The community of property. Collectivization of the product of labor.

In our economic ideal we consider the product of human labor as a common good to which each one contributes according to his capacity and from which each one takes according to his need. But this system is only sustainable in conditions of abundance. In conditions of scarcity, there is no choice but to resort to other economic models, such as collectivism and mutualism, which are also based on freedom.

Scarcity forces us to ration the social product of work, that is, it forces us to measure it and distribute it. In these cases, the collectivist and mutualist economies have always defended that the only tolerable measure of the value of work contributed by each one of us to society is time, since an hour of our life is just as valuable as an hour of the life of others. If we think this applies to society as a whole, it should apply even more so to our communities. In fact, one of the fundamental motivations for building communities is to demonstrate that our way of thinking is feasible. Where there is no collectivization of the product of labor there is no free community. There will be a shared dwelling, an affinity group or any other type of association, but not a community.

The goal of our collectivizations will be to achieve the degree of abundance sufficient to put the total community of goods and services into practice.

Work in Hebra

We can contribute our time to Hebra in any of these three lines of work:

1. Wage earner/remunerated. They are activities outside the community, either salaried, as freelancers or in self-managed productive projects.

2. Reproductive. These are the community’s own activities framed in what the feminist economy calls “reproductive work”. Activities traditionally assigned (by the patriarchy) to women and not remunerated in the capitalist market such as care, cleaning, cooking, etc., as well as self-managed community projects that are aimed at achieving self-sufficiency (food, energy, etc.), although in their initial phases these can also serve to obtain resources through commercial exchange.

3. Exchange. They are also activities of the commune but are characterized by having an interaction with the outside. For example, orchards, nursery school, workshops (carpentry, mechanics, etc.).

None of the three lines is more important than the other[1]. To determine the proportion of time spent on them, both individually and globally, we have to assess our personal possibilities and motivations and the community needs of the moment. Nor have we yet set a minimum number of working hours that we will contribute to Hebra, although it is agreed that there will be a minimum[2]. The product will be placed in the common heap and distributed as seen in the Assembly. Wage earners will contribute euros; orchards, vegetables; cooks, rich dishes, etc.

Internal and external accounting: calculation of the product of the work

Productivity, the amount of euros or lettuce that each can contribute in an hour, is a minor issue for us. For several reasons. To begin with, we start from the principle of trust. Not only in each colleague, who will know better than anyone else what her working capacity is at all times, but in the Assembly as a body for resolving conflicts on the issue. On the other hand, productivity does not always depend on us, but there are other people’s circumstances that completely distort the concept. This is evident in cases where the capitalist market is interfering, for example, wage labour. There may be wage earners such as waitresses who will charge 4€ per hour and other wage earners such as administrative assistants who will charge 10€ per hour. This has nothing to do with productivity, not even with the social utility of labour, but with the supply and demand of labour in the capitalist labour market. The same will happen with “exchange work”. The normal thing about self-managed projects is that they are deficit in their initial phases. To give you an idea, Los Merlas (compas of a similar agro-ecological project) did not charge more than 200€ per month per head during the project’s three years of activity, that is, about 1.70€ per hour[3].For internal accounting purposes, what the three hypothetical companions (waitress, administrative assistant and farmer) would have to put in the common pot would be €4, €10 and €1.70, respectively, the product of one hour of their work[4].

In our community relations we are very clear that an hour of paid work is worth the same as an hour of reproductive work or exchange. The unit of measure is the hour. What is put in the middle, in the common pot, is the product of work measured by hours, not by euros. That is our internal accounting.

However, we will also have to keep external accounting, which is what we will be asked to do in the capitalist world, where everything is measured in euros and the value of Hebra’s reproductive works is equal to 0€. This is the accounting that the banks and the Treasury, for example, will require of us, and the one that we will have to use to make viability plans. When it comes to confronting expenses made in euros in the capitalist market (BBVA’s mortgage, Iberdrola’s electricity, El Canal’s water, etc.) we can only account for income in euros, that is, from salaried and productive work. However, we must never forget that these are capitalist calculation tools that do not correspond to our internal accounting, in which the item “reproductive work” is fundamental.

[1] Although, obviously, we hope to get rid of the wage system as soon as possible. For the rest, as far as labor activities are concerned, there is no one more important than the other in Hebra. Any work, however singular it may seem, is always a link in the social work chain. The architect would be nothing without the pocera and these would be nothing without the farmer or the doctor, who provides them with food and care, etc.

[2] As a guideline, in the lecture on work in Hebra, 30 hours per week were proposed.

[3] We have used this data as a reference because possibly one of the first options to be taken into account in the section on exchange work in Hebra is a vegetable garden project.

[4] A clarification regarding the euros that the salaried companions would have to pay into the communal boat. If the agreement were to provide Hebra with the product of the 30-hour work, a colleague with a 30-hour working day and a net salary of €1,000 would have to pay this amount in full. But a colleague with a 40-hour working day and a net salary of €1,000 would only have to pay €750, the equivalent of 30 hours. The remaining €250 is outside the EU agreement and, obviously, I could do with it whatever I wanted.