[diggers350] The Centrality of the Land and The Stewards Communist Corporations

Eric Sommer eric at stewards.net
Fri Mar 5 19:01:07 GMT 1999

Hi there,

The following chapter on the central importance of land, both for the
survival of poor people and the survival of the biosphere, is excerpted from
the short book `The Stewards Corporation: A System For Total Human
Development'.  The entire work, which describes a new kind of cooperative,
non-business and non-market, corporation-community which our movement of
poor people is organizing around, is accessable from the `contents' page at
the Stewards website at www.stewards.net  Many other works on Stewardship,
and on the self-organizing of the underclass majority as Stewards, are also
available at the site.

Blessings of light,
Eric Sommer

"Organize the Planetary Underclass as the Stewards of the World."



The land question is a survival question. The right to access the land and
use it to support their needs for food, shelter, and the other means of life
is crucial for all those who do not - or cannot - fit into the old economic

In proportion as workers are swept down the socio-economic ladder by
ever-new waves of
technology and profiteering, the question of land access will become a
life-and-death matter for ever larger numbers of human beings. Driven
towards jobs with unbearably high stress and low wages on the one side, and
towards homelessness and the brutal life of the street on the other, the
land question will become a survival question for an ever-growing mass of
ordinary people in every society. 

The general accumulation of social misery, crowding, and decay in both the
built and social environments to which working and poor people are consigned
in the world's cities lends further and growing poignancy - and urgency - to
the question of land. 

It is worth emphasizing that it is, in large measure, the separation from
the land which makes us vulnerable to underclass status. When employers or
the state cannot - or will not - provide us with reasonable conditions and a
reasonable basis of life, the absence of a land base leaves us nowhere else
to turn. The absence of land access means that `if we would eat, we must
bend our knee, no matter what the terms'. Restoring the land link, through
Stewardship, is a key to restoring our power, dignity, and ability to work
together to care for one another together with the world. 

In addition, we cannot ignore the ecological dimension. The question is not
only "who will have access to the land" but also "how will we live with the
land"? Continued despoliation of the worlds land, and continued
deforestation, put not only humanity but the integrity of the biosphere
itself at risk. 

One important task for each Stewards Corporation is, therefore, to work for
access for all underclass and working-class people to the land on an
ecological or stewardship basis. The broader political aspect of this work
will be explored in greater depth in a forthcoming work on the stewards
party. What must be stressed here is the centrality for each stewards
corporation of establishing, at one or more places within its domain, a
`campus' or `campuses' for use by the corporation and its allies as a
`land-base'. Such a land-base is essential to support the stewards of the
Corporation - and their social houses, services, and guilds - in working
together in `stewardship-subsistence'. The phrase `stewardship-subsistence'
is meant to convey the idea of working together to produce the means of
meeting one anther's needs while simultaneously caring for the land and for
the earth. 

Stewards and their charter bodies may in practice be based part-time,
full-time, or not at all on a campus or land base. But the availability of
the campus land, as a basis for the stability and viability of the stewards
- and of their houses, services, guilds, and polis - is crucial. 

In addition, the personal and spiritual relationship to land cannot be
ignored. Direct access to nature - and to the rhythms and creatures of
nature - is an important support for the full all-around development of life
and of the physical, mental, emotional,  spiritual, social, and ecological
powers of human beings. 

Land Management In The Corporation 

In order to support its work of stewardship, of building a spiritual economy
through which working or underclass people can work together to care for one
another together and the earth, a Stewards Corporation must establish and
operate one or more rural campuses or land centers in its domain. The
following are suggested guidelines for the management of the Corporation's
relationship to the land. These guidelines are primarily social, while the
ecological, agrarian, and related aspects are dealt with in a short book by
Dr. Stuart Piddocke, `The Terrestre', and in other works which are
generally available. 

The first suggestion is that all Corporation land shall be owned by the
Stewards Corporation - and therefore by its community of Stewards - as a
whole. This means that all legal title or legal rights in Corporation land
shall be vested solely in the Corporation community or in subsidiary
organizations directly under its control. This provision would apply to all
land rights, whether involving ownership, leasing, agricultural or water
rights, or any other land-use rights whatsoever. 

This land ownership by the corporation is necessary to: a) ensure that all
Stewards of the Corporation enjoy land access; b) guarantee that the land is
treated in an ecologically viable and sustainable manner; c) provide land
for use by the houses, services, and guilds; and d) prevent the break-up of
the land through private sale, and the ensuing social fragmentation, which
would inevitably follow individual ownership. As suggested in the chapter on
the Polis, it may well be desirable to entrench in the Corporation's
constitution the principal that Stewards land is to be owned by the

The second suggestion is that the overall management of the Corporation's
land-base be the responsibility of a special charter body to be called `The
Corporation Land Management Service' or some similar name. This land
service, which like all charters would be created by the Polis, would have
responsibilities including: 

     The acquisition of new land or land rights for the Corporation; 
     General land-use planning; and 
     The assigning of land-use rights within the Corporation. 

The third suggestion regarding land is that Houses, Services, Guilds, or
other bodies within the Corporation may be assigned land-use rights of
various kinds by the land service. Houses, services,
guilds and other such bodies may not, however, hold legal title or legal
rights in land. Nor may their agents or those acting for them hold such
title on their behalf. 

The fourth suggestion is that a written agreement or `land-use contract'
shall be issued by the Polis, or by the land management service, for any
transfer of land-use rights from the Polis to a house, service, guild, or
other body within the Corporation. This contract shall clearly state: 1) the
right or rights which are being transferred; 2) the body or bodies to whom
the right is given; 3) the area(s) of land to which the right is to apply;
4) the period of time for which the right shall exist; 5) whether,
and under what conditions, the land-use right may be transferred or sold to
another chartered body of the Corporation; and 4) all other terms and
conditions to which the polis and the body receiving the land-use contract
have agreed. 

Land-use contracts would be binding within the Corporation, and the
rights,obligations, and other provisions set out in them would be
enforceable through the independent Corporation judiciary or adjudication

The fifth suggestion regarding land is that land-use rights within the
Corporation be reserved for the Polis, Houses, Services, Guilds, and other
charter bodies of the Corporation. There should be no right within the
Corporation for individuals to hold land and thereby to potentially deprive
other Stewards of the life-support and stewardship-subsistence which it

The ABC of Land Prices 

The fifth suggestion regarding land is that the campuses or land bases of a
Corporation be usually located in rural areas. One reason for this
suggestion is that rural land can support physical, mental, emotional, and
spiritual health and development in a way that crowded urban conditions cannot. 

Another reason for preferring rural land is that it is generally far less
expensive than city land. In the city of Vancouver in British Columbia,
Canada, for example, a 1/4 acre house lot typically costs between $200,000
and $400,000 cn. Such a lot, together with the house on it, is ordinarily
bought on credit through a mortgage, with a down payment of $20,000-$40,000,
by a single family or home buyer. The same amount of money,
$200,000-$400,000, with a down payment of $20,000-$40,000, will buy 200 to
400 acres of land in rural British Columbia. This is 800 times as much land
for the same price! 

It is important to recognize, of course, that just as city land differs in
price from one area of the city to another, so does rural land differ in
price depending on such factors as: the demand for it; the regulations
governing its use; and the degree of its usefulness for agriculture or other

The primary stewardship strategy regarding the care and use of land is one
of using land for subsistence, for supporting the life needs of its stewards
while caring for the earth, not for commercial production of food for the
marketplace. This strategy positions stewards, and their Corporations, to
acquire inexpensive land which is life-supporting but not suited for
commercial food production. 


The Importance of Proximity 

The sixth suggestion regarding land, and one of the reasons for acquiring
land in the first place, is that habitations and other buildings be
constructed as close together as is practicable. There are several benefits
from such close proximity of buildings and  eople. To begin with, the
`transaction costs' for accessing people or resources are dramatically
reduced when they are close at hand. The phrase `transaction costs' may be
broadly interpreted to mean all of the costs in time, money, material,
energy, or stress necessary to access a potentiality. If my friend lives
across town, for example, the time, money, energy, and stress necessary to
see him or her is significantly greater than if he or she lives next door.
If the book I want to look at, or the machine I want to use, or the people I
need to work with are next door, the transaction costs - in time, money,
matter, energy, and stress - are similarly reduced. Close proximity makes
many things which would otherwise be costly - even
prohibitively costly to access - affordable in terms of transaction costs. 

A related consideration is that sharing of products, services, or resources
becomes far more feasible when people are close at hand, thereby reducing
both monetary costs and the strain on the environment. 

In addition, by clustering people in a small area of the Stewards land base,
the rest of the land is freed for agricultural or recreational use or for
maintenance in its natural state. 

Finally, and most fundamentally, arranging to live in relatively close
proximity, whether in the city or the country, is a key step by which
Stewards become able to work together to meet one anther's needs while
caring for the planet. Being `next door' makes all things easier. 

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