Free pursuit in new branches of art and knowledge, free creation, and free development thus might be fully guaranteed.. And such a community would not know misery amidst wealth. It would not know the duality of conscience which permeates out life and stifles every noble effort. It would freely take its flight towards the highest regions of progress compatible with human nature." –
Chapter VIII, FIELDS, FACTORIES & WORKSHOPS, Peter Kropotkin, Second Edition 1912.

Doreen Ellen Bell-Dotan, Tzfat, Israel
DoreenDotan@gmail.com


Shmitta in a Cooperative Agrindustrial Society

In my post "How Many Hours Do/Did You Have to Work?", I touched briefly on how the unnecessary hours that we work in order to make others (sometimes fabulously) wealthy, at any rate more wealthy than ourselves, impinges on Shmitta.

It is clear that if the technology that exists today was used for the benefit of the worker, we would be able to produce far more foodstuffs than we do in much less time. In fact, there is no upper limit on how much agriculture we can produce and no lower limit on the time involved.

In the space of this post we will discuss a related topic that contains within it great implications for observance of Shmitta – the creation of an agrindustrial society, which will also, as we shall see, produce far more rounded and physically healthy people.

I have read that the farmers, whose income depends entirely upon farming, who are economically hurt by the Shmitta year and dread it, rather than welcoming it as a blessed relief and a time of personal and communal renewal, will be engaging in a court action against the Rabbinut.

How tragic this is! How unnecessary! This sad state of affairs is only the result of an unnatural division of labor – a strict and unnatural, wholly contrived, division of workers into "city workers" and "farmers".

The following was written in 1912. Matters have changed since then. People have become far more divided into city workers and farm workers, to the point that some city kids have no idea where bread comes from.

I recall as a child, and so I am going back some forty years, my Mother had a friend who had two daughters. The youngest was two years older than I.

One day my Mother offered to make dinner for their family at their house.

She made a pot roast and as she peeled the potatoes, the younger of the two daughters asked: "What's that?"

At first my Mother thought she must be kidding. But looking at the child's face, she realized she was entirely serious.

My mother answered: "It's a potato."

The child responded: "That's not a potato. Potatoes come in boxes."

It is this sad state of affairs that we will now address and proffer a solution as well as a solution for Shmitta observance.

"Agriculture is so much in need of aid from those who inhabit the cities, that every summer thousands of men leave their slums in the towns and go to the country for the season of crops. The London destitutes go in thousands to Kent and Sussex as bay-makers and hop-pickers, it being estimated that Kent alone requires 80,000 additional men and women for hop-picking; whole villages in France and their cottage industries are abandoned in the summer, and the peasants wander to the more fertile parts of the country; hundreds of thousands of human beings are transported every summer to the prairies of Manitoba and Dacota. Every summer many thousands of Poles spread at harvest time over the plains of Mecklenburg, Westphalia, and even France; and in Russia there is every year an exodus of several millions of men who journey from the north to the southern prairies for harvesting the crops; while many St. Petersburg manufacturers reduce their production in the summer, because the operatives return to their native villages for the culture of their allotments.

Agriculture cannot be carried on without additional hands in the summer; but it still more needs temporary aids for improving the soil, for tenfolding its productive powers. Steam-digging, drainage, and manuring would render the heavy clays in the north-west of London a much richer soil than that of the American prairies. To become fertile, those clays want only plain, unskilled human labour, such as is necessary for digging the soil, laying in drainage tubes, pulverising phosphorites, and the like; and that labour would be gladly done by-the factory workers if it were properly organised in a free community for the benefit of the whole society. The soil claims that sort of aid, and it would have it under a proper organisation, even if it were necessary to stop many mills in the summer for that purpose. No doubt the present factory owners would consider it ruinous if they had to stop their mills for several months every year, because the capital engaged in a factory is expected to pump money every day and every, hour, if possible. But that is the capitalist's view of the matter, not the community's view. "

The passage above reminds me of something my husband told me. When he was a youngster, a teenager, he would go to a Kibbutz during the summer vacation and help them with the picking of the fruit. He loved the work.

"As to the workers, who ought to be the real managers of industries, they will find it healthy not to perform the same monotonous work all the year round, and they will abandon it for the summer, if indeed they do not find the means of keeping the factory running by relieving each other in groups.

The scattering of industries over the country ----so as to bring the factory amidst the fields, to make agriculture derive all those profits which it always finds in being combined with industry (see the Eastern States of America) and to produce a combination of industrial with agricultural work--is surely the next step to be made, as soon as a reorganisation of our present conditions is possible. It is being made already, here and there, as we saw on the preceding pages. This, step is imposed by the very necessity of producing for the producers themselves'. It is imposed by the necessity for each healthy man and woman to spend a part of their lives in manual work in the free air; and it will be rendered the more necessary when the great social movements, which have now become unavoidable, come to disturb the present international trade, and compel each nation to revert to her own resources for her own maintenance. Humanity as a whole, as well as each separate individual, will be gainers by the change, and the change will take, place.

However, such a change also implies a thorough modification of our present system of education. It implies a society composed of men and women, each of whom is able to work with his or her hands, as well as with his or her brain, and to do so in more directions than one. This "integration of capacities" and "integral education"…
Chapter VII, FIELDS, FACTORIES AND WORKSHOPS, by Peter Kropotkin, Second Edition 1912

"To the division of society into brain workers and manual workers we oppose the combination of both kinds of activities; and instead of "technical education," which means the maintenance of the present division between brain work and manual work, we advocate the education integrale, or complete education, which means the disappearance of that pernicious distinction."

"Have the factory and the workshop at the gates of your fields and gardens, and work in them. Not those large establishments, of course, in which huge masses of metals have to be dealt with and which are better placed at certain spots indicated by Nature, but the countless variety of workshops and factories which are required to satisfy the infinite diversity of tastes among civilised men. Not those factories in which children lose all the appearance of children in the atmosphere of an industrial hell, but those airy and hygienic, and consequently economical, factories in which human life is of more account than machinery and the making of extra profits, of which we already find a few samples here and there; factories and workshops into which men, women and children will not be driven by hunger, but will be attracted by the desire of finding an activity suited to their tastes, and where, aided by the motor and the machine, they will choose the branch of activity which best suits their inclinations."

"And, whosoever he might be--scientist or artist physicist or surgeon, chemist or sociologist, historian or poet--he would be the gainer if he spent a part of his life in the workshop or the farm (the workshop and the farm), if he were in contact with humanity in its daily work, and had the satisfaction of knowing that he himself discharges his duties as an unprivileged producer of wealth."

"THE two sister arts of agriculture and industry were not always so estranged from one another as they are now. There was a time, and that time is not so far back, when both were thoroughly combined; the villages were then the seats of a variety of industries, and the artisans in the cities did not abandon agriculture; many towns were nothing else but industrial villages. If the medieval city was the cradle of those industries which bordered upon art and were intended to supply the wants of the richer classes, still it was the rural manufacture which supplied the wants of the million, as it does until the present day in Russia, and to a very great extent in Germany and France. But then came the water-motors, steam, the development of machinery, and they broke the link which formerly connected the farm with the workshop. Factories grew up and they abandoned the fields. They gathered where the sale of their produce was easiest, or the raw materials and fuel could be obtained with the greatest advantage. New cities rose, and the old ones rapidly enlarged; the fields were deserted. Millions of labourers, driven away by sheer force from the land, gathered in the cities in search of labour, and soon forgot the bonds which formerly attached them to the soil. And we, in our admiration of the prodigies achieved under the new factory system, overlooked the advantages of the old system under which the tiller of the soil was an industrial worker at the same time. We doomed to disappearance all those branches of industry which formerly used to prosper in the villages; we condemned in industry all that was not a big factory.

True, the results were grand as regards the increase of the productive powers of man. But they proved terrible as regards the millions of human beings who were plunged into misery and had to rely upon precarious means of living in our cities. Moreover, the system, as a whole, brought about those abnormal conditions which I have endeavoured to sketch in the two first chapters. We were thus driven into a corner; and while a thorough change in the present relations between labour and capital is becoming an imperious necessity, a thorough remodelling of the whole of our industrial organisation has also become unavoidable. The industrial nations are bound to revert to agriculture, they are compelled to find out the best means of combining it with industry, and they must do so without loss of time.

To examine the special question as to the possibility of such a combination is the aim of the following pages. Is it possible, from a technical point of view? Is it desirable? Are there, in our present industrial life, such features as might lead us to presume that a change in the above direction would find the necessary elements for its accomplishment? Such are the questions which rise before the mind. And to answer them, there is, I suppose, no better means than to study that immense but overlooked and underrated branch of industries which are described under the names of rural industries, domestic trades, and petty trades: to study them, not in the works of the economists who are too much inclined to consider them as obsolete types of industry, but in their life itself, in their struggles, their failures and achievements.

The variety of forms of organisation which is found in the small industries is hardly suspected by those who have not made them a subject of special study. There are, first, two broad categories: those industries which are carried on in the villages, in connection with agriculture; and those which are carried on in towns or in villages, with no connection with the land-the workers depending for their earnings exclusively upon their industrial work.

In Russia, in France, in Germany, in Austria, and so on, millions and millions of workers are in the first case. They are owners or occupiers of the land, they keep one or two cows, very often horses, and they cultivate their fields, or their orchards, or gardens, considering industrial work as a by-occupation. In those regions especially, where the winter is long and no work on the land is possible for several months every year, this form of small industries is widely spread…

Again, when the industrial, or rather technical aspects of the small industries are considered, the same variety of types is soon discovered. Here also there are two great branches: those trades, on the one side, which are purely domestic -- that is, those which are carried on in the house of the worker, with the aid of his family, or of a couple of wage-workers; and those which are carried on in separate workshops -- all the just-mentioned varieties, as regards connection with land and the divers modes of disposing of the produce, being met with in both these branches. All possible trades -- weaving, workers in wood, in metals, in bone, in india-rubber, and so on -- may be found under the category of purely domestic trades, with all possible gradations between the purely domestic form of production and the workshop and the factory…

The small industries are thus quite a world,
1which, remarkable enough, continues to exist even in the most industrial countries, side by side with the big factories. Into this world we must now penetrate to cast a glimpse upon it: a glimpse only, because it would take volumes to describe its infinite variety of pursuits and organisations, and its indefinitely varied connection, with agriculture as well as with other industries."

"Agriculture cannot be carried on without additional hands in the summer; but it still more needs temporary aids for improving the soil, for tenfolding its productive powers. Steam-digging, drainage, and manuring would render the heavy clays in the north-west of London a much richer soil than that of the American prairies. To become fertile, those clays want only plain, unskilled human labour, such as is necessary for digging the soil, laying in drainage tubes, pulverising phosphorites, and the like; and that labour would be gladly done by-the factory workers if it were properly organised in a free community for the benefit of the whole society. The soil claims that sort of aid, and it would have it under a proper organisation, even if it were necessary to stop many mills in the summer for that purpose. No doubt the present factory owners would consider it ruinous if they had to stop their mills for several months every year, because the capital engaged in a factory is expected to pump money every day and every, hour, if possible. But that is the capitalist's view of the matter, not the community's view.

As to the workers, who ought to be the real managers of industries, they will find it healthy not to perform the same monotonous work all the year round, and they will abandon it for the summer, if indeed they do not find the means of keeping the factory running by relieving each other in groups..." - Ibid.

"It has been proved that by following the methods of intensive market- gardening-partly under glass-vegetables and fruit can be grown in such quantities that men could be provided with a, rich vegetable food and a profusion of fruit, if they simply devoted to the task of growing them the hours which everyone willingly devotes to work in the open air, after having spent most of his day in the factory, the mine, or the study. Provided, of course, that the production of food-stuffs should not be the work of the isolated individual, but the planned-out and combined action of human groups."

"If you return to the soil, and co-operate with your neighbours instead of erecting high walls to conceal yourself from their looks; if you utilise what experiment has already taught us, and call to your aid science and technical invention, which never fail to answer to the call-look only at what they have done for warfare-you will be astonished at the facility with which you can bring a rich and varied food out of the soil. You will admire the amount of sound knowledge which your children will acquire by your side, the rapid growth of their intelligence, and the facility with which they will grasp the laws of Nature, animate and inanimate." – Chapter IX

This, then, is the answer to our problems of Shmitta.

If we were to apply technology wisely and well for the good of all workers, there is no upper limit either to how much we could produce in factories and no lower limit to the amount of time.
Likewise, in the book
FIELDS, FACTORIES AND WORKSHOPS Kropotkin discusses farming techniques that increased some produce as much as a hundred fold – in his time, with the technology of the beginning of the 20th C.


If we were to integrate farming and industrial or service work such that the one served the other, such that we were more rounded people and make technology work for us in both – we would produce an amount of agriculture unimaginable. We would be able to store and preserve so much fruit and vegetable product during the 5th and 6th years of the shmitta cycle that we would all enjoy the shmitta.

There would no longer be people whose entire income was based solely on farming. And so, they would not face shmitta with trepidation. They would anticipate the shmitta as a time of leisure during which they could cultivate a better society and edify themselves as individuals.
Neither would shmitta be for us a time of reduced enjoyment of produce that is so very essential to our health.


Moreover, we would not be putting ourselves at the mercy of other peoples to produce food for us once every seven years.

Shmitta is meant to be a blessing. It is not meant to be a punishment or a reason for factiousness among us.

We have been given the blessing of Me'ah She'arim (produce a hundredfold) if we go about our farming and our industry in justice and in a way that serves everyone, in a way that builds everyone.

Kropotkin has proven that promise was already possible in his time.

Surely, it is possible in ours.

Doreen Ellen Bell-Dotan, Tzfat, Israel
DoreenDotan@gmail.com

Sunday, October 14, 2007

URBAN KIBBUTZ

A quiet revolution is well underway in the Kibbutz Movement.

Literally hundreds of small Urban Kibbutzim, or K'vutzot as some call themselves due their small size, are springing up all over the country - most of them in development towns and in distressed neighborhoods.


They are models of mutual sufficiency based on cooperation .

You'll read a bit about the Urban Kibbutzim and K'vutzot on the following links. The second was written by a member of one of those k'vutzot.

http://tinyurl.com/24rtkv

http://tinyurl.com/2zj6yu

They are small groups of people who not only pool their resources, live their lives according to direct democratic principles that they carry out in their regular meetings; they devote their lives to helping others in distress.

A number of them have developed innovative programs of education for people of all ages.

Kibbutz Mehanchim (Educators) help youth at risk in the Hadar neighborhood of Chaifa. See:
http://tinyurl.com/2tgr9h Note that the article states that "the city (of Chaifa) called on 70 young people from all over the country, members of the Noar Haoved Vehalomed (Working and Learning Youth) youth movement, to establish an urban kibbutz to work with the neighborhood's at-risk youth. That means that they provided housing and initial services for the program to get underway.

Kibbutz Tamuz in Beit Shemesh (a rapidly developing town near Jerusalem) is the oldest of the Urban Kibbutzim. We visited Kibbutz Tammuz when it was about five years old. We were very impressed with the warmth and dedication of those young people. They had received a building from Amidar that was pretty run down and renovated it themselves. It is a pleasure to present an idea to you of how far they've gotten since and how much they contribut to Beit Shemesh:
http://tinyurl.com/ypxxg2

K'vutzat Re'ut is located in the housing project Gilo Aleph in Jerusalem. It is one of two urban Kibbutzim in Jerusalem. One of the Urban Kibbutzim in Jerusalem is entirely religious. It is called Reishit (The First).

The population of Kvutzat Re'ut is mixed - more and less religiously observant. They run a number of projects of neighborhood aid. Additionally, they have a beit midrash and a pre-army leadership training program (a mekhina). My son visited K'vutzat Re'ut when he was doing his pre-army leadership training course at Meitzar. Meitzar took their students to K'vutzat Re'ut because their program is so very good. : Please see their web site:
http://www.reut.org.il/

There are people that are considered "Friends of Urban Kibbutzim". While they are not members themselves, they support the programs and learn and work with the K'vutzot for the betterment of the environs.

I believe that the model of K'vutzat Re'ut would be perfect for poor and troubled small towns like Tzfat and the distressed neighborhoods of larger towns. K'vutzat Re'ut is all about Jewish learning and mutual tolerance.


I urge you to consider the information on the links I've provided.

Thank you for your consideration. The contribution that an Urban Kibbutz can make in the poor neighborhoods of Tzfat is inestimable. As they have found that the K'vutzot work best when they remain small, they tend to divide into two sister K'vutzot when they reach a certain size. We could have a K'vutzah in the Ofer Neighborhood, or thereabouts, and one in the poor areas of Cana'an.

If your town has not initiated contact with the youth movements about beginning an Urban K'vutza, nudge them.


Doreen Ellen Bell-Dotan, Tzfat, Israel

DoreenDotan@gmail.com

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

ANARCHO COMMUNISM LOGICAL CONCLUSION OF JEWISH LAW

Seeing the problems of Judaism with all my four eyes fixed and focused, I am not disheartened. Neither will I throw away the proverbial baby with the cliché bath water.

I know there is a God. My faith is in Humanity. That faith remains unshakeable.

The religion requires revision (in the sense of seeing it with new eyes), rehabilitation, restoration return to the Source, rekindling and rededication. That does not mean it should be trashed.

I wish I could discuss more examples with a general readership, but they pre-require intimate knowledge of the intricacies of Jewish Law.

This example is clear to all:

TRACTATE AVOT (PIRKEI AVOT, ETHICS OF THE FATHERS), Chapter V, Quotation 10 can be translated thus:

"There are four character types among people: S/He who says: "What is mine is yours and what is yours is mine", is an ignoramus; [s/he who says] "What is mine is mine and what is yours is yours" – this is the median characteristic; and some say that this is the characteristic of the people of Sodom; [s/he who says] "What is mine is yours and what is yours is yours" is a pious and benevolent person; [s/he who says] "What is yours is mine and what is mine is mine" is a wicked person."

Let's consider two points in the above paragraph. First, is it true that one who says" "What is mine is yours and what is yours is mine" is an ignoramus? Usually when one fluffs someone off as "an ignoramus", one knows that the person who holds the position has something important to say and doesn't want you to hear it. We may always suspect the motives of someone who calls another and "ignoramus" and presents another's position in their stead.

Second, let's consider how the quote defines a pious and benevolent person. S/He is someone who says "what is mine is yours and what is yours is yours". If the process of give and take stops with one person, then the possibility of private property might continue to exist. All proprietary entitlement transfers to the receiver, the pious and benevolent person having abnegated his or hers.

However, if the pious and benevolent person gives to someone who is likewise pious and benevolent, that person will say: "No! What is mine is yours and what is yours is yours!" In such a situation BOTH (or in the case of more than two people, all) have abnegated their rights to their property mutually, and in so doing have negated the concept of private property entirely.

The laws of commercial interaction called for in Judaism then, if we wish to be what our ideals hope for, leave us no recourse but the abolition of private property.

Anarcho-Communism, then, is the conclusion of Jewish Law taken to its logical last step.

I am NOT speaking of Marxist Communism, which is nothing other than State-owned property, as those of you who know my position are aware.

I am speaking, rather, in terms of Kropotkinian Anarcho-Communism – the utter abolition of property and currency. This is the only system of Anarchism that will allow for us to keep the Laws of Torah as they are written and as they are intended.

The intermediate forms of Anarchy, generally known as "Mutualism" and "Collectivism" will not fulfill the needs of the Jewish people, for they still retain either some degree private ownership of property or collective ownership of capital.

Doreen Ellen Bell-Dotan, Tzfat, Israel
DoreenDotan@gmail.com
PRIVATE PROPERTY - TRACTATE AVOT (PIRKEI AVOT, ETHICS OF THE FATHERS) Chapter V, Mishna 10

An interlocutor wrote me in response to my contention that to take part in banking, such as it exists today, is to partake in a Avayra (a transgression of Torah):

"Doreen:


I agree that the Israeli bank system is more than corrupt, and the choice of an American banker to be at top of it did not help at all...
But I have to inform you that our sages already 2000 years ago were aware that without interest no economy works and installed the Heter Iska (a Rabbinical injunction that purports to allow a transaction that the Torah forbids), which circumvents the biblical law.
So if you believe an alternative form of a bank may be of help - I don't argue about that.
But saying making an Aveyrah?
That's as selling the Chametz (leaven) on Pessach (Passover) or the agricultural produce in a Shmitta year (years when the fields must be left fallow), problem solved since long, reverting to the biblical written word reinterpreted by Chazal (the Sages), that - yes - that is an Aveyrah!"

I responded:

The very phrase "circumvents the biblical law" rankles.

I have been thinking about what is written here and have seen that it should be considered carefully, because what is written has profound implications for a banking system we Jews can call our own.

"There are four character types among men: He who says: "What is mine is yours and what is yours is mine", is an ignoramus; [he who says] "What is mine is mine and what is yours is yours" – this is the median characteristic; and some say that this is the characteristic of the people of Sodom; [he who says] "What is mine is yours and what is yours is yours" is a pious and benevolent person; [he who says] "What is yours is mine and what is mine is mine" is a wicked person." -
TRACTATE AVOT (PIRKEI AVOT) Chapter V, Mishna 10

Let's consider two points in the above paragraph. First, is it true that one who says" "What is mine is yours and what is yours is mine" is an ignoramus? Usually when one fluffs someone off as an "ignoramus", one knows that the person who holds the position has something important to say and doesn't want you to hear it. We may always suspect the motives of someone who calls another and "ignoramus" and presents another's position in their stead.

Second, let's consider how the Mishna defines a pious and benevolent person. He is someone who says "what is mine is yours and what is yours is yours". If the process of give and take stops with one person, then the possibility of private property might continue to exist.

However, if the pious and benevolent person gives to someone who is likewise pious and benevolent, that person will say: "No! What is mine is yours and what is yours is yours!" In such a situation BOTH (or in the case of more than two people) have negated the concept of private property entirely. They both (or all) abnegate the rights to their property mutually.

The laws of commercial interaction called for in Judaism then, if we wish to be what our ideals hope for, leave us no recourse but the abolition of private property.

Upon consideration we see that the only way in which to carry out the mitzvoth of Pesach without worry of huge amounts of food and value of food be lost and of the laws of Yovel (Jubilee) is not by heter mekhirim (Rabbinical injunctions "allowing" sales that the Torah forbids) and not by prozbul (Laws that circumvented the Torah in regard to the Jubilee), which are nothing but heroic intellectual exercises on the part of the Rabbis to protect their wealthy who were often their patrons, but by *the abolition of private property*.

Anarcho-Communism, then, is the logical conclusion of Jewish Law.

I am NOT speaking of Marxist Communism, which is nothing other than State-owned property.

I am speaking, rather, in terms of Kropotkinian Anarcho-Communism – the utter abolition of property and currency. This is the only system of Anarchism that will allow for us to keep the Laws of Torah as they are written and as they are intended.

The forms of Anarchy generally known as collectivism and mutualism will not fulfill the needs of the Jewish people, for they still retain either some degree private ownership of property or collective ownership of capital.

During Pesach when we are not allowed to own chametz it will not help us if the chametz is collectively owned. We would still be faced with the problem of what to do with it during Pesach.

Only when the grains in our silos belong to no one – when everyone takes what she or he needs and everyone gives what she or he can we fulfill Jewish Law.

The problems of the Yovel are solved entirely if there is no money lending, slavery or land ownership to begin with.

If we have harvested commonly the year before the shmitta, the land belonging to no one, we need not be concerned with problems of shmitta. We will have all that we need and no problems of ownership.

Our particularly Jewish system of banking, then, must be one of the mere distribution of commodities and services to all who need.

Our work itself will produce increasing wealth. There is no need for interest whatsoever.

This too can be readily understood by a general audience. I've translated the terms that are transliterated and added a bit of information in parentheses.

I'm posting it here to give an idea of how religion should be redeemed, not rejected.

Another interlocutor wrote:

"Actually, Doreen, (the Sage) Hillel (the Elder, 1st C. BCE to 1st C. CE) set up corporations because people stopped lending money to each other.
Hillel wanted to make sure the rich would lend (INTEREST FREE, as you know) to the poor. And Hillel, a Babylonian immigrant to Eretz Ysrael (the Land of Israel), was so POOR that when he couldn't PAY the ENTRY fee (later cancelled by R. El'azar B. 'Azariyah) for entering the yeshiva/beith midhrash (house of study), he climbed up onto the roof & listened through the skylight & nearly FROZE from the snow.

I know not a few amount of people who give 20% of the profits to tzedaqa (charity) because of the RABBIS & that money fills a LOT of cracks for weak people. PLEASE, if you are going to say something negative, better not to, but if you are going to do it anyway, make sure you cap it off w/something nice. It's so easy to destroy, but it's so much better to build."


I responded:

Read what you wrote and see the implications of it.

Hillel had the power to create a precedent that would institute a millennia-long "circumvention" of Torah.

Yet, he did not use that same power to compel the rich to continue lending to the poor.

Hillel had the power to take the Jewish people off course and go against the Word of God for over two thousand years. Yet you would have us believe that he could not have compelled the rich, who have always been a small minority, to continue to lend?

If we are to create a more just economic system, a more Jewish economic system, a more Torah-true economic system, and of course that will include an entirely new banking system; we must be entirely honest with ourselves and that will involve divesting ourselves of our mythology about the Rabbinical establishment, from its inception.

We will not throw out the proverbial baby with the cliche bathwater. Where they were right, they were right and what fits our reality, we must retain. But that which does not stand the test of time and the possibility we now face of eradicating poverty, we must dispose of.

There are all kinds of ways of giving. Tzeddakah (charity coming from the radical tzeddek -righteousness), as I have written, need not be monetary, and should not be. Tzeddakah can be educational, it can be emotional, it can be social. When we teach someone something s/he did not know, we have performed an act of Tzeddakah. When we give succor to someone in emotional straits, we give Tzeddakah. When we tell our wife who is pregnant with our third child that she is beautiful, we give Tzeddakah. When we tell our unemployed husband that we love, honor and admire him, we give Tzeddakah. There will always be ways of giving Tzeddakah. It need not involve the humiliation of the poor eating out of the hand of the rich.

While giving 20% of one's income if one can if honorable by today's standards, we can build a world in which we are all so whole as to be able to give much closer to 100% of ourselves.

There is no reason to "circumvent" Torah. It is not an obstacle. There is, however, a need to see it with new eyes.

Doreen Ellen Bell-Dotan, Tzfat, Israel
DoreenDotan@gmail.com


Tuesday, October 09, 2007

MUTUAL BANKING AND MUTUAL CREDIT

The descriptions of the Mutual Bank or Credit Union below are general.


They need to be tweaked to suit Jewish needs and this is a matter for Jews to sit down and discuss to decide how best this can be done.

As you can see, the idea is built upon the principle of free credit - and that is in line with Torah. The system of banking that we have today in Israel is wholly corrupt. Every time we make use of a commercial bank in Israel we commit an avayrah. We are FORBIDDEN to earn interest on a loan to another Jews. PERIOD. No if. No ands. No buts. No "heterim". Gornisht.

To partake in and support institutions Jewish usury is not less an avayrah than any other. Any Rabbi who tells you otherwise is getting his salary to do so from the establishment. More about that establishment at the end of this post.

Today, most Jews in Israel outside of Me'ah She'arim have to do business with commercial banks. We can, we must, change that. ASAP.

It is incumbent upon us as Jews to establish Mutual Banks based on Mutual Credit. The residents of Me'ah She'arim have such a banking system. I am sure that they would be delighted to instruct us how to implement and run a bank like that.

The bank should be commonly run, should have wholly open books and there should be a Board of Governers who sit for a short period of time, who are elected by the community and are subject to immediate recall if they do not carry out their duties in accordance with Hilkhot Mamonot and common decency.

This system will eventually supplant gemachim. Although people who run gemachim can be very helpful in the establishment of such a Mutual Bank. No one should have to borrow money from another person. We should all have what we need.

Let's get to the short overview then:

"Mutualists argue that free banking should be taken back by the people to establish systems of free credit. They contend that banks have a monopoly on credit, just as capitalists have a monopoly on land. Banks are essentially creating money by lending out deposits that do not actually belong to them, then charging interest on the difference. Mutualists argue that by establishing a democratically run mutual bank or credit union, it would be possible to issue free credit so that money could be created for the benefit of the participants rather than for the benefit of the bankers.

A credit union is a cooperative financial institution that is owned and controlled by its members. Credit unions differ from banks and other financial institutions in that the members who have accounts in the credit union are the owners of the credit union.Credit union policies governing interest rates and other matters are set by a volunteer Board of Directors elected by and from the membership itself. Only a member of a credit union may deposit money with the credit union, or borrow money from it. As such, credit unions have historically marketed themselves as providing superior member service and being committed to helping members improve their financial health.
Credit unions may be viewed as non-profit organizations, or alternatively as for-profit enterprises charged with making a profit for their members (who receive any profits earned by the cooperative in the form of dividends paid on savings, which are taxed as ordinary income, or reduced interest rates on loans). This debate reflects credit unions' unusual organizational structure, which attempts to solve the principal-agent problem by ensuring the owners and the users of the institution are the same people. In any case, credit unions generally cannot accept donations and must be able to prosper in a competitive market economy. "

My dear Brothers and Sisters: There is nothing more revolutionary than to be a true Jew. The heart and Soul of Judaism is revolt against corruption and the mechanisms that are generated from it.

From the day we were commanded to slaughter the sacred cows of Egypt, we were commanded to live a life of perpetual revolt against power of man over man and the idol worship that supports it.

When the State of Israel was declared the rich and politically powerful understood that if Judaism was given true expression that we would create a world-wide revolution. They were right on correct about that.

So, all the forces of Hell were unleashed against us: they support the Arabs to keep us in a constant state of war; they fluoridate our water so that we will be debilitated; they bankroll an army of "Rabbis" to teach us that which is not Torah and keep us very busy with made-up things to do so that we will not remember the voice we heard in Egypt and at Har Sinai. They keep us in economic straits and worries, they keep us in thrall in a million different ways.

Why have they gone to all that trouble and expense. Because NO ONE is more dangerous to a corrupt system than a real Jew. Nothing works against a real Jew to get him or her to cooperate with corruption - not the carrot and not the stick.

And so, my dear Brothers and Sisters, despite all that has been set against us - real Jews we must be. A real Jewish society we must build. Real solidarity we must return to - the solidarity that we knew when we were a young people.

We have to return to a time when authority was invested in people only on the basis of the love and the wisdom they proved. We have to return to the time of the Judges - the time before a State and a government was set over us. The Judges were known by their communities intimately. Their every character trait was seen by all. If they were not immaculately honest and straight they would not have been respected. Their honor was their only source of power - and that is the only correct source of power.

Read the Book of Sh'mu'el. We were not meant to be ruled by flesh and blood!

Because our society is so sick our Judaism too is sick, paltry and in our hearts we know, sadly, largely contrived. We will only be able to find our way back to the true Torah as we institute mechanisms of righteousness.

Today we turn to HaShem in our poverty, in our fear, in our insecurity, with our broken hearts and broken spirits and broken bodies, after having been traumatized - and we fall victim to the "Rabbis" who are working for the rich and politically powerful to lead us astray.

Would that we would turn to HaShem in our strength and in our love and in our security! Would that we would turn to HaShem in celebration of the bounty we live in!


I saw on Kibbutz that when every material and social need is provided for still there is a feeling that something is lacking. I saw on totally secular Kibbutzim synagogues being built and b'tei midrash being put together and study groups forming.

When we have provided for one another's human needs, when we all live in abundance and in solidarity, when our consciences and our hands are clean and we all earn our livings in dignity and with honor THEN and only then will we be in a position to return to the true Torah. It is so easy to begin. We form food co-ops and mutual aid projects. We form a mutual bank that provides mutual credit. Soon others will emulate us.

Let's begin NOW. For I tell you truly, it is we who must usher in the Messianic age.

Doreen Ellen Bell-Dotan, Tzfat, Israel
DoreenDotan@gmail.com

Monday, October 08, 2007

CO-OPS AND MUTUAL AID PROJECTS

Below you will find a link to a number of mutual aid projects that were undertaken in Ithaca, New York.

I am posting them here to give an idea of the kind of projects that a number of families in a community can undertake in order to make life more fun, more social, more economical, more efficient, to increase the number of services available in their communities and, most of all, to become more INDEPENDENT of elected officials by working together.

I cannot stress how detrimental the mentality of putting trust in politicians and government bodies to do for us that which we can do for ourselves is.

Politicians are parasites. They act at the behest of the rich, as is commonly known but also commonly accepted as a "fact of life". It need not be. They, like all parasites, weaken the host whose body they invade -in this case, the body of the citizenry. But the truth of the matter is, people abnegate their power and independence more than politicians arrogate them.

Where there are politicians there is no true democracy. There is only plutocracy. "Representative democracy" is not democracy at all. Only direct democracy, where people meet face-to-face and hammer out the issues that face all of us, eat out of a communal pot and whose destinies are tied one to the other is democracy that deserves the name. We are now living a farce – a very dangerous farce, a very dangerous self-delusion.

Of course, that abnegation is encouraged by politicians and people are made to feel weak and helpless. How many times and in how many ways, either directly or by implication, have you been called "weak" and "little" by politicians and by the press? Does the phrase "Joe Citizen" ring a bell and arouse a feeling of being put down? Those are psychological ploys designed to make you feel dependent and helpless. The message is ubiquitous and repetitive. But as Eleanor Roosevelt said: "No one can make you feel inferior without your consent." She also said: "If someone betrays you once, it's their fault; if they betray you twice, it's your fault." How many times have we been betrayed by politicians? Whose fault is it by this time?

There is power, and safety, in numbers. That is where co-ops and mutual aid programs come in.

People simply get together and, as a group on a rotating basis, supply one another with their everyday needs.

Vegetarian and health food co-ops are very popular, as I'm sure you know. People buy in bulk together, prepare the food together and dine together - all in a communal atmosphere of fun and conviviality.

But co-ops and mutual aid projects can do so much more than that.

A few ideas are to be found on the link below. They were undertaken in Itaca, New York; but with a little bit of tweaking they can be adapted to the needs of your community.

Most of all, co-ops and mutual aid programs will accustom people to working in solidarity one for all and all for one.

Those programmes confer a feeling of strength and mutual reliance without dependency.

They will wean the community from the unhealthy dependence upon politicians who, of every stripe and every party, have proven without exception that they cannot and will not improve matters.

We are responsible for one another. Only then can we flourish. Only then can we feel secure. Only then can we become fully adult and actualize our capacities. We become whole and independent individuals when we act with others in solidarity. We must be whole and strong in order to give and the giving makes us strong.

Please take a look at the programmes outlined on the link below.

One of them is not relevant to those who live in societies that have instituted socialized medicine. Most of the members on this list do not enjoy socialized medicine and the idea of a group working together to obtain insurance for all is a terrific one.

These programs should gradually supplant charities. In this way everyone is giving and everyone receiving. Living this way we all give and receive in dignity and in bounty.

Gradually, these programs will lead us in the direction of comprehensive mutual sufficiency that will phase out all need for politicians.

http://tinyurl.com/2xtwfj

Doreen Ellen Bell-Dotan, Tzfat, Israel
DoreenDotan@gmail.com

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