“In the period you speak about, the word “markets” was hiding in reality the effective monopoly of several hundred big multinationals. These groups were so powerful that the annual revenues of just one of them, General Motors, surpassed the GDP of all the Scandinavian countries put together. Thanks to international organizations and treaties (IMF, World Bank, NAFTA) these powerful multinationals had been able to dominate every domain of world economy, agriculture and media. In the name of a sham “liberalism,” these big companies were able to manipulate the market so that exporters of raw materials in the South sold their sugar, coffee and petroleum at low prices. On the other hand, the same multinationals resold these products at high prices to workers in the North, whom advertising pushed into unhealthy consumption.
Thus the big companies destroyed or deformed traditional markets by monopolizing trade and by manipulating prices to their own advantage. Instead of facilitating trade, the “markets” pushed by media and economists in the service of monopolies effectively prevented producers from getting together, and organizing trade.
Even in the rich countries in the North, peasants, fishermen, small manufacturers never managed to hold their own against monopolies subsidized by the state. As governments, media and supermarkets imposed uniform consumption, small business went downhill, bankruptcy became an epidemic and young people who dreamed of creating their own businesses found themselves unemployed debtors.
At the same time, during the revolutionary upheaval and after the fall in the value of money, effectively free markets were being organized almost everywhere in the world. First out of necessity. Under the strain, barter and LE DON GRATUIT (gifts) turned out to be the sole recourse permitted to groups and individuals in order to meet their needs. Moreover, the attempts at a rational, political control of markets proposed by the Assemblies at the beginning quickly revealed themselves to be inefficient. These restrictons engendered only smuggling, repression, bureaucracy and penury. Remembered now were those command economies in Stalinist Russia, where after 70 years of “socialist construction,” people waited in line for hours for scarce, poor-quality products.
But, into villages and on to town squares people were taking directly what there was to offer. So, at a distance, with the help of the Internet, products found themselves displayed on the planetary public square. From these improvisations, increasingly regular and specialized were being formed around certain sites. People remembered the Local Systems of Trade (LST). People remembered anarchist traditions of the hackers at the beginning of the Internet who defied commercial business on the Web in putting free of charge, at the disposal of internauts, the possibility of trading CDs and software as freeware.
Users of these sites/markets were refining rules of conduct to assure the openness and integrity of trade and minimize fraud. Thus, as reconstruction went on, vast and complicated trade networks were being confidently woven all around the world.
So the merchandise-fetish was disappearing. People were no longer accepting possession as the sole manner of appropriating others; they were losing the habit of putting a price on all things and all human activity. In place of complicated commercial law established by capitalism to keep business monopoly in the hands of the rich, in place of the abstract labor market that transformed men into alienated sellers of work and passive consumers, utopians were putting up a single law, clear and simple:
“A human being is not merchandise. The sale of human labor for the profit of others is forbidden.”