TURMEL: European LETS Tour Report #3

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John Turmel

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Jun 28, 1999, 3:00:00 AM6/28/99
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Topics: 1) Lord Sutch; 2) Cologne; 3) Bad Neuenar; 4) Mainz;
5) Begijnendijk, Belgium; 6) Paris ATTAC conference; 7) Begijnendijk
Salongo.

1) LORD SUTCH:
Lord Sutch, the leader of the "Monster Raving Loony Party," was
the Guinness record holder for the most elections contested at 39
before I broke his record. He was up to 41 when the 5000 pound entry
fee into the European elections prevented him from running. So when we
landed at Heathrow, we were surprised to see front page coverage:

Daily Mirror June 17 1999
"SCREAMING LORD SUTCH IS FOUND HANGED."
by Steve Atkinson and Alex Williams
Screaming Lord Sutch, eccentric leader of the Official Monster
Raving Loony Party, was found hanged at his home yesterday. Lord Sutch
who had contested polls since 1963 recently quit politics after his
party could not afford to put up candidates in the Euro elections.
His girlfriend said he had not been unhappy in recent days and
could think of no reason why he might have taken his life. "He did
suffer from depression but that was a long-term complaint."
Alan Hope, who became the first Loony mayor at Ashburton Town
Council in Devon, said: "I'm absolutely devastated. Lord Sutch was in
good spirits during a phone conversation 10 days ago. He was saying he
had no money troubles any more and was sorting out his life. But he
was taking lots and lots of pills - Prozac, I don't know what."
Lord Sutch was sad at the Raving Loonies being priced out of the
Euro poll by the #5000 deposit - given up unless a party won 5% of the
vote. He said: "It's a bad day for the loonies. There is no way we can
afford it. It is a sad day for democracy when something like this
happens."
Some of his policies were copied by more orthodox colleagues -
votes at 18, abolition of the 11-plus and all-day pub opening.

The Sun Front Page:
"SCREAMING LORD SUTCH FOUND HANGED"
by Mike Sullivan and Jamie Pyatt
Screaming Lord Sutch was found hanged yesterday. The joker who
became a political institution with his Monster Raving Loony Party was
thought to have killed himself in a fit of depression.
Sutch, 58, who backed banning January and February to make winter
shorter, was found at his home at 3p.m. A suicide note was found next
to his body.
He stood for Parliament a record 41 times without winning under
the slogan: "Vote insanity - you know it makes sense." He quit
politics just before the 1997 General Election to care for his ailing
mother Nancy who had brought him up alone after his father died when
he was a baby. He became more depressed after she died two years ago.
His 60s pop group, the Raving Savages,included brief appearances
by superstars Keith Moon of The Who and Rolling Stone Charlie Watts.
Sutch who would "rather have 1000 laughs than 1000 votes" broke
the mould in politics and inspired a host of wacky candidates like
Miss Whiplash and her British Corrective Party.
A Downing Street spokesman said: "Screaming Lord Sutch will be
sadly missed. Elections will never the same without him." Liberal
Democrat Nick Harvey said: "This is a sad loss for British politics."

"THIS COLOURFUL CAMPAIGNER PUT THE FUN INTO POLITICS"
by Bill Coles
Screaming Lord Sutch brought more drama and colour to elections
than any other living politician - but never got a seat in Parliament.
He always stood against the Prime Minister in general elections
and was a favourite with TV viewers as he played to the gallery.
Sutch stood in dozens of byelections across the country wearing
his trademark top hat and leopard-skin shirt.
Occasionally, he even managed to get more votes than officially
recognized parties. He even changed electoral coverage as commentators
were forced to whisper the words "Raving Loony" to identify him during
poll results.
Sutch was a veteran campaigner who had added a touch of froth to
elections since the Sixties.
He always had an eye-catching manifesto and planned to stand as a
candidate for London's new mayor.
Recently Sutch campaigned for a seat in the Scottish parliament
with a tartan version of his Official Monster Raving Loony Party.

"HE WAS SUTCH A SCREAM"
by Antonella Lazzeri
Top-hatted Screaming Lord Sutch was a mad as a hatter - but
was the best-loved "politician" of his generation.
He first stood for Parliament in 1963 with the National Teenage
Party - even though he was twenty-two at the time.
Soon after, he founded the Monster Raving Loony Party and went
on to stand at a record 41 elections. In between, he followed his
other career as a musician which he had launched when he was 19.
But politics was his first love. His mum Nancy reckoned he
inherited his passion from his father and grandfather who were both
regulars at Speakers Corner in London.
At the age of 19, he entered the pop world as Screaming Lord
Sutch. He was an immediate success and hordes of his groupies would
gather at his mum's house in Harrow, North London, to shout up at his
window. Records like "Knocking on my coffin lid" and "Jack the Ripper"
were huge successes in America.
He got involved in politics in the Sixties to campaign for the
legalization of commercial radio.
He is in the Guinness Book of Records for standing more times
than any other wannabe MP.
The Monster Raving Loony Party was pledged to "giving Britain a
good time" and his message was "fun, fun, fun." His bizarre outfits
and top-hats made him a hugely recognizable public figure. Sutch was
criticized by many politicians who dismissed him as not being serious
about politics. But his party enjoyed moderate success and attracted a
sizable following. His greatest victory was eclipsing the Social
Democrats at the Bootle byelection in 1990 which signalled the end of
Dr. David Owen's party as a major political force.
Later Sutch was bailed out by a bank when a #194,000 debt
threatened him with bankruptcy which would have banned him from future
elections.

Daily Telegraph
"Death of Looniest leader in politics"

JCT: So one of the planet's most colourful politicians is felled
by financial problems and Prozac. Too bad. I bought his biography and
tried to meet him on my first trip to Britain but we couldn't connect.
Too bad. I even laid down a 10 pence bet on him with William Hill,
bookmakers, were offered 15 million to one that he never get elected.
I guess I can kiss that bet goodbye.

2) COLOGNE:
Marina Corboga arranged for us to stay with Paula Cremer in
Cologne during the TOES conference and our meeting with the Cologne
LETS. Paula was one of Cologne's first LETS members and the German
magazine Der Spiegel did an interview with her about LETS a few years
ago. I have a copy which I'll soon get translated and posted to my
LETS press section at my web site.
Paula operates a second-hand store and has a unique apartment on
the top floor of the building just opposite. Outside of her apartment,
she has a roof-top terrace full of plants and we sat out there with a
great view of the city center. She also joined us while we went to the
Jubilee 2000 Chain of Debt around the G8 leaders.
She had an African friend, Ishmael, who gave me a cowrie shell,
one of the world's oldest forms of money used by Africans as money due
to their rarity and their religious symbolism.
On Sunday, we met with a group of Cologne LETS members at
Marina Carboga's home. We discussed the usual problems that plague
small LETSystems, such as how to avoid keeping half the members in the
negative so the other half of the members could be in the positive.
The LETS consignment store and the introduction of pensioners to the
system are my usual suggestions to solve that problem.
Paula had obtained an accordion from a neighbor so I gave them a
little concert. They cleared the room of chairs and a bunch of the
women were dancing around to it.
Then we rented a car for a month with 4,600 free kilometers and
set out on our journey. The thing that's wonderful about driving in
Europe compared North America is that not only is the continent much
smaller but the speed limits are much higher. It's a funny feeling
cruising along at 100 mph and being passed on a regular basis. Germany
has no speed limit and Belgium and France have 130kmph/80mph limits
but most people drive at close to 150/90. Most of our trips will be
shorter than 4 hours on the road. Some of our upcoming legs of the
journey will be longer but never a whole day until we start our Nordic
journey where some legs might take all day.
Of course, my report on TOES got some negative feedback:

>Date: Wed Jun 23 18:17:33 1999
>From: ma...@gn.apc.org (Mark Brown)
>Subject: Re: TURMEL: The "No Choice" TOES99 LETS Report
>Hello,
>These bewildering messages have been appearing on the J18 list for
>some time. They apear to be quite a few degrees off topic, so perhaps
>you could desist? Thanks and good luck... Mark (London)
JCT: He doesn't see the relevance of my TOES report on the J18
meeting to the J18 list and wants me to desist. I usually ignore
idiots like this who would prefer that I not send messages to everyone
because they aren't interested themselves. You have to wonder where
they get off thinking they have to right to censor the reading of all
the others.

3) BAD NEUENAR:
We visited Paul Imbusch, a Cologne and Bonn LETS member in Bad
Neuenar. He showed us around the town where we visited the casino and
a couple of pubs. The casino was a beautiful building with a couple of
bridges over a stream packed with fish but they had no poker, only the
usual casino games and slot machines.
He gave us copies of two editions of Tausch-System Nachrichten, a
magazine published by Klaus Kleffmann and Ingo Leipner. They trade a
copy to each LETS in Germany in exchange for copies of the local
LETSystem publications so they probably have the most extensive
Germany LETS archives there are. Their email address is at
arc...@tauschring-archiv.de and we realized that we'd love to meet
these two and see their archives.
Paul was keen on inter-system trading. He called it "LETS without
frontiers."

4) MAINZ:
Erik Murmann organized our stay with Signe Seiler who had her
Phd in anthropology and philosophy. That evening we went to the LETS
meeting in Mainz but unfortunately, the girl organizing the meeting
didn't know what I'd be speaking about and left me off the agenda. It
wasn't a wasted trip though. Erik introduced me to one of the
speakers who mentioned that he was involved with putting out a
national LETS publication. I pulled out the magazine Paul had given me
and found that that he was Ingo Leipner who was associated with that
very magazine. What a fluke that one of the people we were going to
try to contact happened to be speaking in Mainz that very night.
At the end of the meeting, with Signe translating, I got to
mention my LETS tour and show them some of the items I was going to
discuss at the other meetings like the news out of the U.S. National
Local Currency conference such as the hospital in Ithaca accepting
Hours for medical services, the explosive growth of the Philadelphia
LETS, the European Council funding U.K. Bradford LETS but what wowed
them the most was Michael Linton's new smartcards for LETS.
We went out to a pub after the meeting with several Mainz LETS
members and had a lively discussion about LETS developments around the
world. Ingo said that the idea of government having a LETS account and
the possibility of the 300 German LETS organizations forming a
political party if necessary had opened new doors in his mind. The
others were similarly enthused. So I may not have been able to speak
to the main group in detail but these discussions certainly made the
trip to Mainz worthwhile.

5) BEGIJNENDIJK BELGIUM
The "g" in Belgian is pronounced as an "h" and the "ij" like the
"e" in "bed," so it sounds like Behenendek. The LETS there are a group
of 12 families who help each other on a regular basis and keep track
of their time traded in "feathers" worth a Belgian franc at a rate of
30 feathers an hour.
Dirk (Derek) Geysen who organized the meeting and his wife
Beatrice brought us to their meeting at Alex and Nadine Steeno who
have a beautiful home converted from an old farm-house with attached
barn and a huge back yard lush with plants. I made presented the usual
information then we repaired to the back of the yard where Alex had
lit a large bon-fire which we sat around talking for several hours. I
did a few of my poems, "the plates" and "10%," sang Tom Lehrer's "The
Bomb" and "The Vatican Rag" as well as the "Cameron Highlanders," a
quite bawdy song from my militia days.
Luc Van der Auwera mentioned that there was a large group that
was having a meeting on Friday night in Antwerp to discuss starting up
a barter system. He said he couldn't go but that he'd try to inform
them about the LETS software.

6) PARIS ATTAC "PLANET" CONFERENCE:
ATTAC, a large and fast-growing organization dedicated to
coordinating networks against the dictatorship of the financial
markets, were having a 70-nation planetary conference at the
University of Paris at St. Denis on June 24, 25 and 26. When I heard
about them, I wrote to ask if I could speak on LETS. They wrote back
to invite me to the Economic Alternatives forum.
We left Begijnendijk around 9:30, wasted half an hour in some
back roads before finding the highway to Brussels and then Paris. By a
fluke, we got off the highway in Paris just a few minutes away from
the university and got there with 10 minutes to spare.
My workshop had 7 speakers most of whom were connected with the
micro-credit business. We all had 5 minute opening statements but the
first speaker was a delegate, Michel Tavernier, who knew his monetary
reform inside out and called for the abolition of interest rates! He
cited Silvio Gesell's monetary experiment in Worgl (LETS with a
demurrage charge to stimulate velocity) and pointed out no government
can stop barter. I thoroughly enjoyed his presentation though I could
tell he left many in the audience puzzled. He also suggested that they
have a panel on money reform and quite a few people indicated they
wanted one too. So it was arranged that there would be one the next
day at noon.
The other micro-credit speakers explained the good things that
came of lending to the poor but their presentations were quite bland.
So my presentation laden with jokes and wonderful news about LETS
around the world amused and entertained them.
I spoke in French and explained that I had formed the
Abolitionist Party because the the historical Abolitionist movement
against slavery had lifted the metal chains but had failed to finish
the job by lifting the chains of debt by the abolition of interest
rates with the LETS software. I could see Tavernier sit up and take
notice. As usual, the mention of my Guinness record for most elections
contested and most elections lost broke up the crowd.
I asked if there were any in the audience who had heard about
LETS and quite a few had. I told them of all the Councils in Britain
who had supported LETS including the Stockport council who called it
an anti-poverty strategy.
I mentioned the Argentinian provinces who had instituted the
biggest government LETS in recent history with their use of provincial
bonds to pay all their government employees which then acted as
currency for the rest of the population who could use them to pay
their taxes.
I urged inter-system trading, especially accommodations, and
asked if there were anyone who would like to trade some accommodations
in Paris for accommodations in Canada since we still hadn't found any
LETSers in Paris to put us up yet.
I mentioned how LETS and I had been shut out of the TOES 99
agenda this year and reminded them that just like in Cologne, they'd
be hearing speakers urging that solutions be sought despite the fact
that the solution is already here.
Again, showing them how Michael Linton's smartcards worked wowed
the audience. I urged anyone interested in local currency to pick up
one of my business cards with my web site address to get all the
information they might need about it.
I was pleased that they gave me a super round of applause and one
ATTAC member mentioned I had had a "grand tabac," a "big tobacco,"
which I found out meant a "big hit." Of course the LETS solution
would be a big hit compared to most of the speakers who were still
looking.
The last speaker, a M. Vivaret, spoke of local currencies saying
he wanted to fill out what I had told them.
A delegate from Senegal and another from the Ivory Coast told us
of the problems they were suffering at the hands of the financial
system. A delegate from the "El Barzon" movement in Mexico told us of
their efforts bank-fighting efforts.
When I spoke next, I pointed out that both Senegal and the Ivory
Coast now had LETSystems which could be found at my web page and that
if they wanted a quick fix for many of their problems, they should go
and join them. I also pointed out to the Mexican that Mexico City had
their LETS Tlaloc system going and installing the LETS software on
their organization's 2 million member database would have startling
effects.
I pointed out that there were two distinct groups of speakers in
the panel, those trying to cope with the present financial system
without changing it and those wanting to change it.
One of the micro-credit panellists rebutted that to get the
money they needed to lend to the poor, they had to borrow and pay some
interest. So we shouldn't make out that interest is diabolical. I
could see Tavernier chafing at the bit but he couldn't get the floor
so I got to explain that because the micro-credit institutions do
relend their depositors' funds, they think that the banks operate in
the same way. They don't know that banks do not lend out their
depositors funds like they do but do lend out new money so there's no
reason they should be charging interest on new money like the micro-
credit institutions do though a simple service charge would be better.
Another delegate criticized me saying that the problems of the
Third World and the Rich nations were not the same and needed
different solutions. I answered that the problem is the same in all
nations, a lack of money caused by the interest rate. Sure it's
effects are worse in poorer nations but the problem is identical and
the solution is the same too.
One delegate, Sylvain Palfroy, backed me solidly and denounced
the interest. He happens to be a LETS member as well as an influential
ATTAC member. He should end up being very useful in getting their
organization behind LETS as the alternative to the world's currency
financial system.
After the panel, I went to the ATTAC organization room and asked
if it would be possible to have a room in which I could do a
presentation on LETS. No problem. They found and empty room and
allocated it to me for the next day at 2p.m. They gave me four ATTAC
posters and I wrote "Presentation System Echange Local Room 102 2p.m."
and they hung them up in the main lobby.
Then we went over to the accommodations table where we found out
that they had men's and women's dormitories available at 120 francs
per night. But then heavenly intervention happened once again and a
girl, Odile Lambert, came up and invited us to stay at her home if we
didn't. It seems that she had offered ATTAC her home to accommodate
any members but that the organizers had failed to make use of the
offer so she and her husband decided they would simply invite someone
to stay for free. What a break. We'll give them LETS IOUs for
accommodations in Canada and we still haven't had to pay for any
accommodations yet. And Odile and her husband Christian are both
computer software engineers with France Telecom! Were they in for some
unusually provocative house-guests.
They live in West Paris, about 40km/25miles from the university
so we used the subway and took about an hour to get to their home in a
very nice suburb of Paris, St. Germain-en-laye and have two sons in
university. One thing I found interesting is that while most North
American windows and doors have blinds on the inside, they have their
blinds or shutters on the outside which are rolled down over the
window or door with a screw type handle. Seems a more secure system.
The next day, we went to the university and attended a few more
panels but they seemed to consist of the same type of speakers who
populated the TOES conference, experts on money mismanagement and the
various ills and miseries in their nations.
At noon though, Michel Tavernier got to make a presentation on
money which I attended with a dozen other people. He described several
kinds of money from antiquity. When he mentioned shell money, I passed
around the the cowrie shell that Ishmael had given me. Again, he spoke
of Gesell's Worgl money as an example of a successful interest-free
currency which had a velocity 10 times greater than the regular
Austrian money. He pointed out the reason for the death-gamble, that
interest is never created by the bank when they make the loans, only
the principal.
At my panel, I went over the usual math and LETS developments
around the world. One fellow, Pierre, was very skeptical and we argued
quite a bit. But after it was over, he went up to the computer room,
visited my web page then came back to challenge me to show him more.
So we went to the computer room together and one of those listening to
us was Jean-Paul Vieron. I accessed the Selidaire site from my list of
urls at http://www.cyberclass.net/turmel/urlsnat.htm then called up
the list of LETS in his area. There were three and he took their
addresses and phone numbers. Jean-Paul asked me to access the list in
his area which brought up four LETS. Then he mentioned that he had
been one of the first members of the first LETS on the list: number 7.
From that point on, Pierre became convinced and turned exceedingly
friendly. I was quite thrilled at the turnaround. I saw him several
times over the next two days and he always came over to say hello.
That night, I discussed the LETS development with Christian and
Odile. She was skeptical that the bankers would oppose LETS
effectively once it got big enough to hurt their business but
immediately saw that the possibility of an Internet Service Provider
like AOL, Microsoft Network or France Telecom providing Email LETS
credit services could not be stopped and was the way to go. From then
on, we discussed the best way of approaching them to do it.
On the last day in Paris, ATTAC were having a demonstration march
from the St. Lazare metro station in the financial district to the
Stock Exchange after the last plenary. I had the same picket sign as I
used in the Chain of Debt demonstration in Cologne: "Abolish Interest
on Debt" and "Bankers starve third-world babies." I wore my white "The
Engineer" hard-hat and carried my sign to the front of the plenary
hall. Many many people gave me a thumbs up. Many people took pictures.
Everyone who took a picture got a web site card.
Then we took the metro to the St. Lazare station. On the subway,
I sat beside a young man, Joep, and when I explained that I was at the
conference to promote LETS, he told me that he was a member of Antwerp
LETS. I told him I'd be speaking to the Antwerp LETS on July 14 but
unfortunately, he was going to be out of town that week. Too bad
because we had a great time marching together.
During the demo march, I gave out over 100 cards to people who
took pictures. At least a dozen media reporters took pictures or film
and I gave them the flyer with the press report of my arrest at the
World Bank conference in Toronto in 1982 with the same picket sign and
the press report form the Citizen of my Guinness Record promoting
LETS. I'd bet that my picket sign has been published somewhere.

5) BEGIJNENDIJK SALONGO
We drove back to Begijnendijk to spend a couple of more days with
our Belgian friends and arrived in time to share in a barbecue after
their monthly "Salongo." A "salongo" is what we call a work-bee in
English or a "corvee" in French. Every month, the whole group get
together at one family's home and pitch in to do any necessary work.
That day, the men had cleared some land in the back yard of bush and
wood while the women had applied mortar to the bricks in the garage.
The children all played. Some of the older ones helped pile the wood
and prepare the food.
At the end of the day, they all filled out their LETS cards
recording the work they did to be credited by Beatrice, Dirk's wife,
to their individual accounts. Dirk explained that it not only got a
lot of the household chores done but it was turned it into a fun
social occasion.
I can't think of a more beautiful set up for a small LETS.
They're certainly making it work for them.
Finally, an econometrist from the new Vivant political party
attended. Several of the LETSers belong and were anxious to introduce
LETS to the party.
I must admit that I felt trepidation at the thought of having to
explain the advantages of an interest-free LETS to someone trained in
economics given the difficulty exhibited by people who suffer such
conditioning. I can only think of two economists I've ever spoken to
who broke the brain-washing to understand. Geert Witteman was the
third.
He said he'd often doubted much of what he'd learned in Economics
and had come to many of the conclusions that I had though they had now
become much clearer in his mind. His party was started by an engineer
who owns several companies, one on a New York stock exchange, and they
polled 2% of the national vote in their first try. Pretty good
considering that they face the same media bias I've always faced. He's
going to try to make my Antwerp presentation and I think it would be
wonderful to have a Belgian political party officially endorsing a
LETS a-la-Argentina provincial bond system too.
There seems to be a general awakening to the malfunctions of the
banking system around the world. Once groups like TOES, ATTAC, and
political parties jump on the LETS bandwagon which already include
endorsements by the Argentinian provinces, Australia's Parliament, the
U.K. government and the American IRS, it should provide the impetus
for the final correction of the unsafe engineering design of the world
money system.
Lets us pray! Amen.
--
John C. "The Engineer" Turmel, Founder, Abolitionist Party of Canada
915-2045 Carling Ave., Ottawa, K2A 1G5, Tel/Fax: 613-728-2196
LETS Abolish Interest Rates http://www.cyberclass.net/turmel
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