FAQ : Claude Berger

Questions on the urban kibbutz, asked to CLAUDE BERGER,

president of the association “urban kibbutz”

1/ What is the urban Kibbutz?

The urban Kibbutz is an association of persons who, regardless of their social condition, their origin, their age or gender, unite to pool and share incomes, knowledge, skills, and more generally project, mutual aid and solidarity, In the opposite of the “every man for himself” approach of the wage-earning. Unlike the original kibbutz, the urban Kibbutz, as its name implies, grows in the cities. It is not a self-sustaining  community away from society.

More generally, the urban Kibbutz aims to remove individuals from the labor market forces and what marches along with it, the wage-earning, and from the rationales of profit, profitability and consumerism. Its ambition is to change the individualistic mentalities toward the mutual assistance of its members or its supporters.

2/ The urban kibbutz is born and exists in Israel. Can we expect to see it born to life in France?

Why not?

There are today more than 220 urban kibbutzim in Israel especially in the poorest areas (notably Sderot). It is therefore an experiment in human solidarity that replaces the labor market forces and has a universal reach.  France and other countries can only win by following its lead.

It is no longer a matter of being content with speeches “against the system” but of inventing what we are in favor of.

3/ Is urban Kibbutz open to all?

Of course! Besides, the philosophical roots of kibbutz, whether urban or not, lie into universalist authors who like Marx, Moses Hess or Kropotkin wanted contrast the association of workers to the market logic inherent in the wage-earning system.

In fact, the wage-earning system is built on the fact that individuals who are disconnected from each other sell their labor force in a competitive market of the same name. Hence the transformation of work into commodities.

It is against such a process that the urban kibbutz finds its universal purpose: the Kibbutz urban will recreate links of solidarity, exchange and communication, outside the workplace and submit production to the communities thus created, and not the contrary, that is to say, the submission of consumers to market products motivated by the sole rule of profit.

The urban kibbutz that conveys this philosophy is able to interest everyone. It is in fact and consequently open to all!

4/ Is a doctrinal baggage necessary to join or create an urban kibbutz? Should I have read Marx, Proudhon, Bakunin, Kropotkin or Moses Hess?

Not necessarily.

The essential thing is to be animated with the desire to get out of the commercial exchanges and to conceive a relation between the human beings which is not based on the wage-earning and on the attached civic disconnection.

Cultural and human enrichment belongs to the urban kibbutz’s program.

5/ What could a young person living in France today expect from the birth of urban kibbutzim in France?

Many young people feel the lack of opportunities,  the lack of humanistic ideal of our societies torn by wage-earning, the explosion of the labor market, the  ideology  of  continuing  growth and the lure of consumerism

Many people feel the need to give another meaning to existence than the satisfaction of individual needs by affirming the primacy of collective solidarity in accordance with the sense of conservation of the environment.

The project of a social movement of urban kibbutzim shows the ambition of a radical transformation of our societies, it contrasts the project of the concept of the association to that of the competitive wage-earning.

All the signs are this is a step towards a wage-earning crisis because of the too many job seekers and the importance of future migration flows, just as there was in ancient times a crisis of slavery because of too many war prisoners turned into slaves.

In this, the creation of urban kibbutz offers new perspectives to take.

6/ What conditions must I fulfill to join an urban kibbutz?

– A willingness to join this movement

– A minimum of understanding of the functioning of our societies based on the wage system

– A desire to leave the trading society

– A commitment in principle to the movement of ideas and actions of the association

7/ To found an urban kibbutz, do you have to live in the same building or neighborhood?

Better but not necessary There is no already pre-existing model of the urban kibbutz.

Everyone has to use his imagination and create new forms of solidarity and exchange between individuals whether they are neighbors or not.

8/ For many people kibbutz is tied to farming. Is there not a contradiction between what belongs to the city and kibbutz?

Precisely, while the urban Kibbutz captures the original spirit of the founding members of the kibbutzim, it is not a mere reproduction of the kibbutznik model that existed in the 1950s.

The urban kibbutz has modernized the associative forms, got rid of some ideological trashes.

Therefore, there is no contradiction between living in town and the possibility of creating a kibbutz there.

9/ Is the urban kibbutz not today a utopia out of date in a globalized world?

On the contrary, it is the most credible response to the globalization of the labor market that precedes that of products,

the globalization of competitive employment,

the globalization of “competing” labor – merchandise, which pretend to forget politicians and those who talk about  “defending the workers” by claiming or distributing.

Looking at first sight  “against exploitation”,

theyare only searching cheaper labor force and promoting the expansion of the competitive labor market with the related destruction of community and cultural solidarities.

The urban Kibbutz can compensate this lethal existing situation by inventing solidarity logics and collective cultural projects.

10/ For many people kibbutz remains associated with the communist world. Is there not a contradiction between the kibbutz and the return to Jewish roots that motivated the creation of Israel?

The communist world was based on a state capitalism and therefore on a state wage-earning worse than the private wage-earning.

Looking back, it was only settling the wage-earning in tyrannical countries with peasants often still serfs.

It added violence and political religiosity and idolatry.

Labor market and wage-earning were born in Europe in the fourteenth century.

Kibbutz then urban kibbutz were born in Israel.

This is not a coincidence because Judaism is based on the sense of community (see section: Kibbutz).

During the nineteenth century many attempts of closed communities happened in Europe and in the USA without ever lasting, unlike the kibbutz movement.

11/ Is the urban kibbutz one among the kinds called participatory economics?

The development of new technologies, the emergence of new production spaces based on communication and less material investment, allow new types of businesses and new categories of products.

Current production processes do not require the division of labor used in industrial production.

It doesn’t mean that these new spaces bring a change in society nor a change in the status of work-commodities.

They do not set up an association relationship outside the company, which often ends up being bought by bigger companies once its competitiveness demonstrated.

12/ What is the difference between an urban kibbutz and a cooperative?

We can make the same criticism for the cooperatives inherited from Proudhonian thinking.

While they establish workers’ power and self-management in the business, they do not modify the logic of products market, a competitive market that determines non-essential and labor market-based needs.

The urban kibbutz builds a structure of association outside company or companies, should it affects the determination of the needs and consequent products and it intends to eliminate the very arbitrary calculation of the value work to tend towards the equality in the satisfaction of basic needs: food, housing, education, access to culture.

13/ In your profession of faith, you raise migratory flows, is not it irrelevant?

Facing claim, capitalism:

exports its factories in search of cheaper working force

or promotes the importation of competitive working force without regard to the cultural patterns of the “imported people”

or uses robotics

or innovates in search of new products.

It is a process and it is important to understand its movement without disassociating its elements.

This robotization and this use of science as a productive force motivated by the desire to reduce the cost of labor does not, however, inspire the hope that working time will decrease in favor of the time devoted to leisure and culture as it would be desirable.

In addition, facing the global expansion of wage-earning and the labor market, community cultural forms and religions or faiths that ensured the social hegemony of the less developed countries of Africa or Asia collapse and are tempted to move in violence or in theocratic dictatorship for fear of disappearing, this is the case of certain forms of animism, this is the case of Islam for which the freedom of movement and the emancipation of women on the labor market-work is contradictory.

Identity loss does not only affect countries facing migratory flows, it also affects labor-exporting countries.

This massive migration, which goes hand in hand with the decline of ancient cultural forms, throws millions of redundant migrants   on the shores of developed continents: a wage crisis is on the horizon.

Here again, the model of urban kibbutz can favor another type of development in developing countries.

And the development of a movement for urban kibbutzim in France will have to consider forms of solidarity with non-developed countries, including requiring equal pay for the same work regardless of where it is performed.

14/ Does urban kibbutz position itself politically?

Not in the political sense of the word.

The movement of the urban kibbutz is meant to be politically neutral.

We believe that the transformation of our societies will be done by a social movement and not by the parties attached to the preservation of the existing disorder.

The 20th and 21st centuries saw Nazism and Bolshevism triumph and then fall.

Nazism fomented the Holocaust, the extermination of Jews and Gypsies.

The fall of communism and the fall of social democracy demonstrated the inanity of capitalism and state wage-earning, and the failures of social democracy believing in the regulation of liberal capitalism for a more just distribution have shown the limits and the fundamental error of social democratic thought.

Hence the current political crisis and the feeling of stalemate and lack of prospects.

The urban kibbutz proposes to transmit cultural and human wealth and among them, the thoughts of the authors who allow this other approach to reality, a non-doctrinaire and politically neutral approach.

15/ In recent years, there has been a wave of suicides in this or that public company, as well as a clear increase in the use of antidepressants absorbed by employees.

Salaried work is a form of modern slavery. The oppression it exerts is only manifested by its effects: depression, suicide, malaise.

It combines two processes: an extortion of unpaid working time and even an extortion of social power that leads to the hierarchy of work or to the political class.

“Is the destiny of the man that of a mercenary who runs after his salary?” is written in Job. Selling himself on a market and shaping a matching CV is one example.

Forced to provide for himself, the employee goes there by himself, unlike the slave or the serf: the oppression is internalized. No need for police to go to work.

The urban kibbutz opens liberating perspectives in terms of the investment of individuals in their daily tasks to subsist.

It is no longer a question of “getting out of it” but of “living”. Living is an art to cultivate. Hence the priority that the urban kibbutz gives to sharing, to mutual help, to creative social-cultural ties.