The counter-economic production of bicycles from BradSpangler.com September 23rd, 2007
Kudos to William Gillis for alerting us to the Strike Bike! Striking workers have occupied a bicycle factory in Germany and are preparing to resume bicycle production as their own self-managed enterprise with support from the anarcho-syndicalist Free Workers’ Union (German: Freie Arbeiterinnen- und Arbeiter-Union; abbreviated FAU).
From the English translation of the Strike Bike site:
“The 135 colleagues of the bicycle factory Bike Systems GmbH in the Thuringian Nordhausen, who keep the factory occupied since 10th of July 2007, decided to resume the production of bicycles in self-management. For this aim 1,800 binding orders on bicycles must be received till 2nd of October. So the collegues are working together with the anarcho-syndicalist union FAU (Freie Arbeiterinnen- und Arbeiter-Union – Free Workers-Union), which formed for this campaign the internetpage www.strike-bike.de.”
The occupation of the plant appears to be a “righteous taking” fully in accordance with the libertarian non-aggression principle and respect for authentic property rights. Just as the State, like any other criminal gang, is not the rightful owner of its ill-gotten gains, neither are the faux “private” members of the political class — the recipients of state favoritism and largesse that distinguish capitalism from a true free market economy. This understanding is fully in accordance with Rothbardian property theory (Lockean property theory 2.0, essentially). As such, the “property” of state subsidized business is, in ethical terms, unowned property fully open for “homesteading” by the first occupants/users not part of the state or its allied political class, provided that the rightful original owners can not be identified.
It may be the case with specific plots of land or other tangible assets that the rightful original owners can be found, but general subsidies to business in monetary form tend to come out of the common pool of tax revenue (stolen money), and individual units of currency are not so uniquely identifiable. Refer to Rothbard’s Confiscation and the Homestead Principle for the essential theory and then consider its potential for much fuller application in the context of Konkin’s agorist theory of revolution.
Thus, we arrive at the principal agorist message to anarcho-syndicalists vis a vis the revolutionary redistribution of property. We’re basically with you, but we are insistent that the justice of such voiding of property titles be considered on a case by case basis and evaluated by the relation to the state of the individual or enterprise in question, in accordance with the class theory we promote.
As it turns out, the history of the factory in the Strike Bike case is, not so surprisingly, one of state subsidized business — to the tune of at least 5.2 million euros.
Consider this my statement of support for, solidarity with and best wishes for the Strike Bike effort. My opinion, based on application of my already existing ideology, is that the factory occupation is a valid “homesteading” as far as I can tell. As far as I’m concerned, that plant belongs to the workers who work there.
It’s their property, in my opinion.
Furthermore, this assertion of valid property rights by the workers in defiance of the fraudulent state-recognized property title held by the capitalists in question is virtuously counter-economic in an agorist sense precisely because it is both productive (wealth, capital assets, have been added to truly private — i.e. non-statist — hands) and carried out in defiance of the state. If they succeed in getting production going again (and I suspect they will) it will be even more productive and, hence, even more counter-economic and more revolutionary.
To get production going again, though, the workers business plan sets a minimum goal of 1800 orders for their bicycles by October 2nd of this year in order for the project to be considered viable and move forward. That’s just barely over a week from now. If the 1800 order sales goal is not reached, orders reportedly will be refunded. The German anarcho-syndicalist Free Workers Union is assisting with the bicycle marketing effort. Market anarchism, indeed! [grin]
I also noticed that the workers bicycle enterprise is offering a price discount for wholesale orders and the direct sale to consumer price isn’t bad either. Folks, what we have here is a business opportunity. Take a look at this product page. Both mens and womens models are on sale for the low, low, LOW price of just 275 Euros (200 Euros wholesale). With the attractive retro-classic design and niche market appeal for socially conscious consumers, someone with a little cash laying around could potentially make a nice little profit advancing the anarchist / agorist / anarcho-syndicalist cause. If you agree and have the resources, send your order in today, comrade.
An interesting bit of history relating to this story can be found in economist David Prychitko’s Marxism and Workers’ Self-Management: The Essential Tension (Greenwood Press: New York, 1991). In the following passage, Prychitko discusses the barrel making cooperatives of Minneapolis at the turn of the previous century:
The cooperage cooperatives of Minneapolis are a case in point. They have been considered among the most successful experiments in workers’ cooperation within a market system. Of the scores of American producer cooperatives launched in the latter half of the 1800s, one of the most long-lived groups emerged among the journeymen coopers of Minneapolis. One of the cooperatives, the North Star Barrel Company, was organized in 1877 and lasted until 1929, almost 53 years…
That the cooperage cooperatives were able to withstand this competition through the early 1900s is remarkable, especially when one considers that the production of flour in Minneapolis fell from 16.1 million barrels in 1914 to 10.4 million by 1929. The North Star merged with the Cooperative Company in 1918, adding twenty-six members to the North Star for a total of about sixty. Through the 1920s the membership of the North Star declined to twenty-six, mainly due to death and withdrawal of its elderly members. The Hennepin went under before the North Star, in 1928, with thirty-five members, only one under the age of sixty-five. When the North Star ceased operations in 1929, it had $106,000 to divide among its twenty-six members, each receiving roughly $4000.
Thus, there is little doubt that these cooperative shops were economically successful business entities. Moreover, they exhibited precisely the kind of flexibility required for market coordination. That the cooperatives introduced machinery allowed them to survive through the 1920s; after that, instead of augmenting their machinery to adapt to the changing technology in barrel manufacturing, they essentially switched industries. The Cooperative and North Star enterprises, for example, turned to the production of butter tubs, mainly using the hired labor of young men rather than the skill of the cooper. Admittedly, under
these adverse conditions these groups gradually lost their cooperative character. But this occurred over the course of several years. Some of the cooperatives, such as the Cooperative Barrel Manufacturing Company, survived at least a decade in the cooperative format. That is a substantial success in its own right.