This is the second of a series of jobs that will hopefully become available this year.
I started Lowimpact.org (as LILI) in 2001, and if I could condense what I’ve learned since then into one sentence, it would be: ‘we’re headed for an enormous crash unless we change direction’. We’re damaging ecology, which keeps us alive – a crazy thing to do. Capitalism is primed to grow, because of fractional reserve banking, the stock market and compound interest, and that growth means more and more damage. There’s nothing that can be done to reform it to stop it growing – because if it stopped growing, it wouldn’t be capitalism any more, it would just be a market – which is fine. It’s got to go. Banks and corporations are capitalism’s heavies. They crush the small-scale, the mutual and the independent; they lock the majority into capitalism through mortgages, jobs, credit cards and advertising; and they buy the political system. They don’t want to have the conversation about replacing capitalism with something better, because it’s made them rich and powerful. (NB: This is nothing to do with individuals within the corporate system – it’s about the system itself).
So we have to take power from the corporate system. That’s not possible via the parliamentary route, because it’s been bought. It’s not possible through violent revolution either – Bakunin told Marx that power taken with violence will be kept with violence, and he was right. But Marx showed that ideas can change the world, even though his was not the right idea.
There are global networks and individuals doing great things – Transition, Permaculture, credit unions, local currencies, community-supported agriculture, housing co-ops, worker co-ops, Fair Trade, community-owned renewables, WWOOF, La Via Campesina, natural builders, growers, makers, writers, teachers. We’re totally in support of this movement, which could form the basis of a better society. To do that however, it will have to challenge corporate power – and that’s not happening. The corporate world doesn’t even know that most of it even exists, and its grip on the global economy gets tighter each year. Anything that is incremental, takes a long time and relies on the hard work of relatively few individuals suffers from two problems. Firstly, people burn out or give up, and there are not enough high-quality people to take over. Secondly, they can see it coming a mile off and crush it or buy it. Remember the Body Shop, Green & Black’s and Ben & Jerry’s? They were going to kick-start a whole different way of doing business. They now belong to L’Oreal, Cadbury’s and Unilever respectively. And capitalism just swallowed the Co-op Bank whole.
So, those initiatives are great for outlining what society could look like, but not enough to get us there. Something needs to happen that involves a lot more people, and (crucially) is quick – revolutionary, in other words. Russell Brand may be wrong about a lot of things, but he’s right about this – we need systemic change via some sort of (non-violent) revolution. It could emerge from the network of initiatives that are already happening, or it could be a new idea – like Marx’s (only better).
What we want to achieve
So we have an idea that we want to try to spread. It’s based on something we’re doing already, called ‘Philosophy Club’. A group of us have been doing it for nearly two years in London, and it’s fun. It’s not ‘anti’ anything, it has no ideology and it’s not hard work. It involves getting together in each other’s homes to eat, drink and talk philosophy – and party afterwards. What’s not to like?
The idea behind it is to create a network of people getting together in each other’s homes and talking about what we’re going to do – and eventually choosing representatives from face-to-face contact to go on to meetings covering wider areas, and begin to build a parallel system. I’m writing a book, someone else is building a website, and it’s set to launch at the end of this year or the beginning of next. If this particular idea doesn’t work, we can continue to meet in each other’s homes, and talk about what might be a better one.
What we want to achieve, ultimately, is a better system for choosing our leaders.
How we want to do it
Lowimpact.org now knows and is known by thousands of people, doing really good things individually and in networks all over the UK, and in other countries. You’re probably one of them. We’d like to reach more of those people, and form a larger network to help people change their lives, to help small businesses get more customers at the expense of the corporate sector, and to spread the ‘Philosophy Club’ idea.
Where you come in
So we’re offering paid work for someone who wants to help us to do that.
If you’re the right person, what’s written above will make sense – that’s the first and most important thing. We’re looking for someone who’s committed to change. You will have good technical knowledge – especially in IT and social media. You’ll also be a good writer, a compulsive proof-reader, and if you have experience of publishing, that would be a bonus – it’s not essential though, as we’ll train you. You can work remotely – we can have Skype meetings, although it would be good to meet up occasionally in London.
The job has two aspects. Firstly, publishing. You’ll be liaising with potential authors, proof reading, editing and preparing books via print-on-demand (POD), with Lightning Source, and working to produce all our publications as ebooks. The aim is to produce two new books per year. Secondly – blogging, writing content for the website, and brainstorming about how best to do the things I mentioned above.
Another person could join us relatively soon, focusing on promotion.
How you get paid
You’ll have to be self-employed or have your own company, and you’ll invoice monthly. You’ll be paid £500 per month initially, and this represents one day’s work per week (i.e. around £30k pro rata). If it works well, it could soon start to rise to £1000 per month, which will represent 2 day’s work per week. After that, it depends on our income and your commitments, but it could continue to grow into a full-time job, and you could become a staff member if that’s preferable. The work will be completely flexible. You’ll organise your own activities, based on our discussions, and choose when you do them.
If you wanted to, you could top up your income by recruiting to the network. It works like this, and you could keep the subs you recruit for the first year. All money raised will only ever be used to achieve the aims outlined above. You could do this job even if you don’t get the job advertised here. Let us know if you’re interested.
What to do next
Contact us with 500 words or less on how you think we could best achieve the aims outlined above, and why you’re the best person to help do it. We’ll respond to everyone, and interview three people in London. Deadline for applications is Feb 15th.
The views expressed in our blog are those of the author and not necessarily lowimpact.org's
1Peter Richardson January 28th, 2015
Dave, you wrote “So we have to take power from the corporate system. That’s not possible via the parliamentary route, because it’s been bought.” I agree with the first part of that statement – yes we do have to take power away from corporations. I disagree with the second part.
I’d say instead that it will be *hard* to take back power via parliamentary democracy, because, yes, corporations buy influence in the current political system, and money wins elections.
But it’s not impossible. Taking the example of the Green Party, which doesn’t receive corporate donations and is against non-stop economic growth and other bad things, yet the Green Party now has one MP and three MEPs in the UK, and its membership is currently undergoing a massive surge, overtaking other traditional parties such as the LibDems.
It will also be a long difficult job to take power away from corporations via a grass roots systemic change along the lines of the Philosophy Club – but just because it will be hard I don’t say “It Won’t Work So Don’t Try”. I say “Yes, try that, we need to try to bring about massive change by all the peaceful means that we can”.
Trying to make a change via a grass roots movement AND via the existing parliamentary system (by supporting the Green Party for example) doubles our chances of success. That’s my view, and why I continue to vote Green and stand as a Green in elections.
2Dave Darby January 28th, 2015
Yes, the Green Party are great people, but imagine if they came to power (and let’s face it, that’s a huge, huge ask – especially as the corporate media will go to town on them if it looks likely) – what could they really do? Yes, they could close corporate tax avoidance loopholes, fund the NHS properly, have a proper stab at meeting our carbon emissions targets etc. – all of which would be great. But could they do something that the corporate empire really, really didn’t want to happen – try to stabilise the economy, for example? International investors would have their money out of the country in seconds, and we’d be bankrupt. I don’t think there’s a way for national institutions to control international institutuions, and the corporate sector have made sure that they control international institutions so that there’s nothing to challenge their power on the global level.
I’ll probably vote Green in the end, because it sends a message about ecology and economic growth – but I’m worried that voting at all gives legitimacy to a parliamentary system that disguises where real power lies.
3Dave Darby January 28th, 2015
Just seen this – http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2015/jan/28/convictions-politics-fear-syriza-podemos-snp-green. It seems that the Greens would end fractional reserve banking if elected. That’s got to be worth a vote for the Greens, just to get that on the agenda. Still have the reservations above about voting at all though.
4Malcolm Ramsay February 1st, 2015
I agree about the need to take power from the corporate system but, like Peter (though from a different angle), I question the comment about not being able to do it via the parliamentary route. As I see it, the strength of the corporate system doesn’t lie in the fact that people choose to support it, it lies in the fact that fundamental laws undermine our ability to live outside it (laws governing land ownership and taxation/money-supply in particular). Those laws aren’t going to be changed without either capturing Parliament or pushing past it somehow.
I think the chances are pretty slim that a political party with an agenda of viable radical reform will get power through conventional electoral means (because thoughtful policies tend to get drowned out in the existing electoral process). Pushing past Parliament basically means getting the courts to recognise some other body as sovereign. I do think that’s a possibility, but only if Parliament has undeniably failed – i.e if it’s been confronted with arguments it can’t answer but has refused to act on them – and in practice I think Parliament would recognise the danger and would in fact bring in the necessary reforms itself.
In my opinion, if we want to make peaceful revolution possible, we have to do all we reasonably can to get Parliament to change things first. That means offering safe solutions to grievances that cannot be denied – i.e. solutions which are unlikely to do any significant harm if they don’t work. My problem with the sort of reforms the Green Party is proposing is that they add an extra layer of law/bureaucracy onto the existing system without attempting to address the underlying flaws – and that extra layer of law might even make things worse. I’m doubtful whether Land Value Taxation, for example, would actually have any significant benefits at all – but, in proposing it, the Green Party are tacitly condoning the laws which strip people of a natural right to land. To my mind, adding extra layers of law to try and mitigate injustices simply locks in the flaws which cause them.
I find people are reluctant to look properly at fundamental laws but in my view that’s where we find the corporate system’s weakest points. For example, as they currently operate, the laws on inheritance of land are incompatible not only with generally accepted principles (of fairness and equality) but also with their own legislative roots (because historically landownership was part of the machinery of government). It would be relatively simple to bring in a system in which everyone inherited a fair share of land and it’s something the powers-that-be would have difficulty arguing against. But as far as I know I’m the only person making that particular case and as a lone voice I’m easy to ignore. So far, whenever I’ve tried making points like that to people in authority, I’ve got replies which make no attempt to refute my arguments but simply say, for example, that there are no plans to change inheritance law (from the Lord Chancellor) or (from the Law Commission) that requiring laws to be compatible with generally accepted principles would be constitutionally revolutionary and therefore not something they could put forward.
Basically, what I’m saying here is that we won’t be able to take power from the corporate system without reforming the laws which give it to them. To do that we will have to fully engage with the institutions which define the law and force them to acknowledge that laws which have been taken for granted for centuries are in fact deeply damaging.
5Dave Darby February 1st, 2015
Yes, I think you’ve nailed one of the reasons change isn’t going to come via the parliamentary system – the fact that the corporate media would tear to pieces any party likely to challenge its power. Plus, in global terms, the populations of Western countries are very comfortable, and unlikely to vote for radical change in support of the environment or of sweat-shop and plantation workers in poor countries.
But what if they did? I was in a muslim-run kebab shop last week. The TV was showing news in Urdu. An American was interviewed, and spoke in English with Urdu subtitles. He explained that he’d been part of a delegation to Saudi Arabia just after the 1973 OPEC oil-price rises. They explained to the House of Saud that if they continued to provide US corporations with oil at prices below a set limit, they would stay in power for a long time. But if they didn’t, they would go the way of Mosaddegh in Iran. They acquiesced of course – what choice did they have? – and so did all the other oil-producing countries that the delegation visited. He said that there was no dissent at all until Saddam and Gadaffi, who were quickly removed. I asked if this was common knowledge in Muslim circles and they said it was. It’s a pity it isn’t in non-Muslim circles, I think.
The corporate system doesn’t brook any opposition. Invasion and assassination are common currency. They don’t happen in the West, because Western governments are entirely subservient. Corporate investors would remove their money from (and therefore bankrupt) any country introducing deeply anti-corporate policies. This isn’t as much of an issue for poor countries, and so that’s where the opposition and the atrocities happen. And war is extremely profitable for corporations – they’re not motivated to avoid conflict.
I agree that we could ‘push past’ parliament, but only with a parallel system that provided a demonstrably better decision-making process, followed by a massive fall in turnout for the current system. Violence is never the answer. Power taken with violence is always kept with violence.
I think your ideas around land inheritance are very interesting, and worth developing. Implementability is the problem, via existing institutions.
6Dave Darby February 1st, 2015
Peter / Malcolm,
I’ll condense what I’m trying to say. Capitalism always concentrates wealth in fewer and fewer hands. Let’s be more specific. It concentrates wealth and power in the hands of corporate shareholders. If any government tries to reverse that trend, it will scare off investors and bankrupt its country. It’s what will happen with Syriza and it’s what would happen with the Greens. Corporations and investors are global, but governments are national, and therefore impotent. We need a new idea.
7Malcolm Ramsay February 2nd, 2015
“I agree that we could ‘push past’ parliament, but only with a parallel system that provided a demonstrably better decision-making process”
Yes, that’s something I’ve been saying for five or six years, though I’ve not yet found the right voice or the right platform. It’s good to see someone else making that argument!
You might be interested in some blog posts I made four years ago on the Uncivilisation site, starting with one about forcing a change to inheritance law, Passing On. (I got disheartened after next to no response to my first five posts and never finished what I’d intended to say there.)
More recently, in a submission to the Law Commission a year ago, I outlined a way in which a right to land could operate (along with a few other things). I’ve never got round to putting that online but if you’re interested I could send you a copy.
Since then I’ve been focusing on constitutional change; I’m currently waiting to see what a Commons Select Committee has to say about these suggestions for constitutional reform.
Does the system you’re using allow e-mail notifications to be sent when new comments are added?
8Dave Darby February 2nd, 2015
I think the ‘Philosophy Club’ idea might be the right platform. And the beauty of it is that if it’s not, it could generate the idea that is.
I’ll have a look at those links, thank you.
Plus I’ll talk to our web guy about email notifications. This is a new website, so we’re still ironing things out.
PS rather than send things to us, it might be better to post on here – on a relevant blog or on the forum, with a link to the document – so that other people can see it too.
9Malcolm Ramsay February 3rd, 2015
Yes, I think the Philosophy Club might well be the right platform – I’ll get in touch in a few days time through the contact page.
I’ve put my Law Commission submission online, as you suggested. I should warn you that it assumes some familiarity with the existing legal framework and it’s 9000 words long! As well as outlining how a right to land might be brought in, it also suggests some fundamental reforms to planning and monetary/tax law.
Just yesterday I learnt about a project being run by the LSE’s Institute of Public Affairs to crowdsource a new constitution, so I’m intending to contribute to that too. I don’t know if it will lead anywhere but I think there’s a feedback loop: on the one hand, a parallel society undermines its own legitimacy if it doesn’t try and get the mainstream to change; on the other hand, the existence of a parallel society would make it harder for the mainstream to resist calls for change. As you say in the post, “What we want to achieve, ultimately, is a better system for choosing our leaders”.
10Jules February 7th, 2015
I think we are at a place where all strategies must be employed and that includes engagement with the current electoral system. When discussing the notion of voting Green its not a question of ‘imagine if they came to power’ because they wont. However, what is needed for a real change in society to occur is instability. Instability can arise when there is no majority in government and that is a real possibility with the rise of the smaller parties. Yes it does run the risk of allowing fascists to enter into political discourse. Doesn’t that then make it even more pertinent to vote Green. There’s a shit storm coming Randy and in my humble opinion ignoring the political system (parliamentary, county and district) is a form of denial and relinquishing of personal responsibility…The future is unknown and is there for us to construct socially and politically….
Just look at what they are achieving in Rojava http://www.biehlonbookchin.com/rojavas-communes-and-councils/
11Dave Darby February 7th, 2015
I’ll vote Green anyway, just to make a statement, and to show that there is support for alternative ideas. But because the world is capitalist, rather than just one country, any attempt by a particular party to challenge capitalism in one country, to try to reverse the ecological damage and wealth concentration that’s inherent within it, will scare off investors and damage that country economically. That will result in that party losing the next election to a party that will reinstate corporate-friendly policies to coax investors back. I think we’ll see this with Syriza, and Podemos if they get into power. We’ll see soon enough with Syriza if that’s the case.
In today’s globalised world, change really does need to be global. Attempts to challenge corporate power via the parliamentary route in one country are doomed to fail I think.
What they’re achieving in Rojava is much more like it – it has nothing at all to do with political parties or the state. Unfortunately, this type of experiment will be opposed by both left and right, and when ISIS are finally removed, we’ll see if they can survive. I really hope they do, but the odds will be against them. Similar systems were set up my Makhno in Ukraine after the Russian Revolution, and by the revolutionary Catalans during the Spanish Civil War. In both cases, they were finally destroyed by the left, not the right.
In a world with the internet, it may be different this time. I’d like their way of doing things to spread. It’s a wonderful example of what can be achieved outside the realm of corporate and state power.