Regarding the Crisis

From our Russian comrades’ paper, Dyelo Truda, published in America, we borrow the following, slightly abbreviated article.

Not everybody is an idealist and revolutionary and not everybody understands where the root of the evil lies and how life can be organized on the basis of justice and liberty. The majority still clings to the line of least resistance and adapts to its surroundings. Which is how the day to day struggle of a vanguard carries on amid the petty existence and resignation of the greater number. Nevertheless, the workers embroiled in struggle have now been joined by the farmers, whose lot is no more to be envied and to whom the government has made great promises that it never gets around to delivering upon.

Whilst struggling, the farmers and the proletariat seek to adapt to current conditions. In lots of locations around the United States we see a reversion to barter, driven by necessity. In 20 states already there are 140 about exchanges in operation and through these 200,000 unemployed obtain the goods they need to survive. Los Angeles county has 80 such exchanges: 100,000 jobless have also embraced them in Washington state. In the state of Utah, there is an association delivering 5,000 dollars’ worth of basic goods in return for days worked. In Minneapolis, Dr Maxlenbourg [Dr Mecklenburg] has organized the unemployed into an association wherein the means of exchange are paper money, endorsed and bearing the seal of the Unemployed Union. That paper money is issued and accepted by the bank set up by the Association and run by unemployed bank workers. Beside the Bank there is a consumer deport where the 1,500 members can obtain everything they require in return for paper money; but it sells only products produced by members of the Union: clothing, footwear, vegetables sugar, flour, bread, etc. On account of unemployment, a lot of stores and workshops have shut down. The Unemployed Union has availed of their tools in order to produce what they need to survive each day. The work is carried out by trade and by guilds, each with its own specialists. This brand-new experiment in cooperativism is proving very popular.

We might also mention the New York Exchange Association which, order to enact mutual aid by means of traded services, accommodation, machinery, raw materials, etc., has reached out to farmers, industrial workers, layers, economists, engineers, etc. Members of the Association provide work to one another and they also use the Association’s own paper currency. At its head is a magistrate, K. Klark [Clark].

In [the district of] Columbia and Carolina barter is also practised by a special association which issues credit notes to people who surrender their goods to it.  Those credit notes can be traded for other goods, services or labour. A farmer might hand a cow over to the Association and be issued with a credit note for 20 dollars. The membership of the Association includes workers, peasants, employees and there is even a lawyer and a stenographer, etc. This notion of natural barter was envisaged by Proudhon also in the form of his Exchange Banks.

Such attempts by the unemployed to orchestrate mutual aid can hardly offer a solution to the crisis, but they can secure a few life-lines for them.  Nevertheless, this all gets them used to the organizing of social work. The problems, all in all, are not going to be solved other than by means of the social revolution, doing away with all exploitation, all enslavement, all of man’s oppression of his fellow-man and making every one a free producer.

From: Le Réveil (Geneva) 18 Novembre 1933. Translated by: Paul Sharkey.