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An instrument to build peace
|An instrument to build peace
|by Agustí Chalaux i de Subirà
|Collection: Bullae 1 - 2nd edition: Barcelona, July 1997|
- 1. Introduction
- 2. Currency and telematics two instruments for the benefit of whom?
- 3. Currency as an abstract unit of measurement
- 4. Currency as a concrete commodity, with an intrinsic value
- 5. Possibilities of the telematic cheque-invoice
- 6. The connection between anonymous money and militarist imperialism
The noble ideals of Peace, Liberty and Justice in the world have to find, in order to be developed, cultural, economic, social and political structures.
The struggle to gain these ideals, through intelligent and active non-violence, cannot only consist with a simple denunciation of injustice, oppression and war. Non-cooperation and civil disobedience must lead us to a constructive programme, a concrete alternative.
A struggle which is merely «anti-» anything, without a global alternative frame of reference, often turns out to be futile. It seems that the simple convergence of a multitude of groups carrying out sporadic struggles (pacifists, ecologists, feminists, antimilitarists, nature-lovers) cannot beget an alternative movement capable of creating a new global model of society.
Nor, seemingly, does it suffice to herald a new kind of values, thoughts and relations to build a new civilization. A transformation of culture and mentalities is capital, but without the structures to develop it, remains confined to tiny minorities, often out of touch with the general level of consciousness.
In the polemics between ideals and structures, the following comparison could apply: ideals are energy, and structures are the engine. The ideals put the structures to work, but it is clear that structures are needed which will not impede these ideals, but rather, foster their development in current, day to day practice.
In searching for these structures, the phenomena behind them must be analyzed. Such an analysis may be approximated through the «experimental scientific method», making it possible not only to analyze, but to asses and, naturally, to test phenomena.
Application of the «pro-experimental scientific method» to phenomena (and not to ideas), has given excellent results in physics, chemistry, biology, electronics... These results are wielded ideologically for or against peace, freedom and justice, according to the interests and the groups controlling the scientific process, and above all, its process of technical application. So greatly is the scientific process manipulated, that we tend to associate «technical science» with pollution, the arms race, police control, oppression...
Despite these negative and threatening factors, it cannot be denied that application of the «pro-experimental scientific method» on phenomena permits an objective grasp of reality, untangling it from ideologies and solving pseudo-philosophical polemics which twist the reality and are employed as power tools.
When a phenomenon can be observed, analyzed, precisely assessed and tested, there is not a single scientist worthy of that name who would choose to continue viewing these phenomena with preconceived ideas, idealistic visions or approximate statistical estimates. This attitude, characteristic of the bio-physical sciences, is generally abandoned when the problems to be salved are economic, social and political. The organization of mankind is considered in the same way as that of astronomy before Copernicus: «the Earth is the centre of the Universe», by definition!
It is not enough simply to state our ideals. Often they are branded utopic, without analyzing the reasons why. That is to say, it is not enough to call for peace, justice, freedom, the classless society, anarchy, communism, elimination of the State, of property, the army, money, goods, male chauvinism, and pollution...
Along with these ideals, it is necessary to see how the present chaos evolved in the course of human development, and search out the major causes, which have stemmed from other states of chaos. Simple and practical means must be found to shed light on these chaotics situations, one by one, so that they may become comprehensible.
It is not enough to yearn for revolution; it is necessary to know how to proceed from the present, and how to influence structures, relying on concrete tools to solve each problem. To sieze power, without the mechanisms to destroy power, only perpetuates it. Sooner or later, the crimes and consequences of violent revolutions come home to roost. Simplistic class or ideological positions impose an idealistic view of reality which negates much of the wealth and wisdom accumulated by mankind over the centuries.
Today, an active and intelligent non-violent revolution is a possibility, but it must be open and non-sectarian, helping to create the instrumental new rules of the game, without need for blood and fire to hold sway. In setting out to wipe out poverty and power, the people must be offered practical strategies which will give rapid results in terms of solidarity and auto-pacification, and generate reasonable optimism and raised spirits.
In this expose, very briefly, we suggest some of the points we feel to be fundamental to advance in a concrete manner toward peace, with freedom and justice.
2. Currency and telematics two instruments for the benefit of whom?
In all human phenomena, those related with the production and distribution of the essential goods of life play a decisive role in many human relations. The search for the greatest possible clarity and responsibility from both the market and society is one of the fundamental objectives of any economic, social or political proposition.
Faced with the persistent reality that «where there is a law, there is a way to break it», and «information is power», historical materialism has shown us that concrete tools must be sought to render this clarity and responsibility possible from both the market and society, failing which any change is condemned to failure with the persistence of human domination and poverty.
Today there are two especially important instruments: currency and telematics.
Currency is an age-old instrument, which has been used to impede informative clarity of the market and society for only the last 4,500 years or so; permitting anonymity, irresponsibility and corruption, it is the basis of the hidden and real power known as «plutarchy». Currency has not been appreciated in the last few centuries as a decisive instrument to induce clarity and responsibility from the market and society. It is now, and with the help of an inert instrument such as telematics, that it may acquire its true dimension.
Telematics are being used as an instrument of power and oppression, on the basis of a monopoly of knowledge concentrated in «data banks». The possibilities of the «information processing network» revolution, either for freedom or oppression, are immense. A simple «anti-information processing» stand will neither curb its expansion nor, in fact, prevent a monopoly of information by the powers that be, against the people.
Currency and telematics being inert instruments, their present functions which benefit the hidden powers may be redefined, with the aim of turning them into effective instruments:
1. Replacing «the present anonymous currency» with the «telematic cheque-invoice».
- Anonymous currency allows groups using corruption, power, pressure and repression to «play foul»...; it favours illegal acts and is «disinformative», with all of the anti-social effects that this implies.
- The «telematic cheque-invoice» is a manually or electronically written document providing an exhaustive account of each commercial act which personalizes the «buying-selling» agents, thus making them accountable. In the case of invoices, the «telematic cheque-invoice» documents the goods interchanged, along with their monetary value. In the case of cheques, it gives the order of payment for transfers from one current account to another.
2. Socializing all of the market's monetary-telematics information, with the exception of personal references.
- With the «telematic cheque-invoice», a complete intra-accounting is possible. A socialization of all of the market's telematic information, for the benefit of and accessible to all, would allow exhaustive statistico-analytical processing permiting a lucid economic strategy and an experimental sciences-type treatment of economic phenomena.
3. Protecting individual, family, business and institutional privacy for Justice, genuinely independent from the State, and solely responsible for the personalized telematics archives.
- The «ministry» of Justice is a superfluous ministry, in which «pressures» are exerted against Judges and Magistrates who seek to respect their vocation of independence. As a result, the bureaucracy uses telematic information for fiscal repression and police control of the people, who are unable to protect themselves.
- Justice, were it really and «budgetarily» independent of the State, incorruptible with anonymous money and required to justify the sentences meted out, could become an element of confidence for the entire population, and shed light upon conflicts.
As an indication, some of the key elements of the study carried out, are discussed below, along with the propositions derived therefrom.
3. Currency as an abstract unit of measurement
In societies where, owing to their complexity and the type of productive relations, exchanges of necessary goods occur, the market appears: a place for the exchange of goods. As the market grows, equivalencies must be found for exchanges of goods: primitive currency appears as an abstract unit of measurement which, being freely assigned to goods, confers the value of prices, salaries and money. (The latest research on the origins of writing in southwest Asia point to the existence, as early as 8,500 AD, of monetary instruments without any intrinsic value, used to measure the value of exchanges and identify goods, gradually personalizing the market's «agents». (See «Scientific American» no. 238, June 1978: «The earliest precursor of writing», Denise Schmandt-Besserat  and «Investigación y Ciencia» no. 91, April 1984, «Números y medidas...» Joran Friberg).
The bullae were in the 5th-4th Millennia B.C. what we now call a «cheque-invoice»; they were clay bags, more or less rounded, full of different clay figures which represented currency, and were sealed on the outside as a symbol of the trade operations, in the context of a complex accounting system, which we can consider as the forerunners of the famous cuneiform tablets, and therefore of writing. According to all the encyclopaedias, the red Temple at Uruk, the oldest Sumerian bank, for the time being, which we know through archaeology, has complete bank files lasting 200 years (-3400 to -3200).
4. Currency as a concrete commodity, with an intrinsic value
Roughly 4,500 years ago, currency became a concrete commodity with an intrinsic value (gold, silver), losing its character as a purely abstract unit of measurement, and its documental personalizing quality. As a concrete commodity, metallic currency has proved inadequate in the face of an ever-growing market, and has had a negative influence on productive possibilities and consumption capacity; its intrinsic anonymity has permitted foul play, corruption, theft, hypocrisy, and concealed power... witnessed by the history of the last four thousand years.
The financing needs of the war of 1914 forced a separation of gold and silver currencies. Bank notes were declared obligatory and unconvertible tender. Currency thus lost its intrinsic value, and over the century became gradually «dematerialized». The crisis of confidence brought about by this new inflationist form of money was a factor in the depression of 1929: to solve it, the States embarked upon a spiralling militarism and unbridled arms race... and finally, the Second World War.
In August 1971, Nixon took the unilateral decision to free the dollar from the gold-exchange standard. By 1973 the economic crisis thus provoked was in full swing, with parallel inflationist factors producing similar effects. Increasingly, currency is becoming bank credit, (annotations in current accounts, and more recently, simple electronic impulses), but even with its intrinsic value gones it, continues to permit anonymity and «disinformation» to a great extent.
The irrationality of present monetary systems makes it impossible to identify all of the characteristics of each concrete exchange of goods, and does not permit an «ex-actis» understanding of what is occurring in macro-economy. The failure to exactly identify each elementary phenomenon inhibits the application of economic theories with the rigour found in experimental science. Statistical estimates, based on partial data, yield a sum total of accumulated errors. Approximative methods are abandoned in any science when an exact and exhaustive identification of each elementary concrete phenomenon is possible.
5. Possibilities of the telematic cheque-invoice
A rationalization of currency presupposes the legal disappearance of all bank notes, coins, checks, letters of credit and so forth, and their replacement with what we previously referred to as «telematic cheque-invoice».
The cheque-invoice permits simple legislation guaranteeing payment in all cases of insolvency or nonconformity, as well as the automatic collection of a single social solidarity tax, more advantageous than the present complicated fiscal systems.
The personalization inherent in the «cheque-invoice» as a single legal currency creates an increase in documented liability for free acts in the market and in society. The legal mechanisms can be established so that commercial money is not transformed into political power, liberal knowledge is not transformed into social power, and command structures are not transformed into power over individuals or social and national entities.
With exhaustive information on the economy, and the resulting fiscal simplification, extreme poverty could soon be eliminated, with minimal solidarity wages. This would be the first step toward the elimination of money-based classes, and the cultural misery which they produce.
The «cheque-invoice» permits exact global intra-accounting when the information from each elementary exchange is introduced into the telematics network. Thus, both capitalist «chaos» and centralized «planning» can be avoided, owing to the fact that information is socialized; that is, within the free and easy reach of every citizen. (Consequently, «Socialization» is the opposite of a «State takeover», or the monopoly of information by the state.)
It appears that with the information provided by the «telematic cheque-invoice», the «Leontief Tables», a highly accurate instrument for orienting market strategy, could easily be completed with exact data. Furthermore, Plato's hypotheses of the «common commercial good», Marx's «surplus (market) value» and the «residual factor» of contemporary economists could be precisely formulated and put to the test: should they be borne out, the «common good» could be equitably distributed for the people's benefit, in the form of social solidarity wages and community credits.
Today, this instrumental change in currency is technically possible. From the people's standpoint, it would be no more complex than the change involved in the institution of the «decimal metric system». The fact that this change was not introduced earlier is due not only to the fact that today —and only today— is it technically possible, but to the profits created for those who, over the last 4,500 years, have understood and exercised «the creation and appropriation of money».
With telematics, technological dynamics are turning bank currency into a personalizing document, figuring in an abstract account. But as long as anonymous money is not eliminated, foul play in certain to persist. Furthermore, the information provided by telematics will be used for fiscal and police control, remaining limited to the bureaucratic nuclei of legal power and the plutarchic nuclei of hidden financial power.
Information is power. New «rules of the game» must be established so that the entire population may have free access to all precise macroeconomic information. The use of telematics must be reversed to avoid what could be one of history's worst tyrannies: the «Telematics State».
It is practically impossible to arrest the cybernetics revolution, but it is possible to propose an alternate model in wich the information relating to all monetary phenomena is for the benefit of all. It is necessary that the telematics network and its information concerning individuals do not depend on the State. The latter, just like any citizen, can have access to the information necessary for «government» or for «cybernetics» but has no control over personal information, which would be in the hands of a truly independent Justice, like a «professional secret».
6. The connection between anonymous money and militarist imperialism
Without the millstone represented by anonymous currency, all conflicts could be examined and effectively resolved one by one: unemployment, inflation, dangerous cities, centralization, pollution, public services...
Only a free confederation of ethnic groups and nations can arrive at a pacification of the federated geo-political community. Only with the elimination of poverty, in a climate of freedom, can social conflicts be extinguished. Only on the basis of a balanced trade among federal communities, free of imperialism and dependency, can world peace be fostered.
The polemics between «freedom» and «justice», or between «poor countries» and «rich countries» will not be resolved by ideological stands or speeches. According to our hypothesis, any effort to create social structures promoting free social solidarity which does not take account of currency's critical importance as an informative and responsibility-generating instrument will rapidly degenerate, to the benefit of hidden power beyond the people's control, into political gambits and speculation in the international market effectively thwarting any attempted change.
This hypothesis appears to be borne out by a curious fact: recent research has shown that war is not inherent to the human species, but rather, an «invention» which is no more than 13,000 years old. The «imperial cities» of southwest Asia, owing to the impenetrability of their walls, lived in relative peace for almost 6,000 years. It was precisely during this period that abstract account currency developed, as we have seen, as an informative and responsibility-generating factor. The singularity of this fact lies in the concurrence of dates of the appearance of the concrete silver and gold currency and the appearance of the first Imperialism of Babylonia, which without offensive weaponry with which to demolish those walls, rapidly annexed most of the former «imperial cities». Babylonia became an example of paid and anonymous treachery, corruption, prostitution, and the power of future forms of imperialism.
This connection between anonymous currency and militarist imperialism is an historical hypothesis which can only be tested and substantiated if we return to the primitive but updated «cheque-invoice»: the potential medium and long-term social results —whether or not imperialism were eliminated, the people gradually pacified, and theft, corruption, poverty and war eradicated— would be the confirmation or confutation of this hypothesis.
At times when the gravity of certain dangers often drives us to activism, knowing where to direct one's energies depends on a more accurate view of phenomena, and an appropriate strategy: the best practice is a good theory.
These propositions are not utopic from the standpoint of present techniques. They are, however, as a political possibility.
Each society and community must make a critique, and examine a concrete application there of to its cultural, technical, economic and political reality. It is the people's own energy which can bring about the necessary changes, but it is necessary to know the instruments through which the people's energy can fulfil their ideals and desires. Here we have proposed a few.
This is our humble contribution to the search for the structures and means enabling us, at this historical time, to draw a little closer to peace, with freedom and justice.
1. Edition in Spanish of «Scientific American»
1st edition: Barcelona, 1 July of 1984. Centre d'Estudis Joan Bardina
2nd edition: Barcelona, July 1997. Escola Finaly